|Sugar House Bulletin
|No Copyright - United States (NoC-US)
|Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah
|Sugar House Bulletin
, v V ' I'M '' J if ? Laura was afraid to probe into the complexities of his behavior. H( resolutely kept his own counsel And for ways that were weird h( had developed a maddening propensity. propen-sity. He had not stayed out all night again. In fact, he was usually home by nine although he never lingered downstairs to visit with the others, but went straight to his room. He was gone every morning when Laura rose. Without breakfast. He said vaguely that he was dieting to preserve pre-serve his girlish figure. He also said to expect him at table when they saw him. And that was seldom enough to worry Laura to the point of tears. But on this sultry June morning it was about Tom Laura's concern was chiefly exercised. Tom had been home a month, doggedly working can change Tom's hell to heaven." Mary Etta's hands clenched. 'Tom will be glad to be rid of me," V she insisted. "Tom loves you, Mary Etta. But he believes you're disgusted because he hasn't been a violent financial success like Harvey Leigh. Tom thinks you want a divorce to marry Leigh. And Tom will give you a divorce if you ask for it. But you mustn't. Shirley and I may be his ideal. But you are the woman he loves. You've got to go home with me tonight and tell Tom it's been a nightmare, but it's over." Mary Etta's thin hands gripped the table tremblingly. "And I thought you hated me." Laura laid her hand gently on the girl's quivering shoulder. "It doesn't matter about me. I bore Tom. I reared him. I've done everything ev-erything I could for him. But long ago he passed from my keeping into yours. I don't hate you, Mary Etta. But I am afraid of you. Because you can make or break my son." Great tears stood in Mary Etta's haggard eyes. "If I could be sure Tom wanted me " "I am sure." "Oh, Mother!" Mary Etta had never called Laura mother before. Laura stooped and kissed her while their tears mingled. She would not come into the house with Laura. She was afraid of a public rebuff at Tom's hands. She asked Laura to tell Tom she was waiting outside in the car. "Come." His voice sounded thin and stretched, and when Laura opened the door he was sitting at the reading table staring straight before him, and the face he turned to her was ghastly. And then she realized that he was alone. "But where's Alec?" she asked. "Your father said Alec cam? in almost al-most an hour ago." "He went out again." "But Mike didn't see him." Tom said nothing only his eyes were very sorry for her. And suddenly sud-denly Laura knew. Maybe she had suspected all along. "He's only been pretending to sleep at home?" she whispered. Tom nodded and Laura staggered a little. "I'm so terribly sorry," said Tom, laying his hand on her arm. "You don't deserve such trouble as this." She came back from a long dis- ' tance to stare at him blankly and then to remember that after all Tom was also flesh of her flesh and he at least could be snatched from the burning. "Mary Etta is outside in her car. She thinks you hate her and she's breaking her heart for you." "You must be mad. She filed suit for divorce yesterday." "I know. But she doesn't want a divorce, Tom. She wants to be taken tak-en into your arms and told you love m her. Better than life. Better a thousand times than you have ever loved me or Shirley or any other woman." "But I do love her like that," said Tom simply. "I always have." He was gone. Taking the stairs two at a time. He had forgotten his mother and Alec. He had forgotten everything but the woman who was his to have and to hold. (TO BE CONTINUED) THE STORY SO FAR Laura Maguire Is wife of happy-go-lucky Mike, editor and mayor of Covington, Cov-ington, whom banker Mays is trying to ruin for criticising his banking methods. meth-ods. She is the mother of four children: Tom, whose real estate Job peters out In a bigger city but whose wife, Mary Etta, refuses to give up her secretary Job to follow him to the smaller town. Divorce Is Impending. Alec, at last with a Job as a grocery clerk after a long siege of unemployment unemploy-ment and running around with a flashy divorcee. He had brought Lou Knight, the town drunk's daughter, to his mother's moth-er's home when her father died rescuing rescu-ing a crippled boy in a fire. Shirley, at last married to Jaird Ne sum though Ma Newsum wanted him to marry Connie Mays, the banker's daughter. daugh-ter. Shirley and Jaird buy a hamburger ham-burger stand. Kathleen, who despite herself, becomes be-comes interested in Ritchie Graham, who aids her father in fighting Mays. She thinks of her mother's hardships when he tells her his wife wouldn't starve. Kathleen tells Ritchie she has no wish INSTALLMENT XVI "But she can't have gone. I'tell you, she has nowhere to go," said Alec, his face very white. Kathleen shrugged her shoulders. She was the last down to breakfast. She flourished a small folded piece of paper. Alec reached out his hand but Kathleen shook her head. "It's addressed to Laura." Alec's black eyes watched feverishly fever-ishly while his mother read the lines which Lou had written in a small, cramped, painstaking hand. "Well?" he demanded sharply. "She says that she thanks us for all our kindness but she can't impose im-pose on us any longer." Mike swore under his breath. "Poor little devil," he said. "I daresay dare-say she felt as uncomfortable as a weed at an orchid show." His younger son glared at him. "Listen," he cried fiercely, "maybe "may-be she never went to finishing school, probably she doesn't always know which fork to use, but she's instinctively a lady, that kid. I've met a raft of girls I'd die before I'd bring home to Mother. But " his voice broke "Lou wasn't one of. them." "Alec " began Laura imploringly. imploring-ly. But Alec had slammed the door behind him. "Zowie!" cried Kathleen. "Is our little brother sore, or is he?" "I must find that child if any ot us are to live with Alec," Laura said. CHAPTER XXIV The telephone rang eight times before Laura finished the dishes. It was mostly friends and acquaintances acquaint-ances calling to tut-tut about Shirley. But Laura refused to be sympathized sympa-thized with. She admitted she would have had it differently, had she had her preference. However, she implied im-plied in unmistakable terms that their marriage came under the head of Shirley's and Jaird's business. And she repeatedly insisted that she was by no means so prostrated by events as Belle Newsum. About nine Mike rang up. He had learned that a brief memorial service was to be held for Pete Knight at nine-thirty in the old mis sion church near the railroad shops. Mike himself was in conference and could not attend. But he thought Laura might like to. She did. Lou was certain to be there, no matter where she had taken refuge. To save time Laura got out the family sedan. But two blocks from the house the old motor wheezed, choked and died. The gas feed was stopped up. Laura wasted precious minutes because sometimes you could unscrew the bottom of the vacuum vac-uum tank and blow through it and all was well. But not this morning. morn-ing. By the time she gave up the struggle and called a taxi it was a quarter to ten. She had hopes, however, how-ever, of arriving before the church was quite emptied, and did. But there had been only a handful present pres-ent and these scattered quickly. Although Al-though Laura waited outside she saw nothing of Lou. She hunted up the old preacher who had read the services. He had talked to the girl a minute or two. She had seemed to shy away from him, however, and he had learned nothing of her plans. Neither, apparently, ap-parently, had anyone else. Laura went up one street and down the other but without success. Lou had vanished into thin air. Feeling unreasonably un-reasonably anxious and upset, Laura hurried home to prepare lunch. Alec did not appear. When Laura called the grocery store she discovered discov-ered that her son had not shown up for work that day. So much for Alec's glowing promises of the night before. Laura could have wept. Alec Al-ec was fundamentally sound. She had been sure he had nothing wrong with him except too much leisure for bad company. And yet just because he was her son, had she any guarantee that he would not break her heart and his own as other sons have done since Cain and Abel? "I must find Lou," Laura told herself. But she didn't find her, or any trace of her, and Alec did not come home to dinner or telephone. It grew steadily later, and no Alec. He had never stayed out all night before. But day had broken and a mocking bird was singing outside Laura's window before she heard Alec's step coming on tiptoe up the stairs. Laura got softly out of bed, and met him outside his door. "Alec, darling, I've been so worried." wor-ried." There were tears in her voice. "Sorry," he said stiffly. "I tried to find Lou for you." He shrugged his shoulders. "Forget it. She couldn't be happy here. I realize that now." He turned away and Laura went slowly back down the hall. On the last Saturday in June Laura Maguire decided to run up to the city for various and sundry reasons, none of them pleasant. It had been a month since Shirley's marriage, the squalliest month Laura had ever experienced. Nothing went right with depressing monotony. In the first place Mike continued his tirades against Banker Mays and the latter retaliated with telling force. Every time the Clarion published pub-lished a thrust at the financier both circulation and advertising accounts felt the shock. Then there was Kathleen. Going everywhere with young Gene Mays and apparently delighted with his pursuit. About Alec she had even less reason rea-son to feel happy. Alec had developed de-veloped into a deep dark secret and CHAPTER XXV Laura's visit to the Woman's Exchange Ex-change was not heartening. It appeared ap-peared that everybody had had the same idea. The market was glutted with the products for which Laura had hoped to receive orders. But she did wangle a small commission. Fifty jars of watermelon preserves on the strength of one of old Aunl Julia's recipes which Laura had brought from her father's plantation. planta-tion. By then it was almost two and she was hot, tried, diheveled and hungry. She went across the street to. a large cafeteria which at that hour, fortunately, fortu-nately, was not crowded, picked out the most economical dishes on the menu and, balancing her tray, made for a table in a secluded corner near a window only to come face to face with Mary Etta. Mary' Etta had finished her lunch. Her black eyes looked startled when they recognized Laura who had instinctively in-stinctively ppaused beside her. "How are you, Mary Etta?" she asked gently. "I'm splendid of course," the girl said, as if daring Laura to think otherwise. "Do you mind if I sit with you?" inquired Laura. Mary Etta shrugged her sharp shoulders. Laura sat down. "I'm grieved about you and Tom," said Laura at last. Mary Etta's lip curled. "Why should you be?" she demanded. "You've got him back, haven't you? Mothers always take their, sons away from their wives if they can. And you can. Because he thinks you're perfect." Was there a sob behind her voice? Laura could not be certain. "No, Mary Etta, I haven't got my son back. He's under my roof, yes. But his heart isn't." "Why did he marry me and make me care when he wanted someone so different?" cried the girl in a tormented voice. "Then you do care, Mary Etta?" "Care!" Mary Etta laughed bitterly. bit-terly. "Do you think anyone could have had Tom and not care?" "Why didn't you come to Covington Coving-ton with him?" "Because he didn't want me. Because Be-cause he's sick of the light of me. He ll marry someone like you of course when I divorce him. My lawyer law-yer mailed Tom a notice yesterday." yester-day." "Mary Etta!" The girl's haggard face twitched. "There's no use living on chained to the corpse of e dead love. I can at least set Tom free." "And yourself?" Mary Etta shivered. "I swore no one should ever matter enough to upset my life. I vowed I'd not be submerged as my mother was. But if it's any satisfaction to you, I didn't pull it oft. You see," her voice sank, she looked away, "Tom does matter. More than anything on earth. You don't know what it's been like this past month. Wanting him! Missing him! Longing to go down on my knees and beg him to love me again." Laura glanced at her wrist watch. "Can you be packed and ready to go home with me by six?" Mary Etta started violently. "Go to Covington?" Laura nodded. "If your lawyer mailed Tom those divorce papers yesterday, he got them this morning. morn-ing. And he's been in hell ever since. I'd cut my arm off to spare him that. But I can't. Only you "The Oak Tree." away in Colonel Shoup's office, making progress slowly but steadily and looking more drawn and haggard hag-gard every day. Laura had decided to take the bus to the city. It was cheaper than the train and money was becoming distressingly scarce in her establishment, estab-lishment, with Mike's business steadily submerging. That was partly part-ly Laura's errand in town. Sometimes Some-times in a pinch she took orders from a Woman's Exchange for home canned fruits and vegetables. It didn't pay a lot and was hot tedious work, but Laura had on other difficult diffi-cult occasions collected several odd dollars that helped to turn a hard corner. On the way dut of town the bus passed what had formerly been Joe's place, now christened "The Oak Tree." Laura grinned to herself. her-self. Shirley was the only comfortable comforta-ble spot on her mother's horizon. The town had nearly burst its side with derisive laughter when Shirley and Jaird took on the hamburger stand. But people who dropped in at "The Oak Tree" to sneer, remained re-mained to envy. Curiosity may have accounted for the rush of business the first week. But it was good food appetizingly served in attractive attrac-tive surroundings that swelled the cash register the second and third and fourth weeks. "The Oak Tree" had become quite the rage, as well as the rendezvous for the young elite. Even Belle Newsum now pointed with pride to her son's achievement.