FICTION

BACKGROUND

REITA LAMBERT August 15 1933
FICTION

BACKGROUND

REITA LAMBERT August 15 1933

BACKGROUND

REITA LAMBERT

SHARI DAWN inspected her preparations for the evening with the critical eye of a stage director taking a final view of his mise en scène before a première. Heavy amber drapes shut out the ragged skyline, and the rumble of the city walled in the room’s silence. The logs in the deep fireplace had s¡x*nt their first exuberance and now smoldered quietly. Candles burned in steady, gilded l>eaks. Golden chrysanthemums hung faintly luminous in the shadows. On a low table between the fire and the sofa stood an antique carafe of apricot brandy and two slender stemmed glasses. Beside them a plate of tiny sandwiches cigarettes, ashtrays.

"1 think that’s all. Alta.”

"Yas’m. Good night then. Miss Shari,” said the colored girl.

"Good night. Alta.”

Alta went out softly. Shari crossed the room and stood near the door. She was trying to see the room with John Shane’s eyes. A charming room, jjeople said on seeing it for the first time. John Shane would see that it was more than charming. He would see what a sure feeling for beauty had gone into the making of that room. It was fortunate, she thought, that she had not met him during the period when she had succumbed to the modern craze for vivid lacquers and distorted shapes. Or before that when, in her restless groping for perfection, she had cluttered her rooms with elaborate, carved monstrosities. Now she had climbed at last to John’s plane. She was ready !

She caught a glimpse of herself in the mantel mirror and nodded grave-eyed approval at what she saw. To Shari, who had achieved all else by the sheer, unquenchable passion of her desire, the miracle of her own delicate, slightly exotic beauty was a never-ending wonder. Sometimes she thought she must have created her own loveliness as she had created everything else lovely about her. Certainly it was all she would have made it, all John Shane could wish for even in a wife. And he wanted her for his wife.

His eyes had told her that in the first glance. "There you are at last!” they had said. And Shari's had answered: "Here 1 am, John!" To be sure, that was before he had heard the tmth about lier if he had heard it. She shrugged away the doubt as she had been shrugging it aw ay for nearly twenty-four hours; ever since last night, when she had found herself flying through the wintry midnight streets, flying from her past. Fool that she had been, leaving him with the one woman who could tell him the truth about her:

“Yes, her name was really Sarah Downing ...” If she had stayed, she could, at least, have prevented that. She thought bitterly how different their positions were; howterrible for him to learn that she was the little Sarah Downing he had once befriended. Yet, how wonderful and beautiful for her to find that he was the little John of her dearest memory.

“THAT LITTLE JOHN must have been twelve. And it I had been Sarah’s tenth birthday. Her mother had planned the trip to the country as a birthday treat. They had bought a five-cent pad and a new pencil at the station so that Sarah could amuse herself on the train.

“You might see a cow' you could draw,” her mother had said.

Sarah had never seen a live cow because she lived in a two-room tenement in the centre of the city, but she doubted if she would care to draw one, for a cow was not, to judge by its pictures, a thing of beauty. And Sarah was addicted to beauty. But the place to which Otto Durst drove them when they got off the train was beautiful. It was a very grand and opulent estate fronting on the shore. Otto and his wife, who were friends of her mother, lived over the garage. Otto was head gardener and Ida laundress at the great house.

They took Sarah and her mother on a tour of the grounds and even into the big house.

“The folks are away. They won’t mind,” Otto assured them.

That such a vast and beautiful bit of the world should be apportioned to one family had seemed to Sarah incredible. And when Otto had led the way into his master’s house, she walked on her shabby tiptoes from very awe. He took them through the beautiful, spacious rooms, explaining in a hushed voice the fabulous worth of some rug or vase, identifying the ancestral jx^rtraits on the walls. His broad, Teutonic face shone with vicarious pride in his master’s possessions. But before it was over, that tour of inspection had become an inexplicable torture to Sarah. When she came out again into the sunlight, her chest was tight with a strange, fierce fury.

“Yy don’t you go down on the peach und play in the vater?” Otto suggested.

And so she had taken her pad and pencil and followed the gravelled path to the beach. It was a private beach, with a private pier stretching out like a long neck over the shimmering blue water. A low stone wall separated it from the adjoining beach fronting another splendid estate, where half a dozen children were playing. Sarah took off her shoes and stockings and sat down on the wall. In order to appear

occupied and indifferent in case those other children were looking, she found a clean page on her pad and drew a lighthouse standing out of a raging sea.

But the other children w-ere having too good a time to notice her, and presently she was watching them shyly, wistfully, through the hot July haze. They were in bathing suits and their bodies were brown and sturdy. From the shelter of a huge, striped umbrella, two starched nurses watched them while they gambolled like young seals in the shallow water.

To Sarah, accustomed to the obscene cacophony of Çast Side streets and the bawding of tenement voices, their joyous squeals and gurgles stirred her as no hurdy-gurdy’s tune had ever done. She was conscious of an almost unbearable pain at her heart and her eyeballs stung. But she tossed her head and set her feet swinging nonchalantly when she sawone of them, a boy, coming toward her across the sand.

"Hello !” he said.

Boys were a girl’s natural enemies, their chief function in life to hurt or humiliate Iter. Sarah had learned that her best defense against them was indifference.

"Hello,” she said carelessly.

"Hello. You going in swimming?”

"No.”

HE DUG HIS TOES in the sand. He was a tallish boy In a blue bathing suit. His fair, sun-bleached hair and blue eyes seemed grotesque in contrast to his bronzed skin. And though he lived in a place as fine as a prince’s castle, with servants to look after him, his smile was as unselfconscious and friendly as a puppy’s tail.

"Don’t you like to swim?”

"No. I don’t know how.”

"You don’t know'—” he checked himself. "Oh. well, maybe you wouldn't like it. Some girls don’t,” he said and smiled on her sunnily.

She hummed a scrap of tune. It came to her suddenly that she needed no defense against this boy. Unless it was against the gentle, almost pitying kindness of his blue eyes. "You don’t live around here, do you.'" he said.

"No, I’m just spending the day.”

“Where do you live?”

“In New York.”

“I like New York,” he said. “My name’s John Shane. What’s yours?”

“Sarah Downing.”

He looked down at her pad.

“What’s that? A lighthouse, isn’t it? Did you draw it?” She nodded. "Gee. that’s good. Say, you can draw.’’

"I can draw you, if you want,” she said.

He placed the picture under a stone on the wall. Then he swam for her and dived and showed her how to skip stones. It was her first amicable encounter with a boy, and she was sorry when Otto came to call her in for dinner. She had been so happy. Happier than she had ever been in her starved, sordid little life.

But on the trip back to town, melancholy filled her until she ached with its weight. And when it began to lift, it left her sullen and rebellious. Her mother's cheerful prattle maddened her. It reflected Otto’s complacent pride in the things he could never hope to call his own. Why should her mother, who slaved from dawn to dark to keep bread in their mouths, rejoice in other people's good fortune. Sarah could not understand this. She wanted everything she had seen! She could not understand the sudden surge of contempt she felt for the shabby woman Ix'side her nor the equally sudden stormy outburst of grief that followed.

Her mother put her arms about her and held her close.

“There, there, darlin’ Aren’t you ashamed, crying in a train a big girl like you?”

I T TOOK another two years before Sarah understood the I mutinous emotions wakened in her by that eventful day. But, by the time she was twelve, the light of an indomitable purpose was a steady flame in her sombre, dark eyes. Always, these days, her restless pencil drew great houses set in noble lawns that sloped to the sea. And always there was a bright-haired boy playing on the beach.

Her teachers grumbled that if Sarah would spend more time studying and less scribbling, she might get somewhere. But her mother encouraged her.

“Some day you'll l'oint grand pictures and be a fine lady, if I can just keep you in school,” she said.

But, at fifteen. Sarah had to leave school and go to work. That was the day her mother’s assorted and long standing ills forced her finally to bed. When the district nurse had come and told Sarah how things stood, Sarah said belligerently that she guessed she was old enough to take care of her mother and do all that was needed.

“I can get a job, all right,” she said.

They found a neighbor who would look after the invalid in exchange for her room and board

Illustrated by

“You can not !”

‘A ou just sit down and be still a minute and you’ll see,” she told him.

He sat down on the wall and she found a clean page and looked at him, frowning a little, her lips pursed. He was smiling at her with merry, sceptical eyes. But she knew her own powers. Her pencil was to Sarah what his lamp was to Aladdin. It seemed tremendously important to her now that she should do her best. Hot buds of color bloomed on her sallow cheekbones and her thin, slightly grimy fingers trembled a little.

“Sit still !” she said.

Always that memory came back to her —a blend of white sand and baking sun, of little waves weaving lace among white pebbles, of a gentle, salty breeze with children’s laughter in it.

“There!” she said at last, and turned the pad for him

to see.

He stared at what she had drawn with sobering eyes.

“Gee! Say, that’s great. Say, that—that looks like meonly better.”

“You like it?” There was a kind of glory in the air. The buds of color spread until her face was all aglow. “You can have it, if you want.”

“Honest?” He took it with awe. “Say, you can draw. I bet some day you’ll be a great artist.”

“Oh, it’s easy to draw.”

“Not for me,” he said. “Gee, I wish I could draw like that.”

“Well, you can swim,” she reminded him. and her smile matched his own for friendliness. “I I wish you’d swim some for me, now.”

and Sarah went to work as a wrapix-r in the basement of a large department store. From nine to five, she sat in a small, raised lx>x behind the kitchen linen counter, wrapping trackages. She wrapped roller towels and gay-checked glass towels and bolts of gayly bordered linen. She was a thin, leggy girl with eyes t<*> large for her face, her youth obscured by the dnx>p and pallor of tenement life.

She did not mind the working so much as the waiting. She was impatient of the puny adolescence that kept her from launching her great dream. And while she waited she sketched as she had always sketched when there had been a scrap of paper and a ix-ncil within reach. There was always a great block of paper beneath her hand now and, sometimes when there was a lull at the kitchen linens, she would amuse herself by drawing a salesgirl or a customer and, when she dared, even the impressive flexjrman himself.

It was on a rainy day that she drew the handsome customer. The salesgirls had been standing about, gossiping in whispers, when the handsome customer arrived. Sarah couldn’t resist her. She was, so obviously, a very fine lady. While she inspected the bolts of linen, Sarah sat in her raised box and sketched busily on her great block of wrapping paper.

Early in the morning two days later, the handsome customer came back. Sarah saw her talking to the floorman and she had a premonitory chill. \Wien they approached the counter and the floorman told the saleswoman sternly, “Ask the wrapper to step down here, please, the chill became an ague of terror. The floorman had forbidden her to draw pictures on the wrapping paper.

“Did you do this?” he demanded and spread the creased paper on which Sarah had drawn the handsome customer.

Continued on page 34

Continued from page 11

"Y-yes, sir.”

”1 thought so. I’ve warned you before—” “Oh, but don’t scold her,” the customer ! broke in. "It’s quite all right. My husband I and I were merely interested to know .

She stopped, adjusted a lorgnette and inspected the scared, undernourished girl, j “So it was you who drew this?”

“Y-yes, ma’am.”

“Well 1 Who taught you to draw?”

"Nobody.”

“You mean you’ve never studied art?” “No, ma’am.”

“How old are you?”

“Nearly sixteen.”

The handsome customer’s eyes swung once more over the shrinking, shabby little figure. Then she smiled and took a card ; from her bag.

"Won’t you come to see me some time? j I’d like to talk to you about your drawing.

1 My husband thinks you have talent. Could you come let’s see —tonight at seven?” After a moment, Sarah managed to say: “Yes. ma’am.”

"You’ll find the address on the card.” As she turned away, Sarah heard her tell the doorman: "'That girl’s wasted down here. She should be up in your art department.”

“THIS TEMPERED her fright when the j I butler ushered her into Mr. and Mrs.

I Horace Drew’s drawing-room that evening, i Mr. Drew was a gaunt, grey-haired man and j greeted her jovially.

“So this is our wrapping-paper artist, is it?” he said.

Mrs. Drew told her to sit down and unfasten her coat. They were very kind to her. They were interested in what they called her art. And their interest deepened as their tactful questions revealed from what arid and hopeless soil her gift had sprung. Like many childless couples, they Uxjk more pleasure in their personal than in their civic philanthropies. Especially they were interested in fostering the arts, and Mr. Drew was ever on the alert to "discover genius.” Once or twice it seemed as if he had done this and he had invested heavily of his hopes and money. But, as a rule, his protégés had developed a genius solely for accepting charity.

'These experiments cost Sarah an even more meteoric rise to fame, for he had grown cautious. He told her:

"I think you have a very real talent, and I should like to help you develop it if you are willing to help yourself.”

“Yes, sir.”

"I happen to have a friend who is a very fine artist and an equally fine teacher. 1 believe he would be glad to accept you as a pupil.”

"But. 1 I can’t

"Your lessons would cost you nothing, you understand."

“Yes. sir. but 1 don’t have any time to take lessons. 1 I have to take care of my mother. She’s an invalid."

"You mean you have to support her?” "Yes. sir.”

"Entirely? Have vou no father?”

“He’s dead.”

"Or brothers or sisters?" She sh<x>k her ! head. “Well . . . ”

Mr. Drew and his wife exchanged glances. Mrs. Drew's said, "Yes, 1 know it’s sad. but don't you be foolish again."

Mr. Drew cleared his throat.

“It’s possible that we could get you parttime employment in the advertising art department of your shop,” he said. “That should pay you as well as your present jxjsition and leave you time for your studies." He rubbed his hands together. "1 am confident we can arrange it. and after that well, we shall see."

What he saw, and what eventually the world saw. was the steady flowering of a talent which, if not quite the genius her benefactor had foreseen, was genius none the less. A genius for drawing not so much from reality as from an ideal. This was the

basis of her early success. From the first her drawings of the merchandise she was Í called upon to illustrate were so touched ; with the glamor of her own dreams that their ¡ very creators could not look at them without emotion.

“Darned if she don't make me want to buy my own stock,” one merchant remarked

When she had been studying for a year. Sarah’s mother died and she moved uptown to a small room in the fifties. Indeed, the story of her migrations—from tenement to rooming house, rooming house to hotel, hotel to apartment, apartment to penthouse —is the story of her career.

She had made few friends in the noisome j neighborhood where she had been reared, j Once she had left it, she did not allow even ! her thoughts to return to it. She became Shari Dawn and, as Shari Dawn, she would j create a world worthy of her ambitions.

During those years of struggle, she did not study art alone. Every man and woman of breeding she met became unconsciously her teacher. She slaked her thirst for knowledge at the great city’s neglected fountains of learning, haunted the libraries and museums and concert halls, and nourished her own art on its brother arts. And she learned to dress and speak "like a lady.”

At twenty-one her girls’ heads blazed from magazine covers in every city in America. Girls glorious and glamorous, but with just enough resemblance to reality to fill every masculine breast with hope. Also at twenty-one she had achieved the dearest wish of her heart. She had repaid her benefactor.

Mr. I )rew had been almost too astounded to accept the cheque she offered him.

“Well, well, this is very—there was no hurry—”

"1 think you’ll find the amount correct,” she told him. “I’ve kept track from the first.” And she added formally : "Of course.

1 can never hope to repay you for your kindness.”

He took the cheque finally. He had last j seen her three years before, when she had come to tell him that she would no longer need his help and that she would try to repay him. She had changed vastly in those three years. He thought her far lovelier with her delicate features and intense, dark ' eyes, than the vivid pictured beauties for j which she was becoming noted. And she ; was dressed with the deceptive simplicity j that only a combination of money and impeccable taste can achieve. But it came j to him with a shock, as he met her level j gaze, that she hated him for having be! friended her.

This was not quite true. Shari hated him j because he had known her as Sarah Downj ing, as the starved, ignorant, shabby slum j child she herself hated even more than she ! hated him. And when she left the tall, stone j house she felt a new lightness in her body. She had severed the last link with the past, j

AT TWENTY-FIVE. Shari’s position in the world was secure. Art. she had discovered, was an open sesame to which every door, however exclusive, must yield. As a celebrated and charming young painter, she was invited everywhere, met everyone. She had many women friends but no intimates. Intimacy between women is the outgrowth of shared confidences. Shari j confided in no one. Other women babbled of ! their schooldays, their college life, their relatives. Shari had been born at seventeen, in a furnished room. The success stories published about her invariably began: "My parents died when 1 was very young. At sixteen I entered the art class of Henri Bordelle—”

Farther back than that she refused to go, save in her most secret thoughts. When she did permit her thoughts to wander beyond that, it was to the big house on the Sound and the friendly boy who had crystallized her vague and mocxdy needs into a definite goal. At twenty-live, that house and that

boy were still her standards of perfection.

Often and often she had thought of little John Shane, wondered what sort of man he had become. Everything that was noble and gallant and kind, surely. She had pictured him growing tall and stalwart at some exclusive prep school, distinguishing himself on field or crew at college, adding lustre to the stag line at deb dances. Sometimes she wondered if he had married and she would envision the wedding—some exquisite girl in her grandmother’s point lace, flower scented church. Mendelssohn, and little John grown a man. Like no other man.

She was mature enough to laugh at herself now. He was a precious memory, but she couldn’t be in love with a memory. Yet she knew that he had influenced her attitude toward other men. It was Harley Favors who made that clear. She had for Harley, as for every other man who had loved her, the attraction of an enigma. And one night he challenged her.

“Do you know why you won’t marry me, Shari?”

He had dined with her and they were sipping their coffee before the fire. Shari looked at the firelight glowing through the fragile cup.

“I suppose, for one thing, I'd like to be in love with the man I marry, Harley, dear.”

“But that’s the answer. You don’t want to be in love with me. You won’t let yourself be. I can feel your resistance.” He leaned toward her. “What is it you want, Shari?"

And she knew, suddenly, that what she wanted was a man like John Shane. A gentleman with a gentleman’s gracious heritage, a gentleman’s background. Harley Favors was a self-made millionaire and proud of it. But the very words “self-made” made Shari wince. She hated the expression and all it connoted.

“I want you for my friend, Harley,” she said gently.

He snorted.

“All right, have it your own way. But mark my words, young woman, you won’t always be able to order your emotions around like docile children. You’re going to lind that out sooner or later.”

And it was the very next day that his prophecy was fulfilled. She saw John Shane across a roomful of people occupied with teacups and chatter. She did not know that he was John Shane. She only knew that she was falling, falling over a bottomless precipice and fighting like fury to save herself, when someone said :

“Why, John Shane, the engineer, you know.”

Not her John! That couldn’t be. Such things only happened in books.

“Mr. Shane, Miss Dawn,” and here he was.

HE TOOK HER HAND and told Alice Carr who had introduced them, “Thanks, Alice. That’s all for the present I’ll ring if we need anything,” and tucked Shari under his arm. He was bigger, more rugged than she would have expected her little John to be. but he had the same winning, unselfconscious grin.

“I hope you don’t mind my manners,” he said. “I’m fresh from the jungle.”

“That should make you very popular.” she told him, her heart going like a rivetter.

“Heaven forbid!” he said and glanced around. “There must be an oasis in this desert of tea drinkers. Let’s find it.”

What they found was a hard bench under the stairs in the hall. But neither of them knew it was hard.

“Now this is something like,” he said. “Like what?” she asked and they laughed. Almost at once he asked her where she lived, and when she told him he wrote it down on the back of an envelope and said, “That’s that!” Shari knew that it was an insane way to behave, but she couldn’t help herself. She didn’t want to help herself. She didn't need to, because it was all right now. John had come.

They talked of everything and nothing. He told her that he had been building bridges in the wilds of South America and broke off suddenly to say:

“But. look here. 1 haven't stayed away] too long, have I?" And, when she looked at him. puzzled: ”1 mean—well, all married] women these days don't wear wedding rings.”

She went scarlet and laughed.

“I’m not married. I’m a hard-working spinster."

"Ah-h! And what do you work at. spinster?” He was naive to ask Shari Dawn that.

"Why. at painting, mostly.”

"Painting! You’re an artist?”

“Of sorts,” she said and looked up to find him staring at her fixedly. Her hands went clammy. He couldn’t remember! He shouldn’t !

“Do you—have you always lived in New York?” he said.

And she smiled and lied :

“Oh. no. I came here to study when I was sixteen. But you were telling me about those marvellous bridges.”

Half an hour later Alice Carr bore down on them indignantly.

“Shari Dawn, you shameless hussy! And you, too, John Shane. Don't you know you're supposed to be the lion of this party?”

“I was just practising my roar,” he explained. “And. anyway, Shari and I had so much to discuss.”

“You can say that to my face when I introduced you myself not an hour ago?” “That was for show. Why, Shari and I have known each other—”

“Since she was a tadpole and you were a whale or something. I know all about that. Well, you can just come back and roar like a proper lion, my boy."

But before the party broke up he managed to get Shari alone for a moment. He tucked her in a corner and turned his broad back on the company and demanded to know when he was going to see her again. “Tonight?” he said.

But he was so confident, so sure that she was as eager as he, that she found it possible to say no.

“I’ve an engagement tonight,” and added weakly, “it happens to be very important.” "Very well; tomorrow, then. We might drive into the country for lunch.”

She shook her head.

“You forget I’m a working girl. But tomorrow evening? M ill you come about nine?”

“Do you doubt it?”

Their hands touched. Shari went home with her nerves ringing like Christmas lxJls.

Her party for that night was one to which she had been looking forward for weeks. A reception for some visiting foreign jx)tentate. the invitation list compiled almost entirely from the social register. But Shari had painted a portrait of the hostess and made her so beautiful that she was promptly invited. She had thought of it as her crowning social triumph. But the arrival of John Shane had reduced it to a dull obligation.

She dressed for it in a haze. Falling in j love, she thought, was a little like taking a cocktail—two cocktails, perhaps. It eased the tension. Made you feel limp and blissful. If she had yielded to her weakness, she would have been content to sit down with her hands in her lap and wait for tomorrow night and John.

But of course she went to the party. And the first person she saw as she entered the crowded, politely murmurous drawing-room, was John Shane. John Shane in earnest conversation with Mrs. Horace Drew!

Oddly enough. Shari had never happened to meet the Drews socially. They moved in an older, more conservative set. But for years she had feared that she might.

It was Shari Dawn, the lovely and cultured young artist who had entered that room. But it was Sarah Downing, the scared, shabby, defiant little wrapper from the kitchen linens, who looked out at John Shane talking to her early benefactor. Her first impulse was to run. If they didn’t see her. it was not likely that her name would be mentioned and she might yet save herself. She turned blindly and collided with someone behind her.

"I beg your—Shari, my poor darling! Did I hurt you?” he cried.

"That's what you call being swept off your feet by a gal !"

“Oh, there you are, Shari. 1 want you to meet-—"

A dapper Sir Somebody. Then a fat man. After that, a thin man with a monocle. Her hostess embraced her. There was no escape.

"My dear, they’re all in ecstasies over my portrait oh! have you met Mr. Shane?”

“You bet she has!” boasted John.

Mrs. Drew was beside him. Her smile was warm and her plump hand in its white glove pressed Shari’s cordially.

"My dear child, how very nice. I can’t tell you how glad I am to--”

"How do you do,” said Shari coldly. "Will you excuse me? I must find someone . .

She walked away swiftly, her chin high. She found her cloak and she had run two blocks through the chill, midnight streets, her long skirts flapping windilv about her sandalled feet, before it occurred to her to call a taxi to take her home.

It took her hours, sitting shivering before the fire, to convince herself that she had been a fool. An egotistical fool. It was doubtful if they had even mentioned her name. Even more doubtful that a woman like Mrs. Drew would discuss her philanthropies at such a time. Mrs. Drew was a lady. And, after all. Shari had been but one among many of her g(xxl works.

SHARI LOOKED at the little ormolu clock on her desk. Nearly nine. She paced the floor slowly. The full, flowing sleeves and trailing skirts of her black velvet hostess gown gave her a look of medieval austerity. She had not rouged, but the color came and went in her cheeks like blown embers. At last the telephone rang.

"Mr. Shane calling.”

“Will you ask him to come up. please?” Presently she heard the clang of the elevator, but she waited for him to ring before she opened the door.

"Come in !”

"Good evening.” he said and she knew at once that he had heard.

He t(x>k off his coat in the foyer and followed her in. All the time she was chatting inanely.

"Isn’t it growing cold? Ever so much colder and you’re accustomed to a warm climate, aren't you?”

’Y es. but you’re cosy enough here.”

He held his hands to the flame. Shari sat down on the sofa. Mrs. Drew had told him. All the bubble had fizzed out of him. He was correct and coldly handsome in his dinner clothes.

"A fire is always cosy,” she said.

"May I smoke?”

“Of course." She moved the cigarettes toward him. but he produced a paper package of his own.

She felt as though all the machinery in her had stopped. He knew, but he had come because he had said he would and because he was a gentleman. But he was also a snob. The flame their glances had kindled yesterday had died. She could hear Mrs. Drew -“We found her in a department store basement wrapping bundles.”

"Yes. I like the location,” she was saying. "So close to everything.”

This went on and on. an endless patter of hollow trivialities. For a man so long away from the artificialities of civilized life, he was very good at it.

"I’ve been wondering.” he said suddenly, “why you call yourself Shari.”

She had not dreamed that he would bring it out in the open. It angered her and this was bracing. She looked at him levelly.

“Have you?”

“Mrs. Drew spoke of you as Sarah. As a matter of fact I already knew that was your name—at least, I was pretty sure.” He took a folded paper out of his pocket and passed it over. "I knew the girl who drew that was named Sarah.”

SHE UNFOLDED and looked at the pencilled sketch of a small boy sitting on a stone wall against a background of beach and water !

"What a coincidence !” she cried. “Why, I remember this. You don’t mean that you were that little boy!”

“Not such a coincidence.” he said gravely. “I always meant to look you up some day. I knewr, when I got old enough to know anything about such things, that you would distinguish yourself. That thing’s been knocking around in my trunk all these years.”

“That’s the nicest compliment I ever had,” she said lightly.

He stared down at his hands.

“Yesterday, after I left you. I went back to the hotel and dug it up. I knew, when you said you painted, you must be Sarah.” He smiled quizzically. “Only you’re Shari, now.”

She laughed.

“You don’t like that.”

“I like Sarah better. It’s a fine, honest name.”

She laughed again.

"Perhaps. Plenty of things are honestpigs and cabbages and worn-out shoesbut I don't like them any better than I like the name of Sarah.”

“You know,” he said, “you made a tremendous impression on me that day. You were such a pathetic little thing and

yet you were so darned brave. I could see you were unhappy. Of course, I didn’t know why—”

"But you do now,” she interrupted and her voice was shrill. “I've no doubt Mrs. Drew gave you the whole pitiful story.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Drew.” he said quietly, "happen to be my very dear friends."

“Oh. don’t think I'm criticizing her for it,” she protested. "It’s quite true she befriended me at a time when I needed it badly.”

"Then why did you treat her as you did last night?” he said, so abruptly that she shrank back. “Oh, I know you think it’s none of my business, but I'm not noted for my drawing-room manners.”

She pulled herself together. Her eyes blazed.

“I’m not surprised !”

"For you to deliberately snub a woman like that—” He broke off and his eyes bored into her. “Why should you be ashamed of having got where you are by your own efforts? Don’t you realize what a magnificent thing you’ve done? Why, when I realized yesterday that you were the same half-starved little kid that—”

“If you please!” she said haughtily, and stood up.

"But what are you afraid of? I should think you would want to shout it from the housetops.”

“Well, I don’t.” Her voice shook, her body shook. “I’ve spent fifteen years trying to forget it. Trying to forget that I was once hungry and cold and dirty. That my father died a drunkard, and my mother worked herself to death to keep us out of the poorhouse. That I knew all the ugliness of life before I knew any of its beauties. I want to forget it, and I’ll thank you to do the same.” His voice and eyes were full of compassion as he looked at her.

“But I don’t want to forget it. My dear girl, it isn't worthy of you—”

“Oh, please!” she sank back on the sofa and buried her face in her hands. “You have no right to talk to me like this.”

“But I have!” And now his voice was gentle. “Uve the right of a man who has cherished you as an ideal for years. I’ve the right of a man who has been through the same ordeal. Not as hard, perhaps, because I am a man. But I’m not ashamed of the fact that my father was a gardener or that—”

“What!” Her head jerked up. “What did you say?”

"I said......”

“Did you say that your father was a gardener?”

"He still is. In the same place next door to the one you visited that day. You remember?” She remembered. She stared

up at him blankly. “If it hadn't been for the Drews who used to come to the big house and took an interest in me. I'd probably have been a gardener, too."

“Oh,” she said and fumbled for her handkerchief. “Don’t you think—doesn’t it seem frightfully warm here to you?”

“Shall I open a window?”

"Please.”

WHILE HE DID SO. she got up and touched her hair mechanically before the mirror. He came back and stood facing her. his eyes apologetic, an unsteady smile on his mouth.

"I’m horribly ashamed of myself.” he said, "for acting like this. Talking to you like a—a fishwife. I don’t—”

“But I understand,” she said gently. “I understand why you were so indignant with me for snubbing Mrs. Drew. It was petty and mean of me and I’ll apologize.”

“But that isn’t why I—why I scolded you.”

“Then why?”

“Because I love you,” he blurted. "I think I ’ve been in love with you since I was twelve. I must have been, because when I saw you yesterday I hadn’t the faintest idea who you were, but I knew I was in love with you. Then last night—when I knew—well, I couldn’t bear to think that I’d been mistaken in you.”

“We’ve been mistaken in each other,” she said. “You see, I thought you were a gentleman. Wait till I’ve finished, please! I’ve always intended to marry a gentleman with—with heirlooms and ancestors that we could hang on the wall so that my children could say, ‘That’s my great grandfather.’ So that, if I had a daughter, she might be married in her grandmother’s wedding veil.” She looked at him with a rueful smile. “You understand, I wanted what I’ve never had —background. And all the time I’ve been in love with a gardener’s son who hasn’t any more background than I have.”

They stood there looking at each other. A little wind blew the curtains apart and carried to them the spicy scent of the chrysanthemums. A slow smile grew in John Shane’s eyes and. suddenly, Shari was confused. She felt the heat in her cheeks and looked away. He took her hands and laid them against his breast.

"I think you’re wrong about that; about us not having any background,” he said. “What about that mother of yours who kept you out of the poorhouse? And dad’s a swell gardener. Why not hang their pictures on the wall?” He bent his head and laid his cheek on hers. “And what’s the matter with our daughter being married in her mother’s wedding veil, my darling?” he demanded softly.