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1957_03_02--026_SP [Love Dies Slowly]

T H E S A T U R D A Y E V E N I N G P O S T Sore Throat? Cold? (Continued from Page 88) “I saw your light,” he said, “and I thought you might be mulling things over alone.” “1 am.” “Would you like someone to mull with?” “Very much,” I said. “Won’t you come in?” He followed me into the study and lowered himself wearily into a chair. The packages made it difficult for him to relax, so he handed them to me. “Flowers,” he said, “and candy. Pretty routine, I’m afraid, but I'm out of practice.” “That's hard to believe,” I said. He came out into the pantry while I fixed the flowers, and then he got out some ice cubes and mixed himself a drink. “I’ve been thinking about you all evening,” he said. “I’ve been driving around for hours trying to get up enough courage to ring your bell.” “Why should it take courage? We’re old friends.” “I don’t know, Maggie,” he said. “I guess it’s because I’ve always had a thing about you. I watched you take a beating for so long. I hate to say this to you, but I’ve got to—you’re grieving over a guy who died ten years ago, not in a plane accident last May.” “You frightened me once before by talking like this.” “And you ran away. I tried to tell you then to cut your losses, to pull out and make a life for yourself and your boy.” “There were reasons—I was half a world away from home, and there was the money problem too.” He came over and sat down beside me. “ Maggie,” he said earnestly, “I want you to believe this. 1 was trying to shock you into action. Jeff Hillyer was one of my oldest friends. I knew you couldn’t save him, but I wanted you to save yourself. I saw what he was doing to you and it scared me. How much longer could you have stood the humiliation and neglect and utter disregard for your welfare or future?” “You can stand a lot when you have a child.” Mike looked at me impatiently. “You were beginning to crack up in Lisbon,” he said harshly. “What good would that have done your child? And what good did it do him to watch you being treated without consideration or respect? He could see things straight, even if you couldn’t.” “How do you know?” “ I have a composition of his called Why I Don't Want to be a Foreign Correspondent. Any time you want to read it, you can have it.” “You’re deliberately trying to upset me, Mike. Why?” “Because I want you to give up the ghost—for Chip’s sake as well as your own. He can’t live in that shadow. He has no respect for it. If you cling to it much longer, you may lose your son as suddenly as you lost your husband.” Th is was shock treatment all right and I was so numb and cold from it that I reached out for a cardigan that was thrown across the arm of the chair. I had refused to face the failure of my marriage. 1 had sacrificed everything to it. I was still refusing to face it. Dreams always died hard with me. I had avoided Mike because he knew the truth. I remembered how many times he had phoned after we came back to Bolton. I saw that he was watching me and I tried to hold back the tears, but I could feel them running down my face. I turned my head away because I knew he hated tears “Here," he said. It was a large pocket handkerchief, a n d j disappeared gratefully behind it. I « »a o n " “That’s O.K. 1 told you I’ve grown up. I hope I wasn’t too rough on you.” “You were disturbing,” I said, “but profound. Someday, when I’ve worked my way out of this mess. I’ll try to thank you." He leaned over and kissed me. “1 hope that someday isn’t too far off. What are you going to do now?" “I guess I'll have to tell father. I’n afraid he’ll be very difficult.” “That’s something of an understatement. He’ll probably have the school charter revoked and all of the faculty blacklisted.” The clock was winding up for the long midnight chime and Mike looked at his watch. “ I’ll have to leave you, Cinderella,” he said. “ In a small town staying anywhere after midnight is synonymous with spending the night.” I was walking through the living room with him when a sleepy voice called from upstairs, “Are you still up, Maggie?” “Yes, dear,” I said. “Anything the matter?" “No,” said Chip. “It’s just about today. I was thinking how hard it will be for you to tell grandfather.” “ I’ll manage somehow. Don’t worry about it.” “But suppose grandfather blows his top at Mr. O’Toole?” “I’ve thought about that, Chip. I even spoke to Mr. O’Toole about it.” “What'd he say?” “He said he didn't care about himself; he was concerned only about you." “Golly,” said Chip. “ Mr. O’Hara is here, but he’s about to leave. Do you want to come down?” “No,” said Chip. “G’night, Maggie.... G’night Mr. O’Hara.” On the following evening I was sitting alone again in the study trying to finish a letter to my father. I had started it earlier in the day, but it was a hard letter to write. 1 had to tell him the story of my marriage and the mistakes I had made and everything that led up to the present problem of Chip’s future at Bolton. Somehow I had to convince him that I was the one person responsible. No one else was at fault; not Chip nor the headmaster nor the faculty. If I had stayed home after Chip was bom—as everyone, including father, had urged—I might have an untarnished memory of Jeff, the brilliant journalist who wanted only to be free. And if Jeff had been allowed to roam the world alone, he might have come back from time to time and C*hip would have a memory of his father that he could cherish. Now, for both of us, there was only the memory of a past without peace or possessions, without roots or responsibilities. There was the memory of dimly lit airports and dark railway stations with no one to meet us; of the weary search for a place to stay because no provision had been made for our arrival. There were some good memories, too, when we were all together and happy and, for a few months at least, there was hope for the future. But something always happened. Sooner or later we were alone again. All of this I told father, and it was not easy to tell, but 1 needed his understanding. It would confirm his worst suspicions about my marriage, but it couldn't hurt Jeff now and it might save the faculty of Bolton School and its headmaster. I begged father not to interfere in any way, and 1 told him what a debt I owed to John O'Toole and his mother for their kindness to Chip. I assured him that I would keep him informed and that I would make no plans for the future with- ___a » / x n r i i l t i n n h im Bayer Aspirin Makes You Feel Better Fast! 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1957_03_02--026_SP [Love Dies Slowly]
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