Grand Magazine, July 1922
SALLY NICHOLAS, celebrating her inheritance of $25,000 by a trip to France, met Ginger Kemp, a red-headed young Englishman who had spent his time since leaving Cambridge in making a hash of the various jobs found him by his exasperated family. Ginger, having won a large sum of money at the Casino, begged Sally to marry him, but she pointed out that she was already secretly engaged to a rising young playwright in New York. Having lectured Ginger on his slavish dependence upon his relatives (of whom she had met one specimen in his pompous cousin, Bruce Carmyle), Sally sailed for America, with the parting admonition, “Death to the family!”
Sally’s brother Fillmore meanwhile was acting as assistant stage-manager to The Primrose Way, a new play by her fiancé, Gerald Foster, and when the production threatened to collapse for lack of funds, Fillmore persuaded Sally to lend him the money to buy the show. She agreed for Gerald’s sake, telling that rather morose young man nothing about it, however, and Fillmore opened an office in New York.
Ginger, having lost his money, sailed for New York, and here Sally found him practically penniless. She persuaded Fillmore to take him into his office as general handyman, and Ginger’s gratitude knew no bounds. “Nonsense, Ginger,” said Sally, “I regard you as a grandson.”
The Primrose Way was such a success that Fillmore recklessly decided to launch out with a revue, and various other shows, in spite of Sally’s protests, and those of his fiancée, Gladys Winch, a stolid, slangy, but remarkably clear-headed little girl whom Sally loved at first sight.
Ginger, sent to Chicago by Fillmore for one of his wild schemes, ran into Gerald Foster, and, on his return, mentioned him to Sally. “Chap I was at school with,” he said; “a bit of a worm.”
“It may interest you to know,” flamed Sally, “that Gerald Foster is the man I am going to marry.”
Ginger collapsed. “Oh, I say,” he said, miserably, “you’re joking, surely?” And finally explained: “Foster’s married. He was married the day I left Chicago.”
CHAPTER X (continued)
IT seemed to Ginger that in the silence which followed, brooding over the room like a living presence, even the noises in the street had ceased; as though what he had said had been a spell, cutting Sally and himself off from the outer world. He felt incapable of movement, as he had sometimes felt in nightmares.
He was blaming himself bitterly now for his clumsiness in blurting out the news so abruptly. And yet, curiously, in his remorse there was something of elation. Never before had he felt so near to her. It was as though a barrier that had been between them had fallen.
“Your cigarette’s out.”
Ginger started violently. Her voice, coming suddenly out of the silence, had struck him like a blow.
He forced himself to light another match. It spluttered noisily in the stillness. He blew it out, and the uncanny quiet fell again.
Ginger drew at his cigarette mechanically. For an instant he had seen Sally’s face, white-cheeked and bright-eyed, the chin tilted like a flag flying over a stricken field. His mood changed. All his emotions had crystallised into a dull, futile rage, a helpless fury directed at a man a thousand miles away.
Sally spoke again. Her voice sounded small and far-off, an odd flatness in it.
Ginger threw his cigarette out of the window. He was shocked to find that he was smoking. Nothing could have been farther from his intention than to smoke. He nodded.
“Whom has he married?”
Ginger coughed. Something was sticking in his throat, and speech was difficult.
“A girl called Doland.”
“Elsa Doland.” Sally drummed with her fingers on the arm of her chair. “Oh, Elsa Doland.”
There was silence again. Sally felt as though she had been projected into another world where everything was new and strange and horrible—everything except Ginger. About him, in the mere sight of him, there was something known and heartening.
Suddenly she became aware that she was feeling that Ginger was behaving extremely well. She seemed to have been taken out of herself and to be regarding the scene from outside, regarding it coolly and critically; and it was plain to her that Ginger, in this upheaval of all things, was bearing himself perfectly. He had attempted no banal words of sympathy. He had said nothing, and he was not looking at her. And Sally felt that sympathy just now would be torture and that she could not have borne to be looked at.
There he sat, saying nothing and doing nothing, as if he knew that all she needed, the only thing that could keep her sane in this world of nightmare, was the sight of that dear flaming head of his that made her feel that the world had not slipped away from her altogether.
Sally got up abruptly. Slowly, gradually, inch by inch, the great suffocating cloud which had been crushing her had lifted. She felt alive again. Her black hour had gone, and she was back in the world of living things once more. She was afire with a fierce, tearing pain that tormented her almost beyond endurance, but dimly she sensed the fact that she had passed through something that was worse than pain and, with Ginger’s stolid presence to aid her, had passed triumphantly.
“Go and have dinner, Ginger,” she said. “You must be starving.”
Ginger came to life like a courtier in the palace of the Sleeping Beauty. He shook himself, and rose stiffly from his chair.
“Oh no,” he said. “Not a bit, really.”
Sally switched on the light and set him blinking. She could bear to be looked at now.
“Go and dine,” she said. “Dine lavishly and luxuriously. You’ve certainly earned it.” Her voice faltered for a moment. She held out her hand. “Ginger,” she said, shakily, “I—Ginger, you’re a pal.”
When he had gone Sally sat down and began to cry. Then she dried her eyes in a business-like manner.
“There, Miss Nicholas!” she said. “You couldn’t have done that an hour ago. We will now boil you an egg for your dinner and see how that suits you!”
sally runs away
BY staying away from Sally during the next few days Ginger showed considerable delicacy. It was not easy to stay away from her, but he forced himself to do so. He argued from his own tastes, and was strongly of the opinion that in times of travail solitude was what the sufferer most desired. In his time he, too, had had what he would have described as nasty jars, and on these occasions all he had asked was to be allowed to sit and think things over and fight his battle out by himself.
By Saturday, however, he had come to the conclusion that some form of action might now be taken. Saturday was rather a good day for picking up the threads again. He had not to go to the office, and, what was still more to the point, he had just drawn his week’s salary. Mrs. Meecher had deftly taken a certain amount of this, but enough remained to enable him to attempt consolation on a fairly princely scale. There presented itself to him as a judicious move the idea of hiring a car and taking Sally out to dinner in the country. He examined the scheme. The more he looked at it, the better it seemed.
A quarter of an hour later he was in the hall-way of Sally’s apartment house, gazing with ill-concealed disgust at the serge-clad back of his cousin, Mr. Carmyle, who was engaged in conversation with a gentleman in overalls.
No care-free prospector, singing his way through the Mojave Desert, and suddenly finding himself confronted by a rattlesnake, could have experienced so abrupt a change of mood as did Ginger at this revolting spectacle. Even in their native Piccadilly it had been unpleasant to run into Mr. Carmyle. To find him here now was nothing short of nauseating. Only one thing could have brought him to this place. Obviously, he must have come to see Sally; and with a sudden sinking of the heart Ginger remembered the shiny, expensive car which he had seen waiting at the door. He, it was clear, was not the only person to whom the idea had occurred of taking Sally for a drive on this golden day.
He was still standing there when Mr. Carmyle swung round with a frown on his dark face which seemed to say that he had not found the janitor’s conversation entertaining. The sight of Ginger plainly did nothing to lighten his gloom.
“Hullo!” he said.
“Hullo!” said Ginger.
Uncomfortable silence followed these civilities.
“Have you come to see Miss Nicholas?”
“She isn’t here,” said Mr. Carmyle, and the fact that he had found someone to share the bad news seemed to cheer him a little.
“No. Apparently——” Bruce Carmyle’s scowl betrayed that resentment which a well-balanced man cannot but feel at the unreasonableness of others. “Apparently, for some extraordinary reason, she has taken it into her head to dash over to England.”
Ginger tottered. The unexpectedness of the blow was crushing. He followed his cousin out into the sunshine in a sort of dream. Bruce Carmyle was addressing the driver of the expensive car.
“I find I shall not want the car. You can take it back to the garage.”
The chauffeur, a moody man, opened one half-closed eye and spat cautiously.
“You’ll have to pay just the same,” he observed, opening his other eye to lend emphasis to the words.
“Of course I shall pay,” snapped Mr. Carmyle, irritably. “How much is it?”
Money passed. The car rolled off.
“Gone to England?” said Ginger, dizzily.
“Yes, gone to England.”
“How the devil do I know why?” Bruce Carmyle would have found his best friend trying at this moment. Gaping Ginger gave him almost a physical pain. “All I know is what the janitor told me, that she sailed on the Mauretania this morning.”
Ginger nodded absently to Mr. Carmyle and walked off. He had no further remarks to make. The warmth had gone out of the sunshine and all interest had departed from his life. He felt dull, listless, at the loose end. He loafed aimlessly about the streets. He wandered into the park and out again. The park bored him. The streets bored him. The whole city bored him. A city without Sally in it was a drab, futile city, and nothing that the sun could do to brighten it could make it otherwise.
NIGHT came at last, and with it a letter. It was the first even passably pleasant thing that had happened to Ginger in the whole of his dreary and unprofitable day, for the envelope bore the crest of the good ship Mauretania. He snatched it covetously from the letter-rack and bore it upstairs to his room.
There was nothing of haste and much of ceremony in Ginger’s method of approaching the perusal of his correspondence. He bore himself after the manner of a small boy in the presence of unexpected ice-cream, gloating for awhile before embarking on the treat, anxious to make it last out. His first move was to feel in the breast-pocket of his coat and produce the photograph of Sally which he had feloniously removed from her apartment. At this he looked long and earnestly before propping it up within easy reach against his basin, to be handy if required, as it would be required, for purposes of reference.
He then took off his coat, collar, and shoes, filled and lit a pipe, and, having manœuvred himself into a position of ease, took up the letter.
Having read so far, Ginger found it necessary to take up the photograph and study it with an even greater intentness than before. Then he went on with the letter.
I’m afraid this address is going to give you rather a shock, and I’m feeling very guilty. I’m running away, and I haven’t even stopped to say good-bye. I can’t help it. I know it’s weak and cowardly, but I simply can’t help it. I stood it for a day or two and then I saw that it was no good. (Thank you for leaving me alone and not coming round to see me. Nobody else but you would have done that. But then, nobody ever has been or ever could be so understanding as you.)
Ginger found himself compelled at this point to look at the photograph again.
There was too much in New York to remind me. That’s the worst of being happy in a place. When things go wrong, you find there are too many ghosts about. I just couldn’t stand it. I’m going away to get cured—if I can. Mr. Faucitt is over in England, and I have had a letter from him. His brother is dead, you know, and he has inherited, of all things, a fashionable dress-making place in Regent Street! His brother was Laurette et Cie! I suppose he will sell the business later on, but just at present the poor old dear is apparently quite bewildered, and that doesn’t seem to have occurred to him. He kept saying in his letter how much he wished I was with him, to help him, and I was tempted and ran. I don’t suppose I shall feel much better in England, but at least every street corner won’t have associations. Don’t ever be happy anywhere, Ginger. It’s too big a risk—much too big a risk.
There was a letter from Elsa Doland, too. Bubbling over with affection. We have always been tremendous friends. Of course, she never knew anything about my being engaged to Gerald. I lent Fillmore the money to buy that piece which gave Elsa her first big chance, and so she’s very grateful. She says if ever she gets the opportunity of doing me a good turn—— Aren’t things muddled!
And there was a letter from Gerald. I was expecting one, of course, but—what would you have done, Ginger? Would you have read it? I sat with it in front of me for an hour, I should think, just looking at the envelope, and then—you see, what was the use? I could guess exactly the sort of thing that would be in it, and reading it would only have hurt a lot more. The thing was done, so why bother about explanations? What good are explanations, anyway? They don’t help. They don’t do anything. I burned it, Ginger. The last letter I shall ever get from him. I made a bonfire on the bathroom floor, and it smouldered and went brown and then flared a little, and every now and then I lit another match and kept it burning, and at last it was just black ashes and a stain on the tiles. Just a mess!
Ginger, burn this letter, too. I’m pouring out all the poison to you, hoping it will make me feel better. You don’t mind, do you? But I know you don’t. If ever anybody had a real pal——
It’s a dreadful thing, fascination, Ginger. It grips you and you are helpless. One can be so sensible and reasonable about other people’s love-affairs.
If only one could manage one’s own life as well as one can manage other people’s! If all this wretched thing of mine had happened to some other girl, how beautifully I could have proved that it was the best thing that could have happened and that a man who could behave as Gerald has done wasn’t worth worrying about. I can just hear myself. But, you see, whatever he has done, Gerald is still Gerald and Sally is still Sally, and, however much I argue, I can’t get away from that. All I can do is to come howling to my red-headed pal, when I know just as well as he does that a girl of any spirit would be dignified and keep her troubles to herself and be much too proud to let anyone know that she was hurt.
Proud! That’s the real trouble, Ginger. My pride has been battered and chopped up and broken into as many pieces as you broke Mr. Scrymgeour’s stick! What pitiful creatures we are—girls, I mean. At least, I suppose a good many girls are like me. If Gerald had died, and I had lost him that way, I know quite well I shouldn’t be feeling as I do now. I should have been broken-hearted, but it wouldn’t have been the same. It’s my pride that is hurt. I have always been a bossy, cocksure little creature, swaggering about the world like an English sparrow, and now I’m paying for it. Oh, Ginger, I’m paying for it! I wonder if running away is going to do me any good at all? Perhaps if Mr. Faucitt has some real, hard work for me to do——
Of course, I know exactly how all this has come about. Elsa’s pretty and attractive, but the point is that she is a success, and as a success she appeals to Gerald’s weakest side. He worships success. She is going to have a marvellous career, and she can help Gerald on in his. He can write plays for her to star in. What have I to offer against that? Yes, I know it’s grovelling and contemptible of me to say that, Ginger. I ought to be above it, oughtn’t I—talking as if I were competing for some prize. But I haven’t any pride left. Oh, well!
There! I’ve poured it all out, and I really do feel a little better just for the moment. It won’t last, of course, but even a minute is something. Ginger, dear, I shan’t see you for ever so long, even if we ever do meet again, but you’ll try to remember that I’m thinking of you a whole lot, won’t you? I feel responsible for you. You’re my baby! You’ve got started now and you’ve only to stick to it. Please, please, please don’t ‘make a hash of it’! Good-bye. I never did find that photograph of me that we were looking for that afternoon in the apartment, or I would send it to you. Then you could have kept it on your mantelpiece, and whenever you felt inclined to make a hash of anything I would have caught your eye sternly and you would have pulled up.
Good-bye, Ginger. I shall have to stop now. The mail is just closing.
Always your pal, wherever I am,
Ginger laid the letter down, and a little sound escaped him that was half a sigh, half an oath. He was wondering whether even now some desirable end might not be achieved by going to Chicago and breaking Gerald Foster’s neck.
sally on approval
Laurette et Cie,
I’m feeling better. As it’s three months since I last wrote to you, no doubt you will say to yourself that I would be a poor, weak-minded creature if I wasn’t. I suppose one ought to be able to get over anything in three months. Unfortunately, I’m afraid I haven’t quite succeeded in doing that; but at least I have managed to get my troubles stowed away in the cellar, and I’m not dragging them out and looking at them all the time. That’s something, isn’t it?
You will see by the address that Mr. Faucitt has not yet sold his inheritance. He expects to do so very soon, he tells me. There is a rich-looking man with whiskers and a keen eye whom he is always lunching with, and I think big deals are in progress. Poor dear, he is crazy to get away into the country and settle down and grow ducks and things. London has disappointed him. It is not the place it used to be. Until quite lately, when he grew resigned, he used to wander about in a disconsolate sort of way, trying to locate the landmarks of his youth. (He has not been in England for nearly thirty years!) Mr. Faucitt feels like Rip Van Winkle.
I am kept quite busy at Laurette et Cie, thank goodness! (Not being a French scholar like you—do you remember Jules?—I thought at first that Cie was the name of the junior partner, and looked forward to meeting him. “Miss Nicholas, shake hands with Mr. Cie, one of your greatest admirers.”) I hold down the female equivalent of your job at the Fillmore Nicholas Theatrical Enterprises, Ltd.—that is to say, I’m a sort of right-hand woman. I hang round and sidle up to customers when they come in, and say, “Chawming weather, moddom!” (which is usually a black lie) and pass them on to the staff, who do the actual work. I shouldn’t mind going on like this for the next few years, but Mr. Faucitt is determined to sell. I don’t know if you are like that, but every other Englishman I’ve ever met seems to have an ambition to own a house and a lot in Loamshire or Hants, or Salop or somewhere. Their one object in life is to make some money and “buy back the old place”—which was sold, of course, at the end of act one to pay the heir’s gambling debts.
Mr. Faucitt, when he was a small boy, used to live in a little village in Gloucestershire, near a place called Cirencester—at least, it isn’t; it’s called Cissister, which I bet you didn’t know—and after forgetting all about it for fifty years he has suddenly been bitten by the desire to end his days there, surrounded by pigs and chickens. He took me down to see the place the other day. Oh, Ginger, this English country! Old, old grey stone houses with yellow haystacks and lovely, squelchy, muddy lanes and great, fat trees and blue hills in the distance. The peace of it! If ever I sell my soul, I shall insist on the devil giving me at least forty years in some English country place in exchange.
Perhaps you will think from all this that I am too much occupied to remember your existence. Just to show how interested I am in you, let me tell you that, when I was reading the paper a week ago, I happened to see the headline, “International Match.” It didn’t seem to mean anything at first, and then I suddenly recollected. This was the thing you had once been a snip for! So I went down to a place called Twickenham where this football game was to be, to see the sort of thing you used to do before I took charge of you and made you a respectable right-hand man. There was an enormous crowd there and I was nearly squeezed to death, but I bore it for your sake. I found out that the English team were the ones wearing white shirts, and that the ones in red were the Welsh.
I said to the man next me, after he had finished yelling himself black in the face, “Could you kindly inform me which is the English scrum-half?” And just at that moment the players came quite near where I was, and about a dozen assassins in red hurled themselves violently on top of a meek-looking little fellow who had just fallen on the ball. Ginger, you are well out of it! That was the scrum-half, and I gathered that that sort of thing was a mere commonplace in his existence. Stopping a rush it is called, and he is expected to do it all the time. The idea of your ever going in for such brutal sports! You must have hidden depths in you which I have never suspected.
As I was taking a ride down Piccadilly the other day on top of a ’bus I saw somebody walking along who seemed familiar. It was Mr. Carmyle. So he’s back in England again. He didn’t see me, thank goodness! I don’t want to meet anybody just at present who reminds me of New York.
Thanks for telling me all the news, but please don’t do it again. It makes me remember, and I don’t want to. It’s this way, Ginger. Let me write to you, because it really does relieve me, but don’t answer my letters. Do you mind? I’m sure you’ll understand.
So Fillmore and Gladys Winch are married! From what I have seen of her it’s the best thing that has ever happened to Brother F. She is a splendid girl. I must write to him. . . .
Laurette et Cie,
I saw in a Sunday paper last week that The Primrose Way has been produced in New York and was a great success. Well, I’m very glad. But I don’t think the papers ought to print things like that. It’s unsettling.
Next day I did one of those funny things you do when you’re feeling blue and lonely and a long way away from everybody. I called at your club and asked for you! Such a nice old man in uniform at the desk said, in a fatherly way, that you hadn’t been in lately and he rather fancied you were out of town, but would I take a seat while he inquired. He then summoned a tiny boy, also in uniform, and the child skipped off chanting “Mister Kemp! Mister Kemp!” in a shrill treble. It gave me such an odd feeling to hear your name echoing in the distance. I felt so ashamed for giving them all that trouble, and when the boy came back I slipped twopence into his palm, which I suppose was against all the rules, though he seemed to like it.
Mr. Faucitt has sold the business and retired to the country, and I am rather at a loose end.
(whatever that means),
(slang for Shropshire),
What’s the use? What is the use? I do all I can to get right away from New York, and New York comes after me and tracks me down in my hiding-place. A week or so ago, as I was walking down the Strand in an aimless sort of way, out there came right on top of me—who do you think? Fillmore, arm-in-arm with Mr. Carmyle! I couldn’t dodge. In the first place, Mr. Carmyle had seen me; in the second place it is a day’s journey to dodge poor dear Fillmore now. I blushed for him, Ginger! Right there in the Strand I blushed for him. In my worst dreams I had never pictured him so enormous. Poor Gladys! When she looks at him she must feel like a bigamist.
Apparently Fillmore is still full of big schemes, for he talked airily about buying all sorts of English plays. He has come over, as I suppose you know, to arrange about putting on The Primrose Way over here. He is staying at the Savoy, and they took me off there to lunch, whooping joyfully as over a strayed lamb. It was the worst thing that could possibly have happened to me. Fillmore talked Broadway without a pause, till he had got me so home-sick that, if it hadn’t been that I didn’t want to make a public exhibition of myself, I should have broken down and howled.
Two days ago I drifted here. Mr. Carmyle invited Fillmore—he seems to love Fillmore—and me to Monk’s Crofton, and I hadn’t even the shadow of an excuse for refusing. So I came, and I am now sitting writing to you in an enormous bedroom with an open fire and armchairs and every other sort of luxury.
Fillmore is out golfing. He sails for New York on Saturday on the Mauretania. I am horrified to hear from him that, in addition to all his other big schemes, he is now promoting a fight for the light-weight championship in Jersey City and guaranteeing enormous sums to both boxers. It’s no good arguing with him. If you do, he simply quotes figures to show the fortunes other people have made out of these things. Besides, it’s too late now, anyway. As far as I can make out, the fight is going to take place in another week or two. All the same, it makes my flesh creep.
Well, it’s no use worrying, I suppose. Let’s change the subject. Do you know Monk’s Crofton? Probably you don’t, as I seem to remember hearing something about it being a recent purchase. Mr. Carmyle bought it from some lord or other who had been losing money on the Stock Exchange. I hope you haven’t seen it, anyway, because I want to describe it at great length. I want to pour out my soul about it. Ginger, what has England ever done to deserve such paradises? I thought in my ignorance that Mr. Faucitt’s Cissister place was pretty good, but it doesn’t even begin. It can’t compete. Of course, his is just an ordinary country house, and this is a seat. Monk’s Crofton is the sort of place they used to write about in the old English novel. You know. “The sunset was falling on the walls of G—— Castle in B——shire, hard by the picturesque village of H——, and not a stone’s throw from the hamlet of J—— . . .” I can imagine Tennyson’s “Maud” living here. It is one of the stately homes of England. How beautiful they stand; and I’m crazy about it.
It’s very large, and sort of low and square, with a kind of tower at one side and the most fascinating upper porch sort of thing with battlements. I suppose in the old days you used to stand on this and drop molten lead on visitors’ heads. Wonderful lawns all round, and shrubberies, and a lake that you can just see where the ground dips beyond the fields. Of course, it’s too early yet for them to be out, but to the left of the house there’s a place where there will be about a million roses when June comes round, and all along the side of the rose garden is a high wall of old red brick which shuts off the kitchen garden. And there’s a lovely stillness, and you can hear everything growing. And thrushes and blackbirds. Oh, Ginger, it’s heavenly!
But there’s a catch. It’s a case of “Where every prospect pleases and only man is vile.” At least, not exactly vile, I suppose, but terribly stodgy. I can see now why you couldn’t hit it off with the family. Because I’ve seen ’em all! They’re here!! Yes, Uncle Donald and all of them. Is it a habit of your family to collect in gangs, or have I just happened to stumble into an accidental Old Home Week? When I came down to dinner the first evening, the drawing-room was full to bursting-point—uncles and aunts all over the place. I felt like a very small lion in a den of Daniels. I know exactly now what you mean about the family. They look at you! Of course, it’s all right for me, because I am snowy white clear through, but I can just imagine what it must have been like for you with your permanently guilty conscience. You must have had an awful time.
By the way, it’s going to be a delicate business getting this letter through to you—rather like carrying despatches through the enemy’s lines in a Civil War play. You’re supposed to leave letters on the table in the hall, and someone collects them in the afternoon and takes them down to the village on a bicycle. But, if I do that, some aunt or uncle is bound to see it, and I shall be an object of loathing, for it is no light matter, my lad, to be caught having correspondence with a human weed like you. It would blast me socially.
At least, so I gather from the way they behaved when your name came up at dinner last night. Somebody mentioned you, and the most awful roasting party broke loose, Uncle Donald acting as cheer-leader. I said feebly that I had met you and had found you part human, and there was an awful silence till they all started at the same time to show me where I was wrong and how cruelly my girlish inexperience had deceived me.
So I shall have to exercise a good deal of snaky craft in smuggling this letter through. I’ll take it down to the village myself if I can sneak away. But it’s going to be pretty difficult, because for some reason I seem to be a centre of attraction. Except when I take refuge in my room, hardly a moment passes without an aunt or an uncle popping out and having a cosy talk with me. It sometimes seems as though they were weighing me in the balance. Well, let ’em weigh!
Time to dress for dinner now. Good-bye.
Yours in the balance,
Just for the moment,
Leaving here to-day. In disgrace. Hard, cold looks from the family. Strained silences. Uncle Donald far from chummy. You can guess what has happened. I might have seen it coming. I can see now what it was in the air all along.
Fillmore knows nothing about it. He left just before it happened. I shall see him very soon, for I have decided to come back and stop running away from things any longer. It’s cowardly to skulk about over here. See you almost as soon as you get this.
I shall mail this in London, and I suppose it will come over by the same boat as me. It’s hardly worth writing, really, of course, but I have sneaked up to my room to wait till the motor arrives to take me to the station, and it’s something to do. I can hear muffled voices. The family talking me over, probably. Saying they never really liked me all along. Oh, well!
Yours moving in an orderly manner to the exit,
the sparring partner
SALLY’S emotions, as she sat in her apartment on the morning of her return to New York, resembled somewhat those of a swimmer who, after wavering on a raw morning at the brink of a chill pool, nerves himself to the plunge. She was aching, but she knew that she had done well. If she wanted happiness she must fight for it, and for all these months she had been shirking the fight.
She had finished unpacking and tidying up. The next move was certainly to go and see Ginger. She had suddenly become aware that she wanted very badly to see Ginger. His stolid friendliness would be a support and a prop. She wished now that she had sent him a cable, so that he could have met her at the dock. It had been rather terrible at the dock. The echoing Customs sheds had sapped her valour, and she had felt alone and forlorn.
She looked at her watch and was surprised to find how early it was. She could catch him at the office and make him take her out to lunch. She put on her hat and went out.
The restless hand of Change, always active in New York, had not spared the outer office of the Fillmore Nicholas Theatrical Enterprises, Ltd., in the months of her absence. She was greeted on her arrival by an entirely new and original stripling in the place of the one with whom at her last visit she had established such cordial relations. He was a grim boy, and his manner was stern and suspicious. He peered narrowly at Sally for a moment as if he had caught her in the act of purloining the office blotting-paper, then, with no little acerbity, desired her to state her business.
“I want Mr. Kemp,” said Sally.
The office-boy scratched his cheek dourly with a ruler.
“What name?” he said, coldly.
“Nicholas,” said Sally. “I am Mr. Nicholas’s sister.”
On a previous occasion when she had made this announcement disastrous results had ensued, but to-day it went well. It seemed to hit the office-boy like a bullet. He started convulsively, opened his mouth, and dropped the ruler. In the interval of stooping and recovering it he was able to pull himself together. He had stooped with a frown; he returned to the perpendicular with a smile that was positively winning. It was like the sun suddenly bursting through a London fog.
“Will you take a seat, lady?” he said, with polished courtesy, even unbending so far as to reach out and dust one with the sleeve of his coat. He added that the morning was a fine one.
“Thank you,” said Sally. “Will you tell him I’m here.”
“Mr. Nicholas is out, Miss,” said the office-boy, with gentlemanly regret. “He’s back in New York, but he’s gone out.”
“I don’t want Mr. Nicholas. I want Mr. Kemp.”
“Yes, Mr. Kemp.”
Sorrow at his inability to oblige shone from every hill-top on the boy’s face.
“Don’t know of anyone of that name round here,” he said, apologetically.
“But surely——” Sally broke off suddenly. A grim foreboding had come to her. “How long have you been here?” she asked.
“All day, ma’am,” said the office-boy, with the manner of a Casabianca.
“I mean, how long have you been employed here?”
“Just over a month, Miss.”
“Hasn’t Mr. Kemp been in the office all that time?”
“Name’s new to me, lady. Does he look like anything? I meantersay what’s he look like?”
“He has very red hair.”
“Never seen him in here,” said the office-boy.
The truth shone coldly on Sally. She blamed herself for ever having gone away, and told herself that she might have known what would happen. Left to his own resources, the unhappy Ginger had once more made a hash of it.
Another long instalment of this splendid story will appear in our next issue.
Printer’s error corrected above:
In Ch. 12, Monk’s Crofton letter, magazine had “I seem to remember hearing something about it’s being a recent purchase”; amended to “about it being” as in Collier’s and in book publication.