Vance darling — not tomorrow

Vance’s got a letter from a New York magazine,” Pearl exulted, disregarding her mother.
Mrs. Scrimser looked yearningly from the corner where she sat by her husband, the last number of Spirit Light on her knee. (“What your grandmother wastes, subscribing to all those come-to-Jesus papers, is something that passes me. She could hire a nurse with the money,” Mrs. Weston frequently lamented to her children.)
“Oh, Vanny, open it quick!” his grandmother besought. “I wonder if it’s from Spirit Light? I was just reading to Grandpa about a twenty-five dollar prize they’re offering for a five-hundred-word appreciation of Jesus Christ, to be sent in before the last of the month. What are we now?”
No one answered, and Vance went up to the lamp and opened his letter. Below the letterhead of The Hour a rush of words poured out at him. “Another story on the lines of ‘One Day’ . . . Review in new hands . . . editor would like to have first call on anything you may turn out during the coming year . . . Liberal terms . . . first story if possible in time for January number . . . wants to know if any chance of your being in New York within few weeks to consider possibility of permanent connection with review . . .”
Another story on the lines of “One Day” — that was what first struck him. He read the phrase over several times; then, involuntarily, he turned and glanced at the marionette with its wires cut that cowered in the armchair by the radiator. How strange it was, Vance mused — that poor creature had first taught him the meaning of pain, and out of the terrible lesson the means of deliverance had come!
His future . . . here was his future secure. And the people at The Hour regretted having lost sight of him for so long — and the review was in new hands! He glanced back at the letterhead, and saw: “Editor: Lewis Tarrant.” But surely that was the blond fellow who was always hanging about Miss Spear and going off in the motor with her? Correspondence between Paul’s Landing and Mapledale Avenue had ceased after a somewhat acrimonious exchange of letters at the time of Vance’s departure from the Tracys’; since then he had heard nothing of the household at Eaglewood. Two or three curt notes from the editorial office of The Hour, rejecting the tales and essays he had sent at Frenside’s suggestion, had been the last of his communications with New York; and for nearly two years now his horizon had been so shut in by Euphoria that he was beginning to feel as if he had never left there.
“IS it about the Spirit Light competition, Vanny?” Mrs. Scrimser asked; and Pearl ejaculated: “Father may be late, but I guess he’ll be here before Vance condescends to tell us!”
“Tell us what?” Vance’s father questioned, banging the front door shut, and dropping his outer garments in the ingle-nook before joining his family.
“His news from New York,” Pearl snapped.
Lorin Weston came in, casting his cautious tired eyes about the room. His son suddenly noticed how much older and thinner he looked; his dapper business suit hung on him. “Well, what’s your news, son?”
“I’ve got a job in New York,” Vance announced, hardly believing that the voice he heard was his own.
“Feels . . . good . . . here . . . after . . . Crampton . . . .” the marionette crooned from its corner.
On the train to New York Vance had the same sense of detachment as when he had gone thither three years before. Again it was as though, in leaving his home, he took his whole self with him, like a telephone receiver unhooked and carried on a long cord into another room. The years at Euphoria had taught him something, he supposed; he felt infinitely older, felt mature, “hardboiled” as the new phrase was: he smiled with pity at the defenceless infant he had been when he made his first assault on the metropolis.
But how had the process of maturing been effected? He had felt himself an alien from the moment of his return to Euphoria; there had been no retightening of loosened links, no happy boyish sense of homecoming. He could imagine that a fellow might feel that, getting back to one of those old Lorburn houses, so impregnated with memories, so thick with tangible tokens of the past; but his own recollections could only travel back through a succession of new houses, each one a little larger and with a better bathroom and a neater garage than the last, but all without any traces of accumulated living and dying: shells shed annually, almost, like a crab’s. He even felt, as he sat in the spick-and-span comfort of Mapledale Avenue, the incongruity of an old man’s presuming to die there. “Seems like there’s no past here but in the cemeteries,” he mused one day, looking pityingly at his grandfather . . . .
And now he was getting away from it again, getting back into an atmosphere which to him seemed charged with the dust of ages. When he had been in New York before he had hardly noticed the skyscrapers, which were merely higher than those he already knew; but on one of his last days before leaving he had gone down to Trinity Church, and slowly, wonderingly, had roamed about the graveyard, brooding over names and date heap ghd hair straighteners uk s. . . . The idea that there had been people so near his own day who had lived and died under the same roof, and worshipped every Sunday in the same church as their forebears, appealed in an undefinable way to his craving for continuity. And when he entered the church, and read the epitaphs on the walls above the very seats where the men and women commemorated had sat, it was like feeling a heart beating through the grave wrappings of one of the mummies he had seen in the museum. The ocean and Old Trinity — those were the two gifts New York had given him . . . .
And now he was going back full of hope to the place which seemed to have become his spiritual home. The long cold weight of discouragement had fallen from him at the first word of the summons from The Hour. This time he knew he could make good. Never in journalism: his experi cheap ghd air ence on the Free Speaker had taught him that. If his father hadn’t owned stock in the newspaper Vance knew he could never have held down even his insignificant job there. But there was nothing to regret in all that. He was going to be a writer now: a novelist. A New York review had opened its doors to him; he had only to reread the editorial letter for his brain to hum with new projects and ambitions. “A big novel — I’ll do a big novel yet,” he thought; but meanwhile he would give them all the short stories they wanted. Subjects were swarming about him, opening paragraphs writing themselves on the curtains of his sleeper. All night he lay awake in an ecstasy of invention, rocked by the rhythm of the train as if the great Atlantic rollers were sweeping him forward to his fate.
This mild November ghd straighteners day was all jewelled with sunlight as Vance pushed his way out of the Grand Central. Grip in hand, he was starting for the rooming house where he had lodged before. He did not know where else to go; but no doubt at The Hour he would find someone to advise him. Meanwhile he would just drop his bags (they were bulging with manuscripts), and get a quick wash-up before presenting himself at the office. It was nearly ten o’clock, and he had wired announcing his visit for that day at eleven.
It was the day after Thanksgiving, and the huge station was humming with the arrivals and departures of weekend crowds. Outside, close to the curb, a row of long “rubberneck” cars was drawn up, and with an absent eye Vance watched a band of sightseers, mostly girls, scrambling into on ghd outlet e of them. He thought he had never seen so many happy unconcerned faces: certainly the mere air of New York seemed to wake people up, make them sparkle like the light on this balmy day. Vance, always amused by thronged streets and pleasurable activities, lingered to watch; and as he stood there he saw a girl in a close-fitting blue hat spring into the car in front of him. Her movement was so light and dancing that no term less romantic could describe it. She was absorbed into a giggling group, and under the blue brim Vance caught only a glimpse of cropped straw~coloured hair and a face so translucent that the thin brown eyebrows looked dark as the velvet crescents on a butterfly. His sense of bouyant renewal cheap ghd flat iron seemed to find embodiment in this morning vision, and he forgot his bag, forgot The Hour, forgot even his healthy morning hunger. All he wanted was to know if there was a seat left in that car. A man in a long light ulster, a lettered band on his cap, stood near the driver’s seat, giving orders or instructions. Vance touched his arm. “See here — ” The man turned, and Vance was face to face with Bunty Hayes, the former reporter of the Paul’s Landing paper.
Bunty Hayes had not changed; he was the same trim tight-featured fellow with impudent eyes and a small mouth with a childlike smile; but he cheap ghd wide plate straighteners had thickened a little, and the black-and-gold lettering on his cap gave him an air of authority.
“Say — why, if it ain’t Vance Weston!” he exclaimed.
If anything could have troubled Vance in his present mood, it would have been an encounter with Bunty Hayes. The name had only disastrous associations, and he had always thought the man contemptible. But the tide Cheap GHD Straighteners which was sweeping him forward could not be checked by anything as paltry as Bunty Hayes; and Vance, with no more than a moment’s hesitation, put his hand into the other’s, and made one of his abrupt plunges to the point. “Say — you going for a ride in this car?”
“Going for a ride in her?” Bunty echoed with his easy laugh. “Looks like as if I was. Say, why I’m the barker for her, sonny. Thought I was still up at Paul’s Landing, did you, doing write-ups for that cemetery of a paper? No, sir, that was in the far away and long ago. I been showing New York for nearly two years now. Hop right in — got a capacity load, but I guess the girls’ll make room for you. (I’m taking round Saint Elfrida’s select boarding school, from Pe cheap ghds apack — yes, sir; six front rows; bunch of lookers, ain’t they? Primarily an art trip; we take in the Lib’ry, the Metropolitan, the Cathedral and the Palisades.) See here, pile in, Vance; never mind about your grip. ‘Gainst the rules, I know; but shove it under the seat while the chauffeur’s looking at her appendix. There — in you go; this row. Say, there’s a girl at the other end that’ll give you a squeeze-in next to her; there, the one with the blue hat.”
The barker caught Vance under the elbow to launch him on his way; and then, as he moved forward, called after him stentorianly: “Say, Vance, I want you to meet my f Cheap GHD Straighteners – Cheap ghds UK Sale eean-CEE; yes, that’s her in the blue hat. Laura Lou, meet Mr. Weston. . . . Gee, Vance, but ain’t you Laura Lou’s cousin? Say, well, if I didn’t clean forget you and me’d got acquainted at the Tracys’. . . . Laura Lou, here’s your cousin Vance Weston, come all the way from Illinois to see you. Now then, ladies and gentlemen, all aboard, PLEASE!”
Vance found himself climbing past a row of exposed pink knees. A flu cheap ghd straighteners £50 tter of girlish exclamations greeted him, and he slipped into a crack between a stout Jewish-looking young woman in rimless glasses and the girl under the blue hat, whose flexible young body seemed to melt against his own as she made room for him.
“Laura Lou!” he exclaimed as the car swayed out into the street. He could hardly believe that this little face with the pale rosy mouth and the delicately traced eyebrows could be that of the sulky flapper of Paul’s Landing. Yet he remembered that one evening when she came in for supper, late and a little flushed, in a faded yellow muslin the colour of her hair, he had thought her almost pretty. ALMOST PRETTY— crude fool that he’d been, craving only such coarse fare as Floss Delaney and ‘Smeralda Cran! Time had refined his taste as it had his cousin’s features; and he looked at her with new eyes . . . .
“Vance!” she said, in her shy drawling voice, but without a trace of shyness in her own eyes, which rested on him with a sort of affectionate curiosity.
The eyes too were different; instead of being like blurred gray glasses they were luminous as spring water; and they met his with full awareness of the change. It seemed as if, without self~consciousness or fatuity, she knew herself lovely and was glad, as simply as a flower might be. The sight absorbed Vance’s senses; he hardly heard what she was saying, was conscious only of her nearness, burning and radiant, yet so frail, immaterial almost, that she might vanish at a rash word or motion.
“Why, Vance, isn’t it funny? I didn’t know you were in New York,” she said; and he thought: “I used to think her cheekbones too high; and now the little shadow un cheap ghd straighteners next day delivery der them is what makes her look like those marble heads of Greek priestesses with the smile under their lids . . . .” (He had seen photographs of them in some book on ancient art, in the Euphoria college library.)
“It’s three years since I was here; you’re grown-up now, aren’t you?” he said; and she conceded: “Why, I s’pose I am,” with a laugh that made her mouth break open on her teeth like a pink pod on pearly seeds.
“Three years — ” he echoed; and suddenly he remembered her bending over him as he lay in the hammock, on his first evening at the Tracy’s, and snatching from his buttonhole the spray of lilac he had found on his pillow that morning. “Why, it was you that put the lilac on my pillow before I was awake!” he exclaimed, the words breaking from him before he knew it. He was looking at her intently and she did not a cheap ghd straighteners vert her gaze; but a light like a rosy reflection stole from her throat to her temples. “Of course it was,” he triumphed. “Why, you’re like a tropical shell with the sun shining through it,” he cried; and she answered: “Oh, Vance, you always did say such killing things. I’ll die laughing if you don’t quit . . . .” It was only when she drew away her soft bare hand that he realized he had held it clutched ever since he had pushed his way to her . . . .
“This vacant lot on your right,” Bunty Hayes was bellowing as the car rolled up Fifth Avenue, “was formerly the site of Selfridge B. Merry’s five-million-dollar marble mansion, lately sold to the Amalgamated Searchlight Company, who are about to erect on it a twenty-five-million-dollar skyscraper of fifty stories, with roof gymnasium, cabaret terrace, New Thought church and air Cheap ghds plane landing. . . . The artistic Gothic church on your left is the Reformed Methodist . . . .”
Vance caught back Laura Lou’s hand and pressed it in both of his. “For God’s sake . . . that’s all a joke about your being engaged to him, isn’t it?”
She cast down her lashes, which were of the same velvet texture as her eyebrows, but a darker brown, the colour of brown pansy petals. Her hand still lay confidingly in Vance’s. “Why, I guess he kinder thinks I am . . . .” she said.
“Oh, LET him!” cried Vance derisively. He took a quick glance at the Jewish girl in rimless glasses, saw that she had turned away to pass a box of Fuller’s marshmallows down the line, and flinging his arm about Laura Lou, kissed her fervently.
She paled a little and shrank back, but so submissively, with such an air of leaving herself on his lips even though she withdrew her own, that he thought exultantly: “She knows she belongs to me,” and had there been room in his breast for any feeling but rapture it would have been pity for the tight-faced young man bellowing through his megaphone: “We are now approaching the only remaining private residence on Fifth Avenue, belonging to one of the old original society leaders known throughout the world as the Four Hundred.”
Chapter 18
The next day, when Vance got out of the train at Paul’s Landing, the old horses in the broken-down carry-alls were still standing in the station square, shaking their heads despondently.
He jumped on board a passing trolley and was carried out of the town. At the foot of a familiar lane overhung by bare maple boughs he got out and began to climb to the Willows. Laura Lou had said she would bring the key of the gate with her. She couldn’t let him into the house, she explained: since the theft of the books (which had been brought back, as she supposed Vance knew) Mrs. Tracy had kept the house key hidden away where no one could get it. But Vance was determined at least to see the garden and the outside of the house again, and the day was so windless and mild that they would be able to sit in the sun on the verandah. He wanted to relive his first visit to the Willows, when he had accompanied Laura Lou and Upton, and had lingered spellbound in the library while Laura Lou, her hair covered with a towel, went off with Upton to dust and air the rooms. That day Vance had hardly noticed her, had felt her presence only as that of a tiresome schoolgirl, butting in where she wasn’t wanted, like his own sisters, Pearl and Mae — especially Pearl. And now —!
She was at the gate already; he caught sight of her through the branches, in the powdery gold of the autumn light. She waved to him, and opened the gate; and he followed her in. “No, you mustn’t!” she whispered, as his arms went out, and added, laughing: “With all the leaves off the bushes — and that hired man around.”
“Curse the hired man! Can’t we go and talk quietly somewhere?”
He was looking at her as though to store up the sight against a coming separation, and yet he knew already that he never meant to leave her again. “Can’t I hold your hand, at least?” he asked, awed by something so tender and immature in her that it curbed his impetuousness.
“Oh, well — ” she conceded; and hand in hand, like two children, they began to walk toward the house. Barely screened by its tracery of leafless willows it stood out more prominent and turreted than he had remembered; but if less romantic, it still seemed to him as mysterious. Treading noiselessly on the rain~flattened yellowish grass they passed around to the other front, where the projecting verandah and obliquely set balconies, clutched in the bare gnarled arms of the wistaria, stood out like the torso of an old Laoco?n.
A few oaks still held their foliage, and the evergreen clumps stood out blue-black and solid. But the fall of the leaves revealed, at the end of a path, a rickety trellised arbour which Vance had never before noticed. “Let’s go and sit there.” They crossed the wet cobwebby lawn and entered the arbour. The old hired man was nowhere to be seen, and Vance drew Laura Lou to him and laid his lips on her eyelids. “Ever since yesterday I’ve wanted to kiss your eyes.” She laughed under her breath, and they sat close to each other on the mouldy bench.
“You never used to take any notice of me in old times,” she said; and he answered: “I was nothing but a blind puppy then. Puppies are all born blind . . . .” He wanted to let his kiss glide down to her lips, but she put him from her. The gentleness of her touch controlled him; but he whispered rebelliously: “Why — why?”
She answered that all she had promised was to come and talk things over with him, and he mustn’t tease, or she’d have to go away; and why couldn’t they just sit there quietly, when there was so much to say and so little time? He hardly heard what she said, but there was a power in her softness — or in her beauty, perhaps — which held him subdued. “Your hand, then —?” “Yes.” She gave it back, with one of those smiles which made her mouth like the inside of a flower. Oh, idle metaphors! . . .
“Now tell me.” And she told him how upset her mother had been when he went away so suddenly (“She never meant you to, Vance — but she got frightened . . . .”), and how surprised they were when the basket of flowers with the dove was brought the next day, and how Mrs. Tracy had first been angry, and said: “Is he crazy?” and then cried, and said: “But he must have spent all the money I gave him back,” and then been angry again because she was so sure he’d be the cause of their losing their job at the Willows — and they did lose it, and only got it back after Miss Halo had intervened, and the books were returned, and old Mr. Lorburn had been quieted down again. (“But the dove was lovely, Vance. I’ve got it over my looking glass . . . .”) And at the thought of this miraculous reward he had to clench her hand hard to keep himself from warmer endearments. How little he had dreamed, when he bought it, that the dove would be Venus’s messenger!
She went on to say that things had been very hard for a time, because they had been out of their job for six months. It wasn’t so much the money, though they needed that too; he gathered that Mrs. Tracy’s pride had been wounded, and that she had declared, when Miss Halo tried to fix it up, that it was no use, as she would never let her children go back to the Willows if they had forfeited their cousin’s confidence. But Miss Halo always somehow managed to put things right, and had finally persuaded Mrs. Tracy to relent; and she had continued to help them after that, and had found a fine situation for Upton as undergardener with some friends of hers who had a big place at Tarrytown. So everything was going better now; and she, Laura Lou, was at Saint Elfrida’s School, at Peapack, for a six months’ course, to learn French and literature and a little music — because her mother wanted her to be educated, like her father’s folks were . . . .
Laura Lou was not endowed with the narrative gift; only bit by bit, in answer to Vance’s questions (when he was not too absorbed in her to put any) did she manage, in fragmentary communications, to bridge over the interval which had turned the gawky girl into the miracle of young womanhood before him.
When she wanted to hear what had happened to him since they had parted he found it even harder to tell his story than to piece hers together. While she talked he could spin about her a silken cocoon of revery, made out of her soft drawl, the throb of her hand, the fruitlike curve of her cheeks and eyelids; but when he tried to withdraw his attention from her long enough to put his words in order he lost himself in a blur. . . . Really, he said, nothing much had happened to him, nothing that he specially remembered. He’d been a reporter in the principal Euphoria newspaper, and hated it; and he had taken a post-graduate course in philosophy and literature at the state college; but the lecturers somehow didn’t get hold of him. Reading in a library was what suited him, he guessed. (Her lashes were planted like the double row of microscopic hummingbird feathers in a South American embroidery he’d seen somewhere . . . .) But Euphoria was over and done with; he’d got a job in New York . . . a job on a swell magazine, a literary review they called it, but they published short stories too, they’d already published one of his, and wanted as many more as he could write . . . and the editor, Lewis Tarrant, had written to him to come to New York . . . .
“Lewis Tarrant! But he’s the one Miss Halo married!” Laura Lou exclaimed.
“Did she?” Vance absently rejoined. All his attention was on her hands now; he was separating the fingers one by one, lifting them up and watching them drop back, as though he were playing on some fairy instrument. He hardly noticed the mention of Halo Spear.
“Why, didn’t you know? They were married the year you went away, I guess. I know it was ever so long ago.”
“Does it seem to you ever so long since I went away?”
“Oh, Vance, I’ve told you you mustn’t . . . or I’ll have to go . . . .”
He drew back, dropping her hands, and restricting himself to the more delicate delight of looking at her. “What’s the use of trying to write poetry, when she IS?” he mused. Yet in another moment he was again seeking rhymes and metaphors for her. He tried to explain to himself what it was that kept him thus awestruck and submissive, as if there were a latent majesty in her sweetness. With that girl on Thundertop it had been different; the shock of ideas, the stimulus of the words she used, the allusions she made, the sense of an unknown world of beauty and imagination widening about him as she talked — all this had subdued his blood while it set his brain on fire. But when Laura Lou spoke she became a child to him again. His allusions to his literary plans and ambitions filled her eyes with a radiant sympathy, but evoked nothing more definite than: “Isn’t that too lovely, Vance?” Yet his feeling for her was not the sensual hunger excited by girls like Floss Delaney. It was restrained by something new in this tender creature; as if the contending elements of body and soul were so harmonized in her that to look at her was almost to clasp her.
But the air grew chilly; Vance noticed that she had turned paler; she coughed once or twice. The instinct of protection woke in him. “See here, we mustn’t go on sitting here till you catch cold. Where’ll we go? Why don’t we walk back to the town to warm ourselves up, and have a cup of hot coffee before I catch my train?” She assented, and they turned toward the gate. As Laura Lou stooped to the padlock Vance looked back yearningly at the old house. “We’ll come here often now, won’t we?”
The gate had closed on them, and Laura Lou walked on a few steps before answering. “Oh, I don’t know about coming again, Vance. I had hard work getting the key out of Mother’s drawer without her seeing me. . . . Besides, I’m not here weekdays; I’m at school.”
“Your mother can’t object to our coming here after we’re married,” Vance tranquilly rejoined.
“Married?” she stood still in the lane and looked at him with wide incredulous eyes. Her pale pink lips began to tremble. “Why, how can we be, Vance?”
“Why can’t we be, I’d like to know? I’ll be earning enough soon.” (He was sincerely convinced of it.) “See here, Laura Lou, I want to begin life in New York married to you. I’m coming out to tell your mother and Upton about it tomorrow. You won’t go back to school till Monday, will you? Can I come out early tomorrow, and have dinner with you?”
A shade of apprehension crossed her face. “Oh, Vance darling — not tomorrow.”

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