Bill Todd -- Innovative Morality: A Short Novel of the Thirties
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 Chapter 16

A Genuine Private Detective

Mrs. Rolfe seemed quite edgy, choosing chocolates almost at random. Mrs. Eliot knew what the problem was. In order to set her friend at ease, she said,

"Don't worry, Gertrude, I know all about Warren and Lee Howsam."

The other, almost dropping her teeth, began,

"How on earth ....."

Mrs. Eliot cut her short,

"After that disgraceful episode at Sunday dinner, I went into Boston and hired a private detective. Surprisingly, I managed to find quite a respectable firm."

"I was told about a prostitute in the Banks Arms. I had no idea it was Lee. Is she really?"

"Yes. She bribes the police to be permitted to operate. The detective wasn't able to find out whether Warren pays her, but he thought not."

Mrs. Eliot wondered if the other woman knew that her husband was also a client, in that case, most certainly a paying one. But some things always remained mysterious. Mrs. Rolfe said,

"I'm glad you're taking it so well, Eloise."

"There's a little more to it. Warren has never had any idea of how to approach a woman, even when I was young and had a good figure. It's a miracle that we managed to produce two children."

"Sometimes a real gentleman isn't entirely set up for the earthier things in life."

"I think I always understood that. The trouble is that it's like his golf. He fails, and then berates himself. The woman has to deal, not only with his failure, but with his reaction to the failure."

"If Lee Howsam is really a professional, I suppose she must have techniques..."

"Yes. They'll work for a while, but nothing works for Warren very long. Then, if she isn't being paid, she'll dish him. The euphoria will be replaced with depression, but I'm not going to concern myself with that. He can lean on his daughters if they'll let him."

"Mary probably will."

"Perhaps. Lucy will have a healthy disgust of the whole thing if she finds out. But, of course, Mary doesn't have any moral sense to begin with."

"Well, anyway, you were worried that the Howsam woman would detach Sink."

"The detective found out that Sink has been her long-term paying client. They only pretended not to know each other at dinner."

"I suppose a man like Sink would be bound to have someone somewhere. I did once see him with a woman who ...."

"Yes, I dare say. But he won't have Lucy."

"I must admit to being very surprised as well as shocked. I talked with Lee and didn't have any idea of this sort of thing."

"She appears well. I didn't object when she became Mary's room-mate at Wellesley. I even prided myself on not being anti-Semitic."

"And this is the reward you get!"

"I'm still not anti-Semitic in the way that Dr. Sam is. The Jews are like the Gypsies. Both have been persecuted, and have learned to cheat, steal, and lie. But the Jews have cultivated intelligence, and do it in much more sophisticated ways."

"Yes. You can't blame them exactly, but you don't want to have anything to do with them."


After a pause, Mrs. Rolfe said,

"If someone made a stink with the police, Lee would have to move on. My husband does know some policemen, and he might be able to get a message across."

Mrs. Eliot thought quickly. If Mr. Rolfe got that commission from his wife, he would hardly go to the police. But he probably would warn Lee that her goings-on with Warren were known to his wife. That, together with the knowledge that a private detective was on her trail, would probably cause her to leave town. She thus replied,

"Yes, that would be the very best thing. We could then go back to normal."

"Have you anyone else in mind for Lucy?"

"A few possibilities at the club. Perhaps an older man."

"Well, Sink is a good deal older, but he seems so young."

"Yes, an older man who acts his age."

"You know, Lucy may race around in her car and win all these athletic events, but I think she's actually rather Victorian, she and Ruth both."

"They certainly don't get into trouble with men, the way Mary did."

"That must be a comfort to you."

"It is, but a woman really has to be married. It gives her such a sense of security."

"Eloise, it sounds to me as if you're looking for a real gentleman for Lucy. Like her father, except for that one thing."

"It's a pity that there are so few gentlemen these days. Fewer than I had thought until a few days ago."

Bill Todd -- Innovative Morality: A Short Novel of the Thirties
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