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Dangerous Days

Chapter 50
Audrey was in Paris on the eleventh of November. Now and then she got back
there, and reveled for a day or two in the mere joy of paved streets and great
orderly buildings. She liked the streets and the crowds. She liked watching the
American boys swaggering along, smoking innumerable cigarets and surveying
the city with interested, patronizing eyes. And, always, walking briskly along the
Rue Royale or the Avenue de l'Opera, or in the garden of the Tuileries where the
school-boys played their odd French games, her eyes were searching the faces
of the men she met.
Any tall man in civilian clothes set her heart beating faster. She was quite honest
with herself; she knew that she was watching for Clay, and she had a magnificent
shamelessness in her quest. And now at last The Daily Mail had announced his
arrival in France, and at first every ring of her telephone had sent her to it,
somewhat breathless but quite confident. He would, she considered, call up the
Red Cross at the Hotel Regina, and they would, by her instructions, give her
Then, on that Monday morning, which was the eleventh, she realized that he
would not call her up. She knew it suddenly and absolutely. She sat down, when
the knowledge came to her, with a sickening feeling that if he did not come to her
now he never would come. Yet even then she did not doubt that he cared. Cared
as desperately as she did. The bond still held.
She tried very hard, sitting there by her wood fire in the orderly uniform which
made her so quaintly young and boyish, to understand the twisted mental
processes that kept him away from her, now that he was free. And, in the end,
she came rather close to the truth: his sense of failure; his loss of confidence in
himself where his love life was concerned; the strange twisting and warping that
were Natalie's sole legacy from their years together.
For months she had been tending broken bodies and broken spirits. But the
broken pride of a man was a strange and terrible thing.
She did not know where he was stopping, and in the congestion of the Paris
hotels it would be practically impossible to trace him. And there, too, her own
pride stepped in. He must come to her. He knew she cared. She had been
honest with him always, with a sort of terrible honesty.
Surveying the past months she wondered, not for the first time, what had held
them apart so long, against the urge that had become the strongest thing in life to
them both. The strength in her had come from him. She knew that. But where
had Clay got his strength? Men were not like that, often. Failing final happiness,
they so often took what they could get. Like Chris.
Perhaps, for the first and last time, she saw Clayton Spencer that morning with
her mind, as well as with her heart. She saw him big and generous and fine, but
she saw him also not quite so big as his love, conventional, bound by tradition