The fact that Audrey Valentine, conspicuous member of a conspicuous social
group that she was, had been working in the machine-shop of the Spencer
munitions works at the time of the explosion was in itself sufficient to rouse the
greatest interest. When a young reporter, gathering human-interest stories about
the event from the pitiful wreckage in the hospitals, happened on Clare Gould, he
got a feature-story for the Sunday edition that made Audrey's own world, reading
it in bed or over its exquisite breakfast-tables, gasp with amazement.
For, following up Clare's story, he found that Audrey had done much more than
run toward the telephone. She had reached it, had found the operator gone, and
had sueceeded, before the roof fell in on her, in calling the fire department and in
sending in a general alarm to all the hospitals.
The reporter found the night operator who had received the message. He got a
photograph of her, too, and, from the society file, an old one of Audrey, very
delicate and audacious, and not greatly resembling the young woman who lay in
her bed and read the article aloud, between dismay and laughter, to old Terry
"Good heavens, Terry," she said. "Listen! 'I had heard the explosion, but did not
of course know what it was. And then I got a signal, and it was the Spencer plant.
A sweet Southern voice said, very calmly, "Operator, this is important. Listen
carefully. There has been an explosion at the Spencer plant and the ruins are on
fire. There will probably be more explosions in a minute. Send in a general fire-
alarm, and then get all the ambulances and doctors - " Then there was another
explosion, and their lines went out of commission. I am glad she is not dead. She
certainly had her nerve.'"
"Fame at last, Audrey!" said old Terry, very gently.
"It's shameless!" But she was a little pleased, nevertheless. Not at the publicity.
That was familiar enough. But that, when her big moment came, she had met it
Terry was striding about the room. His visits were always rather cyclonic. He
moved from chair to chair, leaving about each one an encircling ring of cigaret
ashes, and carefully inspecting each new vase of flowers. He stopped in front of
a basket of exquisite small orchids.
"Who sent this?" he demanded. "Rodney Page. Doesn't it look like him?"
He turned and stared at her.
"What's come over Clayton Spencer? Is he blind?"
"About Rodney. He's head over heels in love with Natalie Spencer, God alone
"I daresay it isn't serious. He is always in love with somebody."
"There's a good bit of talk. I don't give a hang for either of them, but I'm fond of
Clayton. So are you. Natalie's out in the country now, and Rodney is there every
week-end. It's a scandal, that's all. As for Natalie herself, she ought to be