Part 2 out of 12
Beneath her eyes she saw a card that asked, "How many?" She said,
The doleful ticket-seller was annoyed at the tautology of passing
him a nickel and saying, "One!" He shot out an angry glance with
the ticket, but he melted at sight of Kedzie's lush beauty, recognized
her unquestionable plebeiance, and hailed her with a "Here you are,
Kedzie was not at all insulted. She gave him smile for smile, took up
her pasteboard and followed the crowd through the gate.
The ticket-chopper yelled at the back of her head, "Here, where you
She turned to him, and his scowl relaxed. He pointed to the box
"Put her there, miss, if you please."
She smiled at the ticket-chopper and dropped the flake into the box.
She moved down the stairway as an express rolled in. People ran.
Kedzie ran. They squeezed in at the side door, and so did Kedzie.
The wicker seats were full, and so Kedzie stood. She could not reach
the handles that looked like cruppers. Men and women saw how pretty
she was. She was so pretty that one or two men nearly rose and
offered her their seats. When the train whooped round the curve
beneath Times Square Kedzie was spun into the lap of a man reading
a prematurely born "Night Edition."
She came through the paper like a circus-lady, and the man was
indignant till he saw what he held. Then he laughed foolishly,
helped the giggling Kedzie to her feet and rose to his own, gave her
his place, and went blushing into the next car. For an hour after
his arms felt as if they had clasped a fugitive nymph for a moment
before she escaped.
This train chanced to be an express to 180th Street in the Bronx
Borough. If any one had asked Kedzie if she knew the Bronx she would
probably have answered that she did not know them. She did not even
know what a borough was.
It was fascinating how much Kedzie did not know. She had an infinite
fund of things to find out.
She was thrilled thoroughly by the glorious velocity through
the tunnel. The train stopped at Seventy-second Street and at
Ninety-sixth Street and at many other stations. People got on
or off. But Kedzie was too well entertained to care to leave.
She did not know that the train ran under a corner of Central Park
and beneath the Harlem River. She would have liked to know. To run
under a river would tell well at home.
Suddenly the Subway shot out into midair and became a superway.
The street which had been invisible above was suddenly visible below,
with street-cars on it. Also there was a still higher track overhead.
Three layers of tracks! It was heavenly, the noise they made! She
enjoyed hearing the mounting numbers of the streets shouted
antiphonally by the gentlemen at either door.
At 180th Street, however, the train stopped for good, and the handsome
young man at the front door called, "All out!" He said it to Kedzie
with a beautiful courtesy, adding, "This is as far as we go, lady."
That was tremendous, to be called "lady." Kedzie tried to get out
like one. She smiled at the guard and left his protection with some
reluctance. He studied her as she walked along the platform. She
seemed to meet with his approval in general, and in particular.
He sighed when she turned out of his sight.
The station here was very high up in the world. Kedzie counted
seventy-seven steps on her way to the level. She was distressed
to find herself in a shabby, noisy community where streets radiated
in six directions. Her fears were true. She had left New York. She
must get home to it again.
She walked back along the way she had come, on the sidewalk beneath
the tracks. This meandering street was called Boston Road. Kedzie had
no ideas as to the distance of Boston. She only knew that New York
was good enough for her--the New York of Forty-second Street,
of course. Kedzie did not know yet how many, many New Yorks there
are in New York.
She was discouraged by her present surroundings. Along the rough
and neglected streets were little rows of shanty shops, and there
were stubby frame residences.
There was one two-story cottage snuggling against a hill; it had
a little picket fence with a little picket gate leading to a little
ragged yard with an old apple-tree in it; and there was a pair of
steps up to the front door, and a rough trellis from there to the
woodshed with a grapevine draped across it. It was of the James
Whitcomb Riley school of architecture--a house with a woodshed.
Rich people who were tired of the city, and chanced that way,
used to pause and look at that little nook and admire its meek
attractiveness. It made them homesick.
But Kedzie was sick of home. This lowly cot was too much like
her father's. It had a sign on it that said, "To Let." It was
a funny expression. Kedzie studied it a long time before she
decided that it was New-Yorkese for "For Rent."
She shuddered at the idea of renting or letting such a house--
especially as it was so close to a church, a small, seedy,
frame church nearly all roof, a narrow-chested, slope-shouldered
churchlet with a frame cupola for a steeple. It looked abandoned,
and an ivy flourished on it so impudently that it almost closed
the unfrequented portal.
The bill-boards here made mighty interesting reading. There were
magnificent works of an art on the grand scale of a people's
gallery; one structure promulgated the glories of a notorious
chewing-gum. There was a gorgeous proclamation of a fashionable
glove with a picture of an extremely swell slim lady all dressed
up--or rather all dressed down--for the opera.
Kedzie prayed the Lord to send her some day a pair of full-length
white kid gloves like those. As for a box at the opera, she would
take her chances on the sunniest cloud-sofa in heaven for an evening
at the opera. And for a dress cut deckolett and an aigret in her
hair, she would have swapped a halo and a set of wings.
There was no end to the big pages of this literature, and Kedzie read
dozens of them from right to left in a southerly direction. Finally
she abandoned the Boston Road and walked over to a better-groomed
avenue with more of a city atmosphere.
But she saw a police signal-station at 175th Street, and she thought
it better to abandon the Southern Boulevard. She was not sure of her
police yet, and she had an uneasy feeling that her father and mother
were at that moment telling their troubles to some policeman who
would shortly be putting her description in the hands of detectives.
She did not want to be arrested. Poppa might try to spank her again.
She did not want to have to murder anybody, especially her parents.
She liked them better when she was away from them.
She hated to waste five cents on a street-car, but finally she
achieved the extravagance. The car went sliding and grinding through
an amazing amount of paved street, with an inconceivable succession
of apartment-houses and shops.
At length she reached a center of what she most desired--noise and
mob and hurry. At 164th Street she came to a star of streets where
the Third Avenue Elevated collaborated with the surface-cars and the
loose traffic to create a delicious pandemonium. She loved those high
numbers--a hundred and eighty streets! Beautiful! At home Main Street
dissolved into pastures at Tenth Street.
She wanted to find Main Street in New York and see what First Street
looked like. It was probably along the Atlantic Ocean. That also was
one of the things she must see--her first ocean!
But while Kedzie was reveling in the splendors of 164th Street her
eye was caught by the gaudy placards of a moving-picture emporium.
There was a movie-palace at home. It was the town's one metropolitan
There was a lithograph here that reached out and caught her like
a bale-hook. It represented an impossibly large-eyed girl, cowering
behind a door on whose other side stood a handsome devil in evening
dress. He was tugging villainously at a wicked mustache, and his eyes
were thrillingly leery. Behind a curtain stood a young man who held
a revolver and waited. The title of the picture decided Kedzie. It
was "The Vampire's Victim; a Scathing Exposure of High Society."
Kedzie studied hard. For all her gipsy wildness, she had a trace
of her father's parsimony, and she hated to spend money that was
her very own. Some of the dimes and quarters in that little purse
had been there for ages. Besides, her treasury would have to sustain
her for an indefinite period.
But she wanted to know about high society. She was not sure what
_scathing_ meant, or what the pronunciation of it was. She
rather inclined to _"scat-ting."_ Anyway, it looked important.
She stumbled into the black theater and found a seat among mysterious
persons dully silhouetted against the screen. This was none of
the latter-day temples where moving pictures are run through with
cathedral solemnity, soft lights, flowers, orchestral uplift, and
nearly classic song. This was a dismal little tunnel with one end
lighted by the twinkling pictures. Tired mothers came here to escape
from their children, and children came here to escape from their
tired mothers. The plots of the pictures were as trite and as rancid
as spoiled meat, but they suited the market. This plot concerned
a beautiful girl who came to the city from a small town. She was a
good girl, because she came from a small town and had poor parents.
She was dazzled a little, however, by the attentions of a swell devil
of great wealth, and she neglected her poor--therefore honest--lover
temporarily. She learned the fearful joys of a limousined life, and
was lured into a false marriage which nearly proved her ruin. The
villain got a fellow-demon to pretend to be a minister, put on false
hair, reversed his collar, and read the wedding ceremony; and the
heroine was taken to the rich man's home.
The rooms were as full of furniture as a furniture-store, and so
Kedzie knew it was a swell home. Also there was a butler who walked
and acted like a wooden man.
The heroine was becomingly shy of her husband, but finally went to
her room, where a swell maid put her to bed (with a proper omission
of critical moments) in a bed that must have cost a million dollars.
Some womanly, though welching, intuition led the bride to lock
her door. Some manly intuition led the hero to enter the gardens
and climb in through a window into the house. If he had not been
a hero it would have been a rather reprehensible act. But to the
heroes all things are pure. He prowled through the house heroically
without attracting attention. Every step of his burglarious progress
was applauded by the audience.
The hero hid behind one of those numberless portières that hang
everywhere in the homes of the _moveaux riches,_ and waited
with drawn revolver for the dastard bridegroom to attempt his
The locked door thwarted the villain for the time, and he decided
to wait till he got the girl aboard one of those yachts which rich
people keep for evil purposes. Thus the villain unwittingly saved
the hero from the painful necessity of committing murder, and added
another reel to the picture.
It is not necessary and it might infringe a copyright to tell
the rest of the story. It would be insulting to say that the false
minister, repenting, told the hero, who told the heroine after he
rescued her from the satanic yacht and various other temptations.
Of course she married the plain-clothes man and lived happily ever
after in a sin-proof cottage with a garden of virtuous roses.
Kedzie was so excited that she annoyed the people about her, but
she learned again the invaluable lesson that rich men are unfit
companions for nice girls. Kedzie resolved to prove this for herself.
She prayed for a chance to be tempted so that she might rebuke some
swell villain. But she intended to postpone the rebuke until she had
seen a lot of high life. This would serve a double purpose: Kedzie
would get to see more millionairishness, and the rebuke would be
more--more "_scatting_." It is hard even to think a word you
Kedzie gained one thing further from the pictures--a new name. She
had been musing incessantly on choosing one. She had always hated
both _Thropp_ and _Kedzie,_ and had counted on marriage
to reform her surname. But she could not wait. She wanted an alias
at once. The police were after her. The heroine of this picture
was named _Anita Adair,_ and the name just suited Kedzie. She
intended to be known by it henceforth.
She had not settled on what town she had come from. Perhaps she would
decide to have been born in New York. She rather fancied the notion
of being a daughter of a terrible swell family who wanted to force
her to marry a wicked old nobleman, but she ran away sooner than
submit to the _"imfany"_--that was the way Kedzie pronounced
it in her head. It was a word she had often seen but never heard.
Meanwhile she was sure of one thing: Kedzie Thropp was annihilated
and Anita Adair was born full grown.
At the conclusion of the film Kedzie was saddened by a ballad sung by
an adenoid tenor. The song was a scatting exposure of the wickedness
of Broadway. The refrain touched Kedzie deeply, and alarmed her
somewhat. It reiterated and reiterated:
"There's a browkin hawt for everee light ton Broadway-ee."
Kedzie began to fear that she would furnish one more. And yet
it would be rather nice to have a broken heart, Kedzie thought,
especially on Broadway.
Kedzie watched the moving picture twice through. The second time
it was not so good. It lacked spontaneity and sincerity.
At the first vision everything seemed to rise from what preceded;
people did what was natural or noble. The second time it looked
mechanical, rehearsed; the thrill was gone, too, because she knew
positively that the hero was not really going to shoot, and
the villain was not really going to break through the door.
She wandered forth in a tragedy of disillusionment. That was really
the cause of the pout that seemed to say, "Please kiss me!" She pouted
because when she got what she wanted she no longer wanted it.
There are hearts like cold storage. They keep what they get fresh and
cool; and there are hearts that spoil whatever is intrusted to them.
In Kedzie's hot young soul, things spoiled soon.
She was hungry, and she could not resist the impulse to enter a cheap
restaurant. She did not know how cheap it was. It was as good as
the best restaurant in Nimrim, Mo.
Kedzie ordered unfamiliar things for the sake of educating her
illiterate mid-Western stomach. She ordered clam chowder and Hamburger
steak, spaghetti Italienne, lobster salad, and Neapolitan ice-cream.
She ate too much--much too much.
The total bill was ninety-five cents, and she was terrified. She had
thought her father a miser for complaining of the breakfast bill of
eleven-odd dollars at the Biltmore, but that was his money, not hers.
When she finished her meal she did not dream of tipping the waiter.
He seemed not to expect it, but he grinned as he asked her to come
again. He hoped she would. He went to the door and stared after her,
sadly, longingly. The dishes she had left he carried away with
an elegiac solemnity.
The streets were darkened now and the lights bewildered Kedzie.
The town grew more solemn. It withdrew into itself. People were
Kedzie did not know where to go. She walked for fear of standing
still. The noise fatigued her. She turned west to escape it and
found a little park at 161st Street.
Many streets flowed thence. There were ten ways to follow, and she
could not choose one among them.
She was pretty, but she had not learned the commercial value of
her beauty. She was alone in the great, vicious city, but nobody
had threatened her. Nearly everybody had paid her charm the tribute
of a stare or a smile, but nobody had been polite enough to flatter
her with a menace.
She was very pretty. But then there are so very many very pretty
girls in every big city! June with her millions of exquisite roses
is no richer in beauty than New York. Yet even New York cannot keep
all her beauties supplied with temptation and peril all the time.
Kedzie sat on the bench wondering which of the ten ways to go. It
turned late, but she could not decide. She began to be a little hungry
again, but she was always that, and she told her ever-willing young
stomach that her late luncheon would have to be an early dinner.
As she sat still, people began to peer at her through the enveiling
dark. A tipsy brewery truck-driver who had absorbed too much of his
own cargo sank down by her side. He could not see Kedzie through
the froth in his brain, but she found him fearful. When he began
to talk to himself she fled.
She saw a brilliantly lighted street-car, and she boarded it. She was
all turned around, and the car twisted and turned as it proceeded.
She did not realize that it was going north till she heard the
conductor calling in higher and higher street numbers. Then she
understood, with tired wrath, that she was outbound once more. She
wanted to go toward the heart of town, but she could not afford to
get off without her nickel's worth of ride.
The car was all but empty when the conductor called to a drowsy old
lady, his penultimate passenger:
"Hunneran Semty-seckin! Hey, lady! You ast me to leave you off at
Hunneran Semty-seckin, didn't yah?"
The woman was startled from her reverie and gasped:
"Dear me! is this a Hundred and Seventy-second?"
"Thass wat I said, didn't I?"
She evicted herself with a manner of apology for intruding on
the conductor's attention.
Now Kedzie was alone with the man. His coyote bark changed to an
insinuating murmur. He sat down near Kedzie, took up an abandoned
evening paper, and said:
"Goin' all the way, Cutie, or how about it?"
"I'm get'n' off here!" said Kedzie, with royal scorn. She resented
his familiarity, and she was afraid that he was going to prove
dangerous. Perhaps he meant to abduct her in this chariot.
Being a street-car conductor, the poor fellow neither understood
women nor was understood by them. He accepted Kedzie's blow with
resignation. He helped her down the step, his hand mellowing her
arm and finding it ripe.
She flung him a rebukeful glare that he did not get. He gave the
two bells, and the car went away like a big lamp, leaving the world
to darkness and to Kedzie.
She walked for a block or two and wondered where she should sleep.
There were no hotels up here, and she would have been afraid of
their prices. Probably they all charged as much as the Biltmore.
At that rate, her money would just about pay for the privilege of
walking in and out again.
Boarding-houses there might have been, but they bore no
Kedzie stood and strolled until she was completely fagged. Then she
encountered a huge mass of shadowy foliage, a park--Crotona Park,
although of course Kedzie did not know its name.
There were benches at the edge, and concreted paths went glimmering
among vagueness of foliage, with here and there searing arc-lights
as bright as immediate moons. Kedzie dropped to the first bench, but
a couple of lovers next to her protested, and she retreated into
the park a little.
She felt a trifle chilled with weariness and discouragement and
the lack of light. She clasped her arms together as a kind of wrap
and huddled herself close to herself. Her head teetered and tottered
and gradually sank till her delicate chin rested in her delicate
bosom. Her big hat shaded her face as in a deep blot of ink, and
Unprotected, pretty, alone in the wicked city, she slept secure
Miss Anita Adair (_née_ Kedzie Thropp) had dozed upon her cozy
park bench for an uncertain while when her bedroom was invaded by
visitors who did not know she was there.
Kedzie was wakened by murmurous voices. A man was talking to a woman.
They might have been Romeo and Juliet in Verona for the poetry of
their grief, but they were in the Bronx Borough, and he was valet
and she a housemaid, or so Kedzie judged. The man was saying in a
dialect new to Kedzie:
"Ah, _ma pauvre p'tite amie,_ for why you have a _jalousie_
of my _patrie_?"
There was a vague discussion from which Kedzie drowsily gleaned
that the man was going to cross the sea to the realm of destruction.
The girl was jealous of somebody that he called his _patrie,_
and he miserably endeavored to persuade her that a man could love
both his _patrie_ and his _amie_, and yet give his life
to the former at her call.
Kedzie was too sleepy to feel much curiosity. A neighbor's woe is
a soothing lullaby. In the very crisis of their debate, the little
moan of Kedzie's yawn startled and silenced the farewellers. They
stole away unseen, and she knew no more of them.
Hours later Kedzie woke, shivering and afraid. All about her was
a woodland hush, but the circle of the horizon was dimly lighted,
as if there were houses on fire everywhere in the distance.
Poor Kedzie was a-cold and filled with the night dread. She was
afraid of burglars, mice, ghosts. She was still more afraid to leave
her bench and hunt through those deep shadows for her lost New York.
Her drugged brain fell asleep as it wrestled with its fears. Her body
protested at its couch. All her limbs like separate serpents tried
to find resting-places. They could not stretch themselves out on
the bench. Fiends had placed cast-iron braces at intervals to prevent
people from doing just that. Kedzie did not know that it is against
the law of New York, if not of Nature, to sleep on park benches.
Half unconsciously she slipped down to the ground and found a bed
on the warm and dewless grass. Her members wriggled and adjusted
themselves. Her head rolled over on one round arm for a pillow;
the other arm bent itself above her head, and finding her hat in
the way, took out the pins, lifted the hat off, set it on the ground,
put the pins back in and returned to its place about her hair--all
without disturbing Kedzie's beauty sleep.
Her two arms were all the maids that Kedzie had ever had. They
were as kind to her as they could be--devoted almost exclusively
to her comfort.
Kedzie slept alone in a meadow, and slept well. Youth spread the
sward with mattresses of eiderdown, and curtained out the stars
with silken tapestry. If she dreamed at all, it was with the full
franchise of youth in the realm of ambition. If she dreamed herself
a great lady, then fancy promised her no more than truth should
redeem. Charity Coe Cheever had a finer bed but a poorer sleep, if
any at all. She had a secretary to do her chores for her and to tell
her her engagements--where she was to go and what she had promised
and what she had better do. Charity dictated letters and committee
reports; she even dictated checks on her bank-account (which kept
filling up faster than she drew from it).
While Kedzie was trying to fit her limber frame among the little
hillocks and tussocks on the ground, Charity Coe was sitting at
her dressing-table, gazing into the mirror, but seeing beyond
her own image. Her lips moved, and her secretary wrote down what
she said aloud, and her maid was kneeling to take off Charity Coe's
ballroom slippers and slip on her bedroom ditto. The secretary was
so sleepy that she tried to keep her eyes open by agitating the lids
violently. The maid was trying to keep from falling forward across
her mistress's insteps and sleeping there.
But Charity was wide-awake--wild awake. Her soul was not in her
dictation, but in her features, which she studied in the mirror as
a rich man studies his bank-account. Charity was wondering if she
had wrecked her beauty beyond repair, or if she could fight it back.
Charity Coe, being very rich, had a hundred arms and hands and feet,
eyes and ears, while Kedzie had but two of each. Charity had some one
to make her clothes for her and cut up her bread and meat and fetch
the wood for her fire and put her shoes on and take them off. She
even had her face washed for her and her hair brushed, and somebody
trimmed her finger-nails and swept out her room, sewed on her buttons
and buttoned them up or unbuttoned them, as she pleased.
If Kedzie had known how much Charity was having done for her she
would have had a colic of envy. But she slept while Charity could
not. Charity could not pay anybody to sleep for her or stay awake
for her, or love or kiss for her, and her wealth could not buy the
fidelity of the one man whose fidelity she wanted to own.
Charity had done work that Kedzie would have flinched from. Charity
had lived in a field hospital and roughed it to a loathsome degree.
She had washed the faces and bodies of grimy soldiers from the bloody
ditches of the war-front; she had been chambermaid to gas-blinded
peasants and had done the hideous chores that follow operations. Now
with a maid to change her slippers and a secretary to make up her
mind, and a score of servants within call, she was afraid that she
had squandered her substance in spendthrift alms. She was a prodigal
benefactress returned from her good works too late, perhaps. She
wondered and took stock of her charms. She rather underrated them.
Peter Cheever had been extravagantly gallant the morning after
her return from the mountains. He had added the last perfect tribute
of suspicion and jealousy. They had even breakfasted together. She
had dragged herself down to the dining-room, and he had neglected
his morning paper, and lingered for mere chatter. He had telephoned
from his office to ask her for the noon hour, too. He had taken her
to the Bankers' Club for luncheon in the big Blue Room. He had then
suggested that they dine together and go to any theater she liked.
Charity Coe's head was turned by all this attention. "Three meals
a day and a show with her own husband" was going the honeymoon pace.
But she returned to the normal speed, for he did not come home
to dress or to dine or to go to the theater. No word came from him
until Charity Coe was all dressed; then a clerk telephoned her that
her husband regretted he could not come home, as he had to rush for
the Philadelphia train.
Charity could not quite disbelieve this, nor quite believe. She
had spent the evening debating married love and honeymoons that
wax and wane and wax again, and a wife's duty and her rights and
might-have-beens, perhapses, and if-only's.
Charity had put on her jewels, which had not been taken out of
the safe for years, but he had not arrived. Alarm and resentment
wrestled for her heart; they prospered alternately. Now she trembled
with fear for her husband; now she smothered with wrath at his
indifference to her.
Who was he that he should keep her waiting, and who were the Cheevers
that they should break engagements with the Coes? It was only at such
times that her pride of birth flared in her, and then only enough
to sustain her through grievous humiliations.
But what are humiliations that we should mind them so? They come
to everybody in turn, and they are as relentless and impersonal as
the sun marching around the sky. Kedzie had hers, and Charity hers,
and the streetcar conductor Kedzie had rebuffed had his, and the Czar
with his driven army had his, with more to come, and the Kaiser with
his victorious army had his, with more to come. Even Peter Cheever
had his in plenty, and of a peculiar secret sort.
He had honestly planned to spend his evening with his wife. She
seemed to be coming back into style with him. But the long arm
of the telephone brought him within the reach of Zada L'Etoile.
Zada had plans of her own for his evening-dinner, theater, supper,
dance till dawn. Peter had answered, gently:
"Sorry, but I'm booked."
Zada had seemed to come right through the wire at him.
"With that--wife of yours, of course!"
She had used a word that fascinated the listening Central, who was
lucky enough to transact a good deal of Zada's telephone business.
Central could almost see Peter flush as he shook his head and
"Not necessarily. It's business."
"You'd better make it your business not to go out with that woman,
anywhere," Zada had threatened. "It's indecent."
Peter winced. A wife is not ordinarily called "that woman." Peter
sighed. It was a pretty pass when a man could not be allowed to go
to the theater with his own wife. Yet he felt that Zada was right,
in a way. He had forfeited the privilege of a domestic evening. He
was afraid to brave Zada's fantastic rages. He could best protect
Charity Coe by continuing to ignore her.
He consented to Zada's plan and promised to call up his wife. Zada
took a brief triumph from that. But Peter was ashamed and afraid
to speak to Charity even across the wire. He knew that it has become
as difficult to lie by telephone as face to face. The treacherous
little quavers in the voice are multiplied to a rattle, and nothing
can ever quite imitate sincerity. So much is bound to be over or
Cheever made a pretense of rushing out of his office. He looked at
his watch violently, so that his secretary should be startled--as
he politely pretended to be. Cheever gasped, then rushed his lie
with sickly histrionism:
"I say, Hudspeth, call up my--Mrs. Cheever, will you? And--er--tell
her I've had to dash for the train to--er--Phila"--cough--"delphia.
Tell her I'm awfully sorry about to-night. Back to-morrow."
"Yessir," said Hudspeth, winking at the gaping stenographer, who
looked exclamation points at her typewriter.
Hudspeth called up Mrs. Cheever. He was no more convincing than
Cheever would have been. A note of disgust at his task and of
deprecatory pity for Mrs. Cheever influenced his tone.
Charity was not convinced, but she could hardly reveal that to
Hudspeth--although, of course, she did. She was betrayed by her
very eagerness to be a good sport easily bamboozled.
"Oh, I see. Too bad! I quite understand. Thank you, Mr. Hudspeth.
She did not hear Hudspeth growling to the stenographer as he strolled
over and leaned on her chair unnecessarily--there were other chairs
to lean on, and she was not deaf:
"Rotten business! He ought to be ashamed of himself. A nice wife
The stenographer sat forward and snapped, "You got a nice wife
yourself." She was a little jealous of Zada, perhaps--or of
Mrs. Cheever--or of both.
Peter left his office to escape telephoning Charity, but he could
imagine how the message crushed her. He felt as if he had stepped
on a hurt bird. When he met Zada he kept trying to be patient and
forgiving with her, in spite of her blameworthiness.
Zada saw through his sullenness, and for a little moment was proud
of her victory. Then she began to suffer, too. She understood the
frailty of her hold on Cheever. His loyalty to her was in the eyes of
the world a treachery, and his disloyalty to her would be applauded
as a holy deed. She was becoming an old story with him, as Charity
had become one.
She suffered agonies from the cloud on her title and on her name,
and she was afraid of the world. A woman of her sort has no sympathy
to expect; her stock in trade vanishes without replenishment, and
her business does not build. In spite of herself she cannot help
envying and imitating the good women. As a certain great man has
confessed, "There is so much good in the worst of us," that there
is hardly any fun in being bad. It is almost impossible to be very
bad or very good very long at a time.
So here was Zada already copying a virtuous domestic woe and wondering
how she could fasten Cheever to her, win him truly for herself. She
honestly felt that she could be of value to him, and make more of
a man of him than his lawful wife ever could. Perhaps she was right.
At any rate, she was miserable, and if a person is going to be
miserable she might as well be right while her misery is going on.
Zada had dragged Cheever to a cabaret. She could lead him thither,
but she could not make him dance. She was one-stepping unwillingly
with a young cad who insulted her subtly in everything he said and
looked. She could not resent his familiarity beyond sneering at him
and calling him a foolish cub. She left him and returned to the table
where Peter Cheever smoked a bitter cigar. It is astonishing how sad
these notorious revelers look in repose. They are solemner than
"Come on, Peterkin--dance the rest of this with me," Zada implored.
Peterkin shook his head. He felt that it was not quite right for him
to dance in public with such persons. He had his code. Even the swine
have their ethics. Zada put her hand in Cheever's arm and cooed
to him, but in vain.
It was then that Jim Dyckman caught sight of them. He was slinking
about the roofs as lonely and dejected as a homeless cat.
His money could not buy him companionship, though his acquaintance
was innumerable and almost anybody would have been proud to be spoken
to by such a money monster. But Jim did not want to be spoken to by
anybody who was ambitious to be spoken to by him. He wanted to talk
He could not even interest himself in dissipation. There was plenty
of it for sale, and markets were open to him that were not available
to average means. Many a foolish woman, irreproachable and counting
herself unapproachable, would have been strangely and memorably
perturbed by an amorous glance from Jim Dyckman.
But Jim did not want what he could get. He was hungry for
the companionship of Charity Coe.
When he saw her lord and master, Peter Cheever, with Zada, Dyckman
was enraged. Cheever owned Charity Coe; he could flatter her with
a smile, beckon her with a gesture, caress her at will, or leave her
in safe deposit, while he spent his precious hours with a public
Dyckman could usually afford to do what he wanted to. But now he
wanted to go to that table and knock the heads of Cheever and Zada
together; he wanted to make their skulls whack like castanets. But
he could not afford to do that.
He was so forlorn that he went home. His sumptuous chariot with
ninety race-horses concealed in the engine and velvet in its wheels
slid him as on smoothest ice to his father's home near the cathedral.
The house was like a child of the cathedral, and he went up its
steps as a pauper entering a cathedral. He gave up his hat and stick
and went past the masterpieces on his walls as if he were a visitor
to the Metropolitan Art Gallery on a free day. He stumbled up
the stairway, itself a work of art, like a boy sent to bed without
supper: he stumbled upstairs, wanting to cry and not daring to.
His valet undressed him in a motherly way and put him to bed.
The valet was feeling very sad. Dyckman realized that he was about
to lose Jules, and he felt more disconsolate. Still, he surprised
himself by breaking out:
"I wish you wouldn't go to the war, Jules."
Jules smiled with friendship and deference subtly blended:
"I wish I would not, too, sir."
"You might get killed, you know."
"So you're a soldier! How long did you serve?"
"Shree years, sir."
"And I don't know the first thing about soldiering! I ought to be
ashamed of myself! Well--don't get killed, Jules."
"Very good, sir."
But he did.
Jules said, "Good night, sir," and faded through the door. Dyckman
tossed for a while. Then he got up in a rage at his insomnia. He
could not find his other slipper, and he stubbed his toe plebeianly
against an aristocratic table. He cursed and limped to the window
and glowered down into the street. He might have been a jailbird
gaping through iron bars. He could not get out of himself, or his
love for Charity.
He wondered how he could live till morning without her. He went to
his telephone to call her and hear her voice. He lifted the receiver
and when Central answered, the cowardice of decency compelled him
from his resolve, and he shamefully mumbled:
"The correct time, please."
What difference did it make to him what hour it was? He was the
victim of eternity, not time.
He went back to his window-vigil over nothing and fell asleep
murmuring the biggest swear words he could remember. In his weak
mood they had the effect of a spanked boy's last whimpers.
He was a boy, and fate was spanking him hard. He could not have whom
he wanted, and he resolved that there was nothing else in the world
to want. And all the time there was a girl sleeping out in Crotona
Park on the ground. She was pretty and dangerous, another flower
tossing on the girl-tree.
When the daylight whitened the black air it found Dyckman sprawled
along his window-lounge and woke him to the disgust of another
morning. He had to reach up and draw a curtain between his eyes
and the hateful sun.
But Kedzie had only her vigilant arm. It slipped down across her
brow like a watchful nurse coming in on tiptoe to protect a fretful
patient from broken sleep.
Kedzie slept on and on, till at length the section of Crotona Park
immediately beneath her refused to adapt itself longer to her
squirming search for soft spots. She sat up in startled confusion
at the unfamiliar ceiling. The wall-paper was not at all what she
always woke to. At first she guessed that she must have fallen out
of bed with a vengeance. Then she decided she had fallen out of doors
and windows as well, and into the front yard.
No, these bushes were not those bushes. That beech almost overhead,
seen from below by sleep-thick eyes, was an amazing thing.
She had drowsy childhood memories of being carried up-stairs by her
father and put to bed by her mother. Once or twice she had wakened
with her head to the footboard and endured agonies of confusion
before she got the universe turned round right. But how had she got
outdoors? Her father had never carried her down-stairs and left her
in the yard before.
At last she saw that she had fallen not merely out of bed and out of
doors, but out of town. She remembered her wanderings and her lying
down to sleep. She wondered who had taken her hat off for her.
She looked about for somebody to ask questions of. There was nobody
to be seen. There were a few housetops peering over the horizon
English sparrows were jumping here and there, engaged in their
everlasting spats, but she could not ask them.
Kedzie sat up straight, her arms back of her, her feet erect on
their heels at a distance, like suspicious squirrels. She yawned
against the back of her wrist and began to remember her escapade.
She gurgled with laughter, but she felt rumpled and lame, and not
in the least like Miss Anita Adair. She almost wished she were at
home, gazing from her bed to the washstand and hearing her mother
puttering about in the kitchen making breakfast; to Kedzie's young
heart it was the superlative human luxury to know you ought to get
up and not get up.
She clambered to her feet and made what toilet she could while
her seclusion lasted. She shook out her skirts like feathers,
and shoved her disheveled hair up under her hat as she had always
swept the dust under the rug.
She was overjoyed to find that her hand-bag had not been stolen.
The powder-puff would serve temporarily for a wash-basin. The small
change in her purse would postpone starvation or surrender for
She walked out of her sleeping-porch to the path. A few people were
visible now--workmen and workwomen taking a short-cut, and leisurely
gentlemen out of a job already beginning their day's work of holding
down benches. No one asked any questions or showed any interest
She found a street-car line, made sure that the car she took was
bound down-town, and resumed her effort to recapture New York.
Nearly everybody was reading one morning paper or another, but Kedzie
was not interested in the news. One man kept brushing her nose with
his paper. She was angry at his absence of mind, but she did not
notice that her nose was being annoyed by her own name in the
She rode and rode and rode till her hunger distracted her. She passed
restaurant after restaurant, till at last she could stand the famine
no longer. She got down from the car and walked till she came to
a bakery lunch-room entitled, "The Bon-Ton Bakery by Joe Gidden." It
was another like the one she ate in the day before. The same kind of
waiter was there, a dish-thrower with the manners of a hostler.
But Kedzie was so meek after her night on the ground that she was
flattered by his grin. "Skip" Magruder was his title, as she learned
in time. The "Skip" came to him from a curious impediment in his gait
that caused him to drop a stitch now and then.
Not long afterward Kedzie was so far beyond this poor hamstrung
stable-soul that she could not hear the word _skip_ without
blushing as if it were an indecency. It was an indecency, too, that
such a little Aphrodite should be reduced to a love-affair with such
a dismal Vulcan. But if it could happen on Olympus, it could happen
Proximity is said to breed love, but priority has its virtues no less.
Skip Magruder was the first New-Yorker to help Kedzie in her hour
of dismay, and she thought him a great and powerful being profoundly
informed about the city of her dreams.
Skip did know a thing or two--possibly three. He was a New-Yorker
of a sort, and he had his New York as well as Jim Dyckman had his
or Peter Cheever his. He sized Kedzie up for the ignoramus she was,
but he was good to her in so far as his skippy faculties permitted.
He dropped the paper he was reading when she wandered in, and won
her at once by not calling her "Cutie."
"W'at 'll y'ave, lady?" he said as he skirled a plate and a glass of
ice-water along the oil-cloth with exquisite skill, slapped a knife
and fork and spoon alongside, and flipped her a check to be punched
as she ordered, and a fly-frequented bill of fare to order from.
Kedzie was stumped by the array of dishes. Skip volunteered his aid
--suggested "A nor'nge, ham 'n'eggs, a plate o' wheats, anna cuppa
"All right," said Kedzie, wondering how much such a barbecue
Skip went to bellow the order through a sliding door and grab it when
it should be pushed forth from a mysterious realm. Kedzie picked up
a newspaper that Skip had picked up after some early client left it.
Kedzie glanced at the front page and saw that the Germans had taken
three towns and the Allies one trench. She could not pronounce
the towns, and trenches meant nothing in her life. She was about to
toss the paper aside when a head-line caught her eye. She read with
SPANKED GIRL GONE
Beautiful Kedzie Thropp, Western Society Belle, Deserts Her Wealthy
Parents at Biltmore and Vanishes
POLICE OF NATION IN SEARCH
Kedzie felt the world blow up about her. Her name was in the New York
papers the second morning of her first visit! Her father and mother
were called wealthy! She was a society belle! Who could ever hereafter
deny these ideal splendors, now that there had been a piece in the
paper about them?
But dog on it! Why did they have to go and do such a thing as put
in about her being spanked? She blushed all over with rage. She had
once planned to go back home with wondrous gossip of her visit to
the big city. She had seen herself gloating over the other girls
who had never been to a big city.
Now they would all give her the laugh. The boys would make up rhymes
and yell them at her from a safe distance. She could kill her father
for being so mean to her. It was bad enough to hurt her as he did,
but to go and tattle when her back was turned was simply awful. She
could never go home now. She'd rather die.
Yet the paper said the police of the nation were searching for her.
She understood how Eliza felt with the bloodhounds after her. She
must keep out of sight of the police. One good thing was the picture
of her that they printed in the paper. It was not her picture at all,
and nothing like her. Besides, she had selected a new name. "Anita
Adair" was a fine disguise. It sounded awful swell, too. It sounded
like her folks had money. She was glad to be rid of "Kedzie Thropp."
She would never be Kedzie Thropp again.
Then the waiter came with her breakfast. It smelled so grand that
she forgot to be afraid for a while. The coffee smoked aroma; the
ham and eggs were fragrant; and the orange sent up a golden fume
Skip entered into conversation as she entered into the orange.
"Where you woikin' now?" he said.
Kedzie did not know what his dialect meant at first. When she learned
that "woikin'" was the same as "wurrkin"' she confessed that she
had no job. She trembled lest he should recognize her from the paper.
He eyed her narrowly and tried to flirt with her across the very
head-lines that told who she was.
She could not be sure that he did not know her. He might be
a detective in disguise looking for a reward.
Skip had been reading about Kedzie when she came in. But he
never dreamed that she was she. He befriended her, however, out
of the goodness of his heart and the desire to retain her in
the neighborhood--also out of respect for the good old brass rule,
"Do good unto others now, so that they will do good to you later."
Slap told Kedzie that he knew a place right near where a goil was
wanted. When he told her that it was a candy-store she was elated.
A candy-store was her idea of a good place to work.
Skip told Kedzie where to go and what to say, and to mention that
Skip sent her.
Skip also recommended lodgings next his own in the flat of Mr. and
Mrs. Rietzvoller, delicatessen merchants.
"Nice rooms reasonable," he said, "and I'll be near to look after
"You're awful fresh, seems to me, on short acquaintance," was
Kedzie's stinging rebuke.
Skip laughed. "Didn't you see the special-delivery stamp on
me forehead? But I guess you're a goil can take care yourself."
Kedzie guessed she was. But she was in need of help. Where else
could she turn? Whom else had she for a beau in this multitude
of strangers? So she laughed encouragingly.
"All right. You're elected. Gimme the address."
Skip wrote it on one of the business cards of the bakery. He added:
"Another thing: I know a good expressman will rustle your trunk
over from--Where you boardin' at now?"
Kedzie flushed. She could hardly tell him that she had boarded
in a park up-town somewhere.
Skip saw that she was confused. He showed exquisite tact.
"I'm wise, goilie. She's holdin' your trunk out on you. I been
in the same boat m'self."
Kedzie was willing to let it go at that, but Skip pondered:
"But, say--that ain't goin' to make such a hell of a hit--scuse me,
lady--but I mean if you tell your new landlady about your trunk
bein' left on your old one, that ain't goin' to get you nothin' but
the door-slam in the snoot.... I tell you: tell her you just come
in on the train and your wardrobe-trunk is on the way unless it
got delayed in changin' cars at--oh, any old place. I guess you did
come in, at that, from Buffalo or Pittsboig or some them Western
joints, didn' you?"
Kedzie just looked at him. Her big eyes lied for her, and he
hastened to say:
"Well, scuse me nosin' in on your own business. Tell the landlady
what you want to, only tell her it was me sent you. That's as good
as a guarantee--that she'll have to wait for her money."
Kedzie laughed at his excruciating wit, but she was touched also
by his courtesy, and she told him he was awful kind and she was
That bowled him over. But when she rose with stateliness and,
reaching for her money, offered to pay, he had the presence of mind
to snarl, amiably:
"Ah, ferget it and beat it. This meal's on me, and wishing you many
happy returns of the same."
He certainly was one grand gentleman. The proprietor was away,
and Skip could afford to be generous.
Kedzie left him and found the landlady and got a home; and then she
found the store and got a job. For a time she was in Eden. The doleful
proprietor's doleful wife was usually down-cellar making ice-cream
while her husband was out in the kitchen cooking candy. Kedzie was
free to guzzle soda-water at her will. Her forefinger and thumb went
along the stacks of candy, dipping like a robin's beak. She was
forever licking her fingers and brushing marshmallow dust off her
chest. She usually had a large, square caramel outlined in one round
But the ecstasy did not abide. Kedzie began to realize why Mr. and
Mrs. Fleissig were sad. Sweets were a sour business; the people who
came into the shop were mainly children who spent whole half-hours
choosing a cent's worth of burnt sugar, or young, foolish girls who
giggled into the soda bubbles, or housewives ordering ice-cream for
If a young man appeared it was always to buy a box of candy for
some other girl. It made Kedzie cynical to see him haggle and ponder,
trying to make the maximum hit with a minimum of ammunition. It made
her more distrustful to see young men trying to flirt with her while
they bought tributes of devotion to somebody else. But Kedzie also
found out that several of the neighborhood girls accepted candy
from several gentlemen simultaneously, and she drew many cynical
conclusions from the candy business.
Skip Magruder was attentive and took her out to moving pictures
when he was free. In return for the courtesy she took her meals at
"The Bon-Ton Bakery by Joe Gidden." Whenever he dared, Skip skipped
the change. He could always slip her an extra titbit.
On that account she had to be a little extra gracious to him when
he took her to the movies. Holding hands didn't hurt.
Not a week had gone before Skip had rivals. He caught Kedzie in
deceptions. She kept him guessing, and the poor fool suffered
the torments and thrills of jealousy. A flip young fellow named Hoke,
agent for a jobber in ice-cream cones, and a tubby old codger named
Kalteyer, who facetiously claimed to own a chewing-gum mine, were
added competitors for Kedzie's smiles, while Skip teetered between
homicide and suicide.
Skip was wretched, and Kedzie was enthralled by her own success.
She had conquered New York. She had a job in a candy-store, a room
in a flat with the family of a delicatessen merchant; she had as
many flirtations as she could carry, and an increasing waiting-list.
What more could woman ask?
And all this was in far upper Third Avenue. She had not yet been
down to First Street. In fact, she was in New York two weeks before
she got as far south as 100th Street. She had almost forgotten that
she had ever dwelt elsewhere than in New York. Her imitative instinct
was already exchanging her Western burr for a New York purr.
Her father and mother would hardly have known her voice if they
had heard it. And they would hardly meet her, since they had
given her up and gone back home, far sadder, no wiser, much poorer.
They did not capture the insurance money, and they had no rewards
to offer for Kedzie.
Now and then a Kedzie would be reported in some part of the country,
and a wild paragraph would be printed about her. Now and then she
would be found dead in a river or would be traced as a white slave
drugged and sold and shipped to the Philippine Islands. The stories
were heinously cruel to her father and mother, who mourned her
in Nimrim and repented dismally of their harshness to the best
and pirtiest girl ever lived.
Meanwhile Kedzie sold candy and ate less and less of it. She began
to see more pretentious phases of city life and to be discontent
with her social triumph. She began to understand how cheap her lovers
were. She called them "mutts." She came to suffer agonies of remorse
at the liberties she had given them.
Mr. Kalteyer, the chewing-gum prince, in an effort to overcome
the handicap of weight and age which Mr. Hoke did not carry, told
Kedzie that her picture ought to be on every counter in the world,
and he could get it there. He'd love to see her presented as a classy
dame showing her ivories and proving how "beneficiary" his chewing-gum
was for the teeth as well as the digestion.
Kedzie told the delicatessen merchant's wife all about his glorious
promises, and she said, very sagely:
"Bevare vit dose bo'quet fellers. Better as so many roses is it
he should brink you a slice roastbif once. Lengwidge of flowers is
nice, but money is de svell talker. Take it by me, money is de svell
Kedzie was glad of such wisdom, and she convinced Mr. Kalteyer
that it took more than conversation to buy her favor. He kept
his word under some duress, and took Kedzie to Mr. Eben E. Kiam,
a manufacturer of show-cards and lithographs, with an advertising
Mr. Edam studied her poses and smiles for days before he got
her at her best. An interested observer and a fertile suggester
in his office was a young Mr. Gilfoyle, who wrote legends for
show-cards, catch-lines for new wares, and poems, if pressed.
Gilfoyle had the poet's prophetic eye, and he murmured to Mr. Kiam
that there were millions in "Miss Adair's" face and form if they were
worked right. He took pains to let Kedzie overhear this. It pleased
her. Millions were something she decided she would like.
Gilfoyle developed wonderfully in the sun of Kedzie's interest. He
told Kalteyer that there was no money in handling chewing-gum in
a small way as a piker; what he wanted was a catchy name, a special
selling-argument, and a national publicity campaign. He advised
Kalteyer to borrow a lot of money at the banks and sling himself.
Kalteyer breathed hard. Gilfoyle was assailed by an epilepsy
of inspirations. In place of "Kalteyer's Peerless Gum," he proposed
the enthralling title, "Breathasweeta." Others had mixed pepsin
in their edible rubber goods of various flavors. Gilfoyle proposed
Kalteyer was astounded at the boy's genius. He praised him till
Kedzie began to think him worth cultivation, especially as he proposed
to flood the country with portraits of Kedzie as the Breathasweeta
The muse of advertising swooped down and whispered to Gilfoyle
the delicious lines to be printed under Kedzie's smile.
Kiss me again. Who are you?
You use Breathasweeta. You must be all right.
Kalteyer was swept off his feet. He ran to the bank while Kiam raised
The life-size card of Kedzie was made with a prop to hold it up. It
was so much retouched and altered in the printing that her own father,
seeing it in a Nimrim drugstore, never recognized it. Nearly every
drug-store in the country set up a Kedzie in its show-window.
The Breathasweeta came into such demand that Kalteyer was temporarily
bankrupted by prosperity. He had to borrow so much money to float
his wares that he had none for Kedzie's entertainment.
Mr. Kiam took her up as a valuable model for advertising purposes.
He aroused in Kedzie an inordinate appetite for pictures of herself.
All day long she was posed in costumes for various calendars, as
a farmer's daughter, as a society queen, as a camera girl, as
a sausage nymph, and as the patron saint of a brewery.
In a week she had arrived at classic poses in Greek robes. One by one
these were abbreviated, till Kedzie was being very generally revealed
to the public eye.
The modesty her mother had whipped into her was gradually unlearned
step by step, garment by garment, without Kedzie's noticing the change
in her soul.
Just about the hour of that historic day when Kedzie was running away
from her father and mother Prissy Atterbury was springing his great
story about Jim Dyckman and Charity.
Prissy had gone on to his destination, the home of the Winnsboros
in Greenwich, but he arrived late, and the house guests were too
profoundly absorbed in their games of auction to make a fit audience
for such a story. So Prissy saved it for a correct moment, though he
nearly burst with it. He slept ill that night from indigestion due
to retention of gossip.
The next forenoon he watched as the week-end prisoners dawdled down
from their gorgeous cells, to a living-room as big and as full
of seats as a hotel lobby. They threw themselves, on lounges and
huge chairs and every form of encouragement to indolence. They threw
themselves also on the mercy and the ingenuity of their hostess.
But Mrs. Winnsboro expected her guests to bring their own plans
and take care of themselves. They were marooned.
When the last malingerer arrived with yawns still unfinished, Prissy
seized upon a temporary hush and began to laugh. Pet Bettany, who was
always sullen before luncheon, grumbled:
"What ails you, Priss? Just seeing some joke you heard last night?"
Priss snapped, "I was thinking."
"You flatter yourself," said Pet. "But I suppose you've got to
get it off your chest. I'll be the goat. What is it?"
Prissy would have liked to punish the cat by not telling her a single
word of it, but he could not withhold the scandal another moment.
"Well, I'll tell you the oddest thing you ever heard in all
Pretending to tell it to Pet, he was reaching out with voice and eyes
to muster the rest. He longed for a megaphone and cursed such big
"I was passing through the Grand Central to take my train up here,
you understand, and who should I see walk in from an incoming
express, you understand, but--who, I say, should I see but--oh,
you never would guess--you simply never would guess. Nev-vir-ir!"
"Who cares who you saw," said Pet, and viciously started to change
the subject, so that Prissy had to jump the prelude.
"It was Jim Dyckman. Well, in he comes from the train, you
understand, and looks about among the crowd of people waiting
for the train--to meet people, you understand."
Pet broke in, frantically: "Yes, I understand! But if you say
'understand' once more I'll scream and chew up the furniture!"
Prissy regarded her with patient pity and went on:
"Jim didn't see me, you un--you see--and--but just as I was about
to say hello to him he turns around and begins to stare into the
crowd of other people getting off the same train that he got off, you
underst--Well, I had plenty of time for my train, so I waited--not
to see what was up, you un--I do say it a lot, don't I? Well, I
waited, and who should come along but--well, this you never would
guess--not in a month of Sundays."
A couple of flanneled oaves impatient for the tennis-court stole
away, and Pet said,
"Speed it up, Priss; they're walking out on you."
"Well, they won't walk out when they know who the woman was. Jim
was waiting for--he was waiting for--"
He paused a moment. Nobody seemed interested, and so he hastened
to explode the name of the woman.
"Charity Coe! It was Charity Coe Jim was waiting for! They had come
in on the same train, you understand, and yet they didn't come up
the platform together. Why? I ask you. Why didn't they come up
the platform together? Why did Jim come along first and wait? Was
it to see if the coast was clear? Now, I ask you!"
There was respect enough paid to Prissy's narrative now. In fact,
the name of Charity in such a story made the blood of everybody
run cold--not unpleasantly--yet not altogether pleasantly.
Some of the guests scouted Prissy's theory. Mrs. Neff was there,
and she liked Charity. She puffed contempt and cigarette-smoke at
Atterbury, and murmured, sweetly, "Prissy, you're a dirty little
liar, and your long tongue ought to be cut out and nailed up on
Prissy nearly wept at the injustice of such skepticism. It was Pet
Bettany, of all people, who came to his rescue with credulity. She
was sincerely convinced. A voluptuary and intrigante herself, she
believed that her own ideas of happiness and her own impulses were
shared by everybody, and that people who frowned on vice were either
hypocrites or cowards.
She could not imagine how small a part and how momentary a part evil
ambitions play in the lives of clean, busy souls like Charity. In
fact, Pet flattered herself as to her own wickedness, and pretended
to be worse than she was, in order to establish a reputation for
Vice has its hypocrisies as well as virtue.
Pet had long been impatient of the celebration of Charity Coe's
saintly attributes, and it had irked her to see so desirable
a catch as Jim Dyckman squandering his time on a woman who was
already married and liked it. He might have been interested in Pet
if Charity had let him alone.
Pet also was stirred with the detestation of sin in orderly people
that actuates disorderly people. She broke out with surprising
"Well, I thought as much! So Charity Coe is human, after all,
the sly devil! She's fooling even that foxy husband of hers. She's
playing the same game, too--and a sweet little foursome it makes."
She laughed so abominably that Mrs. Neff threw away her cigarette
"Oh, shut up, Pet; you make me sick! Let's go out in the air."
Mrs. Neff was old enough to say such things, and Pet dampered
her noise a trifle. But she held Prissy back and made him recount
his adventure again. They had a good laugh over it--Prissy giggling
and hugging one knee, Pet whooping with that peasant mirth of hers.
The same night, at just about the hour when Kedzie Thropp was
falling asleep in Crotona Park and Jim Dyckman was sulking alone
in his home and Charity was brooding alone in hers, Prissy Atterbury
was delighted to see a party of raiders from another house-party
motor up to the Winnsboros' and demand a drink.
Prissy was a trifle glorious by this time. He had been frequenting
a bowl of punch subtly liquored, but too much sweetened. He leaned
heavily on a new-comer as he began his story. The new-comer pushed
Prissy aside with scant courtesy.
"Ah, tell us a new one!" he said. "That's ancient history!"
"What-what-what," Prissy stammered. "Who told you s'mush?"
"Pet Bet. telephoned it to us this morning. I heard it from three
other people to-day."
"Well, ain't that abslooshly abdominable."
Prissy began to cry softly. He knew the pangs of an author
circumvented by a plagiarist.
The next morning his head ached and he rang up an eye-opener or
two. The valet found him in violet pajamas, holding his jangling
head and moaning:
"There was too much sugar in the punch."
He remembered Pet's treachery, and he groaned that there was too much
vinegar in life. But he determined to fight for his story, and he did.
Long after Pet had turned her attention to other reputations, Prissy
was still peddling his yarn.
The story went circlewise outward and onward like the influence of
a pebble thrown into a pool. Two people who had heard the story and
doubted it met; one told it to the other; the other said she had
heard it before; and they parted mutually supported and definitely
convinced that the rumor was fact. Repetition is confirmation, and
history is made up of just such self-propelled lies--fact founded
We create for ourselves a Nero or a Cleopatra, a Washington or
a Molly Pitcher, from the gossip of enemies or friends or imaginers,
and we can be sure of only one thing--that we do not know the true
But we also do wrong to hold gossip in too much discredit. It gives
life fascination, makes the most stupid neighbors interesting. It
keeps up the love of the great art of fiction and the industry of
character-analysis. A small wonder that human beings are addicted
to it, when we are so emphatically assured that heaven itself is
devoted to it, and that we are under the incessant espionage of our
Deity, while the angels are eavesdroppers and reporters carrying
note-books in which they write with indelible ink the least things
we do or say or think.
To see into other people's hearts and homes and lives is one of
the primeval instincts. In that curiosity all the sciences are
rooted; and it is a scientific impulse that makes us hanker to
get back of faces into brains, to push through words into thoughts,
and to ferret out of silences the emotions they smother.
Gossip is one of the great vibrations of the universe. Like rain,
it falls on the just and on the unjust; it ruins and it revives;
it quenches thirst; it makes the desert bloom with cactuses and
grotesque flowers, and it beats down violets and drowns little birds
in their nests.
Gossip was now awakening a new and fearful interest in Charity Coe
and Jim Dyckman.
Two women sitting at a hair-dresser's were discussing the gossip
according to Prissy through the shower of their tresses. The manicure
working on the nails of one of them glanced up at the coiffeur and
gasped with her eyes. The manicure whispered it to her next customer
--who told it to her husband in the presence of their baby. The baby
was not interested, but the nurse was, and when she rode out with
the baby she told the chauffeur. The chauffeur used the story as
a weapon of scorn to tease Jim Dyckman's new valet with. Jules would
have gone into a frenzy of denial, but Jules was by now wearing the
livery of his country in the trenches. The new valet--Dallam was
his name--tried to sell the story to a scavenger-editor who did not
dare print it yet, though he put it in the safe where he kept such
material against the day of need. Also he paid Dallam a retainer
to keep him in touch with the comings and goings of Dyckman.
And thus the good name of a good woman went through the mud like
a white flounce torn and dragged and unnoticed. For of course
Charity never dreamed that any one was giving such importance to
the coincidence of her railroad journey with Jim Dyckman.
No more did Dyckman. He knew all too well what gulfs had parted
him from Charity even while he sat with her in the train. He had
suffered such rebuffs from her that he was bitterly aggrieved. He
was telling himself that he hated Charity for her stinginess of
soul at the very time that the whispers were damning her too great
generosity in his favor.
While gossip was recruiting its silent armies against her for her
treason to her husband, Charity was wondering why her loyalty to
him was so ill paid. She did not suspect Cheever of treason to her.
That was so odious that she simply could not give it thought room.
She stumbled on a newspaper article, the same perennial essay in
recurrence, to the effect that many wives lose their husbands by
neglect of their own charms. It was full of advice as to the tricks
by which a woman may lure her spouse back to the hearth and fasten
him there, combining domestic vaudeville with an interest in his
business, but relying above all on keeping Cupid's torch alight by
being Delilah every day.
Charity Coe was startled. She wondered if she were losing Cheever
by neglecting herself. She began to pay more heed to her dress
and her hats, her hair, her complexion, her smile, her general
Cheever noticed the strange alteration, and it bewildered him. He
could not imagine why his wife was flirting with him. She made it
harder for him to get away to Zada, but far more eager to. He did
not like Charity at all, in that impersonation. Neither did Charity.
She hated herself after a day or two of wooing her official wooer.
"You ought to be arrested," she told her mirror-self.
There were plays and novels that counseled a neglected wife to show
an interest in another man. Charity was tempted to use Jim Dyckman
as a decoy for her own wild duck; but Dyckman had sailed away in
his new yacht, on a cruise with his yacht club.
The gossip did not die in his absence. It oozed along like a dark
stream of fly-gathering molasses. Eventually it came to the notice
of a woman who was Zada's dearest friend and hated her devotedly.
She told it to Zada as a taunt, to show her that Zada's Mr. Cheever
was as much deceived as deceiving. Zada, of course, was horribly
delighted. She promptly told Cheever that his precious wife had been
having a lovely affair with Jim Dyckman. Cheever showed her where
she stood by forbidding her to mention his wife's name. He told Zada
that, whatever his wife might be, she was good as gold.
He left Zada with great dignity and made up his mind to kill Jim
Dyckman. In his fury he was convinced of the high and holy and
cleanly necessity of murder. All of our basest deeds are always
done with the noblest motives. Cheever forgot his own wickednesses
in his mission to punish Dyckman. The assassination of Dyckman, he
was utterly certain, would have been what Browning called "a spittle
wiped from the beard of God."
But he was not permitted to carry out his mission, for he learned
that Dyckman was somewhere on the Atlantic, far beyond Cheever's
Disappointed bitterly at having to let him live awhile, Cheever
went to his home, to denounce his wife. He found her reading. She
was overjoyed to see him. He stared at her, trying to realize her
"Hello, honey!" she cried. "What's wrong? You've got a fever,
I'm sure. I'm going to take your temperature."
From her hospital experience she carried a little thermometer
in her hand-bag. She had it by her and rose to put it under his
tongue. He struck it from her, and she stared at him. He stood
quivering like an overdriven horse. He called her a name highly
proper in a kennel club, but inappropriate to the boudoir.
"You thought you'd get away with it, didn't you? You thought you'd
get away with it, didn't you?" he panted.
"Get away with what, honey?" she said, thinking him delirious. She
had seen a hundred men shrieking in wild frenzies from brains too
"You and Dyckman! humph!" he raged. "So you and Jim Dyckman sneaked
off to the mountains together, did you? And came back on the same
train, eh? And thought I'd never find it out. Why, you--"
What he would have said she did not wait to hear. She was human,
after all, and had thousands of plebeian and primitive ancestors
and ancestresses. They jumped into her muscles with instant instinct.
She slapped his face so hard that it rocked out of her view.
She stood and fumbled at her tingling palm, aghast at herself and
at the lightning-stroke from unknown distances that shattered her
whole being. Then she began to sob.
Peter Cheever's aching jaw dropped, and he gazed at her befuddled.
His illogical belief in her guilt was illogically converted to a
profound conviction of her innocence. The wanton whom he had accused
was metamorphosed into a slandered angel who would not, could not
sin. In his eyes she was hopelessly pure.
"Thank God!" he moaned. "Oh, thank God for one clean woman in
this dirty world!"
He caught her bruised hand and began to kiss it and pour tears on it.
And she looked down at his beautiful bent head and laid her other
hand on it in benison.
It is one way of reconciling families.
Cheever was so filled with remorse that he was tempted to write
Jim Dyckman a note of apology. That was one of the few temptations
he ever resisted.
Now he was going to kill everybody who had been dastard enough
to believe and spread the scandal he had so easily believed himself.
But he would have had to begin with Zada. He was afraid of Zada. He
enjoyed a few days of honeymoon with Charity.
He dodged Zada on the telephone, and he gave Mr. Hudspeth
instructions to say that he was always out in case of a call
from "Miss You Know."
"I know," Mr. Hudspeth answered.
One morning, at an incredibly early hour for Zada, she walked into
his office and asked Mr. Hudspeth to retire--also the suspiciously
good-looking stenographer. Then Zada said:
"Peterkin, it's time you came home."
His laugh was hard and sharp. She took out a little weapon. She had
managed to evade the Sullivan law against the purchase or possession
of weapons. Peter was nauseated. Zada was calm.
"Peterkin," she said, "did you read yesterday about that woman who
shot a man and then herself?"
Peter had read it several times recently--the same story with
different names. It had long been a fashionable thing: the disprized
lover murders the disprizing lover and then executes the murderer.
It was expensive to rugs and cheated lawyers and jurors out of fees,
but saved the State no end of money.
"I'll come home," he said, gulping the last quinine word. It seemed
to him the most loyal thing he could do at the moment. It would have
been unpardonably unkind to Charity to let himself be spattered all
over his office and the newspapers by a well-known like Zada.
Once "home" with Zada, he took the pistol away from her. But she
laughed and said:
"I can always buy another one, deary."
Thus Zada re-established her rights. Cheever was very sorry. He
cursed himself for being so easily led astray. He wondered why it
was his lot to be so fickle and incapable of loyalty. He did not
know. He could only accept himself as he was. Oneself is the most
wonderful, inexplicable thing in the world.
So Charity's brief honeymoon waned, blinked out again.
Jim Dyckman came home from the yacht cruise in blissless ignorance
of all this frustrated drama. He longed to see Charity, but dared
not. He took sudden hope from remembering her determination to go
back abroad to her nursery of wounded soldiers.
He had an inspiration. He would go abroad also--as a member of
the aviation, corps. He already owned a fairly good hydro-aeroplane
which had not killed him yet--he was a good swimmer, and lucky.
He ordered the best war-eagle that could be made, and began to take
lessons in military maps, bird's-eye views, and explosives. He was
almost happy. He would improve on the poet's dream-ideal, "Were I
a little bird, I'd fly to thee."
He would be a big bird, and he'd fly with his Thee. He would call on
Charity in France when they both had an evening off, and take her up
into the clouds for a sky-ride.
He had an ambition. At worst, he could die for France. It is splendid
to have something to die for. It makes life worth living.
He was so ecstatic in his first flight with his finished machine
that he fell and broke one of its wings, also one of his own. Charity
heard of his accident and called on him at his mother's house. He
told her his plans.
"Too bad!" she sighed. "I'm not going abroad. Besides, I couldn't see
you if I did."
Then she told him what Cheever had said, but not how she had slapped.
Jim was wild. He rose on his bad arm and fell back again, groaning:
"I'll kill him for that."
Everybody is always going to kill everybody. Sometimes somebody does
kill somebody. But Dyckman went over to the great majority. Charity
begged him not to kill her husband, and to please her he promised
Charity, having insured her husband's life, said: "And now, Jimmie
old boy, I mustn't see you any more. Gossip has linked our names. We
must unlink them. My husband and you will butcher each other if I'm
not careful, so it's good-by for keeps, and God bless you, isn't it?
"I'll promise anything, if you'll go on away and let me alone,"
Jim groaned, his broken arm being quite sufficient trouble for him
at the moment.
Charity laughed and went on away. She was deeply comforted by
a promise which she knew he would not keep.
Dyckman himself, as soon as his broken bones ceased to shake his soul,
groaned with loneliness and despaired of living without Charity--vowed
in his sick misery that nobody could ever come between them. He
could not, would not, live without her.
Still the gossip oozed along that he had not lived without her.
Kedzie had come to town with no social ambitions whatsoever beyond
a childish desire to be enormously rich and marry a beautiful prince.
Her ideal of heaven at first was an eternal movie show interrupted
at will by several meals a day, incessant soda-water and ice-cream
and a fellow or two to spoon with, and some up-to-date duds--most
of all, several pairs of those white-topped shoes all the girls
in town were wearing.
The time would shortly come when Kedzie would abhor the word
_swell_ and despise the people who used it, violently forgetting
that she had herself used it. She would soon be overheard saying
to a mixed girl of her mixed acquaintance: "Take it from me, chick,
when you find a dame calls herself a lady, she ain't. Nobody who
is it says it, and if you want to be right, lay off such words as
_swell_ and _classy_."
Later, she would be finding that it took something still more than
avoiding the word _lady_ to deserve it. She would writhe to
believe that she could never quite make herself exact with the term.
She would hate those who had been born and made to the title, and
she would revert at times to common instincts with fierce anarchy.
But one must go forward before one can backslide, and Kedzie was
on the way up the slippery hill.
She had greatly improved the quality of her lodgings, her suitors,
and her clothes. Her photographic successes in risky exposures had
brought her a marked increase of wages. She wore as many clothes
as she could in private, to make up for her self-denial before
the camera. Her taste in dress was soubrettish and flagrant, but
it was not small-town. She was beginning to dislike ice-cream soda
and candy and to call for beer and Welsh rabbit. She would soon
be liking salads with garlic and Roquefort cheese in the dressing.
She was mounting with splendid assiduity toward the cigarette and
the high-ball. There was no stopping Kedzie. She kept rising on
stepping-stones of her dead selves.
Landladies are ladder-rungs of progress, too; Kedzie's history
might have been traced by hers.
Her camera career had led her from the flat of the delicatessen
merchant, through various shabby lairs, into the pension of a
vaudeville favorite of prehistoric fame. The house was dilapidated,
and the brownstone front had the moth-eaten look of the plush
Mrs. Jambers was as fat as if she fed on her own boarders, but she
was once no less a person than Mrs. Trixie Jambers Coogan, of Coogan
and Jambers. She had once evoked wild applause at Tony Pastor's by
There was another dancer there, an old grenadier of a woman who
had been famous in her time as a _première danseuse_ at
the opera. Mrs. Bottger had spent a large part of her early life
on one toe, but now she could hardly balance herself sitting down.
She held on to the table while she ate. She did not look as if
she needed to eat any more.
Kedzie was proud to know people who had been as famous as these two
said they had been, but Bottger and Jambers used to fight bitterly
over their respective schools of expression. Bottger insisted that
the buck-and-wing and the double shuffle and other forms of jiggery
were low. Jambers insisted that the ballet was immoral and, what
was more, insincere. Mrs. Bottger was furious at the latter charge,
but the former was now rather flattering. She used secretly to take
out old photographs of herself as a slim young thing in tights with
one toe for support and the other resting on one knee. She would
gloat over these as a miser over his gold; and she would shake her
finger at her quondam self and scold it lovingly--"You wicked little
thing, you!" Then she would hastily move it out of the reach of her
tears. It was safe under the eaves of her bosom against her heart.
It was a merry war, with dishonors even, till a new-comer appeared,
a Miss Eleanor Silsby, who taught the ultimate word in dancing; she
admitted it herself. As she explained it, she went back to nature
for her inspiration. Her pupils dressed as near to what nature
had provided them with as they really dared. Miss Silsby said that
they were trying to catch the spirit of wind and waves and trees
and flowers, and translate it into the dance. They translated
seaweed and whitecaps and clouds into steps. Miss Silsby was booking
a few vaudeville dates "in order to bring the art of nature back
to the people and bring the people back to the art of nature." What
the people would do with it she did not explain--nor what the police
would do to them if they tried it.
Miss Silsby had by the use of the most high-sounding phrases
attained about the final word in candor. What clothes her pupils
wore were transparent and flighty. The only way to reveal more skin
would have been to grow it. Her pupils were much photographed in
airy attitudes on beaches, dancing with the high knee-action so much
prized in horses; flinging themselves into the air; curveting, with
the accent on the curve; clasping one another in groups of nymphish
innocence and artificial grace. It was all, somehow, so shocking for
its insincerity that its next to nudity was a minor consideration.
It was so full of affectation that it seemed quite lacking in the
dangers of passion.
So gradually indeed had the mania for disrobing spread about
the world that there was little or no shock to be had. People
generally assumed to be respectable took their children to see
the dances, even permitted them to learn them. According to Miss
Silsby's press-notices, "Members of wealthy and prominent families
are taking up the new art." And perhaps they were doing as well by
their children as more careful parents, since nothing is decent or
indecent except by acclamation, and if nudity is made commonplace,
there is one multitude of temptations removed from our curiosity.
But Bottger, whose ballet-tights and tulle skirt were once the
horror of all good people--Bottger was disgusted with the dances
of Miss Silsby, and said so.
Miss Silsby was merely amused by Bottger's hostility. She scorned
her scorn, and with the utmost scientific and ethnological support
declared that clothes were immoral in origin, and the cause
of immorality and extravagance, since they were not the human
integument. Jambers was not quite sure what "integument" was,
but she thanked God she had never had it in her family.
An interested onlooker and in-listener at these boarding-house battles
was Kedzie. By now she was weary of her present occupation--of course!
She was tired of photographs of herself, especially as they were
secured at the cost of long hours of posing under the hot skylight
of a photograph gallery. Miss Silsby gave Kedzie a pair of
complimentary seats to an entertainment at which the Silsby sirens
were to dance. Kedzie was swept away with envy of the hilarity,
the grace, the wild animal effervescence and elegance of motion.
She contrasted the vivacity of the dancer's existence with the
stupidity of her still-life poses. She longed to run and pirouette
and leap into the air. She wished she could kick herself in the back
of the head to music the way the Silsby girls did.
When she told this to Miss Silsby the next day Miss Silsby was
politely indifferent. Kedzie added:
"You know, I'm up on that classic stuff, too. Oh, yessum, Greek
costumes are just everyday duds to me."
"Indeed!" Miss Silsby exclaimed.
Kedzie showed her some trade photographs of herself as an Athénienne,
and Miss Silsby pondered. Although her dances were supposed to purify
and sweeten the soul, one of her darlings had so fiendish a temper
that she had torn out several Psyche knots. She was the demurest of
all in seeming when she danced, but she was uncontrollably jealous.
Miss Silsby saw that Kedzie's pout had commercial value. She
invited Kedzie to join her troupe. And Kedzie did. The wages were
small, but the world was new. She became one of the most attractive
of the dancers. But once more the rehearsals and the long hours
of idleness wore out her enthusiasm. She hated the regularity
of the performances; every afternoon and evening she must express
raptures she did not feel, by means of laborious jumpings and
runnings to the same music. And she abominated the requirement
to keep kicking herself in the back of the head.
Even the thrill of clotheslessness became stupid. It was disgusting
not to have beautiful gowns to dance in. Zada L'Etoile and others had
a new costume for every dance. Kedzie had one tiresome hip-length
shift and little else. As usual, poor Kedzie found that realization
was for her the parody of anticipation.
Kedzie's new art danced into her life a few new suitors, but they
came at a time when she was almost imbecile over Thomas Gilfoyle, the
advertising bard. He was the first intellectual man she had met--that
is, he was intellectual compared with any other of her men friends.
He could read and write something besides business literature.
In fact, he was a fellow of startling ideas. He called himself
a socialist. What the socialists would have called him it would be
hard to say; they are given to strong language.
Kedzie had known in Nimrim what church socials were, for they were
about the height of Nimrim excitement. But young Mr. Gilfoyle was not
a church socialist. He detested all creeds and all churches and said
things about them and about religion that at first made Kedzie look
up at the ceiling and dodge. But no brimstone ever broke through
the plaster and she grew used to his diatribes.
She had never met one of these familiar enough figures before, and
she was vaguely stirred by his chantings in behalf of humanity. He
adored the poor laborers, though he did not treat the office-boy well
and he was not gallant to the scrub-woman. But his theories were as
beautiful as music, and he intoned them with ringing oratory. Kedzie
did not know what he was talking about, any more than she knew what
Caruso was singing about when she turned him on in Mrs. Jambers's
phonograph, but his melodies put her heart to its paces, and so did
Gilfoyle wrote her poems, too, real poems not meant for publication
at advertising rates. Kedzie had never had anybody commit poetry
at her before. It lifted her like that Biltmore elevator and sent
her heart up into her head. He lauded Kedzie's pout as well as her
more saltant expressions. He voiced a belief that life in a little
hut with her would be luxury beyond the contemptible stupidities
of life in a palace with another. Kedzie did not care for the hut
detail, but the idolatry of so "brainy" a man was inspiring.
Kedzie and Gilfoyle were mutually afraid: she of his intellect, he
of her beauty and of her very fragility. Of course, he called her
by her new name, "Miss Adair." Later he implored the priceless joy
of calling her by her first name.
Gilfoyle feared to ask this privilege in prose, and so he put it
in verse. Kedzie found it in her mail at the stage door. She huddled
in a corner of the big undressing-room where the nymphs prepared for
their task. The young rowdies kept peeking over her shoulder and
snatching at her letter, but when finally she read it aloud to them
as a punishment and a triumph, they were stricken with awe. It ran
Pretty maid, pretty maid, may I call you "Anita"?
Your last name is sweet, but your first name is sweeter.
Kedzie stumbled over this, because she had not yet eradicated
the Western final "r" from her pronunciation. She thought Mr.
Gilfoyle was awful swell because he dropped it naturally. But she
read on, scrambling over some of the words the way a horse jumps
a fence one rail too high.
You are so adorable
I find it deplorable,
Absurd and abnormal.
To cling to the formal
'Twere such a good omen
To drop the cognomen.
So I beg you to promise
That you'll call me "Thomas,"
Or better yet, "Tommie,"
Instead of th' abomi-
Nable "Mr. Gilfoyle."
You can, and you will foil
My torments Mephistian
By using my Christian
Name and permitting Yours Truly
To call you yours too-ly.
Hear my prayer
Do I dare
Call my love when I meet her
"Anita"? Anita! Anita!!
In the silence that followed she whisked out a box of shrimp-pink
letter-paper she had bought at a drugstore. It was daintily ruled
in violet lines and had a mauve "A" at the top. It was called
"The Nobby Note," and so she knew that it was all right.
She wrote on it the simple but thrilling answer:
DEAR TOMMIE,--You bet your boots!
By the time she had sealed and addressed the shrimpy envelope and
begun feverishly to make up for lost time in changing her costume,
the other girls had recovered a little from the suffocation of her
glory. One of them murmured:
"Say, Aneet, what is your first name? Your really truly one."
Another snarled, "What's your really truly last name?"
A third dryad whooped, "I bet it's Lizzie Smoots or Mag Wimpfhauser."
The others had other suggestions to howl, and Anita cowered in
silence, wondering if one of the fiends would not at any moment
guess "Kedzie Thropp."
The call to arms and legs cut short her torment, and for once
the music seemed appropriate. Never had she danced with such
Gilfoyle had the presence of mind to be waiting in the alley after
the matinee, and took from her hand the note she was carrying to
the mail-box. When he read it he almost embraced her right there.
They took a street-car to Mrs. Jambers's boarding-house, but cruel
disappointment waited for them. Another boarder was entertaining
her gentleman friend in the parlor. Kedzie was furious. So was
the other boarder.
That night Gilfoyle met Kedzie again at the stage door, but they
could not go to the boarding-house, for Mrs. Jambers occupied at
that time a kind of false mantelpiece that turned out to be a bed
in disguise. So they went to the Park.
Young Gilfoyle treated Kedzie with almost more respect than she
might have desired. He was one of those self-chaperoning young men
who spout anarchy and practise asceticism. Even in his poetry it
was the necessitous limitations of rhyme-words that dragged him
into his boldest thoughts.
Sitting on a dark Park bench with Kedzie, he could not have been
more circumspect if there had been sixteen duennas gathered around.
The first time he hugged her was a rainy night when Kedzie had to
snuggle close and haul his arm around her, and then his heart beat
so fast against her shoulder that she was afraid he would die of it.
Cool, wet, windy nights in late summer feel very cold, and a damp
bench under dripping trees was a nuisance to a tired dancing-girl.
Love was so inconvenient that when Kedzie bewailed the restrictions
imposed on unmarried people Gilfoyle proposed marriage. It popped
out of him so suddenly that Kedzie felt his heart stop and listen.
Then it began to race, and hers ran away, too.
"Why, Mr. Gilfoyle! Why, Tommie!" she gurgled. It was her first
proposal of marriage, and she lost her head. "And you a socialist
and telling me you didn't believe in marriages!"
"I don't," said Gilfoyle, with lovely sublimity above petty
consistencies, "except with you, Anita. I don't believe in anything
exclusive for anybody except you for me and me for you. We've just
got to be each other's own, haven't we?"
Kedzie could think of nothing to add except a little emphasis; so
she cried, "Each other's very ownest own!"
Thus they became engaged. That made it possible for her to have him
in her own room at the boarding-house. Also it enabled him to borrow
money from her with propriety when they were hungry for supper.
Fortunately, he did not mind her going on working. Not at all.
Gilfoyle was a fiend of jealousy concerning individuals, but he was
not jealous of the public. It did not hurt him at all to have Kedzie
publishing her structural design to the public, because he loved
the public, and the public paid indirectly. He wanted the masses
to have what the classes have. That delighted Kedzie, at first.
What she thought she understood of his socialistic scheme was that
every poor girl like herself was going to have her limousine and
her maid and a couple of footmen. She did not pause to figure out
how complicated that would be, since the maid would have to have
her maid, and that maid hers, and so on, _ad infinitum, ad
Later Kedzie found that Gilfoyle's first intention was to impoverish
the rich, elimousinate their wives, and put an end to luxury. It
astonished her how furious he got when he read of a ball given by
people of wealth, though a Bohemian dance at Webster Hall pleased
him very much, even though some of the costumes made Kedzie's Greek
vest look prudish.
But all this Kedzie was to find out after she had married the wretch.
One finds out so many things when one marries one. It is like going
behind the scenes at a performance of "Romeo and Juliet," seeing
the stage-braces that prop the canvas palaces, and hearing Juliet
bawl out Romeo for crabbing her big scene. The shock is apt to be
fatal to romance unless one is prepared for it in advance as
an inevitable and natural conflict.