Lane wound his way back to Blair.
“I’ve had enough, Blair,” he said. “I’m all in. Let’s go.”
“Right-o,” replied Blair, with evident relief. He reached a hand to Lane to raise himself, an action he rarely resorted to, and awkwardly got his crutch in place. They started out, with Lane accommodating his pace to his crippled comrade. Thus it happened that the two ran a gauntlet with watching young people on each side, out to the open part of the hall. There directly in front they encountered Captain Vane Thesel, with Helen Wrapp on his arm. Her red hair, her green eyes, and carmined lips, the white of her voluptuous neck and arms, united in a singular effect of allurement that Lane felt with scorn and melancholy.
Helen nodded to Blair and Lane, and evidently dragged at her escort’s arm to hold him from passing on.
“Look who’s here! Daren, old boy—and Blair,” she called, and she held the officer back. The malice in her green glance did not escape Lane, as he bowed to her. She gloried in that situation. Captain Thesel had to face them.
It was Blair’s hand that stiffened Lane. They halted, erect, like statues, with eyes that failed to see Thesel. He did not exist for them. With a flush of annoyance he spoke, and breaking from Helen, passed on. A sudden silence in the groups nearby gave evidence that the incident had been observed. Then whispers rose.
“Boys, aren’t you dancing?” asked Helen, with a mocking sweetness. “Let me teach you the new steps.”
“Thanks, Helen,” replied Lane, in sudden weariness. “But I couldn’t go it.”
“Why did you come? To blow us up again? Lose your nerve?”
“Yes, I lost it to-night—and something more.”
“Blair, you shouldn’t have left one of your legs in France,” she said, turning to Blair. She had always hated Blair, a fact omnipresent now in her green eyes.
Blair had left courtesy and endurance in France, as was evinced by the way he bent closer to Helen, to speak low, with terrible passion.
“If I had it to do over again—I’d see you and your kind—your dirt-cheap crowd of painted hussies where you belong—in the clutch of the Huns!”
Miss Amanda Hill, teacher in the Middleville High School, sat wearily at her desk. She was tired, as tired as she had ever been on any day of the fifteen long years in which she had wrestled with the problems of school life. Her hair was iron gray and she bent a worn, sad, severe face over a mass of notes before her.