Part 4 out of 5
Charley thrilled faintly--paid her a subtle compliment by
overturning her water.
Two hours later, while Warren McIntyre was standing passively in
the stag line abstractedly watching the dancers and wondering
whither and with whom Marjorie had disappeared, an unrelated
perception began to creep slowly upon him--a perception that
Bernice, cousin to Marjorie, had been cut in on several times in
the past five minutes. He closed his eyes, opened them and looked
again. Several minutes back she had been dancing with a visiting
boy, a matter easily accounted for; a visiting boy would know no
better. But now she was dancing with some one else, and there
was Charley Paulson headed for her with enthusiastic
determination in his eye. Funny--Charley seldom danced with more
than three girls an evening.
Warren was distinctly surprised when--the exchange having been
effected--the man relieved proved to be none ether than G. Reece
Stoddard himself. And G. Reece seemed not at all jubilant at
being relieved. Next time Bernice danced near, Warren regarded
her intently. Yes, she was pretty, distinctly pretty; and
to-night her face seemed really vivacious. She had that look that
no woman, however histrionically proficient, can successfully
counterfeit--she looked as if she were having a good time. He
liked the way she had her hair arranged, wondered if it was
brilliantine that made it glisten so. And that dress was
becoming--a dark red that set off her shadowy eyes and high
coloring. He remembered that he had thought her pretty when she
first came to town, before he had realized that she was dull. Too
bad she was dull--dull girls unbearable--certainly pretty
His thoughts zigzagged back to Marjorie. This disappearance would
be like other disappearances. When she reappeared he would
demand where she had been--would be told emphatically that it was
none of his business. What a pity she was so sure of him! She
basked in the knowledge that no other girl in town interested
him; she defied him to fall in love with Genevieve or
Warren sighed. The way to Marjorie's affections was a labyrinth
indeed. He looked up. Bernice was again dancing with the visiting
boy. Half unconsciously he took a step out from the stag line in
her direction, and hesitated. Then he said to himself that it
was charity. He walked toward her --collided suddenly with G.
"Pardon me," said Warren.
But G. Reece had not stopped to apologize. He had again cut in on
That night at one o'clock Marjorie, with one hand on the
electric-light switch in the hall, turned to take a last look at
Bernice's sparkling eyes.
"So it worked?"
"Oh, Marjorie, yes!" cried Bernice.
"I saw you were having a gay time."
"I did! The only trouble was that about midnight I ran short of
talk. I had to repeat myself-- with different men of course. I
hope they won't compare notes."
"Men don't," said Marjorie, yawning, "and it wouldn't matter if
they did--they'd think you were even trickier."
She snapped out the light, and as they started up the stairs
Bernice grasped the banister thankfully. For the first time in
her life she had been danced tired.
"You see," said Marjorie it the top of the stairs, "one man sees
another man cut in and he thinks there must be something there.
Well, we'll fix up some new stuff to-morrow. Good night."
As Bernice took down her hair she passed the evening before her
in review. She had followed instructions exactly. Even when
Charley Paulson cut in for the eighth time she had simulated
delight and had apparently been both interested and flattered.
She had not talked about the weather or Eau Claire or automobiles
or her school, but had confined her conversation to me, you, and
But a few minutes before she fell asleep a rebellious thought was
churning drowsily in her brain--after all, it was she who had
done it. Marjorie, to be sure, had given her her conversation,
but then Marjorie got much of her conversation out of things she
read. Bernice had bought the red dress, though she had never
valued it highly before Marjorie dug it out of her trunk--and her
own voice had said the words, her own lips had smiled, her own
feet had danced. Marjorie nice girl--vain, though--nice
evening--nice boys--like Warren--Warren--Warren-- what's his
She fell asleep.
To Bernice the next week was a revelation. With the feeling that
people really enjoyed looking at her and listening to her came
the foundation of self-confidence. Of course there were numerous
mistakes at first. She did not know, for instance, that
Draycott Deyo was studying for the ministry; she was unaware that
he had cut in on her because he thought she was a quiet,
reserved girl. Had she known these things she would not have
treated him to the line which began "Hello, Shell Shock!" and
continued with the bathtub story--"It takes a frightful lot of
energy to fix my hair in the summer--there's so much of it--so I
always fix it first and powder my face and put on my hat; then I
get into the bathtub, and dress afterward. Don't you think that's
the best plan?"
Though Draycott Deyo was in the throes of difficulties concerning
baptism by immersion and might possibly have seen a connection,
it must be admitted that he did not. He considered feminine
bathing an immoral subject, and gave her some of his ideas on the
depravity of modern society.
But to offset that unfortunate occurrence Bernice had several
signal successes to her credit. Little Otis Ormonde pleaded off
from a trip East and elected instead to follow her with a
puppylike devotion, to the amusement of his crowd and to the
irritation of G. Reece Stoddard, several of whose afternoon calls
Otis completely ruined by the disgusting tenderness of the
glances he bent on Bernice. He even told her the story of the
two-by-four and the dressing-room to show her how frightfully
mistaken he and every one else had been in their first judgment
of her. Bernice laughed off that incident with a slight sinking
Of all Bernice's conversation perhaps the best known and most
universally approved was the line about the bobbing of her hair.
"Oh, Bernice, when you goin' to get the hair bobbed?"
"Day after to-morrow maybe," she would reply, laughing. "Will you
come and see me? Because I'm counting on you, you know."
"Will we? You know! But you better hurry up."
Bernice, whose tonsorial intentions were strictly dishonorable,
would laugh again.
"Pretty soon now. You'd be surprised."
But perhaps the most significant symbol of her success was the
gray car of the hypercritical Warren McIntyre, parked daily in
front of the Harvey house. At first the parlor-maid was
distinctly startled when he asked for Bernice instead of
Marjorie; after a week of it she told the cook that Miss Bernice
had gotta holda Miss Marjorie's best fella.
And Miss Bernice had. Perhaps it began with Warren's desire to
rouse jealousy in Marjorie; perhaps it was the familiar though
unrecognized strain of Marjorie in Bernice's conversation;
perhaps it was both of these and something of sincere attraction
besides. But somehow the collective mind of the younger set knew
within a week that Marjorie's most reliable beau had made an
amazing face-about and was giving an indisputable rush to
Marjorie's guest. The question of the moment was how Marjorie
would take it. Warren called Bernice on the 'phone twice a day,
sent her notes, and they were frequently seen together in his
roadster, obviously engrossed in one of those tense, significant
conversations as to whether or not he was sincere.
Marjorie on being twitted only laughed. She said she was mighty
glad that Warren had at last found some one who appreciated him.
So the younger set laughed, too, and guessed that Marjorie didn't
care and let it go at that.
One afternoon when there were only three days left of her visit
Bernice was waiting in the hall for Warren, with whom she was
going to a bridge party. She was in rather a blissful mood, and
when Marjorie--also bound for the party--appeared beside her and
began casually to adjust her hat in the mirror, Bernice was
utterly unprepared for anything in the nature of a clash.
Marjorie did her work very coldly and succinctly in three
"You may as well get Warren out of your head," she said coldly.
"What?" Bernice was utterly astounded.
"You may as well stop making a fool of yourself over Warren
McIntyre. He doesn't care a snap of his fingers about you."
For a tense moment they regarded each other--Marjorie scornful,
aloof; Bernice astounded, half-angry, half-afraid. Then two cars
drove up in front of the house and there was a riotous honking.
Both of them gasped faintly, turned, and side by side hurried
All through the bridge party Bernice strove in vain to master a
rising uneasiness. She had offended Marjorie, the sphinx of
sphinxes. With the most wholesome and innocent intentions in the
world she had stolen Marjorie's property. She felt suddenly and
horribly guilty. After the bridge game, when they sat in an
informal circle and the conversation became general, the storm
gradually broke. Little Otis Ormonde inadvertently precipitated
"When you going back to kindergarten, Otis?" some one had asked.
"Me? Day Bernice gets her hair bobbed."
"Then your education's over," said Marjorie quickly. "That's only
a bluff of hers. I should think you'd have realized."
"That a fact?" demanded Otis, giving Bernice a reproachful
Bernice's ears burned as she tried to think up an effectual
come-back. In the face of this direct attack her imagination was
"There's a lot of bluffs in the world," continued Marjorie quite
pleasantly. "I should think you'd be young enough to know that,
"Well," said Otis, "maybe so. But gee! With a line like
"Really?" yawned Marjorie. "What's her latest bon mot?"
No one seemed to know. In fact, Bernice, having trifled with her
muse's beau, had said nothing memorable of late.
"Was that really all a line?" asked Roberta curiously.
Bernice hesitated. She felt that wit in some form was demanded of
her, but under her cousin's suddenly frigid eyes she was
"I don't know," she stalled.
"Splush!" said Marjorie. "Admit it!"
Bernice saw that Warren's eyes had left a ukulele he had been
tinkering with and were fixed on her questioningly.
"Oh, I don't know!" she repeated steadily. Her cheeks were
"Splush!" remarked Marjorie again.
"Come through, Bernice," urged Otis. "Tell her where to get off."
Bernice looked round again--she seemed unable to get away from
"I like bobbed hair," she said hurriedly, as if he had asked her
a question, "and I intend to bob mine."
"When?" demanded Marjorie.
"No time like the present," suggested Roberta.
Otis jumped to his feet.
"Good stuff!" he cried. "We'll have a summer bobbing party.
Sevier Hotel barber-shop, I think you said."
In an instant all were on their feet. Bernice's heart throbbed
"What?" she gasped.
Out of the group came Marjorie's voice, very clear and
"Don't worry--she'll back out!"
"Come on, Bernice!" cried Otis, starting toward the door.
Four eyes--Warren's and Marjorie's--stared at her, challenged
her, defied her. For another second she wavered wildly.
"All right," she said swiftly "I don't care if I do."
An eternity of minutes later, riding down-town through the late
afternoon beside Warren, the others following in Roberta's car
close behind, Bernice had all the sensations of Marie Antoinette
bound for the guillotine in a tumbrel. Vaguely she wondered why
she did not cry out that it was all a mistake. It was all she
could do to keep from clutching her hair with both bands to
protect it from the suddenly hostile world. Yet she did neither.
Even the thought of her mother was no deterrent now. This was the
test supreme of her sportsmanship; her right to walk
unchallenged in the starry heaven of popular girls.
Warren was moodily silent, and when they came to the hotel he
drew up at the curb and nodded to Bernice to precede him out.
Roberta's car emptied a laughing crowd into the shop, which
presented two bold plate-glass windows to the street.
Bernice stood on the curb and looked at the sign, Sevier
Barber-Shop. It was a guillotine indeed, and the hangman was the
first barber, who, attired in a white coat and smoking a
cigarette, leaned non-chalantly against the first chair. He must
have heard of her; he must have been waiting all week, smoking
eternal cigarettes beside that portentous, too-often-mentioned
first chair. Would they blind-fold her? No, but they would tie a
white cloth round her neck lest any of her blood--nonsense--hair--should
get on her clothes.
"All right, Bernice," said Warren quickly.
With her chin in the air she crossed the sidewalk, pushed open
the swinging screen-door, and giving not a glance to the
uproarious, riotous row that occupied the waiting bench, went up
to the fat barber.
"I want you to bob my hair."
The first barber's mouth slid somewhat open. His cigarette
dropped to the floor.
"My hair--bob it!"
Refusing further preliminaries, Bernice took her seat on high. A
man in the chair next to her turned on his side and gave her a
glance, half lather, half amazement. One barber started and
spoiled little Willy Schuneman's monthly haircut. Mr. O'Reilly in
the last chair grunted and swore musically in ancient Gaelic as
a razor bit into his cheek. Two bootblacks became wide-eyed and
rushed for her feet. No, Bernice didn't care for a shine.
Outside a passer-by stopped and stared; a couple joined him; half
a dozen small boys' nose sprang into life, flattened against the
glass; and snatches of conversation borne on the summer breeze
drifted in through the screen-door.
"Lookada long hair on a kid!"
"Where'd yuh get 'at stuff? 'At's a bearded lady he just finished
But Bernice saw nothing, heard nothing. Her only living sense
told her that this man in the white coat had removed one
tortoise-shell comb and then another; that his fingers were
fumbling clumsily with unfamiliar hairpins; that this hair, this
wonderful hair of hers, was going--she would never again feel its
long voluptuous pull as it hung in a dark-brown glory down her
back. For a second she was near breaking down, and then the
picture before her swam mechanically into her vision--Marjorie's
mouth curling in a faint ironic smile as if to say:
"Give up and get down! You tried to buck me and I called your
bluff. You see you haven't got a prayer."
And some last energy rose up in Bernice, for she clinched her
hands under the white cloth, and there was a curious narrowing of
her eyes that Marjorie remarked on to some one long afterward.
Twenty minutes later the barber swung her round to face the
mirror, and she flinched at the full extent of the damage that
had been wrought. Her hair was not curls and now it lay in lank
lifeless blocks on both sides of her suddenly pale face. It was
ugly as sin--she had known it would be ugly as sin. Her face's
chief charm had been a Madonna-like simplicity. Now that was gone
and she was--well frightfully mediocre--not stagy; only
ridiculous, like a Greenwich Villager who had left her spectacles
As she climbed down from the chair she tried to smile--failed
miserably. She saw two of the girls exchange glances; noticed
Marjorie's mouth curved in attenuated mockery--and that Warren's
eyes were suddenly very cold.
"You see,"--her words fell into an awkward pause--"I've done it."
"Yes, you've--done it," admitted Warren.
"Do you like it?"
There was a half-hearted "Sure" from two or three voices, another
awkward pause, and then Marjorie turned swiftly and with
serpentlike intensity to Warren.
"Would you mind running me down to the cleaners?" she asked.
"I've simply got to get a dress there before supper. Roberta's
driving right home and she can take the others."
Warren stared abstractedly at some infinite speck out the window.
Then for an instant his eyes rested coldly on Bernice before
they turned to Marjorie.
"Be glad to," he said slowly.
Bernice did not fully realize the outrageous trap that had been
set for her until she met her aunt's amazed glance just before
"I've bobbed it, Aunt Josephine."
"Do you like it?"
"I suppose I've shocked you."
"No, but what'll Mrs. Deyo think tomorrow night? Bernice, you
should have waited until after the Deyo's dance--you should have
waited if you wanted to do that."
"It was sudden, Aunt Josephine. Anyway, why does it matter to
Mrs. Deyo particularly?"
"Why child," cried Mrs. Harvey, "in her paper on 'The Foibles of
the Younger Generation' that she read at the last meeting of the
Thursday Club she devoted fifteen minutes to bobbed hair. It's
her pet abomination. And the dance is for you and Marjorie!"
"Oh, Bernice, what'll your mother say? She'll think I let you do
Dinner was an agony. She had made a hasty attempt with a
curling-iron, and burned her finger and much hair. She could see
that her aunt was both worried and grieved, and her uncle kept
saying, "Well, I'll be darned!" over and over in a hurt and
faintly hostile torte. And Marjorie sat very quietly, intrenched
behind a faint smile, a faintly mocking smile.
Somehow she got through the evening. Three boy's called; Marjorie
disappeared with one of them, and Bernice made a listless
unsuccessful attempt to entertain the two others--sighed
thankfully as she climbed the stairs to her room at half past
ten. What a day!
When she had undressed for the night the door opened and Marjorie
"Bernice," she said "I'm awfully sorry about the Deyo dance. I'll
give you my word of honor I'd forgotten all about it."
"'Sall right," said Bernice shortly. Standing before the mirror
she passed her comb slowly through her short hair.
"I'll take you down-town to-morrow," continued Marjorie, "and the
hairdresser'll fix it so you'll look slick. I didn't imagine
you'd go through with it. I'm really mighty sorry."
"Oh, 'sall right!"
"Still it's your last night, so I suppose it won't matter much."
Then Bernice winced as Marjorie tossed her own hair over her
shoulders and began to twist it slowly into two long blond braids
until in her cream-colored negligée she looked like a delicate
painting of some Saxon princess. Fascinated, Bernice watched the
braids grow. Heavy and luxurious they were moving under the
supple fingers like restive snakes--and to Bernice remained this
relic and the curling-iron and a to-morrow full of eyes. She
could see G. Reece Stoddard, who liked her, assuming his Harvard
manner and telling his dinner partner that Bernice shouldn't have
been allowed to go to the movies so much; she could see Draycott
Deyo exchanging glances with his mother and then being
conscientiously charitable to her. But then perhaps by to-morrow
Mrs. Deyo would have heard the news; would send round an icy
little note requesting that she fail to appear--and behind her
back they would all laugh and know that Marjorie had made a fool
of her; that her chance at beauty had been sacrificed to the
jealous whim of a selfish girl. She sat down suddenly before the
mirror, biting the inside of her cheek.
"I like it," she said with an effort. "I think it'll be
"It looks all right. For heaven's sake, don't let it worry you!"
"Good night Bernice."
But as the door closed something snapped within Bernice. She
sprang dynamically to her feet, clinching her hands, then swiftly
and noiseless crossed over to her bed and from underneath it
dragged out her suitcase. Into it she tossed toilet articles and
a change of clothing, Then she turned to her trunk and quickly
dumped in two drawerfulls of lingerie and stammer dresses. She
moved quietly. but deadly efficiency, and in three-quarters of an
hour her trunk was locked and strapped and she was fully dressed
in a becoming new travelling suit that Marjorie had helped her
Sitting down at her desk she wrote a short note to Mrs. Harvey,
in which she briefly outlined her reasons for going. She sealed
it, addressed it, and laid it on her pillow. She glanced at her
watch. The train left at one, and she knew that if she walked
down to the Marborough Hotel two blocks away she could easily get
Suddenly she drew in her breath sharply and an expression flashed
into her eyes that a practiced character reader might have
connected vaguely with the set look she had worn in the barber's
chair--somehow a development of it. It was quite a new look for
Bernice--and it carried consequences.
She went stealthily to the bureau, picked up an article that lay
there, and turning out all the lights stood quietly until her
eyes became accustomed to the darkness. Softly she pushed open
the door to Marjorie's room. She heard the quiet, even breathing
of an untroubled conscience asleep.
She was by the bedside now, very deliberate and calm. She acted
swiftly. Bending over she found one of the braids of Marjorie's
hair, followed it up with her hand to the point nearest the head,
and then holding it a little slack so that the sleeper would
feel no pull, she reached down with the shears and severed it.
With the pigtail in her hand she held her breath. Marjorie had
muttered something in her sleep. Bernice deftly amputated the
other braid, paused for an instant, and then flitted swiftly and
silently back to her own room.
Down-stairs she opened the big front door, closed it carefully
behind her, and feeling oddly happy and exuberant stepped off the
porch into the moonlight, swinging her heavy grip like a
shopping-bag. After a minute's brisk walk she discovered that her
left hand still held the two blond braids. She laughed
unexpectedly--had to shut her mouth hard to keep from emitting an
absolute peal. She was passing Warren's house now, and on the
impulse she set down her baggage, and swinging the braids like
piece of rope flung them at the wooden porch, where they landed
with a slight thud. She laughed again, no longer restraining
"Huh," she giggled wildly. "Scalp the selfish thing!"
Then picking up her staircase she set off at a half-run down the
The Baltimore Station was hot and crowded, so Lois was forced to
stand by the telegraph desk for interminable, sticky seconds
while a clerk with big front teeth counted and recounted a large
lady's day message, to determine whether it contained the
innocuous forty-nine words or the fatal fifty-one.
Lois, waiting, decided she wasn't quite sure of the address, so
she took the letter out of her bag and ran over it again.
"Darling," IT BEGAN--"I understand and I'm happier than life ever
meant me to be. If I could give you the things you've always
been in tune with--but I can't Lois; we can't marry and we can't
lose each other and let all this glorious love end in nothing.
"Until your letter came, dear, I'd been sitting here in the half
dark and thinking where I could go and ever forget you; abroad,
perhaps, to drift through Italy or Spain and dream away the pain
of having lost you where the crumbling ruins of older, mellower
civilizations would mirror only the desolation of my heart--and
then your letter came.
"Sweetest, bravest girl, if you'll wire me I'll meet you in
Wilmington--till then I'll be here just waiting and hoping for
every long dream of you to come true.
She had read the letter so many times that she knew it word by
word, yet it still startled her. In it she found many faint
reflections of the man who wrote it--the mingled sweetness and
sadness in his dark eyes, the furtive, restless excitement she
felt sometimes when he talked to her, his dreamy sensuousness
that lulled her mind to sleep. Lois was nineteen and very
romantic and curious and courageous.
The large lady and the clerk having compromised on fifty words,
Lois took a blank and wrote her telegram. And there were no
overtones to the finality of her decision.
It's just destiny--she thought--it's just the way things work
out in this damn world. If cowardice is all that's been holding
me back there won't be any more holding back. So we'll just let
things take their course and never be sorry.
The clerk scanned her telegram:
"Arrived Baltimore today spend day with my brother meet me
Wilmington three P.M. Wednesday
"Fifty-four cents," said the clerk admiringly.
And never be sorry--thought Lois--and never be sorry---
Trees filtering light onto dapple grass. Trees like tall, languid
ladies with feather fans coquetting airily with the ugly roof of
the monastery. Trees like butlers, bending courteously over
placid walks and paths. Trees, trees over the hills on either
side and scattering out in clumps and lines and woods all through
eastern Maryland, delicate lace on the hems of many yellow
fields, dark opaque backgrounds for flowered bushes or wild
Some of the trees were very gay and young, but the monastery
trees were older than the monastery which, by true monastic
standards, wasn't very old at all. And, as a matter of fact, it
wasn't technically called a monastery, but only a seminary;
nevertheless it shall be a monastery here despite its Victorian
architecture or its Edward VII additions, or even its Woodrow
Wilsonian, patented, last-a-century roofing.
Out behind was the farm where half a dozen lay brothers were
sweating lustily as they moved with deadly efficiency around the
vegetable-gardens. To the left, behind a row of elms, was an
informal baseball diamond where three novices were being batted
out by a fourth, amid great chasings and puffings and blowings.
And in front as a great mellow bell boomed the half-hour a swarm
of black, human leaves were blown over the checker-board of paths
under the courteous trees.
Some of these black leaves were very old with cheeks furrowed
like the first ripples of a splashed pool. Then there was a
scattering of middle-aged leaves whose forms when viewed in
profile in their revealing gowns were beginning to be faintly
unsymmetrical. These carried thick volumes of Thomas Aquinas and
Henry James and Cardinal Mercier and Immanuel Kant and many
bulging note-books filled with lecture data.
But most numerous were the young leaves; blond boys of nineteen
with very stern, conscientious expressions; men in the late
twenties with a keen self-assurance from having taught out in the
world for five years--several hundreds of them, from city and
town and country in Maryland and Pennsylvania and Virginia and
West Virginia and Delaware.
There were many Americans and some Irish and some tough Irish and
a few French, and several Italians and Poles, and they walked
informally arm in arm with each other in twos and threes or in
long rows, almost universally distinguished by the straight mouth
and the considerable chin--for this was the Society of Jesus,
founded in Spain five hundred years before by a tough-minded
soldier who trained men to hold a breach or a salon, preach a
sermon or write a treaty, and do it and not argue . . .
Lois got out of a bus into the sunshine down by the outer gate.
She was nineteen with yellow hair and eyes that people were
tactful enough not to call green. When men of talent saw her in a
street-car they often furtively produced little stub-pencils and
backs of envelopes and tried to sum up that profile or the thing
that the eyebrows did to her eyes. Later they looked at their
results and usually tore them up with wondering sighs.
Though Lois was very jauntily attired in an expensively
appropriate travelling affair, she did not linger to pat out the
dust which covered her clothes, but started up the central walk
with curious glances at either side. Her face was very eager and
expectant, yet she hadn't at all that glorified expression that
girls wear when they arrive for a Senior Prom at Princeton or New
Haven; still, as there were no senior proms here, perhaps it
She was wondering what he would look like, whether she'd possibly
know him from his picture. In the picture, which hung over her
mother's bureau at home, he seemed very young and hollow-cheeked
and rather pitiful, with only a well-developed mouth and all
ill-fitting probationer's gown to show that he had already made a
momentous decision about his life. Of course he had been only
nineteen then and now he was thirty-six--didn't look like that at
all; in recent snap-shots he was much broader and his hair had
grown a little thin--but the impression of her brother she had
always retained was that of the big picture. And so she had
always been a little sorry for him. What a life for a man!
Seventeen years of preparation and he wasn't even a priest
yet--wouldn't be for another year.
Lois had an idea that this was all going to be rather solemn if
she let it be. But she was going to give her very best imitation
of undiluted sunshine, the imitation she could give even when her
head was splitting or when her mother had a nervous breakdown or
when she was particularly romantic and curious and courageous.
This brother of hers undoubtedly needed cheering up, and he was
going to be cheered up, whether he liked it or not.
As she drew near the great, homely front door she saw a man break
suddenly away from a group and, pulling up the skirts of his
gown, run toward her. He was smiling, she noticed, and he looked
very big and--and reliable. She stopped and waited, knew that her
heart was beating unusually fast.
"Lois!" he cried, and in a second she was in his arms. She was
"Lois!" he cried again, "why, this is wonderful! I can't tell
you, Lois, how MUCH I've looked forward to this. Why, Lois,
His voice, though restrained, was vibrant with energy and that
odd sort of enveloping personality she had thought that she only
of the family possessed.
"I'm mighty glad, too--Kieth."
She flushed, but not unhappily, at this first use of his name.
"Lois--Lois--Lois," he repeated in wonder. "Child, we'll go in
here a minute, because I want you to meet the rector, and then
we'll walk around. I have a thousand things to talk to you
His voice became graver. "How's mother?"
She looked at him for a moment and then said something that she
had not intended to say at all, the very sort of thing she had
resolved to avoid.
"Oh, Kieth--she's--she's getting worse all the time, every way."
He nodded slowly as if he understood.
"Nervous, well--you can tell me about that later. Now---"
She was in a small study with a large desk, saying something to a
little, jovial, white-haired priest who retained her hand for
"So this is Lois!"
He said it as if he had heard of her for years.
He entreated her to sit down.
Two other priests arrived enthusiastically and shook hands with
her and addressed her as "Kieth's little sister," which she found
she didn't mind a bit.
How assured they seemed; she had expected a certain shyness,
reserve at least. There were several jokes unintelligible to her,
which seemed to delight every one, and the little Father Rector
referred to the trio of them as "dim old monks," which she
appreciated, because of course they weren't monks at all. She had
a lightning impression that they were especially fond of
Kieth--the Father Rector had called him "Kieth" and one of the
others had kept a hand on his shoulder all through the
conversation. Then she was shaking hands again and promising to
come back a little later for some ice-cream, and smiling and
smiling and being rather absurdly happy . . . she told herself
that it was because Kieth was so delighted in showing her off.
Then she and Kieth were strolling along a path, arm in arm, and
he was informing her what an absolute jewel the Father Rector
"Lois," he broken off suddenly, "I want to tell you before we go
any farther how much it means to me to have you come up here. I
think it was--mighty sweet of you. I know what a gay time you've
Lois gasped. She was not prepared for this. At first when she had
conceived the plan of taking the hot journey down to Baltimore
staying the night with a friend and then coming out to see her
brother, she had felt rather consciously virtuous, hoped he
wouldn't be priggish or resentful about her not having come
before--but walking here with him under the trees seemed such a
little thing, and surprisingly a happy thing.
"Why, Kieth," she said quickly, "you know I couldn't have waited
a day longer. I saw you when I was five, but of course I didn't
remember, and how could I have gone on without practically ever
having seen my only brother?"
"It was mighty sweet of you, Lois," he repeated.
Lois blushed--he DID have personality.
"I want you to tell me all about yourself," he said after a
pause. "Of course I have a general idea what you and mother did
in Europe those fourteen years, and then we were all so worried,
Lois, when you had pneumonia and couldn't come down with
mother--let's see that was two years ago--and then, well, I've
seen your name in the papers, but it's all been so
unsatisfactory. I haven't known you, Lois."
She found herself analyzing his personality as she analyzed the
personality of every man she met. She wondered if the effect
of--of intimacy that he gave was bred by his constant repetition
of her name. He said it as if he loved the word, as if it had an
inherent meaning to him.
"Then you were at school," he continued.
"Yes, at Farmington. Mother wanted me to go to a convent--but I
didn't want to."
She cast a side glance at him to see if he would resent this.
But he only nodded slowly.
"Had enough convents abroad, eh?"
"Yes--and Kieth, convents are different there anyway. Here even
in the nicest ones there are so many COMMON girls."
He nodded again.
"Yes," he agreed, "I suppose there are, and I know how you feel
about it. It grated on me here, at first, Lois, though I wouldn't
say that to any one but you; we're rather sensitive, you and I,
to things like this."
"You mean the men here?"
"Yes, some of them of course were fine, the sort of men I'd
always been thrown with, but there were others; a man named
Regan, for instance--I hated the fellow, and now he's about the
best friend I have. A wonderful character, Lois; you'll meet him
later. Sort of man you'd like to have with you in a fight."
Lois was thinking that Kieth was the sort of man she'd like to
have with HER in a fight.
"How did you--how did you first happen to do it?" she asked,
rather shyly, "to come here, I mean. Of course mother told me the
story about the Pullman car."
"Oh, that---" He looked rather annoyed.
"Tell me that. I'd like to hear you tell it."
"Oh, it's nothing except what you probably know. It was evening
and I'd been riding all day and thinking about--about a hundred
things, Lois, and then suddenly I had a sense that some one was
sitting across from me, felt that he'd been there for some time,
and had a vague idea that he was another traveller. All at once
he leaned over toward me and I heard a voice say: 'I want you to
be a priest, that's what I want.' Well I jumped up and cried out,
'Oh, my God, not that!'--made an idiot of myself before about
twenty people; you see there wasn't any one sitting there at all.
A week after that I went to the Jesuit College in Philadelphia
and crawled up the last flight of stairs to the rector's office
on my hands and knees."
There was another silence and Lois saw that her brother's eyes
wore a far-away look, that he was staring unseeingly out over the
sunny fields. She was stirred by the modulations of his voice
and the sudden silence that seemed to flow about him when he
She noticed now that his eyes were of the same fibre as hers,
with the green left out, and that his mouth was much gentler,
really, than in the picture --or was it that the face had grown
up to it lately? He was getting a little bald just on top of his
head. She wondered if that was from wearing a hat so much. It
seemed awful for a man to grow bald and no one to care about it.
"Were you--pious when you were young, Kieth?" she asked. "You
know what I mean. Were you religious? If you don't mind these
"Yes," he said with his eyes still far away--and she felt that
his intense abstraction was as much a part of his personality as
his attention. "Yes, I suppose I was, when I was--sober."
Lois thrilled slightly.
"Did you drink?"
"I was on the way to making a bad hash of things." He smiled and,
turning his gray eyes on her, changed the subject.
"Child, tell me about mother. I know it's been awfully hard for
you there, lately. I know you've had to sacrifice a lot and put
up with a great deal and I want you to know how fine of you I
think it is. I feel, Lois, that you're sort of taking the place
of both of us there."
Lois thought quickly how little she had sacrificed; how lately
she had constantly avoided her nervous, half-invalid mother.
"Youth shouldn't be sacrificed to age, Kieth," she said steadily.
"I know," he sighed, "and you oughtn't to have the weight on
your shoulders, child. I wish I were there to help you."
She saw how quickly he had turned her remark and instantly she
knew what this quality was that he gave off. He was SWEET. Her
thoughts went of on a side-track and then she broke the silence
with an odd remark.
"Sweetness is hard," she said suddenly.
"Nothing," she denied in confusion. "I didn't mean to speak
aloud. I was thinking of something --of a conversation with a man
named Freddy Kebble."
"Maury Kebble's brother?"
"Yes," she said rather surprised to think of him having known
Maury Kebble. Still there was nothing strange about it. "Well, he
and I were talking about sweetness a few weeks ago. Oh, I don't
know--I said that a man named Howard--that a man I knew was
sweet, and he didn't agree with me, and we began talking about
what sweetness in a man was: He kept telling me I meant a sort of
soppy softness, but I knew I didn't--yet I didn't know exactly
how to put it. I see now. I meant just the opposite. I suppose
real sweetness is a sort of hardness--and strength."
"I see what you mean. I've known old priests who had it."
"I'm talking about young men," she said rather defiantly.
They had reached the now deserted baseball diamond and, pointing
her to a wooden bench, he sprawled full length on the grass.
"Are these YOUNG men happy here, Kieth?"
"Don't they look happy, Lois?"
"I suppose so, but those YOUNG ones, those two we just
passed--have they--are they---?
"Are they signed up?" he laughed. "No, but they will be next
"Yes--unless they break down mentally or physically. Of course in
a discipline like ours a lot drop out."
"But those BOYS. Are they giving up fine chances outside--like
"Some of them."
"But Kieth, they don't know what they're doing. They haven't had
any experience of what they're missing."
"No, I suppose not."
"It doesn't seem fair. Life has just sort of scared them at
first. Do they all come in so YOUNG?"
"No, some of them have knocked around, led pretty wild
lives--Regan, for instance."
"I should think that sort would be better," she said
meditatively, "men that had SEEN life."
"No," said Kieth earnestly, "I'm not sure that knocking about
gives a man the sort of experience he can communicate to others.
Some of the broadest men I've known have been absolutely rigid
about themselves. And reformed libertines are a notoriously
intolerant class. Don't you thank so, Lois?"
She nodded, still meditative, and he continued:
"It seems to me that when one weak reason goes to another, it
isn't help they want; it's a sort of companionship in guilt,
Lois. After you were born, when mother began to get nervous she
used to go and weep with a certain Mrs. Comstock. Lord, it used
to make me shiver. She said it comforted her, poor old mother.
No, I don't think that to help others you've got to show yourself
at all. Real help comes from a stronger person whom you respect.
And their sympathy is all the bigger because it's impersonal."
"But people want human sympathy," objected Lois. "They want to
feel the other person's been tempted."
"Lois, in their hearts they want to feel that the other person's
been weak. That's what they mean by human.
"Here in this old monkery, Lois," he continued with a smile, "they
try to get all that self-pity and pride in our own wills out of
us right at the first. They put us to scrubbing floors--and other
things. It's like that idea of saving your life by losing it.
You see we sort of feel that the less human a man is, in your
sense of human, the better servant he can be to humanity. We
carry it out to the end, too. When one of us dies his family
can't even have him then. He's buried here under plain wooden
cross with a thousand others."
His tone changed suddenly and he looked at her with a great
brightness in his gray eyes.
"But way back in a man's heart there are some things he can't get
rid of--an one of them is that I'm awfully in love with my
With a sudden impulse she knelt beside him in the grass and,
Leaning over, kissed his forehead.
"You're hard, Kieth," she said, "and I love you for it--and
Back in the reception-room Lois met a half-dozen more of Kieth's
particular friends; there was a young man named Jarvis, rather
pale and delicate-looking, who, she knew, must be a grandson of
old Mrs. Jarvis at home, and she mentally compared this ascetic
with a brace of his riotous uncles.
And there was Regan with a scarred face and piercing intent eyes
that followed her about the room and often rested on Kieth with
something very like worship. She knew then what Kieth had meant
about "a good man to have with you in a fight."
He's the missionary type--she thought vaguely--China or something.
"I want Kieth's sister to show us what the shimmy is," demanded
one young man with a broad grin.
"I'm afraid the Father Rector would send me shimmying out the
gate. Besides, I'm not an expert."
"I'm sure it wouldn't be best for Jimmy's soul anyway," said
Kieth solemnly. "He's inclined to brood about things like
shimmys. They were just starting to do the--maxixe, wasn't it,
Jimmy?--when he became a monk, and it haunted him his whole first
year. You'd see him when he was peeling potatoes, putting his
arm around the bucket and making irreligious motions with his
There was a general laugh in which Lois joined.
"An old lady who comes here to Mass sent Kieth this ice-cream,"
whispered Jarvis under cover of the laugh, "because she'd heard
you were coming. It's pretty good, isn't it?"
There were tears trembling in Lois' eyes.
Then half an hour later over in the chapel things suddenly went
all wrong. It was several years since Lois had been at
Benediction and at first she was thrilled by the gleaming
monstrance with its central spot of white, the air rich and heavy
with incense, and the sun shining through the stained-glass
window of St. Francis Xavier overhead and falling in warm red
tracery on the cassock of the man in front of her, but at the
first notes of the "O SALUTARIS HOSTIA" a heavy weight seemed to
descend upon her soul. Kieth was on her right and young Jarvis on
her left, and she stole uneasy glance at both of them.
What's the matter with me? she thought impatiently.
She looked again. Was there a certain coldness in both their
profiles, that she had not noticed before--a pallor about the
mouth and a curious set expression in their eyes? She shivered
slightly: they were like dead men.
She felt her soul recede suddenly from Kieth's. This was her
brother--this, this unnatural person. She caught herself in the
act of a little laugh.
"What is the matter with me?"
She passed her hand over her eyes and the weight increased. The
incense sickened her and a stray, ragged note from one of the
tenors in the choir grated on her ear like the shriek of a
slate-pencil. She fidgeted, and raising her hand to her hair
touched her forehead, found moisture on it.
"It's hot in here, hot as the deuce."
Again she repressed a faint laugh and, then in an instant the
weight on her heart suddenly diffused into cold fear. . . . It
was that candle on the altar. It was all wrong--wrong. Why didn't
somebody see it? There was something IN it. There was something
coming out of it, taking form and shape above it.
She tried to fight down her rising panic, told herself it was the
wick. If the wick wasn't straight, candles did something--but
they didn't do this! With incalculable rapidity a force was
gathering within her, a tremendous, assimilative force, drawing
from every sense, every corner of her brain, and as it surged up
inside her she felt an enormous terrified repulsion. She drew her
arms in close to her side away from Kieth and Jarvis.
Something in that candle . . . she was leaning forward--in
another moment she felt she would go forward toward it--didn't
any one see it? . . . anyone?
She felt a space beside her and something told her that Jarvis
had gasped and sat down very suddenly . . . then she was kneeling
and as the flaming monstrance slowly left the altar in the hands
of the priest, she heard a great rushing noise in her ears--the
crash of the bells was like hammer-blows . . . and then in a
moment that seemed eternal a great torrent rolled over her
heart--there was a shouting there and a lashing as of waves . . .
. . . She was calling, felt herself calling for Kieth, her lips
mouthing the words that would not come:
"Kieth! Oh, my God! KIETH!"
Suddenly she became aware of a new presence, something external,
in front of her, consummated and expressed in warm red tracery.
Then she knew. It was the window of St. Francis Xavier. Her mind
gripped at it, clung to it finally, and she felt herself calling
again endlessly, impotently--Kieth--Kieth!
Then out of a great stillness came a voice:
"BLESSED BE GOD."
With a gradual rumble sounded the response rolling heavily
through the chapel:
"Blessed be God."
The words sang instantly in her heart; the incense lay mystically
and sweetly peaceful upon the air, and THE CANDLE ON THE ALTAR
"Blessed be His Holy Name."
"Blessed be His Holy Name."
Everything blurred into a swinging mist. With a sound half-gasp,
half-cry she rocked on her feet and reeled backward into Kieth's
suddenly outstretched arms.
"Lie still, child."
She closed her eyes again. She was on the grass outside, pillowed
on Kieth's arm, and Regan was dabbing her head with a cold towel.
"I'm all right," she said quietly.
"I know, but just lie still a minute longer. It was too hot in
there. Jarvis felt it, too."
She laughed as Regan again touched her gingerly with the towel.
"I'm all right," she repeated.
But though a warm peace was falling her mind and heart she felt
oddly broken and chastened, as if some one had held her stripped
soul up and laughed.
Half an hour later she walked leaning on Kieth's arm down the
long central path toward the gate.
"It's been such a short afternoon," he sighed, "and I'm so sorry
you were sick, Lois."
"Kieth, I'm feeling fine now, really; I wish you wouldn't worry."
"Poor old child. I didn't realize that Benediction'd be a long
service for you after your hot trip out here and all."
She laughed cheerfully.
"I guess the truth is I'm not much used to Benediction. Mass is
the limit of my religious exertions."
She paused and then continued quickly:
"I don't want to shock you, Kieth, but I can't tell you how--how
INCONVENIENT being a Catholic is. It really doesn't seem to apply
any more. As far as morals go, some of the wildest boys I know
are Catholics. And the brightest boys--I mean the ones who think
and read a lot, don't seem to believe in much of anything any
"Tell me about it. The bus won't be here for another half-hour."
They sat down on a bench by the path.
"For instance, Gerald Carter, he's published a novel. He
absolutely roars when people mention immortality. And then
Howa--well, another man I've known well, lately, who was Phi Beta
Kappa at Harvard says that no intelligent person can believe in
Supernatural Christianity. He says Christ was a great socialist,
though. Am I shocking you?"
She broke off suddenly.
"You can't shock a monk. He's a professional shock-absorber."
"Well," she continued, "that's about all. It seems so--so NARROW.
Church schools, for instance. There's more freedom about things
that Catholic people can't see--like birth control."
Kieth winced, almost imperceptibly, but Lois saw it.
"Oh," she said quickly, "everybody talks about everything now."
"It's probably better that way."
"Oh, yes, much better. Well, that's all, Kieth. I just wanted to
tell you why I'm a little--luke-warm, at present."
"I'm not shocked, Lois. I understand better than you think. We
all go through those times. But I know it'll come out all right,
child. There's that gift of faith that we have, you and I,
that'll carry us past the bad spots."
He rose as he spoke and they started again down the path.
"I want you to pray for me sometimes, Lois. I think your prayers
would be about what I need. Because we've come very close in
these few hours, I think."
Her eyes were suddenly shining.
"Oh we have, we have!" she cried. "I feel closer to you now than
to any one in the world."
He stopped suddenly and indicated the side of the path.
"We might--just a minute---"
It was a pietà, a life-size statue of the Blessed Virgin set
within a semicircle of rocks.
Feeling a little self-conscious she dropped on her knees beside
him and made an unsuccessful attempt at prayer.
She was only half through when he rose. He took her arm again.
"I wanted to thank Her for letting as have this day together," he
Lois felt a sudden lump in her throat and she wanted to say
something that would tell him how much it had meant to her, too.
But she found no words.
"I'll always remember this," he continued, his voice trembling a
little---"this summer day with you. It's been just what I
expected. You're just what I expected, Lois."
"I'm awfully glad, Keith."
"You see, when you were little they kept sending me snap-shots of
you, first as a baby and then as a child in socks playing on the
beach with a pail and shovel, and then suddenly as a wistful
little girl with wondering, pure eyes--and I used to build dreams
about you. A man has to have something living to cling to. I
think, Lois, it was your little white soul I tried to keep near
me--even when life was at its loudest and every intellectual idea
of God seemed the sheerest mockery, and desire and love and a
million things came up to me and said: 'Look here at me! See, I'm
Life. You're turning your back on it!' All the way through that
shadow, Lois, I could always see your baby soul flitting on ahead
of me, very frail and clear and wonderful."
Lois was crying softly. They had reached the gate and she rested
her elbow on it and dabbed furiously at her eyes.
"And then later, child, when you were sick I knelt all one night
and asked God to spare you for me--for I knew then that I wanted
more; He had taught me to want more. I wanted to know you moved
and breathed in the same world with me. I saw you growing up,
that white innocence of yours changing to a flame and burning to
give light to other weaker souls. And then I wanted some day to
take your children on my knee and hear them call the crabbed old
monk Uncle Kieth."
He seemed to be laughing now as he talked.
"Oh, Lois, Lois, I was asking God for more then. I wanted the
letters you'd write me and the place I'd have at your table. I
wanted an awful lot, Lois, dear."
"You've got me, Kieth," she sobbed "you know it, say you know it.
Oh, I'm acting like a baby but I didn't think you'd be this way,
and I--oh, Kieth--Kieth---"
He took her hand and patted it softly.
"Here's the bus. You'll come again won't you?"
She put her hands on his cheeks, add drawing his head down,
pressed her tear-wet face against his.
"Oh, Kieth, brother, some day I'll tell you something."
He helped her in, saw her take down her handkerchief and smile
bravely at him, as the driver kicked his whip and the bus rolled
off. Then a thick cloud of dust rose around it and she was gone.
For a few minutes he stood there on the road his hand on the
gate-post, his lips half parted in a smile.
"Lois," he said aloud in a sort of wonder, "Lois, Lois."
Later, some probationers passing noticed him kneeling before the
pietà, and coming back after a time found him still there. And he
was there until twilight came down and the courteous trees grew
garrulous overhead and the crickets took up their burden of song
in the dusky grass.
The first clerk in the telegraph booth in the Baltimore Station
whistled through his buck teeth at the second clerk:
"See that girl--no, the pretty one with the big black dots on her
veil. Too late--she's gone. You missed somep'n."
"What about her?"
"Nothing. 'Cept she's damn good-looking. Came in here yesterday
and sent a wire to some guy to meet her somewhere. Then a minute
ago she came in with a telegram all written out and was standin'
there goin' to give it to me when she changed her mind or somep'n
and all of a sudden tore it up."
The first clerk came around tile counter and picking up the two
pieces of paper from the floor put them together idly. The second
clerk read them over his shoulder and subconsciously counted the
words as he read. There were just thirteen.
"This is in the way of a permanent goodbye. I should suggest
"Tore it up, eh?" said the second clerk.
Dalyrimple Goes Wrong
In the millennium an educational genius will write a book to be
given to every young man on the date of his disillusion. This
work will have the flavor of Montaigne's essays and Samuel
Butler's note-books--and a little of Tolstoi and Marcus
Aurelius. It will be neither cheerful nor pleasant but will
contain numerous passages of striking humor. Since first-class
minds never believe anything very strongly until they've
experienced it, its value will be purely relative . . . all
people over thirty will refer to it as "depressing."
This prelude belongs to the story of a young man
who lived, as you and I do, before the book.
The generation which numbered Bryan Dalyrimple drifted out of
adolescence to a mighty fan-fare of trumpets. Bryan played the
star in an affair which included a Lewis gun and a nine-day romp
behind the retreating German lines, so luck triumphant or
sentiment rampant awarded him a row of medals and on his arrival
in the States he was told that he was second in importance only
to General Pershing and Sergeant York. This was a lot of fun.
The governor of his State, a stray congressman, and a citizens'
committee gave him enormous smiles and "By God, Sirs" on the
dock at Hoboken; there were newspaper reporters and
photographers who said "would you mind" and "if you could just";
and back in his home town there were old ladies, the rims of
whose eyes grew red as they talked to him, and girls who hadn't
remembered him so well since his father's business went blah! in
But when the shouting died he realized that for a month he had
been the house guest of the mayor, that he had only fourteen
dollars in the world and that "the name that will live forever
in the annals and legends of this State" was already living
there very quietly and obscurely.
One morning he lay late in bed and just outside his door he
heard the up-stairs maid talking to the cook. The up-stairs maid
said that Mrs. Hawkins, the mayor's wife, had been trying for a
week to hint Dalyrimple out of the house. He left at eleven
o'clock in intolerable confusion, asking that his trunk be sent
to Mrs. Beebe's boarding-house.
Dalyrimple was twenty-three and he had never worked. His father
had given him two years at the State University and passed away
about the time of his son's nine-day romp, leaving behind him
some mid-Victorian furniture and a thin packet of folded paper
that turned out to be grocery bills. Young Dalyrimple had very
keen gray eyes, a mind that delighted the army psychological
examiners, a trick of having read it--whatever it was--some time
before, and a cool hand in a hot situation. But these things did
not save him a final, unresigned sigh when he realized that he
had to go to work--right away.
It was early afternoon when he walked into the office of Theron
G. Macy, who owned the largest wholesale grocery house in town.
Plump, prosperous, wearing a pleasant but quite unhumorous
smile, Theron G. Macy greeted him warmly.
"Well--how do, Bryan? What's on your mind?"
To Dalyrimple, straining with his admission, his own words, when
they came, sounded like an Arab beggar's whine for alms.
"Why--this question of a job." ("This question of a job" seemed
somehow more clothed than just "a job.")
"A job?" An almost imperceptible breeze blew across Mr. Macy's
"You see, Mr. Macy," continued Dalyrimple, "I feel I'm wasting
time. I want to get started at something. I had several chances
about a month ago but they all seem to have--gone---"
"Let's see," interrupted Mr. Macy. "What were they?"
"Well, just at the first the governor said something about a
vacancy on his staff. I was sort of counting on that for a
while, but I hear he's given it to Allen Gregg, you know, son of
G. P. Gregg. He sort of forgot what he said to me--just talking,
"You ought to push those things."
"Then there was that engineering expedition, but they decided
they'd have to have a man who knew hydraulics, so they couldn't
use me unless I paid my own way."
"You had just a year at the university?"
"Two. But I didn't take any science or mathematics. Well, the
day the battalion paraded, Mr. Peter Jordan said something about
a vacancy in his store. I went around there to-day and I found
he meant a sort of floor-walker--and then you said something one
day"--he paused and waited for the older man to take him up, but
noting only a minute wince continued--"about a position, so I
thought I'd come and see you."
"There was a position," confessed Mr. Macy reluctantly, "but
since then we've filled it." He cleared his throat again.
"You've waited quite a while."
"Yes, I suppose I did. Everybody told me there was no hurry--and
I'd had these various offers."
Mr. Macy delivered a paragraph on present-day opportunities
which Dalyrimple's mind completely skipped.
"Have you had any business experience?"
"I worked on a ranch two summers as a rider."
"Oh, well," Mr. Macy disparaged this neatly, and then continued:
"What do you think you're worth?"
"I don't know."
"Well, Bryan, I tell you, I'm willing to strain a point and give
you a chance."
"Your salary won't be much. You'll start by learning the stock.
Then you'll come in the office for a while. Then you'll go on
the road. When could you begin?"
"How about to-morrow?"
"All right. Report to Mr. Hanson in the stock-room. He'll start
He continued to regard Dalyrimple steadily until the latter,
realizing that the interview was over, rose awkwardly.
"Well, Mr. Macy, I'm certainly much obliged."
"That's all right. Glad to help you, Bryan."
After an irresolute moment, Dalyrimple found himself in the
hall. His forehead was covered with perspiration, and the room
had not been hot.
"Why the devil did I thank the son of a gun?" he muttered.
Next morning Mr. Hanson informed him coldly of the necessity of
punching the time-clock at seven every morning, and delivered
him for instruction into the hands of a fellow worker, one
Charley was twenty-six, with that faint musk of weakness hanging
about him that is often mistaken for the scent of evil. It took
no psychological examiner to decide that he had drifted into
indulgence and laziness as casually as he had drifted into life,
and was to drift out. He was pale and his clothes stank of
smoke; he enjoyed burlesque shows, billiards, and Robert
Service, and was always looking back upon his last intrigue or
forward to his next one. In his youth his taste had run to loud
ties, but now it seemed to have faded, like his vitality, and
was expressed in pale-lilac four-in-hands and indeterminate
gray collars. Charley was listlessly struggling that losing
struggle against mental, moral, and physical anæmia that takes
place ceaselessly on the lower fringe of the middle classes.
The first morning he stretched himself on a row of cereal
cartons and carefully went over the limitations of the Theron
G. Macy Company.
"It's a piker organization. My Gosh! Lookit what they give me.
I'm quittin' in a coupla months. Hell! Me stay with this bunch!"
The Charley Moores are always going to change jobs next month.
They do, once or twice in their careers, after which they sit
around comparing their last job with the present one, to the
infinite disparagement of the latter.
"What do you get?" asked Dalyrimple curiously.
"Me? I get sixty." This rather defiantly.
"Did you start at sixty?"
"Me? No, I started at thirty-five. He told me he'd put me on the
road after I learned the stock. That's what he tells 'em all."
"How long've you been here?" asked Dalyrimple with a sinking
"Me? Four years. My last year, too, you bet your boots."
Dalyrimple rather resented the presence of the store detective
as he resented the time-clock, and he came into contact with him
almost immediately through the rule against smoking. This rule
was a thorn in his side. He was accustomed to his three or four
cigarettes in a morning, and after three days without it he
followed Charley Moore by a circuitous route up a flight of back
stairs to a little balcony where they indulged in peace. But
this was not for long. One day in his second week the detective
met him in a nook of the stairs, on his descent, and told him
sternly that next time he'd be reported to Mr. Macy. Dalyrimple
felt like an errant schoolboy.
Unpleasant facts came to his knowledge. There were "cave-
dwellers" in the basement who had worked there for ten or
fifteen years at sixty dollars a month, rolling barrels and
carrying boxes through damp, cement-walled corridors, lost in
that echoing half-darkness between seven and five-thirty and,
like himself, compelled several times a month to work until nine
At the end of a month he stood in line and received forty
dollars. He pawned a cigarette-case and a pair of field-glasses
and managed to live--to eat, sleep, and smoke. It was, however,
a narrow scrape; as the ways and means of economy were a closed
book to him and the second month brought no increase, he voiced
"If you've got a drag with old Macy, maybe he'll raise you," was
Charley's disheartening reply. "But he didn't raise ME till I'd
been here nearly two years."
"I've got to live," said Dalyrimple simply. "I could get more
pay as a laborer on the railroad but, Golly, I want to feel I'm
where there's a chance to get ahead."
Charles shook his head sceptically and Mr. Macy's answer next
day was equally unsatisfactory.
Dalyrimple had gone to the office just before closing time.
"Mr. Macy, I'd like to speak to you."
"Why--yes." The unhumorous smile appeared. The voice vas faintly
"I want to speak to you in regard to more salary."
Mr. Macy nodded.
"Well," he said doubtfully, "I don't know exactly what you're
doing. I'll speak to Mr. Hanson."
He knew exactly what Dalyrimple was doing, and Dalyrimple knew
"I'm in the stock-room--and, sir, while I'm here I'd like to
ask you how much longer I'll have to stay there."
"Why--I'm not sure exactly. Of course it takes some time to
learn the stock."
"You told me two months when I started."
"Yes. Well, I'll speak to Mr. Hanson."
Dalyrimple paused irresolute.
"Thank you, sir."
Two days later he again appeared in the office with the result
of a count that had been asked for by Mr. Hesse, the bookkeeper.
Mr. Hesse was engaged and Dalyrimple, waiting, began idly
fingering in a ledger on the stenographer's desk.
Half unconsciously he turned a page--he caught sight of his name
--it was a salary list:
His eyes stopped--
So Tom Everett, Macy's weak-chinned nephew, had started at sixty
--and in three weeks he had been out of the packing-room and
into the office.
So that was it! He was to sit and see man after man pushed over
him: sons, cousins, sons of friends, irrespective of their
capabilities, while HE was cast for a pawn, with "going on the
road" dangled before his eyes--put of with the stock remark:
I'll see; I'll look into it." At forty, perhaps, he would be a
bookkeeper like old Hesse, tired, listless Hesse with a dull
routine for his stint and a dull background of boarding-house
This was a moment when a genii should have pressed into his
hand the book for disillusioned young men. But the book has
not been written.
A great protest swelling into revolt surged up in him. Ideas
half forgotten, chaoticly perceived and assimilated, filled his
mind. Get on--that was the rule of life--and that was all. How
he did it, didn't matter--but to be Hesse or Charley Moore.
"I won't!" he cried aloud.
The bookkeeper and the stenographers looked up in surprise.
For a second Dalyrimple stared--then walked up to the desk.
"Here's that data," he said brusquely. "I can't wait any longer."
Mr. Hesse's face expressed surprise.
It didn't matter what he did--just so he got out
of this rut. In a dream he stepped from the elevator into the
stock-room, and walking to an unused aisle, sat down on a box,
covering his face with his hands.
His brain was whirring with the frightful jar of discovering a
platitude for himself.
"I've got to get out of this," he said aloud and then repeated,
"I've got to get out"--and he didn't mean only out of Macy's
When he left at five-thirty it was pouring rain, but he struck
off in the opposite direction from his boarding-house, feeling,
in the first cool moisture that oozed soggily through his old
suit, an odd exultation and freshness. He wanted a world that
was like walking through rain, even though he could not see far
ahead of him, but fate had put him in the world of Mr. Macy's
fetid storerooms and corridors. At first merely the overwhelming
need of change took him, then half-plans began to formulate in
"I'll go East--to a big city--meet people--bigger people--people
who'll help me. Interesting work somewhere. My God, there MUST
With sickening truth it occurred to him that his facility for
meeting people was limited. Of all places it was here in his own
town that he should be known, was known--famous--before the water
of oblivion had rolled over him.
You had to cut corners, that was all. Pull--relationship--wealthy
For several miles the continued reiteration of this preoccupied
him and then he perceived that the rain had become thicker and
more opaque in the heavy gray of twilight and that the houses
were falling away. The district of full blocks, then of big
houses, then of scattering little ones, passed and great sweeps
of misty country opened out on both sides. It was hard walking
here. The sidewalk had given place to a dirt road, streaked with
furious brown rivulets that splashed and squashed around his
Cutting corners--the words began to fall apart, forming curious
phrasings--little illuminated pieces of themselves. They
resolved into sentences, each of which had a strangely familiar
Cutting corners meant rejecting the old childhood principles
that success came from faithfulness to duty, that evil was
necessarily punished or virtue necessarily rewarded--that honest
poverty was happier than corrupt riches.
It meant being hard.
This phrase appealed to him and he repeated it over and over.
It had to do somehow with Mr. Macy and Charley Moore--the
attitudes, the methods of each of them.
He stopped and felt his clothes. He was drenched to the skin. He
looked about him and, selecting a place in the fence where a
tree sheltered it, perched himself there.
In my credulous years--he thought--they told me that evil was a
sort of dirty hue, just as definite as a soiled collar, but it
seems to me that evil is only a manner of hard luck, or
heredity-and-environment, or "being found out." It hides in the
vacillations of dubs like Charley Moore as certainly as it does
in the intolerance of Macy, and if it ever gets much more
tangible it becomes merely an arbitrary label to paste on the
unpleasant things in other people's lives.
In fact--he concluded--it isn't worth worrying over what's evil
and what isn't. Good and evil aren't any standard to me--and
they can be a devil of a bad hindrance when I want something.
When I want something bad enough, common sense tells me to go
and take it--and not get caught.
And then suddenly Dalyrimple knew what he wanted first. He
wanted fifteen dollars to pay his overdue board bill.
With a furious energy he jumped from the fence, whipped off his
coat, and from its black lining cut with his knife a piece about
five inches square. He made two holes near its edge and then
fixed it on his face, pulling his hat down to hold it in place.
It flapped grotesquely and then dampened and clung clung to his
forehead and cheeks.
Now . . . The twilight had merged to dripping dusk . . . black
as pitch. He began to walk quickly back toward town, not waiting
to remove the mask but watching the road with difficulty through
the jagged eye-holes. He was not conscious of any nervousness
. . . the only tension was caused by a desire to do the thing as
soon as possible.
He reached the first sidewalk, continued on until he saw a hedge
far from any lamp-post, and turned in behind it. Within a minute
he heard several series of footsteps--he waited--it was a woman
and he held his breath until she passed . . . and then a man,
a laborer. The next passer, he felt, would be what he wanted
. . . the laborer's footfalls died far up the drenched street
. . . other steps grew nears grew suddenly louder.
Dalyrimple braced himself.
"Put up your hands!"
The man stopped, uttered an absurd little grunt, and thrust
pudgy arms skyward.
Dalyrimple went through the waistcoat.
"Now, you shrimp," he said, setting his hand suggestively to
his own hip pocket, "you run, and stamp--loud! If I hear your
feet stop I'll put a shot after you!"
Then he stood there in sudden uncontrollable laughter as
audibly frightened footsteps scurried away into the night.
After a moment he thrust the roll of bills into his pocket,
snatched of his mask, and running quickly across the street,
darted down an alley.
Yet, however Dalyrimple justified himself intellectually, he had
many bad moments in the weeks immediately following his decision.
The tremendous pressure of sentiment and inherited ambition kept
raising riot with his attitude. He felt morally lonely.
The noon after his first venture he ate in a little lunch-room
with Charley Moore and, watching him unspread the paper, waited
for a remark about the hold-up of the day before. But either the
hold-up was not mentioned or Charley wasn't interested. He
turned listlessly to the sporting sheet, read Doctor Crane's
crop of seasoned bromides, took in an editorial on ambition with
his mouth slightly ajar, and then skipped to Mutt and Jeff.
Poor Charley--with his faint aura of evil and his mind that
refused to focus, playing a lifeless solitaire with cast-off
Yet Charley belonged on the other side of the fence. In him
could be stirred up all the flamings and denunciations of
righteousness; he would weep at a stage heroine's lost virtue,
he could become lofty and contemptuous at the idea of dishonor.
On my side, thought Dalyrimple, there aren't any resting-places;
a man who's a strong criminal is after the weak criminals as
well, so it's all guerilla warfare over here.
What will it all do to me? he thoughts with a persistent
weariness. Will it take the color out of life with the honor?
Will it scatter my courage and dull my mind?--despiritualize me
completely--does it mean eventual barrenness, eventual remorse,
With a great surge of anger, he would fling his mind upon the
barrier--and stand there with the flashing bayonet of his pride.
Other men who broke the laws of justice and charity lied to all
the world. He at any rate would not lie to himself. He was more
than Byronic now: not the spiritual rebel, Don Juan; not the
philosophical rebel, Faust; but a new psychological rebel of his
own century--defying the sentimental a priori forms of his own
Happiness was what he wanted--a slowly rising scale of
gratifications of the normal appetites--and he had a strong
conviction that the materials, if not the inspiration of
happiness, could be bought with money.
The night came that drew him out upon his second venture, and
as he walked the dark street he felt in himself a great
resemblance to a cat--a certain supple, swinging litheness. His
muscles were rippling smoothly and sleekly under his spare,
healthy flesh--he had an absurd desire to bound along the
street, to run dodging among trees, to tarn "cart-wheels" over
It was not crisp, but in the air lay a faint suggestion of
acerbity, inspirational rather than chilling.
"The moon is down--I have not heard the clock!"
He laughed in delight at the line which an early memory had
endowed with a hushed awesome beauty.
He passed a man and then another a quarter of mile afterward.
He was on Philmore Street now and it was very dark. He blessed
the city council for not having put in new lamp-posts as a
recent budget had recommended. Here was the red-brick Sterner
residence which marked the beginning of the avenue; here was the
Jordon house, the Eisenhaurs', the Dents', the Markhams', the
Frasers'; the Hawkins', where he had been a guest; the
Willoughbys', the Everett's, colonial and ornate; the little
cottage where lived the Watts old maids between the imposing
fronts of the Macys' and the Krupstadts'; the Craigs--
Ah . . . THERE! He paused, wavered violently--far up the street
was a blot, a man walking, possibly a policeman. After an
eternal second be found himself following the vague, ragged
shadow of a lamp-post across a lawn, running bent very low.
Then he was standing tense, without breath or need of it, in the
shadow of his limestone prey.
Interminably he listened--a mile off a cat howled, a hundred
yards away another took up the hymn in a demoniacal snarl, and
he felt his heart dip and swoop, acting as shock-absorber for
his mind. There were other sounds; the faintest fragment of song
far away; strident, gossiping laughter from a back porch
diagonally across the alley; and crickets, crickets singing in
the patched, patterned, moonlit grass of the yard. Within the
house there seemed to lie an ominous silence. He was glad he did
not know who lived here.
His slight shiver hardened to steel; the steel softened and his
nerves became pliable as leather; gripping his hands he
gratefully found them supple, and taking out knife and pliers he
went to work on the screen.
So sure was he that he was unobserved that, from the dining-room
where in a minute he found himself, he leaned out and carefully
pulled the screen up into position, balancing it so it would
neither fall by chance nor be a serious obstacle to a sudden
Then he put the open knife in his coat pocket, took out his
pocket-flash, and tiptoed around the room.
There was nothing here he could use--the dining-room had never
been included in his plans for the town was too small to permit
disposing of silver.
As a matter of fact his plans were of the vaguest. He had found
that with a mind like his, lucrative in intelligence, intuition,
and lightning decision, it was best to have but the skeleton of
a campaign. The machine-gun episode had taught him that. And he
was afraid that a method preconceived would give him two points
of view in a crisis--and two points of view meant wavering.
He stumbled slightly on a chair, held his breath, listened, went
on, found the hall, found the stairs, started up; the seventh
stair creaked at his step, the ninth, the fourteenth. He was
counting them automatically. At the third creak he paused again
for over a minute--and in that minute he felt more alone than he
had ever felt before. Between the lines on patrol, even when
alone, he had had behind him the moral support of half a billion
people; now he was alone, pitted against that same moral
pressure--a bandit. He had never felt this fear, yet he had
never felt this exultation.
The stairs came to an end, a doorway approached; he went in and
listened to regular breathing. His feet were economical of steps
and his body swayed sometimes at stretching as he felt over the
bureau, pocketing all articles which held promise--he could not
have enumerated them ten seconds afterward. He felt on a chair
for possible trousers, found soft garments, women's lingerie.
The corners of his mouth smiled mechanically.
Another room . . . the same breathing, enlivened by one ghastly
snort that sent his heart again on its tour of his breast. Round
object--watch; chain; roll of bills; stick-pins; two rings--he
remembered that he had got rings from the other bureau. He
started out winced as a faint glow flashed in front of him,
facing him. God!--it was the glow of his own wrist-watch on his
Down the stairs. He skipped two crumbing steps but found
another. He was all right now, practically safe; as he neared
the bottom he felt a slight boredom. He reached the dining-room