Part 5 out of 12
an idea. Let's get some stunning dancer to do a special number.
I remember one who would be just the ticket. What's the name--Zada
Le Something or other. She's a gorgeous creature. Have you seen her
Several women began signaling wildly to Mrs. Neff to keep quiet.
Charity saw their semaphores at work, but Mrs. Neff was blind--blind,
but not speechless. She kept on singing the praises of Zada till
everybody wanted to gag her.
An open mind to gossip is an important thing. We ought to keep up
with all the scandals concerning our friends and enemies. Otherwise
we lose many an opportunity to undercut the latter and we are
constantly annoying the former.
It was Mrs. Neff, of all people--and she loved Charity Coe
dearly--who caused her public shame and suffering. Mrs. Neff
had defended Charity from the slanderous assumptions of Prissy
Atterbury and had refused to listen to Pet Bettany's echoes.
She had, indeed, a bad reputation for rebuking well-meaning
disseminators of spice. This attitude discouraged several persons
who would otherwise have told her all sorts of interesting things
about Charity's husband's _entente cordiale_ with Zada.
Charity had dwelt in a fool's paradise of trust in Peter Cheever
for a while, then had dropped back into a fool's purgatory of doubt,
where she wandered bewildered. Now she was thrown into the fool's
hell. She knew that her love had been betrayed. Everybody else knew
it and was wondering how she would act.
Charity was sick. This was really more than she had bargained for.
As before, she felt it immodest to expose her emotions in public,
so she said:
"Yes, I've seen her. She is very attractive, isn't she? I don't know
if she is dancing in public any more, but I'll find out."
Mrs. Neff sat back triumphantly and let the meeting proceed. But
there was a gray pall on the occasion. Women began to look at their
wrist-watches and pretend to be shocked at the lateness of the hour,
and all of them shook hands solemnly with Charity. There was a poorly
veiled condolence in their tone.
Charity carried it off pluckily, but she was in a dangerous humor.
She really could not endure the patronizing mercy of these women.
That night Cheever made again his appearance at the dinner-table.
He had some notion of putting Charity off her guard or of atoning
to her in part for his resumed alliance with Zada. He could not have
told what his own motives were, for he was in a state of bewilderment
between his duties to Mrs. Charity Tweedledum and Miss Zada
Tweedledee. He could not tell which one had the greater claim
on his favors.
Charity studied him across the table and wondered what he really was,
faun or traitor, Mormon or weakling. He was certainly handsome, but
the influence of Zada L'Etoile seemed to hang about him like a green
slime on a statue.
She could not find any small talk to carry the meal along. At length
"What you been up to all day?"
"Oh, committee stuff--that movie thing, you know."
"How's it coming on? Got a manager yet?"
"Not yet. We were talking about getting some professionals in
to brighten up the evening."
"Good work! Those amateurs make me sick."
"Mrs. Neff proposed that we get some stunning dancer to do a turn."
"Not a bad idea. For instance--"
He emptied his glass of Chablis and the butler was standing by
to refill it when Charity answered:
"Mrs. Neff suggested a dancer I haven't seen on the stage for some
time. You used to admire her."
"Yes?" said Cheever, pushing his glass along the table toward
the butler, who began to pour as Charity slid home her _coup
"Zada L'Etoile. What's become of her?"
Cheever's eyes gaped and his jaws dropped. The butler's expression
was the same. He poured the Chablis on the back of Cheever's hand
and neither noticed it till Charity laughed hysterically and drove
the sword a little deeper:
"Is she still alive? Have you seen her?"
Cheever glared at her, breathed hard, swore at the butler, wiped
his hand on his napkin, gnawed his lips, twisted his mustache,
threw down the napkin, rose, and left the table.
Charity's smile turned to a grimace. She saw that the butler was
ashamed of her. He almost told her that she ought to have known
better than subject him and the other servants to such a scene.
Charity caught herself about to say, "I beg your pardon, Hammond."
She felt as if she ought to beg the pardon of everybody in the world.
She could not stand the lonely dining-room long. She rose and walked
out. It seemed that she would never reach the door. It was a _via
crucis_ to her. Her back ached with the sense of eyes upon it.
The hall was lonely. The thud of the front door jarred her. She went
into the library. It was a dark and frowning cavern. She went into
the music-room, approached the piano, looked over the music, turned
up "Go, Lovely Rose." The rose that Jim Dyckman said she was had been
thrown into the mud. She went up to her room. The maid was arranging
her bed for the night. She had turned down one corner of the cover,
built up one heap of pillows, set one pair of slippers by the edge.
Charity felt like a rejected old spinster. She sat and mused and
her thoughts were bitter. She remembered Doctor Mosely's sermon
and wondered if he would preach what he preached if he knew what
she knew. She would go to him and tell him.
But what did she know? Enough to convince herself, but nothing at
all that even a preacher would call evidence.
She must have proof. She resolved to get it. There must be an
abundance of it. She wondered how one went at the getting of
While Charity was resolving to tear down her life Kedzie Thropp was
building herself a new one on the foundations that Charity had laid
for her with a card of introduction to Miss Havender.
In the motion-picture world Kedzie had found herself. Her very
limitations were to her advantage. She would have failed dismally
in the spoken drama, but the flowing photograma was just to her
The actor must not only know how to read his lines and express
emotions, but must keep up the same spontaneity night after night,
sometimes for a thousand performances or more. The movie actor
is expected to respond to a situation once or twice for rehearsal,
and once or twice for the camera. There is no audience to struggle
against and listen for--and to. The director is always there at
the side calling, reminding, pleading, encouraging, threatening,
suggesting the thoughts, the lines, and the expression, doing all
the work except the pantomime.
That was Kedzie's salvation. Tell her a story and make her the
heroine of it, and her excitable heart would thrill to the emotional
crisis. Take a snapshot of her, and the picture was caught.
Ferriday soon learned this and protected her from her own helpless
vice of discontent. She lapsed always from her enthusiasm after
it was once cold. As an actress she would have been one of those
frequent flashers who give a splendid rehearsal or two and then sink
back into a torpor. She might have risen to an appealing first-night
performance. Thereafter, she would have become dismal. The second
week would have found the audiences disgusted and the third would
have found her breaking her contract and running away with somebody.
A horse that has run away once is likely to run away again. Kedzie
had run away twice.
But the movie life was just the thing for her. She did not play
always the same set scenes in the same scene sets. She was not
required even to follow the logic of the story. For a while she
would play a bit in a tiny angle representing a drawing-room. When
that was taken she would play, not the next moment of the story,
but the next scene in that scene. It might be a year further along
in the story. It was exciting.
Her second picture had great success. She played the girl brought up
as a boy by a cruel Italian padrone who made her steal. Her third
picture was as nearly the same as possible.
Now she was a ragged waif, a girl, who dressed as a boy and sold
newspapers so as to keep her old father in liquor. The garret was
a rickety table, a rusty stove, a broken chair, and a V of painted
canvas walls with a broken window and a paper snowstorm falling
back of it. There Kedzie was found in very becoming ragged breeches,
pouting with starvation. Her father drove her out for gin.
She walked out of the set, picked up a bottle, and brought it back.
The scene in the saloon would be taken later: also the street scenes
to and from.
An officer of the "Cruelty" came and took her from the garret. That
was the beginning of a series of adventures culminating in a marriage
with a multimillionaire. While the garret was set, the finish of
the story was taken.
She ran and changed her costume to one of wealth with ermine. She
came in with the handsome young millionaire. It was the next winter.
Her father was dying. He asked her forgiveness and gave her his
blessing. Then Kedzie changed back to her first costume and went
in the motor to a dismal street where she was shown coming out of
the tenement, and going back to it gin-laden, and again with the
officer of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
She changed once more to her wealthy garb with the ermine and was
photographed going in with her young millionaire.
The next day the scene in the Cruelty office was built and she acted
in it. The drawing-room in the millionaire's home was assembled and
she acted in that. Then she went out in rags and sold newspapers
on a corner. So it went. The chronology hopelessly jumbled, but
the change incessant.
The studio was a palace of industry. Many of the scenes were played
on the great glass-covered roof. On bright days she would ride in
a closed automobile to some street or some lonely glen or to the
home of some wealthy person who had lent his house to the movies
on the bribe of a gift to his favorite benevolence.
There was the thrill of sitting in the projection-room and watching
herself scamper across the scene, or flirt or weep, look pretty or
gorgeous, sad or gay.
One's own portrait is always a terribly fascinating thing, for it
is always the inaccurate portrait of a stranger curiously akin to
one and curiously alien. But to see one's portrait move and breathe
and feel is magic unbelievable.
In the enlarged close-ups when Kedzie was a girl giantess, the effect
was uncanny. She loved herself and was glad of the friendly dark that
hid her own wild pride in her beauty, but did not prevent her from
hearing the exclamations of Ferriday and the backers and the other
actors who were admitted to the preliminary views.
There was a quality in her work that surpassed Ferriday's
expectations and made her pantomime singularly legible. The
modulations of her thought from one extreme mood to another were
always traceable. This was true of the least feelings. Ferriday
would say: "Now you decide to telephone your lover. You hesitate,
you telephone, a girl answers, you wait, he speaks, you smile."
Kedzie would nod with impatient zest and one could read each
gradation of thought. "I'd better telephone him. I will. No, I'd
better not. Yes. No. Shall I? Well, I will. Hello! Hello, Central!
Hurry up! Gramercy 816. What takes so long? Is this Gramercy 816?
Mr. Monteith. Oh, isn't she smart? What keeps him? Is he out? No,
there he is! Oh, joy! I must be very severe. Hello, Harry."
All these thoughts the spectator could follow. They ran, as it
were, under her skin. There was no stolidity or phlegm. She was
astoundingly alive and real. Unimportant, without sublimity of
emotion or intellectual power, she was irresistibly real. The
public understood all she told it, and adored her.
Her petulance, quick temper, pretty discontent, did not harm her
on the screen, but helped immensely, for they gave her character.
It was delicious to see her eyes narrow with sudden resentment or
girlish malice and widen again with equally abrupt affection. She
was so pretty that she could afford to act ugly.
It took time, however, to get Kedzie from the studio to the negative,
then to the positive. There was editing to do, and it seemed to her
that her most delicious bits had to be cut out, because Ferriday
always took three or four thousand feet of film for every thousand
he used. They had to cut out more Kedzie to let in the titles and
subtitles, and it angered her to see how much space was given to
other members of the cast. She simply loathed the scenes she was not
the center of, and she developed an acerbity of protest against any
"trespass" on her "rights" that proved her a genuine business woman.
She learned the tricks of the trade with magnificent speed. She was
never so meek and helpless of expression as when she slipped in front
of another actor or actress and filled as much of the foreground as
her slenderness permitted. When she was crowded into the background
she knew how to divert attention to herself during the best moments
of the other people in the scene. And she could most innocently spoil
any bit that she did not like to do herself or have done by another.
In the studio she was speedily recognized as an ambitious young woman
zealous for self-advancement. In fact, they called her a "reel hog"
and a "glutton for footage." A number of minor feuds were turned into
deep friendships through a common resentment at Kedzie's impartial
Ferriday did not object to these professional traits. They exist
in all trades, and success is never won in large measure without
them. Almost all businesses are little trusts, monopolies more or
less tiny, more or less ruthless.
Ferriday delighted in Kedzie's battle for space with the other
members of the troupe. They kept everybody intense. The lover loved
her better on the screen for hating her personal avarice. Her mother
in the picture was more meltingly tender in her caresses for wanting
to scratch the little cat's eyes out. The clergyman who pointed her
the way to heaven grew more ardently devout for having to grip
the floor with his feet to keep the adoring Kedzie from edging him
off his own pulpit.
This rivalry is better than any number of chaperons, and Kedzie
was saved from any danger of falling in love with the unspeakably
beautiful leading man by the ferocity of her jealousy of him. She
had once, as a little girl in Nimrim, Missouri, nearly swooned at
the glory of this Lorraine Melnotte, and she had written him a little
letter of adoration, one of some nineteen he received that day from
lovelorn girls about the globe.
When she met him first in the studio he was painted as delicately as
a barber-pole, and he stood sweating in a scene under the full blast
of a battery of sick green Cooper-Hewitt lights. He looked about
three days dead and loathsome as an iguana. He was in full evening
dress, and Kedzie had always marveled at the snowiness of his linen.
Now she saw how he got the effect. He wore a yellow shirt, collar,
tie, and waistcoat in order that the photographic result should be
the purest white. The yellow linen was the completing horror under
the spoiled mustard color of his face with its mouth the color of
an overripe plum.
His expression did not redeem his appalling features that day, nor
did his language help. While the cameraman leaned on his idle machine
and looked weary Lorraine Melnotte was having a sweet little row with
the actress playing his sainted mother. He was threatening to have
her fired if she didn't keep her place.
That finished him for Kedzie. She could not tolerate professional
jealousy. She never could. Her own was merely a defense of her
dignity and her rights against the peculiarly impossible people who
infested the studio. That was Kedzie's own phrase, for she had not
lived with a poet long before she began to experiment with large
words. She practised before a mirror any phrases she particularly
liked. She had probably heard Ferriday use the expression and she
got herself up on it till she was glib. Anybody who can be glib
with "peculiarly impossible" is in a fair way to be articulate.
All Kedzie needed was a little more certainty on her grammar; and
her ear was giving her that.
Her contempt for Lorraine Melnotte culminated in a dark suspicion
that that was not his real born name. If Anita Adair was Kedzie
Thropp what would Lorraine Melnotte have been? It was a pretty
problem in algebra. But Kedzie despised a man that would take
another name. And such a name--as unworthy of a man as a box of
So the image of Mr. Melnotte fell out of the niche in her heart and
went over into the gallery of her hates. She fought him with every
weapon and every foul thrust known to shy little women in dealing
with big, blustering men. She loved to call him "Melnit" or
He was lost from the start and was soon begging to be released from
his contract. The backers were too sure of his vogue, however, to
let him go, and it was none of their affair how fiercely Adair and
Melnotte indulged in mutual loathing, so long as their screen-love
was so wholesomely sweet.
With Ferriday Kedzie's relations were more perilous. He had invented
her and was patenting her. She dreaded his wisdom and accepted his
least theory as gospel--at first. He combined a remote and godlike
intellect with a bending and fatherly grace. And now and then, like
the other gods of all the mythologies, he came down to earth in
an amorous mood.
Now Kedzie's surety was her canny realization of the value of
tantalism. She was not long left in ignorance of his record for
flitting fancy and she felt that he would flit from her as soon
as he conquered her. Her duty was plain.
She played him well and drove him frantic. It would have been hard
to say whether he hated her or loved her more when he found her
always just a little beyond. He had begun with the greatest gift in
his power. He had promised her world-wide fame, and no other gift
could count till he had made that good. And it would take a long,
long while of incessant labor to build.
Ferriday belittled himself in Kedzie's eyes by his groans of baffled
egotism. She could read his plots on his countenance, and thwart him
in advance. But this was not always easy for her, and again and again
he had only himself to blame for his non-success with Kedzie's heart.
With Kedzie's fame he was having a very sudden and phenomenal triumph
--if anything could be called phenomenal in a field which itself was
Ferriday did not know, of course, that Kedzie was married. She hardly
knew it herself now. Gilfoyle had been three weeks late in sending
her the thirty dollars' fare to Chicago. Then she wrote him that she
was doing fairly well at the studio and she would stick to her work.
She sent him oceans of love, but she did not send him the thirty
Besides, he had borrowed it of her in the first place, and she had
had to borrow more of Ferriday. She had neglected to pay him back.
She needed so much for her new clothes and new expenses innumerable
inflicted on her by her improved estate.
And, of course, she left the miserable little flat on the landlord's
hands. He wasted a good deal of time trying to get the rent paid.
Besides, it was rented in Gilfoyle's name and he was safe in Chicago.
And yet not very safe, for Chicago has also its Bohemia, its clusters
of real and imitation artists, its talkers and dabblers, as well as
its toilers and achievers.
Gilfoyle found some wonderful Western sirens who listened to
his poetry. They were new to him and he to them. His Eastern
pronunciations fascinated them as they had fascinated Kedzie,
and he soon found in them all the breeziness and wholesomeness
of the great prairies which are found in the mid-Western women
Gilfoyle had apparently forgotten that his own wife was a
mid-Westerness, and the least breezy, wholesome, prairian thing
imaginable. He saw mid-Western women of all sorts about him, but
he was of those who must have a type for every section of humanity
and who will not be shaken in their belief by any majority of
When Gilfoyle got Kedzie's letter saying that she would not join him
yet awhile he wrote her a letter of poetic grief at the separation.
But poets, like the rest of us, are the better for getting a grief
on paper and out of the system.
Kedzie did not answer his letter for a long while and he did not
miss her answer much, for he was having his own little triumphs.
The advertisements he wrote were receiving honorable mention at the
office and he was having success with his poetry and his flirtations
He returned to his boarding-house one night and looked at his face
in the mirror, stared into the eyes that stared back. A certain
melting and molten and molting lady had told him that he had poet's
eyes like Julian Street's and was almost as witty. Gilfoyle tried
with his shaving-glass and the bureau mirror to study the profile
that someone else had compared to the cameonic visage of Richard
Gilfoyle was gloriously ashamed of himself. In the voice that
someone else had compared to Charlie Towne's reading his own verses
he addressed his reflection with scorn:
"You heartless dog! You ought to be shot--forgetting that you have
a poor little deserted wife toiling in the great city. You're as
bad as Lord Byron ever was."
Then he wrote a sonnet against his own perfidy and accepted
confession as atonement and plenary indulgence.
He was one of those who, when they have cried, "I have sinned," hear
a mysterious voice saying, "Poor sufferer, go and sin some more."
So he did, and he went the way of millions of lazy-minded, lazy-
moraled husbands while Kedzie went the way of men and women who
succeed by self-exploitation and count only that bad morals which
is also bad business. And that was the status of the matrimonial
adventure of the Gilfoyles for the present. It made no perceptible
difference to anybody that they were married--least of all to
themselves--for the present. But of course Kedzie was obscurely
preparing all this while for a tremendous explosion into publicity
and into what is known as "the big money." And that was bound to
make a vast difference to Gilfoyle as well as to Mrs. Gilfoyle.
In these all-revolutionary days a man had better be a little polite
always to his wife, for in some totally unexpectable way she may
suddenly prove to be a bigger man than he is, a money-getter, a
fame or shame acquirer--if only by way of becoming the president of
a suffrage association or a best-seller or an inventor of a popular
And again, all this time--a very short time, considering the changes
it made in everybody concerned--Ferriday was Kedzie's alternate hope
and despair, good angel and bad, uplifter and down-yanker.
Sometimes he threatened to stop the picture and destroy it unless she
kissed him. And she knew that he could and would do almost anything
of that sort. Had not his backers threatened to murder him or sue him
if he did not finish the big feature? At such times Kedzie usually
kissed Ferriday to keep him quiet. But she was as careful not to give
too many kisses as she had been not to put too many caramels in half
a pound when she had clerked in the little candy-store. Nowadays she
would pause and watch the quivering scale of policy intently with one
more sweet poised as if it were worth its weight in gold. The ability
to stop while the scale wavers in the tiny zone of just-a-little-too-
little and just-a-little-too-much is what makes success in any
business of man--or woman-kind.
It was not always easy for Kedzie to withhold that extra bonbon.
There were times when Ferriday raised her hopes and her pride so
high that she fairly squealed with love of him and hugged him. That
would have been the destruction of Kedzie if there had not been the
counter-weight of conceit in Ferriday's soul, for at those times he
would sigh to himself or aloud:
"You are loving me only because I am useful to you."
This thought always sobered and chilled Mr. Ferriday. He worked
none the less for her and himself and he tried in a hundred ways
to surprise the little witch into an adoration complete enough to
make her forget herself, make her capable of that ultimate altruism
to which a woman falls or rises when she stretches herself out on
the altar of love.
Ferriday began to think seriously that the only way he could break
Kedzie's pride completely would be to make her his wife. He began
to wonder if that were not, after all, what she was driving at--or
trying to drive him to.
Life will be so much more wholesome when women propose marriage
as men do and have a plain, frank talk about it instead of their
eternal business of veils and reticences, fugitive impulses real
or coquettish, modesties real or faked.
Ferriday could not be sure of Kedzie, and he grew so curious to know
that finally he broke out, "In the Lord's name, will you or will you
not marry me, damn you?"
And Kedzie answered: "Of course not. I wouldn't dream of such
But that did not prove anything, either. Perhaps she merely wanted
to trawl him along.
She had Ferriday almost crazy--at least she had added one more to
his manias--when Jim Dyckman wandered into the studio and set up
an entirely new series of ambitions and discontents.
Charity Coe forgot her great moving-picture enterprise for a time
in the agony of her discovery that her husband was disloyal and
that the Church did not accept that as a cancellation of her own
For a long time she was in such misery of uncertainty that she went
up to the mountains to recover her strength. She came back at last,
made simple and stoical somehow by the contrast of human pettiness
with the serenity (as we call it) of those vast masses of débris
that we poetize and humanize as patient giants.
Her absence had left Cheever entirely to his own devices and to
Zada's. They had made up and fought and made up again dozens of
times and settled down at length to that normal alternation of
peace and conflict known as domestic life.
With Charity out of the way there was so little interruption to
their communion that when she came back Zada forbade Cheever to
meet her at the station, and he obeyed.
Charity felt that she had brought with her the weight of the
mountains instead of their calm when she detrained in the thronged
solitude of the Grand Central Terminal. And the house with its
sympathetic family of servants only was as home-like as the Mammoth
She took up her work with a frenzy. The need of a man to act as her
adjutant in the business details was imperative. She thought of Jim
Dyckman again, and with a different thought.
When he pleaded to her before she had imagined that she was at least
officially a wife. Now she felt divorced and abandoned, a waif on
the public mercy.
She wanted to talk to Jim because she felt so disprized and
downtrodden that she wanted to see somebody who adored her. She
felt wild impulses to throw herself into his keeping. She wanted to
be bad just to spite the bad. But she merely convinced herself that
she was wicked enough already and deserving of her punishment.
She made the moving-picture scheme a good excuse for asking Jim
to grant her a talk--a business talk. To protect herself from him
and from herself she made a convenience of Mrs. Neff's home. Jim
met her there. She was not looking her best and her mood was one of
artificial indirectness that offended him. He never dreamed that it
was because she was afraid to show him how glad she was to see him.
He was furious at her--so he said he would do her bidding. She
dumped the financial and mechanical ends of the enterprise on his
hands and he accepted the burden. He had nothing else pressing for
One of his first duties, Charity told him, was to call at the
Hyperfilm Studio and try to engage that Mr. Ferriday for director
and learn the ropes.
"While you're there you might inquire about that little girl you
pulled out of the pool. I sent her there. They promised her a job.
Her name was--I have it at home in my address-book. I'll telephone
it to you."
And she did. She had no more acquaintance with the history
Kedzie was making in the moving-picture world than she had of
the sensational rise of the latest politician in Tibet. Neither
He had been traveling about on his mother's yacht and in less
correct societies, trying to convince himself that he was cured
of Charity. He did not know that the first pictures of Anita Adair
were causing lines to gather outside the moving-picture theaters
of numberless cities and towns.
When his car halted before the big studio where Ferriday was high
priest Jim might have been a traveler entering a temple in Lassa,
for all he knew of its rites and its powers.
No more did the doorman know the power and place of Jim Dyckman.
When Jim said he had an appointment with Mr. Ferriday the doorman
thumbed him up the marble stairs. There were many doors, but no
signs on them, and Dyckman blundered about. At length he turned
down a corridor and found himself in the workshop.
A vast room it was, the floor hidden with low canvas walls and doors
marked "Keep out." Overhead were girders of steel from which depended
heavy chains supporting hundreds of slanting tubes glowing with green
From somewhere in the inclosures came a voice in distress. It was
the first time Dyckman ever heard Ferriday's voice, and it puzzled
him as it cried:
"Come on, choke her--choke harder, you fool; you're not a masseur--
you're a murderer. Now drag her across to the edge of the well.
Pause, look back. Come on, Melnotte: yell at him! 'Stop, stop, you
dog!' Turn round, Higgins; draw your knife. Go to it now! Give 'em
a real fight. That's all right. Only a little cut. The blood looks
good. Get up, Miss Adair; crawl away on hands and knees. Don't
forget you've been choked. Now take the knife away, Melnotte. Rise;
look triumphant; see the girl. Get to him, Miss Adair. Easy on the
embrace: you're a shy little thing. 'My hero! you have saved me!'
Now, Melnotte: 'Clarice! it is you! you!' Cut! How many feet, Jones?
"Now we'll take the scene in the vat of sulphuric acid. Is the tank
ready? You go lie down and rest, Miss Adair. We won't want you for
half an hour."
As Kedzie left the scene she found Dyckman waiting for her. He
lifted his hat and spoke down at her:
"Pardon me, but you're Miss Adair, aren't you?"
"Yes," said Kedzie, with as much modesty as a queen could show,
incidentally noting that the man who bespoke her so timidly was
plainly a real swell. She was getting so now that she could tell
the real from the plated.
"I heard them murdering you in there and I--Well, Mrs. Cheever asked
me to look you up and see how you were getting along. I see you are."
"Mrs. Cheever!" said Kedzie, searching her memory. Then, with great
kindliness, "Oh yes! I remember her."
"You've forgotten me, I suppose. I had the pleasure--the sad pleasure
of helping you out of the water at Mrs. Noxon's."
"Oh, Lord, yes," Kedzie cried, forgetting her rank. "You're Jim
Dyckman--I mean, Mr. Dyckman."
"So you remember my name," he flushed. "Well, I must say!"
"I didn't remember to thank you," said Kedzie. "I was all damp and
mad. I've often thought of writing to you." And she had.
"I wish you had," said Dyckman. "Well, well!"
He didn't know what to say, and so he laughed and she laughed and
they were well acquainted. Then he thought of a good one.
"I pulled you out of the cold water, so it's your turn to pull me
out of the hot."
"What hot?" said Kedzie.
"I've been sent up here to learn the trade."
Kedzie had a horrible feeling that he must have lost his money.
Wouldn't it be just her luck to meet her first millionaire after he
had become an ex-?
But Dyckman said that he had come to try and engage Mr. Ferriday,
and that sounded so splendid to Kedzie that she snuggled closer.
Ordinarily when a woman cowers under the eaves of a man's shoulder
it is taken for a signal for amiabilities to begin.
Dyckman could not imagine that Kedzie was already as bad as all
that. She wasn't. She was just trying to get as close as she could
to a million dollars. Her feelings were as innocent and as imbecile
as those of the mobs that stand in line for the privilege of
pump-handling a politician.
Jim Dyckman kept forgetting that he was so rich. He hated to be
reminded of it. He did not suspect Kedzie of such a thought. He
stared down at her and thought she was cruelly pretty. He wanted
to tell her so, but he found himself saying:
"But I mustn't keep you. I heard somebody say that you were to
lie down and rest up."
"Oh, that was only Mr. Ferriday. I'm not tired a bit."
"Ferriday. Oh yes, I'm forgetting him. He's the feller I've
come to see."
"He can't be approached when he's working. Sit down, won't you?"
He sat down on an old bench and she sat down, too. She had never
felt quite so contented as this. And Dyckman had not felt so teased
by beauty in a longer time than he could remember.
Kedzie was as exotic to him as a Japanese doll. Her face was painted
in picturesque blotches that reminded him of a toy-shop. Her eyes
were made up with a delicate green that gave them an effect unknown
She was dressed as a young farm girl with a sunbonnet a-dangle at
the back of her neck, her curls trailing across her rounded shoulders
and down upon her dreamy bosom. She sat and swung her little feet
and looked up at him sidewise.
He forgot all about Ferriday, and when Ferriday came along did not
see him. Kedzie did not tell him. She pretended not to see Ferriday,
though she enjoyed enormously the shock it gave him to find her
so much at ease with that big stranger.
Ferriday was so indignant at being snubbed in his own domain by
his own creation that he sent Garfinkel to see who the fellow was
and throw him out. Garfinkel came back with Dyckman, followed
Before Garfinkel could present Dyckman to the great Ferriday, Kedzie
made the introduction. Dyckman was already her own property. She had
seen him first.
Ferriday was jolted by the impact of the great name of Dyckman. He
was restored by the suppliant attitude of his visitor. He said that
he doubted if he could find the time to direct an amateur picture.
Dyckman hastened to say:
"Of course, money is no object to us...."
"Nor to me," Ferriday said, coldly.
Dyckman went on as if he had not heard: "... Except that the more
the show costs the less there is for the charity."
"I should be glad to donate my services to the cause," said
Ferriday, who could be magnificent.
"Three cheers for you!" said Dyckman, who could not.
Ferriday had neither the time nor the patience for the task. But
when the chance came to dazzle the rich by the rich generosity of
working for nothing, he could not afford to let it pass. To tip
a millionaire! He had to do that.
He saw incidentally that Kedzie was fairly hypnotized by Dyckman and
Dyckman by her. His first flare of jealousy died out. To be cut out
by a prince has always been a kind of ennoblement in itself.
Also one of Ferriday's inspirations came to him. If he could get
those two infatuated with each other it would not only take Kedzie
off his heart, but it might be made to redound to the further
advantage of his own genius. A scheme occurred to him. He was
building the scenario of it in the back room of his head while
his guest occupied his parlor.
He wanted to be alone and he wanted Dyckman and Kedzie to be alone
together. And so did Kedzie. Ferriday suggested:
"Perhaps Mr. Dyckman would like to look over the studio--and perhaps
Miss Adair would show him about."
Kedzie started to cry, "You bet your boots," but she caught herself
in time and shifted to, "I should be chawmed." Millionaires did not
use plain words.
Then Dyckman said, "Great!"
He followed Kedzie wherever she led. He was as awkward and out of
place as a school-boy at his first big dance. Kedzie showed him
a murder scene being enacted under the bluesome light. She took
great pains not to let any of it stain her skin. She showed him
a comic scene with a skeletonic man on a comic bicycle. Dyckman
roared when the other comedian lubricated the cyclist's joints
with an oil-can.
Kedzie showed him the projection-room and told the operator to run
off a bit of a scene in which she was revealed to no disadvantage.
She sat alone in the dark with a million dollars that were crazy
about her. She could tell that Dyckman was tremendously excited.
Here at last was her long-sought opportunity to rebuff the advances
of a wicked plutocrat. But he didn't make any, and she might not have
rebuffed them. Still, the air was a-quiver with that electricity
generated almost audibly by a man and a woman alone in the dark.
Dyckman was ashamed of himself and of his arm for wanting to gather
in that delectable partridge, but he behaved himself admirably.
He told her that she was a "corker," a "dream," and "one sweet song,"
and that the picture did not do her justice.
Kedzie showed him the other departments of the picture-factory and
he was amazed at all she knew. So was she. He stayed a long while
and saw everything and yet he said he would come again.
He suggested that it might be nice if Mr. Ferriday and Miss Adair
would dine with him soon. Ferriday was free "to-morrow," and so they
made it to-morrow evening at the Vanderbilt.
Kedzie was there and Dyckman was there, but a boy brought a note
from Mr. Ferriday saying that he was unavoidably prevented from
Dyckman grinned: "We'll have to bear up under it the best we can.
You won't run away just because your chaperon is gone, will you?"
Kedzie smiled and said she would stay. But she was puzzled. What
was Ferriday up to? One always suspected that Ferriday was up to
something and thinking of something other than what he did or said.
Kedzie was not ashamed of her clothes this time. Indeed, when she
gave her opera-cloak to the maid she came out so resplendent that
Jim Dyckman said:
"Zowie! but you're a--Whew! aren't you great? Some change-o from
the little farm girl I saw up at the studio. I don't suppose you'll
eat anything but a little bird-seed."
She was elated to see the _maître d'hôtel_ shake hands with
her escort and ask him how he was and where he had been. Jim
apologized for neglecting to call recently, and the two sauntered
like friends across to a table where half a dozen waiters bowed
and smiled and welcomed the prodigal home.
When they were seated the headwaiter said, "The moosels vit sauce
marinière are nize to-nide."
Dyckman shook his head: "Ump-umm! I'm on the water-wagon and the
diet kitchen. Miss Adair can go as far as she likes, but I've got
to stick to a little thick soup, a big, thick steak, and after, a
little French pastry, some coffee, and a bottle of polly water--and
I'll risk a mug of old musty." He turned to Kedzie: "And now I've
ordered, what do you want? I never could order for anybody else."
Kedzie was disappointed in him. He was nothing like Ferriday. He
didn't use a French word once. She was afraid to venture on her own.
"I'll take the same things," she said.
"Sensible lady," said Jim. "Women who work must eat."
Kedzie hated to be referred to as a worker by an idler. She little
knew how much Jim Dyckman wished he were a worker.
She could not make him out. Her little hook had dragged out Leviathan
and she was surprised to find how unlike he was to her plans for
her first millionaire. He ate like a hungry man who ordered what he
wanted and made no effort to want what he did not want. He had had so
much elaborated food that he craved few courses and simple. He said
what came into his head, without frills or pose. He was sincerely
delighted with Kedzie and made neither secret nor poetry of it.
Toward the last of the dinner Kedzie ceased to try to find in him
what was not there. She accepted him as the least affected person
she had ever met. He could afford to be unaffected and careless
and spontaneous. He had nothing to gain. He had everything already.
Kedzie would have said that he ought to have been happy because of
that, as if that were not as good an excuse for discontent as any.
In any case, Kedzie said to herself:
"He's the real thing."
She wanted to be that very thing--that most difficult thing--real.
It became her new ambition.
After the dinner Dyckman offered to take her home. He had a limousine
waiting for him. She did not ask him to put her into a taxicab. She
was not afraid to have him ride home with her. She was afraid he
wouldn't. She was not ashamed of the apartment-house she was living
in now. It was nothing wonderful, but all the money had been spent
on the hall. And that was as far as Dyckman would get--yet.
Kedzie had acquired a serenity toward all the world except what
she called "high society." In her mind the word _high_ had
the significance it has with reference to game that has been kept
to the last critical moments, and trembles, exquisitely putrid,
between being eaten immediately and being thrown away soon.
There is enough and to spare of that high element among the wealthy,
but so there is among the poor and among all the middlings. Kedzie
had met with it on her way up, and she expected to find it in
Dyckman. She looked forward to a thrilling adventure.
She could not have imagined that Dyckman was far more afraid of her
than she of him. She was so tiny and he so big that she terrorized
him as a mouse an elephant, or a baby a saddle-horse. The elephant
is probably afraid that he will squash the little gliding insect,
the horse that he might step on the child.
The disparity between Jim Dyckman and Kedzie was not so great, and
they were both of the same species. But he felt a kind of terror of
her. And yet she fascinated him as an interesting toy that laughed
and talked and probably would not say "Mamma!" if squeezed.
Dyckman had been lonely and blue, rejected and dejected. Kedzie was
something different. He had known lots of actresses, large and small,
stately, learned, cheap, stupid, brilliant, bad, good, gorgeous,
shabby, wanton, icy. But Kedzie was his first movie actress. She
dwelt in a strange realm of unknown colors and machineries.
She was a new toy in a new toyhouse--a whole Noah's ark of queer
toys. He wanted to play with those toys. She made him a
_revenant_ to childhood. Or, as he put it:
"Gee! but you make me feel as silly as a kid."
That surprised Kedzie. It was not the sort of talk she expected
from a world which was stranger to her than the movie studio to
him. He was perfectly natural, and that threw her into a spasm of
He sat staring down at her. He put his hands under his knees and sat
on them to keep them from touching her, as they wanted to. For all
he knew, she was covered with fresh paint. That made her practically
irresistible. Would it come off if he kissed her? He had to find out.
Finally he said, so helplessly, passively, that it would be more
accurate to say it was said by him:
"Say, Miss Adair, I'm a dead-goner if you don't gimme a kiss."
Kedzie was horrified. Skip Magruder would have been eleganter than
that. She answered, with dignity:
"Certainly, if you so desire."
That ought to have chaperoned him back to his senses, but he was too
far gone. His long arms shot out, went round her, gathered her up
to his breast. His high head came down like a swan's, and his lips
Whatever her soul was, her flesh was all girlhood in one flower of
lithe stem, leaf, petal, sepal, and perfume. There was nothing of
the opiate poppy, the ominous orchid, or even that velvet voluptuary,
the rose. She was like a great pink, sweet, shy, fragrant, common
wild honeysuckle blossom.
Jim Dyckman was so whelmed by the youth and flavor of her that
his rapture exploded in an unsmothered gasp:
"Golly! but you're great!"
Kedzie was heartbroken. Gilfoyle had done better than that. She had
been kissed by several million dollars, and she was not satisfied!
But Dyckman was. He felt that Kedzie had solved the problem of
Charity Coe. She had cleared his soul of that hopeless obsession--he
When a young man suddenly goes mad in a cab, grapples the young
woman who has intrusted herself to his protection, pins her arms
to her sides, squeezes her torso till her bones crunch and she has
no breath to squawk with, then kisses her deaf and dumb and blind,
it is still a nice question which of the two is the helpless one
and which has overpowered the other.
Appearances are never more deceitful than in such attacks, and
while eye-witnesses are infrequent, they are also untrustworthy.
They cannot even tell which of the two is victim of the outrage.
The motionless gazelle in the folds of the constrictor may be in
full control of the situation.
It undoubtedly has happened, oftener than it should have, in the
history of the world that young men have made these onsets without
just provocation and have been properly slapped, horsewhipped, or
shot for their unwelcome violence. It has also happened that young
men have failed to make these onsets when they would have been
But the perfection of the womanly art of self-pretense is when
she subtly wills the young man to overpower her and is so carried
away by her own success that she forgets who started it. She droops,
swoons, shivers before the fury of her own inspiration, and cries
out, with absolute sincerity: "How dare you! How could you! What
made you!" or simply moans, "Why, Oswald!" and resists invitingly.
Kedzie had been hoping and praying that Jim Dyckman would kiss
her, and mutely daring him to. Yet when he obeyed her tacit behest
and asked her permission she was too frightened to refuse. He was
stronger than she expected, and he held her longer. When at last
she came out for air she was shattered with a pleasant horror.
She barely had the strength to gasp, "Why, Mr. Dyckman, aren't you
awful?" and time to straighten her jumbled hat and hair when her
apartment-building drew up alongside the limousine and came to
Dyckman pleaded, like a half-witted booby, "Let's take a little
But she remembered her dignity and said, with imperial scorn,
"I should hope not!"
She permitted him to help her out.
He said: "When may I see you again? Soon, please!"
She smiled, with a hurt patience, and answered, "Not for
a long while."
He chuckled: "To-morrow, eh? That's great!"
She wished that he would not say, "That's great." If he would only
say, "Ripping!" or, "I say, that's ripping!" or, "Awfully good of
you," or, "No end"--anything swagger. But he would not swagger.
He escorted her to the elevator, where she gave him a queenly hand
and murmured, "Good night!"
He watched her go up like _Medea in machina;_ then he turned
away and stumbled back into his limousine. It was still fragrant
from her presence. The perfume she was using then was a rather
aggressive essence of a lingering tenacity upon the atmosphere.
But Dyckman was so excited that he liked it. The limousine could
hardly contain him.
Kedzie felicitated herself on escaping from his thrall just in time
to avoid being stupefied by it. She thanked Heaven that she had not
flung her arms around him and claimed him for her own. She had the
cleverness of elusion that her sex displays in all the species, from
Cleopatras to clams, from butterflies to rhinoceroses. How wisely
they practise to evade what they demand, leaving the stupid male
to ponder the mysteries of womankind!
When Kedzie reached her mirror she told the approving person she
found there that she was doing pretty well for a poor young girl not
long in from the country. She postured joyously as she undressed,
and danced a feminine war-dance in much the same costume that she
wore when Jim Dyckman fished her out of the pool at Newport. She
"I dreamt that I fell in a mar-arble pool
With nobles and swells on all si-i-ides."
She had slapped her rescuer's hands away then and groaned to learn
that she had driven off a famous plutocrat. But now he was back;
indeed he was in the pool now, and she had him on her hook. He
had grievously disappointed her by turning out to be a commonplace
young man with no gilt on his phrases. But one must be merciful
to a million dollars.
The next morning she dreamed of him as a suitor presenting her
with a bag of gold instead of a bouquet. Just as she reached for
it the telephone rang and a hall-boyish voice told her that it was
This was the midnight alarm to Cinderella, and she became again
a poor working-girl. She had to abandon her prince and run from
the palace of dreams to the studio of toil.
She was a trifle surly when she confronted Ferriday. He studied
her, smilingly queerly and overplaying indifference:
"Have a nice dinner last night?"
Kedzie fixed him with a skewery glare: "What's your little game?
Why did you turn up missing?"
"I had another engagement. Didn't you get my note?"
"Ah, behave, behave!" said Kedzie, then blushed at the plebeian
phrase. She was beginning to have a quickly remorseful ear. As soon
as she should learn to hear her first thoughts first, and suppress
them unspoken, she would be a made lady.
"Oh, you're a true artist, Anita," said Ferriday. "Nothing can
hinder your flight into the empyrean."
"Don't sing it. Explain it," Kedzie sneered.
Ferriday laughed so delightedly that he must embrace her. She shoved
him back and brushed the imaginary dust of his contact from the
shoulders that had but lately been compressed by a million dollars.
"I see you landed him," said Ferriday.
"And I see that all your talk about loving me so much was just
a fake," said Kedzie.
"Why do you say that? I adore you."
"If you did, would you throw me at the head of another fellow?"
"If it was for the advancement of your career, yes," Ferriday
"What's Mr. Dyckman got to do with my career?"
"He can make it, if he doesn't break it."
"If you fall in love with that big thug, or if you play him for
a limousine like a chorus-girl on the make, your career is gone.
But if you use him for your future--well, I have a little scheme
that might bounce you up to the sky in a hurry. You could have your
millionaire and your fame as well."
"What's the little scheme, Ferri darling?"
"I'll tell you later. We've got to go to the projection-room and
see your new film run off. It's assembled, cut, subtitled, ready
for the market. Come along."
Kedzie went along and sat in the dark room watching the reel go by.
Her other selves came forth in troops to reveal themselves: Kedzie
the poor little shy girl, for she was that at times; Kedzie the
petulant, the revengeful, the forgiving; Kedzie on her knees in
prayer--she prayed at times, as everybody does, the most villainous
no less ardently than the most blameless; Kedzie dancing; Kedzie
flirting, in love, tempted, tipsy; Kedzie seduced, deserted,
forgiven, converted, happily married; Kedzie a mother with a little
hired baby at her little breast. There was even a picture of her
in a vision as a sweet old lady with snowy hair about her face, and
she was surrounded by grown men who were her sons, and young mothers
who were her daughters. The unending magic of the moving pictures
had enabled her to see herself as others saw her, and as she saw
herself, and as nobody should ever see her.
Kedzie doted on the picture of herself as a dear old lady leaning
on her old husband among their children. She shed tears over that
delightful, most unusual, privilege of witnessing herself peacefully,
Whether she ever reached old age and had a husband living then
and children grown is beyond the knowledge of this chronicle or
its prophecy, for this book goes only so far as 1917. But just for
a venture, assuming Kedzie to be about twenty in 1916, that would
make Kedzie born four years back in the last century. Now, adding
sixty to 1896 brings one to 1956; and what the world will be like
then--and who'll be in it or what they may be doing, how dressing,
if at all, what riding in, fighting about, agreeing upon--it were
folly to guess at.
It is safe to say only that people will then be very much at heart
what they are to-day and were in the days when the Assyrian women
and men felt as we do about most things. Kedzie will be scolding
her children or her grandchildren and telling them that in her
day little girls did not speak disrespectfully to their parents
or run away from them or do immodest, forward things.
That much is certain to be true, as it has always been. The critics
of then will be saying that there are no great novelists in 1956 such
as there were in 1916, when giants wrote, but not for money or for
cheap sensations. They will laud the Wilsonian era when America
not only knew a millennium of golden fiction, poetry, drama, humor,
sculpture, painting, architecture, and engineering, but revealed
its greatness in moving-picture classics, in a lofty conception
of the dance as an eloquence; when the nation acted as a sister
of charity to bleeding Europe, pouring eleemosynary millions from
the cornucopia stretched across the sea, and finally entered the war
with reluctant majesty and unexampled might, her citizens unanimously
patriotic. Ye gods! even the politicians will be statesmen and their
Critics of then will be regretting that American fiction, poetry,
drama, art, and journalism are so inferior to foreign work, and
foreign critics will admit it and tell them why. Some military
writers will be pointing out that war is no longer possible,
and others will be crying out that it is inevitable and America
Doctors will be complaining that modern restlessness is creating
new nervous diseases, as doctors did in 1916 A.D., B.C., and B.A.
(which is, Before Adam). Doctors will complain that modern mothers
do not nurse their own babies--which has always been both true and
untrue--and that women do not wear enough clothes for health, not
to mention modesty.
In fact, Kedzie, if she lives, will find the spirit of the world
almost altogether what grandmothers have always found it. But Kedzie
must be left to find this out for herself.
When, then, Kedzie saw how beautifully she photographed and how well
she looked as an old lady, she wept rapturously and sighed, "I'll
never give up the pictures."
Ferriday sighed, too, for that meant to his knowing soul that she
was not long for this movie world. But he did not tell her so. He
"You're as wise as you are beautiful. You'll be as famous as you'll
be rich. And this Dyckman lad can hurry things up."
"How?" asked Kedzie, already foreseeing his game.
"The backers of the Hyperfilm Company are getting writer's cramp
in the spending hand. They call it conservatism, but it's really
cowardice. The moving-picture business has gone from the Golconda
to the gambling stage. A few years ago nearly anybody could get rich
in a minute. A lot of cheap photographers and street-car conductors
were caught in a cloudburst of money and thought they made it. They
treated money like rain, and the wastefulness in this trade has
been rivaled by nothing recent except the European war. Some of the
biggest studios are dark; some of the leaders of yesterday are so
bankrupt that their banks don't dare let 'em drop for fear they'll
bust and blow up the whole business. Most of the actors are not
getting half what they're advertised to get, but they're getting
four times what they ought to get.
"There are a few men and women who are earning even more than they
are getting, and that's a million a minute. Now, the one chance
for you, Anita, is to have some tremendous personal backing. You've
come into the game a little late. This firm you're with is tottering.
They blame me for it, but it's not my fault altogether. Anyway, this
company is riding for a fall, and down we may all go in the dust
with a dozen other big companies, any day."
Kedzie's heart stopped. In the dark she clutched Ferriday's arm so
tightly that he ouched. To have her career smashed at its beginning
would be just her luck. It grew suddenly more dear than ever, because
it was imperiled. The thought of having her pictures fail of their
mission throughout the world was as hideous as was the knowledge
to Carlyle that the only manuscript of his history was but a
shovelful of ashes.
Ferriday put his arm about her, and she crept in under his chin for
safety. She felt very cozy to him, there, and he rejoiced that he
had her his at last. Then as before he saw that he was no more to
her than an umbrella or an awning in a shower. He wanted to fling
her away; but she was still to him an invention to patent and
promote. So he told her:
"If you can persuade this Dyckman to boost your career, get behind
you with a bunch of kale and whoop up the publicity, we can stampede
the public, and the little theater managers will mob the exchanges
for reels of you. It's only a question of money, Anita. Talk about
the Archimedean lever! Give me the crowbar of advertising, and I'll
set the earth rolling the other way round so the sun will rise in
the west and print no other pictures but yours.
"There isn't room for everybody in the movie business any more.
There's room only for the people who wear lightning-rods and stand
on solid gold pedestals that won't wash away. Go after your young
millionaire, Anita, and put his money to work."
Kedzie pondered. She brought to bear on the problem all the strategic
intuition of her sex. She saw the importance of getting Dyckman's
money into circulation. She was afraid it might not be easy.
Kedzie sighed: "It's a little early for me to ask a gentleman I've
only met a couple o' times to kindly pass the millions. He must
have met a lot of women by now who've held out their hands to him
and said, 'Please,' and not got anything but the cold boiled eye.
I don't know much about millionaires, but I have a feeling that if
they started giving the money out to every girl they met, they'd
last just about as long as a real bargain does in Macy's. The women
would trample them to death and tear one another to pieces."
"But Dyckman's crazy about you, Anita. I could see it in his eyes.
He's plumb daffy."
"Maybe so and maybe not. Maybe he's that way with every girl under
forty. I've never seen him work, but I've seen him in the midst of
that Newport bunch and they've got me lashed to the mast for clothes,
looks, language, and everything."
"You're a novelty to him, Anita. He's tired of those _blasées_
"They didn't look very blah-zay to me. They seemed to be up and doing
every minute. But supposing he was crazy about me, if I said to him,
'You can have two kisses for a million dollars apiece?' can you see
him begin to holler: 'Where am I? Please take me home!'"
Ferriday sighed: "Perhaps you're right. It wouldn't do to give
a mercenary look to your interest in him too soon. Let me talk
"What's your peculiar charm?"
"I'd put it up to him as a business proposition. I'd say, 'The
moving-picture field is the greatest gold-field in the world.' I'd
tell him how many hundred thousand theaters there are in the world,
all of them eager for your pictures and only needing to be told about
them. I'd tell him that for every dollar he put in he'd take out ten,
in addition to furthering the artistic glory of the most beautiful
genius on the dramatic horizon. I'd show him how he couldn't lose."
"But you just said--"
"Oh, I know, but we can't put on the screen everything we say in
the projection-room. And it is a fact that there is big money in
"There must be," said Kedzie, "if as much has been sunk in 'em
as you say."
"Yes, and it's all there for the right man to dig up if he only
goes about it intelligently. Let me talk to him."
Kedzie thought hard. Then she said: "No! Not yet! You'd only scare
him away. I'll do my best to get him interested in me, and you do
your best to get him interested in the business; and then when the
time is just right we can talk turkey. But not now, Ferri, not yet."
"You're as wise as you are beautiful," said Ferriday, again. "I
can't see your beauty, but your wisdom shines in the dark. We'll
do great things together, Anita."
His arm tightened around her, reminding her that she was still
in his elbow. Before she was quite alive to his purpose his lips
touched her cheek.
"Don't do that!" she snapped. "How dare you!"
He laughed: "I forgot. The price on your kisses has just skyrocketed
to a million apiece. Don't forget my commission."
She growled pettishly. He spoke more soberly:
"You need me yet, little lady. Don't quench my enthusiasms too
roughly or I might take up some other pretty little girl as my
medium of expression. There are lots and lots of pretties born
every minute, but it takes years to make a director like me."
And she knew that this was true.
"I was only fooling," she said. "Don't be mad at me. You can kiss
me if you want to."
"I don't want to," he said, as hurt as an overgrown boy or
a prima donna.
The door opened, and a wave of light swept into the room. A voice
"Is Miss Adair in there?"
"Yes," Kedzie answered, in confusion.
"Gent'man to see you."
It was Jim Dyckman. He followed closely and entered the room just as
Ferriday found the electric button and switched on the light.
Kedzie and Ferriday were both encouraged when they saw a look of
jealous suspicion cross his face. Ferriday hastened to explain:
"We've been editing Miss Adair's new film. Like to see an advance
edition of it?"
"Love to," said Dyckman.
"Oh, Simpson, run that last picture through again," Ferriday called
through a little hole in the wall.
A faint "All right, sir" responded.
Kedzie led Dyckman to a chair and took the next one to it.
Ferriday beamed on them and switched on the dark. Then, as if by a
divine miracle, the screen at the end of the room became a world of
life and light. People were there, and places. Mountains were swung
into view and removed. Palaces were decreed and annulled. Fields
blossomed with flowers; ballrooms swirled; streets seethed.
Anita Adair was created luminous, seraphic, composed of light and
emotion. She came so near and so large that her very thoughts seemed
to be photographed. She drifted away; she smiled, danced, wept, and
made her human appeal with angelic eloquence.
Dyckman groaned with the very affliction of her charm. She pleased
him so fiercely that he swore about it. He cried out in the dark
that she was the blank-blankest little witch in the world. Then he
groveled in apology, as if his profanity had not been the ultimate
When the picture was finished he turned to Kedzie and said, "My God,
you're great!" He turned to Ferriday. "Isn't she, Mr.--Fenimore?"
"I think so," said Ferriday; "and the world will think so soon."
Kedzie shook her head. "I'm only a beginner. I don't know anything
"Why, you're a genius!" Dyckman exploded. "You're simply great.
You know everything; you--"
Ferriday touched him on the arm. "We mustn't spoil her. There is
a charm and meekness about her that we must not lose."
Dyckman swallowed his other great's and after profound thought said,
"Let's lunch somewhere."
Ferriday excused himself, but said that the air would be good for
Miss Adair. She was working too hard.
So she took the air.
Dyckman had come to the studio with Charity's business as an excuse.
He had forgotten to give the excuse, and now he had forgotten the
business. He did not know that he was now Kedzie Thropp's business.
And she was minding her own business.
Peter Cheever was going to dictagraph to his wife. The quaint charm
of the dictagram is that the sender does not know he is sending it.
It is a good deal like an astral something or other.
Peter had often telegraphed his wife, telephoned her, and wirelessed
her. Sometimes what he had sent her was not the truth. But now
she was going to hear from him straight. She would have all the
advantages of the invisible cloak and the ring of Gyges--eavesdropping
made easy and brought to a science, a combination of perfect alibi
with intimate propinquity.
Small wonder that the device which justice has made such use of
should be speedily seized upon by other interests. Everything,
indeed, that helps virtue helps evil, too. And love and hate find
speedy employment for all the conquests that science can make upon
the physical forces of the universe.
How Charity's motives stood in heaven there is no telling. It is
safe to say that they were the usual human mixture of selfish and
altruistic, wise and foolish, honorable and impudent, profitable
and ruinous. She came by the dictagraphic idea very gradually. She
had plentiful leisure since she had taken a distaste for good works.
She had been so roughly handled by the world she was toiling for
that she decided to let it get along for a while without her.
It was a benumbing shock to learn definitely that her husband was
in liaison with a definite person, and to be confronted in shabby
clothes with that person all dressed up. When she hurried to the
Church for mercy it was desolation to learn from the pulpit that
her heart clamor for divorce was not a cleanly and aseptic impulse,
but an impious contribution to the filthy social condition of the
Charity had no one to confide in, and she had no new grievance to
air. Everybody else had evidently been long assured of her husband's
profligacy. For her to wake up to it only now and run bruiting the
stale information would be a ridiculous nuisance--a newsgirl howling
yesterday's extra to to-day's busy crowd.
Besides, she had in her time known how uninteresting and unwelcome
is the celebrant of one's own misfortunes. Husbands and wives who
tell of their bad luck are entertaining only so long as they are
spicy and sportsmanlike. When they ask for a solution they are
embarrassing, since advice is impossible for moral people. The truly
good must advise him or her either to keep quiet or to quit. But to
say "Keep quiet!" is to say "Don't disturb the adultery," while to
say "Quit!" is to say "Commit divorce!" which is far worse, according
to the best people.
We have always had adultery and got along beautifully, while divorce
is new and American and intolerable. Of course, one can and sometimes
does advise a legal separation, but that comes hard to minds that
face facts, since separation is only a license to--well, we all know
what separation amounts to; it really cannot be prettily described.
Charity, left alone at the three-forked road of divorce, complacency,
or separation, sank down and waited in dull misery for help or
solution, as do most of the poor wayfarers who come upon such a
break in their path of matrimony. She imagined Cheever with Zada and
wondered what peculiar incantations Zada used to hold him so long.
She wished that she had positive evidence against him--not for public
use, but as a weapon of self-defense. She felt that from his pulpit
Doctor Mosely had challenged her to a spiritual duel in that sermon
against divorce and remarriage of either guilty or innocent.
Also she began to want to get evidence to silence her own soul with.
She wanted to get over loving Cheever. To want to be cured of such
an ailment is already the beginning of cure.
Abruptly the idea came to her to put a detective on the track of
Zada and Cheever. She had no acquaintance in that field, and it was
a matter of importance that she should not put herself in the hands
of an indelicate detective. She ought to have consulted a lawyer
first, but her soul preferred the risk of disaster to the shame
of asking counsel.
She consulted the newspapers and found a number of advertisements,
some of them a little too mysterious, a little too promiseful. But
she took a chance on the Hodshon & Hindley Bureau, especially as it
advertised a night telephone, and it was night when she reached her
She surprised Mr. Hodshon in the bosom of his family. He was dandling
a new baby in the air and trying not to step on the penultimate
child, who was treating one of his legs as a tree. When the telephone
rang he tossed the latest edition to its mother and hobbled to the
table, trying to tear loose the clinger, for it does not sound well
to hear a child gurgling at a detective's elbow.
When Charity told Hodshon who she was his eyes popped and he was
greatly excited. When she asked Mr. Hodshon to call at once he looked
at his family and his slippers and said he didn't see how he could
till the next day. Charity did not want to go to a detective's office
in broad daylight or to have anybody see a detective coming to her
house. She had an idea that a detective could be recognized at once
by his disguise. He probably could be if he wore one; and he usually
can be, anyway, if any one is looking for him. But she could not get
Hodshon till she threatened to telephone elsewhere. At that, he said
he would postpone his other engagement and come right up.
Charity was disappointed in Mr. Hodshon. He looked so ordinary,
and yet he must know such terrible things about people. We always
expect doctors, lawyers, priests, and detectives to show the scars
of the searing things they know. As if we did not all of us know
enough about ourselves and others to eat our eyes out, if knowledge
Charity was further disappointed in Hodshon's lack of
picturesqueness. He was like no detective she had read about
between Sherlock Holmes and Philo Gubb. He was like no detective
at all. It was almost impossible to accept him as her agent.
He seemed eager to help, however, and when she told him that she
suspected her husband of being overly friendly with an insect named
Zada L'Etoile, and that she wanted them shadowed, he betrayed a
Now, of course, women's scandals are no more of a luxury to a
detective than their legs were to the bus-driver of tradition or to
any one in knee-skirted 1916. Mr. Hodshon was a good man as good men
go, though he was capable of the little dishonesties and compromises
with truth that characterize every profession. A man simply cannot
succeed as a teacher, lawyer, doctor, merchant, thief, author,
scientist, or anything else if he blurts out everything he knows
or believes. No preacher could occupy a pulpit for two Sundays who
told just what he actually thought or knew or could find out. The
detective is equally compelled to manipulate the truth.
Hodshon gave his soul to Charity's cause. He outlined the various
ways of establishing Cheever's guilt and promised that the agency
would keep him shadowed and make a record of all his hours.
"It'll take some time to get the goods on 'em good," he explained,
"but there's ways we got. When we learn what we got to know we'll
arrange it and tip you off. Then you and me will go to the door and
break in on the parties at the right moment, and--"
"No, Thank You!" said Charity, with a firm pressure on each word.
"You better get some friend to go with us, for a detective needs
c'roboration, you know. The courts won't accept a detective's
uns'ported testimony. And if you could know what some of these
crooks are capable of you wouldn't wonder. Is that all right? We
get the goods on 'em and you have a friend ready, and we'll bust
in on the parties, and--"
"No, thank you!" said Charity, with undiminished enthusiasm.
This stumped Mr. Hodshon. She amazed him further. "I don't intend
to bring this case into court. I don't want to satisfy any judge
But what he had said about the credibility of the unsupported
detective had set Charity to thinking. It would be folly to pay
these curious persons to collect evidence that was worthless when
collected. She mused aloud:
"Would it be possible--of course it wouldn't--but if it were, what
I should like would be to be able to see my hu--Mr. Ch--those two
persons without their knowing about it at all. Of course that's
impossible, isn't it?"
"Well, it was a few years ago, but we can do wonders nowadays.
There's the little dictagraph. We could string one up for you and
give you the usual stenographic report--or you could go and listen
"Could I really?" Charity gasped, and she began to shiver with
the frightfulness of the opportunity.
"Surest thing you know," said Hodshon.
"But how could you install a dictagraph without their finding
"Easiest thing you know. We'll probably have to rent an apartment
in the same building or another one near-by, and--one of the
hall-boys there may be workin' for us now. If not, we can usually
bring him in. There's a hundred ways to get into a house and put
the little dictor behind a picture or somewheres and lead the wire
out to us."
"But can you really hear--if they talk low?" Charity mumbled,
"Let 'em whisper!" said Hodshon. "The little fellow just eats
a whisper. Leave it to us, madam, and we'll surprise you."
The compact was made. Charity suggested an advance payment as a
retainer, and Hodshon permitted her to write a check and hand it
to him before he assured her that it wasn't necessary.
He went away and left Charity in a state of nerves. Her curiosity
was a mania, but she feared that assuaging it might leave her in a
worse plight. She hated herself for her enterprise and was tempted
to cancel it. But when she heard Cheever come home at midnight and
go to his room without speaking to her she felt a grim resentment
toward him that was like a young hate with a big future.
Every night Charity received a typewritten document describing
Cheever's itinerary for the day. The mute, inglorious Boswell took
him up at the front steps, heeled him to his office, out to lunch,
back to the office, thence to wherever he went.
The name of Zada did not appear in the first report at all, but on
the second day she met Cheever at luncheon, and he went shopping with
her. Charity, reading, flushed to learn that he bought her neither
jewelry nor hats, but household supplies and delicacies. He went with
her to her apartment and thence with her to dinner and the theater
and then back, and thence again after an hour to his home.
The minute chronicle of his outdoor doings, intercalated with the
maddening bafflement of his life in that impenetrable apartment, made
such dramatic reading as Charity had never known. She grew haggard
with waiting for the arrival of her little private daily newspaper.
When she saw Cheever she could hardly keep from screaming at him
what she knew. His every entrance into the house became a hideous
insult. She felt that it was herself who was the kept woman and not
She longed to take the documents and visit the Reverend Doctor Mosely
with them, make him read them and tell her if he still thought it was
her duty to endure such infamy. She felt that the good doctor would
advise her to lay them before Cheever and confound him with guilt,
bring him to what the preachers call "a realizing sense" of it and
win him home.
She was tempted to try the imaginary advice on Cheever, but something
held her back. She wondered what it was, till suddenly she came to
a realizing sense of one fearful bit of news: her soul had so changed
toward him, her love had turned to such disgust, that she was afraid
he might come back to her! He might cast off his discovered partner
in guilt and renew his old claim to Charity's soul and body. That
would be degradation indeed!
Now she was convinced that her love had starved even unto death, that
it was a corpse in her home, corrupted the air and must be removed.
Kedzie lay extended on her _chaise longue_, looking as much
unlike Madame Récamier as one could look who was so pretty a woman.
A Sunday supplement dropped from her hand and joined the heap of
papers on the floor. Kedzie was tired of looking at pictures of
She had had to look over all the papers, since she was in them all.
At least her other self, Anita Adair, was in them.
In every paper there was a large advertisement with a large picture
of her and the names of the theaters at which she would appear
simultaneously in her new film. In the critical pages devoted to
the moving-picture world there were also pictures of her and at least
a little text.
In two or three of the papers there were interviews with the new
comet; in others were articles by her. These entertained her at
first, because she had never seen the interviewers or the articles.
She had not thought many of the thoughts attached to her name. The
press agent of the Hyperfilm Company had written everything. He
reveled in his new star, for the editors were cordial toward her
"press stuff." They "ate it up," "gave it spread."
This was the less surprising since the advertising-man of the
Hyperfilm Company was so lavish with purchase of space that the
publishers could well afford to throw in a little free reading
matter--especially since it did not cost them a cent for the copy.
The press agent unaided has a hard life, but when the advertising-man
gives him his arm he is welcome to the most select columns.
In some of the interviews Kedzie gave opinions she had never held on
themes she had never heard of. When she read that her favorite poet
was Rabindranath Tagore she wondered who that "gink" was. When she
read that she owed her figure to certain strenuous flexion exercises
she decided that they might be worth trying some day. Her advice to
beginners in the motion-picture field proved very interesting. She
wondered how she had ever got along without it.
She was greatly excited by an article of hers in which she told of
the terrific adventures she had had in and out of the studio; there
was one time when an angry tiger would have torn her to pieces if she
had not had the presence of mind to play dead. She read of another
occasion when she had either to spoil a good film or endanger her
existence as the automobile she was steering refused to answer the
brake and plunged over a cliff. Of course she would not ruin the
film. By some miracle she escaped with only a few broken bones, and
after a week in the hospital returned to the interrupted picture.
These old stories were told with such simple sincerity that she
almost believed them. But she tossed them aside and sneered:
She yawned over her own published portraits--and to be able to do
that is to be surfeited indeed.
Suddenly Kedzie stopped purring, thought fiercely, whirled to her
flank; her hands went among the papers. She remembered something,
found it at last, an article she had glanced at and forgotten
for the moment.
She snatched it up and read. It discussed the earning powers of
several film queens. It credited them with salaries ten or twenty
times as much as hers. Two or three of them had companies of their
own with their names at the head of their films.
Kedzie groaned. She rose and paced the floor, shamed, trapped,
humbled. The misers of the Hyperfilm Company paid her a beggarly
hundred dollars a week! merely featured her among other stars of
greater magnitude, while certain women had two thousand a week
and were "incorporated," whatever that was!
Kedzie longed to get at Ferriday and tell him what a sneak he was
to lure her into such a web and tie her up with such cheap ropes.
She would break her bonds and fling them in his face.
She slid abruptly to the floor and began to go over the film
pages again, comparing her portraits with the portraits of those
higher-paid creatures. She hated vanity and could not endure it in
other women; it was a mere observation of a self-evident fact that
she was prettier than all the other film queens put together. She
sat there sneering at the presumptuousness of screen idols whom she
had almost literally worshiped a year before.
Then something gave her pause. The celluloid-queens had certain
pages allotted to them, the actresses certain pages.
But there was another realm where women were portrayed in fashionable
gowns--débutantes, brides, matrons. And their realm was called "The
Social World." These women toiled not, earned not; they only spent
money and time as they pleased. They were in "society," and she was
out of it. They were ladies and she was a working-woman.
Now Kedzie's cake was dough indeed. Now her pride was shame. She
did not want to be a film queen. She did not want to work for any
sum a week. She wanted to be a débutante and a bride and a matron.
She had never had a coming-out party, and never would have. She
studied the aristocrats, put their portraits on her dressing-table
and tried to copy their simple grandeur in her mirror. But she
lacked a certain something. She didn't know a human being who was
swell to use as a model.
Oh yes, she did--one--Jim Dyckman.
A dark design came to her to dally with him no longer. He had dragged
her out of that pool at Newport; now he must drag her into the swim.
The telephone-bell rang. The hall-boy said:
"A gen'leman to see you--Mistoo Ferriday."
"Send him along."
"He's on the way now."
"Oh, all right."
As Kedzie hung up the receiver it occurred to her that this little
interchange was about the un-swellest thing she had ever done. She
had been heedless of the convenances. Her business life made her
responsible only to herself, and she felt able to take care of
Now it came over her that she could not aspire to aristocracy and
allow negro hall-boys to send men up in the elevator and telephone
her afterward. She snatched up the telephone and said:
"Yassum, Miss Adair."
"How dare you send anybody up without sending the name up first?"
"Why, you nevva--"
"Who do you think I am that I permit anybody to walk in on me?"
"Why, we alwiz--"
"The idea of such a thing! It's disgraceful."
"Why, I'm sorry, but--"
"Don't ever do it again."
She slapped the receiver on the hook and fumed again, realizing that
a something of elegance had been lacking in her tirade.
The door-bell rang, and she did not wait for her maid, but answered
it in angry person. Ferriday beamed on her.
"Oh, it's you. You didn't stop to ask if I was visible. You just
came right on up, didn't you?"
He whispered: "Pardon me. Somebody else is here. Exit laughingly!"
That was insult on insult.
"Stop it! There is not anybody else. Come back. What do you want?"
He came back, his laughter changed to rage.
"Look here, you impudent little upstart from nowhere! I invented you,
and if you're not careful I'll destroy you."
"Is that so?" she answered; then, like Mr. Charles Van Loan's
baseball hero, she realized with regret that the remark was not
brilliant as repartee.
Ferriday was too wroth to do much better:
"Yes, that's so. You little nobody!"
"Nobody!" she laughed, pointing to the newspapers spangled with
Ferriday snorted, "Paid for by Jim Dyckman's money."
"What do you mean--Jim Dyckman's money?"
"Oh, when I saw how idiotic he was over you, and how slow you were
in landing him, and when I realized that the Hyperfilm Company was
going to slide your pictures out with no special advertising, I went
to him and tried to get him into the business."
"You had a nerve!"
"Praise from Lady Hubert!"
"Whoever she is! Well, did he bite?"
"Yes and no. He's not such a fool as he looks in your company. He
has a hard head for business; he wouldn't invest a cent."
"I thought you said--"
"But he has a soft head for you. He said he wouldn't invest a cent
in the firm, but he'd donate all I could use for you. It was to be
a little secret present. He told me you refused to accept presents
from him. Did you?"
Kedzie blushed before his cynic understanding.
He laughed: "You're all right. You know the game, but you've got
to quicken your speed. You're taking too much footage in getting
to the climax."
Kedzie was still incandescent with the new information:
"And Jim Dyckman paid for my advertising?"
"On condition that his name was kept out of it. That's why you're
famous. You couldn't have got your face in a paper if you had been
fifty times as pretty if he hadn't swamped the papers with money.
And he would never have thought of it if I hadn't gone after him.
So you'd better waste a little politeness on me or your first flare
will be your last."
Kedzie acknowledged his conquest, bowed her head, and pouted up
at him with such exquisite impudence that he groaned:
"I don't know whether I ought to kiss you or kill you."
"Take your choice, my master," Kedzie cooed.
He snarled at her: "I guess the news I bring will do for you. There
was a fire in the studio last night. You didn't know of it?"
Kedzie, dumbly aghast, shook her head.
"If you'd read any part of the newspapers except your own press stuff
you'd have seen that there was a war in Europe yesterday and a fire
in New York last night. I was there trying to save what I could.
I got a few blisters and not much else. Most of your unfinished work
is finished--gone up in smoke."
"You don't mean that my beautiful, wonderful films are destroyed?"
He nodded--then caught her as her knees gave way. He felt a stab of
pity for her as he dragged her to her _chaise longue_ and let
her fall there. She was dazed with the shock.
She had been indifferent to the destruction of fortresses and
cathedrals--even of Rheims, with its titanic granite lace. She had
read, or might have read, of the airship that dropped a bomb through
the great fresco in Venice where Tiepolo revealed his unequaled
mastery of aerial perspective, taking the eye up through the dome
and the human witnesses, cloud by cloud, past the hierarchies
of angels, past Christ and the Mother of God, on up to Jehovah
himself, bending down from infinite heights. The eternal loss of
this picture meant nothing to her. But the destruction of her own
recorded smiles and tears and the pretty twistings and turnings of
her young body--that was cataclysm.
She was like everybody else, in that no multiplication of other
people's torments could be so vivid as the catching of her own thumb
in a door. Kedzie was too crushed to weep. This little personal
Pompeii brought to the dust all the palaces and turrets of her hope
upon her head. She whispered to Ferriday:
"What are you going to do? Must you make them over again?"
He shook his head. "The Hyperfilm Company will probably shut up
"And let my pictures die?"
She beckoned him close and clung to him, babbling: "What will become
of me? Oh, my poor pictures! My pretty pictures! The company owes me
a week's salary. And I had counted on the money. What's to become of
Ferriday resented her eternal use of him for her own advantages.
"Why do you appeal to me? Where's your friend Dyckman?"
"I was to see him this evening--dine with him."
"Well, he can build you ten new studios and not feel it. Better ask
him to set you up in business."
Kedzie revolted at this, but she had no answer. Ferriday saw the
papers folded open at the society pages. He stared at them, at her,
"So that's your new ambition!"
"'In the Social World!' You want to get in with that gang, eh? Has
Dyckman asked you to marry him?"
"Of course not."
"Well, if he does, don't ever let him take you into his own set."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Just to warn you. Those social worldlings wouldn't stand for you,
Anita darling. You can make monkeys of us poor men. But those queens
will make a little scared worm out of you and step on you. And they
won't stop smiling for one minute."
"Is that so?" Kedzie snarled. There it was again.
The telephone rang. Kedzie answered it. The hall-boy timidly
"Mistoo Dyckman is down year askin' kin he see you. Kin he?"
"Send him up, please," said Kedzie. Then she turned to Ferriday.
"He's here--at this hour! I wonder why."
"I'd better slope."
"Do you mind?"
"Not in the least. I'll go up a flight of stairs and take the
elevator after His Majesty has finished with it. Good-by.
He slid out, and Kedzie scurried about her primping. The bell rang.
She sent her maid to the door. Dyckman came in. She let him wait
awhile--then went to him with an elegiac manner.
She accepted his salute on a martyr-white brow. He said:
"I read about the fire. I was scared to death for you till I learned
that all the people were safe. I motored up to see the ruins. Some