Graham was engaged. He hardly knew himself how it had come about. His affair
with Marion had been, up to the very moment of his blurted - out "I want you," as
light-hearted as that of any of the assorted young couples who flirted and kissed
behind the closed doors of that popular house.
The crowd which frequented the Hayden home was gay, tolerant and
occasionally nasty. It made ardent love semi-promiscuously, it drank rather more
than it should, and its desire for a good time often brought it rather close to the
danger line. It did not actually step over, but it hovered gayly on the brink.
And Toots remained high-priestess of her little cult. The men liked her. The girls
imitated her. And Graham, young as he was, seeing her popularity, was vastly
gratified to find himself standing high in her favor.
Marion was playing for the stake of the Spencer money. In her intimate circle
every one knew it but Graham.
"How's every little millionaire?" was Tommy Hale's usual greeting.
She knew only one way to handle men, and with the stake of the Spencer money
she tried every lure of her experience on Graham. It was always Marion who on
cold nights sat huddled against him in the back seat of the Hayden's rather
shabby car, her warm ungloved hand in his. It was Marion who taught him to mix
the newest of cocktails, and who later praised his skill. It was Marion who insisted
on his having a third, too, when the second had already set his ears drumming.
The effect on the boy of her steady propinquity, of her constant caressing
touches, of the general letting-down of the bars of restraint, was to rouse in him
impulses of which he was only vaguely conscious, and his proposal of marriage,
when it finally came, was by nature of a confession. He had kissed her, not for
the first time, but this time she had let him hold her, and he had rained kisses on
"I want you," he had said, huskily.
And even afterward, when the thing was done, and she had said she would
marry him, she had to ask him if he loved her.
"I - of course I do," he had said. And had drawn her back into his arms.
He wanted to marry her at once. It was the strongest urge of his life, and put into
his pleading an almost pathetic earnestness. But she was firm enough now.
"I don't think your family will be crazy about this, you know."
"What do we care for the family? They're not marrying you, are they?"
"They will have to help to support me, won't they?"
And he had felt a trifle chilled.
It was not a part of Marion's program to enter the Spencer family unwelcomed.
She had a furtive fear of Clayton Spencer, the fear of the indirect for the direct, of
the designing woman for the essentially simple and open male. It was not on her
cards to marry Graham and to try to live on his salary.
So for a few weeks the engagement was concealed even from Mrs. Hayden, and
Graham, who had received some stock from his father on his twenty-first