Part 4 out of 8
instance. The asses who give money to preserve things have spoiled that
too. Sleepy Hollow's gone; Washington Irving's dead and his books are
rotting in our estimation year by year--then let the graveyard rot too,
as it should, as all things should. Trying to preserve a century by
keeping its relics up to date is like keeping a dying man alive by
"So you think that just as a time goes to pieces its houses ought to go
"Of course! Would you value your Keats letter if the signature was
traced over to make it last longer? It's just because I love the past
that I want this house to look back on its glamourous moment of youth
and beauty, and I want its stairs to creak as if to the footsteps of
women with hoop skirts and men in boots and spurs. But they've made it
into a blondined, rouged-up old woman of sixty. It hasn't any right to
look so prosperous. It might care enough for Lee to drop a brick now and
then. How many of these--these _animals_"--she waved her hand
around--"get anything from this, for all the histories and guide-books
and restorations in existence? How many of them who think that, at best,
appreciation is talking in undertones and walking on tiptoes would even
come here if it was any trouble? I want it to smell of magnolias instead
of peanuts and I want my shoes to crunch on the same gravel that Lee's
boots crunched on. There's no beauty without poignancy and there's no
poignancy without the feeling that it's going, men, names, books,
houses--bound for dust--mortal--"
A small boy appeared beside them and, swinging a handful of
banana-peels, flung them valiantly in the direction of the Potomac.
Simultaneously with the fall of Liège, Anthony and Gloria arrived in New
York. In retrospect the six weeks seemed miraculously happy. They had
found to a great extent, as most young couples find in some measure,
that they possessed in common many fixed ideas and curiosities and odd
quirks of mind; they were essentially companionable.
But it had been a struggle to keep many of their conversations on the
level of discussions. Arguments were fatal to Gloria's disposition. She
had all her life been associated either with her mental inferiors or
with men who, under the almost hostile intimidation of her beauty, had
not dared to contradict her; naturally, then, it irritated her when
Anthony emerged from the state in which her pronouncements were an
infallible and ultimate decision.
He failed to realize, at first, that this was the result partly of her
"female" education and partly of her beauty, and he was inclined to
include her with her entire sex as curiously and definitely limited. It
maddened him to find she had no sense of justice. But he discovered
that, when a subject did interest her, her brain tired less quickly than
his. What he chiefly missed in her mind was the pedantic teleology--the
sense of order and accuracy, the sense of life as a mysteriously
correlated piece of patchwork, but he understood after a while that such
a quality in her would have been incongruous.
Of the things they possessed in common, greatest of all was their almost
uncanny pull at each other's hearts. The day they left the hotel in
Coronado she sat down on one of the beds while they were packing, and
began to weep bitterly.
"Dearest--" His arms were around her; he pulled her head down upon his
shoulder. "What is it, my own Gloria? Tell me."
"We're going away," she sobbed. "Oh, Anthony, it's sort of the first
place we've lived together. Our two little beds here--side by
side--they'll be always waiting for us, and we're never coming back to
'em any more."
She was tearing at his heart as she always could. Sentiment came over
him, rushed into his eyes.
"Gloria, why, we're going on to another room. And two other little beds.
We're going to be together all our lives."
Words flooded from her in a low husky voice.
"But it won't be--like our two beds--ever again. Everywhere we go and
move on and change, something's lost--something's left behind. You can't
ever quite repeat anything, and I've been so yours, here--"
He held her passionately near, discerning far beyond any criticism of
her sentiment, a wise grasping of the minute, if only an indulgence of
her desire to cry--Gloria the idler, caresser of her own dreams,
extracting poignancy from the memorable things of life and youth.
Later in the afternoon when he returned from the station with the
tickets he found her asleep on one of the beds, her arm curled about a
black object which he could not at first identify. Coming closer he
found it was one of his shoes, not a particularly new one, nor clean
one, but her face, tear-stained, was pressed against it, and he
understood her ancient and most honorable message. There was almost
ecstasy in waking her and seeing her smile at him, shy but well aware of
her own nicety of imagination.
With no appraisal of the worth or dross of these two things, it seemed
to Anthony that they lay somewhere near the heart of love.
THE GRAY HOUSE
It is in the twenties that the actual momentum of life begins to
slacken, and it is a simple soul indeed to whom as many things are
significant and meaningful at thirty as at ten years before. At thirty
an organ-grinder is a more or less moth-eaten man who grinds an
organ--and once he was an organ-grinder! The unmistakable stigma of
humanity touches all those impersonal and beautiful things that only
youth ever grasps in their impersonal glory. A brilliant ball, gay with
light romantic laughter, wears through its own silks and satins to show
the bare framework of a man-made thing--oh, that eternal hand!--a play,
most tragic and most divine, becomes merely a succession of speeches,
sweated over by the eternal plagiarist in the clammy hours and acted by
men subject to cramps, cowardice, and manly sentiment.
And this time with Gloria and Anthony, this first year of marriage, and
the gray house caught them in that stage when the organ-grinder was
slowly undergoing his inevitable metamorphosis. She was twenty-three; he
The gray house was, at first, of sheerly pastoral intent. They lived
impatiently in Anthony's apartment for the first fortnight after the
return from California, in a stifled atmosphere of open trunks, too many
callers, and the eternal laundry-bags. They discussed with their friends
the stupendous problem of their future. Dick and Maury would sit with
them agreeing solemnly, almost thoughtfully, as Anthony ran through his
list of what they "ought" to do, and where they "ought" to live.
"I'd like to take Gloria abroad," he complained, "except for this damn
war--and next to that I'd sort of like to have a place in the country,
somewhere near New York, of course, where I could write--or whatever I
decide to do."
"Isn't he cute?" she required of Maury. "'Whatever he decides to do!'
But what am _I_ going to do if he works? Maury, will you take me around
if Anthony works?"
"Anyway, I'm not going to work yet," said Anthony quickly.
It was vaguely understood between them that on some misty day he would
enter a sort of glorified diplomatic service and be envied by princes
and prime ministers for his beautiful wife.
"Well," said Gloria helplessly, "I'm sure I don't know. We talk and talk
and never get anywhere, and we ask all our friends and they just answer
the way we want 'em to. I wish somebody'd take care of us."
"Why don't you go out to--out to Greenwich or something?" suggested
"I'd like that," said Gloria, brightening. "Do you think we could get a
Dick shrugged his shoulders and Maury laughed.
"You two amuse me," he said. "Of all the unpractical people! As soon as
a place is mentioned you expect us to pull great piles of photographs
out of our pockets showing the different styles of architecture
available in bungalows."
"That's just what I don't want," wailed Gloria, "a hot stuffy bungalow,
with a lot of babies next door and their father cutting the grass in his
"For Heaven's sake, Gloria," interrupted Maury, "nobody wants to lock
you up in a bungalow. Who in God's name brought bungalows into the
conversation? But you'll never get a place anywhere unless you go out
and hunt for it."
"Go where? You say 'go out and hunt for it,' but where?"
With dignity Maury waved his hand paw-like about the room.
"Out anywhere. Out in the country. There're lots of places."
"Look here!" Richard Caramel brought his yellow eye rakishly into play.
"The trouble with you two is that you're all disorganized. Do you know
anything about New York State? Shut up, Anthony, I'm talking to Gloria."
"Well," she admitted finally, "I've been to two or three house parties
in Portchester and around in Connecticut--but, of course, that isn't in
New York State, is it? And neither is Morristown," she finished with
There was a shout of laughter.
"Oh, Lord!" cried Dick, "neither is Morristown!' No, and neither is
Santa Barbara, Gloria. Now listen. To begin with, unless you have a
fortune there's no use considering any place like Newport or
Southhampton or Tuxedo. They're out of the question."
They all agreed to this solemnly.
"And personally I hate New Jersey. Then, of course, there's upper New
York, above Tuxedo."
"Too cold," said Gloria briefly. "I was there once in an automobile."
"Well, it seems to me there're a lot of towns like Rye between New York
and Greenwich where you could buy a little gray house of some--"
Gloria leaped at the phrase triumphantly. For the first time since their
return East she knew what she wanted.
"Oh, _yes_!" she cried. "Oh, _yes_! that's it: a little gray house with
sort of white around and a whole lot of swamp maples just as brown and
gold as an October picture in a gallery. Where can we find one?"
"Unfortunately, I've mislaid my list of little gray houses with swamp
maples around them--but I'll try to find it. Meanwhile you take a piece
of paper and write down the names of seven possible towns. And every day
this week you take a trip to one of those towns."
"Oh, gosh!" protested Gloria, collapsing mentally, "why won't you do it
for us? I hate trains."
"Well, hire a car, and--"
"I'm tired of discussing it. Seems to me all we do is talk about where
"My exquisite wife wearies of thought," remarked Anthony ironically.
"She must have a tomato sandwich to stimulate her jaded nerves. Let's go
out to tea."
As the unfortunate upshot of this conversation, they took Dick's advice
literally, and two days later went out to Rye, where they wandered
around with an irritated real estate agent, like bewildered babes in the
wood. They were shown houses at a hundred a month which closely adjoined
other houses at a hundred a month; they were shown isolated houses to
which they invariably took violent dislikes, though they submitted
weakly to the agent's desire that they "look at that stove--some stove!"
and to a great shaking of doorposts and tapping of walls, intended
evidently to show that the house would not immediately collapse, no
matter how convincingly it gave that impression. They gazed through
windows into interiors furnished either "commercially" with slab-like
chairs and unyielding settees, or "home-like" with the melancholy
bric-à-brac of other summers--crossed tennis rackets, fit-form couches,
and depressing Gibson girls. With a feeling of guilt they looked at a
few really nice houses, aloof, dignified, and cool--at three hundred a
month. They went away from Rye thanking the real estate agent very
On the crowded train back to New York the seat behind was occupied by a
super-respirating Latin whose last few meals had obviously been composed
entirely of garlic. They reached the apartment gratefully, almost
hysterically, and Gloria rushed for a hot bath in the reproachless
bathroom. So far as the question of a future abode was concerned both of
them were incapacitated for a week.
The matter eventually worked itself out with unhoped-for romance.
Anthony ran into the living room one afternoon fairly radiating
"I've got it," he was exclaiming as though he had just caught a mouse.
"We'll get a car."
"Gee whiz! Haven't we got troubles enough taking care of ourselves?"
"Give me a second to explain, can't you? just let's leave our stuff with
Dick and just pile a couple of suitcases in our car, the one we're going
to buy--we'll have to have one in the country anyway--and just start out
in the direction of New Haven. You see, as we get out of commuting
distance from New York, the rents'll get cheaper, and as soon as we find
a house we want we'll just settle down."
By his frequent and soothing interpolation of the word "just" he aroused
her lethargic enthusiasm. Strutting violently about the room, he
simulated a dynamic and irresistible efficiency. "We'll buy a car
Life, limping after imagination's ten-league boots, saw them out of town
a week later in a cheap but sparkling new roadster, saw them through the
chaotic unintelligible Bronx, then over a wide murky district which
alternated cheerless blue-green wastes with suburbs of tremendous and
sordid activity. They left New York at eleven and it was well past a hot
and beatific noon when they moved rakishly through Pelham.
"These aren't towns," said Gloria scornfully, "these are just city
blocks plumped down coldly into waste acres. I imagine all the men here
have their mustaches stained from drinking their coffee too quickly in
"And play pinochle on the commuting trains."
"Don't be so literal. How should I know? But it sounds as though they
ought to play it."
"I like it. It sounds as if it were something where you sort of cracked
your knuckles or something.... Let me drive."
Anthony looked at her suspiciously.
"You swear you're a good driver?"
"Since I was fourteen."
He stopped the car cautiously at the side of the road and they changed
seats. Then with a horrible grinding noise the car was put in gear,
Gloria adding an accompaniment of laughter which seemed to Anthony
disquieting and in the worst possible taste.
"Here we go!" she yelled. "Whoo-oop!"
Their heads snapped back like marionettes on a single wire as the car
leaped ahead and curved retchingly about a standing milk-wagon, whose
driver stood up on his seat and bellowed after them. In the immemorial
tradition of the road Anthony retorted with a few brief epigrams as to
the grossness of the milk-delivering profession. He cut his remarks
short, however, and turned to Gloria with the growing conviction that he
had made a grave mistake in relinquishing control and that Gloria was a
driver of many eccentricities and of infinite carelessness.
"Remember now!" he warned her nervously, "the man said we oughtn't to go
over twenty miles an hour for the first five thousand miles."
She nodded briefly, but evidently intending to accomplish the
prohibitive distance as quickly as possible, slightly increased her
speed. A moment later he made another attempt.
"See that sign? Do you want to get us pinched?"
"Oh, for Heaven's sake," cried Gloria in exasperation, "you _always_
exaggerate things so!"
"Well, I don't want to get arrested."
"Who's arresting you? You're so persistent--just like you were about my
cough medicine last night."
"It was for your own good."
"Ha! I might as well be living with mama."
"What a thing to say to me!"
A standing policeman swerved into view, was hastily passed.
"See him?" demanded Anthony.
"Oh, you drive me crazy! He didn't arrest us, did he?"
"When he does it'll be too late," countered Anthony brilliantly.
Her reply was scornful, almost injured.
"Why, this old thing won't _go_ over thirty-five."
"It isn't old."
"It is in spirit."
That afternoon the car joined the laundry-bags and Gloria's appetite as
one of the trinity of contention. He warned her of railroad tracks; he
pointed out approaching automobiles; finally he insisted on taking the
wheel and a furious, insulted Gloria sat silently beside him between the
towns of Larchmont and Rye.
But it was due to this furious silence of hers that the gray house
materialized from its abstraction, for just beyond Rye he surrendered
gloomily to it and re-relinquished the wheel. Mutely he beseeched her
and Gloria, instantly cheered, vowed to be more careful. But because a
discourteous street-car persisted callously in remaining upon its track
Gloria ducked down a side-street--and thereafter that afternoon was
never able to find her way back to the Post Road. The street they
finally mistook for it lost its Post-Road aspect when it had gone five
miles from Cos Cob. Its macadam became gravel, then dirt--moreover, it
narrowed and developed a border of maple trees, through which filtered
the weltering sun, making its endless experiments with shadow designs
upon the long grass.
"We're lost now," complained Anthony.
"Read that sign!"
"Marietta--Five Miles. What's Marietta?"
"Never heard of it, but let's go on. We can't turn here and there's
probably a detour back to the Post Road."
The way became scarred with deepening ruts and insidious shoulders of
stone. Three farmhouses faced them momentarily, slid by. A town sprang
up in a cluster of dull roofs around a white tall steeple.
Then Gloria, hesitating between two approaches, and making her choice
too late, drove over a fire-hydrant and ripped the transmission
violently from the car.
It was dark when the real-estate agent of Marietta showed them the gray
house. They came upon it just west of the village, where it rested
against a sky that was a warm blue cloak buttoned with tiny stars. The
gray house had been there when women who kept cats were probably
witches, when Paul Revere made false teeth in Boston preparatory to
arousing the great commercial people, when our ancestors were gloriously
deserting Washington in droves. Since those days the house had been
bolstered up in a feeble corner, considerably repartitioned and newly
plastered inside, amplified by a kitchen and added to by a
side-porch--but, save for where some jovial oaf had roofed the new
kitchen with red tin, Colonial it defiantly remained.
"How did you happen to come to Marietta?" demanded the real-estate agent
in a tone that was first cousin to suspicion. He was showing them
through four spacious and airy bedrooms.
"We broke down," explained Gloria. "I drove over a fire-hydrant and we
had ourselves towed to the garage and then we saw your sign."
The man nodded, unable to follow such a sally of spontaneity. There was
something subtly immoral in doing anything without several months'
They signed a lease that night and, in the agent's car, returned
jubilantly to the somnolent and dilapidated Marietta Inn, which was too
broken for even the chance immoralities and consequent gaieties of a
country road-house. Half the night they lay awake planning the things
they were to do there. Anthony was going to work at an astounding pace
on his history and thus ingratiate himself with his cynical
grandfather.... When the car was repaired they would explore the country
and join the nearest "really nice" club, where Gloria would play golf
"or something" while Anthony wrote. This, of course, was Anthony's
idea--Gloria was sure she wanted but to read and dream and be fed tomato
sandwiches and lemonades by some angelic servant still in a shadowy
hinterland. Between paragraphs Anthony would come and kiss her as she
lay indolently in the hammock.... The hammock! a host of new dreams in
tune to its imagined rhythm, while the wind stirred it and waves of sun
undulated over the shadows of blown wheat, or the dusty road freckled
and darkened with quiet summer rain....
And guests--here they had a long argument, both of them trying to be
extraordinarily mature and far-sighted. Anthony claimed that they would
need people at least every other week-end "as a sort of change." This
provoked an involved and extremely sentimental conversation as to
whether Anthony did not consider Gloria change enough. Though he assured
her that he did, she insisted upon doubting him.... Eventually the
conversation assumed its eternal monotone: "What then? Oh, what'll we
"Well, we'll have a dog," suggested Anthony.
"I don't want one. I want a kitty." She went thoroughly and with great
enthusiasm into the history, habits, and tastes of a cat she had once
possessed. Anthony considered that it must have been a horrible
character with neither personal magnetism nor a loyal heart.
Later they slept, to wake an hour before dawn with the gray house
dancing in phantom glory before their dazzled eyes.
THE SOUL OF GLORIA
For that autumn the gray house welcomed them with a rush of sentiment
that falsified its cynical old age. True, there were the laundry-bags,
there was Gloria's appetite, there was Anthony's tendency to brood and
his imaginative "nervousness," but there were intervals also of an
unhoped-for serenity. Close together on the porch they would wait for
the moon to stream across the silver acres of farmland, jump a thick
wood and tumble waves of radiance at their feet. In such a moonlight
Gloria's face was of a pervading, reminiscent white, and with a modicum
of effort they would slip off the blinders of custom and each would find
in the other almost the quintessential romance of the vanished June.
One night while her head lay upon his heart and their cigarettes glowed
in swerving buttons of light through the dome of darkness over the bed,
she spoke for the first time and fragmentarily of the men who had hung
for brief moments on her beauty.
"Do you ever think of them?" he asked her.
"Only occasionally--when something happens that recalls a particular
"What do you remember--their kisses?"
"All sorts of things.... Men are different with women."
"Different in what way?"
"Oh, entirely--and quite inexpressibly. Men who had the most firmly
rooted reputation for being this way or that would sometimes be
surprisingly inconsistent with me. Brutal men were tender, negligible
men were astonishingly loyal and lovable, and, often, honorable men took
attitudes that were anything but honorable."
"Well, there was a boy named Percy Wolcott from Cornell who was quite a
hero in college, a great athlete, and saved a lot of people from a fire
or something like that. But I soon found he was stupid in a rather
"It seems he had some naïve conception of a woman 'fit to be his wife,'
a particular conception that I used to run into a lot and that always
drove me wild. He demanded a girl who'd never been kissed and who liked
to sew and sit home and pay tribute to his self-esteem. And I'll bet a
hat if he's gotten an idiot to sit and be stupid with him he's tearing
out on the side with some much speedier lady."
"I'd be sorry for his wife."
"I wouldn't. Think what an ass she'd be not to realize it before she
married him. He's the sort whose idea of honoring and respecting a woman
would be never to give her any excitement. With the best intentions, he
was deep in the dark ages."
"What was his attitude toward you?"
"I'm coming to that. As I told you--or did I tell you?--he was mighty
good-looking: big brown honest eyes and one of those smiles that
guarantee the heart behind it is twenty-karat gold. Being young and
credulous, I thought he had some discretion, so I kissed him fervently
one night when we were riding around after a dance at the Homestead at
Hot Springs. It had been a wonderful week, I remember--with the most
luscious trees spread like green lather, sort of, all over the valley
and a mist rising out of them on October mornings like bonfires lit to
turn them brown--"
"How about your friend with the ideals?" interrupted Anthony.
"It seems that when he kissed me he began to think that perhaps he could
get away with a little more, that I needn't be 'respected' like this
Beatrice Fairfax glad-girl of his imagination."
"What'd he do?"
"Not much. I pushed him off a sixteen-foot embankment before he was well
"Hurt him?" inquired Anthony with a laugh.
"Broke his arm and sprained his ankle. He told the story all over Hot
Springs, and when his arm healed a man named Barley who liked me fought
him and broke it over again. Oh, it was all an awful mess. He threatened
to sue Barley, and Barley--he was from Georgia--was seen buying a gun in
town. But before that mama had dragged me North again, much against my
will, so I never did find out all that happened--though I saw Barley
once in the Vanderbilt lobby."
Anthony laughed long and loud.
"What a career! I suppose I ought to be furious because you've kissed so
many men. I'm not, though."
At this she sat up in bed.
"It's funny, but I'm so sure that those kisses left no mark on me--no
taint of promiscuity, I mean--even though a man once told me in all
seriousness that he hated to think I'd been a public drinking glass."
"He had his nerve."
"I just laughed and told him to think of me rather as a loving-cup that
goes from hand to hand but should be valued none the less."
"Somehow it doesn't bother me--on the other hand it would, of course, if
you'd done any more than kiss them. But I believe _you're_ absolutely
incapable of jealousy except as hurt vanity. Why don't you care what
I've done? Wouldn't you prefer it if I'd been absolutely innocent?"
"It's all in the impression it might have made on you. _My_ kisses were
because the man was good-looking, or because there was a slick moon, or
even because I've felt vaguely sentimental and a little stirred. But
that's all--it's had utterly no effect on me. But you'd remember and let
memories haunt you and worry you."
"Haven't you ever kissed any one like you've kissed me?"
"No," she answered simply. "As I've told you, men have tried--oh, lots
of things. Any pretty girl has that experience.... You see," she
resumed, "it doesn't matter to me how many women you've stayed with in
the past, so long as it was merely a physical satisfaction, but I don't
believe I could endure the idea of your ever having lived with another
woman for a protracted period or even having wanted to marry some
possible girl. It's different somehow. There'd be all the little
intimacies remembered--and they'd dull that freshness that after all is
the most precious part of love."
Rapturously he pulled her down beside him on the pillow.
"Oh, my darling," he whispered, "as if I remembered anything but your
Then Gloria, in a very mild voice:
"Anthony, did I hear anybody say they were thirsty?"
Anthony laughed abruptly and with a sheepish and amused grin got out of
"With just a _little_ piece of ice in the water," she added. "Do you
suppose I could have that?"
Gloria used the adjective "little" whenever she asked a favor--it made
the favor sound less arduous. But Anthony laughed again--whether she
wanted a cake of ice or a marble of it, he must go down-stairs to the
kitchen.... Her voice followed him through the hall: "And just a
_little_ cracker with just a _little_ marmalade on it...."
"Oh, gosh!" sighed Anthony in rapturous slang, "she's wonderful, that
girl! She _has_ it!"
"When we have a baby," she began one day--this, it had already been
decided, was to be after three years--"I want it to look like you."
"Except its legs," he insinuated slyly.
"Oh, yes, except his legs. He's got to have my legs. But the rest of him
can be you."
"Well, perhaps my nose. But certainly your eyes--and my mouth, and I
guess my shape of the face. I wonder; I think he'd be sort of cute if he
had my hair."
"My dear Gloria, you've appropriated the whole baby."
"Well, I didn't mean to," she apologized cheerfully.
"Let him have my neck at least," he urged, regarding himself gravely in
the glass. "You've often said you liked my neck because the Adam's apple
doesn't show, and, besides, your neck's too short."
"Why, it is _not_!" she cried indignantly, turning to the mirror, "it's
just right. I don't believe I've ever seen a better neck."
"It's too short," he repeated teasingly.
"Short?" Her tone expressed exasperated wonder.
"Short? You're crazy!" She elongated and contracted it to convince
herself of its reptilian sinuousness. "Do you call _that_ a short neck?"
"One of the shortest I've ever seen."
For the first time in weeks tears started from Gloria's eyes and the
look she gave him had a quality of real pain.
"My Lord, Gloria!" He approached her in bewilderment and took her elbows
in his hands. "Don't cry, _please_! Didn't you know I was only kidding?
Gloria, look at me! Why, dearest, you've got the longest neck I've ever
Her tears dissolved in a twisted smile.
"Well--you shouldn't have said that, then. Let's talk about the b-baby."
Anthony paced the floor and spoke as though rehearsing for a debate.
"To put it briefly, there are two babies we could have, two distinct and
logical babies, utterly differentiated. There's the baby that's the
combination of the best of both of us. Your body, my eyes, my mind, your
intelligence--and then there is the baby which is our worst--my body,
your disposition, and my irresolution."
"I like that second baby," she said.
"What I'd really like," continued Anthony, "would be to have two sets of
triplets one year apart and then experiment with the six boys--"
"Poor me," she interjected.
"--I'd educate them each in a different country and by a different
system and when they were twenty-three I'd call them together and see
what they were like."
"Let's have 'em all with my neck," suggested Gloria.
THE END OF A CHAPTER
The car was at length repaired and with a deliberate vengeance took up
where it left off the business of causing infinite dissension. Who
should drive? How fast should Gloria go? These two questions and the
eternal recriminations involved ran through the days. They motored to
the Post-Road towns, Rye, Portchester, and Greenwich, and called on a
dozen friends, mostly Gloria's, who all seemed to be in different stages
of having babies and in this respect as well as in others bored her to a
point of nervous distraction. For an hour after each visit she would
bite her fingers furiously and be inclined to take out her rancor
"I loathe women," she cried in a mild temper. "What on earth can you say
to them--except talk 'lady-lady'? I've enthused over a dozen babies that
I've wanted only to choke. And every one of those girls is either
incipiently jealous and suspicious of her husband if he's charming or
beginning to be bored with him if he isn't."
"Don't you ever intend to see any women?"
"I don't know. They never seem clean to me--never--never. Except just a
few. Constance Shaw--you know, the Mrs. Merriam who came over to see us
last Tuesday--is almost the only one. She's so tall and fresh-looking
"I don't like them so tall."
Though they went to several dinner dances at various country clubs, they
decided that the autumn was too nearly over for them to "go out" on any
scale, even had they been so inclined. He hated golf; Gloria liked it
only mildly, and though she enjoyed a violent rush that some
undergraduates gave her one night and was glad that Anthony should be
proud of her beauty, she also perceived that their hostess for the
evening, a Mrs. Granby, was somewhat disquieted by the fact that
Anthony's classmate, Alec Granby, joined with enthusiasm in the rush.
The Granbys never phoned again, and though Gloria laughed, it piqued her
not a little.
"You see," she explained to Anthony, "if I wasn't married it wouldn't
worry her--but she's been to the movies in her day and she thinks I may
be a vampire. But the point is that placating such people requires an
effort that I'm simply unwilling to make.... And those cute little
freshmen making eyes at me and paying me idiotic compliments! I've grown
Marietta itself offered little social life. Half a dozen farm-estates
formed a hectagon around it, but these belonged to ancient men who
displayed themselves only as inert, gray-thatched lumps in the back of
limousines on their way to the station, whither they were sometimes
accompanied by equally ancient and doubly massive wives. The townspeople
were a particularly uninteresting type--unmarried females were
predominant for the most part--with school-festival horizons and souls
bleak as the forbidding white architecture of the three churches. The
only native with whom they came into close contact was the broad-hipped,
broad-shouldered Swedish girl who came every day to do their work. She
was silent and efficient, and Gloria, after finding her weeping
violently into her bowed arms upon the kitchen table, developed an
uncanny fear of her and stopped complaining about the food. Because of
her untold and esoteric grief the girl stayed on.
Gloria's penchant for premonitions and her bursts of vague
supernaturalism were a surprise to Anthony. Either some complex,
properly and scientifically inhibited in the early years with her
Bilphistic mother, or some inherited hypersensitiveness, made her
susceptible to any suggestion of the psychic, and, far from gullible
about the motives of people, she was inclined to credit any
extraordinary happening attributed to the whimsical perambulations of
the buried. The desperate squeakings about the old house on windy nights
that to Anthony were burglars with revolvers ready in hand represented
to Gloria the auras, evil and restive, of dead generations, expiating
the inexpiable upon the ancient and romantic hearth. One night, because
of two swift bangs down-stairs, which Anthony fearfully but unavailingly
investigated, they lay awake nearly until dawn asking each other
examination-paper questions about the history of the world.
In October Muriel came out for a two weeks' visit. Gloria had
called her on long-distance, and Miss Kane ended the conversation
characteristically by saying "All-ll-ll righty. I'll be there with
bells!" She arrived with a dozen popular songs under her arm.
"You ought to have a phonograph out here in the country," she said,
"just a little Vic--they don't cost much. Then whenever you're lonesome
you can have Caruso or Al Jolson right at your door."
She worried Anthony to distraction by telling him that "he was the first
clever man she had ever known and she got so tired of shallow people."
He wondered that people fell in love with such women. Yet he supposed
that under a certain impassioned glance even she might take on a
softness and promise.
But Gloria, violently showing off her love for Anthony, was diverted
into a state of purring content.
Finally Richard Caramel arrived for a garrulous and to Gloria painfully
literary week-end, during which he discussed himself with Anthony long
after she lay in childlike sleep up-stairs.
"It's been mighty funny, this success and all," said Dick. "Just before
the novel appeared I'd been trying, without success, to sell some short
stories. Then, after my book came out, I polished up three and had them
accepted by one of the magazines that had rejected them before. I've
done a lot of them since; publishers don't pay me for my book till
"Don't let the victor belong to the spoils."
"You mean write trash?" He considered. "If you mean deliberately
injecting a slushy fade-out into each one, I'm not. But I don't suppose
I'm being so careful. I'm certainly writing faster and I don't seem to
be thinking as much as I used to. Perhaps it's because I don't get any
conversation, now that you're married and Maury's gone to Philadelphia.
Haven't the old urge and ambition. Early success and all that."
"Doesn't it worry you?"
"Frantically. I get a thing I call sentence-fever that must be like
buck-fever--it's a sort of intense literary self-consciousness that
comes when I try to force myself. But the really awful days aren't when
I think I can't write. They're when I wonder whether any writing is
worth while at all--I mean whether I'm not a sort of glorified buffoon."
"I like to hear you talk that way," said Anthony with a touch of his old
patronizing insolence. "I was afraid you'd gotten a bit idiotic over
your work. Read the damnedest interview you gave out----"
Dick interrupted with an agonized expression.
"Good Lord! Don't mention it. Young lady wrote it--most admiring young
lady. Kept telling me my work was 'strong,' and I sort of lost my head
and made a lot of strange pronouncements. Some of it was good, though,
don't you think?"
"Oh, yes; that part about the wise writer writing for the youth of his
generation, the critic of the next, and the schoolmaster of ever
"Oh, I believe a lot of it," admitted Richard Caramel with a faint beam.
"It simply was a mistake to give it out."
In November they moved into Anthony's apartment, from which they sallied
triumphantly to the Yale-Harvard and Harvard-Princeton football games,
to the St. Nicholas ice-skating rink, to a thorough round of the
theatres and to a miscellany of entertainments--from small, staid dances
to the great affairs that Gloria loved, held in those few houses where
lackeys with powdered wigs scurried around in magnificent Anglomania
under the direction of gigantic majordomos. Their intention was to go
abroad the first of the year or, at any rate, when the war was over.
Anthony had actually completed a Chestertonian essay on the twelfth
century by way of introduction to his proposed book and Gloria had done
some extensive research work on the question of Russian sable coats--in
fact the winter was approaching quite comfortably, when the Bilphistic
demiurge decided suddenly in mid-December that Mrs. Gilbert's soul had
aged sufficiently in its present incarnation. In consequence Anthony
took a miserable and hysterical Gloria out to Kansas City, where, in the
fashion of mankind, they paid the terrible and mind-shaking deference
to the dead.
Mr. Gilbert became, for the first and last time in his life, a truly
pathetic figure. That woman he had broken to wait upon his body and play
congregation to his mind had ironically deserted him--just when he could
not much longer have supported her. Never again would he be able so
satisfactorily to bore and bully a human soul.
Gloria had lulled Anthony's mind to sleep. She, who seemed of all women
the wisest and the finest, hung like a brilliant curtain across his
doorways, shutting out the light of the sun. In those first years what
he believed bore invariably the stamp of Gloria; he saw the sun always
through the pattern of the curtain.
It was a sort of lassitude that brought them back to Marietta for
another summer. Through a golden enervating spring they had loitered,
restive and lazily extravagant, along the California coast, joining
other parties intermittently and drifting from Pasadena to Coronado,
from Coronado to Santa Barbara, with no purpose more apparent than
Gloria's desire to dance by different music or catch some infinitesimal
variant among the changing colors of the sea. Out of the Pacific there
rose to greet them savage rocklands and equally barbaric hostelries
built that at tea-time one might drowse into a languid wicker bazaar
glorified by the polo costumes of Southhampton and Lake Forest and
Newport and Palm Beach. And, as the waves met and splashed and glittered
in the most placid of the bays, so they joined this group and that, and
with them shifted stations, murmuring ever of those strange
unsubstantial gaieties in wait just over the next green and
A simple healthy leisure class it was--the best of the men not
unpleasantly undergraduate--they seemed to be on a perpetual candidates
list for some etherealized "Porcellian" or "Skull and Bones" extended
out indefinitely into the world; the women, of more than average beauty,
fragilely athletic, somewhat idiotic as hostesses but charming and
infinitely decorative as guests. Sedately and gracefully they danced the
steps of their selection in the balmy tea hours, accomplishing with a
certain dignity the movements so horribly burlesqued by clerk and chorus
girl the country over. It seemed ironic that in this lone and
discredited offspring of the arts Americans should excel,
Having danced and splashed through a lavish spring, Anthony and Gloria
found that they had spent too much money and for this must go into
retirement for a certain period. There was Anthony's "work," they said.
Almost before they knew it they were back in the gray house, more aware
now that other lovers had slept there, other names had been called over
the banisters, other couples had sat upon the porch steps watching the
gray-green fields and the black bulk of woods beyond.
It was the same Anthony, more restless, inclined to quicken only under
the stimulus of several high-balls, faintly, almost imperceptibly,
apathetic toward Gloria. But Gloria--she would be twenty-four in August
and was in an attractive but sincere panic about it. Six years to
thirty! Had she been less in love with Anthony her sense of the flight
of time would have expressed itself in a reawakened interest in other
men, in a deliberate intention of extracting a transient gleam of
romance from every potential lover who glanced at her with lowered brows
over a shining dinner table. She said to Anthony one day:
"How I feel is that if I wanted anything I'd take it. That's what I've
always thought all my life. But it happens that I want you, and so I
just haven't room for any other desires."
They were bound eastward through a parched and lifeless Indiana, and she
had looked up from one of her beloved moving picture magazines to find a
casual conversation suddenly turned grave.
Anthony frowned out the car window. As the track crossed a country road
a farmer appeared momentarily in his wagon; he was chewing on a straw
and was apparently the same farmer they had passed a dozen times before,
sitting in silent and malignant symbolism. As Anthony turned to Gloria
his frown intensified.
"You worry me," he objected; "I can imagine _wanting_ another woman
under certain transitory circumstances, but I can't imagine taking her."
"But I don't feel that way, Anthony. I can't be bothered resisting
things I want. My way is not to want them--to want nobody but you."
"Yet when I think that if you just happened to take a fancy to some
"Oh, don't be an idiot!" she exclaimed. "There'd be nothing casual about
it. And I can't even imagine the possibility."
This emphatically closed the conversation. Anthony's unfailing
appreciation made her happier in his company than in any one's else. She
definitely enjoyed him--she loved him. So the summer began very much as
had the one before.
There was, however, one radical change in ménage. The icy-hearted
Scandinavian, whose austere cooking and sardonic manner of waiting on
table had so depressed Gloria, gave way to an exceedingly efficient
Japanese whose name was Tanalahaka, but who confessed that he heeded any
summons which included the dissyllable "Tana."
Tana was unusually small even for a Japanese, and displayed a somewhat
naïve conception of himself as a man of the world. On the day of his
arrival from "R. Gugimoniki, Japanese Reliable Employment Agency," he
called Anthony into his room to see the treasures of his trunk. These
included a large collection of Japanese post cards, which he was all for
explaining to his employer at once, individually and at great length.
Among them were half a dozen of pornographic intent and plainly of
American origin, though the makers had modestly omitted both their names
and the form for mailing. He next brought out some of his own
handiwork--a pair of American pants, which he had made himself, and two
suits of solid silk underwear. He informed Anthony confidentially as to
the purpose for which these latter were reserved. The next exhibit was a
rather good copy of an etching of Abraham Lincoln, to whose face he had
given an unmistakable Japanese cast. Last came a flute; he had made it
himself but it was broken: he was going to fix it soon.
After these polite formalities, which Anthony conjectured must be native
to Japan, Tana delivered a long harangue in splintered English on the
relation of master and servant from which Anthony gathered that he had
worked on large estates but had always quarrelled with the other
servants because they were not honest. They had a great time over the
word "honest," and in fact became rather irritated with each other,
because Anthony persisted stubbornly that Tana was trying to say
"hornets," and even went to the extent of buzzing in the manner of a bee
and flapping his arms to imitate wings.
After three-quarters of an hour Anthony was released with the warm
assurance that they would have other nice chats in which Tana would tell
"how we do in my countree."
Such was Tana's garrulous première in the gray house--and he fulfilled
its promise. Though he was conscientious and honorable, he was
unquestionably a terrific bore. He seemed unable to control his tongue,
sometimes continuing from paragraph to paragraph with a look akin to
pain in his small brown eyes.
Sunday and Monday afternoons he read the comic sections of the
newspapers. One cartoon which contained a facetious Japanese butler
diverted him enormously, though he claimed that the protagonist, who to
Anthony appeared clearly Oriental, had really an American face. The
difficulty with the funny paper was that when, aided by Anthony, he had
spelled out the last three pictures and assimilated their context with a
concentration surely adequate for Kant's "Critique," he had entirely
forgotten what the first pictures were about.
In the middle of June Anthony and Gloria celebrated their first
anniversary by having a "date." Anthony knocked at the door and she ran
to let him in. Then they sat together on the couch calling over those
names they had made for each other, new combinations of endearments ages
old. Yet to this "date" was appended no attenuated good-night with its
ecstasy of regret.
Later in June horror leered out at Gloria, struck at her and frightened
her bright soul back half a generation. Then slowly it faded out, faded
back into that impenetrable darkness whence it had come--taking
relentlessly its modicum of youth.
With an infallible sense of the dramatic it chose a little railroad
station in a wretched village near Portchester. The station platform lay
all day bare as a prairie, exposed to the dusty yellow sun and to the
glance of that most obnoxious type of countryman who lives near a
metropolis and has attained its cheap smartness without its urbanity. A
dozen of these yokels, red-eyed, cheerless as scarecrows, saw the
incident. Dimly it passed across their confused and uncomprehending
minds, taken at its broadest for a coarse joke, at its subtlest for a
"shame." Meanwhile there upon the platform a measure of brightness faded
from the world.
With Eric Merriam, Anthony had been sitting over a decanter of Scotch
all the hot summer afternoon, while Gloria and Constance Merriam swam
and sunned themselves at the Beach Club, the latter under a striped
parasol-awning, Gloria stretched sensuously upon the soft hot sand,
tanning her inevitable legs. Later they had all four played with
inconsequential sandwiches; then Gloria had risen, tapping Anthony's
knee with her parasol to get his attention.
"We've got to go, dear."
"Now?" He looked at her unwillingly. At that moment nothing seemed of
more importance than to idle on that shady porch drinking mellowed
Scotch, while his host reminisced interminably on the byplay of some
forgotten political campaign.
"We've really got to go," repeated Gloria. "We can get a taxi to the
station.... Come on, Anthony!" she commanded a bit more imperiously.
"Now see here--" Merriam, his yarn cut off, made conventional
objections, meanwhile provocatively filling his guest's glass with a
high-ball that should have been sipped through ten minutes. But at
Gloria's annoyed "We really _must!_" Anthony drank it off, got to his
feet and made an elaborate bow to his hostess.
"It seems we 'must,'" he said, with little grace.
In a minute he was following Gloria down a garden-walk between tall
rose-bushes, her parasol brushing gently the June-blooming leaves. Most
inconsiderate, he thought, as they reached the road. He felt with
injured naïvete that Gloria should not have interrupted such innocent
and harmless enjoyment. The whiskey had both soothed and clarified the
restless things in his mind. It occurred to him that she had taken this
same attitude several times before. Was he always to retreat from
pleasant episodes at a touch of her parasol or a flicker of her eye? His
unwillingness blurred to ill will, which rose within him like a
resistless bubble. He kept silent, perversely inhibiting a desire to
reproach her. They found a taxi in front of the Inn; rode silently to
the little station....
Then Anthony knew what he wanted--to assert his will against this cool
and impervious girl, to obtain with one magnificent effort a mastery
that seemed infinitely desirable.
"Let's go over to see the Barneses," he said without looking at her. "I
don't feel like going home."
--Mrs. Barnes, née Rachael Jerryl, had a summer place several miles from
"We went there day before yesterday," she answered shortly.
"I'm sure they'd be glad to see us." He felt that that was not a strong
enough note, braced himself stubbornly, and added: "I want to see the
Barneses. I haven't any desire to go home."
"Well, I haven't any desire to go to the Barneses."
Suddenly they stared at each other.
"Why, Anthony," she said with annoyance, "this is Sunday night and they
probably have guests for supper. Why we should go in at this hour--"
"Then why couldn't we have stayed at the Merriams'?" he burst out. "Why
go home when we were having a perfectly decent time? They asked us
"They had to. Give me the money and I'll get the railroad tickets."
"I certainly will not! I'm in no humour for a ride in that damn hot
Gloria stamped her foot on the platform.
"Anthony, you act as if you're tight!"
"On the contrary, I'm perfectly sober."
But his voice had slipped into a husky key and she knew with certainty
that this was untrue.
"If you're sober you'll give me the money for the tickets."
But it was too late to talk to him that way. In his mind was but one
idea--that Gloria was being selfish, that she was always being selfish
and would continue to be unless here and now he asserted himself as her
master. This was the occasion of all occasions, since for a whim she had
deprived him of a pleasure. His determination solidified, approached
momentarily a dull and sullen hate.
"I won't go in the train," he said, his voice trembling a little with
anger. "We're going to the Barneses."
"I'm not!" she cried. "If you go I'm going home alone."
"Go on, then."
Without a word she turned toward the ticket office; simultaneously he
remembered that she had some money with her and that this was not the
sort of victory he wanted, the sort he must have. He took a step after
her and seized her arm.
"See here!" he muttered, "you're _not_ going alone!"
"I certainly am--why, Anthony!" This exclamation as she tried to pull
away from him and he only tightened his grasp.
He looked at her with narrowed and malicious eyes.
"Let go!" Her cry had a quality of fierceness. "If you have _any_
decency you'll let go."
"Why?" He knew why. But he took a confused and not quite confident pride
in holding her there.
"I'm going home, do you understand? And you're going to let me go!"
"No, I'm not."
Her eyes were burning now.
"Are you going to make a scene here?"
"I say you're not going! I'm tired of your eternal selfishness!"
"I only want to go home." Two wrathful tears started from her eyes.
"This time you're going to do what _I_ say."
Slowly her body straightened: her head went back in a gesture of
"I hate you!" Her low words were expelled like venom through her
clenched teeth. "Oh, _let_ me go! Oh, I _hate_ you!" She tried to jerk
herself away but he only grasped the other arm. "I hate you! I
At Gloria's fury his uncertainty returned, but he felt that now he had
gone too far to give in. It seemed that he had always given in and that
in her heart she had despised him for it. Ah, she might hate him now,
but afterward she would admire him for his dominance.
The approaching train gave out a premonitory siren that tumbled
melodramatically toward them down the glistening blue tracks. Gloria
tugged and strained to free herself, and words older than the Book of
Genesis came to her lips.
"Oh, you brute!" she sobbed. "Oh, you brute! Oh, I hate you! Oh, you
On the station platform other prospective passengers were beginning to
turn and stare; the drone of the train was audible, it increased to a
clamor. Gloria's efforts redoubled, then ceased altogether, and she
stood there trembling and hot-eyed at this helpless humiliation, as the
engine roared and thundered into the station.
Low, below the flood of steam and the grinding of the brakes came her
"Oh, if there was one _man_ here you couldn't do this! You couldn't do
this! You coward! You coward, oh, you coward!"
Anthony, silent, trembling himself, gripped her rigidly, aware that
faces, dozens of them, curiously unmoved, shadows of a dream, were
regarding him. Then the bells distilled metallic crashes that were like
physical pain, the smoke-stacks volleyed in slow acceleration at the
sky, and in a moment of noise and gray gaseous turbulence the line of
faces ran by, moved off, became indistinct--until suddenly there was
only the sun slanting east across the tracks and a volume of sound
decreasing far off like a train made out of tin thunder. He dropped her
arms. He had won.
Now, if he wished, he might laugh. The test was done and he had
sustained his will with violence. Let leniency walk in the wake
"We'll hire a car here and drive back to Marietta," he said with fine
For answer Gloria seized his hand with both of hers and raising it to
her mouth bit deeply into his thumb. He scarcely noticed the pain;
seeing the blood spurt he absent-mindedly drew out his handkerchief and
wrapped the wound. That too was part of the triumph he supposed--it was
inevitable that defeat should thus be resented--and as such was
She was sobbing, almost without tears, profoundly and bitterly.
"I won't go! I won't go! You--can't--make--me--go! You've--you've killed
any love I ever had for you, and any respect. But all that's left in me
would die before I'd move from this place. Oh, if I'd thought _you'd_
lay your hands on me--"
"You're going with me," he said brutally, "if I have to carry you."
He turned, beckoned to a taxicab, told the driver to go to Marietta. The
man dismounted and swung the door open. Anthony faced his wife and said
between his clenched teeth:
"Will you get in?--or will I _put_ you in?"
With a subdued cry of infinite pain and despair she yielded herself up
and got into the car.
All the long ride, through the increasing dark of twilight, she sat
huddled in her side of the car, her silence broken by an occasional dry
and solitary sob. Anthony stared out the window, his mind working dully
on the slowly changing significance of what had occurred. Something was
wrong--that last cry of Gloria's had struck a chord which echoed
posthumously and with incongruous disquiet in his heart. He must be
right--yet, she seemed such a pathetic little thing now, broken and
dispirited, humiliated beyond the measure of her lot to bear. The
sleeves of her dress were torn; her parasol was gone, forgotten on the
platform. It was a new costume, he remembered, and she had been so proud
of it that very morning when they had left the house.... He began
wondering if any one they knew had seen the incident. And persistently
there recurred to him her cry:
"All that's left in me would die--"
This gave him a confused and increasing worry. It fitted so well with
the Gloria who lay in the corner--no longer a proud Gloria, nor any
Gloria he had known. He asked himself if it were possible. While he did
not believe she would cease to love him--this, of course, was
unthinkable--it was yet problematical whether Gloria without her
arrogance, her independence, her virginal confidence and courage, would
be the girl of his glory, the radiant woman who was precious and
charming because she was ineffably, triumphantly herself.
He was very drunk even then, so drunk as not to realize his own
drunkenness. When they reached the gray house he went to his own room
and, his mind still wrestling helplessly and sombrely with what he had
done, fell into a deep stupor on his bed.
It was after one o'clock and the hall seemed extraordinarily quiet when
Gloria, wide-eyed and sleepless, traversed it and pushed open the door
of his room. He had been too befuddled to open the windows and the air
was stale and thick with whiskey. She stood for a moment by his bed, a
slender, exquisitely graceful figure in her boyish silk pajamas--then
with abandon she flung herself upon him, half waking him in the frantic
emotion of her embrace, dropping her warm tears upon his throat.
"Oh, Anthony!" she cried passionately, "oh, my darling, you don't know
what you did!"
Yet in the morning, coming early into her room, he knelt down by her bed
and cried like a little boy, as though it was his heart that had
"It seemed, last night," she said gravely, her fingers playing in his
hair, "that all the part of me you loved, the part that was worth
knowing, all the pride and fire, was gone. I knew that what was left of
me would always love you, but never in quite the same way."
Nevertheless, she was aware even then that she would forget in time and
that it is the manner of life seldom to strike but always to wear away.
After that morning the incident was never mentioned and its deep wound
healed with Anthony's hand--and if there was triumph some darker force
than theirs possessed it, possessed the knowledge and the victory.
Gloria's independence, like all sincere and profound qualities, had
begun unconsciously, but, once brought to her attention by Anthony's
fascinated discovery of it, it assumed more nearly the proportions of a
formal code. From her conversation it might be assumed that all her
energy and vitality went into a violent affirmation of the negative
principle "Never give a damn."
"Not for anything or anybody," she said, "except myself and, by
implication, for Anthony. That's the rule of all life and if it weren't
I'd be that way anyhow. Nobody'd do anything for me if it didn't gratify
them to, and I'd do as little for them."
She was on the front porch of the nicest lady in Marietta when she said
this, and as she finished she gave a curious little cry and sank in a
dead faint to the porch floor.
The lady brought her to and drove her home in her car. It had occurred
to the estimable Gloria that she was probably with child.
She lay upon the long lounge down-stairs. Day was slipping warmly out
the window, touching the late roses on the porch pillars.
"All I think of ever is that I love you," she wailed. "I value my body
because you think it's beautiful. And this body of mine--of yours--to
have it grow ugly and shapeless? It's simply intolerable. Oh, Anthony,
I'm not afraid of the pain."
He consoled her desperately--but in vain. She continued:
"And then afterward I might have wide hips and be pale, with all my
freshness gone and no radiance in my hair."
He paced the floor with his hands in his pockets, asking:
"Is it certain?"
"I don't know anything. I've always hated obstrics, or whatever you call
them. I thought I'd have a child some time. But not now."
"Well, for God's sake don't lie there and go to pieces."
Her sobs lapsed. She drew down a merciful silence from the twilight
which filled the room. "Turn on the lights," she pleaded. "These days
seem so short--June seemed--to--have--longer days when I was a
The lights snapped on and it was as though blue drapes of softest silk
had been dropped behind the windows and the door. Her pallor, her
immobility, without grief now, or joy, awoke his sympathy.
"Do you want me to have it?" she asked listlessly.
"I'm indifferent. That is, I'm neutral. If you have it I'll probably be
glad. If you don't--well, that's all right too."
"I wish you'd make up your mind one way or the other!"
"Suppose you make up _your_ mind."
She looked at him contemptuously, scorning to answer.
"You'd think you'd been singled out of all the women in the world for
this crowning indignity."
"What if I do!" she cried angrily. "It isn't an indignity for them. It's
their one excuse for living. It's the one thing they're good for. It
_is_ an indignity for _me._
"See here, Gloria, I'm with you whatever you do, but for God's sake be a
sport about it."
"Oh, don't _fuss_ at me!" she wailed.
They exchanged a mute look of no particular significance but of much
stress. Then Anthony took a book from the shelf and dropped into
Half an hour later her voice came out of the intense stillness that
pervaded the room and hung like incense on the air.
"I'll drive over and see Constance Merriam to-morrow."
"All right. And I'll go to Tarrytown and see Grampa."
"--You see," she added, "it isn't that I'm afraid--of this or anything
else. I'm being true to me, you know."
"I know," he agreed.
THE PRACTICAL MEN
Adam Patch, in a pious rage against the Germans, subsisted on the war
news. Pin maps plastered his walls; atlases were piled deep on tables
convenient to his hand together with "Photographic Histories of the
World War," official Explain-alls, and the "Personal Impressions" of war
correspondents and of Privates X, Y, and Z. Several times during
Anthony's visit his grandfather's secretary, Edward Shuttleworth, the
one-time "Accomplished Gin-physician" of "Pat's Place" in Hoboken, now
shod with righteous indignation, would appear with an extra. The old man
attacked each paper with untiring fury, tearing out those columns which
appeared to him of sufficient pregnancy for preservation and thrusting
them into one of his already bulging files.
"Well, what have you been doing?" he asked Anthony blandly. "Nothing?
Well, I thought so. I've been intending to drive over and see you,
"I've been writing. Don't you remember the essay I sent you--the one I
sold to The Florentine last winter?"
"Essay? You never sent _me_ any essay."
"Oh, yes, I did. We talked about it."
Adam Patch shook his head mildly.
"Oh, no. You never sent _me_ any essay. You may have thought you sent it
but it never reached me."
"Why, you read it, Grampa," insisted Anthony, somewhat exasperated, "you
read it and disagreed with it."
The old man suddenly remembered, but this was made apparent only by a
partial falling open of his mouth, displaying rows of gray gums. Eying
Anthony with a green and ancient stare he hesitated between confessing
his error and covering it up.
"So you're writing," he said quickly. "Well, why don't you go over and
write about these Germans? Write something real, something about what's
going on, something people can read."
"Anybody can't be a war correspondent," objected Anthony. "You have to
have some newspaper willing to buy your stuff. And I can't spare the
money to go over as a free-lance."
"I'll send you over," suggested his grandfather surprisingly. "I'll get
you over as an authorized correspondent of any newspaper you pick out."
Anthony recoiled from the idea--almost simultaneously he bounded toward
He would have to leave Gloria, whose whole life yearned toward him and
enfolded him. Gloria was in trouble. Oh, the thing wasn't
feasible--yet--he saw himself in khaki, leaning, as all war
correspondents lean, upon a heavy stick, portfolio at shoulder--trying
to look like an Englishman. "I'd like to think it over," he, confessed.
"It's certainly very kind of you. I'll think it over and I'll let
Thinking it over absorbed him on the journey to New York. He had had one
of those sudden flashes of illumination vouchsafed to all men who are
dominated by a strong and beloved woman, which show them a world of
harder men, more fiercely trained and grappling with the abstractions of
thought and war. In that world the arms of Gloria would exist only as
the hot embrace of a chance mistress, coolly sought and quickly
These unfamiliar phantoms were crowding closely about him when he
boarded his train for Marietta, in the Grand Central Station. The car
was crowded; he secured the last vacant seat and it was only after
several minutes that he gave even a casual glance to the man beside him.
When he did he saw a heavy lay of jaw and nose, a curved chin and small,
puffed-under eyes. In a moment he recognized Joseph Bloeckman.
Simultaneously they both half rose, were half embarrassed, and exchanged
what amounted to a half handshake. Then, as though to complete the
matter, they both half laughed.
"Well," remarked Anthony without inspiration, "I haven't seen you for a
long time." Immediately he regretted his words and started to add: "I
didn't know you lived out this way." But Bloeckman anticipated him by
"How's your wife? ..."
"She's very well. How've you been?"
"Excellent." His tone amplified the grandeur of the word.
It seemed to Anthony that during the last year Bloeckman had grown
tremendously in dignity. The boiled look was gone, he seemed "done" at
last. In addition he was no longer overdressed. The inappropriate
facetiousness he had affected in ties had given way to a sturdy dark
pattern, and his right hand, which had formerly displayed two heavy
rings, was now innocent of ornament and even without the raw glow of
This dignity appeared also in his personality. The last aura of the
successful travelling-man had faded from him, that deliberate
ingratiation of which the lowest form is the bawdy joke in the Pullman
smoker. One imagined that, having been fawned upon financially, he had
attained aloofness; having been snubbed socially, he had acquired
reticence. But whatever had given him weight instead of bulk, Anthony no
longer felt a correct superiority in his presence.
"D'you remember Caramel, Richard Caramel? I believe you met him one
"I remember. He was writing a book."
"Well, he sold it to the movies. Then they had some scenario man named
Jordan work on it. Well, Dick subscribes to a clipping bureau and he's
furious because about half the movie reviewers speak of the 'power and
strength of William Jordan's "Demon Lover."' Didn't mention old Dick at
all. You'd think this fellow Jordan had actually conceived and developed
Bloeckman nodded comprehensively.
"Most of the contracts state that the original writer's name goes into
all the paid publicity. Is Caramel still writing?"
"Oh, yes. Writing hard. Short stories."
"Well, that's fine, that's fine.... You on this train often?"
"About once a week. We live in Marietta."
"Is that so? Well, well! I live near Cos Cob myself. Bought a place
there only recently. We're only five miles apart."
"You'll have to come and see us." Anthony was surprised at his own
courtesy. "I'm sure Gloria'd be delighted to see an old friend.
Anybody'll tell you where the house is--it's our second season there."
"Thank you." Then, as though returning a complementary politeness: "How
is your grandfather?"
"He's been well. I had lunch with him to-day."
"A great character," said Bloeckman severely. "A fine example of an
THE TRIUMPH OF LETHARGY
Anthony found his wife deep in the porch hammock voluptuously engaged
with a lemonade and a tomato sandwich and carrying on an apparently
cheery conversation with Tana upon one of Tana's complicated themes.
"In my countree," Anthony recognized his invariable preface, "all
time--peoples--eat rice--because haven't got. Cannot eat what no have
got." Had his nationality not been desperately apparent one would have
thought he had acquired his knowledge of his native land from American
When the Oriental had been squelched and dismissed to the kitchen,
Anthony turned questioningly to Gloria:
"It's all right," she announced, smiling broadly. "And it surprised me
more than it does you."
"There's no doubt?"
"None! Couldn't be!"
They rejoiced happily, gay again with reborn irresponsibility. Then he
told her of his opportunity to go abroad, and that he was almost ashamed
to reject it.
"What do _you_ think? Just tell me frankly."
"Why, Anthony!" Her eyes were startled. "Do you want to go? Without me?"
His face fell--yet he knew, with his wife's question, that it was too
late. Her arms, sweet and strangling, were around him, for he had made
all such choices back in that room in the Plaza the year before. This
was an anachronism from an age of such dreams.
"Gloria," he lied, in a great burst of comprehension, "of course I
don't. I was thinking you might go as a nurse or something." He wondered
dully if his grandfather would consider this.
As she smiled he realized again how beautiful she was, a gorgeous girl
of miraculous freshness and sheerly honorable eyes. She embraced his
suggestion with luxurious intensity, holding it aloft like a sun of her
own making and basking in its beams. She strung together an amazing
synopsis for an extravaganza of martial adventure.
After supper, surfeited with the subject, she yawned. She wanted not to
talk but only to read "Penrod," stretched upon the lounge until at
midnight she fell asleep. But Anthony, after he had carried her
romantically up the stairs, stayed awake to brood upon the day, vaguely
angry with her, vaguely dissatisfied.
"What am I going to do?" he began at breakfast. "Here we've been married
a year and we've just worried around without even being efficient people
"Yes, you ought to do something," she admitted, being in an agreeable
and loquacious humor. This was not the first of these discussions, but
as they usually developed Anthony in the rôle of protagonist, she had
come to avoid them.
"It's not that I have any moral compunctions about work," he continued,
"but grampa may die to-morrow and he may live for ten years. Meanwhile
we're living above our income and all we've got to show for it is a
farmer's car and a few clothes. We keep an apartment that we've only
lived in three months and a little old house way off in nowhere. We're
frequently bored and yet we won't make any effort to know any one except
the same crowd who drift around California all summer wearing sport
clothes and waiting for their families to die."
"How you've changed!" remarked Gloria. "Once you told me you didn't see
why an American couldn't loaf gracefully."
"Well, damn it, I wasn't married. And the old mind was working at top
speed and now it's going round and round like a cog-wheel with nothing
to catch it. As a matter of fact I think that if I hadn't met you I
_would_ have done something. But you make leisure so subtly
"Oh, it's all my fault--"
"I didn't mean that, and you know I didn't. But here I'm almost
"Oh," she interrupted in vexation, "you make me tired! Talking as though
I were objecting or hindering you!"
"I was just discussing it, Gloria. Can't I discuss--"
"I should think you'd be strong enough to settle--"
"--something with you without--"
"--your own problems without coming to me. You _talk_ a lot about going
to work. I could use more money very easily, but _I'm_ not complaining.
Whether you work or not I love you." Her last words were gentle as fine
snow upon hard ground. But for the moment neither was attending to the
other--they were each engaged in polishing and perfecting his
"I have worked--some." This by Anthony was an imprudent bringing up of
raw reserves. Gloria laughed, torn between delight and derision; she
resented his sophistry as at the same time she admired his nonchalance.
She would never blame him for being the ineffectual idler so long as he
did it sincerely, from the attitude that nothing much was worth doing.
"Work!" she scoffed. "Oh, you sad bird! You bluffer! Work--that means a
great arranging of the desk and the lights, a great sharpening of
pencils, and 'Gloria, don't sing!' and 'Please keep that damn Tana away
from me,' and 'Let me read you my opening sentence,' and 'I won't be
through for a long time, Gloria, so don't stay up for me,' and a
tremendous consumption of tea or coffee. And that's all. In just about
an hour I hear the old pencil stop scratching and look over. You've got
out a book and you're 'looking up' something. Then you're reading. Then
yawns--then bed and a great tossing about because you're all full of
caffeine and can't sleep. Two weeks later the whole performance
With much difficulty Anthony retained a scanty breech-clout of dignity.
"Now that's a _slight_ exaggeration. You know _darn well_ I sold an
essay to The Florentine--and it attracted a lot of attention considering
the circulation of The Florentine. And what's more, Gloria, you know I
sat up till five o'clock in the morning finishing it."
She lapsed into silence, giving him rope. And if he had not hanged
himself he had certainly come to the end of it.
"At least," he concluded feebly, "I'm perfectly willing to be a war
But so was Gloria. They were both willing--anxious; they assured each
other of it. The evening ended on a note of tremendous sentiment, the
majesty of leisure, the ill health of Adam Patch, love at any cost.
"Anthony!" she called over the banister one afternoon a week later,
"there's some one at the door." Anthony, who had been lolling in the
hammock on the sun-speckled south porch, strolled around to the front of
the house. A foreign car, large and impressive, crouched like an immense
and saturnine bug at the foot of the path. A man in a soft pongee suit,
with cap to match, hailed him.
"Hello there, Patch. Ran over to call on you."
It was Bloeckman; as always, infinitesimally improved, of subtler
intonation, of more convincing ease.
"I'm awfully glad you did." Anthony raised his voice to a vine-covered
window: "Glor-i-_a_! We've got a visitor!"
"I'm in the tub," wailed Gloria politely.
With a smile the two men acknowledged the triumph of her alibi.
"She'll be down. Come round here on the side-porch. Like a drink?
Gloria's always in the tub--good third of every day."
"Pity she doesn't live on the Sound."
"Can't afford it."
As coming from Adam Patch's grandson, Bloeckman took this as a form of
pleasantry. After fifteen minutes filled with estimable brilliancies,
Gloria appeared, fresh in starched yellow, bringing atmosphere and an
increase of vitality.
"I want to be a successful sensation in the movies," she announced. "I
hear that Mary Pickford makes a million dollars annually."
"You could, you know," said Bloeckman. "I think you'd film very well."
"Would you let me, Anthony? If I only play unsophisticated rôles?"
As the conversation continued in stilted commas, Anthony wondered that
to him and Bloeckman both this girl had once been the most stimulating,
the most tonic personality they had ever known--and now the three sat
like overoiled machines, without conflict, without fear, without
elation, heavily enamelled little figures secure beyond enjoyment in a
world where death and war, dull emotion and noble savagery were covering
a continent with the smoke of terror.
In a moment he would call Tana and they would pour into themselves a gay
and delicate poison which would restore them momentarily to the
pleasurable excitement of childhood, when every face in a crowd had
carried its suggestion of splendid and significant transactions taking
place somewhere to some magnificent and illimitable purpose.... Life was
no more than this summer afternoon; a faint wind stirring the lace
collar of Gloria's dress; the slow baking drowsiness of the veranda....
Intolerably unmoved they all seemed, removed from any romantic imminency
of action. Even Gloria's beauty needed wild emotions, needed poignancy,
"... Any day next week," Bloeckman was saying to Gloria. "Here--take
this card. What they do is to give you a test of about three hundred
feet of film, and they can tell pretty accurately from that."
"How about Wednesday?"
"Wednesday's fine. Just phone me and I'll go around with you--"
He was on his feet, shaking hands briskly--then his car was a wraith of
dust down the road. Anthony turned to his wife in bewilderment.
"You don't mind if I have a trial, Anthony. Just a trial? I've got to go
to town Wednesday, _any_how."
"But it's so silly! You don't want to go into the movies--moon around a
studio all day with a lot of cheap chorus people."
"Lot of mooning around Mary Pickford does!"
"Everybody isn't a Mary Pickford."
"Well, I can't see how you'd object to my _try_ing."
"I do, though. I hate actors."
"Oh, you make me tired. Do you imagine I have a very thrilling time
dozing on this damn porch?"
"You wouldn't mind if you loved me."
"Of course I love you," she said impatiently, making out a quick case
for herself. "It's just because I do that I hate to see you go to pieces
by just lying around and saying you ought to work. Perhaps if I _did_ go
into this for a while it'd stir you up so you'd do something."
"It's just your craving for excitement, that's all it is."
"Maybe it is! It's a perfectly natural craving, isn't it?"
"Well, I'll tell you one thing. If you go to the movies I'm going to
"Well, go on then! _I'm_ not stopping you!"
To show she was not stopping him she melted into melancholy tears.
Together they marshalled the armies of sentiment--words, kisses,
endearments, self-reproaches. They attained nothing. Inevitably they
attained nothing. Finally, in a burst of gargantuan emotion each of them
sat down and wrote a letter. Anthony's was to his grandfather; Gloria's
was to Joseph Bloeckman. It was a triumph of lethargy.
One day early in July Anthony, returned from an afternoon in New York,
called up-stairs to Gloria. Receiving no answer he guessed she was
asleep and so went into the pantry for one of the little sandwiches that
were always prepared for them. He found Tana seated at the kitchen table
before a miscellaneous assortment of odds and ends--cigar-boxes, knives,
pencils, the tops of cans, and some scraps of paper covered with
elaborate figures and diagrams.
"What the devil you doing?" demanded Anthony curiously.
Tana politely grinned.
"I show you," he exclaimed enthusiastically. "I tell--"
"You making a dog-house?"
"No, sa." Tana grinned again. "Make typewutta."
"Yes, sa. I think, oh all time I think, lie in bed think 'bout
"So you thought you'd make one, eh?"
"Wait. I tell."
Anthony, munching a sandwich, leaned leisurely against the sink. Tana
opened and closed his mouth several times as though testing its capacity
for action. Then with a rush he began:
"I been think--typewutta--has, oh, many many many many _thing_. Oh many
many many many." "Many keys. I see."
"No-o? _Yes_-key! Many many many many lettah. Like so a-b-c."
"Yes, you're right."
"Wait. I tell." He screwed his face up in a tremendous effort to express
himself: "I been think--many words--end same. Like i-n-g."
"You bet. A whole raft of them."
"So--I make--typewutta--quick. Not so many lettah--"
"That's a great idea, Tana. Save time. You'll make a fortune. Press one
key and there's 'ing.' Hope you work it out."
Tana laughed disparagingly. "Wait. I tell--" "Where's Mrs. Patch?"
"She out. Wait, I tell--" Again he screwed up his face for action. "_My_
"Where is she?"
"Here--I make." He pointed to the miscellany of junk on the table.
"I mean Mrs. Patch."
"She out." Tana reassured him. "She be back five o'clock, she say."
"Down in the village?"
"No. Went off before lunch. She go Mr. Bloeckman."
"Went out with Mr. Bloeckman?"
"She be back five."
Without a word Anthony left the kitchen with Tana's disconsolate "I
tell" trailing after him. So this was Gloria's idea of excitement, by
God! His fists were clenched; within a moment he had worked himself up
to a tremendous pitch of indignation. He went to the door and looked
out; there was no car in sight and his watch stood at four minutes of
five. With furious energy he dashed down to the end of the path--as far
as the bend of the road a mile off he could see no car--except--but it
was a farmer's flivver. Then, in an undignified pursuit of dignity, he
rushed back to the shelter of the house as quickly as he had rushed out.
Pacing up and down the living room he began an angry rehearsal of the
speech he would make to her when she came in--
"So this is love!" he would begin--or no, it sounded too much like the
popular phrase "So this is Paris!" He must be dignified, hurt, grieved.
Anyhow--"So this is what _you_ do when I have to go up and trot all day
around the hot city on business. No wonder I can't write! No wonder I
don't dare let you out of my sight!" He was expanding now, warming to
his subject. "I'll tell you," he continued, "I'll tell you--" He paused,
catching a familiar ring in the words--then he realized--it was
Tana's "I tell."
Yet Anthony neither laughed nor seemed absurd to himself. To his frantic
imagination it was already six--seven--eight, and she was never coming!
Bloeckman finding her bored and unhappy had persuaded her to go to
California with him....
--There was a great to-do out in front, a joyous "Yoho, Anthony!" and he
rose trembling, weakly happy to see her fluttering up the path.
Bloeckman was following, cap in hand.
"Dearest!" she cried.
"We've been for the best jaunt--all over New York State."
"I'll have to be starting home," said Bloeckman, almost immediately.
"Wish you'd both been here when I came."
"I'm sorry I wasn't," answered Anthony dryly. When he had departed
Anthony hesitated. The fear was gone from his heart, yet he felt that
some protest was ethically apropos. Gloria resolved his uncertainty.
"I knew you wouldn't mind. He came just before lunch and said he had to
go to Garrison on business and wouldn't I go with him. He looked so
lonesome, Anthony. And I drove his car all the way."
Listlessly Anthony dropped into a chair, his mind tired--tired with
nothing, tired with everything, with the world's weight he had never
chosen to bear. He was ineffectual and vaguely helpless here as he had
always been. One of those personalities who, in spite of all their
words, are inarticulate, he seemed to have inherited only the vast
tradition of human failure--that, and the sense of death.
"I suppose I don't care," he answered.
One must be broad about these things, and Gloria being young, being
beautiful, must have reasonable privileges. Yet it wearied him that he
failed to understand.
She rolled over on her back and lay still for a moment in the great bed
watching the February sun suffer one last attenuated refinement in its
passage through the leaded panes into the room. For a time she had no
accurate sense of her whereabouts or of the events of the day before, or
the day before that; then, like a suspended pendulum, memory began to
beat out its story, releasing with each swing a burdened quota of time
until her life was given back to her.
She could hear, now, Anthony's troubled breathing beside her; she could
smell whiskey and cigarette smoke. She noticed that she lacked complete
muscular control; when she moved it was not a sinuous motion with the
resultant strain distributed easily over her body--it was a tremendous
effort of her nervous system as though each time she were hypnotizing
herself into performing an impossible action....
She was in the bathroom, brushing her teeth to get rid of that
intolerable taste; then back by the bedside listening to the rattle of
Bounds's key in the outer door.
"Wake up, Anthony!" she said sharply.
She climbed into bed beside him and closed her eyes. Almost the last
thing she remembered was a conversation with Mr. and Mrs. Lacy. Mrs.
Lacy had said, "Sure you don't want us to get you a taxi?" and Anthony
had replied that he guessed they could walk over to Fifth all right.
Then they had both attempted, imprudently, to bow--and collapsed
absurdly into a battalion of empty milk bottles just outside the door.
There must have been two dozen milk bottles standing open-mouthed in the
dark. She could conceive of no plausible explanation of those milk
bottles. Perhaps they had been attracted by the singing in the Lacy
house and had hurried over agape with wonder to see the fun. Well,
they'd had the worst of it--though it seemed that she and Anthony never
would get up, the perverse things rolled so....
Still, they had found a taxi. "My meter's broken and it'll cost you a
dollar and a half to get home," said the taxi driver. "Well," said
Anthony, "I'm young Packy McFarland and if you'll come down here I'll
beat you till you can't stand up." ...At that point the man had driven
off without them. They must have found another taxi, for they were in
"What time is it?" Anthony was sitting up in bed, staring at her with
This was obviously a rhetorical question. Gloria could think of no
reason why she should be expected to know the time.
"Golly, I feel like the devil!" muttered Anthony dispassionately.
Relaxing, he tumbled back upon his pillow. "Bring on your grim reaper!"
"Anthony, how'd we finally get home last night?"
"Oh!" Then, after a pause: "Did you put me to bed?"
"I don't know. Seems to me you put _me_ to bed. What day is it?"
"Tuesday? I hope so. If it's Wednesday, I've got to start work at that
idiotic place. Supposed to be down at nine or some such ungodly hour."
"Ask Bounds," suggested Gloria feebly.
"Bounds!" he called.
Sprightly, sober--a voice from a world that it seemed in the past two
days they had left forever, Bounds sprang in short steps down the hall
and appeared in the half darkness of the door.
"What day, Bounds?"
"February the twenty-second, I think, sir."
"I mean day of the week."
"Tuesday, sir." "Thanks." After a pause: "Are you ready for breakfast,
"Yes, and Bounds, before you get it, will you make a pitcher of water,
and set it here beside the bed? I'm a little thirsty."
Bounds retreated in sober dignity down the hallway.
"Lincoln's birthday," affirmed Anthony without enthusiasm, "or St.
Valentine's or somebody's. When did we start on this insane party?"
"After prayers?" he suggested sardonically.
"We raced all over town in those hansoms and Maury sat up with his
driver, don't you remember? Then we came home and he tried to cook some
bacon--came out of the pantry with a few blackened remains, insisting it
was 'fried to the proverbial crisp.'"
Both of them laughed, spontaneously but with some difficulty, and lying
there side by side reviewed the chain of events that had ended in this
rusty and chaotic dawn.
They had been in New York for almost four months, since the country had
grown too cool in late October. They had given up California this year,
partly because of lack of funds, partly with the idea of going abroad
should this interminable war, persisting now into its second year, end
during the winter. Of late their income had lost elasticity; no longer
did it stretch to cover gay whims and pleasant extravagances, and
Anthony had spent many puzzled and unsatisfactory hours over a densely
figured pad, making remarkable budgets that left huge margins for
"amusements, trips, etc.," and trying to apportion, even approximately,
their past expenditures.