Part 16 out of 19
he served the dinner and did the dangerous part of the
clearing up. They went to the theater, Rod enjoying even more
than she the very considerable admiration she got. When she
was putting the dress away carefully that night, Rod inquired
when he was to be treated again.
"Oh--I don't know," replied she. "Not soon."
She was too wise to tell him that the dress would not be worn
again until Brent was to see it. The hat she took out of the
closet from time to time and experimented with it, reshaping
the brim, studying the different effects of different angles.
It delighted Spenser to catch her at this "foolishness"; he
felt so superior, and with his incurable delusion of the
shallow that dress is an end, not merely a means, he felt more
confident than ever of being able to hold her when he should
have the money to buy her what her frivolous and feminine
nature evidently craved beyond all else in the world. But----
When he bought a ready-to-wear evening suit, he made more stir
about it than had Susan about her costume--this, when dress to
him was altogether an end in itself and not a shrewd and
useful means. He spent more time in admiring himself in it
before the mirror, and looked at it, and at himself in it,
with far more admiration and no criticism at all. Susan noted
this--and after the manner of women who are wise or
indifferent--or both--she made no comment.
At the studio floor of Brent's house the door of the elevator
was opened for Susan by a small young man with a notably large
head, bald and bulging. His big smooth face had the
expression of extreme amiability that usually goes with
weakness and timidity. "I am Mr. Brent's secretary, Mr.
Garvey," he explained. And Susan--made as accurate as quick
in her judgments of character by the opportunities and the
necessities of her experience--saw that she had before her one
of those nice feeble folk who either get the shelter of some
strong personality as a bird hides from the storm in the thick
branches of a great tree or are tossed and torn and ruined by
life and exist miserably until rescued by death. She knew the
type well; it had been the dominant type in her surroundings
ever since she left Sutherland. Indeed, is it not the
dominant type in the whole ill-equipped, sore-tried human
race? And does it not usually fail of recognition because so
many of us who are in fact weak, look--and feel--strong
because we are sheltered by inherited money or by powerful
friends or relatives or by chance lodgment in a nook unvisited
of the high winds of life in the open? Susan liked Garvey at
once; they exchanged smiles and were friends.
She glanced round the room. At the huge open window Brent,
his back to her, was talking earnestly to a big hatchet-faced
man with a black beard. Even as Susan glanced Brent closed
the interview; with an emphatic gesture of fist into palm he
exclaimed, "And that's final. Good-by." The two men came
toward her, both bowed, the hatchet-faced man entered the
elevator and was gone. Brent extended his hand with a smile.
"You evidently didn't come to work today," said he with a
careless, fleeting glance at the _grande toilette_. "But we
are prepared against such tricks. Garvey, take her down to
the rear dressing-room and have the maid lay her out a simple
costume." To Susan, "Be as quick as you can." And he seated
himself at his desk and was reading and signing letters.
Susan, crestfallen, followed Garvey down the stairway. She
had confidently expected that he would show some appreciation
of her toilette. She knew she had never in her life looked so
well. In the long glass in the dressing-room, while Garvey
was gone to send the maid, she inspected herself again.
Yes--never anything like so well. And Brent had noted her
appearance only to condemn it. She was always telling herself
that she wished him to regard her as a working woman, a pupil
in stagecraft. But now that she had proof that he did so
regard her, she was depressed, resentful. However, this did
not last long. While she was changing to linen skirt and
shirtwaist, she began to laugh at herself. How absurd she had
been, thinking to impress this man who had known so many
beautiful women, who must have been satiated long ago with
beauty--she thinking to create a sensation in such a man, with
a simple little costume of her own crude devising. She
reappeared in the studio, laughter in her eyes and upon her
lips. Brent apparently did not glance at her; yet he said,
"What's amusing you?"
She confessed all, on one of her frequent impulses to
candor--those impulses characteristic both of weak natures
unable to exercise self-restraint and of strong natures,
indifferent to petty criticism and misunderstanding, and
absent from vain mediocrity, which always has itself--that is,
appearances--on its mind. She described in amusing detail how
she had planned and got together the costume how foolish his
reception of it had made her feel. "I've no doubt you guessed
what was in my head," concluded she. "You see everything."
"I did notice that you were looking unusually well, and that
you felt considerably set up over it," said he. "But why not?
Vanity's an excellent thing. Like everything else it's got to
be used, not misused. It can help us to learn instead of
"I had an excuse for dressing up," she reminded him. "You
said we were to dine together. I thought you wouldn't want
there to be too much contrast between us. Next time I'll be
"Dress as you like for the present," said he. "You can always
change here. Later on dress will be one of the main things,
of course. But not now. Have you learned the part?"
And they began. She saw at the far end of the room a platform
about the height of a stage. He explained that Garvey, with
the book of the play, would take the other parts in _Lola's_
scenes, and sent them both to the stage. "Don't be nervous,"
Garvey said to her in an undertone. "He doesn't expect
anything of you. This is simply to get started." But she
could not suppress the trembling in her legs and arms, the
hysterical contractions of her throat. However, she did
contrive to go through the part--Garvey prompting. She knew
she was ridiculous; she could not carry out a single one of
the ideas of "business" which had come to her as she studied;
she was awkward, inarticulate, panic-stricken.
"Rotten!" exclaimed Brent, when she had finished. "Couldn't
be worse therefore, couldn't be better."
She dropped to a chair and sobbed hysterically.
"That's right--cry it out," said Brent. "Leave us alone, Garvey."
Brent walked up and down smoking until she lifted her head and
glanced at him with a pathetic smile. "Take a cigarette," he
suggested. "We'll talk it over. Now, we've got something to
She found relief from her embarrassment in the cigarette.
"You can laugh at me now," she said. "I shan't mind. In
fact, I didn't mind, though I thought I did. If I had, I'd
not have let you see me cry."
"Don't think I'm discouraged," said Brent. "The reverse. You
showed that you have nerve a very different matter from
impudence. Impudence fails when it's most needed. Nerve
makes one hang on, regardless. In such a panic as yours was,
the average girl would have funked absolutely. You stuck it
out. Now, you and I will try _Lola's_ first entrance. No,
don't throw away your cigarette. _Lola_ might well come in
smoking a cigarette." She did better. What Burlingham had
once thoroughly drilled into her now stood her in good stead,
and Brent's sympathy and enthusiasm gave her the stimulating
sense that he and she were working together. They spent the
afternoon on the one thing--_Lola_ coming on, singing her gay
song, her halt at sight of _Santuzza_ and _Turiddu_, her look at
_Santuzza_, at _Turiddu_, her greeting. for each. They tried it
twenty different ways. They discussed what would have been in
the minds of all three. They built up "business" for _Lola_, and
for the two others to increase the significance of _Lola's_ actions.
"As I've already told you," said he, "anyone with a voice and
a movable body can learn to act. There's no question about
your becoming a good actress. But it'll be some time before
I can tell whether you can be what I hope--an actress who
shows no sign that she's acting."
Susan showed the alarm she felt. "I'm afraid you'll find at
the end that you've been wasting your time," said she.
"Put it straight out of your head," replied he. "I never
waste time. To live is to learn. Already you've given me a
new play--don't forget that. In a month I'll have it ready for
us to use. Besides, in teaching you I teach myself. Hungry?"
"No--that is, yes. I hadn't thought of it, but I'm starved."
"This sort of thing gives one an appetite like a field hand."
He accompanied her to the door of the rear dressing-room on
the floor below. "Go down to the reception room when you're
ready," said he, as he left her to go on to his own suite to
change his clothes. "I'll be there."
The maid came immediately, drew a bath for her, afterward
helped her to dress. It was Susan's first experience with a
maid, her first realization how much time and trouble one
saves oneself if free from the routine, menial things. And
then and there a maid was set down upon her secret list of the
luxurious comforts to which she would treat herself--_when?_
The craving for luxury is always a part, usually a powerful
part, of an ambitious temperament. Ambition is simply a
variously manifested and variously directed impulse toward
improvement--a discomfort so keen that it compels effort to
change to a position less uncomfortable. There had never been
a time when luxury had not attracted her. At the slightest
opportunity she had always pushed out for luxuries--for better
food, better clothing, more agreeable surroundings. Even in
her worst hours of discouragement she had not really relaxed
in the struggle against rags and dirt. And when moral horror
had been blunted by custom and drink, physical horror had
remained acute. For, human nature being a development upward
through the physical to the spiritual, when a process of
degeneration sets in, the topmost layers, the spiritual, wear
away first--then those in which the spiritual is a larger
ingredient than the material--then those in which the material
is the larger--and last of all those that are purely material.
As life educated her, as her intelligence and her knowledge
grew, her appreciation of luxury had grown apace and her
desire for it. With most human beings, the imagination is a
heavy bird of feeble wing; it flies low, seeing only the
things of the earth. When they describe heaven, it has houses
of marble and streets of gold. Their pretense to sight of
higher things is either sheer pretense or sight at second
hand. Susan was of the few whose fancy can soar. She saw the
earthy things; she saw the things of the upper regions also.
And she saw the lower region from the altitudes of the
higher--and in their perspective.
As she and Brent stood together on the sidewalk before his
house, about to enter his big limousine, his smile told her
that he had read her thought--her desire for such an
automobile as her very own. "I can't help it," said she.
"It's my nature to want these things."
"And to want them intelligently," said he. "Everybody wants,
but only the few want intelligently--and they get. The three
worst things in the world are sickness, poverty and obscurity.
Your splendid health safeguards you against sickness. Your
looks and your brains can carry you far away from the other
two. Your one danger is of yielding to the temptation to
become the wife or the mistress of some rich man. The
prospect of several years of heart-breaking hard work isn't
wildly attractive at twenty-two."
"You don't know me," said Susan--but the boast was uttered
under her breath.
The auto rushed up to Delmonico's entrance, came to a halt
abruptly yet gently. The attentiveness of the personnel, the
staring and whispering of the people in the palm room showed
how well known Brent was. There were several women--handsome
women of what is called the New York type, though it certainly
does not represent the average New York woman, who is poorly
dressed in flimsy ready-made clothes and has the mottled skin
that indicates bad food and too little sleep. These handsome
women were dressed beautifully as well as expensively, in
models got in--not from--Paris. One of them smiled sweetly at
Brent, who responded, so Susan thought, rather formally. She
felt dowdy in her home-made dress. All her pride in it
vanished; she saw only its defects. And the gracefully
careless manner of these women--the manners of those who feel
sure of themselves--made her feel "green" and out of place.
She was disgusted with the folly that had caused her to thrill
with pleasure when his order to his chauffeur at his door told
her she was actually to be taken to one of the restaurants in
which she had wished to exhibit herself with him. She
heartily wished she had insisted on going where she would have
been as well dressed and as much at home as anyone there.
She lifted her eyes, to distract her mind from these
depressing sensations. Brent was looking at her with that
amused, mocking yet sympathetic expression which was most
characteristic of him. She blushed furiously.
He laughed. "No, I'm not ashamed of your homemade dress,"
said he. "I don't care what is thought of me by people who
don't give me any money. And, anyhow, you are easily the most
unusual looking and the most tastefully dressed woman here.
The rest of these women are doomed for life to commonplace
"We'll see your name in letters of fire on the Broadway
temples of fame."
"I know you're half laughing at me," said Susan. "But I feel
a little better."
"Then I'm accomplishing my object. Let's not think about
ourselves. That makes life narrow. Let's keep the thoughts
on our work--on the big splendid dreams that come to us and
invite us to labor and to dare."
And as they lingered over the satisfactory dinner he had
ordered, they talked of acting--of the different roles of
"Cavalleria" as types of fundamental instincts and actions--of
how best to express those meanings--how to fill out the
skeletons of the dramatist into personalities actual and
vivid. Susan forgot where she was, forgot to be reserved with
him. In her and Rod's happiest days she had never been free
from the constraint of his and her own sense of his great
superiority. With Brent, such trifles of the petty personal
disappeared. And she talked more naturally than she had since
a girl at her uncle's at Sutherland. She was amazed by the
fountain that had suddenly gushed forth in her mind at the
conjuring of Brent's sympathy. She did not recognize herself
in this person so open to ideas, so eager to learn, so clear
in the expression of her thoughts. Not since the Burlingham
days had she spent so long a time with a man in absolute
unconsciousness of sex.
They were interrupted by the intrusion of a fashionable young
man with the expression of assurance which comes from the
possession of wealth and the knowledge that money will buy
practically everything and everybody. Brent received him so
coldly that, after a smooth sentence or two, he took himself
off stammering and in confusion. "I suppose," said Brent when
he was gone, "that young ass hoped I would introduce him to
you and invite him to sit. But you'll be tempted often enough
in the next few years by rich men without my helping to put
temptation in your way,"
"I've never been troubled thus far," laughed Susan.
"But you will, now. You have developed to the point where
everyone will soon be seeing what it took expert eyes to see
"If I am tempted," said Susan, "do you think I'll be able
"I don't know," confessed Brent. "You have a strong sense of
honesty, and that'll keep you at work with me for a while.
"If you have it in you to be great, you'll go on. If you're
merely the ordinary woman, a little more intelligent, you'll
probably--sell out. All the advice I have to offer is, don't
sell cheap. As you're not hampered by respectability or by
inexperience, you needn't." He reflected a moment, then
added, "And if you ever do decide that you don't care to go on
with a career, tell me frankly. I may be able to help you in
the other direction."
"Thank you," said Susan, her strange eyes fixed upon him.
"Why do you put so much gratitude in your tone and in your
eyes?" asked he.
"I didn't put it there," she answered. "It--just came. And
I was grateful because--well, I'm human, you know, and it was
good to feel--that--that----"
"Go on," said he, as she hesitated.
"I'm afraid you'll misunderstand."
"What does it matter, if I do?"
"Well--you've acted toward me as if I were a mere machine that
you were experimenting with."
"And so you are."
"I understand that. But when you offered to help me, if I
happened to want to do something different from what you want
me to do, it made me feel that you thought of me as a human
The expression of his unseeing eyes puzzled her. She became
much embarrassed when he said, "Are you dissatisfied with
Spenser? Do you want to change lovers? Are you revolving me
as a possibility?"
"I haven't forgotten what you said," she protested.
"But a few words from me wouldn't change you from a woman into
a sexless ambition."
An expression of wistful sadness crept into the violet-gray eyes,
in contrast to the bravely smiling lips. She was thinking of
her birth that had condemned her to that farmer Ferguson, full
as much as of the life of the streets, when she said:
"I know that a man like you wouldn't care for a woman of my sort."
"If I were you," said he gently, "I'd not say those things
about myself. Saying them encourages you to think them. And
thinking them gives you a false point of view. You must learn
to appreciate that you're not a sheltered woman, with
reputation for virtue as your one asset, the thing that'll
enable you to get some man to undertake your support. You are
dealing with the world as a man deals with it. You must
demand and insist that the world deal with you on that
basis." There came a wonderful look of courage and hope into
the eyes of Lorella's daughter.
"And the world will," he went on. "At least, the only part of
it that's important to you--or really important in any way.
The matter of your virtue or lack of it is of no more
importance than is my virtue or lack of it."
"Do you _really_ believe that way?" asked Susan, earnestly.
"It doesn't in the least matter whether I do or not," laughed
he. "Don't bother about what I think--what anyone thinks--of
you. The point here, as always, is that you believe it,
yourself. There's no reason why a woman who is making a
career should not be virtuous. She will probably not get far
if she isn't more or less so. Dissipation doesn't help man or
woman, especially the ruinous dissipation of license in
passion. On the other hand, no woman can ever hope to make a
career who persists in narrowing and cheapening herself with
the notion that her virtue is her all. She'll not amount to
much as a worker in the fields of action."
Susan reflected, sighed. "It's very, very hard to get rid of
"It's impossible," declared he. "Don't try. But don't let it
worry you, either."
"Everyone can't be as strong as you are--so absorbed in a
career that they care for nothing else."
This amused him. With forearms on the edge of the table he
turned his cigarette slowly round between his fingers,
watching the smoke curl up from it. She observed that there
was more than a light sprinkle of gray in his thick, carefully
brushed hair. She was filled with curiosity as to the
thoughts just then in that marvelous brain of his; nor did it
lessen her curiosity to know that never would those thoughts
be revealed to her. What women had he loved? What women had
loved him? What follies had he committed? From how many
sources he must have gathered his knowledge of human nature
of--woman nature! And no doubt he was still gathering.
What woman was it now?
When he lifted his glance from the cigarette, it was to call
the waiter and get the bill. "I've a supper engagement," he
said, "and it's nearly eleven o'clock."
"Eleven o'clock!" she exclaimed.
"Times does fly--doesn't it?--when a man and a woman, each an
unexplored mystery to the other, are dining alone and talking
"It was my fault," said Susan.
His quizzical eyes looked into hers--uncomfortably far.
She flushed. "You make me feel guiltier than I am," she
protested, under cover of laughing glance and tone of raillery.
"Guilty? Of what?"
"You think I've been trying to--to `encourage' you," replied
"And why shouldn't you, if you feel so inclined?" laughed he.
"That doesn't compel me to be--encouraged."
"Honestly I haven't," said she, the contents of seriousness
still in the gay wrapper of raillery. "At least not any more
"You know, a woman feels bound to `encourage' a man who piques
her by seeming--difficult."
"Naturally, you'd not have objected to baptizing the new hat
and dress with my heart's blood." She could not have helped
laughing with him. "Unfortunately for you--or rather for the
new toilette--my poor heart was bled dry long, long ago. I'm
a busy man, too--busy and a little tired."
"I deserve it all," said she. "I've brought it on myself.
And I'm not a bit sorry I started the subject. I've found out
you're quite human--and that'll help me to work better."
They separated with the smiling faces of those who have added
an evening altogether pleasant to memory's store of the past's
happy hours--that roomy storehouse which is all too empty even
where the life has been what is counted happy. He insisted on
sending her home in his auto, himself taking a taxi to the
Players' where the supper was given. The moment she was alone
for the short ride home, her gayety evaporated like a
delicious but unstable perfume.
Why? Perhaps it was the sight of the girls on the stroll.
Had she really been one of them?--and only a few days ago?
Impossible! Not she not the real self . . . and perhaps she
would be back there with them before long. No--never, never,
in any circumstances!. . . She had said, "Never!" the first
time she escaped from the tenements, yet she had gone back. . .
were any of those girls strolling along--were, again, any of
them Freddie Palmer's? At the thought she shivered and
quailed. She had not thought of him, except casually, in many
months. What if he should see her, should still feel
vengeful--he who never forgot or forgave--who would dare
anything! And she would be defenseless against him. . . . She
remembered what she had last read about him in the newspaper.
He had risen in the world, was no longer in the criminal class
apparently, had moved to the class of semi-criminal wholly
respectable contractor-politician. No, he had long since
forgotten her, vindictive Italian though he was.
The auto set her down at home. Her tremors about Freddie
departed; but the depression remained. She felt physically as
if she had been sitting all evening in a stuffy room with a
dull company after a heavy, badly selected dinner. She fell
easy prey to one of those fits of the blues to which all
imaginative young people are at least occasional victims, and
by which those cursed and hampered with the optimistic
temperament are haunted and harassed and all but or quite
undone. She had a sense of failure, of having made a bad
impression. She feared he, recalling and reinspecting what
she had said, would get the idea that she was not in earnest,
was merely looking for a lover--for a chance to lead a life of
luxurious irresponsibility. Would it not be natural for him,
who knew women well, to assume from her mistakenly candid
remarks, that she was like the rest of the women, both the
respectable and the free? Why should he believe in her, when
she did not altogether believe in herself but suspected
herself of a secret hankering after something more immediate,
more easy and more secure than the stage career? The longer
she thought of it the clearer it seemed to her to be that she
had once more fallen victim to too much hope, too much
optimism, too much and too ready belief in her
fellow-beings--she who had suffered so much from these
follies, and had tried so hard to school herself against them.
She fought this mood of depression--fought alone, for Spenser
did not notice and she would not annoy him. She slept little
that night; she felt that she could not hope for peace until
she had seen Brent again. XVI
TOWARD half-past ten the next day, a few minutes after Rod
left for the theater, she was in the bathroom cleaning the
coffee machine. There came a knock at the door of the
sitting-room bedroom. Into such disorder had her mood of
depression worried her nerves that she dropped the coffee
machine into the washbowl and jumped as if she were seeing a
ghost. Several dire calamities took vague shape in her mind,
then the image of Freddie Palmer, smiling sweetly, cruelly.
She wavered only a moment, went to the door, and after a brief
hesitation that still further depressed her about herself she
opened it. The maid--a good-natured sloven who had become
devoted to Susan because she gave her liberal fees and made
her no extra work--was standing there, in an attitude of
suppressed excitement. Susan laughed, for this maid was a
born agitator, a person who is always trying to find a thrill
or to put a thrill into the most trivial event.
"What is it now, Annie?" Susan asked.
"Mr. Spenser--he's gone, hasn't he?"
"Yes--a quarter of an hour ago."
Annie drew a breath of deep relief. "I was sure he had went,"
said she, producing from under her apron a note. "I saw it
was in a gentleman's writing, so I didn't come up with it till
he was out of the way, though the boy brought it a little
"Oh, bother!" exclaimed Susan, taking the note.
"Well, Mrs. Spenser, I've had my lesson," replied Annie,
apologetic but firm. "When I first came to New York, green as
the grass that grows along the edge of the spring, what does
I do but go to work and take up a note to a lady when her
husband was there! Next thing I knew he went to work and
hauled her round the floor by the hair and skinned out--yes,
beat it for good. And my madam says to me, `Annie, you're
fired. Never give a note to a lady when her gent is by or to
a gent when his lady's by. That's the first rule of life in gay
New York.' And you can bet I never have since--nor never will."
Susan had glanced at the address on the note, had recognized
the handwriting of Brent's secretary. Her heart had
straightway sunk as if the foreboding of calamity had been
realized. As she stood there uncertainly, Annie seized the
opportunity to run on and on. Susan now said absently, "Thank
you. Very well," and closed the door. It was a minute or so
before she tore open the envelope with an impatient gesture
DEAR MRS. SPENSER:
Mr. Brent requests me to ask you not to come until further
notice. It may be sometime before he will be free to resume.
JOHN C. GARVEY.
It was a fair specimen of Garvey's official style, with which
she had become acquainted--the style of the secretary who has
learned by experience not to use frills or flourishes but to
convey his message in the fewest and clearest words. Had it
been a skillfully worded insult Susan, in this mood of
depression and distorted mental vision, could not have
received it differently. She dropped to a chair at the table
and stared at the five lines of neat handwriting until her
eyes became circled and her face almost haggard. Precisely as
Rod had described! After a long, long time she crumpled the
paper and let it fall into the waste-basket. Then she walked
up and down the room--presently drifted into the bathroom and
resumed cleaning the coffee machine. Every few moments she
would pause in the task--and in her dressing afterwards--would
be seized by the fear, the horror of again being thrust into
that hideous underworld. What was between her and it, to save
her from being flung back into its degradation? Two men on
neither of whom she could rely. Brent might drop her at any
time--perhaps had already dropped her. As for Rod--vain,
capricious, faithless, certain to become an unendurable
tyrant if he got her in his power--Rod was even less of a
necessity than Brent. What a dangerous situation was hers!
How slender her chances of escape from another catastrophe.
She leaned against wall or table and was shaken by violent
fits of shuddering. She felt herself slipping--slipping. It
was all she could do to refrain from crying out. In those
moments, no trace of the self-possessed Susan the world always
saw. Her fancy went mad and ran wild. She quivered under the
actuality of coarse contacts--Mrs. Tucker in bed with her--the
men who had bought her body for an hour--the vermin of the
tenements--the brutal hands of policemen.
Then with an exclamation of impatience or of anger she would
shake herself together and go resolutely on--only again to
relapse. "Because I so suddenly cut off the liquor and the
opium," she said. It was the obvious and the complete
explanation. But her heart was like lead, and her sky like
ink. This note, the day after having tried her out as a
possibility for the stage and as a woman. She stared down at
the crumpled note in the wast-basket. That note--it was
herself. He had crumpled her up and thrown her into the
waste-basket, where she no doubt belonged.
It was nearly noon before she, dressed with unconscious care,
stood in the street doorway looking about uncertainly as if
she did not know which way to turn. She finally moved in the
direction of the theater where Rod's play was rehearsing. She
had gone to none of the rehearsals because Rod had requested
it. "I want you to see it as a total surprise the first
night," explained he. "That'll give you more pleasure, and
also it will make your criticism more valuable to us." And
she had acquiesced, not displeased to have all her time for
her own affairs. But now she, dazed, stunned almost,
convinced that it was all over for her with Brent,
instinctively turned to Rod to get human help--not to ask for
it, but in the hope that somehow he would divine and would say
or do something that would make the way ahead a little less
forbidding--something that would hearten her for the few first
steps, anyhow. She turned back several times--now, because
she feared Rod wouldn't like her coming; again because her
experience--enlightened good sense----told her that Rod
would--could--not help her, that her sole reliance was
herself. But in the end, driven by one of those spasms of
terror lest the underworld should be about to engulf her
again, she stood at the stage door.
As she was about to negotiate the surly looking man on guard
within, Sperry came rushing down the long dark passageway. He
was brushing past her when he saw who it was. "Too late!" he
cried. "Rehearsal's over."
"I didn't come to the rehearsal," explained Susan. "I thought
perhaps Rod would be going to lunch."
"So he is. Go straight back. You'll find him on the stage.
I'll join you if you'll wait a minute or so." And Sperry
hurried on into the street.
Susan advanced along the passageway cautiously as it was but
one remove from pitch dark. Perhaps fifty feet, and she came
to a cross passage. As she hesitated, a door at the far end
of it opened and she caught a glimpse of a dressing-room and,
in the space made by the partly opened door, a woman
half-dressed--an attractive glimpse. The woman--who seemed
young--was not looking down the passage, but into the room.
She was laughing in the way a woman laughs only when it is for
a man, for _the_ man--and was saying, "Now, Rod, you must go,
and give me a chance to finish dressing." A man's arm--Rod's
arm--reached across the opening in the doorway. A hand--Susan
recognized Rod's well-shaped hand--was laid strongly yet
tenderly upon the pretty bare arm of the struggling, laughing
young woman--and the door closed--and the passage was soot-dark
again. All this a matter of less than five seconds. Susan,
ashamed at having caught him, frightened lest she should be
found where she had no business to be, fled back along the
main passage and jerked open the street door. She ran
squarely into Sperry.
"I--I beg your pardon," stammered he. "I was in such a
rush--I ought to have been thinking where I was going. Did I
hurt you?" This last most anxiously. "I'm so sorry----"
"It's nothing--nothing," laughed Susan. "You are the one
And in fact she had knocked Sperry breathless. "You don't
look anything like so strong," gasped he.
"Oh, my appearance is deceptive--in a lot of ways."
For instance, he could have got from her face just then no
hint of the agony of fear torturing her--fear of the drop into
"Find Rod?" asked he.
"He wasn't on the stage. So--I came out again."
"Wait here," said Sperry. "I'll hunt him up."
"Oh, no--please don't. I stopped on impulse. I'll not bother
him." She smiled mischievously. "I might be interrupting."
Sperry promptly reddened. She had no difficulty in reading
what was in his mind--that her remark had reminded him of
Rod's "affair," and he was cursing himself for having been so
stupid as to forget it for the moment and put his partner in
danger of detection.
"I--I guess he's gone," stammered Sperry. "Lord, but that was
a knock you gave me! Better come to lunch with me."
Susan hesitated, a wistful, forlorn look in her eyes. "Do you
really want me?" asked she.
"Come right along," said Sperry in a tone that left no doubt
of his sincerity. "We'll go to the Knickerbocker and have
something good to eat."
"Oh, no--a quieter place," urged Susan.
Sperry laughed. "You mean less expensive. There's one of the
great big differences between you and the make-believe ladies
one bumps into in this part of town. _You_ don't like to be
troublesome or expensive. But we'll go to the Knickerbocker.
I feel 'way down today, and I intended to treat myself. You
don't look any too gay-hearted yourself."
"I'll admit I don't like the way the cards are running," said
Susan. "But--they'll run better--sooner or later."
"Sure!" cried Sperry. "You needn't worry about the play.
That's all right. How I envy women!"
"Oh--you have Rod between you and the fight. While I--I've
got to look out for myself."
"So have I," said Susan. "So has everyone, for that matter."
"Believe me, Mrs. Spenser," cried Sperry, earnestly, "you can
count on Rod. No matter what----"
"Please!" protested Susan. "I count on nobody. I learned
long ago not to lean."
"Well, leaning isn't exactly a safe position," Sperry
admitted. "There never was a perfectly reliable crutch.
Tell me your troubles."
Susan smilingly shook her head. "That'd be leaning. . . . No,
thank you. I've got to think it out for myself. I believed
I had arranged for a career for myself. It seems to have gone
to pieces That's all. Something else will turn up--after lunch."
"Not a doubt in the world," replied he confidently.
Susan's laugh of raillery made him blush guiltily. "Yes,"
said she, "there's Rod." She laughed again, merrily.
"There's Rod--but where is there?"
"You're the only woman in the world he has any real liking
for," said Sperry, earnest and sincere. "Don't you ever doubt
that, Mrs. Spenser."
When they were seated in the cafe and he had ordered, he
excused himself and Susan saw him make his way to a table
where sat Fitzalan and another man who looked as if he too had
to do with the stage. It was apparent that Fitzalan was
excited about something; his lips, his arms, his head were in
incessant motion. Susan noted that he had picked up many of
Brent's mannerisms; she had got the habit of noting this
imitativeness in men--and in women, too--from having seen in
the old days how Rod took on the tricks of speech, manner,
expression, thought even, of whatever man he happened at the
time to be admiring. May it not have been this trait of Rod's
that gave her the clue to his character, when she was thinking
him over, after the separation?
Sperry was gone nearly ten minutes. He came, full of
apologies. "Fitz held on to me while he roasted Brent.
You've heard of Brent, of course?"
"Yes," said Susan.
"Fitz has been seeing him off. And he says it's----"
Susan glanced quickly at him. "Off?" she said.
Susan had paused in removing her left glove. Rod's description
of Brent's way of sidestepping--Rod's description to the last
detail. Her hands fluttered uncertainly--fluttering fingers
like a flock of birds flushed and confused by the bang of the gun.
"And Fitz says----"
"For Europe," said Susan. She was drawing her fingers slowly
one by one from the fingers of her glove.
"Yes. He sailed, it seems, on impulse barely time to climb
aboard. Fitz always lays everything to a woman. He says
Brent has been mixed up for a year or so with---- Oh, it
doesn't matter. I oughtn't to repeat those things. I don't
believe 'em--on principle. Every man--or woman--who amounts
to anything has scandal talked about him or her all the time.
Good Lord! If Robert Brent bothered with half the affairs
that are credited to him, he'd have no time or strength--not
to speak of brains--to do plays."
"I guess even the busiest man manages to fit a woman in
somehow," observed Susan. "A woman or so."
Sperry laughed. "I guess yes," said he. "But as to Brent,
most of the scandal about him is due to a fad of his--hunting
for an undeveloped female genius who----"
"I've heard of that," interrupted Susan. "The service is
dreadfully slow here. How long is it since you ordered?"
"Twenty minutes--and here comes our waiter." And then, being
one of those who must finish whatever they have begun, he went
on. "Well, it's true Brent does pick up and drop a good many
ladies of one kind and another. And naturally, every one of
them is good-looking and clever or he'd not start in.
But--you may laugh at me if you like--I think he's strictly
business with all of them. He'd have got into trouble if he
hadn't been. And Fitz admits this one woman--she's a society
woman--is the only one there's any real basis for talk about
in connection with Brent."
Susan had several times lifted a spoonful of soup to her lips
and had every time lowered it untasted.
"And Brent's mighty decent to those he tries and has to give
up. I know of one woman he carried on his pay roll for nearly
"Let's drop Mr. Brent," cried Susan. "Tell me about--about
"Rod must be giving you an overdose of that."
"I've not seen much of him lately. How was the rehearsal?"
"Fair--fair." And Sperry forgot Brent and talked on and on
about the play, not checking himself until the coffee was
served. He had not observed that Susan was eating nothing.
Neither had he observed that she was not listening; but there
was excuse for this oversight, as she had set her expression
at absorbed attention before withdrawing within herself to
think--and to suffer. She came to the surface again when
Sperry, complaining of the way the leading lady was doing her
part, said: "No wonder Brent drops one after another. Women
aren't worth much as workers. Their real mind's always
occupied with the search for a man to support 'em."
"Not always," cried Susan, quivering with sudden pain. "Oh,
no, Mr. Sperry--not always."
"Yes--there are exceptions," said Sperry, not noting how he had
wounded her. "But--well, I never happened to run across one."
"Can you blame them?" mocked Susan. She was ashamed that she
had been stung into crying out.
"To be honest--no," said Sperry. "I suspect I'd throw up the
sponge and sell out if I had anything a lady with cash wanted
to buy. I only _suspect_ myself. But I _know_ most men would.
No, I don't blame the ladies. Why not have a nice easy time?
Only one short life--and then--the worms."
She was struggling with the re-aroused insane terror of a fall
back to the depths whence she had once more just come--and she
felt that, if she fell again, it would mean the very end of
hope. It must have been instinct or accident, for it
certainly was not any prompting from her calm expression, that
moved him to say:
"Now, tell me _your_ troubles. I've told you mine. . . . You
surely must have some?"
Susan forced a successful smile of raillery. "None to speak
of," evaded she.
When she reached home there was a telegram--from Brent:
Compelled to sail suddenly. Shall be back in a few weeks.
Don't mind this annoying interruption. R. B.
A very few minutes after she read these words, she was at work
on the play. But--a very few minutes thereafter she was
sitting with the play in her lap, eyes gazing into the black
and menacing future. The misgivings of the night before had
been fed and fattened into despairing certainties by the
events of the day. The sun was shining, never more brightly;
but it was not the light of her City of the Sun. She stayed
in all afternoon and all evening. During those hours before
she put out the light and shut herself away in the dark a
score of Susans, every one different from every other, had
been seen upon the little theater of that lodging house
parlor-bedroom. There had been a hopeful Susan, a sad but
resolved Susan, a strong Susan, a weak Susan; there had been
Susans who could not have shed a tear; there had been Susans
who shed many tears--some of them Susans all bitterness,
others Susans all humility and self-reproach. Any spectator
would have been puzzled by this shifting of personality.
Susan herself was completely confused. She sought for her
real self among this multitude so contradictory. Each
successive one seemed the reality; yet none persisted. When
we look in at our own souls, it is like looking into a
many-sided room lined with mirrors. We see
reflections--re-reflections--views at all angles--but we
cannot distinguish the soul itself among all these
counterfeits, all real yet all false because partial.
"What shall I do? What can I do? What will I do?"--that was
her last cry as the day ended. And it was her first cry as
her weary brain awakened for the new day.
At the end of the week came the regular check with a note from
Garvey--less machine-like, more human. He apologized for not
having called, said one thing and another had prevented, and
now illness of a near relative compelled him to leave town for
a few days, but as soon as he came back he would immediately
call. It seemed to Susan that there could be but one reason
why he should call--the reason that would make a timid,
soft-hearted man such as he put off a personal interview as
long as he could find excuses. She flushed hot with rage and
shame as she reflected on her position. Garvey pitying her!
She straightway sat down and wrote:
DEAR MR. GARVEY: Do not send me any more checks until Mr.
Brent comes back and I have seen him. I am in doubt whether
I shall be able to go on with the work he and I had arranged.
She signed this "Susan Lenox" and dispatched it. At once she
felt better in spite of the fact that she had, with
characteristic and fatal folly, her good sense warned her, cut
herself off from all the income in sight or in prospect. She
had debated sending back the check, but had decided that if
she did she might give the impression of pique or anger. No,
she would give him every chance to withdraw from a bargain
with which he was not content; and he would get the idea that
it was she who was ending the arrangement, would therefore
feel no sense of responsibility for her. She would save her
pride; she would spare his feelings. She was taking counsel
of Burlingham these days--was recalling the lesson he had
taught her, was getting his aid in deciding her course.
Burlingham protested vehemently against this sending back of
the check; but she let her pride, her aversion to being an
object of pity, overrule him.
A few days more, and she was so desperate, so harassed that
she altogether lost confidence in her own judgment. While
outwardly she seemed to be the same as always with Rod, she
had a feeling of utter alienation. Still, there was no one
else to whom she could turn. Should she put the facts before
him and ask his opinion? Her intelligence said no; her heart
said perhaps. While she was hesitating, he decided for her.
One morning at breakfast he stopped talking about himself long
enough to ask carelessly:
"About you and Brent--he's gone away. What are you doing?"
"Nothing," said she.
"Going to take that business up again, when he comes back?"
"I don't know."
"I wouldn't count on it, if I were you. . . . You're so
sensitive that I've hesitated to say anything. But I think
that chap was looking for trouble, and when he found you were
already engaged, why, he made up his mind to drop it."
"Do you think so?" said Susan indifferently. "More coffee?"
"Yes--a little. If my play's as good as your coffee----
That's enough, thanks. . . . Do you still draw your--your----"
His tone as he cast about for a fit word made her flush
scarlet. "No--I stopped it until we begin work again."
He did not conceal his thorough satisfaction. "That's right!"
he cried. "The only cloud on our happiness is gone. You
know, a man doesn't like that sort of thing."
"I know," said Susan drily.
And she understood why that very night he for the first time
asked her to supper after the rehearsal with Sperry and
Constance Francklyn, the leading lady, with whom he was having
one of those affairs which as he declared to Sperry were
"absolutely necessary to a man of genius to keep him freshened
up--to keep the fire burning brightly." He had carefully
coached Miss Francklyn to play the part of unsuspected
"understudy"--Susan saw that before they had been seated in
Jack's ten minutes. And she also saw that he was himself
resolved to conduct himself "like a gentleman." But after he
had taken two or three highballs, Susan was forced to engage
deeply in conversation with the exasperated and alarmed Sperry
to avoid seeing how madly Rod and Constance were flirting.
She, however, did contrive to see nothing--at least, the other
three were convinced that she had not seen. When they were
back in their rooms, Rod--whether through pretense or through
sidetracked amorousness or from simple intoxication--became
more demonstrative than he had been for a long time.
"No, there's nobody like you," he declared. "Even if I
wandered I'd always come back to you."
"Really?" said Susan with careless irony. "That's good. No,
I can unhook my blouse."
"I do believe you're growing cold."
"I don't feel like being messed with tonight."
"Oh, very well," said he sulkily. Then, forgetting his ill
humor after a few minutes of watching her graceful movements
and gestures as she took off her dress and made her beautiful
hair ready for the night, he burst out in a very different
tone: "You don't know how glad I am that you're dependent on
me again. You'll not be difficult any more."
A moment's silence, then Susan, with a queer little laugh,
"Men don't in the least mind--do they?"
"Being loved for money." There was a world of sarcasm in her
accent on that word loved.
"Oh, nonsense. You don't understand yourself," declared he
with large confidence. "Women never grow up. They're like
babies--and babies, you know, love the person that feeds them."
"And dogs--and cats--and birds--and all the lower orders."
She took a book and sat in a wrapper under the light.
"Come to bed--please, dear," pleaded he.
"No, I'll read a while."
And she held the book before her until he was asleep. Then
she sat a long time, her elbows on her knees, her chin
supported by her hands, her gaze fixed upon his face--the face
of the man who was her master now. She must please him, must
accept what treatment he saw fit to give, must rein in her
ambitions to suit the uncertain gait and staying power of his
ability to achieve. She could not leave him; he could leave
her when he might feel so inclined. Her master--capricious,
tyrannical, a drunkard. Her sole reliance--and the first
condition of his protection was that she should not try to do
for herself. A dependent, condemned to become even more dependent. XVII
SHE now spent a large part of every day in wandering, like a
derelict, drifting aimlessly this way or that, up into the
Park or along Fifth Avenue. She gazed intently into shop
windows, apparently inspecting carefully all the articles on
display; but she passed on, unconscious of having seen
anything. If she sat at home with a book she rarely turned a
page, though her gaze was fastened upon the print as if she
were absorbingly interested.
What was she feeling? The coarse contacts of street life and
tenement life--the choice between monstrous defilements from
human beings and monstrous defilements from filth and vermin.
What was she seeing? The old women of the slums--the forlorn,
aloof figures of shattered health and looks--creeping along
the gutters, dancing in the barrel houses, sleeping on the
floor in some vile hole in the wall--sleeping the sleep from
which one awakes bitten by mice and bugs, and swarming with lice.
She had entire confidence in Brent's judgment. Brent must
have discovered that she was without talent for the stage--for
if he had thought she had the least talent, would he not in
his kindness have arranged or offered some sort of place in
some theater or other? Since she had no stage
talent--then--what should she do? What _could_ she do? And so
her mind wandered as aimlessly as her wandering steps. And
never before had the sweet melancholy of her eyes been so moving.
But, though she did not realize it, there was a highly
significant difference between this mood of profound
discouragement and all the other similar moods that had
accompanied and accelerated her downward plunges. Every time
theretofore, she had been cowed by the crushing mandate of
destiny--had made no struggle against it beyond the futile
threshings about of aimless youth. This time she lost neither
strength nor courage. She was no longer a child; she was no
longer mere human flotsam and jetsam. She did not know which
way to turn; but she did know, with all the certainty of a
dauntless will, that she would turn some way--and that it
would not be a way leading back to the marshes and caves of
the underworld. She wandered--she wandered aimlessly; but not
for an instant did she cease to keep watch for the right
direction--the direction that would be the best available in
the circumstances. She did not know or greatly care which way
it led, so long as it did not lead back whence she had come.
In all her excursions she had--not consciously but by
instinct--kept away from her old beat. Indeed, except in the
company of Spenser or Sperry she had never ventured into the
neighborhood of Long Acre. But one day she was deflected by
chance at the Forty-second Street corner of Fifth Avenue and
drifted westward, pausing at each book stall to stare at the
titles of the bargain offerings in literature. As she stood
at one of these stalls near Sixth Avenue, she became conscious
that two men were pressing against her, one on either side.
She moved back and started on her way. One of the men was
standing before her. She lifted her eyes, was looking into
the cruel smiling eyes of a man with a big black mustache and
the jaws of a prizefighter. His smile broadened.
"I thought it was you, Queenie," said he. "Delighted to see you."
She recognized him as a fly cop who had been one of Freddie
Palmer's handy men. She fell back a step and the other
man--she knew him instantly as also a policeman--lined up
beside him of the black mustache. Both men were laughing.
"We've been on the lookout for you a long time, Queenie," said
the other. "There's a friend of yours that wants to see you
Susan glanced from one to the other, her face pale but calm,
in contrast to her heart where was all the fear and horror of
the police which long and savage experience had bred. She
turned away without speaking and started toward Sixth Avenue.
"Now, what d'ye think of that?" said Black Mustache to his
"side kick." "I thought she was too much of a lady to cut an
old friend. Guess we'd better run her in, Pete."
"That's right," assented Pete. "Then we can keep her safe
till F. P. can get the hooks on her."
Black Mustache laughed, laid his hand on her arm. "You'll
come along quietly," said he. "You don't want to make a
scene. You always was a perfect lady."
She drew her arm away. "I am a married woman--living with
Black Mustache laughed. "Think of that, Pete! And she
soliciting us. That'll be good news for your loving husband.
Come along, Queenie. Your record's against you. Everybody'll
know you've dropped back to your old ways."
"I am going to my husband," said she quietly. "You had better
not annoy me."
Pete looked uneasy, but Black Mustache's sinister face became
more resolute. "If you wanted to live respectable, why did
you solicit us two? Come along--or do you want me and Pete to
take you by the arms?"
"Very well," said she. "I'll go." She knew the police, knew
that Palmer's lieutenant would act as he said--and she also
knew what her "record" would do toward carrying through the plot.
She walked in the direction of the station house, the two
plain clothes men dropping a few feet behind and rejoining her
only when they reached the steps between the two green lamps.
In this way they avoided collecting a crowd at their heels.
As she advanced to the desk, the sergeant yawning over the
blotter glanced up.
"Bless my soul!" cried he, all interest at once. "If it ain't
F. P.'s Queenie!"
"And up to her old tricks, sergeant," said Black Mustache.
"She solicited me and Pete."
Susan was looking the sergeant straight in the eyes. "I am a
married woman," said she. "I live with my husband. I was
looking at some books in Forty-second Street when these two
came up and arrested me."
The sergeant quailed, glanced at Pete who was guiltily hanging
his head--glanced at Black Mustache. There he got the support
he was seeking. "What's your husband's name?" demanded Black
Mustache roughly. "What's your address?"
And Rod's play coming on the next night but one! She shrank,
collected herself. "I am not going to drag him into this, if
I can help it," said she. "I give you a chance to keep
yourselves out of trouble." She was gazing calmly at the
sergeant again. "You know these men are not telling the
truth. You know they've brought me here because of Freddie
Palmer. My husband knows all about my past. He will stand by
me. But I wish to spare him."
The sergeant's uncertain manner alarmed Black Mustache.
"She's putting up a good, bluff" scoffed he. "The truth is
she ain't got no husband. She'd not have solicited us if she
was living decent."
"You hear what the officer says," said the sergeant, taking
the tone of great kindness. "You'll have to give your name
and address--and I'll leave it to the judge to decide between
you and the officers." He took up his pen. "What's your name?"
Susan, weak and trembling, was clutching the iron rail before
the desk--the rail worn smooth by the nervous hands of ten
thousand of the social system's sick or crippled victims.
"Come--what's your name?" jeered Black Mustache.
Susan did not answer.
"Put her down Queenie Brown," cried he, triumphantly.
The sergeant wrote. Then he said: "Age?"
No answer from Susan. Black Mustache answered for her:
"About twenty-two now."
"She don't look it," said the sergeant, almost at ease once
more. "But brunettes stands the racket better'n blondes.
"Native. You don't look Irish or Dutch or Dago--though you
might have a dash of the Spinnitch or the Frog-eaters. Ever
No answer from the girl, standing rigid at the bar. Black
"At least oncet, to my knowledge. I run her in myself."
"Oh, she's got a record?" exclaimed the sergeant, now wholly
at ease. "Why the hell didn't you say so?"
"I thought you remembered. You took her pedigree."
"I do recollect now," said the sergeant. "Take my advice,
Queenie, and drop that bluff about the officers lying.
Swallow your medicine--plead guilty--and you'll get off with a
fine. If you lie about the police, the judge'll soak it to
you. It happens to be a good judge--a friend of Freddie's."
Then to the policemen: "Take her along to court, boys, and
get back here as soon as you can."
"I want her locked up," objected Black Mustache. "I want F. P.
to see her. I've got to hunt for him."
"Can't do it," said the sergeant. "If she makes a yell about
police oppression, our holding on to her would look bad. No,
put her through."
Susan now straightened herself and spoke. "I shan't make any
complaint," said she. "Anything rather than court. I can't
stand that. Keep me here."
"Not on your life!" cried the sergeant. "That's a trick.
She'd have a good case against us."
"F. P.'ll raise the devil if----" began Black Mustache.
"Then hunt him up right away. To court she's got to go. I
don't want to get broke."
The two men fell afoul each other with curse and abuse. They
were in no way embarrassed by the presence of Susan. Her
"record" made her of no account either as a woman or as a
witness. Soon each was so well pleased with the verbal wounds
he had dealt the other that their anger evaporated. The
upshot of the hideous controversy was that Black Mustache said:
"You take her to court, Pete. I'll hunt up F. P. Keep her
till the last."
In after days she could recall starting for the street car
with the officer, Pete; then memory was a blank until she was
sitting in a stuffy room with a prison odor--the anteroom to
the court. She and Pete were alone. He was walking nervously
up and down pulling his little fair mustache. It must have
been that she had retained throughout the impassive features
which, however stormy it was within, gave her an air of
strength and calm. Otherwise Pete would not presently have
halted before her to say in a low, agitated voice:
"If you can make trouble for us, don't do it. I've got a
wife, and three babies--one come only last week--and my old
mother paralyzed. You know how it is with us fellows--that
we've got to do what them higher up says or be broke."
Susan made no reply.
"And F. P.--he's right up next the big fellows nowadays. What
he says goes. You can see for yourself how much chance
against him there'd be for a common low-down cop."
She was still silent, not through anger as he imagined but
because she had no sense of the reality of what was happening.
The officer, who had lost his nerve, looked at her a moment,
in his animal eyes a humble pleading look; then he gave a
groan and turned away. "Oh, hell!" he muttered.
Again her memory ceased to record until--the door swung open;
she shivered, thinking it was the summons to court. Instead,
there stood Freddie Palmer. The instant she looked into his
face she became as calm and strong as her impassive expression
had been falsely making her seem. Behind him was Black
Mustache, his face ghastly, sullen, cowed. Palmer made a
jerky motion of head and arm. Pete went; and the door closed
and she was alone with him.
"I've seen the Judge and you're free," said Freddie.
She stood and began to adjust her hat and veil.
"I'll have those filthy curs kicked off the force."
She was looking tranquilly at him.
"You don't believe me? You think I ordered it done?"
She shrugged her shoulders. "No matter," she said. "It's
undone now. I'm much obliged. It's more than I expected."
"You don't believe me--and I don't blame you. You think I'm
making some sort of grandstand play."
"You haven't changed--at least not much."
"I'll admit, when you left I was wild and did tell 'em to take
you in as soon as they found you. But that was a long time
ago. And I never meant them to disturb a woman who was living
respectably with her husband. There may have been--yes, there
was a time when I'd have done that--and worse. But not any
more. You say I haven't changed. Well, you're wrong. In
some ways I have. I'm climbing up, as I always told you I
would--and as a man gets up he sees things differently. At
least, he acts differently. I don't do _that_ kind of dirty
work, any more."
"I'm glad to hear it," murmured Susan for lack of anything
else to say.
He was as handsome as ever, she saw--had the same charm of
manner--a charm owing not a little of its potency to the
impression he made of the man who would dare as far as any
man, and then go on to dare a step farther--the step from
which all but the rare, utterly unafraid man shrinks. His
look at her could not but appeal to her vanity as woman, and
to her woman's craving for being loved; at the same time it
agitated her with specters of the days of her slavery to him.
"_You_'ve changed--a lot. And all to the good. The only sign
is rouge on your lips and that isn't really a sign nowadays.
But then you never did look the professional--and you weren't."
His eyes were appealingly tender as he gazed at her sweet,
pensive face, with its violet-gray eyes full of mystery and
sorrow and longing. And the clear pallor of her skin, and
the slender yet voluptuous lines of her form suggested a pale,
beautiful rose, most delicate of flowers yet about the hardiest.
"So--you've married and settled down?"
"No," replied Susan. "Neither the one nor the other."
"Why, you told----"
"I'm supposed to be a married woman."
"Why didn't you give your name and address at the police
station?" said he. "They'd have let you go at once."
"Yes, I know," replied she. "But the newspapers would
probably have published it. So--I couldn't. As it is I've
been worrying for fear I'd be recognized, and the man would
get a write-up."
"That was square," said he. "Yes, it'd have been a dirty
trick to drag him in."
It was the matter-of-course to both of them that she should
have protected her "friend." She had simply obeyed about the
most stringent and least often violated article in the moral
code of the world of outcasts. If Freddie's worst enemy in
that world had murdered him, Freddie would have used his last
breath in shielding him from the common foe, the law.
"If you're not married to him, you're free," said Freddie with
a sudden new kind of interest in her.
"I told you I should always be free."
They remained facing each other a moment. When she moved to
go, he said:
"I see you've still got your taste in dress--only more so."
She smiled faintly, glanced at his clothing. He was dressed
with real fashion. He looked Fifth Avenue at its best, and
his expression bore out the appearance of the well-bred man of
fortune. "I can return the compliment," said she. "And you
too have improved."
At a glance all the old fear of him had gone beyond the
possibility of return. For she instantly realized that, like
all those who give up war upon society and come in and
surrender, he was enormously agitated about his new status,
was impressed by the conventionalities to a degree that made
him almost weak and mildly absurd. He was saying:
"I don't think of anything else but improving--in every way.
And the higher I get the higher I want to go. . . . That was a
dreadful thing I did to you. I wasn't to blame. It was part
of the system. A man's got to do at every stage whatever's
necessary. But I don't expect you to appreciate that. I know
you'll never forgive me."
"I'm used to men doing dreadful things."
"_You_ don't do them."
"Oh, I was brought up badly--badly for the game, I mean. But
I'm doing better, and I shall do still better. I can't
abolish the system. I can't stand out against it--and live.
So, I'm yielding--in my own foolish fashion."
"You don't lay up against me the--the--you know what I mean?"
The question surprised her, so far as it aroused any emotion.
She answered indifferently:
"I don't lay anything up against anybody. What's the use? I
guess we all do the best we can--the best the system'll let us."
And she was speaking the exact truth. She did not reason out
the causes of a state of mind so alien to the experiences of
the comfortable classes that they could not understand it,
would therefore see in it hardness of heart. In fact, the
heart has nothing to do with this attitude in those who are
exposed to the full force of the cruel buffetings of the
storms that incessantly sweep the wild and wintry sea of
active life. They lose the sense of the personal. Where they
yield to anger and revenge upon the instrument the blow fate
has used it to inflict, the resentment is momentary. The mood
of personal vengeance is characteristic of stupid people
leading uneventful lives--of comfortable classes, of remote
rural districts. She again moved to go, this time putting out
her hand with a smile. He said, with an awkwardness most
significant in one so supple of mind and manner:
"I want to talk to you. I've got something to
propose--something that'll interest you. Will you give
me--say, about an hour?"
She debated, then smiled. "You will have me arrested if I refuse?"
He flushed scarlet. "You're giving me what's coming to me,"
said he. "The reason--one reason--I've got on so well is that
I've never been a liar."
"No--you never were that."
"You, too. It's always a sign of bravery, and bravery's the
one thing I respect. Yes, what I said I'd do always I did.
That's the only way to get on in politics--and the crookeder
the politics the more careful a man has to be about acting on
the level. I can borrow a hundred thousand dollars without
signing a paper--and that's more than the crooks in Wall
Street can do--the biggest and best of them. So, when I told
you how things were with me about you, I was on the level."
"I know it," said Susan. "Where shall we go? I can't ask you
to come home with me."
"We might go to tea somewhere----"
Susan laughed outright. Tea! Freddie Palmer proposing tea!
What a changed hooligan--how ridiculously changed! The other
Freddie Palmer--the real one--the fascinating repelling
mixture of all the barbaric virtues and vices must still be
there. But how carefully hidden--and what strong provocation
would be needed to bring that savage to the surface again.
The Italian in him, that was carrying him so far so cleverly,
enabled him instantly to understand her amusement. He echoed
her laugh. Said he:
"You've no idea the kind of people I'm traveling with--not
political swells, but the real thing. What do you say to
"You needn't be worried about being seen with me, no matter
how high you're flying," he hastened to say. "I always did
keep myself in good condition for the rise. Nothing's known
about me or ever will be."
The girl was smiling at him again. "I wasn't thinking of
those things," said she. "I've never been to the Brevoort."
"It's quiet and respectable."
Susan's eyes twinkled. "I'm glad it's respectable," said she.
"Are you quite sure _you_ can afford to be seen with _me?_ It's
true they don't make the fuss about right and wrong side of
the line that they did a few years ago. They've gotten a
metropolitan morality. Still--I'm not respectable and never
"Don't be too hasty about that," protested he, gravely. "But
wait till you hear my proposition."
As they walked through West Ninth Street she noted that there
was more of a physical change in him than she had seen at
first glance. He was less athletic, heavier of form and his
face was fuller. "You don't keep in as good training as you
used," said she.
"It's those infernal automobiles," cried he. "They're death
to figure--to health, for that matter. But I've got the
habit, and I don't suppose I'll ever break myself of it. I've
taken on twenty pounds in the past year, and I've got myself
so upset that the doctor has ordered me abroad to take a cure.
Then there's champagne. I can't let that alone, either,
though I know it's plain poison."
And when they were in the restaurant of the Brevoort he
insisted on ordering champagne--and left her for a moment to
telephone for his automobile. It amused her to see a man so
masterful thus pettily enslaved. She laughed at him, and he
again denounced himself as a weak fool. "Money and luxury are
too much for me. They are for everybody. I'm not as strong
willed as I used to be," he said. "And it makes me uneasy.
That's another reason for my proposition."
"Well--let's hear it," said she. "I happen to be in a
position where I'm fond of hearing propositions--even if I
have no intention of accepting."
She was watching him narrowly. The Freddie Palmer he was
showing to her was a surprising but perfectly logical
development of a side of his character with which she had been
familiar in the old days; she was watching for that other
side--the sinister and cruel side. "But first," he went on,
"I must tell you a little about myself. I think I told you
once about my mother and father?"
"I remember," said Susan.
"Well, honestly, do you wonder that I was what I used to be?"
"No," she answered. "I wonder that you are what you _seem_ to be."
"What I come pretty near being," cried he. "The part that's
more or less put on today is going to be the real thing
tomorrow. That's the way it is with life--you put on a thing,
and gradually learn to wear it. And--I want you to help me."
There fell silence between them, he gazing at his glass of
champagne, turning it round and round between his long
white fingers and watching the bubbles throng riotously up
from the bottom. "Yes," he said thoughtfully, "I want you to
help me. I've been waiting for you. I knew you'd turn up
again." He laughed. "I've been true to you in a way--a man's
way. I've hunted the town for women who suggested you--a poor
sort of makeshift--but--I had to do something."
"What were you going to tell me?"
Her tone was business-like. He did not resent it, but
straightway acquiesced. "I'll plunge right in. I've been, as
you know, a bad one--bad all my life. I was born bad. You
know about my mother and father. One of my sisters died in a
disreputable resort. The other--well, the last I heard of
her, she was doing time in an English pen. I've got a
brother--he's a degenerate. Well!--not to linger over rotten
smells, I was the only one of the family that had brains. I
soon saw that everybody who gets on in the world is bad--which
simply means doing disturbing things of one kind and another.
And I saw that the ordinary crooks let their badness run their
brains, while the get-on kind of people let their brains run
their badness. You can be rotten--and sink lower and lower
every day. Or you can gratify your natural taste for
rottenness and at the same time get up in the world. I made up
my mind to do the rotten things that get a man money and power."
"Respectability," said Susan.
"Respectability exactly. So I set out to improve my brains.
I went to night school and read and studied. And I didn't
stay a private in the gang of toughs. I had the brains to be
leader, but the leader's got to be a fighter too. I took up
boxing and made good in the ring. I got to be leader. Then
I pushed my way up where I thought out the dirty work for the
others to do, and I stayed under cover and made 'em bring the
big share of the profits to me. And they did it because I had
the brains to think out jobs that paid well and that could be
pulled off without getting pinched--at least, not always
Palmer sipped his champagne, looked at her to see if she was
appreciative. "I thought you'd understand," said he. "I
needn't go into details. You remember about the women?"
"Yes, I remember," said Susan. "That was one step in the
"It got me the money to make my first play for respectability.
I couldn't have got it any other way. I had extravagant
tastes--and the leader has to be always giving up to help this
fellow and that out of the hole. And I never did have luck
with the cards and the horses."
"Why did you want to be respectable?" she asked.
"Because that's the best graft," explained he. "It means the
most money, and the most influence. The coyotes that raid the
sheep fold don't get the big share--though they may get a good
deal. No, it's the shepherds and the owners that pull off the
most. I've been leader of coyotes. I'm graduating into
shepherd and proprietor."
"I see," said Susan. "You make it beautifully clear."
He bowed and smiled. "Thank you, kindly. Then, I'll go on.
I'm deep in the contracting business now. I've got a pot of
money put away. I've cut out the cards--except a little
gentlemen's game now and then, to help me on with the right
kind of people. Horses, the same way. I've got my political
pull copper-riveted. It's as good with the Republicans as
with Democrats, and as good with the reform crowd as with
either. My next move is to cut loose from the gang. I've put
a lot of lieutenants between me and them, instead of dealing
with them direct. I'm putting in several more fellows I'm not
ashamed to be seen with in Delmonico's."
"What's become of Jim?" asked Susan.
"Dead--a kike shot him all to pieces in a joint in Seventh
Avenue about a month ago. As I was saying, how do these big
multi-millionaires do the trick? They don't tell somebody to
go steal what they happen to want. They tell somebody they
want it, and that somebody else tells somebody else to get it,
and that somebody else passes the word along until it reaches
the poor devils who must steal it or lose their jobs. I
studied it all out, and I've framed up my game the same way.
Nowadays, every dollar that comes to me has been thoroughly
cleaned long before it drops into my pocket. But you're
wondering where _you_ come in."
"Women are only interested in what's coming to them," said Susan.
"Sensible men are the same way. The men who aren't--they work
for wages and salaries. If you're going to live off of other
people, as women and the rich do, you've got to stand steady,
day and night, for Number One. And now, here's where _you_
come in. You've no objection to being respectable?"
"I've no objection to not being disreputable."
"That's the right way to put it," he promptly agreed.
"Respectable, you know, doesn't mean anything but appearances.
People who are really respectable, who let it strike in,
instead of keeping it on the outside where it belongs--they
soon get poor and drop down and out."
Palmer's revelation of himself and of a philosophy which life
as it had revealed itself to her was incessantly urging her to
adopt so grappled her attention that she altogether forgot
herself. A man on his way to the scaffold who suddenly sees
and feels a cataclysm rocking the world about him forgets his
own plight. Unconsciously he was epitomizing, unconsciously
she was learning, the whole story of the progress of the race
upward from beast toward intellect--the brutal and bloody
building of the highway from the caves of darkness toward the
peaks of light. The source from which springs, and ever has
sprung, the cruelty of man toward man is the struggle of the
ambition of the few who see and insist upon better conditions,
with the inertia and incompetence of the many who have little
sight and less imagination. Ambition must use the inert
mass--must persuade it, if possible, must compel it by trick
or force if persuasion fails. But Palmer and Susan Lenox
were, naturally, not seeing the thing in the broad but only as
it applied to themselves.
"I've read a whole lot of history and biography, " Freddie
went on, "and I've thought about what I read and about what's
going on around me. I tell you the world's full of cant. The
people who get there don't act on what is always preached.
The preaching isn't all lies--at least, I think not. But it
doesn't fit the facts a man or a woman has got to meet."
"I realized that long ago," said Susan.
"There's a saying that you can't touch pitch without being
defiled. Well--you can't build without touching pitch--at
least not in a world where money's king and where those with
brains have to live off of those without brains by making 'em
work and showing 'em what to work at. It's a hell of a world,
but __I__ didn't get it up."
"And we've got to live in it," said she, "and get out of it
the things we want and need."
"That's the talk!" cried Palmer. "I see you're `on.' Now--to
make a long story short--you and I can get what we want. We
can help each other. You were better born than I am--you've
had a better training in manners and dress and all the classy
sort of things. I've got the money--and brains enough to
learn with--and I can help you in various ways. So--I propose
that we go up together."
"We've got--pasts," said Susan.
"Who hasn't that amounts to anything? Mighty few. No one
that's made his own pile, I'll bet you.
I'm in a position to do favors for people--the people we'd
need. And I'll get in a position to do more and more. As
long as they can make something out of us--or hope to--do you
suppose they'll nose into our pasts and root things up that'd
injure them as much as us?"
"It would be an interesting game, wouldn't it?" said Susan.
She was reflectively observing the handsome, earnest face
before her--an incarnation of intelligent ambition, a Freddie
Palmer who was somehow divesting himself of himself--was
growing up--away from the rotten soil that had nourished
him--up into the air--was growing strongly--yes, splendidly!
"And we've got everything to gain and nothing to lose,"
pursued he. "We'd not be adventurers, you see. Adventurers
are people who haven't any money and are looking round to try
to steal it. We'd have money. So, we'd be building solid,
right on the rock." The handsome young man--the strongest,
the most intelligent, the most purposeful she had ever met,
except possibly Brent--looked at her with an admiring
tenderness that moved her, the forlorn derelict adrift on the
vast, lonely, treacherous sea. "The reason I've waited for
you to invite you in on this scheme is that I tried you out
and I found that you belong to the mighty few people who do
what they say they'll do, good bargain or bad. It'd never
occur to you to shuffle out of trying to keep your word."
"It hasn't--so far," said Susan.
"Well--that's the only sort of thing worth talking about as
morality. Believe me, for I've been through the whole game
from chimney pots to cellar floor."
"There's another thing, too," said the girl.
"Not to injure anyone else."
Palmer shook his head positively. "It's believing that and
acting on it that has kept you down in spite of your brains
"That I shall never do," said the girl. "It may be
weakness--I guess it is weakness. But--I draw the line there."
"But I'm not proposing that you injure anyone--or proposing to
do it myself. As I said, I've got up where I can afford to be
good and kind and all that. And I'm willing to jump you up
over the stretch of the climb that can't be crossed without
being--well, anything but good and kind."
She was reflecting.
"You'll never get over that stretch by yourself. It'll always
turn you back."
"Just what do you propose?" she asked.
It gave her pleasure to see the keen delight her question,
with its implication of hope, aroused in him. Said he:
"That we go to Europe together and stay over there several
years--as long as you like as long as it's necessary. Stay
till our pasts have disappeared--work ourselves in with the
right sort of people. You say you're not married?"
"Not to the man I'm with."
"To somebody else?"
"I don't know. I was."
"Well--that'll be looked into and straightened out. And then
we'll quietly marry."
Susan laughed. "You're too fast," said she. "I'll admit I'm
interested. I've been looking for a road--one that doesn't
lead toward where we've come from. And this is the first road
that has offered. But I haven't agreed to go in with you
yet--haven't even begun to think it over. And if I did
agree--which I probably won't--why, still I'd not be willing
to marry. That's a serious matter. I'd want to be very, very
sure I was satisfied."
Palmer nodded, with a return of the look of admiration. "I
understand. You don't promise until you intend to stick, and
once you've promised all hell couldn't change you."
"Another thing--very unfortunate, too. It looks to me as if
I'd be dependent on you for money."
Freddie's eyes wavered. "Oh, we'd never quarrel about that,"
said he with an attempt at careless confidence.
"No," replied she quietly. "For the best of reasons. I'd not
consider going into any arrangement where I'd be dependent on
a man for money. I've had my experience. I've learned my
lesson. If I lived with you several years in the sort of
style you've suggested--no, not several years but a few
months--you'd have me absolutely at your mercy. You'd
thought of that, hadn't you?"
His smile was confession.
"I'd develop tastes for luxuries and they'd become
necessities." Susan shook her head. "No--that would be
He was watching her so keenly that his expression was covert
suspicion. "What do you suggest?" he asked.
"Not what you suspect," replied she, amused. "I'm not making
a play for a gift of a fortune. I haven't anything to suggest."
There was a long silence, he turning his glass slowly and from
time to time taking a little of the champagne thoughtfully.
She observed him with a quizzical expression. It was apparent
to her that he was debating whether he would be making a fool
of himself if he offered her an independence outright.
Finally she said:
"Don't worry, Freddie. I'd not take it, even if you screwed
yourself up to the point of offering it."
He glanced up quickly and guiltily. "Why not?" he said.
"You'd be practically my wife. I can trust you. You've had
experience, so you can't blame me for hesitating. Money puts
the devil in anybody who gets it--man or woman. But I'll
trust you----" he laughed--"since I've got to."
"No. The most I'd take would be a salary. I'd be a sort
"Anything you like," cried he. This last suspicion born of a
life of intimate dealings with his fellow-beings took flight.
"It'd have to be a big salary because you'd have to dress and
act the part. What do you say? Is it a go?"
"Oh, I can't decide now."
She reflected. "I can tell you in a week."
He hesitated, said, "All right--a week."
She rose to go. "I've warned you the chances are against my
"That's because you haven't looked the ground over," replied
he, rising. Then, after a nervous moment, "Is the--is the----"
He stopped short.
"Go on," said she. "We must be frank with each other."
"If the idea of living with me is--is disagreeable----" And
again he stopped, greatly embarrassed--an amazing indication
of the state of mind of such a man as he--of the depth of his
infatuation, of his respect, of his new-sprung awe of
"I hadn't given it a thought," replied she. "Women are not
especially sensitive about that sort of thing."
"They're supposed to be. And I rather thought you were."
She laughed mockingly. "No more than other women," said she.
"Look how they marry for a home--or money--or social
position--and such men! And look how they live with men year
after year, hating them. Men never could do that."
"Don't you believe it," replied he. "They can, and they do.
The kept man--in and out of marriage--is quite a feature of
life in our chaste little village."
Susan looked amused. "Well--why not?" said she. "Everybody's
simply got to have money nowadays."
"And working for it is slow and mighty uncertain."
Her face clouded. She was seeing the sad wretched past from
filthy tenement to foul workshop. She said:
"Where shall I send you word?"
"I've an apartment at Sherry's now."
"Then--a week from today."
She put out her hand. He took it, and she marveled as she
felt a tremor in that steady hand of his. But his voice was
resolutely careless as he said, "So long. Don't forget how
much I want or need you. And if you do forget that, think of
the advantages--seeing the world with plenty of money--and all
the rest of it. Where'll you get such another chance? You'll
not be fool enough to refuse."
She smiled, said as she went, "You may remember I used to be
something of a fool."
"But that was some time ago. You've learned a lot since
"We'll see. I've become--I think--a good deal of a--of a New Yorker."
"That means frank about doing what the rest of the world does
under a stack of lies. It's a lovely world, isn't it?"
"If I had made it," laughed Susan, "I'd not own up to the fact."
She laughed; but she was seeing the old women of the
slums--was seeing them as one sees in the magic mirror the
vision of one's future self. And on the way home she said to
herself, "It was a good thing that I was arrested today. It
reminded me. It warned me. But for it, I might have gone on
to make a fool of myself." And she recalled how it had been
one of Burlingham's favorite maxims that everything is for the
best, for those who know how to use it. XVIII
SHE wrote Garvey asking an appointment. The reply should have
come the next day or the next day but one at the farthest; for
Garvey had been trained by Brent to the supreme courtesy of
promptness. It did not come until the fourth day; before she
opened it Susan knew about what she would read--the stupidly
obvious attempt to put off facing her--the cowardice of a
kind-hearted, weak fellow. She really had her answer--was
left without a doubt for hope to perch upon. But she wrote
again, insisting so sharply that he came the following day.
His large, tell-tale face was a restatement of what she had
read in his delay and between the lines of his note. He was
effusively friendly with a sort of mortuary suggestion, like
one bearing condolences, that tickled her sense of humor, far
though her heart was from mirth.
"Something has happened," began she, "that makes it necessary
for me to know when Mr. Brent is coming back."
"Really, Mrs. Spencer----"
"Miss Lenox," she corrected.
"Yes--Miss Lenox, I beg your pardon. But really--in my
position--I know nothing of Mr. Brent's plans--and if I did,
I'd not be at liberty to speak of them. I have written him
what you wrote me about the check--and--and--that is all."
"Mr. Garvey, is he ever--has he----" Susan, desperate, burst
out with more than she intended to say: "I care nothing about
it, one way or the other. If Mr. Brent is politely hinting
that I won't do, I've a right to know it. I have a chance at
something else. Can't you tell me?"
"I don't know anything about it--honestly I don't, Miss
Lenox," cried he, swearing profusely.
"You put an accent on the `know,'" said Susan. "You suspect
that I'm right, don't you?"
"I've no ground for suspecting--that is--no, I haven't. He
said nothing to me--nothing. But he never does. He's very