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Dangerous Days

Chapter 34
With his many new problems following the declaration of war, Clayton Spencer
found a certain peace. It was good to work hard. It was good to fill every working
hour, and to drop into sleep at night too weary for consecutive thought.
Yet had he been frank with himself he would have acknowledged that Audrey
was never really out of his mind. Back of his every decision lay his desire for her
approval. He did not make them with her consciously in his mind, but he wanted
her to know and understand, In his determination, for instance, to offer his shells
to the government at a nominal profit, there was no desire to win her
approbation.
It was rather that he felt her behind him in the decision. He shrank from telling
Natalie. Indeed, until he had returned from Washington he did not broach the
sublect. And then he was tired and rather discouraged, and as a result almost
brutally abrupt.
Coming on top of a hard fight with the new directorate, a fight which he had
finally won, Washington was disheartening. Planning enormously for the future it
seemed to have no vision for the things of the present. He was met vaguely, put
off, questioned. He waited hours, as patiently as he could, to find that no man
seemed to have power to act, or to know what powers he had.
He found something else, too - a suspicion of him, of his motives. Who offered
something for nothing must be actuated by some deep and hidden motive. He
found his plain proposition probed and searched for some ulterior purpose
behind it.
"It's the old distrust, Mr. Spencer," said Hutchinson, who had gone with him to
furnish figures and various data. "The Democrats are opposed to capital. They're
afraid of it. And the army thinks all civilians are on the make - which is pretty
nearly true."
He saw the Secretary of War, finally, and came away feeling better. He had
found there an understanding that a man may - even should - make sacrifices for
his country during war. But, although he carried away with him the conviction that
his offer would ultimately be accepted, there was nothing actually accomplished.
He sent Hutchinson back, and waited for a day or two, convinced that his very
sincerity must bring a concrete result, and soon.
Then, lunching alone one day in the Shoreham, he saw Audrey Valentine at
another table. He had not seen her for weeks, and he had an odd moment of
breathlessness when his eyes fell on her. She was pale and thin, and her eyes
looked very tired. His first impulse was to go to her. The second, on which he
acted, was to watch her for a little, to fill his eyes for the long months of
emptiness ahead.
She was with a man in uniform, a young man, gay and smiling. He was paying
her evident court, in a debonair fashion, bending toward her across the table.
Suddenly Clayton was jealous, fiercely jealous.
 
 
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