“Oh, that! The dazed condition cleared up at once.”
“I wish I were sure that it had ever cleared up,” muttered Densmore.
“Why shouldn’t you be sure?”
“I’m going to be frank with you because I think you may be able to help me with a clue. Since she came back from the West, Io has been unlike herself. The family has never understood her marriage with Del Eyre. She didn’t really care for Del. [To his dismay, Banneker here beheld the glowing tip of his cigar perform sundry involuntary dips and curves. He hoped that his face was under better control.] The marriage was a fizzle. I don’t believe it lasted a month, really. Eyre had always been a chaser, though he did straighten out when he married Io. He really was crazy about her; but when she chucked him, he went back to his old hunting grounds. One can understand that. But Io; that’s different. She’s always played the game before. With Del, I don’t think she quite did. She quit: that’s the plain fact of it. Just tired of him. No other cause that I can find. Won’t get a divorce. Doesn’t want it. So there’s no one else in the case. It’s queer. It’s mighty queer. And I can’t help thinking that the old jar to her brain—”
“Have you suggested that to her?” asked Banneker as the other broke off to ruminate mournfully.
“Yes. She only laughed. Then she said that poor old Del wasn’t at fault except for marrying her in the face of a warning. I don’t know what she meant by it; hanged if I do. But, you see, it’s quite true: there’ll be no divorce or separation.... You’re sure she was quite normal when you last saw her at Miss Van Arsdale’s?”
“Absolutely. If you want confirmation, why not write Miss Van Arsdale yourself?”
“No; I hardly think I’ll do that.... Now as to that gray you rode, I’ve got a chance to trade him.” And the talk became all of horse, which is exclusive and rejective of other interests, even of women.
Going back in the train, Banneker reviewed the crowding events of the day. At the bottom of his thoughts lay a residue, acid and stinging, the shame of the errand which had taken him to The Retreat, and which the memory of what was no less than a personal triumph could not submerge. That he, Errol Banneker, whose dealings with all men had been on the straight and level status of self-respect, should have taken upon him the ignoble task of prying into intimate affairs, of meekly soliciting the most private information in order that he might make his living out of it—not different in kind from the mendicancy which, even as a hobo, he had scorned—and that, at the end, he should have discerned Io Welland as the object of his scandal-chase; that fermented within him like something turned to foulness.
At the office he reported “no story.” Before going home he wrote a note to the city desk.