Part 10 out of 12
As a trained mathematician can do amazing sums in his head, so Kedzie
could juggle modes and combinations, colors and stuffs, and wrap
hem about herself. While Kedzie composed her new gown, her husband
studied her, still wondering at her and his inability to get past
the barriers of her flesh to her soul. Charity's flesh seemed but
the expression of herself. It was cordial and benevolent, warm and
expressive in his eyes. Her hands were for handclasp, her lips for
good words, her eyes for honest language. He had not embraced her
except in dances years before, and in that one quickly broken embrace
at Newport. He had not kissed her since they had been boy and girl
lovers, but the savor of her lips was still sweet in his memory. He
felt that he knew her soul utterly.
He had possessed all the advantages of Kedzie without seeming to get
acquainted with the ultimate interior Kedzie at all. She was to him
well-known flesh inhabited by a total stranger, who fled from him
mysteriously. When she embraced him she held him aloof. When she
kissed him her lips pressed him back. He could not outgrow the
feeling that their life together was rather a reckless flirtation
than a communion of merged souls.
He stared at her now and saw dark eyebrows and eyelashes etched
on a white skin, starred with irises of strange hue, a nose deftly
shaped, a mouth as pretty and as impersonal as a flower, a throat
of some ineffably exquisite petal material. She sat with one knee
lifted a little and clasped in her hands, and there was something
miraculous about the felicity of the lines, the arms penciled
downward from the shoulders and meeting in the delicately contoured
buckle of her ten fingers, the thigh springing in a suave arc from
the confluent planes of her torse, the straight shin to the curve
of instep and toe and heel. Her hair was an altogether incredible
extravagance of manufacture.
George Meredith has described a woman's hair once for all, and
if Jim had ever read anything so important as _The Egoist_
he would have said that Kedzie's poll was illustrated in that
wonderfully coiffed hair-like sentence picturing Clara Middleton
and "the softly dusky nape of her neck, where this way and that
the little lighter-colored irreclaimable curls running truant from
the comb and the knot-curls, half-curls, root-curls, vine-ringlets,
wedding-rings, fledgling feathers, tufts of down, blown wisps--waved
or fell, waved over or up to involutedly, or strayed, loose and
downward, in the form of small silken paws, hardly any of them much
thicker than a crayon shading, cunninger than long, round locks of
gold to trick the heart."
Kedzie's hair was as fascinating as that, and she had many graces
and charms. For a while they had proved fascinating, but a man does
not want to have a cartoon, however complexly beautiful, for a wife.
Jim wanted a congenial companion--that is to say, he wanted Charity
But he could not have her. If he had been one of the patriarchs or
a virtuous man of Mohammedan stock he could have tried, by marrying
a female quartet, to make up one good, all-round wife. But he was
doomed to a single try, and he had picked the wrong one.
What is a man to do who realizes that he has married the wrong
The agonies of the woman who has been married to the wrong man have
been celebrated innumerably and vats of tears spilled over them. She
used to be consigned to a husband by parental choice and compulsion.
Those days are part of the good old times.
For a man there never has been any sympathy, since he has not usually
been the victim of parental despotism in the matter of selecting
a spouse, or, when he has been, he has had certain privileges of
excursion. The excursion is still a popular form of mitigating the
severities of an unsuccessful marriage. Some commit murder, some
commit suicide, some commit other things. Marriage is the one field
in which instinct is least trustworthy and it is the one field in
which it is accounted immoral to repent errors of judgments or to
The law has found it well to concede a good deal to the criminals.
After centuries of vain cruelty it was found that certain people
simply could not be made good by any rigor of confinement or any
heaping up of punishment. So the law has come down to the criminal
with results no worse at the worst than before, and sublimely better
at the best than before. The civil law is doing the same slowly for
But Jim Dyckman was not even dreaming of seeking a rescue from
his mistake by way of a divorce.
Charity had entered the divorce court and she would always bear
the reproach of some of her most valued friends. She could not
imaginably encourage Jim Dyckman to free himself by the same
channel, and if he did, how could Charity marry him? The marriage
of two divorced persons would provoke a tempest of horror from part
of the world, and gales of ridicule from the rest. Besides, there
was no sign that Kedzie would ever give Jim cause for divorce, or
that he would make use of it if she gave it him.
Charity could not help pondering the situation, for she saw that Jim
was hopelessly mismated. Jim could not help pondering the situation,
for he saw the same thing. But he made no plans for release. Kedzie
had given no hint of an inclination to misconduct. She was certainly
not going to follow Gilfoyle into the beyond. Jim was left helpless
with an unanswerable riddle on his mind.
He could only curse himself for being fool enough to get married,
and join the vast club of the Repenters at Leisure. He felt sorrier
for Kedzie than ever, but he also felt sorry for himself.
The better he came to know his wife the more he came to know how
alien she was to him in how many ways. The things she wanted to be
or seem were utterly foreign to his own ideals, and if people's
ambitions war what hope have they of sympathy?
Jim could not help noticing how Kedzie was progressing in her
snobology. She had had many languages to learn in her brief day. She
had had to change from Missouri to flat New York, then upward through
various strata of diction. She had learned to speak with a certain
elegance as a movie princess. But she had learned that people of
social position do not talk on stilts outside of fiction. She had
since been trying to acquire the rough slang of her set. It was not
easy to be glib in it. She had attained only a careful carelessness
as yet. But she was learning! As soon as she had attained a careless
carelessness she would be qualified.
But there was another difficulty. She had not yet been able to make
up her mind as to what character she should play in her new world.
That had to be settled before she could make her final choice
of dialect, for dialect is character, and she had found, to her
surprise, that the upper world contained as great a variety of
characters as any other level.
There were tomboys and hoydens and solemn students; hard-working
sculptresses and dreamy poetesses; girls who wanted to be boys, and
girls who wanted to be nuns; girls who were frantic to vote, and
girls who loathed the thought of independence; girls who ached to
shock people, and girls of the prunes-and-prismatic type, patricians
and precisians, anarchists and Bohemians.
She encountered girls who talked appallingly about breeding dogs and
babies, about Freudian erotics, and new schools of art, Futurism,
Vorticism. Their main interest was Ismism. There were others whose
intellectuality ran to new card-mathematics in pirate bridge,
Kedzie was in a chaos of sincere convictions and even more sincere
affectations. She could not select an attitude for herself. She could
not recapture her own soul or decide what she wanted to be.
Her life was busy. She had to learn French and numberless intricacies
of fashionable ethics. She had already learned to ride a horse for
her moving-picture work, but Jim warned her that she must learn to
jump so that she could follow the hounds with him. She watched pupils
in hurdling and dreaded to add that to her accomplishments. It made
her seasick to witness the race to the barrier, the gathering of the
horse, the launch into space, the clatter of the top bar as it came
off sometimes, the grunting thud of the big brute as he returned to
earth and galloped away, not always with the rider still aboard. She
imagined herself skirled along the tan-bark and was afraid.
She had to summon all the courage of her movie days before she
could intrust herself to a riding-master. Soon she grew to like
the excitement; she learned to charge a fence, hand the horse his
head at the right moment, and take him up at the exact second. And
by and by she was laughing at other beginners and talking horsy talk
with such assurance that she rather gave the impression of tracing
straight back to the Centaur family.
Likewise now she watched other new-comers and rank outsiders break
into the sacred inclosure. She mocked them and derided them. She
regretted aloud the unfortunate marriages of well-born fellows with
actresses and commoners from beyond the pale. Among the first French
words she learned to use was _mésalliance_.
She began to wonder if she had not made one herself. She found
inside the paddock so many men more brilliant than her husband.
There were as many types of man as of woman--the earnest, the
ascetic, the socialistic, the pious youth, wastrels, rakes, fops.
There were richer men than Jim and men of still older family, men
of even greater wealth.
She had been married only a few weeks and she was already
speculating in comparisons! It was a more or less inescapable
result of a marriage for ambition, since each ambition achieved
opens a horizon of further ambitions.
She had a brief spell of delight in the rehearsals of the "Day of
the Bud." She met new people informally and they were all so shy
and self-conscious that they were not inclined to resent Kedzie's
intrusion. Kedzie would once have ridiculed them as "amachoors";
now she wished that she, too, were only an "amaturr" instead of
a reformed professional.
If some of the ladies snubbed her she found others that cultivated
her; a few of the humbler women even toadied to her position; a few
of the men snuggled up to her picturesque beauty. She snubbed them
with vigor. She hated them and felt smirched by their challenges.
That was splendid of her.
She was beginning to find herself and her party, but outside the
circle of Jim's immediate entourage. And Jim was beginning to find
himself a new ambition and a new circle of friends.
Jim was becoming quite the military man. His new passion took him
away from womankind, saved him from temptation, and freed his
thoughts from the obsession of either Kedzie or Charity. The whole
nation was turning again toward soldiering, drifting slowly and
resistingly, but helplessly, into the very things it had long
denounced as Prussianism and conscription. A universal mobilization
was brewing that should one day compel all men and all women, even
little boys and girls and the very old, to become part of a giant
machinery for warfare.
England, too, had railed at conscription, and when the war smote her
had seen her little army of a quarter of a million almost annihilated
under the first avalanche of the German descent toward Paris. England
had gathered volunteers and trained them behind the bulwark of her
navy and the red wall of the bleeding French nation. And England had
given up volunteering and gone into the business of making everybody,
without distinction of sex, age, or degree, contribute life and
liberty and luxury to the common cause.
Behind the bulwark of the British fleet and the Allied armies
the United States had debated, not for weeks or months, but for
years with academic sloth the enlargement of its tiny army. It had
accomplished only the debate, a ludicrous haggle between those who
turned their backs on the world war and said that war was impossible
and those who declared that it was inevitable.
Some Americans asserted that it was none of America's business what
happened in Europe or how many American citizens died on the free
seas, and that the one way to bring war into our country was to be
prepared for it. Other Americans grew angry enough to forswear their
allegiance to a nation of poltroons and dotards; they went to France
or Canada to fight or fly for the Allies. Many of them died. Yet
others tried to equip themselves at home somewhat to meet the red
flood when it should break the dam and sweep across the American
Of these last was Jim Dyckman. Since he had joined the National
Guard he gave it more and more of his enthusiasm. Unhappily married
men have always fled to the barracks or the deck as ill-mated women
fled to convents.
Night after night Jim spent at the armory, drilling with his company,
conferring at headquarters, laboring for recruits, toiling over the
Kedzie pouted awhile at his patriotism, ridiculed it and hated it,
and then accepted it as a matter of course. She could either stay
at home and read herself to sleep or join the crowds. The rehearsals
of the "Day of the Bud" gave her some business, and she picked up
a few new friends. She made her appearance with the company in a
three-nights' performance that netted several thousands of dollars.
Jim saw her once. She was gorgeous, a little too gorgeous. She did
not belong. She felt it herself, and overworked her carelessness.
Her non-success hurt her bitterly. People did not say of her, as
in the movies, "How sweet!" but, "Rather common!"
And now Kedzie was bewildered and lost. She found no comfort in
Jim. She had to seek companionship somewhere. At first she made her
engagements only on Jim's drill nights. Soon she made them on nights
when he was free.
When they met, each found the other's experiences of no importance.
Her indifference to the portentous meanings and campaigns of the
European war dazed him. He wondered how any human being could live
in such epochal weeks and take no thought of events. She was not
interested even in the accounts of the marvelous sufferings of women
and their marvelous achievements in the munition-plants, the fields,
and hospitals. He watched Kedzie skip the head-lines detailing some
sublime feat of endeavor like the defense of Verdun and turn to
the page where her name was included or not among the guests at
a dinner well advertised by the hostess. She would skip the pages of
photographs showing forth the daily epics of Europe and ponder the
illustrations of some new smock. He shook his head over her as if she
were a doll come to life and nothing stirring within but a music-box
and a sawdust heart. He was disappointed in her--abysmally. He
devoted himself to his military work as if he were a bachelor.
For the third year now the Americans were still discussing just what
sort of army it should have, and meanwhile getting none at all.
The opponents of preparedness grew so ferocious in their attacks
on the pleaders for troops that the word "pacifist" became
ironical. They seemed to think it a crime to assault anybody
but a fellow-countryman.
All the while the various factions of unhappy Mexico fought together
and threatened the peace of the United States. The Government that
had helped drag President Huerta from his chair with the help of
Villa and Carranza found itself in turn at odds with both its allies
and its allies at war with each other.
There were scenes of rapine and flights of refugees that brought
a little of Belgium to our frontier. And then the sombreros came
over the border at Columbus, New Mexico, one night with massacre
and escape, and the tiny American army under Pershing went over the
border to get its erstwhile ally, Villa, dead or alive, and got him
And still Congress pondered the question of the army as if it were
something as remote and patient as a problem in sidereal arithmetic.
Some asked for volunteers and some for universal service and some
for neither. The National Guard was a bone of contention, and when
the hour struck it was the only bone there was.
In June Jim Dyckman went to the officers' school of application at
Peekskill for a week to get a smattering of tuition under Regular
Army instructors. He slept on a cot in a tent and studied map-making
and military bookkeeping and mimic warfare, and was tremendously
Kedzie made a bad week of it. She missed him sadly. There was no one
to quarrel with or make up with. When he came back late Saturday
night she was so glad to see him that she cried blissfully upon his
They had a little imitation honeymoon and went a-motoring on Sunday
out into the lands where June was embroidering the grass with
flowers and shaking the petals off the branches where young fruit
They discussed their summer schemes and she dreaded the knowledge
that in July he must go to the manoeuvers for three weeks. They
agreed to get aboard his yacht for a little cruise before that
And then, early the next morning, the morning of the 19th of June,
the knuckles of his valet on the door woke Jim from his slumber
and a voice through the panels murmured:
"Very sorry, sir, but you are wanted on the telephone, sir--it's
That was the way the Paul Reveres of 1916 summoned the troops to
Mr. Minute-Man Dyckman sat on the edge of his bed in his silk pajamas
with the telephone-receiver at his ear, and yawned: "H'lo.... Who
is it?... What is it?... Oh, it's you, sergeant.... Yes?... No!...
For God's sake!... I'll get out right away."
"What's the matter? Is the house on fire?" Kedzie gasped from her
pillow, half-awake and only half-afraid, so prettily befuddled she
was with sleep. She would have made a picture if Jim had had eyes
to see her as she struggled to one elbow and thrust with her other
hand her curls back into her nightcap, all askew. Her gown was
sliding over one shoulder down to her elbow and up to one out-thrust
Jim put away the telephone and pondered a moment.
Kedzie caught at his arm. "What's the matter? Why don't you
He spoke with a boyish pride of war and a husbandly solemnity: "The
President has called out the National Guard. We're to mobilize to-day
and get to the border as soon as we can. They hope that our regiment
will be the first to move."
Kedzie's answer was a fierce seizure of him in her arms. She was
palsied with fright for him. She had seen more pictures of dead
soldiers than he knew, and now she saw her man shattered and tortured
with wounds and thirst. She felt in one swift shock what the wives
of Europe had felt by the million. She clung to Jim and sobbed:
"You sha'n't go! I won't let them take you! You belong to me!"
He gathered her awkwardly into his arms and they were more nearly
married then than they had ever been or should ever be again.
The pity of it! that only their separation could bring them
together! Fate is the original Irish-bullster.
Jim tried hurriedly to console Kedzie. He found her hard to make
brave. The early-morningness of the shock, the panic of scattered
sleep, gave her added terror. He had to be cruel at last. Without
intention of humor he said:
"Really, honey, you know you just can't keep the President
He tore loose the tendrils of her fingers and ran to his own
dressing-room. She wept awhile, then rose to help accoutre him.
He had his uniform at home still.
In the Grecian simplicity of her nightgown, the very cream of silk,
she might have been Andromache harnessing Hector. Only there was no
baby for him to leave with her, no baby to shrink in fright from
the horsehair crest of the helmet that he did not wear.
When he was all dressed in his olive-drab she still could not let
him go. She held him with her soft arms and twiddled the gun-metal
buttons of his blouse. And when at length she must make an end of
farewells she hugged him with all her might and was glad that the
hard buttons hurt the delicate breast that he felt against him
smotheringly sweet and perilously yielding.
Not knowing how tame the event of all this war-like circumstance was
to prove, he suffered to the deeps of his being the keen ache of
separation that has wrung so many hearts in this eternally battling
world. War, the sunderer, had reached them with his great divorce.
When he was free of her at last she followed him and caught new
kisses. She ran shamelessly barefoot to the door to have the last
of his lips, called good-by to him when the elevator carried him
into the pit, and flung kisses downward after him. Then she stumbled
back to her room and cried aloud. Liliane, her maid, came to help
her and Liliane wept with her, knowing all too well what war could
do to love.
Later Kedzie went to the armory and slipped through the massed crowds
to see Jim again. He was gloriously busy and it stirred her martially
to see his men come up, click heels, salute, report, ask questions,
salute, and retreat again.
A few excited days of recruiting and equipping and then the ceremony
of the muster-in. Jim spent his nights at home, but his terrified
mother and his none too stoical father were there to rival Kedzie
Importance was in the air. There was a stir of history in the public
mood. The flags rippled with a new twinkle of stars and a fiercer
writhing of stripes. The red had the omen of blood.
On the third day there was a ruffle of drums and a crying of brass
on Fifth Avenue. People recalled the great days when the boys in
blue had paraded away to the wars. Only this regiment marched up,
not down, the Avenue. It was the Sixty-ninth, its flagstaff solid
with the silver rings of battle. It was moving north to the
On the ninth day the Seventh went down the Avenue, twelve hundred
strong, to entrain for Texas. The bullets of the foe were not the
only dangers. It was midsummer and these men were bound for the
tropics and the cursed fields of sand where the tarantula, the
rattlesnake, and the scorpion lurked under the cactus.
Jim's mother thought less of the Mexicans than of the fact that
there were no sleeping-cars even for the officers. They would get
them on the way, but it would be a fearsome journey ever southward
into the heat, six days in the troop-trains.
Kedzie was proud of her husband, quite conceited about him, glad
that he was marching instead of standing on the curb. But her heart,
doubled in bulk, pounded against her side like the leaden clapper
of a broken bell.
Jim caught sight of her where she stood on the steps of his father's
house, and her eyes, bright with tears, saddened him. The fond gaze
of his mother touched another well-spring of emotion, and the big,
proud stare of his father another.
But when by chance among the mosaic of faces he saw Charity Coe
there was a sorrow in her look that made him stumble, and his heart
lost step with the music. Somehow it seemed cruelest of all to leave
The town was monstrously lonely when Kedzie turned back to her
widowhood. Jim's mother and father and sister were touched by her
grief and begged her to make their home hers, but she shook her
For a while her grief and her pride sustained her. She was the
Spartan wife of the brave soldier. She even took up knitting as
an appropriate activity. She thought in socks.
But the hateful hours kept coming, the nights would not be brief,
and the days would not curtail their length nor quicken their pace.
The loathsome inevitable result arrived.
Even her grief began to bore her. Fidelity grew inane, and her
young heart shrieked aloud for diversion.
If battles had happened down there, if something stirring had only
appeared in the news, she could have taken some refreshment of
excitement from the situation. Heroic demands breed heroes and
heroines, but all that this crisis demanded was the fidelity of
torpor, the loyalty of a mollusk.
Nothing happened except the stupid chronicles of heat and monotony.
The rattlesnakes did not bite; the tarantulas scuttered away; the
scorpions were no worse than wasps. The Mexicans did not attack or
raid or attempt the assassinations which popular hostility accepted
as their favorite outdoor sport. Mexico continued her siesta while
the United States sentineled the bedroom.
Jim's letters told of scorching heat, of blinding duststorms, and
cloudbursts that made lakes of the camps, but nothing else happened
except the welter of routine.
The regiments had only police work to do, and the task grew irksome.
Men began to think of their neglected businesses. The men who stayed
at home were sharing bountifully in the prosperity of the times. The
volunteers at the Border were wasting their abilities for fifteen
dollars a month.
The officers began to resign by the score, by the hundred. As many
enlisted men dropped out as could beg off. Jim could afford to stay;
he would not resign, though Kedzie wrote appeals and finally demands
that he return to his wretched wife.
Resentment replaced sorrow in her heart. She began to impute ugly
motives to his absence. The tradition of the alluring Mexican
senorita obsessed her. She imagined him engaged in wild romances
with sullen beauties. She was worried about guitar music and
If there were beautiful señoritas there in McAllen, Jim did not see
them. His dissipations were visits to the movie shows and excursions
for dinner to Mr. and Mrs. Riley's hotel at Mission. Liquor was
forbidden to officers and men under dire penalties, and Jim's
conviviality was restricted to the soda-water fountains. He became
as rabid a consumer of ice-cream cones and sundaes as a matinée
girl. It was a burlesque of war to make the angels hold their sides,
if the angels could forget the slaughter-house of Europe.
Jim felt that the Government had buncoed him into this comic-opera
chorus. He resented the service as an incarceration. But he would
not resign. For months he plodded the doleful round of his duties,
ate bad food, poured out unbelievable quantities of sweat and easily
believable quantities of profanity.
On the big practice hike through the wilderness who that saw him
staggering along, choked with alkali dust, knouted by the sun,
stabbed by the cactus, carrying two rifles belonging to worn-out
soldiers in addition to his own load, looking forward to the
privilege of throwing himself down by the roadside for ten minutes'
respite, praying for the arrival in camp with its paradise of a
little shelter tent and beans and bacon for dinner or for breakfast
or supper--who could have believed that he did not have to do it?
That he had indeed at home soft luxuries, a rosy little wife, a
yacht, and servants to lift his shoes from the floor for him?
It was easier, however, for him to get along thus there where
everybody did the same than it was for Kedzie to get along
ascetically in New York where nearly everybody she knew was gay.
She might have gone down to Texas to see Jim, but when he wrote
her how meager the accommodations were and how harsh the comforts,
she pained him by taking his advice. Like almost all the other
wives, she stayed at home and made the best of it.
The best was increasingly bad. Her lot, indeed, was none too
cheerful. After her clandestine marriage she had confronted her
husband's parents, and the result was not satisfactory. She had
had no honeymoon, and her husband's friends were chill toward her.
Then he marched away and left her for half a year.
She was young and pretty and restless. She had acquired a greed
of praise. She had given up her public glory to be her husband's
private prima donna; and then her audience had abandoned her.
Though her soul traveled far in a short time by the calendar, every
metamorphosis was slow and painful and imperceptible. She wept her
eyes dry; then moped until her gloom grew intolerable. The first
diversion she sought was really an effort of her grief to renew
itself by a little repose. Her first amusement was for her grief's
sake. But before long her diversions were undertaken for diversion's
She had to have friends and she had to take what she could get. The
more earnest elements of society did not interest her, nor she them.
The fast crowd disgusted her at first, but remained the only one
that did not repulse her advances.
Her first glimpses of the revelers filled her with repugnance and
confirmed her in what she had heard and read of the wickedness of
the rich. The fact that she had seen also the virtuous rich, solemn
rich, religious rich, miserly rich, was forgotten. The fact that in
every stage of means there are the same classes escaped her memory.
She had known of middle classes where libertinism flourished, had
known of licentiousness among the poor shopkeepers, shoddy intriguers
in the humble boarding-houses.
But now she felt that money made vice and forgot that vice is one
of the amusements accessible to the very poorest, to all who inherit
flesh and its appetites.
Gradually she forgot her horror of dissipation. The outswirling eddy
of the gayer crowd began to gather and compel her feet. She lacked
the wisdom to attract the intellectuals, the culture to run with
the artistic and musical sets, the lineage to satisfy that curious
few who find a congeniality in the fact that their ancestors were
respectable and recorded persons.
In the fast gang she did not need to have or use her brains. She
did not need a genealogy. Her beauty was her admission-fee. Her
restlessness was her qualification.
Those who were careless of their own behavior were careless of their
accomplices. They accepted Kedzie without scruple. They accepted
especially the invitations she could well afford. She ceased to be
afraid of a compliment. She grew addicted to flattery. She learned
to take a joke off-color and match it in shade.
She met women of malodorous reputation and found that they were not
so black as they had been painted. She learned how warm-hearted and
charitable a woman could be for whom the world had a cold shoulder
and no charity.
She extended her tolerance from men whose escapades had been
national topics to women who had been involved in distinguished
scandals and were busily involving themselves anew. Being tolerant
of them, he had to be tolerant of their ways. Forgiving the sinner
helps to forgive the sin. There are few things more endearing than
forgiveness. One of the most appealing figures in literature and
art is the forgiven woman taken in adultery.
And thus by easy stages and generous concessions Kedzie, who had
begun her second marriage with the strictest ideals of behavior,
found herself surrounded by people of a loose-reined life. Things
once abhorred became familiar, amusing, charming.
It was increasingly difficult to resent advances toward her own
citadel which she had smiled at in others. She grew more and more
gracious toward a narrowing group of men till the safety-in-numbers
approached the peril-in-fewness. She grew more and more gracious
to a widening group of women, and they brought along their men.
Kedzie even forgave Pet Bettany and struck up a friendship with her.
Pet apologized to her other friends for taking up with Kedzie, by
the sufficient plea, "She gives such good food and drink at her
Kedzie found Pet intensely comforting since Pet was full of gossip
and satirized with contempt the people who had been treating Kedzie
with contempt. It is mighty pleasant to hear of the foibles of our
superiors. The illusion of rising is acquired by bringing things down
to us as well as by rising to them. When Pet told Kedzie something
belittling about somebody big Kedzie felt herself enlarged.
Pet had another influence on Kedzie. Pet was no more contemptuous
of aristocrats than she was of people who were good or tried to be,
or, failing that, kept up a decent pretense.
Pet made a snobbery of vice and had many an anecdote of the lapses
of the respectable and the circumspectable. Her railing way brought
virtue itself into disrepute and Kedzie was frightened out of her
last few senses. She fell under the tyranny of the _risqué_,
which is as fell as the tyranny of the prudish.
Prissy Atterbury had told Pet without delay of meeting Jim Dyckman
at Charity's home. Now that Pet was a crony of Kedzie's she recalled
the story. Finding Kedzie one day suffering from an attack of
scruples, and declining to accept an invitation because "Jim might
not like it," Pet laughed:
"Oh, Jim! What right has he got to kick? He didn't lose much time
getting back to his Charity Coe after he married you."
"His Charity Coe!" Kedzie gasped. "What do you mean by his Charity
"Why, his old reliable sweetheart. He's been silly about her since
babyhood. When she married Pete Cheever he moped like a sick hound.
And didn't he beat up Pete in a club only a few days before he
This was all news to Kedzie and it sickened her. She demanded more
poison, and Pet ladled it out joyously.
She told Kedzie how Prissy Atterbury found Jim at Charity's home.
But Kedzie remembered vividly that Jim had said he met Charity on
the street. And now she had caught him in a lie, a woman-lie! He
was not there to explain that he visited Charity in Kedzie's behalf,
and if he had explained it would only have embittered her the more.
Being quite convinced now of Jim's perfidy, she denied the
possibility of it.
"Jim's square, I'm sure. There couldn't be anything wrong with him.
And Mrs. Cheever is an awful prig, everybody says."
Pet whooped with laughter: "They're the worst sort. Why, only
a couple of years ago Jim and Charity were up in the Adirondacks
alone together. Prissy Atterbury caught them sneaking back."
So one lie was used to bolster another. The firmest structures can
be thus established by locking together things that will not stand
alone--as soldiers stack arms. Pet went on stacking lies and Kedzie
grew more and more distressed, then infuriated. Her bitterness
against Charity grew the more acid. Charity's good repute became now
the whitewash on a sepulcher of corruption. Her resentment of the
woman's imagined hypocrisy and of her husband's apparent duplicity
blazed into an eagerness for vengeance--the classic vengeance of
punishing a crime by committing another of the sort. Like revenges
like; an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a loyalty for a
But now, as often happens in evil as in virtue, Kedzie had the
willingness, but not the resolution. She threw her scruples into
the waste-basket, accepted Pet's invitation, went with her and
her crowd to one of the most reckless dances in Greenwich Village,
where men and women strove to outdo the saturnalia of Montmartre,
vied with one another in exposure, and costumed themselves as
closely according to the fig-leaf era as the grinning policemen
dared to permit.
Kedzie screamed with laughter at some of the ribaldry and danced in
a jostle of fauns, satyrs, nymphs, and maenads. Yet when her partner
clenched her too straitly she could not forget that she was the wife
of an absent soldier. And when on the way home he tried to flirt
she could not quell the nausea in her soul.
But practice makes perfect and Kedzie was learning to be downright
bad, though yet awhile she gave but stingy reward to her assiduous
cavaliers. She was what Pet called a _demi-veuve_ and unprofitable
to the men she used as weapons of her revenge against her innocent
and unwitting husband.
There was another factor working toward her debasement and that was
the emancipation of her pocket-book. It was a fairy's purse now and
she could not scatter her money faster than she found it renewed.
Her entertainments grew more lavish and more reckless. She had an
inspiration at last. She would put Jim's yacht into commission and
take a party of friends on a cruise, well chaperoned, of course.
She sent instructions to the master of the vessel to get steam up.
Knudsen sent back word that he would have to have an order from the
boss. She promised to have him discharged and in her anger fired
a telegram off to Jim, demanding that he rebuke the surly skipper
and order the boat out.
The telegram found Jim in a state of doldrums. The food had turned
against him, homesickness was like a fever in him, and the monotony
of his routine had begun to get his nerves. He was startled and
enraged at Kedzie's request for permission to go yachting and he
fired back a telegram:
Knudsen was right I am astonished at your suggestion
do not approve in the slightest.
He regretted his anger when it was too late. Kedzie, who had already
made up her list of guests and received their hilarious acceptances,
was compelled to withdraw the invitations. She would have bought
a yacht of her own, but she could not afford it! She was not allowed
so large a fund. She, Mrs. Dyckman, wanted something and could not
afford it! What was the use of anything, anyhow?
Times had changed for Kedzie indeed when the little beggar from the
candy-store who had cried once when Skip Magruder, the bakery waiter,
refused to take her to the movies twice in one Sunday, was crying
now because her miser of a husband forbade her a turbine yacht as
She was crushed with chagrin and she felt completely absolved of the
last obligation. What kind of a brute had she married who would go
away on a military picnic among his nice, warm cacti and deny his
poor deserted wife a little boat-ride and a breath of fresh air?
If she had had any lingering inclination to visit Jim in Texas she
gave it up now. She went to Newport instead and took Pet Bettany
along for a companion--at Kedzie's expense, of course.
Charity Coe Cheever was visiting Mrs. Noxon again and Kedzie
snubbed her haughtily when she met her at the Casino or on Bailey's
Beach. Kedzie was admitted to that sacred surf of the Spouting Rock
Association now and she was as pretty a naiad as there was.
But now she encountered occasional rebuffs from certain people,
not only because she was common, but because she was reputed to be
fast. When the gossip-peddlers brought her this fierce verdict she
was hardened enough to scorn the respectables as frumps. She grew
a little more impudent than ever and her pout began to take the form
of a sneer.
She lingered in and about Newport till the autumn came. Occasional
excursions on other people's yachts or in her own cars or to
house-parties broke the season, but she loved Newport. Jim's name
had given her entry to places and sets whence nobody quite had the
courage or the authority to dismiss her.
At Newport there was a very handsome fool named Jake Vanderveer,
distantly related to the charming Van-der Veers as well as the Van
der Veers. He was even more distantly related to his own wife at
the time Kedzie met him.
Pet Bettany had told Kedzie what a rotter Mrs. Jake was, and Kedzie
felt awfully sorry for Jakie. So did Jakie. He was sophomoric enough
to talk about his broken heart and she was sophomoric enough to
suffer for him most enjoyably.
A little sympathy is a dangerous thing. Married people run a
great risk unless they keep theirs strictly mutual and for home
Jakie said he believed in running away from his grief. Kedzie ran
with him for company. People's tongues ran just as fast. Jakie was
making a lot of money in Wall Street and trying to drown his sorrows
there. Kedzie was thrilled by his jargon of the market and he taught
her how to read the confetti streamers that pour out of the ticker.
Jakie confided to her a great scheme.
"The only way I can keep that wife of mine from spending all my
money is to spend it first."
"You're a genius!" Kedzie said. A woman usually approves almost
any scheme for keeping money away from another woman.
"I'm going to make a killing next week," said Jakie, "and I'm going
just quietly to put a couple of thou. up for my little pal Kedzie.
You can't lose. If you win you can buy yourself five thousand
dollars' worth of popcorn."
Kedzie was enraptured. She would have some money at last that she
didn't have to drag out of her husband. She prayed the Lord for
a rising market.
Then Mrs. Dyckman sent for her. When Kedzie called the servants were
extremely solemn. Kedzie had to wait till the doctor left. He was
very solemn, too.
Kedzie found her mother-in-law in bed. She looked like a small
mountain after a snow-storm. It was strange to Kedzie to find one
so mighty brought low and speaking in so tiny a voice. Her husband
was there and he was haggard with sympathy and alarm, a very elephant
in terror. He was less courteous than usual to Kedzie and he left the
room at his wife's signal. Mrs. Dyckman was more gentle than ever.
"Draw your chair up close, my child," she whispered. "I want to have
a little talk with you and my voice is weak."
Kedzie was alarmed enough to revert to a simple phrase; "I'm awfully
sorry you're sick. Are you very sick?"
"Very. There's such a lot of me, you know. It's disgusting. I've
scared my poor husband to death. I'm glad Jim isn't here to be
worried. I hope I'll not have to send for him. But I'd like to."
Kedzie felt a little quiver of alarm. She did not quite want Jim
to come back just yet. She had grown used to his absence. His return
would deprive poor Jakie of solace.
Mrs. Dyckman took Kedzie's hand and stared at her sadly.
"You're looking a little tired, my dear, if you'll forgive me for
being frank. I'm very old and I very much want you and Jim to win
out. Lying here I take things too anxiously, I suppose, but--I'm
frightened. I don't want my boy and you to go the way so many other
couples do. He's left you because his country needed him, or thought
it did. It wouldn't look well to have him come back and find that
in his absence you had forgotten him. Now, would it?"
"Why, Mrs. Dyckman!" Kedzie gasped, getting her hand away.
Mrs. Dyckman groped for it and took it back. "Don't be vexed. Or if
you must be, pout as you used to. You mustn't grow hard, my child.
Your type of beauty doesn't improve with cynicism. You must think
sweet thoughts or simply be petulant when you're angry. Don't grow
hard! If nothing else will move you let me appeal to your pride.
You are traveling with a hard crowd, a cruel pack, Miss Bettany's
pack, and a silly lot of men like Jake Vanderveer. And you mustn't,
my child. You just mustn't get hard and brazen. Couldn't you give
up Miss Bettany? She's an absolutely unprincipled creature. She's
bad, and you must know it. Don't you?"
Kedzie could not answer, or would not. Mrs. Dyckman's voice grew
"I've lived so long and seen so much unhappiness. There is so much
tragedy across the water. My poor daughter has had a cable that her
husband's brother has been killed in France. Her husband has been
wounded; she is sailing back. So many men, so many, many men are
dying. The machine-guns go like scythes all day long, and the poor
fellows lie out there in the shrapnel rain--Oh, it is unbelievable.
And Europe's women are undergoing such endless sorrow; every day
over there the lists contain so many names. So many of Cicely's
friends have perished. Life never was so full of sorrow, my dear,
but it is such a noble sorrow that it seems as if nobody, had any
right to any other kind of sorrow.
"You are young, dear child. You are lonely and restless; but you
don't realize how loathsome it is to other people to see such
recklessness going on over here while such lofty souls are going to
death in droves over there. The sorrow you will bring on yourself
and all of us, and on poor Jim, will be such a hateful sorrow, my
dear, such an unworthy grief!"
Kedzie choked, and mumbled, "I don't think I know what you mean."
Mrs. Dyckman petted her hand: "I don't think you do. I hope not.
But take an old woman's word for it, be--be Caesar's wife?"
"Caesar's wife?" Kedzie puzzled. "What did she do?"
"It was what she didn't do. Well, I haven't the strength--or the
right, perhaps--to tell you any more. Yes, I will. I must say this
much. You are the subject of very widespread criticism, and Jim
is being pitied."
"Me criticized? Jim pitied? Why? For what?"
"For the things you do, my dear, the places you go, and the hours
you keep--and the friends you keep."
"That's disgusting!" Kedzie snarled. "The long-tongued gossips!
They ought to be ashamed of themselves."
Mrs. Dyckman's fever began to mount. She dropped Kedzie's hand
and tugged at the coverlet.
"You'd better go, my dear. I apologize. It's useless! When did age
ever gain anything by warning youth? I'm an old fool, and you're
a young one. And nothing will stop your ambition to run through
life to the end of it and get all you can out of it."
Kedzie felt dismissed and rose in bewildered anger. Mrs. Dyckman
heaved herself to one elbow and pointed her finger at Kedzie.
"But keep away from Jake Vanderveer! and Pet Bettany! or--or--Send
my nurse, please."
She fell back gasping and Kedzie flew, in a fear that the old lady
would die of a stroke and Kedzie be blamed for it forever. Kedzie
was so blue and terrified that she had to send for Jake Vanderveer
to keep from going crazy. He told her that the market was still on
the climb, and that her sympathy had saved his life. He had been
desperate enough for suicide when he met her, and now he was one
of the rising little suns of finance.
Mrs. Dyckman did not die, but she did not get well, and Jim's
father wrote him that he'd better resign and come home. It would do
his mother a world of good, and he was doing the country no good
Jim was alarmed; he wrote out his resignation and submitted it to
his colonel, who showed him a new order from the War Department
announcing that no more resignations would be accepted except on
the most urgent grounds. Idleness was destroying the Guard faster
than a campaign. Jim returned to the doldrums with a new resentment.
He was a prisoner now.
He had gone to Texas to find war and his wife to Newport to find
gaiety. She found much more than that. On October 7th the old town
was stirred by something genuinely new in sensations--the arrival
of a German war submarine, the U-53.
THE FOURTH BOOK
THE MARCHIONESS HAS QUALMS
A freight submarine, the _Bremen_, had recently excited
the wonderment of a world jaded with miracles by crossing from
Helgoland to Norfolk with a cargo. But here was a war-ship that
dived underneath the British blockade.
The dead of the Lusitania were still unrequited and unburied, but
the Germans had graciously promised President Wilson to sink no
more passenger-ships without warning, and they had been received
back into the indulgence of the super-patient neutrals.
And now came the under-sea boat to test American hospitality. It was
received with amazed politeness and the news flew through Newport,
bringing the people flocking like children. An American submarine
conducted its guest to anchorage. Mail for the ambassador was put
ashore and courtesy visits were exchanged with the commandant of the
Narragansett Bay Naval Station. In three hours the vessel, not to
overstay the bounds of neutral hospitality, returned to the ocean.
A flotilla of American destroyers convoyed it outside and calmly
watched while the monster halted nine ships off Nantucket, graciously
permitted their crews and passengers to take themselves, but no
belongings, into open boats; then torpedoed the vessels one after
The destroyers of the United States Navy stood by like spectators on
the bleachers, and when the submarine had quite finished the supply
of ships the obliging destroyers picked up the fragments in the open
boats and brought them ashore. And the U-53 went on unchecked, after
one of the most astounding spectacles in the history of the sea.
Charity Coe and other women waited on the docks till midnight
arranging refuge for more than two hundred victims. It was a novel
method for getting into Newport mansions. Even Kedzie took in an
elderly couple. She tried to get a few young men, but they were
The next morning there was a panic in Wall Street and nearly two
million shares were flung overboard, with a loss of five hundred
million dollars in market values. Marine insurance-rates rose from
a hundred to five hundred per cent. and it seemed that our ocean
trade would be driven from the free seas. But everything had been
done according to the approved etiquette for U-boats, and there
was not even an official protest.
Once more the Germans announced that they had wrecked the British
naval supremacy, as in the battle of Jutland, after which glorious
victory the German fleet appeared no more in the North Sea.
Nor was there any check in the throngs of merchant-vessels shuttling
the ocean for the Allies. And that disgusted the Germans. Their
promises to Mr. Wilson irked them. They lusted again for their old
policy of "ruthlessness"; "_Schrecklichkeit_" joined "_Gott
strafe_" in familiar speech, and Germany added America to her
"Hymn of Hate." Strange, that among all the warring peoples the one
nation that went to battle with the most fervent religious spirit,
even putting "_Gott mit uns_" on the uniforms of its soldiers,
that nation contributed to the slang of the day no nobler phrases
than "_Schrecklichkeit_" and "_strafe_" and the equivalents
of "scrap of paper" and "Hymn of Hate."
All this meant little to Kedzie except that Jakie Vanderveer, who had
been her devoted squire for some time, was caught and ruined in the
market slump. Otherwise he might have ruined Kedzie, for he had been
dazzling her more and more with his lavish courtship. When he lost
his money he left Newport and Kedzie never knew how narrow an escape
she had. She only knew that she did not make the money he promised
to make for her. She said that war was terrible.
A pious soul would have credited Providence with the rescue. But
Providence had other plans. One of the victims of the U-53 was a
young English aviator, the Marquess of Strathdene. If the U-53
had not sunk the ship that carried him Kedzie would have had an
exceedingly different future.
Strathdene had been a spendthrift, a libertine, and a loafer till
the war shook England. He had been well shaken, too, and unsuspected
emotions were aroused. He had learned to fly and insulted the law
of gravity with the same impudence he had shown for the laws of
In due time he was joined to an air squadron. He risked his life
every moment he was aloft, but the danger became a negligible thing
in the thrill of the liveliest form of big-game hunting thus far
known to man. In mid-sky he stalked his prey and was stalked by it;
he chased German Taubes or was chased by them into clouds and out of
them, up hill and down dale in ether-land amid the showers from below
of the raining aircraft guns. Strathdene knew how to dodge and duck,
turn somersaults, volplane, spiral, coast downward on an invisible
toboggan-slide, or climb into heaven on an airy stair.
The sky was full of such flocks; the gallant American gentlemen
who made up the Escadrille Lafayette went clouding with him, and
Mr. Robert Lorraine, the excellent actor, and Mr. Vernon Castle,
the amiable revolutionist of the dance, and many and many another
eagle heart. Strathdene scouted valuably during the first battle
of the Somme, his companion working the gun or the camera or the
bomb-dropping lever as the need might be.
And then one day a burst of shrapnel from the remote earth shattered
his plane and him. A slug of iron went upward through his hip and
another nicked off a bit of his shoulder. But he brought his wounded
machine safely to earth and toppled into the arms of the hospital
aids; went backward in a motor-ambulance to a receiving-station, then
back in a train, then across the Channel, then across the ocean in
a steamer to be sunk by a submarine and brought ashore in a lifeboat.
Strathdene had pretty well tested the modern systems of vehicular
The surgeons mended his wounds, but his nerves had felt the shrapnel.
That was why the sea voyage had been advised. Strathdene seemed to
have a magnetic gift for adventure. An aircraft gun brought him down
from the clouds and a submersible ship came up from the deeps to have
a try at him. Before long Kedzie would be saying that fate had taken
all this trouble just to bring him and her together.
In the transfer from the ship to the lifeboat Strathdene's wounds
were wrenched and his sufferings renewed. He was lucky enough to
fall into the hands of Charity Coe Cheever. She was a war nurse
of experience, and he was soon well enough to try to flirt with
her. But she had been experienced also in the amorous symptoms of
convalescent soldiers and she repressed his ardor skilfully. She
put an ice-cap on his heart and head.
As soon as he was up and about again he met Kedzie. It seemed to
be her business to take away from Charity Coe all of Charity's
conquests, and the young Marquess found her hospitable to his
hunger for friendship.
Before the first day's acquaintance was over Kedzie was as fascinated
by his chatter as Desdemona was by Othello's anecdotes.
One night Kedzie dreamed that she was a Marquessess or whatever
the wife of a Marquess would be styled.
Kedzie was herself again. Kedzie was dreaming again. She had an
ambition for something higher than her station. She made haste to
encourage the infatuated Marquess. Counting upon winning him somehow
as her husband, she gave him encouragement beyond any she had given
her other swains.
But Strathdene had no intention of marrying her or any other woman.
His heart was in the highlands, the cloudlands; his heart was not
A purer patriot or a warrior more free of any taint of caution than
Strathdene could not be imagined, but otherwise he was as arrant
a scamp as ever. While he waited for strength to "carry on" in the
brave, new, English sense, it amused him to "carry on" in the
mischievous old American sense.
Kedzie was determined that he should live long enough for her to
free herself from Jim and make the marquisate hers. She seemed to be
succeeding. She found Strathdene as easy of fascination as her old
movie audiences had been. He even tried to write poetry about her
pout; but he was a better rider on an aeroplane than on Pegasus.
Kedzie was soon wishing for Jim's return, since she could not see how
to divorce him till he appeared. She tried to frame a letter asking
for her release, but it was not easy writing. She felt that she
would have a better chance of success if Jim were within wheedling
distance. But Jim remained away, and Kedzie grew fonder and fonder
of her Marquess, and he of her.
Perhaps they were really mated, their pettinesses and selfishnesses
peculiarly complemental. In any case, they were mutually bewitched.
Their dalliance became the talk of Newport. Everybody believed that
what was bad enough at best was even worse than it was. Charity Coe
heard the couple discussed everywhere. She was distressed on Jim's
account. And now she found herself in just the plight that had
tortured Jim when he knew that Peter Cheever was disloyal to Charity
and longed to tell her, but felt the duty too odious. So Charity
pondered her own obligation. She was tempted to write Jim an
anonymous letter, but had not the cowardice. She was tempted to
write to him frankly, but had not the courage. She did at last what
Jim had done--nothing.
Jim's mother had heard of Vanderveer's disappearance from Kedzie's
entourage and she had improved with hope. When she learned that
Strathdene was apparently infatuated she grew worse and telegraphed
Jim to ask for a leave of absence. She did not tell Kedzie of her
telegram or of Jim's answer.
Pet Bettany flatly accused Kedzie of being guilty, and referred to
the Marquess as her paramour. When Kedzie furiously resented her
insolence Pet laughed.
"The more fool you, if you carry the scandal and lose the fun."
Kedzie was more afraid of Pet's contempt than of a better woman's.
She began to think herself a big fool for not having been a bigger
one. She fell into an altogether dangerous mood and she could no
longer save herself. She almost prayed to be led into temptation.
The unuttered prayer was speedily answered.
She went motoring with Strathdene late one night in a car he had
hired. When he ventured to plead with her not to go back to her home
where her servants provided a kind of chaperonage, she made only
a formal protest or two. He stopped at a roadside inn, a secluded
place well known for its unquestioning hospitality.
Strathdene, tremulous with victory, led Kedzie to the dining-room
for a bit of sup and sip. The landlord escorted them to a nook in
a corner and beckoned a waiter. Kedzie was studying the bill of fare
with blurred and frightened vision when she heard the footsteps of
the waiter plainly audible in the quiet room. They had a curious
rhythm. There was a hitch in the step, a skip.
Her heart stopped as if it had run into a tree. The "skip" brought
down on her soul a whole five-foot shelf of remembrances of her first
New York love-affair with the lame waiter in the bakery. All her good
fortune had been set in motion by poor, old, shabby "Skip." She had
soared away like some rainbow-hued bubble gently releasing itself
from the day pipe that inflated it out of the suds of its origin.
Kedzie had learned to be ashamed of Skip as long ago as when she was
a Greek dancer. She had not seen or heard of him since she sent him
the insulting answer to his stage-door note. And now he had saved
himself up for a ruinous reappearance when she was in the company
of a Marquess--and on such an errand!
What on earth was Skip doing so far from the Bronx and in the
environs of Newport, of all places? It occurred to Kedzie that
Skip might ask her the same question.
The terror his footsteps inspired was confirmed by the unforgetable
voice that came across her icy shoulder-blades. He slapped the china
and silver down with the familiar bravura of a quick-lunch waiter,
and her heart sank, remembering that she had once admired his skill.
The Marquess looked up at him with a glare of rebuke as Skip posed
himself patiently with one hand, knuckles down, on the table, the
other on his hip, and demanded, with misplaced enthusiasm:
"Well, folks, what's it goin' to be?"
The Marquess had been somewhat democratized by his life in the army,
and, being a true Briton, he always expected the worst in America.
He proceeded to order a light supper that would not take too long.
Skip crushed him by saying:
"Ain't the little lady takin' nothin'?"
Kedzie was afraid to speak. She put her finger on the menu at a
chafing-dish version of chicken, and the Marquess added it to his
order. Skip shuffled away without recognizing Kedzie. She waited
only for his exit to make her own.
It was terrifying enough to realize that the moment Skip caught
a glimpse of her he would hail her noisily and tell the Marquess
all about her. There still lingered in Kedzie a little more honesty
than snobbery and she felt even less dread of being "bawled out" by
a waiter in the presence of a Marquess than of having Skip Magruder
know that she was in such a place even with a Marquess. Skip had
been good to her and had counseled her to go straight.
She felt no gratitude toward him now, but she could not face his
contempt. That would be degradation beneath degradation. She was
disgusted with everything and everybody, including herself. The
glamour of the escapade was dissipated. The excitement of an illicit
amour so delicious in so many farces, so tenderly dramatic in so
many novels, had curdled. She saw what an ugly business she was in
and she was revolted.
Kedzie waited only to hear the swinging door whiff after Skip's
syncopated feet, then she whispered sharply across the table to
"Take me out of this awful place. I don't know what I'm doing here.
I won't stay! not a moment!"
"But we've ordered--"
"You stay and eat, then. I won't stop here another minute!"
She rose. She smothered the Marquess's protests about the
awkwardness, the ludicrousness of such a flight.
"What will the waiter think?" he asked, being afraid of a waiter,
though of no one else.
Kedzie did not care what the waiter thought, so long as he did not
know whom he thought it of. Strathdene gave the headwaiter a bill
and followed Kedzie out. He was hungry, angry, and puzzled.
Skip Magruder never knew what a chaperon he had been. If Providence
managed the affair it chose an odd instrument, and intervened, as
usual, at the last moment. Providence would save itself a good deal
of work if it came round a little earlier in these cases. Perhaps it
does and finds nobody awake.
Strathdene demanded explanations. Kedzie told him truth but not
all of it.
"It suddenly swept over me," she gasped, "how horrible it was
for me to be there."
She wept with shame and when he would have consoled her she kept him
aloof. The astonishing result of the outing was that both came home
better. It suddenly swept over Strathdene that Kedzie was innocenter
than he had dreamed. She was good! By gad! she was good enough to be
the wife even of a Strathdene. He told Kedzie that he wished to God
he could marry her. She answered fervently that she wished to God he
He asked her "You don't really love that Dyckman fella, do you?"
"I don't really love anybody but you," said Kedzie. "You are the
first man I have really truly loved."
She meant it and it may have been true. She said it with sincerity
at least. One usually does. At any rate, it sounded wonderful to
Strathdene and he determined to make her his. He would let England
muddle along somehow till he made this alliance with the beautiful
Missourienne. But Kedzie's plight was again what it had been; she
had a husband extra. In some cases the husband is busy enough with
his own affairs to let the lover trot alongside, like the third
horse which the Greeks called the _pareoros_. But neither Jim
nor Strathdene would be content with that sort of team-work, and
Kedzie least of all.
She and Strathdene agreed that love would find the way, and Kedzie
suggested that Jim would probably be decent enough to arrange the
whole matter. He had an awfully clever lawyer, too.
Strathdene had braved nearly every peril in life except marriage.
He was determined to take a shy at that. He and Kedzie talked their
honeymoon plans with the boyishness and girlishness of nineteen
Then Kedzie remembered Gilfoyle. She had thanked her stars that she
told Dyckman the truth about him in time. And now she was confronted
with the same situation. Since her life was repeating its patterns,
it would be foolish to ignore the lessons. So after some hesitation
she told the Marquess that Jim Dyckman was not her first, but her
second. She told it very tragically, made quite a good story of it.
But the Marquess had been intrepid enough to laugh when, out of a
large woolly cloud a mile aloft, a German flying-machine had suddenly
charged him at a hundred miles an hour. He was calm enough now to
laugh at the menace of Kedzie's past rushing out of the pink cloud
"The more the merrier," he said. "The third time's the charm."
He sighed when he was alone and thought it rather shabby that Cupid
should land him at last with a second-handed, a third-hearted arrow.
But, after all, these were war times and Economy was the universal
watchword. The arrow felt very cozy.
Unselfishness is an acquired art. Children rarely have it. That is
why the Greeks represented love of a certain kind as a boy, selfish,
treacherous, ingratiating, blind to appearances, naif, gracefully
Kedzie and Strathdene were enamoured of each other. They were both
zealots for experience, restless and reckless in their zest of life.
As soon as they were convinced of their love, every restraint became
an illegal restraint, illegal because they felt that only the law of
love had jurisdiction over them.
When Kedzie received a telegram from Jim that he had secured a leave
of absence for thirty days and would be in Newport in four she felt
cruelly used. She forgot how she had angled for Jim and hustled him
She was afraid of him now. She thought of him as many women in
captured cities once regarded and have recently again regarded
the triumphing enemy as one who would count beauty the best part
of the booty.
Her loyalty to Strathdene was compromised, her delicacy was
horrified. She was distraught with her plight.
She had to tell the news to Strathdene and he went into frenzies of
jealousy. She had pledged herself to be his as soon as she could lift
the Dyckman mortgage. If a man is ever going to be jealous he should
certainly find occasion for the passion when he is betrothed to the
wife of a returning soldier. Strathdene ought to have been on his way
back to the aviation-camp, but he had earned the right to humor his
nerves, and Kedzie was testing them beyond endurance.
It was a tragical-comical dilemma for Kedzie. Even she, with her
gift for self-forgiveness, could not quite see how she was to
explain prettily to her husband that in his absence she had fallen
in love with another man. Wives are not supposed to fall in love
while their husbands are at the wars. It has been done, but it is
hard to prettify.
Kedzie beat her forehead in vain for a good-looking explanation. She
was still hunting one when Jim came back. He telegraphed her that he
would come right through to Newport, and asked her to meet him at
the train. She dared not refuse. She simply could not keep her glib
promises to Strathdene. It seemed almost treason to the country for
a wife to give her warrior a cold welcome after his tropical service.
She met him at the Newport station. He was still in uniform. He had
taken no other clothes to Texas with him and had not stopped to buy
any. He was too anxious about his mother to pause in New York. He
had telegraphed his tailor to fit him out and his valet to pack his
things and bring them to Newport.
Kedzie found him very brown and gaunt, far taller even than she
remembered. She was more afraid of him than ever. Strathdene was
only a little taller than she. She was afraid to tell Jim that she
But she made a poor mimicry of perfect bliss. Jim was not critical.
She was more beautiful than he remembered her. He told her so, and
she was flattered by his courtship, miserably treacherous as she
She was proud to be a soldier's wife. She was jealous now of his
concern for his mother. He had to go see her first. He was surprised
to learn that Kedzie was not living with her. His mother had begun
to improve from the moment she had Jim's telegram. But her eyes on
Kedzie were terrible.
Jim did not notice the tension. He was too happy. He was sick of
soldiering. His old uniform was like a convict's stripes. He was
childishly ambitious to get into long trousers again. For nearly
half a year he had buttoned his breeches at the knee and housed
his calves in puttees and his feet in army brogans.
It was like a Christmas morning among new toys for him to put on
mufti, and take it off. A bath-tub full of hot water was a paradise
regained. Evening clothes with a big white shirt and a top-hat were
robes of ascension. But the clothes made to his old measurements
were worlds too wide for his shrunk shanks. He had lost tons, he
said, in Texas.
Before daybreak the first morning he terrified his cellmate, Kedzie,
by starting up in his sleep with a gasp: "Was that reveille? My God,
I'll be late!"
The joy of finding himself no longer in a tent and of falling back
on his pillow was worth the bad dream. Life was one long bad dream
to Kedzie. She was guilty whichever way she turned, and afraid of
Jim had a valet to wait on him. He had the problem of selecting his
scarf and his socks for the morning. Jim had come into a lot of
money. He had been earning a bank clerk's salary, with no way of
spending it. And now he had a bank to spend and a plenty of places
to throw it.
But it was hard for him to believe that he was a free man again.
He was amazed to find Newport without cactus and without a scorpion.
He kept looking for a scorpion on his pillow. He found one there,
but did not recognize her.
Jim was as much of a parvenu in Newport as Kedzie had ever been. He
swept her away at times by his juvenile enthusiasm and she neglected
Strathdene atrociously for a week.
A large part of the colony had decamped for New York and Boston and
Chicago, but those that remained made a throng for Jim. His mother
was not well enough to be moved back to New York, but his sister
had reached England safely and he was happy in his luxuries.
But he was the only one that was. His mother was bitter against
Kedzie for having fed the gossips. Kedzie was assured that life
with Jim had nothing new to offer and she resented him as a barrier
between herself and the glory of her future with Strathdene and
"the stately homes of England."
Her mother and father arrived in Newport. Kedzie tried to suppress
them for fear that Strathdene might feel that they were the last
two back-breaking straws. But she needed a confidante and she told
her mother the situation.
Mrs. Thropp, like Kedzie, had an ambition that expanded as fast as
opportunity allowed. She was dazzled by the thought of being elevated
to the peerage. She supposed it made her a relative of royalty. She
who had once dreamed of being neighborly with the great Mrs. Dyckman
was now imagining herself exchanging crocheting formulas with Queen
Mary. She was saying she had always heard the Queen well spoke of.
And Adna Thropp spoke very highly of "George."
They agreed that it was their sacred duty to place the name of
Thropp as high as it could go, cost what it would.
"After all," said Adna one day, looking up from an article in a
Sunday paper--"after all, why ain't Thropp as likely a name as
Wettin? Or Hohenzollern? And what was Romanoff but an ordinary
The only thing that seemed to stand in Kedzie's way was the odious
name of Dyckman.
"What's Dyckman, anyway?" said Mrs. Thropp. "Nothin' but a common
old Dutch name."
But how to shake it off was the problem. Kedzie had to cling to
Strathdene with one hand while she tried to release herself from
the Dyckmans with the other.
She had a dreadful feeling that she might lose them both if she
were not exceedingly careful and exceedingly lucky.
Help came to her unexpectedly from Charity Coe, unexpectedly,
though Charity was always helping Kedzie.
Charity Coe had been tormented by the spectacle of her friend's wife
flirting recklessly with the young Marquess of Strathdene while her
husband was at the Border with the troops. But she was far more
sharply wrung when she saw Kedzie flirting with her husband, playing
the devoted wife with all her might and getting away with it to
There is hardly anything our eyes bring us that is more hideous
than known disloyalty successfully masquerading as fidelity. The
Judas kiss is not to be surpassed in human detestation.
With almost all the world in uniform, Newport welcomed the sight
of one of her own men returned even from what was rather a siesta
than a campaign, and old Mrs. Noxon insisted on giving a big party
for Jim. She insisted so strongly that Kedzie did not dare refuse,
though she had vowed never to step inside the grounds where she had
made her Newport debut as a hired nymph.
Charity tried to escape by alleging a journey to New York, but
Mrs. Noxon browbeat her into staying. Charity did not know that
Strathdene was invited till she saw him come in with the crowd.
Neither did Kedzie. Old Mrs. Noxon may have invited him for spite
against Kedzie or just as an international courtesy to the most
distinguished foreigner in town.
She introduced Jim and the Marquess, saying, "You great warriors
should know each other."
Jim felt sheepish because he had been to no war and Strathdene
felt sheepish because Jim was so much taller than he. He looked up
at him as Napoleon looked enviously up at men who had no glory but
their altitude. Strathdene was also sheepish because Jim said, very
"Do you know my wife?"
If he had not been so tall that he saw only the top of Kedzie's
coiffure he would have seen that her face was splashed with red.
She mumbled something while Strathdene stammered, "Er--yes--I have
had that privilege." He felt a sinking sensation as deadly as when
he had his first fall at the aviation school.
Kedzie dragged Jim away and paid violent attention to him all
through dinner. Her sympathy was entirely for her poor Strathdene.
She was afraid he would commit suicide or return to England without
her, and she could not imagine how to get rid of Jim. Then she
caught sight of Charity Coe, and greeted her with a smile of
For once Kedzie loved Charity. Suddenly it came upon her what a
beautiful solution it would be for everybody if Jim could take
Charity and leave Kedzie free to take Strathdene. She told herself
that Jim would be ever so much happier so, for the poor fellow
would suffer terribly when he found that his Kedzie really could
not pretend to love him any longer. Kedzie felt quite tearful over
it. She was an awfully good-hearted little thing. To turn him over
to Charity would be a charming arrangement, perfectly decent, and
no harm to anybody. If only the hateful laws did not forbid the
exchange--dog-on 'em, anyway!
The more Kedzie studied Charity the more suitable she seemed as
a successor. Her heart warmed to her and she forced an opportunity
to unload Jim on Charity immediately after dinner.
There was music for the encouragement of conversation, an
expensively famous prima donna and a group of strings brought
down from the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
The prima donna sang Donna Elvira's ferocious aria full of
indignation at discovering Don Giovanni's Don Juanity.
Charity, noting that Kedzie had flitted straight to Strathdene and
was trying to appease his cold rage, felt an envy of the prima donna,
who was enabled to express her feelings at full lung power with the
fortissimo reinforcement of several powerful musicians. The primeval
woman in Charity longed for just such a howling prerogative, but the
actual Charity was so cravenly well-bred that she dared not even say
to her dearest friend, "Jim, old man, you ought to go over and wring
the neck of that little cat of yours."
Jim sat beaming at Kedzie and Kedzie beamed back while she murmured
sweet everythings to her little Marquess. Jim seemed to imagine that
he had left her in such a pumpkin shell as Mr. Peter P. Pumpkineater
left his wife in, and kept her so very well. But Kedzie was not that
kind of kept or keepable woman.
Jim would have expected that if Kedzie were guilty of any spiritual
corruption it would show on her face. People will look for such
things. But she was still young and pretty and ingenuous and seemed
incapable of duplicity. And indeed such treachery was no more
than a childish turning from one toy to another. The traitors and
traitresses have no more sense of obligation than a child feels
for a discarded doll.
Jim paid Charity the uncomfortable compliment of feeling enough at
home with her to say, "Well, Charity, that little wife of mine takes
to the English nobility like a duck seeing its first pond, eh?"
"She seems to be quite at her ease," was all that Charity could
say. Now she felt herself a sharer in the wretched intrigue,
as treacherous as Kedzie, no better friend than Kedzie was wife,
because with a word she could have told Jim what he ought to have
known, what he was almost the only person in the room that did
not know. Yet her jaw locked and her tongue balked at the mere
thought of telling him. She protected Kedzie, and not Jim; felt
it abominable, but could not brave the telling.
She resolved that she would rather brave the ocean and get back
to Europe where there were things she could do.
The support of all the French orphans she had adopted had made
deep inroads in her income, but her conscience felt the deeper
inroads of neglected duty.
It was like Charity to believe that she had sinned heinously when
she had simply neglected an opportunity for self-sacrifice. When
other people applauded their own benevolence if they said, "How
the soldiers must suffer! Poor fellows!" Charity felt ashamed if
her sympathy were not instantly mobilized for action.
A great impatience to be gone rendered her suddenly frantic. While
she encouraged Jim to talk of his experiences in Texas she was
making her plans to sail on the first available boat.
If the boat were sunk by a submarine or a mine, death in the
strangling seas would be preferable to any more of this drifting
among the strangling problems of a life that held no promise of
happiness for her. She felt gagged with the silence imposed upon
her by the code in the very face of Kedzie's disloyalty, a
disloyalty so loathsome that seeing was hardly believing.
It seemed inconceivable that a man or woman pledged in holy matrimony
could ever be tempted to an alien embrace. And yet she knew dozens
of people who made a sport of infidelity. Her own husband had found
temptation stronger than his pledge. She wondered how long he would
be true to Zada, or she to him. Charity had suffered the disgrace of
being insufficient for her husband's contentment, and now Jim must
undergo the same disgrace with Kedzie. It was a sort of post-nuptial
Of course Charity had no proof that Kedzie had been more than
brazenly indiscreet with Strathdene, but that very indifference
to gossip, that willingness to stir up slander, seemed so odious
that nothing could be more odious, not even the actual crime.
Besides, Charity found it hard to assume that a woman who held
her good name cheap would hold her good self less cheap, since
reputation is usually cherished longer than character.
In any case, Charity was smothering. Even Mrs. Noxon's vast
drawing-room was too small to hold her and Jim and Kedzie and
Strathdene. America was too strait to accommodate that jangling
She rose abruptly, thrust her hand out to Jim and said:
"Good night, old man. I've got to begin packing."
"Packing for where? New York?"
"Yes, and then France."
"I've told you before, I won't let you go."
And then it came over him that he had no right even to be dejected
and alarmed at Charity's departure. Charity felt in the sudden
relaxing of his handclasp some such sudden check. She smiled
patiently and went to tell Kedzie good night.
Kedzie broke out, "Oh, don't go--yet!" then caught herself. She also
for quite a different reason must not regret Charity's departure.
Charity smiled a smile of terrifying comprehension, shook her head,
and went her ways.
And now Jim, released, wandered over and sat down by Kedzie just
as she was telling Strathdene the most important things.
She could not shake Jim. He would not talk to anybody else. She
wished that Charity had taken Jim with her. Strathdene was as
comfortable as a spy while Jim talked. Jim seemed so suspiciously
amiable that Strathdene wondered how much he knew.
Jim did not look like the sort of man who would know and be
complacent, but even if he were ignorant Strathdene was too
outright a creature to relish the necessity for casual chatter
with the husband of his sweetheart.
He, too, made a resolution to take the first boat available. He
would rather see a submarine than be one.
Strathdene also suddenly bolted, saying: "Sorry, but I've got to
run myself into the hangar. My doctor says I'm not to do any night
And now Kedzie was marooned with Jim. She was in a panic about
Strathdene; a fantastic jealousy assailed her. To the clandestine
all things are clandestine! What if he were hurrying away to meet
Charity? Charity returned to Kedzie's black books, and Jim joined
"Let's go home," said Kedzie, in the least honeymoony of tones.
Jim said, "All right, but why the sudden vinegar?"
"I hate people," said Kedzie.
"Are husbands people?" said Jim.
"Yes!" snapped Kedzie.
She smiled beatifically as she wrung Mrs. Noxon's hand and perjured
herself like a parting guest. And that was the last smile Jim saw
on her fair face that night.
He wondered why women were so damned unreasonably whimsical. They
may be damned, but there is usually a reason for their apparent
The next day Kedzie was still cantankerous, as it was perfectly
natural that she should be. She wanted to be a Marchioness and sail
away to the peerful sky. And she could not cut free from her anchor.
The Marquess was winding up his propeller to fly alone.
Jim, finding her the poorest of company, called on his mother. She
was well enough to be very peevish. So he left her and wandered about
the dull town. He had no car with him and he saw a racer that caught
his fancy. It had the lean, fleet look of a thoroughbred horse, and
the dealer promised that it could triple the speed limit. He went
out with a demonstrator and the car made good the dealer's word. It
ran with such zeal that Jim was warned by three different policemen
on the Boston Post Road that he would be arrested the next time he
came by in such haste.
He decided to try it out again at night on other roads. He told the
dealer to fill up the tank and see to the lights. The dealer told
the garage man and the garage man said he would.
That evening at dinner Jim invited Kedzie to take a spin. She said
that she had to spend the evening with her mother, who was miserable.
Jim said, "Too bad!" and supposed that he'd better run in and say
"Howdy-do" to the poor soul. Kedzie hastily said that she would be
unable to see him. She would not even let Jim ride her over in his
Again he made the profane comment to himself that women are
unreasonable. Again this statement was due to ignorance of an
Kedzie had tried all day to get in touch with Strathdene. When she
ran him down at length by telephone he was dismally dignified and
terrifyingly patriotic. His poor country needed him and he must
This meant that Kedzie would lose her first and doubtless her last
chance at the marquisate. She pleaded for a conference. He assented
eagerly, but the problem was where to confer. She dared not invite
him to the house she had rented, for Jim would be there. She could
not go to Strathdene's rooms at the Hilltop Inn. She thought of the
apartment she had stowed her mother in, and asked him there. Then
she telephoned her mother to suppress dad and keep out of sight.
She was afraid to have Jim take her to her mother's address lest her
woeful luck should bring Strathdene and Jim together at the door.
That was her excellent reason for rebuffing her husband's courtesy
and setting out alone.
Her mother was only too willing to abet Kedzie's forlorn hope. It
was the forlornness of Kedzie that saved her. When Strathdene saw
her in her exquisite despair he was helpless. He was no Hun to break
the heart of so sweet a being, and he believed her when she told him
that she would die if he tried to cross the perilous ocean without
her. She told him that she would throw herself on Jim's mercy the
next day and implore her freedom. He would not refuse her, she
assured him, for Jim was really awfully generous, whatever faults
he might have.
Strathdene could well believe that she would have her way with her
husband since he found her absolutely irresistible himself. The
conference lasted long, and they parted at last as Romeo and Juliet
would have parted if Juliet had been married to the County Paris
before Romeo met her.
Kedzie even promised Strathdene that she would not wait till the
morning, but would at once demand her husband's consent to the
divorce. It was only on such an understanding that Strathdene could
endure to intrust his delicate treasure to the big brute's keeping.
Kedzie entered her home with her oration all primed. But Jim was
not there. He did not come home that night. Kedzie's anxiety was
not exactly flattering, but it was sincere.
She wondered if some accident had befallen him in his new car.
She really could not bear the thought of losing another husband by
a motor accident. Suppose he should just be horribly crippled. Then
she could never divorce him.
She hated her thoughts, but she could not be responsible for them.
Her mind was like a lighthouse in a storm. It was not to blame for
what wild birds the winds brought in from the black to dash against
But Jim was neither killed nor crippled. The cards still ran
Speaking of cards, Jim was like a gambler with a new pack of them
and nobody to play with.
He darted hither and yon in his racer, childishly happy in its
paces, childishly lonely for somebody to show off before. As he
ran along the almost deserted sea road he passed the Noxon home.
He knew that Charity was visiting there. He wondered which of the
lighted windows was hers. After much backing and filling he turned
in and ran up to the steps. He got out and was about to ring the
bell when he heard a piano. He went along the piazza to a window,
and, peering in, saw Charity playing. She was alone in the
music-room and very sadly beautiful.
He tapped on the window. She was startled, rose to leave the room.
He tapped again, remembering an old signal they had had as boy and
girl lovers. She paused. He could see her smile tenderly. She came
forward to the window and stared out. He stared in. Only a pane of
glass parted the tips of their flattened noses. It was a sort of
sterilized Eskimo kiss.
The window was a door. Charity opened it and invited Jim in,
wondering but strangely comforted. He invited her out. He explained
about his gorgeous new car and his loneliness and begged her to
take the air.
She put back her hands to indicate her inappropriate costume,
a flimsy evening gown of brilliant color.
"Mrs. Noxon has gone out to dinner. I was to go with her, but I
begged off. I'm going to New York to-morrow, and I was blue and--"
"And so am I. I've got an extra coat in my car, and the night
"No, I'd better not."
"Aw, come along!"
"All right. I'll get a veil for my hair."
She closed the French window and hurried away. She reappeared at
the front door and shut it stealthily after her.
"Nobody saw me go. You must get me back before Mrs. Noxon comes
home, or there'll be a scandal."
"Depend on me!" said Jim.
Muffling their laughter like two runaways, they stole down the
steps. Her high-heeled slippers slipped and she toppled against him.
She caught him off his balance, and his arms went about her to save
her and himself. If he had been Irish, he would have said that he
destroyed himself, for she was so unexpectedly warm and silken and
lithe that she became instantly something other than the Charity
he had adored as a sad, sweet deity.
He realized that she was terribly a woman.
They were no longer boy and girl out on a gay little lark. They were
a man unhappily married and a woman unhappily unmarried, setting
forth on a wild steed for a wild ride through the reluctant autumn
air. The neighboring sea gave out the stored-up warmth of summer,
and the moon with the tilted face of a haloed nun yearned over them.
When Jim helped Charity into the car her arm seemed to burn in his
palm. He hesitated a moment, and a thought fluttered through his
mind that he ought not to hazard the adventure. But another thought
chased it away, a thought of the idiocy of being afraid, and another
thought of how impossible it was to ask her to get out and go back.
He found the coat, a heavy, short coat, and held it for her, saw
her ensconced comfortably, stepped in and closed the door softly.
The car went forward as smoothly as a skiff on a swift, smooth
Charity was not so solemn as Jim. She was excited and flattered by
such an unforeseen diversion breaking in on her doleful solitude.
"It's been so long since a man asked me to go buggy-riding,"
she said, "that I've forgotten how to behave. I'm getting to be
a regular old maid, Jim."
"Huh!" was all that Jim could think of.
It was capable of many interpretations--reproof, anger at fate,
polite disbelief, deprecation.
Jim tried to run away from his peculiar and most annoying emotions.
But Charity went with him. She looked back and said:
"Funny how the moon rides after us in her white limousine."
"Huh!" said Jim.
"Is that Mexican you're speaking?" she chided.
"I was just thinking," Jim growled.
"Oh, nothing much--except what a ghastly shame it is that
so--so--well, I don't know what to call you--but well, a woman like
you--that you should be living alone with nothing better to do than
run the gantlet of those God-awful submarines and probably get blown
up and drowned, or, worse yet, spend your days breaking your heart
nursing a lot of poor mangled, groaning Frenchmen that get shot to
pieces or poisoned with gas or--Oh, it's rotten! That's all it is:
"Somebody has to take care of them."
"Oh, I know; but it oughtn't to be you. If there was any manhood
in this country, you'd have Americans to nurse."
"There are Americans over there, droves of them."
"Yes, but they're not wearing our uniform. We ought to be over
there under our own flag. I ought to be over there."
"Maybe you will be. I'll go on ahead and be waiting for you."
There is nothing more pitiful than sorrow that tries to smile,
and Jim groaned:
"Oh, Charity Coe! Charity Coe!"
He gripped the wheel to keep from putting his hand out to hers. And
they went in silence, thinking in the epic elegy of their time.
Jim drove his car up to the end of Rhode Island and across to
Tiverton; then he left the highway for the lonelier roads. The car
charged the dark hills and galloped the levels, a black stallion
with silent hoofs and dreadful haste. There was so much death, so
much death in the world! The youth and strength and genius of all
Europe were going over the brink eternally in a Niagara of blood.
And the sea that Charity was about to venture on, the sea whose
estuaries lapped this sidelong shore so innocently with such tender
luster under the gentle moon, was drawing down every day and every
night ships and ships and ships with their treasures of labor and
their brave crews till it seemed that the floor of the ocean must
be populous with the dead.
Charity felt quite close to death. A very solemn tenderness of
farewell endeared the beautiful world and all its doomed creatures.
But most dear of all was this big, simple man at her side, the man
she ought to have married. It was all her fault that she had not.
She owed him a profound eternal apology, and she had not the right
to pay the debt--that is, so long as she lived she had not the right.
But if they were never to meet again--then she was already dying
It was important that she should not depart this life without making
restitution of what she owed. She had owed Jim Dyckman the love he
had pleaded for from her and would not get from anyone else.
He had a right to love, and it was to be eternally denied to him.
He would go on bitterly grieved and shamed to think that nobody
could love him, for Charity had repulsed him, and some day he would
learn that Kedzie had deceived him.
Lacking the courage to warn him against his wife, Charity felt
that she must have at least the courage to say;
"Good-by, Jim. I have been loving you of late with a great love."
There would be no injury done to Kedzie thus, for Charity would
speak as a ghost, an impalpable departed one. There would be no
sin--only a beautiful expiation by confession. She was enfranchised
of earthly restraints, enfranchised as the dead are from mortal
But the moods that are so holy, so pure, and so vast while they are
moods resent words. Words are like tin cups to carry the ocean in.
It is no longer an ocean when a bit of it is scooped up. It is only
a little brackish water, odious to drink and quenching no thirst.
Charity could not devise the first phrase of her huge and oceanic
emotion. It would have been only a proffer of brine that Jim could
not have relished from her. He understood better her silence. They
went blindly on and on, letting the road lead them and the first
whim decide which turn to take and which to pass.
And so they were eventually lost in the land as they were lost
in their mood.
And after a time of wonderful enthusiasms in their common grief
the realities began to claim them back. A loud report like a
pistol-shot announced that the poetry of motion had become prose.