Part 3 out of 5
he brought two age men with him who looked as though they had
been born smoking black cigars and talking about money in low,
passionate voices. Then on the succeeding Saturday Horace
Tarbox's torso made its first professional appearance in a
gymnastic exhibition at the Coleman Street Gardens. But though
the audience numbered nearly five thousand people, Horace felt no
nervousness. From his childhood he had read papers to
audiences--learned that trick of detaching himself.
"Marcia," he said cheerfully later that same night, "I think
we're out of the woods. Paulson thinks he can get me an opening
at the Hippodrome, and that means an all-winter engagement. The
Hippodrome you know, is a big---"
"Yes, I believe I've heard of it," interrupted Marcia, "but I
want to know about this stunt you're doing. It isn't any
spectacular suicide, is it?"
"It's nothing," said Horace quietly. "But if you can think of an
nicer way of a man killing himself than taking a risk for you,
why that's the way I want to die."
Marcia reached up and wound both arms tightly round his neck.
"Kiss me," she whispered, "and call me 'dear heart.' I love to
hear you say 'dear heart.' And bring me a book to read to-morrow.
No more Sam Pepys, but something trick and trashy. I've been
wild for something to do all day. I felt like writing letters,
but I didn't have anybody to write to."
"Write to me," said Horace. "I'll read them."
"I wish I could," breathed Marcia. "If I knew words enough I
could write you the longest love-letter in the world--and never
But after two more months Marcia grew very tired indeed, and for
a row of nights it was a very anxious, weary-looking young
athlete who walked out before the Hippodrome crowd. Then there
were two days when his place was taken by a young man who wore
pale blue instead of white, and got very little applause. But
after the two days Horace appeared again, and those who sat close
to the stage remarked an expression of beatific happiness on
that young acrobat's face even when he was twisting breathlessly
in the air an the middle of his amazing and original shoulder
swing. After that performance he laughed at the elevator man and
dashed up the stairs to the flat five steps at a time--and then
tiptoed very carefully into a quiet room.
"Marcia," he whispered.
"Hello!" She smiled up at him wanly. "Horace, there's something I
want you to do. Look in my top bureau drawer and you'll find a
big stack of paper. It's a book--sort of--Horace. I wrote it down
in these last three months while I've been laid up. I wish you'd
take it to that Peter Boyce Wendell who put my letter in his
paper. He could tell you whether it'd be a good book. I wrote it
just the way I talk, just the way I wrote that letter to him.
It's just a story about a lot of things that happened to me. Will
you take it to him, Horace?"
He leaned over the bed until his head was beside her on the
pillow, and began stroking back her yellow hair.
"Dearest Marcia," he said softly.
"No," she murmured, "call me what I told you to call me."
"Dear heart," he whispered passionately--"dearest heart."
"What'll we call her?"
They rested a minute in happy, drowsy content, while Horace
"We'll call her Marcia Hume Tarbox," he said at length.
"Why the Hume?"
"Because he's the fellow who first introduced us."
"That so?" she murmured, sleepily surprised. "I thought his name
Her eyes dosed, and after a moment the slow lengthening surge of
the bedclothes over her breast showed that she was asleep.
Horace tiptoed over to the bureau and opening the top drawer
found a heap of closely scrawled, lead-smeared pages. He looked
at the first sheet:
SANDRA PEPYS, SYNCOPATED
BY MARCIA TARBOX
He smiled. So Samuel Pepys had made an impression on her after
all. He turned a page and began to read. His smile deepened--he
read on. Half an hour passed and he became aware that Marcia had
waked and was watching him from the bed.
"Honey," came in a whisper.
"Do you like it?"
"I seem to be reading on. It's bright."
"Take it to Peter Boyce Wendell. Tell him you got the highest
marks in Princeton once and that you ought to know when a book's
good. Tell him this one's a world beater."
"All right, Marcia," Horace said gently.
Her eyes closed again and Horace crossing over kissed her
forehead--stood there for a moment with a look of tender pity.
Then he left the room.
All that night the sprawly writing on the pages, the constant
mistakes in spelling and grammar, and the weird punctuation
danced before his eyes. He woke several times in the night, each
time full of a welling chaotic sympathy for this desire of
Marcia's soul to express itself in words. To him there was
something infinitely pathetic about it, and for the first time in
months he began to turn over in his mind his own half-forgotten
He had meant to write a series of books, to popularize the new
realism as Schopenhauer had popularized pessimism and William
But life hadn't come that way. Life took hold of people and
forced them into flying rings. He laughed to think of that rap at
his door, the diaphanous shadow in Hume, Marcia's threatened
"And it's still me," he said aloud in wonder as he lay awake in
the darkness. "I'm the man who sat in Berkeley with temerity to
wonder if that rap would have had actual existence had my ear not
been there to hear it. I'm still that man. I could be
electrocuted for the crimes he committed.
"Poor gauzy souls trying to express ourselves in something
tangible. Marcia with her written book; I with my unwritten ones.
Trying to choose our mediums and then taking what we get-- and
"Sandra Pepys, Syncopated," with an introduction by Peter Boyce
Wendell the columnist, appeared serially in JORDAN'S MAGAZINE,
and came out in book form in March. From its first published
instalment it attracted attention far and wide. A trite enough
subject--a girl from a small New Jersey town coming to New York
to go on the stage--treated simply, with a peculiar vividness of
phrasing and a haunting undertone of sadness in the very
inadequacy of its vocabulary, it made an irresistible appeal.
Peter Boyce Wendell, who happened at that time to be advocating
the enrichment of the American language by the immediate adoption
of expressive vernacular words, stood as its sponsor and
thundered his indorsement over the placid bromides of the
Marcia received three hundred dollars an instalment for the
serial publication, which came at an opportune time, for though
Horace's monthly salary at the Hippodrome was now more than
Marcia's had ever been, young Marcia was emitting shrill cries
which they interpreted as a demand for country air. So early April
found them installed in a bungalow in Westchester County, with a
place for a lawn, a place for a garage, and a place for
everything, including a sound-proof impregnable study, in which
Marcia faithfully promised Mr. Jordan she would shut herself up
when her daughter's demands began to be abated, and compose
immortally illiterate literature.
"It's not half bad," thought Horace one night as he was on his
way from the station to his house. He was considering several
prospects that had opened up, a four months' vaudeville offer in
five figures, a chance to go back to Princeton in charge of all
gymnasium work. Odd! He had once intended to go back there in
charge of all philosophic work, and now he had not even been
stirred by the arrival in New York of Anton Laurier, his old
The gravel crunched raucously under his heel. He saw the lights
of his sitting-room gleaming and noticed a big car standing in
the drive. Probably Mr. Jordan again, come to persuade Marcia to
settle down' to work.
She had heard the sound of his approach and her form was
silhouetted against the lighted door as she came out to meet him.
"There's some Frenchman here," she whispered nervously. "I
can't pronounce his name, but he sounds awful deep. You'll have
to jaw with him."
"You can't prove it by me. He drove up an hour ago with Mr.
Jordan, and said he wanted to meet Sandra Pepys, and all that sort
Two men rose from chairs as they went inside.
"Hello Tarbox," said Jordan. "I've just been bringing together
two celebrities. I've brought M'sieur Laurier out with me.
M'sieur Laurier, let me present Mr. Tarbox, Mrs. Tarbox's
"Not Anton Laurier!" exclaimed Horace.
"But, yes. I must come. I have to come. I have read the book of
Madame, and I have been charmed"--he fumbled in his pocket--"ah
I have read of you too. In this newspaper which I read to-day it
has your name."
He finally produced a clipping from a magazine.
"Read it!" he said eagerly. "It has about you too."
Horace's eye skipped down the page.
"A distinct contribution to American dialect literature," it
said. "No attempt at literary tone; the book derives its very
quality from this fact, as did 'Huckleberry Finn.'"
Horace's eyes caught a passage lower down; he became suddenly
aghast--read on hurriedly:
"Marcia Tarbox's connection with the stage is not only as a
spectator but as the wife of a performer. She was married last
year to Horace Tarbox, who every evening delights the children at
the Hippodrome with his wondrous flying performance. It is said
that the young couple have dubbed themselves Head and Shoulders,
referring doubtless to the fact that Mrs. Tarbox supplies the
literary and mental qualities, while the supple and agile
shoulder of her husband contribute their share to the family
"Mrs. Tarbox seems to merit that much-abused title--'prodigy.'
Horace stopped reading, and with a very odd expression in his
eyes gazed intently at Anton Laurier.
"I want to advise you--" he began hoarsely.
"About raps. Don't answer them! Let them alone--have a padded
The Cut-Glass Bowl
There was a rough stone age and a smooth stone age and a bronze
age, and many years afterward a cut-glass age. In the cut-glass
age, when young ladies had persuaded young men with long, curly
mustaches to marry them, they sat down several months afterward
and wrote thank-you notes for all sorts of cut-glass
presents--punch-bowls, finger-bowls, dinner-glasses,
wine-glasses, ice-cream dishes, bonbon dishes, decanters, and
vases--for, though cut glass was nothing new in the nineties, it
was then especially busy reflecting the dazzling light of fashion
from the Back Bay to the fastnesses of the Middle West.
After the wedding the punch-bowls were arranged in the sideboard
with the big bowl in the centre; the glasses were set up in the
china-closet; the candlesticks were put at both ends of
things--and then the struggle for existence began. The bonbon
dish lost its little handle and became a pin-tray upstairs; a
promenading cat knocked the little bowl off the sideboard, and
the hired girl chipped the middle-sized one with the sugar-dish;
then the wine-glasses succumbed to leg fractures, and even the
dinner-glasses disappeared one by one like the ten little
niggers, the last one ending up, scarred and maimed as a
tooth-brush holder among other shabby genteels on the bathroom
shelf. But by the time all this had happened the cut-glass age
was over, anyway.
It was well past its first glory on the day the curious Mrs.
Roger Fairboalt came to see the beautiful Mrs. Harold Piper.
"My dear," said the curious Mrs. Roger Fairboalt, "I LOVE your
house. I think it's QUITE artistic."
"I'm SO glad," said the beautiful Mrs. Harold Piper, lights
appearing in her young, dark eyes; "and you MUST come often. I'm
almost ALWAYS alone in the afternoon."
Mrs. Fairboalt would have liked to remark that she didn't believe
this at all and couldn't see how she'd be expected to--it was
all over town that Mr. Freddy Gedney had been dropping in on Mrs.
Piper five afternoons a week for the past six months. Mrs.
Fairboalt was at that ripe age where she distrusted all beautiful
"I love the dining-room MOST," she said, "all that MARVELLOUS
china, and that HUGE cut-glass bowl."
Mrs. Piper laughed, so prettily that Mrs. Fairboalt's lingering
reservations about the Freddy Gedney story quite vanished.
"Oh, that big bowl!" Mrs. Piper's mouth forming the words was a
vivid rose petal. "There's a story about that bowl---"
"You remember young Carleton Canby? Well, he was very attentive
at one time, and the night I told him I was going to marry
Harold, seven years ago in ninety-two, he drew himself way up and
said: 'Evylyn, I'm going to give a present that's as hard as you
are and as beautiful and as empty and as easy to see through.'
He frightened me a little--his eyes were so black. I thought he
was going to deed me a haunted house or something that would
explode when you opened it. That bowl came, and of course it's
beautiful. Its diameter or circumference or something is two and
a half feet--or perhaps it's three and a half. Anyway, the
sideboard is really too small for it; it sticks way out."
"My DEAR, wasn't that ODD! And he left town about then didn't
he?" Mrs. Fairboalt was scribbling italicized notes on her
memory--"hard, beautiful, empty, and easy to see through."
"Yes, he went West--or South--or somewhere," answered Mrs. Piper,
radiating that divine vagueness that helps to lift beauty out of
Mrs. Fairboalt drew on her gloves, approving the effect of
largeness given by the open sweep from the spacious music-room
through the library, disclosing a part of the dining-room beyond.
It was really the nicest smaller house in town, and Mrs. Piper
had talked of moving to a larger one on Devereaux Avenue. Harold
Piper must be COINING money.
As she turned into the sidewalk under the gathering autumn dusk
she assumed that disapproving, faintly unpleasant expression that
almost all successful women of forty wear on the street.
If _I_ were Harold Piper, she thought, I'd spend a LITTLE less
time on business and a little more time at home. Some FRIEND
should speak to him.
But if Mrs. Fairboalt had considered it a successful afternoon
she would have named it a triumph had she waited two minutes
longer. For while she was still a black receding figure a hundred
yards down the street, a very good-looking distraught young man
turned up the walk to the Piper house. Mrs. Piper answered the
door-bell herself, and with a rather dismayed expression led him
quickly into the library.
"I had to see you," he began wildly; "your note played the devil
with me. Did Harold frighten you into this?"
She shook her head.
"I'm through, Fred," she said slowly, and her lips had never
looked to him so much like tearings from a rose. "He came home
last night sick with it. Jessie Piper's sense of duty was to much
for her, so she went down to his office and told him. He was hurt
and--oh, I can't help seeing it his way, Fred. He says we've been
club gossip all summer and he didn't know it, and now he
understands snatches of conversation he's caught and veiled hints
people have dropped about me. He's mighty angry, Fred, and he
loves me and I love him-- rather."
Gedney nodded slowly and half closed his eyes.
"Yes," he said "yes, my trouble's like yours. I can see other
people's points of view too plainly." His gray eyes met her dark
ones frankly. "The blessed thing's over. My God, Evylyn, I've
been sitting down at the office all day looking at the outside of
your letter, and looking at it and looking at it---"
"You've got to go, Fred," she said steadily, and the slight
emphasis of hurry in her voice was a new thrust for him. "I gave
him my word of honor I wouldn't see you. I know just how far I
can go with Harold, and being here with you this evening is one
of the things I can't do."
They were still standing, and as she spoke she made a little
movement toward the door. Gedney looked at her miserably, trying,
here at the end, to treasure up a last picture of her--and then
suddenly both of them were stiffened into marble at the sound of
steps on the walk outside. Instantly her arm reached out grasping
the lapel of his coat --half urged, half swung him through the
big door into the dark dining-room.
"I'll make him go up-stairs," she whispered close to his ear;
"don't move till you hear him on the stairs. Then go out the
Then he was alone listening as she greeted her husband in the
Harold Piper was thirty-six, nine years older than his wife. He
was handsome--with marginal notes: these being eyes that were too
close together, and a certain woodenness when his face was in
repose. His attitude toward this Gedney matter was typical of all
his attitudes. He had told Evylyn that he considered the subject
closed and would never reproach her nor allude to it in any
form; and he told himself that this was rather a big way of
looking at it--that she was not a little impressed. Yet, like all
men who are preoccupied with their own broadness, he was
He greeted Evylyn with emphasized cordiality this evening.
"You'll have to hurry and dress, Harold," she said eagerly;
"we're going to the Bronsons'."
"It doesn't take me long to dress, dear," and, his words trailing
off, he walked on into the library. Evylyn's heart clattered
"Harold---" she began, with a little catch in her voice, and
followed him in. He was lighting a cigarette. "You'll have to
hurry, Harold," she finished, standing in the doorway.
"Why?" he asked a trifle impatiently; "you're not dressed
yourself yet, Evie."
He stretched out in a Morris chair and unfolded a newspaper. With
a sinking sensation Evylyn saw that this meant at least ten
minutes--and Gedney was standing breathless in the next room.
Supposing Harold decided that before be went upstairs he wanted a
drink from the decanter on the sideboard. Then it occurred to
her to forestall this contingency by bringing him the decanter
and a glass. She dreaded calling his attention to the dining-room
in any way, but she couldn't risk the other chance.
But at the same moment Harold rose and, throwing his paper down,
came toward her.
"Evie, dear," he said, bending and putting his arms about her, "I
hope you're not thinking about last night---" She moved close to
him, trembling. "I know," he continued, "it was just an
imprudent friendship on your part. We all make mistakes."
Evylyn hardly heard him. She was wondering if by sheer clinging
to him she could draw him out and up the stairs. She thought of
playing sick, asking to be carried up--unfortunately she knew he
would lay her on the couch and bring her whiskey.
Suddenly her nervous tension moved up a last impossible notch.
She had heard a very faint but quite unmistakable creak from the
floor of the dining room. Fred was trying to get out the back
Then her heart took a flying leap as a hollow ringing note like a
gong echoed and re-echoed through the house. Gedney's arm had
struck the big cut-glass bowl.
"What's that!" cried Harold. "Who's there?"
She clung to him but he broke away, and the room seemed to crash
about her ears. She heard the pantry-door swing open, a scuffle,
the rattle of a tin pan, and in wild despair she rushed into the
kitchen and pulled up the gas. Her husband's arm slowly unwound
from Gedney's neck, and he stood there very still, first in
amazement, then with pain dawning in his face.
"My golly!" he said in bewilderment, and then repeated: "My
He turned as if to jump again at Gedney, stopped, his muscles
visibly relaxed, and he gave a bitter little laugh.
"You people--you people---" Evylyn's arms were around him and her
eyes were pleading with him frantically, but he pushed her away
and sank dazed into a kitchen chair, his face like porcelain.
"You've been doing things to me, Evylyn. Why, you little devil!
You little DEVIL!"
She had never felt so sorry for him; she had never loved him so
"It wasn't her fault," said Gedney rather humbly. "I just came."
But Piper shook his head, and his expression when he stared up
was as if some physical accident had jarred his mind into a
temporary inability to function. His eyes, grown suddenly
pitiful, struck a deep, unsounded chord in Evylyn--and
simultaneously a furious anger surged in her. She felt her
eyelids burning; she stamped her foot violently; her hands
scurried nervously over the table as if searching for a weapon,
and then she flung herself wildly at Gedney.
"Get out!" she screamed, dark eves blazing, little fists beating
helplessly on his outstretched arm. "You did this! Get out of
here--get out--get OUT! GET OUT!"
Concerning Mrs. Harold Piper at thirty-five, opinion was
divided--women said she was still handsome; men said she was
pretty no longer. And this was probably because the qualities in
her beauty that women had feared and men had followed had
vanished. Her eyes were still as large and as dark and as sad,
but the mystery had departed; their sadness was no longer
eternal, only human, and she had developed a habit, when she was
startled or annoyed, of twitching her brows together and blinking
several times. Her mouth also had lost: the red had receded and
the faint down-turning of its corners when she smiled, that had
added to the sadness of the eyes and been vaguely mocking and
beautiful, was quite gone. When she smiled now the corners of her
lips turned up. Back in the days when she revelled in her own
beauty Evylyn had enjoyed that smile of hers--she had accentuated
it. When she stopped accentuating it, it faded out and the last
of her mystery with it.
Evylyn had ceased accentuating her smile within a month after the
Freddy Gedney affair. Externally things had gone an very much as
they had before. But in those few minutes during which she had
discovered how much she loved her husband, Evylyn had realized how
indelibly she had hurt him. For a month she struggled against
aching silences, wild reproaches and accusations--she pled with
him, made quiet, pitiful little love to him, and he laughed at
her bitterly--and then she, too, slipped gradually into silence
and a shadowy, impenetrable barrier dropped between them. The
surge of love that had risen in her she lavished on Donald, her
little boy, realizing him almost wonderingly as a part of her
The next year a piling up of mutual interests and
responsibilities and some stray flicker from the past brought
husband and wife together again--but after a rather pathetic
flood of passion Evylyn realized that her great opportunity was
gone. There simply wasn't anything left. She might have been
youth and love for both--but that time of silence had slowly
dried up the springs of affection and her own desire to drink
again of them was dead.
She began for the first time to seek women friends, to prefer
books she had read before, to sew a little where she could watch
her two children to whom she was devoted. She worried about
little things--if she saw crumbs on the dinner-table her mind
drifted off the conversation: she was receding gradually into
Her thirty-fifth birthday had been an exceptionally busy one, for
they were entertaining on short notice that night, as she stood
in her bedroom window in the late afternoon she discovered that
she was quite tired. Ten years before she would have lain down
and slept, but now she had a feeling that things needed watching:
maids were cleaning down-stairs, bric-à-brac was all over the
floor, and there were sure to be grocery-men that had to be
talked to imperatively--and then there was a letter to write
Donald, who was fourteen and in his first year away at school.
She had nearly decided to lie down, nevertheless, when she heard
a sudden familiar signal from little Julie down-stairs. She
compressed her lips, her brows twitched together, and she
"Julie!" she called.
"Ah-h-h-ow!" prolonged Julie plaintively. Then the voice of
Hilda, the second maid, floated up the stairs.
"She cut herself a little, Mis' Piper."
Evylyn flew to her sewing-basket, rummaged until she found a torn
handkerchief, and hurried downstairs. In a moment Julie was
crying in her arms as she searched for the cut, faint,
disparaging evidences of which appeared on Julie's dress.
"My THU-umb!" explained Julie. "Oh-h-h-h, t'urts."
"It was the bowl here, the he one," said Hilda apologetically.
"It was waitin' on the floor while I polished the sideboard, and
Julie come along an' went to foolin' with it. She yust scratch
Evylyn frowned heavily at Hilda, and twisting Julie decisively in
her lap, began tearing strips of the handkerchief.
"Now--let's see it, dear."
Julie held it up and Evelyn pounced.
Julie surveyed her swathed thumb doubtfully. She crooked it; it
waggled. A pleased, interested look appeared in her tear-stained
face. She sniffled and waggled it again.
"You PRECIOUS!" cried Evylyn and kissed her, but before she left
the room she levelled another frown at Hilda. Careless! Servants
all that way nowadays. If she could get a good Irishwoman-- but
you couldn't any more--and these Swedes---
At five o'clock Harold arrived and, coming up to her room,
threatened in a suspiciously jovial tone to kiss her thirty-five
times for her birthday. Evylyn resisted.
"You've been drinking," she said shortly, and then added
qualitatively, "a little. You know I loathe the smell of it."
"Evie," he said after a pause, seating himself in a chair by the
window, "I can tell you something now. I guess you've known
things haven't beep going quite right down-town."
She was standing at the window combing her hair, but at these
words she turned and looked at him.
"How do you mean? You've always said there was room for more than
one wholesale hardware house in town." Her voice expressed some
"There WAS," said Harold significantly, "but this Clarence Ahearn
is a smart man."
"I was surprised when you said he was coming to dinner."
"Evie," he went on, with another slap at his knee, "after January
first 'The Clarence Ahearn Company' becomes 'The Ahearn, Piper
Company'--and 'Piper Brothers' as a company ceases to
Evylyn was startled. The sound of his name in second place was
somehow hostile to her; still he appeared jubilant.
"I don't understand, Harold."
"Well, Evie, Ahearn has been fooling around with Marx. If those
two had combined we'd have been the little fellow, struggling
along, picking up smaller orders, hanging back on risks. It's a
question of capital, Evie, and 'Ahearn and Marx' would have had
the business just like 'Ahearn and Piper' is going to now." He
paused and coughed and a little cloud of whiskey floated up to
her nostrils. "Tell you the truth, Evie, I've suspected that
Ahearn's wife had something to do with it. Ambitious little lady,
I'm told. Guess she knew the Marxes couldn't help her much
"Is she--common?" asked Evie.
"Never met her, I'm sure--but I don't doubt it. Clarence Ahearn's
name's been up at the Country Club five months--no action
taken." He waved his hand disparagingly. "Ahearn and I had lunch
together to-day and just about clinched it, so I thought it'd be
nice to have him and his wife up to-night--just have nine, mostly
family. After all, it's a big thing for me, and of course we'll
have to see something of them, Evie."
"Yes," said Evie thoughtfully, "I suppose we will."
Evylyn was not disturbed over the social end of it--but the idea
of "Piper Brothers" becoming "The Ahearn, Piper Company" startled
her. It seemed like going down in the world.
Half an hour later, as she began to dress for dinner, she heard
his voice from down-stairs.
"Oh, Evie, come down!"
She went out into the hall and called over the banister:
"What is it?"
"I want you to help me make some of that punch before dinner. "
Hurriedly rehooking her dress, she descended the stairs and found
him grouping the essentials on the dining-room table. She went
to the sideboard and, lifting one of the bowls, carried it
"Oh, no," he protested, "let's use the big one. There'll be
Ahearn and his wife and you and I and Milton, that's five, and
Tom and Jessie, that's seven: and your sister and Joe Ambler,
that's nine. You don't know how quick that stuff goes when YOU
"We'll use this bowl," she insisted. "It'll hold plenty. You know
how Tom is."
Tom Lowrie, husband to Jessie, Harold's first cousin, was rather
inclined to finish anything in a liquid way that he began.
Harold shook his head.
"Don't be foolish. That one holds only about three quarts and
there's nine of us, and the servants'll want some--and it isn't
strong punch. It's so much more cheerful to have a lot, Evie; we
don't have to drink all of it."
"I say the small one."
Again he shook his head obstinately.
"No; be reasonable."
"I AM reasonable," she said shortly. "I don't want any drunken
men in the house."
"Who said you did?"
"Then use the small bowl."
He grasped the smaller bowl to lift it back. Instantly her hands
were on it, holding it down. There was a momentary struggle, and
then, with a little exasperated grunt, he raised his side,
slipped it from her fingers, and carried it to the sideboard.
She looked at him and tried to make her expression contemptuous,
but he only laughed. Acknowledging her defeat but disclaiming all
future interest in the punch, she left the room.
At seven-thirty, her cheeks glowing and her high-piled hair
gleaming with a suspicion of brilliantine, Evylyn descended the
stairs. Mrs. Ahearn, a little woman concealing a slight
nervousness under red hair and an extreme Empire gown, greeted
her volubly. Evelyn disliked her on the spot, but the husband she
rather approved of. He had keen blue eyes and a natural gift of
pleasing people that might have made him, socially, had he not so
obviously committed the blunder of marrying too early in his
"I'm glad to know Piper's wife," he said simply. "It looks as
though your husband and I are going to see a lot of each other in
She bowed, smiled graciously, and turned to greet the others:
Milton Piper, Harold's quiet, unassertive younger brother; the
two Lowries, Jessie and Tom; Irene, her own unmarried sister; and
finally Joe Ambler, a confirmed bachelor and Irene's perennial
Harold led the way into dinner.
"We're having a punch evening," he announced jovially--Evylyn saw
that he had already sampled his concoction--"so there won't be
any cocktails except the punch. It's m' wife's greatest
achievement, Mrs. Ahearn; she'll give you the recipe if you want
it; but owing to a slight"--he caught his wife's eye and paused
--"to a slight indisposition; I'm responsible for this batch.
All through dinner there was punch, and Evylyn, noticing that
Ahearn and Milton Piper and all the women were shaking their
heads negatively at the maid, knew she bad been right about the
bowl; it was still half full. She resolved to caution Harold
directly afterward, but when the women left the table Mrs. Ahearn
cornered her, and she found herself talking cities and
dressmakers with a polite show of interest.
"We've moved around a lot," chattered Mrs. Ahearn, her red head
nodding violently. "Oh, yes, we've never stayed so long in a town
before--but I do hope we're here for good. I like it here; don't
"Well, you see, I've always lived here, so, naturally---"
"Oh, that's true," said Mrs. Ahearn and laughed. Clarence always
used to tell me he had to have a wife he could come home to and
say: "Well, we're going to Chicago to-morrow to live, so pack
I got so I never expected to live ANYwhere." She laughed her
little laugh again; Evylyn suspected that it was her society
"Your husband is a very able man, I imagine."
"Oh, yes," Mrs. Ahearn assured her eagerly. "He's brainy,
Clarence is. Ideas and enthusiasm, you know. Finds out what he
wants and then goes and gets it."
Evylyn nodded. She was wondering if the men were still drinking
punch back in the dining-room. Mrs. Ahearn's history kept
unfolding jerkily, but Evylyn had ceased to listen. The first
odor of massed cigars began to drift in. It wasn't really a large
house, she reflected; on an evening like this the library
sometimes grew blue with smoke, and next day one had to leave the
windows open for hours to air the heavy staleness out of the
curtains. Perhaps this partnership might . . . she began to
speculate on a new house . . .
Mrs. Ahearn's voice drifted in on her:
"I really would like the recipe if you have it written down
Then there was a sound of chairs in the dining-room and the men
strolled in. Evylyn saw at once that her worst fears were
realized. Harold's face was flushed and his words ran together at
the ends of sentences, while Tom Lowrie lurched when he walked
and narrowly missed Irene's lap when he tried to sink onto the
couch beside her. He sat there blinking dazedly at the company.
Evylyn found herself blinking back at him, but she saw no humor in
it. Joe Ambler was smiling contentedly and purring on his cigar.
Only Ahearn and Milton Piper seemed unaffected.
"It's a pretty fine town, Ahearn," said Ambler, "you'll find
"I've found it so," said Ahearn pleasantly.
"You find it more, Ahearn," said Harold, nodding emphatically "'f
I've an'thin' do 'th it."
He soared into a eulogy of the city, and Evylyn wondered
uncomfortably if it bored every one as it bored her. Apparently
not. They were all listening attentively. Evylyn broke in at the
"Where've you been living, Mr. Ahearn?" she asked interestedly.
Then she remembered that Mrs. Ahearn had told her, but it didn't
matter. Harold mustn't talk so much. He was such an ASS when he'd
been drinking. But he plopped directly back in.
"Tell you, Ahearn. Firs' you wanna get a house up here on the
hill. Get Stearne house or Ridgeway house. Wanna have it so
people say: 'There's Ahearn house.' Solid, you know, tha's effec'
Evylyn flushed. This didn't sound right at all. Still Ahearn
didn't seem to notice anything amiss, only nodded gravely.
"Have you been looking---" But her words trailed off unheard as
Harold's voice boomed on.
"Get house--tha's start. Then you get know people. Snobbish town
first toward outsider, but not long--after know you. People like
you"--he indicated Ahearn and his wife with a sweeping
gesture--"all right. Cordial as an'thin' once get by first
barrer-bar- barrer--" He swallowed, and then said "barrier,"
repeated it masterfully.
Evylyn looked appealingly at her brother-in-law, but before he
could intercede a thick mumble had come crowding out of Tom
Lowrie, hindered by the dead cigar which he gripped firmly with
"Huma uma ho huma ahdy um---"
"What?" demanded Harold earnestly.
Resignedly and with difficulty Tom removed the cigar--that is, he
removed part of it, and then blew the remainder with a WHUT
sound across the room, where it landed liquidly and limply in
Mrs. Ahearn's lap.
"Beg pardon," he mumbled, and rose with the vague intention of
going after it. Milton's hand on his coat collapsed him in time,
and Mrs. Ahearn not ungracefully flounced the tobacco from her
skirt to the floor, never once looking at it.
"I was sayin'," continued Tom thickly, "'fore 'at happened,"--he
waved his hand apologetically toward Mrs. Ahearn--"I was sayin' I
heard all truth that Country Club matter."
Milton leaned and whispered something to him.
"Lemme 'lone," he said petulantly; "know what I'm doin'. 'Ats
what they came for."
Evylyn sat there in a panic, trying to make her mouth form words.
She saw her sister's sardonic expression and Mrs. Ahearn's face
turning a vivid red. Ahearn was looking down at his watch-chain,
"I heard who's been keepin' y' out, an' he's not a bit better'n
you. I can fix whole damn thing up. Would've before, but I didn't
know you. Harol' tol' me you felt bad about the thing---"
Milton Piper rose suddenly and awkwardly to his feet. In a second
every one was standing tensely and Milton was saying something
very hurriedly about having to go early, and the Ahearns were
listening with eager intentness. Then Mrs. Ahearn swallowed and
turned with a forced smile toward Jessie. Evylyn saw Tom lurch
forward and put his hand on Ahearns shoulder--and suddenly she
was listening to a new, anxious voice at her elbow, and, turning,
found Hilda, the second maid.
"Please, Mis' Piper, I tank Yulie got her hand poisoned. It's all
swole up and her cheeks is hot and she's moanin' an'
"Julie is?" Evylyn asked sharply. The party suddenly receded. She
turned quickly, sought with her eyes for Mrs. Ahearn, slipped
"If you'll excuse me, Mrs.--" She had momentarily forgotten the
name, but she went right on: "My little girl's been taken sick.
I'll be down when I can." She turned and ran quickly up the
stairs, retaining a confused picture of rays of cigar smoke and a
loud discussion in the centre of the room that seemed to be
developing into an argument.
Switching on the light in the nursery, she found Julie tossing
feverishly and giving out odd little cries. She put her hand
against the cheeks. They were burning. With an exclamation she
followed the arm down under the cover until she found the hand.
Hilda was right. The whole thumb was swollen to the wrist and in
the centre was a little inflamed sore. Blood-poisoning! her mind
cried in terror. The bandage had come off the cut and she'd
gotten something in it. She'd cut it at three o'clock--it was now
nearly eleven. Eight hours. Blood-poisoning couldn't possibly
develop so soon.
She rushed to the 'phone.
Doctor Martin across the street was out. Doctor Foulke, their
family physician, didn't answer. She racked her brains and in
desperation called her throat specialist, and bit her lip
furiously while he looked up the numbers of two physicians.
During that interminable moment she thought she heard loud voices
down-stairs--but she seemed to be in another world now. After
fifteen minutes she located a physician who sounded angry and
sulky at being called out of bed. She ran back to the nursery
and, looking at the hand, found it was somewhat more
"Oh, God!" she cried, and kneeling beside the bed began smoothing
back Julie's hair over and over. With a vague idea of getting
some hot water, she rose and stared toward the door, but the lace
of her dress caught in the bed-rail and she fell forward on her
hands and knees. She struggled up and jerked frantically at the
lace. The bed moved and Julie groaned. Then more quietly but with
suddenly fumbling fingers she found the pleat in front, tore the
whole pannier completely off, and
rushed from the room.
Out in the hall she heard a single loud, insistent voice, but as
she reached the head of the stairs it ceased and an outer door
The music-room came into view. Only Harold and Milton were there,
the former leaning against a chair, his face very pale, his
collar open, and his mouth moving loosely.
"What's the matter?"
Milton looked at her anxiously.
"There was a little trouble---"
Then Harold saw her and, straightening up with an effort, began
"Sult m'own cousin m'own house. God damn common nouveau rish.
'Sult m'own cousin---"
"Tom had trouble with Ahearn and Harold interfered," said Milton.
"My Lord Milton," cried Evylyn, "couldn't you have done
"I tried; I---"
"Julie's sick," she interrupted; "she's poisoned herself. Get him
to bed if you can."
Harold looked up.
Paying no attention, Evylyn brushed by through the dining-room,
catching sight, with a burst of horror, of the big punch-bowl
still on the table, the liquid from melted ice in its bottom. She
heard steps on the front stairs--it was Milton helping Harold
up--and then a mumble: "Why, Julie's a'righ'."
"Don't let him go into the nursery!" she shouted.
The hours blurred into a nightmare. The doctor arrived just
before midnight and within a half-hour had lanced the wound. He
left at two after giving her the addresses of two nurses to call
up and promising to return at half past six. It was
At four, leaving Hilda by the bedside, she went to her room, and
slipping with a shudder out of her evening dress, kicked it into a
corner. She put on a house dress and returned to the nursery
while Hilda went to make coffee.
Not until noon could she bring herself to look into Harold's
room, but when she did it was to find him awake and staring very
miserably at the ceiling. He turned blood-shot hollow eyes upon
her. For a minute she hated him, couldn't speak. A husky voice
came from the bed.
"What time is it?"
"I made a damn fool---"
"It doesn't matter," she said sharply. "Julie's got
blood-poisoning. They may"--she choked over the words--"they
think she'll have to lose her hand."
"She cut herself on that--that bowl."
"Oh, what does it matter?" see cried; "she's got blood-poisoning.
Can't you hear?" He looked at her bewildered--sat half-way up
"I'll get dressed," he said.
Her anger subsided and a great wave of weariness and pity for him
rolled over her. After all, it was his trouble, too."
"Yes," she answered listlessly, "I suppose you'd better."
If Evylyn's beauty had hesitated an her early thirties it came to
an abrupt decision just afterward and completely left her. A
tentative outlay of wrinkles on her face suddenly deepened and
flesh collected rapidly on her legs and hips and arms. Her
mannerism of drawing her brows together had become an
expression--it was habitual when she was reading or speaking and
even while she slept. She was forty-six.
As in most families whose fortunes have gone down rather than up,
she and Harold had drifted into a colorless antagonism. In
repose they looked at each other with the toleration they might
have felt for broken old chairs; Evylyn worried a little when he
was sick and did her best to be cheerful under the wearying
depression of living with a disappointed man.
Family bridge was over for the evening and she sighed with
relief. She had made more mistakes than usual this evening and
she didn't care. Irene shouldn't have made that remark about the
infantry being particularly dangerous. There had been no letter
for three weeks now, and, while this was nothing out of the
ordinary, it never failed to make her nervous; naturally she
hadn't known how many clubs were out.
Harold had gone up-stairs, so she stepped out on the porch for a
breath of fresh air. There was a bright glamour of moonlight
diffusing on the sidewalks and lawns, and with a little half
yawn, half laugh, she remembered one long moonlight affair of her
youth. It was astonishing to think that life had once been the
sum of her current love-affairs. It was now the sum of her
There was the problem of Julie--Julie was thirteen, and lately
she was growing more and more sensitive about her deformity and
preferred to stay always in her room reading. A few years before
she had been frightened at the idea of going to school, and
Evylyn could not bring herself to send her, so she grew up in her
mother's shadow, a pitiful little figure with the artificial
hand that she made no attempt to use but kept forlornly in her
pocket. Lately she had been taking lessons in using it because
Evylyn had feared she would cease to lift the arm altogether, but
after the lessons, unless she made a move with it in listless
obedience to her mother, the little hand would creep back to the
pocket of her dress. For a while her dresses were made without
pockets, but Julie had moped around the house so miserably at a
loss all one month that Evylyn weakened and never tried the
The problem of Donald had been different from the start. She had
attempted vainly to keep him near her as she had tried to teach
Julie to lean less on her--lately the problem of Donald had been
snatched out of her hands; his division had been abroad for three
She yawned again--life was a thing for youth. What a happy youth
she must have had! She remembered her pony, Bijou, and the trip
to Europe with her mother when she was eighteen---
"Very, very complicated," she said aloud and severely to the
moon, and, stepping inside, was about to close the door when she
heard a noise in the library and started.
It was Martha, the middle-aged servant: they kept only one now.
"Why, Martha!" she said in surprise.
Martha turned quickly.
"Oh, I thought you was up-stairs. I was jist---"
"Is anything the matter?"
"No; I---" She stood there fidgeting. "It was a letter, Mrs.
Piper, that I put somewhere.
"A letter? Your own letter?" asked Evylyn.
"No, it was to you. 'Twas this afternoon, Mrs. Piper, in the last
mail. The postman give it to me and then the back door-bell
rang. I had it in my hand, so I must have stuck it somewhere. I
thought I'd just slip in now and find it."
"What sort of a letter? From Mr. Donald?"
"No, it was an advertisement, maybe, or a business letter. It was
a long narrow one, I remember."
They began a search through the music-room, looking on trays and
mantelpieces, and then through the library, feeling on the tops
of rows of books. Martha paused in despair.
"I can't think where. I went straight to the kitchen. The
dining-room, maybe." She started hopefully for the dining-room,
but turned suddenly at the sound of a gasp behind her. Evylyn had
sat down heavily in a Morris chair, her brows drawn very close
together eyes blanking furiously.
"Are you sick?"
For a minute there was no answer. Evylyn sat there very still and
Martha could see the very quick rise and fall of her bosom.
"Are you sick?" she repeated.
"No," said Evylyn slowly, "but I know where the letter is. Go
'way, Martha. I know."
Wonderingly, Martha withdrew, and still Evylyn sat there, only
the muscles around her eyes moving --contracting and relaxing and
contracting again. She knew now where the letter was--she knew
as well as if she had put it there herself. And she felt
instinctively and unquestionably what the letter was. It was long
and narrow like an advertisement, but up in the corner in large
letters it said "War Department" and, in smaller letters below,
"Official Business." She knew it lay there in the big bowl with
her name in ink on the outside and her soul's death within.
Rising uncertainly, she walked toward the dining-room, feeling
her way along the bookcases and through the doorway. After a
moment she found the light and switched it on.
There was the bowl, reflecting the electric light in crimson
squares edged with black and yellow squares edged with blue,
ponderous and glittering, grotesquely and triumphantly ominous.
She took a step forward and paused again; another step and she
would see over the top and into the inside--another step and she
would see an edge of white--another step--her hands fell on the
rough, cold surface--
In a moment she was tearing it open, fumbling with an obstinate
fold, holding it before her while the typewritten page glared out
and struck at her. Then it fluttered like a bird to the floor.
The house that had seemed whirring, buzzing a moment since, was
suddenly very quiet; a breath of air crept in through the open
front door carrying the noise of a passing motor; she heard faint
sounds from upstairs and then a grinding racket in the pipe
behind the bookcases-her husband turning of a water-
And in that instant it was as if this were not, after all,
Donald's hour except in so far as he was a marker in the
insidious contest that had gone on in sudden surges and long,
listless interludes between Evylyn and this cold, malignant thing
of beauty, a gift of enmity from a man whose face she had long
since forgotten. With its massive, brooding passivity it lay
there in the centre of her house as it had lain for years,
throwing out the ice-like beams of a thousand eyes, perverse
glitterings merging each into each, never aging, never changing.
Evylyn sat down on the edge of the table and stared at it
fascinated. It seemed to be smiling now, a very cruel smile, as
if to say:
"You see, this time I didn't have to hurt you directly. I didn't
bother. You know it was I who took your son away. You know how
cold I am and how hard and how beautiful, because once you were
just as cold and hard and beautiful."
The bowl seemed suddenly to turn itself over and then to distend
and swell until it became a great canopy that glittered and
trembled over the room, over the house, and, as the walls melted
slowly into mist, Evylyn saw that it was still moving out, out
and far away from her, shutting off far horizons and suns and
moons and stars except as inky blots seen faintly through it. And
under it walked all the people, and the light that came through
to them was refracted and twisted until shadow seamed light and
light seemed shadow--until the whole panoply of the world became
changed and distorted under the twinkling heaven of
Then there came a far-away, booming voice like a low, clear bell.
It came from the centre of the bowl and down the great sides to
the ground and then bounced toward her eagerly.
"You see, I am fate," it shouted, "and stronger than your puny
plans; and I am how-things-turn-out and I am different from your
little dreams, and I am the flight of time and the end of beauty
and unfulfilled desire; all the accidents and imperceptions and
the little minutes that shape the crucial hours are mine. I am
the exception that proves no rules, the limits of your control,
the condiment in the dish of life."
The booming sound stopped; the echoes rolled away over the wide
land to the edge of the bowl that bounded the world and up the
great sides and back to the centre where they hummed for a moment
and died. Then the great walls began slowly to bear down upon
her, growing smaller and smaller, coming closer and closer as if
to crush her; and as she clinched her hands and waited for the
swift bruise of the cold glass, the bowl gave a sudden wrench and
turned over--and lay there on the side-board, shining and
inscrutable, reflecting in a hundred prisms, myriad, many-colored
glints and gleams and crossings and interlaces of light.
The cold wind blew in again through to front door, and with a
desperate, frantic energy Evylyn stretched both her arms around
the bowl. She must be quick--she must be strong. She tightened
her arms until they ached, tauted the thin strips of muscle under
her soft flesh, and with a mighty effort raised it and held it.
She felt the wind blow cold on her back where her dress had come
apart from the strain of her effort, and as she felt it she
turned toward it and staggered under the great weight out through
the library and on toward the front door. She must be
quick--she must be strong. The blood in her arms throbbed dully
and her knees kept giving way under her, but the feel of the cool
glass was good.
Out the front door she tottered and over to the stone steps, and
there, summoning every fibre of her soul and body for a last
effort, swung herself half around--for a second, as she tried to
loose her hold, her numb fingers clung to the rough surface, and
in that second she slipped and, losing balance, toppled forward
with a despairing cry, her arms still around the bowl . . . down
. . .
Over the way lights went on; far down the block the crash was
heard, and pedestrians rushed up wonderingly; up-stairs a tired
man awoke from the edge of sleep and a little girl whimpered in a
haunted doze. And all over the moonlit sidewalk around the
still, black form, hundreds of prisms and cubes and splinters of
glass reflected the light in little gleams of blue, and black
edged with yellow, and yellow, and crimson edged with black.
Bernice Bobs Her Hair
After dark on Saturday night one could stand on the first tee of
the golf-course and see the country-club windows as a yellow
expanse over a very black and wavy ocean. The waves of this
ocean, so to speak, were the heads of many curious caddies, a few
of the more ingenious chauffeurs, the golf professional's deaf
sister--and there were usually several stray, diffident waves who
might have rolled inside had they so desired. This was the
The balcony was inside. It consisted of the circle of wicker
chairs that lined the wall of the combination clubroom and
ballroom. At these Saturday-night dances it was largely feminine;
a great babel of middle-aged ladies with sharp eyes and icy
hearts behind lorgnettes and large bosoms. The main function of
the balcony was critical, it occasionally showed grudging
admiration, but never approval, for it is well known among ladies
over thirty-five that when the younger set dance in the
summer-time it is with the very worst intentions in the world,
and if they are not bombarded with stony eyes stray couples will
dance weird barbaric interludes in the corners, and the more
popular, more dangerous, girls will sometimes be kissed in the
parked limousines of unsuspecting dowagers.
But, after all, this critical circle is not close enough to the
stage to see the actors' faces and catch the subtler byplay. It
can only frown and lean, ask questions and make satisfactory
deductions from its set of postulates, such as the one which
states that every young man with a large income leads the life of
a hunted partridge. It never really appreciates the drama of the
shifting, semi-cruel world of adolescence. No; boxes,
orchestra-circle, principals, and chorus be represented by the
medley of faces and voices that sway to the plaintive African
rhythm of Dyer's dance orchestra.
>From sixteen-year-old Otis Ormonde, who has two more years at
Hill School, to G. Reece Stoddard, over whose bureau at home
hangs a Harvard law diploma; from little Madeleine Hogue, whose
hair still feels strange and uncomfortable on top of her head, to
Bessie MacRae, who has been the life of the party a little too
long--more than ten years--the medley is not only the centre of
the stage but contains the only people capable of getting an
unobstructed view of it.
With a flourish and a bang the music stops. The couples exchange
artificial, effortless smiles, facetiously repeat "LA-de-DA-DA
dum-DUM," and then the clatter of young feminine voices soars
over the burst of clapping.
A few disappointed stags caught in midfloor as they bad been
about to cut in subsided listlessly back to the walls, because
this was not like the riotous Christmas dances--these summer
hops were considered just pleasantly warm and exciting, where
even the younger marrieds rose and performed ancient waltzes and
terrifying fox trots to the tolerant amusement of their younger
brothers and sisters.
Warren McIntyre, who casually attended Yale, being one of the
unfortunate stags, felt in his dinner-coat pocket for a cigarette
and strolled out onto the wide, semidark veranda, where couples
were scattered at tables, filling the lantern-hung night with
vague words and hazy laughter. He nodded here and there at the
less absorbed and as he passed each couple some half-forgotten
fragment of a story played in his mind, for it was not a large
city and every one was Who's Who to every one else's past. There,
for example, were Jim Strain and Ethel Demorest, who had been
privately engaged for three years. Every one knew that as soon as
Jim managed to hold a job for more than two months she would
marry him. Yet how bored they both looked, and how wearily Ethel
regarded Jim sometimes, as if she wondered why she had trained
the vines of her affection on such a wind-shaken poplar.
Warren was nineteen and rather pitying with those of his friends
who hadn't gone East to college. But, like most boys, he bragged
tremendously about the girls of his city when he was away from
it. There was Genevieve Ormonde, who regularly made the rounds of
dances, house-parties, and football games at Princeton, Yale,
Williams, and Cornell; there was black-eyed Roberta Dillon, who
was quite as famous to her own generation as Hiram Johnson or Ty
Cobb; and, of course, there was Marjorie Harvey, who besides
having a fairylike face and a dazzling, bewildering tongue was
already justly celebrated for having turned five cart-wheels in
succession during the last pump-and-slipper dance at New Haven.
Warren, who had grown up across the street from Marjorie, had
long been "crazy about her." Sometimes she seemed to reciprocate
his feeling with a faint gratitude, but she had tried him by her
infallible test and informed him gravely that she did not love
him. Her test was that when she was away from him she forgot him
and had affairs with other boys. Warren found this discouraging,
especially as Marjorie had been making little trips all summer,
and for the first two or three days after each arrival home he
saw great heaps of mail on the Harveys' hall table addressed to
her in various masculine handwritings. To make matters worse, all
during the month of August she had been visited by her cousin
Bernice from Eau Claire, and it seemed impossible to see her
alone. It was always necessary to hunt round and find some one to
take care of Bernice. As August waned this was becoming more and
Much as Warren worshipped Marjorie he had to admit that Cousin
Bernice was sorta dopeless. She was pretty, with dark hair and
high color, but she was no fun on a party. Every Saturday night
he danced a long arduous duty dance with her to please Marjorie,
but he had never been anything but bored in her company.
"Warren"---a soft voice at his elbow broke in upon his thoughts,
and he turned to see Marjorie, flushed and radiant as usual. She
laid a hand on his shoulder and a glow settled almost
imperceptibly over him.
"Warren," she whispered "do something for me--dance with Bernice.
She's been stuck with little Otis Ormonde for almost an
Warren's glow faded.
"Why--sure," he answered half-heartedly.
"You don't mind, do you? I'll see that you don't get stuck."
Marjorie smiled--that smile that was thanks enough.
"You're an angel, and I'm obliged loads."
With a sigh the angel glanced round the veranda, but Bernice and
Otis were not in sight. He wandered back inside, and there in
front of the women's dressing-room he found Otis in the centre of
a group of young men who were convulsed with laughter. Otis was
brandishing a piece of timber he had picked up, and discoursing
"She's gone in to fix her hair," he announced wildly. "I'm
waiting to dance another hour with her."
Their laughter was renewed.
"Why don't some of you cut in?" cried Otis resentfully. "She
likes more variety."
"Why, Otis," suggested a friend "you've just barely got used to
"Why the two-by-four, Otis?" inquired Warren, smiling.
"The two-by-four? Oh, this? This is a club. When she comes out
I'll hit her on the head and knock her in again."
Warren collapsed on a settee and howled with glee.
"Never mind, Otis," he articulated finally. "I'm relieving you
Otis simulated a sudden fainting attack and handed the stick to
"If you need it, old man," he said hoarsely.
No matter how beautiful or brilliant a girl may be, the
reputation of not being frequently cut in on makes her position
at a dance unfortunate. Perhaps boys prefer her company to that
of the butterflies with whom they dance a dozen times an but,
youth in this jazz-nourished generation is temperamentally
restless, and the idea of fox-trotting more than one full fox
trot with the same girl is distasteful, not to say odious. When
it comes to several dances and the intermissions between she can
be quite sure that a young man, once relieved, will never tread
on her wayward toes again.
Warren danced the next full dance with Bernice, and finally,
thankful for the intermission, he led her to a table on the
veranda. There was a moment's silence while she did unimpressive
things with her fan.
"It's hotter here than in Eau Claire," she said.
Warren stifled a sigh and nodded. It might be for all he knew or
cared. He wondered idly whether she was a poor conversationalist
because she got no attention or got no attention because she was
a poor conversationalist.
"You going to be here much longer?" he asked and then turned
rather red. She might suspect his reasons for asking.
"Another week," she answered, and stared at him as if to lunge at
his next remark when it left his lips.
Warren fidgeted. Then with a sudden charitable impulse he decided
to try part of his line on her. He turned and looked at her
"You've got an awfully kissable mouth," he began quietly.
This was a remark that he sometimes made to girls at college
proms when they were talking in just such half dark as this.
Bernice distinctly jumped. She turned an ungraceful red and
became clumsy with her fan. No one had ever made such a remark to
"Fresh!"---the word had slipped out before she realized it, and
she bit her lip. Too late she decided to be amused, and offered
him a flustered smile.
Warren was annoyed. Though not accustomed to have that remark
taken seriously, still it usually provoked a laugh or a paragraph
of sentimental banter. And he hated to be called fresh, except
in a joking way. His charitable impulse died and he switched the
"Jim Strain and Ethel Demorest sitting out as usual," he
This was more in Bernice's line, but a faint regret mingled with
her relief as the subject changed. Men did not talk to her about
kissable mouths, but she knew that they talked in some such way
to other girls.
"Oh, yes," she said, and laughed. "I hear they've been mooning
around for years without a red penny. Isn't it silly?"
Warren's disgust increased. Jim Strain was a close friend of his
brother's, and anyway he considered it bad form to sneer at
people for not having money. But Bernice had had no intention of
sneering. She was merely nervous.
When Marjorie and Bernice reached home at half after midnight
they said good night at the top of the stairs. Though cousins,
they were not intimates. As a matter of fact Marjorie had no
female intimates--she considered girls stupid. Bernice on the
contrary all through this parent-arranged visit had rather longed
to exchange those confidences flavored with giggles and tears
that she considered an indispensable factor in all feminine
intercourse. But in this respect she found Marjorie rather cold;
felt somehow the same difficulty in talking to her that she had
in talking to men. Marjorie never giggled, was never frightened,
seldom embarrassed, and in fact had very few of the qualities
which Bernice considered appropriately and blessedly feminine.
As Bernice busied herself with tooth-brush and paste this night
she wondered for the hundredth time why she never had any
attention when she was away from home. That her family were the
wealthiest in Eau Claire; that her mother entertained
tremendously, gave little diners for her daughter before all
dances and bought her a car of her own to drive round in, never
occurred to her as factors in her home-town social success. Like
most girls she had been brought up on the warm milk prepared by
Annie Fellows Johnston and on novels in which the female was
beloved because of certain mysterious womanly qualities always
mentioned but never displayed.
Bernice felt a vague pain that she was not at present engaged in
being popular. She did not know that had it not been for
Marjorie's campaigning she would have danced the entire evening
with one man; but she knew that even in Eau Claire other girls
with less position and less pulchritude were given a much bigger
rush. She attributed this to something subtly unscrupulous in
those girls. It had never worried her, and if it had her mother
would have assured her that the other girls cheapened themselves
and that men really respected girls like Bernice.
She turned out the light in her bathroom, and on an impulse
decided to go in and chat for a moment with her aunt Josephine,
whose light was still on. Her soft slippers bore her noiselessly
down the carpeted hall, but hearing voices inside she stopped
near the partly openers door. Then she caught her own name, and
without any definite intention of eavesdropping lingered--and the
thread of the conversation going on inside pierced her
consciousness sharply as if it had been drawn through with a
"She's absolutely hopeless!" It was Marjorie's voice. "Oh, I know
what you're going to say! So many people have told you how
pretty and sweet she is, and how she can cook! What of it? She
has a bum time. Men don't like her."
"What's a little cheap popularity?"
Mrs. Harvey sounded annoyed.
"It's everything when you're eighteen," said Marjorie
emphatically. "I've done my best. I've been polite and I've made
men dance with her, but they just won't stand being bored. When I
think of that gorgeous coloring wasted on such a ninny, and
think what Martha Carey could do with it--oh!"
"There's no courtesy these days."
Mrs. Harvey's voice implied that modern situations were too much
for her. When she was a girl all young ladies who belonged to
nice families had glorious times.
"Well," said Marjorie, "no girl can permanently bolster up a
lame-duck visitor, because these days it's every girl for
herself. I've even tried to drop hints about clothes and things,
and she's been furious--given me the funniest looks. She's
sensitive enough to know she's not getting away with much, but
I'll bet she consoles herself by thinking that she's very
virtuous and that I'm too gay and fickle and will come to a bad
end. All unpopular girls think that way. Sour grapes! Sarah
Hopkins refers to Genevieve and Roberta and me as gardenia girls!
I'll bet she'd give ten years of her life and her European
education to be a gardenia girl and have three or four men in
love with her and be cut in on every few feet at dances."
"It seems to me," interrupted Mrs. Harvey rather wearily, "that
you ought to be able to do something for Bernice. I know she's
not very vivacious."
"Vivacious! Good grief! I've never heard her say anything to a
boy except that it's hot or the floor's crowded or that she's
going to school in New York next year. Sometimes she asks them
what kind of car they have and tells them the kind she has.
There was a short silence and then Mrs. Harvey took up her
"All I know is that other girls not half so sweet and attractive
get partners. Martha Carey, for instance, is stout and loud, and
her mother is distinctly common. Roberta Dillon is so thin this
year that she looks as though Arizona were the place for her.
She's dancing herself to death."
"But, mother," objected Marjorie impatiently, "Martha is cheerful
and awfully witty and an awfully slick girl, and Roberta's a
marvellous dancer. She's been popular for ages!"
Mrs. Harvey yawned.
"I think it's that crazy Indian blood in Bernice," continued
Marjorie. "Maybe she's a reversion to type. Indian women all
just sat round and never said anything."
"Go to bed, you silly child," laughed Mrs. Harvey. "I wouldn't
have told you that if I'd thought you were going to remember it.
And I think most of your ideas are perfectly idiotic," she
There was another silence, while Marjorie considered whether or
not convincing her mother was worth the trouble. People over
forty can seldom be permanently convinced of anything. At
eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at
forty-five they are caves in which we hide.
Having decided this, Marjorie said good night. When she came out
into the hall it was quite empty.
While Marjorie was breakfasting late next day Bernice came into
the room with a rather formal good morning, sat down opposite,
stared intently over and slightly moistened her lips.
"What's on your mind?" inquired Marjorie, rather puzzled.
Bernice paused before she threw her hand-grenade.
"I heard what you said about me to your mother last night."
Marjorie was startled, but she showed only a faintly heightened
color and her voice was quite even when she spoke.
"Where were you?"
"In the hall. I didn't mean to listen--at first."
After an involuntary look of contempt Marjorie dropped her eyes
and became very interested in balancing a stray corn-flake on her
"I guess I'd better go back to Eau Claire--if I'm such a
nuisance." Bernice's lower lip was trembling violently and she
continued on a wavering note: "I've tried to be nice, and--and
I've been first neglected and then insulted. No one ever visited
me and got such treatment."
Marjorie was silent.
"But I'm in the way, I see. I'm a drag on you. Your friends don't
like me." She paused, and then remembered another one of her
grievances. "Of course I was furious last week when you tried to
hint to me that that dress was unbecoming. Don't you think I know
how to dress myself?"
"No," murmured less than half-aloud.
"I didn't hint anything," said Marjorie succinctly. "I said, as I
remember, that it was better to wear a becoming dress three
times straight than to alternate it with two frights."
"Do you think that was a very nice thing to say?"
"I wasn't trying to be nice." Then after a pause: "When do you
want to go?"
Bernice drew in her breath sharply.
"Oh!" It was a little half-cry.
Marjorie looked up in surprise.
"Didn't you say you were going?"
"Oh, you were only bluffing!"
They stared at each other across the breakfast-table for a
moment. Misty waves were passing before Bernice's eyes, while
Marjorie's face wore that rather hard expression that she used
when slightly intoxicated undergraduate's were making love to
"So you were bluffing," she repeated as if it were what she might
Bernice admitted it by bursting into tears. Marjorie's eyes
"You're my cousin," sobbed Bernice. "I'm v-v-visiting you. I was
to stay a month, and if I go home my mother will know and she'll
Marjorie waited until the shower of broken words collapsed into
"I'll give you my month's allowance," she said coldly, "and you
can spend this last week anywhere you want. There's a very nice
Bernice's sobs rose to a flute note, and rising of a sudden she
fled from the room.
An hour later, while Marjorie was in the library absorbed in
composing one of those non-committal marvelously elusive letters
that only a young girl can write, Bernice reappeared, very
red-eyed, and consciously calm. She cast no glance at Marjorie
but took a book at random from the shelf and sat down as if to
read. Marjorie seemed absorbed in her letter and continued
writing. When the clock showed noon Bernice closed her book with
"I suppose I'd better get my railroad ticket."
This was not the beginning of the speech she had rehearsed
up-stairs, but as Marjorie was not getting her cues--wasn't
urging her to be reasonable; it's an a mistake--it was the best
opening she could muster.
"Just wait till I finish this letter," said Marjorie without
looking round. "I want to get it off in the next mail."
After another minute, during which her pen scratched busily, she
turned round and relaxed with an air of "at your service." Again
Bernice had to speak.
"Do you want me to go home?"
"Well," said Marjorie, considering, "I suppose if you're not
having a good time you'd better go. No use being miserable."
"Don't you think common kindness---"
"Oh, please don't quote 'Little Women'!" cried Marjorie
impatiently. "That's out of style."
"You think so?"
"Heavens, yes! What modern girl could live like those inane
"They were the models for our mothers."
"Yes, they were--not! Besides, our mothers were all very well in
their way, but they know very little about their daughters'
Bernice drew herself up.
"Please don't talk about my mother."
"I don't think I mentioned her."
Bernice felt that she was being led away from her subject.
"Do you think you've treated me very well?"
"I've done my best. You're rather hard material to work with."
The lids of Bernice's eyes reddened.
"I think you're hard and selfish, and you haven't a feminine
quality in you."
"Oh, my Lord!" cried Marjorie in desperation "You little nut!
Girls like you are responsible for all the tiresome colorless
marriages; all those ghastly inefficiencies that pass as feminine
qualities. What a blow it must be when a man with imagination
marries the beautiful bundle of clothes that he's been building
ideals round, and finds that she's just a weak, whining, cowardly
mass of affectations!"
Bernice's mouth had slipped half open.
"The womanly woman!" continued Marjorie. "Her whole early life is
occupied in whining criticisms of girls like me who really do
have a good time."
Bernice's jaw descended farther as Marjorie's voice rose.
"There's some excuse for an ugly girl whining. If I'd been
irretrievably ugly I'd never have forgiven my parents for
bringing me into the world. But you're starting life without any
handicap--" Marjorie's little fist clinched, "If you expect me to
weep with you you'll be disappointed. Go or stay, just as you
like." And picking up her letters she left the room.
Bernice claimed a headache and failed to appear at luncheon. They
had a matinée date for the afternoon, but the headache
persisting, Marjorie made explanation to a not very downcast boy.
But when she returned late in the afternoon she found Bernice
with a strangely set face waiting for her in her bedroom.
"I've decided," began Bernice without preliminaries, "that maybe
you're right about things--possibly not. But if you'll tell me
why your friends aren't--aren't interested in me I'll see if I
can do what you want me to."
Marjorie was at the mirror shaking down her hair.
"Do you mean it?"
"Without reservations? Will you do exactly what I say?"
"Well nothing! Will you do exactly as I say?"
"If they're sensible things."
"They're not! You're no case for sensible things."
"Are you going to make--to recommend---"
"Yes, everything. If I tell you to take boxing-lessons you'll
have to do it. Write home and tell your mother you're going' to
stay another two weeks.
"If you'll tell me---"
"All right--I'll just give you a few examples now. First you have
no ease of manner. Why? Because you're never sure about your
personal appearance. When a girl feels that she's perfectly
groomed and dressed she can forget that part of her. That's
charm. The more parts of yourself you can afford to forget the
more charm you have."
"Don't I look all right?"
"No; for instance you never take care of your eyebrows. They're
black and lustrous, but by leaving them straggly they're a
blemish. They'd be beautiful if you'd take care of them in
one-tenth the time you take doing nothing. You're going to brush
them so that they'll grow straight."
Bernice raised the brows in question.
"Do you mean to say that men notice eyebrows?"
"Yes--subconsciously. And when you go home you ought to have your
teeth straightened a little. It's almost imperceptible,
"But I thought," interrupted Bernice in bewilderment, "that you
despised little dainty feminine things like that."
"I hate dainty minds," answered Marjorie. "But a girl has to be
dainty in person. If she looks like a million dollars she can
talk about Russia, ping-pong, or the League of Nations and get
away with it."
"Oh, I'm just beginning! There's your dancing."
"Don't I dance all right?"
"No, you don't--you lean on a man; yes, you do--ever so slightly.
I noticed it when we were dancing together yesterday. And you
dance standing up straight instead of bending over a little.
Probably some old lady on the side-line once told you that you
looked so dignified that way. But except with a very small girl
it's much harder on the man, and he's the one that counts."
"Go on." Bernice's brain was reeling.
"Well, you've got to learn to be nice to men who are sad birds.
You look as if you'd been insulted whenever you're thrown with
any except the most popular boys. Why, Bernice, I'm cut in on
every few feet--and who does most of it? Why, those very sad
birds. No girl can afford to neglect them. They're the big part
of any crowd. Young boys too shy to talk are the very best
conversational practice. Clumsy boys are the best dancing
practice. If you can follow them and yet look graceful you can
follow a baby tank across a barb-wire sky-scraper."
Bernice sighed profoundly, but Marjorie was not through.
"If you go to a dance and really amuse, say, three sad birds that
dance with you; if you talk so well to them that they forget
they're stuck with you, you've done something. They'll come back
next time, and gradually so many sad birds will dance with you
that the attractive boys will see there's no danger of being
stuck--then they'll dance with you."
"Yes," agreed Bernice faintly. "I think I begin to see."
"And finally," concluded Marjorie, "poise and charm will just
come. You'll wake up some morning knowing you've attained it and
men will know it too."
"It's been awfully kind of you--but nobody's ever talked to me
like this before, and I feel sort of startled."
Marjorie made no answer but gazed pensively at her own image in
"You're a peach to help me," continued Bernice.
Still Marjorie did not answer, and Bernice thought she had seemed
"I know you don't like sentiment," she said timidly.
Marjorie turned to her quickly.
"Oh, I wasn't thinking about that. I was considering whether we
hadn't better bob your hair."
Bernice collapsed backward upon the bed.
On the following Wednesday evening there was a dinner-dance at
the country club. When the guests strolled in Bernice found her
place-card with a slight feeling of irritation. Though at her
right sat G. Reece Stoddard, a most desirable and distinguished
young bachelor, the all-important left held only Charley Paulson.
Charley lacked height, beauty, and social shrewdness, and in her
new enlightenment Bernice decided that his only qualification to
be her partner was that he had never been stuck with her. But
this feeling of irritation left with the last of the soup-plates,
and Marjorie's specific instruction came to her. Swallowing her
pride she turned to Charley Paulson and plunged.
"Do you think I ought to bob my hair, Mr. Charley Paulson?"
Charley looked up in surprise.
"Because I'm considering it. It's such a sure and easy way of
Charley smiled pleasantly. He could not know this had been
rehearsed. He replied that he didn't know much about bobbed hair.
But Bernice was there to tell him.
"I want to be a society vampire, you see," she announced coolly,
and went on to inform him that bobbed hair was the necessary
prelude. She added that she wanted to ask his advice, because she
had heard he was so critical about girls.
Charley, who knew as much about the psychology of women as he did
of the mental states of Buddhist contemplatives, felt vaguely
"So I've decided," she continued, her voice rising slightly,
"that early next week I'm going down to the Sevier Hotel
barber-shop, sit in the first chair, and get my hair bobbed." She
faltered noticing that the people near her had paused in their
conversation and were listening; but after a confused second
Marjorie's coaching told, and she finished her paragraph to the
vicinity at large. "Of course I'm charging admission, but if
you'll all come down and encourage me I'll issue passes for the
There was a ripple of appreciative laughter, and under cover of
it G. Reece Stoddard leaned over quickly and said close to her
ear: "I'll take a box right now."
She met his eyes and smiled as if he had said something
"Do you believe in bobbed hair?" asked G. Reece in the same
"I think it's unmoral," affirmed Bernice gravely. "But, of
course, you've either got to amuse people or feed 'em or shock
'em." Marjorie had culled this from Oscar Wilde. It was greeted
with a ripple of laughter from the men and a series of quick,
intent looks from the girls. And then as though she had said
nothing of wit or moment Bernice turned again to Charley and
spoke confidentially in his ear.
"I want to ask you your opinion of several people. I imagine
you're a wonderful judge of character."