Clayton Spencer was facing with characteristic honesty a situation that he felt
was both hopeless and shameful.
He was hopelessly in love with Audrey. He knew now that he had known it for a
long time. Here was no slender sentiment, no thin romance. With every fiber of
him, heart and soul and body, he loved her and wanted her. There was no
madness about it, save the fact itself, which was mad enough. It was not the
single attraction of passion, although he recognized that element as fundamental
in it. It was the craving of a strong man who had at last found his woman.
He knew that, as certainly as he knew anything. He did not even question that
she cared for him. It was as though they both had passed through the doubting
period without knowing it, and had arrived together at the same point, the crying
need of each other.
He rather thought, looking back, that Audrey had known it sooner than he had.
She had certainly known the night she learned of Chris's death. His terror when
she fainted, the very way he had put her out of his arms when she opened her
eyes - those had surely told her. Yet, had Chris's cynical spirit been watching,
there had been nothing, even then.
There was, between them, nothing now. He had given way to the people who
flocked to her with sympathy, had called her up now and then, had sent her a few
books, some flowers. But the hopelessness of the situation held him away from
her. Once or twice, at first, he had called her on the telephone and had waited,
almost trembling, for her voice over the wire, only to ask her finally, in a voice
chilled with repression, how she was feeling, or to offer a car for her to ride in the
park. And her replies were equally perfunctory. She was well. She was still
studying, but it was going badly. She was too stupid to learn all those pot-hooks.
Once she had said:
"Aren't you ever coming to see me, Clay?"
Her voice had been wistful, and it had been a moment before he had himself
enough in hand to reply, formally:
"Thank you. I shall, very soon."
But he had not gone to the little fiat again.
Through Natalie he heard of her now and then.
"I saw Audrey to-day," she said once. "She is not wearing mourning. It's bad
taste, I should say. When one remembers that she really drove Chris to his death
He had interrupted her, angrily.
"That is a cruel misstatement, Natalie. She did nothing of the sort."
"You needn't bite me, you know. He went, and had about as much interest in this
war as - as - "
"As you have," he finished. And had gone out, leaving Natalie staring after him.
He was more careful after that, but the situation galled him. He was no hypocrite,
but there was no need of wounding Natalie unnecessarily. And that, after all, was
the crux of the whole situation. Natalie. It was not Natalie's fault that he had