by Olive W. Burt
Synopsis: Carol Wilson, an artist on the staff of a magazine edited by Brent Gibson, went to a ranch in Wyoming to attend the funeral of her sister Elizabeth. She felt a deep sympathy for the motherless children, and later, after her return to her work, she decided to go back to the children. However, she found them well cared for by their grandmother and an efficient housekeeper. Fred, Carol’s brother-in-law, had become interested in a kindly neighbor, Dolly Graham, and Dolly’s brother Tony believed himself to be in love with Carol.
Brent Gibson bent a carefully scrutinizing look upon Carol as he greeted her after her two weeks’ rest in Wyoming.
“You still look well!” he declared. “Real well. You know, I’ve been rather worried. No letters, no phone calls, nothing! I thought maybe you’d found some handsome young Wyoming rancher and had forgotten all about Your Home Magazine.”
Carol, feeling lighthearted now that she was back in the city, ready to go to work again, laughed. The rest must have done her good, for she felt like teasing this matter-of-fact boss of hers.
“I did!” she said, her eyes twinkling. “I did find a handsome young rancher, Tony Muir, just back from a mission to England, and …”
“Looking for a wife!” Brent said crossly. “They all do.”
The bantering tone left Carol’s voice. She asked soberly, “Did you, Brent, when you returned from South America?”
He hesitated a moment and then said, “Yes.”
Surprised a little at the short answer, Carol looked more closely at her companion. His face betrayed nothing. She couldn’t help asking, “What happened?”
He shrugged. “She married someone else. that’s all.”
Instant sympathy softened Carol’s voice. “I’m sorry, Brent.”
“I’m not,” he said firmly. “I’m not, Carol. I’ve learned a lot since that bygone day. I’ve learned that, while a man’s first young love is very sweet and compelling, it is as nothing compared to the overwhelming tenderness that comes later. Though he may never gain his heart’s desire, that later love is so enriching, so rewarding, in itself, that it is an experience not to be missed.”
He stopped abruptly, then went on in a businesslike tone. “The car’s over here, Carol. And as we drive to the office, I want to fill you in on this Maybelle Ray deal. As I told you on the phone, it’s a bright red feather in our cap to get a story from her. I had to pay plenty, but it’s a gorgeous story. And you can do the crowing, for she sent her story to me because she wanted you to illustrate it. That was her one condition.”
Carol listened, but not with her heart. Her heart was busy with the hidden chapter in Brent’s life that this short lecture had disclosed. That later love he spoke about – it must be for the same person as his first young passion. She had never heard, in her years of working with him, of any serious affair – of anyone who might have stirred him deeply. And he had said, “Though he never gain his heart’s desire.”
She stole a sidewise glance at her companion, and felt a wave of tenderness for him. He was not what most people would call handsome, but he had firm, regular features and the kindest eyes and mouth she had ever seen. The girl must have been blind not to see his worth. How many men would cherish a lost love – nurse it into a rewarding and enriching factor in their lives?
“You’re not hearing a thing I say!” Brent complained, grinning ruefully. “Mooning over that handsome returned missionary, I bet.”
Carol smiled. “If you only knew!”
The new serial was, as Brent had said, a gorgeous story. It had everything that would lend itself to the type of painting Carol excelled in. As she read the manuscript, her imagination caught at scene after scene that would make vivid, compelling pictures, and her fingers curled, almost feeling the brush between them. She could scarcely wait to get started.
But it was to prove less exciting and easy than she had anticipated. The author, Maybelle Ray, nationally famous and thoroughly convinced of her tremendous importance, came to the city to oversee the job of illustrating. She had her own ideas of what the illustrations should be, and she did not hesitate to make them known. Day after day she came to Carol’s studio, watched for a while, and then began to find fault with Carol’s interpretation of action and character and even of background. Carl’s nerves began to suffer.
Once, losing patience, Carol asked sharply, “I thought you wanted me to do these pictures?”
“I do, darling!” Maybelle replied sweetly, “but only because I feel sure that you can do them the way I want them done!”
Taken aback, Carol felt like resigning from the job. It wasn’t her creative ability the author wanted; she just wanted a brush she could control – an educated brush, but a submissive one! Carol gritted her teeth and went on, doggedly.
And then, suddenly, she came to the end of her patience. She stormed into Brent’s office one afternoon after a long morning with the irritating author.
“I’m giving up!” she cried, almost in tears. “I didn’t want the assignment. I can’t take it any more, Brent! I simply cannot take it any longer!”
“Steady, Carol!” he said gently. “And don’t cry, please! Nothing about your job is worth one little tear.” He had got up and come around the desk, taking her shoulders in his strong hands.
His voice, his hands, calmed her. She smiled wryly, moved away, and sat down.
‘I guess I sounded like a hysterical child,” she admitted. “But I’ve had a horrible morning.” then she went on quietly to describe Maybelle’s interference with her work.
“It’s an unpleasant situation,” he admitted, “but a bit ticklish, too. That story, Carol – I want to publish it. It’s the best thing that has ever come across my desk. and with your illustrations, honey, we’ll put the magazine right out in front of the world.”
“But you’ll never have my illustrations if she keeps on heckling me!”
“You told me you’d already finished a couple …”
“I had, trying to suit Maybelle. But then, after a while when I looked at them they were so terrible – they just made me sick – so I scrapped them.” She flung out her hands, palms up, in a helpless gesture. “I haven’t a thing done, really.”
Brent, back in his chair behind his desk, tapped a pencil against his teeth, considering. Then he put the pencil down with one decisive movement and said, “All right, Carol. I’ll put a stop to this. Tonight we’ll move you, bag and baggage, into that little empty room upstairs here. And you’ll do those illustrations, without let or hindrance – and just the way you want to do them. And when our dear Maybelle comes howling at my door to find out where you are, I’ll simply tell her there were too many distractions in your studio, and you’ve had to get away by yourself to get the job done. And I won’t tell her where you are. Okay?”
Carol nodded. “I guess that’s the only solution, Brent. But what if she’s dissatisfied when they are all done?”
“She’s not going to see them until they appear in their proper places – in the pages of Your Home Magazine. And that is very definitely that! Now, you go back home and rest this afternoon, and I’ll be around about eight to take you to dinner. After dinner, we’ll move you upstairs. I’ll have the custodian get the room ready by then.”
Due to the delay caused by Maybelle Ray’s interference, Carol had to work extra hard and for long hours in order to get the work done by the deadline Brent had set. And the cramped, hot little room was an unpleasant change from her own light and airy studio. But Carol was an artist who took almost as much pride in meeting a deadline as she did in the excellence of her work. So, though she felt utterly exhausted at each day’s end, she didn’t complain to Brent. She just kept doggedly on, often even forgetting her discomfort in the joy of creating. For the story was a satisfying one, and the work of putting it into figures, instead of words, challenged every ounce of her creative ability.
When she laid the last of the illustrations on Brent’s desk, she rubbed her hand tiredly across her forehead, and noticed that it was midsummer an dreadfully hot. She had a sudden, clear vision of the cool blue of the Tetons, frosted with snow.
She had not forgotten Tony’s urgent invitation, though, isolated in her new little office, she had not received any calls from him. She had picked up her mail at her apartment, letters from the children and from Tony. and she had telephoned to the youngsters from time to time. But now she wanted to keep that promise of sorts. She wanted to get away to the serenity and peace of the mountains.
“I know I had two weeks early this spring,” she said to Brent, “but I’m awfully tired, Brent. If there’s nothing pressing, could I take off again for a little while?”
“You’ve certainly earned a bonus trip,” he agreed. “That magnificent job you’ve just done! Where will you go?”
She smiled at that. “As if you didn’t know the only place that holds any interest for me!”
“But your sister’s children don’t need you this time, I suppose. It must be …”
“I’m thinking of myself this time, Brent. I’m tired.”
“I’m sorry, Carol. go and have a good time.”
“Thanks, Brent.” She hesitated, then said doubtfully, “Why don’t you take a vacation, too? You look as weary as I feel. and everything’s slowed down in this heat. Anyway, that young assistant of yours – my competition – Lew Zane, can handle everything.”
Brent looked at her shrewdly. “I might just do that, Carol. Where would you suggest I go for a rest?”
“Why not Wyoming? Jackson Hole? it’s the most restful place I’ve ever found. There’s a wonderful dude ranch not far for Fred’s. There are fishing and hunting and camping, lakes and rivers, mountains – it has everything! And you could join us on our excursions. Fred knows every interesting spot within miles, and Tony has all sorts of equipment.”
Carol saw the man’s look change. It had been intently reflective, as if visioning a tranquil, happy world. Now, in an instant, it was shuttered, withdrawn.
“No, thank you, Carol. I don’t imagine I’d enjoy that. I think I’ll betake myself to San Francisco. That’s a town where a man can have a real vacation – boating, deep sea diving – and the best food on earth.”
“Yes,” Carol agreed, “it’s one of my favorite cities. Well, then, have a good time, Brent. We’ll probably both feel more like tackling the winter when we get back.”
On her way to her studio apartment, Carol was thinking that she should call Fred and tell him she was coming. He would certainly let Tony know.
The pavement, heated by the pounding rays of the midsummer sun, scorched the soles of her feet through her thin summer shoes. She sighed. it would be good to get away. Maybe San Francisco would have been fun for her, too, but Brent hadn’t suggested that she go there. But Wyoming had attractions the coast city lacked. Elizabeth’s children would be waiting for her. It was less than four months since she had seen them, but already her arms ached for the feel of their sturdy young bodies. Now she would see them again, talk to them, hold them close. and, no matter how much Dolly Graham might have taken over their lives, she would know the joy of being near her loved ones again.