of insects and the creak of a buggy, was greeted by Sam Clark's "Well,
well, how's the little lady?"
Nobody in Washington cared enough for her to fret about her sins as Sam
But that night they had at the flat a man just back from Finland.
She was on the Powhatan roof with the captain. At a table, somewhat
vociferously buying improbable "soft drinks" for two fluffy girls, was a
man with a large familiar back.
"Oh! I think I know him," she murmured.
"Who? There? Oh, Bresnahan, Percy Bresnahan."
"Yes. You've met him? What sort of a man is he?"
"He's a good-hearted idiot. I rather like him, and I believe that as a
salesman of motors he's a wonder. But he's a nuisance in the aeronautic
section. Tries so hard to be useful but he doesn't know anything--he
doesn't know anything. Rather pathetic: rich man poking around and
trying to be useful. Do you want to speak to him?"
"No--no--I don't think so."
She was at a motion-picture show. The film was a highly advertised
and abysmal thing smacking of simpering hair-dressers, cheap perfume,
red-plush suites on the back streets of tenderloins, and complacent fat
women chewing gum. It pretended to deal with the life of studios. The
leading man did a portrait which was a masterpiece. He also saw visions
in pipe-smoke, and was very brave and poor and pure. He had ringlets,
and his masterpiece was strangely like an enlarged photograph.
Carol prepared to leave.
On the screen, in the role of a composer, appeared an actor called Eric
She was startled, incredulous, then wretched. Looking straight out at
her, wearing a beret and a velvet jacket, was Erik Valborg.
He had a pale part, which he played neither well nor badly. She
speculated, "I could have made so much of him----" She did not finish
She went home and read Kennicott's letters. They had seemed stiff and
undetailed, but now there strode from them a personality, a personality
unlike that of the languishing young man in the velvet jacket playing a
dummy piano in a canvas room.
Kennicott first came to see her in November, thirteen months after her
arrival in Washington. When he announced that he was coming she was not
at all sure that she wished to see him. She was glad that he had made
the decision himself.
She had leave from the office for two days.
She watched him marching from the train, solid, assured, carrying his
heavy suit-case, and she was diffident--he was such a bulky person to
handle. They kissed each other questioningly, and said at the same time,
"You're looking fine; how's the baby?" and "You're looking awfully well,
dear; how is everything?"
He grumbled, "I don't want to butt in on any plans you've made or your
friends or anything, but if you've got time for it, I'd like to chase
around Washington, and take in some restaurants and shows and stuff, and
forget work for a while."
She realized, in the taxicab, that he was wearing a soft gray suit, a
soft easy hat, a flippant tie.
"Like the new outfit? Got 'em in Chicago. Gosh, I hope they're the kind
They spent half an hour at the flat, with Hugh. She was flustered, but
he gave no sign of kissing her again.
As he moved about the small rooms she realized that he had had his new
tan shoes polished to a brassy luster. There was a recent cut on
his chin. He must have shaved on the train just before coming into
It was pleasant to feel how important she was, how many people she
recognized, as she took him to the Capitol, as she told him (he asked
and she obligingly guessed) how many feet it was to the top of the dome,
as she pointed out Senator LaFollette and the vice-president, and
at lunch-time showed herself an habitue by leading him through the
catacombs to the senate restaurant.
She realized that he was slightly more bald. The familiar way in which
his hair was parted on the left side agitated her. She looked down
at his hands, and the fact that his nails were as ill-treated as ever
touched her more than his pleading shoe-shine.
"You'd like to motor down to Mount Vernon this afternoon, wouldn't you?"
It was the one thing he had planned. He was delighted that it seemed to
be a perfectly well bred and Washingtonian thing to do.
He shyly held her hand on the way, and told her the news: they were
excavating the basement for the new schoolbuilding, Vida "made him tired