On the night of our date, David showed up in a severe blue suit and a regimental tie. Just as I was expecting to be taken out for an expensive but unimaginative evening, he suggested,
"Let's warm up for dinner with a couple of strings at the bowling alley."
The bowling place is to other bowling places what Stockport is to other towns. Clean and modern, it was filled with a lot of affluent teen-agers and only a few sleazeballs. We rented shoes, and I tucked my high heels sufficiently out of sight so as to forestall any comparison of the length of the heels. David did notice my limp with the bowling shoes and asked if they were too tight. I assured him that it didn't matter for just a couple of strings. He looked doubtful, but I picked up a ball and let it go.
I'm not exactly a bowler, but I can avoid making a fool of myself at almost anything. Anyway, it was great fun to see pins go flying all over the place. David bowled about the same way, and we did two strings without bothering to add up the scores. It wasn't enough exercise to make us sweat, but I did find myself remarkably hungry at the end.
The restaurant was one of the ones I would have predicted, but I wasn't sorry. Half way through the celery soup, I said to David,
"It's such fun to see you undertake to do things in the absolutely correct and proper way. I can imagine you taking up butterfly collecting, but first learning and practicing all the correct swings with your net."
"I'll have you know that I frequently do things spontaneously in an existential frame of mind."
"Without first doing a little research on the existential frame of mind? I bet your sons joke about you."
"They better damn well not!"
"When they come to visit, I'll teach them to regard you in the right way."
David got pink, delighted to be teased. He then got on to Constanza. He had heard a good deal about her from the others, and said,
"You know, the non-Italians who provide services to the Mafia typically acquire rather colorful names. Things like 'Greasy Thumb Guzik' or 'Itchy Fingers Itkoff.' You could be 'Hot Bond Brooks.'"
He was very sorry not to have met Constanza, and also wanted to know all about Scuzz Flats. I said,
"You've met Heston, haven't you?"
"Yes. Several times."
"Just imagine a Sicilian version with a beautiful mail-order wife. Scuzz may be a little less cultivated than Heston, but he's not without what's called 'old-world charm.'"
"How could someone like that ever have been a killer?"
"The implication seems to be that it doesn't take much emotion. You just point the gun, pull the trigger, and go rat-a-tat-tat. Having met Scuzz Flats, I wonder if it might even be described as a restful vocation."
"Evidently he got out at the right time before he got it himself."
"Yes. Again like Heston, he's a man who's content to be moderately rich without a real lust for power. I gather from Constanza that it's possible to do very well without ever reaching the don level."
"And then he gave his money to her to invest?"
"Yes. He seems to have recognized ability when he saw it."
"A valuable and unusual trait. Even without the investments, that golf course must be worth a great deal."
"Scuzz ended up with it mostly because the others got tired and frustrated with golf. That was before the housing boom, when no one realized how valuable it was. The course is so beautiful, though. I hate to think of it's being carved up for house lots."
"The new thing is to leave the course, but build expensive housing around it. Do they own enough adjacant land to do that?"
"Probably. Still, I'd hate to live next to a fairway. You'd have balls dropping in your yard and hitting your house."
"The social status of such a location makes up for it. It's all right to be hit on the noggin by a golf ball if everyone envies you the privilege."
It struck me that David said many of the sorts of things one might expect from Brad. But, even when David made fun of respectable people, he didn't diminish his own respectability.
Indeed, even though David was trying to make off with another man's girl friend while simultaneously dating her best friend, he didn't seem like a man engaged in a complex gymnastic manuever. Nor was there the slightest air of mischief about him, only the usual square-faced stolidity with slight touches of righteousness. David simply thought that all of his actions were, of necessity, entirely fitting and proper.
When we finally got to my house, David had the same wanting to come in look which I had seen several hundred times previously. I said to him,
"You can't come in, David, because I know where that would lead. But I wouldn't object to a little automotive affection."
He started by kissing me, rather nicely. He then moved over and had me sitting on his lap. I said,
"For someone who's been married so long and so recently, you manuever rather well in a car."
"I probably would have remained married if we had done more of this sort of thing. I'm going back to when I was a teen- ager and starting over."
I felt him unzipping my dress at the side. That was evidently part of his high school regime. When his hand came through on to my bare back, I recoiled.
"Your hand's cold!"
He then moved it down a little, so that my underclothing insulated me. I rested my head on his shoulder and asked,
"Am I much like your wife?"
"You're younger, prettier, thinner. Also, you're not as ambitious."
I popped my head up.
"You'd be surprised how ambitious I can be."
"I know you want to make money, but Linda wanted to go to a big city and be invited to the right places. She wanted to be on first-name terms with socially prominent people."
"You can get good customers that way, but I don't want to go to their homes if they'll come to my office."
David's hand disappeared, only to be replaced by his other one. This one moved over my stomach, in much more dangerous territory. I protested and put my hand over his. An equilibrium having been achieved, I relaxed again. It was good to be passive for once with a man who seemed relatively safe.
David talked about his wife some more, but not in a way that bothered me. It sounded like most divorces, a matter of the partners having wildly different fantasies. David wanted only the sort of solidity that he must already have possessed, but he wanted it for his boys as well. Indeed, everything he had wanted, including a respected standing in the community, had been available in a small city in Iowa. His wife had wanted much more glitter. She had wanted people to say, not,
"There's that nice Mrs. Larsen."
"There's the fabulous Linda Larsen."
According to David, it was an absurd fantasy.
"She just isn't good enough looking for that. She'd show me pictures of women in magazines who she said weren't any better looking, but who did it with style and clothes. Is that possible?"
"I've heard women say things like that quite often. But it usually isn't true that the models in magazines aren't any better looking than they are. They generally point to Barbra Streisand and say, if she could make it with her big nose, they can make it despite what's wrong with them. I've never known that alone to break up a marriage, though."
"Well, she embarrassed me a few times when she got drunk. It was awful. One time, the boys were there, too."
"So that's why you can't stand having alcoholics around."
"I guess so."
I've always noticed something about touching. While it feels good, perhaps even wonderful, at first, it quickly grades off and eventually becomes a bore. That is, unless you keep doing more things and bring matters to a climax. Only then do both parties have an excuse to stop touching. Even without that excuse, I eased David out of my dress and asked,
"Did she become sexually aroused when she was drunk?"
David seemed a little embarrassed about that and replied,
"Are you sure you don't mind talking about Linda?"
"No. You do want to, don't you?"
"I guess I do. But the advice columns all say that's the worst thing you can do when you're out with a new woman."
David smiled as he spoke, but I answered seriously,
"I'm afraid I'm a little like all the motorists who slow down to look at an accident. But, instead of car wrecks, I like to vicariously visit divorces. At least, I like to hear about them from the men. The women are likely to emote too much, and you're expected to chime in with an additional measure of hate for the man. The men aren't objective either, but they try harder to be."
David's divorce had some intriguing and amusing little twists to it. I was also happy that, on the evening when he had first penetrated my outer layer, things had taken a turn which removed some of the romance from the atmosphere.
The next night, I started out by telling Brad I had been out with David the night before. I had never undertaken not to go out with other people, but I could see that he was miffed. He pointedly didn't ask how the date had gone, but took up the relatively neutral topic of stockbroking. He was being assigned people who walked in off the street, none of whom, so far, had much to invest.
"I had one young guy come in with three thousand. He'd never touched the market before, but he works with computers and wanted to put his money into a semi-conductor company. I advised against it, but he went for Texas Instruments. That was last week. He kept calling in for quotes, and, when it hit that high on Thursday, I advised him to sell. He did, and he came out with a ten per cent profit after fees. Then it dropped again."
"Lucky for both of you."
"Except that he's got the fever now. He's willing to buy almost anything as long as it's speculative. How do you cure somebody like that?"
"I'd advise him to stick to TI. He already knows something about the stock and the industry. He can buy and sell it as it fluctuates, and he'll lose money only slowly as he learns how the market works. Otherwise, he's likely to quickly lose all or most of his money, and you'll lose a customer."
"So our interests are identical?"
"Virtually. In the short run you can pile up commissions while the customer loses everything. In the long run, you'll make much more if he's successful enough to stay in the market."
I was trying not to sound preachy, but Brad was used to being in conflict situations. It seemed really to be a novelty to him to be able to make money without taking it away from someone else. I remarked on this, and he replied,
"Well, most of my sales jobs involved selling people things they didn't need. The textbooks were a little different, but, even there, I was generally selling about fifty pages of genuine content that had been fluffed up to four hundred and expensively bound. Most good salesmen think of the customer as an enemy to be conquered."
"In this case, it's your customer against the rest of the market, and you're his coach. I hope that's confrontative enough for you."
Brad didn't respond clearly to my quasi-joke, and I asked him,
"Why are men so competitive?"
"It's fairly simple for the most part. Men compete in areas where they think they can win, or at least do well. They may be quite timid in other areas. I imagine women do the same thing."
"I know some people, mostly men, who have aggressive personalities and compete in every area. They compete even where they're hopeless and still get upset when they lose."
"That's the lunatic fringe. You won't catch me going into a rough bar and offering to lick any man in the house."
The question at issue was really whether Brad would compete with David Larsen for me. This wasn't a matter that I felt at all comfortable about raising explicitly, but Brad came awfully close to it when he said,
"In various parts of the animal world the bull whatsits fight in front of the cow whatsits, the winners taking all the cows. Okay for them and the cows, but not so good for most of the bull whatsits. There are, however, some alternatives."
Brad had gone to a small college in western Massachusetts, and he had there met a man who had such an alternative.
"He was the owner of the sandwich shop on the edge of campus. His sandwiches weren't very good, but he had many interesting ideas. One of them was to let the customers operate the cash register and make their own change. They could also borrow money by making out an IOU and putting it on a spindle."
"It sounds like something that might work in a little college town with affluent kids."
Brad laughed and patted my hand.
"We musn't be cynical, must we, Adrienne? For all you know, it might work in the middle of Brooklyn."
"It might, but you don't believe it any more than I do. Anyhow, what was his strategy for women?"
"Frank had spent most of his life in the Navy, and they had dances where women were brought in for the men. The numbers were roughly equal, and the men would choose partners. Then, if they got along well, they could go out for a soda, a date, or whatever. Frank's method was simply to let everyone else choose first, and then take whoever was left. He claimed that he invariably got the nicest person that way."
"That fits with the business about the cash register. They're both Pollyannaish ideas. Just as the man on the street is honest, the plain girl will have a heart of gold. That's unlikely to be true, incidentally. However, your friend's idea is cynical about the ability of most men to choose wisely. Or did he just have the Navy in mind?"
"No indeed. Frank's theories were all universal. I took a girl I'd been going out with in to meet him once. She certainly wasn't any beauty, but, when I stopped in to see him the next day, he told me she was too attractive. I stopped seeing her."
That got through to me, and I almost shouted,
"Good God, Brad! That man was crazy. And you too for dumping the girl because he told you to."
Brad spoke calmly.
"It wasn't just for that reason."
"So that was only one of the reasons. Great! And now you take me out. I haven't been chosen for marriage in all these years, so you figure I must be nice."
I would never say such a thing without a smile, but I made Brad wriggle a little. As we joked along, I got the message that Brad most certainly wanted to deliver. To wit: He was more in demand than I was, and he didn't have to compete with David or anyone else. All he had to do was to be his own charming self.
Up to a point, it was true. I wasn't about to get rid of Brad unless I decided to marry someone else, and I certainly wasn't going to marry David. Brad was winning, but I wasn't going to let him see it. I therefore switched us back to stocks and bonds.
Quite apart from restoring the equilibrium, it was a good subject for both of us. I always enjoy talking business with someone intelligent, and, while Brad might ordinarily have preferred to talk of something else, he was now in his honeymoon period as a stockbroker.
The dinner finished, I began to feel the effects of a long run I had taken that afternoon. The combination of that and the digestive processes was making me extremely sleepy. I couldn't very well admit my sleepiness. Brad would probably think that I had gotten worn out on a late date with David, and had nothing left for him. As a result, I produced a number of manic bursts, none with much relation to the ones preceding. Thinking that it would keep me awake, or even give me renewed life, I suggested a walk by the ocean.
The restaurant actually overlooked part of my route to Erika's island, but I had no intention of introducing Brad to Erika. In view of her ambiguous response to my question, she might indeed have taken a chunk out of his leg. Instead, we went the other way, down to the point which forms one side of the harbor entrance. There seemed to be no wind at all, and almost no surf. The bay, silvery in the early moonlight, was spread out in front of us. Taking Brad's arm, I was able to negotiate a path between rocks that took us almost to the water. It was flood tide, and the bay seemed over-full with ocean. I asked Brad if he thought it an unusually high tide. He replied,
"I won't know unless some cottages start floating by."
There was, in fact, something floating in the middle distance, a large sailboat without its sails up. After a minute, I realized that it was Heston's sloop. When I pointed it out to Brad, he replied,
"It fits right into the scene. I hadn't noticed it at all."
"It's very low in the water. That's because it's loaded with slabs of granite."
There was a peculiar grinding noise coming over the water, but, although the sloop's lights shone clearly, we could see no activity at all on board. It was Brad who pointed out,
"There's somebody rowing way out in front. I think he's trying to tow the sloop."
There was indeed. I knew it must be Hiram. The rowboat was a welter of activity, surging against the tow line, but the sloop didn't seem to move at all. Brad began laughing and said,
"I've never seen such a display of futility. He's rowing away like mad and not moving."
"I don't know how many tons that thing must weigh. I think he's moving it though."
"No, he's not."
It was hard to tell, but I found a prick of light on the far shore and moved to the right a bit until it was lined up with the sloop's mast. Brad followed me, unbelieving. It took a few minutes to be certain, but the mast did move a trifle against the light. I punched Brad lightly in the stomach,
"See, ye of little faith. He's towing that great thing to sea."
"If he's moving, it's probably on account of the tide."
We stood some time watching silently. As the darkness gathered around the bay, the man in the boat, now only an indistinct blob on the water, went on pounding away. I looked down at the edge of the water as it washed back and forth over the pebbles, one of which I had marked. But I couldn't really make out whether the tide was ebbing.
The evening finished with something of an anti-climax when I did finally refer to my twelve mile run and consequent tiredness. Brad, as nearly as I could see, took no exercise at all. He didn't need it to control his weight, and, for reasons of tact, I had never probed further. He wasn't the sort of intellectual who makes a fetish of cigarettes and thinks it romantic to be tubercular. More likely, he had been the sort of boy who wasn't good at sports, and was either pushed too hard or never given a chance.
He now looked at me in much the way he had previously looked at Hiram. I could imagine him asking himself what point there could conceivably be in running twelve miles. Despite a little irony, his response was pleasant enough. He then allowed as how I probably needed to get some sleep. It hadn't been the date of the century, in fact, not as much fun as the one the night before. But, still, things hadn't gone badly.
Heston came around a few days later to see how his speculations were doing. We sold one option at a loss before it expired and became worthless. I then shamelessly suggested some golf.
"As long as I'm playing with a good client, such as yourself, I can use it as an excuse to take off work. In fact, if we go to Meadowbrook, I'll see Constanza, and that's two clients."
It was then two in the afternoon, and Heston, having no responsibilities or commitments, was ready to go immediately. He drove me home and came up with me for my clubs. I changed in the bedroom, talking with him around the corner, and he then carried my clubs down. As we headed for the course, I felt as if I were playing hooky from school. Heston, as far removed as anyone could be from an authority figure, seemed a co-conspirator in the mischief.
When we arrived, Scuzz Flats banged on the counter in a way that seemed intended as polite applause, and Constanza embraced us both. I whispered to her,
"Now that I know, you can't play the gypsy any more."
She looked pityingly at me and gypsied over to Heston, draping herself on his shoulder. I suddenly remembered her matrimonial advice and realized that she was advertizing the prospective bridegroom. I tried not to laugh, but couldn't help it. Constanza was mouthing something I couldn't catch, but I settled the issue by taking Heston's wrist and leading him toward the first tee.
Heston, not really an enthusiast about verbal communication, made up for it in other ways. With his light canvas bag slung idly over his shoulder, he would carry the club he had just used in his left hand and waggle it conversationally. Sometimes he would point to things or persons. At other times he would point it either straight up or toward the ground.
If a shot disappointed, either mine or his, he would tap the ground impatiently. If the shot, again either mine or his, was unusually good, he would flick the clubhead up in the air, let the shaft slide part way down in his open hand, and half twirl the club like a baton. It was fascinating to watch, but wasn't distracting. On the contrary, all of Heston's gestures and mannerisms looked as if they might have been possessed by the old Scots professionals who brought the game to America.
Heston had brought only four clubs on this day, and they didn't include such traditional Scots implements as a brassie, a mashie, or a niblick. He carried the latest thing in metal-headed drivers, a modern seven iron and wedge, and an old wooden-shafted putter. This last was the only club that might have belonged to an antique gentleman in plus fours, a tam-o-shanter, and a walrus moustache.
When Heston got within range of a green, but was too far for the seven, he hit his driver from the fairway, or even light rough, sometimes with a peculiar cut that involved only a partial swing. The ball rose surprisingly high, sliced sharply, and had little roll, even when it missed the green. He could get a couple of hundred yards with only a slight fade, or he could cut it to a hundred and fifty with a curve and spin which made the ball roll sideways on the green. No professional or top-flight amateur would have played that way, but the method nevertheless involved a great deal of skill.
On the second tee, Heston suggested that I try his driver, saying,
"I think you're strong enough for it."
I had never used a metal "wood" before, and was surprised at the odd noise it made when I hit the ball. There was also an odd good feeling. The shot hooked slightly, but it was the longest drive I had ever hit. I was thrilled. I messed up my shot from the rough and then three-putted for a double bogey, but I could hardly wait to get to the next tee.
The next drive was straight and even better, hardly five yards short of Heston's drive. Part of it was the metal head, but probably more important was my emancipation from women's clubs. It had never occurred to me to use a man's driver.
The hole was a par five, and, when we got to my ball, Heston simply handed me the driver. Its head was much smaller than the head of my driver, and it was possible to get it under the ball as it nestled in the fairway. The resulting shot was almost as good as the drive, and left me only a short pitch to the green. Heston, hitting his shot straight for maximum distance, almost made it. We both got birdies, myself with a good pitch and Heston with a long putt.
I didn't get quite as good a score as the time before, mostly because of bad putting, but I had never hit so many good drives. Heston played even better than usual, and we drifted around all eighteen holes in a beautiful dream of long straight drives and approaches that bit into greens. We had just driven on the eighteenth when I remembered to tell Heston that I had seen Hiram towing the sloop to sea. He replied,
"That's hard work. When I go along, I let Hiram do most of it."
I asked in some surprise,
"Can you do it, too?"
"It's easier to kedge. They lower an anchor into the rowboat. You row out as far as the line will let you, and throw the anchor overboard. They pull up with the windless. Then they drop it in the boat again, and so on. But you need shallow water."
It all sounded to me like an excuse to exercise. That, of course, I understood. It also seemed to be part of the bond between the two men.
The last hole is an unusually long par four. Heston skied his drive a bit, and I was out further. He hit a booming second shot which ended up slightly short and a little left. Using his driver yet again, I connected solidly, but pushed it slightly right. The ball came down on a little knoll, bounced left, and trickled on to the green. When we got up there, Heston chipped close. I hit my first putt well short, leaving myself a five footer with a tricky roll. Heston made me wait while he looked it over from all angles. He then said,
"Almost straight, it'll break just an inch or two left."
"I thought it had a big break."
Heston shook his head and waited. I stroked the ball smoothly for once. It was too hard, but it dropped for a quite respectable eighty four.
We talked for a little with the Tertullis as I returned my pull-cart. I was feeling good, and Constanza said,
"See how happy you are!"
I tried to explain that I had played well, but she would have none of it. With appropriate gestures, she said,
"Poof. The ball rolls on the ground or flies through the air or hits the house here. It makes no difference. Happiness is something else."
"If you played golf, you'd understand!"
Constanza then turned to Heston,
"She's hungry after all this hitting of balls. You must take her somewhere nice for dinner."
Scuzz Flats, for once agreeing with his wife, muttered his approval of that idea.
Heston, with his half-bow and murmur, was conducting me to the door with the air of one aiding a lady in distress. As we got in the car, I said,
"The way I'm dressed, a pizza would be fine."
"We can probably do a little better unless pizza is what you've got your heart set on."
"Not really, but the other places around here are so formal."
"I think I know a place. Important thing is whether they let you in. Once you're in, nothing matters. This is a place I came once with Hiram and Scuzz and Connie after we'd played. I think they wondered about Connie in her old skirt and sandals, but Scuzz gave them a look and they seated us right off. They may remember me. If not, we can sell them some protection."
"I'd love to sell protection. Do you know how to?"
"I was with Scuzz once. He did it as a joke. He has quite a sense of humor."
It seemed that a car dealership had been giving Mr. Tertulli some problems about servicing the guarantee on his new car. He started by going around the building, the service manager in tow, and pointing out the good features of the establishment. He then said,
"A nice place you got. Want to keep it that way. You don't want any fires with all this gas and oil around."
As Heston described it, the operative factor was not so much what Scuzz said, but the way he said it and the way he looked when he did so. The owner of the place was within earshot, and suddenly realized who Scuzz was. When the owner betrayed fear, Scuzz began to contract for the services of a mythical private security agency. I asked,
"Weren't you afraid of being implicated in selling protection?"
"No. He said, since they were going to give him such good service on his car, he'd give them the protection for free. They got right to work on it."
Heston continued to talk more than he ever had before, at least in my hearing. I asked some more questions about Scuzz, leading him to conclude,
"Well, I think Scuzz figures he's done everything he needs to do in life, and he can just relax from here on in. But, if you appeal to his sense of fun, he'll do almost anything. Selling protection is kind of fun."
"You don't mean you've done it too?"
"Well, I had some difficulty last year with a man I'd sold a small apartment building to. The same tenants remained, and he began treating them badly. I decided to buy it back, and he resisted. So Hiram and I consulted Scuzz."
On the advice of the latter, Heston and Hiram had gone to the man's office. Having burst in, Hiram pointed to the man and said,
Heston nodded. Hiram asked,
Heston mumbled a date.
Heston whispered to him. The man then offered to sell at the price he had paid for the property.
I was an enthusiastic audience during all this. I was also having some difficulty adjusting my picture of Heston, which had been a rather static one, to allow for all this initiative. Just then, he pulled into a little shopping center adjoining the main road, and excused himself. I thought, perhaps, that he was in need of a men's room. He reappeared quite quickly with two golf clubs, opened the trunk of the car, and put them in. When we started up, he explained,
"I get my golf clubs there. Connie can order them, but she hates to. Takes a long time, too."
I asked what he had gotten.
"A driver like mine and a matching four wood. Now that you're driving further, you'll get in the rough more. Can't always use the driver there, but the four wood should be about right. They're in your bag so we won't forget them."
I was actually too delighted to raise any objections. I wanted those clubs very much, and made him stop in a nearby parking lot so that I could look at them. I was still thanking him when we arrived at quite a nice restaurant. Heston was, in fact, known there. We were admitted without having to lean on anyone.
Soon after my dinner with Heston, Brad took an apartment in Stockport. There were few things available in his price range, and the best value turned out to be a flat directly over a florist's shop on Main Street.
As one might have expected with Brad, his abode was odd but fun. The most unusual feature was a semi-circular balcony with an iron railing which hung out over the sidewalk. The front door to the shop was directly beneath it, and the balcony cleared the heads of the pedestrians by only a foot or so. I said,
"You could sit here with people passing below and eventually see everyone you know."
"Yes. I used to have a friend whose final statement to the world the night before being institutionalized was to set fire to his apartment, come out on the balcony naked, and piss over the edge. If I'm ever taken that way, this would be the perfect setting."
"It would also be the perfect place for me to auction off my clothes if I ever fall hopelessly behind the market."
"You could then use the proceeds to get back into the market. Or I could sit here in my business suit and wait for a pedestrian who looked slow or uncertain. Then, I could stick my head over and say, 'Tell me, sir, are you sure that your savings are well invested?'"
One day, I took Janey down to Brad's apartment for a picnic lunch, complete with charcoal grill, on his balcony. It was a perfect mid-June day with just enough breeze to waft the smoke from the grill down the street. We were entirely conspicuous, and, as Janey stood against the railing, I was sure that not a few men passing below were looking up at her. She was having a fine time, and I could see that she liked Brad, and vice versa. That caused me no concern. Even apart from her fierce loyalty to me, Brad, unlike David Larsen, would never try to make it with each of two friends at once.
There was also wine on the balcony, and, after a bottle had been downed, we began to carry on some repartee with people below us. This included feeding some of them left-over hamburgers and, in Janey's case, dropping potato chips for children to catch. In the middle of this, Heston, very much a Main Street man, came wandering idly down the sidewalk. He looked pleasant as always, not particularly surprised to see a party on the balcony, but surprised to see me. I invited him up and ran down to let him in.
The combination of Heston with the others did not at first seem terribly successful. He was now very much the way he had been when I first met him, mumbling politely in fragments of sentences. He knew Janey, but didn't seem to know exactly what to make of Brad. The latter had often heard me speak of Heston, and he said brightly,
"I understand that Adrienne's been leading you into dangerous speculations."
It was the sort of remark that would have loosened many people up. For Heston, such a thing coming from a relative stranger posed a dilemma. He was the sort of man who acted always to protect a lady's reputation; in his tradition, a lady was never wrong, and the suggestion that she might be wrong would be the occasion for a challenge. On the other hand, he did live in the modern world and knew that no real slight was intended. The result was actually rather comical, a series of gestures which virtually contradicted each other and a mumble about Miss Brooks' valuable advice and his own failings as an investor.
Despite his awkwardness, Heston had a way of bumbling through proceedings that made everyone like him. In particular, Janey, obviously thinking that Brad and I were paired, concentrated most of her energy on Heston. I already knew that he was an admirer of her legs, and it became clear quickly that he admired her altogether.
We were soon in danger of being unconscionably late back to work, and, knowing that Brad couldn't afford lapses at that stage of his career, I called a halt to proceedings. Just as we left, Heston said that he had some cancellations for his cruises, and invited us all to come on one. Janey pointed out that she and I couldn't leave at the same time, but generously offered to cover for me while Brad and I went. Everything was a little hurried, and, while we were rather blown away by the offer, it was, in principle, accepted.
Janey had to stop in the drugstore, and, as Brad and I walked up the street, I said,
"Heston keeps giving me things. Those cruises are very expensive. Do you think it's all right to accept?"
"He hasn't any children of his own, and he seems to adopt people, first Hiram and now you. He can afford it, can't he?"
"Yes, I'm sure he can. I guess it's okay."