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"You'd really approve of that, Ward?" she asked.
"You haven't always been so indulgent of my whims."

Grace, increasingly uncomfortable, started when
Mrs. Trenton addressed her directly.

"Miss Durland, if you see too much of Mr. Tren-
ton you will find him a singularly unreasonable per-
son. But," with a shrug, "all men have the ancient
conceit of their sex superiority."

She had drawled the "if you see too much" in a man-
ner to give the phrase a peculiar insinuating emphasis.
Grace caught its significance at once and her cheeks
burned; but she was less angry at the woman than at
Trenton, whose face betrayed no resentment. She
rose and walked to the door.

"Dear me, don't run away!" Mrs. Trenton ex-
claimed. "Miss Reynolds will be back shortly. She
was called away to some hospital I think it was to
see a friend. Do wait. There will be tea, I think."

Trenton was on his feet. No man's mind is ever
quite so agile or discerning as a woman's. He had
just caught up with the phrase that had angered

"I have kept my word," he said, rising and address-
ing his wife directly. "When I promised you that if
I ever met a woman I felt I could care for I would
tell you, I was in earnest. At your own suggestion
and in perfect good faith I asked Miss Durland to
come here."

"My dear Ward! You were always a man of your
word!" she said with a hint of mockery in her voice.


"I assure you that I'm delighted to meet Miss Dur-
land. She's very charming, really."

"I don't intend that you shall forget yourself!" he
said sharply. "Your conduct since you came into this
room has been contemptible!"

"I'm most contrite! Do forgive me, Miss Dur-

She lay back in her chair in a pose of exaggerated
ease and lazily turned her head to look at Grace.

"I assume," she said, "that you are my chosen suc-
cessor, and I can't complain of my husband's taste.
You are very handsome and I can see how your youth
would appeal to him, but there are things I must con-
sider. Please wait" Grace had laid her hand on the
door, "I may as well say it all now. I've probably
led Ward to think that if such an emergency as this
arose I'd free him and bid him Godspeed. But, you
see, confronted with the fact, I find it necessary to
think a little of myself. One must, you know, and
I'm horribly selfish. It would never do to give my
critics a chance to take a fling at me as a woman
whose marriage is a failure. You can see for yourself,
Miss Durland, how my position would be weakened
if I were a divorcee. Much as I hate to disappoint
you it would never do really it would not!"

"Just what are you assuming, Mrs. Trenton?" de-
manded Grace, meeting the gaze of the older woman.

"We needn't discuss that now!" interrupted Tren-
ton peremptorily.

"No; I suppose you'd have to confer privately with
Miss Durland before reaching a conclusion. But, I
suggest, Miss Durland, for the sake of your own hap-
piness, that you avoid, if, indeed, the warning isn't too
late, forming any what do we call such "


"That will do! Stop right there!" Trenton inter-

Grace had swung round from the door, and stood,
her lips parted and with something of the look of an
angry, hurt child in her eyes. It seemed to her that
she was an unwilling eavesdropper, hearing words not
intended for her ears, but without the power to escape.
Then she heard Trenton's voice.

"You'd better go, Grace," he said quietly. "Craig
is waiting. He will take you home."

Grace closed the door after her and paused in the
dim hall. A nightmare numbness had seized her;
and she found herself wondering whether she could
reach the outer door; it seemed remote, unattainable.
She steadied herself against the newel, remembering
an accident in childhood that had left her dazed and
nauseated. Trenton had told her to go; at his wife's
bidding he was sending her away and it wasn't neces-
sary for him to dismiss her like that!

She felt herself precipitated into a measureless
oblivion; nothing good or beautiful ever had been or
would be. He had told her to go; that was all; and
like a grieved and heartbroken child she resented being
sent away. In her distress she was incapable of
crediting him with the kindness that had prompted him
to bid her leave.

She was startled by a quick step on the walk out-
side, followed by the click of the lock, and the door,
flung open, revealed Miss Reynolds.

"Why, Grace, I had no idea why, child! What's
the matter? You're as white as a sheet!"

"I must go," said Grace in a whisper, withdrawing
the hand Miss Reynolds had clasped. The door re-
mained open and the world, a fantastically distorted
world, lay outside. With slow steps she passed her


bewildered friend, saying in the tone of one muttering
in an unhappy dream:

"I must go! He told me to go."

"He who?"

The astonished Miss Reynolds, who at first thought
Grace was playing a joke of some kind, watched her
pass slowly down the walk to the gate and enter the
waiting car. She went out upon the steps, uncertain
what to do and caught a last glimpse of Grace's face,
her eyes set straight ahead, as the machine bore her


The thought of remaining at home was unbearable,
and after supper Grace telephoned Irene to ask
whether she was free for the evening.

"Tommy said something about taking a drive and
I'm going over to Minnie's to meet him. You come
right along. I saw Ward snatch you out of the store.
Pretty cool, I call it! Tommy said he was going back
East at seven, so you're a widow once more!"

Grace left the house with her father, who was
spending all his evenings at Kemp's plant. To all
questions at home as to the progress of his motor
Durland replied that he guessed it would be all right.
On the street-car he told Grace he was anxious to see
Trenton; there were difficulties as to the motor that
he wished to discuss with him. He said he had writ-
ten, asking an interview as soon as possible, but that
Trenton had not replied. Grace answered that she
knew nothing about him and her heart sank as she
remembered that Trenton was no longer a part of her
life and that in the future he would come and go and
she would never be the wiser.


It was all over and she faced the task of convincing
herself that her love for him had been a delusion, a
mere episode to be forgotten as quickly as possible.
She left her father at Washington street, cheerily wish-
ing him good luck, and took a car that ran past
Minnie's door.

Irene was alone and, in a new gown of coppergreen
crepe that enhanced the gold in her hair, might have
posed as the spirit of spring. Minnie had remained
down town, she explained, and Tommy was not ex-
pected until nine.

"What's happened?" she demanded. "I know some-
thing's doing or you wouldn't have called me up from

Grace took off her coat, hung it over the back of
a chair and flung herself down on the couch.

"Console me a little, Irene, but not too much
I've seen Ward for the last time."

"His wife make a row?" Irene inquired.

"Yes, he took me to see her and she "

"He took you to see her ! Grace Durland, what are
you talking about?"

"Just that!" and Grace, no longer able to restrain
herself, burst into tears.

"You poor baby!"

Irene jumped up and thrust a pillow back of Grace's
head and sat down beside her. "Tell me about it if
you want to, but not unless you feel like it, honey."

"I've simply got to tell you, Irene. Oh !"

"Grace Durland, don't be silly! You know I'd die
for you!"

She listened in patient silence while Grace told with
minute detail and many tears the story of her in-
terview with Mrs. Trenton.

"I loved him; I still love him, Irene!" she moaned


pitifully when she had finished. "And it had to end
like that!"

"If you want my opinion," said Irene judicially,
"I'll say that Ward Trenton is a perfect nut the
final and consummate nut of the whole nut family!
The idea that he would take a girl like you and
you're a good deal of a kid, my dear to call on a
woman like that wife of his, who's an experienced
worldly creature, and as much as tell her that he's in
love with you! It's the limit!"

"But," said Grace, quick to defend the moment
Trenton was attacked, "he had every reason to be-
lieve she would be decent! She'd always let him think
that if there was anyone else she'd she'd "

"She'd hand him a transfer!" Irene laughed iron-
ically. "Isn't that just like poor old Ward! I tell
you men are even as little babes where women are
concerned. There isn't a woman on earth who'd just
calmly sit by and let another woman walk off with
her husband even if she hated him like poison. It's
against nature, dearest. I can see how that woman
would make the bluff, all right, but all she wanted
was to see what you looked like and finding you young
and beautiful she tried to make you feel like a counter-
feit nickel. The trouble with Ward is that he's so
head over heels in love with you that he's lost his
mind. I wonder what happened after you skipped 1
I'll bet it was some party! But don't you believe he's
going to give you up not Ward! Everything's going
to straighten out, honey. His telling you to go doesn't
mean a blessed thing! He just wanted to get you out
of the scrap."

"It means the end," said Grace with a sigh that lost
itself in a sob.

The bell tinkled and Grace ran away to remove the


traces of tears from her face. When she reappeared
Kemp greeted her with his usual raillery.

"I had only a word with Ward over the telephone,"
he said. "He came out to see his wife and as he bor-
rowed my limousine I guess he showed her the village
sights. But, of course, you know more about that
bird than I do, Grace. You couldn't scare me up a
drink, could you, Irene? Minnie's got some stuff of
mine concealed here somewhere. Just a spoonful
no? Grace, this girl is a cruel tyrant. She positively
refuses to let me die a drunkard's happy death."

He evidently wasn't aware that Grace had seen
Trenton and Irene carefully kept the talk in safe
channels. He had brought his roadster, not knowing
that he was to find Grace at Minnie's, but he insisted
that the car carried three comfortably and he wouldn't
consider leaving her behind.

It was the same car in which Trenton had driven her
into town after the night they spent together at The
Shack. In spite of her attempts to forget, thoughts of
him filled her mind like an implacable host of sol-
diery. . . .

After a plunge into the country they swung back to
town along the river.

"By Jove!" exclaimed Kemp suddenly. "There's
my little factory over there in the moonlight. Have
you ever seen it, Grace? We'll just dash in for a

"I wonder if father's still there?" said Grace as
they drove into the lighted yard.

"We'll soon find out. That's his workshop yonder
where you see the bluish lights. I see O'Reilly's light
on in tie main office. That fellow works too hard."

"It's a good thing somebody works around this
place," said Irene. "The world knows you don't."


"Oh, it's not as bad as that," Kemp retorted, and
led the way down a long aisle of one of the steel and
glass units of the big plant. The moon diffused its
mild radiance through the glass roof, as though mock-
ing with a superior mystery the silent inert machinery.

The sound of voices became audible in a room parti-
tioned off in one corner. The door was ajar and two
men in overalls and jumpers were pondering a motor
set up on a testing block.

The trio remained outside, watching the two intent,
rapt figures. One Grace had recognized as her father;
the other, she realized bewilderedly, was Ward Tren-
ton. Trenton, unconscious that he was watched,
raised his hand and Durland turned a switch. The
hum of a motor filled the room; and Durland turned
slowly from the motor to glance at Trenton. Trenton
signalled to shut off the power and dropped upon his
knees, peering into the machine. Durland took up a
sheet of paper and from it answered the questions
which Trenton shot at him in rapid succession.

"Let's have the power again," said Trenton. He
rose, bent his ear to study the sound, turned to Dur-
land and nodded.

"Let's see what they're up to," said Kemp and
shouted Trenton's name. Grace drew back as the two
men turned toward them, but Irene seized her arm.

"Don't you dare run away!"

Trenton came toward them snatching off his blue
mechanic's cap. There was a smudge across his face
and his hands were black from contact with the ma-

"I didn't really lie to you, Tommy: I meant to leave
tonight but remembered that Mr. Durland wanted to
see me, so here I am."


They followed him to the testing block where Dur-
land had remained, too engrossed to heed them.

"I'm glad you came just when you did," said Tren-
ton addressing all of them but looking at Grace. "Mr.
Durland will be ready to begin the final tests to-
morrow. I'm sure they're going to be successful. I
want you to be here, Tommy, and see the thing
through. Just look at this ! "

He deftly lifted out a part of the motor for Kemp's
inspection, restored it and then bent over the bench,
rapidly scribbling notes on the back of a blue print.

"Congratulations are now in order, I suppose," said
Kemp. He turned and shook hands with Durland, who
was regarding the motor with a puzzled look on his
face. Trenton said he would remain a while longer
he might stay all night, he added with a laugh.

"This is too important to leave, so I've changed all
my plans and will be here two or three days."

"When this bird works, he works," said Kemp,
laying his hand affectionately on Trenton's shoulder.

Trenton followed them out, keeping close to Grace.
When they were out of ear shot of her father Dur-
land apparently hadn't noticed that Grace was in the
room Trenton said:

"I called you at home this evening and found you'd
gone out. I want to see you; I must see you," he
said pleadingly.

Kemp had reached the main shop and was explain-
ing to Irene some of the points of the motor.

"Kemp!" Trenton called. "What are you doing
tomorrow night?"

"Nothing; I'm ready for anything."

"Well, Grace and I would like to have dinner with
you at The Shack."

"A grand idea! Only remember none of this pro-


hibition stuff you pulled on me Christmas. I cannot
dine without my wine!" he chanted.

When they reached the yard Kemp and Irene were
waiting by the car. Trenton caught Grace's hand and

"Remember, I love you! I shall always love you."

"No no " she began. "Oh this isn't kind! I
thought you had gone or "

"Come along, Grace," cried Kemp. "See you to-
morrow, Ward. Goodnight and good luck!"

To Grace, on the homeward drive, peace seemed an
unattainable thing. She had firmly resolved never to
see Trenton again; but she had not only seen him
but the sight of him had deepened the hunger in her
heart. She was without the will to deny him the
meeting for which he had asked. It was sweet to
think that he had remained if only to assist her father
when he had definitely said that he was leaving that
night. Yes; there was kindness in this; and even
though he had sent her away from Miss Reynolds's
and wounded her deeply in his manner of doing it,
she knew that it was always his wish to be kind and
that no power could keep her from seeing him again,
if only for a last good-bye.



As she dressed the next morning Grace hummed and
whistled, happy in the consciousness that before the
day ended she would see Trenton again. The romantic
strain in her warmed and quickened at the thought.
Even if they were to part for all time and she should
go through life with his love only a memory, it would
be a memory precious and ineffacable, that would
sweeten and brighten all her years.

In his workman's garb, as she had seen him at
Kemp's, she idealized him anew. If it had been his
fate to remain a laborer, his skill would have set him
apart from his fellows. He could never have been
other than a man of mark. It was a compensation
for anything she might miss in her life to have known
the love of such a man. She was impatient with her-
self and sought the lowest depths of self-abasement
for having doubted him. She should never again
question his sincerity or his wisdom, but would abide
by his decision in all things.

When she reached the dining room her father was
already gone, and her mother seemed troubled about

"He was excited and nervous when he came home
last night," said Mrs. Durland. "He hardly slept and
he left an hour ago saying he'd get a cup of coffee
on his way through town. I'm afraid things haven't
been going right with him. It would be a terrible
blow if the motor didn't turn out as he expected."

"Let's just keep hoping, mother; that's the only



way," Grace replied cheerily. "They wouldn't be
wasting time on it at Kemp's if there wasn't some-
thing in it."

"I guess you're right there," interposed Ethel.
"Kemp has the reputation of being a cold-blooded
proposition. And I suppose the great Trenton values
his own reputation too much to recommend anything
that hasn't got money in it."

"Poor foolish men will persist in going into business
to make money, not for fun," Grace replied. "I
suppose Gregg and Burley don't sell insurance just as
a matter of philanthropy. Mr. Trenton would soon
be out of work if he didn't have the confidence of
the people who hire him. I wouldn't be so bitter if I
were you."

"I heard you rolling up in an automobile last night,"
Ethel persisted. "You seem to be getting the benefit
of somebody's money."

"Ethel!" cried her mother despairingly.

"Let her rave," replied Grace calmly. "When Mr.
Burley drives Ethel home from the office it's an act
of Christian kindness, but if I get a lift it's a sin."

"Mr. Burley," began Ethel, breathing heavily, "Mr.
Burley is the very soul of honor! He wanted to talk
to me about some of the work in our Sunday school
and hadn't time to discuss it in the office."

"Don't think for a minute I have any objection!
If he was just opening up a little flirtation it would be
all right with me."

"How dare you?" cried Ethel, beginning to cry.

"Please, Grace," began Mrs. Durland, pausing on
her way to the kitchen with the coffee pot.

"All right, mother," said Grace. "I resent just a
little bit having Ethel grab all the virtue in the fam-


"I'm not ashamed to tell who brings me home any-
how," Ethel flung at her.

"Neither, for that matter, am I! It was Mr.
Thomas Ripley Kemp who brought me home last
night. He'd taken Irene and me for a drive."

"So that was it! I thought I recognized the car.
That Kemp! I suppose he's getting tired of Irene
and is looking for another girl 1 "

"Well, dearie, he hasn't said anything about it,"
Grace replied. "But you never can tell."

"Girls! This must stop right here! We can't
have the day beginning with a wrangle. You both
ought to be ashamed of yourselves."

"I'm through, mother," said Grace. "I didn't start
the row. I've reached a place where Ethel doesn't
really worry me any more."

"Well, you were always a tease and Ethel is sensi-
tive. I do wish you'd both exercise a little restraint."

Grace found a brief note in the society column of
the morning paper recording Mrs. Trenton's de-
parture, and an editorial ridiculing her opinions.
Elsewhere there were interviews with a dozen prom-
inent men and women on Mrs. Trenton's lecture,
all expressing disapproval of her ideas. A leading
Socialist disavowed any sympathy with Mrs. Tren-
ton's programme and denounced her "Clues to a New
Social Order" as a mere rehash of other books. He
characterized her as a woman of wealth who was
merely seeking notoriety by parading herself as a
revolutionist and who would be sure to resist, with the
innate selfishness and greed of her class, any inter-
ference with her personal comfort and ease.

Grace carried the newspaper with her to the trolley
and on the way down town re-read these criticisms of


Mrs. Trenton with keenest satisfaction. Mrs. Trenton
was not a great woman animated by a passion of hu-
manity but narrow, selfish and cruel. She thought
again of the encounter at Miss Reynolds's with re-
newed sympathy for Trenton. After all he had met
the difficult situation in the only way possible. He
had said once that he didn't understand his wife and
Grace consoled herself with the reflection that prob-
ably no one could understand her, least of all, her

In the course of the day Grace learned from Irene
that Kemp, who was on the entertainment committee
for a large national convention, had decided to ask
several friends among the delegates to The Shack.

"It won't be a shocker, like some of Tommy's
parties, only a little personal attention for a few of
the old comrades," said Irene. "You and Ward can
see as little of the rest of the bunch as you please.
Tommy has promised me solemnly to let booze alone.
I suppose his wife will never know how hard I've
worked to keep him straight! Ridiculous, isn't it?
Before that woman came back from California Tommy
hadn't touched a drop for a month, and he's been
doing wonderfully ever since. The good lady was so
pleased with his appearance and conduct that she beat
it for New York last night to buy clothes and by the
time she gets back I'll be ready to release my mortgage
on Tommy for good and all. I've broken the news
to him gently and he's been awfully nice about it.
This is really my last appearance with Tommy it's
understood on both sides. I wouldn't go at all if it
were not for you and Ward."

Grace envied Irene the ease with which she met
situations. Irene's cynicism, she had decided, was
only on the surface; she wished she could be sure that


she herself possessed the sound substratum of charac-
terthat Irene was revealing. Irene had sinned griev-
ously against the laws of God and man; but after dis-
daining those influences that seek to safeguard society,
and carrying her head high, with a certain serene im-
pudence in her wrong doing, she now appeared to be on
good terms with her soul. It was a strange thing that
this could be one of the most curious and baffling of
all Grace's recent experiences. Face to to face with
the problem of her future relations with Trenton,
Grace was finding in Irene something akin to a moral
tonic. Irene, by a code of her own, did somehow man-
age to cling fast to things reckoned fine and noble.
Irene, in spite of herself, had the soul of a virtuous

It was to be a party of ten, Grace learned after
Irene had conferred with Kemp by telephone at the
lunch hour. For the edification of the three strange
men Irene had provided three other girls who had,
as Irene said, some class and knew how to amuse
tired business men without becoming vulgar. Grace
knew these young women they were variously em-
ployed down town but she would never have thought
of asking them to "go on a party."

"Not one of these girls makes less than two thou-
sand a year," Irene announced loftily. "God preserve
me from cheap stuff! It makes me sick, Grace, to
see these poor little fools who run around the streets,
all dolled up with enough paint on their faces to cover
the state house and not enough brains in their heads
to make a croquette for a sick mosquito. If it hadn't
been for all this silly rot about emancipating women
they'd be at home cooking and helping mamma with
the wash. As it is they draw twelve a week and spend
it all on clothes to advertise their sex. Do you know,


Grace, I sometimes shudder for the future of the hu-
man race!"


Jerry had been reinforced by a colored cateress and
the country supper produced at The Shack proved to
be a sumptuous dinner. Kemp had brought from his
well-stocked cave on the farm the ingredients for a
certain cocktail, known by his name throughout the
corn-belt. The "Tommy Kemp" was immediately pro-
nounced to be the last word in cocktails, a concoction
which, one of the visitors declared, completely annulled
and set aside the Eighteenth Amendment to the Con-
stitution of the United States as an insolent assault
upon the personal liberty and the palate of man.
Kemp was in the gayest spirits; the party was wholly
to his taste. The men he entertained were con-
spicuously successful, and leaders in the business and
social life of their several cities. Irene had confided

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Online LibraryMeredith NicholsonBroken barriers → online text (page 23 of 27)