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Graeve, Oscar (ed.) / Delineator
Vol. 118, No. 6 (June, 1931)

Lewis, Grace Hegger
Half a loaf,   pp. 16-17 PDF (1.3 MB)

Page 17

J UN E, 1 931 
Cameras pointing. Passersby
staring.  "Must   be  someone
important! Recognize his face?
Let's look at the passenger list"
became conscious of white gloves, or rather beige and
pale gray. A card-case was as necessary as a powder-
compact. In later years with each fresh packing of her
trunks, Susan would hesitate in front of a pale blue
stationer's box containing copper plates and white cards.
The cards were growing more softly sear and yellow,
should she throw them away? But no-o-o, perhaps they
might go back to Washington some day.
Talk, talk, grand talk! Clarence Darrow saying that
all was not Chicago which racketeered, no, not quite all,
as he smiled gently to himself. Hendrik Willem Van
Loon, playing his fiddle or doing card tricks or stating in
bi-lingual terms that snoring had recognizable national
characteristics-one could tell a Dutchman from a Dane:
"I will illoostrate!"
William Lyon Phelps drinking hot chocolate after a
lecture, preparatory to taking the midnight train back to
New Haven, and amused by Timothy's collected data on
hats. Mr. Phelps wore a soft hat of no particular shape,
which when he entered the Hale hallway he crowded into
his topcoat pocket, as if he were afraid of losing it or of
having it taken away from him. Now William Hard
had just such another hat-a size too small and agree-
ably battered. So did Lloyd George and Clemenceau-
small, warped, fuzzy hats. Surely it must mean some-
thing-something fundamental.
The novel was with them day and night. It sat down
to breakfast with them, it was telephoned about during
the day when Timothy wanted praise for an adroit
situation, or when he couldn't find the right word in
Roget's Thesaurus. Sometimes Susan would appear in
his workroom with a thermos of hot coffee and doughnuts
freshly fried, and the novel would make a third at the
feast. Its presence faded at dinner, but if Timothy had
brought home a dozen pages for Susan to read he would
be distracted and even bad-tempered, accusing her of
lack of interest, until she settled down on the sofa and
started reading. He would hover about and watch her
eves go down the page, keen to catch the expressions of
pleasure or pain on her mobile face. If she laughed he'd
insist, "What was it, what was it? Was it a good funny?"
Sometimes the tears came. "It's the scene where the
baby dies, Timmy. I can't bear it. Must it die?" Tim
nodded, and his own eyes filled with tears. Susan wanted
to rush upstairs and see if Roger were safe. Obviously
Tim was only thinking of the baby in the book. Was he
ever voluntarily to go to the nursery to kiss Roger good-
night? He never had so far. Were all authors like
Nor was Susan safe during the night from the novel.
No matter what her temper might be during the day she
had the virtue of waking easily and cheerfully. So when
Tim came home late from some men's dinner and wanted
to talk, she would wake up with little noises of welcome.
He would have been hurt if she had scowled at him at
six A. M. when, unable to sleep, he would seat himself on
the edge of her bed, cigaret in his fingers, and awake her
"I think I am making Malcolm too damn introspec-
tive! He is much more the doer type than the thinker. I
want Caroline to be the neurotic. Now when he makes
Illustrated by W.
his first political speech it seems to me he-"
Susan pushed her curly hair back from her forehead and
rubbed her eyes with her fists. Blinking, she tried to
absorb what he was saying.
"No one ever made a first speech, Tim, who wasn't
shaking with fear before he rose from his chair. And let
the man make a good speech, a short speech for a change.
I bet you yourself will make a good little spoocher one
of these days, if you'll learn to talk slower . . . Anything
else on your mind?"
Susan wished they might have had a bit more money just
then, for there were so many "firsts" to buy Roger. The
first bean bag, blocks, fire engine, train, kiddy car, tricycle.
When she read him the first time "The Night Before
Christmas" out of the same illustrated edition she had
loved as a child, she felt a religious glow.
She always kept at her bedside one bulky volume,
bound in black or dark blue and lettered in gold, on a
subject which she felt she ought to read and rarely did.
"The Montessori Method" nested on three successive
tables. She took every one of Roger's questions seri-
ously, trying to answer truthfully but without giving
undue emphasis by overexplaining. One evening as he
sat on his little enamel pot prior to going to bed he
looked up at her and said:
"Mother, what is dying?"
How to explain! He was only three! But she had
promised herself never to lie to him.
"My treasure, it is going to sleep and not waking up
Sitting there, his white flannel nightie in folds about
his bare feet, he was so very tiny to be told of such an
overwhelming extinction. And he sensed it, for his blue
eyes widened and filled with such a fear that Susan knew
she had done something wicked to her first born.
"Mother, mother, you mean I shan't wake up in the
morning, that I shall never see you again?"
Oh what had she said! She knew that as his mother
she was the one secure thing in his short life, and to lose
her in an endless sleep was unthinkable.
She knelt down beside him, holding him tight to her
heart. Any, any lie must be told at once to wipe that
horror from his sweet face. "Precious, mother is too
silly, the way she says things. You know how you went
to the hospital last month to have your tonsils taken out
and how you went to sleep for a little while so that kind
Dr. Nelson wouldn't hurt you, and how your throat was
sore for a few days and you could only eat mushy things,
and then you were all well again, and no more sore
throats-well, Dr. Nelson and other doctors are thinking
all the time about ways to cure illnesses, and death is
only an illness, and I am sure that soon they will discover
a medicine that will cure dying. You see how it is?"
He nodded quite cheerfully, stood up to let her fasten
his drawers in the back, and she tucked him into bed.
"Tell me the story of 'Little Black Sambo,' " he com-
As she was kissing him a final good-night, she fancied
he clung more tightly around her neck. Was he think-
ing that perhaps he might never see her again once he
had fallen asleep? Oh fool that she was, this nonsense
about telling babies grown-up truths! . .  She left
the nursery door open wxider than usual and all through
the night she would start up from her bed and steal to
Roger's crib and listen for his breathing. "I am the
frightened one, not he," she thought.
"What's the matter with you, Sue?" grumbled Timmy
from his twin bed. He hated to be disturbed once he
was asleep.
"Shhhhh, don't wake up," she whispered, "I'm just
restless." It did not occur to her to share with him her
For weeks she waited for Roger to return to the sub-
ject, but he never did. His maturity at the age of twelve
encouraged her one (lay to tell him the story. He was
charmed with it as he was with all tales about his early
childhood, or hers.
"I don't remember it at all, mother. I never think of
death especially. W"hen I am alone with myself or you
are with me, then I feel nothing can happen to either of
us. The only time I am afraid is when you go on a jour-
ney without me, then I am afraid for you."
IT WAS a stupid fact that people-even a telephone call
I which Timothy's complacent smirk would proclaim was
from a pretty woman-had a way of driving Timothy and
Susan apart, so that they were more united when "goin'
someplace"-like two jolly dogs suddenly starting down
the road with great earnestness and an air of secret mis-
sion. Susan had seen some wives sit silent and admiring
of their husband's every word, other wives cast adoring
smiles the length of a dinner table. She rarely did either
except when Tim was telling a story or making a speech,
and then she listened with an aloof and critical ear. She
had been the responsible chief of a family too long before
she married to feel that there was either head or foot to
the Hale dining-table. Also she had been told often
enough she had a personality-hadn't Tim married her
because he thought so?-and she was ever fearful that in
the strength of his, hers would be submerged, obliterated.
Hence she must catch the attention of the stranger at
once, impress him with her gaiety, her frock, her free
thinking, so that later he would say, "Yes, I met Mrs.
Hale just once but I see her in every page of his books."
Any one Tim deeply liked, Susan liked, too, but he had
so many twenty-four-hour enthusiasms that Susan, who
was curious but not gregarious, failed often enough to
glow with him, and thus she earned for herself in Tim's
mind that adhesive approbrium-"difficult."
She protested to Tim and to others that marriage gave
you the confidence to be a wallflower, but actually she
hated being left alone as much as any awkward d6bu-
tante. On those evenings when others had not appre-
ciated her wit and her new frock, poor Tim in the taxi
home would have to pay for her neglect by listening to
harsh criticisms of the hosts, the guests, the food, the
furniture, and finally some uncouthness of his.
"You never watch out for me, Tim. You nab the first
pretty girl you see, and disappear for hours, and leave me
to shift for myself. What's the use of having a husband?"
"That's not true. As a matter of fact the only time
you ever remember me is when you    (Turn to page 86)
~5 '
t 47A

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