Monday, May 24, 2010

WHEN AMBER CRIED ENOUGH; by Marguerite Mohler Hanson; part 3; 1932

What next? he wondered. Men had been killed for less. He felt angry, and stirred, and cheap. Why hadn't she let him know? One little squeak--game of her, though, to play out the hand. That kiss! How round and soft and supple she'd been! He groaned. Could he ever look her in the face again? Would he ever get the chance?

"Thank God I didn't upend her!" he muttered grimly.

Perhaps by now she had left the house in mortal offense. He was hesitating between a clean-up in the bathroom and oblivion in the silo when he heard his mother's voice with an edge to it:

"Drag--Drag, are you about ready for supper?"

He didn't know how long he had been standing there. He picked up his razor and went out into the hall. In the morning he'd pack his bag and join the mule show where he belonged.

Presently, looking something like a tall, defiant, blond Chinese, he walked into the pleasant, old-fashioned living room, his gorgeous orange hair still wet from his bath.

The room was empty. He went to the doorway of the strangely silent dining room. There sat the family--alone, Henry chewing mechanically, a puzzled, far-away expression on his dark, good-looking face, Dolly absent-mindedly rocking a half glass of milk, Mother intent on her food.

She looked up to reprove him for being so late. Dolly avoided his eyes as he took his place opposite her. She hadn't betrayed him--evidently. Nor had Amber. But she was gone.

"Thought you were going to have company," he observed to the table at large, an incredibly innocent look on his face.

"The doctor took her home," explained his mother.

"The doctor! What was the matter with her?"

"She was a wreck," sighed Dolly.

"She fainted at the foot of the stairs," elucidated Mrs. Flemming.

"From the pain," supplemented Dolly as if she relished telling it.

"Why Drag, what are you so pale about?" cried his mother, putting a hand on his arm.

"I'm all right," he muttered, resting his head on his hand.

"But I don't see how stumbling on the stairs could make her break a couple of ribs," puzzled Henry.

"Break a couple of ribs!" croaked Drag.

"That's just what happened," declared Dolly crisply.

"On the stairs?"

She gave him a look. "What do you think?"

He knew very well that he must have done it. "Why didn't you tell the truth?" he wanted to know.

"Amber wouldn't let me," answered Dolly. "I told her that Mother and Henry would skin you alive when they found out you had done it. She said she'd skin me if I tattled, but now you've given it away."

"Given what away?" demanded Henry and his mother in one voice.