Beatrice could not understand herself. She knew that she was behaving rather indiscreetly, though she did not fathom the cause of the restlessness that drove her to Clay Lindsay. The truth is that she was longing for an escape from the empty life she was leading, had been seeking one for years without knowing it. Her existence was losing its savor, and she was still so young and eager and keen to live. Surely this round of social frivolities, the chatter of these silly women and smug tailor-made men, could not be all there was to life. She must have been made for something better than that.
And when she was with Clay she knew she had been. He gave her a vision of life through eyes that had known open, wide spaces, clean, wholesome, and sun-kissed. He stood on his own feet and did his own thinking. Simply, with both hands, he took hold of problems and examined them stripped of all trimmings. The man was elemental, but he was keen and broad-gauged. He knew the value of the things he had missed. She was increasingly surprised to discover how wide his information was. It amazed her one day to learn that he had read William James and understood his philosophy much better than she did.
There was in her mind no intention whatever of letting herself do anything so foolish as to marry him. But there were moments when the thought of it had a dreadful fascination for her. She did not invite such thoughts to remain with her.
For she meant to accept Clarendon Bromfield in her own good time and make her social position in New York absolutely secure. She had been in the fringes too long not to appreciate a chance to get into the social Holy of Holies.
JOHNNIE SEES THE POSTMASTER
A bow-legged little man in a cheap, wrinkled suit with a silk kerchief knotted loosely round his neck stopped in front of a window where a girl was selling stamps.
“I wantta see the postmaster.”
“Corrid’y’right. Takel’vatorthir’doorleft,” she said, just as though it were two words.
The freckle-faced little fellow opened wider his skim-milk eyes and his weak mouth. “Come again, ma’am, please.”
“Corrid’y’right. Takel’vatorthir’doorleft,” she repeated. “Next.”
The inquirer knew as much as he did before, but he lacked the courage to ask for an English translation. A woman behind was prodding him between the shoulder-blades with the sharp edge of a package wrapped for mailing. He shuffled away from the window and wandered helplessly, swept up by the tide of hurrying people that flowed continuously into the building and ebbed out of it. From this he was tossed into a backwater that brought him to another window.
“I wantta see the postmaster of this burg,” he announced again with a plaintive whine.
“What about?” asked the man back of the grating.