Part 2 out of 6
of strength--which left him, however, when he spoke to pretty women.
It was not so much the things he said,--light, jesting, personal
things,--as the indications they gave of the overweening vanity of
the spoiled boy and of a brain which occupied itself merely with the
fluff and thistledown of life. He was, and he knew it and made no
effort to disguise the fact, a typical specimen of the very small
class of indolent bystanders made rich by the energy of other men
who are to be found in every country. He was, in fact, the peculiar
type of aristocrat only to be found in a democracy--the aristocrat
not of blood and breeding or intellect, but of wealth. He was
utterly without any ambition to shine either in social life or
politics, or to achieve advertisement by the affectation of a half-
genuine interest in any cause. On the contrary, he reveled in being
idle and indifferent, and unlike the aristocrats of Europe he
refused to catch that archaic habit, encouraged at Eton and Oxford,
of relating everything in the universe to the standards and
prejudices of a single class.
Palgrave was triumphantly one-eyed and selfish; but he waited, with
a sort of satirical wistfulness, for the time when some one person
should cause him to stand eager and startled in a chaos of
individualism and indolence and shake him into a Great Emotion. He
had looked for her at all times and places, though without any
troublesome optimism or personal energy, and had almost come to
believe that she was to him what the end of the rainbow is to the
idealist. In marrying Alice he had followed the path of least
resistance. She was young, pretty and charming, and had been very
much in love with him. Also it pleased his mother, and she had been
worth pleasing. He gave his wife all that she could possibly need,
except very much of himself. She was a perfectly dear little soul.
Joan only kept him waiting about fifteen minutes. With perfect
patience he stood in front of an Italian mirror in the drawing-room,
smoking a cigarette through a long tortoise-shell holder. He
regarded himself with keen and friendly interest, not in the least
surprised that his wife's little friend from the country so
evidently liked him. He found that he looked up to his best form,
murmured a word of praise for the manner in which his evening coat
was cut and smiled once or twice in order to have the satisfaction
of getting a glimpse of his peculiarly good teeth. Then he laughed,
called himself a conceited ass and went over to examine a rather
virile sketch of a muscular, deep-chested young man in rowing
costume which occupied an inconspicuous place among many well-chosen
pictures. He recognized Martin, whom he had seen several times
following the hounds, and tried to remember if Alice had told him
whether Joan had run away with this strenuous young fellow or been
run away with by him. There was much difference between the two
He heard nothing, but caught the scent of Peau d'Espagne. It carried
his mind back to a charming little suite in the Hotel de Crillon in
Paris. He turned and found Joan standing in the doorway, watching
"Did you ever row?" she asked.
"No," he said, "never. Too much fag. I played squash and roulette.
You look like a newly risen moon in her first quarter. Where would
you like to go?"
"I don't know," said Joan. "Let's break away from the conventional
places. I rather want to see queer people and taste different food.
But don't let's discuss it. I leave it to you." She went downstairs.
She might have been living in that house for years.
He followed, admiring the way her small, patrician head was set on
her shoulders, and the rich brown note of her hair. Extraordinary
little person, this! He told his chauffeur to drive to the Brevoort,
and got into the car. It was possible at that hour to deal with the
Avenue as a street and not as a rest-cure interrupted by short
"Would you rather the windows were up, Gehane?" he asked, looking at
her through his long lashes.
"No. The air's full of new ferns. But why Gehane?"
"You remind me of her, and I'm pretty certain that you also could do
your hair in the same two long braids. Given the chance, I can see
you developing into some-thing like medievalism and joining the
ranks of women who loved greatly."
They passed the Plaza with all its windows gleaming, like a giant's
house in a fairy tale.
Joan shook her head. "No," she said. "No. I'm just the last word of
this very minute. Everybody in America for a hundred and fifty years
has worked to make me. I'm the reward of mighty effort. I'm the
dream-child of the pioneers, as far removed from them as the chimney
of the highest building ftora the rock on which it's rooted."
Palgrave laughed a little. "It appears that you did some thinking
out there in your country cage."
"Thinking! That's all I had to do! I spent a lifetime standing on
the hill with the woods behind me trying to catch the music of this
street, the sound of this very car, and I thought it all out, every
bit of it."
"Every bit of what?"
"Life and death and the great hereafter," she said, "principally
life. That's why I'm going out to dinner with you instead of going
early to bed."
The glare of a lamp silvered her profile and the young curve of her
bosom. Somewhere, at some time, Palgrave had knelt humbly, with
strange anguish and hunger, at the feet of a girl with just that
young proud face and those unawakened eyes. The memory of it was
like an echo of an echo.
"Why," said Joan, halting for a moment on her way to the steps of
the old hotel, "this looks like a picture postcard of a bit of
"Yes, on the other side of the Seine, near the Odeon. Our
grandfathers imagined that they were very smart when they stayed
here. It's one of the few places in town that has atmosphere."
"I like it," said Joan.
The hall was alive with people, laughing and talking, and the walls
with the rather bold designs of the posters. A band, which made up
in vim and go what it lacked in numbers, was playing a selection
from "The Chocolate Soldier." The place was full of the smell of
garlic and cigarette smoke and coffee. There was a certain dramatic
animation among the waiters, characteristically Latin. Few of the
diners wore evening clothes. The walls were refreshingly free from
the hideous gold decorations of the average hotel.
Men stared at Joan with undisguised interest and approbation. Her
virginity was like the breath of spring in the room. Women looked
after Palgrave in the same way. Into that semi-Bohemianism he struck
a rather surprising note, like the sudden advent of caviar and
champagne upon a table of beer and pickles.
They were given a table near the wall by the window, far too close
to other tables for complete comfort. Waiters were required to be
gymnasts to slide between them and avoid an accident. Palgrave
ordered without any hesitation, like a newspaper man finding his way
through a daily paper.
"How do you like it?" he said.
Joan looked about her. Mostly the tables were occupied by a man and
a woman, but at a few were four and six of both in equal numbers,
and here and there parties of men. At one or two, women with
eccentric heads sat together in curious garments which had the
appearance of being made at home on the spur of the moment. They
smoked between mouthfuls and laughed without restraint. Some of the
men wore longish hair and the double tie of those who wish to be
mistaken for dramatists. Others affected a poetic disarrangement of
collar, and fantastic beards. There were others who had wandered
over the border of middle age and who were bald and strangely
adipose, with mackerel eyes and unpleasant mouths. They were with
young girls, gaudily but shabbily dressed, shopgirls perhaps, or
artists' models or stenographers, who in dull and sordid lives
grappled any chance to obtain a square meal, even if it had to be
accessory to such companionship. The minority of men present was
made up of honest, clean, commonplace citizens who were there for a
good dinner in surroundings that offered a certain stimulus to the
"Who are they all?" asked Joan, beating time with a finger to the
lilting tune which the little band had just begun, with obvious
enjoyment. "Adventurers, mostly, I imagine," replied Palgrave, not
unpleased to play Baedeker to a girl who was becoming more and more
attractive to him. "I mean people who live by their wits--writers,
illustrators, actors, newspaper men, with a smattering of Wall
Street brokers seeking a little mild diversion as we are, and
foreigners to whom this place has a sentimental interest because it
reminds them of home. Sophisticated children, most of them,
optimists with moments of hideous pessimism, enthusiasts at various
stages of Parnassus, the peak of which is lighted with a huge dollar
sign. A friendly, kindly lot, hard-working and temperamental, with
some brilliance and a rather high level of cleverness--slaves of the
magazine, probably, and therefore not able to throw stones farther
into the future than the end of the month. This is not a country in
which literature and art can ever grow big; the cost of living is
too high. The modern Chatterton detests garrets and must drive
something with an engine in it, whatever the name it goes by."
There was one electrical moment during the next hour which shook the
complacency of every one in the larger room and forced the thoughts,
even of those who deliberately turned their backs to the drama of
Europe, out across the waters which they fondly and fatuously hoped
cut off the United States from ever being singed by the blaze. The
little band was playing one of those rather feeble descriptive
pieces which begin with soft, peaceful music with the suggestion of
the life of a farmyard, and the sound of church bells, swing into
the approach of armed men with shrill bugle calls, become chaotic
with the rush of fearful women and children, and the commencement of
heavy artillery, and wind up with the broad triumphant strains of a
national anthem. It happened, naturally enough, that the particular
national anthem chosen by the energetic and patriotic man who led
the band at the piano was "The Marseillaise."
The incessant chatter and laughter went on as usual. The music had
no more effect upon the closely filled room than a hackneyed
ragtime. Suddenly, as the first few notes of that immortal air rang
out, a little old white-haired man, dining in a corner with a much-
bosomed, elderly woman, sprang to his feet and in a voice vibrating
with the fervor of emotion screamed "Vive la France--vive la
patrie!" again and again.
Instantly, from here and there, other men, stout and middle-aged,
lifted out of their chairs by this intense and beautiful burst of
feeling, joined in that old heart-cry, and for two or three
shattering minutes the air was rent with hoarse shouts of "Vive
Joffre," "Vive la France," "Vive la patrie," to the louder and
louder undercurrent of music. Indifference, complacency, neutrality,
gave way. There was a general uprising and uproar; and America, as
represented by that olla podrida of the professions, including the
one which is the oldest in the world, paid homage and tribute and
yelled sympathy to those few Frenchmen among them whose passionate
love of country found almost hysterical vent at the sound of the
hymn which had stirred all France to a height of bravery and
sacrifice never before reached in the history of nations.
There were one or two hisses and several scoffing laughs, but these
were instantly drowned by vigorous hand-clapping. The next moment
the room resumed its normal appearance.
When Palgrave, who had been surprised to find himself on his feet,
sat down again, he saw that Joan's lips were trembling and that
there were tears in her eyes. He gave a little laugh, but before he
could say any thing, her hand was on his arm. "No, don't," she said.
"Let it go without a single word. It was too good for sarcasm."
"Oddly enough, I had no sarcasm ready," replied Palgrave. "When our
time comes, I wonder whether we shall have an eightieth part of that
enthusiasm for our little old tune. What do you think?"
"Our time? What time?"
"The time when we have to get into this melee or become the pariah
dog among countries. I don't profess to any knowledge of
international affairs, but any fool can see that our sham neutrality
will be the most costly piece of political blundering ever
perpetrated in history. Here we are in 1915. The war's nine months
old. For every day we stand aside we shall eventually pay a year's
"That's all too deep for me," said Joan. "And anyway, I shan't be
asked to pay anything. What shall we do now?"
"What would you like to do? Go on to the Ritz and dance?" He had a
sudden desire to hold this girl in his arms.
"Why not? I'm on the verge of getting fed up with this place. Let's
give civilization a turn."
"I think so." He beckoned to his waiter." The check," he said.
"Sharp's the word, please."
The Crystal Room was not content with one band. Even musicians must
sometimes pause for breath, and anything like a break in the jangle
and noise might bring depression to the diners who had crowded in to
dance. As soon, therefore, as the left band was exhausted, the one
on the right sprang in with renewed and feverish energy. Whatever
melody there might have been in the incessant ragtime and fox trots
was lost beneath the bang and clang of drum and cymbals, to which
had been added other more ingenious ear tortures in the shape of
rattles and whistles. Broken-collared men and faded women struggled
for elbow room like a mass of flies caught on sticky paper. There
was something both heathenish and pathetic in the whole thing. The
place was reekingly hot.
"Come on," said Joan, her blood stirred by the movement and sound.
Palgrave held her close and edged his way into the crowd between
pointed bare elbows and tightly clasped hands.
"They call this dancing!" he said.
"What do you call it?"
"A bullfight in Hades." And he laughed and put his cheek against her
hair and held her young slim body against his own. What did he care
what it was or where they were? He had all the excuse that he needed
to get the sense and scent of her. His utter distaste of being
bruised and bumped, and of adding himself to a heterogeneous
collection of people with no more individuality than sheep, who
followed each other from place to place in flocks after the manner
of sheep, left him. This girl was something more than a young, naive
creature from the country, childishly keen to do everything and go
everywhere at fever heat--something more than the very epitome of
triumphant youth as clean and sweet as apple blossoms, with whom to
flirt and pose as being the blase man of the world, the Mr. Know-All
of civilization, a wild flower in a hot house. Attracted at once by
her exquisite coloring and delicious profile, and amused by her
imperative manner and intolerant point of view, he had now begun to
be piqued and intrigued by her insurgent way of treating marriage
and of ignoring her husband--by her assumption of sexlessness and
the fact that she was unmoved by his compliments and looked at him
with eyes in which there was no remote suggestion of physical
And it was this attitude, new to him hitherto on his easy way, that
began to challenge him, to stir in him a desire to bring her down to
his own level, to make her fall in love and become what he called
human. He had given her several evenings, and had put himself out to
cater to her eager demand to see life and burn the night away in
crowds and noise. He had treated her, this young, new thing, as he
was in the habit of treating any beautiful woman with whom he was on
the verge of an affair and who realized the art of give and take.
But more than ever she conveyed the impression of sex detachment to
which he was wholly unaccustomed. He might have been any
inarticulate lad of her own age, useful as a companion, to be
ordered to fetch and carry, dance or walk, go or come. At that
moment there was no woman in the city for whom he would undergo the
boredom and the bruising and the dementia of such a place as the one
to which she had drawn him. He was not a provincial who imagined
that it was the smart thing to attend this dull orgy and struggle on
a polished floor packed as in a sardine tin. Years ago he had
outgrown cabaret mania and recovered from the fascination of
syncopation. And yet here he was, once more, against all his
fastidiousness, playing the out-of-town lad to a girl who took
everything and gave nothing in return. It was absurd, fantastic. He
was Gilbert Palgrave, the man who picked and chose, for whose
attentions many women would give their ears, who stood in satirical
aloofness from the general ruck; and as he held Joan in his arms and
made sporadic efforts to dance whenever there was a few inches of
room in which to do so, using all his ingenuity to dodge the menace
of the elbows and feet of people who pushed and forced as though
they were in a subway crush, he told himself that he would make it
his business from that moment onward to lay siege to Joan, apply to
her all his well-proved gifts of attraction and eventually make her
pay his price for services rendered.
He had just arrived at this cold-blooded determination when, to his
complete astonishment and annoyance, a strong, muscular form thrust
itself roughly between himself and Joan and swept her away.
"Marty!" cried Joan.
There was a curious glint in Martin's gray eyes, like the flash of
steel in front of a window. His jaw was set, and his face strangely
"You said you were going to bed."
"I was going to bed, Marty dear."
"What are you doing here, then?"
"I changed my mind, old boy, and went out to dinner."
"Chucked me in favor of Palgrave."
"No, I didn't."
"He rang up after you'd gone; and going to bed like an old crock
seemed silly and feeble, and so I dressed and went out."
"Why with that rotter Palgrave? "
"Why not? And why rotter?"
"You don't answer my question!"
"Have I got to answer your question?"
"You're my wife, although you don't seem to know it; and I object to
"I can't help that, Marty. I like him, you see, and humble little
person as I am, I can't be expected to turn my back on every one
except the men you choose for me."
"I don't choose any men for you. I want you for myself."
"Dear old Marty, but you've got me forever!"
"No, I haven't. You're less mine now than you were when I only saw
you in dreams. But all the same you're my wife, and I tell you now,
you sha'n't be handled by a man like Palgrave."
They were in the middle of the floor. There were people all round
them, thickly. They were obliged to keep going in that lunatic
movement or be run down. What a way and in what a place to bare a
For the first time since he had answered to her call and found her
standing clean-cut against the sky, Martin held Joan in his arms.
His joy in doing so was mixed with rage and jealousy. It had been
worse than a blow in the mouth suddenly to see her, of whom he had
thought as fast asleep in what was only the mere husk of home,
dancing with a man like Palgrave.
And her nearness maddened him. All the starved and pent-up passion
that was in him flamed and blazed. It blinded him and buzzed in his
ears. He held her so tight and so hungrily that she could hardly
breathe. She was his, this girl. She had called him, and he had
answered, and she was his wife. He had the right to her by law and
nature. He adored her and had let her off and tried to be patient
and win his way to her by love and gentleness. But with his lips
within an inch of her sweet, impertinent face, and the scent of her
hair in his brain, and the wound that she had opened again sapping
his blood, he held her to his heart and charged the crowd to the
beat of the music, like a man intoxicated, like a man heedless of
his surroundings. He didn't give a curse who overheard what he said,
or saw the look in his eyes. She had turned him down, this half-
wife, on the plea of weariness; and as soon as he had left the house
to go and eat his heart out in the hub of that swarming lonely city,
she had darted out with this doll-man whom he wouldn't have her
touch with the end of a pole. There was a limit to all things, and
he had come to it.
"You're coming home," he said.
"Marty, but I can't. Gilbert Palgrave--"
"Gilbert Palgrave be damned. You're coming home, I tell you, if I
have to carry you out."
She laughed. This was a new Marty, a high-handed, fiery Marty--one
who must not be encouraged. "Are you often like this?" she asked.
"Be careful. I've had enough, and if you don't want me to smash this
place up and cause a riot, you'll do what I tell you."
Her eyes flashed back at him, and two angry spots of color came into
her cheeks. He was out of control. She realized that. She had never
in her life seen any one so out of control--unaccountable as she
found it. That he would smash up the place and cause a riot she knew
instinctively. She put up no further opposition. If anything were to
be avoided, it was a scene, and in her mind's eye she could see
herself being carried out by this plunging boy, with a yard of
stocking showing and the laughter of every one ringing in her ears.
No, no, not that! She began to look for Palgrave, with her mind all
alert and full of a mischievous desire to turn the tables on Martin.
He must be shown quickly that if any one gave orders, she did.
He danced her to the edge of the floor, led her panting through the
tables to the foot of the stairs and with his hand grasping her arm
like a vice, guided her up to the place where ladies left their
"We're going home," he said, "to have things out. I'll wait here."
Then he called a boy and told him to get his hat and coat and gave
him his check.
Five minutes later, in pulsating silence, both of them angry and
inarticulate, they stood in the street waiting for a taxi. The soft
air touched their hot faces with a refreshing finger. Hardly any one
who saw that slip of a girl and that square-shouldered boy with his
unlined face would have imagined that they could be anything but
brother and sister. The marriage of babies! Was there no single
apostle of common sense in all the country--a country so gloriously
free that it granted licenses to every foolishness without a qualm?
Palgrave was standing on the curb, scowling. His car moved up, and
the porter went forward to open the door. As quick as lightning,
Joan saw her chance to put Martin into his place and evade an
argument. Wasn't she out of that old country cage at last? Couldn't
she revel in free flight without being called to order and treated
like a school-girl, at last? What fun to use Palgrave to show Martin
She touched him on the arm and looked up at him with dancing eyes
and a teasing smile. "Not this time, Marty," she said, and was
across the sidewalk in a bound. "Quick," she said to Palgrave.
"Quick!" And he, catching the idea with something more than
amusement, sprang into the car after her, and away they went.
A duet of laughter hung briefly in the air.
With all the blood in his head, Martin, coming out of utter
surprise, made a dash for the retreating car, collided with the
porter and stood ruefully and self-consciously over the burly figure
that had gone down with a crash upon the pavement.
It was no use. Joan had been one too many for him. What, in any
case, was the good of trying to follow? She preferred Palgrave. She
had no use, at that moment, for home. She was bored at the mere idea
of talking things over. She was not serious. She refused to be faced
up with seriousness. She was like a precocious child who snapped her
fingers at authority and pursued the policy of the eel at the
approach of discipline. What had she cried out that night in the
dark with her chin tilted up and her arms thrown out? "I shall go
joy-riding in that huge round-about. If I can get anybody to pay my
score, good. If not, I'll pay it myself, whatever it costs. My
motto's going to be 'A good time as long as I can get it, and who
cares for the price!'"
Martin helped the porter to his feet, stanched his flow of County
Kerry reproaches with a ten-dollar bill and went back into the
Crystal Room. He had gone there half an hour ago with a party of
young people to kill loneliness and forget a bad hour of despair.
His friend, Howard Oldershaw, who had breezed him out of the reading
room of the Yale Club, was one of the party. He was in the first
flush of speed-breaking and knew the town and its midnight haunts.
He had offered to show Martin the way to get rid of depression.
Right! He should be put to the test. Two could play the "Who cares?"
game; and Martin, cut to the quick, angry and resisted, would enter
his name. Not again would he put himself in the way of being laughed
at and ridiculed and turned down, teased and tantalized and made a
Patience and gentleness--to what end? He loved a will-o'-the-wisp;
he had married a butterfly. Why continue to play the martyr and
follow the fruitless path of rectitude? Hadn't she said, "I can only
live once, and so I shall make life spin whichever way I want it to
go?" He could only live once, and if life was not to spin with her,
let it spin without her. "Who cares?" he said to himself. "Who the
devil cares?" He gave up his coat and hat, and went back into that
room of false joy and syncopation.
It was one o'clock when he stood in the street once more, hot and
wined and careless. "Let's hit it up," he said to Oldershaw as the
car moved away with the sisters and cousins of the other two men. "I
haven't started yet."
The red-haired, roistering Oldershaw, newly injected with the virus
of the Great White Way, clapped him on the back. "Bully for you, old
son," he said. "I'm in the mood to paint the little old town. I left
my car round the corner in charge of a down-at-heel night-bird. Come
on. Let's go and see if he's pinched it."
It was one of those Italian semi-racing cars with a body which gave
it the naked appearance of a muscular Russian dancer dressed in a
skin and a pair of bangles. The night-bird, one of the large army of
city gypsies who hang on to life by the skin of their teeth, was
sitting on the running board with his arms folded across his
shirtless chest, smoking a salvaged cigar, dreaming, probably, of
hot sausages and coffee. He afforded a striking illustration of the
under dog cringing contentedly at the knees of wealth.
"Good man," said Oldershaw, paying him generously. "Slip aboard,
Martin, and I'll introduce you to one of the choicest dives I know."
But the introduction was not to be effected that night, at any rate.
Driving the car as though it were a monoplane in a clear sky, with
an open throttle that awoke the echoes, Oldershaw charged into Fifth
Avenue and caught the bonnet of a taxicab that was going uptown.
There was a crash, a scream, a rending of metal. And when Martin
picked himself up with a bruised elbow and a curious sensation of
having stopped a punching bag with his face, he saw Oldershaw
bending over the crumpled body of the taxi driver and heard a girl
with red lips and a small white hat calling on Heaven for
"Some men oughtn't to be trusted with machinery," said Oldershaw
with his inevitable grin. "If I can yank my little pet out of this
buckled-up lump of stuff, I'll drive that poor chap to the nearest
hospital. Look after the angel, Martin, and give my name and address
to the policeman. As this is my third attempt to kill myself this
month, things ought to settle down into humdrum monotony for a bit
Martin went over to the girl. "I hope you're not hurt?" he asked.
"Hurt?" she cried out hysterically, feeling herself all over. "Of
course I'm hurt. I'm crippled for life. My backbone's broken; I
shall have water on both knees, a glass eye and a mouth full of
store teeth. But you don't care, you Hun. You like it."
And on she went, at the top of her voice, in an endless flow of
farce and tragedy, crying and laughing, examining herself with eager
hands, disbelieving more and more in the fact that she was still in
the only world that mattered to her.
Having succeeded in backing his dented car out of the debris,
Oldershaw leaped out. His face had been cut by the glass of the
broken windshield. Blood was trickling down his fat, good-natured
face. His hat was smashed and looked like that of the tramp cyclist
of the vaudeville stage. "All my fault, old man," he said in his
best irrepressible manner, as a policeman bore down upon him. "Help
me to hike our prostrate friend into my car, and I'll whip him off
to a hospital. He's only had the stuffing knocked out of him. It's
no worse than that. . . . That's fine. Big chap, isn't he--weighs a
ton. I'll get off right away, and my friend there will give you all
you want to know. So long." And off he went, one of his front wheels
The policeman was not Irish or German-American. He was therefore
neither loud nor browbeating. He was dry, quiet and accurate, and it
seemed to Martin that either he didn't enjoy being dressed in a
little brief authority or was a misanthrope, eager to return to his
noiseless and solitary tramp under the April stars. Martin gave him
Oldershaw's full name and address and his own; and the girl, still
shrill and shattered, gave hers, after protesting that all
automobiles ought to be put in a gigantic pile and scrapped, that
all harum-scarum young men should be clapped in bed at ten o'clock
and that all policemen should be locked up in their stations to play
dominoes. "If it'll do you any good to know it," she said finally,
"it's Susie Capper, commonly called 'Tootles.' And I tell you what
it is. If you come snooping round my place to get me before the
beak, I'll scream and kick, so help me Bob, I will." There was an
English cockney twang in her voice.
The policeman left her in the middle of a paean, with the wounded
taxi and Martin, and the light of a lamp-post throwing up the
unnatural red of her lips on a pretty little white face. He had
probably gone to call up the taxicab company.
Then she turned to Martin. "The decent thing for you to do, Mr. Nut,
is to see me home," she said. "I'm blowed if I'm going to face any
more attempts at murder alone. My word, what a life!"
"Come along, then," said Martin, and he put his hand under her
elbow. That amazing avenue, which had the appearance of a great,
deep cut down the middle of an uneven mountain, was almost deserted.
From the long line of street lamps intermittent patches of light
were reflected as though in glass. The night and the absence of
thickly crawling motors and swarming crowds gave it dignity. A
strange, incongruous Oriental note was struck by the deep red of
velvet hangings thrown up by the lights in a furniture dealer's shop
on the second floor of a white building.
"Look for a row of women's ugly wooden heads painted by some one
suffering from delirium tremens," said Miss Susie Capper as they
turned down West Forty-sixth Street. "It's a dressmaker's, although
you might think it was an asylum for dope fiends. I've got a
bedroom, sitter and bath on the top floor. The house is a rabbit
warren of bedrooms, sitters and baths, and in every one of them
there's some poor devil trying to squeeze a little kindness out of
fate. That wretched taxi driver! He may have a wife waiting for him.
Do you think that red-haired feller's got to the hospital yet? He
had a nice cut on his own silly face--and serve him right! I hope
it'll teach him that he hasn't bought the blooming world--but of
course it won't. He's the sort that never gets taught anything,
worse luck! Nobody spanked him when he was young and soft. Come on
up, and you shall taste my scrambled eggs. I'll show you what a
forgiving little soul I am."
She laughed, ran her eyes quickly over Martin, and opened the door
with a latchkey. Half a dozen small letter boxes were fastened to
the wall, with cards in their slots.
"Who the devil cares?" said Martin to himself, and he followed the
girl up the narrow, ill-lighted staircase covered with shabby
carpet. Two or three inches of white stockings gleamed above the
drab uppers of her high-heeled boots. Outside the open door of a
room on the first floor there was a line of milk bottles, and Martin
sighted a man in shirt sleeves, cooking sausages on a small gas jet
in a cubby-hole. He looked up, and a cheery smile broke out on his
clean-shaven face. There was brown grease paint on his collar.
"Hello, Tootles," he called out.
"Hello, Laddy," she said. "How'd it go to-night?"
"Fine. Best second night in the history of the theater. Come in and
have a bite."
"Can't. Got company."
And up they went, the aroma following.
A young woman in a sky-blue peignoir scuttled across the next
landing, carrying a bottle of beer in each hand. There was a smell
of onions and hot cheese. "What ho, Tootles," she said.
"What ho, Irene. Is it true they've put your notice up?"
"Yep, the dirty dogs! Twelve weeks' rehearsals and eight nights'
playing! Me for the novelties at Gimbel's, if this goes on."
A phonograph in another room ground out an air from "Boheme."
They mounted again. "Here's me," said Miss Capper, waving her hand
to a man in a dirty dressing gown who was standing on the threshold
of the front apartment, probably to achieve air. The room behind him
was foggy with tobacco smoke which rose from four men playing cards.
He himself was conspicuously drunk and would have spoken if he had
been able. As it was, he nodded owlishly and waggled his fingers.
The girl threw open her door and turned up the light. "England, Home
and Beauty," she said. "Excuse me while I dress the ship."
Seizing a pair of corsets that sprawled loosely on the center table,
she rammed them under a not very pristine cushion on the sofa.
Martin burst out laughing. The Crystal Room wine was still in his
head. "Very nippy!" he said.
"Have to be nippy in this life, believe me. Give me a minute to
powder my nose and murmur a prayer of thanksgivin', and then I'll
set the festive board and show you how we used to scramble eggs in
"Right," said Martin, getting out of his overcoat. How about it? Was
this one way of making the little old earth spin?
Susie Capper went into a bedroom even smaller than the sitting room,
turned up the light over her dressing table and took off her little
white hat. From where Martin stood, he could see in the looking-
glass the girl's golden bobbed hair, pretty oval face with too red
lips and round white neck. There, it was obvious, stood a little
person feminine from the curls around her ears to the hole in one of
her stockings, and as highly and gladly sexed as a purring cat.
"Buck up, Tootles," cried Martin. "Where do you keep the frying
She turned and gave him another searching look, this time of marked
approval. "My word, what a kid you look in the light!" she said. "No
one would take you for a blooming road-hog. Well, who knows? You and
I may have been brought together like this to work out one of Fate's
little games. This may be the beginning of a side-street romance,
And she chuckled at the word and turned her nose into a small snow-
Pagliacci was to be followed as usual by "Cavalleria." It was the
swan song of the opera season.
In a part that he acted as well as he sang, Caruso had been
permitted finally to retire, wringing wet, to his dressing room.
With all the dignity of a man of genuine feeling and sensitiveness
he had taken call after call on the fall of the curtain and stood
bent almost double before the increasing breakers of applause. Once
more he had done his best in a role which demanded everything that
he had of voice and passion, comedy and tragedy. Once more, although
his soul was with his comrades in battle, he had played the fool and
broken his heart for the benefit of his good friends in front.
In her box on the first tier Mrs. Cooper Jekyll, in a dress
imaginatively designed to display a considerable quantity of her
figure, was surrounded by a party which attracted many glasses.
Alice Palgrave was there, pretty and scrupulously neat, even perhaps
a little prim, her pearls as big as marbles. Mrs. Alan Hosack made a
most effective picture with her black hair and white skin in a
geranium-colored frock--a Van Beers study to the life. Mrs. Noel
d'Oyly lent an air of opulence to the box, being one of those lovely
but all too ample women who, while compelling admiration, dispel
intimacy. Joan, a young daffodil, sat bolt upright among them, with
diamonds glistening in her hair like dew. Of the four men, Gilbert
Palgrave, standing where he could be seen, might have been an
illustration by Du Maurier of one of Ouida's impossible guardsmen.
He made the other three, all of the extraordinary ordinary type,
appear fifty per cent, more manly than they really were--the young
old Hosack with his groomlike face and immaculate clothes, the burly
Howard Cannon, who retained a walrus mustache in the face of
persistent chaff, and Noel d'Oyly, who when seen with his Junoesque
wife made the gravest naturalists laugh at the thought of the love
manners of the male and female spider.
Turning her chair round, Alice touched Joan's arm. "Will you do
something for me?" she asked.
Joan looked at her with a smile of disturbing frankness. "It all
depends whether it will upset any of my plans," she said.
"I wouldn't have asked you if I had thought that."
Joan laughed. "You've been studying my character, Alice."
"I did that at school, my dear." Mrs. Palgrave spoke lightly, but it
was plain to see that there was something on her mind. "Don't go out
to supper with Howard Cannon. Come back with me. I want to talk to
you. Will you?"
Joan had recently danced in Cannon's huge studio-apartment and been
oppressed by its Gulliveresque atmosphere, and she had just come
from the Fifth Avenue house of the Hosack family, where a
characteristically dignified dinner had got on her nerves. Gilbert,
she knew, was engaged to play roulette at the club, and none of her
other new men friends was available for dancing. She hadn't seen
anything of Martin for several days. She could easily oblige Alice
under the circumstances.
So she said: "Yes, of course I will--just to prove how very little
you really know about me."
"Thank you," said Alice. "I'll say that I have a headache and that
you're coming home with me. Don't be talked out of it."
A puzzled expression came into Joan's eyes, and she turned her
shoulder to Palgrave, who was giving her his most amorous glances.
"It doesn't matter," she said, "but I notice that you are all
beginning to treat me like a sort of moral weathercock. I wonder
why?" She gave no more thought to the matter which just for the most
fleeting moment had rather piqued her, but sat drinking in the music
of Mascagni's immortal opera entirely ignoring the fact that
Palgrave's face was within an inch of her shoulder and that Alan
Hosack, on her other side, was whispering heavy compliments.
Alice sat back and looked anxiously from the face of the girl who
had been her closest friend at school to that of the man to whom she
had given all her heart. In spite of the fact that she had been
married a year and had taken her place in the comparatively small
set which made up New York society, Mrs. Palgrave was an optimist.
As a fiction-fed girl she had expected, with a thrill of excitement,
that after marriage she would find herself in a whirlpool of
careless and extravagant people who made their own elastic code of
morals and played ducks and drakes with the Commandments. She had
accepted as a fact the novelist-playwright contention that society
was synonymous with flippancy, selfishness and unchastity, and that
the possession of money and leisure necessarily undermined all that
was excellent in human nature. Perhaps a little to her
disappointment, she had soon discovered how grotesque and ignorant
this play-and-book idea was. She had returned from her honeymoon in
November of the first year of the war and had been astonished to
find that nearly all the well-known women whose names, in the public
imagination, were associated with decadence and irresponsibility,
were as a matter of fact devoted to Red Cross work and allied war
charities; that the majority of the men who were popularly supposed
to be killing time with ingenious wickedness worked as hard as the
average downtown merchant, and that even the debutantes newly burst
upon the world had, for the most part, banded themselves together as
a junior war-relief society and were turning out weekly an immense
number of bandages for the wounded soldiers of France and England.
Young men of high and gallant spirit, who bore the old names of New
York, had disappeared without a line of publicity--to be heard of
later as members of the already famous Escadrille or as ambulance
workers on the Western front. Beautiful girls had slipped quietly
away from their usual haunts, touched by a deep and rare emotion, to
work in Allied hospitals three thousand miles and more away--if not
as full-blown nurses, then as scullery maids or motor drivers.
There were, of course, the Oldershaws and the Marie Littlejohns and
the Christine Hurleys and the rest. Alice had met and watched them
throwing themselves against any bright light like all silly moths.
And there were the girls like Joan, newly released from the exotic
atmosphere of those fashionable finishing schools which no sane
country should permit. But even these wild and unbroken colts and
fillies, she believed, had excuses. They were the natural results of
a complete lack of parental discipline and school training. They ran
amuck, advertised by the press and applauded by the hawks who
pounced upon their wallets. They were more to be pitied than
condemned, far more foolish and ridiculous than decadent. They were
not unique, either, or peculiar to their own country. Every nation
possessed its "smart set," its little group of men and women who
were ripe for the lunatic asylum, and even the war and its iron
tonic had failed to shock them into sanity. In her particularly sane
way of looking at things, Alice saw all this, was proud to know that
the majority of the people who formed American society were fine and
sound and generous, and kept as much as possible out of the way of
those others whose one object in life was to outrage the
conventions. It was only when people began to tell her of seeing her
husband and her friend about together night after night that she
found herself wondering, with jealousy in her heart, how long her
optimism would endure, because Gilbert had already shown her a foot
of clay, and Joan was deliberately flying wild.
It was, at any rate, all to the good that Joan kept her promise and
utterly refused to be turned by the pleadings and blandishments of
Cannon and Hosack. They drove together to Palgrave's elaborate
house, a faithful replica of one of the famous Paris mansions in the
Avenue Wagram and sat down to a little supper in Alice's boudoir.
They made a curious picture, these two children, one just over
twenty, the other under nineteen; and as they sat in that lofty room
hung with French tapestries and furnished with the spindle-legged
gilt chairs and tables of Louis XIV, they might have been playing,
with all the gravity and imitative genius of little girls in a
nursery, at being grown up.
While the servants moved discreetly about, Joan kept up a rattle of
impersonalities, laughing at Cannon's amazing mustache and
Gargantuan furniture, enthusing wildly over Caruso's once-in-a-
century voice, throwing satire at Mrs. Cooper Jekyll's confirmed
belief in her divine right to queen it, and saying things that made
Alice chuckle about the d'Oylys--that apparently ill-matched pair.
She drank a glass of champagne with the air of a connoisseur and
finally, having displayed an excellent appetite, mounted a cigarette
into a long thin mother-of-pearl holder, lighted it and sank with a
sigh into the room's one comfortable chair.
"Gilbert gave me a cigarette holder like that," said Alice.
"Yes? I think this comes from him," said Joan. "A thoughtful
That Joan was not quite sure from whom she received it annoyed Alice
far more than if she had boasted of it as one of Gilbert's numerous
gifts. She needed no screwing up now to say what she had rather
timidly brought this cool young slip of a thing there to discuss.
"Will you tell me about yourself and Gilbert?" she asked quietly.
There was no need for Joan to act complete composure. She felt it.
"What is there to tell, my dear?"
"I hope there isn't anything--I mean anything that matters. But
perhaps you don't know that people have begun to talk about you, and
I think you owe it to me to be perfectly frank."
Even then it didn't occur to Joan that there was anything serious in
the business. "I'll be as frank as the front page of The Times--'All
the news that's fit to print,'" she said. "What do you want to
Alice proved her courage. She drew up a chair, bent forward and came
straight to the point. "Be honest with me, Joan, even if you have to
hurt me. Gilbert is very handsome, and women throw themselves at
him. I did, I suppose; but having won him and being still in my
first year of marriage, I'm naturally jealous when he lets himself
be drawn off by them. The women who have tried to take Gilbert away
from me I didn't know, and they owed me no friendship. But you're
different, and I can't believe that you--"
Joan broke in with a peal of laughter. "Can't you? Why not? I
haven't got wings on my shoulders. Isn't everything fair in love and
Alice drew back. She had many times been called prim and old-
fashioned, especially at school, by Joan and others when men were
talked about, and the glittering life that lay beyond the walls.
Sophistication, to put it mildly, had been the order of the day in
that temporary home of the young idea. But this calm declaration of
disloyalty took her color away, and her breath. Here was honesty
with a vengeance!
"Joan!" she cried. "Joan!" And she put up her hand as though to ward
off an unbelievable thought.
In an instant Joan was on her feet with her arms around the
shoulders of the best friend she had, whose face had gone as white
as stone. "Oh, my dear," she said, "I'm sorry. Forgive me. I didn't
mean that in the least, not in the very least. It was only one of my
cheap flippancies, said just to amuse myself and shock you. Don't
you believe me?"
Tears came to Alice. She had had at least one utterly sleepless
night and several days of mental anguish. She was one of the women
who love too well. She confessed to these things, brokenly, and it
came as a kind of shock to Joan to find some one taking things
seriously and allowing herself to suffer.
"Why, Alice," she said, "Gilbert means nothing to me. He's a dear
old thing; he's awfully nice to look at; he sums things up in a way
that makes me laugh; and he dances like a streak. But as to flirting
with him or anything of that sort--why, my dear, he looks on me as a
little boob from the country, and in my eyes he's simply a man who
carries a latchkey to amusement and can give me a good time. That's
true. I swear it."
It was true, and Alice realized it, with immense relief. She dried
her eyes and held Joan away from her at arm's length and looked at
her young, frank, intrepid face with puzzled admiration. It didn't
go with her determined trifling. "I shall always believe what you
tell me, Joan," she said. "You've taken a bigger load than you
imagine off my heart--which is Gilbert's. And now sit down again and
be comfortable and let's do what we used to do at school at night
and talk about ourselves. We've both changed since those days,
"Have we? I don't think I have." Joan took another cigarette and
went back to her chair. Her small round shoulders looked very white
against the black of a velvet cushion. If there was nothing boyish
or unfeminine about her, there was certainly an indefinable
appearance of being untouched, unawakened. She was the same girl who
had been found by Martin that afternoon clean-cut against the sky--
the determined individualist.
Alice sat in front of her on a low stool with her hands clasped
round a knee. "What a queer mixture you are of--of town and country,
Joany. You're like a piece of honeysuckle playing at being an
"That's because I'm a kid," said Joan. "The horrible hour will come
when I shall be an orchid and try and palm myself off as
honeysuckle, never fear."
"Don't you think marriage has changed you a little?" asked Alice.
"It usually does. It changed me from an empty-headed little fool to
a woman with oh, such a tremendous desire to be worthy of it."
"Yes, but then you married for love."
"Didn't you, Joany?"
"I? Marry for love?" Joan waved her arm for joy at the idea.
Alice knew the story of the escape from old age. She also knew from
the way in which Martin looked at Joan why he had given her his name
and house. Here was her chance to get to the bottom of a constant
puzzle. "You may not have married for love," she said, "but of
course you're fond of Martin."
Joan considered the matter. It might be a good thing to go into it
now that there was an unexpected lull in the wild rush that she had
made to get into life. There had been something rather erratic about
Martin's comings and goings during the last week. She hadn't spoken
to him since the night at the Ritz.
"Yes, I am fond of him," she said. "That's the word. As fond as I
might be of a very nice, sound boy whom I'd known all my life."
"Is that all?"
Joan made a series of smoke rings and watched them curl into the
air. "Yes, that's all," she said.
Alice became even more interested and curious and puzzled. She held
very serious views about marriage. "And are you happy with him?"
"I don't know that I can be said to be happy with him," said Joan.
"I'm perfectly happy as things are."
"Tell me how they are." There was obviously something here that was
far from right.
Joan was amused at her friend's gravity. She had always been a
responsible little person with very definite and old-fashioned
views. "Well," she said, "it's a charming little story, really. I
was the maiden who had to be rescued from the ugly castle, and
Martin was the knight who performed the deed. And being a knight
with a tremendous sense of convention and a castle of his own full
of well-trained servants, it didn't seem to him that he could give
me the run of his house in the Paul and Virginia manner, which isn't
being done now; and so, like a little gentleman, he married me, or
as I suppose you would put it, went through the form of marriage.
It's all part of the adventure that we started one afternoon on the
edge of the woods. I call it the cool and common-sense romance of
two very modern and civilized people."
"I don't think there's any place in romance for such things as
coolness and common sense," said Alice warmly. "And as to there
being two very modern and civilized people in your adventure, as you
call it, that I doubt."
Joan's large brown eyes grew a little larger, and she looked at the
enthusiastic girl in front of her with more interest. "Do you?" she
Alice got up. She was disturbed and worried. She had a great
affection for Joan, and that boy was indeed a knight. "I saw Martin
walking away from your house the night you dined with Gilbert at the
Brevoort--I was told about that!--and there was something in his
eyes that wasn't the least bit cool. Also I rode in the Park with
him one morning a week ago, and I thought he looked ill and haggard
and--if you must know--starved. No one would say that you aren't
modern and civilized,--and those are tame words,--but if Martin were
to come in now and make a clean breast of it, you'd be surprised to
find how little he is of either of those things, if I know anything
"Then, my dear," replied Joan, making a very special ring of smoke,
"you know more about him than I do."
Alice began to walk about. A form of marriage--that was the phrase
that stuck in her mind. And here was a girl who was without a
genuine friend in all that heartless town except herself, and a fine
boy who needed one, she began to see, very badly. She, at any rate,
and she thanked God for it, was properly married, and she owed it to
friendship to make a try to put things right with these two.
"Joan, I believe I do," she said. "I really believe I do, although
I've only had one real talk with him. You're terribly and awfully
young, I know. You had a bad year with your grandfather and
grandmother, and the reaction has made you wild and careless. But
you're not a girl who has been brought up behind a screen in a room
lighted with one candle. You know what marriage means. There isn't a
book you haven't read or a thing you haven't talked over. And if you
imagine that Martin is content to play Paul to your imitation
Virginia, you're wrong. Oh, Joan, you're dangerously wrong."
Settling into her chair and working her shoulders more comfortably
into the cushion, Joan crossed one leg over the other and lighted
another cigarette. "Go on," she said with a tantalizing smile. "I
love to hear you talk. It's far more interesting than listening to
Howard Cannon's dark prophecies about the day after to-morrow and
his gloomy rumblings about the writing on the wall. You stand for
the unemancipated married woman. Don't you?"
"Yes, I do," said Alice quickly, her eyes gleaming. "I consider that
a girl who lets a man marry her under false pretenses is a cheat."
"A strong word, my dear!"
"But not too strong."
"Wait a minute. Suppose she doesn't love him. What then?"
"Then she oughtn't to have married him."
"Yes, but it may have suited her to marry him."
"Then she should fulfill the bargain honestly and play the game
according to the rules. However modern and civilized people are,
they do that."
Joan shrugged her round white shoulders and flicked her cigarette
ash expertly into the china tray on the spindle-legged table at her
elbow. She was quite unmoved. Alice had always taken it upon herself
to lecture her about individualism--the enthusiastic little thing.
"Dear old girl," she said, "don't you remember that I always make my
"I know you do, but you can't tell me that Martin wants to go by
them--or that he'll be able to remain a knight long, while you're
going by one set and he's keen to go by another? Where will it end?"
"End? But why drag in the end when Martin and I are only at the
Alice sat down again and bent forward and caught up Joan's
unoccupied hand. "Listen, dear," she said with more than
characteristic earnestness. "Last night I went with the Merrills to
the Ziegfeld Follies, and I saw Martin there with a little white-
faced girl with red lips and the golden hair that comes out of a
"Good old Martin!" said Joan. "The devil you did!"
"Doesn't that give you a jar?"
"Good heavens, no! If you'd peeked into the One-o'clock Club this
morning at half past two, you would have seen me with a white-faced
man with a red mustache and a kink in his hair that comes from a hot
iron. Martin and I are young and giddy, and we're on the round-
about, and we're hitting it up. Who cares?"
There was a little silence--and then Alice drew back, shaking her
pretty neat head. "It won't do, Joany," she said, "it won't do. I've
heard you say 'Who cares?' loads of times and never seen anybody
take you by the shoulders and shake you into caring. That's why you
go on saying it. But somebody always cares, Joany dear, and there's
not one thing that any of us can say or do that doesn't react on
some one else, either to hurt or bless. Martin Gray's your knight.
You said so. Don't you be the one to turn his gleaming armor into
common broadcloth--please, please don't."
Joan gave a little laugh and a little yawn and stretched herself
like a boy and got up. "Who'd have thought it? It's half-past
twelve, and we're both losing our much needed beauty sleep. I must
really tear myself away." She put her arm around Alice and kissed
her. "The same dear little wise, responsible Alice who would like to
put the earth into woolens with a mustard plaster on its chest. But
it takes all sorts to make up a world, you know, and it would be
rather drab without a few butterflies. Don't throw bricks at me
until I've fluttered a bit more, Ally. My colors won't last long,
and I know what old age means, better than most. If I were in love
as you are, my man's rules would be the ones I'd go by all the time;
but I'm not in love, and I don't want to be--yet; and I'm only a
kid, and I think I have the right to my fling. This marriage of mine
is just a part of the adventure that Martin and I plunged into as a
great joke, and he knows it and he's one of the best, and I'm
grateful to him, believe me. Good night. God bless you!"
She stood for a moment on the top step to taste the air that was
filled with the essence of youth. Across a sky as clear as crystal a
series of young clouds were chasing each other, putting out the
stars for a moment as they scurried playfully along. It was a joy to
be alive and fit and careless. Summer was lying in wait for spring,
and autumn would lay a withering hand upon summer, and winter with
its crooked limbs and lack-luster eyes was waiting its inevitable
"A short life and a merry one!" whispered Joan to the moon, throwing
it a kiss.
A footman, sullen for want of sleep, opened the door of the
limousine. Some one was sitting in the corner with his arms crossed
over his chest.
"Marty! Is that you?"
"It's all right," said Gilbert Palgrave. "I've been playing patience
for half an hour. I'm going to see you home."
"You are going home?"
"Yes," said Joan, "without the shadow of a doubt."
"Which means that I'd better tell the chauffeur to drive round to
the One-o'clock, eh?"
"I'll drop you there if you like. I'm really truly going home."
Joan began to sing as the car bowled up Fifth Avenue. Movement
always made her sing, and the effect of things slipping behind her.
But she stopped suddenly as an expression of Alice's flicked across
her memory. "You'll catch Alice up, if you go straight back," she
"Alice-Sit-by-the-Fire! I wonder why it is the really good woman is
never appreciated by a man until he's obliged to sit on the other
side of the fireplace? I wish we were driving away out into the
country. I have an unusual hankering to stand on the bank of a huge
lake and watch the moonlight on the water."
Joan was singing again. The trees in the Park were bespattered with
Palgrave controlled an ardent desire to touch with his lips that
cool white shoulder from which the cloak had slipped. It was
extraordinary how this mere girl inflamed him. Alice--Alice-Sit-by-
the-Fire! She seemed oddly like some other man's wife, these days.
"Suppose I tell your man to drive out of the city beyond this rabble
of bricks and mortar?"
But Joan went on singing. Spring was in her blood. How fast the car
was moving, and those young clouds.
Palgrave helped her out with a hot hand.
She opened the door with her latch-key. "Thank you, Gilbert," she
said. "Good night."
But Palgrave followed her in. "Don't you think I've earned the right
to one cigarette?" He threw his coat into a chair in the hall and
hung his hat on the longest point of an antler. It was a new thing
for this much flattered man to ask for favors. This young thing's
exultant youth made him feel old and rather humble.
"There are sandwiches in the dining room and various things to
drink," said Joan, waving her hand toward it.
"No, no. Let's go up to the drawing-room--that is, unless you--"
But Joan was already on the stairs, with the chorus of her song. She
didn't feel in the least like sleep with its escape from life. It
was so good to be awake, to be vital, to be tingling with the
current of electricity like a telegraph wire. She flung back the
curtains, raised all the windows, opened her arms to the air,
spilled her cloak on the floor, sat at the piano and ragged "The
"I am a kid," she said, speaking above the sound, and going on with
her argument to Alice. "I am and I will be, I will be. And I'll play
the fool and revel in it as long as I can--so there!"
Palgrave had picked up the cloak and was holding it unconsciously
against his immaculate shirt. It was the sentimental act of a
virtuoso in the art of pleasing women--who are so easily pleased. At
the moment he had achieved forgetfulness of boudoir trickery and so
retained almost all his usual assumption of dignity. Even Joan, with
her quick eye for the ridiculous, failed to detect the bathos of his
attitude, and merely thought that he was trying to be funny and not
It so happened that over Palgrave's shoulder she could see the bold
crayon drawing of Martin, brown and healthy and muscular, without an
ounce of affectation, an unmistakable man with his nice irregular
features and clean, merry eyes. There was strength and capability
stamped all over him, and there was, as well, a pleasing sense of
reliability which gained immediate confidence. With the sort of
shock one gets on going into the fresh air from a steam-heated room,
she realized the contrast between these two.
There is always something as unreal about handsome men as there is
about Japanese gardens. Palgrave's hair was so scrupulously sleek
and wiglike, his features so well-balanced and well-chosen, his
wide-set eyes so large and long-lashed, and his fair, soft mustache
so miraculously precise. His clothes, too, were a degree more than
perfect. They were so right as to be a little freakish because they
attracted as much attention as if they were badly cut. He was born
for tea fights and winter resorts, to listen with a distrait half-
smile to the gushing adulation of the oh-my-dear type of women.
He attracted Joan. She admired his assurance and polish and manners.
With these three things even a man with a broken nose and a head
bald as an egg can carry a beautiful woman to the altar. He was
something new to her, too, and she found much to amuse her in his
way of expressing himself. He observed, and sometimes crystallized
his observations with a certain neatness. Also, and she made no
bones about owning to it, his obvious attention flattered her. All
the same, she was in the mood just then for Martin. He went better
with the time of year, and there was something awfully companionable
about his sudden laugh. She would have hailed his appearance at that
moment with an outdoor cry.
It was bad luck for Palgrave, because he now knew definitely that in
Joan he had found the girl who was to give him the great emotion.
She broke away from "The Spring Song" and swung into "D'ye Ken John
Peel with His Coat So Gay?" It was Martin's favorite air. How often
she had heard him shout it among the trees on his way to meet her
out there on the edge of the woods where they had found each other.
It was curious how her thoughts turned to Martin that night.
She left the piano in the middle of a bar. "One cigarette," she
said, and held out a silver box.
Palgrave's hand closed tightly over her slim white arm. In his
throat his heart was pumping. He spoke incoherently, like a man.
"God," he said, "you--you take my breath away. You make my brain
whirl. Why didn't you come out of your garden a year ago?"
He was acting, she thought, and she laughed. "My arm, I think," she
"No, mine. It's got to be mine. What's the good of beating about the
bush?" He spoke with a queer hoarseness, and his hand shook.
She laughed again. He was trying his parlor tricks, as Hosack had
called them one night at the Crystal Room, watching him greet a
woman with both hands. What a joke to see what he would do if she
pretended to be carried away. He might as well be made to pay for
keeping her up. "Oh, Gilbert," she said, "what are you saying!" Her
shyness and fright were admirable.
They added fuel to his fire. "What I've been waiting to say for
years and never thought I should. I love you. You've just got me."
How often had he said those very words to other women! He did it
surpassingly well. She continued to act. "Oh, Gilbert," she said in
a low voice, "you mustn't. There's Alice." Two could play at his pet
"Yes, there is Alice. But what does that matter? I don't care, and
you don't. Your motto is not to care. You're always saying so. I'm
no more married to Alice than you are to Gray. They're accidents,
both of them. I love you, I tell you." And he ran his hand up to her
shoulder and bore down upon her. Where were his manners and polish
and assurance? It was amazing to see the change in the man.
But she dodged away and took up a stand behind the piano and laughed
at him. "You're an artist, Gilbert," she said. "It's all very well
for you to practice on women of your own age, but I'm an
unsophisticated girl. You might turn my head, you know."
Her sarcasm threw him up short. She was mocking. He was profoundly
hurt. "But you've chosen me. You've picked me out. You've used me to
take you to places night after night! Don't fool with me, Joan. I'm
in dead earnest."
And she saw with astonishment that he was. His face was white, and
he stood in a curious attitude of supplication, with his hands out.
She was amazed, and for a moment thrilled. Gilbert Palgrave, the
woman's man, in love with her. Think of it!
"But Gilbert," she said, "there's Alice. She's my friend." That
seemed to matter more than the fact that she was his wife.
"That hasn't mattered to you all along. Why drag it in now? Night
after night you've danced with me; I've been at your beck and call;
you used me to rescue you from Gray that time. What are you? What
are you made of? Unsophisticated! You!" He wasn't angry. He was
fumbling at reasons in order to try and get at her point of view.
"You know well enough that a man doesn't put himself out to that
extent for nothing. What becomes of give and take? Do you conceive
that you are going to sail through life taking everything and giving
Martin had asked her this, and Alice, and now here was Gilbert
Palgrave putting it to her as though it were an indictment! "But I'm
a kid," she cried out. "What do you all mean? Can't I be allowed to
have any fun without paying for it? I'm only just out of the shell.
I've only been living for a few weeks. Can't you see that I'm a kid?
I have the right to take all I can get for nothing,--the right of
youth. What do you mean--all of you?"
She came out from behind the piano and stood in front of him, as
erect as a silver birch, and as slim and young. There was a great
indignation all about her.
His eager hands went out, and fell. He was not a brute. It would be
cowardly to touch this amazing child. She was armed with
fearlessness and virginity--and he had mistaken these things for
"I don't know what to say," he said. "You stagger me. How long are
you going to hide behind this youthfulness? When are you going to be
old enough to be honest? Men have patience only up to a point. At
any rate, you didn't claim youth when Gray asked you to marry him--
though you may have done so afterward. Did you?"
She kept silent. But her eyes ran over him with contempt. According
to her, she had given him no right to put such questions.
He ignored it. It was undeserved. It was she who deserved contempt,
not he. And he threw it back at her in a strange incoherent outburst
in which, all the same, there was a vibrating note of gladness and
relief. And all the while, unmoved by the passion into which he
broke, she stood watching with a curious gravity his no longer
immobile face. She was thinking about Martin. She was redeveloping
Martin's expression when she had opened the door of her bedroom the
night of her marriage and let him out. What about her creed, then?
Was she hiding behind youthfulness? Were there, after all, certain
things that must be paid for? Was she already old enough to be what
Alice and this man called honest? Was every man made of the stuff
that only gave for what he hoped to get in return?
His words trailed off. He was wasting them, he saw. She was looking
through his head. But he rejoiced as to one thing like a potter who
opens the door of his oven and finds his masterpiece unbroken. And
silence fell upon them, interrupted only by the intermittent humming
of passing cars.
Finally Palgrave took the cigarette box out of Joan's hand and put
it down on a little table and stood looking more of a man than might
have been expected.
"I've always hoped that one day I should meet you--just you," he
said quietly; "and when I did, I knew that it would be to love.
Well, I've told you. Do what you can for me until you decide that
you're grown up. I'll wait."
And he turned and went away, and presently she heard a door shut and
echo, and slow footsteps in the street below.
Where was Martin?
She wanted Martin. Everything that had happened that night made her
want Martin. He knew that she was a kid, and treated her as such. He
didn't stand up and try and force her forward into being a woman--
although, of all men, he had the right. He was big and generous and
had given her his name and house and the run of the world, but not
from his lips ever came the hard words that she had heard that
night. How extraordinary that they should have come from Alice as
well as from Gilbert.
She wanted Martin. Where was Martin? She felt more like a bird, at
that moment, than a butterfly--like a bird that had flown too far
from its nest and couldn't find its way back. She had been honest
with Martin, all along. Why, the night before they had started on
the street of adventure, she had told him her creed, in that dark,
quiet room with the moonlight on the floor in a little pool, and had
frankly cried out, "Who cares?" for the first time. And later,
upstairs in her room, in his house, she had asked him to leave her;
and he had gone, because he understood that she wanted to remain
irresponsible for a time and must not be taken by the shoulders and
shaken into caring until she had had her fling. He understood
everything--especially as to what she meant by saying that she would
go joy-riding, that she would make life spin whichever way she
wanted it to go. It was the right of youth, and what was she but
just a kid? He had never stood over her and demanded payment, and
yet he had given her everything. He understood that she was new to
the careless and carefree, and had never flung the word honest at
her head, because, being so young, she considered that she could be
let off from making payments for a time.
She wanted Martin. She wanted the comforting sight of his clean eyes
and deep chest and square shoulders. She wanted to sit down knee to
knee with him as they had done so often on the edge of the woods,
and talk and talk. She wanted to hear his man's voice and see the
laughter-lines come and go round his eyes. He was her pal and was as
reliable as the calendar. He would wipe out the effect of the
reproaches that she had been made to listen to by Alice and Gilbert.
They might be justified; they were justified; but they showed a lack
of understanding of her present mood that was to her inconceivable.
She was a kid. Couldn't they see that she was a kid? Why should they
both throw bricks at her as though she were a hawk and not a mere
Where was Martin? Why hadn't she seen him for several days? Why had
he stayed away from home without saying where he was and what he was
doing? And what was all this about a girl with a white face and red
lips? Martin must have friends, of course. She had hers--Gilbert and
Hosack and the others, if they could be called friends. But why a
girl with a white face and red lips and hair that came out of a
bottle? That didn't sound much like Martin.
All these thoughts ran through Joan's mind as she walked about the
drawing-room with its open windows, in the first hour of the
morning, sending out an S. O. S. to Martin. She ought to be in bed
and asleep--not thinking and going over everything as if she were a
woman. She wasn't a woman yet, and could only be a kid once. It was
too bad of Alice to try and force her to take things seriously so
soon. Seriousness was for older people, and even then something to
avoid if possible. And as for Gilbert--well, she didn't for one
instant deny the fact that it was rather exciting and exhilarating
for him to be in love with her, although she was awfully sorry for
Alice. She had done nothing to encourage him, and it was really a
matter of absolute indifference to her whether he loved her or not,
so long as he was at hand to take her about. And she didn't intend
to encourage him, either. Love meant ties and responsibility--Alice
proved that clearly enough. There was plenty of time for love. Let
her flit first. Let her remain young as long as she could, careless
and care-free. The fact that she was married was just an accident,
an item in her adventure. It didn't make her less young to be
married, and she didn't see why it should. Martin understood, and
that was why it was so far-fetched of Alice to suggest that her
attitude could turn Martin's armor into broadcloth, and hint at his
having ceased to be a knight because he had been seen with a girl--
never mind whether her face was white and her lips red, and her hair
"I'm a kid, I tell you," she said aloud, throwing out her
justification to the whole world. "I am and I will be, I will be.
I'll play the fool and revel in it as long as I can--so there. Who
cares?" And she laughed once more, and ran her hand over her hair as
though waving all these thoughts away, and shut the windows and
turned out the lights and went upstairs to her bedroom. "I'm a
selfish, self-willed little devil, crazy about myself, thinking of
nothing but having a good time," she added inwardly. "I know it, all
of you, as well as you do, but give me time. Give me my head for a
bit. When I must begin to pay, I'll pay with all I've got."
But presently, all ready for bed, she put on a dressing gown and
left her room and padded along the passage in heelless slippers to
Martin's room. He might have been asleep all this time. How silly
not to have thought of that! She would wake him for one of their
talks. It seemed an age since they had sat on the hill together
among the young buds, and she had conjured up the high-reaching
buildings of New York against the blue sky, like a mirage.
She had begun to think again. Alice and Gilbert between them had set
her brain working--and she couldn't stop it. What if the time had
come already when she must pull herself together and face facts and
play what everybody called the game? Well, if it had, and she simply
couldn't hide behind youthfulness any longer, as Gilbert had said,
she would show that she could change her tune of "Who cares?" to "I
care" with the best of them! "I'm only a little over eighteen. I
don't know quite what it is, but I'm something more than pretty. I'm
still not much more than a flapper--an irritating, empty-headed,
fashionable-school-fed, undisciplined, sophisticated kid. I know all
about that as well as they do. I'm making no pretense to be anything
different. Heaven knows, I'm frank enough about it--even to myself.
But it's only a phase. Why not let me get over it and live it down?
If there's anything good in me, and there is, it will come out
sooner or later. Why not let me go through it my own way? A few
months to play the fool in--it isn't much to ask, and don't I know
what it means to be old?"
She hadn't been along that passage before. It was Martin's side of
the house. She hadn't given much thought to Martin's side of
anything. She tried a door and opened it, fumbled for the button
that would turn the light on and found it. It was a large and
usefully fitted dressing room with a hanging cupboard that ran all
along one wall, with several doors. Two old shiny-faced English
tallboys were separated by a boot rack. Between the two windows was
a shaving glass over a basin. There was a bookcase on each side of
the fire-place and a table conveniently near a deep armchair with a
tobacco jar, pipes and a box of cigarettes. Every available space of
wall was crammed with framed photographs of college groups, some
showing men with the whiskered faces and the strange garments of the
early Victorian period, others of the clean-shaven men of the day,
but all of them fit and eager and care-free, caught in their
happiest hours. It was a man's room, arranged by one, now used by
Joan went through into the bedroom. The light followed her. There
was no Martin. It was all strangely tidy. Its owner might have been
away for weeks.
With a sense of chill and a feeling of queer loneliness, she went
back to the dressing room. She wanted Martin. If Martin had been
there, she would have had it all out with him, freely and frankly.
Somehow she couldn't wave away the idea any longer that the time had
come for her to cross another bridge. Thank God she would still be
young, but the kid of her would be left on the other side. If Martin
had been there, she would have told him some of the things that
Alice had said about being honest and paying up, and left it to him
to say whether the girlhood which she had wanted to spin out was
over and must be put away among her toys.
Alice and Gilbert Palgrave,--curious that it should have been those
two,--had shaken her individualism, as well as something else, vague
and untranslatable, that she couldn't quite grasp, that eluded her
hand. She sat down in the deep chair and with a little smile took up
one of Martin's pipes and looked at it. The good tobaccoey scent of
it took her back to the hill on the edge of the woods, and in her
mind's eye there was a picture of two clean eyes with laughter-lines
coming and going, a strong young face that had already caught the
sun, square shoulders and a broad chest, and a pair of reliable
hands with spatulate fingers clasped round a knee. She could hear
birds calling. Spring was in the air.
Where was Martin?
It was the first dress rehearsal of "The Ukelele Girl," to be
produced "under the personal direction of Stanwood Mosely." The
piece had been in rehearsal for eleven weeks.
The curtain had been up on the second act for an hour. Scene
designers, scene painters and scene shifters were standing about
with a stage director, whose raucous voice cut the fuggy atmosphere
incessantly in what was intended to represent the exterior of a
hotel at Monte Carlo. It more nearly resembled the materialization
of a dope fiend's dream of an opium factory. What might have been a
bank building in Utopia, an old Spanish galleon in drydock, or the
exterior of a German beer garden according to the cover of Vogue
occupied the center of the scene. The bricks were violet and old
gold, sprayed with tomato juice and marked by the indeterminate
silver tracks of snails. Pillars, modeled on the sugar-stick posts
that advertise barber's shops, ran up and lost themselves among the
flies. A number of wide stairs, all over wine stains, wandered
aimlessly about, coming to a conclusion between gigantic urns filled
with unnatural flowers of all the colors of a diseased rainbow.
Jotted about here and there on the stage were octopus-limbed trees
with magenta leaves growing in flower pots all covered with bilious
blobs. Stan Mosely didn't profess to understand it, but having been
assured by the designer that it was art nouveau, which also he
didn't understand, he was wholly satisfied.
Not so the stage director, whose language in describing the effect
it had upon him would have done credit to a gunman under the
influence of cheap brandy and fright. The rehearsal, which had
commenced at eight o'clock, had been hung up for a time considerable
enough to allow him to give vent to his sentiments. The pause
enabled Mosely, squatting frog-wise in the middle of the orchestra
stalls, to surround himself with several women whose gigantic
proportions were horribly exposed to the eye. The rumble of his
voice and the high squeals of their laughter clashed with the sounds
of the vitriolic argument on the stage, and the noises of a bored
band, in which an oboe was giving a remarkable imitation of a
gobbling turkey cock, and a cornet of a man blowing his nose. The
leader of the band was pacing up and down the musicians' room,
saying to himself: "Zis is ze last timer. Zis is ze last timer,"
well knowing that it wasn't. The poor devil had a wife and children
Bevies of weary and spirit-broken chorus girls in costume were
sprawling on the chairs in the lower boxes, some sleeping, some too
tired to sleep, and some eating ravenously from paper bags. Chorus
men and costumers, wig makers and lyric writers, authors and friends
of the company, sat about singly and in pairs in the orchestra
seats. They were mostly bored so far beyond mere impatience by all
this super-inefficiency and chaos as to have arrived at a state of
intellectual coma. The various men out of whose brains had
originally come the book and lyrics no longer hated each other and
themselves; they lusted for the blood of the stage director or saw
gorgeous mental pictures of a little fat oozy corpse surrounded by
the gleeful faces of the army of people who had been impotent to
protest against the lash of his whip, the impertinence of his tongue
or the gross dishonesty of his methods.
One other man in addition to the raucous, self-advertising stage
director, Jackrack, commonly called "Jack-in-office," showed
distinct signs of life--a short, overdressed, perky person with
piano fingers and baldish head much too big for his body, who
flitted about among the chorus girls, followed by a pale, drab woman
with pins, and touched their dresses and sniggered and made remarks
with a certain touch of literary excellence in a slightly guttural
voice. This was Poppy Shemalitz, the frock expert, the man milliner
of the firm, who was required to make bricks out of straw, or as he
frequently said to the friends of his "bosom," "make fifteen dollars
look like fifty." Self-preservation and a sense of humor encouraged
him through the abusive days of a dog's life.
Sitting in the last row of the orchestra, wearing the expression of
interest and astonishment of a man who had fallen suddenly into
another world, was Martin. He had been there since eight o'clock.
For over six hours he had watched banality emerge from chaos and had
listened to the blasphemy and insults of Jackrack. He would have
continued to watch and listen until daylight peered upbraidingly
through the chinks in the exit doors but for the sudden appearance
of Susie Capper, dressed for the street.
"Hello, Tootles! But you're not through, are you?"
"Absobloominlootely," she said emphatically.
"I thought you said your best bit was in the second act?"
"'Was' is right. Come on outer here. I can't stand the place a
minute longer. It'll give me apoplexy."
Martin followed her into the foyer. The tragic rage on the girl's
little, pretty, usually good-natured face worried him. He knew that
she had looked forward to this production to make her name on
"My dear Tootles, what's happened?"
She turned to him and clutched his arm. Tears welled up into her
eyes, and her red lips began to tremble. "What did I look like?" she
"Didn't I get every ounce of comedy out of my two scenes in Act
"I know I did. Even the stage hands laughed, and if you can do that
there's no argument. And didn't my number go over fine? Wasn't it
the best thing in the act? I don't care what you say. I know it was.
Even the orchestra wanted it over again."
"But it was," said Martin, "and I heard one of the authors say that
it would be the hit of the piece."
"Oh, Martin, I've been sweating blood for this chance for five
years, and I'm not going to get it. I'm not going to get it. I wish
I was dead." She put her arms against the wall and her face down on
her arms and burst into an agony of tears.
Martin was moved. This plucky, struggling, hardworking atom of a
remorseless world deserved a little luck for a change. Hitherto it
had eluded her eager hands, although she had paid for it in advance
with something more than blood and energy. "Dear old Tootles," he
said, "what's happened? Try and tell me what's happened? I don't
"You don't understand, because you don't know the tricks of this
rotten theater. For eleven weeks I've been rehearsing. For eleven
weeks--time enough to produce a couple of Shakespeare's bally plays
in Latin,--I've put up with the brow-beating of that mad dog
Jackrack. For eleven weeks, without touching one dirty little Mosely
cent, I've worked at my part and numbers, morning, noon and night;
and now, on the edge of production, he cuts me out and puts in a
simpering cow with a fifteen-thousand-dollar necklace and a snapping
little Pekinese to oblige one of his angels, and I'm reduced to the
chorus. I wish I was dead, I tell you--I wish I was dead and buried
and at peace. I wish I could creep home and get into bed and never
see another day of this cruel life. Oh, I'm just whipped and broke
and out. Take me away, take me away, Martin. I'm through."
Martin put his arm round the slight, shaking form, led her to one of
the doors and out into a narrow passage that ran up into the
deserted street. To have gone down into the stalls and hit that oily
martinet in the mouth would have been to lay himself open to a
charge of cruelty to animals. He was so puny and fat and soft. Poor
little Tootles, who had had a tardy and elusive recognition torn
from her grasp! It was a tragedy.
It was not much more than a stone's-throw from the theater to the
rabbit warren in West Forty-sixth Street, but Martin gave a shout at
a prowling taxi. Not even policemen and newspaper boys and street
cleaners must see this girl as she was then, in a collapse of
smashed hopes, sobbing dreadfully, completely broken down. It wasn't
fair. In all that city of courageous under-dogs and fate-fighters,
there was not one who pretended to careless contentment with a chin
so high as Tootles. He half carried her into the cab, trying with a
queer blundering sympathy to soothe and quiet her. And he had almost
succeeded by the time they reached the brownstone house of sitters,
bedrooms and baths, gas stoves, cubby-holes, the persistent reek of
onions, cigarettes and hot cheese. The hysteria of the artistic
temperament, or the natural exaggeration of an artificial life, had
worn itself out for the time being. Rather pathetic little sobs had
taken its place, it was with a face streaked with the black stuff
from her eyelashes that Tootles turned quickly to Martin at the foot
of the narrow, dirty staircase.
"Let's go up quiet," she said. "If any of the others are about, I
don't want 'em to know tonight. See?"
"I see," said Martin.
And it was good to watch the way in which she took hold of herself
with a grip of iron, scrubbed her face with his handkerchief, dabbed
it thickly with powder from a small silver box, threw back her head
and went up two stairs at a time. On the second floor there was a
cackle of laughter, but doors were shut. On the third all was quiet.
But on the fourth the tall, thin, Raphael-headed man was drunk
again, arguing thickly in the usual cloud of smoke, which drifted
sullenly into the passage through the open door.
With deft fingers Tootles used her latchkey, and they slipped into
the apartment like thieves. And then Martin took the pins out of her
little once-white hat, drew her coat off, picked her up as if she
were a child and put her on the sofa.
"There you are, Tootles," he said, without aggressive cheerfulness,
but still cheerful. "You lie there, young 'un, and I'll get you
something to eat. It's nearly a day since you saw food."
And after a little while, humanized by the honest kindness of this
obvious man, she sat up and leaned on an elbow and watched him
through the gap in the curtains that hid her domestic arrangements.
He was scrambling some eggs. He had made a pile of chicken
sandwiches and laid the table. He had put some flowers that he had
brought for her earlier in the evening in the middle of it, stuck
into an empty milk bottle. In her excitement and joy about the play,
she had forgotten to put them in water. They were distinctly sad.
"Me word!" she said to herself, through the aftermath of her
emotion. "That's some boy. Gee, that's some good boy." Even her
thoughts were conducted in a mixture of Brixton and Broadway.
"Now, then," he said, "all ready, marm," and put his handiwork in
what he hoped was an appetizing manner on the table. The hot eggs
were on a cold plate, but did that really matter?
Not to Tootles, who was glad to get anything, anyhow. That room was
the Ritz Hotel in comparison with the slatterly tenement in which
she had won through the first unsoaped years of a sordid life. And
Martin--well, Martin was something out of a fairy tale.
Between them they made a clean sweep of everything, falling back
finally on a huge round box of candies contributed the previous day
They made short work of several bottles of beer, also contributed by
Martin. He knew that Tootles was not paid a penny during rehearsals.
She laughed several times and cracked one or two feeble jokes--poor
little soul with the swollen eyes and powder-dabbed face! Her bobbed
hair glistened under the light like the dome of the Palace of Cooch
Behar under the Indian sun.
"Boy," she said presently, putting her hand on his knees and closing
her tired eyes, "where's that magic carpet? If I could sit on it
with you and be taken to where the air's clean and the trees are
whisperin' and all the young things hoppin' about--I'd give twenty-
five years of me life, s'elp me Bob, I would."
"Would you, Tootles?" A sudden thought struck Martin. Make use of
that house in the country, make use of it, lying idle and neglected!
"Oh," she said, "to get away from all this for a bit--to shake
Broadway and grease paint and slang and electric light, if only for
a week. I'm fed up, boy. I'm all out, like an empty gasoline tin. I
want to see something clean and sweet."
Martin had made up his mind. Look at that poor little bruised soul,
as much in need of water as those sad flowers in the milk bottle.
"Tootles," he said, "pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag, and
be ready for me in the morning."
"What d'yer mean, boy?"
"What I say. At eleven o'clock to-morrow--to-day, I'll have a car
here and drive you away to woods and birds and all clean things.
I'll give you a holiday in a big cathedral, and you shall lie and
listen to God's own choir."
"Go on--ye're pullin' me leg!"
She waved her hand to stop him. It was all too good to joke about.
"No, I'm not. I've got a house away in the country. It was my
father's. We shall both be proud to welcome you there, Tootles."
She sprang up, put her hands on his face and tilted it back and
looked into his eyes. It was true! It was true! She saw it there.
And she kissed him and gave a great sobbing sigh and went into her
bedroom and began to undress. Was there anything like life, after
Martin cleared the table and drew the curtains over the domestic
arrangements. He didn't like domestic arrangements. Then he sat down
and lighted a cigarette. His head was all blurred with sleep.
And presently a tired voice, called "Boy!" and he went in. The all-
too-golden head was deep into the pillow and long lashes made fans
on that powdered face.
"Where did you pinch the magic carpet?" she asked, and smiled, and
fell into sleep as a stone disappears into water.
As Martin drew the clothes over her thinly clad shoulder, something
touched him. It was like a tap on the heart. Before he knew what he
was doing, he had turned out the light, gone into the sitting room,
the passage, down the stairs and into the silent street. At top
speed he ran into Sixth Avenue, yelled to a cab that was slipping
along the trolley lines and told the driver to go to East Sixty-
seventh Street for all that he was worth.
Joan wanted him.
Joan heard the cab drive up and stop, heard Martin sing out "That's
all right," open and shut the front door and mount the stairs; heard
him go quickly to her room and knock.
She went out and called "Marty, Marty," and stood on the threshold
of his dressing room, smiling a welcome. She was glad, beyond words
glad, and surprised. There had seemed to be no chance of seeing him
Martin came along the passage with his characteristic light tread
and drew up short. He looked anxious.
"You wanted me?" he said.
And Joan held out her hand. "I did and do, Marty. But how did you
"I didn't guess; I knew." And he held her hand nervously.
She looked younger and sweeter than ever in her blue silk dressing
gown and shorter in her heelless slippers. What a kid she was, after
all, he thought.
"How amazing!" she said. "I wonder how?"
He shook his head. "I dunno--just as I did the first time, when I
tore through the woods and found you on the hill."
"Isn't that wonderful! Do you suppose I shall always be able to get
you when I want you very much?"
She had gone back into the dressing room. The light was on her face.
Her usual expression of elfish impertinence was not there. She was
the girl of the stolen meetings once more, the girl whose eyes
reflected the open beauty of what Martin had called the big
cathedral. For all that, she was the girl who had hurt him to the
soul, shown him her door, played that trick upon him at the Ritz and
sent him adrift full of the spirit of "Who cares?" which was her
fetish. It was in his heart to say: "Because I adore you! Because I
am so much yours that you have only to think my name for me to hear
it across the world as if you had shouted it through a giant
megaphone! Because whatever I do and whatever you do, I shall love
you!" But she had hurt him twice. She had cut him to the very core.
He couldn't forget. He was too proud to lay himself open to yet
another of her laughing snubs.
So he shook his head again. "I dunno," he said. "It's like that.
It's something that can't be explained."
She sat on the arm of the chair with her hands round a knee. A
little of her pink ankle showed. The pipe that she had dropped when
his voice had come up from the street lay on the floor.
His answer had disappointed her; she didn't quite know why. The old
Marty would have been franker and more spontaneous. The old Marty
might have made her laugh with his boyish ingenuousness, but he
would have warmed her and made her feel delightfully vain. Could it
be that she was responsible for this new Marty? Was Alice too
terribly right when she had talked about armor turning into
broadcloth because of her selfish desire to remain a kid a little
longer? She was afraid to ask him where he was when he had felt that
she wanted him, and she hated herself for that.
There was a short silence.
These two young things had lost the complete confidence that had
been theirs before they had come to that great town. What a pity!
"Well," he asked, standing straight like a man ready to take orders,
"why did you call?"
And then an overwhelming shyness seized her. It had seemed easy
enough in thought to tell Martin that she was ready to cross the
bridge and be, as Alice had called it, honest, and as Gilbert had
said, to play the game. But it was far from easy when he stood in
the middle of the room in the glare of the light, with something all
about him that froze her words and made her self-conscious and
timid. And yet a clear, unmistakable voice urged her to have courage
and make her confession, say that she was sorry for having been a
feather-brained little fool and ask him to forgive--to win him back,
if--if she hadn't already lost him.
But she blundered into an answer and spoke flippantly from
nervousness. "Because it's rather soon to become a grass widow, and
I want you to be seen with me somewhere to-morrow."
That was all, then. She was only amusing herself. It was a case of
"Horse, horse, play with me!"--the other horses being otherwise
occupied. She wasn't serious. He needn't have come. "I can't," he
said. "I'm sorry, but I'm going out of town."
She saw him look at the clock on the mantelshelf and crinkle up his
forehead. Day must be stretching itself somewhere. She got up,
quickly. How could she say it? She was losing him.
"Are you angry with me, Marty?" she asked, trying to fumble her way
"No, Joan. But it's very late. You ought to be in bed."
"Didn't you think that I should miss you while you've been away?"
"No, Joan. Look. It's half-past two. A kid like you ought to have
been asleep hours ago." He went over to the door.
"I'm not a kid--I'm not" she burst out.
He was too tired to be surprised. He had not forgotten how she had
hidden behind her youth. He couldn't understand her mood. "I must
get to bed," he said, "if you don't mind. I must be up pretty early.
Run along, Joany."
He couldn't have hurt her more awfully whatever he had said. To be
treated like a naughty girl! But it served her right, and she knew
it. Her plea had come back like a boomerang.
"Well, have a good time," she said, with her chin high. "I shall see
you again some day, I suppose," and she went out.
It was no use. She had lost him--she had lost him, just as she had
discovered that she wanted him. There was a girl with a white face
and red lips and hair that came out of a bottle. Martin watched her
go and shut the door, and stood with his hands over his face.