Part 11 out of 12
Jim stopped the car and became a blacksmith while he went through
the tool-box, found a jack for the wheel, laboriously unshipped
the demountable rim, replaced it with the extra wheel, and set
The job had not improved the cleanliness of his hands nor spared
the chastity of his shirt-bosom. But the car had four wheels to
go on, and they regained a main road at last and found a signboard
announcing, "Tiverton, 18 miles." That meant thirty miles to Newport.
Charity looked at her watch. It brought her back from the
timelessness of her meditation to the world where the dock had
a great deal to say about what was respectable and what not.
"Good Lord!" she groaned. "Mrs. Noxon is home long ago and scared
or shocked to death. We must fly!"
They flew, angry, both of them, at having to hurry back to school
and a withering reprimand, as if they were still mere brats.
Gradually the car began to refuse the call for haste. Its speed
sickened, gasped, died.
Jim swore quite informally, and raged: "I told that infernal hound
to fill the tank. He forgot! The gas is gone."
Charity shrugged her shoulders. "I deserved it," she said. "I only
hope I don't get you into trouble. What will your wife say?"
"What won't she say? But I'm thinking about you."
"It doesn't matter about me. I've got nobody who cares enough
to scold me."
They were suddenly illumined by the headlights of an approaching
car. They shielded their faces from the glare instinctively. They
felt honest, but they did not look honest out here together.
The car was checked and a voice called from the blur, "Want any
"No, thanks," Jim answered from his shadow.
The car rolled on. While Jim made a vain post-mortem examination of
the car's machinery Charity looked about for a guide-post. She found
a large signboard proclaiming "Viewcrest Inn, 1 mile." She told Jim.
He said: "I know of it. It has a bad name, but so long as the
gasolene is good--I'll go get some. Make yourself at home."
He paused. "I can't leave you alone here in the wilderness at
"I'll go along."
"In those high-heeled shoes?"
"And these low-necked gown," sighed Charity. "Oh, what a fool,
what a stupid fool I've been!"
But she set forth. Jim offered his arm. She declined it at first,
but she was glad enough of it later. They made an odd-looking
couple, both in evening dress, promenading a country road. All the
wealth of both of them was insufficient to purchase them so much as
a street-car ride. They were paupers--the slaves, not the captains,
of their fate. Charity stumbled and tottered, her ankles wrenched by
the ruts, her stilted slippers going to ruin. Jim offered to carry
her. She refused indignantly. She would have accepted a lift from
any other vehicle now, but none appeared. The only lights were in
the sky, where a storm was practising with fireworks.
"Just our luck to get drenched," said Jim.
It was about the only bad luck they escaped, but the threat of it
lent Charity speed. They passed one farm, whose dogs rushed out
and bayed at them carnivorously.
"That's the way people will bark when they find out about our
innocent little picnic," said Charity.
"They're not going to find out," said Jim.
"Trying to keep it secret gives it a guilty look," said Charity.
"What people don't know won't hurt 'em," said Jim.
"What they do imagine will hurt us," said Charity.
At the top of a knoll in a clandestine group of trees they found
"Viewcrest Inn." It was dark but for a dim light in the office.
The door of that was locked.
Trade was dull, now that the Newport season was over, and only
an occasional couple from Fall River, Providence, or New Bedford
tested the diminished hospitality. But to-night there had been a
concurrence of visitors. Jim rattled at the door. A waiter appeared,
yawning candidly. He limped to the door with a gait that Kedzie
would have recognized.
He peered out and shook his head, waving the intruders away. Jim
shook the knob and glowered back.
The waiter, who, in the classic phrase, was "none other than" Skip
Magruder, unlocked the door.
"Nothin' doin', folks," said Skip. "Standin' room only. Not a room
"I don't want any of your dirty rooms," said Jim. "I want some
"Bar's closed," said Skip, who had a nimble wit.
"I said gasolene!" said Jim, menacingly.
"Sorry, boss, but the last car out took the last drop we had in
the pump. We'll have some more to-morrow mornin'."
"My God!" Jim whispered.
Then the storm broke. A thunder smash like the bolt of an indignant
Heaven. It turned on all the faucets above.
"Where's the telephone?" Jim demanded.
"T.D.," said Skip.
"Temporary discontinued." Skip grew confidential. "The boss was
a little slow on the pay and they shut him off. We're takin' in
a lot of dough to-night, though, and he'll prob'ly get it goin'
to-morrow all right."
To-morrow again! Jim snarled back at the pack of wolfish
circumstances closing in on him. He turned to Charity.
"We've got to stay here."
Charity "went white," as the saying is. The rain streamed down.
"We 'ain't a room left," said Skip.
"You've got to have," said Jim.
"Have to speak to the artshiteck," said Skip. Then he rubbed his
head, trying to get out an idea by massage. "There's the poller.
Big lounge there, but not made up. Would you and your wife wish
He dragged the "wife" with a tone that nearly got him throttled. But
Jim paused. A complicated thought held him. To protest that Charity
was not his wife seemed hardly the most reassuring thing to do.
He let the word go and ignored Skip's cynical intonation. Jim's
knuckles ached to rebuke him, but he had not fought a waiter since
his wild young days. And Skip was protected by his infirmity.
Charity was frightened and revolted, abject with remorse for such
a disgusting consequence of such a sweet, harmless impulse. She was
afraid of Jim's temper. She said:
"Take the parlor by all means."
"All right," said Jim.
Skip fumbled about the desk for a big book, and, finding it, opened
it and handed Jim a pen.
"Register, please," said Skip.
"I will not."
"Rules of the house."
"What do I care about your rules!"
"Have to wake the boss, then."
"Give me the pen."
He started to write his own name; that left Charity's designation
in doubt. He glanced at the other names. "Mr. and Mrs. George
Washington" were there, "Mr. and Mrs. John Smith" twice, as well
as "William Jones and wife."
Jim wondered if the waiter knew him. So many waiters did. At length,
with a flash of angry impulse, he wrote: "James D--," paused,
finished "Dysart," hesitated again, then put "Mr. and Mrs." before
it. Skip read, and grinned. He did not know who Jim was, but he
knew he was no Dysart.
Skip led the way to the parlor up-stairs, lighted the lights,
and hastily disappeared, fearing that he might be asked to fetch
something to eat or drink. He was so tired and sleepy that even the
prospect of a tip did not interest him so much as the prospect of
his cot in the attic, where he could dream that he was in New York
Jim and Charity looked at each other. Jim munched his own curses,
and Charity laughed and cried together. Jim's arms had an instinct
for taking her to his heart, but he felt that he must be more
respectful than ever since they were in so respectless a plight.
She never seemed purer and sadder to him than then.
She noted how haggard and dismal he looked, and said, "Aren't you
going to sit down?"
"No--not here," he said. "You curl up on that plush horror and get
"I will not!" said Charity.
"You will, too," said Jim. "You're a wreck, and I ought to be shot.
Get some sleep, for God's sake!"
"What becomes of you?"
"I'll scout round and find a place in the office. I think there is
a billiard-room. If worst comes to worst, I'll do what Mrs. Leslie
Carter did in a play I saw--sleep on the dining-room table."
"Not less than a table d'hote will hold you," Charity smiled, wanly.
"Don't worry about me. You go by-by and pray the Lord to forgive me
and help us both."
He waved his hand to her in a heartbreak of bemocked and benighted
tenderness and closed the door. He prowled softly about the office
and the adjacent rooms, but found no place to sleep. He was in such
a fever of wrath at himself that he walked out in the rain to cool
his head. Then he sank into a chair, read an old Boston paper twice,
and fell asleep among the advertisements.
He woke at daybreak. The rain had ended and he wandered out in
the chill, wet grounds of the shabby inn. The morning light was
merciless on the buildings, the leafless trees, and on his own
costume. The promised view from the crest was swathed in haze--so
was his outlook on the future.
His fury at the situation grew as he pondered it. He was like a
tiger in a pit. He raged as much at himself as at the people who
would take advantage of him. The ludicrousness of the situation
added the ultimate torment. He could not save Charity except by
ingenious deceptions which would be a proof of guilt if they did
not succeed miraculously.
The dress he was in and the dress she was in were the very
habiliments of guilt. Getting back to Newport in evening clothes
would be the advertisement of their escapade. His expansive
shirt-bosom might as well have been a sandwich-board. His broadcloth
trousers and his patent-leather pumps would be worse than rags.
And Charity had no hat. There was an unmistakable dressed-up
eveningness about them both.
This struck him as the first evil to remedy. As with an escaped
convict, his prime necessity was a change of clothes. There was
only one way to manage that. He went back to the hotel and found
a startled early-morning waiter sweeping out the office. Jim asked
where the nearest telephone was, and learned that it was half a
mile away at a farm-house.
Jim turned up his collar, pulled down his motor-cap, and struck
out along the muddy road. He startled the farmer's family and their
large hands were not wide enough to hide their wider smiles.
On the long hike thither Jim had worked out his stratagem. He called
up his house, or, rather, Kedzie's house, in Newport, and after much
delay got his yawning valet to the telephone. He never had liked
that valet less than now.
"That you, Dallam? My car broke down out in the country," he
explained, every syllable a sugarless quinine pill in his throat.
"That is to say, the gasolene gave out. I am in my evening clothes,
so is--er--Mrs.--er--the lady I was with. I want you to bring me
at once an outfit of day clothes, and a--one of my wife's long
motor-coats--a very long one--and one of her small hats. Then get
out my wife's limousine and send the suit-case and the coat and hat
to me here at the Viewcrest Inn, and tell the chauffeur to bring
an extra can of gasolene."
A voice with an intolerable smile in it came back: "Very good, sir.
I presume I'd better not waken Mrs. Dyckman?"
"Naturally not. I don't want to--er--alarm her."
"She was quite alarmed when you didn't come home, sir, last night."
"Well, I'll explain when I see her. Do you understand the
Jim writhed at that. But he had done his best and he would take
The farmer gave him a ride to the hotel in his milk-wagon. When Jim
rode up in a parody of state he saw Charity peeping from the parlor
window. The morning light had made the situation plain to her. It
did not improve on inspection. It took very little imagination to
predict a disastrous event, though Jim explained the felicity of
his scheme. He had planned to have Charity ride in in the limousine
alone, while he took his own car back with the gasolene that was on
The twain were compelled by their costume to stay in the parlor
together. They were ferociously hungry and ordered breakfast at
last. It took forever to get it, for guests of that hotel were not
ordinarily early risers.
Skip Magruder, dragged from his slumbers to serve the meal, found
Charity and Jim in the room where he had left them. He made such
vigorous efforts to overlook their appearance in bedraggled dinner
clothes at a country breakfast that Jim threatened to break his head.
Skip grew surly and was ordered out.
After breakfast Jim and Charity waited and waited, keeping to the
parlor lest the other guests see them.
At last the limousine arrived. As soon as he heard it coming Jim
hurried to the window to make sure that it was his--or, rather,
It was--so much his wife's that she stepped out of it. Also her
mother. Also her father. They advanced on the hotel.
Jim and Charity were stupefied. There was a look on Kedzie's face
that frightened him.
"She means business," he groaned.
Charity sighed: "Divorce! And me to be named!"
"She won't do that. She owes you everything."
"What an ideal chance to pay off the debt!"
"Don't you worry. I'll protect you," Jim insisted.
"How?" said Charity.
"I'll fight the case to the limit."
"Are you so eager to keep your wife?" said Charity.
"No. I never did love her. I'll never forgive her for this."
But he had not the courage to go and meet Kedzie and her mother
and her father. They were an unconscionable time coming.
He did not know that Kedzie and Skip Magruder were renewing old
While he waited the full horror of his dilemma came over him. Kedzie
would undoubtedly sue him for divorce. If he lost, Charity would be
publicly disgraced. If he won, he would be tied to Kedzie for life.
A quick temper is an excellent friend for bolstering up an ailing
conscience, especially if itself is bolstered by an inability to see
the point of view of the other party to a conflict.
Kedzie's wrath at Charity justified to Kedzie any cruelty, especially
as Kedzie was all harrowed up by the fear of losing the Marquess of
Strathdene. And Kedzie loved Strathdene as much as she could ever
For one thing Strathdene was fiercely jealous of her--and the poor
child had been simply famished for a little jealousy. Her first
husband had hardly known what the word meant. Before their marriage
Gilfoyle had permitted her to dance the Greek dances without paying
her the compliment of a beating. After their marriage he had gone
to Chicago to earn a living and left her alone in New York City
where there were millions of rivals.
Her second husband had been very philosophical about her career and
had taken the news of her previous marriage with disgusting stoicism.
Finally he had gone to the Mexican Border for an indefinite stay,
leaving her to her own devices and the devices of any man who came
along. It was too much like leaving a diamond outdoors: it cheapened
But Strathdene--ah, Strathdene! He turned blue at the mention of
Kedzie's husband. When Jim came back from Texas and Kedzie had to be
polite to him Strathdene almost had hydrophobia. He accused Kedzie of
actually welcoming Jim. He charged her with polyandry. He threatened
to shoot her and her husband and himself. He comported himself unlike
any traditional Englishman of literature. He was, in fact, himself
and what he did was like him. He was a born aviator. His heart was
used to racing at unheard-of speeds. He could sustain superhuman
exaltations and depressions.
Being in love with him was like going up in an airship with him,
which was one of Kedzie's ambitions for the future. She dreamed of
a third honeymoon _in excelsis._
Strathdene told her that if she ever looked at another man after she
married him he would take her up ten thousand feet in the clouds, set
his airship on fire, and drop with her as one cinder into the ocean.
What handsomer tribute could any woman ask of a man? He was a lover
worth fighting for.
But she had felt uncertain of winning him till that wonderful morning
when Jim did not come back home. She woke up early all by herself and
heard the valet answer Jim's call from Viewcrest.
She had made a friend of Dallam by her flirtation with the nobility.
The poor fellow had suffered tortures from the degradation of his
master's alliance with a commoner like Kedzie until Kedzie developed
her alliance with the Marquess. Then his valetic soul expanded again.
He looked upon her as his salvation.
Over the telephone she heard him now promising Jim that he would
not tell Kedzie. If Jim's old valet, Jules, had not gone to France
and his death he would have saved Jim from infernal distresses, but
this substitute had a malignant interest in his master's confusion.
Dallam proceeded forthwith to rap at Mrs. Dyckman's door and spoke
through it, deferentially:
"Beg pardon, ma'am, but could I have a word?"
Kedzie wrapped herself in a bath-robe and opened the door a chink to
hear the rest of what she had heard in part. The valet had no collar
on and his overnight beard not off, and he, too, was in a bath-robe.
Man and mistress stood there like genius and madness, "and thin
partitions did their bounds divide."
"Very sorry to trouble you, ma'am," he said, "but I'm compelled to.
The master has just telephoned me that his car broke down at the
Viewcrest Inn out Tiverton way, and he wants his morning clothes,
and also--if you'll pardon me, ma'am--he instructed me to send him
a long motor-coat of yours and a large hat and your limousine. I was
directed not to--ahem--to trouble you about it, ma'am, but I 'ardly
He helped her out so perfectly that she had no need to say anything
more than, "Quite right."
She was glad that the door screened her from observation, for
she went through a crisis of emotions, wrath and disgust at Jim's
perfidy _versus_ ecstasy and gratitude to him for it.
She beat her breast with her hand as if to keep her trembling heart
from turning a somersault into her mouth. Then she spoke with a calm
that showed how far she had traveled in self-control.
"Very good. You were quite right. Call the chauffeur and tell him
to bring round my closed car. Then send me my maid and have the cook
get me some coffee. Then you may telephone my mother and father and
ask them to come over at once. Please send my car for them. You might
have coffee for them also. For we'll all be riding out to--did you
say Viewcrest Inn?"
"Yes, ma'am. Very good, ma'am. Thank you!"
He went away thinking to himself. He thought in cockney: "My Gawd!
w'at a milit'ry genius! She dictites a horder loike a Proosian
general. I'm beginnin' to fink she's gowing to do milord the mokkis
prahd. There's no daht abaht it. Stroike me, if there is."
By the time Kedzie was dressed and coffeed her panicky father
and mother were collected and fed, and she had selected her best
motor-coat for the shroud of whatever woman it was at Viewcrest.
She dared not dream it was Charity.
She had time enough to tell her parents all there was to tell on
the voyage, but she had no idea that her limousine was taking her
to the very inn that Strathdene had lured her to on that night when
he tested her worthiness of his respect.
It had been dark on that occasion and she had been in such a chaos
that she had paid no heed to the name of the place or the dark roads
She almost swooned when she reached the Viewcrest Inn and found
herself confronted by Skip Magruder. And so did Skip. He had not
recognized the back of her head before, but her face smote him now.
There was no escaping him. Her beauty was enriched by her costume
and her mien was ripened by experience, but she was unforgetably
herself. He was still a waiter, and the apron he had on and the
napkin he clutched might have been the same one he had when she
first saw him.
When he saw her now again he gasped the name he had known her by:
"Anitar! Anitar Adair! Well, I'll be--"
Then his face darkened with the memory of disprized love. He
recalled the cruel answer, "Nothing doing," that she had indorsed
on the stage-door letter he sent her long ago.
But the military genius that had guided Kedzie this morning inspired
her still. She was not going to lose her victory for any flank attack
from an ally in ambush. She sent out a flag of truce.
"Why, Skip!" she cried. "Dear old Skip! I want you to meet my father
and mother. Mr. Magruder was terribly kind to me when I was alone
and friendless in New York."
Mrs. Thropp had outgrown waiters and even Adna regretted the
reversion to Nimrim that led him to shake hands and say, "Please
The stupefied proprietor of the inn was begging for explanations of
this unheard-of colloquy, but Skip flicked him away with his napkin
as if he were a bluebottle fly and motioned Kedzie to a corner of
the office. Kedzie explained, breathlessly:
"Skip, I'm in terrible trouble, and I'm so glad to find you here,
for you never failed me. I was very rude to you when you sent me
that note, but I--I was engaged to be married at the time and I
didn't think it proper to see anybody. And--well, I'm getting my
punishment now, for my husband is here with a strange woman--and--oh,
it's terrible, Skip! My heart is broken, but you've got to help me.
I know I can rely on you, can't I, dear old Skip?"
The girl was so efficient that she almost deserved her success. It
cost her something, though, to beguile a waiter with intimate appeals
that she might earn a title. But then in time of war no ally is to be
scorned and the lowliest recruit is worth enlisting. A Christian can
piously engage a Turk to help him whip another Christian.
When Kedzie pulled out the tremolo stop and looked up, big-eyed,
and pouted at him, Skip was hers.
"Your husband, Anitar? Your husband here? Why, the low-life hound!
I'll go up and kill him for you if you want me to."
Kedzie explained that she didn't want to get her dear Skip into
any trouble, but she did want his help. Skip found her a good
boarding-place the first time he met her, and now she had to dupe
him into securing her furnished rooms and board in a castle. She may
have rather encouraged him to imagine that once she was free from
Jim she would listen once more to Skip. But there is no evidence on
that point and he must have felt a certain awe of her. His pretty
duckling had become so gorgeous a swan.
Her parley with Skip had delayed her march up-stairs to the attack,
but Jim and Charity could only wait in befuddled suspense, unwilling
and afraid to attempt a flight.
Kedzie went up-stairs at last, backed by her father and mother and
Skip and the chauffeur with the suit-case of Jim's clothes. Kedzie
was dazed at the sight of Charity.
But there was no need of any oration.
After a little sniffing and nodding of the head she spoke:
"Well, I thought as much! Jim, you telephoned for some things
of mine and of yours. Here they are. There's a can of gasolene
down-stairs for you. Here's your suit-case, and the coat and hat
for Mrs. Cheever. I presume you will go back in your own car."
"Then we needn't keep you any longer. Mr. McNiven is your lawyer
still, I suppose. I'll send my lawyer to him. Come along,
She led her little cohort down-stairs and bade Skip a very cordial
The Dyckman divorce farce might have been as politely performed
as _l'affaire Cheever_--or even more so than that, since
practice makes perfect. At least a temporary secrecy could have
been secured with leisureliness by a residence in another State.
But Kedzie felt as Zada did, that she simply could not wait, though
her reason was well to the opposite. Zada had been afraid that a
child would arrive before the divorce, but Kedzie that a gentleman
Strathdene was straining at the anchor like one of his own biplanes
with the wind nudging its wings. In Europe they were shooting down
airships by the score nearly every day and Strathdene wanted to go
back. "It's not fair to the Huns," he said. "They haven't had a
pot-shot at me for so long they'll forget I was ever over. And some
of those men that were corporals when I made my Ace, are Aces now
as well and they're crawling up on my score! I'll have to fly all
the time to catch up."
But he wanted to take with him his beauty. He was jealous of Uncle
Sam and afraid to trust Kedzie to him. The more inconvenient she
became to him the more determined he grew to overcome the obstacles
to her possession.
He abominated the necessity of taking his bride through the side
door of the court-house to the altar, but he would not give her up.
It looked, however, as if he would have to. And then he received
mysteriously an assignment to the inspection of flying-machines
purchased in the American market. Kedzie told him that it was a
Heaven-sent answer to her prayers, and he believed it.
But it was his poor mother's work; she had written to a friend in
the British Embassy imploring him to keep her precious boy out of
France as long as possible. Hecatombs of gallant young lords were
being butchered and she had lost a son, two brothers, a nephew,
and unnumbered friends. The whole nobility of Europe was as deep
in mourning as all the other grades of prestige. She wanted a brief
respite from terror. She did not know till later to what further
risks she was exposing her boy.
Kedzie was grimly resolute about getting her freedom from Jim in
order to transfer it to Strathdene. She planned to manage it quietly
for the sake of her own future. But a sickening mess was made of it.
For Kedzie fell into the hands of a too, too conscientious lawyer.
It is impossible to be loyal in all directions, and young Mr. Anson
Beattie was loyal first to his wife and children, whom he loved
devotedly. They needed money and clients came slowly to him.
His wife had relatives in Newport and they chanced to be visiting
there. The relatives were shopkeepers, to whom Pet Bettany owed
much money. That was how Kedzie came to consult Mr. Beattie. Kedzie
telephoned Pet the moment she got back from the Viewcrest Inn,
and Pet told her of Beattie.
When Kedzie drifted into his ken with a word of introduction from
Pet Bettany he hailed her as a Heaven-sent messenger. She brought
him advertisement, and big fees on a platter.
The very name of Dyckman was incense and myrrh. Mr. Beattie smelled
gold. When Kedzie poured out her story and explained that the famous
Mrs. Charity Cheever was the wreckress of her home Mr. Beattie saw
If the Dyckmans had been a humble couple he would have tried to
reconcile them, perhaps, or he would have separated them with little
noise. But it was noise he wanted. The longer and louder the trial
the more free space Mr. Beattie would get.
"It Pays to Advertise" is a necessary motto for all professions.
The lawyer is advertised by his hating enemies, Beattie said to
himself, and to his ecstatic wife when he went to her room after
Kedzie left. His wife would never have taken a divorce if divorces
were distributed at every door like handbills. Mr. Beattie said to
"Soul o' my soul, I'm going to handle this case in such a way that
it will stir up a smell from here to California. I'll get that little
woman an alimony that will break all known records and I'll take
a percentage of the gate receipts as they come in. I wouldn't trust
my little client a foot away."
"Don't trust her too close, either," said his devoted spouse, who
was just jealous enough to be remembered in time of stress.
Beattie was the sort of lawyer one reads about oftener than one
meets, and he wanted to be read about. He had the almost necessary
lawyer gift of beginning to hate the opposition as soon as he
learned what it was. If Jim had engaged him he would have hated
Kedzie with religious ardor. Kedzie engaged him; so he abominated
Jim and everybody and everything associated with him from his name
to his scarf-pin.
He warned Kedzie not to spend an hour under Jim Dyckman's roof, lest
she seem to condone what she discovered. He advised her to disappear
till Beattie was ready to strike.
That was the reason why there was no compromise, no concession, no
politeness in the divorce. If collusion is vicious this case was
certainly pure of it.
Jim was not permitted a quiet talk with Kedzie from the moment she
found him at the Viewcrest Inn. Her arrival there plus her family had
thrown him into a stupor. It was a situation for a genius to handle,
since the honester a man is the more he is confused at being found
in a situation that looks dishonest. Jim was never less a genius than
then. Even Charity, who usually found a word when a word was needed,
said not one. What could she say? Kedzie ignored her, accused her of
nothing, and did not linger.
When Jim and Charity, left alone together again, looked at each
other they were too disgusted to regret that they had not been as
guilty as they looked. Life had the jaundice in their eyes.
But they had to get back to the world by way of material things.
Jim had to change his evening clothes. He asked Charity to wait in
the office below. He pointed to the motor-coat and hat that Kedzie
had brought and tossed on a lounge.
Charity recoiled from wearing Kedzie's cast-off clothes or from
disguising as Jim's wife, but her downcast eyes revealed her bare
shoulders and arms and her delicate evening gown. They had been
exquisitely appropriate to night and night lights, but they were
ghastly in the day.
She put on Kedzie's mantle; it blistered her like the mantle Medea
sent to her successor in her husband's love. She sat in the office
and some of the guests passed through. She could see that they took
her to be one of their sort, and shocks of red and white alternated
through her skin.
When Jim was ready he came down with his evening clothes in the
suit-case. The baggage was the final convincing touch. He picked
up the gasolene-can and toted it that weary mile. One of the hotel
servants offered to carry it, but Jim was in no mood for company.
There are things that the wealthiest man does not want to have done
They found the car studded with pools of water from the rain, and
Charity shook out the cushions while Jim filled up the tank.
"Quite domestic," said Charity, in the last dregs of bitterness.
Jim did not answer. He flung the can over into a field and hopped
into the car. He regretted that he had no spurs to dig into its
sides, no curb bit to jerk. He owed his destruction to that car.
For want of gasolene, the car was lost; for want of the car, a
reputation was lost.
He thought with frenzy as he drove. He had little imagination, but
it did not require an expert dreamer to foresee dire possibilities
ahead. He was so sorry for Charity that he could have wept. He
wanted to enfold her in his arms and promise her security. He wanted
to stand in front of her and take in his own breast all the arrows
of scorn that might shower upon her.
But the nearest approach to protection in his power lay along the
lines of appearing to be indifferent to her. He had not been told of
Kedzie's infatuation for Strathdene and he had not suspected it.
Charity was tempted to refer to it, but she felt that it would be
contemptibly petty at the moment. So Jim was permitted to hope that
he could find Kedzie, throw himself on her mercy and implore her to
believe in his innocence. It was a sickly hope, and his heart filled
with gall and with hatred of Kedzie and all she had brought on him.
He reached Newport with a terrific speed, and left Charity at Mrs.
Noxon's to make her own explanations. Mrs. Noxon had defended Charity
against gossip once before, but to defend her against appearances was
too much to ask.
"Well-behaved people," she told Charity, "do not have appearances."
She was so cold that Charity froze also, and set her maid to packing.
Mrs. Noxon's frigidity was a terrifying example of what she was to
expect. She returned to New York on the first train. Jim was on it,
He had sped home, expecting to find Kedzie. She was gone and none
of the servants knew where. If he had found her in the ferocious
humor he had arrived at he might have given her the sort of divorce
popular in divorce-less countries, where they annul the wife instead
of the marriage. He might have sent Kedzie to the realm where there
is neither marrying nor giving in marriage--which should save a heap
Jim fancied that Kedzie must have taken the train to New York, since
she spoke of sending her lawyer to McNiven. It did not occur to him
that she could find a New York lawyer in Newport.
He met Charity, and not Kedzie, on the train. That made bad look
worse. But it gave Jim and Charity an opportunity to face the
calamity that was impending. Jim tried to reassure Charity that he
would keep her from suffering any public harm. The mere thought of
her liability to notoriety, the realization that her long life of
decency and devotion were at the mercy of the whim of a woman like
Kedzie, drove her frantic.
She begged Jim to leave her to her thoughts and he went away to the
purgatory of his own. Reaching New York, he returned to Charity to
offer his escort to her home. She broke out, petulantly:
"Don't take me any more places, Jim. I beg you!"
"Forgive me," he mumbled, and relieved her of his compromising
They went to their homes in separate taxicabs. Jim made haste to
his apartment. Kedzie was not there and had not been heard from.
Late as it was, he set out on a telephone chase for McNiven and
dragged him to a conference. It was midnight and Jim was haggard
There are two people at least to whom a wise man tells the truth--his
doctor and his lawyer. Neither of them has many illusions left, but
both usually know fact when they get a chance to face it.
Jim had nothing to conceal from McNiven and his innocence transpired
through all his bewilderment. He told just what had happened in its
farcical-funeral details. McNiven did not smile. Jim finished with
all his energy:
"Sandy, you know that Charity is the whitest woman on earth, a saint
if ever there was a saint. She's the one that's got to be protected.
Not a breath of her name must come out. If it takes the last cent
I've got and dad's got I want you to buy off that wife of mine. You
warned me against marrying her, and I wish to God I'd listened to
you. I'm not blaming her for being suspicious, but I can't let her
smash Charity. I'll protect Charity if I have to build a wall of
solid gold around her."
McNiven tried to quiet him. He saw no reason for alarm. "You don't
have to urge me to protect Charity," he said. "She's an angel as well
as my client. All you need is a little sleep. Go to bed and don't
worry. Remember, there never was a storm so big that it didn't blow
"Yes, but what does it blow over before it blows over?" said Jim.
"You're talking in your sleep already. Good night," said McNiven.
The next morning McNiven found Charity at his office when he
arrived. She had evidently been awake all night.
She told McNiven a story that agreed in the essentials with Jim's
except that she made herself out the fool where he had blamed
himself. McNiven had no success in trying to quiet her with soothing
promises of a tame conclusion. She dreaded Kedzie.
"If it were just an outburst of jealousy," she said, "you might talk
to the woman. But she's not jealous of her husband. She was as cool
as a cucumber when she found us together. She was glad of it, because
she had got a way to get her Marquess now. She's ambitious and Lady
Macbeth couldn't outdo her."
She told McNiven what she had not had the heart to tell Jim about
Strathdene. It worried him more than he admitted. While he meditated
on a measure to meet this sort of attack, Charity suggested one.
It was drastic, but she was desperate. She proposed the threat of
a countercharge against Kedzie.
McNiven shook his head and made strange noises in his pipe. He
asked for evidence against Kedzie. Charity could only quote the
McNiven said: "No. You allege innocence on your part in spite of
appearances which you admit are almost conclusive. You can hardly
claim that more innocent appearances on her part prove that she is
guilty. Besides, we don't want to stir up any more sediment. We'll
do everything on the Q. T. Money talks, and the little lady is not
deaf. My legal advice to you is, 'Don't fret,' and my medical advice
is, 'Go to bed and stay there till I send you word that it's all
over.' Remember one thing, there never was a storm so big that it
didn't blow over."
Charity was not in the least quieted. His sedative only annoyed
her ragged nerves.
"Keep my name clean," she whispered.
As she rode home in a taxicab that was like a refrigerator she
passed in the Fifth Avenue mêlée Zada L'Etoile, now Mrs. Cheever,
with the tiny little Cheever like a princelet asleep at her breast,
hiding with its pink head the letter "A" that had grown there.
People of cautious respectability spoke to Zada now with amiable
respect, and murmured:
"Funny thing! She's made a man of that good-for-nothing Peter
Cheever. They're as happy and as thick as thieves."
Charity had heard this saying, and she dreaded to realize that
perhaps in a few days respectable people would be turning from
herself, not seeing her, or storing up credit by snubbing her
"No wonder poor Cheever couldn't get along with her. He took the
blame like a gentleman, and now she's found out. She was a sly one,
but you can't fool all the people all the time."
Charity had not been gone from McNiven's office long before a
lawyer's clerk arrived bearing the papers for a divorce on statutory
grounds in the case of Dyckman versus Dyckman, Mrs. Charity C.
Cheever, co-respondent, Anson Beattie counsel for plaintiff.
McNiven went after Beattie at once and proposed a quiet treaty and
a settlement out of court. Beattie grinned so odiously that McNiven
had to say:
"Oh, I remember you. You used to be an ambulance-chaser. What are
you after now--a little dirty advertising?" "What are you after?"
said Beattie. "A little collusive juggling with the Seventh
"The one against false witness is the Ninth," said McNiven, "But
let's have a conference. This war in Europe might have been avoided
by a little heart-to-heart talk beforehand. Let's profit by the
Beattie consented to this, and promised to arrange it on condition
that in the mean while McNiven would accept service for his client.
This was done, and Beattie left.
He saw his great publicity campaign being thwarted, and changed
his mind. He hankered for fame more than gold. He filed the papers
and meditated. He did not know how much or how little Kedzie loved
her husband, and she had told him nothing of Strathdene. He feared
that a compromise might be patched up and perhaps a reconciliation
effected. He had had women come to him imploring a divorce from
their abominable husbands only to see the couple link up again,
kiss and make up, and call him an abominable villain for trying
to part them.
After some earnest consideration of the right of his own career
and his family to the full profit of this windfall, he looked up
a reporter and through him a group of reporters and promised them
a peep at something interesting.
He had the privilege of calling for the papers from the clerk of
the court, so he took them out and permitted the reporters to
glance within and make note of the contents.
Late editions of the evening papers gave the Dyckman divorce
a fanfare rivaling the evidence that the Germans were about to
resume their unrestricted submarine _Schrecklichkeit_.
If the spoken word is impossible to recall, how much more
irretrievable the word that is printed in millions of newspapers.
The name of Dyckman was a household word. It resounded now in every
household throughout the country, and across the sea, where the
name had become familiar in all the nations from the big financial
dealings of the elder Dyckman as a banker for the Allies.
Reporters played about Jim Dyckman that night as if they were
_banderilleros_ and he a raging bull. He fought them with
the same success.
They tried to find Charity, but she was in the doctor's care--
actually. The doctor himself dismissed the reporters. He called them
"ghouls," which did not sweeten their hearts toward his patient.
The next day there was probably not a morning paper in the United
States in any language that failed to star the news that Mrs. Dyckman
had found her husband's relations with Mrs. Cheever intolerable.
That morning saw the conference in McNiven's office, as promised by
Beattie. But Kedzie did not appear; she had vanished to some place
where she could not be found by anybody except the man who wrote
her highly imaginative affidavits for her and the notary public
who attested her signature.
At the conference with Jim, Kedzie was represented by counsel, also
by father. Jim called the lawyer Beattie some hard old Anglo-Saxon
names, and told him that if he were a little bigger he would give
him the beating that was coming to him. Then he turned to Kedzie's
"Mr. Thropp," he pleaded, "you and I have always got along all right.
You know I've tried to do the right thing by your daughter. I'm ready
to now. She's too decent a girl to have done this thing on her own.
This is the work of that rotten skunk of a lawyer--I apologize to the
other skunks and the real lawyers. She has done a frightful injustice
to the best woman on earth. She can never undo it, but surely she
doesn't want to do any more. She's through with me, I suppose, but
we ought to be able to clean up this affair respectably and quietly
and not in the front show-window of all the damned newspapers in the
"Can't you and I make a little quiet gentleman's agreement to
withdraw the charge and let the divorce go through decently? I'll
make any settlement on your daughter that she wants."
Adna pondered aloud, his claim-agent instincts alert: "Settlement,
eh? What might you call settlement?"
"Whatever you'd consider fair. How much would you say was right?"
Adna filled his lungs and mouthed the deliciously liquid word as if
it were a veritable _aurum potabile_:
"What!" Jim gasped.
Adna fairly gargled it again:
The greed in the old man's eyes shot Dyckman's eyes with blood.
"So it's the plain old blackmail, eh? Well, you can go plumb
"All right," said Adna, felicitously, "but we won't go alone. I
and daughter will have comp'ny. Come on, Mr. Beattie."
After they had gone Jim realized that his hatred of being gouged had
involved Charity's priceless reputation. He told McNiven to recall
Beattie, but Charity herself appeared in a new and militant humor.
The first realization that her good name was gone had crushed her.
She had built it up like a mansion, adding a white stone day by
day. When it fell about her in ruins her soul had swooned with the
After a night and a day of groveling terror she had recaptured the
valor that makes and keeps a woman good, and she leaped from her
sick bed and her sick soul into an armor of rage.
She burst in on McNiven and Jim and demanded a share in the battle.
When Jim told her of his latest blunder she spoke up, stoutly:
"You did the right thing. To try to buy them off would be to
confess guilt. The damage is done. The whole world has read the
lie. Now we'll make it read the truth. There must be some way for
me to defend my name, and I want to know what it is."
McNiven told her that the law allowed her to enter the case and
seek vindication, but he advised her against it. She thanked him
for the information and rejected the advice. She was gray with
battle-ardor and her very nostrils were fierce.
"I'm sorry to do anything to interfere with your welfare, Jim, for
if I win she wins you; but you can get rid of her some other way.
The little beast! She thinks she can make use of me as a bridge to
cross over to her Marquess, but she can't!"
"Her Marquess?" Jim mumbled. "What does that mean?"
Charity regretted her impetuous speech, but McNiven explained it.
Jim was pretty well deadened to shocks by this time, but the news
that his wife had been disloyal found an untouched spot in his
heart to stab. It gave him a needed resentment, however, and a
much-needed something to feel wronged about.
He caught a spark of Charity's blazing anger, and they resolved to
fight the case to the limit. And that was where it took them.
Once the battle was joined, a fierce desire for haste impelled all
of these people. Kedzie dreaded every hour's delay as a new risk
of losing Strathdene, who was showing an increasing rage at having
the name of his wife-to-be bandied about in the press, with her
portraits in formal pose or snapped by batteries of reporters.
Her lawyer emphasized the heartbreak it was to her to learn that
her adored husband had been led astray by her trusted friend. This
did not make pleasant reading for the jealous Strathdene, and he
wished himself jolly well out of the whole affair.
It was not long before his own name began to slip into the case by
innuendo. Once he was in, he could not decently abandon his Kedzie,
though he had to prove his devotion by denying it and threatening
to shoot anybody who implied that his interest in Mrs. Dyckman was
anything more than formal.
Jim Dyckman was impatient to have done with the suit, however it
ended. He was tossed on both horns of the dilemma. He was compelled
to fight one woman to save another. He could not defend Charity
without striking Kedzie and he could not spare Kedzie without
In a situation that would have overwhelmed the greatest tacticians
he floundered miserably. He vowed that whatever the outcome of
the case might be, he would never look at a woman again. Men find
it very easy to condemn womankind _en bloc_, and they are
forever forswearing the sex as if it were a unit or a bad habit.
During the necessary delay in reaching trial Jim asked and received
an extension of his leave of absence; then his regiment came home
from the Border and was mustered out of the Federal service and
received again into the State control. Jim felt almost as much
ashamed of involving his regiment in his scandal as Charity.
He had suffered so greatly from the embarrassment of the publicity
that he could hardly endure to face his regiment and drill with his
company. He offered his resignation again, but it was not accepted.
In fact, under the new condition of the National Guard service, his
immediate officers had nothing to do with his resignation.
The probability of a call to arms, not against Mexico, but against
the almost almighty German Empire, was so great that it looked like
slackery or cowardice to ask to be excused. His next dread was that
the regiment would be mustered in before the case was finished,
compelling its postponement and leaving Charity to languish
For his inclusive anger at Everywoman soon changed back to deeper
affection than ever. The first sight of her on the witness-stand
at the mercy of the inquisition of the unscrupulous Beattie brought
back all his old emotions for her and unnumbered new.
He had seen a picture of one of the Christian martyrs whose torture
was inflicted on her by a man armed with steel pincers to pluck off
her flesh from her shuddering soul bit by bit. It seemed to him
that his sainted Charity was condemned to like atrocity. Her hands
were bound by the thongs of the law, her body was stripped to the
eyes of the crowd, and the tormentor went here and there, nipping
at the quick with intolerable cruelty.
And Jim must not go to her rescue. He must not protest or lift
a hand in her behalf. He must sit and suffer with her while the
anguish squeezed the big sweat out of his knotted brows.
It had been hard enough to await the appearance of the case on
the docket, to sit through the selection of the jury, and to
study the gradual recruitment of that squad of twelve sphinxes,
all commonplace, yet mysterious, lacking in all divinity of
comprehension and eager to be entertained with an exciting
The fact that a woman was the plaintiff was a tremendous handicap
for Jim, even though a woman was allied with him in the defense.
The very name "co-respondent" condemned her in advance in the public
mind. And then she was rich and therefore dissipated in the minds
of those who cannot imagine wealth as providing other fascinating
businesses besides vice. And Jim was wealthy and therefore a proper
object for punishment. If he had earned his millions it must have
been by tyrannous corruption; if he had only inherited them that
was worse yet.
Beattie lost no chance to play on the baser phases of the noble and
essential suspicions of the democratic soul and also on Kedzie's
humble origin, her child-like prettiness proving absolutely a
child-like innocence and trust, and the homely simplicity of her
parents, who, being poor and ignorant, were therefore inevitably
virtuous and sincere.
Jim had realized from the first what a guilty aspect his unfortunate
excursion with Charity must wear in the eyes of any one but her and
him. Even the waiter who was on the ground had unwittingly conspired
with their delicacy to put them in a most indelicate situation. Skip
went on the stand, reveling in his first experience of fame, basking
in the spot-light like a cheap actor, and acting very badly, yet well
enough for the groundlings he amused.
Jim and Charity underwent a martyrdom of ridicule during his
testimony. A man and woman riding backward on a mule through a
jeering mob might seem pathetic enough if one had the heart to
deny himself the laughter, but Jim and Charity made their grotesque
pilgrimage without exciting sympathy.
Beattie had tried to get Mrs. Noxon on the stand to confirm the proof
that Charity had spent the night away, but the old lady showed her
contempt of the court and of the submarines by sailing for Europe
to escape the ordeal. The chauffeur, the valet, and the Viewcrest
servants were enough, however, to corroborate Skip Magruder's story
beyond any assailing, and handwriting experts had no difficulty in
convincing the jury that Jim's signature on the hotel register was
in his own handwriting. He had made no effort to disguise it or even
to change his name till the last of it was well begun.
Mr. and Mrs. Thropp made splendid witnesses for their child and
the old mother's tears melted a jury that had never seen her weep
for meaner reasons.
When Charity reached the stand the case against her was so complete
that all her bravery was gone. She felt herself a fool for having
brought the ordeal on herself. She took not even self-respect with
her to the chair of torture.
In the good old days of Hester Prynne they published a faithless
wife by sewing a scarlet "A" upon the bosom of her dress. Nowadays
the word is pronounced "co-respondent," and it may be affixed to any
woman's name by any newspaper, or any plaintiff in a divorce case.
So fearful a power was so much abused that since 1911 in New York the
co-respondent has been permitted to come into the court and oppose
the label. It is in sort a revival of the ancient right to trial by
ordeal. This hideous privilege of proving innocence by walking unshod
over hot plowshares is most frigidly set forth in the statute where
the lawyer's gift for putting terrible things in desiccated phrases
was never better shown than in Section 1757.
In an action brought to obtain a divorce on the ground of adultery,
the plaintiff or defendant may serve a copy of his pleading on the
co-respondent named therein. At any time within twenty days after
such service on said co-respondent he may appear to defend such
action, so far as the issues affect such co-respondent. If no such
service be made, then at any time before the entry of judgment any
co-respondent named in any of the pleadings shall have the right,
at any time before the entry of judgment, to appear either in person
or by attorney in said action and demand of plaintiff's attorney a
copy of the summons and complaint, which must be served within ten
days thereafter, and he may appear to defend such action, so far
as the issues affect such co-respondent. In case no one of the
allegations of adultery controverted by such co-respondent shall
be proved, such co-respondent shall be entitled to a bill of costs
against the person naming him as such co-respondent, which bill of
costs shall consist only of the sum now allowed by law as a trial
fee, and disbursements, and such co-respondent shall be entitled
to have an execution issue for the collection of the same.
The exact amount of money was set forth in another place, in Section
3251, where it is stated that the sums obtainable are "for trial of
an issue of fact, $30, and when the trial necessarily occupies more
than two days, $10 in addition thereto."
In other words, Mrs. Charity Coe Cheever, finding her life of good
works and pure deeds crowned with the infamy which Mrs. Kedzie
Dyckman in her anger and her haste pressed on her brow, had the
full permission of the law to come into the public court, face
a vitriolic lawyer, and deny her guilt.
If she survived the trip through hell she could collect from her
accuser forty dollars to pay her lawyer with. The priceless boon of
such a vindication she could keep for herself. And that ended her.
This is only one of the numberless vicious and filthy and merciless
consequences of the things done in the name of virtue by those who
believe divorce to be so great an evil that they will commit every
other evil in order to oppose it.
In no other realm of law and punishment has severity had more need
of hypocrisy to justify itself than in the realm of wedlock. What
grosser burlesque could there be than the conflict between the theory
and the practice? The law and the Church, claiming what few people
will deny, that marriage is an immensely solemn, even a sacred,
condition, have made entrance into it as easy as possible and the
escape from it as difficult. It is as if one were to say, "Revolvers
are very dangerous weapons, therefore they shall be placed within
the reach of infants, but they must on no account be taken away from
them, and once grasped they must never be laid down."
The most stringent rules have been formulated to prevent those people
from marrying each other who are least likely to want to--namely,
blood relations. But there is no law against total strangers meeting
at the altar for the first time, and the marriage by proxy of people
who have never seen each other has had the frequent blessing of
At a time when legal divorce was too horrible to contemplate they
made very pretty festivals of betrothing little children who could
not understand the ceremony or even parrot the pledge. Who indeed
can understand the pledge before its meaning is made clear by life?
And why should people be forced to make an eternal pledge whose
keeping is beyond their power or prophecy and from which there is
no release? What is it but a subornation of perjury?
Those who so blithely scatter flowers before bridal couples and
old shoes after them are perfectly benevolent, of course, in their
abhorrence of separating the twain if they begin to throw their old
shoes at each other; for they are sincerely convinced that if people
were permitted to do as they pleased, nothing on earth would please
them but vice. And so those who have the lawmaking itch set about
saving humanity from itself by making inhuman laws, which the clever
and the criminal evade or break through, leaving the gentle and the
timid in the net.
For there was never no divorce. No amount of law has ever availed
to keep those together who had the courage or the cruelty to break
the bonds. By hook or by crook, if not by book, they will be free.
The question of the children is often used to cloud the issue, as if
all that children needed for their welfare were the formal alliance
of their parents, and as if a home where hatred rages or complacent
vice is serene were the ideal rearing-ground for the young. When love
of their children is enough to keep two incompatible souls together
there is no need of the law. When that love is insufficient what can
the law accomplish? And what of the innumerable families where there
have been no children, or where they are dead or grown-up?
The experiment of forbidding what cannot be prevented and of refusing
legal sanction to what human nature demands has been given centuries
of trial with no success.
Marriage is among the last of the institutions to have the daylight
let in and the windows thrown open. For the home is no more
threatened by liberty than the State is, and that pair which is
kept together only by the shackles of the law is already divorced;
its cohabitation is a scandal. Free love in the promiscuous sense is
no uglier than coupled loathing. The social life of that community
where divorce is least free is no purer than that where divorce is
not difficult. Otherwise South Carolina, which alone of the States
permits no divorce on any ground, should be an incomparable Eden of
marital innocence. Is it? And New York, which has only one ground,
and that the scriptural, should be the next most innocent. Is it?
Meanwhile the mismated of our day who are struggling through
the transition period between the despotism of matrimony and its
republic can be sure that the righteous will omit no abuse that
they can inflict. Those who would free Russias must face Siberias.
The worst phase of it is that some of those who are determined to
be free and cannot otherwise get free will not hesitate to destroy
innocent persons who may be useful to their escape.
Mrs. Kedzie Dyckman had her heart set on releasing herself from
the husband she had in order that she might try another who promised
her more happiness, more love, and more prestige. The husband she
had would have been willing enough to set her free, both because he
liked to give her whatever she wanted and because he was not in love
with their marriage himself.
But the law of New York State says that married couples shall not
uncouple amicably and intelligently. If they will part it must be
with bitterness and laceration. One of the two must be driven out
through the ugly gate of adultery. They must part as enemies and they
must sacrifice some third person as a blood-offering on the altar.
It is a strange thing that the lamb, which is the symbol of innocence
and harmlessness, should have always been the favorite for sacrifice.
Charity Coe had happened along at the convenient moment.
"Mrs. Charity Coe Cheever, take the stand...."
"Ju swear tell tru thole tru noth buth tru thelpugod?"
McNiven, in the direct examination, asked only such questions as
Charity easily answered with proud denials of guilt. Beattie began
the cross-examination with a sneering scorn of her good faith.
"Mrs. Cheever, you are the co-respondent in this case of Dyckman
"And on this night you went motoring with defendant?"
"Was his wife with you?"
"No; you see--"
"Was any other person with you?"
"You see, it was a new car and it was only our intention to--"
"Was any other person with you?"
"And you spent the night with the defendant in the Viewcrest Inn?"
"That is hardly the way I should put it."
"Answer the question, please."
"I will not answer such an insulting question."
"I beg your pardon most humbly. Were you registered as the
McNiven's voice: "I 'bject. There is no evidence witness even saw
The judge: "Objection s'tained."
"Well, then, Mrs. Cheever, did you see the defendant write in
"I--I--perhaps I did--"
"Perhaps you did. You heard the waiter Magruder testify here
awhile ago that he insisted on defendant registering, and defendant
reluctantly complied. Do you remember that?"
"I--I--I believe I do. But I didn't see what he wrote."
"You didn't see what he wrote. Exhibit A shows that he wrote '_Mr.
and Mrs. James Dysart_.' You heard the handwriting experts testify
that the writing was Dyckman's. But you did not see the writing. Did
you not, however, hear the waiter speak of you as the defendant's
"Well--I may have heard him."
"You didn't tell him that you were not the defendant's wife?"
"I didn't speak to the waiter at all. It was a very embarrassing
"It must have been. So you did not deny that you were the defendant's
"You see, it was like this. When Mr. Dyckman asked me to try his
"You did not deny that you were the defendant's wife?"
"I hadn't the faintest idea that we could have gone so far--"
"Answer the question!"
"But I'm coming to that--"
The judge: "Witness will answer question."
"But, your Honor, can't I explain? Has he a right to ask these
horrible things in that horrible way?"
The lawyer: "We are trying to get at the horrible truth. But if you
prefer not to answer I will not press the point. The waiter showed
you to the parlor, saying that the rest of the hotel was occupied?"
"He left you there together, you and the defendant?"
"Well, he went away, but--"
"And left you together. He so testified. He also testified that he
found you together the next morning. Is that true?"
"Oh, that's outrageous. I refuse to answer."
Jim Dyckman rose from his chair in a frenzy of wrath. His lawyer,
McNiven, pressed him back and pleaded with him in a whisper to
remember the court. He yielded helplessly, cursing himself for
his disgraceful lack of chivalry.
The judge spoke sternly. "Witness will answer questions of counsel
"But, your Honor, he is trying to make me say that I--Oh, it's
loathsome. I didn't. I didn't. He has no right!"
When a woman's hair is caught in a traveling belt and she is drawn
backward, screaming, into the wheels of a great machinery that will
mangle her beauty if it does not helplessly murder her there are not
many people whose hearts are hard enough to withhold pity until they
learn whether or not her plight was due to carelessness.
There are always a few, however, who will add their blame to her
burden, and they usually invoke the name of justice for their
lethargy of spirit.
Yet even the cruelty of that severity is a form of self-protection
against a shattering grief; and a perfect heart would have pity even
for the pitiless, since they, too, are the victims of their own
carelessness; they, too, are drawn backward into the soul-crushing
cogs of the world.
Mrs. Charity Coe Cheever, as good a woman as ever was, was being
dragged to the meeting-point of great wheels, but she had turned
about and was fighting to escape, at least with what was dearer
than her life. The pain and the terror were supreme, and even if
she wrenched free from destruction it would be at the cost of
lasting scars. Yet she fought.
It had been all too easy for the infuriated Kedzie Dyckman to
entangle Charity in the machinery. Kedzie was a little terrified
at the consequences of her own act, though she would have said that
she did it in self-defense and to punish an outrage upon her rights.
But when persons set out to punish other persons, it is not often
that their own hands are altogether innocent.
If the Christly edict, "Let him that is without sin cast the first
stone," had been followed out there would never have been another
stone cast. And one might ask if the world would have been, or could
have been, the worse for that abstention. For, whatever else may be
true, the venerable practices of justice have been false and futile.
And now, nearly two thousand years later, after two thousand years
more of heartbreaking history, an increasing few are asking bitterly
if punishment has ever paid.
Vaguely imagining on one side the infinite misery and ugliness
of the dungeons and tortures, the disgraces and executions of
the ages with their counter-punishment on the inquisitors and the
executioners, and setting against them that uninterrupted stream of
deeds we call crimes, what is the picture but a ghastly vanity--an
eternal process of trying to dam the floods of old Nile by flinging
in forever poor wretch after poor wretch to drown unredeemed and
Charity was the latest sacrifice. If she had been guilty of loving
too wildly well, or of drifting unconsciously into a situation where
opportunity made temptation irresistible, there would be a certain
reaction to pity after she had been definitely condemned. There are
at times advantages in weakness, as women well know, though Charity
despised them now.
Kedzie's lawyer, however, felt it good tactics to assume now the
pose of benevolent patience with an erring one. Seeing that Charity
was in danger of stirring the hearts of the jurors by her suffering,
he forestalled their sympathy and murmured:
"I will wait till Mrs. Cheever has regained control of herself."
Instantly Charity's pride quickened in her. She wanted none of
that beast's pity. She responded to the strange sense of discipline
before fate that makes a man walk soldierly to the electric chair;
inspires a caught spy to stand placidly before his own coffin and
face the firing-squad; led Joan of Arc after one panic of terror
to wait serene among the crackling fagots.
The lawyer was relieved. He had been afraid that Charity would weep.
He resumed the probe:
"And now, Mrs. Cheever, if you are quite calm I will proceed. I
regret the necessity of asking these questions, but you were not
compelled to come into court. You came of your own volition, did
"Witnesses have testified and you have not denied that you arrived
at the Viewcrest Inn late at night; that you saw the defendant
register; that you and he went to the only room left; that the
waiter left you together and found you together the next morning.
You have heard that testimony, have you not?"
"Knowing all this, do you still claim that your conduct was above
"For discretion, no. I was foolish and indiscreet."
"And that was all?"
"You are innocent of the charge, then?"
"Do you ask the jury to believe you?"
"I ask them to--yes! Yes! I ask them to."
"Do you expect them to?"
"Oh, they ought to."
"If you had been guilty of misconduct would you admit it?"
"Do you expect them to believe that?"
"If they knew me they would."
"Well, we haven't all the privilege of knowing you as well as the
defendant does. You may step down, Mrs. Cheever, thank you."
McNiven rose. "One moment, Mrs. Cheever. You testified on direct
examination that the defendant left you immediately after the waiter
"And that he did not return till the next morning, just before the
"That is all, Mrs. Cheever."
McNiven would have done better to leave things alone. The sturdy
last answer of Charity and the unsportsmanlike sneer of Kedzie's
lawyer had inclined the jury her way. McNiven's explanation awoke
again the skeptic spirit.
Charity descended from her pillory with a feeling that she had said
none of the things she had planned to say. The eloquence of her
thoughts had seemed incompatible somehow with the witness-stand.
At a time when she needed to say so much she had said so little
and all of it wrong.
Jim Dyckman's heart was so wrung with pity for Charity when she
stepped down and sought her place in a haze of despair that he
resolved to make a fight for her himself. He insisted on McNiven's
calling him to the stand, though McNiven begged him to let ill
He took the oath with a fierce enthusiasm that woke the jury a
little, and he answered his own lawyer's questions with a fervor
that stirred a hope in the jury's heart, a sorely wrung heart it
was, for its pity for Charity was at war with its pity for Kedzie,
and its admiration for Jim Dyckman, who was plainly a gentleman and
a good sport even if he had gone wrong, could only express itself
by punishing Kedzie, whose large eyes and sweet mouth the jury could
not ignore or resist.
When his own lawyer had elicited from Jim the story as he wanted
it told, which chanced to be the truth, McNiven abandoned him to
Beattie with the words:
Beattie was in fine fettle. He had become a name talked about
transcontinentally, and now he was crossing swords with the famous
Dyckman. And Dyckman was at a hideous disadvantage. He could
only parry, he could not counter-thrust. There was hardly a trick
forbidden to the cross-examiner and hardly a defense permitted to
And yet that very helplessness gave the witness a certain shadowy
aide at his side.
Jim's heart was beating high with his fervor to defend Charity, but
it stumbled when Beattie rose and faced him. And Beattie faced him
a long while before he spoke.
A slow smile crept over the lawyer's mien as he made an excuse for
silence out of the important task of scrubbing his eye-glasses.
Before that alkaline grin Jim felt his faith in himself wavering.
He remembered unworthy thoughts he had entertained, graceless
things he had done; he felt that his presence here as a knight of
unassailable purity was hypocritical. He winced at all points from
the uncertainty as to the point to be attacked. His life was like
a long frontier and his enemy was mobilized for a sudden offensive.
He would know the point selected for the assault when he felt the
assault. The first gun was that popular device, a supposititious
"Mr. Dyckman, you are accused of--well, we'll say co-respondence
with the co-respondent. You have denied your guilt in sundry
affidavits and on the witness-stand here. Remembering the classic
and royal ideal of the man who 'perjured himself like a gentleman,'
and assuming--I say 'assuming' what you deny--that you had been
guilty, would you have admitted it?"
"I could not have been guilty."
"Could not? Really! you astonish me! And why not, please?"
"Because Mrs. Cheever would never have consented. She is
a good woman."
This unexpected answer to the old trick question jolted Beattie
perceptibly and brought the jury forward a little. The tears gushed
to Charity's eyes and she felt herself unworthy a champion so pious.
Beattie acknowledged the jolt with a wry smile and returned:
"Very gallant, Mr. Dyckman; you want to be a gentleman and avoid
the perjury, too. But I must ask you to answer the question.
Suppose you had been guilty."
"Answer the question!"
"Will his Honor kindly instruct the witness to answer the question?"
Jim broke in, "His Honor cannot compel me to suppose something
that is impossible."
The jury rejoiced unwillingly, like the crowd in the bleachers
when a man on the opposing team knocks a home run. The jury liked
Jim better. But what they liked, after all, was what they falsely
imagined. They assumed that Jim had been out on a lark and got
caught and was putting up a good scrap for his lady friend. He was
a hum-dinger, and no wonder the lady fell for him. Into such slang
their souls translated the holiness of his emotions, and they voted
him guilty even in awarding him their admiration for his defense.
Beattie paused again, then suddenly asked, "Mr. Dyckman, how long
have you loved Mrs. Cheever?"
"What do you mean by 'loved'?"
"It is a familiar word. Answer the question."
"I have admired Mrs. Cheever since she was a child. We have always
"Your 'friendship' was considerably excited when she married
Mr. Cheever, wasn't it?"
"I--I thought he was unworthy of her."
"Was that why you beat him up in a fist fight at your club?"
This startled the entire court. Even reporters who had missed the
news were excited. McNiven sprang to his feet, crying:
"I 'bject! There is no evidence before the court that there ever
was such a fight. The question is incompirrelvimmaterial."
"S'tained!" said the judge.
Beattie was satisfied. The arrow had been pulled out, but its poison
remained. He made use of another of his tantalizing pauses, then:
"It was shortly afterward that Mrs. Cheever divorced her husband,
was it not?"
"I 'bject," McNiven barked.
"S'tained!" the judge growled.
"Let us get back to the night when you and Mrs. Cheever went
a-motoring." Beattie smiled. "There was a beautiful moon on that
occasion, I believe."
The jury grinned. The word "moon" meant foolishness. Beattie took
Jim through the story of that ride and that sojourn at the tavern,
and every question he asked condemned Jim to a choice of answers,
either alternative making him out ridiculously virtuous or criminal.
Beattie rehearsed the undenied facts, but substituted for the
glamour of innocence in bad luck the sickly glare of cynicism. He
asked Jim if he had ever heard of the expression, "The time, the
place, and the girl." He had the jury snickering at the thought of
a big rich youth like Jim being such a ninny, such a milksop and
mollycoddle, as to defy an opportunity so perfect.
The public mind has its dirt as well as its grandeurs; the pool
that mirrors the sky is easily roiled and muddied. It was possible
for the same people to abhor Jim and Charity for being guilty and
to feel that if they were not guilty with such an occasion they
were still more contemptible.
Thus ridicule, which shakes down the ancient wrongs and the tyrants'
pretenses, shakes down also the ancient virtues and the struggling
Finally Beattie said, "You say you left the fair corespondent
alone in the hotel parlor?"
"And you went out into the night, as the saying is?"
"But you testified that it was raining."
"You went out into the rain?"
"To cool your fevered brow?"
Silence from Jim; shrieks of laughter from the silly spectators.
The jury was shattered with amusement; the judge wiped a grin
from his lips. Beattie resumed:
"Where did you sleep?"
"In the office chair."
"You paid for the parlor! You registered! And you slept in the
chair!" [Gales of laughter. His Honor threatens to clear the court.]
"Who saw you asleep in the chair?"
"I don't know--I was asleep."
"Are you sure that you did not just dream about the chair?"
"I am sure."
Jim stepped down, feeling idiotic.
There is a dignity that survives and is illumined by flames of
martyrdom, but there is no dignity that is improved by a bladder-
buffeting. Jim slunk back to his place and cowered, while the
attorneys made their harangues.
McNiven spoke with passion and he had the truth on his side, but
it lacked the convincing look. Beattie rocked the jury-box with
laughter and showed a gift for parodying seriousness that would
carry him far on his career. Then he switched to an ardent defense
of the purity of the American home, and ennobled the jury to a
knighthood of chivalry and of democracy. As he pointed out, the
well-known vices of the rich make every household unsafe unless
they are sternly checked by the dread hand of the law.
He called upon the jury to inflict on the Lothario a verdict that
would not only insure comfort to the poor little woman whose home
had been destroyed, but would also be severe enough to make even
a multimillionaire realize and remember that the despoiler of the
American home cannot continue on his nefarious path with impunity.
The judge gave a long and solemn charge to the jury. It was fair
according to the law and the evidence, but the evidence had been
juggled by the fates.
The jury retired and remained a hideous while.
It was only a pleasant clubby discussion of the problem of Jim's
and Charity's innocence that delayed the jury's verdict. One or two
of the twelve had a sneaking suspicion that they had told the truth,
but these were laughed out of their wits by the wiser majority who
were not such fools as to believe in fairy-stories.
As one of the ten put it: "That Dyckman guy may have gone out into
the rain, but, believe me, he knew enough to come in out of the
A very benevolent old gentleman who sympathized with everybody
concerned made a little speech:
"It seems to me, gentlemen, that when a man and wife have quarreled
as bitterly as those two and have taken their troubles to court,
there is no use trying to force them together again. If we give
a verdict of not guilty, that will leave Mr. and Mrs. Dyckman
married. But they must hate each other by now and that would mean
lifelong misery and sin for both. So I think we will save valuable
time and satisfy everybody best by giving a verdict of guilty. It
won't hurt Dyckman any."
"What about Mrs. Cheever?"
"Oh, she's gotta lotta money."
None of the jury had ever had so much as that and it was equivalent
to a good time and the answer to all prayers, so they did not
fret about Charity's future. On the first ballot, after a proper
reminiscence of the amusing incidents of the trial they proceeded
to a decision. The verdict was unanimous that Jim was guilty as
charged. Charity was not to get her forty dollars nor her good name.
When the jurors filed back into the box the court came to attention
and listened to the verdict.
Jim and Charity were dazed as if some footpad had struck them
over the head with a slingshot. Kedzie was hysterical with relief.
She had suffered, too, throughout the trial. And now she had been
She went to the jury and she shook hands with each member and
"You know I accept the verdict as just one big beautiful birthday
present." It was not her birthday, but it sounded well, and she
added, "I shall always remember your kindly faces. Never can I
forget one of you."
Two days later she met one of the unforgetable jurors on the street
and did not recognize him. He had been one-twelfth of her knightly
champions, but she cut him dead as an impertinent stranger when he
tried to speak to her. She cut Skip Magruder still deader when he
tried to ride home with her.
He came to call and showed an inclination to settle down as a member
of Kedzie's intimate circle. He had speedily recovered from his
first awe at the sight of her splendor. Finding himself necessary
to her, he grew odiously presumptuous. She had not dared to rebuke
him. Now she thought she would have to buy him off. Skip had had his
witness fees and his expenses, and nothing else for his pains. Then
Beattie warned Kedzie that it would look bad to pay Skip any money;
it might cast suspicion on his testimony. Kedzie would not have done
that for worlds. Besides, when she learned what Mr. Beattie's fee
was to be, she felt too poor to pay anybody anything.
The only thing she could do, therefore, was to remind Skip of the
beautiful old song, "Lovers once, but strangers now."
"Besides, Skippie dear, I'm engaged."
"You woiked that excuse on me when you tried to explain why you
toined me down when I wrote you the letter at the stage door."
"Yes, I did."
"Say, Anitar, you'd oughter git some new material. Your act is
"I don't know what you mean."
"Oh no! You wasn't never in vawdvul, was you, oh, no! not a tall!"
Kedzie played her pout on him, but Skip glared at her, shook his
head, kicked himself with his game leg, and said, "I gotta give
you credit, Anitar, you're the real thing as a user."
"A what?" said Kedzie.
"A user," he explained in his elliptical style. "You're one them
dames uses a fella like he was a napkin, then trows him down. You
used me twice and used me good. I desoived the second one, for I'm
the kind o' guy gets his once and comes back for more in the same
place. I'd go tell Jimmie Dyckman I was a liar but I ain't anxious
to be run up for poijury, and I ain't achin' to advertise what a
John I been. So long, Anitar, and Gaw delp the next guy crosses
That was the last Kedzie saw of Skip. She did not miss him. She hated
him for annoying her pride and she hated the law that she used for
her divorce, because it required her to wait three months before the
interlocutory decree should become final. The time was hazardously
long yet short, in a sense, for her alimony was to end at the end of
three months if she married again, and marrying again was her next
ambition. The judge had fixed her alimony at $30,000 a year, and an
allowance for costs. Beattie tried to make a huge cost settlement,
but McNiven knew of Kedzie's interest in the Marquess and he refused
the bait. So Kedzie got only $7,500. She found it a ruinously small
capital to begin life as a Marchioness on--she that had had only
two dollars to begin life in New York on! The Marquess was very
nice about it, and said he didn't want any of Dyckman's dirty money.
But Kedzie thought of life in England with alarm, especially as
she had the American comic-opera idea that all foreign peers are
penniless. She dreaded to think what might happen in that three
months' interregnum between husband II and husband III. Enough was
happening in the rest of the world.
The _annus miserabilis_ 1917 had begun with the determination
of the German Empire to render the seas impassable and to withdraw
the pledge to President Wilson that merchant ships should not be
sunk till the passengers and crew had a chance to get into open
boats. On January 31, 1917, "Frightfulness" began anew, and the
undersea fleets, enormously increased, were set loose in shoals.
Having no commerce of her own afloat, it was safe for Germany to
sink any vessel anywhere.
Kedzie began to wonder if she would ever dare to sail for he
future ancestral home, and if she did how long her ship would
On February 3d the U-53, which had sunk Strathdene's ship off
Newport, sank an American freighter bound from Galveston to
Liverpool. Other American vessels followed her into the depths.
On February 27th the Laconia, of 18,000 tons burden, was torpedoed
and twelve passengers died of exposure in the bitter weather. In
one of the open boats a Catholic priest administered the last rites
to seven persons.
Mrs. Hoy, of Chicago, died in the arms of her daughter and her body
slipped into the icy waves, to be followed by her daughter's a few
These seemed to make up a sufficient total of American women
drowned, and on the next day the President declared that the
long-awaited "overt act" had been committed. He asked Congress
to declare that peace with Germany was ended. Her ambassador was
sent home and ours called home.
In March the British captured Bagdad and the Germans suddenly
retreated along a sixty-mile front in France; then the Russian
revolution abruptly changed the almighty Czar into a weeping
prisoner digging snow. And the vast burying-ground of Siberia
gave up its living dead in a sudden apocalypse of freedom. Fifty
thousand sledges sped across the steppes laden with returning
exiles, chains stil dangling at many a wrist from the dearth of
blacksmiths to strike them off.
Kedzie did not value the privilege of living in times when epochs
of history were crowded into weeks and cycles completed in days.
The revolution in Russia disturbed Kedzie as it did many a monarch,
and she said to her mother:
"What a shame to treat the poor Czar so badly! Strathie and I were
planning to visit Russia after the war, too. The Czar was awfully
nice to Strathie once and I was sure we'd be invited to live right
in the Duma or the Kremlin or whatever they call the palace. And
now they've got a cheap and nasty old republic over there! And
they're talking of having republics everywhere. What could be more
stupid? As if everybody was born free and equal. Mixing all the
aristocrats right up with the common herd!"
Mrs. Thropp agreed that it was simply terrible.
"Do you know what?" Kedzie gasped.
"What?" her mother echoed.
"I've just had a hunch. I'll bet that by the time I get married to
Strathie there'll be nothing left but republics, and no titles at
tall. His people came over with Henry the Conqueror and his title
will last just long enough for me to reach for it, and then--woof!
Wouldn't it be just my luck to become plain Mrs. Strathdene after
all I've had to go through! Honestly, m'mah, don't I just have the