Part 6 out of 12
ruins! Like to see'em?"
"I don't think I could stand the sight of them. They're my ruins,
"Because the company won't rebuild or go on, and most of my pictures
"Your pretty, beautiful, gorgeous pictures gone! Oh, God help us!
That's too terrible to believe."
She sighed, "It's true."
"Why, I'd rather lose the Metropolitan Art Gallery than your films.
Can't they be made over?"
"They could, but who's to stand the expense?"
"I will, if you'll let me."
"I thought we'd agreed that my name was Jim."
"Jim! You would do that for me!"
"But why so?"
"Because--why, simply--er--it's the most natural thing in the world,
seeing that--Well, you're not sitting there pretending that you don't
know I love you, are you?"
"Oh dear, oh dear! It's too wonderful to believe, you angel!"
And then for the first time she flung her arms about his neck and
kissed him and hugged him, knelt on his lap and clasped him fiercely.
He felt as if a simoom of rapture had struck him, and when she told
him a dozen times that she loved him he could think of nothing to
say but, "Say, this is great!"
She forgave him the banality this time. When she had calmed herself
a little she said:
"But it would mean a frightful lot of money."
"Whatever it costs, it's cheap--considering this." He indicated
her arm about his neck. "I wouldn't let the world be robbed of
the pictures of you, Anita, not for any money." He told her to tell
Ferriday to make the arrangements and send the estimates to him. And
he said, "I won't ask you to quit being photographed, even when we
"When we are married?" Kedzie parroted.
"Of course! That's where we're bound for, isn't it? Where else could
we pull up--that is, of course, assuming that you'll do me the honor
of anchoring a great artist like you up to a big dub like me. Will
"Why--why--I'd like to think it over; this is so sudden."
"Of course, you'd better think it over, you poor angel!"
Kedzie could not think what else to say or even what to think. The
word "marriage" reminded her that she had what the ineffable Bunker
Bean would have called "a little old last year's husband" lying
around in the garret of her past.
She went almost blind with rage at that beast of a Gilfoyle who had
dragged her away and married her while she was not thinking. He must
have hypnotized her or drugged her. If only she could quietly murder
him! But she didn't even know where he was.
The investigations of Messrs. Hodshon & Hindley in the life of Zada
and Cheever prospered exceedingly. In blissless ignorance of it,
Zada had been inspired to set a firm of sleuths on Charity's trail.
She wanted to be able to convince Cheever that Charity was intrigued
with Dyckman. The operators who kept Mrs. Charity Coe Cheever under
espionage had the most stupid things to report to Zada.
To Zada's disgust, Mrs. Cheever never called upon Jim Dyckman, and
he never called on her. Zada accused the bureau of cheating her,
and finally put another agency to shadowing Jim Dyckman. According
to the reports she had, his neglect of Mrs. Cheever was perfectly
explained. He was a mere satellite of a moving-picture actress,
a new-comer named Anita Adair.
The detectives reported that such gossip as they could pick up about
the studio indicated that Dyckman was putting money into the firm
on her account.
"A movie angel!" sneered Zada. She had wasted a hundred dollars on
him to find this out, and two hundred and fifty on Mrs. Cheever to
find out that she was intensely respectable. That was bitter news
to Zada. She canceled her business with her detective agency. And
they called in the shadows that haunted Charity's life.
The detectives on Zada's trail, however, had more rewarding material
to work with--although they found unexpected difficulties, they said,
in getting the dictagraph installed in her apartment. They did not
wish to ruin the whole enterprise by too great haste--especially as
they were receiving eight dollars a day and liberal expenses per man.
At last, however, Hodshon sent word to Mrs. Cheever that the
dictagraph was installed and working to a T, and she could listen-in
whenever she was ready.
Charity was terrified utterly now. New scales were to be shaken
from her eyes at the new tree of knowledge. She was to hear her man
talking to his leman.
She had almost an epilepsy of terror, but she could not resist the
She selected from her veils a heavy crêpe that she had worn during
a period of mourning for one of her husband's relatives. It seemed
appropriate now, for she was going into mourning for her own husband,
living, yet about to die to her.
She left the house alone after dark and walked along Fifth Avenue
till she found a taxicab. She gave the street number Hodshon had
given her and stepped in. She kept an eye on the lighted clock and
in the dark sorted out the exact change and a tip, adding dimes as
they were recorded on the meter. She did not want to have to pause
for change, and she did not wish to make herself conspicuous by an
As the taxicab slid along the Avenue Charity wondered if any of the
passengers in other cabs could have an errand so gruesome as hers.
She was tortured by fantastic imaginings of what she might hear. She
wondered how a man would talk to such a person as Zada, and how she
would answer. She imagined the most dreadful things she could.
The taxicab surprised her by stopping suddenly before a brown-fronted
residence adjoining an apartment-house of (more or less literally)
meretricious ornateness. She stepped out, paid her fare, and turned,
to find Mr. Hodshon at her elbow. He had been waiting for her. He
recognized her by her melodramatic veil. He gave her needed help up
a high stoop and opened the door with a key.
She found herself in a shabby, smelly hall where no one else was.
He motioned her up the stairway, and she climbed with timidity. At
each level there were name-plates over the electric buttons. The
very labels seemed illicit. Hodshon motioned her up and up for four
Then he opened a door and stepped back to let her enter a room
unfurnished except for a few chairs and a table. Two men were in
the room, and they were laughing with uproar. One of them had a
telephone-receiver clamped to his ear, and he was making shorthand
notes, explaining to his companion what he heard.
They turned in surprise at Hodshon's entrance and rose to greet
Charity with the homage due so great a client.
Charity could hardly bespeak them civilly. They took her curtness
for snobbery, but it was not. It swept over her that these people
were laughing over her most sacred tragedy.
She advanced on the operator and put out her hand for the headpiece
he wore. He took it off and rubbed it with his handkerchief, and
told her that she must remove her hat and veil.
She came out startlingly white and brilliant from the black. She
put the elastic clamp over her head and set the receiver to her
ear. Instantly she was assailed by dreadful noises, a jangle of
inarticulate sounds like the barking of two dogs.
"I can't hear a word," she protested.
"They're talkin' too loud," said the operator. "The only way to beat
the dictagraph is to cut the wire or yell."
"Are they quarreling, then?" Charity asked, almost with pleasure.
"Yes, ma'am. But it's the lady and her maid. They been havin' a
terrible scrap about marketin'. He--Mr. Cheever--ain't there yet.
They're expectin' him, though."
Charity felt that she had plumbed the depths of degradation in
listening to a quarrel between such a creature and her maid. What
must it be to be the maid of such a creature! She was about to
snatch away the earpiece when she heard the noise of a door opening.
She looked toward the entrance of the room she was in, but the door
that opened was in the other room in the other building.
The voices of Zada and her maid stopped jangling, and she heard
the most familiar of all voices asking:
"What's the row to-day?"
There was an extra metal in the timbre and it had the effect of an
old phonographic record, but there was no questioning whose voice
Zada's voice became audibly low in answer.
"She is such a fool she drives me crazy."
A sullen, servile voice answered: "It ain't me's the fool, and as
for crazy--her wantin' me to bring home what they ain't in no market.
How'm I goin' to git what ain't to be got, I asts you. This here war
is stoppin' ev'y kind of food."
Cheever's answer was characteristic. He didn't believe in servants'
"Get out. If you're impudent again I'll throw you out, and your
baggage after you."
"Yassar," was the soft answer.
There was the sound of shuffling feet and a softly closed door.
Then Zada's voice, very mellow:
"I thought you'd never come, dearie."
"Awfully busy to-day, honey."
"You took dinner with her, of course."
"No. It was a big day on the Street, and there was so much to do at
the office that I dined down-town at the Bankers' Club with several
men and then went back to the office. I ought to be there all night,
but I couldn't keep away from you any longer."
There were mysterious quirks of sound that meant kisses and sighs and
tender inarticulations. There were cooing tones which the dictagraph
repeated with hideous fidelity.
Zada asked, "Did he have hard daydie old office-ums?"
And he answered, with infatuated imbecility, "Yes, he diddums, but
worst was lonelying for his Zadalums."
"Did Peterkin miss his Zadalums truly--truly?"
The inveterate idioms of wooers took on in Charity's ear a grotesque
obscenity, a sacrilegious burlesque of words as holy to her as prayer
or the sacred dialect of priests. When Zada murmured, "Kissings!
kissings!" Charity screamed: "Stop it, you beasts! You beasts!"
Then she clapped her hand over her lips, expecting to hear their
panic at her outcry. But they were as oblivious of her pain or her
rage as if an interplanetary space divided them. They went on with
the murmur and susurrus of their communion, while Charity looked
askance at the three men. They could not hear, but could imagine,
and they stared at her doltishly.
"Leave the room! Go away!" she groaned.
They slipped out through the door and left her to her shame.
In the porches of her ear the hateful courtship purled on with its
tender third-personal terms and its amorous diminutives, suffixed
"Zada was afaid her booful Peterkin had forgotten her and gone to
the big old house."
"Without coming home first?"
"Home! that's the wordie I want. This is his homie, isn't it,
"He doesn't love old villain who keeps us apart?"
"Never did, did he?"
"Only married her, didn't he?"
"Zada is only really wifie?"
Charity listened with a greed of self-torment like a fanatic
penitent. The chatter of the two had none of the indecency she
had expected, and that made it the more intolerably indecent.
She saw that Cheever's affair with Zada had settled down to a state
of comfort, of halcyon delight.
It had taken on domestication. He was at home with her and an alien
in Charity's home. He told the woman his business affairs and little
office jokes. He laughed with a purity of cheer that he had long lost
in his legal establishment. He used many of the love-words that he
had once used to Charity, and her heart was wrung with the mockery
Charity listened helplessly. She was as one manacled or paralyzed and
submitted to such a torture as she had never endured. She harkened
in vain for some hopeful note of uncongeniality, some reassurance
for her love or at least her vanity, some certainty that her husband,
her first possessor, had given her some emotion that he could never
give another. But he was repeating to Zada the very phrases of his
honeymoon, repeating them with all the fervor of a good actor playing
Romeo for the hundredth time with his new leading lady. Indeed, he
seemed to find in Zada a response and a unity that he had never found
in Charity's society. Her intelligence was cruelly goaded to the
realization that she had never been quite the woman for Cheever.
She had known that he had not been the full complement of her own
soul. They had disagreed fiercely on hundreds of topics. He had been
chilled by many of her ardors, as many of his interests had bored
her. She had supposed it to be an inevitable inability of a man and
a woman to regard the world through the same eyes. She had let him
go his way and had gone her own. And now it seemed that he had in
his wanderings found some one who mated him exactly. The butterfly
had liked the rose, but had fluttered away; when it found the orchid
it closed its wings and rested content.
It was a frightful revelation to Charity, for it meant that Cheever
had been merely flirting with her. She had caught his eye as a girl
in a strange port captivates a sailor. He had haunted her window
with serenades. Finding her to be what we call "a good girl," he had
called upon her father and mother that he might talk to her longer.
And then he had gone to church with her and married her that he might
get rid of her father and mother and her own scruples. And so he had
made her his utterly, and after a few days and nights had sailed away.
He had come back to her now and then as a sailor does.
Meanwhile in another port he had found what we call "a bad woman."
There had been no need to serenade her out into the streets. They
were her shop. No parents had guarded her hours; no priest was
intermediary to her possession. But once within her lair he had
found himself where he had always wanted to be, and she had found
herself with the man she had been hunting. She closed her window,
drove her frequenters, old and new, from the door; and he regretted
that he had given pledges to that other woman.
It was a pitiful state of affairs, no less pitiful for being old
and ugly and innumerously commonplace. It meant that Cheever under
the white cloak of matrimony had despoiled Charity of her innocence,
and under the red domino of intrigue had restored to Zada hers.
If Charity, sitting like a recording angel, invisible but hearing
everything, had found in the communion of Zada and Cheever only
the fervor of an amour, she could have felt that Cheever was merely
a libertine who loved his wife and his home but loved to rove as
well. She had, however, ghastly evidence that Cheever was only now
the rake reformed; his marriage had been merely one of his escapades;
he had settled down now to monogamy with Zada, and she was his wife
in all but style and title.
There was more of Darby and Joan than of Elvira and Don Juan in
their conversation. He told Zada with pride that he had not had a
drink all day, though he had needed alco-help and the other men had
ridiculed him. She told him that she had not had a drink for a week
and only one cigarette since her lonely dinner. They were in a state
of mutual reformation!
Where, then, was the sacrament of marriage? Which of the women held
the chalice now?
It was enforced on Charity that it was she and not Zada who had
been the inspirer and the victim of Cheever's flitting appetite.
It was Zada and not she who had won him to the calm, the dignity,
the sincerity, the purity that make marriage marriage. It was a hard
lesson for Charity, and she did not know what she ought to do with
her costly knowledge. She could only listen.
When Zada complained that she had had a dreadful day of blues Cheever
made jokes for her as for a child, and she laughed like the child
she was. For her amusement he even went to a piano and played, with
blundering three-chord accompaniment, a song or two. He played jokes
on the keyboard. He revealed none of the self-consciousness that he
manifested before Charity when he exploited his little bag of
Charity's mood had changed from horror to eager curiosity, and thence
to cold despair, to cold resentment. It went on to cold intelligence
and a belief that her life with Cheever was over. Their marriage was
a proved failure, and any further experiments with its intimacies
would be unspeakably vile. Or so she thought.
She had consented to this dictagraphic inspection of her husband's
intrigue merely to confirm or refute gossip. She had had more than
evidence enough to satisfy her. Her first reaction to it was a
primitive lust for revenge.
Once or twice she blazed with such anger that she rose to tear the
wire loose from the wall and end the torment. But her curiosity
restrained her. She set the earpiece to her ear again.
At length she formed her resolution to act. She called out,
"Mr. Hodshon, come here!"
He came in and found her a pillar of rage.
"I've heard enough. I'll do what I refused before. I'll go with you
and break in."
Hodshon was dazed. He was not ready to act. She had refused his plan
to break in according to the classic standards. He had let the plan
lapse and accepted Mrs. Cheever as a poor rich wretch whom he had
contracted to provide with a certain form of morbid entertainment.
He could do nothing now but stammer:
"Well--well--is that so? Do you really? You know you didn't--
O' course--Well, let's see now. You know we ain't prepared. I told
you we had to have a c'rob'rating witness. It wouldn't be legal if we
were to--Still, they probably would accept you as witness and us as
corroboration, but you wouldn't want to go on the stand and tell what
you found--not a nice refined lady like you are. The witness-stand
is no place for a lady, anyway.
"The thing is if you could get some gentleman friend to go with you
and you two break in. Then you'd both be amateurs, kind of. You see?
Do you know any gentleman who might be willing to do that for you?
The best of friends get very shy when you suggest such a job. But
if you know anybody who would be interested and wanted to help
Only two names came to Charity's searching mind--Jim Dyckman's
impossible name and one that was so sublimely unfit that she laughed
as she uttered it.
"There's the Reverend Doctor Mosely."
Hodshon tried to laugh.
"I was reading head-lines of a sermon of his. He's down on divorce."
"That's why he'd be the ideal witness," said Charity.
"But would he come?"
"Of course not," she laughed. "There's no use of carrying this
further. I've had all I can stand to-night. Let me go."
As usual with people who have had all they can stand, Charity wanted
some more. She glanced at the receiver, curious as to what winged
words had flown unattended during her parley with Hodshon.
She put the receiver to her ear and fell back. Again she was greeted
with clamor. They were quarreling ferociously.
That might mean either of two things: there are the quarrels that
enemies maintain, and those that devoted lovers wage. The latter
sort are perhaps the bitterer, the less polite. Charity could not
learn what had started the wrangle between those two.
Slowly it died away. Zada's cries turned to sobs, and her tirade
"You don't love me. Go back to her. You love her still."
"No, I don't, honey. I just don't want her name brought into our
conversation. It doesn't seem decent, somehow. It's like bringing
her in here to listen to our quarrels. I'm sorry I hurt you. I'm
trying not to, but you're so peculiarly hard to keep peace with
lately. What's the reason, darling?"
Charity was smitten with a fear more terrible than any yet. She
heard its confirmation. Zada whispered:
"Can't you guess?"
"No, I can't."
"Stupid!" Zada murmured. "You poor, stupid boy."
Charity heard nothing for a long moment--then a gasp.
She greeted his alarm with a chuckle and a flurry of proud laughter.
He bombarded her with questions:
"Why didn't you tell me? How long? What will you do? How could
you?--you're no fool."
Her answers were jumbled with his questions--his voice terrified,
"I've kept it a secret for months, because I was afraid of you.
It's my right. It's too late to do anything now. And now we'll see
whether you love me or not--and how much, if any."
There was again silence. Charity could hardly tolerate the suspense.
Both she and Zada were hanging breathlessly on Cheever's answer.
He did not speak for so long that Zada gave up. "You don't love me,
then? I'd better kill myself, I suppose. It's the only solution now.
And I'm willing, since you don't love me enough."
"No, no--yes, I do. I adore you--more than ever. But it's such a
strange ambition for you; and, God! what a difference it makes,
what a difference!"
That was what Charity thought. For once she agreed with Cheever,
echoed his words and his dismay and stood equally stunned before
the new riddle. It was a perfect riddle now, for there was no end
to the answers, and every one of them was wrong.
Charity let the receiver fall. She had had enough. She sank into
a chair and would have slipped to the floor, but her swimming eyes
made out the blurred face of Hodshon, terrified at her pallor.
If she fainted he would resuscitate her. She could not add that
to her other ignominies. She clenched herself like one great fist
of resolution till the swoon was frustrated. She sat still for
a while--then rose, put on her hat, swathed her face in the veil,
and went down the flights of stairs and out into the cool, dark
She had forgotten that she had dismissed the taxicab. Fortunately
another was lurking in the lee of the apartment-house. Hodshon
summoned it and would have ridden home with her, but she forbade
him. She passed on the way the church of Doctor Mosely and his
house adjoining. She was tempted to stop, but she was too weary
for more talk.
She slept exceedingly well that night, so well that when she woke
she regretted that she had not slept on out of the world. She fell
asleep again, but was trampled by a nightmare. She woke trying to
scream. Her eyes, opening, found her beautiful room about her and
the dream dangers vanished.
But the horrors of her waking hours of yesterday had not vanished.
They were waiting for her. She could not end them by the closing
of her eyes. In the cool, clear light of day she saw still more
problems than before--problems crying for decisions and contradicting
each other with a hopeless conflict of moralities. To move in any
direction was to commit ugly deeds; to move in no direction was to
commit the ugliest of all.
She rang for her coffee, and she could hardly sit up to it. Her maid
cried out at her age-worn look, and begged her to see a doctor.
"I'm going to as soon as I'm strong enough," said Charity Coe. But
she meant the Reverend Doctor Mosely. She thought that she could
persuade even him that surgery was necessary upon that marriage. At
any rate, she determined to force a decision from him. She telephoned
the unsuspecting old darling, and he readily consented to see her.
She spent an hour or two going over her Bible and concordance. They
gave her little comfort in her plight.
When finally she dragged herself from her home to Doctor Mosely's his
butler ushered her at once into the study. Doctor Mosely welcomed her
both as a grown-up child and as an eminent dealer in good deeds.
She went right at her business. "Doctor Mosely, I loathe myself for
adding to the burdens your parish puts upon your dear shoulders but
you're responsible for my present dilemma."
"My dear child, you don't tell me! Then you must let me help you
out of it. But first tell me--what I'm responsible for."
"You married me to Peter Cheever."
"Why, yes, I believe I did. I marry so many dear girls. Yes, I
remember your wedding perfectly. A very pretty occasion, and you
looked extremely well. So did the bridegroom. I was quite proud
of joining two such--such--"
"Please unjoin us."
"Great Heavens, my child! What are you saying?"
"I am asking you to untie the knot you tied."
The old man stared at her, took his glasses off, rubbed them, put them
on, and peered into her face to make sure of her. Then he said:
"If that were in my power--and you know perfectly well that it is
not--it would be a violation of all that I hold sacred in matrimony."
"Just what do you hold sacred, Doctor Mosely?"
"Dear, dear, this will never do. Really, I don't wish to take
advantage of my cloth, but, really, you know, Charity, you have
been taught better than to snap at the clergy like that."
"Forgive me; I'm excited, not irreverent. But--well, you don't
believe in divorce, do you?"
"I have stated so with all the power of my poor eloquence."
"Do you believe that the seventh commandment is the least important
of the lot?"
"If a man breaks any commandment he ought to do what he can to
remedy the evil?"
"Then if a man violates the seventh, why shouldn't he be compelled
to make restitution, too?"
"What restitution could he make?"
"Not much. He has taken from the girl he marries her name, her
innocence, her youth--he can restore only one thing--her freedom."
"That is not for him to restore. 'What, therefore, God hath joined,
let not man put asunder.'"
The old man grew majestic when he thundered the sonorities of Holy
Writ. Charity was cowed, but she made a craven protest:
"But who is to say what God hath joined?"
"The marriage sacraments administered by the ordained clergy
established that. There is every warrant for clergymen to perform
marriages; no Christian clergyman pretends to undo them."
"You believe that marriage is an indissoluble sacrament, then?"
"Indeed I do."
"Who made my marriage a sacrament?"
"I did, as the agent of God."
"And the minute you pronounce a couple married they are registered
in heaven, and God completes the union?"
"You may put it as you please; the truth is divine."
"In other words, a man like you can pronounce two people man and
wife, but once the words have escaped his lips nothing can ever
correct the mistake."
"There are certain conditions which annul a marriage, but once it
is genuinely ratified on earth it is ratified in heaven."
"In heaven, where, as the New Testament says in several places,
married people do not live together? The woman who had seven
husbands on earth, you know, didn't have any at all in heaven."
"So Christ answered the Sadducee who tempted him with questions."
"Marriage is strictly a matter of the earth, earthy, then?"
"Nothing is strictly that, my child. But what in the name of either
earth or heaven has led you to come over here and break into my
morning's work with such a fusillade of childish questions? You know
a child can ask questions that a wise man cannot answer. Also, a
child can ask questions which a wise man can answer to another wise
man but not to a child. You talk like an excited, an unreasoning
girl. I am surprised to hear you ridiculing the institution of
Christian marriage, but your ridicule does not prove it to be
"Oh, it's not ridiculous to me, Doctor Mosely; and I'm not
ridiculing it. I am horribly afraid of what it has done to me
and will do to me."
"Explain that, my dear."
She did explain with all bluntness: "My husband openly lives with
a mistress. He prefers her to me."
The old man was stunned. He faltered: "Dear me!"
That is most reprehensible--most! He should be subjected to
"Whose? He isn't a member of your church. And how can you discipline
such a man--especially as you don't believe in divorce?"
"Have you tried to win him back to the path of duty, to waken him
to a realizing sense of his obliquity?"
"Often and long. It can't be done, for he loves the other woman."
"Don't use the beautiful word love for such a debasing impulse."
"But I know he loves her!"
"How could you know?"
"I heard him tell her."
"You heard him! Do you ask me to believe that he told her that in
"I heard him on the dictagraph."
"You have been collecting evidence for divorce, then?"
"No, I was collecting it to assure myself that the gossip I had
heard was false--and to submit to you."
"But why to me?"
"When I first learned of this hideous situation my first impulse was
to rush to the courts. I went to church instead. I heard your sermon.
It stopped me from seeing a lawyer."
"I am glad my poor words have served some useful end."
"But have they?"
"If I have prevented one divorce I have not lived in vain."
"You don't think I have a right to ask for one?"
"Absolutely and most emphatically not."
"In spite of anything he may do?"
"Anything! He will come back to you, Charity. Possess your soul
in patience. It may be years, but keep the light burning and he
"In what condition?"
"My child, you shock me! You've been reading the horrible literature
that gets printed under the guise of science."
"I must wait, then?"
"Yes, if you wish to separate from him for a time, your absence might
waken him to a realizing sense. There are no children, I believe."
"Yet? Oh, then--"
"If there were, would it make a difference?"
"Of course! an infinite difference!"
"You think a man and woman ought to let their child keep them
together in any event?"
"Need I say it? What greater bond of union could there be? Is it
not God's own seal and blessing on the wedlock, rendering it, so
to speak, even more indissoluble? You blush, my child. Is it true,
"A child is expected."
"Ah, my dear girl! How that proves what I have maintained! The birth
of the little one will bring the errant father to his senses. The
tiny hands will unite its parents as if they were the hands of a
priest drawing them together. That child is the divine messenger
confirming the sacrament."
"You believe that?"
"Utterly. Oh, I am glad. Motherhood is the crowning triumph; it
hallows any woman howsoever lowly or wicked. And you are neither,
Charity. I know you to be good and busy in good works. But were you
never so evil, this heavenly privilege would make of you a very
vessel of sanctity."
Charity turned pale as she sprung the trap. "The child is
expected--not by me, but by the other woman."
Doctor Mosely's beatitude turned to a sick disgust. Red and white
streaked his face. His first definite reaction was wrath at the
trick that had been played upon him.
"Mrs. Cheever! This is unworthy of you! You distress me! Really!"
"I was a little distressed myself. What am I to do?"
"I will not believe what you say."
"I heard her confess it--boast of it. She agrees with you that
the tiny hands will bring her and the father together and confirm
"It can't be. It must not be!"
"You don't advocate that form of birth-control? They are arresting
people who preach prevention of conception. You are not so modern
"What am I to do? You advise me to possess my soul in patience for
years. But the child won't wait that long. Doesn't the situation
alter your opinion of divorce?"
"But if I don't divorce Mr. Cheever and let him marry her the child
will have no father--legally."
"The responsibility is his, not yours."
"You don't believe in infant damnation, do you? At least not on
earth, do you?"
"I cannot control the evil impulses of others. The doctrines of the
Church cannot be modified for the convenience of every sinner."
"You advise against divorce, then?"
"I am unalterably opposed to it."
"What is your solution, then, of this situation?"
"I shall have to think it over--and pray. Please go. You have
"When you have thought it over will you give me the help of your
"Then shall I wait till I hear from you?"
"If you will."
"Good-by, Doctor Mosely."
"Good-by, Mrs.--Charity--my child!"
He pressed her long hand in his old palms. He was trembling. He was
like a priest at bay before the altar while the arrows of the infidel
rain upon him. These arrows were soft as rain and keen as silk. He
was more afraid of them than if they had been tipped with flint or
Charity left the parsonage no wiser than she entered it. She had
accomplished nothing further than to ruin Doctor Mosely's excellent
start on an optimistic discourse in the prevailing fashion of the
enormously popular "Pollyanna" stories: it was to be a "glad" sermon,
an inexorably glad sermon. But poor Doctor Mosely could not preach
it now in the face of this ugly fact.
Charity went home with her miserable triumph, which only emphasized
She found at home a mass of details pressing for immediate action
if the big moving-picture project were not to lapse into inanity.
The mere toil of such a task ought to have been welcomed, at least
as a diversion. But her heart was as if dead in her.
She wondered how Jim Dyckman was progressing with his portion of
the task. He had not reported to her. She wondered why.
She decided to telephone him. She put out her hand, but did not lift
the receiver from the hook. She began to muse upon Jim Dyckman. She
began to think strange thoughts of him. If she had married him she
might not have failed so wretchedly to find happiness. Of course,
she might have failed more wretchedly and more speedily, but the
wayfarer who chooses one of two crossroads and meets a wolf upon
it does not believe that a lion was waiting on the other.
Charity pondered her whole history with Jim Dyckman, from their
childhood flirtations on. He had had other flings, and she had flung
herself into Peter Cheever's arms. Peter Cheever had flung her out
again. Jim Dyckman had opened his arms again.
He had told her that she was wasting herself. He had offered her love
and devotion. She had struck his hands away and rebuked him fiercely.
A little later she had felt a pang of jealousy because he looked at
that little Greek dancer so interestedly. She had tried to atone for
this appalling thought by interesting herself in the little dancer's
welfare and hunting a position for her with the moving-picture
company. She had told Jim Dyckman to look for the girl in the studio
and find how she was getting along. He had never reported on that,
either. Charity smiled bitterly.
Last night it had come over her that her love for Peter Cheever
was dead. Was love itself, then, dead for her? or was her heart
already busy down there in the dark of her bosom, busy like a seed
germinating some new lily or fennel to thrust up into the daylight?
The sublime and the ridiculous are as close together as the opposite
sides of a sheet of cloth. The sublime is the obverse of the tapestry
with the figures heroic, saintly or sensuous, in battle or temple or
bower, in conquest, love, martyrdom, adoration. The reverse of the
tapestry is a matter of knots and tufts, broken patterns, ludicrous
accidents of contour. The same threads make up both sides.
On one side of Charity's tapestry she saw herself as a pitiful
figure, a neglected wife returned from errands of mercy to find her
husband enamoured of a wanton. She spurned the proffered heart of
a great knight while her own heart bled openly in her breast.
On the other side she saw the same red threads that crimsoned her
heart running across the arras to and from the heart of Jim Dyckman.
It was the red thread of life and love, blood-color--blood-maker,
blood-spiller, heart-quickener, heart-sickener, the red thread of
romance, of motherhood and of lust, birth and murder, family and
In the tapestry her heart was entire, her eyes upon her faithless
husband. On the other side her eyes faced the other knight; her
heartstrings ran out to his. She laughed harshly at the vision.
Her laugh ended in a fierce contempt of herself and of every body
and thing else in the world.
She was too weak to fight the law and the Church and the public
in order to divorce her husband. Would it be weakness or strength
to sit at home in the ashes and deny herself to life and love? She
could always go to Jim Dyckman and take him as her cavalier. But
then she would become one of those heartbroken, leash-broken women
who are the Mænads of society, more or less circumspect and shy, but
none the less lawless. But wherein were they better than the Zadas?
Charity was wrung with a nausea of love in all its activities; she
forswore them. Yet she was human. She was begotten and conceived in
the flesh of lovers. She was made for love and its immemorial usages.
How could she expect to destroy her own primeval impulse just because
one treacherous man had enjoyed her awhile and passed on to his next
There was no child of hers to grow up and replace her in the eternal
armies of love and compel her aside among the veteran women who have
been mustered out. She was in a sense already widowed of her husband.
Certainly she would never love Cheever again or receive him into her
arms. He belonged to the mother of his child. Let that woman step
aside into the benches of the spectators, those who have served their
purpose and must become wet-nurses, child-dryers, infant-teachers,
perambulator-motors, question-answerers, nose-blowers,
Charity laughed derisively at the vision of Zada as a mother. The
Madonna pose had fascinated this Magdalen, but she would find that
mothers have many, many other things to do for their infants than
to sit for portraits and give them picturesque nourishment--many,
many other things. If Zada's child inherited its father's and
mother's wantonness, laziness, wickedness, and violence of temper,
there was going to be a lively nursery in that apartment.
Zada had so wanted a baby as a reward of love that she was willing
to snatch it out of the vast waiting-room without pausing for a
license. She would find that she had bought punishment at a high
price. The poor baby was in for a hard life, but it would give its
parents one in exchange.
Charity was appalled at this unknown harshness of her soul; it
sneered at all things once held beautiful and sacred. Her soul was
like a big cathedral broken into by a pagan mob that ran about
smashing images, defiling fonts, burlesquing all the solemn rituals.
Her quiet mind was full of sunburnt nymphs and goatish fauns with
shaggy fetlocks. She saw the world as a Brocken and all the Sabbath
there was was a Sabbath orgy of despicably brutish fiends.
She tried to run away. She went to her piano; her fingers would play
no dirges; they grew flippant, profane in rhythm. She could think of
no tunes but dances--andantes turned scherzi, the Handelian largo
became a Castilian tango. She found herself playing a something
strange--she realized that it was a lullaby! She fled from the piano.
She went to her books for nepenthe. There were romances in French,
Italian, German, English, and American, new books, old books, all
repeating the same stencils of passion in different colors. She
could have spat at them and their silly ardors over the same old
banality: I love him; he loves me--beatitude! I love him; he loves
The novelists were like stupid children parroting the ancient
monotony--_amo_, _amas_, _amat_; _amamus_,
_amatis_, _amant_; _amo_, _amas_,
_amat_--away with such primer stuff! She had learned the
grammar of love and was graduated from the school-books. She was
a postgraduate of love and wedlock. She had had enough of them--too
much; she would read no more of love, dwell no more upon it; she
would forget it.
She wanted some antiseptic book, something frigid, intellectual,
ascetic. At last she thought she had it. On her shelf she found
an uncut volume, a present from some one who had never read it,
but had bought it because it cost several dollars and would serve
as a gift.
It was Gardner's biography of Saint Catherine of Siena, "a study
in the religion, literature, and history of the fourteenth century
of Italy." That sounded heartless enough. The frontispiece portrait
of the wan, meager, despondent saint promised freedom from romantic
Charity found a chair by a window and began to read. The preface
announced the book to be "history centered in the work and
personality of one of the most wonderful women that ever lived."
This was the medicine Charity wanted--the story of a woman who
had been wonderful without love or marriage.
There followed a description of the evil times--and the wicked
town in which Caterina Benincasa was born--as long ago as 1347. A
pestilence swept away four-fifths of the populace. One man told how
he had buried five of his sons in one trench. People said that the
end of the world had come.
The word _trench_, the perishing of the people and the apparent
end of the world, gave the story a modern sound. It might concern
the murderous years of 1914-16.
Catherine was religious, as little girls are apt to be. She even
wanted to enter a monastery in the disguise of a boy. Later her
sister persuaded her to dye her hair and dress fashionably. Charity
began to fear for her saint, but was reassured to find that already
at sixteen she was a nun and had commenced that "life of almost
incredible austerity," freeing herself from all dependence on food
and sleep and resting on a bare board.
Charity read with envy how Catherine had devoted herself for three
whole years to silence broken only by confessions. How good it would
be not to talk to anybody about anything for years and years! How
blissful to live a calm, gray life in a strait cell, doing no labor
but the errands of mercy and of prayer!
Charity read on, wondering a little at Catherine's idea of God,
and her morbid devotion to His blood as the essence of everything
beautiful and holy. Charity could not put herself back into
that Middle Age when the most concrete materialism was mingled
inextricably with the most fantastic symbolism.
Suddenly she was startled to find that appalling temptations found
even Catherine out even in her cloistral solitude. It frightened
Charity to read such a passage as this:
There came a time, towards the end of these three years, when these
assaults and temptations became horrible and unbearable. Aerial men
and women, with obscene words and still more obscene gestures, seemed
to invade her little cell, sweeping round her like the souls of the
damned in Dante's "Hell," inviting her simple and chaste soul to
the banquet of lust. Their suggestions grew so hideous and persistent
that she fled in terror from the cell that had become like a circle
of the infernal regions, and took refuge in the church; but they
pursued her thither, though there their power seemed checked. And her
Christ seemed far from her. At last she cried out, remembering the
words in the vision: "I have chosen suffering for my consolation,
and will gladly bear these and all other torments, in the name of
the Saviour, for as long as shall please His Majesty." When she said
this, immediately all that assemblage of demons departed in confusion,
and a great light from above appeared that illumined all the room,
and in the light the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, nailed to the Cross
and stained with blood, as He was when by His own blood He entered
into the holy place; and from the Cross He called the holy virgin,
saying: "My daughter Catherine, seest thou how much I have suffered
for thee? Let it not then be hard to thee to endure for Me."
This terrified Charity, and the further she read the less comfort she
gained. Her matter-of-fact Manhattan mind could vaguely understand
Saint Catherine's mystic nuptials with Christ; but that definite gold
ring He placed on her finger, that diamond with four pearls around
it, frustrated her comprehension.
When she read on and learned how Catherine's utter self-denial
offended the other churchmen and church-women; how her confessions
of sinful thought brought accusations of sinful deed; how the friars
actually threw her out of a church at noon and kicked her as she lay
senseless in the dust; how she was threatened with assassination and
was turned from the doors of the people; and in what torment she died
--from these strange events in the progress of a strange soul through
a strange world Charity found no parallel to guide her life along.
For hours she read; but all that remained to her was the vision of
that poor woman who could find no refuge from her flesh and from
the demons that played evil rhapsodies upon the harp-strings of
Charity closed the book and understood fear. She was now not so much
sick of love as afraid of it. She was afraid of solitude, afraid of
religion and of the good works that cause ridicule or resentment.
Darkness gathered about her with the closing of the day. She dreaded
the night and the day, people and the absence of people. She knew no
woman she could take her anguish to for sympathy; it would provoke
only rebuke or laughter. The Church had rebuffed her. There remained
only men, and what could she hope from them? Even Jim Dyckman had not
been a friend merely. He had told her that she wasted herself as well
Beyond this night there were years of nights, years on years of days.
She could not even be alone; for who was ever actually alone? Even in
the hush and the gloom of the deepening twilight there were figures
here, shadows that sighed, delicate insinuators. There were no satyrs
or bassarids, but gentlemen in polo garb, in evening dress, in
yachting flannels. There were moon-nights in Florida, electric floods
on dancing-floors, this dim corner of this room with some one leaning
on her chair, bending his head and whispering:
"Charity, it's Jim. I love you."
She rose and thrust aside the arms that were not there. She could not
order him away, because he was not there. And yet he was there.
She was afraid that he still loved her and afraid that he did not.
She was afraid that she had always loved him and that she never
could. She was afraid that she would go to him or send for him,
and afraid that she would be afraid to. She thrust away the phantom,
but her palms pleaded against his departure. Softer than a whisper
and noisier than a cry was her thought:
"I don't want to be alone, I am afraid to be alone."
Kedzie wanted to be a lady, and with the ladies stand--a tall tiara
in her hair, a lorgnette in her hand.
She had succeeded dizzily, tremendously, in her cinema career. The
timid thing that had watched the moving-picture director to see how
he held his wineglass, and accepted his smile as a beam of sunshine
breaking through the clouds about his godlike head, now found his
gracefulness "actory," his intimacy impudent, and his association
compromising. Ferriday's very picturesqueness and artistry convinced
her now that he was not quite the gentleman.
Kedzie was beginning to imitate the upper dialect already. She who
but a twelvemonth past was dividing people into "hicks" and "swells,"
and whose epithets were "reub" and "classy," was now a generation
Ferriday saw it and raged. One day in discussing the cast of a
picture he mentioned the screen-pet Lorraine Melnotte as the man
for the principal male rôle.
Kedzie sighed; "Oh, he is so hopelessly romantic, never quite the
gentleman. In costume he gets by, but in evening clothes he always
suggests the handsome waiter--don't you think?"
Ferriday roared, with disgust: "Good Lord, but you're growing. What
is this thing I've invented? Are you a _Frankenstein?_"
Kedzie looked blank and sneered, "Are you implying that I have
Yiddish blood in me?"
She wondered why he laughed, but she would not ask. Along many lines
Kedzie did not know much, but in others she was uncannily acute.
Kedzie was gleaning all her ideas of gentlemanship from Jim Dyckman.
She knew that he had lineage and heritage and equipage and all that
sort of thing, and he must be great because he knew great people.
His careless simplicity, artlessness, shyness, all the things that
distressed her at first, were now accepted as the standards of
conduct for everybody.
In life as in other arts, the best artists grow from the complex to
the simple, the tortuous to the direct, from pose to poise, from
tradition to truth, from artifice to reality. Kedzie was beginning
to understand this and to ape what she could not do naturally.
Her comet-like scoot from obscurity to fame in the motion-picture sky
had exhausted the excitement of that sky, and now she was ashamed of
being a wage-earner, a mere actress, especially a movie actress.
If the studio had not caught fire and burned up so many thousands of
yards of her portraiture she would have broken her contract without
scruple. But the shock of the loss of her pretty images drove her
back to the scene. The pity of so much thought, emotion, action,
going up in smoke was too cruel to endure.
It was not necessary for Dyckman to pay the expenses of their
repetition in celluloid, as he offered. The Hyperfilm Company rented
another studio and began to remake the destroyed pictures. They were
speedily renewed because the scenarios had been rescued and there was
little of that appalling waste of time, money, and effort which has
almost wrecked the whole industry. They did not photograph a thousand
feet for every two hundred used.
Kedzie's first pictures had gone to the exchanges before the fire,
and they were continuing their travels about the world while she was
at work revamping the rest.
About this time the Hyperfilm managers decided to move their factory
to California, where the sempiternal sunlight insured better
photography at far less expense. This meant that Kedzie must leave
New York only partly conquered and must tear herself away from Jim
She broke down and cried when she told Dyckman of this, and for the
first time his sympathies were stampeded on her account. He petted
her, and she slid into his arms with a child-like ingratiation that
made his heart swell with pity.
"What's the odds," he said, attempting consolation, "where you work,
so long as you work?"
"But it would mean," she sobbed--"it would mean taking me away-ay
This tribute enraptured Dyckman incredibly. That he should mean so
much to so wonderful a thing as she was was unbelievably flattering.
He had dogged Charity's heels with meek and unrewarded loyalty until
he had lost all pride. Kedzie's tears at the thought of leaving him
woke it to life again.
"By golly, you sha'n't go, then!" he cried. "I was thinking of coming
out there to visit you, but--but it would be better yet for you to
stay right here in little old New York."
This brought back Kedzie's smile. But she faltered, "What if they
hold me to my contract, though?"
"Then we'll bust the old contract. I'll buy 'em off. You needn't
work for anybody."
There was enough of the old-fashioned woman of one sort left in
Kedzie to relish the slave-block glory of being fought over by two
purchasers. She spoke rather slyly:
"But I'll be without wages then. How would I live? I've got
Dyckman answered at once: "Of course not. I'll take care of you.
I offered to before, you know." He had made a proposal of marriage
some time before; it was the only sort of proposal that he had been
tempted to make to Kedzie. He liked her immensely; she fascinated
him; he loved to pet her and kiss her and talk baby talk to her; but
she had never inflamed his emotions.
Either it was the same with her, or she had purposely controlled
herself and him from policy, or had been restrained by coldness or
by a certain decency, of which she had a good deal, after all and
in spite of all.
Throughout their relations they had deceived Ferriday and other
cynics. For all their indifference to appearances, they had behaved
like a well-behaved pair of young betrothed Americans, with a
complete freedom from chaperonage, and a considerable liberality
of endearments, but no serious misdemeanor.
Kedzie knew what he meant, but she wanted to hear him propose again.
So she murmured:
"How do you mean, take care of me?"
"I mean--marry you, of course."
"Oh!" said Kedzie. And in a whirlwind of pride she twined her arms
about his neck and clung to him with a desperate ardor.
Dyckman said: "This isn't my first proposal, you know. You said you
wanted time to think it over. Haven't you thought it over yet?"
"Yes," Kedzie sighed, but she said no more.
"Well, what's the answer?" he urged.
She whispered, torn between rapture and despair.
Any woman might have blazed with pride at being asked to marry Jim
Dyckman. The little villager was almost consumed like another Semele
scorched by Jupiter's rash approach.
In Dyckman's clasp Kedzie felt how lonely she had been. She wanted to
be gathered in from the dangers of the world, from poverty and from
work. She had not realized how tiny a thing she was, to be combating
the big city all alone, until some one offered her shelter.
People can usually be brave and grim in the presence of defeat and
peril and hostility. It is the kind word, the sudden victory, the
discovery of a friend that breaks one down. Even Kedzie wept.
She wept all over Jim Dyckman's waistcoat, sat on his lap and
swallowed throat-lumps and tears and tugged at his cuff-links with
her little fingers.
Then she looked up at him and blushed and kissed him fiercely,
hugging him with all the might of her arms. He was troubled by the
first frenzy she had ever shown for him, and he might have learned
how much more than a merely pretty child she was if she had not
suddenly felt an icy hand laid on her hands, unclasping them.
A cold arm seemed to bend about her throat and drag her back. She
slid from Dyckman's knees, gasping:
She could not become Mrs. Jim Dyckman, because she was Mrs. Thomas
Dyckman was astounded and frightened by her action. He put his hand
out, but she unclenched his fingers from her wrist, mumbling:
"Why not? What's wrong with you, child?"
How could she tell him? What could she do? She must do a lot of
thinking. On one thing she was resolved: that she would not give
Dyckman up. She would find Gilfoyle and get quit of him. They had
been married so easily; there must be an easy way of unmarrying.
She studied Dyckman. She must not frighten him away, or let him
suspect. She laughed nervously and went back to his arms, giggling:
"Such a wonderful thing it is to have you want me for your wife!
I'm not worthy of your name, or your love, or anything."
Dyckman could hardly agree to this, whatever misgivings might be
shaking his heart. He praised her with the best adjectives in his
scant vocabulary and asked her when they should be wed.
"Oh, not for a long while yet," she pleaded.
"Why?" he wondered.
"Oh, because!" It sickened and alarmed her to put off the day, but
how could she name it?
When he left her at last the situation was still a bit hazy. He had
proposed and been accepted vaguely. But when he had gallantly asked
her to "say when" she had begged for time.
Dyckman, once outside the spell of Kedzie's eyes and her warmth, felt
more and more dubious. He was ashamed of himself for entertaining any
doubts of the perfection of his situation, but he was ashamed also of
his easy surrender. Here he was with his freedom gone. He had escaped
the marriage-net of so many women of so much brilliance and prestige,
and yet a little movie actress had landed him.
He compared Anita Adair with Charity Coe, and he had to admit that
his fiancée suffered woefully in every contrast. He could see the
look of amazement on Charity's face when she heard the news. She
would be completely polite about it, but she would be appalled. So
would his father and mother. They would fight him tremendously. His
friends would give him the laugh, the big ha-ha! They would say he
had made a fool of himself; he had been an easy mark for a little
He wondered just how it had happened. The fact was that Kedzie had
appealed to his pity. That was what none of the other eligibles had
ever done, least of all Charity the ineligible.
He went home. He found his father and mother playing double Canfield
and wrangling over it as usual. They were disturbed by his manner.
He would not tell them what was the matter and left them to their
game. It interested them no more. It seemed so unimportant whether
the cards fell right or not. The points were not worth the excitement.
Their son was playing solitaire, and it was not coming out at all.
They discussed the possible reasons for his gloom. There were so
"I wish he'd get married to some nice girl," sighed Mrs. Dyckman.
A mother is pretty desperate when she wants to surrender her son
to another woman.
Kedzie made a bad night of it. She hated her loneliness. She hated
her room. She hated her maid. She wanted to live in the Dyckman
palace and have a dozen maids and a pair of butlers to boss around,
and valets, and a crest on her paper, and invitations pouring in
from people whose pictures were in "the social world." She wanted
to snub somebody and show certain folks what was what.
The next morning she was sure of only one thing, and that was that
Dyckman had asked her to be his wife; and be his wife she would,
no matter what it cost.
She wondered how she could get rid of Gilfoyle, whom she looked upon
now as nothing less than an abductor. He was one of those "cadets"
the papers had been full of a few years before, who lured young
girls to ruin under the guise of false marriages and then sold them
as "white slaves."
Kedzle's wrath was at the fact that Gilfoyle was not legally an
abductor. She would have been glad merely to be ruined, and she
would have rejoiced at the possibility of a false marriage. In the
movies the second villain only pretended to be a preacher, and then
confessed his guilt. But such an easy solution was not for Kedzie.
New York City had licensed Gilfoyle's outrage; the clerk had sold
her to him for two dollars; the Municipal Building was the too, too
She felt a spiritual solace in the fact that she had not had a
religious marriage. The sacrament was only municipal and did not
count. Her wedding had lacked the blessing of the duly constituted
ministry; therefore it was sacrilegious; therefore it was her
conscientious duty to undo the pagan knot as quickly as possible.
She reverted to the good old way of the Middle Ages. There was
no curse of divorce then, and indeed there was small need of it,
since annulment could usually be managed on one religious ground
or another, or if not, people went about their business as if it
had been managed.
Kedzie felt absolved of any fault of selfishness now, and justified
in taking any steps necessary to the punishment of Gilfoyle.
_Religion_ is a large, loose word, and it can be made to fit
any motive; but once assumed it seems to strengthen every resolution,
to chloroform mercy and hallow any means to the self-sanctified end.
What people would shrink from as inhuman they constantly embrace
Kedzie wondered how she could communicate with her adversary. She
might best go to Chicago and fight herself free there. There would
be less risk of Dyckman's hearing about it.
She shuddered at what she would have to tell him unless she kept the
divorce secret. He might not love her if he knew she was not the nice
new girl he thought her, but an old married woman. And what would he
say when he found that her real name was Mrs. Thomas Gilfoyle
_née_ Kedzie Thropp?
But first Kedzie must divorce herself from the Hyperfilm Company.
She went to the studio with rage in her heart. She told Ferriday
that she would not go to California. He proposed that she break
with the Hyperfilm Company and form a corporation of her own with
Dyckman as angel.
Kedzie was wroth at this. From now on, spending Dyckman's money
would be like spending her own. Ferriday, once her accomplice in
the noble business of getting Dyckman to back her, was revealed
now as a cheap swindler trying to keep Mrs. Dyckman in trade at
her husband's expense.
"I'm through with the pictures, I tell you!" she stormed. "I'm sick
of the cheap notoriety. I'm tired of being public property. I can't
go out on the street without being pointed at. It's disgusting. I
don't want to be incorporated or photographed or interviewed. I want
to be let alone. I'm tired. I've worked too hard. I need a rest."
Ferriday hated her with great agility. He had been willing to abet
her breach of contract, provided she let him form a new company, but
if she would not that made a great difference. He reminded her:
"The Hyperfilm Company will hold you to your bond. They want your
hundred and twenty-five pounds of flesh. If you should break with
them they'd have a case against you for damages."
"How much?" said Kedzie, feeling like Mrs. Croesus.
Ferriday whistled and murmured: "Spoken like the wife of a
multimillionaire! So you've got him at last."
"To who," Kedzie began, with an owl-like effect that she corrected
with some confusion,"--to whom do you refer to?"
Ferriday grinned: "You're going to marry out of the movies, and
you're going to try to horn into sassiety. Well, I warned you before
that if you became Dyckman's wife you would find his world vastly
different from the ballroom and drawing-room stuff you pull off in
the studio--strangely and mysteriously different."
He frightened her. She was not sure of herself. She could not forget
Nimrim, Missouri, and her arrival at the edge of society _via_
the Bronx, the candy-shop, and the professional camera.
She felt that the world had not treated her squarely. Why should she
have to carry all this luggage of her past through the gate with her?
She wondered if it would not be better to linger in the studios till
she grew more famous and could bring a little prestige along.
But Ferriday was already ousting her even from that security.
"The managers of the Hyperfilm Company will think you have done them
dirt, but I'll explain that you are not really responsible. You've
seen a million dollars, and you're razzle-dazzled. They'll want a bit
of that million, I suppose, as liquidated damages, but I'll try to
keep them down."
Kedzie was at bay in her terror. She struck back.
"Tell 'em they won't get a cent if they try to play the hog."
"They don't have hogs on Fifth Avenue, Anita. Don't forget that.
Well, good-by and good luck."
This was more like an eviction than a desertion. Kedzie felt a
little softening of her heart toward the old homestead.
"I'm sure I'm much obliged for all you've done for me."
Ferriday roared his scorn.
She went on: "I am. Honest-ly! And I hope I haven't caused you too
Ferriday betrayed how much he was hurt by his violent efforts to
"Not at all. It happens that I've just found another little girl to
take your place. This one drifted in among the extras, just as you
did, and she's a dream. I'll show her to the managers, and they may
be so glad to get her they won't charge you a cent. In fact, if you
say the word, I might manage it so that they would pay you something
to cancel your contract."
This was quite too cruel. It crushed the tears out of Kedzie's eyes,
and she had no fight left in her. She simply stammered:
"No, thank you. Don't bother. Well, good-by."
"Good-by, Anita--good luck!"
He let her make her way out of his office alone. She had to skirt
the studio. From behind a canvas wall over which the Cooper-Hewitt
tubes rained a quivering blue glare came the words of the assistant
"Now choke her, Hazlitt! Harder! Register despair, Miss Hardy. Try
to scream and can't! That's good. Now, Walsh, jump in to the rescue.
Slug him. Knock his bean off. 'S enough! Fall, Hazlitt. Now gather up
Miss Hardy, Walsh. Register devotion, gratitude, adoration--now you
got it. Turn on your lamps full power, dearie! Wow! Bully! A couple
of tears, please. That's the stuff. You'll be the queen of the world.
Weep a little more. Real tears. That's it! Now clinch for the
Kedzie tiptoed away. She felt as Eve must have felt sneaking out of
Eden and hearing the nightingales wrangling and the leopards at play.
We must fly fast and keep on flying if we would escape from our
pasts. Ambition, adventure, or sheer luck may carry us forward out
of them as in a cavalry-foray over strange frontiers, but sooner or
later we must wait for our wagons or fall back to them.
Kedzie's past was catching up with her. It is a glorious thing
when one's past comes up loaded with food, munitions, good deeds,
charities, mercies, valued friendships. But poor little Kedzie's
little past included one incompetent and unacknowledged husband
and two village parents.
Kedzie had concealed the existence of Gilfoyle from her new friends
as anxiously as if he had been a baby born out of wedlock instead of
a grown man born into it. And Gilfoyle had returned the compliment.
He had not told his new friends in Chicago that he was married,
because the Anita Adair that he had left in New York was, as F.P.A.
would say, his idea of nothing to brag about.
Gilfoyle had loved Kedzie once as a pretty photographer's model, and
had admired her as an exquisite dancing-creature who seemed to have
spun off at a tangent from the painted side of an old Greek amphora.
He had actually written poetry to her! And when a poet has done that
for a girl he feels that he has done more for her than she can ever
repay. Even if she gives him her mortal self, what is that to the
immortality he has given her?
When Kedzie telegraphed Gilfoyle that she had lost her job in Newport
and had arrived in New York lonely and afraid, had he not taken care
of her good name by giving her his own? Not to mention a small matter
of all his money!
She had repaid him with frantic discontent. The morning after the
wedding, was she not imitating the parrot's shrill ridicule of life
and love? Did she ridicule his poetry, or didn't she? She did.
Instead of being his nine Muses, she had become his three Furies.
When he lost his job and she went out to get one of her own, had she
succeeded in getting anything with dignity in it? No! She had become
an extra woman in a movie mob. That was a belittling thing to
remember. But worst of all, she had committed the unpardonable sin
for a woman--she had lent him money. He could never forgive or forget
the horrible fact that he had borrowed her last cash to pay his fare
Next to that for inexcusableness was her self-support--and, worse,
self-sufficiency. Gilfoyle had sent Kedzie no money beyond returning
what he had borrowed, and she had not used that to buy a ticket to
Chicago with. She had written rarely, and had not asked him for money.
That was mighty convenient for him, but it was extremely suspicious,
and he cherished it as a further grudge.
He never found himself quite flush enough to force any money on her,
because he had found that it costs money to live in Chicago, too.
People in New York get the idea that it costs everything to live
in New York and nothing to live anywhere else--if it can be called
Gilfoyle also discovered that his gifts were not appreciated in
Chicago as he had expected them to be. Chicago people seemed to
think it quite natural for New York to call for help from Chicago,
and successful Western men were constantly going East; but for
a New-Yorker to revert to Chicago looked queer. He appeared to
patronize, and yet he must have had some peculiar reason for giving
up New York.
All in all and by and large, Gilfoyle was not happy in Chicago. The
few persons, mainly women, who took him up as an interesting novelty
grew tired of him. His advertising schemes did not dazzle the alert
Illini. For one reason or another the wares he celebrated did not
He lost his first job and took an inferior wage with a shabbier firm.
He took his women friends to the movies now instead of the theaters.
And so it was that one night when he was beauing a Denver woman, who
was on her way to New York and fame, he found the box-line extending
out on the sidewalk and half-way up the block. It was irksome to wait,
but people like to go to shows where the crowds are. He took his place
in the line, and his Miss Clampett stood at his elbow.
The queue was slowly drawn into the theater and he finally reached
a place in front of the lithographs. He almost jumped out of his
skin when he saw a colossal head of Anita Adair smiling at him from
a sunbonnet streaming with curls.
The letterpress informed Gilfoyle that it was indeed his own Anita.
The people in the line were talking of her as the new star. They were
calling her familiarly by her first name and discussing her with all
the freedom of the crowd:
"That's Anita. Ain't she sweet?"
"Everybody says Anita's just too lovely."
"Some queen, boy? Me for Anita. She can pack her clothes in my
Gilfoyle felt that he ought in common decency to knock down this
fellow who claimed the privileges belonging to himself. But he
remembered that he had abandoned those privileges. And the fellow
looked unrefinedly powerful.
Gilfoyle gnawed the lip of silence, realizing also that his
announcement would make a strange impression on Miss Clampett.
She was one of those authors one reads about who think it necessary
to hunt experiences and live romances in order to find literary
Gilfoyle had done his best to teach her how wildly well a born
New-Yorker can play the lute of emotion. To proclaim now that he was
the anonymous husband of this glitterer on the billboard would have
been a shocking confession.
Gilfoyle swallowed his secret, but it made his heart flutter
tremendously. When at length he and Miss Clampett were admitted to
the theater and walked down the aisle Kedzie came from the background
of the screen forward as if to meet him. She came on and on, and
finally as he reached his seat, a close-up of her brought them face
to face with a vividness that almost knocked him over. She looked
right at him, seemed to recognize him, and stopped short.
He felt as guilty as if she had actually caught him at a rendezvous.
Yet he felt pride, too.
This luminous being was his wife. He remembered all that she had been
to him. Miss Clampett noted his perturbations and made a brilliant
guess at their cause. She asked him if he wanted to leave her and go
around to the stage door to meet this wonderful Miss Adair. Gilfoyle
laughed poorly at her quip. He was surprised to learn from her that
Anita Adair was already a sensation among the film stars. He had not
chanced to read the pages where her press-matter had celebrated her.
He defended himself from the jealousy of Miss Clampett very lamely;
for the luscious beauty of his Anita, her graphic art, and her sway
over the audience rekindled his primal emotions to a greater fire
When the show was over he abandoned Miss Clampett on her door-step
and went to his own boarding-house in a nympholepsy. He was a mortal
wedded to a fairy. He was Endymion with a moon enamoured of him.
Kedzie indeed had come down from the screen to Gilfoyle, clothed
in an unearthly effulgence.
The next morning he turned to the moving-picture columns of the
Chicago _Tribune_, the _Herald_, and the other papers, and
he found that Kedzie was celebrated there with enthusiasm by Kitty
Kelly, "Mae Tinée," Mrs. Parsons, and the rest of the critics of
the new art. On Sunday several of her interviews appeared, and her
portraits, in eminent company.
Gilfoyle's forgotten affections came back to life, expanding and
efflorescent. He throbbed with the wonder of it. The moving picture
had brought romance again to earth.
Thousands of men all over the country were falling in love with
Kedzie. Who had a better right to than her husband? Unconsciously
his resentments against her fell away. His heart swelled with such
plenitude of forgiveness that he might in time have overlooked
the money she lent him. It was not a disgrace to accept money from
a genius of her candle-power.
For a long while he had been afraid that she would telegraph him
for funds, or descend on him in Chicago and bring a heavy baggage of
necessities. Now he was no longer afraid of that. He was afraid that
if he called on her in New York she might not remember him.
He had heard of the real and the alleged salaries of moving-picture
stars, and he assumed that Kedzie must be as well paid as she was
well advertised. He did not know of the measly little hundred dollars
a week she was bound down to by her contract. If he had known he would
have rejoiced, because one hundred dollars a week was about four times
more than Gilfoyle had ever earned.
Of course Gilfoyle resolved to go to New York. Of course he started
to telegraph his wife and found the telegram hard to write. Then he
began a long letter and found it harder to write. And of course he
finally decided to surprise her. He resigned his job. His resignation
was accepted with humiliating cordiality.
Of course he took the Twentieth Century Limited to New York. It was
more expensive, but it was quicker; and what did a few dollars matter,
now that he was the husband of such an earner? He had unwittingly
hitched his wagon to a star, and now he would take a ride through
heaven. He wrote a poem or two to that effect, and the train-wheels
inspired his prosody.
He dreamed of an ideal life in which he should loll upon a sofa of
ease, thrumming his lyre, while his wife devoted herself to her
Where would Horace and Virgil have been if they had not had their
expenses paid by old Mr. Maecenas? Since Mrs. Gilfoyle could afford
to be a patroness, let her patronage begin at home. Her reward would
be beyond price, for Gilfoyle decided to perpetuate her fame in
powerful rhyme far outlasting the celluloid in which she was writing
her name now.
Celluloid is perishable indeed, and very inflammable. Gilfoyle did
not know that the Hyperfilm studio had burned to the ground before
he saw Kedzie's picture in Chicago. But he blithely left that city
to its fate and sped eastward.
Gilfoyle reached New York on the Twentieth Century. It was an hour
late, and so the railroad company paid him a dollar. He wished it
had been later. In his present plight time was anything but money
It took him some time to find the Hyperfilm Company's temporary
studio. He learned of the fire, and his hope wavered. When he reached
the studio Kedzie was not there. The news of her resignation had
percolated even to the doorman, who rarely knew anything from inside
or outside the studio--an excellent non-conductor of information he
was. Gilfoyle had some difficulty in finding Kedzie's address, but
at last he learned it, and he made haste to her apartment.
He was impressed by its gaudy vestibule. He told the hall-boy that
he wanted to see Miss Adair.
"Just say a gentleman to see her."
"Gotta git the name, or I can't 'phome up. Miss Adair naturally
won't see no gempman ain't got a name."
"Does she see many men?" Gilfoyle asked, with sudden alarm.
"Oh, nossa. Mainly Mr. Dyckman. But that's her business."
"What Dyckman is that, the rich Jim Dyckman?"
"Well, I ain't s'posed to give out info'mation."
"Are you supposed to take in money?" Gilfoyle juggled with
The hall-boy juggled his eyes in unison, and laughed yearningly:
"I reckon I might let you up by mistake. Does you know Miss Adair
"Very well--I'm a relative of hers by marriage. I want to surprise
"Oh, well, you better go on up."
Gilfoyle applied the magic silver wafer to the itching palm and
stepped into the elevator when it came.
Kedzie was alone. She had sent her maid out to get some headache
powders. She had had a good cry when she reached home. She had
pondered her little brain into a kink, trying to figure out her
campaign. When she had a headache, or a cold, or a sleepless night,
or a lethargy, she always put a powder in her stomach. It never did
any good, and she was always changing the nostrum, but she never
changed the idea.
She felt ill and took off her street suit and her corsets, put on
a soft, veilly thing, and stretched out on her long-chair.
She was coddling a photograph of Jim Dyckman. He had scrawled across
it, "To Little Anita from Big Jim." She kissed the picture and
cherished it to her aching breast.
The door-bell rang. She supposed that, as usual, the maid had
forgotten to take her key with her. She went into the hall in a
rage, still holding the photograph. She flung the door open--and
in walked Gilfoyle.
She fell back stupefied. He grinned, and took her in with devouring
eyes. If he had no right to devour her, who had? He approved of her
with a rush of delight:
"Well, Anita, here I am. And how's the little wife?"
She could not answer him. He stared ferociously, and gasped as if
he had forgotten how she had looked:
"Golly, but you're beautiful? Where's the little kiss?"
He threw his arms about her, garnering in the full sheaf of her
beauty. She tried to escape, to protest, but he smothered her with
his lips. She had been so long away from him, she had so long omitted
him from her plans, that she felt a sense of outrage in his assault.
Something virginal had resumed her heart, and his proprietorship
Her shoulders were so constrained that she could not push free. She
could only raise her right hand outside his left arm, and reaching
his face, thrust it away. Her nails were long and sharp. They tore
deep gashes in his cheeks and across his nose.
He let her go with a yelp of pain and shame. His fists gathered;
primeval instinct told him to smash the mask of pale hatred he saw
before him. But he saw the photograph in her left hand. It had been
bent double in the scuffle. He snatched at it and tore away the
lower half. He read the inscription with disgust and growled:
"That's the reason you didn't write me! That's why you don't want
to see me, eh? So he's keeping you! And that's why you resigned
from the studio!"
The atrocity of this slander was too much. With a little cat-like
yowl she went for him, dropping the broken photograph and spreading
all ten claws.
He caught her arms and held them apart where she could scratch
nothing more than his wrists, which she did venomously. The cat
tribe is a bad tribe to fight at close quarters. One must kill or
When Kedzie tried to bite him, Gilfoyle realized that she was in no
mood for argument. He dragged her to the living-room door and then
flung her as far as he could from him. She toppled over into a chair
and began to cry.
It was not a pretty scene. Gilfoyle took out his handkerchief and
pressed it to his face and the bridge of his nose. Then he looked
at the red marks and held them out for her to observe:
"See what you did to me!"
"I'm glad of it," she snapped. "I wish I'd torn your eyes out."
This alone would not necessarily have proved that she did not love
him devotedly, but in this case it corroborated a context of hatred.
Gilfoyle felt rebuffed. There was a distinct lack of hospitality in
her welcome. This reception was the very opposite of his imagined
He did what a man usually does, revealing a masculine inability
to argue with a woman. He told her all her faults of omission and
commission as if that would bring her to a reconciliating humor.
She listened awhile, and then answered, with a perfect logic that
"All you say only goes to show that you don't love me. You never did.
You went away and left me. I might have starved, for all you cared.
But I've worked like a dog, and now that I've had a little success
you come back and say: 'How's the little wife? Where's the little
kiss?' Agh! And you dare to kiss me! And then you slander me. You
don't give me credit for these plain little rooms that I rent with
my own hard-earned money. You couldn't imagine me living in a place
like this unless some man paid for it. Heaven knows I'd have lived
with you long enough before I ever had a decent home. Humph! Well,
I guess so! Humph!"
Gilfoyle mopped his face again and looked at his handkerchief. One's
own blood is very interesting. The sight of his wounds did not touch
Kedzie's heart. She could never feel sorry for anybody she was
Gilfoyle's wits were scattered. He mumbled, futilely, "Well, if
that's the way you feel about it!"
"That's the way I feel about it!" Kedzie raged on. "I suppose you've
had so many affairs of your own out there that you can't imagine
anybody else being respectable, can you?"
Gilfoyle had not come East to publish his autobiography. He thought
that a gesture of misunderstood despair would be the most effective
evasion. So he made it, and turned away. He put his handkerchief to
his nose and looked at it. He turned back.
"Would you mind if I went into your bathroom to wash my face?"
"I certainly would. Where do you think you are? You get on out before
my maid comes back. I don't want her to think I receive men alone!"
Her heart was cold as a toad in her breast, and she loathed his
presence. He repeated his excellent gesture of despair, sighed,
"All right," and left the room. The two pieces of Jim Dyckman's
photograph were still on the floor of the hall. He stooped quickly
and silently and picked them up as he went out. He closed the door
with all the elegy one can put in a door with a snap-lock.
He was about to press the elevator button, but he did not like to
present himself gory to the elevator-boy. He walked down the marble
and iron steps zigzagging around the elevator shaft.
He paused on various landings to think and mop. He looked at the
photograph of Dyckman, and his heart spoiled in him. He recalled
his wife's anxiety lest her maid should find a man there. He recalled
the hall-boy's statement that Mr. Dyckman was often there. His wife
was lying to him, plainly.
He had known detectives and newspaper men and had heard them speak of
what a friend they had in the usual hall-boy. He thought that he had
here the makings of a very pretty little bit of detectivity.
He reached the main floor, but made a hasty crossing of the gaudy
vestibule without stopping to speak to the hall-boy. He had left his
baggage at the station, expecting to send it to his wife's apartment
when he found it. He had found it, but he could imagine what would
happen to the baggage if he sent it there.
"All right!" he said to himself. "If it's war she wants, cry havoc
and let slip the sleuth hounds."
He went to a drug-store and had his wounds sterilized and plastered,
saying that a pet cat had scratched him.
"Just so," said the drug clerk, with a grin. "Pet cats are very
Gilfoyle wanted to slug him, but he wanted his wounds dressed more.
He walked and walked down the back avenues till he reached his old
boarding-house district near Greenwich Village. He found a landlady
who had trusted him often and been paid eventually. He gave his
baggage checks to an expressman and went into retirement for
When his suit-case arrived he got out the poems he had been writing
to Anita. He clenched them for destruction, but an exquisite line
caught his eye. Why should his art suffer because of a woman's
perfidy? He had intended to sonnetize Anita into perenniality.
She had played him false. Just for that he would leave her mortal.
She should perish.
The poems would keep. He might find another and a worthier client
for posterity. Or he might put an imaginary name there, as other
poets had done. He wanted one that would slip into the poetry easily.
He could use "Pepita" without deranging the rhyme.
He glared at the picture of Dyckman. He knew the face well. He had
seen it in print numberless times. He had had the man pointed out
to him at races and horse-shows and polo-games and bazaars.
He struck the photograph in the face, realizing that he could not
have reached the face of the big athlete. He wondered why this fellow
should have been given such stature with such wealth. He was ghastly
rich, the snob, the useless cumberer of the ground!
All of Gilfoyle's pseudo-socialistic hostility to wealth and the
wealthy came to the aid of his jealousy. To despoil the man was a
duty. He had decoyed Anita from her duty by his millions. Not that
she was unwilling to be decoyed. And now she would revel in her
ill-got luxury, while her legal husband could starve in a garret.
As he brooded, the vision of Dyckman's money grew huger and huger.
The dog had not merely thousands or hundreds of thousands, but
thousands of thousands. Gilfoyle had never seen a thousand-dollar
bill. Yet Dyckman, he had heard, was worth twenty millions. If his
wealth were changed into thousand-dollar bills there would be twenty
thousand of them in a stack.
If Gilfoyle peeled off one thousand of those thousand-dollar bills
the stack would not be perceptibly diminished. If Gilfoyle could get
a million dollars from Dyckman, or any part of it, Dyckman would
never notice it; and yet it would mean a life of surety and poetry
and luxury for Gilfoyle.
If he caught Dyckman and Anita together in a compromising situation
he could collect heavily under threat of exposure. Rather than be