One morning, in his mail, Clayton Spencer received a clipping. It had been cut
from a so-called society journal, and it was clamped to the prospectus of a firm of
private detectives who gave information for divorce cases as their specialty.
First curiously, then with mounting anger, Clayton read that the wife of a
prominent munition manufacturer was being seen constantly in out of the way
places with the young architect who was building a palace for her out of the
profiteer's new wealth. "It is quite probable," ended the notice, "that the episode
will end in an explosion louder than the best shell the husband in the case ever
Clayton did not believe the thing for a moment. He was infuriated, but mostly with
the journal, and with the insulting inference of the prospectus. He had a
momentary clear vision, however, of Natalie, of her idle days, of perhaps a futile
last clutch at youth. He had no more doubt of her essential integrity than of his
own. But he had a very distinct feeling that she had exposed his name to cheap
scandal, and that for nothing.
Had there been anything real behind it, he might have understood, in his new
humility, in his new knowledge of impulses stronger than any restraints of
society, he would quite certainly have made every allowance. But for a whim, an
indulgence of her incorrigible vanity! To get along, to save Natalie herself, he was
stifling the best that was in him, while Natalie -
That was one view of it. The other was that Natalie was as starved as he was. If
he got nothing from her, he gave her nothing. How was he to blame her? She
was straying along dangerous paths, but he himself had stood at the edge of the
precipice, and looked down.
Suddenly it occurred to him that perhaps, for once, Natalie was in earnest.
Perhaps Rodney was, too. Perhaps each of them had at last found something
that loomed larger than themselves. In that case? But everything he knew of
Natalie contradicted that. She was not a woman to count anything well lost for
love. She was playing with his honor, with Rodney, with her own vanity.
Going up-town that night he pondered the question of how to take up the matter
with her. It would be absurd, under the circumstances, to take any virtuous
attitude. He was still undetermined when he reached the house.
He found Marion Hayden there for dinner, and Graham, and a spirited three-
corner discussion going on which ceased when he stood in the doorway. Natalie
looked irritated, Graham determined, and Marion was slightly insolent and
"Hurry and change, Clay," Natalie said. "Dinner is waiting."
As he went away he had again the feeling of being shut out of something which
Dinner was difficult. Natalie was obviously sulking, and Graham was rather
taciturn. It was Marion who kept the conversation going, and he surmised in her a
repressed excitement, a certain triumph.