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- The Flyers - 1/15 -
BY GEORGE BARR MCCUTCHEON
Author of "Graustark" "Beverly of Graustark" etc.
I. THE FARAWAY CLUB II. THE FLYERS CATCH THE FLYER III. THE MORNING AFTER IV. MRS. VAN TRUDER INTRUDES V. AS NIGHT APPROACHES VI. THE ROAD TO PARADISE
Anne Courtenay ..... Frontispiece
Eleanor was still sitting. . . stiff and silent
Seated side by side. . . two miserable partners in the fiasco
"Hush, Joe, I LOVE it," she cried
THE FARAWAY CLUB
A cold, thick drizzle, blown by a biting wind that sent chills to the marrow, marred the early spring night, and kept indoors the few hardy members who had haunted the clubhouse since the season's opening a week before. Not more than a dozen loyal devotees to the sports of the open air lounged about the big clubhouse. Three or four rangy young women in sweaters and jackets strove bravely to dispel the gloom of the night as it settled down upon the growling masculine majority. The club steward hovered near, anxiously directing the movements of a silent and as yet undrilled corps of servants who flitted from group to group with decanters and checks, taking and mistaking orders with the usual abandon. A huge fireplace threw out heat sufficient to make the big lounging room comfortable. Now and then a spiteful gust of wind swept the rain against the western window-panes with a menace that set the teeth on edge.
"Rotten night," reflected the big man who monopolised the roomiest chair and the best position in front of the blazing logs. "Going to town to-night?" The question was general: there were half a dozen answers. Every one was going in by the last express. All of them had dined well: they had been hungry and the club was a wealthy one; even the most exclusive of appetites could be entertained at the Faraway Country Club. The last 'bus was to leave the clubhouse at ten minutes past ten, and it was then half-past eight. Ten minutes' drive from the clubhouse on the edge of the little town to the railway station--then thirty minutes to the heart of the big city in which the members lived and died at great risk to themselves.
Each succeeding spring saw the formal opening of the Faraway Country Club. The boards were pulled down from the windows and the door hinges were oiled properly after a winter of discontent. May saw the reopening, but it was not until June that crowds began to fill the house and grounds. Only the more restless and hardy had the temerity to test the pleasures of the raw spring days and nights. The M.F.H. was a loyal, eager chap; he knew what was required of him in his official capacity. With the first symptoms of softening soil he led his followers through field and wood, promising the "real hunt" inside of a month. Following a pack of overfed hounds was what every one at Faraway Club called a "real hunt."
The night so meagrely described at the beginning of this tale followed hard upon a grey, chill day. A few golfers had spent the afternoon upon the course, inanely cursing the temporary tees and greens. A couple of polo enthusiasts tried out their ponies, and several men and women took their hunters over the course, that fairly bristled with spectres of last year's anise-seed. Now they were comfortably ensconced in the clubhouse, berating the unfortunate elements, and waiting for the last express with a persistency which allowed three or four earlier trains to come and go unnoticed. The cheerful highball was coming into its own. A stern winter of bridge had not killed the ardour of certain worshippers; continuous criticism of play arose from the table in the corner where two men and two women were engaged with the cards.
The perennial bore, who noses into everything in order to sniff his own wit, sauntered amiably from group to group, pouring out jests as murky as the night itself. He saw none of the scowls nor heard the toe-taps; he went blithely along his bridgeless way.
"I say, Brown, I saw your wife on the street yesterday, but she didn't see me," he observed to the blase-looking man in corduroys.
"Ya-as," returned the other, calmly staring past him; "so she told me last night." The bore and his blissful smile passed on to the next group. There, two or three women were chatting with as many men, yawning and puffing at their cigarettes, bored by the risque stories the men were telling, but smiling as though they had not already heard them from other men. Occasional remarks, dropped softly into the ears of the women, may have brought faint blushes to their cheeks, but the firelight was a fickle consort to such changes. The sly turn of a sentence gave many a double meaning; the subtle glance of the eye intended no harm. Dobson's new toast to "fair women" earned a roar of laughter, but afterwards Dobson was called to account by a husband who realised. A man over in the corner was thumping aimlessly on the piano; a golf fanatic was vigorously contending that he had driven 243 yards against the wind; a tennis enthusiast was lamenting the fact that the courts were too soft to be used; there was a certain odour of rain-soaked clothes in the huge room, ascendant even above the smell of cigarettes. Altogether, it was a night that owed much to the weather.
Mrs. Scudaway, dashing horsewoman and exponent of the free rein, was repeating the latest story concerning an intimate friend of every one present--and, consequently, absent.
"She's just sailed for Europe, and that good-looking actor friend of the family happened to go on the same steamer," she was saying with a joyous smile.
"Accidents will happen," remarked some one, benevolently.
"Where's her husband? I haven't seen him with her in months," came from one of the men.
"Oh, they have two children, you know," explained Mrs. Scudaway.
"Delicate, I hear," said Miss Ratliff.
"Naturally; he nurses them," said Mrs. Scudaway, blowing smoke half- way across the room through her delicate nostrils.
"I say, Mrs. Scudaway," cried the rapt bore, "don't you ever do anything but inhale?"
"Yes, I exhale occasionally. No, thanks," as he held forth an ash tray. Then she flecked the ashes into the fireplace, ten feet away.
"Good Lord, it's a rotten night!" repeated the big man, returning dismally from a visit to the window. "There's a beastly fog mixed in with the rain."
"Better blow the fog horn for Henderson," said Ratliff, with a jerk of his thumb. "He's half seas over already and shipping a lot of water." Henderson, the convivial member, was on his third siphon.
"I don't care a whoop what McAlpine says," roared an irascible gentleman on the opposite side of the fireplace; "a man ought to use a midiron when he gets that kind of a lie. Nobody but an ass would take a brassie. He's---"
"Just listen to that blethering idiot," said young Rolfe to the lady beside him. "He ought to be choked."
"I like the way you speak of my husband," she responded gaily.
"Oh, I forgot. He is your husband, isn't he?" Then, after a moment's easy contemplation of the pretty young woman and a scornful glance at the golfer: "Lucky, but a very poor watchdog."
"He barks beautifully," resented the young wife, with a loyal grimace.
"That's why you're not afraid of him," he said quickly.
"Don't you think he'd bite?"
"They never do."
"Well, you just try him, that's all," remarked the young wife coldly, rising and moving away, a touch of red in her cheeks.
"I will," he sang out genially, as he crossed his legs and stretched his feet out to the fire. She looked back with a mirthless smile on her lips.
The man at the piano struck up the insidious "La Mattchiche," suggestive of the Bal Tabarin and other Fourteenth of July devotions.
"Don't play that, Barkley," complained the big man, as every one began beating time to the fascinating air. "I'm trying to forget Paris."
"Can you ever forget that night in Maxim's---" began Mrs. Scudaway.
"I recall the next day more vividly," he interrupted.
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