It had been a month since he saw Ruth. He had not wanted to see her; the thought of seeing her had been unbearable. But suddenly he felt as if he must see her—have a glimpse of her. He must see how she looked, if she had changed, if she were well. ... He knew it would bring refreshed suffering. It would let back all he had rigidly schooled himself to shut out—but he must see her.
He set his will against it and resolutely walked away from the direction in which her apartment lay, but the thing was too strong for him. As a man surrenders to a craving which he knows will destroy him, yet feels a relief at the surrender, he turned abruptly and walked the other way.
The apartment in which they had lived was on the second floor of a small apartment house. He passed it on the opposite side of the street, looking covertly upward at the windows. There was a light within. She was there, but invisible. Only if she should step near the window could he see her. ... Again and again he passed, but she did not appear. Finally he settled himself guiltily in the shadows, where he could watch those windows, and waited—just for that distant sight of her. There was a lamp on the table before the window. Before she retired she would have to come to shut it off. ... He waited for that. He would then see her for a second, perhaps.
At last she came, and stood an instant in the window—just a blur, with the light behind her, no feature distinguishable, yet it was her—her. “Ruth...” he whispered, “Ruth. ...” Then she drew down the shade and extinguished the light.
For a moment he stood there, hands opened as if he would have stretched them out toward her. Then he turned and walked heavily away. He had seen her, but It had not added to his happiness. He had seen her because he must see her. ... And by that he knew he must see her again and again and again. He knew it. He knew he would stand there in the shadows on innumerable nights, watching for that one brief second of her presence. ... And she loved another man. In a year she would be free to marry Dulac!
He returned to his room and to his book on the ailments of internal-combustion engines; but it was not their diagrams his eyes saw, but only a featureless blur that represented a girl standing in an upper window—–forever beyond his reach. ...
Malcolm Lightener’s plant, huge as it was, could not meet the demands of the public for the car he manufactured. Orders outran production. New buildings had been under construction, but before they were completed and equipped their added production was eaten up and the factory was no nearer to keeping supply abreast with demand than it had been in the beginning.
Lightener was forced to make contracts with other firms for parts of his cars. From one plant he contracted for bodies, from another for wheels. He urged Bonbright Foote, Incorporated, to increase their production of axles by ten thousand a year—and still dealers in all parts of the country wrote and telephoned and telegraphed for more cars—more cars.