Blair had spoken hurriedly with again a stain of red in his white cheek, and a break in his voice.
“That’s—tough,” replied Lane, haltingly. He could choke back speech, but not the something in his voice he would rather not have heard. “I’ll tell you what. As soon as Red is well enough we’ll move him over to my house. I’m sure mother will let him share my room. There’s only Lorna—and I’ll pay Red’s board.... You have quite a family—”
“Hell, Dare—don’t apologize to me for my mother,” burst out Blair, bitterly.
“Blair, I believe you realize what we are up against—and I don’t,” rejoined Lane, with level gaze upon his friend.
“Dare, can’t you see we’re up against worse than the Argonne?—worse, because back here at home—that beautiful, glorious thought—idea—spirit we had is gone. Dead!”
“No, I can’t see,” returned Lane, stubbornly.
“Well, I guess that’s one reason we all loved you, Dare—you couldn’t see.... But I’ll bet you my crutch Helen makes you see. Her father made a pile out of the war. She’s a war-rich snob now. And going the pace!”
“Blair, she may make me see her faithlessness—and perhaps some strange unrest—some change that’s seemed to come over everything. But she can’t prove to me the death of anything outside of herself. She can’t prove that any more than Mel Iden’s confession proved her a wanton. It didn’t. Not to me. Why, when Mel put her hand on my breast—on this medal—and looked at me—I had such a thrill as I never had before in all my life. Never!... Blair, it’s not dead. That beautiful thing you mentioned—that spirit—that fire which burned so gloriously—it is not dead.”
“Not in you—old pard,” replied Blair, unsteadily. “I’m always ashamed before your faith. And, by God, I’ll say you’re my only anchor.”
“Blair, let’s play the game out to the end,” said Lane.
“I get you, Dare.... For Margie, for Lorna, for Mel—even if they have—”
“Yes,” answered Lane, as Blair faltered.
As Lane sped out Elm Street in a taxicab he remembered that his last ride in such a conveyance had been with Helen when he took her home from a party. She was then about seventeen years old. And that night she had coaxed him to marry her before he left to go to war. Had her feminine instinct been infallibly right? Would marrying her have saved her from what Blair had so forcibly suggested?
Elm Street was a newly developed part of Middleville, high on one of its hills, and manifestly a restricted section. Lane had found the number of Helen’s home in the telephone book. When the chauffeur stopped before a new and imposing pile of red brick, Lane understood an acquaintance’s reference to the war rich. It was a mansion, but somehow not a home. It flaunted something indefinable.
Lane instructed the driver to wait a few moments, and, if he did not come out, to go back to town and return in about an hour. The house stood rather far from the street, and as Lane mounted the terrace he observed four motor cars parked in the driveway. Also his sensitive ears caught the sound of a phonograph.