Part 5 out of 8
He remembered a time when in going on a "party" with his two best
friends, he and Maury had invariably paid more than their share of the
expenses. They would buy the tickets for the theatre or squabble between
themselves for the dinner check. It had seemed fitting; Dick, with his
naïveté and his astonishing fund of information about himself, had been
a diverting, almost juvenile, figure--court jester to their royalty. But
this was no longer true. It was Dick who always had money; it was
Anthony who entertained within limitations--always excepting occasional
wild, wine-inspired, check-cashing parties--and it was Anthony who was
solemn about it next morning and told the scornful and disgusted Gloria
that they'd have to be "more careful next time."
In the two years since the publication of "The Demon Lover," Dick had
made over twenty-five thousand dollars, most of it lately, when the
reward of the author of fiction had begun to swell unprecedentedly as a
result of the voracious hunger of the motion pictures for plots. He
received seven hundred dollars for every story, at that time a large
emolument for such a young man--he was not quite thirty--and for every
one that contained enough "action" (kissing, shooting, and sacrificing)
for the movies, he obtained an additional thousand. His stories varied;
there was a measure of vitality and a sort of instinctive in all of
them, but none attained the personality of "The Demon Lover," and there
were several that Anthony considered downright cheap. These, Dick
explained severely, were to widen his audience. Wasn't it true that men
who had attained real permanence from Shakespeare to Mark Twain had
appealed to the many as well as to the elect?
Though Anthony and Maury disagreed, Gloria told him to go ahead and make
as much money as he could--that was the only thing that counted
Maury, a little stouter, faintly mellower, and more complaisant, had
gone to work in Philadelphia. He came to New York once or twice a month
and on such occasions the four of them travelled the popular routes from
dinner to the theatre, thence to the Frolic or, perhaps, at the urging
of the ever-curious Gloria, to one of the cellars of Greenwich Village,
notorious through the furious but short-lived vogue of the "new poetry
In January, after many monologues directed at his reticent wife, Anthony
determined to "get something to do," for the winter at any rate. He
wanted to please his grandfather and even, in a measure, to see how he
liked it himself. He discovered during several tentative semi-social
calls that employers were not interested in a young man who was only
going to "try it for a few months or so." As the grandson of Adam Patch
he was received everywhere with marked courtesy, but the old man was a
back number now--the heyday of his fame as first an "oppressor" and then
an uplifter of the people had been during the twenty years preceding his
retirement. Anthony even found several of the younger men who were under
the impression that Adam Patch had been dead for some years.
Eventually Anthony went to his grandfather and asked his advice, which
turned out to be that he should enter the bond business as a salesman, a
tedious suggestion to Anthony, but one that in the end he determined to
follow. Sheer money in deft manipulation had fascinations under all
circumstances, while almost any side of manufacturing would be
insufferably dull. He considered newspaper work but decided that the
hours were not ordered for a married man. And he lingered over pleasant
fancies of himself either as editor of a brilliant weekly of opinion, an
American Mercure de France, or as scintillant producer of satiric comedy
and Parisian musical revue. However, the approaches to these latter
guilds seemed to be guarded by professional secrets. Men drifted into
them by the devious highways of writing and acting. It was palpably
impossible to get on a magazine unless you had been on one before.
So in the end he entered, by way of his grandfather's letter, that
Sanctum Americanum where sat the president of Wilson, Hiemer and Hardy
at his "cleared desk," and issued therefrom employed. He was to begin
work on the twenty-third of February.
In tribute to the momentous occasion this two-day revel had been
planned, since, he said, after he began working he'd have to get to bed
early during the week. Maury Noble had arrived from Philadelphia on a
trip that had to do with seeing some man in Wall Street (whom,
incidentally, he failed to see), and Richard Caramel had been half
persuaded, half tricked into joining them. They had condescended to a
wet and fashionable wedding on Monday afternoon, and in the evening had
occurred the dénouement: Gloria, going beyond her accustomed limit of
four precisely timed cocktails, led them on as gay and joyous a
bacchanal as they had ever known, disclosing an astonishing knowledge of
ballet steps, and singing songs which she confessed had been taught her
by her cook when she was innocent and seventeen. She repeated these by
request at intervals throughout the evening with such frank conviviality
that Anthony, far from being annoyed, was gratified at this fresh source
of entertainment. The occasion was memorable in other ways--a long
conversation between Maury and a defunct crab, which he was dragging
around on the end of a string, as to whether the crab was fully
conversant with the applications of the binomial theorem, and the
aforementioned race in two hansom cabs with the sedate and impressive
shadows of Fifth Avenue for audience, ending in a labyrinthine escape
into the darkness of Central Park. Finally Anthony and Gloria had paid a
call on some wild young married people--the Lacys--and collapsed in the
empty milk bottles.
Morning now--theirs to add up the checks cashed here and there in clubs,
stores, restaurants. Theirs to air the dank staleness of wine and
cigarettes out of the tall blue front room, to pick up the broken glass
and brush at the stained fabric of chairs and sofas; to give Bounds
suits and dresses for the cleaners; finally, to take their smothery
half-feverish bodies and faded depressed spirits out into the chill air
of February, that life might go on and Wilson, Hiemer and Hardy obtain
the services of a vigorous man at nine next morning.
"Do you remember," called Anthony from the bathroom, "when Maury got out
at the corner of One Hundred and Tenth Street and acted as a traffic
cop, beckoning cars forward and motioning them back? They must have
thought he was a private detective."
After each reminiscence they both laughed inordinately, their
overwrought nerves responding as acutely and janglingly to mirth as to
Gloria at the mirror was wondering at the splendid color and freshness
of her face--it seemed that she had never looked so well, though her
stomach hurt her and her head was aching furiously.
The day passed slowly. Anthony, riding in a taxi to his broker's to
borrow money on a bond, found that he had only two dollars in his
pocket. The fare would cost all of that, but he felt that on this
particular afternoon he could not have endured the subway. When the
taximetre reached his limit he must get out and walk.
With this his mind drifted off into one of its characteristic
day-dreams.... In this dream he discovered that the metre was going too
fast--the driver had dishonestly adjusted it. Calmly he reached his
destination and then nonchalantly handed the man what he justly owed
him. The man showed fight, but almost before his hands were up Anthony
had knocked him down with one terrific blow. And when he rose Anthony
quickly sidestepped and floored him definitely with a crack in
... He was in court now. The judge had fined him five dollars and he had
no money. Would the court take his check? Ah, but the court did not know
him. Well, he could identify himself by having them call his apartment.
... They did so. Yes, it was Mrs. Anthony Patch speaking--but how did
she know that this man was her husband? How could she know? Let the
police sergeant ask her if she remembered the milk bottles ...
He leaned forward hurriedly and tapped at the glass. The taxi was only
at Brooklyn Bridge, but the metre showed a dollar and eighty cents, and
Anthony would never have omitted the ten per cent tip.
Later in the afternoon he returned to the apartment. Gloria had also
been out--shopping--and was asleep, curled in a corner of the sofa with
her purchase locked securely in her arms. Her face was as untroubled as
a little girl's, and the bundle that she pressed tightly to her bosom
was a child's doll, a profound and infinitely healing balm to her
disturbed and childish heart.
It was with this party, more especially with Gloria's part in it, that a
decided change began to come over their way of living. The magnificent
attitude of not giving a damn altered overnight; from being a mere tenet
of Gloria's it became the entire solace and justification for what they
chose to do and what consequence it brought. Not to be sorry, not to
loose one cry of regret, to live according to a clear code of honor
toward each other, and to seek the moment's happiness as fervently and
persistently as possible.
"No one cares about us but ourselves, Anthony," she said one day. "It'd
be ridiculous for me to go about pretending I felt any obligations
toward the world, and as for worrying what people think about me, I
simply _don't_, that's all. Since I was a little girl in dancing-school
I've been criticised by the mothers of all the little girls who weren't
as popular as I was, and I've always looked on criticism as a sort of
This was because of a party in the "Boul' Mich'" one night, where
Constance Merriam had seen her as one of a highly stimulated party of
four. Constance Merriam, "as an old school friend," had gone to the
trouble of inviting her to lunch next day in order to inform her how
terrible it was.
"I told her I couldn't see it," Gloria told Anthony. "Eric Merriam is a
sort of sublimated Percy Wolcott--you remember that man in Hot Springs I
told you about--his idea of respecting Constance is to leave her at home
with her sewing and her baby and her book, and such innocuous
amusements, whenever he's going on a party that promises to be anything
but deathly dull."
"Did you tell her that?"
"I certainly did. And I told her that what she really objected to was
that I was having a better time than she was."
Anthony applauded her. He was tremendously proud of Gloria, proud that
she never failed to eclipse whatever other women might be in the party,
proud that men were always glad to revel with her in great rowdy groups,
without any attempt to do more than enjoy her beauty and the warmth of
These "parties" gradually became their chief source of entertainment.
Still in love, still enormously interested in each other, they yet found
as spring drew near that staying at home in the evening palled on them;
books were unreal; the old magic of being alone had long since
vanished--instead they preferred to be bored by a stupid musical comedy,
or to go to dinner with the most uninteresting of their acquaintances,
so long as there would be enough cocktails to keep the conversation from
becoming utterly intolerable. A scattering of younger married people who
had been their friends in school or college, as well as a varied
assortment of single men, began to think instinctively of them whenever
color and excitement were needed, so there was scarcely a day without
its phone call, its "Wondered what you were doing this evening." Wives,
as a rule, were afraid of Gloria--her facile attainment of the centre of
the stage, her innocent but nevertheless disturbing way of becoming a
favorite with husbands--these things drove them instinctively into an
attitude of profound distrust, heightened by the fact that Gloria was
largely unresponsive to any intimacy shown her by a woman.
On the appointed Wednesday in February Anthony had gone to the imposing
offices of Wilson, Hiemer and Hardy and listened to many vague
instructions delivered by an energetic young man of about his own age,
named Kahler, who wore a defiant yellow pompadour, and in announcing
himself as an assistant secretary gave the impression that it was a
tribute to exceptional ability.
"There's two kinds of men here, you'll find," he said. "There's the man
who gets to be an assistant secretary or treasurer, gets his name on our
folder here, before he's thirty, and there's the man who gets his name
there at forty-five. The man who gets his name there at forty-five stays
there the rest of his life."
"How about the man who gets it there at thirty?" inquired Anthony
"Why, he gets up here, you see." He pointed to a list of assistant
vice-presidents upon the folder. "Or maybe he gets to be president or
secretary or treasurer."
"And what about these over here?"
"Those? Oh, those are the trustees--the men with capital."
"Now some people," continued Kahler, "think that whether a man gets
started early or late depends on whether he's got a college education.
But they're wrong."
"I had one; I was Buckleigh, class of nineteen-eleven, but when I came
down to the Street I soon found that the things that would help me here
weren't the fancy things I learned in college. In fact, I had to get a
lot of fancy stuff out of my head."
Anthony could not help wondering what possible "fancy stuff" he had
learned at Buckleigh in nineteen-eleven. An irrepressible idea that it
was some sort of needlework recurred to him throughout the rest of the
"See that fellow over there?" Kahler pointed to a youngish-looking man
with handsome gray hair, sitting at a desk inside a mahogany railing.
"That's Mr. Ellinger, the first vice-president. Been everywhere, seen
everything; got a fine education."
In vain did Anthony try to open his mind to the romance of finance; he
could think of Mr. Ellinger only as one of the buyers of the handsome
leather sets of Thackeray, Balzac, Hugo, and Gibbon that lined the walls
of the big bookstores.
Through the damp and uninspiring month of March he was prepared for
salesmanship. Lacking enthusiasm he was capable of viewing the turmoil
and bustle that surrounded him only as a fruitless circumambient
striving toward an incomprehensible goal, tangibly evidenced only by the
rival mansions of Mr. Frick and Mr. Carnegie on Fifth Avenue. That these
portentous vice-presidents and trustees should be actually the fathers
of the "best men" he had known at Harvard seemed to him incongruous.
He ate in an employees' lunch-room up-stairs with an uneasy suspicion
that he was being uplifted, wondering through that first week if the
dozens of young clerks, some of them alert and immaculate, and just out
of college, lived in flamboyant hope of crowding onto that narrow slip
of cardboard before the catastrophic thirties. The conversation that
interwove with the pattern of the day's work was all much of a piece.
One discussed how Mr. Wilson had made his money, what method Mr. Hiemer
had employed, and the means resorted to by Mr. Hardy. One related
age-old but eternally breathless anecdotes of the fortunes stumbled on
precipitously in the Street by a "butcher" or a "bartender," or "a darn
_mess_enger boy, by golly!" and then one talked of the current gambles,
and whether it was best to go out for a hundred thousand a year or be
content with twenty. During the preceding year one of the assistant
secretaries had invested all his savings in Bethlehem Steel. The story
of his spectacular magnificence, of his haughty resignation in January,
and of the triumphal palace he was now building in California, was the
favorite office subject. The man's very name had acquired a magic
significance, symbolizing as he did the aspirations of all good
Americans. Anecdotes were told about him--how one of the vice-presidents
had advised him to sell, by golly, but he had hung on, even bought on
margin, "and _now_ look where he is!"
Such, obviously, was the stuff of life--a dizzy triumph dazzling the
eyes of all of them, a gypsy siren to content them with meagre wage and
with the arithmetical improbability of their eventual success.
To Anthony the notion became appalling. He felt that to succeed here the
idea of success must grasp and limit his mind. It seemed to him that the
essential element in these men at the top was their faith that their
affairs were the very core of life. All other things being equal,
self-assurance and opportunism won out over technical knowledge; it was
obvious that the more expert work went on near the bottom--so, with
appropriate efficiency, the technical experts were kept there.
His determination to stay in at night during the week did not survive,
and a good half of the time he came to work with a splitting, sickish
headache and the crowded horror of the morning subway ringing in his
ears like an echo of hell.
Then, abruptly, he quit. He had remained in bed all one Monday, and late
in the evening, overcome by one of those attacks of moody despair to
which he periodically succumbed, he wrote and mailed a letter to Mr.
Wilson, confessing that he considered himself ill adapted to the work.
Gloria, coming in from the theatre with Richard Caramel, found him on
the lounge, silently staring at the high ceiling, more depressed and
discouraged than he had been at any time since their marriage.
She wanted him to whine. If he had she would have reproached him
bitterly, for she was not a little annoyed, but he only lay there so
utterly miserable that she felt sorry for him, and kneeling down she
stroked his head, saying how little it mattered, how little anything
mattered so long as they loved each other. It was like their first year,
and Anthony, reacting to her cool hand, to her voice that was soft as
breath itself upon his ear, became almost cheerful, and talked with her
of his future plans. He even regretted, silently, before he went to bed
that he had so hastily mailed his resignation.
"Even when everything seems rotten you can't trust that judgment,"
Gloria had said. "It's the sum of all your judgments that counts."
In mid-April came a letter from the real-estate agent in Marietta,
encouraging them to take the gray house for another year at a slightly
increased rental, and enclosing a lease made out for their signatures.
For a week lease and letter lay carelessly neglected on Anthony's desk.
They had no intention of returning to Marietta. They were weary of the
place, and had been bored most of the preceding summer. Besides, their
car had deteriorated to a rattling mass of hypochondriacal metal, and a
new one was financially inadvisable.
But because of another wild revel, enduring through four days and
participated in, at one time or another, by more than a dozen people,
they did sign the lease; to their utter horror they signed it and sent
it, and immediately it seemed as though they heard the gray house,
drably malevolent at last, licking its white chops and waiting to
"Anthony, where's that lease?" she called in high alarm one Sunday
morning, sick and sober to reality. "Where did you leave it? It
Then she knew where it was. She remembered the house party they had
planned on the crest of their exuberance; she remembered a room full of
men to whose less exhilarated moments she and Anthony were of no
importance, and Anthony's boast of the transcendent merit and seclusion
of the gray house, that it was so isolated that it didn't matter how
much noise went on there. Then Dick, who had visited them, cried
enthusiastically that it was the best little house imaginable, and that
they were idiotic not to take it for another summer. It had been easy to
work themselves up to a sense of how hot and deserted the city was
getting, of how cool and ambrosial were the charms of Marietta. Anthony
had picked up the lease and waved it wildly, found Gloria happily
acquiescent, and with one last burst of garrulous decision during which
all the men agreed with solemn handshakes that they would come out for
a visit ...
"Anthony," she cried, "we've signed and sent it!"
"What the devil!"
"Oh, _An_thony!" There was utter misery in her voice. For the summer,
for eternity, they had built themselves a prison. It seemed to strike at
the last roots of their stability. Anthony thought they might arrange it
with the real-estate agent. They could no longer afford the double rent,
and going to Marietta meant giving up his apartment, his reproachless
apartment with the exquisite bath and the rooms for which he had bought
his furniture and hangings--it was the closest to a home that he had
ever had--familiar with memories of four colorful years.
But it was not arranged with the real-estate agent, nor was it arranged
at all. Dispiritedly, without even any talk of making the best of it,
without even Gloria's all-sufficing "I don't care," they went back to
the house that they now knew heeded neither youth nor love--only those
austere and incommunicable memories that they could never share.
THE SINISTER SUMMER
There was a horror in the house that summer. It came with them and
settled itself over the place like a sombre pall, pervasive through the
lower rooms, gradually spreading and climbing up the narrow stairs until
it oppressed their very sleep. Anthony and Gloria grew to hate being
there alone. Her bedroom, which had seemed so pink and young and
delicate, appropriate to her pastel-shaded lingerie tossed here and
there on chair and bed, seemed now to whisper with its rustling curtains:
"Ah, my beautiful young lady, yours is not the first daintiness and
delicacy that has faded here under the summer suns ... generations of
unloved women have adorned themselves by that glass for rustic lovers
who paid no heed.... Youth has come into this room in palest blue and
left it in the gray cerements of despair, and through long nights many
girls have lain awake where that bed stands pouring out waves of misery
into the darkness."
Gloria finally tumbled all her clothes and unguents ingloriously out of
it, declaring that she had come to live with Anthony, and making the
excuse that one of her screens was rotten and admitted bugs. So her room
was abandoned to insensitive guests, and they dressed and slept in her
husband's chamber, which Gloria considered somehow "good," as though
Anthony's presence there had acted as exterminator of any uneasy shadows
of the past that might have hovered about its walls.
The distinction between "good" and "bad," ordered early and summarily
out of both their lives, had been reinstated in another form. Gloria
insisted that any one invited to the gray house must be "good," which,
in the case of a girl, meant that she must be either simple and
reproachless or, if otherwise, must possess a certain solidity and
strength. Always intensely sceptical of her sex, her judgments were now
concerned with the question of whether women were or were not clean. By
uncleanliness she meant a variety of things, a lack of pride, a
slackness in fibre and, most of all, the unmistakable aura of
"Women soil easily," she said, "far more easily than men. Unless a
girl's very young and brave it's almost impossible for her to go
down-hill without a certain hysterical animality, the cunning, dirty
sort of animality. A man's different--and I suppose that's why one of
the commonest characters of romance is a man going gallantly to
She was disposed to like many men, preferably those who gave her frank
homage and unfailing entertainment--but often with a flash of insight
she told Anthony that some one of his friends was merely using him, and
consequently had best be left alone. Anthony customarily demurred,
insisting that the accused was a "good one," but he found that his
judgment was more fallible than hers, memorably when, as it happened on
several occasions, he was left with a succession of restaurant checks
for which to render a solitary account.
More from their fear of solitude than from any desire to go through the
fuss and bother of entertaining, they filled the house with guests every
week-end, and often on through the week. The week-end parties were much
the same. When the three or four men invited had arrived, drinking was
more or less in order, followed by a hilarious dinner and a ride to the
Cradle Beach Country Club, which they had joined because it was
inexpensive, lively if not fashionable, and almost a necessity for just
such occasions as these. Moreover, it was of no great moment what one
did there, and so long as the Patch party were reasonably inaudible, it
mattered little whether or not the social dictators of Cradle Beach saw
the gay Gloria imbibing cocktails in the supper room at frequent
intervals during the evening.
Saturday ended, generally, in a glamourous confusion--it proving often
necessary to assist a muddled guest to bed. Sunday brought the New York
papers and a quiet morning of recuperating on the porch--and Sunday
afternoon meant good-by to the one or two guests who must return to the
city, and a great revival of drinking among the one or two who remained
until next day, concluding in a convivial if not hilarious evening.
The faithful Tana, pedagogue by nature and man of all work by
profession, had returned with them. Among their more frequent guests a
tradition had sprung up about him. Maury Noble remarked one afternoon
that his real name was Tannenbaum, and that he was a German agent kept
in this country to disseminate Teutonic propaganda through Westchester
County, and, after that, mysterious letters began to arrive from
Philadelphia addressed to the bewildered Oriental as "Lt. Emile
Tannenbaum," containing a few cryptic messages signed "General Staff,"
and adorned with an atmospheric double column of facetious Japanese.
Anthony always handed them to Tana without a smile; hours afterward the
recipient could be found puzzling over them in the kitchen and declaring
earnestly that the perpendicular symbols were not Japanese, nor anything
Gloria had taken a strong dislike to the man ever since the day when,
returning unexpectedly from the village, she had discovered him
reclining on Anthony's bed, puzzling out a newspaper. It was the
instinct of all servants to be fond of Anthony and to detest Gloria, and
Tana was no exception to the rule. But he was thoroughly afraid of her
and made plain his aversion only in his moodier moments by subtly
addressing Anthony with remarks intended for her ear:
"What Miz Pats want dinner?" he would say, looking at his master. Or
else he would comment about the bitter selfishness of "'Merican peoples"
in such manner that there was no doubt who were the "peoples"
But they dared not dismiss him. Such a step would have been abhorrent to
their inertia. They endured Tana as they endured ill weather and
sickness of the body and the estimable Will of God--as they endured all
things, even themselves.
One sultry afternoon late in July Richard Caramel telephoned from New
York that he and Maury were coming out, bringing a friend with them.
They arrived about five, a little drunk, accompanied by a small, stocky
man of thirty-five, whom they introduced as Mr. Joe Hull, one of the
best fellows that Anthony and Gloria had ever met.
Joe Hull had a yellow beard continually fighting through his skin and a
low voice which varied between basso profundo and a husky whisper.
Anthony, carrying Maury's suitcase up-stairs, followed into the room and
carefully closed the door.
"Who is this fellow?" he demanded.
Maury chuckled enthusiastically.
"Who, Hull? Oh, _he's_ all right. He's a good one."
"Yes, but who is he?"
"Hull? He's just a good fellow. He's a prince." His laughter redoubled,
culminating in a succession of pleasant catlike grins. Anthony hesitated
between a smile and a frown.
"He looks sort of funny to me. Weird-looking clothes"--he paused--"I've
got a sneaking suspicion you two picked him up somewhere last night."
"Ridiculous," declared Maury. "Why, I've known him all my life."
However, as he capped this statement with another series of chuckles,
Anthony was impelled to remark: "The devil you have!"
Later, just before dinner, while Maury and Dick were conversing
uproariously, with Joe Hull listening in silence as he sipped his drink,
Gloria drew Anthony into the dining room:
"I don't like this man Hull," she said. "I wish he'd use Tana's
"I can't very well ask him to."
"Well, I don't want him in ours."
"He seems to be a simple soul."
"He's got on white shoes that look like gloves. I can see his toes right
through them. Uh! Who is he, anyway?"
"You've got me."
"Well, I think they've got their nerve to bring him out here. This isn't
a Sailor's Rescue Home!"
"They were tight when they phoned. Maury said they've been on a party
since yesterday afternoon."
Gloria shook her head angrily, and saying no more returned to the porch.
Anthony saw that she was trying to forget her uncertainty and devote
herself to enjoying the evening.
It had been a tropical day, and even into late twilight the heat-waves
emanating from the dry road were quivering faintly like undulating panes
of isinglass. The sky was cloudless, but far beyond the woods in the
direction of the Sound a faint and persistent rolling had commenced.
When Tana announced dinner the men, at a word from Gloria, remained
coatless and went inside.
Maury began a song, which they accomplished in harmony during the first
course. It had two lines and was sung to a popular air called Daisy
Dear. The lines were:
"The--pan-ic--has--come--over us, So _ha-a-as_--the moral de_cline_!"
Each rendition was greeted with bursts of enthusiasm and prolonged
"Cheer up, Gloria!" suggested Maury. "You seem the least bit depressed."
"I'm not," she lied.
"Here, Tannenbaum!" he called over his shoulder. "I've filled you a
drink. Come on!"
Gloria tried to stay his arm.
"Please don't, Maury!"
"Why not? Maybe he'll play the flute for us after dinner. Here, Tana."
Tana, grinning, bore the glass away to the kitchen. In a few moments
Maury gave him another.
"Cheer up, Gloria!" he cried. "For Heaven's sakes everybody, cheer up
"Dearest, have another drink," counselled Anthony.
"Cheer up, Gloria," said Joe Hull easily.
Gloria winced at this uncalled-for use of her first name, and glanced
around to see if any one else had noticed it. The word coming so glibly
from the lips of a man to whom she had taken an inordinate dislike
repelled her. A moment later she noticed that Joe Hull had given Tana
another drink, and her anger increased, heightened somewhat from the
effects of the alcohol.
"--and once," Maury was saying, "Peter Granby and I went into a Turkish
bath in Boston, about two o'clock at night. There was no one there but
the proprietor, and we jammed him into a closet and locked the door.
Then a fella came in and wanted a Turkish bath. Thought we were the
rubbers, by golly! Well, we just picked him up and tossed him into the
pool with all his clothes on. Then we dragged him out and laid him on a
slab and slapped him until he was black and blue. 'Not so rough,
fellows!' he'd say in a little squeaky voice, 'please! ...'"
--Was this Maury? thought Gloria. From any one else the story would have
amused her, but from Maury, the infinitely appreciative, the apotheosis
of tact and consideration....
"The--pan-ic--has--come--over us, So _ha-a-as_--"
A drum of thunder from outside drowned out the rest of the song; Gloria
shivered and tried to empty her glass, but the first taste nauseated
her, and she set it down. Dinner was over and they all marched into the
big room, bearing several bottles and decanters. Some one had closed the
porch door to keep out the wind, and in consequence circular tentacles
of cigar smoke were twisting already upon the heavy air.
"Paging Lieutenant Tannenbaum!" Again it was the changeling Maury.
"Bring us the flute!"
Anthony and Maury rushed into the kitchen; Richard Caramel started the
phonograph and approached Gloria.
"Dance with your well-known cousin."
"I don't want to dance."
"Then I'm going to carry you around."
As though he were doing something of overpowering importance, he picked
her up in his fat little arms and started trotting gravely about
"Set me down, Dick! I'm dizzy!" she insisted.
He dumped her in a bouncing bundle on the couch, and rushed off to the
kitchen, shouting "Tana! Tana!"
Then, without warning, she felt other arms around her, felt herself
lifted from the lounge. Joe Hull had picked her up and was trying,
drunkenly, to imitate Dick.
"Put me down!" she said sharply.
His maudlin laugh, and the sight of that prickly yellow jaw close to her
face stirred her to intolerable disgust.
"The--pan-ic--" he began, but got no further, for Gloria's hand swung
around swiftly and caught him in the cheek. At this he all at once let
go of her, and she fell to the floor, her shoulder hitting the table a
glancing blow in transit....
Then the room seemed full of men and smoke. There was Tana in his white
coat reeling about supported by Maury. Into his flute he was blowing a
weird blend of sound that was known, cried Anthony, as the Japanese
train-song. Joe Hull had found a box of candles and was juggling them,
yelling "One down!" every time he missed, and Dick was dancing by
himself in a fascinated whirl around and about the room. It appeared to
her that everything in the room was staggering in grotesque
fourth-dimensional gyrations through intersecting planes of hazy blue.
Outside, the storm had come up amazingly--the lulls within were filled
with the scrape of the tall bushes against the house and the roaring of
the rain on the tin roof of the kitchen. The lightning was interminable,
letting down thick drips of thunder like pig iron from the heart of a
white-hot furnace. Gloria could see that the rain was spitting in at
three of the windows--but she could not move to shut them....
... She was in the hall. She had said good night but no one had heard or
heeded her. It seemed for an instant as though something had looked down
over the head of the banister, but she could not have gone back into the
living room--better madness than the madness of that clamor....
Up-stairs she fumbled for the electric switch and missed it in the
darkness; a roomful of lightning showed her the button plainly on the
wall. But when the impenetrable black shut down, it again eluded her
fumbling fingers, so she slipped off her dress and petticoat and threw
herself weakly on the dry side of the half-drenched bed.
She shut her eyes. From down-stairs arose the babel of the drinkers,
punctured suddenly by a tinkling shiver of broken glass, and then
another, and by a soaring fragment of unsteady, irregular song....
She lay there for something over two hours--so she calculated afterward,
sheerly by piecing together the bits of time. She was conscious, even
aware, after a long while that the noise down-stairs had lessened, and
that the storm was moving off westward, throwing back lingering showers
of sound that fell, heavy and lifeless as her soul, into the soggy
fields. This was succeeded by a slow, reluctant scattering of the rain
and wind, until there was nothing outside her windows but a gentle
dripping and the swishing play of a cluster of wet vine against the
sill. She was in a state half-way between sleeping and waking, with
neither condition predominant ... and she was harassed by a desire to
rid herself of a weight pressing down upon her breast. She felt that if
she could cry the weight would be lifted, and forcing the lids of her
eyes together she tried to raise a lump in her throat ... to
Drip! Drip! Drip! The sound was not unpleasant--like spring, like a cool
rain of her childhood, that made cheerful mud in her back yard and
watered the tiny garden she had dug with miniature rake and spade and
hoe. Drip--dri-ip! It was like days when the rain came out of yellow
skies that melted just before twilight and shot one radiant shaft of
sunlight diagonally down the heavens into the damp green trees. So cool,
so clear and clean--and her mother there at the centre of the world, at
the centre of the rain, safe and dry and strong. She wanted her mother
now, and her mother was dead, beyond sight and touch forever. And this
weight was pressing on her, pressing on her--oh, it pressed on her so!
She became rigid. Some one had come to the door and was standing
regarding her, very quiet except for a slight swaying motion. She could
see the outline of his figure distinct against some indistinguishable
light. There was no sound anywhere, only a great persuasive
silence--even the dripping had ceased ... only this figure, swaying,
swaying in the doorway, an indiscernible and subtly menacing terror, a
personality filthy under its varnish, like smallpox spots under a layer
of powder. Yet her tired heart, beating until it shook her breasts, made
her sure that there was still life in her, desperately shaken,
The minute or succession of minutes prolonged itself interminably, and a
swimming blur began to form before her eyes, which tried with childish
persistence to pierce the gloom in the direction of the door. In another
instant it seemed that some unimaginable force would shatter her out of
existence ... and then the figure in the doorway--it was Hull, she saw,
Hull--turned deliberately and, still slightly swaying, moved back and
off, as if absorbed into that incomprehensible light that had given him
Blood rushed back into her limbs, blood and life together. With a start
of energy she sat upright, shifting her body until her feet touched the
floor over the side of the bed. She knew what she must do--now, now,
before it was too late. She must go out into this cool damp, out, away,
to feel the wet swish of the grass around her feet and the fresh
moisture on her forehead. Mechanically she struggled into her clothes,
groping in the dark of the closet for a hat. She must go from this house
where the thing hovered that pressed upon her bosom, or else made itself
into stray, swaying figures in the gloom.
In a panic she fumbled clumsily at her coat, found the sleeve just as
she heard Anthony's footsteps on the lower stair. She dared not wait; he
might not let her go, and even Anthony was part of this weight, part of
this evil house and the sombre darkness that was growing up about it....
Through the hall then ... and down the back stairs, hearing Anthony's
voice in the bedroom she had just left--
But she had reached the kitchen now, passed out through the doorway into
the night. A hundred drops, startled by a flare of wind from a dripping
tree, scattered on her and she pressed them gladly to her face with
The voice was infinitely remote, muffed and made plaintive by the walls
she had just left. She rounded the house and started down the front path
toward the road, almost exultant as she turned into it, and followed the
carpet of short grass alongside, moving with caution in the
She broke into a run, stumbled over the segment of a branch twisted off
by the wind. The voice was outside the house now. Anthony, finding the
bedroom deserted, had come onto the porch. But this thing was driving
her forward; it was back there with Anthony, and she must go on in her
flight under this dim and oppressive heaven, forcing herself through the
silence ahead as though it were a tangible barrier before her.
She had gone some distance along the barely discernible road, probably
half a mile, passed a single deserted barn that loomed up, black and
foreboding, the only building of any sort between the gray house and
Marietta; then she turned the fork, where the road entered the wood and
ran between two high walls of leaves and branches that nearly touched
overhead. She noticed suddenly a thin, longitudinal gleam of silver upon
the road before her, like a bright sword half embedded in the mud. As
she came closer she gave a little cry of satisfaction--it was a
wagon-rut full of water, and glancing heavenward she saw a light rift of
sky and knew that the moon was out.
She started violently. Anthony was not two hundred feet behind her.
"Gloria, wait for me!"
She shut her lips tightly to keep from screaming, and increased her
gait. Before she had gone another hundred yards the woods disappeared,
rolling back like a dark stocking from the leg of the road. Three
minutes' walk ahead of her, suspended in the now high and limitless air,
she saw a thin interlacing of attenuated gleams and glitters, centred in
a regular undulation on some one invisible point. Abruptly she knew
where she would go. That was the great cascade of wires that rose high
over the river, like the legs of a gigantic spider whose eye was the
little green light in the switch-house, and ran with the railroad bridge
in the direction of the station. The station! There would be the train
to take her away.
"Gloria, it's me! It's Anthony! Gloria, I won't try to stop you! For
God's sake, where are you?"
She made no answer but began to run, keeping on the high side of the
road and leaping the gleaming puddles--dimensionless pools of thin,
unsubstantial gold. Turning sharply to the left, she followed a narrow
wagon road, serving to avoid a dark body on the ground. She looked up as
an owl hooted mournfully from a solitary tree. Just ahead of her she
could see the trestle that led to the railroad bridge and the steps
mounting up to it. The station lay across the river.
Another sounds startled her, the melancholy siren of an approaching
train, and almost simultaneously, a repeated call, thin now and
Anthony must have followed the main road. She laughed with a sort of
malicious cunning at having eluded him; she could spare the time to wait
until the train went by.
The siren soared again, closer at hand, and then, with no anticipatory
roar and clamor, a dark and sinuous body curved into view against the
shadows far down the high-banked track, and with no sound but the rush
of the cleft wind and the clocklike tick of the rails, moved toward the
bridge--it was an electric train. Above the engine two vivid blurs of
blue light formed incessantly a radiant crackling bar between them,
which, like a spluttering flame in a lamp beside a corpse, lit for an
instant the successive rows of trees and caused Gloria to draw back
instinctively to the far side of the road. The light was tepid, the
temperature of warm blood.... The clicking blended suddenly with itself
in a rush of even sound, and then, elongating in sombre elasticity, the
thing roared blindly by her and thundered onto the bridge, racing the
lurid shaft of fire it cast into the solemn river alongside. Then it
contracted swiftly, sucking in its sound until it left only a
reverberant echo, which died upon the farther bank.
Silence crept down again over the wet country; the faint dripping
resumed, and suddenly a great shower of drops tumbled upon Gloria
stirring her out of the trance-like torpor which the passage of the
train had wrought. She ran swiftly down a descending level to the bank
and began climbing the iron stairway to the bridge, remembering that it
was something she had always wanted to do, and that she would have the
added excitement of traversing the yard-wide plank that ran beside the
tracks over the river.
There! This was better. She was at the top now and could see the lands
about her as successive sweeps of open country, cold under the moon,
coarsely patched and seamed with thin rows and heavy clumps of trees. To
her right, half a mile down the river, which trailed away behind the
light like the shiny, slimy path of a snail, winked the scattered lights
of Marietta. Not two hundred yards away at the end of the bridge
squatted the station, marked by a sullen lantern. The oppression was
lifted now--the tree-tops below her were rocking the young starlight to
a haunted doze. She stretched out her arms with a gesture of freedom.
This was what she had wanted, to stand alone where it was high and cool.
Like a startled child she scurried along the plank, hopping, skipping,
jumping, with an ecstatic sense of her own physical lightness. Let him
come now--she no longer feared that, only she must first reach the
station, because that was part of the game. She was happy. Her hat,
snatched off, was clutched tightly in her hand, and her short curled
hair bobbed up and down about her ears. She had thought she would never
feel so young again, but this was her night, her world. Triumphantly she
laughed as she left the plank, and reaching the wooden platform flung
herself down happily beside an iron roof-post.
"Here I am!" she called, gay as the dawn in her elation. "Here I am,
Anthony, dear--old, worried Anthony."
"Gloria!" He reached the platform, ran toward her. "Are you all right?"
Coming up he knelt and took her in his arms.
"What was the matter? Why did you leave?" he queried anxiously.
"I had to--there was something"--she paused and a flicker of uneasiness
lashed at her mind--"there was something sitting on me--here." She put
her hand on her breast. "I had to go out and get away from it."
"What do you mean by 'something'?"
"I don't know--that man Hull--"
"Did he bother you?"
"He came to my door, drunk. I think I'd gotten sort of crazy by that
Wearily she laid her head upon his shoulder.
"Let's go back," he suggested.
"Uh! No, I couldn't. It'd come and sit on me again." Her voice rose to a
cry that hung plaintive on the darkness. "That thing--"
"There--there," he soothed her, pulling her close to him. "We won't do
anything you don't want to do. What do you want to do? Just sit here?"
"I want--I want to go away."
"By golly, Gloria," he cried, "you're still tight!"
"No, I'm not. I haven't been, all evening. I went up-stairs about, oh, I
don't know, about half an hour after dinner ...Ouch!"
He had inadvertently touched her right shoulder.
"It hurts me. I hurt it some way. I don't know--somebody picked me up
and dropped me."
"Gloria, come home. It's late and damp."
"I can't," she wailed. "Oh, Anthony, don't ask me to! I will to-morrow.
You go home and I'll wait here for a train. I'll go to a hotel--"
"I'll go with you."
"No, I don't want you with me. I want to be alone. I want to sleep--oh,
I want to sleep. And then to-morrow, when you've got all the smell of
whiskey and cigarettes out of the house, and everything straight, and
Hull is gone, then I'll come home. If I went now, that thing--oh--!" She
covered her eyes with her hand; Anthony saw the futility of trying to
"I was all sober when you left," he said. "Dick was asleep on the lounge
and Maury and I were having a discussion. That fellow Hull had wandered
off somewhere. Then I began to realize I hadn't seen you for several
hours, so I went up-stairs--"
He broke off as a salutatory "Hello, there!" boomed suddenly out of the
darkness. Gloria sprang to her feet and he did likewise.
"It's Maury's voice," she cried excitedly. "If it's Hull with him, keep
them away, keep them away!"
"Who's there?" Anthony called.
"Just Dick and Maury," returned two voices reassuringly.
"He's in bed. Passed out."
Their figures appeared dimly on the platform.
"What the devil are you and Gloria doing here?" inquired Richard Caramel
with sleepy bewilderment.
"What are _you_ two doing here?"
"Damned if I know. We followed you, and had the deuce of a time doing
it. I heard you out on the porch yelling for Gloria, so I woke up the
Caramel here and got it through his head, with some difficulty, that if
there was a search-party we'd better be on it. He slowed me up by
sitting down in the road at intervals and asking me what it was all
about. We tracked you by the pleasant scent of Canadian Club."
There was a rattle of nervous laughter under the low train-shed.
"How did you track us, really?"
"Well, we followed along down the road and then we suddenly lost you.
Seems you turned off at a wagontrail. After a while somebody hailed us
and asked us if we were looking for a young girl. Well, we came up and
found it was a little shivering old man, sitting on a fallen tree like
somebody in a fairy tale. 'She turned down here,' he said, 'and most
steppud on me, goin' somewhere in an awful hustle, and then a fella in
short golfin' pants come runnin' along and went after her. He throwed me
this.' The old fellow had a dollar bill he was waving around--"
"Oh, the poor old man!" ejaculated Gloria, moved.
"I threw him another and we went on, though he asked us to stay and tell
him what it was all about."
"Poor old man," repeated Gloria dismally.
Dick sat down sleepily on a box.
"And now what?" he inquired in the tone of stoic resignation.
"Gloria's upset," explained Anthony. "She and I are going to the city by
the next train."
Maury in the darkness had pulled a time-table from his pocket.
"Strike a match."
A tiny flare leaped out of the opaque background illuminating the four
faces, grotesque and unfamiliar here in the open night.
"Let's see. Two, two-thirty--no, that's evening. By gad, you won't get a
train till five-thirty."
"Well," he muttered uncertainly, "we've decided to stay here and wait
for it. You two might as well go back and sleep."
"You go, too, Anthony," urged Gloria; "I want you to have some sleep,
dear. You've been as pale as a ghost all day."
"Why, you little idiot!"
"Very well. You stay, we stay."
He walked out from under the shed and surveyed the heavens.
"Rather a nice night, after all. Stars are out and everything.
Exceptionally tasty assortment of them."
"Let's see." Gloria moved after him and the other two followed her.
"Let's sit out here," she suggested. "I like it much better."
Anthony and Dick converted a long box into a backrest and found a board
dry enough for Gloria to sit on. Anthony dropped down beside her and
with some effort Dick hoisted himself onto an apple-barrel near them.
"Tana went to sleep in the porch hammock," he remarked. "We carried him
in and left him next to the kitchen stove to dry. He was drenched to
"That awful little man!" sighed Gloria.
"How do you do!" The voice, sonorous and funereal, had come from above,
and they looked up startled to find that in some manner Maury had
climbed to the roof of the shed, where he sat dangling his feet over the
edge, outlined as a shadowy and fantastic gargoyle against the now
"It must be for such occasions as this," he began softly, his words
having the effect of floating down from an immense height and settling
softly upon his auditors, "that the righteous of the land decorate the
railroads with bill-boards asserting in red and yellow that 'Jesus
Christ is God,' placing them, appropriately enough, next to
announcements that 'Gunter's Whiskey is Good.'"
There was gentle laughter and the three below kept their heads tilted
"I think I shall tell you the story of my education," continued Maury,
"under these sardonic constellations."
"Shall I, really?"
They waited expectantly while he directed a ruminative yawn toward the
white smiling moon.
"Well," he began, "as an infant I prayed. I stored up prayers against
future wickedness. One year I stored up nineteen hundred 'Now I
"Throw down a cigarette," murmured some one.
A small package reached the platform simultaneously with the stentorian
"Silence! I am about to unburden myself of many memorable remarks
reserved for the darkness of such earths and the brilliance of
Below, a lighted match was passed from cigarette to cigarette. The voice
"I was adept at fooling the deity. I prayed immediately after all crimes
until eventually prayer and crime became indistinguishable to me. I
believed that because a man cried out 'My God!' when a safe fell on him,
it proved that belief was rooted deep in the human breast. Then I went
to school. For fourteen years half a hundred earnest men pointed to
ancient flint-locks and cried to me: 'There's the real thing. These new
rifles are only shallow, superficial imitations.' They damned the books
I read and the things I thought by calling them immoral; later the
fashion changed, and they damned things by calling them 'clever'.
"And so I turned, canny for my years, from the professors to the poets,
listening--to the lyric tenor of Swinburne and the tenor robusto of
Shelley, to Shakespeare with his first bass and his fine range, to
Tennyson with his second bass and his occasional falsetto, to Milton and
Marlow, bassos profundo. I gave ear to Browning chatting, Byron
declaiming, and Wordsworth droning. This, at least, did me no harm. I
learned a little of beauty--enough to know that it had nothing to do
with truth--and I found, moreover, that there was no great literary
tradition; there was only the tradition of the eventful death of every
"Then I grew up, and the beauty of succulent illusions fell away from
me. The fibre of my mind coarsened and my eyes grew miserably keen. Life
rose around my island like a sea, and presently I was swimming.
"The transition was subtle--the thing had lain in wait for me for some
time. It has its insidious, seemingly innocuous trap for every one. With
me? No--I didn't try to seduce the janitor's wife--nor did I run through
the streets unclothed, proclaiming my virility. It is never quite
passion that does the business--it is the dress that passion wears. I
became bored--that was all. Boredom, which is another name and a
frequent disguise for vitality, became the unconscious motive of all my
acts. Beauty was behind me, do you understand?--I was grown." He paused.
"End of school and college period. Opening of Part Two."
Three quietly active points of light showed the location of his
listeners. Gloria was now half sitting, half lying, in Anthony's lap.
His arm was around her so tightly that she could hear the beating of his
heart. Richard Caramel, perched on the apple-barrel, from time to time
stirred and gave off a faint grunt.
"I grew up then, into this land of jazz, and fell immediately into a
state of almost audible confusion. Life stood over me like an immoral
schoolmistress, editing my ordered thoughts. But, with a mistaken faith
in intelligence, I plodded on. I read Smith, who laughed at charity and
insisted that the sneer was the highest form of self-expression--but
Smith himself replaced charity as an obscurer of the light. I read
Jones, who neatly disposed of individualism--and behold! Jones was still
in my way. I did not think--I was a battle-ground for the thoughts of
many men; rather was I one of those desirable but impotent countries
over which the great powers surge back and forth.
"I reached maturity under the impression that I was gathering the
experience to order my life for happiness. Indeed, I accomplished the
not unusual feat of solving each question in my mind long before it
presented itself to me in life--and of being beaten and bewildered
just the same.
"But after a few tastes of this latter dish I had had enough. Here! I
said, Experience is not worth the getting. It's not a thing that happens
pleasantly to a passive you--it's a wall that an active you runs up
against. So I wrapped myself in what I thought was my invulnerable
scepticism and decided that my education was complete. But it was too
late. Protect myself as I might by making no new ties with tragic and
predestined humanity, I was lost with the rest. I had traded the fight
against love for the fight against loneliness, the fight against life
for the fight against death."
He broke off to give emphasis to his last observation--after a moment he
yawned and resumed.
"I suppose that the beginning of the second phase of my education was a
ghastly dissatisfaction at being used in spite of myself for some
inscrutable purpose of whose ultimate goal I was unaware--if, indeed,
there _was_ an ultimate goal. It was a difficult choice. The
schoolmistress seemed to be saying, 'We're going to play football and
nothing but football. If you don't want to play football you can't
play at all--'
"What was I to do--the playtime was so short!
"You see, I felt that we were even denied what consolation there might
have been in being a figment of a corporate man rising from his knees.
Do you think that I leaped at this pessimism, grasped it as a sweetly
smug superior thing, no more depressing really than, say, a gray autumn
day before a fire?--I don't think I did that. I was a great deal too
warm for that, and too alive.
"For it seemed to me that there was no ultimate goal for man. Man was
beginning a grotesque and bewildered fight with nature--nature, that by
the divine and magnificent accident had brought us to where we could fly
in her face. She had invented ways to rid the race of the inferior and
thus give the remainder strength to fill her higher--or, let us say, her
more amusing--though still unconscious and accidental intentions. And,
actuated by the highest gifts of the enlightenment, we were seeking to
circumvent her. In this republic I saw the black beginning to mingle
with the white--in Europe there was taking place an economic catastrophe
to save three or four diseased and wretchedly governed races from the
one mastery that might organize them for material prosperity.
"We produce a Christ who can raise up the leper--and presently the breed
of the leper is the salt of the earth. If any one can find any lesson in
that, let him stand forth."
"There's only one lesson to be learned from life, anyway," interrupted
Gloria, not in contradiction but in a sort of melancholy agreement.
"What's that?" demanded Maury sharply.
"That there's no lesson to be learned from life."
After a short silence Maury said:
"Young Gloria, the beautiful and merciless lady, first looked at the
world with the fundamental sophistication I have struggled to attain,
that Anthony never will attain, that Dick will never fully understand."
There was a disgusted groan from the apple-barrel. Anthony, grown
accustomed to the dark, could see plainly the flash of Richard Caramel's
yellow eye and the look of resentment on his face as he cried:
"You're crazy! By your own statement I should have attained some
experience by trying."
"Trying what?" cried Maury fiercely. "Trying to pierce the darkness of
political idealism with some wild, despairing urge toward truth? Sitting
day after day supine in a rigid chair and infinitely removed from life
staring at the tip of a steeple through the trees, trying to separate,
definitely and for all time, the knowable from the unknowable? Trying to
take a piece of actuality and give it glamour from your own soul to make
for that inexpressible quality it possessed in life and lost in transit
to paper or canvas? Struggling in a laboratory through weary years for
one iota of relative truth in a mass of wheels or a test tube--"
Maury paused, and in his answer, when it came, there was a measure of
weariness, a bitter overnote that lingered for a moment in those three
minds before it floated up and off like a bubble bound for the moon.
"Not I," he said softly. "I was born tired--but with the quality of
mother wit, the gift of women like Gloria--to that, for all my talking
and listening, my waiting in vain for the eternal generality that seems
to lie just beyond every argument and every speculation, to that I have
added not one jot."
In the distance a deep sound that had been audible for some moments
identified itself by a plaintive mooing like that of a gigantic cow and
by the pearly spot of a headlight apparent half a mile away. It was a
steam-driven train this time, rumbling and groaning, and as it tumbled
by with a monstrous complaint it sent a shower of sparks and cinders
over the platform.
"Not one jot!" Again Maury's voice dropped down to them as from a great
height. "What a feeble thing intelligence is, with its short steps, its
waverings, its pacings back and forth, its disastrous retreats!
Intelligence is a mere instrument of circumstances. There are people who
say that intelligence must have built the universe--why, intelligence
never built a steam engine! Circumstances built a steam engine.
Intelligence is little more than a short foot-rule by which we measure
the infinite achievements of Circumstances.
"I could quote you the philosophy of the hour--but, for all we know,
fifty years may see a complete reversal of this abnegation that's
absorbing the intellectuals to-day, the triumph of Christ over Anatole
France--" He hesitated, and then added: "But all I know--the tremendous
importance of myself to me, and the necessity of acknowledging that
importance to myself--these things the wise and lovely Gloria was born
knowing these things and the painful futility of trying to know
"Well, I started to tell you of my education, didn't I? But I learned
nothing, you see, very little even about myself. And if I had I should
die with my lips shut and the guard on my fountain pen--as the wisest
men have done since--oh, since the failure of a certain matter--a
strange matter, by the way. It concerned some sceptics who thought they
were far-sighted, just as you and I. Let me tell you about them by way
of an evening prayer before you all drop off to sleep.
"Once upon a time all the men of mind and genius in the world became of
one belief--that is to say, of no belief. But it wearied them to think
that within a few years after their death many cults and systems and
prognostications would be ascribed to them which they had never
meditated nor intended. So they said to one another:
"'Let's join together and make a great book that will last forever to
mock the credulity of man. Let's persuade our more erotic poets to write
about the delights of the flesh, and induce some of our robust
journalists to contribute stories of famous amours. We'll include all
the most preposterous old wives' tales now current. We'll choose the
keenest satirist alive to compile a deity from all the deities
worshipped by mankind, a deity who will be more magnificent than any of
them, and yet so weakly human that he'll become a byword for laughter
the world over--and we'll ascribe to him all sorts of jokes and vanities
and rages, in which he'll be supposed to indulge for his own diversion,
so that the people will read our book and ponder it, and there'll be no
more nonsense in the world.
"'Finally, let us take care that the book possesses all the virtues of
style, so that it may last forever as a witness to our profound
scepticism and our universal irony.'
"So the men did, and they died.
"But the book lived always, so beautifully had it been written, and so
astounding the quality of imagination with which these men of mind and
genius had endowed it. They had neglected to give it a name, but after
they were dead it became known as the Bible."
When he concluded there was no comment. Some damp languor sleeping on
the air of night seemed to have bewitched them all.
"As I said, I started on the story of my education. But my high-balls
are dead and the night's almost over, and soon there'll be an awful
jabbering going on everywhere, in the trees and the houses, and the two
little stores over there behind the station, and there'll be a great
running up and down upon the earth for a few hours--Well," he concluded
with a laugh, "thank God we four can all pass to our eternal rest
knowing we've left the world a little better for having lived in it."
A breeze sprang up, blowing with it faint wisps of life which flattened
against the sky.
"Your remarks grow rambling and inconclusive," said Anthony sleepily.
"You expected one of those miracles of illumination by which you say
your most brilliant and pregnant things in exactly the setting that
should provoke the ideal symposium. Meanwhile Gloria has shown her
far-sighted detachment by falling asleep--I can tell that by the fact
that she has managed to concentrate her entire weight upon my
"Have I bored you?" inquired Maury, looking down with some concern.
"No, you have disappointed us. You've shot a lot of arrows but did you
shoot any birds?"
"I leave the birds to Dick," said Maury hurriedly. "I speak erratically,
in disassociated fragments."
"You can get no rise from me," muttered Dick. "My mind is full of any
number of material things. I want a warm bath too much to worry about
the importance of my work or what proportion of us are pathetic figures."
Dawn made itself felt in a gathering whiteness eastward over the river
and an intermittent cheeping in the near-by trees.
"Quarter to five," sighed Dick; "almost another hour to wait. Look! Two
gone." He was pointing to Anthony, whose lids had sagged over his eyes.
"Sleep of the Patch family--"
But in another five minutes, despite the amplifying cheeps and chirrups,
his own head had fallen forward, nodded down twice, thrice....
Only Maury Noble remained awake, seated upon the station roof, his eyes
wide open and fixed with fatigued intensity upon the distant nucleus of
morning. He was wondering at the unreality of ideas, at the fading
radiance of existence, and at the little absorptions that were creeping
avidly into his life, like rats into a ruined house. He was sorry for no
one now--on Monday morning there would be his business, and later there
would be a girl of another class whose whole life he was; these were the
things nearest his heart. In the strangeness of the brightening day it
seemed presumptuous that with this feeble, broken instrument of his mind
he had ever tried to think.
There was the sun, letting down great glowing masses of heat; there was
life, active and snarling, moving about them like a fly swarm--the dark
pants of smoke from the engine, a crisp "all aboard!" and a bell
ringing. Confusedly Maury saw eyes in the milk train staring curiously
up at him, heard Gloria and Anthony in quick controversy as to whether
he should go to the city with her, then another clamor and she was gone
and the three men, pale as ghosts, were standing alone upon the platform
while a grimy coal-heaver went down the road on top of a motor truck,
carolling hoarsely at the summer morning.
THE BROKEN LUTE
_It is seven-thirty of an August evening. The windows in the living room
of the gray house are wide open, patiently exchanging the tainted inner
atmosphere of liquor and smoke for the fresh drowsiness of the late hot
dusk. There are dying flower scents upon the air, so thin, so fragile,
as to hint already of a summer laid away in time. But August is still
proclaimed relentlessly by a thousand crickets around the side-porch,
and by one who has broken into the house and concealed himself
confidently behind a bookcase, from time to time shrieking of his
cleverness and his indomitable will._
_The room itself is in messy disorder. On the table is a dish of fruit,
which is real but appears artificial. Around it are grouped an ominous
assortment of decanters, glasses, and heaped ash-trays, the latter still
raising wavy smoke-ladders into the stale air, the effect on the whole
needing but a skull to resemble that venerable chromo, once a fixture in
every "den," which presents the appendages to the life of pleasure with
delightful and awe-inspiring sentiment._
_After a while the sprightly solo of the supercricket is interrupted
rather than joined by a new sound--the melancholy wail of an erratically
fingered flute. It is obvious that the musician is practising rather
than performing, for from time to time the gnarled strain breaks off
and, after an interval of indistinct mutterings, recommences._
_Just prior to the seventh false start a third sound contributes to the
subdued discord. It is a taxi outside. A minute's silence, then the taxi
again, its boisterous retreat almost obliterating the scrape of
footsteps on the cinder walk. The door-bell shrieks alarmingly through
_From the kitchen enters a small, fatigued Japanese, hastily buttoning a
servant's coat of white duck. He opens the front screen-door and admits
a handsome young man of thirty, clad in the sort of well-intentioned
clothes peculiar to those who serve mankind. To his whole personality
clings a well-intentioned air: his glance about the room is compounded
of curiosity and a determined optimism; when he looks at Tana the entire
burden of uplifting the godless Oriental is in his eyes. His name is_
FREDERICK E. PARAMORE. _He was at Harvard with_ ANTHONY, _where because
of the initials of their surnames they were constantly placed next to
each other in classes. A fragmentary acquaintance developed--but since
that time they have never met._
_Nevertheless,_ PARAMORE _enters the room with a certain air of arriving
for the evening._
_Tana is answering a question._
TANA: (_Grinning with ingratiation_) Gone to Inn for dinnah. Be back
half-hour. Gone since ha' past six.
PARAMORE: (_Regarding the glasses on the table_) Have they company?
TANA: Yes. Company. Mistah Caramel, Mistah and Missays Barnes, Miss
Kane, all stay here.
PARAMORE: I see. (_Kindly_) They've been having a spree, I see.
TANA: I no un'stan'.
PARAMORE: They've been having a fling.
TANA: Yes, they have drink. Oh, many, many, many drink.
PARAMORE: (_Receding delicately from the subject_) "Didn't I hear the
sounds of music as I approached the house"?
TANA:(_With a spasmodic giggle_)Yes, I play.
PARAMORE: One of the Japanese instruments.
(_He is quite obviously a subscriber to the "National Geographic
TANA: I play flu-u-ute, Japanese flu-u-ute.
PARAMORE: What song were you playing? One of your Japanese melodies?
TANA:(_His brow undergoing preposterous contraction_) I play train song.
How you call?--railroad song. So call in my countree. Like train. It go
so-o-o; that mean whistle; train start. Then go so-o-o; that mean train
go. Go like that. Vera nice song in my countree. Children song.
PARAMORE: It sounded very nice. (_It is apparent at this point that only
a gigantic effort at control restrains Tana from rushing up-stairs for
his post cards, including the six made in America_.)
TANA: I fix high-ball for gentleman?
PARAMORE: "No, thanks. I don't use it". (_He smiles_.)
(TANA _withdraws into the kitchen, leaving the intervening door slightly
ajar. From the crevice there suddenly issues again the melody of the
Japanese train song--this time not a practice, surely, but a
performance, a lusty, spirited performance._
_The phone rings._ TANA, _absorbed in his harmonics, gives no heed, so_
PARAMORE _takes up the receiver_.)
PARAMORE: Hello.... Yes.... No, he's not here now, but he'll be back any
moment.... Butterworth? Hello, I didn't quite catch the name.... Hello,
hello, hello. Hello! ... Huh!
(_The phone obstinately refuses to yield up any more sound. Paramore
replaces the receiver._
_At this point the taxi motif re-enters, wafting with it a second young
man; he carries a suitcase and opens the front door without ringing
MAURY: (_In the hall_) "Oh, Anthony! Yoho"! (_He comes into the large
room and sees_ PARAMORE) How do?
PARAMORE: (_Gazing at him with gathering intensity_) Is this--is this
MAURY: "That's it". (_He advances, smiling, and holding out his hand_)
How are you, old boy? Haven't seen you for years.
(_He has vaguely associated the face with Harvard, but is not even
positive about that. The name, if he ever knew it, he has long since
forgotten. However, with a fine sensitiveness and an equally commendable
charity_ PARAMORE _recognizes the fact and tactfully relieves the
PARAMORE: You've forgotten Fred Paramore? We were both in old Unc
Robert's history class.
MAURY: No, I haven't, Unc--I mean Fred. Fred was--I mean Unc was a great
old fellow, wasn't he?
PARAMORE: (_Nodding his head humorously several times_) Great old
character. Great old character.
MAURY: (_After a short pause_) Yes--he was. Where's Anthony?
PARAMORE: The Japanese servant told me he was at some inn. Having
dinner, I suppose.
MAURY: (_Looking at his watch_) Gone long?
PARAMORE: I guess so. The Japanese told me they'd be back shortly.
MAURY: Suppose we have a drink.
PARAMORE: No, thanks. I don't use it. (_He smiles_.)
MAURY: Mind if I do? (_Yawning as he helps himself from a bottle_) What
have you been doing since you left college?
PARAMORE: Oh, many things. I've led a very active life. Knocked about
here and there. (_His tone implies anything front lion-stalking to
MAURY: Oh, been over to Europe?
PARAMORE: No, I haven't--unfortunately.
MAURY: I guess we'll all go over before long.
PARAMORE: Do you really think so?
MAURY: Sure! Country's been fed on sensationalism for more than two
years. Everybody getting restless. Want to have some fun.
PARAMORE: Then you don't believe any ideals are at stake?
MAURY: Nothing of much importance. People want excitement every so
PARAMORE: (_Intently_) It's very interesting to hear you say that. Now I
was talking to a man who'd been over there----
(_During the ensuing testament, left to be filled in by the reader with
such phrases as "Saw with his own eyes," "Splendid spirit of France,"
and "Salvation of civilization,"_ MAURY _sits with lowered eyelids,
MAURY: (_At the first available opportunity_) By the way, do you happen
to know that there's a German agent in this very house?
PARAMORE: (_Smiling cautiously_) Are you serious?
MAURY: Absolutely. Feel it my duty to warn you.
PARAMORE: (_Convinced_) A governess?
MAURY: (_In a whisper, indicating the kitchen with his thumb_) _Tana!_
That's not his real name. I understand he constantly gets mail addressed
to Lieutenant Emile Tannenbaum.
PARAMORE: (_Laughing with hearty tolerance_) You were kidding me.
MAURY: I may be accusing him falsely. But, you haven't told me what
you've been doing.
PARAMORE: For one thing--writing.
PARAMORE: No. Non-fiction.
MAURY: What's that? A sort of literature that's half fiction and half
PARAMORE: Oh, I've confined myself to fact. I've been doing a good deal
of social-service work.
(_An immediate glow of suspicion leaps into his eyes. It is as though_
PARAMORE _had announced himself as an amateur pickpocket._)
PARAMORE: At present I'm doing service work in Stamford. Only last week
some one told me that Anthony Patch lived so near.
(_They are interrupted by a clamor outside, unmistakable as that of two
sexes in conversation and laughter. Then there enter the room in a body_
ANTHONY, GLORIA, RICHARD CARAMEL, MURIEL KANE, RACHAEL BARNES _and_
RODMAN BARNES, _her husband. They surge about_ MAURY, _illogically
replying_ "Fine!" _to his general_ "Hello." ... ANTHONY, _meanwhile,
approaches his other guest._)
ANTHONY: Well, I'll be darned. How are you? Mighty glad to see you.
PARAMORE: It's good to see you, Anthony. I'm stationed in Stamford, so I
thought I'd run over. (_Roguishly_) We have to work to beat the devil
most of the time, so we're entitled to a few hours' vacation.
(_In an agony of concentration_ ANTHONY _tries to recall the name. After
a struggle of parturition his memory gives up the fragment "Fred,"
around which he hastily builds the sentence "Glad you did, Fred!"
Meanwhile the slight hush prefatory to an introduction has fallen upon
the company._ MAURY, _who could help, prefers to look on in malicious
ANTHONY: (_In desperation_) Ladies and gentlemen, this is--this is Fred.
MURIEL: (_With obliging levity_) Hello, Fred!
(RICHARD CARAMEL _and_ PARAMORE _greet each other intimately by their
first names, the latter recollecting that_ DICK _was one of the men in
his class who had never before troubled to speak to him._ DICK
_fatuously imagines that_ PARAMORE _is some one he has previously met
in_ ANTHONY'S _house._
_The three young women go up-stairs._)
MAURY: (_In an undertone to_ DICK) Haven't seen Muriel since Anthony's
DICK: She's now in her prime. Her latest is "I'll say so!"
(ANTHONY _struggles for a while with_ PARAMORE _and at length attempts
to make the conversation general by asking every one to have a drink._)
MAURY: I've done pretty well on this bottle. I've gone from "Proof" down
to "Distillery." (_He indicates the words on the label._)
ANTHONY: (_To_ PARAMORE) Never can tell when these two will turn up.
Said good-by to them one afternoon at five and darned if they didn't
appear about two in the morning. A big hired touring-car from New York
drove up to the door and out they stepped, drunk as lords, of course.
(_In an ecstasy of consideration_ PARAMORE _regards the cover of a book
which he holds in his hand._ MAURY _and_ DICK _exchange a glance._)
DICK: (_Innocently, to_ PARAMORE) You work here in town?
PARAMORE: No, I'm in the Laird Street Settlement in Stamford. (_To_
ANTHONY) You have no idea of the amount of poverty in these small
Connecticut towns. Italians and other immigrants. Catholics mostly, you
know, so it's very hard to reach them.
ANTHONY: (_Politely_) Lot of crime?
PARAMORE: Not so much crime as ignorance and dirt.
MAURY: That's my theory: immediate electrocution of all ignorant and
dirty people. I'm all for the criminals--give color to life. Trouble is
if you started to punish ignorance you'd have to begin in the first
families, then you could take up the moving picture people, and finally
Congress and the clergy.
PARAMORE: (_Smiling uneasily_) I was speaking of the more fundamental
ignorance--of even our language.
MAURY: (_Thoughtfully_) I suppose it is rather hard. Can't even keep up
with the new poetry.
PARAMORE: It's only when the settlement work has gone on for months that
one realizes how bad things are. As our secretary said to me, your
finger-nails never seem dirty until you wash your hands. Of course we're
already attracting much attention.
MAURY: (_Rudely_) As your secretary might say, if you stuff paper into a
grate it'll burn brightly for a moment.
(_At this point_ GLORIA, _freshly tinted and lustful of admiration and
entertainment, rejoins the party, followed by her two friends. For
several moments the conversation becomes entirely fragmentary._ GLORIA
_calls_ ANTHONY _aside._)
GLORIA: Please don't drink much, Anthony.
GLORIA: Because you're so simple when you're drunk.
ANTHONY: Good Lord! What's the matter now?
GLORIA: (_After a pause during which her eyes gaze coolly into his_)
Several things. In the first place, why do you insist on paying for
everything? Both those men have more money than you!
ANTHONY: Why, Gloria! They're my guests!
GLORIA: That's no reason why you should pay for a bottle of champagne
Rachael Barnes smashed. Dick tried to fix that second taxi bill, and you
wouldn't let him.
ANTHONY: Why, Gloria--
GLORIA: When we have to keep selling bonds to even pay our bills, it's
time to cut down on excess generosities. Moreover, I wouldn't be quite
so attentive to Rachael Barnes. Her husband doesn't like it any more
than I do!
ANTHONY: Why, Gloria--
GLORIA: (_Mimicking him sharply_) "Why, Gloria!" But that's happened a
little too often this summer--with every pretty woman you meet. It's
grown to be a sort of habit, and I'm _not_ going to stand it! If you can
play around, I can, too. (_Then, as an afterthought_) By the way, this
Fred person isn't a second Joe Hull, is he?
ANTHONY: Heavens, no! He probably came up to get me to wheedle some
money out of grandfather for his flock.
(GLORIA _turns away from a very depressed_ ANTHONY _and returns to her
_By nine o'clock these can be divided into two classes--those who have
been drinking consistently and those who have taken little or nothing.
In the second group are the_ BARNESES, MURIEL, _and_ FREDERICK E.
MURIEL: I wish I could write. I get these ideas but I never seem to be
able to put them in words.
DICK: As Goliath said, he understood how David felt, but he couldn't
express himself. The remark was immediately adopted for a motto by the
MURIEL: I don't get you. I must be getting stupid in my old age.
GLORIA: (_Weaving unsteadily among the company like an exhilarated
angel_) If any one's hungry there's some French pastry on the dining
MAURY: Can't tolerate those Victorian designs it comes in.
MURIEL: (_Violently amused_) _I'll_ say you're tight, Maury.
(_Her bosom is still a pavement that she offers to the hoofs of many
passing stallions, hoping that their iron shoes may strike even a spark
of romance in the darkness ..._
_Messrs._ BARNES _and_ PARAMORE _have been engaged in conversation upon
some wholesome subject, a subject so wholesome that_ MR. BARNES _has
been trying for several moments to creep into the more tainted air
around the central lounge. Whether_ PARAMORE _is lingering in the gray
house out of politeness or curiosity, or in order at some future time to
make a sociological report on the decadence of American life, is
MAURY: Fred, I imagined you were very broad-minded.
PARAMORE: I am.
MURIEL: Me, too. I believe one religion's as good as another and
PARAMORE: There's some good in all religions.
MURIEL: I'm a Catholic but, as I always say, I'm not working at it.
PARAMORE: (_With a tremendous burst of tolerance_) The Catholic religion
is a very--a very powerful religion.
MAURY: Well, such a broad-minded man should consider the raised plane of
sensation and the stimulated optimism contained in this cocktail.
PARAMORE: (_Taking the drink, rather defiantly_) Thanks, I'll try--one.
MAURY: One? Outrageous! Here we have a class of 'nineteen ten reunion,
and you refuse to be even a little pickled. Come on!
"_Here's a health to King Charles, Here's a health to King Charles,
Bring the bowl that you boast_----"
(PARAMORE _joins in with a hearty voice_.)
MAURY: Fill the cup, Frederick. You know everything's subordinated to
nature's purposes with us, and her purpose with you is to make you a
PARAMORE: If a fellow can drink like a gentleman--
MAURY: What is a gentleman, anyway?
ANTHONY: A man who never has pins under his coat lapel.
MAURY: Nonsense! A man's social rank is determined by the amount of
bread he eats in a sandwich.
DICK: He's a man who prefers the first edition of a book to the last
edition of a newspaper.
RACHAEL: A man who never gives an impersonation of a dope-fiend.
MAURY: An American who can fool an English butler into thinking he's
MURIEL: A man who comes from a good family and went to Yale or Harvard
or Princeton, and has money and dances well, and all that.
MAURY: At last--the perfect definition! Cardinal Newman's is now a back
PARAMORE: I think we ought to look on the question more broad-mindedly.
Was it Abraham Lincoln who said that a gentleman is one who never
MAURY: It's attributed, I believe, to General Ludendorff.
PARAMORE: Surely you're joking.
MAURY: Have another drink.
PARAMORE: I oughtn't to. (_Lowering his voice for_ MAURY'S _ear alone_)
What if I were to tell you this is the third drink I've ever taken in
(DICK _starts the phonograph, which provokes_ MURIEL _to rise and sway
from side to side, her elbows against her ribs, her forearms
perpendicular to her body and out like fins._)
MURIEL: Oh, let's take up the rugs and dance!
(_This suggestion is received by_ ANTHONY _and_ GLORIA _with interior
groans and sickly smiles of acquiescence._)
MURIEL: Come on, you lazy-bones. Get up and move the furniture back.
DICK: Wait till I finish my drink.
MAURY: (_Intent on his purpose toward_ PARAMORE) I'll tell you what.
Let's each fill one glass, drink it off and then we'll dance.
(_A wave of protest which breaks against the rock of_ MAURY'S
MURIEL: My head is simply going _round_ now.
RACHAEL: (_In an undertone to_ ANTHONY) Did Gloria tell you to stay away
ANTHONY: (_Confused_) Why, certainly not. Of course not.
(RACHAEL _smiles at him inscrutably. Two years have given her a sort of
hard, well-groomed beauty._)
MAURY: (_Holding up his glass_) Here's to the defeat of democracy and
the fall of Christianity.
MURIEL: Now really!
(_She flashes a mock-reproachful glance at_ MAURY _and then drinks._
_They all drink, with varying degrees of difficulty._)
MURIEL: Clear the floor!
(_It seems inevitable that this process is to be gone through, so_
ANTHONY _and_ GLORIA _join in the great moving of tables, piling of
chairs, rolling of carpets, and breaking of lamps. When the furniture
has been stacked in ugly masses at the sides, there appears a space
about eight feet square._)
MURIEL: Oh, let's have music!
MAURY: Tana will render the love song of an eye, ear, nose, and throat
(_Amid some confusion due to the fact that_ TANA _has retired for the
night, preparations are made for the performance. The pajamaed Japanese,
flute in hand, is wrapped in a comforter and placed in a chair atop one
of the tables, where he makes a ludicrous and grotesque spectacle._
PARAMORE _is perceptibly drunk and so enraptured with the notion that he
increases the effect by simulating funny-paper staggers and even
venturing on an occasional hiccough._)
PARAMORE: (_To_ GLORIA) Want to dance with me?
GLORIA: No, sir! Want to do the swan dance. Can you do it?
PARAMORE: Sure. Do them all.
GLORIA: All right. You start from that side of the room and I'll start
MURIEL: Let's go!
(_Then Bedlam creeps screaming out of the bottles:_ TANA _plunges into
the recondite mazes of the train song, the plaintive "tootle toot-toot"
blending its melancholy cadences with the_ "Poor Butter-fly
(tink-atink), by the blossoms wait-ing" _of the phonograph._ MURIEL _is
too weak with laughter to do more than cling desperately to_ BARNES,
_who, dancing with the ominous rigidity of an army officer, tramps
without humor around the small space._ ANTHONY _is trying to hear_
RACHAEL'S _whisper--without attracting_ GLORIA's _attention...._
_But the grotesque, the unbelievable, the histrionic incident is about
to occur, one of those incidents in which life seems set upon the
passionate imitation of the lowest forms of literature._ PARAMORE _has
been trying to emulate_ GLORIA, _and as the commotion reaches its height
he begins to spin round and round, more and more dizzily--he staggers,
recovers, staggers again and then falls in the direction of the hall ...
almost into the arms of old_ ADAM PATCH, _whose approach has been
rendered inaudible by the pandemonium in the room._
ADAM PATCH _is very white. He leans upon a stick. The man with him is_
EDWARD SHUTTLEWORTH, _and it is he who seizes_ PARAMORE _by the shoulder
and deflects the course of his fall away from the venerable
_The time required for quiet to descend upon the room like a monstrous
pall may be estimated at two minutes, though for a short period after
that the phonograph gags and the notes of the Japanese train song
dribble from the end of_ TANA'S _flute. Of the nine people only_ BARNES,
PARAMORE, _and_ TANA _are unaware of the late-comer's identity. Of the
nine not one is aware that_ ADAM PATCH _has that morning made a
contribution of fifty thousand dollars to the cause of national
_It is given to_ PARAMORE _to break the gathering silence; the high tide
of his life's depravity is reached in his incredible remark._)
PARAMORE: (_Crawling rapidly toward the kitchen on his hands and knees_)
I'm not a guest here--I work here.
(_Again silence falls--so deep now, so weighted with intolerably
contagious apprehension, that_ RACHAEL _gives a nervous little giggle,
and_ DICK _finds himself telling over and over a line from Swinburne,
grotesquely appropriate to the scene:_
"One gaunt bleak blossom of scentless breath."
... _Out of the hush the voice of_ ANTHONY, _sober and strained, saying
something to_ ADAM PATCH; _then this, too, dies away._)
SHUTTLEWORTH: (_Passionately_) Your grandfather thought he would motor
over to see your house. I phoned from Rye and left a message.
(_A series of little gasps, emanating, apparently, from nowhere, from no
one, fall into the next pause._ ANTHONY _is the color of chalk._
GLORIA'S _lips are parted and her level gaze at the old man is tense and
frightened. There is not one smile in the room. Not one? Or does_ CROSS
PATCH'S _drawn mouth tremble slightly open, to expose the even rows of
his thin teeth? He speaks--five mild and simple words._)
ADAM PATCH: We'll go back now, Shuttleworth--(_And that is all. He
turns, and assisted by his cane goes out through the hall, through the
front door, and with hellish portentousness his uncertain footsteps
crunch on the gravel path under the August moon._)
In this extremity they were like two goldfish in a bowl from which all
the water had been drawn; they could not even swim across to each other.
Gloria would be twenty-six in May. There was nothing, she had said, that
she wanted, except to be young and beautiful for a long time, to be gay
and happy, and to have money and love. She wanted what most women want,
but she wanted it much more fiercely and passionately. She had been
married over two years. At first there had been days of serene
understanding, rising to ecstasies of proprietorship and pride.
Alternating with these periods had occurred sporadic hates, enduring a
short hour, and forgetfulnesses lasting no longer than an afternoon.
That had been for half a year.
Then the serenity, the content, had become less jubilant, had become,
gray--very rarely, with the spur of jealousy or forced separation, the
ancient ecstasies returned, the apparent communion of soul and soul, the
emotional excitement. It was possible for her to hate Anthony for as
much as a full day, to be carelessly incensed at him for as long as a
week. Recrimination had displaced affection as an indulgence, almost as
an entertainment, and there were nights when they would go to sleep
trying to remember who was angry and who should be reserved next
morning. And as the second year waned there had entered two new
elements. Gloria realized that Anthony had become capable of utter
indifference toward her, a temporary indifference, more than half
lethargic, but one from which she could no longer stir him by a
whispered word, or a certain intimate smile. There were days when her
caresses affected him as a sort of suffocation. She was conscious of
these things; she never entirely admitted them to herself.
It was only recently that she perceived that in spite of her adoration
of him, her jealousy, her servitude, her pride, she fundamentally
despised him--and her contempt blended indistinguishably with her other
emotions.... All this was her love--the vital and feminine illusion that
had directed itself toward him one April night, many months before.
On Anthony's part she was, in spite of these qualifications, his sole
preoccupation. Had he lost her he would have been a broken man,
wretchedly and sentimentally absorbed in her memory for the remainder of
life. He seldom took pleasure in an entire day spent alone with
her--except on occasions he preferred to have a third person with them.
There were times when he felt that if he were not left absolutely alone
he would go mad--there were a few times when he definitely hated her. In
his cups he was capable of short attractions toward other women, the
hitherto-suppressed outcroppings of an experimental temperament.
That spring, that summer, they had speculated upon future happiness--how
they were to travel from summer land to summer land, returning