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IV


David did not sleep well that night. He had not had his golf after
all, for the Homer baby had sent out his advance notice early in the
afternoon, and had himself arrived on Sunday evening, at the hour
when Minnie was winding her clock and preparing to retire early for
the Monday washing, and the Sayre butler was announcing dinner.
Dick had come in at ten o'clock weary and triumphant, to announce
that Richard Livingstone Homer, sex male, color white, weight nine
pounds, had been safely delivered into this vale of tears.

David lay in the great walnut bed which had been his mother's, and
read his prayer book by the light of his evening lamp. He read the
Evening Prayer and the Litany, and then at last he resorted to the
thirty-nine articles, which usually had a soporific effect on him.
But it was no good.

He got up and took to pacing his room, a portly, solid old figure
in striped pajamas and the pair of knitted bedroom slippers which
were always Mrs. Morgan's Christmas offering. "To Doctor David,
with love and a merry Xmas, from Angeline Morgan."

At last he got his keys from his trousers pocket and padded softly
down the stairs and into his office, where he drew the shade and
turned on the lights. Around him was the accumulated professional
impedimenta of many years; the old-fashioned surgical chair; the
corner closet which had been designed for china, and which held his
instruments; the bookcase; his framed diplomas on the wall, their
signatures faded, their seals a little dingy; his desk, from which
Dick had removed the old ledger which had held those erratic records
from which, when he needed money, he had been wont - and reluctant
- to make out his bills.

Through an open door was Dick's office, a neat place of shining
linoleum and small glass stands, highly modern and business-like.
Beyond the office and opening from it was his laboratory, which
had been the fruit closet once, and into which Dick on occasion
retired to fuss with slides and tubes and stains and a microscope.

Sometimes he called David in, and talked at length and with
enthusiasm about such human interest things as the Staphylococcus
pyogenes aureus, and the Friedlander bacillus. The older man would
listen, but his eyes were oftener on Dick than on the microscope or
the slide.

David went to the bookcase and got down a large book, much worn,
and carried it to his desk

An hour or so later he heard footsteps in the hall and closed the
book hastily. It was Lucy, a wadded dressing gown over her
nightdress and a glass of hot milk in her hand.

"You drink this and come to bed, David," she said peremptorily.
"I've been lying upstairs waiting for you to come up, and I need
some sleep."

He had no sort of hope that she would not notice the book.

"I just got to thinking things over, Lucy," he explained, his tone
apologetic. "There's no use pretending I'm not worried. I am."

"Well, it's in God's hands," she said, quite simply. "Take this up
and drink it slowly. If you gulp it down it makes a lump in your
stomach."

She stood by while he replaced the book in the bookcase and put out
the lights. Then in the darkness she preceded him up the stairs.

"You'd better take the milk yourself, Lucy," he said. "You're not
sleeping either."

"I've had some. Good-night."

He went in and sitting on the side of his bed sipped at his milk.
Lucy was right. It was not in their hands. He had the feeling all
at once of having relinquished a great burden. He crawled into bed
and was almost instantly asleep.

So sometime after midnight found David sleeping, and Lucy on her
knees. It found Elizabeth dreamlessly unconscious in her white bed,
and Dick Livingstone asleep also, but in his clothing, and in a
chair by the window. In the light from a street lamp his face
showed lines of fatigue and nervous stress, lines only revealed
when during sleep a man casts off the mask with which he protects
his soul against even friendly eyes.

But midnight found others awake. It found Nina, for instance, in
her draped French bed, consulting her jeweled watch and listening
for Leslie's return from the country club. An angry and rather
heart-sick Nina. And it found the night editor of one of the
morning papers drinking a cup of coffee that a boy had brought in,
and running through a mass of copy on his desk. He picked up
several sheets of paper, with a photograph clamped to them, and
ran through them quickly. A man in a soft hat, sitting on the desk,
watched him idly.

"Beverly Carlysle," commented the night editor. "Back with bells
on!" He took up the photograph. "Doesn't look much older, does she?
It's a queer world."

Louis Bassett, star reporter and feature writer of the Times-
Republican, smiled reminiscently.

"She was a wonder," he said. "I interviewed her once, and I was
crazy about her. She had the stage set for me, all right. The
papers had been full of the incident of Jud Clark and the night he
lined up fifteen Johnnies in the lobby, each with a bouquet as big
as a tub, all of them in top hats and Inverness coats, and standing
in a row. So she played up the heavy domestic for me; knitting or
sewing, I forget."

"Fell for her, did you?"

"Did I? That was ten years ago, and I'm not sure I'm over it yet."

"Probably that's the reason," said the city editor, drily. "Go and
see her, and get over it. Get her views on the flapper and bobbed
hair, for next Sunday. Smith would be crazy about it."

He finished his coffee.

"You might ask, too, what she thinks has become of Judson Clark,"
he added. "I have an idea she knows, if any one does." Bassett
stared at him.

"You're joking, aren't you?"

"Yes. But it would make a darned good story."





The Breaking Point by Mary Roberts Rinehart
Category:
General Fiction

Mystery and detective stories
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