Amazing grace, who prove.., p.14
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       Amazing Grace, Who Proves That Virtue Has Its Silver Lining, p.14

           Kate Trimble Sharber
 
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  CHAPTER XIV

  THE SKIES FALL

  Before morning words began coming to her--gradually. First she moaned,then muttered, then raged. The chill disappeared and fever came on. Bydaybreak, however, they had both been left with the things that were,and mother slipped into her kimono.

  "Go bring me the morning paper," she condescended, after the passingof the creamery wagon announced that busy life was still going on.

  I rushed out into the front yard. The tree-tops were misty with thatwhite fog which looks as if darkness were trailing her nightrobebehind her; and already on the neighboring lawns the automaticsprinklers were caroming across the green as if they had St. Vitus'dance.

  "On a day like this _nothing_ is too good to be true!" I decided, as Ipicked up the paper and scurried back into the house.

  "And got _your_ name to it--Grace Chalmers Christie!" mother wailed indespair, as she opened the sheet and saw two columns, broken by a facethat could do much more sensible things than "launch a thousand shipsand burn the topless towers of Ilium."

  "Let's--see," I suggested, peering over her shoulder and watching thewords dancing up and down on either side of this face. I couldn't readanything, but I managed to catch an occasional "Macdermott" as itpranced along in front of an occasional "model cottage."

  "Take it!--Burn it!" mother commanded, after she had read enough torealize that the thing was entirely too dull to prove interesting toany feminine creature.

  She thrust it into my hand, and I took it into my bedroom, where Ibegan a frenzied search for the scissors.

  "I'd rather have you by yourself--away from all suggestions ofMacdermotts and enlarged traction companies," I whispered, snippingthe picture from the page and laying it caressingly in the drawer ofthe old-fashioned desk.

  There it lay all morning--and I whispered to it and caressed it.

  "A picture in a drawer is worth two on the wall," I said once, as Ipushed it away quickly to keep mother from seeing it. But the fun ofthe secret was not at all times uppermost.

  "You are so beautiful--so beautiful," I wailed, as I looked at itanother time. "I almost wish you were not--so beautiful."

  For you must know that no woman in love ever _enjoys_ her man's goodlooks! She loves him for so many other things besides beauty that shefeels this demand is a needless cruelty--adding to her torture andmaking her love him the more. The only male beauty she canungrudgingly adore is that which she cradles in her arms--theminiature of the Big Good Looks which have lured her and tormentedher!

  Then--just for the sake of keeping away from this drawer--I diddifferent things to pass away the morning. I said good-by to thepicture, then went into the library and looked up a word in thedictionary. I looked at the picture again after that--to make surethat it was still there--then I decided to wash my hair. But I changedmy mind, for I was afraid the water might drip on the picture and ruinit. I looked up a bodkin and some blue baby ribbon--and forgot to gearup the corset-cover whose eyelets were gaping hungrily before my eyes.While I was trying to remember what one usually does with a bodkin andblue ribbon I looked at the picture again--and, well, if you have everbeen there you can understand; and if you haven't no words could everexplain.

  Then the telephone in the hall! I tried to keep away from it as hardas they say a murderer tries to keep away from the scene of hiscrime.

  "I won't call him until afternoon," I kept telling myself. "It wouldbe perfectly outrageous. I'll call him from the office--just aboutdusk, and----"

  Then I began seeing things again--houses and English gardens, withchildren and schoolhouses in the background, and a smile on the faceof Pope Gregory, the Somethingth, when he saw the Union Jack and OldGlory flying in peace above this vision--until I came to the office intime for the one o'clock staff meeting.

  The first thing I saw there was a note lying on my desk. It bore nopost-mark, so I knew that it must have come by messenger.

  "What can he have said?" I thought, catching it up and weighing it inmy hands. "And I wonder why he sent it here to the _Herald_ office,instead of out home--and why he addressed it to Miss G. C. Christie,as if it were a business communication instead of to Miss GraceChalmers Christie, and why----"

  I looked at it again. It was surely from him, for it was written ontraction company paper. I was glad of this, for I can forgive a manfor anything--if he doesn't use fancy note-paper with his monogram inthe corner.

  I weighed it, and turned it over several times, and found a vague"Habana" fragrance about it--before I ran a hairpin under the flap andopened it. It ran as follows:

  "My dear Miss Christie--

  "I have no doubt that you already know every man to be an Achilles--who welds a heel protector out of his egotism. Now, it happens that my most vulnerable spot is a distaste to being made a fool of; and to-day I can realize what a heavy coating of self-importance lay over this spot yesterday to blind me to your real motive.

  "My apology for being such an easy-mark is that it was a case of mistaken identity. I want you to know that, as an actress, you are amazing! I firmly believed that an unusually fair and charming woman was doing me a great honor--but I awoke this morning from my trance to find that a clever newspaper reporter had outwitted me.

  "I understand now why American Woman must be kept as a tormenting side-issue in a man's busy life. He can't afford to let her come to the front or she throws dust in his eyes.

  "Of course the words I said to the vision of my own fancy and the promises I exacted, do not hold good with the reporter. I am leaving Oldburgh at noon to-day, and even if I were not, you would not care to see me again, since I know nothing more that would serve as a front-page article for the _Herald_."

  "Very sincerely yours, "MAITLAND TAIT."

  Now, do you know what happens when a woman receives such a letter asthis--a letter that starts seismic disturbances? Well, first sheblames her eyesight. She thinks she hasn't read the thing aright! Thenshe carries it off into some dark corner where she hopes she can seebetter, for the strong glare of day seems to make matters worse. Ifthere's an attic near, so much the better!

  But there was no available attic to the _Herald_ office, so I walkedinto the society editor's private room and slammed the door. I hadthrust the note into my blouse, so that I'd have a littlebreathing-spell while I was getting it out, and as I tugged with acontrary belt pin I breathed very hard and fast.

  But the second reading disclosed few details that had not been sentover the wires at the first report. Likewise the third, fourth andfifth. After that I lost count, and when I regained consciousnessthere was a heavy knock at the door--a knock in the possessive case. Irose wearily and admitted the rightful owner.

  "Say, Grace," she commenced excitedly, "the old man's asking foryou--Captain Macauley! He wants you to come down to his den at oncefor an interview. How does it feel to be the biggest thing on the_Herald_--for a day?"

  I put my hand up to my forehead.

  "It feels like----"

  She laughed.

  "Then try to look like it," she suggested. "Why, you look positivelyseasick to-day."

  I didn't stop to explain my bearing false witness, but dashed past herto the head of the stairs. Captain Macauley's office was on a lowerfloor, and by the time I had gone leisurely down the steps I hadquieted my eyelids somewhat.

  "Well, Grace--how about the illegitimate use of weapons?" the old manlaughed, lifting his shaggy head from the front page of the day's_Herald_, as I entered. "Sit down! Sit down--I want to talk with you."

  But for a moment he failed to talk. He looked me over quizzically,then turned to his desk and drew a yellow envelope from a pigeonhole.It was a telegram. I opened it wonderingly.

  "Pauline Calhoun met with a serious motor-car accident yesterday andwill be compelled to cancel her contract with you." I read. I lookedat the old man.

  "To go abroad this summer for the
_Herald_?" I asked.

  He nodded.

  "We've _advertised_ her going," he said mournfully. "And thetransportation is here."

  "She was to have sailed Saturday week?" I asked, wondering at thecunning machinery of my own brain, which could keep on working afterit was cold and dead! Every inch of my body was paralyzed.

  "On the _Luxuria_," he said cheeringly, as he saw my expression. "The_Luxuria_, mind you, young lady!"

  "And to miss it? How tragic!" I kept on absently, wishing that thewhole Cunard Line was at the bottom of the sea if he meant to keep methere chattering about it all day.

  "But it's tragic for the _Herald_," he snapped. "Don't you see we'reup against it? Here, every paper in the South is doing stunts likethis--getting out special stuff with its individual brand--and PaulineCalhoun can deliver the goods."

  "Not with her arm broken," I mused aloud.

  He looked at me impatiently.

  "The thing is, we've got to send _somebody_ abroad next week--somebodywhose leg is not broken!"

  "Oh!"

  "And Hudson and I have been discussing you. This job you roped inlast night was more than we'd given you credit for, and--so--well,can't you speak?"

  I couldn't speak, but I could laugh. I felt as if my fairy godmotherhad taken me to a moving-picture show--where one scene was fromDante's _Inferno_ and the next one was from a novel by the Duchess.

  "There'd be Italy----" Captain Macauley began, but I shrank back.

  "Not Italy!" I begged. "I couldn't go to Italy now."

  "Why?"

  "Because you'd want me to write a lot of sentimental stuff fromthere--and I'm not sentimental--now."

  He smiled.

  "Italy is the land of lovers," he whispered, his eyes twinkling oversome 1870 recollection. "You must be in love with _somebody_ whenyou're in Italy--and you can no more hide it than you can hidenettle-rash."

  "I don't want to go there," I said stiffly.

  "Well, can't you speak?"]

  "Well, you wouldn't have to!" he answered readily. "This steamerticket reads from New York to Liverpool."

  "Liverpool?" I repeated, as blankly as if geography hadn't been myfavorite book at school--to eat apples behind.

  "And Hudson suggested, since you showed last night that you were keenon getting the news of the hour, that you'd likely succeed in a newline in England. We've been surfeited on Westminster Abbey and thelakes, so we want _news_! Coal strikes and suffragettes--and othercurses!"

  "News?"

  "Instead of mooning around Hampstead Heath listening to the newestscandal about George Romney and his lady friend, stay strictly in thetwentieth century and get in line with the militants. Describe howthey address crowds from cart-tails."

  "I see," I said slowly.

  But in my attempts to see I think I must have passed my left handacross my forehead. At all events, he caught sight of its ringlessstate.

  "Grace!" he exclaimed, catching my fingers roughly and scrutinizingthe little pallid circle left by the ring's long contact--sometimesthe healthiest, sometimes the deadliest pallor that female flesh isheir to! "Does this mean that you've broken off with Guilford Blake?"

  "Yes."

  His face grew grave.

  "Then, child, I beg your pardon for talking so glibly about your goingaway!--I didn't know."

  "But it isn't that--it's not that I'm worrying over now," I explainedforlornly. "And Guilford's not hurt! Please don't waste sympathy onhim. He'll be glad, when the first shock gets over, for I've tormentedhim unmercifully."

  "Then--what is it?" he asked, very gently.

  I drew away my hand.

  "It's--something _else_! And please don't change your mind aboutsending me abroad! I'd like very much to go away from here. Anywhereexcept to Italy."

  He reached over and patted my bereft hand affectionately.

  "So the something else is the same sort of something, after all?"

  "Perhaps."

  "Then run along and begin getting ready," he said. "Get clothes inyour head--and salt-sprayed decks on moonlight nights, and wildadventures."

  I smiled.

  "That's right! Smile! I _can't_ send out a representative with abroken leg--and I'd prefer not sending out one with a broken heart."

  I turned away then, struggling fiercely with something in my throat,but just for an instant.

  "Broken heart!" I repeated scornfully. "It's not that bad. You mustn'tthink I'm such a fool."

  "Well," he said briskly, "whatever it is, cut it out! And, believe me,my dear, a steamer trunk is the best possible grave for unrequitedlove."

 
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