An army post in peacetime is a dull place. Things happen, but then they happen over and over again. The general plan of a fort in itself adds to the monotony the huge concrete barracks, the neat rows of officers' homes built one precisely like the other, the gym, the chapel, the golf course and the swimming pools all is designed according to a certain rigid pattern. But perhaps the dullness of a post is caused most of all by insularity and by a surfeit of leisure and safety, for once a man enters the army he is expected only to follow the heels ahead of him. At the same time things do occasionally happen on an army post that are not likely to re occur. There is a fort in the South where a few years ago a murder was committed. The participants of this tragedy were: two officers, a soldier, two women, a Filipino, and a horse.
The soldier in this affair was Private Ellgee Williams. Often in the late afternoon he could be seen sitting alone on one of the benches that lined the sidewalk before the barracks. This was a pleasant place, as here there was a long double row of young maple trees that patterned the lawn and the walk with cool, delicate, windblown shadows. In the spring the leaves of the trees were a lucent green that as the hot months came took on a darker, restful hue. In late autumn they were flaming gold. Here Private Williams would sit and wait for the call to evening mess. He was a silent young soldier and in the barracks he had neither an enemy nor a friend. His round sunburned face was marked by a certain watchful innocence. His full lips were red and the bangs of his hair lay brown and matted on his forehead. In his eyes, which were of a curious blend of amber and brown, there was a mute expression that is found usually in the eyes of animals. At first glance Private Williams seemed a bit heavy and awkward in his bearing. But this was a deceptive impression; he moved with the silence and agility of a wild creature or a thief. Often soldiers who had thought themselves alone were startled to see him appear as from nowhere by their sides. His hands were small, delicately boned, and very strong.
Private Williams did not smoke, drink, fornicate, or gamble. In the barracks he kept to himself and was something of a mystery to the other men. Most of his leisure time Private Williams spent out in the woods surrounding the post. The reservation, fifteen miles square, was wild unspoiled country. Here were to be found giant virgin pines, many varieties of flowers, and even such shy animals as deer, wild pig, and foxes. Except for riding, Private Williams cared for none of the sports available to enlisted men. No one had ever seen him in the gym or at the swimming pool. Nor had he ever been known to laugh, to become angry, or to suffer in any way. He ate three wholesome, bounteous meals a day and never grumbled about the food as did the other soldiers. He slept in a room accommodating a long double row of about three dozen cots. This was not a peaceful room. At night when the lights were out there was often the sound of snores, of curses, and of strangled nightmare groans. But Private Williams rested tranquilly. Only sometimes from his cot there would be a stealthy rustle from the wrapper of a candy bar.
When Private Williams had been in the army for two years he was sent one day to the quarters of a certain Captain Penderton. This came about in the following manner. For the past six months Private Williams had been detailed to permanent stable fatigue, as he was quite a hand with horses. Captain Penderton had telephoned the post Sergeant Major and by chance, as many of the horses were out on maneuvers and work around the stables was slack, Private Williams was chosen for this particular duty. The nature of the assignment was simple. Captain Penderton wished a small part of the woods behind his quarters cleared so that later when a steak grill was put up he could give alfresco parties. This job would require about one full day's work.
Private Williams set out for this assignment at about seven thirty in the morning. It was a mild and sunny day in October. He knew already where the Captain lived, as he had passed his house often when starting out for his walks in the woods. Also, he knew the Captain well by sight. In fact he had once done the Captain an accidental injury. A year and a half ago Private Williams had for a few weeks served as striker to the Lieutenant in command of the company to which he was then attached. One afternoon the Lieutenant received a visit from Captain Penderton and while serving them refreshments Private Williams had spilled a cup of coffee on the Captain's trousers. In addition to this he now saw the Captain frequently at the stables and he had in his charge the horse of the Captain's wife a chestnut stallion which was easily the handsomest mount on the post.
The Captain lived on the outskirts of the fort. His house, an eight room two story building of stucco, was identical with all the other houses on the street except for the distinction of being an end house. On two sides the lawn adjoined the forest of the reservation. On the right the Captain had as his only near neighbor Major Morris Langdon. The houses on this street faced a large, flat expanse of brown sward which had until recently served as the polo field.
When Private Williams arrived, the Captain came out to explain in detail what he wanted done. The scrub oaks, the low briary bushes were to be cleared, the limbs of the large trees growing at a level less than six feet would be cut away. The Captain pointed out a large old oak about twenty yards from the lawn as the boundary for the space to be worked on. The Captain wore a gold ring on one of his white, fattish hands. He was dressed this morning in knee length khaki shorts, high wool socks, and a suede jacket. His face was sharp and strained. He had black hair and eyes of a glassy blue. The Captain did not seem to recognize Private Williams and he gave his directions in a nervous, finicky manner. He told Private Williams he wanted the work completed that day and said he would be back sometime in the late afternoon.
The soldier worked steadily all morning. At noon he went to the mess hall for his lunch. By four o'clock the job was finished. He had done even more than the Captain specifically requested. The large oak marking die boundary had an unusual shape the branches on the side toward the lawn were high enough to walk beneath, but the branches on the opposite side swept down gracefully to the ground. The soldier had with a great deal of trouble cut off these down sweeping limbs. Then, when all was done, he leaned against the trunk of a pine tree to wait. He seemed at peace with himself and quite content to stand there waiting forever.
'Why, what are you doing here?' a voice asked him suddenly.
The soldier had seen the Captain's wife come out of the rear entrance of the house next door and walk toward him across the lawn. He saw her, but she did not enter the dark sphere of his consciousness until she spoke to him.
'I was just down at the stables,' Mrs. Penderton said. 'My Firebird has been kicked.'
'Yes, ma'am,' the soldier answered vaguely. He waited for a moment to digest the meaning of her words. 'How?'
'That I don't know. Maybe some damn mule or maybe they let him in with the mares. I was mad about it and I asked for you.'
The Captain's wife lay down in a hammock that was slung between two trees on the edge of the lawn. Even in the clothes she was now wearing boots, soiled whipcord breeches very worn at the knees, and a gray jersey she was a handsome woman. Her face had the bemused placidity of a Madonna's and she wore her straight bronze hair brought back in a knot at the nape of her neck. As she was resting there the servant, a young Negress, came out with a tray holding a pint bottle of rye, a whiskey jigger, and some water. Mrs. Penderton was not pernickety about her liquor. She drank down two jiggers straight and chased them with a swallow of cold water. She did not speak to the soldier again and he did not question her further about the horse. Neither seemed aware of the presence of the other in any way. The soldier leaned back against his pine tree and stared unblinking into space.
The late autumn sun laid a radiant haze over the new sodded winter grass of the lawn, and even in the woods the sun shone through in places where the leaves were not so dense, to make fiery golden patterns on the ground. Then suddenly the sun was gone. There was a chill in the air and a light, pure wind. It was time for retreat. From far away came the sound of the bugle, clarified by distance and echoing in the woods with a lost hollow tone. The night was near at hand.
At this point Captain Penderton returned. He parked his car before the house and crossed the yard immediately to see how the work had been done. He greeted his wife and curtly saluted the soldier who now stood at rather lax attention before him. The Captain glanced over the cleared space. All at once he snapped his fingers and his lips sharpened with a thin, stiff sneer. He turned his light blue eyes to the soldier. Then he said very quietly: 'Private, the whole idea was in the big oak tree.'
The soldier received his comment in silence. His round serious face did not change.
'The instructions were for the ground to be cleared only so far as the oak tree,' the officer continued in a higher voice. Stiffly he walked back to the tree in question and pointed to the cut stark limbs. 'The way the boughs swept down and made a background shutting off the rest of the woods was the whole point. Now it is all ruined.' The Captain's agitation seemed more than such a mishap warranted. Standing alone in the woods he was a small man.
'What does the Captain want me to do?' Private Williams asked after a long pause.
Mrs. Penderton laughed suddenly and put down one booted foot to rock the hammock. 'The Captain wants you to pick up the branches and sew them back on again.'
Her husband was not amused. 'Here!' he said to the soldier. 'Bring some leaves and spread them on the ground to cover the bare spaces where the bushes have been cleared. Then you may go.' He tipped the soldier and went into the house.
Private Williams walked slowly back into the darkened woods to gather fallen leaves. The Captain's wife rocked herself and seemed about to go to sleep. The sky filled with a pale, cold yellow light and all was still.
Captain Penderton was in no comfortable state of mind this evening. On coming into the house he went straight to his study. This was a small room planned originally as a sun porch and leading from the dining room. The Captain settled himself at his desk and opened a thick notebook. He spread out a map before him and took his slide rule from a drawer. In spite of these preparations he was unable to put his mind to his work. He leaned over the desk with his head in his hands and his eyes closed.
In part his restlessness was caused by his annoyance with Private Williams. He had been irritated when he saw that it was this particular soldier who had been sent him. There were perhaps only half a dozen enlisted men on all the post whose faces were familiar to the Captain. He looked on all soldiers with bored contempt To him officers and men might belong to the same biological genus, but they were of an altogether different species. The Captain well remembered the accident of the spilled coffee, as it had ruined for him a brand new and costly outfit. The suit was of heavy Chinese silk and the stain had never been entirely removed. (The Captain always wore uniform when away from the post, but on all social occasions among other officers he affected mufti and was a great swell.) Aside from this grievance Private Williams was associated in the Captain's mind with the stables and his wife's horse, Firebird an unpleasant association. And now the blunder about the oak tree was the last straw. Sitting at his desk the Captain indulged in a brief, peevish daydream he imagined a fantastic situation in which he caught the soldier transgressing in some way and was instrumental in having him court martialed. This consoled him a little. He poured himself a cup of tea from the thermos bottle on his desk and became absorbed in other and more pertinent worries.
The Captain's restlessness this evening had many causes. His personality differed in some respects from the ordinary. He stood in a somewhat curious relation to the three fundaments of existence life itself, sex, and death. Sexually the Captain obtained within himself a delicate balance between the male and female elements, with the susceptibilities of both the sexes and the active powers of neither. For a person content to withdraw a bit from life, and able to collect his scattered passions and throw himself wholeheartedly into some impersonal work, some art or even some crack brained fixed idea such as an attempt to square the circle for such a person this state of being is bearable enough. The Captain had his work and he did not spare himself; it was said that he had a brilliant career ahead of him. Perhaps he would not have felt this basic lack, or superfluity, if it had not been for his wife. But with her he suffered. He had a sad penchant for becoming enamoured of his wife's lovers.
As to his relations with the other two fundaments, his position was simple enough. In his balance between the two great instincts, toward life and toward death, the scale was heavily weighted to one side to death. Because of this the Captain was a coward.
Captain Penderton was also something of a savant. During the years when he was a young Lieutenant and a bachelor he had had much opportunity to read, as his fellow officers tended to avoid his room in the bachelors' quarters or else to visit him in pairs or groups. His head was filled with statistics and information of scholarly exactitude. For instance, he could describe in detail the curious digestive apparatus of a lobster or the life history of a Trilobite. He spoke and wrote three languages gracefully. He knew something of astronomy and had read much poetry. But in spite of his knowledge of many separate facts, the Captain never in his life had had an idea in his head. For the formation of an idea involves the fusion of two or more known facts. And this the Captain had not the courage to do.
As he sat alone at his desk this evening, unable to work, he did not question himself as to his feelings. He thought again of the face of Private Williams. Then he recollected that the Langdons next door were dining with them that evening. Major Morris Langdon was his wife's lover, but the Captain did not dwell on this. Instead he suddenly remembered an evening long ago, soon after he had married. On that evening he had felt this same unhappy restlessness and had seen fit to relieve himself in a curious manner. He had driven into a town near the post where he was then stationed, had parked his car, and had walked for a long time in the streets. It was a late winter night. In the course of this walk the Captain came upon a tiny kitten hovered in a doorway. The kitten had found shelter and made itself warm; when the Captain leaned down he found that it was purring. He picked up the kitten and felt it vibrate in his palm. For a long time he looked into the soft, gentle little face and stroked the warm fur. The kitten was at the age when it was first able to open wide its clear green eyes. At last the Captain had taken the kitten with him down the street. On the corner there was a mailbox and after one quick glance around him he had opened the freezing letter slot and squeezed the kitten inside. Then he had continued on his way.
The Captain heard the back door slam and he left his desk. In the kitchen his wife sat on a table while Susie, the colored servant, pulled off her boots. Mrs. Penderton was not a pure bred Southerner. She had been born and brought up in the army, and her father, who a year before his retirement had reached the rank of Brigadier General, was originally from the West coast. Her mother, however, had been a South Carolinian. And in her ways the Captain's wife was Southern enough. Their gas stove was not crusted with generations of dirt as her grandmother's had been, but then it was by no means clean. Mrs. Penderton also held to many other old Southern notions, such as the belief that pastry or bread is not fit to eat unless it is rolled on a marble topped table. For this reason they had Once, when the Captain was detailed to Schofield Barracks, hauled the table on which she was now sitting all the way to Hawaii and back. If the Captain's wife chanced to find a black, crooked hair in her food, she wiped it calmly on her napkin and went right on with the enjoyment of her dinner without the bat of an eye.
'Susie,' said Mrs. Penderton, 'do people have gizzards like chickens do?'
The Captain stood in the doorway and was noticed neither by his wife nor his servant When she had been relieved of her boots, Mrs. Penderton moved about the kitchen bare footed. She took a ham from the oven and sprinkled the top with brown sugar and bread crumbs. She poured herself another drink, only half a jigger this time, and in a sudden excess of vigor she performed a little shag dance. The Captain was intensely irritated with his wife, and she knew it.
'For God's sake, Leonora, go up and put on some shoes.'
For an answer Mrs. Penderton hummed a queer little tune to herself and went past the Captain and into the living room.
Her husband followed close behind her. 'You look like a slattern going around the house like this.'
A fire was laid in the grate and Mrs. Penderton bent down to light it. Her smooth sweet face was very rosy and there were little glistening sweat beads on her upper lip.
'The Langdons are coming any minute now and you will sit down to dinner like this, I suppose?'
'Sure,' she said. 'And why not, you old prissy?'
The Captain said in a cold, taut voice: 'You disgust me.'
Mrs. Penderton's answer was a sudden laugh, a laugh both soft and savage, as though she had received some long expected piece of scandalous news or had thought of some sly joke. She pulled off her jersey, crushed it into a ball, and threw it into the corner of the room. Then deliberately she unbuttoned her breeches and stepped out of them. In a moment she was standing naked by the hearth. Before the bright gold and orange light of the fire her body was magnificent. The shoulders were straight so that the collar bone made a sharp pure line. Between her round breasts there were delicate blue veins. In a few years her body would be fullblown like a rose with loosened petals, but now the soft roundness was controlled and disciplined by sport. Although she stood quite still and placid, there was about her body a subtle quality of vibration, as though on touching her flesh one would feel the slow live coursing of the bright blood beneath. While the Captain looked at her with the stunned indignation of a man who has suffered a slap in the face, she walked serenely to the vestibule on her way to the stairs. The front door was open and from the dark night outside a breeze blew in and lifted a loose strand of her bronze hair.
She was halfway up the steps before the Captain recovered from his shock. Then he ran trembling after her. 'I will kill you!' he said in a strangled voice. 'I will do it! I will do it!' He crouched with his hand to the banister and one foot on the second step of the stairway as though ready to spring up after her.
She turned slowly and looked down at him with unconcern for a moment before she spoke. 'Son, have you ever been collared and dragged out in the street and thrashed by a naked woman?'
The Captain stood as she had left him. Then he put his head down on his outstretched arm and rested his weight against the banister. From his throat came a rasping sound like a sob, but there were no tears on his face. After a time he stood up and wiped his neck with his handkerchief. Only then did he notice that the front door was open, the house brightly lighted, and all the shades raised. He felt himself sicken strangely. Anyone might have passed along the dark street before the house. He thought of the soldier whom he had left a short while ago on the edge of the woods. Even he might have seen what had occurred. The Captain looked all about him with frightened eyes. Then he went into his study where he kept a decanter of old, strong brandy.
Leonora Penderton feared neither man, beast, nor the devil; God she had never known. At the very mention of the Lord's name she thought only of her old father who had sometimes read the Bible on a Sunday afternoon. Of that book she remembered two things clearly: one, that Jesus had been crucified at a place called Cavalry Hill the other, that once He had ridden somewhere on a jackass, and what sort of person would want to ride a jackass?
Within five minutes Leonora Penderton had forgotten the scene with her husband. She ran the water for her bath and laid out her clothes for the evening. Leonora Penderton was the subject of much lively gossip among the ladies of the post.
According to them her past and present affairs were a rich medley of amorous exploits. But most of what these ladies told was hearsay and conjecture for Leonora Penderton was a person who liked to settle herself and was adverse to complications. When she married the Captain she had been a virgin. Four nights after her wedding she was still a virgin, and on the fifth night her status was changed only enough to leave her somewhat puzzled. As for the rest it would be hard to say. She herself would probably have reckoned her affairs according to a system of her own giving the old Colonel at Leavenworth only half a count and the young Lieutenant in Hawaii several units in her calculations. But now for the past two years there had been only Major Morris Langdon and no one else. With him she was content.
On the post Leonora Penderton enjoyed a reputation as a good hostess, an excellent sportswoman, and even as a great lady. However, there was something about her that puzzled her friends and acquaintances. They sensed an element in her personality that they could not quite put their fingers on. The truth of the matter was that she was a little feebleminded.
This sad fact did not reveal itself at parties, or in the stables, or at her dinner table. There were only three persons who understood this: her old father, the General, who had worried no little about it until she was safely married; her husband, who looked on it as a condition natural to all women under forty; and Major Morris Langdon, who loved her for it all the more. She could not have multiplied twelve by thirteen under threat of the rack. If ever it was strictly necessary that she write a letter, such as a note to thank her uncle for a birthday check or a letter ordering a new bridle, it was a weighty enterprise for her. She and Susie shut themselves in the kitchen with scholarly seclusion. They sat down to a table furnished with an abundance of paper and several nicely sharpened pencils. Then, when the final draft was finished and copied, they were both exhausted and in great need of a quiet, restoring drink.
Leonora Penderton enjoyed her warm bath that evening. She dressed herself slowly in the clothes she had already laid out on the bed. She wore a simple gray skirt, a blue Angora sweater, and pearl earrings. She was downstairs again at seven o'clock and their guests were waiting.
She and the Major found the dinner first rate. To begin with there was a clear soup. Then with the ham they had rich oily turnip greens, and candied sweet potatoes that were a transparent amber beneath the light and richly glazed with sweet sauce. There were rolls and hot spoon bread. Susie passed the vegetables only once and left the serving dishes on the table between the Major and Leonora, for those two were great eaters. The Major sat with one elbow on the table and was altogether very much at home. His red brown face had a blunt, jovial, and friendly expression; among both officers and men he was very popular. Except for the mention of Firebird's accident there was almost no table talk. Mrs. Langdon hardly touched her dinner. She was a small, dark, fragile woman with a large nose and a sensitive mouth. She was very ill and she looked it. Not only was this illness physical, but she had been tortured to the bone by grief and anxiety so that now she was on the verge of actual lunacy. Captain Penderton sat very straight with his elbows held close to his sides. Once he cordially congratulated the Major on a medal he had received. Several times during the course of the meal he flicked the rim of his water goblet and listened to the clear, resonant ring. The dinner ended with a dessert of hot mince pie. Then the four of them went into the sitting room to finish out the evening with cards and conversation.
'My dear, you are a damn fine cook,' the Major said comfortably.
The four people at the table had not been alone. In the autumn darkness outside the window there stood a man who watched them in silence. The night was cold and the clean scent of pine trees sharpened the air. A wind sang in the forest near by. The sky glittered with icy stars. The man who watched them stood so close to the window that his breath showed on the cold glass pane.
Private Williams had indeed seen Mrs. Penderton as she left the hearth and walked upstairs to her bath. And never before in his life had this young soldier seen a naked woman. He had been brought up in a household exclusively male. From his father, who ran a one mule farm and preached on Sunday at a Holiness church, he had learned that women carried in them a deadly and catching disease which made men blind, crippled, and doomed to hell. In the army he also heard much talk of this bad sickness and was even himself examined once a month by the doctor to see if he had touched a woman. Private Williams had never willingly touched, or looked at, or spoken to a female since he was eight years old.
He had been late in gathering the armfuls of damp, rank autumn leaves back in the woods. When at last his duty was done, he had crossed the Captain's lawn on his way to evening mess. By chance he glanced into the sharply lighted vestibule. And since then he had not found it in him to go away. He stood motionless in the silent night with his arms hanging loose at his sides. When at dinner the ham was carved, he had swallowed painfully. But he kept his grave, deep gaze on the Captain's wife. The expression of his mute face had not been changed by his experience, but now and then he narrowed his gold brown eyes as though he were forming within himself some subtle scheme. When the Captains wife had left the dining room, he still stood there for a time. Then very slowly he turned away. The light behind him laid a great dim shadow of himself on the smooth grass of the lawn. The soldier walked like a man weighted by a dark dream and his footsteps were soundless.
Very early the next morning Private Williams went to the stables. The sun had not yet risen and the air was colorless and cold. Milky ribbons of mist clung to the damp earth and the sky was silver gray. The path leading to the stables passed a bluff which commanded a sweeping view of the reservation. The woods were in full autumn color, and scattered among the blackish green of the pine trees there were blunt splashes of crimson and yellow. Private Williams walked slowly along the leafy path. Now and then he stopped altogether and stood perfectly still, in the attitude of one who listens to a call from a long distance. His sun browned skin was flushed in the morning air and on his lips there were still the white traces of the milk he had drunk for breakfast. Loitering and stopping in this way he reached the stables just as the sun came up in the sky.
Inside the stable it was still almost dark and no one was about The air was close, warm, and sour sweet. As the soldier passed between the stalls he heard the placid breath of the horses, a sleepy snuffle and a whinny. Dumb, luminous eyes turned toward him. The young soldier took from his pocket an envelope of sugar and soon his hands were warm and sticky with slaver. He went into the stall of a little mare who was almost ready to drop her foal. He stroked her swollen belly and stood for a time with his arms around her neck. Then he let the mules out into their pen. The soldier was not alone with the beasts soon the other men reported for their duty. It was Saturday, a busy day at the stables, as in the morning there were riding classes for the children and women of the post The stable was soon noisy with talk and heavy footsteps; the horses grew restive in their stalls.
Mrs. Penderton was one of the first riders to come this morning. With her, as often, was Major Langdon. Captain Penderton accompanied them today, which was unusual, as he customarily took his ride alone and in the late afternoon. The three of them sat on the paddock fence while their mounts were being saddled. Private Williams led out Firebird first. The injury of which the Captain's wife complained the day before had been greatly exaggerated. On the horse's left foreleg there was a slight abrasion that had been painted with iodine. On being led out into the bright sunlight, the horse rounded his nostrils nervously and turned his long neck to look about him. His coat was curried smooth as satin and his mane was thick and glossy in the sun.
At first glance the horse seemed overgrown and too heavy set for a thoroughbred. His great haunches were broad and fleshy, and his legs were somewhat thick. But he moved with marvelous, fiery grace, and once at Camden he had outraced his own great sire who was a champion. When Mrs. Penderton was mounted, he reared up twice and tried to break away toward the bridle path. Then, straining against the bit, with arched neck and tail raised high, he side stepped furiously and a light froth of foam showed on his muzzle. During this struggle between horse and rider, Mrs. Penderton laughed aloud and spoke to Firebird in a voice that was vibrant with passion and excitement: 'You sweet old bastard, you!' The struggle ended as abruptly as it had begun. Indeed, as this volatile fracas took place every morning, it could hardly be called a real struggle any longer. When the horse, as an ill trained two year old, had first come to the stables, it had been earnest enough. Twice Mrs. Penderton was badly thrown, and once when she returned from her ride the soldiers saw that she had bitten her lower lip quite through so that there was blood on her sweater and shirt.
But now this brief daily struggle had a theatrical, affected air it was a jocular pantomime performed for their own amusement and for the benefit of spectators. Even when the froth showed on his mouth, the horse moved with a certain fractious grace as though aware of being watched. And after it was over he stood quite still and sighed once, in much the same manner as a young husband would sigh laughingly and shrug his shoulders when giving in to the will of a beloved and termagant wife. Except for these mock rebellions the horse was now perfectly trained.
To all the regular riders the soldiers at the stables had given nicknames that they used when speaking among themselves. Major Langdon was called The Buffalo. This was because when in the saddle he slumped his great heavy shoulders and lowered his head. The Major was a fine horseman and, when a young Lieutenant, he had made a rare name for himself on the polo field. On the other hand, Captain Penderton was no rider at all, although he himself was not aware of this. He sat rigid as a ramrod in the exact position taught by the riding master. Perhaps he would not have ridden at all if he could have seen himself from the rear. His buttocks spread and jounced flabbily in the saddle. For this reason he was known to the soldiers as Captain Flap Fanny. Mrs. Penderton was called simply The Lady, so great was the esteem in which she was held at the stables.
This morning the three riders started at a sedate walk, Mrs. Penderton leading. Private Williams stood watching them until they were out of sight. Soon he heard from the ring of the horses' hoofs on the hard path that they had broken into a canter. The sun was brighter now and the sky had darkened to a warm, brilliant blue. In the fresh air there was the odor of dung and burning leaves. The soldier stood so long that at last the Sergeant came up to him and roared good naturedly: 'Hey, Unconscious, you mean to gawk there forever?' The sound of the horses' hoofs could be heard no longer. The young soldier pushed back his bangs from his forehead and slowly set about his work. He did not speak all day.
Then late in the evening Private Williams dressed in fresh clothes and went out to the woods. He walked along the edge of the reservation until he reached the stretch of woods he had cleared for Captain Penderton. The house was not brightly lighted as it had been before. Lights showed only in one room to the right upstairs, and in the small porch leading from the dining room. When the soldier approached, he found the Captain in his study alone; the Captain's wife, then, was in the lighted room upstairs where the shades were drawn. The house, like all the houses on the block, was new, so that there had been no time for shrubs to grow in the yard. But the Captain had had twelve ligustrum trees transplanted and put in rows along the sides so that the place would not seem so raw and bare. Shielded by these thick leaved evergreens, the soldier could not easily be seen from the street or the house next door. He stood so close to the Captain that if the window had been open he could have reached out and touched him with his hand.
Captain Penderton sat at his desk with his back turned to Private Williams. He was in a constant fidget as he studied. Besides the books and papers on his desk there was a purple glass decanter, a thermos bottle of tea, and a box of cigarettes. He drank hot tea and red wine. Every ten or fifteen minutes he put a new cigarette in his amber cigarette holder. He worked until two o'clock and the soldier watched him.
From this night there began a strange time. The soldier returned each evening, approaching by way of the forest, and looked at all that went on within the Captain's house. At the windows of the dining and sitting rooms there were lace curtains through which he could see, but not easily be seen himself. He stood to the side of the window, looking in obliquely, and the light did not fall on his face. Nothing of much consequence happened inside. Often they spent the evening away from home and did not return until after midnight. Once they entertained six guests at dinner. Most evenings, however, they spent with Major Langdon, who came either alone or with his wife. They would drink, play cards, and talk in the sitting room. The soldier kept his eyes on the Captain's wife.
During this time a change was noticed in Private Williams. His new habit of suddenly stopping and looking for a long time into space was still with him. He would be cleaning out a stall or saddling a mule when all at once he seemed to withdraw into a trance. He would stand immovable and sometimes he did not even realize when his name was called. The Sergeant at the stables noticed and was uneasy. He had occasionally seen this same queer habit in young soldiers who have grown homesick for the farm and womenfolk, and who plan to 'go over the hill.' But when the Sergeant questioned Private Williams, he answered that he was thinking about nothing at all.
The young soldier spoke the truth. Although his face wore an expression of still concentration, there were in his mind no plans or thoughts of which he was aware. In him was a deep reflection of the sight he had seen that night when passing before the Captain's lighted vestibule. But he did not think actively of The Lady or of anything else.
However, it was necessary for him to pause and wait in this trancelike attitude, for far down in his mind there had begun a dark, slow germination.
Four times in his twenty years of life the soldier had acted of his own accord and without the pressure of immediate circumstance. Each of these four actions had been preceded by these same odd trances. The first of these actions was the sudden, inexplicable purchase of a cow. By the time he was a boy of seventeen, he had accumulated a hundred dollars by plowing and picking cotton. With this money he had bought this cow, and he named her Ruby Jewel. There was no need on his father's one mule farm for a cow. It was unlawful for them to sell the milk, for their makeshift stable would not pass government inspection, and the milk that she yielded was far more than their small household could use. On winter mornings the boy would get up before daylight and go out with a lantern to his cow's stall. He would press his forehead against her warm flank as he milked and talk to her in soft, urgent whispers. He put his cupped hands down into the pail of frothy milk and drank with lingering swallows.
The second of these actions was a sudden, violent declaration of his faith in the Lord. He always had sat quietly on one of the back benches of the church where his father preached on Sunday. But one night during a revival he suddenly leaped up onto the platform. He called to God with strange wild sounds and rolled in convulsions on the floor. Afterward he had been very languid for a week and he never again found the spirit in this way.
The third of these actions was a crime which he committed and successfully concealed. And the fourth was his enlistment in the army.
Each of these happenings had come about very suddenly and without any conscious planning on his part. Still in a curious way, he had prepared for them. For instance, just before the purchase of his cow he had stood gazing into space for a long while and then he cleaned out a lean to by the barn that had been used for storing junk; when he brought home the cow there was a place ready for her. In the same manner he had got his small affairs in order before his enlistment. But he did not actually know that he was going to buy a cow until he counted out his money and put his hand on the halter. And it was only as he stepped over the threshold of the enlistment office that the vaporish impressions within him condensed to a thought, so that he realized he would be a soldier.
For almost two weeks Private Williams reconnoitered in this secret manner around the Captain's quarters. He learned the habits of the household. The servant was usually in bed at ten o'clock. When Mrs. Penderton spent the evening at home, she went upstairs at about eleven and the light in her room was turned off. As a rule the Captain worked from about ten thirty until two o'clock.
Then on the twelfth night the soldier walked through the woods even more slowly than usual. From a far distance he saw that the house was lighted. In the sky there was a white brilliant moon and the night was cold and silvery. The soldier could be plainly seen as he left the woods to cross the lawn. In his right hand was a pocket knife and he had changed his clumsy boots for tennis shoes. From the sitting room there was the sound of voices. The soldier went up to the window.
'Hit me, Morris,' said Leonora Penderton. 'Give me a big number this time.'
Major Langdon and the Captain's wife were playing a game of blackjack. The stakes were worth while and their system of reckoning very simple. If the Major won all the chips on the table, he was to have Firebird for a week if Leonora won them, she would get a bottle of her favorite rye. During the last hour the Major had raked in most of the chips. The firelight reddened his handsome face and he was drumming a military tattoo with the heel of his boot on the floor. His black hair was turning white at the temples; already his clipped mustache was a becoming gray. Tonight he was in uniform. His heavy shoulders were slouched and he seemed warmly contented except when he glanced over at his wife then his light eyes were uneasy and beseeching. Across from him Leonora had a studious, serious air, as she was trying to add fourteen and seven on her fingers underneath the table. At last she put the cards down.
'Am I busted?'
'No, my dear,' said the Major. 'Twenty one exactly. Blackjack.'
Captain Penderton and Mrs. Langdon sat before the hearth. Neither of them was comfortable at all. They were both nervous this evening and had been talking with grim vivacity about gardening. There were good reasons for their nervousness. These days the Major was not altogether the same easy go lucky man he used to be. And even Leonora vaguely felt the general depression. For one reason, a strange and tragic thing had happened among these four people a few months ago. They had been sitting like this late one night when suddenly Mrs. Langdon, who had a high temperature, left the room and ran over to her own house. The Major did not follow her immediately, as he was comfortably stupefied with whiskey. Then later Anacleto, the Langdons' Filipino servant, rushed wailing into the room with such a wild eyed face that they followed him without a word. They found Mrs. Langdon unconscious and she had cut off the tender nipples of her breasts with the garden shears.
'Does anybody want a drink?' the Captain asked.
They were all thirsty, and the Captain went back to the kitchen for another bottle of soda water. His deep uneasiness of mind was caused by the fact that he knew things could not go on much longer as they were. And although the affair between his wife and Major Langdon had been a torment to him, he could not think of any likely change without dread. Indeed his torment had been a rather special one, as he was just as jealous of his wife as he was of her lover. In the last year he had come to feel an emotional regard for the Major that was the nearest thing to love that he had ever known. More than anything else he longed to distinguish himself in the eyes of this man. He carried his cuckoldry with a cynical good grace that was respected on the post. Now as he poured out the Major's drink his hand was shaking.
'You work too hard, Weldon,' Major Langdon said, 'And let me tell you one thing it's not worth it. Your health comes first because where would you be if you lost it? Leonora, do you want another card?'
As Captain Penderton poured Mrs. Langdon's drink, he avoided her eyes. He loathed her so much that he could scarcely bear to look at her. She sat very quiet and stiff before the fire and she was knitting. Her face was deadly pale and her lips were rather swollen and chapped. She had soft, black eyes of feverish brilliance. She was twenty nine years old, two years younger than Leonora. It was said that she once had had a beautiful voice, but no one on this post had ever heard her sing. As the Captain looked at her hands, he felt a quiver of nausea. Her hands were slender to the point of emaciation, with long fragile fingers and delicate branchings of greenish veins from the knuckles to the wrist. They were sickly pale against the crimson wool of the sweater she was knitting. Frequently, in many mean and subtle ways, the Captain tried to hurt this woman. He disliked her first of all because of her total indifference to himself. The Captain despised her also for the fact that she had done him a service she knew, and kept secret, a matter which if gossiped about could cause him the most distressing embarrassment.
'Another sweater for your husband?'
'No,' she said quietly. 'I haven't decided just what I mean to do with this.'
Alison Langdon wanted terribly to cry. She had been thinking of her baby, Catherine, who had died three years before. She knew that she should go home and let her houseboy, Anacleto, help her get to bed. She was in pain and nervous. Even the fact that she did not know for whom she was knitting this sweater was a source of irritation to her. She had taken to knitting only when she had learned about her husband. At first she had done a number of sweaters for him. Then she had knitted a suit for Leonora. During the first months she could not quite believe that he could be so faithless to her. When at last she had scornfully given up her husband, she had turned desperately to Leonora. There began one of those peculiar friendships between the wife who has been betrayed and the object of her husband's love. This morbid, emotional attachment, bastard of shock and jealousy, she knew was unworthy of her. Of its own accord it had soon ended. Now she felt the tears come to her eyes and she drank a little whiskey to brace herself, although liquor was forbidden her because of her heart She herself did not even like the taste of it. She much preferred a tiny glass of some syrupy liqueur, or a little sherry, or even a cup of coffee if it came to that. But now she drank the whiskey because it was there, and the others were drinking, and there was nothing else to do.
'Weldon!' called out the Major suddenly, 'your wife is cheating! She peeked under the card to find if she wanted it.'
'No, I didn't. You caught me before I had a chance to see it. What have you got there?'
'I'm surprised at you, Moms,' said Captain Penderton. 'Don't you know you can never trust a woman at cards?'
Mrs. Langdon watched this friendly badinage with an on the defensive expression that is often seen in the eyes of persons who have been ill for a long time and dependent upon the thoughtfulness, or negligence, of others. Since the night she had rushed home and hurt herself, she had felt in her a constant, nauseous shame. She was sure that everyone who looked at her must be thinking of what she had done. But as a matter of fact the scandal had been kept quite secret; besides those in the room only the doctor and the nurse knew what had happened and the young Filipino servant who had been with Mrs. Langdon since he was seventeen years old and who adored her. Now she stopped knitting and put the tips of her fingers to her cheekbones. She knew that she should get up and leave the room, and break with her husband altogether. But lately she had been overcome by a terrible helplessness. And where on earth would she go? When she tried to think ahead, weird fancies crept into her mind and she was beset by a number of nervous compulsions. It had come to the point where she feared her own self as much as she feared others. And all the time, unable to break away, she had the feeling that some great disaster was in wait for her.
'What's the matter, Alison?' Leonora asked. 'Are you hungry? There's some sliced chicken in the icebox.' For the past few months Leonora often addressed Mrs. Langdon in a curious manner. She worked her mouth exaggeratedly to form the words and spoke in the careful and reasonable voice that one would use when addressing an abject idiot. 'Both white meat and dark. Very good. Mmmmh?'
'No, thank you.'
'Are you sure, darling?' the Major asked. 'You don't want anything?'
'I'm quite all right. But would you mind ? Don't tap your heel like that on the floor. It bothers me.'
'I beg your pardon.'
The Major took his legs from under the table and crossed them sideways in his chair. On the surface the Major naively believed that his wife knew nothing about his affair. However, this soothing thought had become increasingly more difficult for him to hold on to; the strain of not realizing the truth had given him hemorrhoids and had almost upset his good digestion. He tried, and succeeded, in looking on her obvious unhappiness as something morbid and female, altogether outside his control. He remembered an incident that had happened soon after they were married. He had taken Alison out quail shooting and, although she had done target practice, she had never been hunting before. They had flushed a covey and he remembered still the pattern of the flying birds against the winter sunset. As he was watching Alison, he had only brought down one quail, and that one he insisted gallantly was hers. But when she took the bird from the dog's mouth, her face had changed. The bird was still living, so he brained it carelessly and then gave it back to her. She held the little warm, ruffled body that had somehow become degraded in its fall, and looked into the dead little glassy black eyes. Then she had burst into tears. That was the sort of thing the Major meant by 'female' and 'morbid'; and it did a man no good to try to figure it all out. Also, when the Major was troubled about his wife these days he thought instinctively, as a means of self defense, of a certain Lieutenant Weincheck, who was a company commander in the Major's own battalion and a close friend of Alison's. So now as her face troubled his conscience he said, to soothe himself:
'Did you say you spent the afternoon with Weincheck?'
'Yes, I was there,' she said.
'That's good. How did you find him?'
'Fairly well.' She decided suddenly to give the sweater to Lieutenant Weincheck, as he could put it to good use, and she hoped it was not too broad across the shoulders.
'That man!' said Leonora. 'I can't understand what in the world you see in him, Alison. Of course I know you all get together and talk about highbrow things. He calls me “Madam.” He can't stand me and he says “Yes, Madam,” and “No, Madam.” Think of it!'
Mrs. Langdon smiled somewhat wryly, but made no comment.
Here a few words might be due this Lieutenant Weincheck, although with the exception of Mrs. Langdon he was of no consequence to anyone on the post. In the service he cut a sorry figure, as he was nearing fifty and had never yet earned his Captain's bars. His eyes gave him so much trouble that soon he was to be retired. He lived in one of the apartment houses set aside for bachelor lieutenants, most of whom were just out of West Point In his two small rooms was crowded an accumulation of a lifetime, including a grand piano, a shelf of phonograph albums, many hundreds of books, a big Angora cat, and about a dozen potted plants. He grew some sort of green creeper on the walls of his sitting room and often one was likely to stumble over an empty beer bottle or a coffee cup that had been set down on the floor. Finally, this old Lieutenant played the violin. From his rooms there would come the lost sound of some naked melody from a string trio or quartet a sound that made the young officers passing along the corridor scratch their heads and wink at each other. Here Mrs. Langdon often came to visit in the late afternoon. She and Lieutenant Weincheck would play Mozart sonatas, or drink coffee and eat crystallized ginger before the fire. In addition to his other handicaps the Lieutenant was very poor, as he was trying to send two nephews through school. He had to practice any number of mean little economies to make ends meet and his one dress uniform was so seedy that he only attended the most obligatory social affairs. When Mrs. Langdon learned that he did his own mending, she got in the habit of bringing over her own sewing and taking care of the Lieutenant's underwear and linen along with her husband's. Sometimes the two of them went in the Major's car on trips together to concerts in a city about a hundred and fifty miles away. On these occasions they took Anacleto with them.
'I'm putting up everything on this one hand and if I win I'll have every chip,' Mrs. Penderton said. 'It's about time we finished this.'
As Mrs. Penderton dealt, she managed to pick up an ace and king from her lap and give herself blackjack. Everyone in the room saw this and the Major chuckled. Also it was observed that the Major patted Leonora on her thigh underneath the table before he pushed back his chair. Mrs. Langdon got up at the same time and put her knitting in her bag.
'I must be getting along,' she said. 'But you stay, Morris, and don't break up the party. Good night everybody.'
Mrs. Langdon walked rather slowly and stiffly, and when she was gone Leonora said, 'I wonder what ails her now.'
'There's no telling,' said the Major miserably. 'But I guess I have to go. Here, let's make it one last round.'
Major Langdon hated to leave the cheerful room, but after he had told the Pendertons good bye he stood for a time on the walk before the house. He was looking up at the stars and thinking that life sometimes was a bad business. He remembered suddenly the baby who had died. What bedlam all the way through! In her labor Alison had clung to Anacleto (for he, the Major, could not stand it) and she had screamed for thirty three solid hours. And when the doctor said, 'You're not trying hard enough, bear down' why, the little Filipino would bear down also, with bent knees and the sweat pouring down his face, giving out wail for wail with Alison. Then, when it was over, they found the baby's index and third fingers were grown together, and the Major's only thought was that if he had to touch that baby he would shudder all over.
It had drawn out for eleven months. They had been stationed in the Middle West and he would come in out of the snow to find something such as a cold plate of tuna fish salad in the icebox and the doctors and trained nurses all over the place. Anacleto would be upstairs bringing a diaper up to the light to judge the stool, or perhaps holding the baby for Alison while she walked up and down, up and down the room with her jaws clamped. When the whole business was over, he could feel nothing except relief. But not Alison! How bitter and cold it had left her! And how damned, damned finicky! Yes, life could be sad.
The Major opened the front door and saw Anacleto coming down the stairs. The little Filipino walked with grace and composure. He was dressed in sandals, soft gray trousers, and a blouse of aquamarine linen. His flat little face was creamy white and his black eyes glowed. He did not appear to notice the Major but when he reached the bottom of the stairs he slowly raised his right leg, with the toes flexed like a ballet dancer's, and gave an airy little slap.
'Idiot!' the Major said. 'How is she?'
Anacleto lifted his eyebrows and closed his delicate white eyelids very slowly. 'Tres fatiguee.'
'Ah!' said the Major furiously, for he did not speak a word of French. 'Vooley voo rooney moo ney moo! I say, how is she?'
'C'est les ' But Anacleto himself had only recently taken up his study of French and he did not know of the word for 'sinuses.' However, he completed his reply with the most impressive dignity, 'Maitre Corbeau sur un arbre perche, Major.' He paused, snapped his fingers, and then added pensively, as though speaking aloud to himself, 'Some hot broth very attractively arranged.'
'You can fix me an Old Fashioned,' the Major said.
'I will suddenly,' said Anacleto. He knew very well that 'suddenly' could not be used in the place of 'immediately,' as he spoke choice and beautifully enunciated English in a voice that was exactly like Mrs. Langdon's; he made this mistake only in order further to addle the Major. I shall do so as soon as I have arranged the tray and made Madame Alison comfortable.'
By the Major's watch the preparations for this tray took thirty eight minutes. The little Filipino aired about the kitchen in the liveliest manner and brought in a bowl of flowers from the dining room. The Major watched him with his hairy fists on his hips. All the while Anacleto kept up a soft and vivacious chattering to himself. The Major caught something about Mr. Rudolph Serkin and about a cat which was walking around in a candy counter with bits of peanut brittle stuck to its fur. In the meantime the Major mixed his own drink and fried himself two eggs. When this thirty eight minute tray was finished, Anacleto stood with his feet crossed, liquids clasped behind his head, and rocked himself slowly.
'God! You're a rare bird,' the Major said. 'What I wouldn't do if I could get you in my battalion!'
The little Filipino shrugged. It was common knowledge that he thought the Lord had blundered grossly in the making of everyone except himself and Madame Alison the sole exceptions to this were people behind footlights, midgets, great artists, and such like fabulous folk. He looked down with satisfaction at the tray. On it were a cloth of yellow linen, a brown pottery jug of hot water, the broth cup, and two bouillon cubes. In the right corner there was a little blue Chinese rice bowl holding a bouquet of feathery Michaelmas daisies. Very deliberately Anacleto reached down, plucked off three of the blue petals, and placed them on the yellow napkin. He was not really as frisky as he appeared to be this evening. At times his eyes were anxious, and often he shot the Major a glance that was subtle, swift, and accusing.
'I'll take the tray up,' said the Major, for he saw that, although there was nothing to eat involved, it was the sort of thing that would please his wife and he might get the credit for it.
Alison sat propped in her bed with a book. In her reading glasses her face seemed all nose and eyes, and there were sickly blue shadows about the corners of her mouth. She wore a white linen nightgown and a bed jacket of warm rose velvet. The room was very still and a fire burned on the hearth. There was little furniture, and the room, with its soft gray mg and cerise curtains, had a bare and very simple look. While Alison drank the broth, the Major, bored, sat in a chair by the bed and tried to think up something to say. Anacleto meddled lightly about the bed. He was Whistling a melody that was sprightly, sad and clear.
'Look, Madame Alison!' he said suddenly. 'Do you feel well enough to discuss a certain matter with me?'
She put down her cup and took off her glasses. 'Why, what is it?'
'This!' Anacleto brought a footstool to the side of the bed and eagerly drew from his pocket some little scraps of cloth. 'These samples I ordered for us to look over. And now think back to the time two years ago when we passed by the window of Peck and Peck in New York City and I pointed out a certain little suit to you.' He selected one of the samples and handed it to her. 'This material made exactly in that way.'
'But I don't need a suit, Anacleto,' she said.
'Oh, but you do! You have not bought a garment in more than a year. And the green frock is bien usee at the elbows and ready for the Salvation Army.'
When Anacleto brought out his French phrase he gave the Major a glance of the merriest malice. It always made the Major feel rather eerie to listen to them talking together in the quiet room. Their voices and enunciation were so precisely alike that they seemed to be softly echoing each other. The only difference was that Anacleto spoke in a chattering, breathless manner, while Alison's voice was measured and composed.
'How much is it?' she asked.
'It is costly. But one could not expect to get such a quality for anything less. And think of the years of service.'
Alison turned back to her book again. 'We'll see about it.'
'For God's sake, go ahead and buy the dress,' the Major said. It bothered him to hear Alison haggle.
'And while we're about it we might order an extra yard so that I can have a jacket,' Anacleto said.
'All right If I decide to get it.'
Anacleto poured Alison's medicine and made a face for her as she drank it. Then he put an electric pad behind her back and brushed her hair. But as he started out of the room, he could not quite get past the full length mirror on the closet door. He stopped and looked at himself, pointed his toe and cocked his head.
Then he turned back to Alison and began to whistle again. 'What is that? You and Lieutenant Weincheck were playing it last Thursday afternoon.'
'The opening bar of the Franck A Major Sonata.'
'Look!' said Anacleto excitedly. 'It has just this minute made me compose a ballet. Black velvet curtains and a glow like winter twilight. Very slowly, with the whole cast Then a spotlight for the solo like a flame very dashing, and with the waltz Mr. Sergei Rachmaninoff played. Then the finish goes back to the Franck, only this time ' He looked at Alison with his strange, bright eyes. 'Drunk!'
And with that he began to dance. He had been taken to the Russian ballet a year before and he had never got over it. Not a trick, not a gesture had escaped him. On the gray rug he moved about in a languid pantomime that slowed down until he stood quite still with his feet in their sandals crossed and his fingertips touched together in a meditative attitude. Then without warning he whirled lightly and began a furious little solo. It was apparent from his bright face that in his own mind he was out on an immense stage, the cynosure in a dazzling spectacle. Alison, also, was plainly enjoying herself. The Major looked from one to the other in disgusted disbelief. The last of the dance was a drunken satire of the first. Anacleto finished with an odd little pose, his elbow held in one hand and his fist to his with an expression of wry puzzlement
Alison burst out laughing. 'Bravo! Bravo! Anacleto!'
They laughed together and the little Filipino leaned against the door, happy and a bit dazed. At last he caught his breath and exclaimed in a marveling voice, 'Have you ever noticed how well “Bravo” and “Anacleto” go together?'
Alison stopped laughing and nodded thoughtfully. 'Indeed, Anacleto, I have noticed it many times.'
The little Filipino hesitated in the doorway. He glanced around the room to make sure that nothing was wanting. Then he looked into her face and his eyes were suddenly shrewd and very sad. 'Call me if you need me,' he said shortly.
They heard him start down the stairs slowly, then quicken to a skip. On the last steps he must have tried something altogether too ambitious, for there was a sudden thud. When the Major reached the head of the stairs, Anacleto was picking himself up with brave dignity.
'Did he hurt himself?' Alison asked tensely.
Anacleto looked up at the Major with angry tears in his eyes. 'I'm all right, Madame Alison,' he called.
The Major leaned forward and said slowly and soundlessly, working his mouth so that Anacleto could read the words, 'I wish you had bro ken your neck.'
Anacleto smiled, shrugged his shoulders, and limped into the dining room. When the Major went back to his wife, he found her reading. She did not look up at him, so he crossed the hall to his own room and slammed the door. His room was small, rather untidy, and the only ornaments in it were the cups he had won at horse shows. On the Major's bedside table there was an open book a very recondite and literary book. The place was marked with a matchstick. The Major turned over forty pages or so, a reasonable evening's reading, and marked the new place with the match again. Then from under a pile of shirts in his bureau drawer he took a pulp magazine called Scientification. He settled himself comfortably in the bed and began reading of a wild, interplanetary superwar.
Across the hall from him, his wife had put down her book and was lying in a half sitting position. Her face was stiff with pain and her dark, glittering eyes looked restlessly around the walls of the room. She was trying to make plans. She would divorce Morris, certainly. But how would she go about it? And above all how could she and Anacleto manage to make a living? She always had been contemptuous of women without children who accepted alimony, and her last shred of pride depended on the fact that she would not, could not, live on his money after she had left him. But what would they do she and Anacleto? She had taught Latin in a girls' school the year before she married, but with her health as it was that would now be out of the question. A bookshop s