Part 7 out of 8
He liked his barber shop where he was "Hi, corporal!" to a pale,
emaciated young man, who shaved him and pushed a cool vibrating machine
endlessly over his insatiable head. He liked "Johnston's Gardens" where
they danced, where a tragic negro made yearning, aching music on a
saxophone until the garish hall became an enchanted jungle of barbaric
rhythms and smoky laughter, where to forget the uneventful passage of
time upon Dorothy's soft sighs and tender whisperings was the
consummation of all aspiration, of all content.
There was an undertone of sadness in her character, a conscious evasion
of all except the pleasurable minutiae of life. Her violet eyes would
remain for hours apparently insensate as, thoughtless and reckless, she
basked like a cat in the sun. He wondered what the tired, spiritless
mother thought of them, and whether in her moments of uttermost cynicism
she ever guessed at their relationship.
On Sunday afternoons they walked along the countryside, resting at
intervals on the dry moss in the outskirts of a wood. Here the birds had
gathered and the clusters of violets and white dogwood; here the hoar
trees shone crystalline and cool, oblivious to the intoxicating heat
that waited outside; here he would talk, intermittently, in a sleepy
monologue, in a conversation of no significance, of no replies.
July came scorching down. Captain Dunning was ordered to detail one of
his men to learn blacksmithing. The regiment was filling up to war
strength, and he needed most of his veterans for drill-masters, so he
selected the little Italian, Baptiste, whom he could most easily spare.
Little Baptiste had never had anything to do with horses. His fear made
matters worse. He reappeared in the orderly room one day and told
Captain Dunning that he wanted to die if he couldn't be relieved. The
horses kicked at him, he said; he was no good at the work. Finally he
fell on his knees and besought Captain Dunning, in a mixture of broken
English and scriptural Italian, to get him out of it. He had not slept
for three days; monstrous stallions reared and cavorted through
Captain Dunning reproved the company clerk (who had burst out laughing),
and told Baptiste he would do what he could. But when he thought it over
he decided that he couldn't spare a better man. Little Baptiste went
from bad to worse. The horses seemed to divine his fear and take every
advantage of it. Two weeks later a great black mare crushed his skull in
with her hoofs while he was trying to lead her from her stall.
In mid-July came rumors, and then orders, that concerned a change of
camp. The brigade was to move to an empty cantonment, a hundred miles
farther south, there to be expanded into a division. At first the men
thought they were departing for the trenches, and all evening little
groups jabbered in the company street, shouting to each other in
swaggering exclamations: "Su-u-ure we are!" When the truth leaked out,
it was rejected indignantly as a blind to conceal their real
destination. They revelled in their own importance. That night they told
their girls in town that they were "going to get the Germans." Anthony
circulated for a while among the groups--then, stopping a jitney, rode
down to tell Dot that he was going away.
She was waiting on the dark veranda in a cheap white dress that
accentuated the youth and softness of her face.
"Oh," she whispered, "I've wanted you so, honey. All this day."
"I have something to tell you."
She drew him down beside her on the swinging seat, not noticing his
"We're leaving next week."
Her arms seeking his shoulders remained poised upon the dark air, her
chin tipped up. When she spoke the softness was gone from her voice.
"Leaving for France?"
"No. Less luck than that. Leaving for some darn camp in Mississippi."
She shut her eyes and he could see that the lids were trembling.
"Dear little Dot, life is so damned hard."
She was crying upon his shoulder.
"So damned hard, so damned hard," he repeated aimlessly; "it just hurts
people and hurts people, until finally it hurts them so that they can't
be hurt ever any more. That's the last and worst thing it does."
Frantic, wild with anguish, she strained him to her breast.
"Oh, God!" she whispered brokenly, "you can't go way from me. I'd die."
He was finding it impossible to pass off his departure as a common,
impersonal blow. He was too near to her to do more than repeat "Poor
little Dot. Poor little Dot."
"And then what?" she demanded wearily.
"What do you mean?"
"You're my whole life, that's all. I'd die for you right now if you said
so. I'd get a knife and kill myself. You can't leave me here."
Her tone frightened him.
"These things happen," he said evenly.
"Then I'm going with you." Tears were streaming down her checks. Her
mouth was trembling in an ecstasy of grief and fear.
"Sweet," he muttered sentimentally, "sweet little girl. Don't you see
we'd just be putting off what's bound to happen? I'll be going to France
in a few months--"
She leaned away from him and clinching her fists lifted her face toward
"I want to die," she said, as if moulding each word carefully in her
"Dot," he whispered uncomfortably, "you'll forget. Things are sweeter
when they're lost. I know--because once I wanted something and got it.
It was the only thing I ever wanted badly, Dot. And when I got it it
turned to dust in my hands."
Absorbed in himself, he continued:
"I've often thought that if I hadn't got what I wanted things might have
been different with me. I might have found something in my mind and
enjoyed putting it in circulation. I might have been content with the
work of it, and had some sweet vanity out of the success. I suppose that
at one time I could have had anything I wanted, within reason, but that
was the only thing I ever wanted with any fervor. God! And that taught
me you can't have _any_thing, you can't have anything at _all_. Because
desire just cheats you. It's like a sunbeam skipping here and there
about a room. It stops and gilds some inconsequential object, and we
poor fools try to grasp it--but when we do the sunbeam moves on to
something else, and you've got the inconsequential part, but the glitter
that made you want it is gone--" He broke off uneasily. She had risen
and was standing, dry-eyed, picking little leaves from a dark vine.
"Go way," she said coldly. "What? Why?"
"I don't want just words. If that's all you have for me you'd better
"What's death to me is just a lot of words to you. You put 'em together
"I'm sorry. I was talking about you, Dot."
"Go way from here."
He approached her with arms outstretched, but she held him away.
"You don't want me to go with you," she said evenly; "maybe you're going
to meet that--that girl--" She could not bring herself to say wife. "How
do I know? Well, then, I reckon you're not my fellow any more. So
For a moment, while conflicting warnings and desires prompted Anthony,
it seemed one of those rare times when he would take a step prompted
from within. He hesitated. Then a wave of weariness broke against him.
It was too late--everything was too late. For years now he had dreamed
the world away, basing his decisions upon emotions unstable as water.
The little girl in the white dress dominated him, as she approached
beauty in the hard symmetry of her desire. The fire blazing in her dark
and injured heart seemed to glow around her like a flame. With some
profound and uncharted pride she had made herself remote and so achieved
"I didn't--mean to seem so callous, Dot."
"It don't matter."
The fire rolled over Anthony. Something wrenched at his bowels, and he
stood there helpless and beaten.
"Come with me, Dot--little loving Dot. Oh, come with me. I couldn't
leave you now--"
With a sob she wound her arms around him and let him support her weight
while the moon, at its perennial labor of covering the bad complexion of
the world, showered its illicit honey over the drowsy street.
Early September in Camp Boone, Mississippi. The darkness, alive with
insects, beat in upon the mosquito-netting, beneath the shelter of which
Anthony was trying to write a letter. An intermittent chatter over a
poker game was going on in the next tent, and outside a man was
strolling up the company street singing a current bit of doggerel about
With an effort Anthony hoisted himself to his elbow and, pencil in hand,
looked down at his blank sheet of paper. Then, omitting any heading,
_I can't imagine what the matter is, Gloria. I haven't had a line from
you for two weeks and it's only natural to be worried--_
He threw this away with a disturbed grunt and began again:
_I don't know what to think, Gloria. Your last letter, short, cold,
without a word of affection or even a decent account of what you've been
doing, came two weeks ago. It's only natural that I should wonder. If
your love for me isn't absolutely dead it seems that you'd at least keep
me from worry--_
Again he crumpled the page and tossed it angrily through a tear in the
tent wall, realizing simultaneously that he would have to pick it up in
the morning. He felt disinclined to try again. He could get no warmth
into the lines--only a persistent jealousy and suspicion. Since
midsummer these discrepancies in Gloria's correspondence had grown more
and more noticeable. At first he had scarcely perceived them. He was so
inured to the perfunctory "dearest" and "darlings" scattered through her
letters that he was oblivious to their presence or absence. But in this
last fortnight he had become increasingly aware that there was
He had sent her a night-letter saying that he had passed his
examinations for an officers' training-camp, and expected to leave for
Georgia shortly. She had not answered. He had wired again--when he
received no word he imagined that she might be out of town. But it
occurred and recurred to him that she was not out of town, and a series
of distraught imaginings began to plague him. Supposing Gloria, bored
and restless, had found some one, even as he had. The thought terrified
him with its possibility--it was chiefly because he had been so sure of
her personal integrity that he had considered her so sparingly during
the year. And now, as a doubt was born, the old angers, the rages of
possession, swarmed back a thousandfold. What more natural than that she
should be in love again?
He remembered the Gloria who promised that should she ever want
anything, she would take it, insisting that since she would act entirely
for her own satisfaction she could go through such an affair
unsmirched--it was only the effect on a person's mind that counted,
anyhow, she said, and her reaction would be the masculine one, of
satiation and faint dislike.
But that had been when they were first married. Later, with the
discovery that she could be jealous of Anthony, she had, outwardly at
least, changed her mind. There were no other men in the world for her.
This he had known only too surely. Perceiving that a certain
fastidiousness would restrain her, he had grown lax in preserving the
completeness of her love--which, after all, was the keystone of the
Meanwhile all through the summer he had been maintaining Dot in a
boarding-house down-town. To do this it had been necessary to write to
his broker for money. Dot had covered her journey south by leaving her
house a day before the brigade broke camp, informing her mother in a
note that she had gone to New York. On the evening following Anthony had
called as though to see her. Mrs. Raycroft was in a state of collapse
and there was a policeman in the parlor. A questionnaire had ensued,
from which Anthony had extricated himself with some difficulty.
In September, with his suspicions of Gloria, the company of Dot had
become tedious, then almost intolerable. He was nervous and irritable
from lack of sleep; his heart was sick and afraid. Three days ago he had
gone to Captain Dunning and asked for a furlough, only to be met with
benignant procrastination. The division was starting overseas, while
Anthony was going to an officers' training-camp; what furloughs could be
given must go to the men who were leaving the country.
Upon this refusal Anthony had started to the telegraph office intending
to wire Gloria to come South--he reached the door and receded
despairingly, seeing the utter impracticability of such a move. Then he
had spent the evening quarrelling irritably with Dot, and returned to
camp morose and angry with the world. There had been a disagreeable
scene, in the midst of which he had precipitately departed. What was to
be done with her did not seem to concern him vitally at present--he was
completely absorbed in the disheartening silence of his wife....
The flap of the tent made a sudden triangle back upon itself, and a dark
head appeared against the night.
"Sergeant Patch?" The accent was Italian, and Anthony saw by the belt
that the man was a headquarters orderly.
"Lady call up headquarters ten minutes ago. Say she have speak with you.
Anthony swept aside the mosquito-netting and stood up. It might be a
wire from Gloria telephoned over.
"She say to get you. She call again ten o'clock."
"All right, thanks." He picked up his hat and in a moment was striding
beside the orderly through the hot, almost suffocating, darkness. Over
in the headquarters shack he saluted a dozing night-service officer.
"Sit down and wait," suggested the lieutenant nonchalantly. "Girl seemed
awful anxious to speak to you."
Anthony's hopes fell away.
"Thank you very much, sir." And as the phone squeaked on the side-wall
he knew who was calling.
"This is Dot," came an unsteady voice, "I've got to see you."
"Dot, I told you I couldn't get down for several days."
"I've got to see you to-night. It's important."
"It's too late," he said coldly; "it's ten o'clock, and I have to be in
camp at eleven."
"All right." There was so much wretchedness compressed into the two
words that Anthony felt a measure of compunction.
"What's the matter?"
"I want to tell you good-by.
"Oh, don't be a little idiot!" he exclaimed. But his spirits rose. What
luck if she should leave town this very night! What a burden from his
soul. But he said: "You can't possibly leave before to-morrow."
Out of the corner of his eye he saw the night-service officer regarding
him quizzically. Then, startlingly, came Dot's next words:
"I don't mean 'leave' that way."
Anthony's hand clutched the receiver fiercely. He felt his nerves
turning cold as if the heat was leaving his body.
Then quickly in a wild broken voice he heard:
Cul-_lup!_ She had hung up the receiver. With a sound that was half a
gasp, half a cry, Anthony hurried from the headquarters building.
Outside, under the stars that dripped like silver tassels through the
trees of the little grove, he stood motionless, hesitating. Had she
meant to kill herself?--oh, the little fool! He was filled with bitter
hate toward her. In this dénouement he found it impossible to realize
that he had ever begun such an entanglement, such a mess, a sordid
mélange of worry and pain.
He found himself walking slowly away, repeating over and over that it
was futile to worry. He had best go back to his tent and sleep. He
needed sleep. God! Would he ever sleep again? His mind was in a vast
clamor and confusion; as he reached the road he turned around in a panic
and began running, not toward his company but away from it. Men were
returning now--he could find a taxicab. After a minute two yellow eyes
appeared around a bend. Desperately he ran toward them.
"Jitney! Jitney!" ... It was an empty Ford.... "I want to go to town."
"Cost you a dollar."
"All right. If you'll just hurry--"
After an interminable time he ran up the steps of a dark ramshackle
little house, and through the door, almost knocking over an immense
negress who was walking, candle in hand, along the hall.
"Where's my wife?" he cried wildly.
"She gone to bed."
Up the stairs three at a time, down the creaking passage. The room was
dark and silent, and with trembling fingers he struck a match. Two wide
eyes looked up at him from a wretched ball of clothes on the bed.
"Ah, I knew you'd come," she murmured brokenly.
Anthony grew cold with anger.
"So it was just a plan to get me down here, get me in trouble!" he said.
"God damn it, you've shouted 'wolf' once too often!"
She regarded him pitifully.
"I had to see you. I couldn't have lived. Oh, I had to see you--"
He sat down on the side of the bed and slowly shook his head.
"You're no good," he said decisively, talking unconsciously as Gloria
might have talked to him. "This sort of thing isn't fair to me,
"Come closer." Whatever he might say Dot was happy now. He cared for
her. She had brought him to her side.
"Oh, God," said Anthony hopelessly. As weariness rolled along its
inevitable wave his anger subsided, receded, vanished. He collapsed
suddenly, fell sobbing beside her on the bed.
"Oh, my darling," she begged him, "don't cry! Oh, don't cry!"
She took his head upon her breast and soothed him, mingled her happy
tears with the bitterness of his. Her hand played gently with his
"I'm such a little fool," she murmured brokenly, "but I love you, and
when you're cold to me it seems as if it isn't worth while to go
After all, this was peace--the quiet room with the mingled scent of
women's powder and perfume, Dot's hand soft as a warm wind upon his
hair, the rise and fall of her bosom as she took breath--for a moment it
was as though it were Gloria there, as though he were at rest in some
sweeter and safer home than he had ever known.
An hour passed. A clock began to chime in the hall. He jumped to his
feet and looked at the phosphorescent hands of his wrist watch. It was
He had trouble in finding a taxi that would take him out at that hour.
As he urged the driver faster along the road he speculated on the best
method of entering camp. He had been late several times recently, and he
knew that were he caught again his name would probably be stricken from
the list of officer candidates. He wondered if he had not better dismiss
the taxi and take a chance on passing the sentry in the dark. Still,
officers often rode past the sentries after midnight....
"Halt!" The monosyllable came from the yellow glare that the headlights
dropped upon the changing road. The taxi-driver threw out his clutch and
a sentry walked up, carrying his rifle at the port. With him, by an ill
chance, was the officer of the guard.
"Out late, sergeant."
"Yes, sir. Got delayed."
"Too bad. Have to take your name."
As the officer waited, note-book and pencil in hand, something not fully
intended crowded to Anthony's lips, something born of panic, of muddle,
"Sergeant R.A. Foley," he answered breathlessly.
"And the outfit?"
"Company Q, Eighty-third Infantry."
"All right. You'll have to walk from here, sergeant."
Anthony saluted, quickly paid his taxi-driver, and set off for a run
toward the regiment he had named. When he was out of sight he changed
his course, and with his heart beating wildly, hurried to his company,
feeling that he had made a fatal error of judgment.
Two days later the officer who had been in command of the guard
recognized him in a barber shop down-town. In charge of a military
policeman he was taken back to the camp, where he was reduced to the
ranks without trial, and confined for a month to the limits of his
With this blow a spell of utter depression overtook him, and within a
week he was again caught down-town, wandering around in a drunken daze,
with a pint of bootleg whiskey in his hip pocket. It was because of a
sort of craziness in his behavior at the trial that his sentence to the
guard-house was for only three weeks.
Early in his confinement the conviction took root in him that he was
going mad. It was as though there were a quantity of dark yet vivid
personalities in his mind, some of them familiar, some of them strange
and terrible, held in check by a little monitor, who sat aloft somewhere
and looked on. The thing that worried him was that the monitor was sick,
and holding out with difficulty. Should he give up, should he falter for
a moment, out would rush these intolerable things--only Anthony could
know what a state of blackness there would be if the worst of him could
roam his consciousness unchecked.
The heat of the day had changed, somehow, until it was a burnished
darkness crushing down upon a devastated land. Over his head the blue
circles of ominous uncharted suns, of unnumbered centres of fire,
revolved interminably before his eyes as though he were lying constantly
exposed to the hot light and in a state of feverish coma. At seven in
the morning something phantasmal, something almost absurdly unreal that
he knew was his mortal body, went out with seven other prisoners and two
guards to work on the camp roads. One day they loaded and unloaded
quantities of gravel, spread it, raked it--the next day they worked with
huge barrels of red-hot tar, flooding the gravel with black, shining
pools of molten heat. At night, locked up in the guard-house, he would
lie without thought, without courage to compass thought, staring at the
irregular beams of the ceiling overhead until about three o'clock, when
he would slip into a broken, troubled sleep.
During the work hours he labored with uneasy haste, attempting, as the
day bore toward the sultry Mississippi sunset, to tire himself
physically so that in the evening he might sleep deeply from utter
exhaustion.... Then one afternoon in the second week he had a feeling
that two eyes were watching him from a place a few feet beyond one of
the guards. This aroused him to a sort of terror. He turned his back on
the eyes and shovelled feverishly, until it became necessary for him to
face about and go for more gravel. Then they entered his vision again,
and his already taut nerves tightened up to the breaking-point. The eyes
were leering at him. Out of a hot silence he heard his name called in a
tragic voice, and the earth tipped absurdly back and forth to a babel of
shouting and confusion.
When next he became conscious he was back in the guard-house, and the
other prisoners were throwing him curious glances. The eyes returned no
more. It was many days before he realized that the voice must have been
Dot's, that she had called out to him and made some sort of disturbance.
He decided this just previous to the expiration of his sentence, when
the cloud that oppressed him had lifted, leaving him in a deep,
dispirited lethargy. As the conscious mediator, the monitor who kept
that fearsome ménage of horror, grew stronger, Anthony became physically
weaker. He was scarcely able to get through the two days of toil, and
when he was released, one rainy afternoon, and returned to his company,
he reached his tent only to fall into a heavy doze, from which he awoke
before dawn, aching and unrefreshed. Beside his cot were two letters
that had been awaiting him in the orderly tent for some time. The first
was from Gloria; it was short and cool:
* * * * *
_The case is coming to trial late in November. Can you possibly get
_I've tried to write you again and again but it just seems to make
things worse. I want to see you about several matters, but you know that
you have once prevented me from coming and I am disinclined to try
again. In view of a number of things it seems necessary that we have a
conference. I'm very glad about your appointment._
* * * * *
He was too tired to try to understand--or to care. Her phrases, her
intentions, were all very far away in an incomprehensible past. At the
second letter he scarcely glanced; it was from Dot--an incoherent,
tear-swollen scrawl, a flood of protest, endearment, and grief. After a
page he let it slip from his inert hand and drowsed back into a nebulous
hinterland of his own. At drill-call he awoke with a high fever and
fainted when he tried to leave his tent--at noon he was sent to the base
hospital with influenza.
He was aware that this sickness was providential. It saved him from a
hysterical relapse--and he recovered in time to entrain on a damp
November day for New York, and for the interminable massacre beyond.
When the regiment reached Camp Mills, Long Island, Anthony's single idea
was to get into the city and see Gloria as soon as possible. It was now
evident that an armistice would be signed within the week, but rumor had
it that in any case troops would continue to be shipped to France until
the last moment. Anthony was appalled at the notion of the long voyage,
of a tedious debarkation at a French port, and of being kept abroad for
a year, possibly, to replace the troops who had seen actual fighting.
His intention had been to obtain a two-day furlough, but Camp Mills
proved to be under a strict influenza quarantine--it was impossible for
even an officer to leave except on official business. For a private it
was out of the question.
The camp itself was a dreary muddle, cold, wind-swept, and filthy, with
the accumulated dirt incident to the passage through of many divisions.
Their train came in at seven one night, and they waited in line until
one while a military tangle was straightened out somewhere ahead.
Officers ran up and down ceaselessly, calling orders and making a great
uproar. It turned out that the trouble was due to the colonel, who was
in a righteous temper because he was a West Pointer, and the war was
going to stop before he could get overseas. Had the militant governments
realized the number of broken hearts among the older West Pointers
during that week, they would indubitably have prolonged the slaughter
another month. The thing was pitiable!
Gazing out at the bleak expanse of tents extending for miles over a
trodden welter of slush and snow, Anthony saw the impracticability of
trudging to a telephone that night. He would call her at the first
opportunity in the morning.
Aroused in the chill and bitter dawn he stood at reveille and listened
to a passionate harangue from Captain Dunning:
"You men may think the war is over. Well, let me tell you, it isn't!
Those fellows aren't going to sign the armistice. It's another trick,
and we'd be crazy to let anything slacken up here in the company,
because, let me tell you, we're going to sail from here within a week,
and when we do we're going to see some real fighting." He paused that
they might get the full effect of his pronouncement. And then: "If you
think the war's over, just talk to any one who's been in it and see if
_they_ think the Germans are all in. They don't. Nobody does. I've
talked to the people that _know_, and they say there'll be, anyways, a
year longer of war. _They_ don't think it's over. So you men better not
get any foolish ideas that it is."
Doubly stressing this final admonition, he ordered the company
At noon Anthony set off at a run for the nearest canteen telephone. As
he approached what corresponded to the down-town of the camp, he noticed
that many other soldiers were running also, that a man near him had
suddenly leaped into the air and clicked his heels together. The
tendency to run became general, and from little excited groups here and
there came the sounds of cheering. He stopped and listened--over the
cold country whistles were blowing and the chimes of the Garden City
churches broke suddenly into reverberatory sound.
Anthony began to run again. The cries were clear and distinct now as
they rose with clouds of frosted breath into the chilly air:
_"Germany's surrendered! Germany's surrendered!"_
THE FALSE ARMISTICE
That evening in the opaque gloom of six o'clock Anthony slipped between
two freight-cars, and once over the railroad, followed the track along
to Garden City, where he caught an electric train for New York. He stood
some chance of apprehension--he knew that the military police were often
sent through the cars to ask for passes, but he imagined that to-night
the vigilance would be relaxed. But, in any event, he would have tried
to slip through, for he had been unable to locate Gloria by telephone,
and another day of suspense would have been intolerable.
After inexplicable stops and waits that reminded him of the night he had
left New York, over a year before, they drew into the Pennsylvania
Station, and he followed the familiar way to the taxi-stand, finding it
grotesque and oddly stimulating to give his own address.
Broadway was a riot of light, thronged as he had never seen it with a
carnival crowd which swept its glittering way through scraps of paper,
piled ankle-deep on the sidewalks. Here and there, elevated upon benches
and boxes, soldiers addressed the heedless mass, each face in which was
clear cut and distinct under the white glare overhead. Anthony picked
out half a dozen figures--a drunken sailor, tipped backward and
supported by two other gobs, was waving his hat and emitting a wild
series of roars; a wounded soldier, crutch in hand, was borne along in
an eddy on the shoulders of some shrieking civilians; a dark-haired girl
sat cross-legged and meditative on top of a parked taxicab. Here surely
the victory had come in time, the climax had been scheduled with the
uttermost celestial foresight. The great rich nation had made triumphant
war, suffered enough for poignancy but not enough for bitterness--hence
the carnival, the feasting, the triumph. Under these bright lights
glittered the faces of peoples whose glory had long since passed away,
whose very civilizations were dead-men whose ancestors had heard the
news of victory in Babylon, in Nineveh, in Bagdad, in Tyre, a hundred
generations before; men whose ancestors had seen a flower-decked,
slave-adorned cortege drift with its wake of captives down the avenues
of Imperial Rome....
Past the Rialto, the glittering front of the Astor, the jewelled
magnificence of Times Square ... a gorgeous alley of incandescence
ahead.... Then--was it years later?--he was paying the taxi-driver in
front of a white building on Fifty-seventh Street. He was in the
hall--ah, there was the negro boy from Martinique, lazy, indolent,
"Is Mrs. Patch in?"
"I have just came on, sah," the man announced with his incongruous
"Take me up--"
Then the slow drone of the elevator, the three steps to the door, which
swung open at the impetus of his knock.
"Gloria!" His voice was trembling. No answer. A faint string of smoke
was rising from a cigarette-tray--a number of Vanity Fair sat astraddle
on the table.
He ran into the bedroom, the bath. She was not there. A negligée of
robin's-egg blue laid out upon the bed diffused a faint perfume,
illusive and familiar. On a chair were a pair of stockings and a street
dress; an open powder box yawned upon the bureau. She must just
have gone out.
The telephone rang abruptly and he started--answered it with all the
sensations of an impostor.
"Hello. Is Mrs. Patch there?"
"No, I'm looking for her myself. Who is this?"
"This is Mr. Crawford."
"This is Mr. Patch speaking. I've just arrived unexpectedly, and I don't
know where to find her."
"Oh." Mr. Crawford sounded a bit taken aback. "Why, I imagine she's at
the Armistice Ball. I know she intended going, but I didn't think she'd
leave so early."
"Where's the Armistice Ball?"
"At the Astor."
Anthony hung up sharply and rose. Who was Mr. Crawford? And who was it
that was taking her to the ball? How long had this been going on? All
these questions asked and answered themselves a dozen times, a dozen
ways. His very proximity to her drove him half frantic.
In a frenzy of suspicion he rushed here and there about the apartment,
hunting for some sign of masculine occupation, opening the bathroom
cupboard, searching feverishly through the bureau drawers. Then he found
something that made him stop suddenly and sit down on one of the twin
beds, the corners of his mouth drooping as though he were about to weep.
There in a corner of her drawer, tied with a frail blue ribbon, were all
the letters and telegrams he had written her during the year past. He
was suffused with happy and sentimental shame.
"I'm not fit to touch her," he cried aloud to the four walls. "I'm not
fit to touch her little hand."
Nevertheless, he went out to look for her.
In the Astor lobby he was engulfed immediately in a crowd so thick as to
make progress almost impossible. He asked the direction of the ballroom
from half a dozen people before he could get a sober and intelligible
answer. Eventually, after a last long wait, he checked his military
overcoat in the hall.
It was only nine but the dance was in full blast. The panorama was
incredible. Women, women everywhere--girls gay with wine singing shrilly
above the clamor of the dazzling confetti-covered throng; girls set off
by the uniforms of a dozen nations; fat females collapsing without
dignity upon the floor and retaining self-respect by shouting "Hurraw
for the Allies!"; three women with white hair dancing hand in hand
around a sailor, who revolved in a dizzying spin upon the floor,
clasping to his heart an empty bottle of champagne.
Breathlessly Anthony scanned the dancers, scanned the muddled lines
trailing in single file in and out among the tables, scanned the
horn-blowing, kissing, coughing, laughing, drinking parties under the
great full-bosomed flags which leaned in glowing color over the
pageantry and the sound.
Then he saw Gloria. She was sitting at a table for two directly across
the room. Her dress was black, and above it her animated face, tinted
with the most glamourous rose, made, he thought, a spot of poignant
beauty on the room. His heart leaped as though to a new music. He
jostled his way toward her and called her name just as the gray eyes
looked up and found him. For that instant as their bodies met and
melted, the world, the revel, the tumbling whimper of the music faded to
an ecstatic monotone hushed as a song of bees.
"Oh, my Gloria!" he cried.
Her kiss was a cool rill flowing from her heart.
A MATTER OF AESTHETICS
On the night when Anthony had left for Camp Hooker one year before, all
that was left of the beautiful Gloria Gilbert--her shell, her young and
lovely body--moved up the broad marble steps of the Grand Central
Station with the rhythm of the engine beating in her ears like a dream,
and out onto Vanderbilt Avenue, where the huge bulk of the Biltmore
overhung, the street and, down at its low, gleaming entrance, sucked in
the many-colored opera-cloaks of gorgeously dressed girls. For a moment
she paused by the taxi-stand and watched them--wondering that but a few
years before she had been of their number, ever setting out for a
radiant Somewhere, always just about to have that ultimate passionate
adventure for which the girls' cloaks were delicate and beautifully
furred, for which their cheeks were painted and their hearts higher than
the transitory dome of pleasure that would engulf them, coiffure,
cloak, and all.
It was growing colder and the men passing had flipped up the collars of
their overcoats. This change was kind to her. It would have been kinder
still had everything changed, weather, streets, and people, and had she
been whisked away, to wake in some high, fresh-scented room, alone, and
statuesque within and without, as in her virginal and colorful past.
Inside the taxicab she wept impotent tears. That she had not been happy
with Anthony for over a year mattered little. Recently his presence had
been no more than what it would awake in her of that memorable June. The
Anthony of late, irritable, weak, and poor, could do no less than make
her irritable in turn--and bored with everything except the fact that in
a highly imaginative and eloquent youth they had come together in an
ecstatic revel of emotion. Because of this mutually vivid memory she
would have done more for Anthony than for any other human--so when she
got into the taxicab she wept passionately, and wanted to call his
Miserable, lonesome as a forgotten child, she sat in the quiet apartment
and wrote him a letter full of confused sentiment:
* * * * *
... _I can almost look down the tracks and see you going but without
you, dearest, dearest, I can't see or hear or feel or think. Being
apart--whatever has happened or will happen to us--is like begging for
mercy from a storm, Anthony; it's like growing old. I want to kiss you
so--in the back of your neck where your old black hair starts. Because I
love you and whatever we do or say to each other, or have done, or have
said, you've got to feel how much I do, how inanimate I am when you're
gone. I can't even hate the damnable presence of PEOPLE, those people in
the station who haven't any right to live--I can't resent them even
though they're dirtying up our world, because I'm engrossed in
wanting you so._
_If you hated me, if you were covered with sores like a leper, if you
ran away with another woman or starved me or beat me--how absurd this
sounds--I'd still want you, I'd still love you. I_ KNOW, _my darling._
_It's late--I have all the windows open and the air outside, is just as
soft as spring, yet, somehow, much more young and frail than spring. Why
do they make spring a young girl, why does that illusion dance and yodel
its way for three months through the world's preposterous barrenness.
Spring is a lean old plough horse with its ribs showing--it's a pile of
refuse in a field, parched by the sun and the rain to an ominous
_In a few hours you'll wake up, my darling--and you'll be miserable, and
disgusted with life. You'll be in Delaware or Carolina or somewhere and
so unimportant. I don't believe there's any one alive who can
contemplate themselves as an impermanent institution, as a luxury or an
unnecessary evil. Very few of the people who accentuate the futility of
life remark the futility of themselves. Perhaps they think that in
proclaiming the evil of living they somehow salvage their own worth from
the ruin--but they don't, even you and I...._
_ ... Still I can see you. There's blue haze about the trees where
you'll be passing, too beautiful to be predominant. No, the fallow
squares of earth will be most frequent--they'll be along beside the
track like dirty coarse brown sheets drying in the sun, alive,
mechanical, abominable. Nature, slovenly old hag, has been sleeping in
them with every old farmer or negro or immigrant who happened to
_So you see that now you're gone I've written a letter all full of
contempt and despair. And that just means that I love you, Anthony, with
all there is to love with in your_
* * * * *
When she had addressed the letter she went to her twin bed and lay down
upon it, clasping Anthony's pillow in her arms as though by sheer force
of emotion she could metamorphize it into his warm and living body. Two
o'clock saw her dry-eyed, staring with steady persistent grief into the
darkness, remembering, remembering unmercifully, blaming herself for a
hundred fancied unkindnesses, making a likeness of Anthony akin to some
martyred and transfigured Christ. For a time she thought of him as he,
in his more sentimental moments, probably thought of himself.
At five she was still awake. A mysterious grinding noise that went on
every morning across the areaway told her the hour. She heard an alarm
clock ring, and saw a light make a yellow square on an illusory blank
wall opposite. With the half-formed resolution of following him South
immediately, her sorrow grew remote and unreal, and moved off from her
as the dark moved westward. She fell asleep.
When she awoke the sight of the empty bed beside her brought a renewal
of misery, dispelled shortly, however, by the inevitable callousness of
the bright morning. Though she was not conscious of it, there was relief
in eating breakfast without Anthony's tired and worried face opposite
her. Now that she was alone she lost all desire to complain about the
food. She would change her breakfasts, she thought--have a lemonade and
a tomato sandwich instead of the sempiternal bacon and eggs and toast.
Nevertheless, at noon when she had called up several of her
acquaintances, including the martial Muriel, and found each one engaged
for lunch, she gave way to a quiet pity for herself and her loneliness.
Curled on the bed with pencil and paper she wrote Anthony
Late in the afternoon arrived a special delivery, mailed from some small
New Jersey town, and the familiarity of the phrasing, the almost audible
undertone of worry and discontent, were so familiar that they comforted
her. Who knew? Perhaps army discipline would harden Anthony and accustom
him to the idea of work. She had immutable faith that the war would be
over before he was called upon to fight, and meanwhile the suit would be
won, and they could begin again, this time on a different basis. The
first thing different would be that she would have a child. It was
unbearable that she should be so utterly alone.
It was a week before she could stay in the apartment with the
probability of remaining dry-eyed. There seemed little in the city that
was amusing. Muriel had been shifted to a hospital in New Jersey, from
which she took a metropolitan holiday only every other week, and with
this defection Gloria grew to realize how few were the friends she had
made in all these years of New York. The men she knew were in the army.
"Men she knew"?--she had conceded vaguely to herself that all the men
who had ever been in love with her were her friends. Each one of them
had at a certain considerable time professed to value her favor above
anything in life. But now--where were they? At least two were dead, half
a dozen or more were married, the rest scattered from France to the
Philippines. She wondered whether any of them thought of her, and how
often, and in what respect. Most of them must still picture the little
girl of seventeen or so, the adolescent siren of nine years before.
The girls, too, were gone far afield. She had never been popular in
school. She had been too beautiful, too lazy, not sufficiently conscious
of being a Farmover girl and a "Future Wife and Mother" in perpetual
capital letters. And girls who had never been kissed hinted, with
shocked expressions on their plain but not particularly wholesome faces,
that Gloria had. Then these girls had gone east or west or south,
married and become "people," prophesying, if they prophesied about
Gloria, that she would come to a bad end--not knowing that no endings
were bad, and that they, like her, were by no means the mistresses of
Gloria told over to herself the people who had visited them in the gray
house at Marietta. It had seemed at the time that they were always
having company--she had indulged in an unspoken conviction that each
guest was ever afterward slightly indebted to her. They owed her a sort
of moral ten dollars apiece, and should she ever be in need she might,
so to speak, borrow from them this visionary currency. But they were
gone, scattered like chaff, mysteriously and subtly vanished in essence
or in fact.
By Christmas, Gloria's conviction that she should join Anthony had
returned, no longer as a sudden emotion, but as a recurrent need. She
decided to write him word of her coming, but postponed the announcement
upon the advice of Mr. Haight, who expected almost weekly that the case
was coming up for trial.
One day, early in January, as she was walking on Fifth Avenue, bright
now with uniforms and hung with the flags of the virtuous nations, she
met Rachael Barnes, whom she had not seen for nearly a year. Even
Rachael, whom she had grown to dislike, was a relief from ennui, and
together they went to the Ritz for tea.
After a second cocktail they became enthusiastic. They liked each other.
They talked about their husbands, Rachael in that tone of public
vainglory, with private reservations, in which wives are wont to speak.
"Rodman's abroad in the Quartermaster Corps. He's a captain. He was
bound he would go, and he didn't think he could get into anything else."
"Anthony's in the Infantry." The words in their relation to the cocktail
gave Gloria a sort of glow. With each sip she approached a warm and
"By the way," said Rachael half an hour later, as they were leaving,
"can't you come up to dinner to-morrow night? I'm having two awfully
sweet officers who are just going overseas. I think we ought to do all
we can to make it attractive for them."
Gloria accepted gladly. She took down the address--recognizing by its
number a fashionable apartment building on Park Avenue.
"It's been awfully good to have seen you, Rachael."
"It's been wonderful. I've wanted to."
With these three sentences a certain night in Marietta two summers
before, when Anthony and Rachael had been unnecessarily attentive to
each other, was forgiven--Gloria forgave Rachael, Rachael forgave
Gloria. Also it was forgiven that Rachael had been witness to the
greatest disaster in the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Patch--
Compromising with events time moves along.
THE WILES OF CAPTAIN COLLINS
The two officers were captains of the popular craft, machine gunnery. At
dinner they referred to themselves with conscious boredom as members of
the "Suicide Club"--in those days every recondite branch of the service
referred to itself as the Suicide Club. One of the captains--Rachael's
captain, Gloria observed--was a tall horsy man of thirty with a pleasant
mustache and ugly teeth. The other, Captain Collins, was chubby,
pink-faced, and inclined to laugh with abandon every time he caught
Gloria's eye. He took an immediate fancy to her, and throughout dinner
showered her with inane compliments. With her second glass of champagne
Gloria decided that for the first time in months she was thoroughly
After dinner it was suggested that they all go somewhere and dance. The
two officers supplied themselves with bottles of liquor from Rachael's
sideboard--a law forbade service to the military--and so equipped they
went through innumerable fox trots in several glittering caravanseries
along Broadway, faithfully alternating partners--while Gloria became
more and more uproarious and more and more amusing to the pink-faced
captain, who seldom bothered to remove his genial smile at all.
At eleven o'clock to her great surprise she was in the minority for
staying out. The others wanted to return to Rachael's apartment--to get
some more liquor, they said. Gloria argued persistently that Captain
Collins's flask was half full--she had just seen it--then catching
Rachael's eye she received an unmistakable wink. She deduced,
confusedly, that her hostess wanted to get rid of the officers and
assented to being bundled into a taxicab outside.
Captain Wolf sat on the left with Rachael on his knees. Captain Collins
sat in the middle, and as he settled himself he slipped his arm about
Gloria's shoulder. It rested there lifelessly for a moment and then
tightened like a vise. He leaned over her.
"You're awfully pretty," he whispered.
"Thank you kindly, sir." She was neither pleased nor annoyed. Before
Anthony came so many arms had done likewise that it had become little
more than a gesture, sentimental but without significance.
Up in Rachael's long front room a low fire and two lamps shaded with
orange silk gave all the light, so that the corners were full of deep and
somnolent shadows. The hostess, moving about in a dark-figured gown of
loose chiffon, seemed to accentuate the already sensuous atmosphere. For
a while they were all four together, tasting the sandwiches that waited
on the tea table--then Gloria found herself alone with Captain Collins
on the fireside lounge; Rachael and Captain Wolf had withdrawn to the
other side of the room, where they were conversing in subdued voices.
"I wish you weren't married," said Collins, his face a ludicrous
travesty of "in all seriousness."
"Why?" She held out her glass to be filled with a high-ball.
"Don't drink any more," he urged her, frowning.
"You'd be nicer--if you didn't."
Gloria caught suddenly the intended suggestion of the remark, the
atmosphere he was attempting to create. She wanted to laugh--yet she
realized that there was nothing to laugh at. She had been enjoying the
evening, and she had no desire to go home--at the same time it hurt her
pride to be flirted with on just that level.
"Pour me another drink," she insisted.
"Oh, don't be ridiculous!" she cried in exasperation.
"Very well." He yielded with ill grace.
Then his arm was about her again, and again she made no protest. But
when his pink cheek came close she leaned away.
"You're awfully sweet," he said with an aimless air.
She began to sing softly, wishing now that he would take down his arm.
Suddenly her eye fell on an intimate scene across the room--Rachael and
Captain Wolf were engrossed in a long kiss. Gloria shivered
slightly--she knew not why.... Pink face approached again.
"You shouldn't look at them," he whispered. Almost immediately his other
arm was around her ... his breath was on her cheek. Again absurdity
triumphed over disgust, and her laugh was a weapon that needed no
edge of words.
"Oh, I thought you were a sport," he was saying.
"What's a sport?"
"Why, a person that likes to--to enjoy life."
"Is kissing you generally considered a joyful affair?"
They were interrupted as Rachael and Captain Wolf appeared suddenly
"It's late, Gloria," said Rachael--she was flushed and her hair was
dishevelled. "You'd better stay here all night."
For an instant Gloria thought the officers were being dismissed. Then
she understood, and, understanding, got to her feet as casually as
she was able.
Uncomprehendingly Rachael continued:
"You can have the room just off this one. I can lend you everything you
Collins's eyes implored her like a dog's; Captain Wolf's arm had settled
familiarly around Rachael's waist; they were waiting.
But the lure of promiscuity, colorful, various, labyrinthine, and ever a
little odorous and stale, had no call or promise for Gloria. Had she so
desired she would have remained, without hesitation, without regret; as
it was she could face coolly the six hostile and offended eyes that
followed her out into the hall with forced politeness and hollow words.
"_He_ wasn't even sport, enough to try to take me home," she thought in
the taxi, and then with a quick surge of resentment: "How
In February she had an experience of quite a different sort. Tudor
Baird, an ancient flame, a young man whom at one time she had fully
intended to marry, came to New York by way of the Aviation Corps, and
called upon her. They went several times to the theatre, and within a
week, to her great enjoyment, he was as much in love with her as ever.
Quite deliberately she brought it about, realizing too late that she had
done a mischief. He reached the point of sitting with her in miserable
silence whenever they went out together.
A Scroll and Keys man at Yale, he possessed the correct reticences of a
"good egg," the correct notions of chivalry and _noblesse oblige_--and,
of course but unfortunately, the correct biases and the correct lack of
ideas--all those traits which Anthony had taught her to despise, but
which, nevertheless, she rather admired. Unlike the majority of his
type, she found that he was not a bore. He was handsome, witty in a
light way, and when she was with him she felt that because of some
quality he possessed--call it stupidity, loyalty, sentimentality, or
something not quite as definite as any of the three--he would have done
anything in his power to please her.
He told her this among other things, very correctly and with a ponderous
manliness that masked a real suffering. Loving him not at all she grew
sorry for him and kissed him sentimentally one night because he was so
charming, a relic of a vanishing generation which lived a priggish and
graceful illusion and was being replaced by less gallant fools.
Afterward she was glad she had kissed him, for next day when his plane
fell fifteen hundred feet at Mineola a piece of a gasolene engine
smashed through his heart.
When Mr. Haight told her that the trial would not take place until
autumn she decided that without telling Anthony she would go into the
movies. When he saw her successful, both histrionically and financially,
when he saw that she could have her will of Joseph Bloeckman, yielding
nothing in return, he would lose his silly prejudices. She lay awake
half one night planning her career and enjoying her successes in
anticipation, and the next morning she called up "Films Par Excellence."
Mr. Bloeckman was in Europe.
But the idea had gripped her so strongly this time that she decided to
go the rounds of the moving picture employment agencies. As so often had
been the case, her sense of smell worked against her good intentions.
The employment agency smelt as though it had been dead a very long time.
She waited five minutes inspecting her unprepossessing competitors--then
she walked briskly out into the farthest recesses of Central Park and
remained so long that she caught a cold. She was trying to air the
employment agency out of her walking suit.
In the spring she began to gather from Anthony's letters--not from any
one in particular but from their culminative effect--that he did not
want her to come South. Curiously repeated excuses that seemed to haunt
him by their very insufficiency occurred with Freudian regularity. He
set them down in each letter as though he feared he had forgotten them
the last time, as though it were desperately necessary to impress her
with them. And the dilutions of his letters with affectionate
diminutives began to be mechanical and unspontaneous--almost as though,
having completed the letter, he had looked it over and literally stuck
them in, like epigrams in an Oscar Wilde play. She jumped to the
solution, rejected it, was angry and depressed by turns--finally she
shut her mind to it proudly, and allowed an increasing coolness to creep
into her end of the correspondence.
Of late she had found a good deal to occupy her attention. Several
aviators whom she had met through Tudor Baird came into New York to see
her and two other ancient beaux turned up, stationed at Camp Dix. As
these men were ordered overseas they, so to speak, handed her down to
their friends. But after another rather disagreeable experience with a
potential Captain Collins she made it plain that when any one was
introduced to her he should be under no misapprehensions as to her
status and personal intentions.
When summer came she learned, like Anthony, to watch the officers'
casualty list, taking a sort of melancholy pleasure in hearing of the
death of some one with whom she had once danced a german and in
identifying by name the younger brothers of former suitors--thinking, as
the drive toward Paris progressed, that here at length went the world to
inevitable and well-merited destruction.
She was twenty-seven. Her birthday fled by scarcely noticed. Years
before it had frightened her when she became twenty, to some extent when
she reached twenty-six--but now she looked in the glass with calm
self-approval seeing the British freshness of her complexion and her
figure boyish and slim as of old.
She tried not to think of Anthony. It was as though she were writing to
a stranger. She told her friends that he had been made a corporal and
was annoyed when they were politely unimpressed. One night she wept
because she was sorry for him--had he been even slightly responsive she
would have gone to him without hesitation on the first train-whatever he
was doing he needed to be taken care of spiritually, and she felt that
now she would be able to do even that. Recently, without his continual
drain upon her moral strength she found herself wonderfully revived.
Before he left she had been inclined through sheer association to brood
on her wasted opportunities--now she returned to her normal state of
mind, strong, disdainful, existing each day for each day's worth. She
bought a doll and dressed it; one week she wept over "Ethan Frome"; the
next she revelled in some novels of Galsworthy's, whom she liked for his
power of recreating, by spring in darkness, that illusion of young
romantic love to which women look forever forward and forever back.
In October Anthony's letters multiplied, became almost frantic--then
suddenly ceased. For a worried month it needed all her powers of control
to refrain from leaving immediately for Mississippi. Then a telegram
told her that he had been in the hospital and that she could expect him
in New York within ten days. Like a figure in a dream he came back into
her life across the ballroom on that November evening--and all through
long hours that held familiar gladness she took him close to her breast,
nursing an illusion of happiness and security she had not thought that
she would know again.
DISCOMFITURE OF THE GENERALS
After a week Anthony's regiment went back to the Mississippi camp to be
discharged. The officers shut themselves up in the compartments on the
Pullman cars and drank the whiskey they had bought in New York, and in
the coaches the soldiers got as drunk as possible also--and pretended
whenever the train stopped at a village that they were just returned
from France, where they had practically put an end to the German army.
As they all wore overseas caps and claimed that they had not had time to
have their gold service stripes sewed on, the yokelry of the seaboard
were much impressed and asked them how they liked the trenches--to which
they replied "Oh, _boy!_" with great smacking of tongues and shaking of
heads. Some one took a piece of chalk and scrawled on the side of the
train, "We won the war--now we're going home," and the officers laughed
and let it stay. They were all getting what swagger they could out of
this ignominious return.
As they rumbled on toward camp, Anthony was uneasy lest he should find
Dot awaiting him patiently at the station. To his relief he neither saw
nor heard anything of her and thinking that were she still in town she
would certainly attempt to communicate with him, he concluded that she
had gone--whither he neither knew nor cared. He wanted only to return to
Gloria--Gloria reborn and wonderfully alive. When eventually he was
discharged he left his company on the rear of a great truck with a crowd
who had given tolerant, almost sentimental, cheers for their officers,
especially for Captain Dunning. The captain, on his part, had addressed
them with tears in his eyes as to the pleasure, etc., and the work,
etc., and time not wasted, etc., and duty, etc. It was very dull and
human; having given ear to it Anthony, whose mind was freshened by his
week in New York, renewed his deep loathing for the military profession
and all it connoted. In their childish hearts two out of every three
professional officers considered that wars were made for armies and not
armies for wars. He rejoiced to see general and field-officers riding
desolately about the barren camp deprived of their commands. He rejoiced
to hear the men in his company laugh scornfully at the inducements
tendered them to remain in the army. They were to attend "schools." He
knew what these "schools" were.
Two days later he was with Gloria in New York.
Late one February afternoon Anthony came into the apartment and groping
through the little hall, pitch-dark in the winter dusk, found Gloria
sitting by the window. She turned as he came in.
"What did Mr. Haight have to say?" she asked listlessly.
"Nothing," he answered, "usual thing. Next month, perhaps."
She looked at him closely; her ear attuned to his voice caught the
slightest thickness in the dissyllable.
"You've been drinking," she remarked dispassionately.
He yawned in the armchair and there was a moment's silence between them.
Then she demanded suddenly:
"Did you go to Mr. Haight? Tell me the truth."
"No." He smiled weakly. "As a matter of fact I didn't have time."
"I thought you didn't go.... He sent for you."
"I don't give a damn. I'm sick of waiting around his office. You'd think
he was doing _me_ a favor." He glanced at Gloria as though expecting
moral support, but she had turned back to her contemplation of the
dubious and unprepossessing out-of-doors.
"I feel rather weary of life to-day," he offered tentatively. Still she
was silent. "I met a fellow and we talked in the Biltmore bar."
The dusk had suddenly deepened but neither of them made any move to turn
on the lights. Lost in heaven knew what contemplation, they sat there
until a flurry of snow drew a languid sigh from Gloria.
"What've you been doing?" he asked, finding the silence oppressive.
"Reading a magazine--all full of idiotic articles by prosperous authors
about how terrible it is for poor people to buy silk shirts. And while I
was reading it I could think of nothing except how I wanted a gray
squirrel coat--and how we can't afford one."
"Yes, we can."
"Oh, yes! If you want a fur coat you can have one."
Her voice coming through the dark held an implication of scorn.
"You mean we can sell another bond?"
"If necessary. I don't want to go without things. We have spent a lot,
though, since I've been back."
"Oh, shut up!" she said in irritation.
"Because I'm sick and tired of hearing you talk about what we've spent
or what we've done. You came back two months ago and we've been on some
sort of a party practically every night since. We've both wanted to go
out, and we've gone. Well, you haven't heard me complain, have you? But
all you do is whine, whine, whine. I don't care any more what we do or
what becomes of us and at least I'm consistent. But I will _not_
tolerate your complaining and calamity-howling----"
"You're not very pleasant yourself sometimes, you know."
"I'm under no obligations to be. You're not making any attempt to make
"But I am--"
"Huh! Seems to me I've heard that before. This morning you weren't going
to touch another thing to drink until you'd gotten a position. And you
didn't even have the spunk to go to Mr. Haight when he sent for you
about the suit."
Anthony got to his feet and switched on the lights.
"See here!" he cried, blinking, "I'm getting sick of that sharp tongue
"Well, what are you going to do about it?"
"Do you think _I'm_ particularly happy?" he continued, ignoring her
question. "Do you think I don't know we're not living as we ought to?"
In an instant Gloria stood trembling beside him.
"I won't _stand_ it!" she burst out. "I won't be lectured to. You and
your suffering! You're just a pitiful weakling and you always
They faced one another idiotically, each of them unable to impress the
other, each of them tremendously, achingly, bored. Then she went into
the bedroom and shut the door behind her.
His return had brought into the foreground all their pre-bellum
exasperations. Prices had risen alarmingly and in perverse ratio their
income had shrunk to a little over half of its original size. There had
been the large retainer's fee to Mr. Haight; there were stocks bought at
one hundred, now down to thirty and forty and other investments that
were not paying at all. During the previous spring Gloria had been given
the alternative of leaving the apartment or of signing a year's lease at
two hundred and twenty-five a month. She had signed it. Inevitably as
the necessity for economy had increased they found themselves as a pair
quite unable to save. The old policy of prevarication was resorted to.
Weary of their incapabilities they chattered of what they would
do--oh--to-morrow, of how they would "stop going on parties" and of how
Anthony would go to work. But when dark came down Gloria, accustomed to
an engagement every night, would feel the ancient restlessness creeping
over her. She would stand in the doorway of the bedroom, chewing
furiously at her fingers and sometimes meeting Anthony's eyes as he
glanced up from his book. Then the telephone, and her nerves would
relax, she would answer it with ill-concealed eagerness. Some one was
coming up "for just a few minutes"--and oh, the weariness of pretense,
the appearance of the wine table, the revival of their jaded
spirits--and the awakening, like the mid-point of a sleepless night in
which they moved.
As the winter passed with the march of the returning troops along Fifth
Avenue they became more and more aware that since Anthony's return their
relations had entirely changed. After that reflowering of tenderness and
passion each of them had returned into some solitary dream unshared by
the other and what endearments passed between them passed, it seemed,
from empty heart to empty heart, echoing hollowly the departure of what
they knew at last was gone.
Anthony had again made the rounds of the metropolitan newspapers and had
again been refused encouragement by a motley of office boys, telephone
girls, and city editors. The word was: "We're keeping any vacancies open
for our own men who are still in France." Then, late in March, his eye
fell on an advertisement in the morning paper and in consequence he
found at last the semblance of an occupation.
* * * * *
YOU CAN SELL!!!
_Why not earn while you learn?_
_Our salesmen make $50-$200 weekly_.
* * * * *
There followed an address on Madison Avenue, and instructions to appear
at one o'clock that afternoon. Gloria, glancing over his shoulder after
one of their usual late breakfasts, saw him regarding it idly.
"Why don't you try it?" she suggested.
"Oh--it's one of these crazy schemes."
"It might not be. At least it'd be experience."
At her urging he went at one o'clock to the appointed address, where he
found himself one of a dense miscellany of men waiting in front of the
door. They ranged from a messenger-boy evidently misusing his company's
time to an immemorial individual with a gnarled body and a gnarled cane.
Some of the men were seedy, with sunken cheeks and puffy pink
eyes--others were young; possibly still in high school. After a jostled
fifteen minutes during which they all eyed one another with apathetic
suspicion there appeared a smart young shepherd clad in a "waist-line"
suit and wearing the manner of an assistant rector who herded them
up-stairs into a large room, which resembled a school-room and contained
innumerable desks. Here the prospective salesmen sat down--and again
waited. After an interval a platform at the end of the hall was clouded
with half a dozen sober but sprightly men who, with one exception, took
seats in a semicircle facing the audience.
The exception was the man who seemed the soberest, the most sprightly
and the youngest of the lot, and who advanced to the front of the
platform. The audience scrutinized him hopefully. He was rather small
and rather pretty, with the commercial rather than the thespian sort of
prettiness. He had straight blond bushy brows and eyes that were almost
preposterously honest, and as he reached the edge of his rostrum he
seemed to throw these eyes out into the audience, simultaneously
extending his arm with two fingers outstretched. Then while he rocked
himself to a state of balance an expectant silence settled over the
hall. With perfect assurance the young man had taken his listeners in
hand and his words when they came were steady and confident and of the
school of "straight from the shoulder."
"Men!"--he began, and paused. The word died with a prolonged echo at the
end of the hall, the faces regarding him, hopefully, cynically, wearily,
were alike arrested, engrossed. Six hundred eyes were turned slightly
upward. With an even graceless flow that reminded Anthony of the rolling
of bowling balls he launched himself into the sea of exposition.
"This bright and sunny morning you picked up your favorite newspaper and
you found an advertisement which made the plain, unadorned statement
that _you_ could sell. That was all it said--it didn't say 'what,' it
didn't say 'how,' it didn't say 'why.' It just made one single solitary
assertion that _you_ and _you_ and _you_"--business of pointing--"could
sell. Now my job isn't to make a success of you, because every man is
born a success, he makes himself a failure; it's not to teach you how to
talk, because each man is a natural orator and only makes himself a
clam; my business is to tell you one thing in a way that will make you
_know_ it--it's to tell you that _you_ and _you_ and _you_ have the
heritage of money and prosperity waiting for you to come and claim it."
At this point an Irishman of saturnine appearance rose from his desk
near the rear of the hall and went out.
"That man thinks he'll go look for it in the beer parlor around the
corner. (Laughter.) He won't find it there. Once upon a time I looked
for it there myself (laughter), but that was before I did what every one
of you men no matter how young or how old, how poor or how rich (a faint
ripple of satirical laughter), can do. It was before I found--_myself_!
"Now I wonder if any of you men know what a 'Heart Talk' is. A 'Heart
Talk' is a little book in which I started, about five years ago, to
write down what I had discovered were the principal reasons for a man's
failure and the principal reasons for a man's success--from John D.
Rockerfeller back to John D. Napoleon (laughter), and before that, back
in the days when Abel sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. There
are now one hundred of these 'Heart Talks.' Those of you who are
sincere, who are interested in our proposition, above all who are
dissatisfied with the way things are breaking for you at present will be
handed one to take home with you as you go out yonder door this
"Now in my own pocket I have four letters just received concerning
'Heart Talks.' These letters have names signed to them that are familiar
in every house-hold in the U.S.A. Listen to this one from Detroit:
* * * * *
"DEAR MR. CARLETON:
"I want to order three thousand more copies of 'Heart Talks' for
distribution among my salesmen. They have done more for getting work out
of the men than any bonus proposition ever considered. I read them
myself constantly, and I desire to heartily congratulate you on getting
at the roots of the biggest problem that faces our generation
to-day--the problem of salesmanship. The rock bottom on which the
country is founded is the problem of salesmanship. With many
felicitations I am
"Yours very cordially,
"HENRY W. TERRAL."
* * * * *
He brought the name out in three long booming triumphancies--pausing for
it to produce its magical effect. Then he read two more letters, one
from a manufacturer of vacuum cleaners and one from the president of the
Great Northern Doily Company.
"And now," he continued, "I'm going to tell you in a few words what the
proposition is that's going to _make_ those of you who go into it in the
right spirit. Simply put, it's this: 'Heart Talks' have been
incorporated as a company. We're going to put these little pamphlets
into the hands of every big business organization, every salesman, and
every man who _knows_--I don't say 'thinks,' I say _'knows'_--that he
can sell! We are offering some of the stock of the 'Heart Talks' concern
upon the market, and in order that the distribution may be as wide as
possible, and in order also that we can furnish a living, concrete,
flesh-and-blood example of what salesmanship is, or rather what it may
be, we're going to give those of you who are the real thing a chance to
sell that stock. Now, I don't care what you've tried to sell before or
how you've tried to sell it. It don't matter how old you are or how
young you are. I only want to know two things--first, do you _want_
success, and, second, will you work for it?
"My name is Sammy Carleton. Not 'Mr.' Carleton, but just plain Sammy.
I'm a regular no-nonsense man with no fancy frills about me. I want you
to call me Sammy.
"Now this is all I'm going to say to you to-day. To-morrow I want those
of you who have thought it over and have read the copy of 'Heart Talks'
which will be given to you at the door, to come back to this same room
at this same time, then we'll, go into the proposition further and I'll
explain to you what I've found the principles of success to be. I'm
going to make you _feel_ that _you_ and _you_ and _you_ can sell!"
Mr. Carleton's voice echoed for a moment through the hall and then died
away. To the stamping of many feet Anthony was pushed and jostled with
the crowd out of the room.
FURTHER ADVENTURES WITH "HEART TALKS"
With an accompaniment of ironic laughter Anthony told Gloria the story
of his commercial adventure. But she listened without amusement.
"You're going to give up again?" she demanded coldly.
"Why--you don't expect me to--"
"I never expected anything of you."
"Well--I can't see the slightest benefit in laughing myself sick over
this sort of affair. If there's anything older than the old story, it's
the new twist."
It required an astonishing amount of moral energy on Gloria's part to
intimidate him into returning, and when he reported next day, somewhat
depressed from his perusal of the senile bromides skittishly set forth
in "Heart Talks on Ambition," he found only fifty of the original three
hundred awaiting the appearance of the vital and compelling Sammy
Carleton. Mr. Carleton's powers of vitality and compulsion were this
time exercised in elucidating that magnificent piece of speculation--how
to sell. It seemed that the approved method was to state one's
proposition and then to say not "And now, will you buy?"--this was not
the way--oh, no!--the way was to state one's proposition and then,
having reduced one's adversary to a state of exhaustion, to deliver
oneself of the categorical imperative: "Now see here! You've taken up my
time explaining this matter to you. You've admitted my points--all I
want to ask is how many do you want?"
As Mr. Carleton piled assertion upon assertion Anthony began to feel a
sort of disgusted confidence in him. The man appeared to know what he
was talking about. Obviously prosperous, he had risen to the position of
instructing others. It did not occur to Anthony that the type of man who
attains commercial success seldom knows how or why, and, as in his
grandfather's case, when he ascribes reasons, the reasons are generally
inaccurate and absurd.
Anthony noted that of the numerous old men who had answered the original
advertisement, only two had returned, and that among the thirty odd who
assembled on the third day to get actual selling instructions from Mr.
Carleton, only one gray head was in evidence. These thirty were eager
converts; with their mouths they followed the working of Mr. Carleton's
mouth; they swayed in their seats with enthusiasm, and in the intervals
of his talk they spoke to each other in tense approving whispers. Yet of
the chosen few who, in the words of Mr. Carleton, "were determined to
get those deserts that rightly and truly belonged to them," less than
half a dozen combined even a modicum of personal appearance with that
great gift of being a "pusher." But they were told that they were all
natural pushers--it was merely necessary that they should believe with a
sort of savage passion in what they were selling. He even urged each one
to buy some stock himself, if possible, in order to increase his own
On the fifth day then, Anthony sallied into the street with all the
sensations of a man wanted by the police. Acting according to
instructions he selected a tall office building in order that he might
ride to the top story and work downward, stopping in every office that
had a name on the door. But at the last minute he hesitated. Perhaps it
would be more practicable to acclimate himself to the chilly atmosphere
which he felt was awaiting him by trying a few offices on, say, Madison
Avenue. He went into an arcade that seemed only semi-prosperous, and
seeing a sign which read Percy B. Weatherbee, Architect, he opened the
door heroically and entered. A starchy young woman looked up
"Can I see Mr. Weatherbee?" He wondered if his voice sounded tremulous.
She laid her hand tentatively on the telephone-receiver.
"What's the name, please?"
"He wouldn't--ah--know me. He wouldn't know my name."
"What's your business with him? You an insurance agent?"
"Oh, no, nothing like that!" denied Anthony hurriedly. "Oh, no. It's
a--it's a personal matter." He wondered if he should have said this. It
had all sounded so simple when Mr. Carleton had enjoined his flock:
"Don't allow yourself to be kept out! Show them you've made up your mind
to talk to them, and they'll listen."
The girl succumbed to Anthony's pleasant, melancholy face, and in a
moment the door to the inner room opened and admitted a tall,
splay-footed man with slicked hair. He approached Anthony with
"You wanted to see me on a personal matter?"
"I wanted to talk to you," he said defiantly.
"It'll take some time to explain."
"Well, what's it about?" Mr. Weatherbee's voice indicated rising
Then Anthony, straining at each word, each syllable, began:
"I don't know whether or not you've ever heard of a series of pamphlets
called 'Heart Talks'--"
"Good grief!" cried Percy B. Weatherbee, Architect, "are you trying to
touch my heart?"
"No, it's business. 'Heart Talks' have been incorporated and we're
putting some shares on the market--"
His voice faded slowly off, harassed by a fixed and contemptuous stare
from his unwilling prey. For another minute he struggled on,
increasingly sensitive, entangled in his own words. His confidence oozed
from him in great retching emanations that seemed to be sections of his
own body. Almost mercifully Percy B. Weatherbee, Architect, terminated
"Good grief!" he exploded in disgust, "and you call that a _personal_
matter!" He whipped about and strode into his private office, banging
the door behind him. Not daring to look at the stenographer, Anthony in
some shameful and mysterious way got himself from the room. Perspiring
profusely he stood in the hall wondering why they didn't come and arrest
him; in every hurried look he discerned infallibly a glance of scorn.
After an hour and with the help of two strong whiskies he brought
himself up to another attempt. He walked into a plumber's shop, but when
he mentioned his business the plumber began pulling on his coat in a
great hurry, gruffly announcing that he had to go to lunch. Anthony
remarked politely that it was futile to try to sell a man anything when
he was hungry, and the plumber heartily agreed.
This episode encouraged Anthony; he tried to think that had the plumber
not been bound for lunch he would at least have listened.
Passing by a few glittering and formidable bazaars he entered a grocery
store. A talkative proprietor told him that before buying any stocks he
was going to see how the armistice affected the market. To Anthony this
seemed almost unfair. In Mr. Carleton's salesman's Utopia the only
reason prospective buyers ever gave for not purchasing stock was that
they doubted it to be a promising investment. Obviously a man in that
state was almost ludicrously easy game, to be brought down merely by the
judicious application of the correct selling points. But these men--why,
actually they weren't considering buying anything at all.
Anthony took several more drinks before he approached his fourth man, a
real-estate agent; nevertheless, he was floored with a coup as decisive
as a syllogism. The real-estate agent said that he had three brothers in
the investment business. Viewing himself as a breaker-up of homes
Anthony apologized and went out.
After another drink he conceived the brilliant plan of selling the stock
to the bartenders along Lexington Avenue. This occupied several hours,
for it was necessary to take a few drinks in each place in order to get
the proprietor in the proper frame of mind to talk business. But the
bartenders one and all contended that if they had any money to buy bonds
they would not be bartenders. It was as though they had all convened and
decided upon that rejoinder. As he approached a dark and soggy five
o'clock he found that they were developing a still more annoying
tendency to turn him off with a jest.
At five, then, with a tremendous effort at concentration he decided that
he must put more variety into his canvassing. He selected a medium-sized
delicatessen store, and went in. He felt, illuminatingly, that the thing
to do was to cast a spell not only over the storekeeper but over all the
customers as well--and perhaps through the psychology of the herd
instinct they would buy as an astounded and immediately convinced whole.
"Af'ernoon," he began in a loud thick voice. "Ga l'il prop'sition."
If he had wanted silence he obtained it. A sort of awe descended upon
the half-dozen women marketing and upon the gray-haired ancient who in
cap and apron was slicing chicken.
Anthony pulled a batch of papers from his flapping briefcase and waved
"Buy a bon'," he suggested, "good as liberty bon'!" The phrase pleased
him and he elaborated upon it. "Better'n liberty bon'. Every one these
bon's worth _two_ liberty bon's." His mind made a hiatus and skipped to
his peroration, which he delivered with appropriate gestures, these
being somewhat marred by the necessity of clinging to the counter with
one or both hands.
"Now see here. You taken up my time. I don't want know _why_ you won't
buy. I just want you say _why_. Want you say _how many!_"
At this point they should have approached him with check-books and
fountain pens in hand. Realizing that they must have missed a cue
Anthony, with the instincts of an actor, went back and repeated
"Now see here! You taken up my time. You followed prop'sition. You
agreed 'th reasonin'? Now, all I want from _you_ is, how many
"See here!" broke in a new voice. A portly man whose face was adorned
with symmetrical scrolls of yellow hair had come out of a glass cage in
the rear of the store and was bearing down upon Anthony. "See
"How many?" repeated the salesman sternly. "You taken up my time--"
"Hey, you!" cried the proprietor, "I'll have you taken up by the
"You mos' cert'nly won't!" returned Anthony with fine defiance. "All I
want know is how many."
From here and there in the store went up little clouds of comment and
"He's a raving maniac."
"He's disgracefully drunk."
The proprietor grasped Anthony's arm sharply.
"Get out, or I'll call a policeman."
Some relics of rationality moved Anthony to nod and replace his bonds
clumsily in the case.
"How many?" he reiterated doubtfully.
"The whole force if necessary!" thundered his adversary, his yellow
mustache trembling fiercely.
"Sell 'em all a bon'."
With this Anthony turned, bowed gravely to his late auditors, and
wabbled from the store. He found a taxicab at the corner and rode home
to the apartment. There he fell sound asleep on the sofa, and so Gloria
found him, his breath filling the air with an unpleasant pungency, his
hand still clutching his open brief case.
Except when Anthony was drinking, his range of sensation had become less
than that of a healthy old man and when prohibition came in July he
found that, among those who could afford it, there was more drinking
than ever before. One's host now brought out a bottle upon the slightest
pretext. The tendency to display liquor was a manifestation of the same
instinct that led a man to deck his wife with jewels. To have liquor was
a boast, almost a badge of respectability.
In the mornings Anthony awoke tired, nervous, and worried. Halcyon
summer twilights and the purple chill of morning alike left him
unresponsive. Only for a brief moment every day in the warmth and
renewed life of a first high-ball did his mind turn to those opalescent
dreams of future pleasure--the mutual heritage of the happy and the
damned. But this was only for a little while. As he grew drunker the
dreams faded and he became a confused spectre, moving in odd crannies of
his own mind, full of unexpected devices, harshly contemptuous at best
and reaching sodden and dispirited depths. One night in June he had
quarrelled violently with Maury over a matter of the utmost triviality.
He remembered dimly next morning that it had been about a broken pint
bottle of champagne. Maury had told him to sober up and Anthony's
feelings had been hurt, so with an attempted gesture of dignity he had
risen from the table and seizing Gloria's arm half led, half shamed her
into a taxicab outside, leaving Maury with three dinners ordered and
tickets for the opera.
This sort of semi-tragic fiasco had become so usual that when they
occurred he was no longer stirred into making amends. If Gloria
protested--and of late she was more likely to sink into contemptuous
silence--he would either engage in a bitter defense of himself or else
stalk dismally from the apartment. Never since the incident on the
station platform at Redgate had he laid his hands on her in anger--though
he was withheld often only by some instinct that itself made him tremble
with rage. Just as he still cared more for her than for any other
creature, so did he more intensely and frequently hate her.
So far, the judges of the Appellate Division had failed to hand down a
decision, but after another postponement they finally affirmed the
decree of the lower court--two justices dissenting. A notice of appeal
was served upon Edward Shuttleworth. The case was going to the court of
last resort, and they were in for another interminable wait. Six months,
perhaps a year. It had grown enormously unreal to them, remote and
uncertain as heaven.
Throughout the previous winter one small matter had been a subtle and
omnipresent irritant--the question of Gloria's gray fur coat. At that
time women enveloped in long squirrel wraps could be seen every few
yards along Fifth Avenue. The women were converted to the shape of tops.
They seemed porcine and obscene; they resembled kept women in the
concealing richness, the feminine animality of the garment. Yet--Gloria
wanted a gray squirrel coat.
Discussing the matter--or, rather, arguing it, for even more than in the
first year of their marriage did every discussion take the form of
bitter debate full of such phrases as "most certainly," "utterly
outrageous," "it's so, nevertheless," and the ultra-emphatic
"regardless"--they concluded that they could not afford it. And so
gradually it began to stand as a symbol of their growing
To Gloria the shrinkage of their income was a remarkable phenomenon,
without explanation or precedent--that it could happen at all within the
space of five years seemed almost an intended cruelty, conceived and
executed by a sardonic God. When they were married seventy-five hundred
a year had seemed ample for a young couple, especially when augmented by
the expectation of many millions. Gloria had failed to realize that it
was decreasing not only in amount but in purchasing power until the
payment of Mr. Haight's retaining fee of fifteen thousand dollars made
the fact suddenly and startlingly obvious. When Anthony was drafted they
had calculated their income at over four hundred a month, with the
dollar even then decreasing in value, but on his return to New York they
discovered an even more alarming condition of affairs. They were
receiving only forty-five hundred a year from their investments. And
though the suit over the will moved ahead of them like a persistent
mirage and the financial danger-mark loomed up in the near distance they
found, nevertheless, that living within their income was impossible.
So Gloria went without the squirrel coat and every day upon Fifth Avenue
she was a little conscious of her well-worn, half-length leopard skin,
now hopelessly old-fashioned. Every other month they sold a bond, yet
when the bills were paid it left only enough to be gulped down hungrily
by their current expenses. Anthony's calculations showed that their
capital would last about seven years longer. So Gloria's heart was very
bitter, for in one week, on a prolonged hysterical party during which
Anthony whimsically divested himself of coat, vest, and shirt in a
theatre and was assisted out by a posse of ushers, they spent twice what
the gray squirrel coat would have cost.
It was November, Indian summer rather, and a warm, warm night--which was
unnecessary, for the work of the summer was done. Babe Ruth had smashed
the home-run record for the first time and Jack Dempsey had broken Jess
Willard's cheek-bone out in Ohio. Over in Europe the usual number of
children had swollen stomachs from starvation, and the diplomats were at
their customary business of making the world safe for new wars. In New
York City the proletariat were being "disciplined," and the odds on
Harvard were generally quoted at five to three. Peace had come down in
earnest, the beginning of new days.
Up in the bedroom of the apartment on Fifty-seventh Street Gloria lay
upon her bed and tossed from side to side, sitting up at intervals to
throw off a superfluous cover and once asking Anthony, who was lying
awake beside her, to bring her a glass of ice-water. "Be sure and put
ice in it," she said with insistence; "it isn't cold enough the way it
comes from the faucet."
Looking through the frail curtains she could see the rounded moon over
the roofs and beyond it on the sky the yellow glow from Times
Square--and watching the two incongruous lights, her mind worked over an
emotion, or rather an interwoven complex of emotions, that had occupied
it through the day, and the day before that and back to the last time
when she could remember having thought clearly and consecutively about
anything--which must have been while Anthony was in the army.
She would be twenty-nine in February. The month assumed an ominous and
inescapable significance--making her wonder, through these nebulous
half-fevered hours whether after all she had not wasted her faintly
tired beauty, whether there was such a thing as use for any quality
bounded by a harsh and inevitable mortality.
Years before, when she was twenty-one, she had written in her diary:
"Beauty is only to be admired, only to be loved-to be harvested
carefully and then flung at a chosen lover like a gift of roses. It
seems to me, so far as I can judge clearly at all, that my beauty should
be used like that...."
And now, all this November day, all this desolate day, under a sky dirty
and white, Gloria had been thinking that perhaps she had been wrong. To
preserve the integrity of her first gift she had looked no more for
love. When the first flame and ecstasy had grown dim, sunk down,
departed, she had begun preserving--what? It puzzled her that she no
longer knew just what she was preserving--a sentimental memory or some
profound and fundamental concept of honor. She was doubting now whether
there had been any moral issue involved in her way of life--to walk
unworried and unregretful along the gayest of all possible lanes and to
keep her pride by being always herself and doing what it seemed
beautiful that she should do. From the first little boy in an Eton
collar whose "girl" she had been, down to the latest casual man whose
eyes had grown alert and appreciative as they rested upon her, there was
needed only that matchless candor she could throw into a look or clothe
with an inconsequent clause--for she had talked always in broken
clauses--to weave about her immeasurable illusions, immeasurable
distances, immeasurable light. To create souls in men, to create fine
happiness and fine despair she must remain deeply proud--proud to be
inviolate, proud also to be melting, to be passionate and possessed.
She knew that in her breast she had never wanted children. The reality,
the earthiness, the intolerable sentiment of child-bearing, the menace
to her beauty--had appalled her. She wanted to exist only as a conscious
flower, prolonging and preserving itself. Her sentimentality could cling
fiercely to her own illusions, but her ironic soul whispered that
motherhood was also the privilege of the female baboon. So her dreams
were of ghostly children only--the early, the perfect symbols of her
early and perfect love for Anthony.
In the end then, her beauty was all that never failed her. She had never
seen beauty like her own. What it meant ethically or aesthetically faded
before the gorgeous concreteness of her pink-and-white feet, the clean
perfectness of her body, and the baby mouth that was like the material
symbol of a kiss.
She would be twenty-nine in February. As the long night waned she grew
supremely conscious that she and beauty were going to make use of these
next three months. At first she was not sure for what, but the problem
resolved itself gradually into the old lure of the screen. She was in
earnest now. No material want could have moved her as this fear moved
her. No matter for Anthony, Anthony the poor in spirit, the weak and
broken man with bloodshot eyes, for whom she still had moments of
tenderness. No matter. She would be twenty-nine in February--a hundred
days, so many days; she would go to Bloeckman to-morrow.
With the decision came relief. It cheered her that in some manner the
illusion of beauty could be sustained, or preserved perhaps in celluloid
after the reality had vanished. Well--to-morrow.
The next day she felt weak and ill. She tried to go out, and saved
herself from collapse only by clinging to a mail box near the front
door. The Martinique elevator boy helped her up-stairs, and she waited
on the bed for Anthony's return without energy to unhook her brassiere.
For five days she was down with influenza, which, just as the month
turned the corner into winter, ripened into double pneumonia. In the
feverish perambulations of her mind she prowled through a house of bleak
unlighted rooms hunting for her mother. All she wanted was to be a
little girl, to be efficiently taken care of by some yielding yet
superior power, stupider and steadier than herself. It seemed that the
only lover she had ever wanted was a lover in a dream.
"ODI PROFANUM VULGUS"
One day in the midst of Gloria's illness there occurred a curious
incident that puzzled Miss McGovern, the trained nurse, for some time
afterward. It was noon, but the room in which the patient lay was dark
and quiet. Miss McGovern was standing near the bed mixing some medicine,
when Mrs. Patch, who had apparently been sound asleep, sat up and began
to speak vehemently:
"Millions of people," she said, "swarming like rats, chattering like
apes, smelling like all hell ... monkeys! Or lice, I suppose. For one
really exquisite palace ... on Long Island, say--or even in Greenwich ...
for one palace full of pictures from the Old World and exquisite
things--with avenues of trees and green lawns and a view of the blue
sea, and lovely people about in slick dresses ... I'd sacrifice a
hundred thousand of them, a million of them." She raised her hand feebly
and snapped her fingers. "I care nothing for them--understand me?"
The look she bent upon Miss McGovern at the conclusion of this speech
was curiously elfin, curiously intent. Then she gave a short little
laugh polished with scorn, and tumbling backward fell off again
Miss McGovern was bewildered. She wondered what were the hundred
thousand things that Mrs. Patch would sacrifice for her palace. Dollars,
she supposed--yet it had not sounded exactly like dollars.
It was February, seven days before her birthday, and the great snow that
had filled up the cross-streets as dirt fills the cracks in a floor had