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The Get-away

By MARY HEATON VORSE Author of "A Child's Heart," "The Highest Power," etc.

Illustrations by Everett Shinn

IN the first place, I want it clearly understood that this story is no burlesque, but a straight record of fact. Indeed, I am almost afraid to write it, since the generation in which we live is as yet so wrongminded that instead of extending sympathy to Paul Brockway, as it should, it may be inclined to laugh at him. But there is more than one young man walking about upon two legs to-day who has shared Paul's fate; many a young man who reads this will feel the blush of hot shame mounting to his face as he remembers ignominious get-aways that he himself has been forced to make, awful palpitating moments when, torn with embarrassment, chivalry, and false modesty, he has been forced into positions like Paul's.

This is frankly a story with a message; far from being written with levity, this is propaganda. I say it openly, I am not serving you a sugar-coated pill; so when you read the sad story of Paul Brockway, pause and think. Face boldly the conditions of life which actually confront us, and which, because of the European War, are going to grow steadily worse and worse, and then set briskly about creating a public opinion by which men may meet circumstances of this kind with the grace and dignity of self-approval with which women may meet them. Talk about a double standard of morality! Here's a double standard with a vengeance. When it is all right and decent for women, why it is made so fiendish, so soul-searing, so ignominious, and so low-down for men, I can't tell you. It is, and it ought not to be-not with the world as it is.

Paul's tragedy began by listening to the venomous counsels of Hemmingway, the philosopher. Hemmingway sat upon his piazza surrounded by beautiful children of his own begetting, a charming and able wife, whose eye was at once both humorous and cynical, and a philosophy that harked back from some forgotten era of the nineteenth century.

"Women," he boomed, "need to be made love to; only by making love to women can you get to know them. It's the only way for a man of intelligence to begin an acquaintance with a woman-to make love to her." A beautiful blond child perched itself on each of his capacious knees. Caressing their heads, he continued to talk convincingly a philosophy of life suited to an earlier and lessdangerous day. "Marriage," he continued, with an optimism totally unsupported by any fact, "as we now see it in its binding bourgeois phases, will shortly disappear. Men and women are too far apart. More men should know more women. Don't you agree with me, Consuela?" He appealed to that slender and deep-bosomed daughter of Neptune, Consuela Dare, Paul's betrothed. Consuela turned a smoldering eye on Hemmingway. "No," she said coldly.

"Now, what Paul needs is to make love to some woman if he 's to make you happy, Consuela."

"I'll attend to being happy myself," said Consuela, darkly. At this Hemmingway's wife laughed a short and mocking laugh. Subtly it was turned against Hemmingway.

"But you, Consuela, you like to be made love to. I make love to you myself." "Do you?" said Consuela, flushing angrily under her tan.

"Don't you know it, Consuela? You slapped me the last time I kissed you. No, it was the time before the last that you slapped me.”

"How could I know you were doing what you call 'making love'!" said Consuela.

Hemmingway's wife again laughed maddeningly.

"You 're very subtle, Consuela," Hemmingway went on, "and how shall an inexperienced man like Paul-”

"I'm not so darned inexperienced," Paul broke in. Poor fellow, he was easily drawn.

Here it was that Peggy DeWitt spoke. "Paul, don't you want some more experience?" said she, putting her face about four inches from his and smiling mockingly into it.

"Sure!" said Paul.

"We're both engaged," Peggy reminded him; "it 's our duty to enrich our lives for the partners of our joys. Come ahead!" They disappeared, Paul having the rejoicing emotion of a small boy playing hooky; besides, he had not relished the fact that right under his eyes Consuela had been flirting with Hemmingway. Obviously he owed her one.

Paul Brockway had led an unusually sheltered life. He had lived in groups of people where men preponderated over women. Since leaving college, four years before, he had spent time in some strange places: he had been in the far North, he had gone to Africa with a moving-picture man. On his latest return from the wild places of the earth he had seen Consuela and become engaged to her. He knew as little about modern life or women as Hemmingway, who, looking at it over a frieze of his children's heads, could still talk in terms of the nineteenth century.

When Paul returned alone, with the irritating look of a cat who has swallowed a canary, Consuela was there waiting for him. The atmosphere was sultry.

"Surely, Consuela, you 're not so bourgeoise," inquired Hemmingway, "as not to perceive that Paul has done this for you alone?"

"I can't stand Peggy DeWitt," replied Consuela, her bosom heaving, "and I will not see her make a monkey out of Paul!"

"You 're unreasonable," said Paul. He did not like the phrase "make a monkey of."

Consuela clenched her fists.

"I will not have you act like a fool with girls I perfectly dislike," she asserted.

Despite Hemmingway's saying admiringly, "I'd give ten years of my life to have a girl love me like that," they quarreled.

With a feeling that marriage was about to shut confining jaws upon him and that he must have one little day of experience before that time arrived, -these ideas had carefully been inserted there by Hemmingway,-Paul flung himself into his motor.

"Don't come back," said Consuela, flamingly, "until you can stop acting like a fool." "Which means," Hemmingway interpreted, "until you can do everything she tells you to."

The automobile has had a profound effect upon the course of courtship. A man can arrive and leave with a celerity and unexpectedness that has been impossible hitherto. Paul let the road lead him; he did n't know this part of New England well. Nightfall found him in a quiet and beautiful village. An old white church with a lovely and aspiring tower fronted a green common; the wide streets on each side held a double row of elms. Even the town hall had escaped burning up. No one knows why New England town halls do burn up, but this has been for a long time their characteristic. Ancient houses, their yards full of flowering shrubs, slumbered under the shady elms. A motor-car seemed almost an impertinence here, so much did one appear to have turned back the hand of time.

Paul, whose senses and sensibilities had all been sharpened by the exciting occurrences of the day, fancied himself in a fabled country. The town had a dream


"There was that about her that charmed Paul and made him sorry for her"

like mellowness that ill accorded with the fiction common to New England that had fallen Paul's way. He asked the name of the town at the post-office, and was told that it was Lebanon, a wooing word. It was a town that called for companionship and conversation. So, in a spirit of adventure rather than of scorn for the small hostelry, he asked who it was in town that might give a night's lodging, and learned. from a clerk in a store that the Kellogg girls took in summer folks sometimes.

The house that had been pointed out to him was a sweet, rambling place, with sweet things growing about it; flowers and shrubs were in the yard. It was set back from the road, and one walked up a long brick path under sentinel sycamoretrees. On the front porch a lady was sitting. She was dressed, though Paul, naturally, did not know that, in a filmy sprigged dimity. Her beauty was of fragile delicacy; her dark eyes had a haunting and melancholy look. There was that about her that charmed Paul and made him sorry for her. He hoped that she was Miss Kellogg. She was. He hoped-and his tone was flattering-she had a room. The flattery of his voice did not escape her. It surprised from her a smile as dim as moonlight on a lake.

There was a charming air of faded gentility about the place; things had grown threadbare, as though loving hands had overbrushed and overpolished them. Old things shone dimly, and made mellow and caressing notes of color. He sat at ease, dreaming no evil, thinking no guile, utterly off his guard. A fine adventurous mood was that of poor Paul's. He was ready for anything.

He heard giggles within, young and hoidenish laughter, voices saying:

"Is it alive? Where did you get it, Aunt Miriam ?"

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They burst out on him. They were young; one could n't tell whether the blonde or the brunette was older. They were pretty, the brunette dimpled, alluring, with bold, laughing eyes. Her mouth was made up as though for a kiss, and she stood nearer to Paul than there was any need. The blonde was slender, rose-leaf tinted, appealing. With a confiding gesture she sat down very near him in a little attitude of drooping expectancy. To take her hand would have been the most natural thing in the world.

How it happened Paul never remembered afterward, but he was soon in a game of romps, chasing Louise—for the two were quaintly named Clara and Louise Kellogg about the long lawn. She dodged him through the syringa-bushes; she led him a chase up a little hill, flaunting, alluring, making a pretense at repelling. When he finally captured her in a grape arbor, what on earth was there for him to do but to kiss her, I ask you? He did it; I never pretended that Paul Brockway shunned the obvious. When they came back, Louise protesting, pouting with an innocent air, then before the rest insolently daring him to kiss her.

The Lovely Lady had aged; the silent years seemed to have slid over her in his absence. She sat quiet, composed, a generation away. Perhaps it was not their bounding vitality that had so wiped her out as their calm assumption of her belonging to another generation. "Aunt," "Aunt Miriam," "Auntie," dropped ceaselessly from their lips; and yet there was no line upon her brow, no dimming of her quiet color. She could not, Paul reflected, have been a day over thirty, if she was that; but one could not imagine her getting kissed in a grape arbor on sight, as it were, and somehow that episode was more exciting than the moonlit vistas of shy companionship which friendship with her offered him.

After dinner he found himself helping her with the dishes. Then there were more romps with Louise. She managed to do these things without giving the effect of any vulgarity. There was a spon

taneity in her high good humor, a heady quality about her bold, alluring ways. She was simply the sort of girl, Paul reflected, one had to kiss. God had evidently created her for that purpose, and she seemed to be perfectly willing to fulfil the designs of the Almighty.

A little out of breath, his pulses hammering, a feeling of being "a devil of a fellow" surging over him, he sat down on the front porch. The Lovely Lady was there; she looked at him with an fathomable glance that suddenly made his heart beat faster, and that seemed to implore him mutely:


"Don't send me back into the shadow of years; don't envelop me with a fictitious mantle of age. You see, I'm young as spring, and as shy." Impulsively Paul said:

"Won't you take a turn to-morrow in my car?"

She hesitated; she smiled at him with adorable shyness.

"Oh, do come!" urged Paul.

"Very well," she said; and from the tone of her voice Paul gathered the touching information that this to her was a great adventure.

"It takes very little to satisfy some women," he reflected; and thought with anger of Consuela Dare who exacted so much of a man.

She left him. In a moment the blonde Clara was beside him. The front porch had benches running the length of it; four people might have sat there; Clara, evidently making room for two ghostly visitors, sat close to him. She looked up, her blue melting eyes in his face:

"I'm glad you 've come," she said softly.

"So am I," responded silly, innocent Paul.

"You are not just going to pass through Lebanon?" Her voice quivered a little. There was a touching quality to her that made Paul wish to comfort her.

"I think I'll stay a day or so," he said. A sigh of deep relief escaped her. From within came Louise's voice: "Clara!" it called.

"Yes," responded Clara, indolently. "Auntie wants you."

"All right," said Clara, amiably; she did n't move. "I don't care if she wants me," she announced in a gently triumphant tone. The low footfall of the Lovely Lady was heard. "Do you want me, Auntie?" called Clara. "No, dear." Clara smiled subtly. "Clara?" said Louise.

Clara arose softly.

"Let 's walk," she said. There was a little thrill in her voice. "The streets are so sweet at night, with the linden-trees in bloom."

There was a witchery about her. Unresisting, Paul followed. They moved away like shadows, without speaking, wrapt in some vague enchantment. They were down at the gate before Louise's voice was again heard:

"Clara!" Under the electric light one might have observed that Clara again smiled subtly.

Time moved swiftly with Paul the next day. By the time dinner was over he had a little bit the feeling as though the movement had been as rapid as that in a moving-picture show. Between Clara and Louise he began to have a slightly breathless feeling. He strolled down to the end of the garden by himself, smoking to catch his breath, to reflect, complacently, upon their rather open-mouthed expression when he had driven off with "Auntie."

At the other side of the gray picketfence there was a rustic grape arbor; from the inside of the grape arbor came a rustling of skirts; a charming head protruded now, framed in vine leaves and delicate tendrils of brown curls-a face full of delicacy and piquancy, the nose tilted up, the wide, golden-brown eyes wild, while the mouth, with its delicately fashioned corners, was sophisticated. She had a long, straight throat.

"Hello, man!" she remarked.

"Hello, girl!" responded fatuous Paul. "I am not a girl," responded the sophisticated mouth, which, despite its words, held a wild wood note; "I'm a widow, thank God!"

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