Fiction

LET'S MARRY For Your Money

Here it was, a superbargain — beauty with wealth. He had hit the jackpot. And there wasn’t anything too wrong about marrying for money — or was there?

BURT SIMS November 1 1950
Fiction

LET'S MARRY For Your Money

Here it was, a superbargain — beauty with wealth. He had hit the jackpot. And there wasn’t anything too wrong about marrying for money — or was there?

BURT SIMS November 1 1950

LET'S MARRY For Your Money

Here it was, a superbargain — beauty with wealth. He had hit the jackpot. And there wasn’t anything too wrong about marrying for money — or was there?

BURT SIMS

THEY called it the Sunset Island Beach Club. Jim Conway, at ease in the canvas chair on his little white tower, yawned at a wheeling, yawking sea gull. It wasn’t an island; it was a pure white curve of private beach; adhesive tape rimming a quiet arc of blue Pacific. And the sunset part brought a slight smile to his young face, a glint of cynicism to his eyes. By too full of Martinis to see it.

He looked out at the empty ocean in the bright midmorning sunlight, then far to his right where a slender feminine figure in a blue bathing suit strolled along the hardpacked sand. Laura Standish was too far away for him to distinguish her features but his mind saw them the calm grey eyes, the long dark hair, the

poise of her smile

He sensed movement and turned as Lazio, the club manager, came stiff-legged toward him from the brilliantly white, ambling wings of the building. With an effort at maintaining the appearance of virility, Lazio had his shoulders thrown well back, and he wore trunks of bright Hawaiian design. But for the beach boy act, Jim thought, he had a little too much paunch, and his dark skin was too loose across his chest.

“How is the water?” A trace of accent slurred Lazio’s words. He had retained just enough of the accent to upholster the worn framework of his Continental manner. And it went well, Jim had to admit, with Lazio’s deeply etched features, his thick greying hair, worn long.

“Cold.” He ran a strong hand over his own hair, short-cropped and sun-bleached, and yawned again.

“Go to bed at night.” A sudden breeze blew.at them, and Lazio shivered.

“I’ll be awake by noon. Nobody ever gets here until noon.”

“Nobody?”

Jim followed his gaze. Laura Standish had nearly reached The Rock, perhaps a quarter of a mile away.

“She’s different,” he said thoughtfully. “She really likes the beach.”

“What do the others like?” asked Lazio, a slight, knowing smile taking up the slack in his face.

Jim gestured. “If it takes money they like it. Most of them. But if they could get it for free, like a beach or an ocean . .” He shook his head. “They’d rather pay for it—like belonging to this club.”

One of Lazio’s heavy eyebrows lifted. “Money? Now you’re against it? Be young, Conway. You have the handsome looks for it. But not that young.”

Jim said softly, “I’m not that young, Lazio.” He kept the next thought to himself, he thought that he still had a month in which to get the money. He wasn’t too young to realize what money—a lot of money—could do.

WHEN he had been 20, and a junior in college, the pattern had been that he would work perhaps 10 years before his income as a petroleum engineer would reach a comfortable level. But at 27—and still without his master’s degree—10 years suddenly had become an interminable and wholly undesirable wait.

Lazio said abruptly, “Have you picked one?”

Jim brought his eyes slowly off the gentle ocean, down to Lazio’s wise face. He said carefully, “One what?” Lazio’s laugh was short. “You think you are the first one? Every summer, a new lifeguard. Every summer, I can see it. Some are more eager than others. They do not handle it right. Children in a candy shop. Their faces, I think, give them away. They will the rich young girls. You, I am not sun one have you picked, Lazio?”

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The older man shrugged. “Not a young one, I think. No longer. But— who knows? There is still time, for an older one.” He went toward the sea.

Jim’s thoughtful gaze left the buildings, baking in the sun warmth that was an embrace across his broad, tanned shoulders. His eyes had to rise only slightly to see the blue and white of the Clayne home on the high hill beyond the highway. It rose imperiously above his panel of beach, as much a monarch of the scene as old Frank Clayne himself.

Frank Clayne, of Clayne International Foundries, was never at the club and not often at the beach home. But his name and his daughter, Rosemary, wielded the sceptre well. The moneyed crowd of Sunset Island frequently had its names in the society columns—and Rosemary Clayne always headed the list. Money society and society society—if there was a distinction, Jim didn’t know it.

She’d be awakening about now, he

thought. Maybe at her window, looking down at the club—and his tower. And yawning, too, perhaps, catlike. Sleek, golden-haired, catlike. It had been nearly dawn when she had swung the big convertible onto the highway shoulder and let him out—with a last fierce kiss.

“I could be drowning,” the voice came pleasantly. “Going down for the third time.”

He turned self-consciously. Laura Standish, slender and straight and assured, was looking up at him with a hint of amusement. “Oil bearing, those hills? Spot a likely formation?”

HE KNEW immediately that her question lacked particular significance: she couldn’t have known he had been studying the Clayne home. Yet a tinge of crimson crept into his tanned

He said, “Get as far as The Rock?” She nodded. He glanced back at the way she had come. Far down, where a cliff shouldered into the ocean to the bulwark of the cove, the narrowing beach held The Rock. It was grey and flat-topped, perhaps 15 feet high, some 15 yards across. He frequently ate his lunch there.

Jim ate there in the beginning be-

cause he had been self-conscious about eating out of a box on the tower amidst all the gay, brittle talk—never intended for his ears, but heard just the same. It made him feel a little like a peasant, porridge bowl in hand, while the baronial lords and ladies watched him with tolerant amusement.

Guarding at Sunset Island had been nothing more than another odd job when he first took it. It would provide enough added money to get him back to school for his master’s. But in the first few days he had realized that here was an excellent opportunity to make the kind of business contact he needed. There was oil money at the club. Winsett Petroleum and Haydon Geological Survey and Stevens Refinery.

It had been only a short and pleasant progression to studying the daughters of Winsett and Haydon and Stevens. Suddenly, with the talk of money, and the sight and feel of it all around him, his own lack of it—so inconsequential an amount, in their eyes—became a goading reality.

The daughters of any of the Sunset Island crowd would serve the purpose. At first he had scorned the idea—but it kept recurring. Money meant security. It meant not waiting 10 years for an income that could be lost in the pockets of any of the Sunset Island crowd. It meant being free to do all the things he wanted to do. The mere thought was an intoxication. He had always had to work, and work hard, for everything. Somewhere along the way he had picked up the idea that you had to work hard for something to appreciate it.

But around him he saw people who didn’t have to exert effort. They had nothing to do but play. It was a tempting and convincing contemplation.

His mind had toyed with it. Face it objectively, he had demanded. Was it criminal to want money? Was marrying for it, without single reservation, to be condemned any more than a business merger which provided each participant with his desire? With a plan, and luck, he might in a few weeks solve a problem that many men carried to their graves. Security.

ROSEMARY CLAYNE had paused

at the tower one afternoon, a cocktail glass in her hand and an appraising half-smile on her pert face “You must get bored up there. Why don’t you come up to the club for a

He had smiled with just the right note of respectful restraint. He couldn’t leave the tower, and he knew she knew it. He said easily, “I never get bored . You’d better be careful. You’re getting quite a burn.”

She turned her feather-cut blond head to inspect her bare shoulders. It was a strapless suit, brief and expensive. That kind, he thought, you buy by the thread.

“A little pink,"she admitted. “What would you suggest?”

“A blouse.” He grinned. “But if you insist on wearing just that, I have some good homemade brew.” He handed her the bottle of lotion.

She had the cap off. She handed the bottle up to him, and with a slight smile turned her back. He kneeled on the platform and gently applied the lotion to her neck, then to her smooth shoulders. Take it easy, he thought. Don’t rush it, boy

“You have a soothing touch, Con-

He stopped abruptly. He hadn’t conditioned himself thoroughly. He was allergic to the smell of class consciousness. And whether consciously or not, her tone had catalogued him in the servant class. He said stiffly, “Thanks, Miss Clayne.” He put the

cap back on the bottle of lotion.

Turning, she said with surprise, “What’s wrong?”

“That will relieve the bum.”

“Thank you. But—what is it?” Her face was puzzled. “Was it something I said?”

“If it was,” he told her, “I wouldn’t know how to explain it to you.”

She stared thoughtfully for a moment. “Oh.” She smiled, and he thought he detected approval in it. “You’re through at 4 o’clock. If you like, you can buy me a drink then—

He turned the lotion bottle slowly. “I don’t think Lazio would like that in his club.”

She said succinctly, “It isn’t Lazio’s club.” She turned, and said over her shoulder, “But if it would make trouble for you—there are other clubs.”

He watched her walk away, and it was enough to make his pulse beat faster.

That had been the start of it, a month ago. It had gone fast.

He struck the right note, injecting just enough discipline into her life to continue a challenge—without it becoming a boorishness that would drive her away.

One night he put down his glass and pushed away from the bar. The place was crowded and noisy. “Time to go,” he said.

“But, Jim—it’s early.”

“Early morning.” He grinned. “You want bags under your eyes? Somebody has to look after you.”

In the sleek convertible a few minutes later, she put the key in the ignition and paused.

“Yes?” He couldn’t see her face clearly, only hear a strange note in her voice, half-serious.

“I’m not sure you’re not just after money.”

He exhaled a slow shaft of cigarette smoke, and leaned back against the cushion. In a moment he said honestly, “That’s part of it, I suppose. It’s something, money.”

She turned the ignition key, started the car roughly. He sat beside her in silence, just riding through the fresh night, just waiting because there was nothing else he could do. Gradually, the car slowed. She braked to a stop on the highway shoulder, with the car’s motor still running. Eyes straight ahead, she said, “Is that all? The money?”

He said, just as honestly, “No.” He liked her. He almost said that.

He saw her smile start. “At least, you’re honest. I like that.”

He said carefully, “Is that all? The honesty?”

She shook her head slowly, and bent her blond head slowly, and kissed him full on the lips.

IT HAD been the following day that he saw Laura Standish for the first time. She was walking along the beach as he arrived at the tower.

“Good morning.”

He returned her smile. “Good morning.”

She went away, and he kept looking after her, struck at once by the poise in her manner, the fresh look of graciousness. Later that day, when he scrambled up The Rock with his boxed lunch, she was sitting there, watching the ocean. “Oh," Jim said. “Sorry.” He started to leave.

“For what?” she asked pleasantly. “It’s anybody's rock.” She smiled. “Lunch time?”

He smiled back, instantly at ease with her. “Yes. I eat up here quite a bit.”

“A nice quiet place. I feel as though I’m the one who intruded. Sit down.”

He said politely, “This morning was the first time I’ve seen you at the club.”

“We were late coming to the coast this year.” Without ostentation, she added, “We thought at first we might go to the Riviera again.”

“The Riviera. I saw it once. I’ve always wanted to go back.” He grinned. “When there was less khaki around.”

“It’s beautiful. But the Pacific is my ocean. I even feel like a stranger in England, or Florida. California has always been my home.”

She smiled, shifting slightly. “But I think New England rocks are softer.”

He ran a curious hand over the timepitted rock surface. “Age hasn’t softened this one. And it’s been here a long, long time.”

“Oh? Are you an amateur geologist?”

“In a way,” he said, smiling. “Petroleum engineer, one of these days. Or

She straightened, regarding him with interest. “Really? Years ago my father was a petroleum engineer But—isn’t this lifeguard job a little off

the track?”

Something about her; the pleasant manner, the friendliness she showed him, the ease with which she listened, brought the explanation from him.

At school, the first time, he had roomed with a boy whose father was an oil man. There had been talk about a job with the company at the end of his senior year.

The war caught him in his junior year. It taught him in reiterating ways that few patterns| really last. He finished his course. His former roommate had been killed; the father had retired. This time the college placement service was lining him up with a company. Even without the master's degree he wanted, he could get a start. But the job marked for him had gone, at the last moment, to the nephew of someone in the company. Jim went to work at a_variety of jobs for the next two years to get enough money to return for his master’s.

Stuffing sandwich papers back 'into the box, he said, a trifle bitterly, “The life story.”

“One thing,” she said. “Whatever you get will be yours.”

“That’s one way of looking at it." He had a strange disquiet in him with the thought. He had spoken of his study as though it still were part of the pattern. But hé had a new pattern, now. He stood up. “Well, time to climb my ivory tower. Thanks for sharing the rock. Miss —”

“Laura,” she said.

He paused, oddly remembering the one discordant note the first time Inhad met Rosemary.

“Laura Standish,” she said. “It was nice, Jim. Come again.”

He stood, looking down at her. “I'll do that.”

FOUR or five times since, when there was no one else on the beach, lahad walked in the mornings with her. Occasionally he found her on The Rock when he went there for lunch. He had never seen her with anyone else on the beach. Standing beside the tower, now, on this bright morning, I^aura looked out toward the float, rocking slowly some JiO yards offshore.

"It looks cold. But I'm tempted to try it.” She turned suddenly. “Want to come along? I’ll race you.”

He laughed, and dived under a small wave and shouted once with the chill shock. In the next moment he was gliding powerfully through the water. For fun, he swam in a circle around her. When they had reach«! the float he

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fished towels out of the locker beside the diving board. “Dry off, before you get a chill.”

“It’s wonderful. Really worth every shiver.”

He stretched out on a towel, feeling the sun’s tentative warmth on his back. ‘Better than the Riviera?”

“Much,” she assured him. Her dark hair tumbled as she removed her cap and tossed her head. She lay back, her head just a few inches from his, and shielded her eyes with an arm. They stayed that way, not speaking, just riding the slight rise and fall of the float, hearing the murmur of surf, the slap of water on wood, the strident cry of a wheeling gull.

After awhile, Jim raised on an elbow. Laura didn’t stir. There was an air of breeding about her, he thought idly, even with her eyes closed, her face in complete repose. If you had money or didn’t get worry lines, tensions that etched a face.

Alone with her now, it was the easiest quiet he had ever known. His act was more than mere impulse; it was a sudden compulsion that, even as he softly kissed her parted lips, made him wonder why he hadn’t realized this before . . She was the one. And the part of his mind that had accepted his new pattern registered that it was a minor miracle that he had fallen indisputably in love with someone who had money.

She didn’t move. Still with her arm over her eyes, she said softly, “That was nice.”

He took his cue swiftly. She didn’t want melodrama. All right, he thought. We’ll underplay it; be very casual, no matter how wonderful it is.

He saw that someone was in the water, swimming toward the float. It made no difference. The pace of this was unhurried. They had a lifetime. Everything was all right. He could tell Rosemary, without great difficulty.

Laura’s arm came away, and her hand found his and rested there, secure. Jim said, “Where were you planning to go?”

“I don’t know that, either. Perhaps Mexico. Wherever it’s warm.”

“You like the sun?” he asked gently.

“Most of the time. Mrs. Crandall likes it all the time. She’s getting too old for bitter winters.”

He felt the sudden bite of a vagrant breeze. He said slowly, “Mrs. Crandall?”

Laura’s eyes came open. “Why, yes. Didn’t you know?”

He smoothed the towel. “Know what?”

He sat up, and although her hand still rested on his it was as though she had drawn slightly away. “I travel with her,” Laura said simply. “I thought you knew. She was a very close friend of mother’s. It’s—an exchange,

I suppose. I look after her—and she looks after me.”

“The Riviera. You went there with her?”

“I’ve gone everywhere with her,” Laura said, “since mother died. There wasn’t anything else to do, really. She has been wonderful to me. All our money was gone. Mother was ill for years. And it seems father's choice of investments hadn’t been the best .”

He swallowed and tried to smile reassuringly at her strange expression. His own face felt like an ice mask.

She breathed deeply, and he recognized the expression, now, for one of mixed shock and sudden pity. "It makes a difference with you.” Her voice was low. “It really does . . .”

"Difference?” he began half-heartedly. “No, Laura, of course not.” He couldn’t find equilibrium. “It’s just that —”

WATER splashed beside the float and he turned as Rosemary Clayne came up the ladder. She stood with hands on hips, water running into a pool at Jim’s feet. He saw her eyes go swiftly to Laura, then back to him, and her smile didn’t go beyond her lips.

“A fine thing,” Rosemary said, and he wasn’t sure her tone was pure jest. “The lifeguard is lured from his post.” “Hello,” Laura said quietly.

“You may not care much for your job, Jim—but you shouldn’t keep Laura from hers. Mrs. Crandall is absolutely lost without her.”

“She’s awake?” Laura said. “She usually sleeps until—”

“Awake,” said Rosemary, “and clucking like a hen that’s lost a chick.” Her taut smile hadn’t moved. “The least you could do when you run off with the handsome lifeguard, darling, is leave a note on the pillow.”

Laura stood up, and Jim saw the tinge of crimson in her face. She put on her cap unhurriedly. “Thank you,” she said to Rosemary, and her restraint was obvious. She looked once at Jim, then away, as if he weren’t there and never could be. She dived shallowly and cleanly.

The line of distinction had never been drawn more sharply for him. He saw it in the way Rosemary had addressed Laura; the way Laura had had to accept it. Money, he thought dimly, was the line. Mixed with his own shame was a faint pity for Laura Standish.

Rosemary said, “You’d better get back to the tower. Lazio—”

“Yes,” he said, standing.

She frowned. “Did I interrupt something cosy between you two?”

He managed a brief smile. “You know better.” His eyes swung to Laura, going slowly, steadily, toward shore. He felt Rosemary’s hand, cold and light, on his arm. She said softly,

“Yes?”

“There’s a dance at the club tonight. Would you like to take me?”

ThejKhad never gone there together. There was an inviolate wall between those who worked at the cluband those who played there. He could read the significance in her invitation. She would take him there as an equal, before all her friends, before all the Sunset Island crowd. It was, in a far from subtle way, a declaration.

It was, too, the maturing of his plan. He had it made, now. The fight was over--but the victory was a flat metallic taste iff his mouth. He saw that Laura had reached the beach, and was walking slowly, head erect, toward the buildings.

He sighed. “Yes.” His eyes met Rosemary’s nnd held, ns though a bargain had been sealed.

She smiled. “Come to the house," she said. “About 9.”

THE BUTLER said, “Good evening, Mr. Conway.” His tone was respectful. “Miss Clayne asked that you wait on the terrace.”

“Thank you, Phillip.” The wordH came easily, as though he had been greeted by butlers all his life. It didn't take much effort to feel it, already; this assurance that came with security.

He noted the satiny gleum of polished woods, the solid, carved furniture, the thick depth of carpets as he crossed through the library and out onto the flagstone terrace.

Half a white moon hung in the night sky, and below him he could see the ribbon of highway and the teams of headlights gliding swiftly past. The club was a cluster of brilliance huddled beside the dark, restless sea. He leaned against the heavy stone balustrade, and wondered how he was going to like living here.

He was indescribably lucky, he told himself. He had played it letterperfect, the way Lazio wished he could have done it, and he had hit the jackpot. There was a bargain involved. From the beginning he had pledged himself to accept that. He could do the best he could. He wondered, then, if Laura would be at the dance, and his thoughts sobered and were swiftly on her when Rosemary came onto the terrace.

“Sorry you had to wait, darling.” ‘It wasn’t long.” He looked at the sheath that was her strapless white gown, and smiled briefly. “You’re liable to get a burn in that, too.”

“Moonburn?” She laughed. “I’m not worried. I know a marvelous man who has a marvelous homemade brew.” He glanced down at the lights of the club. “You know—this may be embarrassing for you tonight. What if they cut me cold?”

She was watching him. “What if they do?”

“You don’t care?”

“They wouldn’t dare.”

He said uncomfortably, “I—well, it isn’t as though I belonged there. I—” “Jim, stop it.” She put a hand on his arm. “Do you want to back out?”

He ran a hand across his hair. “Of the dance, you mean?”

She said softly, “No. Of everything. The dance would be only the beginning.” She paused. “Do you know what it will be like—after that?”

He stood quite still, hearing the drone of the cars, the distant beat of surf. His throat was dry. Here it was, the thing he had worked and hoped for. He looked down at her. “We’ll go ahead,” he said. “I want that more than anything I know.”

It was in his hand now, and he was not going to let it go. He would not let it go. *