As the well-to-do in Europe flung themselves into revelry with the signing of the armistice, so did they here. Four years of war had corked the bottle of gayety. The young men were all overseas. Life was a little too cloudy during that period to be gay. Shadows hung over too many homes. But that was past. They had pulled the cork and thrown it away, one would think. Pleasure was king, to be served with light abandon.
It was a fairly vigorous place, MacRae discovered. He liked it, gave himself up to it gladly,—for a while. It involved no mental effort. These people seldom spoke of money, or of work, or politics, the high cost of living, international affairs. If they did it was jocularly, sketchily, as matters of no importance. Their talk ran upon dances, clothes, motoring, sports indoors and afield, on food,—and sometimes genially on drink, since the dry wave had not yet drained their cellars.
MacRae floated with this tide. But he was not wholly carried away with it. He began to view it impersonally, to wonder if it were the real thing, if this was what inspired men to plot and scheme and struggle laboriously for money, or if it were just the froth on the surface of realities which he could not quite grasp. He couldn’t say. There was a dash and glitter about it that charmed him. He could warm and thrill to the beauty of a Granada ballroom, music that seduced a man’s feet, beauty of silk and satin, of face and figure, of bright eyes and gleaming jewels, a blending of all the primary colors and every shade between, flashing over a polished floor under high, carved ceilings.
He had surrendered Nelly Abbott to a claimant and stood watching the swirl and glide of the dancers in the Granada one night. His eyes were on the brilliance a little below the raised area at one end of the floor, and so was his mind, inquiringly, with the curious concentration of which his mind was capable. Presently he became aware of some one speaking to him, tugging at his elbow.
“Oh, come out of it,” a voice said derisively.
He looked around at Stubby Abbott.
“Regular trance. I spoke to you twice. In love?”
“Uh-uh. Just thinking,” MacRae laughed.
“Deep thinking, I’ll say. Want to go down to the billiard room and smoke?”
They descended to a subterranean chamber where, in a pit lighted by low-hung shaded globes, men in shirt sleeves clicked the red and white balls on a score of tables. Rows of leather-upholstered chairs gave comfort to spectators. They commandeered seats and lighted cigarettes. “Look,” Stubby said. “There’s Norman Gower.”
Young Gower sat across a corner from them. He was in evening clothes. He slumped in his chair. His hands were limp along the chair arms. He was not watching the billiard players. He was staring straight across the room with the sightless look of one whose mind is far away.
“Another deep thinker,” Stubby drawled. “Rather rough going for Norman these days.”