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WE CAN'T HAVE EVERYTHING
BOOKS BY RUPERT HUGHES
We Can't Have Everything
In A Little Town
The Thirteenth Commandment
What Will People Say?
The Last Rose Of Summer
[Illustration: WAR, THE SUNDERER, HAD REACHED THEM WITH HIS GREAT DIVORCE]
WE CAN'T HAVE EVERYTHING
A NOVEL BY RUPERT HUGHES
AUTHOR OF _What Will People Say?_
ILLUSTRATED BY JAMES MONTGOMERY FLAGG
THE FIRST BOOK
MISS KEDZIE THROPP COMES TO TOWN
THE SECOND BOOK
MRS. TOMMIE GILFOYLE HAS HER PICTURE TAKEN
THE THIRD BOOK
MRS. JIM DYCKMAN IS NOT SATISFIED
THE FOURTH BOOK
THE MARCHIONESS HAS QUALMS
THE FIRST BOOK
MISS KEDZIE THROPP COMES TO TOWN
Kedzie Thropp had never seen Fifth Avenue or a yacht or a butler
or a glass of champagne or an ocean or a person of social prominence.
She wanted to see them.
For each five minutes of the day and night, one girl comes to New
York to make her life; or so the compilers of statistics claim.
This was Kedzie Thropp's five minutes.
She did not know it, and the two highly important, because extremely
wealthy, beings in the same Pullman car never suspected her--never
imagined that the tangle they were already in would be further
knotted, then snipped, then snarled up again, by this little
We never can know these things, but go blindly groping through
the crowd of fellow-gropers, guessing at our presents and getting
our pasts all wrong. What could we know of our futures?
Jim Dyckman, infamously rich (through no fault of his own), could not
see far enough past Charity Coe Cheever that day to make out Kedzie
Thropp, a few seats removed. Charity Coe--most of Mrs. Cheever's
friends still called her by her maiden name--sat with her back turned
to Kedzie; and latterly Charity Coe was not looking over her shoulder
much. She did not see Kedzie at all.
And Kedzie herself, shabby and commonplace, was so ignorant that
if she looked at either Jim or Charity Coe she gave them no heed,
for she had never even heard of them or seen their pictures,
so frequent in the papers.
They were among the whom-not-to-know-argues-one-self-unknowns.
But there were countless other facts that argued Kedzie Thropp
unknown and unknowing. As she was forever saying, she had never
had anything or been anywhere or seen anybody worth having, being,
But Jim Dyckman, everybody said, had always had everything, been
everywhere, known everybody who was anybody. As for Charity Coe,
she had given away more than most people ever have. And she, too,
had traveled and met.
Yet Kedzie Thropp was destined (if there is such a thing as being
destined--at any rate, it fell to her lot) to turn the lives of those
two bigwigs topsy-turvy, and to get her picture into more papers
than both of them put together. A large part of latter-day existence
has consisted of the fear or the favor of getting pictures in the
It was Kedzie's unusual distinction to win into the headlines at
her first entrance into New York, and for the quaintest of reasons.
She had somebody's else picture published for her that time; but
later she had her very own published by the thousand until the
little commoner, born in the most neglected corner of oblivion,
grew impudent enough to weary of her fame and prate of the comforts
Kedzie Thropp was as plebeian as a ripe peach swung in the sun across
an old fence, almost and not quite within the grasp of any passer-by.
She also inspired appetite, but always somehow escaped plucking
and possession. It is doubtful whether anybody ever really tasted
her soul--if she had one. Her flavor was that very inaccessibility.
She was always just a little beyond. Her heart was forever fixed
on the next thing, just quitting the last thing. Eternal, delicious,
harrowing discontent was Kedzie's whole spirit.
Charity Coe's habit was self-denial; Kedzie's self-fostering,
all-demanding. She was what Napoleon would have been if the Little
Corporal had been a pretty girl with a passion for delicacies
instead of powers.
Thanks to Kedzie, two of the best people that could be were plunged
into miseries that their wealth only aggravated.
Thanks to Kedzie, Jim Dyckman, one of the richest men going and one
of the decentest fellows alive, learned what it means to lie in
shabby domicile and to salt dirty bread with tears; to be afraid
to face the public that had fawned on him, and to understand the
portion of the criminal and the pariah.
And sweet Charity Coe, who had no selfishness in any motive, who
ought to have been canonized as a saint in her smart Parisian robes
of martyrdom, found the clergy slamming their doors in her face
and bawling her name from their pulpits; she was, as it were, lynched
by the Church, thanks again to Kedzie.
But one ought not to hate Kedzie. It was not her fault (was it?)
that she was cooked up out of sugar and spice and everything nice
into a little candy allegory of selfishness with one pink hand
over her little heartless heart-place and one pink hand always
outstretched for more.
Kedzie of the sugar lip and the honey eye! She was going to be carried
through New York from the sub-sub-cellar of its poverty to its highest
tower of wealth. She would sleep one night alone under a public bench
in a park, and another night, with all sorts of nights between, she
would sleep in a bed where a duchess had lain, and in arms Americanly
So much can the grand jumble of causes and effects that we call fate
do with a wanderer through life.
During the same five minutes which were Kedzie's other girls were
making for New York; some of them to succeed apparently, some of them
to fail undeniably, some of them to become fine, clean wives; some
of them to flare, then blacken against the sky because of famous
scandals and fascinating crimes in which they were to be involved.
Their motives were as various as their fates, and only one thing
is safe to say--that their motives and their fates had little to do
with one another. Few of the girls, if any, got what they came for
and strove for; and if they got it, it was not just what they thought
it was going to be.
This is Kedzie's history, and the history of the problem confronting
Jim Dyckman and Charity Coe Cheever: the problem that Kedzie was going
to seem to solve--as one solves any problem humanly, which is by
substituting one or more new problems in place of the old.
This girl Kedzie who had never had anything had one thing--a fetching
pout. Perhaps she had the pout because she had never had anything.
An Elizabethan poet would have said of her upper lip that a bee
in search of honey had stung it in anger at finding it not the rose
it seemed, but something fairer.
She had eyes full of appeal--appeal for something--what? Who knows?
She didn't. Her eyes said, "Have mercy on me; be kind to me."
The shoddy beaux in her home town said that Kedzie's eyes said,
"Kiss me quick!" They had obeyed her eyes, and yet the look of appeal
was not quenched. She came to New York with no plan to stay. But she
did stay, and she left her footprints in many lives, most deeply
in the life of Jim Dyckman.
Miss Kedzie Thropp had never seen Fifth Avenue or a yacht or a butler
or a glass of champagne or an ocean or a person of social prominence.
She wanted to see them. To Jim Dyckman these things were commonplace.
What he wanted was simple, complex, cheap, priceless things--love,
home, repose, contentment.
He was on the top of the world, and he wanted to get down or have
somebody else come up to him. Peaks are by definition and necessity
limited to small foothold. Climbing up is hardly more dangerous
than climbing down. Even to bend and lift some one else up alongside
involves a risk of falling or of being pushed overboard.
But at present Jim Dyckman was thinking of the other girl, Charity
Coe Cheever, perched on a peak as cold and high as his own, but far
removed from his reach.
Even the double seat in the sleeping-car was too small for Jim. He
sprawled from back to back, slumped and hunched in curves and angles
that should have looked peasant and yet somehow had the opposite
His shoes were thick-soled but unquestionably expensive, his clothes
of loose, rough stuff manifestly fashionable. Like them, he had a
kind of burly grace. He had been used to a well-upholstered life.
He was one of those giants that often grow in rich men's homes. His
father was such another, and his mother suggested the Statue of
Liberty in corsets and on high heels.
Dyckman was reading a weekly journal devoted to horses and dogs,
and reading with such interest that he hardly knew when the train
He did not see the woman who got out of a motor and got into the
train, and whose small baggage the porter put in the empty place
opposite his. He did not see that she leaned into the aisle and
regarded him with a pathetic amusement in her caressing eyes. She
took her time about making herself known; then she uttered only
She put into the cough many subtle implications. Hardly more could
be crowded into a shrug.
Dyckman came out of his kennels and paddocks, blinked, stared, gaped.
Then he began to stand up by first stepping down. He bestrode the
narrow aisle like a Colossus.
He caught her two hands, brought them together, placed them in one
of his, and covered them with the other as in a big muff, and bent
close to pour into her eyes such ardor that for a moment she closed
hers against the flame.
Then, as if in that silent greeting their souls had made a too loud
and startling noise of welcome, both of them looked about with
an effect of surreptition and alarm.
There were not many people in the car, and they were absorbed in
their own books, gossips, or naps. Only a few head-tops showing
above the high-backed seats, and no eyes or ears.
"Do you know anybody on the train?" the woman asked.
The man shook his head and sank into the seat opposite her, still
clinging to her hands. She extricated them:
"But everybody knows you."
He dismissed this with a sniff of reproof. Then they settled down
in the small trench and seemed to take a childish delight in the
peril of their rencounter.
"Lord, but it's good to see you!" he sighed, luxuriously. "And
you're stunninger than ever!"
"I'm a sight!" she said.
She was clad even more plainly than he, and had the same spirit
of neglectful elegance. She was big, too, for a woman; somewhat lank
but well muscled, and decisive in her motions as if she normally
abounded in strength. What grace she had was an athlete's, but she
looked overtrained or undernourished. Seeing that she did not look
well, Dyckman said:
"How well you're looking, Charity."
She did not look like Charity, either; but her name had been given
to her before she was born. There had nearly always been a girl
called Charity in the Coe family. They had brought the name with
them from New England when they settled in Westchester County some
two hundred years before. They had kept little of their Puritanism
except a few of the names.
This sportswoman called Charity had been trying to live up to her
name, of late. That was why she was haggard. She smiled at her
friend's unmerited praise.
"Thanks, Jim. I need a compliment like the devil."
"Where've you been since you got back?"
"Up in the camp, trying to get a little rest and exercise. But it's
too lonesome nights. I rest better when I keep on the jump."
"You're in black; that doesn't mean--?"
She shook her head. A light of eagerness in his eyes was quenched,
and he growled:
"Too bad!" He could afford to say it, since the object of his obloquy
was alive. If the person mentioned had not been alive, the phrase
he used would have been the same more gently intoned.
Charity protested: "Shame on you! I know you mean it for flattery,
but you mustn't, you really mustn't. I'm in black for--for Europe."
She laughed pitifully at the conceit.
He answered, with admiring awe: "I've heard about you. You're a
wonder; that's what you are, Charity Coe, a wonder. Here's a big
hulk like me loafing around trying to kill time, and a little tike
like you over there in France spending a fortune of money and more
strength than even you've got in a slaughter-house of a war hospital.
How did you stand it?"
"It wasn't much fun," she sighed, "but the nurses can't feel sorry
for themselves when they see--what they see."
"I can imagine," he said.
But he could not have imagined her as she daily had been. She and
the other princesses of blood royal or bourgeois had been moiling
among the red human débris of war, the living garbage of battle,
as the wagons and trains emptied it into the receiving stations.
She and they had stood till they slept standing. They had done
harder, filthier jobs than the women who worked in machine-shops and
in furrows, while the male-kind fought. She had gone about bedabbled
in blood, her hair drenched with it. Her delicate hands had performed
tasks that would have been obscene if they had not been sublime
in a realm of suffering where nothing was obscene except the cause
of it all.
She sickened at it more in retrospect than in action, and tried
to shake it from her mind by a change of subject.
"And what have you been up to, Jim?"
"Ah, nothing but the same old useless loafing. Been up in the North
Woods for some hunting and fishing," he snarled. His voice always
grew contemptuous when he spoke of himself, but idolatrous when
he spoke of her--as now when he asked: "I heard you had gone back
abroad. But you're not going, are you?"
"Yes, as soon as I get my nerves a little steadier."
"I won't let you go back!" He checked himself. He had no right to
dictate to her. He amended to: "You mustn't. It's dangerous crossing,
with all those submarines and floating mines. You've done your bit
"But there's so horribly much to do."
"You've done enough. How many children have you got now?"
"About a hundred."
"Holy mother!" he whispered, with a profane piety. "Can even you
afford as big a family as that?"
"Well, I've had to call for some help."
"Let me chip in? Will you?"
"Sure I will. Go as far as you like."
"All right; it's a bet. Name the sum, and I'll mail it to you."
"You'd better not mail me anything, Jim" she said.
He blenched and mumbled: "Oh, all right! I'll write you a check now."
"Later," she said. "I don't like to talk much about such things,
"Promise me you won't go back."
She simply waived the theme: "Let's talk of something pleasant,
if you don't mind."
"Something pleasant, eh? Then I can't ask about--him, I suppose."
"Of course. Why not?"
"How is the hound?--begging the pardon of all honest hounds."
She was too sure of her own feelings toward her husband to feel it
necessary to rush to his defense--against a former rival. Her answer
was, "He's well enough to raise a handsome row if he saw you and me
He grumbled a full double-barreled oath and did not apologize for it.
She spoke coldly:
"You'd better go back to your seat."
She was as severe as a woman can well be with a man who adores her
and writhes with jealousy of a man she adores.
"I'll be good, Teacher," he said. "Was he over there with you?"
She evidently liked to talk about her husband. She brightened as
she spoke. "Yes, for a while. He drove a motor-ambulance, you know,
but it bored him after a month or two. They wouldn't let him up to
the firing-lines, so he quit. Have you seen him?"
"Once or twice."
"He's looking well, isn't he?"
"Yes, confound him! His handsome features have been my ruin."
She could smile at that inverted compliment. But Dyckman began
to think very hard. He was suddenly confronted with one of
the conundrums in duty which life incessantly propounds--life that
squats at all the crossroads with a sphinxic riddle for every
Kedzie--to say it again--did not know enough about New York or
the world to recognize Mrs. Cheever and Mr. Dyckman when she glanced
at them and glanced away. They did not at all come up to Kedzie's
idea or ideal of what swells should be, and she had not even grown
up enough to study the society news that makes such thrilling reading
to those who thrill to that sort of thing. The society notes in
the town paper in Kedzie's town (Nimrim, Missouri) consisted of
bombastic chronicles of church sociables or lists of those present
This girl's home was one of the cheapest in that cheap town. Her
people not only were poor, but lived more poorly than they had to.
They had, in consequence, a little reserve of funds, which they
took pride in keeping up. The three Thropps came now to New York
for the first time in their three lives. They were almost as ignorant
as the other peasant immigrants that steam in from the sea.
Adna Thropp, the father, was a local claim-agent on a small railroad.
He spent his life pitting his wits against the petty greed of honest
farmers and God-fearing, railroad-hating citizens. If a granger let
his fence fall down and a rickety cow disputed the right of way with
a locomotive's cow-catcher, the granger naturally put in a claim for
the destruction of a prize-winning animal with a record as an amazing
milker; also he added something for damage to the feelings of the
family in the loss of a household pet. It was Adna's business to beat
the shyster lawyers to the granger and beat the granger to the last
penny. One of his best baits was a roll of cash tantalizingly waved
in front of his victim while he breathed proverbs about the delayful
This being Adna's livelihood, it was not surprising that his habit
of mind gave pennies a grave importance. Of course, he carried his
mind home with him from the office, and every demand of his wife
or children for money was again a test of ability in claim-agency
tactics. He fought so earnestly for every cent he gave down that his
dependents felt that it was generally better to go without things
than to enter into a life-and-death struggle for them with Pa.
For that reason Ma Thropp did the cooking, baked the "light bread,"
and made the clothes and washed them and mended them till they
vanished. She cut the boys' hair; she schooled the girls to help her
in the kitchen and at the sewing-machine and with the preserve-jars.
Her day's work ended when she could no longer see her darning-needle.
It began as soon as she could see daylight to light the fire by. In
winter the day began in her dark, cold kitchen long before the sun
started his fire on the eastern hills.
She upheld a standard of morals as high as Mount Everest and as bleak.
She made home a region of everlasting chores, rebukes, sayings wiser
than tender, complaints and bitter criticisms of husband, children,
merchants, neighbors, weather, prices, fabrics--of everything on
earth but of nothing in heaven.
Strange to say, the children did not appreciate the advantages
of their life. The boys had begun to earn their own money early by
the splitting of wood and the shoveling of snow, by the vending of
soap, and the conduct of delivery-wagons. They spent their evenings
at pool-tables or on corners. The elder girls had accepted positions
in the various emporia of the village as soon as they could. They
counted the long hours of the shop life as an escape from worse.
Their free evenings were not devoted to self-improvement. They
did not turn out to be really very good girls. They were up to all
sorts of village mischief and shabby frivolity. Their poor mother
could not account for it. She could scold them well, but she could
not scold them good.
The daughter on the train, the youngest--named Kedzie after an aunt
who was the least poor of the relatives--was just growing up into
a similar career. Her highest prayer was that her path might lead
her to a clerkship in a candy-shop. Then this miracle! Her father
announced that he was going to New York.
Adna was always traveling on the railroad, but he had never traveled
far. To undertake New York was hardly less remarkable than to run
over to the moon for a few days.
When he brought the news home he could hardly get up the front steps
with it. When he announced it at the table, and tried to be careless,
his hand trembled till the saucerful of coffee at his quivering lips
splashed over on the clean red-plaid table-cloth.
The occasion of Thropp's call to New York was this: he had joined
a "benevolent order" of the Knights of Something-or-other in his
early years and had risen high in the chapter in his home town.
When one of the members died, the others attended his funeral in
full regalia, consisting of each individual's Sunday clothes,
enhanced with a fringed sash and lappets. Also there was a sword
to carry. The advantage of belonging to the order was that the
member got the funeral for nothing and his wife got the further
consolation of a sum of money.
Mrs. Thropp bore her neighbors no more ill-will than they deserved,
but she did enjoy their funerals. They gave her husband an excuse
for his venerable silk hat and his gilded glave. Sometimes as she
took her hands out of the dough and dried them on her apron to fasten
his sash about him, she felt all the glory of a medieval countess
buckling the armor on her doughty earl. She had never heard of such
persons, but she knew their epic uplift.
Now, Mr. Thropp had paid his dues and his insurance premiums
for years and years. They were his one extravagance. Also he had
persuaded Mrs. Thropp's brother Sol to do the same. Sol had died
recently and left his insurance money to Mrs. Thropp. Sol's own wife,
after cherishing long-deferred hopes of spending that money herself,
had been hauled away first. She never got that insurance money.
Neither did any one else; the central office in New York failed
to pay up.
The annual convention was about to be held in the metropolis, and
there was to be a tremendous investigation of the insurance scandal.
Adna was elected the delegate of the Nimrim chapter, for he was known
to be a demon in a money-fight.
And this was the glittering news that Adna brought home. Small wonder
it spilled his coffee. And that wife of his not only had to go and
yell at him about a little coffee-stain, but she had to announce that
she hardly saw how she could get ready to go right away--and who was
to look after those children?
Adna's jaw fell. Perhaps he had ventured on dreams of being set free
in New York all by himself. She soon woke him. She said she wouldn't
no more allow him loose in that wicked place than she would--well,
she didn't know what! He could get a pass for self and wife as easy
as shootin'. Adna yielded to the inevitable with a sorry grace and
told her to come along if she'd a mind to.
And then came a still, small voice from daughter Kedzie. She spoke
with a menacing sweetness: "Goody, goody! Besides seeing New York,
I won't have to go to school for--How long we goin' to be gone,
Both parents stared at her aghast and told her to hush her mouth.
It was a very pretty mouth even in anger, and Kedzie declined to
hush it. She said:
"Well, if you two think you're goin' to leave me home, you got
another think comin'--that's all I got to say."
She betrayed an appalling stubbornness, a fiendish determination
to subdue her parents or talk them to death.
"I never get to go any place," she wailed. "I never been anywhere or
seen anything or had anything; I might as well be a bump on a log.
And now you're goin' to New York. I'd sooner go there than to heaven.
It's my first chance to see a city, and I just tell you right here
and now, I'm not goin' to lose it! You take me or you'll be mighty
"You'll what?" her father sneered. What, after all, could a young
"I'll run off, that's what I'll do! And disgrace you! I'll run away
and you'll never see me again. If you're mean enough to not take me,
I'm mean enough to do something desprut. You'll see!"
Her father realized that there were several things a young girl
could do to punish her parents. Kedzie frightened hers with her
fanatic zeal. They gave in at last from sheer terror. Immediately
she became almost intolerably rapturous. She shrieked and jumped;
and she kissed and hugged every member of the household, including
the dogs and the cats. She must go down-town and torment her girl
friends with her superiority and she could hardly live through
the hours that intervened before the train started.
The Thropps rode all day in the day-coach to Chicago, and Kedzie
loved every cinder that flew into her gorgeous eyes. Now and then
she slept curled up kittenwise on a seat, and the motion of the train
lulled her as with angelic pinions. She dreamed impossible glories
in unheard-of cities.
But her mother bulked large and had been too long accustomed to
her own rocking-chair to rest in a day-coach. She reached Chicago
in a state of collapse. She told Adna that she would have to travel
the rest of the way in a sleeper or in a baggage-car, for she just
naturally had to lay down. So Adna paid for two berths. It weakened
him like a hemorrhage.
Kedzie's first sorrow was in leaving Chicago. They changed trains
there, bouncing across the town in a bus. That transit colored
Kedzie's soul like dragging a ribbon through a vat of dye. Henceforth
she was of a city hue.
She was enamoured of every cobblestone, and she loved every man,
woman, horse, and motor she passed. She tried to flirt with
the tall buildings. She was afraid to leave Chicago lest she never
get to New York, or find it inferior. She begged to be left there.
It was plenty good enough for her.
But once aboard the sleeping-car she was blissful again, and
embarrassed her mother and father with her adoration. In all
sincerity, Kedzie mechanically worshiped people who got things
for her, and loathed people who forbade things or took them away.
She horrified the porter by calling him "Mister"--almost as much
as her parents scandalized him the next day by eating their meals
out of a filing-cabinet of shoe-boxes compiled by Mrs. Thropp. But
it was all picnic to Kedzie. Fortunately for her repose, she never
knew that there was a dining-car attached.
The ordeal of a night in a sleeping-car coffin was to Kedzie an
experience of faery. She laughed aloud when she bumped her head,
and getting out of and into her clothes was a fascinating exercise
in contortion. She was entranced by the wash-room with its hot and
cold water and its basin of apparent silver, whose contents did not
have to be lifted and splashed into a slop-jar, but magically
emptied themselves at the raising of a medallion.
She had not worn herself out with enthusiasm by the time the first
night was spent and half the next day. She pressed her nose against
the window and ached with regret at the hurry with which towns and
cities were whipped away from her eyes.
She did not care for grass and trees and cows and dull villages,
but she thrilled at the beauty of big, dark railroad stations
and noble street-cars and avenues paved with exquisite asphalt.
The train was late in arriving at New York, and it was nearer ten
than eight when it roared across the Harlem River. Kedzie was glad of
the display, for she saw the town first as one great light-spangled
The car seemed to be drawn right through people's rooms. Everybody
lived up-stairs. She caught glimpses of kitchens on the fourth floor
and she thought this adorable, except that it would be a job carrying
the wood all the way up.
The streets went by like the glistening spokes of a swift wheel.
They were packed with interesting sights. No wonder most of the
inhabitants were either in the streets or leaning out of the windows
looking down. Here it was ten o'clock, and not a sign of anybody's
having thought of going to bed. New York was a sensible place.
She liked New York.
But the train seemed to quicken its pace out of mere spitefulness
just as they reached wonderful market streets with flaring lights
over little carts all filled with things to buy.
When the wonder world was blotted from view by the tunnel it
frightened her at first with its long, dark noise and the flip-flops
of light. Then a brief glimpse of towers and walls. Then the dark
station. And they were There!
Jim Dyckman had always loved Charity Coe, but he let another man
marry her--a handsomer, livelier, more entertaining man with whom
Dyckman was afraid to compete. A mingling of laziness and of modesty
As soon as he saw how tempestuously Peter Cheever began his courtship,
Dyckman withdrew from Miss Coe's entourage. When she asked him why,
he said, frankly:
"Pete Cheever's got me beat. I know when I'm licked."
Pete's courtship was what the politicians call a whirlwind campaign.
Charity was Mrs. Cheever before she knew it. Her friends continued
to call her Charity Coe, but she was very much married.
Cheever was a man of shifting ardors. His soul was filled with
automatic fire-extinguishers. He flared up quickly, but when his
temperature reached a certain degree, sprinklers of cold water
opened in his ceiling and doused the blaze, leaving him unharmed
and hardly scorched. It had been so with his loves.
After a brief and blissful honeymoon, Peter Cheever's capricious
soul kindled at the thought of an exploration of war-filled Europe.
His blushing bride was a hurdle-rider, too, and loved a risk-neck
venture. She insisted on going with him.
He accepted the steering-wheel of a motor-ambulance and left his
bride to her own devices while he shot along the poplar-plumed roads
of France at lightning speed.
Charity drifted into hospital service. Her first soldier, the
tortured victim of a gas-attack, was bewailing the fate of his
motherless child. Charity brought a smile to what lips he had by
"I am rich. I will adopt your little girl."
It was the first time she had ever boasted of being rich. The man
died, whispering: "_Merci, Madame! Merci, Madame!_" Another
father was writhing in the premature hell of leaving a shy little
unprotected boy to starve. Charity promised to care for him, too.
At a committee meeting, a week later, she learned of a horde of
war orphans and divided them up with Muriel Schuyler, Mrs. Perry
Merithew, and other American angels abroad.
When Charity's husband wearied of being what he called "chauffeur to
a butcher-wagon," he decided that America was a pretty good country,
after all. But Charity could not tear herself away from her privilege
of suffering, even to follow her bridegroom home. He had cooled to
her also, and he made no protest. He promised to come back for her.
He did not come. He cabled often and devotedly, telling her how
lonely he was and how busy. She answered that she hoped he was
lonely, but she knew he was busy. He would be!
When Cheever first returned, Jim Dyckman saw him at a club. He saw
him afterward in a restaurant with one of those astonishing animals
which the moving pictures have hardly caricatured as a "vampire."
This one would have been impossible if she had not been visible.
She was intensely visible.
Jim Dyckman felt that her mere presence in a public restaurant was
offensive. To think of her as displacing Charity Coe in Cheever's
attentions was maddening. He understood for the first time why
people of a sort write anonymous letters. He could not stoop to
that degradation, and yet he wondered if, after all, it would be
as degrading to play the informer as to be an unprotesting and
therefore accessory spectator and confidant.
Gossip began to deal in the name of Cheever. One day at a club
the he-old-maid "Prissy" Atterbury cackled:
"I saw Pete Cheever at a cabaret--"
Jim asked, anxiously, "Was he alone?"
"What do you mean--nearly alone?"
"Well, what he had with him is my idea of next to nothing. I wonder
what sinking ship Cheever rescued her from. They tell me she was
a cabaret dancer named Zada L'Etoile--that's French for Sadie Starr,
Dyckman's obsession escaped him.
"Somebody ought to write his wife about it."
"That would be nice!" cried Prissy. "Oh, very, very nice! It would be
better to notify the Board of Health. But it would be still better if
his wife would come home and mind her own business. These Americans
who hang about the edges of the war, fishing for sensations, make me
very tired--oh, very, very tired."
Prissy never knew how near he was to annihilation. Jim had to hold
one fist with the other. He was afraid to yield to his impulse to
smash Prissy in the droop of his mustache. Prissy was too frail to
be slugged. That was his chief protection in his gossip-mongering
Besides, it is a questionable courtesy for a former beau to defend
another man's wife's name, and Dyckman proved his devotion to Charity
best by leaving her slanderer unrebuked.
It was no anonymous better that brought Charity Coe home. It was
the breakdown of her powers of resistance. Even the soldiers had to
be granted vacations from the trenches; and so an eminent American
surgeon in charge of the hospital she adorned finally drove Mrs.
Cheever back to America. He disguised his solicitude with brutality;
he told her he did not want her to die on their hands.
When Charity came back, Cheever met her and celebrated her return.
She was a new sensation to him again for a week or two, but her need
of seclusion and quiet drove him frantic and he grew busy once more.
He recalled Miss L'Etoile from the hardships of dancing for her
supper. Unlike Charity, Zada never failed to be exciting. Cheever
was never sure what she would do or say or throw next. She was
When Dyckman learned of Cheever's extra establishment it enraged him.
He had let Cheever push him aside and carry off Charity Coe, and now
he must watch Cheever push Charity Coe aside and carry on the next
choice of his whims.
To Dyckman, Charity was perfection. To lose her and find her in
the ash-barrel with Cheever's other discarded dolls was intolerable.
Yet what could Dyckman do about it? He dared not even meet Charity.
He hated her husband, and he knew that her husband hated him. Cheever
somehow realized the dogged fidelity of Dyckman's love for Charity
and resented it--feared it as a menace, perhaps.
Dyckman had two or three narrow escapes from running into Charity,
and he finally took to his heels. He lingered in the Canadian wilds
till he thought it safe to return. And now she chanced to board the
same train. The problem he had run away from had cornered him.
He had cherished a sneaking hope that she would learn the truth
somehow before he met her. He was not sure what she ought to do
when she learned it. He was sure that what she would do would be
the one right thing.
Yet he realized from her placid manner of parrying his threats at
her husband that she still loved the wretch and trusted him. It was
up to Jim to tell her what he knew about Cheever. He felt that he
ought to. Yet how could he?
It was hideous that she should sit there smiling tolerantly at
a critic of her infernal husband as serenely as a priestess who
is patient with an unenlightened skeptic.
It was atrocious that Cheever should be permitted to prosper with
this scandal unrebuked, unpunished, actually unsnubbed, accepting
the worship of an angel like Charity Coe and repaying it with black
treachery! To keep silent was to co-operate in the evil--to pander
to it. Dyckman thought it was hideous. The word he thought was
He actually opened his mouth to break the news. His voice mutinied.
He could not say a word.
Something throttled him. It was that strange instinct which makes
criminals of every degree feel that no crime is so low but that
tattling on it is a degree lower.
Dyckman tried to assuage his self-contempt by the excuse that Charity
was not in the mood or in the place where such a disclosure should
be made. Some day he would tell her and then ask permission to kill
the blackguard for her.
The train had scuttered across many a mile while he meditated the
answer to the latest riddle. His thoughts were so turbulent that
Charity finally intruded.
"What's on your mind, Jim?"
"Oh, I was just thinking."
Suddenly he reached out and seized the hand that drooped at her knee
like a wilted lily. He wrung her fingers with a vigor that hurt her,
then he said, "Got any dogs to show this season?"
She laughed at the violent abruptness of this, and said, "I think
I'll give an orphan-show instead."
He shook his head in despairing admiration and leaned back to watch
the landscape at the window. So did she. On the windows their own
reflections were cast in transparent films of light. Each wraith
watched the other, seeming to read the mood and need no speech.
Dyckman's mind kept shuttling over and over the same rails of
thought, like a switch-engine eternally shunting cars from one track
to another. His very temples throbbed with the _clickety-click_
of the train. At last he groaned:
"This world's too much for me. It's got me guessing."
He seemed to be so impressed with his original and profound discovery
of life's unanswerable complexity that Charity smiled, the same sad,
sweet smile with which she pored on the book of sorrow or listened to
the questions of her orphans who asked where their fathers had gone.
She thought of Jim Dyckman as one of her orphans. There was a good
deal of the mother in her love of him. For she did love him. And she
would have married him if he had asked her earlier--before Peter
Cheever swept over her horizon and carried her away with his zest
and his magnificence.
She rebuked herself for thinking of Jim Dyckman as an orphan. He had
a father and mother who doted on him. He had wealth of his own and
millions to come. He had health and brawn enough for two. What right
had he to anybody's pity? Yet she pitied him.
And he pitied her.
And on this same train, in this same car, unnoticed and unnoticing,
Jim and Charity grew increasingly embarrassed as the train drew into
New York. Charity was uncertain whether her husband would meet her
or not. Jim did not want to leave her to get home alone. She did not
want her husband to find her with Jim.
Cheever had excuse enough in his own life for suspecting other
people. He had always disliked Jim Dyckman because Dyckman had
always disliked him, and Jim's transparent face had announced the
fact with all the clarity of an illuminated signboard.
Also Charity had loved Jim before she met Cheever, and she made no
secret of being fond of him still. In their occasional quarrels,
Cheever had taunted her with wishing she had married Jim, and she
had retorted that she had indeed made a big mistake in her choice.
Lovers say such things--for lack of other weapons in such combats
as lovers inevitably wage, if only for exercise.
Charity did not really mean what she said, but at times Cheever
thought she did. He had warned her to keep away from Dyckman and
keep Dyckman away from her or there would be trouble. Cheever was
a powerful athlete and a boxer who made minor professionals look
ridiculous. Dyckman was bigger, but not so clever. A battle between
the two stags over the forlorn doe would be a horrible spectacle.
Charity was not the sort of woman that longs for such a conflict
of suitors. Just now she had seen too much of the fruits of male
combat. She was sick of hatred and its devastation.
So Charity begged Dyckman to get off at One Hundred and Twenty-fifth
Street, but he would not show himself so poltroon. He answered, "I'd
like to see myself!" meaning that he would not.
She retorted, "Then I'll get off there myself."
"Then I'll get off there with you," he grumbled.
Charity flounced back into her seat with a gasp of mitigated disgust.
The mitigation was the irresistible thrill of his devotion. She had
a husband who would desert her and a cavalier who would not. It was
difficult not to forgive the cavalier a little.
Yet it would have been better if he had obeyed her command or she
her impulse. Or would it have been? The worst might always have been
When Kedzie was angry she called her father an "old country Jake."
Even she did not know how rural he was or how he had oppressed
the sophisticated travelers in the smoking-room of the sleeping-car
with his cocksure criticisms of cities that he had never seen. He
had condemned New York with all the mercilessness of a small-town
superiority, and he had told funny stories that were as funny as
the moss-bearded cypresses in a lone bayou. While he was denouncing
New York as the home of ignorance and vice, the other men were having
sport with him--sport so cruel that only his own cruelty blinded
him to it.
When the porter summoned the passengers to pass under the whisk broom,
Adna remembered that he had not settled upon his headquarters in
New York, and he said to a man on whom he had inflicted a vile cigar:
"Say, I forgot to ask you. What's a good hotel in New York that ain't
too far from the railroad and don't rob you of your last nickel?
Or is they one?"
One of the smoking-room humorists mocked his accent and ventured
a crude jape.
"You can save the price of a hack-ride by going to Mrs. Biltmore's
new boarding-house. It's right across the road from the depot."
If Adna had been as keen as he thought he was, or if the porter
had not alarmed him just then by his affectionate interest, even
Adna would have noted the grins on the faces of the men.
But he broke the porter's heart by dodging the whisk broom and
hustling his excited family to their feet. They were permitted to
hale their own hand-baggage to the platform, where two red-capped
Kaffirs reached for it together. There was danger of an altercation,
but the bigger of the two frightened the smaller away by snapping
his shiny eyeballs alarmingly. The smaller one took a second look
at Adna and retreated with scorn, snickering:
"You kin have him."
The other, who was a good loser at craps or tips, re-examined his
clients, flickered his eyelids, and started down the platform to
have it over with as soon as possible. He paused to say:
"Where you-all want to go to--a taxicab?"
Adna, who was a little nervous about his property, answered with
"No, we don't need any hack to git to Biltmore's."
"Nossah!" said the red-cap.
"Right across the street, ain't it?"
"Yassah!" The porter chuckled. The mention of the family's destination
had cheered him a little. He might get a tip, after all. You couldn't
always sometimes tell by a man's clothes how he tipped.
While Kedzie stood watching the red-cap bestow the various parcels
under his arms and along his fingers, a man bumped into her and
She turned and said, "Huh?"
He did not look around. She did not see his face. It was the first
conversation between Jim Dyckman and Kedzie Thropp.
Charity Coe, when the train stopped, had flatly refused to walk up
the station platform with Jim Dyckman. She had not only virtue, but
St. Paul's idea of the importance of avoiding even the appearance
of evil. She would not budge from the car till Jim had gone. He
was forced to leave her at last.
He swung through the crowd in a fury, jostling and begging pardon
and staring over the heads of the pack to see if Cheever were at
the barrier. He jolted Kedzie Thropp among others, apologized,
and thought no more of her.
Cheever had not come to meet his wife. Her telegram was waiting
for him at his official home; he was at his other residence.
When Dyckman saw that no one was there to welcome the fagged-out
Charity, he paused and waited for her himself. When Charity
came along her anxious eyes found nobody she knew except Dyckman.
The disappointment she revealed hurt him profoundly. But he would
not be shaken off again. He turned in at her side and walked along,
and the two porters with their luggage walked side by side.
Prissy Atterbury was hurrying to a train that would take him for a
week-end visitation to people who hated him but needed him to cancel
a female bore with. As Prissy saw it and described it, Dyckman came
into the big waiting-room alone, looked about everywhere, paused,
turned back for Charity Coe; then walked away with her, followed by
their twinned porters. Prissy said "Aha!" behind his big mustaches
and stared till he nearly lost his train.
Atterbury had gained a new topic to carry with him, a topic of such
fertile resources that it went far to pay his board and lodging.
He made a snowball out of the clean reputations of Charity and Jim
and started it downhill, gathering dirt and momentum as it rolled.
It was bound to roll before long into the ken of Peter Cheever,
and he was not the man to tolerate any levity in a wife. Cheever
might be as wicked as Caesar, but his wife must be as Caesar's.
When Charity Coe was garrulous and inordinately gay, Jim Dyckman,
who had known her from childhood, knew that she was trying to rush
across the thin ice over some deep grief.
When he saw how hurt she was at not being met, and he insisted on
taking her home, she chattered and snickered hysterically at his
most stupid remarks. So he said:
"Don't let him break your heart in you, old girl."
She laughed uproariously, almost vulgarly, over that, and answered:
"Me? Let a man break my heart? That's very likely, isn't it?"
"Very!" Jim groaned.
When they reached her magnificent home it had a deserted look.
"Wait here a minute," said Charity when Jim got out to help her out.
She ran up the steps and rang the bell. There was a delay before
the second man in an improvised toilet opened the door to her and
expressed as much surprise as delight at seeing her. "Didn't Mr.
Cheever tell you I was coming home?" she gasped.
"We haven't seen him, ma'am. There's a telegram here for him, but
Charity was still in a frantic mood. She wanted to escape brooding,
at all costs. She ran back to where Jim waited at the motor door.
"Got any date to-night, Jim?" she demanded. He shook his head
dolefully, and she said: "Go home, jump into your dancing-shoes,
and come back for me. I'll throw on something light and you can
take me somewhere to dance. I'll go crazy mad, insane, if you
don't. I can't endure this empty house. You don't mind my making
a convenience of you, do you, Jim?"
"I love it, Charity Coe," he groaned. He reached for her hand, but
she was fleeting up the steps. He crept into the car and went to
his home, flung off his traveling-togs, passed through a hot tub
and a cold shower into evening clothes, and hastened away.
Charity kept him waiting hardly a moment. She floated down the stairs
in a something fleetily volatile, and he said:
"You look like a dandelion puff."
"That's right, tell me some nice things," she said. She did not tell
the servant where she was going. She did not know. She hardly cared.
To Kedzie Thropp the waiting-room of the Grand Central Terminal was
the terminus of human splendor. It was the waiting-room to heaven.
And indeed it is a majestic chamber.
The girl walked with her face high, staring at the loftily columned
recesses with the bay-trees set between the huge square pillars,
and above all the feigned blue sky and the monsters of the zodiac
in powdered gold.
Kedzie could hardly breathe--it was so beautiful, so much superior
to the plain every-night sky she was used to, with stars of tin
instead of gold like these.
Even her mother said "Well!" and Adna paid the architects the tribute
of an exclamation: "Humph! So this is the new station we was readin'
about. Some bigger'n ours at home, eh, Kedzie?"
But Kedzie was not there. They had lost her and had to turn back. She
was in a trance. When they snatched her down to earth again and pulled
her through the crowds she began to adore the people. They were
dressed in unbelievable splendor--millions, she guessed, in far better
than the best Sunday best she had ever seen. She wondered if she would
ever have nice clothes. She vowed that she would if she had to murder
somebody to get them.
The porter led the way from the vastitude of a corridor under
the street and through vast empty rooms and up a stairway and down
a few steps and through the first squirrel-cage door Kedzie had ever
seen (she had to run round it thrice before they could get her out)
into a sumptuousness beyond her dream.
At the foot of more stairs the porter let down his burdens, and a boy
in a general's uniform seized them. The porter said, mopping his brow
to emphasize his achievement:
"This is fur's I go."
"Oh, all right! Much obliged," said Adna. He just pretended to walk
away as a joke on the porter. When he saw the man's white stare
aggravated sufficiently, Adna smiled and handed him a dime.
The porter stared and turned away in bitter grief. Then his chuckle
returned as he went his way, telling himself: "And the bes' of it
was, I fit for him! I just had to git that man."
He told the little porter about it, and when the little porter, who
had been scared away from the Thropps and left to carry Charity Coe's
dainty hand-bags, showed the big porter what he had received, still
the big porter laughed. He knew how to live, that big porter.
Kedzie followed the little general up the steps and around to
the desk. Her father realized that his fellow-passenger had been
teasing him when he referred to this place as a boarding-house, but
he was not at all crushed by the magnificence he was encountering.
He felt that he was in for it--so he cocked his toothpick pluckily
and wrote on the loose-leaf register the room clerk handed him:
A. Thropp, wife and daughter, Nimrim, Mo.
The room clerk read the name as if it were that of a potentate whose
incognito he would respect, and murmured:
"About what accommodation would you want, Mr. Thropp?"
"Two rooms--one for the wife and m'self, one for the daughter."
"Yes, sir. And about how much would you want to pay?"
"How do they run?"
"We can give you two nice adjoining rooms for twelve dollars--up."
Mr. Thropp made a hasty calculation. Twelve dollars a week for board
and lodging was not so bad. He nodded.
The room clerk marked down a number and slid a key to the page,
who gathered the family treasures together. Kedzie had more or less
helplessly recognized the page's admiration of her when he first
took the things from the porter. The sense of her beauty had choked
the boy's amusement at her parents.
Later Kedzie caught the glance of the room clerk and saw that she
startled him and cheated him of his smile at Adna. Still later
the elevator-boy gave her one respectful look of approval. Kedzie's
New York stir was already beginning.
The page ushered the Thropps into the elevator, and said,
It was the number of the floor, not the room. Adna warned his women
folk that "she" was about to go up, but they were not prepared for
that swift vertical leap toward the clouds. Another floor, and
Mrs. Thropp would have screamed. The altitude affected her.
Then the thing stopped, and the boy led them down a corridor so long
that Adna said, "Looks like we'd be stranded a hundred miles from
The boy turned in at a door at last. He flashed on the lights, set
the bags on a bag-rack, hung up the coats, opened a window, adjusted
the shade, lighted the lights in Kedzie's room, opened her window,
adjusted the shade, and asked if there were anything else.
Adna knew what the little villain meant, but he knew what was
expected, and he said, sternly, "Ice-water."
"Right here, sir," said the boy, and indicated in the bathroom
a special faucet marked "Drinking Water."
This startled even Adna so much that it shook a dime out of him.
The boy sighed and went away. Kedzie surprised his eye as he left.
It plainly found no fault with her.
Here in seclusion Mrs. Thropp dared to exclaim at the wonders of
modern invention. Kedzie was enfranchised and began to jump and
squeal at the almost suffocating majesty. Adna took to himself
the credit for everything.
"Well, momma, here we are in New York at last. Here we are, daughter.
You got your wish."
Kedzie nearly broke his neck with her hug, and called him the best
father that ever was. And she meant it at the moment, for the moment.
Mrs. Thropp was already making herself at home, loosening her
waistband and her corset-laces.
Adna made himself at home, too--that is, he took off his coat and
collar and shoes. But Kedzie could not waste her time on comfort
while there was so much ecstasy to be had.
She went to the window, shoved the sash high, and--discovered
New York. She greeted it with an outcry of wonder. She called to
her mother and father to "Come here and looky!"
Her mother moaned, "I wouldn't come that far to look at
Adna yawned noisily and pulled out his watch. His very eyes yawned
at it, and he said: "'Levum o'clock. Good Lord! Git to bed quick!"
Kedzie was furious at ending the day so abruptly. She wanted to
go out for a walk, and they sent her to her room. She watched at
the window as she peeled off her coarse garments and put her soft
body into a rough nightgown as ill-cut and shapeless as she was
neither. She had been turned by a master's lathe.
She waited till she heard her father's well-known snore seesawing
through the panels. Then she went to the window again to gaze her
fill at the town. She fell in love with it and told it so. She vowed
that she would never leave it. She had not come to a strange city;
she had just reached home.
She leaned far out across the ledge to look down at the tremendously
inferior street. She nearly pitched head foremost and scrambled back,
but with a giggle of bliss at the excitement. She stared at the dark
buildings of various heights before her. There was something
awe-inspiring about them.
Across a space of roofs was the electric sign of an electric company,
partly hidden by buildings. All Kedzie could see of it was the huge
phrase LIGHT--HEAT--POWER. She thought that those three graces would
make an excellent motto.
She could see across and down into the well of the Grand Central
Terminal. On its front was some enormous winged figure facing down
the street. She did not know who it was or what street it was. She
did not know any of the streets by name, but she wanted to. She had
a passionate longing for streets.
Farther south or north, east or west, or whichever way it was,
was a tall building with glowing bulbs looped like the strings
of evergreen she had helped to drape the home church with at
Christmas-time. Here it was Christmas every day--all holidays
Down in the ravine a little in front of her she could read the sign
ATHENS HOTEL. She had heard of Athens. It was the capital of some
place in her geography. She who had so much of Grecian in her soul
was not quite sure of Athens!
In one of the opposite office buildings people were working late.
The curtains were drawn, but the casements were filled with light,
a honey-colored light. The buildings were like great honeycombs;
the dark windows were like the cells that had no honey in them.
Light and life were honey. Kedzie wondered what folks they were behind
those curtains--who they were, and what were they up to. She bet
it was something interesting. She wished she knew them. She wished
she knew a whole lot of city people. But she didn't know a soul.
It was all too glorious to believe. She was in New York! imparadised
in New York!
"Are you in bed?"
"Yes, momma." She tried to give her voice a faraway, sleepy sound,
for fear that her mother might open the door to be sure.
She crept into bed. The lights burned her weary eyes. She could not
reach them to put them out.
By the head of her bed was a little toy lamp. A chain hung from it.
She tugged at the chain--pouff! Out went the light. She tugged at
the chain. On went the light. A magical chain, that! It put the light
on and off, both. Kedzie could find no chains to pull the ceiling
lights out with. She let them burn.
Kedzie covered her head and yet could not sleep. She sat up quickly.
Was that music she heard? Somebody was giving a party, maybe.
She got up and out again and ran barefoot to the hall door, opened
it an inch, and peeked through. She saw a man and two ladies swishing
along the hall to the elevator. They were not sleepy at all, and
the ladies were dressed--whew! skirts short and no sleeves whatever.
They really were going to a party.
Kedzie closed the door and drooped back to bed--an awful place to go
when all the rest of the world was just starting out to parties.
She flopped and gasped in her bed like a fish ashore. Then a gorgeous
whim came to her. She would dive into her element. Light and fun were
her element. She came out of bed like a watch-spring leaping from
a case. She tiptoed to the parental door--heard nothing but the rumor
She began to dress. She put on her extra-good dress.
She had brought it along in the big valise in case of an accident
to the every-day dress. When she had squirmed through the ordeal
of hooking it up, she realized that its skirts were too long for
decency. She pinned them up at the hem.
The gown had a village low-neck--that is, it was a trifle V'd at
the throat. Kedzie tried to copy the corsage of the women who passed
in the hall. She withdrew from the sleeves, and gathering the waist
together under her arms, fastened it as best she could. The revelation
was terrifying. All of her chest and shoulders and shoulderblades
She dared hardly look at herself. Yet she could not possibly deny
the fearful charm of those contours. She put her clothes on again
and prinked as much as she could. Then she sallied forth, opening
and closing the door with pious care. She went to the elevator, and
the car began to drop. The elevator-boy politely lowered it without
plunge or jolt.
Kedzie followed the sound of the music. The lobbies were thronged
with brilliant crowds flocking from theaters for supper and a dance.
Kedzie made her way to the edge of the supper-room. The floor, like
a pool surrounded by chairs and tables, was alive with couples dancing
contentedly. Every woman was in evening dress and so was every man.
The splendor of the costumes made her blink. The shabbiness of her
own made her blush.
She blushed because her own dress was indecent and immoral. It was
indecent and immoral because it was unlike that of the majority.
In this parish, conventionality, which is the one true synonym for
morality, called for bare shoulders and arms unsleeved. Kedzie was
conspicuous, which is a perfect synonym for immoral. If she had
fallen through the ceiling out of a bathtub she could not have felt
more in need of a hiding-place. She shrank into a corner and sought
cover and concealment, for she was afraid to go back to the elevator
through the ceaseless inflow of the décolletées.
She throbbed to the music of the big band; her feet burned to dance;
her waist ached for the sash of a manly arm. She knew that she could
dance better than some of those stodgy old men and block-bodied old
women. But she had no clothes on--for dancing.
But there was one woman whom Kedzie felt she could not surpass,
a dazzling woman with a recklessly graceful young man. The young man
took the woman from a table almost over Kedzie's head. They left at
the table a man in evening dress who smoked a big cigar and seemed
not to be jealous of the two dancers.
Some one among the spectators about Kedzie said that the woman was
Zada L'Etoile, and her partner was Haviland Devoe. Zada was amazing
in her postures and gyrations, but Kedzie thought that she herself
could have danced as well if she had had that music, that costume,
that partner, and a little practice.
When Zada had completed her calisthenics she did not sit down with
Mr. Devoe, but went back to the table where the lone smoker sat. Now
that she looked at him again, Kedzie thought what an extraordinarily
handsome, gloriously wicked-looking, swell-looking man he was. Yet
the girl who had danced called him Peterkin--which didn't sound
very swell to Kedzie.
He had very little to say to Zada, who did most of the talking.
He smiled at her now and then behind his cigar and gave her a queer
look that Kedzie only vaguely understood. She thought little of him,
though, because the next dance began, and she had a whole riot
of costumes to study.
There was a constant movement of new-comers past Kedzie's nook.
Sometimes people halted to look the crowd over before they went
up the steps, and asked two handsome gentlemen in full-dress suits
if they could have a table. The gentlemen--managers, probably, who
got up the party--usually said no. Sometimes they looked at papers
in their hands and marked off something, and then the people got
By and by two men and an elderly woman dressed like a very youngerly
woman paused near Kedzie. Both of the men were tall, but the one
called Jim was so tall he could see over the rail, or over the moon,
for all Kedzie knew.
The elderly lady said, "Come along, boys; we're missing a love of
The less tall of the men said: "Now, mother, restrain yourself.
Remember I've had a hard day and I'm only a young feller. How
about you, Jim?"
"I'll eat something, but I'm not dancing, if you'll pardon me,
Mrs. Duane," said Jim. "And I'm waiting for Charity Coe. She's
in the cloak-room."
"Oh, come along," said Mrs. Duane. "I've got a table and I don't
want to lose it."
She started away, and her son started to follow, but paused as
the other man caught his sleeve and growled:
"I say, isn't that Pete Cheever--there, right there by the rail?
Yes, it is--and with--!"
Then Tom gave a start and said: "Ssh! Here's Charity Coe."
Both men looked confused; then they brightened and greeted a new
batch of drifters, and there was a babble of:
"Why, hello! How are you, Tom! How goes it, Jim? What's the good
word, Mary? What you doing here, Charity, and all in black? Oh,
I have to get out or go mad."
Kedzie, eavesdropping on the chatter, wondered at the commonplace
names and the small-town conversation. With such costumes she
must have expected at least blank verse.
She was interested to see what the stern sentinels would do to
this knot of Toms, Jims, and Marys. She peeked around the corner,
and to her surprise saw them greeted with great cordiality. They
smiled and chatted with the sentinels and were passed through
the silken barrier.
Other people paused and passed in or were rejected. Kedzie watched
Mr. Cheever with new interest, but not much understanding. He had
next to nothing to say. After a time she overheard Zada say to him,
raising her voice to top the noise of the band: "Say, Peterkin,
see that great big lad over there, the human lighthouse by the sea?
Peterkin, you can't miss him--he's just standing up--yes--isn't
that Jim Dyckman? Is he really so rich as they say?"
"He's rotten rich!" said Peterkin.
Then Zada said something and pointed. She seemed to be excited, but
not half so excited as Peter was. His face was all shot up with red,
and he looked as if he had eaten something that didn't sit easy.
Then he looked as if he wanted to fight somebody. He began to chew
on his words.
Kedzie caught only a few phrases in the holes in the noisy music.
"When did she get back? And she's here with him? I'll kill him--"
Kedzie stood on tiptoe, primevally trying to lift her ears higher
still to hear what followed. She saw Zada putting her hand on
Peter's sleeve, and she heard Zada say:
"Don't start anything here. Remember I got a reputation to lose,
if you haven't."
This had the oddest effect on Peter. He stared at Zada, and his anger
ran out of his face just as the water ran out of the silver washbowl
in the sleeping-car. Then he began to laugh softly, but as if he
wanted to laugh right out loud. He put his napkin up and laughed
And then the anger he had lost ran up into Zada's face, and she
looked at Peter as if she wanted to kill him.
Now it was Peter who put his hand on her arm and patted it and said,
"I didn't mean anything."
Mean what? Kedzie wondered. But she had no chance to find out, for
Peter rose from the table and, dodging around the dancing couples,
made his escape. He reappeared in the very nook where Kedzie watched,
and called up to Zada:
"Did they see me?"
Zada shook her head. Peter threw her a kiss. She threw him a shrug
of contempt. Peter went away laughing. Kedzie waited a few minutes
and saw that Mr. Devoe had come to sit with Zada.
After a moment the music was resumed, and Zada rose to dance again
with Mr. Devoe--a curious sort of dance, in which she lifted her feet
high and placed them carefully, as if she were walking on a floor
covered with eggs and didn't want to break any.
But Kedzie's eyes were filling with sand. They had gazed too long
at brilliance. She dashed back to the elevator and to her room.
She was exhausted, and she pulled off her clothes and let them lie
where they fell. She slid her weary frame between the sheets and
* * * * *
Charity Coe danced till all hours with Jim, with Tom Duane and
other men, and no one could have fancied that she had ever known
or cared what horrors filled the war hospitals across the sea.
She was frantic enough to accept a luncheon engagement with Jim and
his mother for the next day. She telephoned him in the morning: "Your
angel of a mother will forgive me when you tell her I'm lunching
down-town with my husband. The poor boy was detained at his office
last night and didn't get my telegram till he got home. When he
learned that I had come in and gone out again he was furious with
himself and me. I hadn't left word where I was, so he couldn't come
running after me. He waited at home and gave me a love of a call-down
for my dissipation. It was a treat. I really think he was jealous."
Jim Dyckman did not laugh with her. He was thinking hard. He had seen
Cheever at the Biltmore, and a little later Cheever vanished. Cheever
must have seen Charity Coe then. And if he saw her, he saw him. Then
why had he kept silent? Dyckman had a chilling intuition that Cheever
was lying in ambush for him.
Again he was wrung with the impulse to tell Charity Coe the truth
about her husband. Again some dubious decency withheld him.
The word "breakfast" was magic stimulant to the Thropps. Kedzie put
on her clothes, and the family went down to the elevator together.
They found their way to the Tudor Room, where a small number of men,
mostly barricaded behind newspapers, ate briskly. A captain showed
the Thropps to a table; three waiters pulled out their chairs and
pushed them in under them. Another laid large pasteboards before
them. Another planted ice-water and butter and salt and pepper
here and there.
Adna had traveled enough to know that the way to order a meal in
a hotel is to give the waiter a wise look and say, "Bring me the
best you got."
This waiter looked a little surprised, but he said, "Yes, sir. Do
you like fruit and eggs and rolls, maybe?"
"Nah," said Adna. "Breakfast's my best meal. Bring us suthin' hearty
and plenty of it. I like a nice piece of steak and fried potatoes
and some griddle-cakes and maple-surrup, and if you got any nice
sawsitch--and the wife usually likes some oatmeal, and she takes tea
and toast, but bring me some hot bread. And the girl--What you want,
Kedzie? The same's I'm takin'? All right. Oh, some grape-fruit, eh?
She wants grape-fruit. Got any good? All right. I guess I'll take
some grape-fruit, too; and let me see--I guess that'll do to start
on--Wait! What's that those folks are eatin' over there? Looks good
--spring chicken--humm! I guess you'd like that better'n steak, ma?
Yes. She'd rather have the chicken. All right, George, you hustle us
in a nice meal and I'll make it all right with you. You understand."
Adna called all waiters "George." It saved their feelings, he
The waiter bowed and retired. Adna spoke to his family:
"Since we pay the same, anyway, might's well have the best they got."
The waiter gave the three a meal fitter for the ancient days when
kings had dinner at nine in the morning than for these degenerate
times when breakfast hardly lives up to its name.
The waiter and his cronies stood at a safe distance and watched
the Thropps surround that banquet. They wondered where the old man
got money enough to buy such breakfasts and why he didn't spend some
of it on clothes.
The favorite theory was that he was a farmer on whose acres somebody
had discovered oil or gold and bought him out for a million.
Mr. Thropp's proper waiter hoped that he would be as extravagant
with his tip as he was with his order. He feared not. His waiterly
intuition told him the old man put in with more enthusiasm than he
At last the meal was over. The Thropps were groaning. They had not
quite absorbed the feast, but they had wrecked it utterly. Mr. Thropp
found only one omission in the perfect service. The toothpicks had to
be asked for. All three Thropps wanted them.
While Thropp was fishing in his pocket for a quarter, and finding
only half a dollar which he did not want to reveal, the waiter
placed before him a closely written manuscript, face down, with
a lead-pencil on top of it.
"What's this?" said Thropp.
"Will you please to sign your name and room number, sir?" the waiter
"Oh, I see," said Thropp, and explained to his little flock. "You see,
they got to keep tabs on the regular boarders."
Then he turned the face of the bill to the light. His pencil could
hardly find a place to put his name in the long catalogue. He noted
a sum scrawled in red ink: "$11.75."
"Wha-what's this?" he said, faintly.
The surprised waiter explained with all suavity: "The price of
the breakfast. If it is not added correctlee--"
Thropp added it with accurate, but tremulous, pencil. The total
was correct, if the items were. He explained:
"But I'm a regular--er--roomer here. I pay by the week."
"Yes, sir--if you will sign, it will be all right."
"But that don't mean they're going to charge me for breakfast? 'Levum
dollars and seventy-five cents for--for breakfast?--for a small family
like mine is? Well, I'd like to see 'em! What do they think I am!"
The waiter maintained his courtesy, but Adna was infuriated. He
put down no tip at all. He lifted his family from the table with
a yank of the eyes and snapped at the waiter:
"I'll soon find out who's tryin' to stick me.--you or the
The old man stalked out, followed by his fat ewe and their ewe lamb.
Adna's very toothpick was like a small bayonet.
His wife and daughter hung back to avoid being spattered with the gore
of the unfortunate hotel clerk. The morning trains were unloading
their mobs, and it was difficult to reach the desk at all.
When finally Adna got to the bar he had lost some of his running
start. With somewhat weakly anger he said to the first clerk
"Looky here! I registered here last night, and another young feller
was here said the two rooms would be twelve dollars."
"Well, they sent me up to roost on a cloud, but I didn't kick. Now
they're tryin' to charge me for meals extry. Don't that twelve dollars
"Oh no, sir. The hotel is on the European plan."
Adna took the shock bravely but bitterly: "Well, all I got to say is
the Europeans got mighty poor plans. I kind of suspicioned there was
a ketch in it somewheres. After this we'll eat outside, and at the
end of the week we'll take our custom somewheres else. Maybe there
was a joke in that twelve dollars a week for the rooms, too."
"Twelve dollars a week! Oh no, sir; the charge is by the day."
Adna's knees seemed to turn to sand and run down into his shoes.
He supported himself on his elbows.
"Twelve dollars a day--for those two rooms on the top of the moon?"
"Yes, sir; that's the rate, sir."
Adna was going rapidly. He chattered, "Ain't there no police in
this town at tall?"
"Well, I've heard they're the wust robbers of all. We'll see
about this." He went back to his women folk and mumbled, "Come on
They followed, Mrs. Thropp murmuring to Kedzie: "Looks like poppa
was goin' to be sick. I'm afraid he et too much of that rich food."
The elevator flashed them to their empyrean floor. Adna did not
speak till they were in their room and he had lowered himself feebly
into a chair. He spoke thickly:
"Do you know what that Judas Iscariot down there is doin' to us?
Chargin' us twelve dollars a day for these two cubby-holes--a day!
Twelve dollars a day! Eighty-four dollars a week! And that breakfast
was 'levum dollars and seventy-five cents! If I'd gave the waiter
the quarter I was goin' to, it would have made an even dozen dollars!
for breakfast! I don't suppose anybody would ever dast order a dinner
here. Why, they'd skin a millionaire and pick his bones in a week.
We'd better get out before they slap a mortgage on my house."
"Well, I just wouldn't pay it," said Mrs. Thropp. "I'd see the police
about such goings-on."
"The police!" groaned Thropp. "They're in cahoots with the burglars
here. This hull town is a den of thieves. I've always heard it, and
now I know it."
He was ashamed of himself for being taken in so. He began to throw
into the valises the duds that had been removed.
Throughout the panic Kedzie had stood about in a kind of stupor.
When her father tapped her on the shoulder and repeated his
"C'm'on!" she turned to him eyes all tears glistening like bubbles,
and she whimpered:
"Oh, daddy, the view! The nice things!"
Adna snapped: "View? Our next view will be the poorhouse if we don't
hustle our stumps. We got to get out of here and find the cheapest
place they is in town to live or go back home on the next train."
Kedzie began to cry, to cry as she had cried when she wept in
her cradle because candy had been taken from her, or a box of
carpet-tacks, or the scissors that she had somehow got hold of.
Adna dropped his valises with a thud. He began to upbraid her.
He had endured too much. He had still his bill to pay. He told her
that she was a good-for-nothin' nuisance and he wished he had left
her home. He'd never take her anywheres again, you bet. Kedzie
lost her reason entirely. She was shattered with spasms of grief
aggravated by her mother's ferocity and her father's. She could not
give up this splendor. She would not go to a cheap place to live.
She would never go back home. She would rather die.
Her mother boxed her ears and shook her and scolded with all her
vim. But Kedzie only shook out more sobs till they wondered what
the people next door would think. Adna was wan with wrath. Kedzie
was afraid of her father's look. She had a kind of lockjaw of grief
such as children suffer and suffer for.
All she would answer to her father's threats was: "I won't! I won't!
I tell you I won't!"
Her cheeks were blubbered, her nose red, her mouth swollen, her hair
wet and stringy. She gulped and swallowed and beat her hands together
and stamped her feet.
Adna glared at her in hatred equal to her own for him. He said to
his wife: "Ma, we got to go back to first principles with that girl.
You got to give her a good beatin'."
Mrs. Thropp had the will but not the power. She was palsied with
rage. "I can't," she faltered.
"Then I will!" said Adna, and he roared with ferocity, "Come here
to me, you!"
He put out his hand like a claw, and Kedzie retreated from him. She
stopped sobbing. She had never been so frightened. She felt a new
kind of fright, the fright of a nun at seeing an altar threatened
with desecration. She had not been whipped for years. She had grown
past that. Surely her body was sacred from such infamy now.
"Come here to me, I tell you!" Adna snarled, as he pursued her
slowly around the chairs.
"You better not whip me, poppa," Kedzie mumbled. "You better not
touch me, I tell you. You'll be sorry if you do! You better not!"
"Come here to me!" said Adna.
"Momma, momma, don't let him!" Kedzie whispered as she ran to her
mother and flung herself in her arms for refuge.
Mrs. Thropp then lost a great opportunity forever. She tore the
girl's hands away and handed her over to her father. And he, with
ugly fury and ugly gesture, seized the young woman who had been
his child and dragged her to him and sank into a chair and wrenched
and twisted her arms till he held her prone across his knees. Then
he spanked her with the flat of his hand.
Kedzie made one little outcry; then there was no sound but the thump
of the blows. Adna sickened soon of his task, and Kedzie's silence
and non-resistance robbed him of excuse. He growled:
"I guess that'll learn you who's boss round here."
He thrust her from his knees, and she rolled off to the floor and
lay still. She had not really swooned, but her soul had felt the
need of withdrawing into itself to ponder this awful sacrilege.
Her mother knew that she had not fainted. She was sick, too, and
blamed Kedzie for the scene. She spurned the girl with her foot
"You get right up off that floor this minute. Do you hear?"
Kedzie's soul came back. It had made its decision. It gathered
her body together and lifted it up to its knees and then erect,
while the lips said, "All right, momma."
She groped her way into the bathroom and washed her face, and
straightened her hair and came forth, a dazed and pallid thing.
She took up the valise her father gave her and followed her mother
out, pausing to pass her eyes about the beautiful room and the
window where the peaks of splendor were. Then she walked out,
and her father locked the door.
Kedzie saw that the elevator-boy saw that she had been crying, but
what was one shame extra? She had no pride left now, and no father
and no mother, no anybody.
Adna refused the offices of the pages who clutched at the baggage.
He went to the cashier and paid the blood-money with a grin of hate.
Then he gathered up his women and his other baggage and set out
for the station. He would leave all the baggage there while he
hunted a place to stop.
They could not find the tunnelway, but debouched on the street.
Crossing Vanderbilt Avenue was a problem for village folk heavy
laden. The taxicabs were hooting and scurrying.
Adna found himself in the middle of the street, entirely surrounded
by demoniac motors. His wife wanted to lie down there and die. Adna
dared neither to go nor to stay. Suddenly a chauffeur of an empty
limousine, fearing to lose a chance to swear at a taxi-driver,
kept his head turned to the left and steered straight for the spot
where the Thropps awaited their doom.
Adna had his wife pendent from one arm and a valise or two from
the other. Kedzie carried a third valise. Her better than normal
shoulders were sagged out of line by its weight.
When Adna saw the motor coming he had to choose between dropping
his valise or his wife. Characteristically, he saved his valise.
In spite of his wife's squawking and tugging on his left arm, he
achieved safety under the portico of the Grand Central Terminal.
He looked about for Kedzie. She was not to be seen. Adna saw the
taxicab pass over the valise she had carried. It left no trace of
Kedzie. Her annihilation was uncanny. He gaped.
"Where's Kedzie?" Mrs. Thropp screamed.
A policeman checked the traffic with uplifted hand. Adna ran to him.
Mrs. Thropp told him what had happened.
"I saw the goil drop the bag and beat it for the walk," said
"Which way'd she go?"
"She lost herself in the crowd," said the officer.
"She was scared out of her wits," Mrs. Thropp sobbed.
The officer shook his head. "She was smilin' when I yelled at her.
It looks to me like a get-away."
"A runaway?" Mrs. Thropp gasped.
"Yes,'m. I'd have went after her, but I was cut off by a taxi."
The two old Thropps stood staring at each other and the unfathomable
New York, while the impatient chauffeurs squawked their horns in
angry protest, and train-missers with important errands thrust
their heads out of cab windows.
The officer led his bewildered charges to the sidewalk, motioned
the traffic to proceed, and beckoned to a patrolman. "Tell your
troubles to him," he said, and went back into his private maelstrom.
The patrolman heard the Thropp story and tried to keep the crowd away.
He patted Mrs. Thropp's back and said they'd find the kid easy, not
to distoib herself. He told the father which station-house to go to
and advised him to have the "skipper" send out a "general."
Thropp wondered what language he spoke, but he went; and a
soft-hearted walrus in uniform sprawling across a lofty desk
took down names and notes and minute descriptions of Kedzie and
her costume. He told the two babes in the wood that such t'ings
happened constant, and the goil would toin up in no time. He sent
out a general alarm.
Mrs. Thropp told him the whole story, putting all the blame on
her husband with such enthusiasm that the sympathy of everybody
went out to him. Everybody included a number of reporters who
asked Mrs. Thropp questions and particularly desired a photograph
Mrs. Thropp confessed that she had not brought any along. She
had never dreamed that the girl would run away. If she had have,
she wouldn't have brought the girl along, to say nothing of
The amiable walrus in the cap and brass buttons recommended the
Thropps to a boarding-house whose prices were commensurate with
Adna's ideas and means, and he and his wife went thither, where
they told a shabby and sentimental landlady all their troubles.
She reassured them as best she could, and made a cup of tea for
Mrs. Thropp and told Mr. Thropp there was a young fellow lived in
the house who was working for a private detective bureau. He'd
find the kid sure, for it was a small woild, after all.
There was a lull in the European-war news the next day--only a few
hundreds killed in an interchange of trenches. There was a dearth
of big local news also. So the morning papers all gave Kedzie Thropp
the hospitality of their head-lines. The illustrated journals
published what they said was her photograph. No two of the
photographs were alike, but they were all pretty.
The copy-writers loved the details of the event. They gave the
dialogue of the Thropps in many versions, all emphasizing what
is known as "the human note."
Every one of them gave due emphasis to the historic fact that Kedzie
Thropp had been spanked.
The boarding-house was shaken from attic to basement by the news.
The Thropps read the papers. They were astounded and enraged at
gaining publicity for such a deed. They visited the walrus in his den.
But there was no word of Kedzie Thropp. The sea of people had opened
and swallowed the little girl. Her mother wondered where she had
slept and if she were hungry and into whose hands she had fallen.
But there was no answer from anywhere.
People who call a child in from All Outdoors and make it their infant
owe it to their victim to be rich, brilliant, and generous. Kedzie
Thropp's parents were poor, stupid, and stingy.
They were respectable enough, but not respectful at all. Children
have more dignity than anybody else, because they have not lived
long enough to have their natal dignity knocked out of them.
Kedzie's parents ought to have respected hers, but they subjected her
to odious humiliation. When her father threatened to spank her--and
did--and when her mother aided and abetted him, they forfeited all
claim to her tolerance. The inspiration to run away was forced on
Kedzie, though she would have said that her parents ran away from
Kedzie had preferred her own life to the security of her valise.
She dropped the bag without hesitation. When the taxicab parted her
family in the middle, Kedzie ran to the opposite sidewalk. She saw
a policeman dashing into the thick of the motors. Her eye caught his.
He beckoned to her that he would ferry her across the torrent. He
was a nice-looking man, but she shook her head at him. She smiled,
however, and hastened away.
Freedom had been forced on her. Why should she relinquish the boon?
She lost herself in the crowd. She had no purpose or destination,
for the whole city was a mystery to her. Soon she noted that part of
the human stream flowed down into the yawning maw of a Subway kiosk
as the water ran out of the bath-tub in the hotel. She floated down
the steps and found herself in a big subterrene room with walls tiled
like those of the hotel bathroom. Everybody was buying tickets from
a man in a funny little cage.
Kedzie had a hand-bag slung at her wrist. In it was some small money.
She fished out a nickel and slid it across the glass sill as the