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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWindy Mcpherson's Son - BOOK II - Chapter V
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Windy Mcpherson's Son - BOOK II - Chapter V Post by :jardo Category :Long Stories Author :Sherwood Anderson Date :February 2011 Read :1400

Click below to download : Windy Mcpherson's Son - BOOK II - Chapter V (Format : PDF)

Windy Mcpherson's Son - BOOK II - Chapter V

Sue Rainey had long touched the fancy of the youths of Chicago society
who, while looking at her trim little figure and at the respectable size
of the fortune behind it, were yet puzzled and disconcerted by her
attitude toward themselves. On the wide porches at golf clubs, where young
men in white trousers lounged and smoked cigarettes, and in the down-town
clubs, where the same young men spent winter afternoons playing Kelly
pool, they spoke of her, calling her an enigma. "She'll end by being an
old maid," they declared, and shook their heads at the thought of so good
a connection dangling loosely in the air just without their reach. From
time to time, one of the young men tore himself loose from the group that
contemplated her, and, with an opening volley of books, candy, flowers and
invitations to theatres, charged down upon her, only to have the youthful
ardour of his attack cooled by her prolonged attitude of indifference.
When she was twenty-one, a young English cavalry officer, who came to
Chicago to ride in the horse show had, for some weeks, been seen much in
her company and a report of their engagement had been whispered through
the town and talked of about the nineteenth hole at the country clubs. The
rumour proved to be without foundation, the attraction to the cavalry
officer having been a certain brand of rare old wine the colonel had
stored in his cellar and a feeling of brotherhood with the swaggering old
gun maker, rather than the colonel's quiet little daughter.

After the beginning of his acquaintanceship with her, and all during the
days when he stirred things up in the offices and shops of the gun
company, tales of the assiduous and often needy young men who were camped
on her trail reached Sam's ears. They would be in at the office to see and
talk with the colonel, who had several times confided to Sam that his
daughter Sue was already past the age at which right-minded young women
should marry, and in the absence of the father two or three of them had
formed a habit of stopping for a word with Sam, whom they had met through
the colonel or Jack Prince. They declared that they were "squaring
themselves with the colonel." Not a difficult thing to do, Sam thought, as
he drank the wine, smoked the cigars, and ate the dinners of all without
prejudice. Once, at luncheon, Colonel Tom discussed these young men with
Sam, pounding on a table so that the glasses jumped about, and calling
them damned upstarts.

For his own part, Sam did not feel that he knew Sue Rainey, and although,
after their first meeting one evening at the Rainey house, he had been
pricked by a mild curiosity concerning her, no opportunity to satisfy it
had presented itself. He knew that she was athletic, travelled much, rode,
shot, and sailed a boat; and he had heard Jack Prince speak of her as a
woman of brains, but, until the incident of the colonel and Luella London
threw them for the moment into the same enterprise and started him
thinking of her with real interest, he had seen and talked with her for
but brief passing moments brought about by their mutual interest in the
affairs of her father.

After Janet Eberly's sudden death, and while he was yet in the midst of
his grief at her loss, Sam had his first long talk with Sue Rainey. It was
in Colonel Tom's office, and Sam, walking hurriedly in, found her sitting
at the colonel's desk and staring out of the window at a broad expanse of
flat roofs. A man, climbing a flag pole to replace a slipped rope, caught
his attention and standing by the window looking at the minute figure
clinging to the swaying pole, he began talking of the absurdity of human
endeavour.

The colonel's daughter listened respectfully to his rather obvious
banalities and getting up from her chair came to stand beside him. Sam
turned slyly to look at her firm brown cheeks as he had looked on the
morning when she had come to see him about Luella London and was struck by
the thought that she in some faint way reminded him of Janet Eberly. In a
moment, and rather to his own surprise, he burst into a long speech
telling of Janet, of the tragedy of her loss and something of the beauty
of her life and character.

The nearness of his loss and the nearness also of what he thought might be
a sympathetic listener spurred him and he found himself getting a kind of
relief for the aching sense of loss for his dead comrade by heaping
praises upon her life.

When he had finished saying what was in his mind, he stood by the window
feeling awkward and embarrassed. The man who climbed the flag pole having
put the rope through the ring at the top slid suddenly down the pole and
thinking for the moment that he had fallen Sam made a quick clutch at the
air with his hand. His gripping fingers closed over Sue Rainey's hand.

He turned, amused by the incident, and began making a halting explanation.
There were tears in Sue Rainey's eyes.

"I wish I had known her," she said and drew her hand from between his
fingers. "I wish you had known me better that I also might have known your
Janet. They are rare--such women. They are worth much to know. Most women
like most men--"

She made an impatient gesture with her hand and Sam, turning, walked
toward the door. He felt that he might not trust himself to answer her.
For the first time since coming to manhood he felt that tears might at any
moment come into his eyes. Grief for the loss of Janet surged through him
disconcerting and engulfing him.

"I have been doing you an injustice," said Sue Rainey, looking at the
floor. "I have thought of you as something different from what you are.
There is a story I heard of you which gave me a wrong impression."

Sam smiled. Having conquered the commotion within himself, he laughed and
explained the incident of the man who had slid down the pole.

"What was the story you heard?" he asked.

"It was a story a young man told at our house," she explained
hesitatingly, refusing to be carried away from her mood of seriousness.
"It was about a little girl you saved from drowning and a purse made up
and given you. Why did you take the money?"

Sam looked at her squarely. The story was one that Jack Prince had delight
in telling. It concerned an incident of his early business life in the
city.

One afternoon, when he was still in the employ of the commission firm, he
had taken a party of men for a trip on an excursion steamer on the lake.
He had a project into which he wanted them to go with him and had taken
them aboard the steamer to get them together and present the merits of his
scheme. During the trip a little girl had fallen overboard and Sam,
springing after her, had brought her safely aboard the boat.

On the excursion steamer a cheer had arisen. A young man in a broad-
brimmed cowboy hat ran about taking up a collection. People crowded
forward to grasp Sam's hand and he had accepted the money collected and
had put it in his pocket.

Among the men aboard the boat were several who, while they did not draw
back from going into Sam's project, had thought his taking the money not
manly. They had told the story, and it had come to the ears of Jack
Prince, who never tired of repeating it and always ended the story with
the request that the listener ask Sam why he had taken the money.

Now in Colonel Tom's office facing Sue Rainey, Sam made the explanation
that had so delighted Jack Prince.

"The crowd wanted to give me the money," he said, slightly perplexed. "Why
shouldn't I have taken it? I did not save the little girl for the money,
but because she was a little girl; and the money paid for my ruined
clothes and the expenses of the trip."

With his hand on the doorknob he looked steadily at the woman before him.

"And I wanted the money," he announced, a ring of defiance in his voice.
"I have always wanted money, any money I could get."

Sam went back to his own office and sat down at his desk. He had been
surprised by the cordiality and friendliness Sue Rainey had shown toward
him. On an impulse, he wrote a letter, defending his position in the
matter of the money taken on the excursion steamer and setting forth
something of the attitude of his mind toward money and business affairs.

"I cannot see myself believing in the rot most business men talk," he
wrote at the end of the letter. "They are full of sentiment and ideals
which are not true. Having a thing to sell they always say it is the best,
although it may be third rate. I do not object to that. What I do object
to is the way they have of nursing a hope within themselves that the third
rate thing is first rate until the hope becomes a belief. In the talk I
had with that actress Luella London I told her that I myself flew the
black flag. Well, I do. I would lie about goods to sell them, but I would
not lie to myself. I will not stultify my own mind. If a man crosses
swords with me in a business deal and I come out of the affair with the
money, it is no sign that I am the greater rascal, rather it is a sign
that I am the keener man."

With the note lying before him on the desk Sam wondered why he had written
it. It seemed to him an accurate and straightforward statement of the
business creed he had adopted for himself, but a rather absurd note to
write to a woman. And then, not allowing himself time to reconsider his
action, he addressed an envelope and going out into the general offices
dropped it into the mail chute.

"It will let her know where I stand anyway," he thought, with a return of
the defiant mood in which he had told her the motive of his action on the
boat.

Within the next ten days after the talk in Colonel Tom's office Sam saw
Sue Rainey several times coming to or going from her father's office.
Once, meeting in the little lobby by the office entrance, she stopped and
put out her hand which Sam took awkwardly. He had a feeling that she would
not have regretted an opportunity to continue the sudden little intimacy
that had sprung up between them in the few minutes' talk of Janet Eberly.
The feeling did not come from vanity but from a belief in Sam that she was
in some way lonely and wanting companionship. Although she had been much
courted she lacked, he thought, the talent for comradeship or quick
friendliness. "Like Janet she is more than half intellect," he told
himself, and felt a pang of regret for the slight disloyalty of the
further thought that there was in Sue a something more substantial and
solid than there had been in Janet.

Suddenly Sam began wondering whether or not he would like to marry Sue
Rainey. His mind played with the idea. He took it with him to bed, and it
went with him all day in his hurried trips through offices and shops. The
thought having come to him persisted, and he began seeing her in a new
light. The odd half awkward little movements of her hands, and their
expressiveness, the brown fine texture of her cheeks, the clearness and
honesty of her grey eyes, the quick sympathy and understanding of his
feeling for Janet, and the subtle flattery of the notion he had got that
she was interested in him--all of these things came and went in his mind
while he ran through columns of figures and laid plans for the expansion
of the business of the Arms Company. Unconsciously he began to make her a
part of his plans for the future.

Later, Sam discovered that during the days after the first talk together
the thought of a marriage between them was in Sue's mind also. After the
talk she went home and stood for an hour before the glass studying herself
and she once told Sam that in her bed that night she shed tears because
she had never been able to arouse in a man the note of tenderness that had
been in his voice when he talked to her of Janet.

And then two months after the first talk they had another. Sam, who had
not allowed his grief over the loss of Janet or his nightly efforts to
drown the sting of it in hard drinking, to check the big forward movement
that he felt he was getting into the work of the offices and shops, sat
one afternoon deeply absorbed in a pile of factory cost sheets. His shirt
sleeves were rolled to the elbow, showing his white muscular forearms. He
was absorbed, intent upon the sheets.

"I stepped in," said a voice above his head.

Glancing up quickly, Sam sprang to his feet. "She must have been there
some minutes looking down at me," he thought, and had a thrill of pleasure
in the thought.

Into his mind came the contents of the letter he had written her, and he
wondered if after all he had been a fool, and whether the thoughts of a
marriage with her were but vagaries. "Perhaps it would not be attractive
to either her or myself when we came up to it," he decided.

"I stepped in," she began again. "I have been thinking. Some things you
said--in the letter and when you talked of your friend Janet who died--
some things of men and women and work. You may not remember them. I--I got
interested. I--are you a socialist?"

"I believe not," Sam answered, wondering what had given her that thought.
"Are you?"

She laughed and shook her head.

"Just what are you?" she went on. "What do you believe? I am curious to
know. I thought your note--you will pardon me--I thought it a kind of
pretence."

Sam winced. A shadow of doubt of the sincerity of his business philosophy
crossed his mind accompanied by the swaggering figure of Windy McPherson.
He came around the desk and leaning against it looked at her. His
secretary had gone out of the room and they were alone together. Sam
laughed.

"There was a man in the town where I was raised used to say that I was a
little mole working underground, intent upon worms," he said, and then,
waving his arms toward the papers on the desk, added, "I am a business
man. Isn't that enough? If you could go with me through some of these cost
sheets you would agree they are needed."

He turned and faced her again.

"What should I be doing with beliefs?" he asked.

"Well, I think you have them--some kind of beliefs," she insisted, "you
must have them. You get things done. You should hear the men talk of you.
Sometimes at the house they are quite foolish about what a wonderful
fellow you are and what you are doing here. They say that you drive on and
on. What drives you? I want to know."

For the moment Sam half suspected that she was secretly laughing at him.
Finding her quite serious he started to reply and then stopped, regarding
her.

The silence between them went on and on. A clock on the wall ticked
loudly.

Sam stepped nearer to her and stood looking down into the face she slowly
turned up to his.

"I want to have a talk with you," he said, and his voice broke. He had the
illusion of a hand gripping at his throat.

In a flash he had definitely decided that he would try to marry her. Her
interest in the motives of his life had clinched the sort of half decision
he had made. In an illuminating moment during the prolonged silence
between them he had seen her in a new light. The feeling of vague intimacy
brought to him by his thoughts of her became a fixed belief that she
belonged to him--was a part of him--and he was charmed with her manner,
and her person, standing there, as with a gift given him.

And then into his mind came a hundred other thoughts, clamouring thoughts,
come out of the hidden parts of him. He began to think that she could lead
the way on a road he wanted to travel. He thought of her wealth and what
it would mean to a man filled with his hunger for power. And through these
thoughts shot others. Something in her had taken hold of him--something
that had been also in Janet. He was curious concerning her curiosity about
his beliefs, and wanted to question her concerning her own beliefs. He
could see none of Colonel Tom's blustering incompetence in her and thought
her filled with truth as a deep spring is filled with clear water. He
believed she would give him something, something that all his life he had
been wanting. An old aching hunger that had haunted his nights as a boy
came back and he thought that at her hand it might be fed.

"I--I must read a book about socialism," he said lamely.

Again they stood in silence, she looking at the floor, he past her head
and out at the window. He could not bring himself to speak again of the
proposed talk. He had a boyish dread of having her notice the tremor in
his voice.

Colonel Tom came into the room, bursting with an idea Sam had given him at
the lunch hour and which in working its way into his mind had become to
the colonel's entirely honest belief an idea of his own. The interruption
brought to Sam an intense feeling of relief and he began talking of the
colonel's idea as though it had taken him unawares.

Sue, walking to a window, began tying and untying the curtain cord. When
Sam, raising his eyes, looked at her, he caught her eyes watching him
intently and she smiled, continuing to look at him squarely. It was his
eyes that first broke away.

From that day Sam's mind was afire with thoughts of Sue Rainey. In his
room he sat, or going into Grant Park stood by the lake, looking at the
silent, moving water as he had looked in the days when he first came to
the city. He did not dream of having her in his arms or of kissing her
lips; he thought, instead, with a glowing heart, of a life lived with her.
He wanted to walk beside her through the streets, to have her come
suddenly in at his office door, to look into her eyes and to have her
question him, as she had questioned, concerning his beliefs and his hopes.
He thought that in the evening he would like to go to a house of his own
and find her sitting there waiting for him. All the charm of his aimless,
half-dissolute way of life died in him, and he believed that with her he
could begin to live more fully and completely. From the moment when he had
definitely decided that he wanted Sue as a wife, Sam stopped overdrinking,
going to his room or walking through the streets or in the parks instead
of seeking his old companions in the clubs and drinking places. Sometimes
pushing his bed to the window overlooking the lake, he would undress
immediately after dinner and opening the window would spend half the night
watching the lights of boats far away over the water and thinking of her.
He would imagine her in the room, moving here and there, and coming
occasionally to put her hand in his hair and look down at him as Janet had
done, helping by her sane talk and quiet ways to get his life straightened
out for good living.

And when he had fallen asleep the face of Sue Rainey came to visit his
dreams. One night he thought she had become blind and sat in the room with
sightless eyes saying over and over like one demented, "Truth, truth, give
me back the truth that I may see," and he awoke sick with horror at the
thought of the look of suffering that had been in her face. Never did Sam
dream of having her in his arms or of raining kisses on her lips and neck
as he had dreamed of other women who in the past had won his favour.

For all that he thought of her so constantly and built so confidently his
dream of a life to be spent with her, months passed before he saw her
again. Through Colonel Tom he learned that she had gone for a visit to the
East and he went earnestly about his work, keeping his mind on his
business during the day and only in the evening allowing himself to become
absorbed in thoughts of her. He had a feeling that although he had said
nothing she knew of his desire for her and that she wanted time to think
it over. Several times in the evening in his room he wrote her long
letters filled with minute, boyish explanations of his thoughts and
motives, letters which after writing he immediately destroyed. A woman of
the west side, with whom he had once had an affair, met him one day on the
street, and put her hand familiarly on his arm and for the moment
reawakened in him an old desire. After leaving her he did not go back to
the office, but taking a south-bound car, spent the afternoon walking in
Jackson Park, watching the children at play on the grass, sitting on
benches under the trees, getting out of his body and his mind the
insistent call of the flesh that had come back to him.

Then in the evening, he came suddenly upon Sue riding a spirited black
horse in a bridle path at the upper end of the park. It was just at the
grey beginning of night. Stopping the horse, she sat looking at him and
going to her he put a hand on the bridle.

"We might have that talk," he said.

She smiled down at him and the colour began to rise in her brown cheeks.

"I have been thinking of it," she said, the familiar serious look coming
into her eyes. "After all what have we to say to each other?"

Sam watched her steadily.

"I have a lot of things to say to you," he announced. "That is to say--
well--I have, if things are as I hope." She got off the horse and they
stood together by the side of the path. Sam never forgot the few minutes
of silence that followed. The wide prospects of green sward, the golf
player trudging wearily toward them through the uncertain light, his bag
upon his shoulder, the air of physical fatigue with which he walked,
bending slightly forward, the faint, soft sound of waves washing over a
low beach, and the intense waiting look on the face she turned up to him,
made an impression on his mind that stayed with him through life. It
seemed to him that he had arrived at a kind of culmination, a starting
point, and that all the vague shadowy uncertainties that had, in
reflective moments, flitted through his mind, were to be brushed away by
some act, some word, from the lips of this woman. With a rush he realised
how consistently he had been thinking of her and how enormously he had
been counting on her falling in with his plans, and the realisation was
followed by a sickening moment of fear. How little he actually knew of her
and of her way of thought. What assurance had he that she would not laugh,
jump back upon the horse, and ride away? He was afraid as he had never
been afraid before. Dumbly his mind groped about for a way to begin.
Expressions he had caught and noted in her strong serious little face when
he had achieved but a mild curiosity concerning her came back to visit his
mind and he tried desperately to build an instant idea of her from these.
And then turning his face from her he plunged directly into his thoughts
of the past months as though she had been sharing talking to the colonel."

"I have been thinking we might marry, you and I," he said, and cursed
himself for the blundering bluntness of the declaration.

"You do get things done, don't you?" she replied, smiling.

"Why should you have been thinking anything of the sort?"

"Because I want to live with you," he said; "I have been talking to the
colonel."

"About marrying me?" She seemed about to begin laughing.

He hurried on. "No, not that. We talked about you. I could not let him
alone. He might have known. I kept making him talk. I made him tell me
about your ideas. I felt I had to know."

Sam faced her.

"He thinks your ideas absurd. I do not. I like them. I like you. I think
you are beautiful. I do not know whether I love you or not, but for weeks
I have been thinking of you and clinging to you and saying over and over
to myself, 'I want to live my life with Sue Rainey.' I did not expect to
go at it this way. You know me. What you do not know I will tell you."

"Sam McPherson, you are a wonder," she said, "and I do not know but that I
will marry you in the end, but I can't tell now. I want to know a lot of
things. I want to know if you are ready to believe what I believe and to
live for what I want to live."

The horse, growing restless, began tugging at the bridle and she spoke to
him sharply. She plunged into a description of a man she had seen on the
lecture platform during her visit to the East and Sam looked at her with
puzzled eyes.

"He was beautiful," she said. "He was past sixty but looked like a boy of
twenty-five, not in his body, but in an air of youth that hung over him.
He stood there before the people talking, quiet, able, efficient. He was
clean. He had lived clean, body and mind. He had been companion and co-
worker with William Morris, and once he had been a mine boy in Wales, but
he had got hold of a vision and lived for it. I did not hear what he said,
but I kept thinking, 'I want a man like that.'

"Can you accept my beliefs and live for what I want to live?" she
persisted.

Sam looked at the ground. It seemed to him that he was going to lose her,
that she would not marry him.

"I am not accepting beliefs or ends in life blindly," he said stoutly,
"but I want them. What are your beliefs? I want to know. I think I haven't
any myself. When I reach for them they are gone. My mind shifts and
changes. I want something solid. I like solid things. I want you."

"When can we meet and talk everything over thoroughly?"

"Now," answered Sam bluntly, some look in her face changing his whole
viewpoint. Suddenly it seemed as though a door had been opened, letting in
a strong light upon the darkness of his mind. His confidence had come back
to him. He wanted to strike and keep on striking. The blood rushed through
his body and his brain began working rapidly. He felt sure of ultimate
success.

Taking her hand, and leading the horse, he began walking with her along
the path. Her hand trembled in his and as though answering a thought in
his mind she looked up at him and said,

"I am not different from other women, although I do not accept your offer.
This is a big moment for me, perhaps the biggest moment of my life. I want
you to know that I feel that, though I do want certain things more than I
want you or any other man."

There was a suggestion of tears in her voice and Sam had a feeling that
the woman in her wanted him to take her into his arms, but something
within him told him to wait and to help her by waiting. Like her he wanted
something more than the feel of a woman in his arms. Ideas rushed through
his head; he thought that she was going to give him some bigger idea than
he had known. The figure she had drawn for him of the old man who stood on
the platform, young and beautiful, the old boyish need of a purpose in
life, the dreams of the last few weeks--all of these were a part of the
eager curiosity in him. They were like hungry little animals waiting to be
fed. "We must have it all out here and now," he told himself. "I must not
let myself be swept away by a rush of feeling and I must not let her be.

"Do not think," he said, "that I haven't tenderness for you. I am filled
with it. But I want to have our talk. I want to know what you expect me to
believe and how you want me to live."

He felt her hand stiffen in his.

"Whether or not we are worth while to each other," she added.

"Yes," he said.

And then she began to talk, telling him in a quiet steady voice that
steadied something in him what she wanted to make out of her life. Her
idea was one of service to mankind through children. She had seen girl
friends of hers, with whom she had gone to school, grow up and marry. They
had wealth and education, fine well-trained bodies, and they had been
married only to live lives more fully devoted to pleasure. One or two who
had married poor men had only done so to satisfy a passion in themselves,
and after marriage had joined the others in the hungry pursuit of
pleasure.

"They do nothing at all," she said, "to repay the world for the things
given them, the wealth and well-trained bodies and the disciplined minds.
They go through life day after day and year after year wasting themselves
and come in the end to nothing but indolent, slovenly vanity."

She had thought it all out and had tried to plan for herself a life with
other ends, and wanted a husband in accord with her ideas.

"That isn't so difficult," she said, "I can find a man whom I can control
and who will believe as I believe. My money gives me that power. But I
want him to be a real man, a man of ability, a man who does things for
himself, one fitted by his life and his achievements to be the father of
children who do things. And so I began thinking about you. I got the men
who come to the house to talk of you."

She hung her head and laughed like a bashful boy.

"I know much of the story of your early life out in that Iowa town," she
said. "I got the story of your life and your achievements out there from
some one who knew you well."

The idea seemed wonderfully simple and beautiful to Sam. It seemed to add
tremendously to the dignity and nobility of his feeling for her. He
stopped in the path and swung her about facing him. They were alone in
that end of the park. The soft darkness of the summer night had settled
over them. In the grass at their feet a cricket sang loudly. He made a
movement to take her into his arms.

"It is wonderful," he said.

"Wait," she demanded, putting her hand against his shoulder. "It isn't so
simple. I am wealthy. You are able and you have a kind of undying energy
in you. I want to give both my wealth and your ability to children--our
children. That will not be easy for you. It means giving up your dreams of
power. Perhaps I shall lose courage. Women do after two or three have
come. You will have to furnish that. You will have to make a mother of me
and keep making a mother of me. You will have to be a new kind of father
with something maternal in you. You will have to be patient and studious
and kind. You will have to think of these things at night instead of
thinking of your own advancement. You will have to live wholly for me
because I am to be their mother, giving me your strength and courage and
your good sane outlook on things. And then when they come you will have to
give all these things to them day after day in a thousand little ways."

Sam took her into his arms and for the first time in his memory the hot
tears stood in his eyes.

The horse, unattended, wheeled, threw up his head and trotted off down the
path. They let him go, walking along after him hand in hand like two happy
children. At the entrance to the park they came up to him, held by a park
policeman. She got on the horse and Sam stood beside her looking up.

"I'll tell the colonel in the morning," he said.

"What will he say?" she murmured, musingly.

"Damned ingrate," Sam mimicked the colonel's blustering throat tones.

She laughed and picked up the reins. Sam laid his hand on hers.

"How soon?" he asked.

She put her head down near his.

"We'll waste no time," she said, blushing.

And then in the presence of a park policeman, in the street by the
entrance to the park with the people passing up and down, Sam had his
first kiss from Sue Rainey's lips.

After she rode away Sam walked. He had no sense of the passing of time,
wandering through street after street, rearranging and readjusting his
outlook on life. What she had said had stirred every vestige of sleeping
nobility in him. He thought that he had got hold of the thing he had
unconsciously been seeking all his life. His dreams of control of the
Rainey Arms Company and the other big things he had planned in business
seemed, in the light of their talk, so much nonsense and vanity. "I will
live for this! I will live for this!" he kept saying over and over to
himself. He imagined he could see the little white things lying in Sue's
arms, and his new love for her and for what they were to accomplish
together ran through him and hurt him so that he felt like shouting in the
darkened streets. He looked up at the sky and saw the stars and thought
they looked down on two new and glorious beings living on the earth.

At a corner he turned and came into a quiet residence street where frame
houses stood in the midst of little green lawns and thoughts of his
boyhood in the Iowa town came back to him. And then his mind moving
forward, he remembered nights in the city when he had stolen away to the
arms of women. Hot shame burned in his cheeks and his eyes felt hot.

"I must go to her--I must go to her at her house--now--tonight--and tell
her all of these things, and beg her to forgive me," he thought.

And then the absurdity of such a course striking him he laughed aloud.

"It cleanses me! this cleanses me!" he said to himself.

He remembered the men who had sat about the stove in Wildman's grocery
when he was a boy and the stories they sometimes told. He remembered how
he, as a boy in the city, had run through the crowded streets fleeing from
the terror of lust. He began to understand how distorted, how strangely
perverted, his whole attitude toward women and sex had been. "Sex is a
solution, not a menace--it is wonderful," he told himself without knowing
fully the meaning of the word that had sprung to his lips.

When, at last, he turned into Michigan Avenue and went toward his
apartment, the late moon was just mounting the sky and a clock in one of
the sleeping houses was striking three.

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