On the last day of February Audrey came home from her shorthand class and
stood wearily by the window, too discouraged even to remove her hat. The
shorthand was a failure; the whole course was a failure. She had not the instinct
for plodding, for the meticulous attention to detail that those absurd, irrational
lines and hooks and curves demanded.
She could not even spell! And an idiot of an instructor had found fault with the
large square band she wrote, as being uncommercial. Uncommercial! Of course
it was. So was she uncommercial. She had dreamed a dream of usefulness, but
after all, why was she doing it? We would never fight. Here we were, saying to
Germany that we had ceased to be friends and letting it go at that.
She might go to England. They needed women there. But not untrained women.
Not, she thought contemptuously, women whose only ability lay in playing bridge,
or singing French chansons with no particular voice.
After all, the only world that was open to her was her old world. It liked her. It
even understood her. It stretched out a tolerant, pleasure-beckoning hand to her.
"I'm a fool," she reflected bitterly. "I'm not happy, and I'm not useful. I might as
well play. It's all I can do."
But her real hunger was for news of Clayton. Quite suddenly he had stopped
dropping in on his way up-town. He had made himself the most vital element in
her life, and then taken himself out of it. At first she had thought he might be ill. It
seemed too cruel otherwise. But she saw his name with increasing frequency in
the newspapers. It seemed to her that every relief organization in the country
was using his name and his services. So he was not ill.
He had tired of her, probably. She had nothing to give, had no right to give
anything. And, of course, he could not know how much he had meant to her, of
courage to carry on. How the memory of his big, solid, dependable figure bad
helped her through the bad hours when the thought of Chris's defection had left
her crushed and abject.
She told herself that the reason she wanted to see Natalie was because she had
neglected her shamefully. Perhaps that was what was wrong with Clay; perhaps
he felt that, by avoiding Natalie, she was putting their friendship on a wrong
basis. Actually, she had reached that point all loving women reach, when even to
hear a beloved name, coming out of a long silence, was both torture and
She took unusual pains with her dress that afternoon, and it was a very smart,
slightly rouged and rather swaggering Audrey who made her first call in weeks on
Natalie that afternoon.
Natalie was a little stiff, still slightly affronted.
"I thought you must have left town," she said. "But you look as though you'd been
having a rest cure."
"Rouge," said Audrey, coolly. "No, I haven't been entirely resting."
"There are all sorts of stories going about. That you're going into a hospital; that
you're learning to fly; that you're in the secret service?"