Sue Rainey had long touched the fancy of the youths of Chicago societywho, while looking at her trim little figure and at the respectable sizeof the fortune behind it, were yet puzzled and disconcerted by herattitude toward themselves. On the wide porches at golf clubs, where youngmen in white trousers lounged and smoked cigarettes, and in the down-townclubs, where the same young men spent winter afternoons playing Kellypool, they spoke of her, calling her an enigma. "She'll end by being anold maid," they declared, and shook their heads at the thought of so gooda connection dangling loosely in the air just without their reach. Fromtime to time, one of the young men tore himself loose from the group thatcontemplated her, and, with an opening volley of books, candy, flowers andinvitations to theatres, charged down upon her, only to have the youthfulardour of his attack cooled by her prolonged attitude of indifference.When she was twenty-one, a young English cavalry officer, who came toChicago to ride in the horse show had, for some weeks, been seen much inher company and a report of their engagement had been whispered throughthe town and talked of about the nineteenth hole at the country clubs. Therumour proved to be without foundation, the attraction to the cavalryofficer having been a certain brand of rare old wine the colonel hadstored in his cellar and a feeling of brotherhood with the swaggering oldgun maker, rather than the colonel's quiet little daughter.
After the beginning of his acquaintanceship with her, and all during thedays when he stirred things up in the offices and shops of the guncompany, tales of the assiduous and often needy young men who were campedon her trail reached Sam's ears. They would be in at the office to see andtalk with the colonel, who had several times confided to Sam that hisdaughter Sue was already past the age at which right-minded young womenshould marry, and in the absence of the father two or three of them hadformed a habit of stopping for a word with Sam, whom they had met throughthe colonel or Jack Prince. They declared that they were "squaringthemselves with the colonel." Not a difficult thing to do, Sam thought, ashe drank the wine, smoked the cigars, and ate the dinners of all withoutprejudice. Once, at luncheon, Colonel Tom discussed these young men withSam, pounding on a table so that the glasses jumped about, and callingthem damned upstarts.
For his own part, Sam did not feel that he knew Sue Rainey, and although,after their first meeting one evening at the Rainey house, he had beenpricked by a mild curiosity concerning her, no opportunity to satisfy ithad presented itself. He knew that she was athletic, travelled much, rode,shot, and sailed a boat; and he had heard Jack Prince speak of her as awoman of brains, but, until the incident of the colonel and Luella Londonthrew them for the moment into the same enterprise and started himthinking of her with real interest, he had seen and talked with her forbut brief passing moments brought about by their mutual interest in theaffairs of her father.
After Janet Eberly's sudden death, and while he was yet in the midst ofhis grief at her loss, Sam had his first long talk with Sue Rainey. It wasin Colonel Tom's office, and Sam, walking hurriedly in, found her sittingat the colonel's desk and staring out of the window at a broad expanse offlat roofs. A man, climbing a flag pole to replace a slipped rope, caughthis attention and standing by the window looking at the minute figureclinging to the swaying pole, he began talking of the absurdity of humanendeavour.
The colonel's daughter listened respectfully to his rather obviousbanalities and getting up from her chair came to stand beside him. Samturned slyly to look at her firm brown cheeks as he had looked on themorning when she had come to see him about Luella London and was struck bythe thought that she in some faint way reminded him of Janet Eberly. In amoment, and rather to his own surprise, he burst into a long speechtelling of Janet, of the tragedy of her loss and something of the beautyof her life and character.
The nearness of his loss and the nearness also of what he thought might bea sympathetic listener spurred him and he found himself getting a kind ofrelief for the aching sense of loss for his dead comrade by heapingpraises upon her life.
When he had finished saying what was in his mind, he stood by the windowfeeling awkward and embarrassed. The man who climbed the flag pole havingput the rope through the ring at the top slid suddenly down the pole andthinking for the moment that he had fallen Sam made a quick clutch at theair with his hand. His gripping fingers closed over Sue Rainey's hand.
He turned, amused by the incident, and began making a halting explanation.There were tears in Sue Rainey's eyes.
"I wish I had known her," she said and drew her hand from between hisfingers. "I wish you had known me better that I also might have known yourJanet. They are rare--such women. They are worth much to know. Most womenlike most men--"
She made an impatient gesture with her hand and Sam, turning, walkedtoward the door. He felt that he might not trust himself to answer her.For the first time since coming to manhood he felt that tears might at anymoment come into his eyes. Grief for the loss of Janet surged through himdisconcerting and engulfing him.
"I have been doing you an injustice," said Sue Rainey, looking at thefloor. "I have thought of you as something different from what you are.There is a story I heard of you which gave me a wrong impression."
Sam smiled. Having conquered the commotion within himself, he laughed andexplained the incident of the man who had slid down the pole.
"What was the story you heard?" he asked.
"It was a story a young man told at our house," she explainedhesitatingly, refusing to be carried away from her mood of seriousness."It was about a little girl you saved from drowning and a purse made upand given you. Why did you take the money?"
Sam looked at her squarely. The story was one that Jack Prince had delightin telling. It concerned an incident of his early business life in thecity.
One afternoon, when he was still in the employ of the commission firm, hehad taken a party of men for a trip on an excursion steamer on the lake.He had a project into which he wanted them to go with him and had takenthem aboard the steamer to get them together and present the merits of hisscheme. During the trip a little girl had fallen overboard and Sam,springing after her, had brought her safely aboard the boat.
On the excursion steamer a cheer had arisen. A young man in a broadbrimmed cowboy hat ran about taking up a collection. People crowdedforward to grasp Sam's hand and he had accepted the money collected andhad put it in his pocket.
Among the men aboard the boat were several who, while they did not drawback from going into Sam's project, had thought his taking the money notmanly. They had told the story, and it had come to the ears of JackPrince, who never tired of repeating it and always ended the story withthe request that the listener ask Sam why he had taken the money.
Now in Colonel Tom's office facing Sue Rainey, Sam made the explanationthat had so delighted Jack Prince.
"The crowd wanted to give me the money," he said, slightly perplexed. "Whyshouldn't I have taken it? I did not save the little girl for the money,but because she was a little girl; and the money paid for my ruinedclothes and the expenses of the trip."
With his hand on the doorknob he looked steadily at the woman before him.
"And I wanted the money," he announced, a ring of defiance in his voice."I have always wanted money, any money I could get."
Sam went back to his own office and sat down at his desk. He had beensurprised by the cordiality and friendliness Sue Rainey had shown towardhim. On an impulse, he wrote a letter, defending his position in thematter of the money taken on the excursion steamer and setting forthsomething of the attitude of his mind toward money and business affairs.
"I cannot see myself believing in the rot most business men talk," hewrote at the end of the letter. "They are full of sentiment and idealswhich are not true. Having a thing to sell they always say it is the best,although it may be third rate. I do not object to that. What I do objectto is the way they have of nursing a hope within themselves that the thirdrate thing is first rate until the hope becomes a belief. In the talk Ihad with that actress Luella London I told her that I myself flew theblack flag. Well, I do. I would lie about goods to sell them, but I wouldnot lie to myself. I will not stultify my own mind. If a man crossesswords with me in a business deal and I come out of the affair with themoney, it is no sign that I am the greater rascal, rather it is a signthat I am the keener man."
With the note lying before him on the desk Sam wondered why he had writtenit. It seemed to him an accurate and straightforward statement of thebusiness creed he had adopted for himself, but a rather absurd note towrite to a woman. And then, not allowing himself time to reconsider hisaction, he addressed an envelope and going out into the general officesdropped it into the mail chute.
"It will let her know where I stand anyway," he thought, with a return ofthe defiant mood in which he had told her the motive of his action on theboat.
Within the next ten days after the talk in Colonel Tom's office Sam sawSue Rainey several times coming to or going from her father's office.Once, meeting in the little lobby by the office entrance, she stopped andput out her hand which Sam took awkwardly. He had a feeling that she wouldnot have regretted an opportunity to continue the sudden little intimacythat had sprung up between them in the few minutes' talk of Janet Eberly.The feeling did not come from vanity but from a belief in Sam that she wasin some way lonely and wanting companionship. Although she had been muchcourted she lacked, he thought, the talent for comradeship or quickfriendliness. "Like Janet she is more than half intellect," he toldhimself, and felt a pang of regret for the slight disloyalty of thefurther thought that there was in Sue a something more substantial andsolid than there had been in Janet.
Suddenly Sam began wondering whether or not he would like to marry SueRainey. His mind played with the idea. He took it with him to bed, and itwent with him all day in his hurried trips through offices and shops. Thethought having come to him persisted, and he began seeing her in a newlight. The odd half awkward little movements of her hands, and theirexpressiveness, the brown fine texture of her cheeks, the clearness andhonesty of her grey eyes, the quick sympathy and understanding of hisfeeling for Janet, and the subtle flattery of the notion he had got thatshe was interested in him--all of these things came and went in his mindwhile he ran through columns of figures and laid plans for the expansionof the business of the Arms Company. Unconsciously he began to make her apart of his plans for the future.
Later, Sam discovered that during the days after the first talk togetherthe thought of a marriage between them was in Sue's mind also. After thetalk she went home and stood for an hour before the glass studying herselfand she once told Sam that in her bed that night she shed tears becauseshe had never been able to arouse in a man the note of tenderness that hadbeen in his voice when he talked to her of Janet.
And then two months after the first talk they had another. Sam, who hadnot allowed his grief over the loss of Janet or his nightly efforts todrown the sting of it in hard drinking, to check the big forward movementthat he felt he was getting into the work of the offices and shops, satone afternoon deeply absorbed in a pile of factory cost sheets. His shirtsleeves were rolled to the elbow, showing his white muscular forearms. Hewas absorbed, intent upon the sheets.
"I stepped in," said a voice above his head.
Glancing up quickly, Sam sprang to his feet. "She must have been theresome minutes looking down at me," he thought, and had a thrill of pleasurein the thought.
Into his mind came the contents of the letter he had written her, and hewondered if after all he had been a fool, and whether the thoughts of amarriage with her were but vagaries. "Perhaps it would not be attractiveto either her or myself when we came up to it," he decided.
"I stepped in," she began again. "I have been thinking. Some things yousaid--in the letter and when you talked of your friend Janet who died-some things of men and women and work. You may not remember them. I--I gotinterested. I--are you a socialist?"
"I believe not," Sam answered, wondering what had given her that thought."Are you?"
She laughed and shook her head.
"Just what are you?" she went on. "What do you believe? I am curious toknow. I thought your note--you will pardon me--I thought it a kind ofpretence."
Sam winced. A shadow of doubt of the sincerity of his business philosophycrossed his mind accompanied by the swaggering figure of Windy McPherson.He came around the desk and leaning against it looked at her. Hissecretary had gone out of the room and they were alone together. Samlaughed.
"There was a man in the town where I was raised used to say that I was alittle mole working underground, intent upon worms," he said, and then,waving his arms toward the papers on the desk, added, "I am a businessman. Isn't that enough? If you could go with me through some of these costsheets you would agree they are needed."
He turned and faced her again.
"What should I be doing with beliefs?" he asked.
"Well, I think you have them--some kind of beliefs," she insisted, "youmust have them. You get things done. You should hear the men talk of you.Sometimes at the house they are quite foolish about what a wonderfulfellow you are and what you are doing here. They say that you drive on andon. What drives you? I want to know."
For the moment Sam half suspected that she was secretly laughing at him.Finding her quite serious he started to reply and then stopped, regardingher.
The silence between them went on and on. A clock on the wall tickedloudly.
Sam stepped nearer to her and stood looking down into the face she slowlyturned up to his.
"I want to have a talk with you," he said, and his voice broke. He had theillusion of a hand gripping at his throat.
In a flash he had definitely decided that he would try to marry her. Herinterest in the motives of his life had clinched the sort of half decisionhe had made. In an illuminating moment during the prolonged silencebetween them he had seen her in a new light. The feeling of vague intimacybrought to him by his thoughts of her became a fixed belief that shebelonged to him--was a part of him--and he was charmed with her manner,and her person, standing there, as with a gift given him.
And then into his mind came a hundred other thoughts, clamouring thoughts,come out of the hidden parts of him. He began to think that she could leadthe way on a road he wanted to travel. He thought of her wealth and whatit would mean to a man filled with his hunger for power. And through thesethoughts shot others. Something in her had taken hold of him--somethingthat had been also in Janet. He was curious concerning her curiosity abouthis beliefs, and wanted to question her concerning her own beliefs. Hecould see none of Colonel Tom's blustering incompetence in her and thoughther filled with truth as a deep spring is filled with clear water. Hebelieved she would give him something, something that all his life he hadbeen wanting. An old aching hunger that had haunted his nights as a boycame back and he thought that at her hand it might be fed.
"I--I must read a book about socialism," he said lamely.
Again they stood in silence, she looking at the floor, he past her headand out at the window. He could not bring himself to speak again of theproposed talk. He had a boyish dread of having her notice the tremor inhis voice.
Colonel Tom came into the room, bursting with an idea Sam had given him atthe lunch hour and which in working its way into his mind had become tothe colonel's entirely honest belief an idea of his own. The interruptionbrought to Sam an intense feeling of relief and he began talking of thecolonel's idea as though it had taken him unawares.
Sue, walking to a window, began tying and untying the curtain cord. WhenSam, raising his eyes, looked at her, he caught her eyes watching himintently and she smiled, continuing to look at him squarely. It was hiseyes that first broke away.
From that day Sam's mind was afire with thoughts of Sue Rainey. In hisroom he sat, or going into Grant Park stood by the lake, looking at thesilent, moving water as he had looked in the days when he first came tothe city. He did not dream of having her in his arms or of kissing herlips; he thought, instead, with a glowing heart, of a life lived with her.He wanted to walk beside her through the streets, to have her comesuddenly in at his office door, to look into her eyes and to have herquestion him, as she had questioned, concerning his beliefs and his hopes.He thought that in the evening he would like to go to a house of his ownand find her sitting there waiting for him. All the charm of his aimless,half-dissolute way of life died in him, and he believed that with her hecould begin to live more fully and completely. From the moment when he haddefinitely decided that he wanted Sue as a wife, Sam stopped overdrinking,going to his room or walking through the streets or in the parks insteadof seeking his old companions in the clubs and drinking places. Sometimespushing his bed to the window overlooking the lake, he would undressimmediately after dinner and opening the window would spend half the nightwatching the lights of boats far away over the water and thinking of her.He would imagine her in the room, moving here and there, and comingoccasionally to put her hand in his hair and look down at him as Janet haddone, helping by her sane talk and quiet ways to get his life straightenedout for good living.
And when he had fallen asleep the face of Sue Rainey came to visit hisdreams. One night he thought she had become blind and sat in the room withsightless eyes saying over and over like one demented, "Truth, truth, giveme back the truth that I may see," and he awoke sick with horror at thethought of the look of suffering that had been in her face. Never did Samdream of having her in his arms or of raining kisses on her lips and neckas he had dreamed of other women who in the past had won his favour.
For all that he thought of her so constantly and built so confidently hisdream of a life to be spent with her, months passed before he saw heragain. Through Colonel Tom he learned that she had gone for a visit to theEast and he went earnestly about his work, keeping his mind on hisbusiness during the day and only in the evening allowing himself to becomeabsorbed in thoughts of her. He had a feeling that although he had saidnothing she knew of his desire for her and that she wanted time to thinkit over. Several times in the evening in his room he wrote her longletters filled with minute, boyish explanations of his thoughts andmotives, letters which after writing he immediately destroyed. A woman ofthe west side, with whom he had once had an affair, met him one day on thestreet, and put her hand familiarly on his arm and for the momentreawakened in him an old desire. After leaving her he did not go back tothe office, but taking a south-bound car, spent the afternoon walking inJackson Park, watching the children at play on the grass, sitting onbenches under the trees, getting out of his body and his mind theinsistent call of the flesh that had come back to him.
Then in the evening, he came suddenly upon Sue riding a spirited blackhorse in a bridle path at the upper end of the park. It was just at thegrey beginning of night. Stopping the horse, she sat looking at him andgoing to her he put a hand on the bridle.
"We might have that talk," he said.
She smiled down at him and the colour began to rise in her brown cheeks.
"I have been thinking of it," she said, the familiar serious look cominginto her eyes. "After all what have we to say to each other?"
Sam watched her steadily.
"I have a lot of things to say to you," he announced. "That is to say-well--I have, if things are as I hope." She got off the horse and theystood together by the side of the path. Sam never forgot the few minutesof silence that followed. The wide prospects of green sward, the golfplayer trudging wearily toward them through the uncertain light, his bagupon his shoulder, the air of physical fatigue with which he walked,bending slightly forward, the faint, soft sound of waves washing over alow beach, and the intense waiting look on the face she turned up to him,made an impression on his mind that stayed with him through life. Itseemed to him that he had arrived at a kind of culmination, a startingpoint, and that all the vague shadowy uncertainties that had, inreflective moments, flitted through his mind, were to be brushed away bysome act, some word, from the lips of this woman. With a rush he realisedhow consistently he had been thinking of her and how enormously he hadbeen counting on her falling in with his plans, and the realisation wasfollowed by a sickening moment of fear. How little he actually knew of herand of her way of thought. What assurance had he that she would not laugh,jump back upon the horse, and ride away? He was afraid as he had neverbeen afraid before. Dumbly his mind groped about for a way to begin.Expressions he had caught and noted in her strong serious little face whenhe had achieved but a mild curiosity concerning her came back to visit hismind and he tried desperately to build an instant idea of her from these.And then turning his face from her he plunged directly into his thoughtsof the past months as though she had been sharing talking to the colonel."
"I have been thinking we might marry, you and I," he said, and cursedhimself for the blundering bluntness of the declaration.
"You do get things done, don't you?" she replied, smiling.
"Why should you have been thinking anything of the sort?"
"Because I want to live with you," he said; "I have been talking to thecolonel."
"About marrying me?" She seemed about to begin laughing.
He hurried on. "No, not that. We talked about you. I could not let himalone. He might have known. I kept making him talk. I made him tell meabout your ideas. I felt I had to know."
Sam faced her.
"He thinks your ideas absurd. I do not. I like them. I like you. I thinkyou are beautiful. I do not know whether I love you or not, but for weeksI have been thinking of you and clinging to you and saying over and overto myself, 'I want to live my life with Sue Rainey.' I did not expect togo at it this way. You know me. What you do not know I will tell you."
"Sam McPherson, you are a wonder," she said, "and I do not know but that Iwill marry you in the end, but I can't tell now. I want to know a lot ofthings. I want to know if you are ready to believe what I believe and tolive for what I want to live."
The horse, growing restless, began tugging at the bridle and she spoke tohim sharply. She plunged into a description of a man she had seen on thelecture platform during her visit to the East and Sam looked at her withpuzzled eyes.
"He was beautiful," she said. "He was past sixty but looked like a boy oftwenty-five, not in his body, but in an air of youth that hung over him.He stood there before the people talking, quiet, able, efficient. He wasclean. He had lived clean, body and mind. He had been companion and coworker with William Morris, and once he had been a mine boy in Wales, buthe had got hold of a vision and lived for it. I did not hear what he said,but I kept thinking, 'I want a man like that.'
"Can you accept my beliefs and live for what I want to live?" shepersisted.
Sam looked at the ground. It seemed to him that he was going to lose her,that she would not marry him.
"I am not accepting beliefs or ends in life blindly," he said stoutly,"but I want them. What are your beliefs? I want to know. I think I haven'tany myself. When I reach for them they are gone. My mind shifts andchanges. I want something solid. I like solid things. I want you."
"When can we meet and talk everything over thoroughly?"
"Now," answered Sam bluntly, some look in her face changing his wholeviewpoint. Suddenly it seemed as though a door had been opened, letting ina strong light upon the darkness of his mind. His confidence had come backto him. He wanted to strike and keep on striking. The blood rushed throughhis body and his brain began working rapidly. He felt sure of ultimatesuccess.
Taking her hand, and leading the horse, he began walking with her alongthe path. Her hand trembled in his and as though answering a thought inhis mind she looked up at him and said,
"I am not different from other women, although I do not accept your offer.This is a big moment for me, perhaps the biggest moment of my life. I wantyou to know that I feel that, though I do want certain things more than Iwant you or any other man."
There was a suggestion of tears in her voice and Sam had a feeling thatthe woman in her wanted him to take her into his arms, but somethingwithin him told him to wait and to help her by waiting. Like her he wantedsomething more than the feel of a woman in his arms. Ideas rushed throughhis head; he thought that she was going to give him some bigger idea thanhe had known. The figure she had drawn for him of the old man who stood onthe platform, young and beautiful, the old boyish need of a purpose inlife, the dreams of the last few weeks--all of these were a part of theeager curiosity in him. They were like hungry little animals waiting to befed. "We must have it all out here and now," he told himself. "I must notlet myself be swept away by a rush of feeling and I must not let her be.
"Do not think," he said, "that I haven't tenderness for you. I am filledwith it. But I want to have our talk. I want to know what you expect me tobelieve and how you want me to live."
He felt her hand stiffen in his.
"Whether or not we are worth while to each other," she added.
"Yes," he said.
And then she began to talk, telling him in a quiet steady voice thatsteadied something in him what she wanted to make out of her life. Heridea was one of service to mankind through children. She had seen girlfriends of hers, with whom she had gone to school, grow up and marry. Theyhad wealth and education, fine well-trained bodies, and they had beenmarried only to live lives more fully devoted to pleasure. One or two whohad married poor men had only done so to satisfy a passion in themselves,and after marriage had joined the others in the hungry pursuit ofpleasure.
"They do nothing at all," she said, "to repay the world for the thingsgiven them, the wealth and well-trained bodies and the disciplined minds.They go through life day after day and year after year wasting themselvesand come in the end to nothing but indolent, slovenly vanity."
She had thought it all out and had tried to plan for herself a life withother ends, and wanted a husband in accord with her ideas.
"That isn't so difficult," she said, "I can find a man whom I can controland who will believe as I believe. My money gives me that power. But Iwant him to be a real man, a man of ability, a man who does things forhimself, one fitted by his life and his achievements to be the father ofchildren who do things. And so I began thinking about you. I got the menwho come to the house to talk of you."
She hung her head and laughed like a bashful boy.
"I know much of the story of your early life out in that Iowa town," shesaid. "I got the story of your life and your achievements out there fromsome one who knew you well."
The idea seemed wonderfully simple and beautiful to Sam. It seemed to addtremendously to the dignity and nobility of his feeling for her. Hestopped in the path and swung her about facing him. They were alone inthat end of the park. The soft darkness of the summer night had settledover them. In the grass at their feet a cricket sang loudly. He made amovement to take her into his arms.
"It is wonderful," he said.
"Wait," she demanded, putting her hand against his shoulder. "It isn't sosimple. I am wealthy. You are able and you have a kind of undying energyin you. I want to give both my wealth and your ability to children--ourchildren. That will not be easy for you. It means giving up your dreams ofpower. Perhaps I shall lose courage. Women do after two or three havecome. You will have to furnish that. You will have to make a mother of meand keep making a mother of me. You will have to be a new kind of fatherwith something maternal in you. You will have to be patient and studiousand kind. You will have to think of these things at night instead ofthinking of your own advancement. You will have to live wholly for mebecause I am to be their mother, giving me your strength and courage andyour good sane outlook on things. And then when they come you will have togive all these things to them day after day in a thousand little ways."
Sam took her into his arms and for the first time in his memory the hottears stood in his eyes.
The horse, unattended, wheeled, threw up his head and trotted off down thepath. They let him go, walking along after him hand in hand like two happychildren. At the entrance to the park they came up to him, held by a parkpoliceman. She got on the horse and Sam stood beside her looking up.
"I'll tell the colonel in the morning," he said.
"What will he say?" she murmured, musingly.
"Damned ingrate," Sam mimicked the colonel's blustering throat tones.
She laughed and picked up the reins. Sam laid his hand on hers.
"How soon?" he asked.
She put her head down near his.
"We'll waste no time," she said, blushing.
And then in the presence of a park policeman, in the street by theentrance to the park with the people passing up and down, Sam had hisfirst kiss from Sue Rainey's lips.
After she rode away Sam walked. He had no sense of the passing of time,wandering through street after street, rearranging and readjusting hisoutlook on life. What she had said had stirred every vestige of sleepingnobility in him. He thought that he had got hold of the thing he hadunconsciously been seeking all his life. His dreams of control of theRainey Arms Company and the other big things he had planned in businessseemed, in the light of their talk, so much nonsense and vanity. "I willlive for this! I will live for this!" he kept saying over and over tohimself. He imagined he could see the little white things lying in Sue'sarms, and his new love for her and for what they were to accomplishtogether ran through him and hurt him so that he felt like shouting in thedarkened streets. He looked up at the sky and saw the stars and thoughtthey looked down on two new and glorious beings living on the earth.
At a corner he turned and came into a quiet residence street where framehouses stood in the midst of little green lawns and thoughts of hisboyhood in the Iowa town came back to him. And then his mind movingforward, he remembered nights in the city when he had stolen away to thearms of women. Hot shame burned in his cheeks and his eyes felt hot.
"I must go to her--I must go to her at her house--now--tonight--and tellher all of these things, and beg her to forgive me," he thought.
And then the absurdity of such a course striking him he laughed aloud.
"It cleanses me! this cleanses me!" he said to himself.
He remembered the men who had sat about the stove in Wildman's grocerywhen he was a boy and the stories they sometimes told. He remembered howhe, as a boy in the city, had run through the crowded streets fleeing fromthe terror of lust. He began to understand how distorted, how strangelyperverted, his whole attitude toward women and sex had been. "Sex is asolution, not a menace--it is wonderful," he told himself without knowingfully the meaning of the word that had sprung to his lips.
When, at last, he turned into Michigan Avenue and went toward hisapartment, the late moon was just mounting the sky and a clock in one ofthe sleeping houses was striking three.