The Little Guy
A story of modern marriage
JOHN RANDOLPH PHILLIPS
HE SAT a long, long time staring at the letter while the flames flickered in the fireplace. Outside, twilight crept on stealthy feet; late autumn twilight, chill and sullen and sinister. Down at the kennels a hound howled, and far away a cow bawled her dismay. He remembered suddenly that for some unaccountable reason Linda had liked to hear a hound howling. When the freight trains wailed for Rountree’s Junction the hounds had always replied, and she had liked it. Well, that was one thing she had liked here.
He looked again at the letter.
“. . . and after all he is as much your son as mine. I never meant, except in those first few months when I hated you so, to keep him from you forever. He looks pale. I think he needs some of your famous outdoor life. So I am sending him to you for a month. Please, Julian, take care of him, for he means a mighty lot to me. And for his sake don’t let your father start making him over. I won’t say any more in that vein, because you already know, probably only too well, just how I feel along that line ...”
Outside, the twilight had thickened into a murky night that seemed pressing against the windowpanes. Margaret, the serving maid, came in
Again he saw Linda, slim and lovely, with snowflakes dusted over her, as she had stood that day on the avenue. It was the first time he had ever said more than good morning to her, though they had worked for two months at the same publishing house. He had said, “Hello, there,” and she had smiled, and suddenly they were in a cab going uptown and she had promised to have dinner with him.
The supper bell rang again, impatiently. Julian Fary went down the stairs. His father, the old major, looked up from his place at the head of the table with one of his military frowns and said: “You are thirty years old, and yet you have never formed the courteous habit of getting to meals on time. In the army—”
“To the devil with the army,” Julian thought, but he did not think it aloud. He was remembering now the night he had told Linda how, for once in his life, he had gone against his father’s wishes and come to the city. He remembered her voice, all sympathy: “I understand. You just had to break away and do what you wanted to do.”
“Jon is coming Friday,” he heard himself saying.
“Jon?” said his father.
“Yes, Jon—my son.”
“Do you think that’s wise, Julian?” The major’s short, neat, grey mustache bobbed upon his upper lip. “You were admirably strong when Linda left you. I don’t think I would weaken now.”
Julian remembered something else; his father saying: “Jon? J-o-n? That’s no way to spell John. Where’s the h?” Linda had tried to explain. She had told him all about how she and Julian had read Galsworthy aloud to each other and how they had loved Jon Forsyte and agreed to name him, if it turned out to be a him, Jon Forsyte Fary.
“Well,” the major had growled, “all I’ve got to say is that it’s a funny way to spell John.”
“Lots of things seem to be funny to you,” Linda had answered with sudden spunk; and Major Armistead Fary had risen grimly and stalked away. Julian had trembled then.
And he had said: “Be easy with him, honey. He’s so set in his ways.”
“So am I,” Linda had snapped, and had given him that first look of contempt, that look which he would remember as long as he lived.
with more hot biscuits. Once again the hound lifted his mournful cry down at the kennels.
“That’s Linda’s idea, of course,” the major said. “She’s tired of the boy and wants to get rid of him for a while.”
“It’s my idea, too,” Julian said. “If you don’t want him here, I’ll have to make other arrangements.”
“I have told you that this place is as much yours as mine. To be frank, I’ll be glad to have him, so long as it doesn’t mean her coming here.” The major’s eyes bored into those of his son. “After all he is my grandchild. You should have put the thing to a test right at the first and got custody of your own son.”
Julian remembered those days in the city. Gay days they had been; people in to dinner, with Linda serving tempting dishes she knew so well how to make. Then going domestic, as their friends said, and moving to a suburb when they knew the Little Guy was coming. And then one day when Jon was in his second year, Julian had gone to Linda and told her what he had done.
“But are you sure you want to go back?”
“I’m sure, kid,” he had laughed. “I’ve thought about it a long time. I wrote to dad Monday. You’ll love it there, Lin, and the Little Guy will have all the sunshine and fresh air he needs. Dad forgave me for marrying you by the next mail. He says come ahead and let him have a look at his daughter-in-law. Honestly, Lin, that’s where I belong. We’ve got a big place there and we can make money. We’ll never be rich, but we’ll be happy in the way my people have been happy for a hundred years. I—I guess I never was cut out to be a writer. I haven’t got the touch. And you wouldn’t want to see me, the rest of my life, editing copy at forty dollars a week. I belong back home, Lin, and you belong there tooyou and me and the Littlô Guy. Some day he’ll be Jon Fary, of Fary Court. That’s what the old place is called—Fary Court.”
Things returned so vividly to Julian this autumn evening. The major had been dismayed when he learned that they called the boy the Little Guy. “Guy,” he said, was one of the lowest of all the slang terms. Linda had wanted to know acidly if he would prefer Snookums, and the major, with that sad look of violated dignity, had marched away in dudgeon.
“Don’t smoke before dad, please, Linda,” he remembered saying one day.
He hadn’t been able to explain coherently to her all the things about his father. There were so many, many things to which she took exception, and so many, many things she did of which Armistead Fary disapproved. In the major’s eyes, Julian often thought, all girls of today suffered in comparison with the young ladies he had known in the nineties.
“I—I’m afraid you don’t like my father,” Julian said.
“I do like him. But he’s got too used to dominating people. Sometimes I can’t stand it.”
Well, she finally hadn’t been able to stand it at all. The crash had come a year and a half after they had arrived at Fary Court. All the pleading he could muster had availed nothing. Slim and perhaps lovelier than ever in her anger, she had stood in their bedroom and told him that she was leaving and taking Jon with her.
“If you were half a man, if you weren’t still your father’s pet, you’d come with me. In the city you were different. Here he does all the thinking for you and most of the acting. When he wanted me to whip Jon today for throwing his p ate, that—well, that was the last straw.”
There hadn’t seemed to be anything to say after that. Old Micajah had taken her to the train that night, taken her and Jon. Afterward there had been a few scattered letters to tell him how Jon was. In one of the letters she mentioned that she had recovered her job at the publishing house.
The major gave a short, nervous cough. Julian glanced obliquely at him. So tall, so dominant as he sat there at the head of the table, his blue eyes stern and steady under the crown of his iron-grey hair, his long-fingered, capable) hands deftly manipulating knife and fork. There was no hint of weakness in that rugged face. Julian envied that, envied all the fierce and ready strength of old Armistead Fary. How, he sometimes asked himself, had he sprung from such a father?
The answer of course rested in that girl of the nineties whom young Major Fary had married. She, by all accounts, had been a weak one. Julian scarcely remembered her, his clearest recollection being of one day when she had cried because the major whipped a disobedient Irish setter puppy. Once old Aunt Caroline Fary had told him disgustedly that he was exactly like his mother.
“See Johnson about that loan tomorrow,” the major said now.
“I’ve already seen him. He can’t pay. He wants more time.”
“More time! All right, I’ll see him myself. But you never will collect money unless you’re firm.” He paused, shaking his fork at his son. “About this other matter—I hope you aren’t going to mollycoddle that boy when he comes here.”
“Leave that to me,” Julian answered sharply.
Those old blue eyes, those stern old eyes, rested full upon him. They seemed saying, “All right, speak harshly if it does you any good. I don’t mind at all. It’s just your way of covering up. You know that in the end you will always do as I say.”
T5 UT THE major was grand on Friday when Julian went to the Junction and returned with his son. Tall and straight, he waited for them in the library, and he gave his hand to Jon warmly and without ostentation. “Well, you’re quite a young man. Let me see, eight years old, aren’t you? Little pale in the cheeks, though, and a little thin in the shanks. Well, we’ll soon fix that. Like dogs? Come out here and see the new pup I got this year.”
They went out, the little boy walking sedately behind his grandfather. And Julian stood at the library window gazing over the grey countryside. Eight years old. He had a son eight years old ! Yes, it was five years ago that Linda had left. His thought touching her was harsh. He clenched his right hand.
“Well, what do you think of your son?” the major asked that night when Jon had gone to bed.
Julian did not reply. Somehow there was no answer. He remembered that slight figure on the station platform at Rountree's, remembered the white face, the frightened eyes. He himself had stood dumb until the boy came walking slowly up to him.
“You—you’re my father, aren’t you? I recognized you from the picture mother gave me.”
They had shaken hands then, shaken hands in sober embarrassment, ridiculously like two old men meeting after a lifetime’s separation.
Next day Julian mounted the boy on a placid old sorrel mare and took him on a round of the place. “I guess you never rode before.”
“No, sir. But I’ve seen horses. Mother takes me sometimes to the park, and there are people there riding horses along what they call bridle paths.”
‘‘Yes, yes, I know what you mean by bridle paths,” Julian answered, faintly amused at the explanatory note in Jon’s voice.
“But the horses aren’t like this one. I mean they’re more like the one you’re riding, sort of long and slim and—and high-stepping.”
They covered the whole place that morning. But for the most part Julian was silent, rarely speaking except to explain something about the farm. He still did not know exactly what he thought of his son. And he had resolved firmly not to permit a return of that fierce, possessive emotion he had known in the days before Linda left, the days when Jon was the Little Guy, someone to be loved blindly and protected with the last drop of his heart’s blood.
“I suppose you didn’t want to come down here at all,” he hazarded when at last they were seated before the library fire.
“You mean you didn’t want to?”
“Yes, sir. I didn’t want to come. I guess I was scared. It seemed such a long, long way to be away from mother. But she said you would be very good to me and teach me to ride. She said for a month I’d be —uh—I’d be—”
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Continued from page 13—Starts on page 12
“Jon Fary, of Fary Court?”
“Yes. She said that’s what the place was called.”
“I suppose you love your mother very much.”
“More than anybody in all the world.” “Do you suppose you could learn to love your—your grandfather and me?” Why had he said that? He would have given a lot now not to have said it. Hadn’t he promised himself to keep a steady head? After all, the boy would soon go back. Perhaps Linda would never let him come here again.
“Of course. You’re my father and people always love their fathers, don’t they?”
“Yes,” Julian said, thinking of his own father. “Yes, people always love their fathers.”
The major came in then with packages. Here, he explained, were clothes for a country boy. He had just been to town and bought them. Hereafter Jon wasn’t to wear the long-trouser suit in which he had arrived. Eight-year-old boys had no business in long pants, no matter what the current juvenile fashion might be.
“Your grandfather,” Julian said tolerantly, when the major had gone out, “doesn’t believe in little boys trying to be men before their time.”
“Yes, sir.” Then: “Mother told me
“What did she tell you?” Julian asked, suddenly tense.”
“Oh, lots of different things. She said he was a very fine man who had been given in to too much. She said I must be kind and obedient, but I mustn’t ever forget that I was a person in my own right. I—I think that’s what she said.”
Julian knew it was. There was no speech more typical of Linda than that one. The old dull anger against her rolled over him in a flood until the blood drummed in his veins as it had years ago. “I’m a person in my own right—you’re a person in your own right.” That was Linda. Linda who had insulted and outraged his father. Linda who was the mother of this boy.
“A little eight-year-old kid,” Julian said half aloud, “and already she’s drilling into him the very things that later on will make trouble for him. Dad is right. It is fully as important to obey as it is to give orders.” Something struck his memory a quivering blow. Once he had quoted that dictum of his father’s to Linda and she had flared back: “Why doesn’t he practice what he preaches?”
“While you’re here,” he said suddenly, turning to Jon'with a sternness rare in him, “you’re to obey both your grandfather and me. I want you to understand that, Jon. Let there be ncr foolishness about being a person in your own right. Time enough for that later.”
To his surprise the boy’s eyes filled with sudden tears. Manfully Jon brushed them away, only to find fresh ones taking their place. A nameless misery struck deep into Julian Fary’s vitals. Once long ago he had kicked a puppy, and in the puppy’s eyes had been the same look that now made a bitter cloud in Jon’s. The next moment, without being conscious of having moved, he was across the room and had the boy in his arms.
“There, old-timer. Your daddy didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. Buck up. That’s a good fellow.”
“That boy’s been crying.” the major said later. “Met him in the hall just now and his eyes were red. Damned if I ’ll have a cry-baby around this place.”
Julian left the room on hasty feet, suddenly afraid that for once in his life he would commit violence on his father. “Going to take you hunting with me,
old-timer,” he said next morning. “You can trot along and carry the game your crack-shot daddy kills.”
JULIAN NEVER forgot that day. With J the two pointers bounding merrily in front of them, they started out across the frosty fields in the first faint rays of the sun. Behind him Jon walked carefully, keeping the distance he had told him to keep. At the corner of a clover field the pointers found birds and staunchly held them until the flush.
Twice Julian fired and twice a quail plummeted to the ground. He turned then, and he was never to forget the sight that met his gaze. Jon stood in a half crouch, his eyes narrowed yet full of fire, watching the birds hurtle away. On his tense face was the look of the hunter born, and through Julian raced a glorious exultation. He was a Fary; yes, the Little Guy was a Fary. It stood out in every line of his face. She’d never ruin that. She’d never take out of him that fierce, intense love of the wild that was as vital to every Fary as his own heart’s blood.
“That’s shooting, old-timer, even if I do say it,” he called, and it seemed to him that this was the first time his voice had sounded gay for years and years.
“Gee!” the boy said. That was all, just “Gee!” But to Julian it was the grandest tribute he had ever received.
Something got into him then. He couldn’t miss. Thereafter he killed ten straight, making twelve birds in the bag. As they turned homeward, the pointers found a covey along a ditch bank. An idea struck him suddenly.
“Well, I’ve killed the limit, but here are more birds. I can knock over a few above the limit and the game warden will never know the difference. What say, shall we try ’em?”
Jon did not answer.
“No harm to bag two or three more, is there?” Julian persisted. “What would you do? Speak up, fellow.”
“I wouldn’t—I wouldn’t do it.”
Julian turned then and shook hands with his son. “You’re a gentleman and a sportsman, old-timer. I’m not going to ask you for your reasons. I guess they’re mainly instinctive at your age. But I will give you my reasons. In the first place, twelve birds in one morning ought to satisfy anybody but a game hog. In the second place, it’s against the law. In the third place, if I kill more than the limit and another hunter kills only the limit, I’m taking advantage of that other hunter.”
“I knew you weren’t going to do it,” the boy said in a low voice. And in his eyes there was a sudden and overwhelming respect, a look so pure in its admiration that Julian turned abruptly away and stood blinking into the sun.
THE MAJOR was jolly that day at lunch. He had been to see Johnson and got the money owed them. All you had to do was be firm in these financial matters. Julian—well, Julian had just let Johnson pull the wool over his eyes. “Your daddy will let anybody do that to him, boy.”
And then out of a clear sky came Jon’s answer: “But he wouldn’t kill more than the limit of birds because it wouldn’t be fair to other hunters.”
Next day, however, the major’s good humor had, for some unaccountable reason, vanished. At breakfast he said there was no sense in Jon’s not ea ing his eggs along with his bacon. Kids, these days, he growled, were pandered to entirely too much.
“But he doesn’t like eggs, dad,” said Julian.
“Who ever heard of anybody not liking eggs? Eat them, sir, eat every bit of them up.”
Julian said: “Don’t overstep, dad. Jon, you’d do well to learn to like eggs. But if you can’t stomach them, don’t try.”
The major gave him a long, level IOOK, a look of disappointment. His mustache trembled; it even shook. His eyes seemed saying, “You never spoke to me that way before. Haven’t I always told you what to do?” Abruptly he left the table.
Julian said: “You must forgive him,
Jon. He is what you call set in his ways. When he was a boy ...” Julian paused, staring vacantly. “Well, I guess kids had a tough time in those days.”
“Yes, sir,” said John.
T won’t hear to it,” the major said grimly, later on. “An eight-year-old boy. Have you lost your senses? An eight-yearold boy with a shotgun !”
But it’s only a little twenty-gauge,” Julian said, “and I’m going to give it to him. He’s got only one more week with us, and that week is going to be the happiest I can give him.”
“I forbid your giving him a gun. You know very well that no child under twelve or thirteen has any business with a gun.”
* I 11 be responsible for him. If you could only see him when I shoot a bird and he stands there with his whole soul in his eyes, wishing and wishing and wishing and too much of a gentleman ever to say a word. He’s a born hunter, dad, like every other Fary.”
I still forbid it. But of course you are free to ignore that. You may be sorry when he shoots himself—or you.”
Julian knew his father was right, knew that no child should be allowed to have a firearm of any kind. But he bought the twenty-gauge. Somehow he couldn’t help it. It was a sweet twenty, too, light as a feather, and it cost Julian sixty dollars. He carried it up to the Little Guy’s room before he had risen one morning and carelessly dropped it on the bed.
“Oh, dad! Gee!” That was enough.
In one of the back fields he taught the boy to shoot, first at a still target, then at crows he called. Jon learned not rapidly but well. Finally they went afield and Jon killed five birds out of twenty shots, which Julian considered good enough in a beginner.
And then, with a suddenness that left Julian breathless, Jon’s last day arrived. He rega ded the boy at breakfast that morning. Old Armistead’s prophecy had come true. The pallor had left Jon’s cheeks—they were ruddy now—and his shanks were full and muscular.
“Some kind of arrangement has got to be made,” Julian thought. “She can’t have him all the time. Why was I such a fool as not to get custody of him when she deserted me?”
“Did you say something to me, dad?” “No, just talking to myself.” He looked again at the boy, forced himself to be cheerful. “Well, this is the day of the big hunt. Bet you five to one I get more than you do.”
Jon made some reply, but Julian didn’t hear it. He was back in other days now . . . She came here ready to find fault. Of course she didn’t want to leave the city, no matter what she said about going with me wherever I went. The very first thing my father did that didn’t suit her, she went into a tantrum. She called me my father’s pet. The only thing I ever did that she admired was when I left here and went to the city against his wishes. Me thinking I could be a writer !
“Dad, you’re the funniest guy. You sit there with your mouth working as if you’re talking and yet you don’t say a word.”
“I’m just rehearsing what I’m going to say to you when I get two out of the first covey rise, and you don’t get a feather.” “Listen, fellow’, trying to kid me?”
Yes, they had become that intimate. They kidded each other and had a big time doing it. Julian felt queer all of a sudden. He found himself leaning across the table; it seemed to him that he felt his eyeballs burning.
“Listen, Jon, do you want to go back to the city, or do you w’ant to stay here?”
“Gee! I’ve got to go back. There’s mother.”
Yes, there was mother; there always would be mother . . .
“Take the first shot,” he heard himself say harshly. “No objections now ! This is your last day.”
r"PHE DOGS had made birds in a patch 4of low, thick pines, and here there was room for only one person to shoot. The feathered bullets whistled upward. Jon fired twice, missing both times, then flung himself aside. The twelve gauge, heavier and deadlier than the twenty, spoke once in Julian’s hands and a bird dropped.
“Gee, dad, you always make those long shots.”
Julian softened. He had been a fool to permit harshness to come into his heart. This was their last day. Nothing must mar it, not one careless word or action. He smiled at Jon.
“Careful how you hold that gun going through fences, son.”
“All right, dad. I forgot.”
They went on. leaving the fence, on through a land of flat, brushy fields, with here and there a stretch of stubble. In the west, clouds thickened until they spread over the entire sky. Now and then a wandering flake of snow drifted to rest on the brown earth. Birds that day lay well for the dogs.
A quiet exhilaration ran its way through Julian, but it was an exhilaration sadly tempered by the thought that tomorrow the Little Guy would be gone. One last day for them. But it wasn’t to be the last, he told himself with a fierceness he had not known in many a day. In the spring he would go to the city, see Linda—no matter how much it hurt him—arrive at some more satisfactory arrangement.
What a fool he had been not to put the matter to a test when she had deserted him ! But then, he had been so numb with misery he hadn’t seemed to care for anything. He had made himself believe that he didn’t care. He had shouted it silently to himself. And behind him Armistead Fary, of Fary Court, had stood like a rock, like a blessed bulwark into whose shelter he might creep.
The major’s words came back to him, echoing and re-echoing in his mind: “You behaved like a man, son. No man forces a woman to go his way. If she won’t of her own accord, he steps aside and knows better in the future.”
Still, he could have made a fight for the boy.
“All right. You take the right side, I’ll take the left.”
Half a second later he was shouting in maniac glee. “A double! You got a double, kid. Your first double!” He forgot the dogs, outstripping them in his wild dash for the two birds Jon had dropped.
“You got a couple yourself, dad.”
“So I did. So I did. Lord, I forgot ’em when I saw your second bird tumble.” They ate lunch on the bank of Whippoorwill Creek. A few more snowflakes came dusting down, the clouds drooped a little lower. The boy ate his sandwiches with a relish that had not been present when first he came to Fary Court. Liverpudding sandwiches, for last week hogkilling time had come.
“Always take something light and fairly digestible on a hunting trip, Jon. Tuna fish is good, so is chicken salad.”
“I like this best of all. Say, dad, there’s a place at home where they have a nice restaurant. Mother took me there once. She said she liked the spaciousness of it. The tables aren’t jammed up together and the ceiling is away up yonder.”
“I remember,” Julian said.
“Yes. Mother said you used to take her there. She said you took her there once for lunch when it was snowing, and then you were both late for work.”
“I remember,” Julian said again. Yes, they had been two hours late, but that day Linda had promised to marry him.
The snow came when they were three miles from Fary Court. One moment the air above was a grey blank, the next it was filled with lazy particles of white that clung to arms and faces and shoulders. Five minutes later they were surrounded, enfolded by a white wall.
“Time to cut for home, Jon.”
There in the gloom was Ryder’s wire fence. Julian remembered afterward sticking his gun through the fence, laying it flat; he remembered climbing over the wire, hugging the post with one arm. Then something struck him in the back and somewhere there was an explosion.
T_FE WAS lying on the ground. His whole back and right side felt sticky. The horizon turned over and over. Somewhere a voice was chanting, “You may be sorry when he shoots himself—or you. You may be sorry . . . you may be sorry ...”
He got himself together. He heard himself say: “Buck Ryder’s house—mile over that way—you’ll have to hurry—take right-hand path at creek—phone at Buck’s. Hey! Wait! Tell’em shot myself -—don’t tell ’em—you did it—person— person in my own right.”
This was the concourse of the city’s downtown station. He was lying on the floor. Linda was dabbing at his face with a handkerchief.
Now he was back in Ryder’s field. “Where’s the Little Guy? Been gone years and years—told him take right-hand path —bet he missed—mother never had sense of direction—mother said I’d be all right if ever realized I was person in—in my—oh ! That’s all right, major—just little twentygauge—be responsible for him.”
Then suddenly his head was clear, and he was lying in a white bed staring up at a white ceiling. He had been shot. He remembered that. The Little Guy’s gun had gone off accidentally somewhere along Buck Ryder’s wire fence. He had told the Little Guy to be careful crossing fences. He stirred and there was one long dull wave of pain encompassing his entire right side. After a while his eyes focused on the woman.
“Yes, it’s me,” Linda said.
Julian hated her. She and her yellow hair and her blue, blue eyes, What was she doing here? If a woman wouldn’t go a man’s way of her own accord—“So you couldn’t wait,” he found himself saying. “You had to come after him. You couldn’t let us have that one last day together. Well, he’s somewhere around here, I reckon, but you can’t have him all—” Her hand settled firmly on his forehead. Her voice came as brittlely as ever it had in the old days. “Lie still. I didn’t come for Jon. He sent for me.”
“Oh, yes? So he got tired of it, too. He wanted ...”
For a moment he thought she was going to strike him.
“Julian, it’s over twenty-four hours since you were shot. You’ve been delirious. Jon got to the phone at Ryder’s. They brought you back here yesterday. Jon wanted to send for me. Major Fary said over his dead body, or words to that effect. Jon”—her teeth clicked—“defied him. He went down to the stables, saddled a horse, rode to Rountree’s, and sent me a telegram. I came by plane, Julian.” “Everybody went to a lot of trouble,” Julian muttered. “Just because I shot myself.”
Her face softened. “That doesn’t go, either, Jule. You didn’t think he'd lie, did you? That was the first thing he told me. He said you and the major had a fight about his having a gun—and then he shot you. I—I thought he’d die last night. And—and you, too.”
“Well, my part of it didn’t matter so much.”
“It mattered”—her eyes held his— “very much to me.”
“Because it mattered to him? Because he nearly died when he realized he had probably killed me? Because—”
The scornful light in her eyes interrupted him. ‘That is in keeping with many things you used to say to me.”
And suddenly he saw that she was right. It was in keeping. He felt insignificant all at once, worthless. All the little weaknesses in him seemed crowding, jamming, into his consciousness; they came like soldiers of a routed battalion, crying, clamoring, jabbering; miserable remnants of a lost command. But with them came a sudden strength, the courage to say: “I’m sorry, Lin. Forgive me.”
How it happened he did not know, but her arms were around his neck and her face was against his. “Oh, Jule, I’ve been so miserable.”
Gingerly—her arms hurt him—he lifted his left hand and laid it against her hair. And then the door opened to admit Major Fary.
“It’s time to leave him, Linda,” said the major. “Doctor’s orders. Come now.” She did not move exc pt to relax slightly the pressure of her arms. The major’s face slowly pu pled and his neat, short, grey mustache shook upon his upper lip. He took a sudden angry stride to ward. “I suppose you want to kill him.” His hand fell with force and authority on Linda’s shoulder.
She did not use her open hand. She whirled, her clenched fist landed flush on the major’s military jaw, and the force of that blow staggered him. For a long moment he stood like a man transfixed. And Linda’s voice was the only sound in that room.
“I’ve wanted to do that for a long long time. Thank God, I’ve done it at last !”
' I 'ENSION WENT suddenly out of that room. Julian began to laugh. Something had happened to him. Maybe it was the delirium, he tried to think rationally; but anyway, that was the funniest thing he had ever seen. Linda socking Armistead Fary, of Fary Court! He saw the pained, bewildered look in the major’s eyes and he laughed again.
“In my own house,” the major said. “My own daughte -in-law!”
“Yes,” Linda said. “Your very own.” And suddenly she went over and held out I her hand. The major looked down at that hand. For once his presence of mind failed i to function. But Julian, that new courage i sweet and strong within him, spoke.
“A good soldier, major, always accepts I a truce. The lady just had to relieve her ! mind, even up a few old scores with you.
I She probably won’t do it again. But listen.” The smile suddenly fled from his I face. “Linda and I are together from now j on. Is it going to be here or some place ! else? We—”
“Don’t,” Linda said softly. “I think he understands. I’m older now, major. Maybe I won’t be such a trial to you. Please”—her voice suddenly had a pleading note—“ et’s try to live and let live. Okay?”
Truce, the major thought. This was surrender! But once long ago he had recognized the exact moment when a battle was lost and, by a manoeuvre both speedy and clever, had saved his entire regiment from annihilation. Major Armistead Fary shook hands with his I daughter-in-law.
His dignity he saved from annihilation I this time; it accompanied him from the room; it seated itself beside him before the library fire. A faint smile of satisfaction eddied round the corners of his lips. After all, he was getting old. Time he turned everything over to Julian. No use holding a grudge against that girl.
Some time later Jon crept along the upstairs hall, softly opened the bedroom door, and peejîed in. His father was asleep. His mother sat by the bed, a very nice look on her face. She smiled at him, and Jon, gently closing the door, went down the stairs.
“Hello,” said the major, “hello. Come in. Take this chair.”
And the Little Guy suddenly felt very much at home.