Home / Lyrics / Gestört Aber GeiL / In My Life
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play
These English lyric translations are not yet verified.
Chapter one
It was the last letter in irene redfield's little pile of morning mail. after her other ordinary and clearly directed letters the long envelope of thin italian paper with its almost illegible scrawl seemed out of place and alien. and there was, too, something mysterious and slightly furtive about it. a thin sly thing which bore no return address to betray the sender. not that she hadn't immediately known who its sender was. some two years ago she had one very like it in outward appearance. furtive, but yet in some peculiar, determined way a little flaunting. purple ink. foreign paper of extraordinary size
It had been, irene noted, postmarked in new york the day before. her brows came together in a tiny frown. the frown, however, was more from perplexity than from annoyance; though there was in her thoughts an element of both. she was wholly unable to comprehend such an attitude towards danger as she was sure the letter's contents would reveal; and she disliked the idea of opening and reading it
This, she reflected, was of a piece with all that she knew of clare kendry. stepping always on the edge of danger. always aware, but not drawing back or turning aside. certainly not because of any alarms or feeling of outrage on the part of others
And for a swift moment irene redfield seemed to see a pale small girl sitting on a ragged blue sofa, sewing pieces of bright red cloth together, while her drunken father, a tall, powerfully built man, raged threateningly up and down the shabby room, bellowing curses and making spasmodic lunges at her which were not the less frightening because they were, for the most part. ineffectual. sometimes he did manage to reach her. but only the fact that the child had edged herself and her poor sewing over to the farthermost corner of the sofa suggested that she was in any way perturbed by this menace to herself and her work
Clare had known well enough that it was unsafe to take a portion of the dollar that was her weekly wage for the doing of many errands for the dressmaker who lived on the top floor of the building of which bob kendry was janitor. but that knowledge had not deterred her. she wanted to go to her sunday school's picnic, and she had made up her mind to wear a new dress. so, in spite of certain unpleasantness and possible danger, she had taken the money to buy the material for that pathetic little red frock
There had been, even in those days, nothing sacrificial in clare kendry's idea of life, no allegiance beyond her own immediate desire. she was selfish, and cold, and hard. and yet she had, too, a strange capacity of transforming warmth and passion, verging sometimes almost on theatrical heroics
Irene, who was a year or more older than clare, remembered the day that bob kendry had been brought home dead, killed in a silly saloon-fight. clare, who was at that time a scant fifteen years old, had just stood there with her lips pressed together, her thin arms folded across her narrow chest, staring down at the familiar pasty-white face of her parent with a sort of disdain in her slanting
Black eyes. for a very long time she had stood like that, silent and staring. then, quite suddenly, she had given way to a torrent of weeping, swaying her thin body, tearing at her bright hair, and stamping her small feet. the outburst had ceased as suddenly as it had begun. she glanced quickly about the bare room, taking everyone in, even the two policemen, in a sharp look of flashing scorn. and, in the next instant, she had turned and vanished through the door
Seen across the long stretch of years, the thing had more the appearance of an outpouring of pent-up fury than of an overflow of grief for her dead father; though she had been, irene admitted, fond enough of him in her own rather catlike way
Catlike. certainly that was the word which best described clare kendry, if any single word could describe her she was hard and apparently without feeling at all; sometimes she was affectionate and rashly impulsive. and there was about her an amazing soft malice, hidden well away until provoked. then she was capable of scratching, and very effectively too. or, driven to anger, she would fight with a ferocity and impetuousness that disregarded or forgot any danger; superior strength, numbers, or other unfavourable circumstances. how savagely she had clawed those boys the day they had hooted her parent and sung a derisive rhyme, of their own composing, which pointed out certain eccentricities in his careening gait! and how deliberately she had!
Irene brought her thoughts back to the present, to the letter from clare kendry that she still held unopened in her hand. with a little feeling of apprehension, she very slowly cut the envelope, drew out the folded sheets, spread them, and began to read
It was, she saw at once, what she had expected since learning from the postmark that clare was in the city. an extravagantly phrased wish to see her again. well, she needn't and wouldn't, irene told herself, accede to that. nor would she assist clare to realize her foolish desire to return for a moment to that life which long ago, and of her own choice, she had left behind her
She ran through the letter, puzzling out, as best she could, the carelessly formed words or making instinctive guesses at them
For i am lonely, so lonely .cannot help longing to be with you again, as i have never longed for anything before; and i have wanted many things in my life. you can't know how in this pale life of mine i am all the time seeing the bright pictures of that other that i once thought i was glad to be free of. it's like an ache, a pain that never ceases. sheets upon thin sheets of it. and ending finally with, 'and it's your fault, 'rene dear. at least partly. for i wouldn't now, perhaps, have this terrible, this wild desire if i hadn't seen you that time in chicago
lyric fluent promo screenshot
Brilliant red patches flamed in irene redfield's warm olive cheeks
'that time in chicago.' the words stood out from among the many paragraphs of other words, bringing with them a clear, sharp remembrance, in which even now, after two years, humiliation, resentment, and rage were mingled
This is what irene redfield remembered
Chicago. august. a brilliant day, hot, with a brutal staring sun pouring down rays that were like molten rain. a day on which the very outlines of the buildings shuddered as if in protest at the heat. quivering lines sprang up from baked pavements and wriggled along the shining car-tracks. the automobiles parked at the kerbs were a dancing blaze, and the glass of the shop-windows threw out a blinding radiance. sharp particles of dust rose from the burning sidewalks, stinging the seared or dripping skins of wilting pedestrians. what small breeze there was seemed like the breath of a flame fanned by slow bellows
It was on that day of all others that irene set out to shop for the things which she had promised to take home from chicago to her two small sons, brian junior and theodore. characteristically, she had put it off until only a few crowded days remained of her long visit. and only this sweltering one was free of engagements till the evening
Without too much trouble she had got the mechanical aeroplane for junior. but the drawing-book, for which ted had so gravely and insistently given her precise directions, had sent her in and out of five shops without success
It was while she was on her way to a sixth place that right before her smarting eyes a man toppled over and became an inert crumpled heap on the scorching cement. about the lifeless figure a little crowd gathered. was the man dead, or only faint? someone asked her. but irene didn't know and didn't try to discover. she edged her way out of the increasing crowd, feeling disagreeably damp and sticky and soiled from contact with so many sweating bodies
For a moment she stood fanning herself and dabbing at her moist face with an inadequate scrap of handkerchief. suddenly she was aware that the whole street had a wobbly look, and realized that she was about to faint. with a quick perception of the need for immediate safety, she lifted a wavering hand in the direction of a cab parked directly in front of her. the perspiring driver jumped out and guided her to his car. he helped, almost lifted her in. she sank down on the hot leather seat
For a minute her thoughts were nebulous. they cleared
'i guess,' she told her samaritan, 'it's tea i need. on a roof somewhere.'
'the drayton, ma'am?' he suggested. 'they do say as how it's always a breeze up there.'
'thank you. i think the drayton'll do nicely,' she told him
There was that little grating sound of the clutch being slipped in as the man put the car in gear and slid deftly out into the boiling traffic. reviving under the warm breeze stirred up by the moving cab, irene made some small attempts to repair the damage that the heat and crowds had done to her appearance
All too soon the rattling vehicle shot towards the sidewalk and stood still. the driver sprang out and opened the door before the hotel's decorated attendant could reach it. she got out, and thanking him smilingly as well as in a more substantial manner for his kind helpfulness and understanding, went in through the drayton's wide doors
Stepping out of the elevator that had brought her to the roof, she was led to a table just in front of a long window whose gently moving curtains suggested a cool breeze. it was, she thought, like being wafted upward on a magic carpet to another world, pleasant, quiet, and strangely remote from the sizzling one that she had left below
lyric fluent promo screenshot
The tea, when it came, was all that she had desired and expected. in fact, so much was it what she had desired and expected that after the first deep cooling drink she was able to forget it, only now and then sipping, a little absently, from the tall green glass, while she surveyed the room about her or looked out over some lower buildings at the bright unstirred blue of the lake reaching away to an undetected horizon
She had been gazing down for some time at the specks of cars and people creeping about in streets, and thinking how silly they looked, when on taking up her glass she was surprised to find it empty at last. she asked for more tea and while she waited, began to recall the happenings of the day and to wonder what she was to do about ted and his book. why was it that almost invariably he wanted something that was difficult or impossible to get? like his father. for ever wanting something that he couldn't have
Presently there were voices, a man's booming one and a woman's slightly husky. a waiter passed her, followed by a sweetly scented woman in a fluttering dress of green chiffon whose mingled pattern of narcissuses, jonquils, and hyacinths was a reminder of pleasantly chill spring days. behind her there was a man, very red in the face, who was mopping his neck and forehead with a big crumpled handkerchief
Dear i' irene groaned, rasped by annoyance, for after a little discussion and commotion they had stopped at the very next table. she had been alone there at the window and it had been so satisfyingly quiet. now, of course, they would chatter
But no. only the woman sat down. the man remained standing, abstractedly pinching the knot of his bright blue tie. across the small space that separated the two tables his voice carried clearly
'see you later, then,' he declared, looking down at the woman. there was pleasure in his tones and a smile on his face
His companion's lips parted in some answer, but her words were blurred by the little intervening distance and the medley of noises floating up from the streets below. they didn't reach irene. but she noted the peculiar caressing smile that accompanied them
The man said: 'well, i suppose i'd better,' and smiled again, and said good-bye, and left
An attractive-looking woman, was irene's opinion, with those dark, almost black, eyes and that wide mouth like a scarlet flower against the ivory of her skin. nice clothes too, just right for the weather, thin and cool without being mussy, as summer things were so apt to be
A waiter was taking her order. irene saw her smile up at him as she murmured something — thanks, maybe. it was an odd sort of smile. irene couldn't quite define it, but she was sure that she would have classed it, coming from another woman, as being just a shade too provocative for a waiter. about this one, however, there was something that made her hesitate to name it that. a certain impression of assurance, perhaps
The waiter came back with the order. irene watched her spread out her napkin, saw the silver spoon in the white hand slit the dull gold of the melon. then, conscious that she had been staring, she looked quickly away
Her mind returned to her own affairs. she had settled, definitely, the problem of the proper one of two frocks for the bridge party that night, in rooms whose atmosphere would be so thick and hot that every breath would be like breathing soup. the dress decided, her thoughts had gone back to the snag of ted's book, her unseeing eyes far away on the lake, when by some sixth sense she was acutely aware that someone was watching her
Very slowly she looked around, and into the dark eyes of the woman in the green frock at the next table. but she evidently failed to realize that such intense interest as she was showing might be embarrassing, and continued to stare. her demeanour was that of one who with utmost singleness of mind and purpose was determined to impress firmly and accurately each detail of irene's features upon her memory for all time, nor showed the slightest trace of disconcertment at having been detected in her steady scrutiny
Instead, it was irene who was put out. feeling her colour heighten under the continued inspection, she slid her eyes down. what, she wondered, could be the reason for such persistent attention? had she. in her haste in the taxi, put her hat on backwards? guardedly she felt at it. no. perhaps there was a streak of powder somewhere on her face. she made a quick pass over it with her handkerchief. something wrong with her dress? she shot a glance over it. perfectly all right. what was it?
Again she looked up, and for a moment her brown eyes politely returned the stare of the other's black ones, which never for an instant fell or wavered. irene made a little mental shrug. well, let her look! she tried to treat the woman and her watching with indifference, but she couldn't. all her efforts to ignore her, it, were futile. she stole another glance. still looking. what strange languorous eyes she had!
And gradually there rose in irene a small inner disturbance, odious and hatefully familiar. she laughed softly, but her eyes flashed
lyric fluent promo screenshot
Did that woman, could that woman, somehow know that here before her very eyes on the roof of the drayton sat a negro?
Absurd! impossible! white people were so stupid about such things for all that they usually asserted that they were able to tell; and by the most ridiculous means, finger-nails, palms of hands, shapes of ears, teeth, and other equally silly rot. they always took her for an italian, a spaniard, a mexican, or a gipsy. never, when she was alone, had they even remotely seemed to suspect that she was a negro. no, the woman sitting there staring at her couldn't possibly know
Nevertheless, irene felt, in turn, anger, scorn, and fear slide over her. it wasn't that she was ashamed of being a negro, or even of having it declared. it was the idea of being ejected from any place, even in the polite and tactful way in which the drayton would probably do it, that disturbed her
But she looked, boldly this time, back into the eyes still frankly intent upon her. they did not seem to her hostile or resentful. rather, irene had the feeling that they were ready to smile if she would. nonsense, of course. the feeling passed, and she turned away with the firm intention of keeping her gaze on the lake, the roofs of the buildings across the way, the sky, anywhere but on that annoying woman. almost immediately, however, her eyes were back again. in the midst of her fog of uneasiness she had been seized by a desire to outstare the rude observer. suppose the woman did know or suspect her race. she couldn't prove it
Suddenly her small fright increased. her neighbour had risen and was coming towards her. what was going to happen now?
'pardon me,' the woman said pleasantly, *'but i think i know you.' her slightly husky voice held a dubious note
Looking up at her, irene's suspicions and fears vanished. there was no mistaking the friendliness of that smile or resisting its charm. instantly she surrendered to it and smiled too, as she said: 'i'm afraid you're mistaken.'
'why, of course, i know you the other exclaimed. 'don't tell me you're not irene westover. or do they still call you 'rene?'
In the brief second before her answer, irene tried vainly to recall where and when this woman could have known her. there, in chicago. and before her marriage. that much was plain. high school? college? y. w. c. a. committees? high school, most likely. what white girls had she known well enough to have been familiarly addressed as 'rene by them? the woman before her didn't fit her memory of any of them. who was she?
'yes, i'm irene westover. and though nobody calls me 'rene any more, it's good to hear the name again. and you — she hesitated, ashamed that she could not remember, and hoping that the sentence would be finished for her
'don't .you know me? not really,'rene?'
'i'm sorry, but just at the minute i can't seem to place you.'
Irene studied the lovely creature standing beside her for some clue to her identity. who could she be? where and when had they met? and through her perplexity there came the thought that the trick which her memory had played her was for some reason more gratifying than disappointing to her old acquaintance, that she didn't mind not being recognized
And, too, irene felt that she was just about to remember her. for about the woman was some quality, an intangible something, too vague to define, too remote to seize, but which was, to irene redfield, very familiar. and that voice. surely she'd heard those husky tones somewhere before. perhaps before time, contact, or something had been at them, making them into a voice remotely suggesting england. could it have been in europe that they had met? 'rene. no
'perhaps,' irene began, 'you —
The woman laughed, a lovely laugh, a small sequence of notes that was like a trill and also like the ringing of a delicate bell fashioned of a precious metal, a tinkling
lyric fluent promo screenshot
Irene drew a quick sharp breath. 'clare!' she exclaimed, 'not really clare kendry?'
So great was her astonishment that she had started to rise
'no, no, don't get up,' clare kendry commanded, and sat down herself. 'you've simply got to stay and talk. we'll have something more. tea fancy meeting you here it's simply too, too lucky!'
'it's awfully surprising,' irene told her, and, seeing the change in clare's smile, knew that she had revealed a corner of her own thoughts. but she only said: 'i'd never in this world have known you if you hadn't laughed. you are changed, you know. and yet, in a way, you're just the same.'
'perhaps,' clare replied. just a second.'
She gave her attention to the waiter at her side. 'm-mm, let's see. two teas. and bring some cigarettes. y-es, they'll be all right. thanks.' again that odd upward smile. now, irene was sure that it was too provocative for a waiter
While clare had been giving the order, irene made a rapid mental calculation. it must be, she figured, all of twelve years since she, or anybody that she knew, had laid eyes on clare kendry
After her father's death she'd gone to live with some relatives, aunts or cousins two or three times removed, over on the west side: relatives that nobody had known the kendry's possessed until they had turned up at the funeral and taken clare away with them
For about a year or more afterwards she would appear occasionally among her old friends and acquaintances on the south side for short little visits that were, they understood, always stolen from the endless domestic tasks in her new home. with each succeeding one she was taller, shabbier, and more belligerently sensitive. and each time the look on her face was more resentful and brooding. 'i'm worried about clare, she seems so unhappy,' irene remembered her mother saying. the visits dwindled, becoming shorter, fewer, and further apart until at last they ceased
Irene's father, who had been fond of bob kendry, made a special trip over to the west side about two months after the last time clare had been to see them and returned with the bare information that he had seen the relatives and that clare had disappeared. what else he had confided to her mother, in the privacy of their own room, irene didn't know
But she had had something more than a vague suspicion of its nature. for there had been rumours. rumours that were, to girls of eighteen and nineteen years, interesting and exciting
There was the one about clare kendry's having been seen at the dinner hour in a fashionable hotel in company with another woman and two men, all of them white. and dressed! and there was another which told of her driving in lincoln park with a man, unmistakably white, and evidently rich. packard limousine, chauffeur in livery, and all that. there had been others whose context irene could no longer recollect, but all pointing in the same glamorous direction
And she could remember quite vividly how, when they used to repeat and discuss these tantalizing stories about clare, the girls would always look knowingly at one another and then, with little excited giggles, drag away their eager shining eyes and say with lurking undertones of regret or disbelief some such thing as: well, maybe she's got a job or something,' or 'after all, it mayn't have been clare,' or 'you can't believe all you hear.'
And always some girl, more matter-of-fact or more frankly malicious than the rest, would declare: 'of course it was clare! ruth said it was and so did frank, and they certainly know her when they see her as well as we do.' and someone else would say: 'yes, you can bet it was clare all right.' and then they would all join in asserting that there could be no mistake about it's having been clare, and that such circumstances could mean only one thing. working indeed! people didn't take their servants to the shelby for dinner. certainly not all dressed up like that. there would follow insincere regrets, and somebody would say: 'poor girl, i suppose it's true enough, but what can you expect. look at her father. and her mother, they say, would have run away if she hadn't died. besides, clare always had a —a — having way with her.'
Precisely that the words came to irene as she sat there on the drayton roof, facing clare kendry. 'a having way.' well, irene acknowledged, judging from her appearance and manner, clare seemed certainly to have succeeded in having a few of the things that she wanted
It was, irene repeated, after the interval of the waiter, a great surprise and a very pleasant one to see clare again after all those years, twelve at least
lyric fluent promo screenshot
'why, clare, you're the last person in the world i'd have expected to run into. i guess that's why i didn't know you.'
Clare answered gravely: 'yes. it is twelve years. but i'm not surprised to see you, 'rene. that is, not so very. in fact, ever since i've been here, i've more or less hoped that i should, or someone. preferably you, though
Still, i imagine that's because i've thought of you often and often, while you — i'll wager you've never given me a thought.'
It was true, of course. after the first speculations and indictments, clare had gone completely from irene's thoughts. and from the thoughts of others too — if their conversation was any indication of their thoughts
Besides, clare had never been exactly one of the group, just as she'd never been merely the janitor's daughter, but the daughter of mr. bob kendry, who, it was true, was a janitor, but who also, it seemed, had been in college with some of their fathers. just how or why he happened to be a janitor, and a very inefficient one at that, they none of them quite knew. one of irene's brothers, who had put the question to their father, had been told: 'that's something that doesn't concern you,' and given him the advice to be careful not to end in the same manner as 'poor bob.'
No, irene hadn't thought of clare kendry. her own life had been too crowded. so, she supposed, had the lives of other people. she defended her — their — forgetfulness. 'you know how it is. everybody's so busy. people leave, drop out, maybe for a little while there's talk about them, or questions; then, gradually they're forgotten.'
'yes, that's natural,' clare agreed. and what, she inquired, had they said of her for that little while at the beginning before they'd forgotten her altogether?
Irene looked away. she felt the tell-tale colour rising in her cheeks. 'you can't,' she evaded, 'expect me to remember trifles like that over twelve years of marriages, births, deaths, and the war.'
There followed that trill of notes that was clare kendry's laugh, small and clear and the very essence of mockery
'rene!' she cried, 'of course you remember i but i won't make you tell me, because i know just as well as if i'd been there and heard every unkind word. i know, i know. frank danton saw me in the shelby one night. don't tell me he didn't broadcast that, and with embroidery. others may have seen me at other times. i don't know. but once i met margaret hammer in marshall field's. i'd have spoken, was on the very point of doing it, but she cut me dead. my dear 'rene, i assure you that from the way she looked through me, even i was uncertain whether i was actually there in the flesh or not. i remember it clearly, too clearly. it was that very thing which, in a way, finally decided me not to go out and see you one last time before i went away to stay. somehow, good as all of you, the whole family, had always been to the poor forlorn child that was me, i felt i shouldn't be able to bear that. i mean if any of you, your mother or the boys or — well, i just felt i'd rather not know it if you did. and so i stayed away. silly, i suppose. sometimes i've been sorry i didn't go.'
Irene wondered if it was tears that made clare's eyes so luminous
'and now 'rene, i want to hear all about you and everybody and everything. you're married, i s'pose?'
Irene nodded
'yes,' clare said knowingly, 'you would be. tell me about it'
And so for an hour or more they had sat there smoking and drinking tea and filling in the gap of twelve years with talk. that is, irene did. she told clare about her marriage and removal to new york, about her husband, and about her two sons, who were having their first experience of being separated from their parents at a summer camp, about her mother's death, about the marriages of her two brothers. she told of the marriages, births and deaths in other families that clare had known, opening up, for her, new vistas on the lives of old friends and acquaintances
Clare drank it all in, these things which for so long she had wanted to know and hadn't been able to learn. she sat motionless, her bright lips slightly parted, her whole face lit by the radiance of her happy eyes. now and then she put a question, but for the most part she was silent
lyric fluent promo screenshot
Somewhere outside, a clock struck. brought back to the present, irene looked down at her watch and exclaimed: '0h, i must go, clare!'
A moment passed during which she was the prey of uneasiness. it had suddenly occurred to her that she hadn't asked clare anything about her own life and that she had a very definite unwillingness to do so. and she was quite well aware of the reason for that reluctance. but, she asked herself, wouldn't it, all things considered, be the kindest thing not to ask? if things with clare were as she — as they all — had suspected, wouldn't it be more tactful to seem to forget to inquire how she had spent those twelve years?
If it was that 'if' which bothered her. it might be, it might just be, in spite of all gossip and even appearances to the contrary, that there was nothing, had been nothing, that couldn't be simply and innocently explained. appearances, she knew now, had a way sometimes of not fitting facts, and if clare hadn't — well, if they had all been wrong, then certainly she ought to express some interest in what had happened to her. it would seem queer and rude if she didn't. but how was she to know? there was, she at last decided, no way; so she merely said again. 'i must go, clare.'
'please, not so soon, 'rene,' clare begged, not moving
Irene thought: ''she's really almost too good-looking. it's hardly any wonder that she—'
''and now, 'rene dear, that i've found you, i mean to see lots and lots of you. we're here for a month at least. jack, that's my husband, is here on business. poor dear! in this heat. isn't it beastly? come to dinner with us tonight, won't you?' and she gave irene a curious little sidelong glance and a sly, ironical smile peeped out on her full red lips, as if she had been in the secret of the other's thoughts, and was mocking her
Irene was conscious of a sharp intake of breath, but whether it was relief or chagrin that she felt, she herself could not have told. she said hastily: 'i'm afraid i can't, clare. i'm filled up. dinner and bridge. i'm so sorry.'
'come tomorrow instead, to tea,' clare insisted. 'then you'll see margery — she's just ten — and jack too, maybe, if he hasn't got an appointment or something.'
From irene came an uneasy little laugh. she had an engagement for tomorrow also and she was afraid that clare would not believe it. suddenly, now, that possibility disturbed her. therefore it was with a half-vexed feeling at the sense of undeserved guilt that had come upon her that she explained that it wouldn't be possible because she wouldn't be free for tea, or for luncheon or dinner either. 'and the next day's friday when i'll be going away for the week-end, idlewild, you know. it's quite the thing now.' and then she had an inspiration
'clare!' she exclaimed, 'why don't you come up with me? our place is probably full up — jim's wife has a way of collecting mobs of the most impossible people — but we can always manage to find room for one more. and you'll see absolutely everybody.'
In the very moment of giving the invitation she regretted it. what a foolish, what an idiotic impulse to have given way to she groaned inwardly as she thought of the endless explanations in which it would involve her, of the curiosity, and the talk, and the lifted eyebrows. it wasn't she assured herself, that she was a snob, that she cared greatly for the petty restrictions and distinctions with which what called itself negro society chose to hedge itself about; but that she had a natural and deeply rooted aversion to the kind of frontpage notoriety that clare kendry's presence in idlewild, as her guest, would expose her to. and here she was, perversely and against all reason, inviting her
But clare shook her head. 'really, i'd love to, 'rene,' she said, a little mournfully. 'there's nothing i'd like better. but i couldn't. i mustn't, you see. it wouldn't do at all. i'm sure you understand. i'm simply crazy to go, but i can't.' the dark eyes glistened and there was a suspicion of a quaver in the husky voice. 'and believe me, 'rene, i do thank you for asking me. don't think i've entirely forgotten just what it would mean for you if i went. that is, if you still care about such things.'
All indication of tears had gone from her eyes and voice, and irene redfield, searching her face, had an offended feeling that behind what was now only an ivory mask lurked a scornful amusement. she looked away, at the wall far beyond clare. well, she deserved it, for, as she acknowledged to herself, she was relieved. and for the very reason at which clare had hinted. the fact that clare had guessed her perturbation did not, however. in any degree lessen that relief. she was annoyed at having been detected in what might seem to be an insincerity; but that was all
The waiter came with clare's change. irene reminded herself that she ought immediately to go. but she didn't move
The truth was, she was curious. there were things that she wanted to ask clare kendry. she wished to find out about this hazardous business of 'passing,' this breaking away from all that was familiar and friendly to take one's chance in another environment, not entirely strange, perhaps, but certainly not entirely friendly. what, for example, one did about background, how one accounted for oneself. and how one felt when one came into contact with other negroes. but she couldn't. she was unable to think of a single question that in its context or its phrasing was not too frankly curious, if not actually impertinent
As if aware of her desire and her hesitation, clare remarked, thoughtfully: 'you know, 'rene, i've often wondered why more coloured girls, girls like you and margaret hammer and esther dawson and — lots of others — never passed over. it's such a frightfully easy thing to do. if one's the type, all that's needed is a little nerve.'
lyric fluent promo screenshot
'what about background? family, i mean. surely you can't just drop down on people from nowhere and expect them to receive you with open arms, can you?'
'almost,' clare asserted. 'you'd be surprised, 'rene, how much easier that is with white people than with us. maybe because there are so many more of them, or maybe because they are secure and so don't have to bother. i've never quite decided.'
Irene was inclined to be incredulous. 'you mean that you didn't have to explain where you came from? it seems impossible.' clare cast a .glance of repressed amusement across the table at her. 'as a matter of fact, i didn't. though i suppose under any other circumstances i might have had to provide some plausible tale to account for myself. i've a good imagination, so i'm sure i could have done it quite creditably, and credibly. but it wasn't necessary. there were my aunts, you see, respectable and authentic enough for anything or anybody.'
'i see. they were 'passing' too.' 'no. they weren't. they were white.' and in the next instant it came back to irene that she had heard this mentioned before; by her father, or, more likely, her mother. they were bob kendry's aunts. he had been a son of their brother's, on the left hand. a wild oat
'they were nice old ladies,' clare explained, 'very religious and as poor as church mice. that adored brother of theirs, my grandfather, got through every penny they had after he'd finished his own little bit.'
Clare paused in her narrative to light another cigarette. her smile, her expression, irene noticed, was faintly resentful
'being good christians,' she continued, 'when dad came to his tipsy end, they did their duty and gave me a home of sorts. i was, it was true, expected to earn my keep by doing all the housework and most of the washing. but do you realize, 'rene, that if it hadn't been for them, i shouldn't have had a home in the world?'
Irene's nod and little murmur were comprehensive, understanding
Clare made a small mischievous grimace and proceeded. 'besides, to their notion, hard labour was good for me. i had negro blood and they belonged to the generation that had written and read long articles headed: 'will the blacks work?' too, they weren't quite sure that the good god hadn't intended the sons and daughters of ham to sweat because he had poked fun at old man noah once when he had taken a drop too much. i remember the aunts telling me that that old drunkard had cursed ham and his sons for all time.'
Irene laughed. but clare remained quite serious
'it was more than a joke, i assure you, 'rene. it was a hard life for a girl of sixteen. still, i had a roof over my head, and food, and clothes — such as they were. and there were the scriptures, and talks on morals and thrift and industry and the loving-kindness of the good lord.'
'have you ever stopped to think, clare,' irene demanded, 'how much unhappiness and downright cruelty are laid to the loving-kindness of the lord? and always by his most ardent followers, it seems.'
'have i?' clare exclaimed. 'it, they, made me what i am today. for, of course, i was determined to get away, to be a person and not a charity or a problem, or even a daughter of the indiscreet ham. then, too, i wanted things. i knew i wasn't bad-looking and that i could 'pass.' you can't know, 'rene, how, when i used to go over to the south side, i used almost to hate all of you. you had all the things i wanted and never had had. it made me all the more determined to get them, and others. do you, can you understand what i felt?'
She looked up with a pointed and appealing effect, and, evidently finding the sympathetic expression on irene's face sufficient answer, went on. 'the aunts were queer. for all their bibles and praying and ranting about honesty, they didn't want anyone to know that their darling brother had seduced — ruined, they called it — a negro girl. they could excuse the ruin, but they couldn't forgive the tar-brush. they forbade me to mention negroes to the neighbours, or even to mention the south side. you may be sure that i didn't. i'll bet they were good and sorry afterwards.'
She laughed and the ringing bells in her laugh had a hard metallic sound
'when the chance to get away came, that omission was of great value to me. when jack, a schoolboy acquaintance of some people in the neighbourhood, turned up from south america with untold gold, there was no one to tell him that i was coloured, and many to tell him about the severity and the religiousness of aunt grace and aunt edna. you can guess the rest. after he came, i stopped slipping off to the south side and slipped off to meet him instead. i couldn't manage both. in the end i had no great difficulty in convincing him that it was useless to talk marriage to the aunts. so on the day that i was eighteen, we went off and were married. so that's that. nothing could have been easier.'
lyric fluent promo screenshot
'yes, i do see that for you it was easy enough. by the way i wonder why they didn't tell father that you were married. he went over to find out about you when you stopped coming over to see us. i'm sure they didn't tell him. not that you were married.'
Clare kendry's eyes were bright with tears that didn't fall. how lovely! to have cared enough about me to do that. the dear sweet man! well, they couldn't tell him because they didn't know it. i took care of that, for i couldn't be sure that those consciences of theirs wouldn't begin to work on them after- wards and make them let the cat out of the bag. the old things probably thought i was living in sin, wherever i was. and it would be about what they expected.'
An amused smile lit the lovely face for the smallest fraction of a second. after a little silence she said soberly: 'but i'm sorry if they told your father so. that was something i hadn't counted on.'
'i'm not sure that they did,' irene told her. 'he didn't say so, anyway.'*
'he wouldn't, 'rene dear. not your father.'
'thanks. i'm sure he wouldn't.'
'but you've never answered my question. tell me, honestly, haven't you ever thought of 'passing'
Irene answered promptly: 'no. why should i?' and so disdainful was her voice and manner that clare's face flushed and her eyes glinted. irene hastened to add: 'you see, clare, i've everything i want. except, perhaps, a little more money.'
At that clare laughed, her spark of anger vanished as quickly as it had appeared. 'of course,' she declared, 'that's what everybody wants, just a little more money, even the people who have it. and i must say i don't blame them. money's awfully nice to have. in fact, all things considered, i think, 'rene, that it's even worth the price.'
Irene could only shrug her shoulders. her reason partly agreed, her instinct wholly rebelled. and she could not say why. and though conscious that if she didn't hurry away, she was going to be late to dinner, she still lingered. it was as if the woman sitting on the other side of the table, a girl that she had known, who had done this rather dangerous and, to irene redfield, abhorrent thing success-
Fully and had announced herself well satisfied, had for her a fascination, strange and compelling
Clare kendry was still leaning back in the tall chair, her sloping shoulders against the carved top. she sat with an air of indifferent assurance, as if arranged for, desired. about her clung that dim suggestion of polite insolence with which a few women are born and which some acquire with the coming of riches or importance
Clare, it gave irene a little prick of satisfaction to recall, hadn't got that by passing herself off as white. she herself had always had it
Just as she'd always had that pale gold hair, which, unsheared still, was drawn loosely back from a broad brow, partly hidden by the small close hat. her lips, painted a brilliant geranium-red, were sweet and sensitive and a little obstinate. a tempting mouth. the face across the forehead and cheeks was a trifle too wide, but the ivory skin had a peculiar soft lustre. and the eyes were magnificent! dark, sometimes absolutely black, always luminous, and set in long, black lashes. arresting eyes, slow and mesmeric, and with, for all their warmth, something withdrawn and secret about them
Surely! they were negro eyes! mysterious and concealing. and set in that ivory face under that bright hair, there was about them something exotic
Yes, clare kendry's loveliness was absolute, beyond challenge, thanks to those eyes which her grandmother and later her mother and father had given her
lyric fluent promo screenshot
Into those eyes there came a smile and over irene the sense of being petted and caressed. she smiled back
'maybe,' clare suggested, 'you can come monday, if you're back. or, if you're not, then tuesday.'
With a small regretful sigh, irene informed clare that she was afraid she wouldn't be back by monday and that she was sure she had dozens of things for tuesday, and that she was leaving wednesday. it might be, however, that she could get out of something tuesday
Do try. do put somebody else off. the others can see you any time, while i — why, i may never see you again! think of that, 'rene! you'll have to come. you'll simply have to i'll never forgive you if you don't.'
At that moment it seemed a dreadful thing to think of never seeing clare kendry again. standing there under the appeal, the caress, of her eyes, irene had the desire, the hope, that this parting wouldn't be the last
'i'll try, clare,' she promised gently. 'i'll call you — or will you call me?'
'i think, perhaps, i'd better call you. your father's in the book, i know, and the address is the same. sixty-four eighteen. some memory, what? now remember, i'm going to expect you. you've got to be able to come.'
Again that peculiar mellowing smile
'i'll do my best, clare.'
Irene gathered up her gloves and bag. they stood up. she put out her hand. clare took and held it
'it has been nice seeing you again, clare. how pleased and glad father'll be to hear about you!'
'until tuesday, then,' clare kendry replied. 'i'll spend every minute of the time from now on looking forward to seeing you again. good-bye, 'rene dear. my love to your father, and this kiss for him.'
The sun had gone from overhead, but the streets were still like fiery furnaces. the languid breeze was still hot. and the scurrying people looked even more wilted than before irene had fled from their contact
Crossing the avenue in the heat, far from the coolness of the drayton's roof, away from the seduction of clare kendry's smile, she was aware of a sense of irritation with herself because she had been pleased and a little flattered at the other's obvious gladness at their meeting
With her perspiring progress homeward this irritation grew, and she began to wonder just what had possessed her to make her promise to find time, in the crowded days that remained of her visit, to spend another afternoon with a woman whose life had so definitely and deliberately diverged from hers; and whom, as had been pointed out, she might never see again
Why in the world had she made such a promise?
lyric fluent promo screenshot
As she went up the steps to her father's house, thinking with what interest and amazement he would listen to her story of the afternoon's encounter, it came to her that clare had omitted to mention her marriage name. she had referred to her husband as jack. that was all. had that, irene asked herself, been intentional
Clare had only to pick up the telephone to communicate with her, or to drop her a card, or to jump into a taxi. but she couldn't reach clare in any way. nor could anyone else to whom she might speak of their meeting
'as if i should!'
Her key turned in the lock. she went in. her father, it seemed, hadn't come in yet
Irene decided that she wouldn't, after all, say anything to him about clare kendry. she had, she told herself, no inclination to speak of a person who held so low an opinion of her loyalty, or her discretion. and certainly she had no desire or intention of making the slightest effort about tuesday. nor any other day for that matter
She was through with clare kendry
On tuesday morning a dome of grey sky rose over the parched city, but the stifling air was not reheated by the silvery mist that seemed to hold a promise of rain, which did not fall
To irene redfield this soft foreboding fog was another reason for doing nothing about seeing clare kendry that afternoon
But she did see her
The telephone. for hours it had rung like something possessed. since nine o'clock she had been hearing its insistent jangle. awhile she was resolute, saying firmly each time: 'not in, liza, take the message.' and each time the servant returned with the information: 'it's the same lady, ma'am; she says she'll call again.'
But at noon, her nerves frayed and her conscience smiting her at the reproachful look on liza's ebony face as she withdrew for another denial, irene weakened
Never mind. i'll answer this time, liza.'
'it's her again.'
'hello. yes.''
'it's clare, 'rene. where have you been? can you be here around four? what? but, 'rene, you promised! just for a little while. you can if you want to. i am so disappointed. i had counted so on seeing you. please be nice and come. only for a minute. i'm sure you can manage it if you try. i won't beg you to stay. yes. i'm going to expect you it's the morgan. yes! the name's bellew, mrs. john bellew. about four, then. i'll be so happy to see you! goodbye.'
lyric fluent promo screenshot
Irene hung up the receiver with an emphatic bang, her thoughts immediately filled with self-reproach. she'd done it again. allowed clare kendry to persuade her into promising to do something for which she had neither time nor any special desire. what was it about clare's voice that was so appealing, so very seductive?
Clare met her in the hall with a kiss. she said: 'you're good to come, 'rene. but, then, you always were nice to me.' and under her potent smile a part of irene's annoyance with herself fled. she was even a little glad that she had come
Clare led the way, stepping lightly, towards a room whose door was standing partly open, saying: 'there's a surprise. it's a real party. see.'
Entering, irene found herself in a sitting-room, large and high, at whose windows hung startling blue draperies which triumphantly dragged attention from the gloomy chocolate-coloured furniture. and clare was wearing a thin floating dress of the same shade of blue, which suited her and the rather difficult room to perfection
For a minute irene thought the room was empty, but turning her head, she discovered, sunk deep in the cushions of a huge sofa, a woman staring up at her with such intense concentration that her eyelids were drawn as though the strain of that upward glance had paralysed them. at first irene took her to be a stranger, but in the next instant she said in an unsympathetic, almost harsh voice: 'and how are you, gertrude?'
The woman nodded and forced a smile to her pouting lips. 'i'm all right,' she replied. 'and you're just the same, irene. not changed a bit.'
'thank you.' irene responded, as she chose a seat. she was thinking: 'great goodness! two of them.'
For gertrude too had married a white man, though it couldn't be truthfully said that she was 'passing.' her husband — what was his name? — had been in school with her and had been quite well aware, as had his family and most of his friends, that she was a negro. it hadn't, irene knew, seemed to matter to him then. did it now, she wondered? had fred — fred martin, that was it— had he ever regretted his marriage because of gertrude's race? had gertrude
Turning to gertrude, irene asked
'and fred, how is he? it's unmentionable years since i've seen him.'
'0h, he's all right,' gertrude answered briefly
For a full minute no one spoke. finally out of the oppressive little silence clare's voice came pleasantly, conversationally: 'we'll have tea right away. i know that you can't stay long, 'rene. and i'm so sorry you won't see margery. we went up the lake over the week end to see some of jack's people, just out of milwaukee. margery wanted to stay with the children. it seemed a shame not to let her, especially since it's so hot in town. but i'm expecting jack any second.'
Irene said briefly: 'that's nice.'
Gertrude remained silent. she was. it was plain, a little 111 at ease. and her presence there annoyed irene, roused in her a defensive and resentful feeling for which she had at the moment no explanation. but it did seem to her odd that the woman that clare was now should have invited the woman that gertrude was. still, of course, clare couldn't have known. twelve years since they had met
Later, when she examined her feeling of annoyance, irene admitted, a shade reluctantly, that it arose from a feeling of being outnumbered, a sense of aloneness, in her adherence to her own class and kind; not merely in the great thing of marriage, but in the whole pattern of her life as well
lyric fluent promo screenshot
Clare spoke again, this time at length. her talk was of the change that chicago presented to her after her long absence in european cities. yes, she said in reply to some question from gertrude, she'd been back to america a time or two, but only as far as new york and philadelphia, and once she had spent a few days in washington. john bellew, who, it appeared, was some sort of international banking agent, hadn't particularly wanted her to come with him on this trip, but as soon as she had learned that it would probably take him as far as chicago, she made up her mind to come anyway
'i simply had to. and after i once got here, i was determined to see someone i knew and find out what had happened to everybody. i didn't quite see how i was going to manage it, but i meant to. somehow. i'd just about decided to take a chance and go out to your house, 'rene, or call up and arrange a meeting, when i ran into you. what luck!'
Irene agreed that it was luck. 'it's the first time i've been home for five years, and now i'm about to leave. a week later and i'd have been gone. and how in the world did you find gertrude?'
'in the book. i remembered about fred. his father still has the meat market.'
Yes,' said irene, who had only remembered it as clare had spoken, 'on cottage grove near —
Gertrude broke in. 'no. it's moved. we're on maryland avenue — used to be jackson — now. near sixty-third street. and the market's fred's. his name's the same as his father's.'
Gertrude, irene thought, looked as if her husband might be a butcher. there was left of her youthful prettiness, which had been so much admired in their high-school days, no trace. she had grown broad, fat almost, and though there were no lines on her large white face. its very smoothness was somehow prematurely ageing. her black hair was dipt, and by some unfortunate means all the live curliness had gone from it. her over-trimmed georgette crepe dress was too short and showed an appalling amount of leg, stout legs in sleazy stockings of a vivid rose-beige shade. her plump hands were newly and not too competently manicured — for the occasion, probably. and she wasn't smoking
Clare said — and irene fancied that her husky voice held a slight edge — 'before you came, irene, gertrude was telling me about her two boys. twins. think of it isn't it too marvellous for words?'
Irene felt a warmness creeping into her cheeks. uncanny, the way clare could divine what one was thinking. she was a little put out, but her manner was entirely easy as she said: 'that is nice. i've two boys myself, gertrude
Not twins, though. it seems that clare's rather behind, doesn't it?'
Gertrude, however, wasn't sure that clare hadn't the best of it. 'she's got a girl. i wanted a girl. so did fred.'
'isn't that a bit unusual?' irene asked
'most men want sons. egotism, i suppose.'
'well, fred didn't.'
The tea-things had been placed on a low table at clare's side. she gave them her attention now, pouring the rich amber fluid from the tall glass pitcher into stately slim glasses, which she handed to her guests, and then offered them lemon or cream and tiny sandwiches or cakes
After taking up her own glass she informed them: 'no, i have no boys and i don't think i'll ever have any. i'm afraid. i nearly died of terror the whole nine months before margery was born for fear that she might be dark. thank goodness, she turned out all right. but i'll never risk it again. never the strain is simply too — too hellish.'
lyric fluent promo screenshot
Gertrude martin nodded in complete comprehension
This time it was irene who said nothing
'you don't have to tell me gertrude said fervently. ''i know what it is all right. maybe you don't think i wasn't scared to death too. fred said i was silly, and so did his mother. but, of course, they thought it was just a notion i'd gotten into my head and they blamed it on my condition. they don't know like we do, how it might go way back, and turn out dark no matter what colour the father and mother are.'
Perspiration stood out on her forehead. her narrow eyes rolled first in clare's, then in irene's direction. as she talked she waved her heavy hands about
'no,' she went on, 'no more for me either. not even a girl. it's awful the way it skips generations and then pops out. why, he actually said he didn't care what colour it turned out, if i would only stop worrying about it. but, of course, nobody wants a dark child.' her voice was earnest and she took for granted that her audience was in entire agreement with her
Irene, whose head had gone up with a quick little jerk, now said in a voice of whose even tones she was proud: 'one of my boys is dark.'
Gertrude jumped as if she had been shot at. her eyes goggled. her mouth flew open. she tried to speak, but could not immediately get the words out. finally she managed to stammer: and your husband, is he — is he — er — dark, too?'
Irene, who was struggling with a flood of feelings, resentment, anger, and contempt, was, however, still able to answer as coolly as if she had not that sense of not belonging to and of despising the company in which she found herself drinking iced tea from tall amber glasses on that hot august afternoon. her husband, she informed them quietly, couldn't exactly 'pass.'
At that reply clare turned on irene her seductive caressing smile and remarked a little scoffingly: 'i do think that coloured people — we — are too silly about some things. after all, the thing's not important to irene or hundreds of others. not awfully, even to you, gertrude. it's only deserters like me who have to be afraid of freaks of the nature. as my inestimable dad used to say, 'everything must be paid for.' now, please one of you tell me what ever happened to claude jones. you know, the tall, lanky specimen who used to wear that comical little moustache that the girls used to laugh at so. like a thin streak of soot. the moustache, i mean.'
At that gertrude shrieked with laughter.'claude jones!' and launched into the story of how he was no longer a negro or a christian but had become a jew
'a jew!' clare exclaimed
'yes, a jew. a black jew, he calls himself. he won't eat ham and goes to the synagogue on saturday. he's got a beard now as well as a moustache. you'd die laughing if you saw him. he's really too funny for words. fred says he's crazy and i guess he is. he's a scream all right, a regular scream!' and she shrieked again
Clare's laugh tinkled out. 'it certainly sounds funny enough. still, it's his own business. if he gets along better by turning —
At that, irene, who was still hugging her unhappy don't-care feeling of rightness, broke in, saying bitingly: 'it evidently doesn't occur to either you or gertrude that he might possibly be sincere in changing his religion. surely everyone doesn't do everything for gain.'
Clare kendry had no need to search for the full meaning of that utterance. she reddened slightly and retorted seriously: 'yes, i admit that might be possible — his being sincere, i mean. it just didn't happen to occur to me, that's all. i'm surprised,' and the seriousness changed to mockery, 'that you should have expected it to. or did you really?'
'you don't, i'm sure, imagine that that is a question that i can answer,' irene told her. 'not here and now.'
lyric fluent promo screenshot
Gertrude's face expressed complete bewilderment. however, seeing that little smiles had come out on the faces of the two other women and not recognizing them for the smiles of mutual reservations which they were, she smiled too
Clare began to talk, steering carefully away from anything that might lead towards race or other thorny subjects. it was the most brilliant exhibition of conversational weightlifting that irene had ever seen. her words swept over them in charming well-modulated streams. her laughs tinkled and pealed. her little stories sparkled
Irene contributed a bare 'yes' or 'no' here and there. gertrude, a 'you don't say!' less frequently
For a while the illusion of general conversation was nearly perfect. irene felt her resentment changing gradually to a silent, somewhat grudging admiration
Clare talked on, her voice, her gestures, colouring all she said of wartime in france, of after-the-wartlme in germany, of the excitement at the time of the general strike in england, of dressmaker's openings in paris, of the new gaiety of budapest
But it couldn't last, this verbal feat. gertrude shifted in her seat and fell to fidgeting with her fingers. irene, bored at last by all this repetition of the selfsame things that she had read all too often in papers, magazines, and books, set down her glass and collected her bag and handkerchief. she was smoothing out the tan fingers of her gloves preparatory to putting them on when she heard the sound of the outer door being opened and saw clare spring up with an expression of relief saying: 'how lovely! here's jack at exactly the right minute. you can't go now, 'rene dear.'
John bellew came into the room. the first thing that irene noticed about him was that he was not the man that she had seen with clare kendry on the drayton roof. this man, clare's husband, was a tallish person, broadly made. his age she guessed to be somewhere between thirty-five and forty. his hair was dark brown and waving, and he had a soft mouth, somewhat womanish, set in an unhealthy-looking dough-coloured face. his steel-grey opaque eyes were very much alive, moving ceaselessly between thick bluish lids. but there was, irene decided, nothing unusual about him, unless it was an impression of latent physical power
*'hello, nig,' was his greeting to clare
Gertrude who had started slightly, settled back and looked covertly towards irene, who had caught her lip between her teeth and sat gazing at husband and wife. it was hard to believe that even clare kendry would permit this ridiculing of her race by an outsider, though he chanced to be her husband. so he knew, then, that clare was a negro? from her talk the other day irene had understood that he didn't. but how rude, how positively insulting, for him to address her in that way in the presence of guests!
In clare's eyes, as she presented her husband, was a queer gleam, a jeer. it might be. irene couldn't define it
The mechanical professions that attend an introduction over, she inquired: 'did you hear what jack called me?'
'yes,' gertrude answered, laughing with a dutiful eagerness
Irene didn't speak. her gaze remained level on clare's smiling face
The black eyes fluttered down. 'tell them, dear, why you call me that.'
The man chuckled, crinkling up his eyes, not, irene was compelled to acknowledge, unpleasantly. he explained: 'well, you see, it's like this. when we were first married, she was as white as — as — well as white as a lily. but i declare she's gettin' darker and darker. i tell her if she don't look out, she'll wake up one of these days and find she's turned into a nigger.'
He roared with laughter. clare's ringing bell-like laugh joined his. gertrude after another uneasy shift in her seat added her shrill one. irene, who had been sitting with lips tightly compressed, cried out: 'that's good!' and gave way to gales of laughter. she laughed and laughed and laughed. tears ran down her cheeks. her sides ached. her throat hurt. she laughed on and on and on, long after the others had subsided. until, catching sight of claire's face, the need for a more quiet enjoyment of this priceless joke, and for caution, struck her. at once she stopped
lyric fluent promo screenshot
Clare handed her husband his tea and laid her hand on his arm with an affectionate little gesture. speaking with confidence as well as with amusement, she said: 'my goodness, jack! what difference would it make if, after all these years, you were to find out that i was one or two per cent coloured?'
Bellew put out his hand in a repudiating fling, definite and final. no. nig,' he declared, 'nothing like that with me. i know you're no nigger so it's alright. you can get as black as you please as far as i'm concerned, since i know you're no nigger. i draw the line at that. no niggers in my family. never have been and never will be.'
Irene's lips trembled almost uncontrollably, but she made a desperate effort to fight back her disastrous desire to laugh again, and succeeded. carefully selecting a cigarette from the lacquered box on the tea-table before her, she turned an oblique look on clare and encountered her peculiar eyes fixed on her with an expression so dark and deep and unfathomable that she had for a short moment the sensation of gazing into the eyes of some creature utterly strange and apart. a faint sense of danger brushed her, like the breath of a cold fog. absurd, her reason told her, as she accepted bellew's proffered light for her cigarette. another glance at clare showed her smiling. so, as one always ready to oblige, was gertrude
An on-looker, irene reflected, would have thought it a most congenial tea-party, all smiles and jokes and hilarious laughter. she said humorously ''so you dislike negroes, mr. bellew?' but her amusement was at her thought, rather than her words
John bellew gave a short denying laugh. 'you got me wrong there, mrs. redfield. nothing like that at all. i don't dislike them, i hate them. and so does nig, for all she's trying to turn into one. she wouldn't have a nigger maid around her for love nor money. not that i'd want her to. they give me the creeps. the black scrlmy devils.''
This wasn't funny. had bellew, irene inquired, ever known any negroes? the defensive tone of her voice brought another start from the uncomfortable gertrude, and, for all her appearance of serenity, a quick apprehensive look from clare
Bellew answered: 'thank the lord, no! and never expect to! but i know people who've known them, better than they know their black selves. and i read in the papers about them. always robbing and killing people. and,' he added darkly, 'worse.'
From gertrude's direction came a queer little suppressed sound, a snort or a giggle. irene couldn't tell which. there was a brief silence, during which she feared that her self-control was about to prove too frail a bridge to support her mounting anger and indignation. she had a leaping desire to shout at the man beside her: 'and you're sitting here surrounded by three black devils, drinking tea.'
The impulse passed, obliterated by her consciousness of the danger in which such rashness would involve clare, who remarked with a gentle reprovingness 'jack dear, i'm sure 'rene doesn't care to hear all about your pet aversions. nor gertrude either. maybe they read the papers too, you know.' she smiled on him, and her smile seemed to transform him, to soften and mellow him, as the rays of the sun does a fruit
'all right. nig, old girl. i'm sorry,' he apologized. reaching over, he playfully touched his wife's pale hands, then turned back to irene. '^didn't mean to bore you, mrs. redfield. hope you'll excuse me,' he said sheepishly. 'clare tells me you're living in new york. great city. new york. the city of the future.'
In irene, rage had not retreated, but was held by some dam of caution and allegiance to clare. so, in the best casual voice she could muster, she agreed with bellew. though, she reminded him, it was exactly what chicagoans were apt to say of their city. and all the while she was speaking, she was thinking how amazing it was that her voice did not tremble, that outwardly she was calm. only her hands shook slightly. she drew them inward from their rest in her lap and pressed the tips of her fingers together to still them
'husband's a doctor, i understand. manhattan, or one of the other boroughs?'
Manhattan, irene informed him, and explained the need for brian to be within easy reach of certain hospitals and clinics
'interesting life, a doctor's.'
'ye-es. hard, though. and, in a way, monotonous. nerve-racking too.'
'hard on the wife's nerves at least, so many lady patients.' he laughed, enjoying, with a boyish heartiness, the hoary joke
lyric fluent promo screenshot
Irene managed a momentary smile, but her voice was sober as she said: 'brian doesn't care for ladies, especially sick ones. i sometimes wish he did. it's south america that attracts him.'
'coming place, south america, if they ever get the niggers out of it. it's run over —
'really, jack!' clare's voice was on the edge of temper
'honestly, nig, i forgot.' to the others he said: 'you see how hen-pecked i am.' and to gertrude: 'you're still in chicago, mrs. — er — mrs. martin?'
He was, it was plain, doing his best to be agreeable to these old friends of clare's. irene had to concede that under other conditions she might have liked him. a fairly good-looking man of amiable disposition, evidently, and in easy circumstances. plain and with no nonsense about him
Gertrude replied that chicago was good enough for her. she'd never been out of it and didn't think she ever should. her husband's business was there
'of course, of course. can't jump up and leave a business.'
There followed a smooth surface of talk about chicago, new york, their differences and their recent spectacular changes
It was, irene, thought, unbelievable and astonishing that four people could sit so unruffled, so ostensibly friendly, while they were in reality seething with anger, mortification, shame. but no, on second thought she was forced to amend her opinion. john bellew, most certainly, was as undisturbed within as without. so, perhaps, was gertrude martin. at least she hadn't the mortification and shame that clare kendry must be feeling, or. in such full measure, the rage and rebellion that she, irene, was repressing
'more tea, 'rene,' clare offered
'thanks, no. and i must be going. i'm leaving tomorrow, you know, and i've still got packing to do.'
She stood up. so did gertrude, and clare, and john bellew
'how do you like the drayton, mrs. redfield?' the latter asked
'the drayton? very much. very much indeed,' irene answered, her scornful eyes on clare's unrevealing face
'nice place, all right. stayed there a time or two myself,' the man informed her
'yes, jt is nice,' irene agreed. 'almost as good as our best new york places.' she had withdrawn her look from clare and was searching in her bag for some non-existent something. her understanding was rapidly increasing, as was her pity and her contempt. clare was so daring, so lovely, and so 'having.'
lyric fluent promo screenshot
They gave their hands to clare with appropriate murmurs. 'so good to have seen you.' 'i do hope i'll see you again soon.'
'good-bye,' clare returned. 'it was good of you to come, 'rene dear. and you too, gertrude.'
'good-bye, mr. bellew.' 'so glad to have met you.' it was gertrude who had said that. irene couldn't, she absolutely couldn't bring herself to utter the polite fiction or anything approaching it
He accompanied them out into the hall, summoned the elevator
'good-bye,' they said again, stepping in
Plunging downward they were silent
They made their way through the lobby without speaking
But as soon as they had reached the street gertrude, in the manner of one unable to keep bottled up for another minute that which for the last hour she had had to retain, burst out: 'my god! what an awful chance! she must be plumb crazy.'
'yes, it certainly seems risky,' irene admitted
'risky! i should say it was. risky! my god what a word and the mess she's liable to get herself into
'still, i imagine she's pretty safe. they don't live here, you know. and there's a child. that's a certain security.'
'it's an awful chance, just the same,' gertrude insisted. 'i'd never in the world have married fred without him knowing. you can't tell what will turn up.'
'yes, i do agree that it's safer to tell. but then bellew wouldn't have married her. and, after all, that's what she wanted.'
Gertrude shook her head. 'i wouldn't be in her shoes for all the money she's getting out of it, when he finds out. not with him feeling the way he does. gee! wasn't it awful? for a minute i was so mad i could have slapped him.'
It had been, irene acknowledged, a distinctly trying experience, as well as a very unpleasant one. 'i was more than a little angry myself.'
'and imagine her not telling us about him feeling that way anything might have happened. we might have said something.'
lyric fluent promo screenshot
That, irene pointed out, was exactly like clare kendry. taking a chance, and not at all considering anyone else's feelings
Gertrude said: 'maybe she thought we'd think it a good joke. and i guess you did. the way you laughed. my land! i was scared to death he might catch on.'
'well, it was rather a joke,' irene told her, 'on him and us and maybe on her.'
'all the same, it's an awful chance. i'd hate to be her.'
'she seems satisfied enough. she's got what she wanted, and the other day she told me it was worth it.''
But about that gertrude was sceptical. 'she'll find out different,' was her verdict. 'she'll find out different all right.'
Rain had begun to fall, a few scattered large drops
The end-of-the-day crowds were scurrying in the directions of street-cars and elevating roads
Irene said: 'you're going south? i'm sorry. i've got an errand. if you don't mind, i'll just say good-bye here. it has been nice seeing you, gertrude. say hello to fred for me, and to your mother if she remembers me. good-bye.'
She had wanted to be free of the other woman, to be alone; for she was still sore and angry
What right, she kept demanding of herself, had clare kendry to expose her, or even gertrude martin, to such humiliation, such downright insult?
And all the while, on the rushing ride out to her father's house, irene redfield was trying to understand the look on clare's face as she had said good-bye. partly mocking, it had seemed, and partly menacing. and something else for which she could find no name. for an instant a recrudescence of that sensation of fear which she had had while looking into clare's eyes that afternoon touched her. a slight shiver ran over her
'it's nothing,' she told herself. 'just somebody walking over my grave, as the children say.' she tried a tiny laugh and was annoyed to find that it was close to tears
What a state she had allowed that horrible bellew to get her into
And late that night, even, long after the last guest had gone and the old house was quiet, she stood at her window frowning out into the dark rain and puzzling again over that look on clare's incredibly beautiful face. she couldn't, however, come to any conclusion about its meaning, try as she might. it was unfathomable, utterly beyond any experience or comprehension of hers
She turned away from the window, at last, with a still deeper frown. why, after all, worry about clare kendry? she was well able to take care of herself, had always been able. and there were, for irene, other things, more personal and more important to worry about
lyric fluent promo screenshot
Besides, her reason told her, she had only herself to blame for her disagreeable afternoon and its attendant fears and questions. she ought never to have gone
The next morning, the day of her departure for new york, had brought a letter, which, at first glance, she had instinctively known came from clare kendry, though she couldn't remember ever having had a letter from her before. ripping it open and looking at the signature, she saw that she had been right in her guess. she wouldn't, she told herself, read it. she hadn't the time. and, besides, she had no wish to be reminded of the afternoon before. as it was, she felt none too fresh for her journey; she had had a wretched night. and all because of clare's innate lack of consideration for the feelings of others
But she did read it. after father and friends had waved good-bye, and she was being hurled eastward, she became possessed of an uncontrollable curiosity to see what clare had said about yesterday. for what, she asked, as she took it out of her bag and opened it, could she, what could anyone, say about a thing like that?
Clare kendry had said
'rene dear
However am i to thank you for your visit? i know you are feeling that under the circumstances i ought not to have asked you to come, or, rather, insisted. but if you could know how glad, how excitingly happy, i was to meet you and how i ached to see more of you you would understand my wanting to see you again, and maybe forgive me a little
My love to you always and always and to your dear father, and all my poor thanks
And there was a postcript which said
It may be, 'rene dear, it may just be, that, after all, your way may be the wiser and infinitely happier one. i'm not sure just now. at least not so sure as i have been
But the letter hadn't conciliated irene. her indignation was not lessened by clare's flattering reference to her wiseness. as if, she thought wrathfully, anything could take away the humiliation, or any part of it, of what she had gone through yesterday afternoon for clare kendry
With an unusual methodicalness she tore the offending letter into tiny ragged squares that fluttered down and made a small heap in her black crepe de chine lap. the destruction completed, she gathered them up, rose, and moved to the train's end. standing there, she dropped them over the railing and watched them scatter, on tracks, on cinders, on forlorn grass, in rills of dirty water
And that, she told herself, was that. the chances were one in a million that she would ever again lay eyes on clare kendry. if, however, that millionth chance should turn up, she had only to turn away her eyes, to refuse her recognition
She dropped clare out of her mind and turned her thoughts to her own affairs. to home, to the boys, to brian. brian, who in the morning would be waiting for her in the great clamorous station. she hoped that he had been comfortable and not too lonely without her and the boys. not so lonely that that old, queer, unhappy restlessness had begun again within him; that craving for some place strange and different, which at the beginning of her marriage she had had to make such strenuous efforts to repress, and which yet faintly alarmed her, though it now sprang up at gradually lessening intervals
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play
Apple and App Store are trademarks of Apple Inc.
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google LLC.