Indignation rose up within Dr. Surtaine: not wholly unjustified, considering his belief that Hal was primarily responsible for the tragedy. “Are your hands so clean, then?” he asked significantly.
“God knows, they’re not!” cried the son, with passion. “I didn’t know. I didn’t realize.”
“Yet you turn on me—”
“Oh, Dad, I don’t want to quarrel with you. All I know is, I can’t stay in this house any more.”
Dr. Surtaine pondered for a few minutes. Perhaps it was better that the boy should go for a time, until his conscience worked out a more satisfactory state of mind. His own conscience was clear. He was doing business within the limits set for him by the law and the Post Office authorities, which had once investigated the “Pills” and given them a clean bill. Milly Neal should not put the onus of her own recklessness and immorality upon him. Nevertheless, he was glad that Belford Couch was coming on; and, by the way, he must telephone a dispatch to him. Rising, he addressed his son.
“Where shall you go?”
“I don’t know. Some hotel. The Dunstan.”
“Very well. I’ll see you at the office soon, I suppose. Good-night.”
All Hal’s world whirled about him as he saw his father leave the room. What seemed to him a monstrous manifestation of chance had overwhelmed and swept him from all moorings. But was it chance? Was it not, rather, as McGuire Ellis had suggested, the exemplification of an exact logic?
The closing of the door behind his father sent a current of air across the room in which a bit of paper on the floor wavered and turned. Hal picked it up. It was the clipping from the “Clarion”—his newspaper—which Milly Neal had brought as her justification. One line of print stood out, writhing as if in an uncontrollable access of diabolic glee: “Only $1 A Box: Satisfaction Guaranteed”; and above it the face of the Happy Lady, distorted by the crumpling of the paper, smirked up at him with a taunt. He thought to interpret that taunt in the words which Veltman had used, aforetime:—
“What’s your percentage?”
THE GREATER TEMPTING
Journalistic Worthington ran true to type in the Milly Neal affair. No newspaper published more than a paragraph about the “sudden death.” Suicide was not even hinted at in print. But newspaperdom had its own opinion, magnified and colored by the processes of gossip, over which professional courtesy exercised no control. That the girl had killed herself was generally understood: that there had been a shooting, previous to her death, was also current. Eager report recalled and exaggerated the fact that she had been seen with Hal Surtaine at a dubious road-house some months previous. The popular “inside knowledge” of the tragedy was that Milly had gone to the Surtaine mansion to force Hal’s