David did not sleep well that night. He had not had his golf after all, for the Homer baby had sent out his advance notice early in the afternoon, and had himself arrived on Sunday evening, at the hour when Minnie was winding her clock and preparing to retire early for the Monday washing, and the Sayre butler was announcing dinner. Dick had come in at ten o'clock weary and triumphant, to announce that Richard Livingstone Homer, sex male, color white, weight nine pounds, had been safely delivered into this vale of tears.

David lay in the great walnut bed which had been his mother's, and read his prayer book by the light of his evening lamp. He read the Evening Prayer and the Litany, and then at last he resorted to the thirty-nine articles, which usually had a soporific effect on him. But it was no good.

He got up and took to pacing his room, a portly, solid old figure in striped pajamas and the pair of knitted bedroom slippers which were always Mrs. Morgan's Christmas offering. “To Doctor David, with love and a merry Xmas, from Angeline Morgan.”

At last he got his keys from his trousers pocket and padded softly down the stairs and into his office, where he drew the shade and turned on the lights. Around him was the accumulated professional impedimenta of many years; the old-fashioned surgical chair; the corner closet which had been designed for china, and which held his instruments; the bookcase; his framed diplomas on the wall, their signatures faded, their seals a little dingy; his desk, from which Dick had removed the old ledger which had held those erratic records from which, when he needed money, he had been wont—and reluctant—to make out his bills.

Through an open door was Dick's office, a neat place of shining linoleum and small glass stands, highly modern and business-like. Beyond the office and opening from it was his laboratory, which had been the fruit closet once, and into which Dick on occasion retired to fuss with slides and tubes and stains and a microscope.

Sometimes he called David in, and talked at length and with enthusiasm about such human interest things as the Staphylococcus pyogenes aureus, and the Friedlander bacillus. The older man would listen, but his eyes were oftener on Dick than on the microscope or the slide.

David went to the bookcase and got down a large book, much worn, and carried it to his desk.

An hour or so later he heard footsteps in the hall and closed the book hastily. It was Lucy, a wadded dressing gown over her nightdress and a glass of hot milk in her hand.

“You drink this and come to bed, David,” she said peremptorily. “I've been lying upstairs waiting for you to come up, and I need some sleep.”

He had no sort of hope that she would not notice the book.

“I just got to thinking things over, Lucy,” he explained, his tone apologetic. “There's no use pretending I'm not worried. I am.”

“Well, it's in God's hands,” she said, quite simply. “Take this up and drink it slowly. If you gulp it down it makes a lump in your stomach.”

She stood by while he replaced the book in the bookcase and put out the lights. Then in the darkness she preceded him up the stairs.

“You'd better take the milk yourself, Lucy,” he said. “You're not sleeping either.”

“I've had some. Good-night.”

He went in and sitting on the side of his bed sipped at his milk. Lucy was right. It was not in their hands. He had the feeling all at once of having relinquished a great burden. He crawled into bed and was almost instantly asleep.

So sometime after midnight found David sleeping, and Lucy on her knees. It found Elizabeth dreamlessly unconscious in her white bed, and Dick Livingstone asleep also, but in his clothing, and in a chair by the window. In the light from a street lamp his face showed lines of fatigue and nervous stress, lines only revealed when during sleep a man casts off the mask with which he protects his soul against even friendly eyes.

But midnight found others awake. It found Nina, for instance, in her draped French bed, consulting her jeweled watch and listening for Leslie's return from the country club. An angry and rather heart-sick Nina. And it found the night editor of one of the morning papers drinking a cup of coffee that a boy had brought in, and running through a mass of copy on his desk. He picked up several sheets of paper, with a photograph clamped to them, and ran through them quickly. A man in a soft hat, sitting on the desk, watched him idly.

“Beverly Carlysle,” commented the night editor. “Back with bells on!” He took up the photograph. “Doesn't look much older, does she? It's a queer world.”

Louis Bassett, star reporter and feature writer of the Times-Republican, smiled reminiscently.

“She was a wonder,” he said. “I interviewed her once, and I was crazy about her. She had the stage set for me, all right. The papers had been full of the incident of Jud Clark and the night he lined up fifteen Johnnies in the lobby, each with a bouquet as big as a tub, all of them in top hats and Inverness coats, and standing in a row. So she played up the heavy domestic for me; knitting or sewing, I forget.”

“Fell for her, did you?”

“Did I? That was ten years ago, and I'm not sure I'm over it yet.”

“Probably that's the reason,” said the city editor, drily. “Go and see her, and get over it. Get her views on the flapper and bobbed hair, for next Sunday. Smith would be crazy about it.”

He finished his coffee.

“You might ask, too, what she thinks has become of Judson Clark,” he added. “I have an idea she knows, if any one does.” Bassett stared at him.

“You're joking, aren't you?”

“Yes. But it would make a darned good story.”

Last | Next | Contents