FICTION

A Matter of Business

High comedy starring a "Commonist" who tamed butlers, horses, cooks and millionaires, and a girl who said he was loathsome

EDWARD SHENTON October 15 1936
FICTION

A Matter of Business

High comedy starring a "Commonist" who tamed butlers, horses, cooks and millionaires, and a girl who said he was loathsome

EDWARD SHENTON October 15 1936

A Matter of Business

High comedy starring a "Commonist" who tamed butlers, horses, cooks and millionaires, and a girl who said he was loathsome

EDWARD SHENTON

MY GRACIOUS heavens,” said Adrian Cudhey, ‘‘what—-who is that?”

Shelby Maynard did not bother to look up from the piece of toast she was buttering.

“Bill,” she said,

Mr. Cudhey adjusted the pince-nez on the high thin bridge of his nose. He stared in wonder, and then glanced sharply at the girl.

“How do you know?” he asked suspiciously. “You didn’t even look?”

“Want to bet?” said Shelby. “I'll close my eyes.”

She closed her eyes without waiting for his answer and began eating the toast.

“Well, all right,” Mr. Cudhey said reluctantly.

"A dozen pairs of stockings,” said Shelby, “to a cigar.” “But 1 don’t smoke,” Mr. Cudhey protested.

“You can give it away,” Shelby replied. “With a gesttire. As gentlemen did before the Great Calamity.”

“It isn’t a fair bet,” Mr. Cudhey pointed out .

“We won’t go into that.”

. “Very well. How do you know it's Bill?"

“It’s a man, isn’t it?” asked Shelby.

“Ye—ss.”

“Wearing a bright red shirt, like a fireman’s?”

“Yes.”

“And shorts?”

“Well, yes. Although I thought—”

“And he is picking flowers?”

“I think so.”

“That’s Bill.”

“Ah,” said Mr. Cudhey, “and who, if I may ask, is Bill?”

“Bill,” said Shelby, “is—Bill.”

“Oh,” said Mr. Cudhey, and waited politely.

Shelby said no more. She broke another slice of toast and spread it generously with marmalade—imported British marmalade, sharp and bitter with being made from Spanish oranges. The Indian summer sun glinted on the girl’s ruddy hair. Her grey-green eyes were abstracted, in their cloudy depths lurked a remote apprehension. Despite the warmth she shivered slightly, then sighed and let her glance drift over the neighboring hillside. Terrace by terrace from the upper one where she sat at breakfast under a wide umbrella, her father’s huge estate descended, the lawns clipped and still brilliant, the flowers still bright. Behind her, the vast imitation French chateau shone in red brick and white stonework. Maids were opening windows to the morning sun; a groom led a tall hunter around the paddock ; a thirteen-inch beagle pack flowed like a brown and black and white-flecked wave out of their kennels and followed the master down the road; a chauffeur washed faint traces of dust from a grey limousine. Everything was active and enormous and expensive.

“Well?” said Mr. Cudhey briskly.

Shelby started.

“What?” she asked.

“Did you decide?”

Shelby gazed directly at him; at his ruddy aggressive handsome face, with its bold forehead and thin mouth. He was immaculate in grey trousers, dark coat and pearl-grey vest; a big man. slightly heavy perhaps hut attractive in an assured urbane way.

“Yes,” she said.

“Good.” said Adrian Cudhey. “Very good. Needless to say, my dear Shelby, you make me the happiest man in the world.”

“Who claims to be the happiest man in the world?” asked a deep voice.

Mr. Cudhey fixed a cold eye on the tali figure in the extraordinary costume.

“Bill, this is Mr. Cudhey.” Shelby said. “Adrian, Bill Sanderson.”

Bill nodded without offering to shake hands. He gave Shelby a bunch of petunias, zinnias, calendulas and dahlias. Then he said :

“I’d like to hear more about this happiest man in the world. I thought I was.”

“It’s nothing,” Shelby said hastily, “A chance remark.” “Not at all,” Adrian Cudhey said indignantly. “Miss Maynärd has just consented to become my wife."

Bill’s six foot of bone and muscle stiffened. He bent his

head slowly and gazed down at the girl. Then he reached out a sunburned hand, selected a zinnia and pulled it carefully through the top buttonhole of his crimson shirt.. After that he grinned cheerfully and said:

“O’Conner’s lying down on the job. The petunias and calendulas have aphis on them.”

“You speak to him, Bill,” Shelby said. Her voice sounded small and breathless.

“I’ll break his thick Irish skull,” Bill said complacently, and looking at Mr. Cudhey, added: “You’re wrong, my good sir. I’m still the happiest man in the world.” and went toward the greenhouses at the far end of the terrace.

Adrian Cudhey fitted his pince-nez deliberately on his nose and stared after him.

“Quite a character,” he said. “Just what does he. do?” “Oh, Bill loves flowers,” Shelby said vaguely.

“You don’t say,” Mr. Cudhey replied. He continued to stare after the broad-shouldered figure in the gaudy attire. Do you allow him to ah instruct the servants?” “They adore Bill,” Shelby answered. “All the maids are in love with him. O’Conner says Bill is a better horticulturist than he is. Marvin, the chauffeur, swears he knows more about cars than a racing mechanic. Peters always consults him if anything goes wrong with the horses or dogs. And the way cook raves about him is nothing less than scandalous.”

“A ah paragon,” Mr. Cudhey said in an unpleasant voice. “Does he do any work?”

“He’s a teacher,” Shelby answered. "Of economics. At a college.”

\ ÆR. CUDHEY looked at her suspiciously. Her eyes had clouded again, and that remote worry seemed closer to the surface, like fog gathering on a green sea. He arose, took her hand in his white, manicured fingers, and pressed it firmly.

‘Til be up. this evening, my dear. I have something to talk over with, your father,” He drew out his watch and made impatient clicking sounds with his tongue. “I must go. Very important btsird meeting. At eleven. Vast sums of money involved." He frowned and Shelby, fascinated, watched his narrow lips soundlessly counting invisible dollars. He nodded, bent, kissed her forehead and hurried to

where a sombre limousine and dark-clad chauffeur waited. It moved away in expensive silence.

“Very touching.” Bill’s voice behind her made Shelby jump. “Very, very beautiful, as dear old Hemingway might write. Full of zip, that lad. Better watch your step, lady.”

“Shut, up,” Shelby said fiercely. “What do you mean, sneaking around and spying?”

“Rubber soles,” Bill said, lifting his foot and holding it out for her inspection. “One of the marvels of modern dress.”

He sat down at the table, put a slice of bread into the toaster and clicked the switch.

“Co away,” Shelby said. “You’re no better than a private detective.”

“Right,” Bill said. “I took a course once. By mail, when 1 was twelve. I graduated in four lessons.”

“How wonderful,” Shelby said scornfully.

“Wasn’t it? Unfortunately, the professor claimed I cribbed in the exam and wouldn’t give me my badge. To be a detective without a badge is like a clergyman with no collar, or a doctor—”

The toaster snapped, popping the toast into view. Bill started.

“Dam that thing,” he said. “I never can get used to it.” He buttered a bit of toast lavishly, covered it with marmalade, took a large bite and leaned back comfortably. “Just who was that monument to progress?” he asked. “You mean Mr. Cudhey?”

“None other.”

“My fiancé.”

“I got that. I mean otherwise.”

“Adrian Cudhey,” Shelby said slowly, “is the head of Cudhey, Edmunds and Van Stiver, one of the largest Bill waved his hand.

"Don’t tell me. It all comes back. He’s the gent who sold short when everyone else was losing his shirt.”

“He’s a clever businessman.” Shelby said.

“No words could better describe him,” Bill said. “As a prospective son-in-law, Eli bet your father is crazy about him.”

"Father knows nothing.of this.” Shelby said.

Bill took the silver coffee sx>t and carefully [xnired a cup of coffee. Presently he said : “I begin to see. A jolly old Hollywood drammar. Daughter sells self to save pa-pa. How did you know your father was up against it?”

“Do you think I’m stupid?” Shelby asked. “As for that, how do you know?”

“Nothing is hidden from Yogi Sanderson.”

SHELBY studied his face. A rather nice one. she thought : honest, pleasantly rugged, not handsome at all, but attractive. Yet revealing little. It surprised her to discover something baffling about a person who had seemed above all else, cheerfully objective,

“Father is never to know any of this,” she said earnestly. “Promise.”

“To the mortuary,” Bill said. “Or as our delicate morticians so happily call it, the Slumber Room. Only I don’t understand why the big sacrifice is indicated at the moment. Or who gets what out of it, excepting, of,course, friend Cudhey.”

Shelby said, “You don’t?” and Bill answered, “I don’t,” and added, “Sounds like a back-handed wedding ceremony.”

Shelby ignored the remark. She seemed to withdraw, as though going back in her memory over a space of time, seeking in it the answer.

“There are two reasons.” she said at last. “The first is that father loves this place. He’s always planned to retire and live here in the grand old baronial tradition. A house where hospitality was unlimited. Now he’s going to lose it.” She paused and gestured dramatically. The movement of her hand was so expressive that Bill turned instinctively, expecting to see the house, stables, bams and outbuildings tumbled to mins.

“A bit on the sentimental side,” he said, “but you could call it a reason, I suppose. Let’s try the second.”

A glint of anger flickered in Shelby’s eyes,

"The next,” she said coldly, “is that Adrian is a man who does things. He gets out in the world and competes with other men.”

“Yoicks,” said Bill in an awed voice. “Sir Lancelot in a sedan. Returning from jousting in the money arena bearing 3 per cent Government bonds and mortgages.” He finished his coffee and arose sighing. “That’s what civilization has done to chivalry.”

“Anyway,” Shelby said furiously, “women want their husbands to be men who do things.”

“So I’ve heard,” Bill said. He looked thoughtfully at the girl. “I suppose the boy friend will give this place to your father as a dot?”

“You’ve no right to insinuate any such thing,” Shelby cried in a rage. “Adrian is a gentleman. He’s kind and generous and—understands.”

“I’m with you on the last item,” Bill said.

Shelby said in a voice of slow fury:

“I think you’re loathsome.”

“Loathsome is as loathsome does,” Bill replied and walked away.

Shelby watched him descending, terrace by terrace, his red shirt bright in the sunlight. It was all very strange about him. Yet when she thought of it in detail it seemed quite commonplace. She remembered the June morning when she had arisen early to ride before the day became too hot. Peters came leading her chestnut mare. She had been about to mount when her attention was attracted by something new on the familiar landscape.

“Peters,” she had said, “is that smoke coming out of the chimney .of the little house in the valley?”

“Yes, Miss Shelby,” Peters had answered.

“Incredible,” Shelby said. “Someone must be living there.”

“You never told me.”

“He has just; moved in,” Peters had replied. “Only day before yesterday evening. Besides he is a Commonist, Miss Shelby.”

“Communist? How do you know that, if he has just

“Bings tells me. Bings is second-man at Mr. Warburton’s. The man rented the house from Mr. Charley Warburton. Bings says he believes in throwing bombs and - and free love, if you’ll excuse me for repeating Bings’s exact words.”

“Quite all right, Peters,” Shelby said. “Your Bings didn’t know, by chance, which is his favorite occupation?” “No, miss. Bings didn’t say.”

Charley Warburton had brought the new tenant over to tea a few days later. And after that he simply appeared. At first Shelby had been irritated by this easy assumption of intimacy. Then she became fascinated by the spectacle of everyone, from her father to the third gardener, succumbing to this tall, placid young man. Her own efforts to maintain a formal aloofness failed utterly because he was apparently unaware that she was being aloof. He was not a “Commonist” as Bings had so direfully predicted, but an “economist” and taught in some college somewhere. The combined data collected on Bill Sanderson was remarkably full and extraordinarily vague. He loved to putter, whether over flowers or motors; he was always involved in some fabulous experiment with some fantastic gadget; he enjoyed eating, sleeping, lying in the sun, riding, walking, talking, swimming—in short, almost everything. On only one subject he offered no information-—women. He had never shown more than the friendliest interest in her, even when Shelby, out of sheer curiosity, had given him several unmistakable opportunities. And at last she had come to explain his presence by the indefinite phrase, “Oh, that’s just Bill. He’s a friend of the family.”

Continued on page 34

A Matter of Business

Continued from page 13~--Starts on page 12 -

But this time, Shelby thought, taking refuge in an irrational anger, he has overstepped his privileges. . . If it weren’t that father is so fond of him, and he cheers father up, I’d send him packing.

That, Shelby found, was unnecessary. The next morning all the shutters on the little house were tightly closed and no smoke arose serenely over the landscape. At breakfast, Shelby said to her father:

Mr. Maynard looked at her over his paper, His thin tired face with its clipped grey mustache appeared startled.

“Gone? I thought he was staying another week?”

“So did I. I can’t imagine why. Unless ...”

“We had kind of a row yesterday. Still, that’s no reason.”

“None at all,” Mr. Maynard said firmly. “There’s nothing petty about Bill. What was the row? Or shouldn’t I ask?”

“Of course. Over nothing, really. Adrian Cudhey stopped by. I thought Bill wasn’t very polite to him.”

“Hum,” said Mr. Maynard. “Cudhey, eh? Well, he’s not exactly Bill’s type.”

Shelby bent her head and continued eating.

“Don’t you like Mr. Cudhey?” she asked.

Her father glanced up in surprise.

“He’s quite a good businessman, isn’t he?” Shelby went on.

“I suppose so,” Mr. Maynard said, considering. “If making twenty or thirty millions is any indication.”

HPHE DAY was long. Without Bill’s red shirt, the landscape seemed singularly drab. . . He even lends color to autumn, Shelby thought absently. Wherever she went someone asked about Bill. “Have you seen Mr. Bill?” Peters said. “Harlequin seems to have a touch of colic.” “Mr. Bill left a book in the sunroom,” Evans, the butler, said. “Will he be back, Miss Shelby?” There was a sense of loss over the house and a queer atmosphere of lassitude. As though, Shelby thought, everything was sinking into an enchanted sleep.

Evening brought Adrian Cudhey to dinner. Shelby heard his brisk deep voice talking to her father on the terrace. She had selected a frock of unrelieved black that buttoned close to her throat. She looked at herself in the glass and ripped it off. “I won’t be like the rest of them,” she cried fiercely. When she appeared, she was wearing a startling green and gold gown with no back at all, Adrian Cudhey bowed and murmured:

“You are indescribable.”

Dinner was an agony of dullness. The servants came and went with the stiff slowness of a funeral procession. Shelby’s father had retreated into those blank distances of worry' she had come to know so well. Only Mr. Cudhey remained bland and conversational.

“Coffee on the terrace,” Shelby told the butler.

As she came through the French windows, the kennelled dogs began barking, a wind sprang up rustling the dead leaves * on the trees, the moon chose that moment Continued from page 34 to top the dark horizon: Bill’s tall figure mounted the last steps of the upper terrace.

Continued on page 37

“Well, Bill,” Mr. Maynard exclaimed in pleased surprise.

“Good evening, Mr. Sanderson.” Evans said, his long face brightening.

“Hello,” said Bill to Shelby.

“How spectacular,” she replied coldly. At least she meant it to be coldly, but somehow her voice sounded warm and amused to her ears. Adrian Cudhey looked at Bill and said nothing.

“We thought you’d deserted us.” Mr. Maynard said.

“Never,” Bill replied. “I’ve been taking a little dip into the world of business.”

“Eh?” said Mr. Cudhey a trifle unpleasantly. “Must seem strange to a—ah—• teacher.”

“Very refreshing,” Bill answered. “It makes life appear simple again. Like a return to the primitive.”

Adrian Cudhey fitted his pince-nez to his nose.

“You find business so easy, Mr. Sanderson?”

“Nothing to it,” Bill said cheerfully.

Mr. Maynard shook his head despondently.

“I’m afraid you’re wrong there, Bill. Modem business is a highly complicated affair.”

“It’s only the mechanism for doing business that’s complicated,” Bill replied. “Business itself is just the same today as it was in the beginning. You get something somebody wants and make him pay for it. The more he wants it, the more he’ll pay.”

“Then why do you teach economics?” Shelby asked. “Heaven knows that’s involved enough.”

“Teaching is just a side line with me,” Bill said complacently. “At heart I’m a gadgeteer.”

“What’s that?” Shelby demanded.

“Nonsense, I should say.” Mr. Cudhey said impatiently. “To get back to the subject under discussion. If you’d had any actual experience in business—”

“Oh, I have a long and honorable career behind me,” Bill said. “At eight I had a paper route. In two years every kid in town was working for me. When I was sixteen I developed the first alarming delusions of the monopolist. So I quit cold. All I could see for the future was millions.”

“Well, why not. have made millions?” Shelby asked.

“Then I’d have had to take care of them.”

SHELBY did not answer. Mr. Maynard took a cigar from his pocket, dipped the end and lit it thoughtfully. Adrian Cudhey snorted, put down his coffee cup and arose.

“I’m sorry to appear rude,” he said, “but I have an important and unavoidable project on. I’ll have to return to the city.” He bent the sharp gaze of his pince-nez on Shelby. “I will telephone you tomorrow.” As he departed, Bill said comfortably: “There you are. Instead of being able to sit out here under the stars, Mr. Cudhey must rush back to see that nobody takes his pennies away from him.”

Shelby got up and stood by her father’s chair, her face hidden in darkness. Her voice when she spoke sounded toneless and weary.

“I’ll leave you two together for a while, if you’ll excuse me. I must answer some letters.”

After she had gone. Mr. Maynard said abruptly:

“Sit down, Bill. I want to talk to you.” “I hope you didn’t mind the twaddle I was declaiming,” Bill said.

“It wasn’t twaddle.”

Mr. Maynard passed a hand across his eyes.

“Adrian Cudhey wants to buy this place,” he said.

Bill opened his mouth but no words came. He swallowed, moistened his lips and said in a tone of faint admiration:

“The old pirate.”

“He’s driving a hard deal,” Mr. Maynard went on. “He knows I’m in no position to bargain. The price he's offered is about fifty thousand less than I’d hoped to get. Yet it’s ten thousand better than any offer I’ve had.”

“It would be.” Bill said.

“I hate to sell it. I wanted it for Shelby. She loves it, Bill. I was going to give it to her for a wedding present. If and when, you know.”

Bill said in a feeble voice:

“A nice idea, sir.”

The older man shook his head sorrowfully.

“Well, there’s no use fretting. I suppose I should be glad to sell it to Cudhey. But, somehow, I resent being forced into taking his price.” He sighed. “Still, it’s onlybusiness, as you say. . . If Shelby didn’t care so much about it. .

“But I thought you liked it?” Bill said. “I did once. Twenty years ago. Yes, ten. , . Since Shelby’s mother died something’s been changing in me. What you said tonight crystallized it. About taking care of money, of things, possessions. I’ve been a slave to this place and all its complicated maintenance. Now that I haven’t the money to keep it up, I realize what a burden it’s been. ” He paused and laughed. “Bill, there’s nothing like losing your money to give you a sense of proportion.” Bill laughed also and his laughter sounded a little hollow.

“Quite right, sir.” he said.

Mr. Maynard considered the tip of his cigar.

“For a teacher. Bill.” he said, “you have a lot of common sense. What would vou do?”

“Ten minutes ago,” Bill said slowly, “it seemed very simple. Now I can see complications. My advice would be to do nothing for a day or two.” He got up. “I’ll find Shelby and say good night. Good night, sir.”

“Good night, Bill,” said Mr. Maynard. “I have great confidence in you, my boy.” Bill walked toward the house, muttering. “Complications upon complications upon complications upon. . . ”

"LJE FOUND Shelby reading in the •*-L library. At least she claimed that she was reading. When Bill pointed out that the book was upside down and her eyes were fixed and brooding about on a level with the fireplace mantel, she merely repeated: “Nevertheless, I’m reading.”

“Good,” said Bill heartily. “I like people who have a story and stick to it. How would you like to hear the story of my venture into business?”

Shelby did not even bother to look up. “I wouldn’t,” she said disdainfully. “It was disgusting of you to talk that way. Not that it really matters. Only men like Mr. Cudhey must think you simply silly. They laugh at you.”

Bill looked pained.

“He who laughs last,” he said darkly, “is an Englishman. Don’t forget that, my fine gal.”

“Don’t be amusing,” she said, “Don’t even try to be amusing.”

“I can’t help trying,” Bill said. “There’s a lot of amoeba in my character. I reach out here and there, this way and that. . . Aren’t you interested in what I did in the great arena of the world?”

“No,” said Shelby.

“Well, I’ll tell you,” Bill said agreeably. “First I took a gadget I’ve been fussing with for some time. I won’t bother you with technical details, but it’s a new scanning method for television.”

“Oh, indeed,” said Shelby. “I should have thought expert engineering training was necessary for that sort of thing.”

“Not at all,” said Bill. “Few inventors are trained men. Too much dogma hampers the free flow of imagination, if you get what I’m driving at.”

“Well, well,” said Bill, “we’ll pass that up. With my gadget I approached several gentlemen who have been looking for just such a gadget. They said, ‘My boy, you done it. Please accept our cheque, gratitude and contract for royalties.’ ”

“You’re making this all up.”

Bill wet his finger and crossed his heart. “Hope to die,” he said solemnly. “Where’s the cheque?” Shelby asked. “Show me that and I’ll believe you.”

“I spent it,” Bill said. “I bought a house.”

“A house?” cried Shelby incredulously, j “Bill, you’re mad.”

; “I’m beginning to suspect so,” Bill said sadly.

“What will you do with a house?” Shelby asked in amazement.

“You’ve put your finger right on the canker,” said Bill.

“Is it a big house?” Shelby asked. “Enormous.”

“Expensive to run?”

“Well, I’d imagine so.”

“Needs lots of servants?”

“About six—no, eight or a dozen.” “Like this place?”

“Somewhat. Come to think of it, quite a lot.”

“Awful,” said Shelby, and shuddered. “You wouldn’t want—like it, then?” Bill said lamely.

“Never,” said Shelby fervently. “You don’t know how I hate this place. It’s all right for father, he loves things on the grand scale. But I simply loathe it. My idea of a perfect home would be to take one of these lovely little old pioneer houses and remodel it.”

“I see,” said Bill. He took out his handkerchief and mopped his forehead.

“Why, that funny old place in the valley,” said Shelby warmly. “Where you live. That would make a beautiful place.” “So it would,” Bill said forlornly.

“I think I’ll speak. . . ” She stopped, arose and said hurriedly: “You are making this up, aren’t you?”

“No,” said Bill, “it’s true.”

“Well,” said Shelby. “I don’t know what under heaven you’ll do with it.”

Bill drew a deep breath and squared his shoulders.

“I do,” he said. “I’ll take my first royalty cheque, buy a nice river and shove the house in. Good night, Shelby.”

“Good night,” said Shelby.

C HELBY awoke late. A queer impres^ sion lingered in her mind of Bill’s voice speaking somewhere near at hand. She dressed slowly and went out into the glittering morning. Her glance turned at once to the small house in the valley. The windows were still shuttered. Even at a distance it had an air of emptiness.

Evans brought her breakfast. Shelby drank the tall glass of orange juice and poured a cup of coffee.

“Nothing more, Evans,” she said listlessly. “Is Mr. Sanderson away again?” “For good, Miss Shelby.”

The coffee spilled over the edge of the cup. Evans took it away and brought a clean saucer. Shelby did not look up.

“He was here early this morning,” Evans said. “He came to say good-by and gave each of us a flower. They were from the terrace garden, he said, but the sentiment was all his own, as it were.”

“Did he—I mean—was there any message?”

“No, Miss Shelby.”

“Has father gone to the city?”

“Yes, Miss Shelby. He took Mr. Sanderson in with him.”

“Oh,” said Shelby.

“The maids are quite broke up, if I may say so,” Evans volunteered. “And cook has been crying and—er—swearing all morning.”

“Cook’s very sentimental, Evans,” Shelby said.

“Mr. Sanderson is a very fine gentleman,” the butler said. “Everyone likes him, and we will miss him.”

Shelby got up abruptly, went into the house and up to her room. She stared at the telephone, reached out and took the instrument from its cradle. When the connection had been made, she said:

“Adrian...” And stopped.

“Shelby, my dear. This is a surprise.” Shelby drew a long breath and shut her eyes.

“Could we be married tomorrow?” she said.

“Married?” echoed Mr. Cudhey’s amazed voice. “Tomorrow?”

“I mean it,” Shelby said. “I hate weddings, big weddings. They’ve always seemed indecent, somehow. Like a public sale. I mean, I could meet you in the city.”

“Well, of course, if you wish. I’m overwhelmed.”

“At eleven, then?”

“Good, very good.” Mr. Cudhey’s voice became normal and brisk. “I’m surprised, you know. But delighted. This is a day of surprises,” Mr. Cudhey went on. “Your friend, Mr. Sanderson, was in to see me.”

“Bill?” cried Shelby. “What for?”

“A little private business.” She heard his bland laughter. “In view of this, nothing could have been more suitable.”

“But I want to know. . .” Shelby began.

“You shall. Tomorrow. Good-by, my dear.”

Shelby hung up. The unexpected intrusion of Bill’s name had shaken her. She was suddenly frightened by her action. She sat motionless, trying to rationalize what she was going to do. . . I’m being silly, she told herself firmly. Adrian is kind and a gentleman. He dresses well; he’s successful ; other businessmen respect him. He is really very distinguished looking. As for his being older than I am, our most civilized nations approve of husbands being older than their wives. It’s only the sentimental effect of the movies in this country. Besides the real point of it all is father. . . Thinking of him, the panic left her. It was the only possible return she could make for all the care he had lavished upon her. . . And if I’m not, she argued earnestly, exactly in love with Adrian, I'm not in love with anyone else. Anyway, Bill’s no more conscious of me than of cook or—or Peters, or the horses. And that would just make a complete mess of everything. . . She found to her surprise that she wanted to cry. When she had finished, she felt better and went to sleep.

To her amazement, it was late afternoon when she awoke. From the drive came the sound of a motor. Then she heard her father’s voice talking to Evans. “Tell cook to put them on ice,” he said. “Yes, sir. They’re beauties, Mr. Maynard.”

Her father laughed; his laughter sounded young and carefree. Put what on ice? Shelby thought in astonishment. She went downstairs and out the door and saw Evans holding a string of fish at arm’s length admiringly. Mr. Maynard, sunburned to a glowing pink, was gazing at the fish with a contented expression.

“Father,” Shelby exclaimed. “What on earth?”

Mr. Maynard waved a casual hand. “Been fishing,” he said. “Best time I’ve had in years, thanks to Bill.”

“Oh,” said Shelby, “was Bill with you?” “No, he just suggested it. Exactly what I needed and didn’t know it.”

He put his arm around Shelby and they walked toward the door.

Evans, without the fish, appeared at the door and said:

“Mr. Cudhey on the telephone, sir.” “Cudhey?” repeated Mr. Maynard and all the pleasure went out of his face. He took the phone from the butler and when it was plugged in, said, “Hello, Cudhey.” Shelby saw his brows contract. Cudhey’s voice came in a deep indistinguishable buzz. Mr. Maynard’s jaw dropped. The buzz continued. Mr. Maynard gasped. Shelby ruffled some magazines on the table. “If you say it’s legal, I suppose it is,” Mr. Maynard said. He handed the phone back to Evans.

“I don’t understand it,” he said in a dazed voice. “Bill bought this place yesContinued from page 38 terday on a thirty-day option, and sold it today for a hundred and fifty thousand dollars. He made the brokers promise absolute secrecy. It’s beyond belief.”

Continued an page 40

Shelby caught at the back of a chair. It was as though she had been struck with some dull instrument that caused no pain but left her incapable of feeling.

“Bill?” she gasped. “Bought it? Sold it?”

“To Adrian Cudhey,” her father said. “Oh dear, he asked me not to mention it to you.”

nrilE CHAUFFEUR stopped the roadster at the steps, touched his cap and : got out. Shelby handed him her suitcase to stow in the rumble. The sun was just setting over the distant hill. She turned to gaze at the small house in the valley, and on an impulse decided to take the longer road that wound past it and on out to the highway. As she reached the house, Bill stepped suddenly from behind the clump ! of hydrangea bush beside the gate, into the roadway. Shelby trod hard on the brake pedal.

“Get out of the way,” she cried.

“Where are you going?” asked Bill.

“None of your business.”

“Oh,” said Bill, “still running down my business ability.”

“I hate you,” Shelby cried. “You’re an impudent, interfering, conceited-.....”

“Stop,” said Bill, “you’re hurting my feelings.”

“Buying father’s house,” she went on. “When you knew. . . After I’d told

“Your father didn’t want it,” Bill said. “He told me so. He was trying to save it for you.”

“I didn’t want it,” Shelby said.

“So I found out,” answered Bill. He sighed. “I was very young in those days. Full of ideals and dreams. I said, ‘I’ll take my little shoestring, buy the palace and save the beautiful maiden.’ ” He shook his head mournfully. “Then I grew up.”

“Oh, do be sensible,” Shelby said desperately.

“I’m coming to that part,” Bill said. “When I found that nobody loved my nice house, I went to see Cudhey. He’d been trying to buy it from your father, shall we say sub rosa? When I remarked that I’d just purchased the hacienda he almost had a stroke. I forgot to mention my ownership was a fifteen-thousand option. He saw me as a possible rival, a business rival, and raised the ante fifty thou. I accepted. Blackout.”

“But now,” Shelby cried wildly, “what will he do with it?”

“Caveat emptor,” said Bill. “Let the buyer beware. That’s business. He did mention in a moment of expansion that he wanted it to give to you for a wedding present.”

“Not to me,” said Shelby. “He knew I wanted to keep it so father could go on living there.” Her voice quivered very near a sob. “I think it was a stupid, contemptible thing for him to do. I wouldn’t marry him now if he was the last...”

“Man on earth,” finished Bill.

Shelby trod on the starter. Bill reached in and turned off the ignition.

“Where are you going?” he repeated.

“I’m going away,” Shelby said in a muffled voice. “I’m going to be a stenographer or a mannequin or a waitress.”

“Well,” said Bill, “you won’t be crazy about any of them.”

“Anyway,” said Shelby, “you’ve no right to question me. You weren’t coming back.”

“I forgot my toothbrush,” said Bill, and started to walk back to the house.

Shelby jumped out of the car.

“Bill,” she called. “Bill, darling.”

“Ah,” said Bill, “more names.”

“What am I to do?” Shelby asked helplessly.

“Marry me,” Bill said.

“But—-but you don’t love me.”

Bill looked at her in amazement.

“What do you suppose I’ve been doing all this for?” he asked.

“I—I don’t know,” Shelby said, putting her arms around him. Bill kissed her.