The Rose Door

Chapter 9

On the same day Lillian Kenyon also received a letter. She, too, sought the signature before reading it – but there was none:

" Don't tear up this letter till you read it all, for I will tell you how to find out if it is the truth or a lie.

"Your husband has been keeping a woman at the Poinsettia Apartments, for five years. Go there and find out for yourself. They say she is only twenty-two and a beaut. If you want to get a hunch on, I'll put you wise. Keep away from the house detective, he is your husband's watch dog–not your blood hound. And don't monkey with the elevator boy; he will be true to your husband's tips; but make a pal of the janitor with some little yellow boys and he will get the number of his suite for you. I can tell you some more. Your hubbie kept another woman for four years before this one, but she got to drinking too much to suit him, so he threw her down. Men like to have us hog it with them, but they want us to keep straight all the rest of the time. I'll tell you why I am helping you to spot him–because it will spoil your life. Because it will break your heart as a man once broke mine. Because you wouldn't touch me with a tenfoot pole–Herb uses a shorter one.

"You and your new daughter sit in your fine house with servants to wait on you and don't give a cuss if I rot here, and I don't give one if this letter makes you bug house –I hope it will!

" When your son, Herbie, puts the police on my track and they break in my door to break my bones, they'll find me sucking on a gas tube like a sleeping baby with its bottle. See? But if I were you I wouldn't snitch–go to the Poinsettia Apartments. Now, good-bye, and I hope you and your new daughter will die hating life as much as I do. Ha, ha, ladies!"

Lillian Kenyon clenched her hands." It is an infamous slander!" then she got up and walked the floor."It's an abominable lie!" she paced faster." The miserable wanton!" she crushed the letter into a million wrinkles. Then she sat down and burst into tears. That meant: "If it should be true!"

She got up and walked the floor again." But it couldn't be!" She continued to walk.

If a lifetime devoted to husband and son had not trained her to do what their happiness required, unmindful of all personal discomfort, the result must have been very different.

She could carry to the grave the sting in the letter, if she could also hold absolute trust in the two who made up her heaven and earth; but to be faithful to them as she spelled fidelity, was to prove the letter a lie down to the last word.

That night her husband found a note on his bureau stating that she had been called out of town by a sick friend.

Quiet elegance of dress and subdued voice and manner were inseparable from Lillian Kenyon. After writing the note, she attired herself in a dark tailored suit and took a car for down town, where she entered a large store. In an hour she came out wearing a long, silk, champagne-colored coat; an extremely large hat with a dozen plumes and a champagne-colored veil.

Through a messenger boy she made an appointment with the janitor of the Poinsettia Apartments. They met at an obscure restaurant, and conversed as they lunched.

" I want a little information and I know your time is valuable," and she slid a twenty-dollar gold piece into his hand.

The janitor began to sit up and take notice. Were there any vacant rooms at the Poinsettia?

" A few," he stated.

Another twenty dollars touched his hand. The janitor gasped.

At the Poinsettia, the house detective and elevator boy were considered the valuable men. He waited the sequel.

Did a gentleman, whom she described, have a suite there?

In the language of Rebecca, the janitor" got a hunch on."

He could find out; the housekeeper was a good friend of his, he assured her.

And would he take a slight compensation to the housekeeper for her trouble – another" yellow boy" reached him. He agreed to do so. He also agreed to meet the yellow-gowned lady at the same hour and place next day.

Lillian Kenyon slept that night at a down-town hotel.

Another day and another lunch with the janitor.

Yes, the gentleman described had a suite at the Poinsettia.

Would the janitor ascertain if the housekeeper could secure her rooms on the same floor?

He would try.

Another yellow trifle was laid at his plate and still another for the housekeeper. Both janitor and housekeeper narrowly escaped a stroke of apoplexy.

Another night at a down-town hotel. Another day; another luncheon for two at the renownless cafe. Lillian Kenyon spent that night at the Poinsettia.

Next day, the yellow-plumed lady visited a printer. The second morning every lady on the same floor with the yellow lady found a card under her door:


and in pencil. the added words, Suite 401 Poinsettia Apartments.

Suite 404 was comfortably close to the Described Gentleman's Suite, as averred by the janitor and sworn to by his good friend the housekeeper. The complaisant housekeeper did more; while Harriet Brown stood in her own doorway the janitor's friend walked casually down the corridor and marked," D. G. S." on a certain door; on her return, she felt a piece of metal touch her hand.

On the very day of the card issue a customer knocked; the next morning three called for treatment, and the third day every hour was filled. She was certainly doing business – free business.

Invariably Harriet Brown held open the door for each departing guest and solicitously watched her patient out of sight.

On the fifth day of Harriet's Brown's success, Ross Kenyon received a letter stating that his wife would be indefinitely detained.

Harriet Brown continued to shampoo, continued yellow thanks to housekeeper and janitor continued to hold open the door for outgoing patrons, continued anxiously to assure herself of their safety within her range of vision; but none entered the D. G. S.

At noon, on the eleventh day of the card issue, she answered a tap on her door. A lady in a pink kimono slipped inside, saying,"I just got up, but I want a shampoo before I dress."

Uncombed curls hugged her neck; dimples laughed when lips were still; soft and merry were the eyes and pink as the silken robe were the cheeks just risen from a restful pillow.

Curly-head got an unusually long and gentle shampoo; when she finally slid down from the chair, Harriet Brown bowed her thanks and courteously held open the door, till pink gown entered D. G. S.

That night, as on previous nights, footsteps passed suite 404 and stopped at D. G. S.

That night, as on previous nights, Harriet Brown heard them. She felt sure of the distance; she had measured it mentally so many times, and once she had even paced it off.

In a week, curly-head came for another shampoo. She talked a little this time, and nearly went to sleep.

"You have so much magnetism," she told Harriet.

On a third visit she said,"I'll never let another person touch my head as long as you live. You are so gentle and you never hurry. The others hurt and pull out lots of hair."

One night, after footsteps had passed and stopped at D. G. S., after a door had softly opened and softly closed, Harriet Brown as quietly opened her own door and stepped to D. G. S. She gave a light tap upon the door.

"Who is it?" asked a soft voice.

"It's only Harriet Brown," was the reply.

"What do you want, Miss Brown?" queried Curly.

" I'm so frightened! May I speak to you for a moment?" begged Harriet.

The door was softly unlocked and opened a tiny crack.

"What's the matter, Miss Brown?" asked the soft voice.

Harriet stepped close to the crack. Then she pushed vigorously inside and kept going.

"My God, Lillian!"

Speechless, Curly looked from one to the other.

"What are you doing here, Lillian?"

" What are you doing here?" she counter questioned.

" Nothing wrong, as you see," he replied.

" How wrong would you see it to find me in a man's apartment, under similar circumstances?"

"That is different," he returned.

" From your point of view," she answered.

"From everyone's point of view; even you must allow that there is some difference between the social liberty of a man and a woman."

" From my point of view as recently attained, there is absolutely no difference in the social liberty of a man and a woman," she replied, with colorless lips.

" For God's sake, let me take you home, Lillian!"

" Where is my home?"

"Where it has always been," he answered firmly.

"And where is your home?"

"Where it has always been," he replied as firmly.

" One roof for us two can never again be sufficient," she said.

" What do you mean, Lillian? You are beside yourself."

"I have just answered you. Two roofs from now till the sun sets – may it soon set."

"Do you mean divorce?"

"I mean divorce."

"You are making a mountain out of a mole hill. You have been happy with me for a quarter of a century, and I am the same man to-day that I have always been."

"I know that now. I know you have always been the man you are to-day, but my education has all been acquired within six weeks."

The good breeding of a lifetime held perfect sway over voice and word; but such chaos reigned within her heart that Lillian Kenyon was fain to admit that the blood running riot through her veins was of a near savage ancestry, and as her pulses fought, she carried on a dual conversation – one within and one with the man before her.

" If you intend to give no consideration to the harm such publicity would do my business interests, or the injury to your own social standing, will you try to remember that you have a son whom you have always professed to hold dearer than your own personal comfort?"

"My son is a mature man and married. He should not wish me to live an insufferable life that his serenity may not be disturbed. I am going to assume that he would not so wish and act upon the assumption."

"Lillian, you are crazy!"

" I may be later, but just now I see clearly."

" To err is human, to forgive, divine, Lillian!"

" When the man does the erring and the woman the forgiving; but the other way around, the erring is unpardonable."

"Upon what grounds shall you ask for a divorce?"

"Upon the truth."

Then while the conversation within went on in a shrieking, ape-like uproar, she drew herself together tight and white:"And when the decree is granted, you owe it to this girl – younger than your own child – to marry her and give her home and name. She has given you her all, and there will be no divine forgiveness extended to her."

Curly looked at her with wondering eyes.