Part 2 out of 8
"Gloria, this is Anthony."
"Well!" she cried, holding out a little gloved hand. Under her fur coat
her dress was Alice-blue, with white lace crinkled stiffly about
"Let me take your things."
Anthony stretched out his arms and the brown mass of fur tumbled into
"What do you think of her, Anthony?" Richard Caramel demanded
barbarously. "Isn't she beautiful?"
"Well!" cried the girl defiantly--withal unmoved.
She was dazzling--alight; it was agony to comprehend her beauty in a
glance. Her hair, full of a heavenly glamour, was gay against the winter
color of the room.
Anthony moved about, magician-like, turning the mushroom lamp into an
orange glory. The stirred fire burnished the copper andirons on
"I'm a solid block of ice," murmured Gloria casually, glancing around
with eyes whose irises were of the most delicate and transparent bluish
white. "What a slick fire! We found a place where you could stand on an
iron-bar grating, sort of, and it blew warm air up at you--but Dick
wouldn't wait there with me. I told him to go on alone and let me
Conventional enough this. She seemed talking for her own pleasure,
without effort. Anthony, sitting at one end of the sofa, examined her
profile against the foreground of the lamp: the exquisite regularity of
nose and upper lip, the chin, faintly decided, balanced beautifully on a
rather short neck. On a photograph she must have been completely
classical, almost cold--but the glow of her hair and cheeks, at once
flushed and fragile, made her the most living person he had ever seen.
"... Think you've got the best name I've heard," she was saying, still
apparently to herself; her glance rested on him a moment and then
flitted past him--to the Italian bracket-lamps clinging like luminous
yellow turtles at intervals along the walls, to the books row upon row,
then to her cousin on the other side. "Anthony Patch. Only you ought to
look sort of like a horse, with a long narrow face--and you ought to be
"That's all the Patch part, though. How should Anthony look?"
"You look like Anthony," she assured him seriously--he thought she had
scarcely seen him--"rather majestic," she continued, "and solemn."
Anthony indulged in a disconcerted smile.
"Only I like alliterative names," she went on, "all except mine. Mine's
too flamboyant. I used to know two girls named Jinks, though, and just
think if they'd been named anything except what they were named--Judy
Jinks and Jerry Jinks. Cute, what? Don't you think?" Her childish mouth
was parted, awaiting a rejoinder.
"Everybody in the next generation," suggested Dick, "will be named Peter
or Barbara--because at present all the piquant literary characters are
named Peter or Barbara."
Anthony continued the prophecy:
"Of course Gladys and Eleanor, having graced the last generation of
heroines and being at present in their social prime, will be passed on
to the next generation of shop-girls--"
"Displacing Ella and Stella," interrupted Dick.
"And Pearl and Jewel," Gloria added cordially, "and Earl and Elmer and
"And then I'll come along," remarked Dick, "and picking up the obsolete
name, Jewel, I'll attach it to some quaint and attractive character and
it'll start its career all over again."
Her voice took up the thread of subject and wove along with faintly
upturning, half-humorous intonations for sentence ends--as though
defying interruption--and intervals of shadowy laughter. Dick had told
her that Anthony's man was named Bounds--she thought that was wonderful!
Dick had made some sad pun about Bounds doing patchwork, but if there
was one thing worse than a pun, she said, it was a person who, as the
inevitable come-back to a pun, gave the perpetrator a mock-reproachful
"Where are you from?" inquired Anthony. He knew, but beauty had rendered
"Kansas City, Missouri."
"They put her out the same time they barred cigarettes."
"Did they bar cigarettes? I see the hand of my holy grandfather."
"He's a reformer or something, isn't he?"
"I blush for him."
"So do I," she confessed. "I detest reformers, especially the sort who
try to reform me."
"Are there many of those?"
"Dozens. It's 'Oh, Gloria, if you smoke so many cigarettes you'll lose
your pretty complexion!' and 'Oh, Gloria, why don't you marry and
Anthony agreed emphatically while he wondered who had had the temerity
to speak thus to such a personage.
"And then," she continued, "there are all the subtle reformers who tell
you the wild stories they've heard about you and how they've been
sticking up for you."
He saw, at length, that her eyes were gray, very level and cool, and
when they rested on him he understood what Maury had meant by saying she
was very young and very old. She talked always about herself as a very
charming child might talk, and her comments on her tastes and distastes
were unaffected and spontaneous.
"I must confess," said Anthony gravely, "that even _I_'ve heard one
thing about you."
Alert at once, she sat up straight. Those eyes, with the grayness and
eternity of a cliff of soft granite, caught his.
"Tell me. I'll believe it. I always believe anything any one tells me
about myself--don't you?"
"Invariably!" agreed the two men in unison.
"Well, tell me."
"I'm not sure that I ought to," teased Anthony, smiling unwillingly. She
was so obviously interested, in a state of almost laughable
"He means your nickname," said her cousin.
"What name?" inquired Anthony, politely puzzled.
Instantly she was shy--then she laughed, rolled back against the
cushions, and turned her eyes up as she spoke:
"Coast-to-Coast Gloria." Her voice was full of laughter, laughter
undefined as the varying shadows playing between fire and lamp upon her
hair. "O Lord!"
Still Anthony was puzzled.
"What do you mean?"
"_Me_, I mean. That's what some silly boys coined for _me_."
"Don't you see, Anthony," explained Dick, "traveller of a nation-wide
notoriety and all that. Isn't that what you've heard? She's been called
that for years--since she was seventeen."
Anthony's eyes became sad and humorous.
"Who's this female Methuselah you've brought in here, Caramel?"
She disregarded this, possibly rather resented it, for she switched back
to the main topic.
"What _have_ you heard of me?"
"Something about your physique."
"Oh," she said, coolly disappointed, "that all?"
"My tan?" She was puzzled. Her hand rose to her throat, rested there an
instant as though the fingers were feeling variants of color.
"Do you remember Maury Noble? Man you met about a month ago. You made a
She thought a moment.
"I remember--but he didn't call me up."
"He was afraid to, I don't doubt."
It was black dark without now and Anthony wondered that his apartment
had ever seemed gray--so warm and friendly were the books and pictures
on the walls and the good Bounds offering tea from a respectful shadow
and the three nice people giving out waves of interest and laughter back
and forth across the happy fire.
On Thursday afternoon Gloria and Anthony had tea together in the grill
room at the Plaza. Her fur-trimmed suit was gray--"because with gray you
_have_ to wear a lot of paint," she explained--and a small toque sat
rakishly on her head, allowing yellow ripples of hair to wave out in
jaunty glory. In the higher light it seemed to Anthony that her
personality was infinitely softer--she seemed so young, scarcely
eighteen; her form under the tight sheath, known then as a hobble-skirt,
was amazingly supple and slender, and her hands, neither "artistic" nor
stubby, were small as a child's hands should be.
As they entered, the orchestra were sounding the preliminary whimpers to
a maxixe, a tune full of castanets and facile faintly languorous violin
harmonies, appropriate to the crowded winter grill teeming with an
excited college crowd, high-spirited at the approach of the holidays.
Carefully, Gloria considered several locations, and rather to Anthony's
annoyance paraded him circuitously to a table for two at the far side of
the room. Reaching it she again considered. Would she sit on the right
or on the left? Her beautiful eyes and lips were very grave as she made
her choice, and Anthony thought again how naïve was her every gesture;
she took all the things of life for hers to choose from and apportion,
as though she were continually picking out presents for herself from an
Abstractedly she watched the dancers for a few moments, commenting
murmurously as a couple eddied near.
"There's a pretty girl in blue"--and as Anthony looked obediently--"
there! No. behind you--there!"
"Yes," he agreed helplessly.
"You didn't see her."
"I'd rather look at you."
"I know, but she was pretty. Except that she had big ankles."
"Was she?--I mean, did she?" he said indifferently.
A girl's salutation came from a couple dancing close to them.
"Hello, Gloria! O Gloria!"
"Who's that?" he demanded.
"I don't know. Somebody." She caught sight of another face. "Hello,
Muriel!" Then to Anthony: "There's Muriel Kane. Now I think she's
attractive, 'cept not very."
Anthony chuckled appreciatively.
"Attractive, 'cept not very," he repeated.
She smiled--was interested immediately.
"Why is that funny?" Her tone was pathetically intent.
"It just was."
"Do you want to dance?"
"Sort of. But let's sit," she decided.
"And talk about you? You love to talk about you, don't you?"
"Yes." Caught in a vanity, she laughed.
"I imagine your autobiography would be a classic."
"Dick says I haven't got one."
"Dick!" he exclaimed. "What does he know about you?"
"Nothing. But he says the biography of every woman begins with the first
kiss that counts, and ends when her last child is laid in her arms."
"He's talking from his book."
"He says unloved women have no biographies--they have histories."
Anthony laughed again.
"Surely you don't claim to be unloved!"
"Well, I suppose not."
"Then why haven't you a biography? Haven't you ever had a kiss that
counted?" As the words left his lips he drew in his breath sharply as
though to suck them back. This _baby_!
"I don't know what you mean 'counts,'" she objected.
"I wish you'd tell me how old you are."
"Twenty-two," she said, meeting his eyes gravely. "How old did you
"I'm going to start being that. I don't like being twenty-two. I hate it
more than anything in the world."
"No. Getting old and everything. Getting married."
"Don't you ever want to marry?"
"I don't want to have responsibility and a lot of children to take care
Evidently she did not doubt that on her lips all things were good. He
waited rather breathlessly for her next remark, expecting it to follow
up her last. She was smiling, without amusement but pleasantly, and
after an interval half a dozen words fell into the space between them:
"I wish I had some gum-drops."
"You shall!" He beckoned to a waiter and sent him to the cigar counter.
"D'you mind? I love gum-drops. Everybody kids me about it because I'm
always whacking away at one--whenever my daddy's not around."
"Not at all.--Who are all these children?" he asked suddenly. "Do you
know them all?"
"Why--no, but they're from--oh, from everywhere, I suppose. Don't you
ever come here?"
"Very seldom. I don't care particularly for 'nice girls.'"
Immediately he had her attention. She turned a definite shoulder to the
dancers, relaxed in her chair, and demanded:
"What _do_ you do with yourself?"
Thanks to a cocktail Anthony welcomed the question. In a mood to talk,
he wanted, moreover, to impress this girl whose interest seemed so
tantalizingly elusive--she stopped to browse in unexpected pastures,
hurried quickly over the inobviously obvious. He wanted to pose. He
wanted to appear suddenly to her in novel and heroic colors. He wanted
to stir her from that casualness she showed toward everything
"I do nothing," he began, realizing simultaneously that his words were
to lack the debonair grace he craved for them. "I do nothing, for
there's nothing I can do that's worth doing."
"Well?" He had neither surprised her nor even held her, yet she had
certainly understood him, if indeed he had said aught worth
"Don't you approve of lazy men?"
"I suppose so, if they're gracefully lazy. Is that possible for an
"Why not?" he demanded, discomfited.
But her mind had left the subject and wandered up ten floors.
"My daddy's mad at me," she observed dispassionately.
"Why? But I want to know just why it's impossible for an American to be
gracefully idle"--his words gathered conviction--"it astonishes me.
It--it--I don't understand why people think that every young man ought
to go down-town and work ten hours a day for the best twenty years of
his life at dull, unimaginative work, certainly not altruistic work."
He broke off. She watched him inscrutably. He waited for her to agree or
disagree, but she did neither.
"Don't you ever form judgments on things?" he asked with some
She shook her head and her eyes wandered back to the dancers as she
"I don't know. I don't know anything about--what you should do, or what
anybody should do."
She confused him and hindered the flow of his ideas. Self-expression had
never seemed at once so desirable and so impossible.
"Well," he admitted apologetically, "neither do I, of course, but--"
"I just think of people," she continued, "whether they seem right where
they are and fit into the picture. I don't mind if they don't do
anything. I don't see why they should; in fact it always astonishes me
when anybody does anything."
"You don't want to do anything?"
"I want to sleep."
For a second he was startled, almost as though she had meant this
"Sort of. I want to just be lazy and I want some of the people around me
to be doing things, because that makes me feel comfortable and safe--and
I want some of them to be doing nothing at all, because they can be
graceful and companionable for me. But I never want to change people or
get excited over them."
"You're a quaint little determinist," laughed Anthony. "It's your world,
"Well--" she said with a quick upward glance, "isn't it? As long as
She had paused slightly before the last word and Anthony suspected that
she had started to say "beautiful." It was undeniably what she
Her eyes brightened and he waited for her to enlarge on the theme. He
had drawn her out, at any rate--he bent forward slightly to catch
But "Let's dance!" was all she said.
That winter afternoon at the Plaza was the first of a succession of
"dates" Anthony made with her in the blurred and stimulating days before
Christmas. Invariably she was busy. What particular strata of the city's
social life claimed her he was a long time finding out. It seemed to
matter very little. She attended the semi-public charity dances at the
big hotels; he saw her several times at dinner parties in Sherry's, and
once as he waited for her to dress, Mrs. Gilbert, apropos of her
daughter's habit of "going," rattled off an amazing holiday programme
that included half a dozen dances to which Anthony had received cards.
He made engagements with her several times for lunch and tea--the former
were hurried and, to him at least, rather unsatisfactory occasions, for
she was sleepy-eyed and casual, incapable of concentrating upon anything
or of giving consecutive attention to his remarks. When after two of
these sallow meals he accused her of tendering him the skin and bones of
the day she laughed and gave him a tea-time three days off. This was
infinitely more satisfactory.
One Sunday afternoon just before Christmas he called up and found her in
the lull directly after some important but mysterious quarrel: she
informed him in a tone of mingled wrath and amusement that she had sent
a man out of her apartment--here Anthony speculated violently--and that
the man had been giving a little dinner for her that very night and that
of course she wasn't going. So Anthony took her to supper.
"Let's go to something!" she proposed as they went down in the elevator.
"I want to see a show, don't you?"
Inquiry at the hotel ticket desk disclosed only two Sunday night
"They're always the same," she complained unhappily, "same old Yiddish
comedians. Oh, let's go somewhere!"
To conceal a guilty suspicion that he should have arranged a performance
of some kind for her approval Anthony affected a knowing cheerfulness.
"We'll go to a good cabaret."
"I've seen every one in town."
"Well, we'll find a new one."
She was in wretched humor; that was evident. Her gray eyes were granite
now indeed. When she wasn't speaking she stared straight in front of her
as if at some distasteful abstraction in the lobby.
"Well, come on, then."
He followed her, a graceful girl even in her enveloping fur, out to a
taxicab, and, with an air of having a definite place in mind, instructed
the driver to go over to Broadway and then turn south. He made several
casual attempts at conversation but as she adopted an impenetrable armor
of silence and answered him in sentences as morose as the cold darkness
of the taxicab he gave up, and assuming a like mood fell into a
A dozen blocks down Broadway Anthony's eyes were caught by a large and
unfamiliar electric sign spelling "Marathon" in glorious yellow script,
adorned with electrical leaves and flowers that alternately vanished and
beamed upon the wet and glistening street. He leaned and rapped on the
taxi-window and in a moment was receiving information from a colored
doorman: Yes, this was a cabaret. Fine cabaret. Bes' showina city!
"Shall we try it?"
With a sigh Gloria tossed her cigarette out the open door and prepared
to follow it; then they had passed under the screaming sign, under the
wide portal, and up by a stuffy elevator into this unsung palace
The gay habitats of the very rich and the very poor, the very dashing
and the very criminal, not to mention the lately exploited very
Bohemian, are made known to the awed high school girls of Augusta,
Georgia, and Redwing, Minnesota, not only through the bepictured and
entrancing spreads of the Sunday theatrical supplements but through the
shocked and alarmful eyes of Mr. Rupert Hughes and other chroniclers of
the mad pace of America. But the excursions of Harlem onto Broadway, the
deviltries of the dull and the revelries of the respectable are a matter
of esoteric knowledge only to the participants themselves.
A tip circulates--and in the place knowingly mentioned, gather the lower
moral-classes on Saturday and Sunday nights--the little troubled men who
are pictured in the comics as "the Consumer" or "the Public." They have
made sure that the place has three qualifications: it is cheap; it
imitates with a sort of shoddy and mechanical wistfulness the glittering
antics of the great cafes in the theatre district; and--this, above all,
important--it is a place where they can "take a nice girl," which means,
of course, that every one has become equally harmless, timid, and
uninteresting through lack of money and imagination.
There on Sunday nights gather the credulous, sentimental, underpaid,
overworked people with hyphenated occupations: book-keepers,
ticket-sellers, office-managers, salesmen, and, most of all,
clerks--clerks of the express, of the mail, of the grocery, of the
brokerage, of the bank. With them are their giggling, over-gestured,
pathetically pretentious women, who grow fat with them, bear them too
many babies, and float helpless and uncontent in a colorless sea of
drudgery and broken hopes.
They name these brummagem cabarets after Pullman cars. The "Marathon"!
Not for them the salacious similes borrowed from the cafés of Paris!
This is where their docile patrons bring their "nice women," whose
starved fancies are only too willing to believe that the scene is
comparatively gay and joyous, and even faintly immoral. This is life!
Who cares for the morrow?
Anthony and Gloria, seated, looked about them. At the next table a party
of four were in process of being joined by a party of three, two men and
a girl, who were evidently late--and the manner of the girl was a study
in national sociology. She was meeting some new men--and she was
pretending desperately. By gesture she was pretending and by words and
by the scarcely perceptible motionings of her eyelids that she belonged
to a class a little superior to the class with which she now had to do,
that a while ago she had been, and presently would again be, in a
higher, rarer air. She was almost painfully refined--she wore a last
year's hat covered with violets no more yearningly pretentious and
palpably artificial than herself.
Fascinated, Anthony and Gloria watched the girl sit down and radiate the
impression that she was only condescendingly present. For _me_, her eyes
said, this is practically a slumming expedition, to be cloaked with
belittling laughter and semi-apologetics.
--And the other women passionately poured out the impression that though
they were in the crowd they were not of it. This was not the sort of
place to which they were accustomed; they had dropped in because it was
near by and convenient--every party in the restaurant poured out that
impression ... who knew? They were forever changing class, all of
them--the women often marrying above their opportunities, the men
striking suddenly a magnificent opulence: a sufficiently preposterous
advertising scheme, a celestialized ice cream cone. Meanwhile, they met
here to eat, closing their eyes to the economy displayed in infrequent
changings of table-cloths, in the casualness of the cabaret performers,
most of all in the colloquial carelessness and familiarity of the
waiters. One was sure that these waiters were not impressed by their
patrons. One expected that presently they would sit at the tables ...
"Do you object to this?" inquired Anthony.
Gloria's face warmed and for the first time that evening she smiled.
"I love it," she said frankly. It was impossible to doubt her. Her gray
eyes roved here and there, drowsing, idle or alert, on each group,
passing to the next with unconcealed enjoyment, and to Anthony were made
plain the different values of her profile, the wonderfully alive
expressions of her mouth, and the authentic distinction of face and form
and manner that made her like a single flower amidst a collection of
cheap bric-à-brac. At her happiness, a gorgeous sentiment welled into
his eyes, choked him up, set his nerves a-tingle, and filled his throat
with husky and vibrant emotion. There was a hush upon the room. The
careless violins and saxophones, the shrill rasping complaint of a child
near by, the voice of the violet-hatted girl at the next table, all
moved slowly out, receded, and fell away like shadowy reflections on the
shining floor--and they two, it seemed to him, were alone and infinitely
remote, quiet. Surely the freshness of her cheeks was a gossamer
projection from a land of delicate and undiscovered shades; her hand
gleaming on the stained table-cloth was a shell from some far and wildly
Then the illusion snapped like a nest of threads; the room grouped
itself around him, voices, faces, movement; the garish shimmer of the
lights overhead became real, became portentous; breath began, the slow
respiration that she and he took in time with this docile hundred, the
rise and fall of bosoms, the eternal meaningless play and interplay and
tossing and reiterating of word and phrase--all these wrenched his
senses open to the suffocating pressure of life--and then her voice came
at him, cool as the suspended dream he had left behind.
"I belong here," she murmured, "I'm like these people."
For an instant this seemed a sardonic and unnecessary paradox hurled at
him across the impassable distances she created about herself. Her
entrancement had increased--her eyes rested upon a Semitic violinist who
swayed his shoulders to the rhythm of the year's mellowest fox-trot:
Right in-your ear--"
Again she spoke, from the centre of this pervasive illusion of her own.
It amazed him. It was like blasphemy from the mouth of a child.
"I'm like they are--like Japanese lanterns and crape paper, and the
music of that orchestra."
"You're a young idiot!" he insisted wildly. She shook her blond head.
"No, I'm not. I _am_ like them.... You ought to see.... You don't know
me." She hesitated and her eyes came back to him, rested abruptly on
his, as though surprised at the last to see him there. "I've got a
streak of what you'd call cheapness. I don't know where I get it but
it's--oh, things like this and bright colors and gaudy vulgarity. I seem
to belong here. These people could appreciate me and take me for
granted, and these men would fall in love with me and admire me, whereas
the clever men I meet would just analyze me and tell me I'm this because
of this or that because of that."
--Anthony for the moment wanted fiercely to paint her, to set her down
_now_, as she was, as, as with each relentless second she could never
"What were you thinking?" she asked.
"Just that I'm not a realist," he said, and then: "No, only the
romanticist preserves the things worth preserving."
Out of the deep sophistication of Anthony an understanding formed,
nothing atavistic or obscure, indeed scarcely physical at all, an
understanding remembered from the romancings of many generations of
minds that as she talked and caught his eyes and turned her lovely head,
she moved him as he had never been moved before. The sheath that held
her soul had assumed significance--that was all. She was a sun, radiant,
growing, gathering light and storing it--then after an eternity pouring
it forth in a glance, the fragment of a sentence, to that part of him
that cherished all beauty and all illusion.
THE CONNOISSEUR OF KISSES
From his undergraduate days as editor of The Harvard Crimson Richard
Caramel had desired to write. But as a senior he had picked up the
glorified illusion that certain men were set aside for "service" and,
going into the world, were to accomplish a vague yearnful something
which would react either in eternal reward or, at the least, in the
personal satisfaction of having striven for the greatest good of the
This spirit has long rocked the colleges in America. It begins, as a
rule, during the immaturities and facile impressions of freshman
year--sometimes back in preparatory school. Prosperous apostles known
for their emotional acting go the rounds of the universities and, by
frightening the amiable sheep and dulling the quickening of interest and
intellectual curiosity which is the purpose of all education, distil a
mysterious conviction of sin, harking back to childhood crimes and to
the ever-present menace of "women." To these lectures go the wicked
youths to cheer and joke and the timid to swallow the tasty pills, which
would be harmless if administered to farmers' wives and pious
drug-clerks but are rather dangerous medicine for these "future
leaders of men."
This octopus was strong enough to wind a sinuous tentacle about Richard
Caramel. The year after his graduation it called him into the slums of
New York to muck about with bewildered Italians as secretary to an
"Alien Young Men's Rescue Association." He labored at it over a year
before the monotony began to weary him. The aliens kept coming
inexhaustibly--Italians, Poles, Scandinavians, Czechs, Armenians--with
the same wrongs, the same exceptionally ugly faces and very much the
same smells, though he fancied that these grew more profuse and diverse
as the months passed. His eventual conclusions about the expediency of
service were vague, but concerning his own relation to it they were
abrupt and decisive. Any amiable young man, his head ringing with the
latest crusade, could accomplish as much as he could with the débris of
Europe--and it was time for him to write.
He had been living in a down-town Y.M.C.A., but when he quit the task of
making sow-ear purses out of sows' ears, he moved up-town and went to
work immediately as a reporter for The Sun. He kept at this for a year,
doing desultory writing on the side, with little success, and then one
day an infelicitous incident peremptorily closed his newspaper career.
On a February afternoon he was assigned to report a parade of Squadron
A. Snow threatening, he went to sleep instead before a hot fire, and
when he woke up did a smooth column about the muffled beats of the
horses' hoofs in the snow... This he handed in. Next morning a marked
copy of the paper was sent down to the City Editor with a scrawled note:
"Fire the man who wrote this." It seemed that Squadron A had also seen
the snow threatening--had postponed the parade until another day.
A week later he had begun "The Demon Lover."...
In January, the Monday of the months, Richard Caramel's nose was blue
constantly, a sardonic blue, vaguely suggestive of the flames licking
around a sinner. His book was nearly ready, and as it grew in
completeness it seemed to grow also in its demands, sapping him,
overpowering him, until he walked haggard and conquered in its shadow.
Not only to Anthony and Maury did he pour out his hopes and boasts and
indecisions, but to any one who could be prevailed upon to listen. He
called on polite but bewildered publishers, he discussed it with his
casual vis-à-vis at the Harvard Club; it was even claimed by Anthony
that he had been discovered, one Sunday night, debating the
transposition of Chapter Two with a literary ticket-collector in the
chill and dismal recesses of a Harlem subway station. And latest among
his confidantes was Mrs. Gilbert, who sat with him by the hour and
alternated between Bilphism and literature in an intense cross-fire.
"Shakespeare was a Bilphist," she assured him through a fixed smile.
"Oh, yes! He was a Bilphist. It's been proved."
At this Dick would look a bit blank.
"If you've read 'Hamlet' you can't help but see."
"Well, he--he lived in a more credulous age--a more religious age."
But she demanded the whole loaf:
"Oh, yes, but you see Bilphism isn't a religion. It's the science of all
religions." She smiled defiantly at him. This was the _bon mot_ of her
belief. There was something in the arrangement of words which grasped
her mind so definitely that the statement became superior to any
obligation to define itself. It is not unlikely that she would have
accepted any idea encased in this radiant formula--which was perhaps not
a formula; it was the _reductio ad absurdum_ of all formulas.
Then eventually, but gorgeously, would come Dick's turn.
"You've heard of the new poetry movement. You haven't? Well, it's a lot
of young poets that are breaking away from the old forms and doing a lot
of good. Well, what I was going to say was that my book is going to
start a new prose movement, a sort of renaissance."
"I'm sure it will," beamed Mrs. Gilbert. "I'm _sure_ it will. I went to
Jenny Martin last Tuesday, the palmist, you know, that every one's _mad_
about. I told her my nephew was engaged upon a work and she said she
knew I'd be glad to hear that his success would be _extraordinary_. But
she'd never seen you or known anything about you--not even your _name_."
Having made the proper noises to express his amazement at this
astounding phenomenon, Dick waved her theme by him as though he were an
arbitrary traffic policeman, and, so to speak, beckoned forward his
"I'm absorbed, Aunt Catherine," he assured her, "I really am. All my
friends are joshing me--oh, I see the humor in it and I don't care. I
think a person ought to be able to take joshing. But I've got a sort of
conviction," he concluded gloomily.
"You're an ancient soul, I always say."
"Maybe I am." Dick had reached the stage where he no longer fought, but
submitted. He _must_ be an ancient soul, he fancied grotesquely; so old
as to be absolutely rotten. However, the reiteration of the phrase still
somewhat embarrassed him and sent uncomfortable shivers up his back. He
changed the subject.
"Where is my distinguished cousin Gloria?"
"She's on the go somewhere, with some one."
Dick paused, considered, and then, screwing up his face into what was
evidently begun as a smile but ended as a terrifying frown, delivered
"I think my friend Anthony Patch is in love with her."
Mrs. Gilbert started, beamed half a second too late, and breathed her
"Really?" in the tone of a detective play-whisper.
"I _think_ so," corrected Dick gravely. "She's the first girl I've ever
seen him with, so much."
"Well, of course," said Mrs. Gilbert with meticulous carelessness,
"Gloria never makes me her confidante. She's very secretive. Between you
and me"--she bent forward cautiously, obviously determined that only
Heaven and her nephew should share her confession--"between you and me,
I'd like to see her settle down."
Dick arose and paced the floor earnestly, a small, active, already
rotund young man, his hands thrust unnaturally into his bulging pockets.
"I'm not claiming I'm right, mind you," he assured the
infinitely-of-the-hotel steel-engraving which smirked respectably back
at him. "I'm saying nothing that I'd want Gloria to know. But I think
Mad Anthony is interested--tremendously so. He talks about her
constantly. In any one else that'd be a bad sign."
"Gloria is a very young soul--" began Mrs. Gilbert eagerly, but her
nephew interrupted with a hurried sentence:
"Gloria'd be a very young nut not to marry him." He stopped and faced
her, his expression a battle map of lines and dimples, squeezed and
strained to its ultimate show of intensity--this as if to make up by his
sincerity for any indiscretion in his words. "Gloria's a wild one, Aunt
Catherine. She's uncontrollable. How she's done it I don't know, but
lately she's picked up a lot of the funniest friends. She doesn't seem
to care. And the men she used to go with around New York were--" He
paused for breath.
"Yes-yes-yes," interjected Mrs. Gilbert, with an anaemic attempt to hide
the immense interest with which she listened.
"Well," continued Richard Caramel gravely, "there it is. I mean that the
men she went with and the people she went with used to be first rate.
Now they aren't."
Mrs. Gilbert blinked very fast--her bosom trembled, inflated, remained
so for an instant, and with the exhalation her words flowed out in
She knew, she cried in a whisper; oh, yes, mothers see these things. But
what could she do? He knew Gloria. He'd seen enough of Gloria to know
how hopeless it was to try to deal with her. Gloria had been so
spoiled--in a rather complete and unusual way. She had been suckled
until she was three, for instance, when she could probably have chewed
sticks. Perhaps--one never knew--it was this that had given that health
and _hardiness_ to her whole personality. And then ever since she was
twelve years old she'd had boys about her so thick--oh, so thick one
couldn't _move_. At sixteen she began going to dances at preparatory
schools, and then came the colleges; and everywhere she went, boys,
boys, boys. At first, oh, until she was eighteen there had been so many
that it never seemed one any more than the others, but then she began to
single them out.
She knew there had been a string of affairs spread over about three
years, perhaps a dozen of them altogether. Sometimes the men were
undergraduates, sometimes just out of college--they lasted on an average
of several months each, with short attractions in between. Once or twice
they had endured longer and her mother had hoped she would be engaged,
but always a new one came--a new one--
The men? Oh, she made them miserable, literally! There was only one who
had kept any sort of dignity, and he had been a mere child, young Carter
Kirby, of Kansas City, who was so conceited anyway that he just sailed
out on his vanity one afternoon and left for Europe next day with his
father. The others had been--wretched. They never seemed to know when
she was tired of them, and Gloria had seldom been deliberately unkind.
They would keep phoning, writing letters to her, trying to see her,
making long trips after her around the country. Some of them had
confided in Mrs. Gilbert, told her with tears in their eyes that they
would never get over Gloria ... at least two of them had since married,
though.... But Gloria, it seemed, struck to kill--to this day Mr.
Carstairs called up once a week, and sent her flowers which she no
longer bothered to refuse.
Several times, twice, at least, Mrs. Gilbert knew it had gone as far as
a private engagement--with Tudor Baird and that Holcome boy at Pasadena.
She was sure it had, because--this must go no further--she had come in
unexpectedly and found Gloria acting, well, very much engaged indeed.
She had not spoken to her daughter, of course. She had had a certain
sense of delicacy and, besides, each time she had expected an
announcement in a few weeks. But the announcement never came; instead, a
new man came.
Scenes! Young men walking up and down the library like caged tigers!
Young men glaring at each other in the hall as one came and the other
left! Young men calling up on the telephone and being hung up upon in
desperation! Young men threatening South America! ... Young men writing
the most pathetic letters! (She said nothing to this effect, but Dick
fancied that Mrs. Gilbert's eyes had seen some of these letters.)
... And Gloria, between tears and laughter, sorry, glad, out of love and
in love, miserable, nervous, cool, amidst a great returning of presents,
substitution of pictures in immemorial frames, and taking of hot baths
and beginning again--with the next.
That state of things continued, assumed an air of permanency. Nothing
harmed Gloria or changed her or moved her. And then out of a clear sky
one day she informed her mother that undergraduates wearied her. She was
absolutely going to no more college dances.
This had begun the change--not so much in her actual habits, for she
danced, and had as many "dates" as ever--but they were dates in a
different spirit. Previously it had been a sort of pride, a matter of
her own vainglory. She had been, probably, the most celebrated and
sought-after young beauty in the country. Gloria Gilbert of Kansas City!
She had fed on it ruthlessly--enjoying the crowds around her, the manner
in which the most desirable men singled her out; enjoying the fierce
jealousy of other girls; enjoying the fabulous, not to say scandalous,
and, her mother was glad to say, entirely unfounded rumors about
her--for instance, that she had gone in the Yale swimming-pool one night
in a chiffon evening dress.
And from loving it with a vanity that was almost masculine--it had been
in the nature of a triumphant and dazzling career--she became suddenly
anaesthetic to it. She retired. She who had dominated countless parties,
who had blown fragrantly through many ballrooms to the tender tribute of
many eyes, seemed to care no longer. He who fell in love with her now
was dismissed utterly, almost angrily. She went listlessly with the most
indifferent men. She continually broke engagements, not as in the past
from a cool assurance that she was irreproachable, that the man she
insulted would return like a domestic animal--but indifferently, without
contempt or pride. She rarely stormed at men any more--she yawned at
them. She seemed--and it was so strange--she seemed to her mother to be
Richard Caramel listened. At first he had remained standing, but as his
aunt's discourse waxed in content--it stands here pruned by half, of all
side references to the youth of Gloria's soul and to Mrs. Gilbert's own
mental distresses--he drew a chair up and attended rigorously as she
floated, between tears and plaintive helplessness, down the long story
of Gloria's life. When she came to the tale of this last year, a tale of
the ends of cigarettes left all over New York in little trays marked
"Midnight Frolic" and "Justine Johnson's Little Club," he began nodding
his head slowly, then faster and faster, until, as she finished on a
staccato note, it was bobbing briskly up and down, absurdly like a
doll's wired head, expressing--almost anything.
In a sense Gloria's past was an old story to him. He had followed it
with the eyes of a journalist, for he was going to write a book about
her some day. But his interests, just at present, were family interests.
He wanted to know, in particular, who was this Joseph Bloeckman that he
had seen her with several times; and those two girls she was with
constantly, "this" Rachael Jerryl and "this" Miss Kane--surely Miss Kane
wasn't exactly the sort one would associate with Gloria!
But the moment had passed. Mrs. Gilbert having climbed the hill of
exposition was about to glide swiftly down the ski-jump of collapse. Her
eyes were like a blue sky seen through two round, red window-casements.
The flesh about her mouth was trembling.
And at the moment the door opened, admitting into the room Gloria and
the two young ladies lately mentioned.
TWO YOUNG WOMEN
"How do you do, Mrs. Gilbert!"
Miss Kane and Miss Jerryl are presented to Mr. Richard Caramel. "This is
"I've heard so much about you," says Miss Kane between a giggle and a
"How do you do," says Miss Jerryl shyly.
Richard Caramel tries to move about as if his figure were better. He is
torn between his innate cordiality and the fact that he considers these
girls rather common--not at all the Farmover type.
Gloria has disappeared into the bedroom.
"Do sit down," beams Mrs. Gilbert, who is by now quite herself. "Take
off your things." Dick is afraid she will make some remark about the age
of his soul, but he forgets his qualms in completing a conscientious,
novelist's examination of the two young women.
Muriel Kane had originated in a rising family of East Orange. She was
short rather than small, and hovered audaciously between plumpness and
width. Her hair was black and elaborately arranged. This, in conjunction
with her handsome, rather bovine eyes, and her over-red lips, combined
to make her resemble Theda Bara, the prominent motion picture actress.
People told her constantly that she was a "vampire," and she believed
them. She suspected hopefully that they were afraid of her, and she did
her utmost under all circumstances to give the impression of danger. An
imaginative man could see the red flag that she constantly carried,
waving it wildly, beseechingly--and, alas, to little spectacular avail.
She was also tremendously timely: she knew the latest songs, all the
latest songs--when one of them was played on the phonograph she would
rise to her feet and rock her shoulders back and forth and snap her
fingers, and if there was no music she would accompany herself
Her conversation was also timely: "I don't care," she would say, "I
should worry and lose my figure"--and again: "I can't make my feet
behave when I hear that tune. Oh, baby!"
Her finger-nails were too long and ornate, polished to a pink and
unnatural fever. Her clothes were too tight, too stylish, too vivid, her
eyes too roguish, her smile too coy. She was almost pitifully
overemphasized from head to foot.
The other girl was obviously a more subtle personality. She was an
exquisitely dressed Jewess with dark hair and a lovely milky pallor. She
seemed shy and vague, and these two qualities accentuated a rather
delicate charm that floated about her. Her family were "Episcopalians,"
owned three smart women's shops along Fifth Avenue, and lived in a
magnificent apartment on Riverside Drive. It seemed to Dick, after a few
moments, that she was attempting to imitate Gloria--he wondered that
people invariably chose inimitable people to imitate.
"We had the most _hectic_ time!" Muriel was exclaiming enthusiastically.
"There was a crazy woman behind us on the bus. She was absitively,
posolutely _nutty_! She kept talking to herself about something she'd
like to do to somebody or something. I was _pet_rified, but Gloria
simply _wouldn't_ get off."
Mrs. Gilbert opened her mouth, properly awed.
"Oh, she was crazy. But we should worry, she didn't hurt us. Ugly!
Gracious! The man across from us said her face ought to be on a
night-nurse in a home for the blind, and we all _howled_, naturally, so
the man tried to pick us up."
Presently Gloria emerged from her bedroom and in unison every eye turned
on her. The two girls receded into a shadowy background,
"We've been talking about you," said Dick quickly, "--your mother and
"Well," said Gloria.
A pause--Muriel turned to Dick.
"You're a great writer, aren't you?"
"I'm a writer," he confessed sheepishly.
"I always say," said Muriel earnestly, "that if I ever had time to write
down all my experiences it'd make a wonderful book."
Rachael giggled sympathetically; Richard Caramel's bow was almost
stately. Muriel continued:
"But I don't see how you can sit down and do it. And poetry! Lordy, I
can't make two lines rhyme. Well, I should worry!"
Richard Caramel with difficulty restrained a shout of laughter. Gloria
was chewing an amazing gum-drop and staring moodily out the window. Mrs.
Gilbert cleared her throat and beamed.
"But you see," she said in a sort of universal exposition, "you're not
an ancient soul--like Richard."
The Ancient Soul breathed a gasp of relief--it was out at last.
Then as if she had been considering it for five minutes, Gloria made a
"I'm going to give a party."
"Oh, can I come?" cried Muriel with facetious daring.
"A dinner. Seven people: Muriel and Rachael and I, and you, Dick, and
Anthony, and that man named Noble--I liked him--and Bloeckman."
Muriel and Rachael went into soft and purring ecstasies of enthusiasm.
Mrs. Gilbert blinked and beamed. With an air of casualness Dick broke in
with a question:
"Who is this fellow Bloeckman, Gloria?"
Scenting a faint hostility, Gloria turned to him.
"Joseph Bloeckman? He's the moving picture man. Vice-president of 'Films
Par Excellence.' He and father do a lot of business."
"Well, will you all come?"
They would all come. A date was arranged within the week. Dick rose,
adjusted hat, coat, and muffler, and gave out a general smile.
"By-by," said Muriel, waving her hand gaily, "call me up some time."
Richard Caramel blushed for her.
DEPLORABLE END OF THE CHEVALIER O'KEEFE
It was Monday and Anthony took Geraldine Burke to luncheon at the Beaux
Arts--afterward they went up to his apartment and he wheeled out the
little rolling-table that held his supply of liquor, selecting vermouth,
gin, and absinthe for a proper stimulant.
Geraldine Burke, usher at Keith's, had been an amusement of several
months. She demanded so little that he liked her, for since a lamentable
affair with a débutante the preceding summer, when he had discovered
that after half a dozen kisses a proposal was expected, he had been wary
of girls of his own class. It was only too easy to turn a critical eye
on their imperfections: some physical harshness or a general lack of
personal delicacy--but a girl who was usher at Keith's was approached
with a different attitude. One could tolerate qualities in an intimate
valet that would be unforgivable in a mere acquaintance on one's
Geraldine, curled up at the foot of the lounge, considered him with
narrow slanting eyes.
"You drink all the time, don't you?" she said suddenly.
"Why, I suppose so," replied Anthony in some surprise. "Don't you?"
"Nope. I go on parties sometimes--you know, about once a week, but I
only take two or three drinks. You and your friends keep on drinking all
the time. I should think you'd ruin your health."
Anthony was somewhat touched.
"Why, aren't you sweet to worry about me!"
"Well, I do."
"I don't drink so very much," he declared. "Last month I didn't touch a
drop for three weeks. And I only get really tight about once a week."
"But you have something to drink every day and you're only twenty-five.
Haven't you any ambition? Think what you'll be at forty?"
"I sincerely trust that I won't live that long."
She clicked her tongue with her teeth.
"You cra-azy!" she said as he mixed another cocktail--and then: "Are you
any relation to Adam Patch?"
"Yes, he's my grandfather."
"Really?" She was obviously thrilled.
"That's funny. My daddy used to work for him."
"He's a queer old man."
"Is he nice?" she demanded.
"Well, in private life he's seldom unnecessarily disagreeable."
"Tell us about him."
"Why," Anthony considered "--he's all shrunken up and he's got the
remains of some gray hair that always looks as though the wind were in
it. He's very moral."
"He's done a lot of good," said Geraldine with intense gravity.
"Rot!" scoffed Anthony. "He's a pious ass--a chickenbrain."
Her mind left the subject and flitted on.
"Why don't you live with him?"
"Why don't I board in a Methodist parsonage?"
Again she made a little clicking sound to express disapproval. Anthony
thought how moral was this little waif at heart--how completely moral
she would still be after the inevitable wave came that would wash her
off the sands of respectability.
"Do you hate him?"
"I wonder. I never liked him. You never like people who do things for
"Does he hate you?"
"My dear Geraldine," protested Anthony, frowning humorously, "do have
another cocktail. I annoy him. If I smoke a cigarette he comes into the
room sniffing. He's a prig, a bore, and something of a hypocrite. I
probably wouldn't be telling you this if I hadn't had a few drinks, but
I don't suppose it matters."
Geraldine was persistently interested. She held her glass, untasted,
between finger and thumb and regarded him with eyes in which there was a
touch of awe.
"How do you mean a hypocrite?"
"Well," said Anthony impatiently, "maybe he's not. But he doesn't like
the things that I like, and so, as far as I'm concerned, he's
"Hm." Her curiosity seemed, at length, satisfied. She sank back into the
sofa and sipped her cocktail.
"You're a funny one," she commented thoughtfully. "Does everybody want
to marry you because your grandfather is rich?"
"They don't--but I shouldn't blame them if they did. Still, you see, I
never intend to marry."
She scorned this.
"You'll fall in love someday. Oh, you will--I know." She nodded wisely.
"It'd be idiotic to be overconfident. That's what ruined the Chevalier
"Who was he?"
"A creature of my splendid mind. He's my one creation, the Chevalier."
"Cra-a-azy!" she murmured pleasantly, using the clumsy rope ladder with
which she bridged all gaps and climbed after her mental superiors.
Subconsciously she felt that it eliminated distances and brought the
person whose imagination had eluded her back within range.
"Oh, no!" objected Anthony, "oh, no, Geraldine. You mustn't play the
alienist upon the Chevalier. If you feel yourself unable to understand
him I won't bring him in. Besides, I should feel a certain uneasiness
because of his regrettable reputation."
"I guess I can understand anything that's got any sense to it," answered
Geraldine a bit testily.
"In that case there are various episodes in the life of the Chevalier
which might prove diverting."
"It was his untimely end that caused me to think of him and made him
apropos in the conversation. I hate to introduce him end foremost, but
it seems inevitable that the Chevalier must back into your life."
"Well, what about him? Did he die?"
"He did! In this manner. He was an Irishman, Geraldine, a semi-fictional
Irishman--the wild sort with a genteel brogue and 'reddish hair.' He was
exiled from Erin in the late days of chivalry and, of course, crossed
over to France. Now the Chevalier O'Keefe, Geraldine, had, like me, one
weakness. He was enormously susceptible to all sorts and conditions of
women. Besides being a sentimentalist he was a romantic, a vain fellow,
a man of wild passions, a little blind in one eye and almost stone-blind
in the other. Now a male roaming the world in this condition is as
helpless as a lion without teeth, and in consequence the Chevalier was
made utterly miserable for twenty years by a series of women who hated
him, used him, bored him, aggravated him, sickened him, spent his money,
made a fool of him--in brief, as the world has it, loved him.
"This was bad, Geraldine, and as the Chevalier, save for this one
weakness, this exceeding susceptibility, was a man of penetration, he
decided that he would rescue himself once and for all from these drains
upon him. With this purpose he went to a very famous monastery in
Champagne called--well, anachronistically known as St. Voltaire's. It
was the rule at St. Voltaire's that no monk could descend to the ground
story of the monastery so long as he lived, but should exist engaged in
prayer and contemplation in one of the four towers, which were called
after the four commandments of the monastery rule: Poverty, Chastity,
Obedience, and Silence.
"When the day came that was to witness the Chevalier's farewell to the
world he was utterly happy. He gave all his Greek books to his landlady,
and his sword he sent in a golden sheath to the King of France, and all
his mementos of Ireland he gave to the young Huguenot who sold fish in
the street where he lived.
"Then he rode out to St. Voltaire's, slew his horse at the door, and
presented the carcass to the monastery cook.
"At five o'clock that night he felt, for the first time, free--forever
free from sex. No woman could enter the monastery; no monk could descend
below the second story. So as he climbed the winding stair that led to
his cell at the very top of the Tower of Chastity he paused for a moment
by an open window which looked down fifty feet on to a road below. It
was all so beautiful, he thought, this world that he was leaving, the
golden shower of sun beating down upon the long fields, the spray of
trees in the distance, the vineyards, quiet and green, freshening wide
miles before him. He leaned his elbows on the window casement and gazed
at the winding road.
"Now, as it happened, Thérèse, a peasant girl of sixteen from a
neighboring village, was at that moment passing along this same road
that ran in front of the monastery. Five minutes before, the little
piece of ribbon which held up the stocking on her pretty left leg had
worn through and broken. Being a girl of rare modesty she had thought to
wait until she arrived home before repairing it, but it had bothered her
to such an extent that she felt she could endure it no longer. So, as
she passed the Tower of Chastity, she stopped and with a pretty gesture
lifted her skirt--as little as possible, be it said to her credit--to
adjust her garter.
"Up in the tower the newest arrival in the ancient monastery of St.
Voltaire, as though pulled forward by a gigantic and irresistible hand,
leaned from the window. Further he leaned and further until suddenly one
of the stones loosened under his weight, broke from its cement with a
soft powdery sound--and, first headlong, then head over heels, finally
in a vast and impressive revolution tumbled the Chevalier O'Keefe, bound
for the hard earth and eternal damnation.
"Thérèse was so much upset by the occurrence that she ran all the way
home and for ten years spent an hour a day in secret prayer for the soul
of the monk whose neck and vows were simultaneously broken on that
unfortunate Sunday afternoon.
"And the Chevalier O'Keefe, being suspected of suicide, was not buried
in consecrated ground, but tumbled into a field near by, where he
doubtless improved the quality of the soil for many years afterward.
Such was the untimely end of a very brave and gallant gentleman. What do
you think, Geraldine?"
But Geraldine, lost long before, could only smile roguishly, wave her
first finger at him, and repeat her bridge-all, her explain-all:
"Crazy!" she said, "you cra-a-azy!"
His thin face was kindly, she thought, and his eyes quite gentle. She
liked him because he was arrogant without being conceited, and because,
unlike the men she met about the theatre, he had a horror of being
conspicuous. What an odd, pointless story! But she had enjoyed the part
about the stocking!
After the fifth cocktail he kissed her, and between laughter and
bantering caresses and a half-stifled flare of passion they passed an
hour. At four-thirty she claimed an engagement, and going into the
bathroom she rearranged her hair. Refusing to let him order her a taxi
she stood for a moment in the doorway.
"You _will_ get married," she was insisting, "you wait and see."
Anthony was playing with an ancient tennis ball, and he bounced it
carefully on the floor several times before he answered with a soupçon
"You're a little idiot, Geraldine."
She smiled provokingly.
"Oh, I am, am I? Want to bet?"
"That'd be silly too."
"Oh, it would, would it? Well, I'll just bet you'll marry somebody
inside of a year."
Anthony bounced the tennis ball very hard. This was one of his handsome
days, she thought; a sort of intensity had displaced the melancholy in
his dark eyes.
"Geraldine," he said, at length, "in the first place I have no one I
want to marry; in the second place I haven't enough money to support two
people; in the third place I am entirely opposed to marriage for people
of my type; in the fourth place I have a strong distaste for even the
abstract consideration of it."
But Geraldine only narrowed her eyes knowingly, made her clicking sound,
and said she must be going. It was late.
"Call me up soon," she reminded him as he kissed her goodbye, "you
haven't for three weeks, you know."
"I will," he promised fervently.
He shut the door and coming back into the room stood for a moment lost
in thought with the tennis ball still clasped in his hand. There was one
of his lonelinesses coming, one of those times when he walked the
streets or sat, aimless and depressed, biting a pencil at his desk. It
was a self-absorption with no comfort, a demand for expression with no
outlet, a sense of time rushing by, ceaselessly and wastefully--assuaged
only by that conviction that there was nothing to waste, because all
efforts and attainments were equally valueless.
He thought with emotion--aloud, ejaculative, for he was hurt and
"No _idea_ of getting married, by _God_!"
Of a sudden he hurled the tennis ball violently across the room, where
it barely missed the lamp, and, rebounding here and there for a moment,
lay still upon the floor.
SIGNLIGHT AND MOONLIGHT
For her dinner Gloria had taken a table in the Cascades at the Biltmore,
and when the men met in the hall outside a little after eight, "that
person Bloeckman" was the target of six masculine eyes. He was a
stoutening, ruddy Jew of about thirty-five, with an expressive face
under smooth sandy hair--and, no doubt, in most business gatherings his
personality would have been considered ingratiating. He sauntered up to
the three younger men, who stood in a group smoking as they waited for
their hostess, and introduced himself with a little too evident
assurance--nevertheless it is to be doubted whether he received the
intended impression of faint and ironic chill: there was no hint of
understanding in his manner.
"You related to Adam J. Patch?" he inquired of Anthony, emitting two
slender strings of smoke from nostrils overwide.
Anthony admitted it with the ghost of a smile.
"He's a fine man," pronounced Bloeckman profoundly. "He's a fine example
of an American."
"Yes," agreed Anthony, "he certainly is."
--I detest these underdone men, he thought coldly. Boiled looking! Ought
to be shoved back in the oven; just one more minute would do it.
Bloeckman squinted at his watch.
"Time these girls were showing up ..."
--Anthony waited breathlessly; it came--
"... but then," with a widening smile, "you know how women are."
The three young men nodded; Bloeckman looked casually about him, his
eyes resting critically on the ceiling and then passing lower. His
expression combined that of a Middle Western farmer appraising his wheat
crop and that of an actor wondering whether he is observed--the public
manner of all good Americans. As he finished his survey he turned back
quickly to the reticent trio, determined to strike to their very
heart and core.
"You college men? ... Harvard, eh. I see the Princeton boys beat you
fellows in hockey."
Unfortunate man. He had drawn another blank. They had been three years
out and heeded only the big football games. Whether, after the failure
of this sally, Mr. Bloeckman would have perceived himself to be in a
cynical atmosphere is problematical, for--
Gloria arrived. Muriel arrived. Rachael arrived. After a hurried "Hello,
people!" uttered by Gloria and echoed by the other two, the three swept
by into the dressing room.
A moment later Muriel appeared in a state of elaborate undress and
_crept_ toward them. She was in her element: her ebony hair was slicked
straight back on her head; her eyes were artificially darkened; she
reeked of insistent perfume. She was got up to the best of her ability
as a siren, more popularly a "vamp"--a picker up and thrower away of
men, an unscrupulous and fundamentally unmoved toyer with affections.
Something in the exhaustiveness of her attempt fascinated Maury at first
sight--a woman with wide hips affecting a panther-like litheness! As
they waited the extra three minutes for Gloria, and, by polite
assumption, for Rachael, he was unable to take his eyes from her. She
would turn her head away, lowering her eyelashes and biting her nether
lip in an amazing exhibition of coyness. She would rest her hands on her
hips and sway from side to side in tune to the music, saying:
"Did you ever hear such perfect ragtime? I just can't make my shoulders
behave when I hear that."
Mr. Bloeckman clapped his hands gallantly.
"You ought to be on the stage."
"I'd like to be!" cried Muriel; "will you back me?"
"I sure will."
With becoming modesty Muriel ceased her motions and turned to Maury,
asking what he had "seen" this year. He interpreted this as referring to
the dramatic world, and they had a gay and exhilarating exchange of
titles, after this manner:
MURIEL: Have you seen "Peg o' My Heart"?
MAURY: No, I haven't.
MURIEL: (_Eagerly_) It's wonderful! You want to see it.
MAURY: Have you seen "Omar, the Tentmaker"?
MURIEL: No, but I hear it's wonderful. I'm very anxious to see it. Have
you seen "Fair and Warmer"?
MAURY: (_Hopefully_) Yes.
MURIEL: I don't think it's very good. It's trashy.
MAURY: (_Faintly_) Yes, that's true.
MURIEL: But I went to "Within the Law" last night and I thought it was
fine. Have you seen "The Little Cafe"?...
This continued until they ran out of plays. Dick, meanwhile, turned to
Mr. Bloeckman, determined to extract what gold he could from this
"I hear all the new novels are sold to the moving pictures as soon as
they come out."
"That's true. Of course the main thing in a moving picture is a strong
"Yes, I suppose so."
"So many novels are all full of talk and psychology. Of course those
aren't as valuable to us. It's impossible to make much of that
interesting on the screen."
"You want plots first," said Richard brilliantly.
"Of course. Plots first--" He paused, shifted his gaze. His pause
spread, included the others with all the authority of a warning finger.
Gloria followed by Rachael was coming out of the dressing room.
Among other things it developed during dinner that Joseph Bloeckman
never danced, but spent the music time watching the others with the
bored tolerance of an elder among children. He was a dignified man and a
proud one. Born in Munich he had begun his American career as a peanut
vender with a travelling circus. At eighteen he was a side show
ballyhoo; later, the manager of the side show, and, soon after, the
proprietor of a second-class vaudeville house. Just when the moving
picture had passed out of the stage of a curiosity and become a
promising industry he was an ambitious young man of twenty-six with some
money to invest, nagging financial ambitions and a good working
knowledge of the popular show business. That had been nine years before.
The moving picture industry had borne him up with it where it threw off
dozens of men with more financial ability, more imagination, and more
practical ideas...and now he sat here and contemplated the immortal
Gloria for whom young Stuart Holcome had gone from New York to
Pasadena--watched her, and knew that presently she would cease dancing
and come back to sit on his left hand.
He hoped she would hurry. The oysters had been standing some minutes.
Meanwhile Anthony, who had been placed on Gloria's left hand, was
dancing with her, always in a certain fourth of the floor. This, had
there been stags, would have been a delicate tribute to the girl,
meaning "Damn you, don't cut in!" It was very consciously intimate.
"Well," he began, looking down at her, "you look mighty sweet to-night."
She met his eyes over the horizontal half foot that separated them.
"In fact you're uncomfortably beautiful," he added. There was no smile
"And you're very charming."
"Isn't this nice?" he laughed. "We actually approve of each other."
"Don't you, usually?" She had caught quickly at his remark, as she
always did at any unexplained allusion to herself, however faint.
He lowered his voice, and when he spoke there was in it no more than a
wisp of badinage.
"Does a priest approve the Pope?"
"I don't know--but that's probably the vaguest compliment I ever
"Perhaps I can muster a few bromides."
"Well, I wouldn't have you strain yourself. Look at Muriel! Right here
next to us."
He glanced over his shoulder. Muriel was resting her brilliant cheek
against the lapel of Maury Noble's dinner coat and her powdered left arm
was apparently twisted around his head. One was impelled to wonder why
she failed to seize the nape of his neck with her hand. Her eyes, turned
ceiling-ward, rolled largely back and forth; her hips swayed, and as she
danced she kept up a constant low singing. This at first seemed to be a
translation of the song into some foreign tongue but became eventually
apparent as an attempt to fill out the metre of the song with the only
words she knew--the words of the title--
"He's a rag-picker,
A rag-time picking man,
Rag-picking, picking, pick, pick,
Rag-pick, pick, pick."
--and so on, into phrases still more strange and barbaric. When she
caught the amused glances of Anthony and Gloria she acknowledged them
only with a faint smile and a half-closing of her eyes, to indicate that
the music entering into her soul had put her into an ecstatic and
exceedingly seductive trance.
The music ended and they returned to their table, whose solitary but
dignified occupant arose and tendered each of them a smile so
ingratiating that it was as if he were shaking their hands and
congratulating them on a brilliant performance.
"Blockhead never will dance! I think he has a wooden leg," remarked
Gloria to the table at large. The three young men started and the
gentleman referred to winced perceptibly.
This was the one rough spot in the course of Bloeckman's acquaintance
with Gloria. She relentlessly punned on his name. First it had been
"Block-house." lately, the more invidious "Blockhead." He had requested
with a strong undertone of irony that she use his first name, and this
she had done obediently several times--then slipping, helpless,
repentant but dissolved in laughter, back into "Blockhead."
It was a very sad and thoughtless thing.
"I'm afraid Mr. Bloeckman thinks we're a frivolous crowd," sighed
Muriel, waving a balanced oyster in his direction.
"He has that air," murmured Rachael. Anthony tried to remember whether
she had said anything before. He thought not. It was her initial remark.
Mr. Bloeckman suddenly cleared his throat and said in a loud, distinct
"On the contrary. When a man speaks he's merely tradition. He has at
best a few thousand years back of him. But woman, why, she is the
miraculous mouthpiece of posterity."
In the stunned pause that followed this astounding remark, Anthony
choked suddenly on an oyster and hurried his napkin to his face. Rachael
and Muriel raised a mild if somewhat surprised laugh, in which Dick and
Maury joined, both of them red in the face and restraining
uproariousness with the most apparent difficulty.
"--My God!" thought Anthony. "It's a subtitle from one of his movies.
The man's memorized it!"
Gloria alone made no sound. She fixed Mr. Bloeckman with a glance of
"Well, for the love of Heaven! Where on earth did you dig that up?"
Bloeckman looked at her uncertainly, not sure of her intention. But in a
moment he recovered his poise and assumed the bland and consciously
tolerant smile of an intellectual among spoiled and callow youth.
The soup came up from the kitchen--but simultaneously the orchestra
leader came up from the bar, where he had absorbed the tone color
inherent in a seidel of beer. So the soup was left to cool during the
delivery of a ballad entitled "Everything's at Home Except Your Wife."
Then the champagne--and the party assumed more amusing proportions. The
men, except Richard Caramel, drank freely; Gloria and Muriel sipped a
glass apiece; Rachael Jerryl took none. They sat out the waltzes but
danced to everything else--all except Gloria, who seemed to tire after a
while and preferred to sit smoking at the table, her eyes now lazy, now
eager, according to whether she listened to Bloeckman or watched a
pretty woman among the dancers. Several times Anthony wondered what
Bloeckman was telling her. He was chewing a cigar back and forth in his
mouth, and had expanded after dinner to the extent of violent gestures.
Ten o'clock found Gloria and Anthony beginning a dance. Just as they
were out of ear-shot of the table she said in a low voice:
"Dance over by the door. I want to go down to the drug-store."
Obediently Anthony guided her through the crowd in the designated
direction; in the hall she left him for a moment, to reappear with a
cloak over her arm.
"I want some gum-drops," she said, humorously apologetic; "you can't
guess what for this time. It's just that I want to bite my finger-nails,
and I will if I don't get some gum-drops." She sighed, and resumed as
they stepped into the empty elevator: "I've been biting 'em all day. A
bit nervous, you see. Excuse the pun. It was unintentional--the words
just arranged themselves. Gloria Gilbert, the female wag."
Reaching the ground floor they naïvely avoided the hotel candy counter,
descended the wide front staircase, and walking through several
corridors found a drug-store in the Grand Central Station. After an
intense examination of the perfume counter she made her purchase. Then
on some mutual unmentioned impulse they strolled, arm in arm, not in the
direction from which they had come, but out into Forty-third Street.
The night was alive with thaw; it was so nearly warm that a breeze
drifting low along the sidewalk brought to Anthony a vision of an
unhoped-for hyacinthine spring. Above in the blue oblong of sky, around
them in the caress of the drifting air, the illusion of a new season
carried relief from the stiff and breathed-over atmosphere they had
left, and for a hushed moment the traffic sounds and the murmur of water
flowing in the gutters seemed an illusive and rarefied prolongation of
that music to which they had lately danced. When Anthony spoke it was
with surety that his words came from something breathless and desirous
that the night had conceived in their two hearts.
"Let's take a taxi and ride around a bit!" he suggested, without looking
Oh, Gloria, Gloria!
A cab yawned at the curb. As it moved off like a boat on a labyrinthine
ocean and lost itself among the inchoate night masses of the great
buildings, among the now stilled, now strident, cries and clangings,
Anthony put his arm around the girl, drew her over to him and kissed her
damp, childish mouth.
She was silent. She turned her face up to him, pale under the wisps and
patches of light that trailed in like moonshine through a foliage. Her
eyes were gleaming ripples in the white lake of her face; the shadows of
her hair bordered the brow with a persuasive unintimate dusk. No love
was there, surely; nor the imprint of any love. Her beauty was cool as
this damp breeze, as the moist softness of her own lips.
"You're such a swan in this light," he whispered after a moment. There
were silences as murmurous as sound. There were pauses that seemed about
to shatter and were only to be snatched back to oblivion by the
tightening of his arms about her and the sense that she was resting
there as a caught, gossamer feather, drifted in out of the dark. Anthony
laughed, noiselessly and exultantly, turning his face up and away from
her, half in an overpowering rush of triumph, half lest her sight of him
should spoil the splendid immobility of her expression. Such a kiss--it
was a flower held against the face, never to be described, scarcely to
be remembered; as though her beauty were giving off emanations of itself
which settled transiently and already dissolving upon his heart.
... The buildings fell away in melted shadows; this was the Park now,
and after a long while the great white ghost of the Metropolitan Museum
moved majestically past, echoing sonorously to the rush of the cab.
"Why, Gloria! Why, Gloria!"
Her eyes appeared to regard him out of many thousand years: all emotion
she might have felt, all words she might have uttered, would have seemed
inadequate beside the adequacy of her silence, ineloquent against the
eloquence of her beauty--and of her body, close to him, slender
"Tell him to turn around," she murmured, "and drive pretty fast going
Up in the supper room the air was hot. The table, littered with napkins
and ash-trays, was old and stale. It was between dances as they entered,
and Muriel Kane looked up with roguishness extraordinary.
"Well, where have _you_ been?"
"To call up mother," answered Gloria coolly. "I promised her I would.
Did we miss a dance?"
Then followed an incident that though slight in itself Anthony had cause
to reflect on many years afterward. Joseph Bloeckman, leaning well back
in his chair, fixed him with a peculiar glance, in which several
emotions were curiously and inextricably mingled. He did not greet
Gloria except by rising, and he immediately resumed a conversation with
Richard Caramel about the influence of literature on the
The stark and unexpected miracle of a night fades out with the lingering
death of the last stars and the premature birth of the first newsboys.
The flame retreats to some remote and platonic fire; the white heat has
gone from the iron and the glow from the coal.
Along the shelves of Anthony's library, filling a wall amply, crept a
chill and insolent pencil of sunlight touching with frigid disapproval
Thérèse of France and Ann the Superwoman, Jenny of the Orient Ballet and
Zuleika the Conjurer--and Hoosier Cora--then down a shelf and into the
years, resting pityingly on the over-invoked shades of Helen, Thaïs,
Salome, and Cleopatra.
Anthony, shaved and bathed, sat in his most deeply cushioned chair and
watched it until at the steady rising of the sun it lay glinting for a
moment on the silk ends of the rug--and went out.
It was ten o'clock. The Sunday Times, scattered about his feet,
proclaimed by rotogravure and editorial, by social revelation and
sporting sheet, that the world had been tremendously engrossed during
the past week in the business of moving toward some splendid if somewhat
indeterminate goal. For his part Anthony had been once to his
grandfather's, twice to his broker's, and three times to his
tailor's--and in the last hour of the week's last day he had kissed a
very beautiful and charming girl.
When he reached home his imagination had been teeming with high pitched,
unfamiliar dreams. There was suddenly no question on his mind, no
eternal problem for a solution and resolution. He had experienced an
emotion that was neither mental nor physical, nor merely a mixture of
the two, and the love of life absorbed him for the present to the
exclusion of all else. He was content to let the experiment remain
isolated and unique. Almost impersonally he was convinced that no woman
he had ever met compared in any way with Gloria. She was deeply herself;
she was immeasurably sincere--of these things he was certain. Beside her
the two dozen schoolgirls and debutantes, young married women and waifs
and strays whom he had known were so many females, in the word's most
contemptuous sense, breeders and bearers, exuding still that faintly
odorous atmosphere of the cave and the nursery.
So far as he could see, she had neither submitted to any will of his nor
caressed his vanity--except as her pleasure in his company was a caress.
Indeed he had no reason for thinking she had given him aught that she
did not give to others. This was as it should be. The idea of an
entanglement growing out of the evening was as remote as it would have
been repugnant. And she had disclaimed and buried the incident with a
decisive untruth. Here were two young people with fancy enough to
distinguish a game from its reality--who by the very casualness with
which they met and passed on would proclaim themselves unharmed.
Having decided this he went to the phone and called up the Plaza Hotel.
Gloria was out. Her mother knew neither where she had gone nor when she
It was somehow at this point that the first wrongness in the case
asserted itself. There was an element of callousness, almost of
indecency, in Gloria's absence from home. He suspected that by going out
she had intrigued him into a disadvantage. Returning she would find his
name, and smile. Most discreetly! He should have waited a few hours in
order to drive home the utter inconsequence with which he regarded the
incident. What an asinine blunder! She would think he considered himself
particularly favored. She would think he was reacting with the most
inept intimacy to a quite trivial episode.
He remembered that during the previous month his janitor, to whom he had
delivered a rather muddled lecture on the "brother-hoove man," had come
up next day and, on the basis of what had happened the night before,
seated himself in the window seat for a cordial and chatty half-hour.
Anthony wondered in horror if Gloria would regard him as he had regarded
that man. Him--Anthony Patch! Horror!
It never occurred to him that he was a passive thing, acted upon by an
influence above and beyond Gloria, that he was merely the sensitive
plate on which the photograph was made. Some gargantuan photographer had
focussed the camera on Gloria and _snap_!--the poor plate could but
develop, confined like all things to its nature.
But Anthony, lying upon his couch and staring at the orange lamp, passed
his thin fingers incessantly through his dark hair and made new symbols
for the hours. She was in a shop now, it seemed, moving lithely among
the velvets and the furs, her own dress making, as she walked, a
debonair rustle in that world of silken rustles and cool soprano
laughter and scents of many slain but living flowers. The Minnies and
Pearls and jewels and jennies would gather round her like courtiers,
bearing wispy frailties of Georgette crepe, delicate chiffon to echo her
cheeks in faint pastel, milky lace to rest in pale disarray against her
neck--damask was used but to cover priests and divans in these days, and
cloth of Samarand was remembered only by the romantic poets.
She would go elsewhere after a while, tilting her head a hundred ways
under a hundred bonnets, seeking in vain for mock cherries to match her
lips or plumes that were graceful as her own supple body.
Noon would come--she would hurry along Fifth Avenue, a Nordic Ganymede,
her fur coat swinging fashionably with her steps, her cheeks redder by a
stroke of the wind's brush, her breath a delightful mist upon the
bracing air--and the doors of the Ritz would revolve, the crowd would
divide, fifty masculine eyes would start, stare, as she gave back
forgotten dreams to the husbands of many obese and comic women.
One o'clock. With her fork she would tantalize the heart of an adoring
artichoke, while her escort served himself up in the thick, dripping
sentences of an enraptured man.
Four o'clock: her little feet moving to melody, her face distinct in the
crowd, her partner happy as a petted puppy and mad as the immemorial
hatter.... Then--then night would come drifting down and perhaps another
damp. The signs would spill their light into the street. Who knew? No
wiser than he, they haply sought to recapture that picture done in cream
and shadow they had seen on the hushed Avenue the night before. And they
might, ah, they might! A thousand taxis would yawn at a thousand
corners, and only to him was that kiss forever lost and done. In a
thousand guises Thaïs would hail a cab and turn up her face for loving.
And her pallor would be virginal and lovely, and her kiss chaste as
He sprang excitedly to his feet. How inappropriate that she should be
out! He had realized at last what he wanted--to kiss her again, to find
rest in her great immobility. She was the end of all restlessness, all
Anthony dressed and went out, as he should have done long before, and
down to Richard Caramel's room to hear the last revision of the last
chapter of "The Demon Lover." He did not call Gloria again until six. He
did not find her in until eight and--oh, climax of anticlimaxes!--she
could give him no engagement until Tuesday afternoon. A broken piece of
gutta-percha clattered to the floor as he banged up the phone.
Tuesday was freezing cold. He called at a bleak two o'clock and as they
shook hands he wondered confusedly whether he had ever kissed her; it
was almost unbelievable--he seriously doubted if she remembered it.
"I called you four times on Sunday," he told her.
There was surprise in her voice and interest in her expression. Silently
he cursed himself for having told her. He might have known her pride did
not deal in such petty triumphs. Even then he had not guessed at the
truth--that never having had to worry about men she had seldom used the
wary subterfuges, the playings out and haulings in, that were the stock
in trade of her sisterhood. When she liked a man, that was trick enough.
Did she think she loved him--there was an ultimate and fatal thrust. Her
charm endlessly preserved itself.
"I was anxious to see you," he said simply. "I want to talk to you--I
mean really talk, somewhere where we can be alone. May I?"
"What do you mean?"
He swallowed a sudden lump of panic. He felt that she knew what he
"I mean, not at a tea table," he said.
"Well, all right, but not to-day. I want to get some exercise. Let's
It was bitter and raw. All the evil hate in the mad heart of February
was wrought into the forlorn and icy wind that cut its way cruelly
across Central Park and down along Fifth Avenue. It was almost
impossible to talk, and discomfort made him distracted, so much so that
he turned at Sixty-first Street to find that she was no longer beside
him. He looked around. She was forty feet in the rear standing
motionless, her face half hidden in her fur coat collar, moved either by
anger or laughter--he could not determine which. He started back.
"Don't let me interrupt your walk!" she called.
"I'm mighty sorry," he answered in confusion. "Did I go too fast?"
"I'm cold," she announced. "I want to go home. And you walk too fast."
"I'm very sorry."
Side by side they started for the Plaza. He wished he could see her
"Men don't usually get so absorbed in themselves when they're with me."
"That's very interesting."
"It _is_ rather too cold to walk," he said, briskly, to hide his
She made no answer and he wondered if she would dismiss him at the hotel
entrance. She walked in without speaking, however, and to the elevator,
throwing him a single remark as she entered it:
"You'd better come up."
He hesitated for the fraction of a moment.
"Perhaps I'd better call some other time."
"Just as you say." Her words were murmured as an aside. The main concern
of life was the adjusting of some stray wisps of hair in the elevator
mirror. Her cheeks were brilliant, her eyes sparkled--she had never
seemed so lovely, so exquisitely to be desired.
Despising himself, he found that he was walking down the tenth-floor
corridor a subservient foot behind her; was in the sitting room while
she disappeared to shed her furs. Something had gone wrong--in his own
eyes he had lost a shred of dignity; in an unpremeditated yet
significant encounter he had been completely defeated.
However, by the time she reappeared in the sitting-room he had explained
himself to himself with sophistic satisfaction. After all he had done
the strongest thing, he thought. He had wanted to come up, he had come.
Yet what happened later on that afternoon must be traced to the
indignity he had experienced in the elevator; the girl was worrying him
intolerably, so much so that when she came out he involuntarily drifted
"Who's this Bloeckman, Gloria?"
"A business friend of father's."
"Odd sort of fellow!"
"He doesn't like you either," she said with a sudden smile.
"I'm flattered at his notice. He evidently considers me a--" He broke
off with "Is he in love with you?"
"I don't know."
"The deuce you don't," he insisted. "Of course he is. I remember the
look he gave me when we got back to the table. He'd probably have had me
quietly assaulted by a delegation of movie supes if you hadn't invented
that phone call."
"He didn't mind. I told him afterward what really happened."
"You told him!"
"He asked me."
"I don't like that very well," he remonstrated.
She laughed again.
"Oh, you don't?"
"What business is it of his?"
"None. That's why I told him."
Anthony in a turmoil bit savagely at his mouth.
"Why should I lie?" she demanded directly. "I'm not ashamed of anything
I do. It happened to interest him to know that I kissed you, and I