ALBERT M. TREYNOR
IN THE AUTUMN of 1896 Jim Hawkes left his wife and baby daughter to join the footloose horde in the stampede for the gold fields of the Yukon. He headed into the wilds by the backdoor route, and nothing was heard of him again for thirty-five years.
Many things can happen in a third of a century. In the course of time Mrs. Hawkes died, still wondering a little perhaps about Jim. His daughter grew to womanhood, Titian-haired and gorgeous. She inherited nothing from her father except an ambition for sudden wealth. But she didn’t go rushing off to Bonanza Creek. Not with Oswald Clayton crazy about her; Ozzie, the grizzled bear of St. James Street, with his millions salted away. Oh, yes, they were married. And presently Jim Hawkes’ granddaughter was bom. Another devastating redhead, also named Jill.
Little Jill, the second, was carefully schooled in the three “R’s” of the very rich, to be ritzy and rude and reckless. At fifteen she lost her father and mother in that terrible disaster of the S.S. Arcturus. And when she reached voting age she came into sole, unhampered possession of the Clayton millions.
Which accounts for everybody except Jim Haw'kes; old Jim, the sourdough, who had slogged off into the Northland to dig gold for a family that long since had ceased to worry about material things.
He had been dead for years, no doubt. And forgotten. Jill Clayton had never seen him. He couldn’t mean anything in her life. She wouldn’t know that in her more restless and disillusioned moments the sultry, purple-blue eyes that she saw
in her mirror were the arrant, reckless eyes of Jim Hawkes, the adventurer.
Jill was living, for the present, at her seashore place near St. Andrews. She was a bit fed up with it here, but also she was sick of the other places. The difference between grandfather and granddaughter was that one had had too little, the other too much. Which is not such a great difference when measured in terms of discontentment.
A few people had dashed out for the week-end -Avery Stanhope, who made his living with polo ponies; Virgie Crocker, the dancing girl; Amy Purliens. Hollywood. Reno and points east; the mad Conte de Nevours and the questionable Mr. and Mrs. Gratz-Thomton; the brunette and blonde Revelle sisters, called “common” and “preferred;” and a certain Rolf Langley, lean and darkly self-possessed, who looked as though he might be the undercover man of something or other.
Jill Clayton lately had been picking up her playmates in strange, out-ofthe-way places, feverishly searching for new faces and new excitements.
.They were out on the terrace of the swimming pool, Jill and the Langley man, the commoner of the Revelle girls and two or three others, when the butler announced a caller. “Mr. Lee Johns.”
“Who?” demanded Jill.
“He says you w'on’t know him. Miss Clayton. But he says he knows your grandfather.”
“My—which?” Jill looked blank, and then laughed incredulously. “I never had a grandfather,” she told them. ‘I just broke out like an insurrection.”
“Let’s have the old codger in,” suggested Lucile Revelle.
BUT THE STRANGER had strolled around the loggia without waiting to be asked. He wasn’t so old. About thirty. A bronzed, lank, easy-moving man with sun-bleached hair and eyelashes, wearing scuffed puttees and a pair of aviator's breeches and a faded, soft leather jacket. Not precisely the clothes for a formal call, yet he had the air of belonging in them as a cougar belongs in his pelt.
Jill had been dunking her orchid silk pyjamas in the salt-water pool. She stood up a slim-bodied girl with a mop of ruddy hair and a mouth of wilful, red insolence.
'Tve had a heck of a time locating you,” said the stranger. “You’re Jim Hawkes’ only surviving descendant, aren’t you?”
He had brought a couple of plump little bags of moldy rawhide, which he dropped heavily on the marble sundial.
“Your grandfather sent ’em to you.”
“My ...” The sullen shadows were gone for a moment from Jill Clayton’s eyes. “You mean—he’s alive?”
“Sorry'—no," said Lee Johns.
“Then, what’s it about?”
'Tve brought a message. Two generations overdue.”
Jill studied the stranger narrowly. “Who are you?”
"A bush jumper; a prospector. I've got a seaplane that I bump around all over the Arctic Circle. One day, not long ago, 1 stuck her down on a little lost lake away back of the Porcupine River.”
“Have a snort, pard.” stuck in the commoner of the Revelle girls.
Lee Johns’ smile was like the flash of a bird in a thicket or a trout in a sunlit poolvivid, and gone before anyone was quite sure that he had smiled.
“I found a log shack.” he went on quietly, "so far back in the bush that nobody had been títere for years and years. But a man had wintered there,” he said after a little pause. “Winter of ninety-six. He was still there when l kicked open the slab door. Some old clothes in a bunk and a few tufts of tawny hair ...”
He checked himself with a sidewise glance at Jill Clayton.
She caught her breath. “Who was he?”
"He was Jim Hawkes.”
Jill Clayton lifted a stilled and sobered face. And then she must liave remembered that, while to a girl of her class it was right and logical to exhibit her lovely young body in wet pyjamas, it was not quite decent to show her emotions.
“What had happened to him?” she asked.
“He left a diary,” said Johns. “it was all written down, almost to the last hour. He had made his strike, and then —not long after—he cut his foot nearly off with an axe. Septicaemia. He died up there in that shack, all alone,”
“What's in the bags?” asked Miss Revelle.
“He left a note,” said Johns. “Written before men knew
about airplanes. He intended it for an aviator to find.”
Lee Johns picked up one of the mildewed pouches, tugged it open and revealed the contents, which looked like an agglomerate of small, black pebbles.
“Gold,” he said. “Around three hundred and sixty-five ounces.” He nodded to Jill Clayton. “Yours, with Jim Hawkes’ love.”
“How much, actually?” enquired Miss Revelle, while the others grouped closer, breathless with curiosity.
“Better than seven thousand dollars.”
Somebody laughed behind Johns’ back.
“Pin money for the old boy’s granddaughter.”
JOHNS TURNED. The man who had laughed was U leaning negligently against the stone balconnade. He wore white serge—a trim and competent-looking man with polished black hair, a sharp-pointed mustache, and the lithe, flat-stomached body of a tango boy. His heavv-lidded eyes opened with cold intensity as he saw Johns staring at him.
"Rolf Langley, Mr. Johns,” said Jill Clayton hastily.
Langley moved forward to lay a casually possessive hand around the girl’s bare arm—the rude and experienced gesture of a man who is very sure of himself with women.
Jill flushed, but left her arm where it was.
"Two generations are long enough,” she said, “to outlaw any claims I could have. Sorry, Mr. Johns, that you went to so much trouble.”
“I didn’t think it was any trouble,” Johns replied; “not if I were doing a little something for a guy like Jim Hawkes.”
"It’s yours more than it is mine.” the girl told him.
Johns looked about him, taking in the terraced lawns and gardens, the enormous white-stuccoed house, the landscaped driveways and the bulk headed water front, with the silver and mahogany power boat buoyed in the offing. The swimming pool and tiled loggia alone would have cost seven times $7,000.
"It’s not a bad idea about the pins,” he remarked, and started to saunter away.
But Jill Clayton had freed herself from Langley’s hand.
“We’re having supper out here,” she said. "Stick along, won’t you?"
Johns searched the violet-blue eyes for a moment and curtly nodded.
“All right,” he assented. “Sure.”
The dark little Revelle girl laid acquisitive hands on the new man before anyone else could move. She towed him off into the arbor behind the pool.
“Well,” asked the girl brightly, “what do you think of us now?”
Lee Johns was absently observing Jill Clayton and the Langley man sprawled on the grass across the pool.
“There are times,” he said, “when I positively cannot think.”
“Take Jill Clayton,” suggested the girl.
“As Jill Clayton, she’s all right, isn’t she?”
The girl was watching him shrewdly. “But as Jim Hawkes’ grandchild?”
“Well,” he said, “is she?” He shook his head. “I mean, Hawkes was what you would call a stalwart guy.” Johns sat looking across the pool, grim-visaged and ironical. “There was strong stuff in some of those old-timers. And if there’s anything in heredity, you wonder where their children are today. What Jim Hawkes bequeathed her would be worth a lot more to a girl than nuggets. If she finds it out in time.”
“Only she won’t.” Miss Revelle shook her prettily barbered head. “Too much money is not so good. And then,” she added, “too little money is not so good. Fun, free service, food—in the order named—that’s why I’m here. And most of the others.”
“You’ve got honesty anyway.”
“Oh. yes—in my conversation. But not a shred otherwise. ”
“Who is this Langley?” asked Johns.
She made a wry7 face. “Who or what or why?”
“For which of the reasons is he here?”
“You takes your fun where you finds it.” Miss Revelle looked steadily at Johns. “And he’s a man who takes his women in his stride.”
“Not one with a head on her shoulders and eyes in her head.”
“Oh, no?” Lucile Revelle gave him a glance that made her look wise and maternal for an instant and set him back into the little-boy class. “How well you know your genders.” she mocked. “But who am I to get squitty?” she asked. “Whatever Rolf Langley is, so am I.”
“That’s kind of rotten, isn’t it?”
“Fun comes first of all.” T , “I can see where the fun might come in, admitted Johns. “But then—Jill Clayton . . . „ .
“If you don’t like the way shes going, cut m Miss Revelle “whv don’t you do something about it.
Johns gave her a startled look. “What?”
“Because she’s bogging in bad, said the girl quietly. “And if I thought as much of this Jim Hawkes as you seem to, I’d grab the grandchild by the neck and take her clean
out of it.” , , . , . „till
“Oh. sure.” said Johns with a feeble gnn. I take em
10 LutdleRevdle stood up abruptly and touched his shoulder
with her fingers. , „ , .,
“You never know what you can do, she said, if you
I EE JOHNS stuck it for a while. He had seen plenty of I wild parties, and heard the loose, foolish talk and laughter that went with them. But his experiences had been mostly with men—rude and vigorous men who tried to ease up their nerves now and then after stretches of danger and
hardship. , , , . ,
These people were different. The greatest hardship they knew was to be bored. They created their own atmosphere of danger and daring, wantonly. And it was no less perilous because it was synthetic. To the man from the North there was something overstrained and unpleasant about it all, an ugly promise, like the barometrical tensions ahead of a chinook. He wasn’t having a good time, and he left soon after supper.
Jill Clayton went with her guest to the front driveway.
“Did you fly down here?” she asked as they paused under the porte-cochère.
He nodded. “I’ve got a seaplane moored on the bay.”
“When do you go back?”
“What do you prospect for up there?”
“Anything. If I find a mountain of asbestos or copper or an oil vent ,
I can usually interest some promoter.”
“It sounds amusing,” said Jill.
He faced her with his quizzical, brief smile. “Come along,” he invited.
Jill caught her breath. “What?”
“I’ve got a double cockpit,” he said.
“Yes?” she said, and laughed scornfully. “You move fast, don’t you. mister?”
“Sometimes,” he said. “Me and my ship.”
“ ‘And thou beside me in the wilderness,’ ” she chanted. “Is that what you mean, Omar Khayyam?”
“No,” he said, and appraised her with his cool, slate-grey eyes. “A girl can find her Paradise enow,” he added, "much nearer home.”
Jill stepped backward, and he saw the antagonistic molding of her jaw line.
“Just what do you mean by that?” she demanded.
He fumbled in his pocket, and brought out a little, crumpled leather-bound book.
“I forgot to give you Jim Hawkes’ diary.”
The girl casually accepted the volume.
“And I forgot to thank you for bringing it. And the gold.”
“But it doesn’t mean a lot to you, does it?”
“You mean Jim Hawkes?” she flashed back. “And why should he?
He was dead before I was bom. All that I know about him is that he walked out on my grandmother.”
Johns started to say something, and then decided not to.
“That’s right,” he finally said.
“I want you to take the nuggets,” said Jill, “and see to it that he’s decently buried.”
“There’s no need,” Johns told her,
“He's got a mound and a cross made of saplings and a whole grassy hillside all to himself.”
He held out a hard-palmed hand. “Well—I won’t be seeing you.”
Jill gave him her hand, and there was a feverishness in her touch as her fingers closed.
“I’ve never seen anybody like you before,” she declared, and made it sound somehow as though life had cheated her.
“We’re quits then," said Johns, and started down the driveway for his taxi. “Good-by, Miss Clayton.”
Her hand reached toward him, and then relaxed and fell. She waited motionless by the rose trellises, looking after him when he drove away.
THERE WAS nothing to keep Lee Johns in this part of the world, and when he reached the inn he decided to pull out at daybreak.
It was early in the season, and the inn was nearly deserted. Lee Johns eased his lank frame into a cushioned chair and put his feet on the rail. A soft night with a scud of clouds in the sky and the moon showing fitfully through the trapdoors in the ceiling. Now and then an automobile hurried along the ocean driveway. Otherwise there was only the quiet, the patches of shadow and moonshine, and the raw smell of the sea.
Johns scarcely noticed the passing cars, but after a while he heard one coming his way—a heavier pulsation, at dissonance with the rhythm of the night. This one was
hitting it up faster than any of the others. The headlights were boring down toward him; the deep throb of the engine swelled louder in its onward rush.
In a final crescendo of sound the car reached the turn below the inn gates. He heard the shriek of brakes slammed on, sawthe swerving of the headlights. A minute later the driver took the curve of the driveway, and came sliding and grinding to a stop.
A long-snouted roadster with its top down and a woman slouched at the wheel. The car door was kicked open and the woman tumbled out and ran up the inn steps. A pliant, slim-hipped figure, tight-knitted in a light jersey dress. Her hat was in her hand and her loose, heavy hair had gone wild behind a lifted windshield.
An erratic streak of moonlight reached her. Jilt Clayton. A sweet, young mouth ; eyes under the dark fray of uparrying eyelashes, deep, vital, brilliant in the moonlight. A girl who could have what she wished, who could be whatever she willed.
She saw Johns, and came to him,
“I’ve read my grandfather’s diary,” she said tensely. “It was—I didn’t realize. I just had to tell you, it means something to me now.”
“ ‘The stuff in the bags belongs to my wife and little girl.’ ” Jill Clayton had learned Jim Hawkes’ last scribbled words by heart. “ T sweated for it, brother—you who will some day find me here, I have nothing else to bequeath my women. Get it to them, won’t you? For Jim Hawkes.’ ”
“He worked out the gravel of an icy brook,” said Johns. “With an infection in his blood killing him. Day by day. in agony. Crawling on his stomach his final trips. But a man would do that for his women.” “I didn't know,” said Jill.
“Never whimpering about himself.” pursued Johns. “He played it the way it was, and glad that things were no worse. He left something behind when he was gone.” Jill laid her hand on Johns’ sleeve, and there was a throb in her voice.
“Take me with you,” she said. “Up there.”
For an instant he stopped breathing.
“If you’re thinking of Jim Hawkes,” he said at last, “there's no need.”
“I’m not thinking of Jim Hawkes.”
“He does nicely as he is.”
"I’m thinking of me."
He faced her with narrowing eyes. “Why do you want to go?”
“Because I’m sick to death of things around here!” she declared passionately. “Everything’s wrong! I'm sunk if I stay around here, And I can’t stand it any longer. I’ve got to get away. I can’t stand it !”
He stood up, to stare into her upturned face. An impetuous, spoiled woman, heartbreakingly beautiful.
“What’s it all about?” he asked. Perhaps she was suddenly ashamed of her outburst. A girl of her own hard little world would be taught to hide all hurt and unhappiness under the bright shield of flippancy.
“You asked me to go, didn’t you?” she smiled. “Well . . . let’s go.”
HE CONSIDERED her soberly —Lee Johns, the solitary wanderer who heretofore had lived on good terms with loneliness. He could picture this girl in his cockpit, ranging the forests and lakes. He could see her in the doorway of a smoky tent, or trudging with him along some balsam-scented trail. It could be beautiful—or it could destroy his peace and contentment for the rest of his life.
“I could change my mind,” he said, because he was disturbed and a little afraid.
“I never had to ask twice for anything before,” said Jill.
“I guess you don’t even ask once as a rule. You just go ahead and take.”
Continued on page 38
Continued from page 9
! “But I can beg, too,” she said. “Please, j sir. Please!”
j “What’s the idea?" he demanded, j Her eyelashes flickered impudently. “Maybe I would like to know you better, Aircraftsman Johns.”
j “Not if you knew what was good for you,
; you wouldn’t.” His mouth twisted sardoni| cally. “I'd break your neck for you, likely ! as not, if 1 ever got you up there alone.” “I’d like that.” She gave him a wistful smile and sighed. “I’d love it.”
“Yes?” he drawled.
She swayed toward him, warm hands drawing magnetically to his. Lips half parted, eyes half closed.
“I’d love it !” she whispered.
He put one arm about her shoulders, cupped his free hand behind her head, kissed her tentatively. And then, stunned and suffocated, he crushed her close and kissed her.
Jill waited quiescent until he had practically flung lier away from him. She tried to resume her lightness of tone, but her breathing interfered.
“If that’s breaking my neck, go ahead.” she gasped. “Break it.”
He turned on her, stricken by the realization of what had happened to him in one swift and devastating moment, savage because he had lost his head.
“You’re an ornery little devil,” he said. “Oh, sure!” she taunted. “The woman made me do it.” She put up her mouth again, pouting, tantalizing. “Well, where’s the old shotgun, mister? Why don’t you make her marry you?”
"That’s not funny,” he told her.
“Who said it was?”
"You mean, you would?” His voice ¡ stumbled. “You’d marry me?” i “Like a shot !”
I Lee Johns gazed with a shocked sense of I unreality into her flushed, lovely face,
“Nobody could care for anybody—not that fast,” he said.
“You mean you couldn’t care for anyone that fast,” returned Jill.
She wasn’t used to finding men so hard to get. And she had gone far enough. The man ought to go a part of the way himself. A girl has to have some pride. The bright shield suddenly was between them again.
“It was a thrill anyhow, woodsman,” she ! laughed.
“Yes?” he growled.
“It would be fun to go cruising places with you.”
“Fun!” Johns threw up his head with an unpleasant smile. “Just fun! You’ve got to stray off the beaten paths for it, haven’t ; you? You’re all fed up with the ordinary kinds of fun, aren’t you, Miss Clayton? And now a new type of boob from the back ! country comes along—”
“Stop it!” She pressed outspread hands j toward his mouth. ‘ ‘Shut up, will you?”
' “You’d even marry him, wouldn’t you? Just to have new places to go.”
“Please,” she choked. “You’re wrongall wrong,”
“And when I think of Jim Hawkes. up there, sweating out his life for his women! Pin money, to be tossed away with a laugh ! As you’ve tossed away everything else you might have had from him. All that was fine and sporting and great-hearted—”
“That will be enough,” said Jill, her voice dangerously controlled. “’We’ll let it go at that.”
“I wouldn’t marry you,” he said brutally. "I wouldn’t take you to Jim Hawkes’ country. I wouldn’t take you across the bay. To blazes with you, Miss Clayton !” i Jill stood in the moonlight, white and ! tight-lipped. She looked at Johns as ! though she were about to speak. But she didn’t. She smiled queerlv and groped for her hat. Her coat was there too. but she didn’t notice it, or didn’t want it. She pulled her hat smoothly down upon her head, her shadowy eyes upon Lee Johns, i never changing.
“Good night," she said in a voice clouded and far away. “ ’By.”
SHE WALKED as far as the steps and stopped. A car from the boulevard had turned into the driveway. It pulled up before the inn. A man was in it, and a girl. The man jumped out and came up the gravelled path. He glanced at Jill’s roadster and strode up the steps. A man in white serge, with a tilted Panama hat.
"That’s Jill Clayton’s car,” he said, quick and low.
Johns glanced behind him. Jill had been there seconds ago, but she was gone. She had just melted away into the shadows.
The intruder was waiting. Johns confronted him, vague and detached. The man was the tango boy, Rolf what’s-his-name —Rolf Langley.
“That’s Jill Clayton’s car,” he said again. "Is it?” Johns recalled himself. “If it’s so important to find out, you could take the license number and trace it down.”
“Yes?” Langley’s tone was extravagantly polite. “Listen. Benny,” he said “Did you know you were off yöur district?”
“I’ve found that out,” said Johns. “And what about you? Did you know you were off your district?”
Langley took a step forward, and froze to absolute immobility. Everything about him seemed frozen still, excepting his eyes, which changed their lights like little burning fires.
Johns saw all that was meant for him to see. This man was dangerous. It was as self-evident as cold potatoes—the flint-like poise of his body, the fist sagging out the pocket of his immaculate coat, the eyes glimmering in the moonlight like corrosive, heatless fires.
“If you told Jill Clayton to come, or if she just came, it doesn’t matter.” Langley sounded so patient and self-contained, the menace could have been missed were it not for the way he almost smiled. “I’m just telling you. Layoff!”
Johns spoke without ceasing to watch the swarthy face thrust so closely to his.
“Jill!” he said loudly. “Do you hear me? Come here, please.”
He was aware of a faint stirring in the shadow.
“If you’ve anything to pack,” he said, “go home and pack. We’re taking off for the Mackenzie within an hour.”
Jill Clayton came out into the moonlight. “Just to prove how brave you are.” She shivered in the cold wind from the sea. “The Mackenzie!” she said, crookedmouthed, her jaw line molded hard. “W hy.
I wouldn’t go with you, Mr. Johns, as far as across the bay.”
With quickened breath she spoke to Langley.
“All right, Rolf. If you still want to go through with it—any time you say.”
The man stared at her. "Jill! You mean ...”
“You’ve asked me, haven’t you? Well. I’m ready.”
“When?” exulted Langley.
“This minute. If you’re still willing to step off into space with a redhead.”
But Jill wasn’t looking at Langley. She was looking at Lee Johns.
“And you might congratulate me,” she said.
His eyes were cool in the moonlight.
“Is one supposed to?” he asked.
“When a girl is about to be married ...” Jill stopped. The bleakness of her glance meeting his. the sudden consternation, was banished swiftly by a desperate and defiant smile.
“Let’s go,” she said. “Rolf!”
Langley reached for her coat. But Lee Johns was a shade the quicker. He picked up the soft, light garment. It was fragrant of Jill; warm, it seemed to him, with the warmth of her. He tossed it over her arm. And then he noticed something else on the chair. Two fat rawhide pouches.
“Your nuggets,” he said as she turned away.
Jill shook her head. She didn't want them. She had left them behind for Johns to find.
“They’re not mine,” she said.
Johns chucked up one of the hefty bags, and dropped it again. Jim Hawkes’ pitiful winnings. There was more here than just a few hunks of discolored metal. There was something to be thrilled about and grateful for and proud of.
Jim Hawkes would have been mad over Jill Clayton. Any man would who sought the ruddy raw color of gold in the earth or in his women. But old Jim couldn’t be here tonight. He had sent a man in his place. And that man had failed his trust. He had handed the granddaughter back to her tango boy.
Jill turned headlong for her car—an impetuous, high-headed, redheaded girl. Whatever she started to do, she wouldn’t be easy to stop.
“Wait !” cried Johns aghast.. “Jill !”
The girl wavered at the steps.
“You said I move fast,” he told her. “Sometimes there’s no choice, if you don’t want to be too late. Maybe.” he said, “I wouldn’t make such a swell husband myself. But I’d try. I’d devote the remaining years to trying my darndest.”
Langley shouldered his way between them, his mouth turned ugly and vicious. But Jill laid a restraining hand on his arm.
“I’ve asked you something,” she said. “Rolf! Are you backing down?”
“Do you think I am?” Again he was suave and self-contained, a shifty-footed boy in female company. “I was only listening to the congratulations,” he remarked, his hand sliding down to find Jill’s hand.
NOBODY had paid any attention to the woman in Langley’s car. She had sat quietly all this while, slumped down in her seat. But now she came out over the running board, hurrying up the verandah steps—a trim and active girl with a closefitting hat, a pair of long, shadowy eyes and a painted blob for a mouth, on a gaunt face sallowed by the moon. She was a Revelle sister—Lucile, the black-haired one.
“You’re a bigger dumb fool, Jill Clayton,” she declared hotly, “than I’d figured in the first place.”
Jill ignored her. “Coming, Rolf?”
Lucile Revelle planted herself in front of Jill.
“A headstrong little brat, aren’t you? And spoiled. Whew! And you haven’t brains enough to grab the man who could unspoil you. When you could get him.” “Save it up,” said Langley sharply. “It’ll go big over the radio. ”
“The one man,” persisted Miss Revelle, “who comes along maybe once in a girl’s lifetime. If she’s got luck.”
“In which case,” said Jill, “the grabbing’s wide open for anybody. You, for instance.” Miss Revelle laughed harshly.
“You’ve got me wrong. I’m the commoner of the Revelle girls. Born into this world for the second-rate things. Not the best. The Langleys of the world.”
“Oh, yes?” Jill’s answering smile was mockingly sweet. “I get you. You’d like to keep this especial second-rater for yourself.” The Revelle girl took a step forward, her eyes glinting.
“So you want it? All right, take it! Remember, it was 1 who introduced Langley to you. Why? So he could turn on the works. A slick worker among women. We figured he could land you in two weeks at most. And marry you ...”
“Shut up!" cut in Langley savagely. “Jill ! She’s going nuts.”
“And I declared myself in,” stated Miss Revelle smoothly. “I was to get mine out of this love match. When Rolf Langley got his—”
“Lou!” snarled Langley.
But the girl was not to be headed olf. “A promoter. Me! Because I’ve got to get my hands on a few thousand dollars, which I was to be paid for helping things along.” She patted her chest with a thin hand. “That’s the kind of a rotter this gal turned out to be.”
“Jill!” appealed Langley wildly. “The; woman’s gone cuckoo. It’s all a big lie. I’ve been mad about you from the first day I laid eyes on you. As I shall always be. Darling!”
“Need we go into it so publicly?” said ; Jill quietly. “Let's save it up. Until after j we’ve seen the license bureau man. If you’re still willing—”
“And then?” Miss Revelle’s voice sounded irritatingly amused. “If you’re going to stay stubborn, Miss Clayton, let’s see if the party of the second part wants to be that way, too. I mean—ask him to tell you the one about Miami last winter.”
“Shut your mouth !” raved Langley.
“Or he could give you the straight of the Metis Beach story,” went on the girl serenely. “The one the newspapers got so cockeyed.”
Langley’s face was drawn and bloodless. Anybody could see that his gripping hands wanted to dose about this frank young woman’s graceful neck and choke off the power of speech.
Lee Johns feared that something like that was about to happen, and he started to edge between them, just in case.
But Miss Revelle warned him back with her ironic eyes.
“Let me.” she said. “A gentleman never j attacks a lady when she’s got a load of : goods on him which is all written out and stowed away in her safety deposit box. with the Crown attorney’s name on the envelope.” She smiled at Langley with that queer little shock-absorbing smile that could be so much at once so worldly-wise and wistful and motherly, and so absolutely sure. She wasn’t afraid. Anybody could see that she had every reason not to be afraid. It was > Langley who was afraid.
“He roars like lions at the approach of a : man,” said the girl. “But a little woman j can lead him.” She curved a firm hand ; through the crook of his arm. “And now let ’ us say, ‘Thank you for all of the beautiful hospitality.’ ”
Langley strained for a moment against her tightening grip. In those few seconds he neglected to be the polished, smooth-functioning tango boy. lie looked awkward and ¡ gauche, a trifle hangdog, if anybody wanted | the truth about him. And then some : macabre sense of humor must have come to his aid. He laughed lopsidedly.
“Anyhow, Miss Clayton,” he said, “you would have been pleasant to take.” Astonishingly, he let the Revelle girl conduct him to his roadster. He climbed in and grinned back in his sleekest manner. “And may 1 thank you,” he said, “for all of the beautiful hospitality.”
JILL CLAYTON remained standing on | the top step, looking shocked and be-1 wildered and very much let down. Anybody | could see that her heart wasn’t broken. But a girl has other things besides a heart to break.
Lee Johns was watching uneasily. But Jill suddenly had decided what to do. She I reached for the bags of gold.
“Wait !” she cried. “Lucile !”
She ran down the driveway.
“If you need a few thousand dollars as. badly as that—here! Take ’em to the
Miss Revelle turned with a slow measj uring glance.
“What’s the idea? A big breath of reliel. followed by a big wave of generosity?”
“It’s not that. It’s—I don’t know. 1 just j want you to have ’em. ”
The Revelle girl looked questioningly at Johns, and he nodded, quiet and friendly. “For a boy scout,” he said.
“At that," agreed Miss Revelle, “maybe! I’ve done my deed for this day.”
“That’s why.” said Jill.
“If Jim Hawkes were here he’d have handed them to you himself,” said Johns. “I’ve got that feeling. From one stalwart guy to another.”
Lucile Revelle was still looking at Johns, j straight and sober. _ ;
“I don’t know what got into me tonight,’ j she said at length. “It was just a whiff of J something you brought with you. mister, j
Something fresh and clean, from another country,”
“Jim Hawkes* country,” said Jill Clayton.
“Something I wouldn't have believed there was any of.” Miss Revelle spoke brusquely, a little embarrassed. “Well, that’s how it was.”
Jill put the two bags into the other girl’s hands. "Please!” she said.
“All right.” Miss Revelle tried to laugh. “Thanks, old-timer, wherever you are.”
And then she was gone, and Jill was left alone with Lee Johns. They didn’t see Miss Revelle climb into the seat beside Langley or hear the engine as the car drove away.
Jill was facing Johns like a subdued, shamed schoolgirl.
“He would have got me,” she said in a frightened whisper, “if you hadn’t come tonight. That was why I ran away to you.”
‘That’s finished now,” he said.
“I knew he was all wrong,” she confessed drearily. “But people are tiresome and dull,
and there was something strange and lurid about him. And I wasn’t hurting anybody but myself. I didn’t think I was. * And things lately ... I’d got so I didn’t care ...” She swallowed something in her throat. “But tonight, I found out that I wanted to care—terribly. And, Lee, you wouldn’t let me.”
He looked at her with a sudden warmth in his eyes and a breathlessness under his ribs, with a queer, delirious feeling that she was someone whom he had known intimately and ardently for a long time.
“Not even across the bay?” he asked at length.
“Or the Mackenzie. Or anywhere. Because I know now it is my heritage. To go where you are going.” Jill was all choked up. “And some part of Jim Hawkes must have waited around for thirty-five years to see that I got it. Some part of him that has been left alive.”
“A sort of an afterglow,” said Johns.