But I Married You
The story of a girl who discovered that people who really love each other share each other’s loyalties
IT WAS five o’clock on a Tuesday evening in November. Carol had to light the clever little chrome-edged indirect lights at the sides of the dinette cupboard to finish tacking the buttercup chintz edging. She was dead tired and her back ached and probably she shouldn’t have worked so hard or so long; but she did want everything to be finished when Dave arrived on Saturday. It was such a perfect little apartment—so new and smart. Furnished apartments weren’t usually so good. And all their personal things fitted in so nicely. Of course it was pretty certain that Dave would be here permanently now, and later they might buy things of their own—even build a cunning little colonial cottage in one of the new plans. But for the present this was perfect.
She began to plan the rest of the week. Tomorrow, Wednesday, she must certainly go out to Riveredge to see Helen and the children. That left Thursday and Friday. Thursday she would shop for a little grey hat with fur to match her new grey suit. Friday she wanted all to herself. Friday she would shorten the hem in her suit, go to the hairdresser, get a manicure and rest and go early to bed, so that Saturday when Dave would arrive she would have nothing to do but straighten the beautiful little apartment, and buy flowers for it, and make herself lovely for Dave. And when he got off the train, there she would be in her new smart little grey suit with the fur on the collar and on her hat. Oh, this time she must look really smart, her very best. It was suddenly more important than ever!
Carol sat now on the little chrome stool in front of the cupboard and found she was trembling, her teeth almost chattering. She wasn’t cold, so it was just nerves. A kind of stage fright she supposed, about coming back here to Newlinsburg to live. There were so many things. First it meant coming back to the town with her stepmother and small half brother and sisters. Not that she didn’t love them—but at once she knew they would begin making claims. At least Helen would. Already over the telephone Helen had begun. “Darling, I’m so delighted. It will be such a comfort to know that you are near. I’ve been miserable all fall. Once or twice I even thought of asking you to come back and take over for a few weeks. You were always such a comfort, so efficient. You could always manage the children.”
Carol thought, “Yes, but now I have Dave. Now I belong to Dave. You’ll have to remember that, Helen. And I’ve got worries of my own—problems of my own.” Now, whether she wanted to or not, Carol faced one of the problems. The very first thing she had thought about when Dave raced in that night and shouted, “Well, honey, what do you think? I’ve got a managership. And where do you think it is? In your old home town—Newlinsburg! Aren’t you tickled? Haven’t you got a wonderful husband?”
Carol had agreed that she had a wonderful husband, and she had pretended she was delighted about going back to Newlinsburg. But she wasn’t. And before she even thought of Helen and the children, she thought of Enid Walton. Dave would see Enid Walton again the girl he had almost married. The girl whom Carol felt was still in love with Dave—and still hating her for having married him.
The next thing Dave had said was, “Listen, Carol, maybe you’d better race ahead and find a place for us to live. I’ve got to go out to the Coast for a conference with the officials. But I’ll be in Newlinsburg by the tenth. Meanwhile you’ll have found an apartment and had time to go out and see your family, and round up the gang.”
But she hadn’t seen either her family or any of Dave’s old crowd. She had found the apartment al' right, and if she hadn’t picked up a little grippe germ or eaten something she shouldn’t have eaten, she might have done more. Now, thinking over what might have disagreed with her, she began to shiver again. With fright. Because somewhere in the bottom of her heart she knew that it mightn’t be anything she had eaten at all. And if it weren’t, she simply didn’t know what she could do! She didn’t want a baby. Not yet. And certainly Dave didn’t want a baby. He said often enough, “Never mind honey, time enough for that later on! What would we do with him? Take him around in a travelling bag?” And Dave never noticed babies or seemed interested in them or even smiled at them the right way. A baby would be the very last thing Dave would want! So, Dear heaven—it just had to be a grippe germ or something she had eaten.
lVTOW THE doorbell chimed and she almost fell 1 i off the stool in her stumbling eagerness. For of course it would be a special from Dave. But it wasn’t a special. It was Enid Walton. Enid Walton in a brown tweed suit with a red-fox collar and a little tweed hat with a red feather. Enid, looking more beautiful and sophisticated and smart than ever—with her lips matching in richness the scarlet of her hat feather—and dancing lights in the waves of her long bob of glistening dark hair. Unconsciously Carol put up a hand to smooth back her own fine fair hair, a little fuzzy now with needing a new wave.
Enid flung her arms around Carol and kissed her and then stood off, looking around. “Darling,” she cried. “It’s adorable. That’s why you kept your arrival secret! You wanted to bowl us all over. But Dave—the lamb, broke the news himself.” She sank down on the davenport, opened her bag and pulled out an envelope addressed in Dave’s big sprawling hand.
Carol looked at it with a sort of sick, stunned feeling. She swallowed quickly and said, “Oh, Dave wrote you—spoiled my nice surprise! What did he say?”
Enid, with a small amused laugh, dropped the letter into Carol’s lap. “Read it darling. There’s certainly nothing in it a wife shouldn’t see! I’m afraid you’ve got the lad well trained.”
Carol read, “Thought it would be swell of you to look up Carol, if she hasn’t already got in touch with you. She might be a little shy. Wasn’t I tickled to find I was coming back to Newlinsburg. Never did see enough of that town or the people. We’ll have a reunion ” Carol handed the letter back to Enid. Her throat felt tight. Oh, it was crazy that just because Dave had known Enid and her crowd before he knew her, she should be jealous of them. Always feel awkward, knowing they were so clever and gay. It was absurd. She looked at Enid and tried to smile and said, “It is fun, coming back.”
Enid opened her cigarette case and offered it to
Carol. Carol flushed and said, “Oh, Enid, I’m so careless. 1 smoke so little that I forgot to offer you one.”
Enid laughed. “Darling, don’t apologize. You’re sweet. You always were a kind of shy little thing, weren’t you? That’s why we were all so amazed when Dave and you ended that whirlwind courtship at the altar. That sounds funny. I don’t mean we didn’t think you were a darling. But Dave is so - well, different !”
Carol managed a laugh too. “Yes, I know. It amazed me quite as much.”
“I still can’t believe it. Dave actually married and settled.” Enid grinned. “But then these days marriage doesn’t exactly mean settling, does it? Sometimes I think my married friends have the most fun. Well, as long as they don’t get in so deep that they have to change partners. I think that’s one of the things that frightens me off marriage. It’s so impermanent.” She flashed Carol a too bright smile.
Carol thought wildly, “She still loves Dave. She hasn’t given him up. She’s almost telling me.”
“But look here,” Enid said briskly, “You haven’t told me anything about this move? Do you expect to be here for a while?”
Carol swallowed the lump in her throat. “Yes, I believe so. It’s quite a promotion. The reason Dave didn’t come with me was because he had to go out to the Coast for a conference. I might have gone too but it would have been expensive. And
it didn’t seem sensible for me not to come home here and get settled.”
“Well ” Enid laughed with a little drawl. “But with a husband as handsome as Dave I’d have trailed along and hung the expense!”
Carol tried to appear amused. But she thought, “Yes, you would. And probably I should have done it too.” To Enid she managed to say brightly, “Oh, I hope I haven’t made a mistake!”
“But then you have a family here, haven’t you?” Enid asked with a little frown as if she were trying to remember something very hazy. “You see we really never knew you. You just appeared out of nowhere one night—and stole Dave. I never knew anything so swift.”
“Of course,” Carol said, flushing a little, “we’d never have done it like that, if Dave hadn’t been ordered back to head office so suddenly. Yes, it was sudden all around. Even Peg asking me to dinner. You knew that one of her guests got sick at the last minute, and after calling all her close friends she remembered me. We were in school together.”
“That’s right,” Enid said, “I remember now. And you lived out near Riveredge—almost in the country. Dave told me. You lived in a big lonely house with your stepmother, and swarming with little ‘steps.’ I think Dave felt that he rescued you.”
Carol felt her face go hot. “Well, not swarming. And not steps. Half brother and sisters. Three of
them. They probably just looked like a swarm to Dave. He was an only child.” There was suddenly the sickening remembrance of that Sunday afternoon when Dave had come out to meet the family. All their other dates had been in town—dinners, theatres—with Carol staying at Peg’s or taking the last train home. Until that Sunday—almost the last Sunday before they were married. And it had been terrible. Helen had been having one of her headaches and was consequently fretful and dull. The children had been noisy and boisterous over a new puppy which behaved even more unseemly than the children. Sammy, the baby, scarcely three
then, had had a head cold that needed constant watching with clean hankies. Dinner was badly cooked by an inefficient maid. The shabby old house had never seemed shabbier or noisier or less comfortable. Even the living-room fire had smoked and smoldered instead of burning brightly. And the whole outside world had dripped thin grey rain. If, after that day, Dave had fallen out of love with her, Carol wouldn’t have been surprised.
Now Enid was saying, “Darling, what are you thinking about? You look so suddenly sad. I believe you’re thinner. You mustn’t let Dave wear you out with his racing around. I never knew a lad who liked to go harder. Of course you’re just probably tired. But you must get all rested for the week end. There is a dinner at the Club, Saturday —and we’re all counting on you.”
“How nice of you—” Carol said.
“Good heavens,’ Enid cried, “do you see the time? I’ll have to fly. I’ve a dinner date But we’ll be seeing lots of you, won’t we? Dave is such fun. Of course it won’t be quite the same!” She made a funny little face.
“Nonsense!” Carol said with as much gaiety as she could summon. “Dave is always fun.”
Enid slid her a little knowing smile. “Well, of course. But you know, Carol, I think you came along just in the nick of time to save Dave from my clutches. I was working pretty hard.”
Carol thought, “How clever she is to be able to carry it off like that. I’ll never be a match for such cleverness. She was in love with Dave and realizes that I know it. Now she can say it openly and make it seem only like a joke.” She said, trying to answer in the same vein, “I’ll bet you never thought of Dave like that—if you had, I’d never have had a chance!”
Enid tightened her hand over Carol’s and grinned. “Anyhow darling, we’re still friends and we’re going to be good friends. I want you and Dave for Sunday-night supper.”
AFTER Enid had left, the room was suddenly too - warm and heavy with another woman’s perfume. Carol went to the window and leaned her head against the cool glass. She watched Enid, slender and swift and beautiful, cross lightly to her car. Ina few' months, Carol told herself, she might be thick and heavy. And Dave would see Enid, slender and lovely. Dave who loved fun and beauty and hated ugliness and routine. She went back to the little dinette and thought, “I’m probably just hungry. I’m always low in my mind when I haven’t eaten.” She made herself a sandwich and poured a glass of milk and sat dowm at the little table. But while she ate and drank mechanically, she kept thinking of that month of September twm years ago when she had met Dave. The telephone message from Peg. Racing upstairs to Helen and asking if it would be all right for her to go in to Peg’s and stay overnight? Helen looking up, her blue eyes as usual slightly hurt and reproachful, saying “Of course it will be all right. Goodness know's it’s dull enough for you here with me all the time. But it is short notice and I hate your playing second fiddle. I had intended going to bridge club, but that doesn’t matter.”
For a second Carol had hesitated. Not at the idea of being second fiddle; but at the idea of Helen having to give up her club. Although earlier Pielen had said she wasn’t going. But on the other hand Peg was in a hole too. Finally she said, “I guess I’m selfish, but I would like to go.”
The children had been excited and helpful. Judy insisted on lending her a lace handkerchief. Essie helped shine her brown pumps. And even Sammy had brought in a little bunch of marigolds with too-short stems, held hotly and tightly in his chubby hands. At the last minute even Helen had come downstairs, breathless, and brought a little bottle of perfume.
How clearly now Carol remembered the whole thing. Saying to Helen, “You shouldn’t have run. You know the doctor—”
Almost gaily Helen had said, “It’s no fun never to hurry. Doctors don’t know anything about hearts. This perfume may mean your fate.”
“Well,” Carol thought now, smiling a little to herself, taking another sip of milk, “perhaps it did.” At all odds that night she met Dave. The whole evening had been glamorous with excitement. Peg’s house so bright and carefree after Riveredge. All the crowd so clever and sophisticated. The conversation so spárkling. The funny thing was that she noticed Enid before she noticed Dave. She had to admit it honestly—Enid was the most beautiful girl she had ever seen. And she had asked Peg about her.
Peg had said, “Oh, Enid Walton? Yes and she’s as smart as she is beautiful. I think she has just about snared that Dave Russel. And she’s having to work fast, because he’s only here temporarily — taking another man’s place who is ill. But Enid recognizes worth. That lad is going places. There he is now, talking to her.”
Carol had looked over at Dave, his huge height and breadth, the back of his fair, well-shaped head. Then he had turned and she had seen the charm of
his sudden flashing smile, the fine firm line of his lean jaw, and the fun in his clear grey eyes that reminded her of her father. And she had, she knew now, caught her breath.
At the table 3he had sat opposite him, but he had seemed to see only Enid beside him. Their conversation and the conversation all around her had sparkled and eddied and carried her along with small contribution. It was after dinner while she was sitting alone that he had come over to her, sat down beside her and said “You’re having a lot of fun all to yourself. I’ve been watching you. Now be honest, are you amused at us or with us?”
“Neither,” she told him. “If I’m wearing a kind of imbecilic grin, it is just because I’m enchanted. I’m kind of tingling with pleasure. I’m a country girl and this is a big town and a big time.”
“I wondered why I’d never seen you around,” he said. “Is it a far country? Is there a railroad? Are there highways?”
“Oh, not too far,” she had said. “Really hardy folks commute and brag about it.” And then very soon she was answering his questions, telling him even more than he asked. About her father’s sudden death the year before. About her stepmother and the children. Her job in the town library.
He told her, too, about himself. His school. His job. His family. That he would go back soon to the head office of his firm but that finally he hoped to be located in a town like this. “It’s more fun,” he told her. “No place better than a good sized town.”
But even then it wasn’t what they said to each other in words. It was something more. The quick way they both saw things alike. The easy way they laughed together. The queer stillness that came over them when their eyes met, when their smiles met. Carol had felt a sort of sick terror, because she knew what it was with her. And it wasn’t possible that he could feel that too. For he was in love with Enid.
Later they went out on the porch and stayed so long that Enid came after them, pouncing on them, laughing at them, carrying them back with her, her arm thrust familiarly through Dave’s. If she felt any anxiety or jealousy she hadn’t shown it. And almost at once it was too late for her to do anything about it. Carol had met Dave for dinners and theatres—recklessly, selfishly deserting Helen and the children—neglecting her work at the library, being utterly ruthless. She had been like a person intoxicated with an enchanting drug. Nothing mattered but Dave. They held hands under restaurant tables, and much too long in the railroad station when he put her on the late train, with sharply anxious instructions about the taxicab whicn had been already ordered at Riveredge. Then suddenly on a rainy night, in another taxicab going to the station he had taken her in his arms. And when he had stopped kissing her—when he had just held her very quietly, with only the beating rain against the cab windows making any sound, he had said earnestly into the stillness of their small shelter, “When are you going to marry me? We both know it’s got to be soon. I can’t go away from here and leave you even for weeks or months.”
And they had been married the next week, and left Newlinsburg. They had called Helen and she had managed to come in and have dinner with them. On the station platform, Carol had suddenly flung herself into her stepmother’s arms and burst into tears. They were mostly tears of conscience. In some odd way all Helen’s petulance and complaining and demanding were forgotten. There remained only the Helen who had been kind to a little motherless girl twelve years before. All the dullness and hard work and fretfulness of the old house were forgotten. Her little sisters and brother became inexpressibly dear. She was being cruel and ruthless at leaving them. They needed her. Helen needed her. They even needed her small added income. And Dave was a stranger who knew nothing of her life and her loyalties—and of whom she, now, suddenly knew nothing, either.
But Helen had kissed her and held her off with tearful bravery and said, “You mustn’t worry. We’ll miss you, but we’ll get on. You’re going to be happy. I know it. I see it in Dave’s eyes. I’m never wrong.”
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Now, sitting at a small lonely table staring at an empty milk glass and a few crumbs on a plate, Carol wondered if Helen had been right? Wasshe happy? She loved Dave more than ever, but did Dave love her as much? She felt sometimes that he didn’t. He was so restless, so eager to go places, to see people, to have fun. “I met Bob Harter at lunch today,” he’d say. “They want us for Saturday night. Bob and Polly are swell aren’t they? Never saw two people with more pep. Polly’s a darned clever gal!” Oh, how could she ever hope to be brilliant and exciting like all the friends Dave seemed to have? She wondered how often he remembered Enid’s sharp wit, her loveliness? Enid had stuck deep. She knew that. The very first person he had talked about when the move to Newlinsburg was decided, was Enid. And Enid still cared. And so, back here was it going to be so easy to be happy?
The ring of the telephone broke into her thoughts startled her so that she jumped. Then with a bubbling gladness in her heart, she ran to answer it. For this time it must be Dave—Dave calling her long distance!
But again it wasn’t Dave. It was old Doctor Cameron. At first Carol thought it was just a welcoming,
social call. The doctor had been as much family friend as physician. But at once the gravity of his voice frightened her. He was saying, “It seems almost providential, your coming back just now Carol. Your mother has had a very ugly attack. She’s a pretty sick woman. I think you’d better come out to be with the children. We’ve got a nurse—but—” Carol said quickly, “I’ll catch the next train. Tell Helen not to worry.” But while she rushed to dress, in the midst of her anxiety about Helen and her burning conscience at not having gone out earlier, she had time somehow to think about herself, to realize what this might mean. ¡ The old ties would close in. She | might have to stay out at Riveredge for days, helping with the house and . the children. She wouldn’t be able ! to go to Enid’s supper, or the Club J dinner. And Dave might go alone. The gang would coax him. All the way out in the taxi and train, mounting with her nervousness and her anxiety was self pity. If they hadn’t had to come back here, she couldn’t have been called on like this. But living here she would have to share herself with them. Driving up to the old house she was shocked by the added shabbiness and neglect. Irritated. If Helen had raced less to clubs, had fewer outside interests
making claims on her naturally frail constitution, she’d have more energy to take care of necessary things. The dull-looking maid who opened the door looked pinched with the chill of the house and fright. The hall carpet was more worn, the furniture more scuffed. The children weren’t in sight. Dr. Cameron was coming down the stairs. And suddenly when Carol looked at him, her heart froze with terror. She couldn’t believe it—she hadn’t been told, but she knew. It was in Doctor Cameron’s eyes, in the weight of his step. Even before he put his arm about her shoulder, she knew. And yet when he told her that Helen had ignored his warning once too often that it had been too late this time to do anything, the shock had so numbed her that she couldn’t cry. But after a while when she had cried, and when she had got hold of herself, she told the nurse that she wanted to tell the children herself. She gathered them in the big shabby living room and was somehow aille to tell them and comfort them.
Judy, a tall slender child of thirteen now, with clear grey eyes like Carol’s father’s, had been very still. She had just sat in a frightening stillness and bit her quivering lips. Essie, nine, had flung herself sobbing into Carol’s arms. But Sammy who was five now, who had been tearful and strange, looked with level eyes at Carol and said seriously, “Well, I guess you’ll have to stay here now.”
Carol, gathering him to her said, “Yes, yes darling, of course.” And for the first time the actual meaning of the whole thing struck her and struck a sick terror to her heart. How could she stay? How could she leave? How could she saddle Dave with an old house and a family of children, which had looked like a swarm? Even in the midst of her grief and pity she saw the menace to her own life, her own happiness— her own safety. And she couldn’t face it.
For the time she was able to push everything aside and give herself to the days at hand. There was everything to be done. At first she had thought to wire Dave to come at once. Then she had decided against it. There was nothing he could actually do, and he should finish his conference. So she wrote him and told him to come on Saturday just as he had planned. She turned for help to old Riveredge friends and one distant relative of Helen’s—a Mrs. Hickson. And somehow she had got through.
On Friday evening she and the three children and Mrs. Hickson had come back to the big quiet house. After dinner when the children had been put to bed, Mrs. Hickson said, “I don’t count on leaving before Sunday, Carol. I want to help you and Maggie tomorrow.”
And at that moment Carol faced her own life again. And knew that the risk was too great. She would have to be ruthless. She looked across at Mrs. Hickson and said shakily, “I know you are alone and live with a sister-in-law. Do you suppose I could persuade you to stay on with the children for a while? You see I’ve got to find someone. I can’t do it myself. My husband’s business hours are irregular. Commuting
would be difficult. And an apartment in town is no place for children. I won’t neglect them. And the income Helen had will still he sufficient. I’ll be near in Newlinsburg—but I feel it would be best for them to stay here.”
Mrs. Hickson said, “I don’t know that I could do it. Three children and a house this size with only the help of a maid like Maggie.”
Carol thought, “Yes, I know too. I’d be giving more to them than to Dave.” So she didn’t answer.
But Mrs. Hickson said slowly, “Of course I could give it a try.”
¡nt /^AROL breathed a sigh of relief. I Vu She looked at Mrs. Hickson’s ne neat hair, her firm mouth and thought, i’ll “Well, they’ll be well cared for and sel justly treated. Not much love ay perhaps, but she’ll be better for them than I could ever be—torn two ways )w by love. If I saw that Dave hated it, nd I’d be no good at all.” She said of gratefully, “Oh—I’m so glad.” She looked up and saw herself in the to. mirror above the mantel and was to shocked. Her dark dress, her pale face lined with fatigue and grief, ly, She thought of her forlorn little plans
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to be lovely and smart and seductive in her grey dress. Now she could think only wistfully of hoping to be rested by a night’s sleep. It didn’t seem possible that only three days ago she had been reasonably happy— her worries so small. Or that she might ever be happy and conscience free again. Now no matter how she turned the way was dark and her heart heavy. She no longer belonged to herself at all. She belonged to these children, to Dave — and perhaps even to another child. How could she bear that too? Dave who loved fun and hated dullness—Dave who might begin to say to himself, “If I had never married—”
Mrs. Hickson was saying, “You’re very distraught. You mustn’t worry and grieve too much. You’re young and you’ve got to think about your own life, and your young husband. And you’re not looking too well.”
Carol said, “I’m afraid I’m going to have a baby myself.” But it was suddenly good to have spoken aloud.
“Troubles never come singly,” Mrs. Hickson said heavily. “But now you ought to try to get a good night’s sleep.”
“I’ve got to sleep!” Carol cried and knew that her voice was strained and desperate. “If 1 slept late could you manage?”
There was a faint edge to Mrs. Hickson’s voice. “I kept house for twenty-five years, I ought to be able to manage.”
The sharpness made Carol feel a little bit sick. It was a warning of the woman’s impatience. But she mustn’t listen. The woman was a relative and honest. Little Sammy would get over his dislike for her. He was always fearful of strangers. She said, getting up a little giddily, “If you don’t mind, I shall go to bed.” She climbed the stairs and thought guiltily, “This house could be made lovely. All the woodwork white. Bright curtains. New things. I used to want Helen to do it.”
In the room which had been her’s as a child, she tried to sleep. And toward morning she did sleep. The sun was cutting a golden path across the carpet when the sounds of the house wakened her. Mrs. Hickson’s voice. Yes, it was sharp. Theorange squeezer. Someone crying. Carol jumped up and slid her arms into an old red flannel robe of Helen’s. Her own shell-pink crepe had already proved too thin for the cold house. She hurried down the hall, following the muffled sobs to Judy’s room. Judy was sitting hunched up in bed, pressing her tear-stained face and quivering mouth tight against her bony young knees.
Carol sat down on the edge of the bed and held Judy close, smoothed the dark tangled hair back from the child’s pale forehead.
“All at once I couldn’t stand it!” Judy sobbed. “I tried and tried but I couldn’t. I can’t stand it without mother.”
With physical pain Carol closed her own throat against tears. “If you ask God to help you it will be easier. I know,” she said, “because when I was a little girl I lost my mama too. And I had to go to stay with an old aunt who lived in a tall thin house in the city.” Gallantly she began to weave a fairy story about that house which had been
only a prison of loneliness. When Judy’s eyes began to close, her sobs cease, Carol said, “Now I’m going to tuck you in darling, and I want you to try to sleep until I bring your breakfast. You’re going to have it here in bed on a yellow tray.”
Judy’s clear eyes met hers with lonely fright. “You won’t go away—promise?”
“I promise,” Carol said. But outside Judy’s door she leaned against the wall and cried to herself, “I can’t stand it either. I can’t. You can’t forsake all others. I’ll have to make Dave see.” And then she heard the sound of a car in the drive. Her heart stood still. It might be Dave. He might have flown. If he saw her like thisPressed against the wall she listened to Maggie answering the door. Then she heard Dave’s voice. Oddly quiet, subdued.
Helpless, she leaned over the bannister and called, “Dave—I’m here!”
And then somehow they were in her room, sitting on the side of the bed. She was in Dave’s arms “Good lord, Carol,” he said thickly. “I’ve been frantic. Why didn’t you wire me? I flew last night. I’d have flown all the way, but planes in the West were grounded. For you to have to face this terrible thing alone—”
Carol tried to smile. “I didn’t want to upset your conference. Everyone has been kind. I’ve got through all right. I’ll dress now. We’ll go down. You’ll want breakfast.”
“I’ve had breakfast,” he said. “I had almost an hour’s wait for one of these terrible Riveredge trains. I called Enid for news of you. And she knew nothing about Helen’s death. You should have let her know. She’d have been a help. She feels hurt that you didn’t send for her. She made me race over there for breakfast.”
“I’m sorry,” Carol said, “but she didn’t know Helen. Why didn’t you call me when you got in Dave?” She couldn’t keep the coldness out of her voice.
“Darling,” he said, “I was afraid you might be sleeping. I didn’t want to waken you.”
Suddenly looking at him, loving him more than life, shaken by fear, seeing herself unfixed in an old redflannel robe, and thinking of how Enid must have looked across a bright breakfast table, she had to reassure him. Make him know that it wasn’t going to be like this. She said, “A Mrs. Hickson- a relative of Helen’s, will stay on with the children for a while. I’d have to get someone of course. I know we couldn’t come
away out here to live—any more than we could keep the children in an apartment. Youngsters need a house and grounds.” She tried to keep her voire steady.
Dave just said, “Well, you’ll have to decide, Carol. You know what you ought to do. What you want to do. Whatever you decide will be all right of course.” But now there was a coldness in his voice and she knev what he was thinking.
She got up and went to the window. She didn’t dare to let him see her eyes filled with tears. He would dislike the children even more if he thought they made her unhappy. She must be sensible. Mrs. Hickson said that she had her life and Dave’s to think about. And she had promised to forsake all others. She stared out into the dull autumn garden, dead stalks of plants, brown autumn leaves in little mounds. But suddenly in it her eyes fell on a patch of blue. Sammy—his old blue coat buttoned crookedly, his little blue tarn pulled down too far and making his little ears stick out. And he was just standing there very still and alone and very small looking in the desolate garden. He wasn’t playing or äaughing or even crying, just standing alone. And it was then that she knew she couldn’t do it. Not even for Dave’s sake or her own. She turned back and said quietly, “I’m sorry Dave, but I can’t do it. I thought I could, but I can’t. I’ve got to stay here with them. We’ll have to manage somehow. I can’t leave them.”
Dave looked at her with a queer
little smile. “Well, I guessed you’d finally decide that way,” he said.
A HELPLESS shaking fury caught her. Ever since the day she had laid eyes on him she had been torn with her love for him and raked by fear that it mightn’t last—that she must give everything she had to holding it. And now more vulnerable than ever, more helpless, her fear turned to a defensive anger. Her voice shook. “I can’t help it!” she cried. “They’re mine. My people. I love them too. I’ve got to stay. I should never have left. They needed me. Helen needed me. She might have lived. But I was selfish. I wanted you and my own life. A life filled with pleasant days and shutting out everything unhappy. And it’s no use. I’m not strong enough or ruthless enough. I can’t do it any more than I can be Cleveland beautiful like Enid. Oh, why didn’t you marry Enid? I was happy —I was all right until I met you—” Then she was stopped by the cold intensity of his eyes, the shut line of his mouth.
He didn’t take her in his arms. But with both his hands he held her arms pinned tight to her sides. “You Mttle fool—” he said. “You little fool! Are women always like this? Do they never give men credit for knowing what they want? If I had wanted a wife like Enid I’d have married her. But I married you. Men aren’t fools—they marry the kind of women they want. Why can’t women realize that? Of course you’d decide to stay. You were a
girl who would have loyalties. You were a girl with a tender woman’s heart. Don’t you suppose I knew that—” The hold on her arms grew suddenly gentle.
Carol looked up at him and it was suddenly like the first night at Peg’s. There was no need for words. She said, “But Dave, I’ve been sick with fear. Enid was so lovely. I’m so plain And now this. A ready-made family —hours of commuting. You always liked fun and doing things and going places—”
“Not enough to marry into it,” he said. “Remember that. And you’re not plain. You’re the loveliest thing I’ve ever seen—even in this blanket. And you’ve got a sense of humor.” He was smoothing her hair. “And we’re not going to stop having fun or going places. We’ll have the gang out here for picnics. If you’re living in a couple of travelling bags and an apartment the size of a peanut naturally you’ve got to go out for fun. Maybe it’ll be fun to paint and carpenter and grow roses or something. Who knows?”
Carol’s heart almost stopped. She remembered—“Where could we keep him? In a travelling bag?” She lifted her eyes and got ready to speak, but the door pushed open and Sammy came in. He had a black kitten. “Look Carol,” he said, “I found it. In the garden. I’ve been watching it for hours—till it woke up. I loved it too much to wake it up. It was so cute.”
Carol said, “Oh, Sammy—you loved it too much!” Tears choked
her. She said, “Sammy this is your big brother Dave—”
Sammy grinned. “You’re very tall, but I’ll soon be tall too. Isn’t this a fine cat?”
Carol watched the soft light in Dave’s eyes. Why it was all right. It was the right kind of light. He was saying seriously, “It’s a very remarkable cat.”
She sat down suddenly and said, “It’s crazy, but the whole room seems to be going around. I must have got too little sleep or something I—”
Sammy said gravely, “Well, that’s how Mrs. Collins felt one morning and Maggie told her she guessed she was going to have another baby. But anyhow this cat would be fine for a baby.”
Carol began to laugh weakly and helplessly let her eyes meet Dave’s.
Dave looked very strange himself and sat down beside her and said, “I guess I’m a little dizzy myself. But I married you with my eyes open. I knew you’d be capable of a trick like this—”
Carol didn’t try to answer. Anyhow she couldn’t. Dave was holding her too close and his lips were too tight against hers. And there were really no words to say what she knew was in both their hearts. That they had each other and loved each other. That dull autumn would turn to brisk winter and lengthening days. That there would be warmth and firelight and children’s laughter. And that spring would come. And that if people really loved each other —they shared each other’s loyalties for ever and ever.