FICTION

Cup Racer

ARTHUR T. MUNYAN April 15 1933
FICTION

Cup Racer

ARTHUR T. MUNYAN April 15 1933

Cup Racer

FICTION

ARTHUR T. MUNYAN

CONCLUSION

WHO WAS IT,” asked Bill Lombard, “that had a something or other about something?”

“An idea,” Ann told him. “Sutton had it. About—you know—everything. He’ll spring it if you’ll keep quiet and let him. But how can he if you keep changing the subject?”

“Good old Sutt. Never runs out of ideas. Never sunk for a good old plan.”

There was a pitch of extreme weariness in Bill’s voice. All three of them were forcing a nonchalance that hid bitter despair. Whenever they thought of Slee a futile rage went over them in waves. They were all washed up with Slee and his Pooh II. Bill had accepted his engine, returned as unsatisfactory, and had refunded its cost. The whole affair was best forgotten. But

it rankled; and it persisted as an unmitigated outrage. Ann’s eyes sought Sutton’s beseechingly.

“The fact is—” he said. “That is, I had an idea. Almost had one anyhow. It’s crawling round there now if I can only get at it. Suppose you two give me a couple of hours to—uh—line it up, you know?”

“Sure,” said Bill. “You bet. And then let us know.” He was polite, but he doubted if there was an idea crawling around anywhere which would help matters now. A question he had asked was insidiously reiterating itself: On Thursday morning Pooh II had given every promise of being the fastest hydroplane in her class; next day Slee had bounded in and pulled the boat to pieces. Why? What sort of barging frenzy caused that? It was fantastic. True, Slee had no conviction that the success of the trials was a fact; but he could have waited and found out. The thing was simply fatuous.

“Well, we’ll separate,” Bill announced presently, “and all go off and think things up, and meet later. Like three guys in Hans Andersen. Maybe I’ll go annoy Carmichael.” “He has a prehensile face,” Ann said. “I don’t like him.” “Nor do I,” said Sutton. “And I’m glad of it. Words mean anything you want them to, don’t they?”

EARLY in the afternoon he returned to Lombardy. There appeared to be nothing to keep him at the lake. In his big room that looked down upon drowsing gardens and out to the dunes where the surf boomed, he occupied himself aimlessly, changing to fresh white linens, pondering over “ideas” for Ann. His mind dubiously retraced the sequence of incidents leading up to the débâcle. The sound of hoofs broke in upon his thoughts and he crossed over to the open window.

Madeleine gave her mount to the groom and walked up to the terrace below. Bright sunlight slanted down to her, and her loveliness was sharply limned against the infinite green of summer. In jodhpurs and striped polo shirt, her figure was straight and hard and lithe. Now, as always, he was arrested in wordless admiration, unable to capture in literal thought either the peculiar latency of her or his emotions toward her. A superiority, half conscious, charged her simplest actions with gallantry ; her beauty was at once stirring and enigmatic; a hint of ruthlessness clung to her. In all this she was the utmost he could have desired. Apart from the feminine subtleties of her being, she was all that he secretly and in vain would have desired to believe of himself. ín that, perhaps, lay her inescapable fascination for him. She was an arrow and a longing.

She glanced up, saw him, waved; her eyes danced with suppressed excitement.

"I hoped you’d be here,” she spoke. “So I didn’t ride very long. How’s for a swim?”

“Swim’s a good idea.”

“Give me twenty minutes to shed these horsey things. And Sutton! Nobody else. This is our afternoon.”

She went on, when after a quick change she reappeared in beach pyjamas:

“This is about the first time we’ve had a minute to ourselves, to be together and do as we like. The surf, I think, don’t you? Not the pool. Pools”—she shrugged daintily— “are full of people.”

They drove across the downs, skirting a lagoon, and came to the summit of a dune which sheered off precipitously on the ocean side. Below stretched a wide strand, dazzling radiance in the sun. For a moment Madeleine was like Ann. laughing in anticipation. She caught his hand and they stalked down the declivity of loose sand that slipped before their footsteps and gave an effect of

seve" lea8ue , "Red flag she cned gazmg off toward a *tant pav,l,on' U s tetter "hen lt 5 a red Six-foot breakers pounded the shingle, tear-

ing it down in a steep shelf, and the undertow swept away the sand and left white tumbling pebbles. In either direction as far as the eye could reach the white sea-spray dashed, whiter than anything else in the world, and fell in brief glints of rainbow.

Madeleine stood ankle-deep in swirling white foam and dived straight through a combing breaker to deep water. Sutton followed, delighted with her. He could never escape the fascination which all her movements, their relaxed precision, held for him. Her crawl stroke seemed lazy, yet her body slipped through the seas as if moved by invisible propellers.

She lay like a mermaid on the smooth wet sand. When a spent wave advanced and receded, it picked her up on its shallow tide and swept her head first down the steepsloping shelf straight into the roar and fury and seething rush. And when it seemed that she must be flung bruised on the beach she would slip through the breaker with an effortless winging motion to emerge, pensive in mien, on the other side.

He had seen her, Sutton mused, under stress of various kinds, in violent action, in peril. He never had seen her extended beyond her poise, never known her to be moved to physical vehemence. Except once—his blood raced like sparkling wine at the thought—in the fierce sudden ardor of a kiss.

Exhausted at length by the power of the seas, they sank down breathless on the sand, back where it was fine-white, dry and hot. Madeleine was pallid gold; her skin seemed to draw rays of sunlight to itself, visibly, as particles of glowing gold. She sighed, stirring luxuriously.

"I’d like it to be always this. Always midsummer. I’d like to follow midsummer around the world or should I say over and under the world?”

HE ASSENTED dreamily, his voice lazy with the voluptuousness of sun and sea. His mind went down the world with Madeleine, from Brittany to the Côte d'Or to Pago Pago—to wherever cobalt seas broke, indelibly white, on opal shores. He saw fanciful places sharply, steeped in sunlight as in some prismatic amber liquid. He and Madeleine were alone; there were no others anywhere in the sunlit idyll ; it was a prolongation of this hour. She, in some painless way, was Madeleine Wood again, and then Madeleine Gage. The illusion sharpened to imperative emotion, and her withheld loveliness was suddenly"almost unendurable.

His mood ended in abrupt dissonance the next instant.

"I was riding,” she said idly, “with Sanford Slee.” Laughing softly at some trivial incident of recent memory, she did not notice his disaffection.

"Sanford,” she went on to say, "is annoyed with me. Because—do you know what I’m like?”

“No, what are you like? Or what’s his guess?”

“A spoiled child. A child who reaches for new playthings and then just throws them down.”

“Dear, dear!”

“Only, my playthings are men.”

“Have you come to that with Slee?” he said. What he felt was an acute distaste. For what, or toward whom, he was not quite sure. He had not often had the experience of seeing other men through the eyes of a seductive woman. It was rather a shock. Slee, unusual if only by way of being a boor, became indistinguishable from a million boors, as hackneyed and maudlin as a popular ballad. Did Madeleine find most men, like Circe's pigs, drearily alike? There was some such implication in her light irony.

• “Well?” she broke in mockingly upon his silence. ‘‘Let’s have it.”

"Oh, I don’t know. Slee is nothing to you—is he?”

“Heavens, no! Beyond boring me to-.....”

“Then why bother. 1 mean? Why be bored?”

“Are you being disagreeable, Sutton?”

“I think not. CuriousWhy have a man in that state? Do you like it? Is it amusing—at first—or something? Or flattering? Certainly it doesn’t seem so to me. I just don’t get it, do you see? I can't imagine you taking that sort of mawkishness from anyone, or taking anything at all from Slee.”

“Darling! You’re intentionally dumb. Certainly it doesn’t amuse me; it simply happens. I was trained from infancy to be as interesting as possible to men, as a social duty, whether they were bores or idiots or anything else. I can’t help it if they get into states. 1 think they like to get into states, and then they expect me to do something about it. and I couldn't possibly do all the things and be all the things I’d have to . .

He laughed, dropping the question. A moment later he sat up as a tremendously elongated shadow fell between them. When they followed the weaving mauve pencil of shade it led them to Bill, who was coming toward them across the sands. Madeleine stifled a murmur of displeasure; but she waved and greeted Bill amiably enough. Her husband offered no reply; he was slightly intoxicated.

Sutton regarded him in some concern; Bill was getting to be one of those advanced drinkers

who were never quite sober and never too visibly drunk. He was in a sort of flat spin now. And something, plainly, had happened. He was in a rage he instinctively tried to repress. Liquor gave him what he imagined was an Olympian detachment; the resultant was a peculiar and saturnine manner. His eyes blazed fitfully between narrowed lids.

With mechanical precision he sat down, facing and a little apart from them, while no one spoke, and fixed Madeleine with a withering stare.

"Slee," he pronounced at length, “and Gage. Why both? Why either, but why both? My lord, what a scope! Nobody would do, I suppose, but the one fellow I’d like to see freeze in hell. And my guy. You couldn’t keep your affairs to your own stupid crowd, I suppose? But why couldn't you leave my boat alone?”

Madeleine had risen to her feet in cold hauteur. Her eyes were unfeeling; she drew a cape about her in a gesture of aversion, an absurdity just marked enough to be infuriating.

“You’re drunk,” she stated evenly, adding: “Even that doesn’t explain you. Heaven knows what you think you're saying. I don’t. Nobody does. But it’s nothing 1 want to hear." She shrugged and turned toward the dunes.

Bill’s eyes, after a momentary blaze, dropped her, veering sharply to Sutton. Then he hesitated, brooding, for a word mordant enough for his needs.

“Clever,” he brought out scathingly. “I’d have sworn, too, you were—my sort of bum. No good at all. maybe, but at least not clever. Floorwalker clever. What a technique for an engineer! Well, you're a washout."

TANDING, aware of Madeleine’s urgency, Sutton could not bring himself to walk out on this. Today he had realized that he liked Bill Lombard as he had liked few men in his lifetime. Now, facing this hostile stranger with the impenetrable eyes, he could feel no resentment, only distress and perplexity,

“Clever?” he echoed. “What's that? What does it mean? Come on, what is all this, Bill?"

“It was clever of you, Gage,” Bill caught him up with a quick, bitter flow of speech, "to cover your affair by acting interested in my job. And you know what I mean. And now you can turn off the cleverness Nobody could cover an intrigue with Madeleine. Because she doesn’t think it’s interesting unless there’s wreckage scattered

for miles . , . Excuse me”—his face went white—“I believe I'm going to be ill, and who shall wonder?” Madeleine said: "You’re fantastic. I shan’t argue—” “This,” Bill told her, “is not an argument.”

"You see,” Sutton pointed out equably, "you’re tight. That’s all right, of course, but—”

“You think I’m tight? Well—I am. What of it? Anything odd about that? I’m able to say this: As a guest, you’re a smack. I don’t care for you; 1 don’t want your nosey help; you can go to the devil. Now. Am I dear? Do Ï make sense or not? You tell me.”

"No. You’re a little vague. I’d like a diagram. And later rather than now.”

“You’ll have it now. Here it is: On Thursday morning you and Ann ran a test on Pooh. On Friday Slee junked it. What happened in between? I’ll tell you. The test was a knock-out; then it rained. You came back to East Hampton, saw Madeleine, and she had the news before I did. before Slee did. Then she went out to lunch and drive with Slee ...”

For an instant Madeleine’s poise had deserted her. It was as if a still flame flickered and was steady again. In that instant Sutton saw a shadow of fear and an impulse to lie in lier eyes. Then it was gone; defiant, she snatched the sequence from Bill. Her voice was lilting and cold.

“Sanford bored me all through luncheon with his bragging about himself and how he meant to win the Gold Cup. He seemed to think it would be terribly virile and brilliant of him to take one silly engine out of his boat and put another one into it.

He wanted me to be enthusiastic and gushing and tell him to do it. So I was, and did.

I don’t know or care what he did, or what happened.”

“That,” Bill’s voice cut in like a knife,

“is half true. But you did care. You were all intense and dithered about Gage.

You’d got to the point where you had to smash something. And that had to be my cup racer, the first decent thing I’d clone in my life. I low do you like the diagram,

Gage? How do you like it, I say!”

Madeleine’s eyes met Bill’s.

“Think what you please,” she said. “I don’t care. 1 only wish you’d please stop talking.”

Bill stood a moment, a figure of inviolable scorn, staring at her. Then he turned and strode off down the teach toward the west.

The road curved back from the dunes and passed a wooded estate where a grasswalk began, arched over by trees and bordered by vine-grown hedgerows.

Sutton walked back toward Lombardy alone, after excuses to Madeleine that must have sounded evasive.

Actually they had teen. He was moved by the single necessity of being alone to collect himself. His legend of Madeleine was falling into dust before his bewildered eyes. His mind could reason about it, but without grasp, without emotional response.

He felt chilled and void.

Her radiance, then, was a mist, glamor with which he himself had invested her.

Her j»wer to imjrari something like the spark of genius, a potent restlessness, to men was sheer moonshine. If the gift was hers, she was unaware, callous or even stupid about it. Inciting Bill to creative ardor or Slee to fat-headed violence either gave her the same ironic amusement.

The difference between Bill’s integrity

and Slee’s boorishness was too line for her mentality.

A wave of anger galvanized his body and brought a red haze before his eyes; then subsided, leaving him frigid again.

He, Gage, was simply another man. Fatuous, flattering to her small, smug ego. Not, perhaps, wholly absurd; she had considered what he thought a high and reckless passion for her an acceptable excuse for a light affair. She certainly had not considered any lasting attachment. His attitude toward Bill, toward Bill’s work, was beyond her comprehension; she had supposed it was a screen for a clandestine interest in her.

That left little enough of his romantic Madeleine. Her superiority became arrogance, chic, or at most the physical courage common in her world. Her complex charm came down to the low common denominator of physical attraction.

These thoughts passed over his mind without leaving an impress. Madeleine’s open callousness and lier own defiant admissions were not open to doubt, they could not be put aside as if they were mere charges; but his mind, forced to accept them, still evaded, became a whirling blank. He had evaded Madeleine for the same reason; another word would have cornered and killed his last doubt. Alone, now, he was as a man hit by a bullet, conscious of the fact, but confused, unwilling to know the extent of the casualty.

He reached the house and went quietly up to his room. From Madeleine’s quarter of the second floor came a murmur of voices, a stray phrase of laughter—Madeleine and her maid. A slow fury possessed Gage at the sound, the tinkle of mirth. So she could still chat blithely with her maid, lost in the perfection of her hair! Her own treachery bothered her not in the least. Her infatuating beauty was all that mattered. She smiled into her glass, impervious in her narcissism. She laughed softly in the assurance that Bill in due course would condone her actions; and how he would manage to live with himself after doing so was his concern, not hers.

s

UTTON went on to pack in angry haste. He would

Madeleine again he would either confront her with futile arraignments, or, worse, find dishonest excuses for her under the spell of her beauty. Better to get out quickly. Finished, he carried his bags downstairs.

Ann’s voice said:

“Hm ! Slipping off with our hostess’s spoons? You must be. You wouldn’t go places without telling me.”

He started and said:

“Oh, hello, darling. Awkward, isn’t it! I’d have dropped you a line, though.”

She had been curled up in the wing chair where she was the first time he ever saw her. Now she jumped up and came over to him. Her eyes under their straight brows searched his with a gravity almost accusing.

“Something’s happened. What? You’d better tell me.” He hesitated, found no reason for concealment nor any possibility of it with her. and went on to give her a curt account of what had taken place.

“She finished Pooh If.” he concluded. “Slee was just the blunt object she used. There’s no doubt of it. He’d have done anything she said. She told him to go ahead and wreck the show. She knew about the trials; he didn’t; she held that out. She knew what it all meant to Bill; I’d told her more than once. It didn’t matter.”

“But why? Why did she . . .?”

He Hushed. “Reprisal. Temper. I don’t know.”

“At you?”

“So Bill says; he damns me for the whole mess, and he’s nearly enough right. I’ve no argument.”

“What about you and Bill? And your idea?”

"Fini. All. So far as 1 know.”

She made a half-controlled gesture of frantic impatience and walked with him to the door. Outside, she blocked his wav. “Sutton, you can’t do this!”

“Can’t do anything else. I’ve no option about it.” “Where’s Bill now?”

He told her. Bill had walked off in the general direction of Ohio.

“Get in the car,” she said. “Stick your bags in the rumble. Oh, you can’t do this. It doesn’t fit. It isn’t you.” He laughed dryly. “What’s me?”

They whirled down the drive, down the lane, to the highway, where she took the turn toward the ocean. Her brows were level and firm. She was thinking hard, and she spoke in broken, difficult pirrases, clenching her hands on the wheel for emphasis.

“You’re—I hate ‘he-man.’ Besides it isn’t the word, it isn’t at all the word. It means just the kind of idiot you aren’t. You’re a—a masculine character, Sutton. Other men want to please women, they let women dominate them; you don’t. You’ve tried to and you can’t. You do what you think is important. You go your own way, where there’s work to be done. And it isn’t like you to let important things get ditched in a lot of punk emotion. I tell you, it just doesn’t lit—”

“Wait,” he put in. “Let me think. I can see . . . ” Something in what she had said seemed to clarify his mind. There were two matters here; they were distinct, must be kept apart. His romantic hopes of Madeleine were ending in hopeless revulsion. That was not to be talked about; it lay in a dark recess of his thoughts. Its later effect on him he could hardly foresee. Meanwhile that other desire, bitter and romantic, that had to do with uncompromising work in spite of every degrading force, remained. “Where would Bill have gone by now?” “I imagine,” she said, “he’s just taking a long tramp. We might cut him off at Georgica,” she suggested.

WHERE THE ROAD met the shore and curved off between a lily pond and a Coast Guard station, she stopped a few minutes later. A path led them to a look-out box on the edge of the sand bluffs; from this they caught sight of Bill coming toward them on his return way. Leaving Ann for the moment, Sutton went down the steps and waited.

Bill advanced to within two or three paces and stopped.

“Well?” he enquired.

“Something more to say. And you,” Sutton asserted, “will believe it.”

. “Why?”

He shrugged. “Lying would be too moronic a business to suit me or you just now. Anyhow, you’re not much sold on your theory that I’m ‘clever.’ You don’t think so much of it.”

Bill thought that over and blinked stonily. At length he gave a curt nod. “Shoot,” he said noncommittally. “What you’ll have to understand,” Sutton stated, “is that there is no affair. No intrigue. Particularly, there is no intrigue. You’ll realize, then, that my concern with you and the work was just what it apjieared to be.” He paused, then went on. “That ought to clear the air between us, between you and me. Madeleine, we won’t discuss. As it happens, Madeleine and I haven’t any remaining contact.”

“What’s the point of this?” Bill put in. “If you like, I’ll admit you seem to believe what you’re saying. What then? What’s your interest?”

“The boat of course.”

Bill’s lip curled. “What boat?”

“Very well, engine, then. Your V-24. I’d like to go on with that. Even more, I’d hate to see you drop it. Can’t you understand?” he added more tensely. “Your fight—our fight, if you don’t mind my getting in it—is against Slee. Tiie issue is quite simple—are you going to finish off a swell job, or is he going to stop you? So far. he has you.”

“Yes; and does that bum me up?”

Ann had joined them ; she came and stood beside Bill, and he absently dropped one ami about her shoulders.

“Well,” she said, as if this meeting were quite casual, “Sutton must have some idea by this time, I should hope. Let’s go back to the car, and he can tell us about it, and we canfpull it apart.”

Her suggestion was followed by an interval of suspense, tense uncertainty on the part of Bill. Finally he nodded, let himself be drawn along. In silence they climbed the ladderlike steps, and got into the seat of the roadster. Ann, driving, took a back road to town.

It was difficult at first to talk to a man wrapped in icy reserve. Sutton, declining to make any further appeal, adopted a tone that was impersonal, rather didactic.

Continued on page 30

Continued from page 24

The hull of a cup racer, he began by saying, was not of the first importance. All the radical developments now were in the engines: the big surpris« in hulls was sprung long ago in the famous Dixie dynasty and the days ôf Ankle Deep. Now all racing hulls were hydroplanes, all basically alike, although one might, be more fortunate than others in the sense that the same might be true of bob-sleds or soup spoons. Pooh Two’s single-stepper, while very sweet, was not extraordinary; but her twenty-four cylinder engine was. The two had made a beautifully integrated boat and all that, and it was a shame the combination had been broken up, but . . .

The point was, Pooh II, with an engine bought haphazard last week by Slee, would be a boat of no significance, but any hull in the Gold Cup conventions powered by the Lombard V-24 would be a cup racer of tremendous possibilities. In short, the guy who owned that engine owned a boat.

“That’s what you think," Bill interrupted, “because you're an engine guy. But a boat’s gotta have a hull. That’s what floats the engine. If it wasn’t for the hull the works would get all wet. And you1 don’t find Gold Cup hulls lying round for sale as old metal.’’

“No? I thought that far, and then I got past that. I can get a hull in a hurry, I think. It belongs to a chap in Red Bank. I built it and sank it for Slee. He fished it up and sold it, and—”

“Pooh the One!”

“That’s the beast.”

“The Lombard family curse will chase me,” said Bill, "till I see that twenty-four cylindered calamity pushing some sort of scow, Man, can you get that hull? Buy it, steal it, get it somehow?”

“I’m sure of it. .Just now' there’s an outof-date motor in it—two hundred and forty horses with nearly the weight of your four hundred, old thing—that has to come out. And of course it’s nothing wonderful, that hull: it’s a multi-step thing, it’s my design, it’s a couple of years old, and it leaks like -hm? What’s the matter, brat? Your face is as long as an anteater’s.”

“Leaks. Darling Sutton, leaks? Not leaks."

"Oh —h, don’t let that bother you. They more or less all do."

"On account of how they hang them up," Bill explained, “But when a hydro rides on her steps with only a few inches under

water a few leaks don’t hurt.”

FRESH EAGERNESS found its way into I Bill’s voice. His private life was a fog of hectic emotion and petty intrigue. He turned from it, wearily at first and then with a wistful sort of happiness, to his world of engines and craft, where things were what they seemed and the life he gave them could be seen in definite and living response.

He was quite himself saying:

"Well, let’s get hot on it - Hi! where are you going? Three-Mile Harbor?"

“Not going to Three-Mile Harbor,” said Ami. She liad picked out a narrow, yellow lane that dipped and wound through fragrant woods.

“You are. too. Sign said Three-Mile Harbor three miles, or something. I saw it."

"Don’t care what it said. This road doesn’t go any place. It's just a lot of right turns."

“Aren’t women the devil?” demanded Bill. “They argue with you till they haven’t got a leg left, then they say T don't care.’ ” To Arm he wailed; “We want to go to Montauk !”

“I’m not ‘women,’ ” raid Ann. The road turned right again, dipped, and came out at the Montauk Highway, well beyond East Hampton.

"The brat,” Sutton sighed, “is always right.”

“Pm no brat,” she told him, “and one of these days I may show' you where I bury my dead.”

"Never mind your dead. We want to get to Montauk. In a hurry. Step on it.” "Why do we want to get to Montauk?” That, now that he came to think of.it, Bill didn’t exactly know. He had a lot of thinking to do, and he could think better at ^Montauk. In the first place, Sutton had to {get over to Red Bank in no time at all. Five hours to New York, got across town, get a train out on the Penn.—it would run into days. Steve Brackett had a plane, though, an amphibian.

“England Amphibian,” Sutton decided. “I’ve flown it. If we can get it, I can sit down in that fellow’s backyard in an hour and a half.”

Bill’s face glowed. Meanwhile, he would get hold of the race committee, and another boat well, and a bunch of the dear old lads with wrenches . . .And while he was doing that he would get on long distance and snaffle the biggest Lombard truck in the district around Red Bank. And in between times he’d talk to City Island, and the Lombard plant , . ,

At six o’clock, with plenty of daylight left, Sutton took off in a southeast wind, quarter-circled the lake and high-tailed for the mouth of the Shrewsbury on the North Jersey coast. Before midnight Pooh the One was rolling east. At breakfast time next day he dropped Steve’s plane at its moorings. In the forenoon the hull arrived,

“Well, well!” said Bill, with satisfaction. “The old maestro.”

Ann’s spirits spurned the earth at sight of the seasoned hydroplane. It was interesting to wonder what she had expected. An echo of his first pride in that hull returned to Sutton. The dull-gleaming beauty* in rich woods and the delicate minutiae in workmanship were reminiscent of Duncan Phyfe, but the shape itself was rakish and exciting. The eye irresistibly was drawn to the sinuous curves of the bow, the streamlined hood, the vanishing sweep of chine, the startling occurrences of transverse steps. Here was the same impression of wild energy in stilled impatience that Pooh II had given; and a harder quality of will.

“It rides rather low and level,” Sutton said a trifle diffidently. “Its best point is it’ll turn on a dime."

“And that, what I mean, is a point.” “And it doesn’t look leakish,” Ann declared.

“My good kid, will you forget this leakish?”

“The engine we’ve got,” said Sutton, “would drive a boat made of slats, like a lobster pot.”

“Who’ll drive? In the race. Take it, Sutt?”

“What a look!” exclaimed Ann. “Darling Sutton’s face gets a look on it when he thinks of driving in the Gold Cup. Isn’t that quite strange?”

“No,” said Bill.

“Well, anyway, I told you he had an idea. I think it’s elegant. Even if it does leak. Isn’t there some kind of something you stop them up with? Hokum, or something?"

"No,” raid Bill. “We don’t want ideas stopped up with hokum.”

“Do we use the same name this boat has now, if it has one? Or get a new one? Or not? Or what?”

"Nobody knows,” Bill returned. "Now that’s settled . . . Ho-hum. Going to be a filthy chore. We’ve got about a w'eek, and we’d better lay our ears back and ...”

"THUS BEGAN labor on the new Lombard I entry. Ho-Hum. Days and nights merged in the harsh light of the hanging mill bulbs; men hammered and strained and swore in a modernistic bedlam; the work progressed under the constant threat of the advancing date. HoHum wras put in the water and tried experimentally and pulled out for drastic changes daily. Social affairs were beginning to revolve about the classic racing event a Gold Cup dinner, luncheons

and teas aboard yachts in Fort Pond Bay and shallower draught pleasure craft in the lake. Sanford Slee had ordered in his fifty-foot power cruiser—which he inevitably referred to as a yacht—and gave cocktail parties.

Sutton stayed on the job, rather silent and moody. Madeleine always was with him as a formless emotion; endless thoughts of her moved through his mind without any resolution. She was like a theme, a figure half evoked in the strings, effaced by the winds and brasses only to re-emerge, haunting and dangerous, in sharper counterpoint.

Ann’s puzzled eyes saw that this was so. She was curious, though with an odd, passionate restraint, and solicitous.

“What is it?” she impulsively demanded when she found him frowning and abstracted during a lull in affairs one afternoon. “Madeleine? Can’t you stop, Sutton?” "No, no,” he disclaimed. “Nothing. I was just—wool-gathering.”

“Do you have to be like this with me? Can’t you even tell me things?”

He made a disturbed gesture of consent. “It’s Madeleine, of course. I hate to feel this way, and I try to think, and it won’t come out any other way. What she did was rotten. Dishonorable, I mean. It made her—different.”

“What’s ‘honorable?’ ”

He looked up.

“What is it?”

“It’s not cheating at cards,” she told him. “It’s not kicking your golf ball. Because if anybody could ankle their ball out of a bad lie any time, there’d hardly be any point in playing golf. If there is anyhow! Or it’s fighting a duel over silly words or a silly woman. I mean, it’s always a big fuss over nothing much. I mean, it’s a sort of etiquette, to make useless things worth while at all.”

“You don’t say ! Imagine you figuring all that out! Go on about it.”

“I mean,” she struggled on, “honor’s never mixed up with anything important. Wars and finance and art aren’t cricket. Nobody’s quite honorable about the thing they think is important. And women in love aren’t honorable about love. It’s too important to be played by little rules. They sweep things out of their way. Love’s like the spring or the surf; it can’t wait . .

She stopped, distressed, certain that her argument had fallen down.

“Well, anyhow,” she cried, “I don’t believe Madeleine planned to be rotten. You and she were supposed to be terribly in love, and then what did you do but go and fall for an engine—”

"You got all that? You don’t miss much, do you?”

“No. And then one day, when she was hurt and mad. after the way. ways, you'd let her down, she suddenly had a chance to sweep that engine aside with a word. And naturally she didn’t stop to think, she just said it."

“Well!” he exclaimed, as she concluded her defense. ‘Tm glad you brought this up. You make me feel better, different, about everything.”

She scanned his face doubtfully.

"You’re making fun of me.”

“N-no, I should say not.”

A new quality—admiration, for want of a better word—had informed his odd affection for Ann. She drove with him every day now, and he often marvelled that her slight body could hold a nerve of such potentiality. She took the wheel and left him free to watch the engine, and the way she could cut the buoys and gun HoHum out of the skids was hair-raising. She could sweep down the course at full throttle doing seventy miles an hour and then pull Ho-Hum around the short turn without going a yard too far. If he, Sutton mused, had given the hull a certain hard recklessness, and Bill had given the engine fidelity, then it was equally true that the cup racer

as a whole must have the exquisite mettle of Ann.

“And Sutton—” she was saying, persistent. “You haven’t seen Madeleine since —the blow-off, and I wondered. Because there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. She realizes now she made a mistake—”

“A sort of mistake,” he nodded.

She shot him a quizzical look, but went on;

“She never knew how upset you were. And she feels now that it was all just a little unpleasantness that has blown over.”

“I want to see her,” he agreed. “I must. After all—” Then he put both hands on Ann’s slim shoulders. “Think hard and don’t guess, and then tell me: Could you manage Ho-Hum in the race? Take the throttle?”

“Where would you be?” in alarm.

“Oh, right there. With you. Acting as mechanic.”

“Mechanician,” Bill corrected, joining them. “Let’s have a little of the King’s English. Let’s have more action and less frousting about here. Let’s have—a drink. What’s up wind?”

They told him.

“I do think I could,” Ann answered very solemnly. “I’ve practised. I’ve trained hard. And I can feel just how HoHum is going every second.”

“What about the other guys’ wash? In a race, you know, the course gets into a mean chop. From a plane you’d see the whole two miles and a half all white water, a big white oval.”

“I know. I could take care of that.”

“For all we know,” Bill pointed out, “brains may be a handicap in this game. I’d take a chance on her. She’s a natural.”

Ann gave him a far-away smile. The decision, while it pleased her, left her rather grave. She seemed preoccupied, and her glance, when it returned to Sutton, was more perplexed than before their talk.

The race was very near now, and allabsorbing.

The famous Gold Cup was ornate and shaped like a Civil War admiral’s hat, inverted. It was commonly said to be nothing but sterling silver, but the citations around its pedestal were the history of pioneering in the realm of high speed on the water, from the day when twenty miles an hour was a fast pace to the present. The first incredible appearance of the stephydroplanes was there recorded. And there was traced the unflagging development of power. The chronicle of sportsmanship made the Gold Cup race a sort of New World Derby.

Nowadays there were many other races— sweepstakes, brilliant meetings—but none with quite the same distinguished traditions. There were faster craft of late years than these G boats—Harmsworth Trophy contestants of unlimited cost and stupendous power that made a hundred miles and more an hour; but the Gold Cup racers were "class" in all that idiom’s lost purity of meaning, and within their stringent limits they were the last cry, without peer in their delicate perfection.

SO, ON THIS turquoise and gold midAugust afternoon, all Montauk was agog. Crowds lined the lake shore and the yacht dub. and the pleasure craft of all degrees that lay at anchorage near the short tum wore gala attire. Seaplanes clattered overhead. Of a dozen scheduled entrants four of the fragile craft were already casuals— after who knew what weeks of toil and hope ! But eight came to the line at three o’clock for the start of the first thirty-mile heat.

Skirmishing for position there, they were seen for a brief interval as slender, glittering shapes in rather random motion. Lochinvar, come to capture the Cup for the West, and looking as if she might; the veteran HankyPanky, present record holder and out to keep it; Minnehaha, from inland waters, rumored to have streamlining secrets; the

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lovely new Miss Bath, a question mark; Steve Brackett's grand old skiff, Alicia, a little slow for this year; Invincible, Eugene Tash’s freak, apparently stoking soft coal; Sanford Slee’s Pooh II, looking very sweet, Carmichael driving. And the new Lombard boat, Ho-Hum, with a girl at the wheel and a man with a grave, alert face beside her.

Sudden and galvanic action.

The committee boat flagged hulls across the line, but what spectators aboard the gay flotilla saw' was an apparition sweeping down the course, the curved path of an invisible typhoon etched in spindrift. The dull boom of the gun floated over the scene. The air beat and throbbed with exhausts. Then the disturbance resolved itself into eight more or less distinct loci of discarnate speed.

At first only trained observers could see the identifying lines of different boats through showers of spray. But HankyPanky, first away, was leading, with Lochimar snorting at her heels, Ho-Hum and Pooh II tearing the course to ribbons behind them. The rest of the fleet, the slower boats and the poor starts, strung along astern. This was definitely the order at the thrilling short turn of the first lap, where Carmichael dropped into fourth, bothered by the wash. Thus they ran, slightly widening their leads, till the eighth lap. Invincible had dropped; now gallant Lochinvar veered off the course in a pall of smoke, her mechanic fighting flames with an extinguisher.

The contest, for Sutton Gage, was a complex emotion. The roar and power and vibration, the dense rush of wind and water, intoxicated him, gave at once a w'inged god’s sense of blithe suspension and a heightened sensitiveness of mood. Ann’s narrow instep, her small scuffed sport shoe so firm on the throttle, poignantly moved him at one instant; in the next he wanted to shout, and probably did, in admiration as she shot Ho-Hum around the hairpin in a pyramidal chop without spilling over an inch. Excited yet abnormally clearheaded, he was simultaneously aware of instruments, of the motor’s pitch and rhythms, the symmetry of the wake astern, the fierce give and take of inches between Ho-Hum and her nearer adversaries. But through all these; concerns he was enthralled by a dynamic and pervasive beauty.

The sensation was comparable only to great music. The conductor of a great orchestra, with the color of a hundred instruments at his fingertips, and a vast scale of musical emotion for his mood, might know it. The illusion was so strong that he signed to Ann for a diminuendo when she gave an extra burst on the gun.

They finished in second Lochinvar hors de combat, Hanky-Panky first with a fast average of 55.18 miles an hour. Fastest lap 57.21 by Lochinvar, not so good. Pooh II, losing distance on the turns, came up third. Three others finished.

“But Sutton!” Ann was protesting. "We never were going at speed. You”

At the boat well he drew her aside, away from the confusion, with a firm arm about her shoulders. HoHum was drawn up, being refuelled, reoiled, minutely overhauled for the next heat.

“It’s all right," he told her. “It’s grand. Darling, you drove a beautiful heat. Now we’re set. Now we know what it’s all about. The next heat is going to be a killer. There was no good in our risking a tail-shaft in that one.” He bent down, his lips hovering close to her bright head, and talked in ter»;, sure sentences. "Now here’s the dope ...”

Slee’s boat simply couldn’t take the wash. Unless Pooh got out in front and stayed there, she hadn’t a chance. She hadn’t anyway, but Slee thought differently. So SleeCarmichael, that was—would break his neck to be first over the line.

“He'll even take a chance on beating the gun. So don’t let him bother you, sweetie. Watch Milholland —Hanky-Panky, the old battle-axe. Never mind Carmichael. We’ll take care of him.”

He would watch the show. Ann would hold the tach on 3,500 till he gave her the word

Then—full throttle—everything—let her ride !

ANN WAS NOT taking chances of being / \ pulled over. After the warning for the second heat she closely trailed Milholland, while Sutton held the watch. A second before the starting gun Carmichael was off to starboard, gunning Pooh II for the line with all she had. Then the unexpected.

Hanky-Panky, off to another lead, was seen to balk and settle. In an instant she had dropped astern, lier engine conked out. Carmichael’s course had been convergent. Now he abruptly sheered in—through accident, design, or nerves—cutting obliquely across Ann’s bows, and roared across the line close to the buoys, to take the lead on the inside lane. Ann gasped and went taut at the wheel. HoHum hit the vicious wash at speed, leaped, howling, almost out of water, and came down with a slam that strained every plank in her forward steps. Then she straightened out with a furious toss of her nose. Sutton gave a wild laugh.

There seemed to be five of them. Pooh II, four lengths in front; then Ho-Hum; two other boats; then Hanky-Panky, with way on again but making poor time.

Ann shot Sutton a look of appeal and he shook his head. The five boats swept around the long curve at the wide end of the oval course in parade formation and flashed into the straightaway. Halfway down this reach he gave Ann the word.

HoHum leaped forward as if from a dead start. She seemed to spread her white wings of spray. The pitch of her engine soared up to a higher harmonic. Her wake was molded in a high, slender ridge—like Ann’s instep. Pooh II appeared to come into better focus. They passed her as if she were lying at anchorage. For a moment or two she was seen in the singular anomaly of furious forward st)eed and zero or negative motion ; static, like a painted racer.

They reached the turn two lengths ahead. Ann throttled back when she had to, and HoHum went around it like a wildcat on a hardwood floor. Sutton turned and looked back as they squared off.

Well. Slee had asked for it when he put that temperamental hull in the race with inadequate power. And Carmichael had cried for it when he pigged the inner lane by a start that should have flagged him off. Now they had it. Carmichael was in a spot.

Ho-Hum's deadly wash boiled around him on the sharp turn. He didn’t have to like it, but he had to take it. He had arranged that. Pooh II would skid into it just as surely as she had way on.

Something Bill had once said flashed through Sutton’s mind. Referring to Pooh II; “If she ever gets the wash she’ll dig in her chine and go

A startling thing was happening. He had expected to see Pooh virtually swamped. Instead, she appeared to go altogether haywire, off the course at a wild tangent, straight apparently into the ranks of pleasure craft. No, not that far But her rudder was dead, she was out of control, exactly like a plane in another’s prop wash. Now her rudder had caught. She made a spinner turn in a deluge of spray and her bright cedar flashed in the sun. Then she seemed to dissolve into the sparkling surface of the lake.

Sutton turned back to his instrument panel. Ann was grimly keeping HoHum’s throttle wide open. He nodded. That was necessary. In two minutes they were around again. Carmichael and his mechanic had been picked up, not so well pleased but unhurt. So much for that. For three laps

Ann kept the throttle down, and the grind went on. Then, at last, she relaxed. They ambled through eight more to finish a mile and a half ahead of anything else in sight.

“Slee,” announced a spokesman of the race committee, “is making a protest and entering charges against you, Gage. Anything to say?”

“If he does he’ll look like an ass for evermore. He was—”

“—pitted against—” suggested Bill, “—pitted against a mere child, a little girl of—How old are you?”

“Forty-six,” said Ann wearily.

“—a little girl of forty-six.”

“Come on, Gage! What about it?”

He made an impatient gesture.

“We drove a straight race; Carmichael jibbed all over the place. He was cold mutton. Don’t ask me. Y'ou’ll have newsreel shots from the air. Figure them out. What they say suits us.”

No more was heard officially of Slee’s complaint.

"Sutton ! Was what we did ‘honorable?’ ” “So far as it touches you, absolutely.” “And you?”

“Yes, I think so. I don’t know. The fact is, I don’t care. Never thought about it.” Then he remembered her having said that everybody met circumstances under which the strictly honorable thing seemed trivial. Well, Madeleine once had ... He was glad he had sunk Slee. He had done it purposely, without a qualm. Slee was his enemy, not a personal one but a symbol of the nagging cheapness that forever harassed the labors of those solitary mortals who believed in the integrity of inanimate things. For once, in a long, losing fight, he had gained a victory. Slee knew his Pooh II now for the botched and hybrid thing she was; he knew, too, what she might have been.

For Bill and his engine, they had set a salient record for speed over a single lap— 67.944 miles an hour! Sutton hoped they would take the Cup, for Ann; for she had raced in loyalty and purest sportsmanship. But his own part in the play, emotionally, was over.

As for their taking the trophy, that appeared a simple certainty. Only four boats would start the final heat. Of those, only one. Hanky-Panky, offered any threat, and her day was past. She was a grand old warhorse, but finally dated. Yes, the Cup was certain. Then there would be formalities, later a dinner, dancing at the club . . .

Abruptly he became aware of being tired. Ann, he saw, was drooping with fatigue. No wonder, poor darling! Sixty miles, sixty minutes packed with emergency, intense with strain. Thirty yet to be lived through.

“Sure you can stand another heat?” he asked her gently.

“Oh, yes.” She looked up at him and smiled. Her level brows were not expressive, except of candor; that always seemed to make her smile the more irradiating.

DANCE MUSIC throbbed on and on in its vapid reiterations, and here at this dub tonight Sutton had a feeling of being in a half-world of shadows, where individuals were like themselves yet puppetlike, moving yet devoid of passions and volitions. He saw Carmichael and Slee, both urbane, strange in evening dress. Here were Madeleine, Ann, Bill, himself, the others, smiling and speaking as if there were no emotions below the surface, had been no conflicts. A strange, rarefied atmosphere in which he ceased to think of work, Sanford

Slee became soft-spoken, and Madeleine smiled at love.

Madeleine tonight wore an evening gown of a chartreuse material. It appeared to have an artless simplicity, but it modelled her figure with hidden sorceries. Sutton caught both her hands and held them out, surveying her in wonder.

“Never,” he declared, “if I live to be ninety-seven. Nobody will ever forget you as you are tonight.”

“Sutton, my dear! That sounds like a valedictory.”

They were dancing, they were immaterial shadows of this colored half-world, moved by the music’s flowing rhythm. Words came to them.

“Now your terrifically important work is over,” she said. “When are you going to make love to me—in the moonlight—on a ship’s deck—going somewhere far off?” Her voice had a timbre of poetry and gentle mockery.

She knew the answer as well as he; but she could laugh and dare him to believe she had ever been less light-hearted.

“I think,” he told her, “I like to think that you and I are alike. We were too much alike, Madeleine. We both want things, if not the same things. And we haven’t, for one similarity, either of us much sense of humor.”

“Isn’t that rather horrible? Not to have one?”

“I don’t think so. It’s overrated, the sense of humor thing. Any fairly bright dog has it. It thins out into wit or irony, or disappears altogether in intelligent beings.” “Oh. And we’re going to be intelligent?” “I’m afraid so.”

“Do you think we’ll either of us ever find those things we want?” she asked him. “You’ll have love ...”

“Sometimes,” she agreed, with a slow sweep of dark lashes. “Sutton—Ann adores you, you know?”

“She’s often said so. She’s very adoring.” “No, seriously. In a way you don’t, and I can’t, realize.”

“She’s a child,” he protested.

“Yes? So are you, my dear. And she’s the older of you.” The encore ended and the saxophone added “That’s all,” in an idiot falsetto.

It would have been deplorable to have lost Madeleine as a friend. She was witty and decorative and charming; she was sophisticated; she was all the lovely things one could say of a beautiful woman. But something between Madeleine and himself had been destroyed, and her charm left him cool as tempered steel. He was glad that she was the wife of the man he liked as he had liked few men in his restless life.

Ann was grown up tonight in a gown with a train. He found her wearing a slender cape about her shoulders. That this fragile-seeming and feminine creature could be the indomitable Ann of that afternoon was something he could only half bring himself to believe.

“Are you all made up with Madeleine.” she asked, “Sutton?”

“Yes. All made up. If there was any need ...”

Ann’s wing-insignia brows were very straight and her eyes were very clear; so when Ann looked at things she got them all very straight and clear in her mind. She looked at Sutton now, and over to where Madeleine was standing ; and then she gave a small, carefree laugh.

“Are you ’specially crazy about this dance?” she enquired.

“No, not especially.”

“Well, then, let’s take somebody or other’s car and go some place.” She tried to sound very offhand, but the words came more and more breathlessly. “Because I’ve been wanting to go to this place and try something for a long time, only you’ve been so sort of busy and bothered I couldn’t bring it up, but now I think you might like it.”

“I shouldn’t be a bit surprised,” he said. “What is it?”

He would probably know, she told him, when they got there.

The End