Part 7 out of 12
dragged into the newspapers and the open courts Dyckman would pay
almost any sum.
There was a law in New York against the violation of the seventh
commandment, and the penitentiary was the punishment. The law
had failed to catch its first victim, but it had been used in
Massachusetts with success. The threat against Dyckman would
Then there was the recent Mann Law aimed at white-slavery but a more
effective weapon for blackmailers. If Gilfoyle could catch Dyckman
taking Anita motoring across the State line into New Jersey or
Connecticut he could arrest them or threaten them.
Also he could name Dyckman as co-respondent in a divorce suit--or
threaten to--and collect heavily that way. This was not blackmail
in Gilfoyle's eyes. He scorned such a crime. This was honorable and
necessary vindication of his offended dignity. There was probably
never a practiser of blackmail who did not find a better word for
the duress he applied.
Gilfoyle needed help. He had no cash to hire a detective with. But
he knew a detective or two who might go into the thing with him on
Gilfoyle began to compose a scheme of poetic revenge. It should be
his palinode to Anita. He would keep her under surveillance, but he
would not let her know of his propinquity. A happy thought delighted
him. To throw her off her guard, he wrote and sent a little note:
DEAR ANITA,--Since you evidently don't love me any longer, I will not
bother you any more. I am taking the train back to Chicago. Address
me there care of General Delivery if you ever want to see me again.
YOUR ONCE LOVED HUSBAND.
He addressed it and gave it to the waitress to drop in the mail-box.
He had no money to squander on detectives, but he had a friend,
Connery, who as a reporter had achieved a few bits of sleuthing
in cases that had baffled the police. That evening Gilfoyle went
hunting for Connery.
Kedzie simmered in her own wrath a long while before she realized
that she had let Gilfoyle escape. He was the very man she was looking
for, and she had planned to go even to Chicago to find him.
He had stumbled into her trap, and she had driven him out. She ran to
the window and stared up and down the street, but there was no trace
of him. She had no idea where he could have gone. She wrung her hands
and denounced herself for a fool.
She went to the hall to pick up the photograph of Jim Dyckman. Both
halves of it were gone. Now she was frightened. Gilfoyle had departed
meekly, but he had taken the picture; therefore he must have been
filled with hate. He had revenge in his mind. And she trembled at
her danger. He might strike at any time.
She suspected his exact intention. She dreaded to have Jim Dyckman
call on her. She had a wild notion of asking him to take her away
from New York--down to Atlantic City or up to the Berkshires--anywhere
to be rid of Gilfoyle without being left alone. If she had done this
she would have done just what Gilfoyle wanted her to, and the Mann
Act could have been wielded again as a blackjack.
Meanwhile Anita was afraid to have Dyckman come to her apartment
as he constantly did. She telephoned to him that she would be busy
at the studio all day. She would meet him at dinner somewhere. But
afterward she would come home alone on one pretext or another.
She carried out this plan--and spent a day of confused terror
When Gilfoyle's letter arrived, saying that he was on his way to
Chicago, it gave her more delight than any other writing of his had
ever given her. She need not skulk any more. Her problem was as far
from solution as ever, but she wanted a respite from it, and she
gave herself up to a few days of rapture. She was free from her work
at the studio, and she was like a girl home from boarding-school on
Dyckman found her charming in this mood. She made a child of him,
and his years of dissatisfaction were forgotten. He romped through
the festivals of New York like a cub.
There was no discussion of any date of marriage, and he was glad
enough to let the matter drift. He did not want to marry Kedzie.
He was satisfied to have her as a playmate. He was afraid to think
of her as a wife, not only from fear of the public sensation it
would make, but from fear of her in his home. Young men also know
the timidities that are considered maidenly. He did not dream of
Kedzie's reason for postponing always the matter of a wedding date.
Kedzie had come to depend on Jim for her entertainment. He took
care of her evenings, gave them vivacity and opulence. He took her
to theaters, to the opera, the music-halls, the midnight roofs,
and other resorts for the postponement of sleep. Occasionally he
introduced her to friends of his whom they encountered. It pained
and angered him, and Kedzie, too, to note that the men were inclined
to eye Kedzie with tolerant amusement. There was a twinkle of
contempt in their smiling eyes that seemed to say:
"Where did Dyckman pick you up, my pretty?"
Kedzie's movie fame was unknown to Dyckman's crowd. She was treated,
accordingly, as some exquisite chorus-girl or cabaret-pony that he
had selected as a running-mate.
Dyckman could not openly resent what was subtly implied, but it
touched his chivalry, and since he was engaged to Kedzie he felt
that he ought at least to announce the fact. He was getting the
game without the name, and that seemed unfair to Kedzie.
Kedzie felt the same veiled scorn, and it alarmed her; yet when
Dyckman proposed the publication of their troth she forbade it
vigorously. She writhed at the worse than Tantalus fate that
compelled her to push from her own thirsty lips the grapes of
She had no intention of committing bigamy, even if she had been
temptable to such recklessness. The inevitable brevity of its success
was only too evident. A large part of the fun of marrying Dyckman
would be the publication of it, and that would bring Gilfoyle back.
She never before longed so ardently to see her husband as now.
She finally wrote him a letter begging him to return to New York
for a conference. She couched it in luringly affectionate tones
and apologized lavishly for scratching his face when he called. She
addressed the appeal to the General Delivery in Chicago, as he had
directed in the letter he wrote as a blind.
She neglected, as usual, to put her own address on the envelope
or inside on the letter, which she signed with a mere "Anita."
Gilfoyle did not call for the letter in Chicago, since he was in
New York. It was held in Chicago for the legal period and then it
was sent to the Dead Letter Office, where a clerk wasted a deal
of time and ingenuity in an effort to trace the sender or the
Kedzie meanwhile had watched for the postman and hunted through
her mail with frenzy. There was a vast amount of mail, for it is
one of the hardships of the movie business that the actors are fairly
showered with letters of praise, criticism, query, and flirtation.
But there was no letter ever from Gilfoyle.
Yet Gilfoyle was constantly within hailing distance. With the aid of
his friend Connery he had concocted a scheme for keeping Kedzie and
Dyckman under espionage. They had speedily learned that Dyckman was
in constant attendance on Kedzie, and that they were careless of
the hours alone, careless of appearances.
Gilfoyle never dreamed that the couple was chaperoned doubly by
a certain lukewarmth of emotion and by an ambition to become man
and wife. Gilfoyle imagined their relations to be as intimate as
their opportunities permitted. He suffered jealous wrath, and would
have assaulted Dyckman in public if Connery had not quelled him.
Connery kept a cool head in the matter because his heart was not
involved. He saw the wealth of Dyckman as the true object of their
attack, and he convinced Gilfoyle of the profitableness of a little
blackmail. He convinced Gilfoyle easily when they were far from
Kedzie and close to poverty; but when they hovered near Kedzie,
Connery had the convincing to do all over again.
He worked up an elaborate campaign for gaining entrance to Kedzie's
apartment without following the classic method of smashing the door
down. He disliked that noisy approach because it would command
notice; and publicity, as he well knew, is death to blackmail.
Connery adopted a familiar stratagem of the private detectives. He
went to the apartment one day when he knew that Kedzie was out, and
inquired for an alleged sister of his who had worked for Kedzie. He
claimed to be a soldier on furlough. He engaged the maid in a casual
parley which he led swiftly to a flirtation. She was a lonely maid
and her plighted lover was away on a canal-boat. Connery had little
difficulty in winning her to the acceptance of an invitation to visit
a movie-show on her first evening off.
He paid the girl flattering attentions, and when he brought her back,
gallantly asked for the key to unlock the door for her. He dropped
the key on the floor, stooped for it, pressed it against a bit of
soft soap he had in his left palm. Having secured the outline of
the key, he secured also a return engagement for the next evening
off. On this occasion he brought with him a duplicate of the key,
and when he unlocked the door for the maid this time he gave her
the duplicate and kept the original.
And now that he and Gilfoyle had an "open sesame" to the dovecote
they grew impatient with delay. Gilfoyle's landlady had also grown
impatient with delay, but Connery forced her to wait for what he
called the psychological moment.
And thus Kedzie moved about, her life watched over by an invisible
husband like a malignant Satan to whom she had sold her soul.
Jim Dyckman had many notes from Kedzie, gushing, all adjectives and
adverbs, capitalized and underscored. He left them about carelessly,
or locked them up and left the key. If he had not done that the lock
on his desk was one that could be opened with a hairpin or with
a penknife or with almost any key of a proper size.
There was no one to care except his valet. Dallam cared and read and
made notes. He was horrified at the thought of Dyckman's marrying a
movie actress. He would have preferred any intrigue to that disgrace.
It would mean the loss of a good position, too, for while Dyckman
was an easy boss, if he were going to be an easy marrier as well,
Dallam had too much self-respect to countenance a marriage beneath
If he could only have known of Gilfoyle's existence and his quests,
how the two of them could have collaborated!
But Dallam's interest in life woke anew when one evening, as he was
putting away the clothes Dyckman had thrown off, he searched his
master's coat and found a letter from Mrs. Cheever.
DEAR OLD JIM,--What's happent you? I haven't seen you for ages.
Couldn't you spare this evening to me? I'm alone--as always--and
lonelier than usual. Do take pity on
That note, so lightly written in seeming, had been torn from
a desperate heart and written in tears and blood.
Since she had learned that her husband really loved Zada and that
she was going to mother him a child, Charity had been unable to
adjust her soul to the new problem.
The Reverend Doctor Mosely had promised her advice, but the poor man
could not match his counsel with the situation. He did not believe
in divorce, and yet he did not approve of illegal infants. How happy
he could have been with either problem, with t'other away! In his
dilemma he simply avoided Charity and turned his attention to the
more regular chores of his parish.
Charity understood his silence, and it served to deepen her own
perplexity. She was sure of only one thing--that she was caged
Cheever came home less and less, and he was evidently so harrowed
with his own situation that Charity felt almost more sorry for him
than angry at him. She imagined that he must be enduring no little
from the whims and terrors of Zada. He was evidently afraid to
speak to Charity. To ask for her mercy was contrary to all his
nature. He never dreamed that the dictagraph had brought her with
him when he learned of Zada's intensely interesting condition, and
her exceedingly onerous demands. He did not dare ask Charity for
a divorce in order that he might legitimize this byblow of his.
He could imagine only that she would use the information for
some ruinous vengeance. So he dallied with his fate in dismal
Charity had his woes to bear as well as her own. She knew that she
had lost him forever. The coquetries she had used to win him back
were impossible even to attempt. He had no use for her forgiveness
or her charms. He was a mere specter in her home, doomed for his
sins to walk the night.
In despising herself she rendered herself lonelier. She had not even
herself for companion. Her heart had always been eager with love
and eager for it. The spirit that impelled her to endure hardships
in order to expend her surplusage of love was unemployed now. She
had feasted upon love, and now she starved.
Cheever had been a passionate courtier and, while he was interested,
a fiery devotee. When he abandoned her she suffered with the
devastation that deserted wives and recent widows endure but must
not speak of. It meant terribly much to Charity Coe to be left
alone. It was dangerous to herself, her creeds, her ideals.
She began to be more afraid of being alone than of any other fear.
She grew resentful toward the conventions that held her. She was like
a tigress in a wicker cage, growing hungrier, lither, more gracefully
People who do not use their beauty lose it, and Charity had lost much
of hers in her vigils and labors in the hospitals, and it had waned
in her humiliations of Cheever's preference for another woman. Her
jealous shame at being disprized and notoriously neglected had given
her wanness and bitterness, instead of warmth and sweetness.
But now the wish to be loved brought back loveliness. She did not know
how beautiful she was again. She thought that she wanted to see Jim
Dyckman merely because she wanted to be flattered and because--as
women say in such moods--men are so much more sensible than women.
Often they mean more sensitive. Charity did not know that it was
love, not friendship, that she required when at last she wrote to
Jim Dyckman and begged him to call on her.
The note struck him hard. It puzzled him by its tone. And he,
remembering how vainly he had pursued her, forgot her disdain and
recalled only how worthy of pursuit she was. He hated himself for
his disloyalty to Anita in comparing his fiancee with Charity, and
he cursed himself for finding Charity infinitely Anita's superior
in every way. But he hated and cursed in vain.
Kedzie, or "Anita," as he called her, was an outsider, a pretty thing
like a geisha, fascinating by her oddity and her foreignness, but,
after all, an alien who could interest one only temporarily. There
was something transient about Kedzie in his heart, and he had felt
it vaguely the moment he found himself pledged to her forever.
But Charity--he had loved her from perambulator days. She was his
tradition. His thoughts and desires had always come home to Charity.
Yet he was astonished at the sudden upheaval of his old passion.
It shook off the new affair as a volcano burns away the weeds that
have grown about its crater. He supposed that Charity wanted to
take up the moving-picture scheme in earnest, and he repented the
fact that he had gone to the studio for information and had come
away with a flirtation.
One thing was certain: he must not fail to answer Charity's summons.
He had an engagement with Kedzie, but he called her up and told her
the politest lie he could concoct. Then he made himself ready and
put on his festival attire.
* * * * *
Charity had grown sick of having people say, "How pale you are!"
"You've lost flesh, haven't you?" "Have you been ill, dear?"--those
tactless observations that so many people feel it necessary to make,
as if there were no mirrors or scales or symptoms for one's
information and distress.
Annoyed by these conversational harrowers, Charity had finally gone
to her dressmaker, Dutilh, and asked him to save her from vegetation!
He saw that she was a young woman in sore need of a compliment, and
he flattered her lavishly. He did more for her improvement in five
minutes than six doctors, seventeen clergymen, and thirty financiers
could have done. A compliment in time is a heart-stimulant with no
acetanilid reaction. Also he told her how wonderful she had been in
the past, recalling by its name and by the name of its French author
many a gown she had worn, as one would tell a great actress what
rôles he had seen her in.
He clothed her with praise and encouragement, threw a mantle of
crimson velvet about her. And she crimsoned with pride, and her
hard, thin lips velveted with beauty.
She responded so heartily that he was enabled to sell her a gown
of very sumptuous mode, its colors laid on as with the long sweeps
of a Sargent's brush. A good deal of flesh was not left to the
imagination; as in a Sargent painting, the throat, shoulders, and
arms were part of the color scheme. It was a gown to stride in,
to stand still in, in an attitude of heroic repose, or to recline
in with a Parthenonian grandeur.
This gown did not fit her perfectly, just as it came from Paris, but
it revealed its possibilities and restored her shaken self-confidence
immeasurably. If women--or their husbands--could afford it, they
would find perhaps more consolation, restoration, and exaltation at
the dressmakers' than at--it would be sacrilege to say where.
By the time Charity's new gown was ready for the last fitting Charity
had lost her start, and when Dutilh went into the room where she had
dressed he was aghast at the difference. On the first day the gown
had thrilled her to a collaboration with it. Now she hardly stood
up in it. She drooped with exaggerated awkwardness, shrugged her
shoulders with sarcasm, and made a face of disgust.
Dutilh tried to mask his disappointment with anger. When Charity
groaned, "Aren't we awful--this dress and I?" he retorted: "You are,
but don't blame the gown. For God's sake, do something for the dress.
It would do wonders for you if you would help it!" He believed in
a golden rule for his wares: do for your clothes what you would have
them do for you.
He threatened not to let Charity have the gown at all at any price.
He ordered her to take it off. She refused. In the excitement of
the battle she grew more animated. Then he whirled her to a mirror
"Look like that, and you're a made woman."
She was startled by the vivacity, the authority she saw in her
features so long dispirited. She caught the trick of the expression.
And actors know that one's expression can control one's moods almost
as much as one's moods control one's expressions.
So she persuaded Dutilh to sell her the dress. When she got it she
did not know just when to wear it, for she was going out but rarely,
and then she did not want to be conspicuous. She decided to make
Jim Dyckman's call the occasion for the launching of the gown. His
name came up long before she had put it on to be locked in for
When she thrust her arms forward like a diver and entered the gown
by way of the fourth dimension her maid cried out with pride, and,
standing with her fingertips scattered over her face, wept tears
down to her knuckles. She welcomed the prodigal back to beauty.
"Oh, ma'am, but it's good to see you lookin' lovely again!"
While she bent to the engagement of the hooks Charity feasted on
her reflection in the cheval-glass. She was afraid that she was
a little too much dressed up and a little too much undressed. There
in Dutilh's shop, with the models and the assistants about, she was
but a lay figure, a clothes-horse. At the opera she would have been
one of a thousand shoulder-showing women. For a descent upon one poor
caller, and a former lover at that, the costume frightened her.
But it was too late to change, and she caught up a scarf of gossamer
and twined it round her neck to serve as a mitigation.
Hearing her footsteps on the stairs at last, Dyckman hurried to
meet her. As she swept into the room she collided with him, softly,
fragrantly. They both laughed nervously, they were both a little
She found the drawing-room too formal and led him into the library.
She pointed him to a great chair and seated herself on the corner
of a leather divan nearly as big as a touring-car. In the dark, hard
frame she looked richer than ever. He could not help seeing how much
more important she was than his Anita.
Anita was pretty and peachy, delicious, kissable, huggable,
a pleasant armful, a lapload of girlish mischief. Charity was
beautiful, noble, perilous, a woman to live for, fight for, die
for. Kedzie was to Charity as Rosalind to Isolde.
It was time for Jim to play Tristan, but he had no more blank
verse in him than a polo score-card. Yet the simple marks on such
a form stand for tremendous energy and the utmost thrill.
"Well, how are you, anyway, Charity? How goes it with you?" he
said. "Gee! but you look great to-night. What's the matter with
you? You're stunning!"
Charity laughed uncannily. "You're the only one that thinks so,
"I always did admire you more than anybody else could; but, good
Lord! everybody must have eyes."
"I'm afraid so," said Charity. "But you're the only one that has
imagination about me."
"My husband can't see me at all."
"Oh, him!" Jim growled. "What's he up to now?"
"I don't know," said Charity. "I hardly ever see him. He's chucked
me for good."
Jim studied her with idolatry and with the intolerant ferocity of
a priest for the indifferent or the skeptical. The idol made her
plaint to her solitary worshiper.
"I'm horribly lonely, Jim. I don't go anywhere, meet anybody, do
anything but mope. Nobody comes to see me or take me out. Even you
kept away from me till I had to send for you."
"You ordered me off the premises in Newport, if you remember."
"Yes, I did, but I didn't realize that I was mistreating the only
admirer I had."
This was rather startling in its possible implications. It scared
Dyckman. He gazed at her until her eyes met his. There was something
in them that made him look away. Then he heard the gasp of a little
sob, and she began to cry.
"Why, Charity!" he said. "Why, Charity Coe!"
She smiled at the pet name and the tenderness in his voice, and
her tears stopped.
"Jim," she said, "I told Doctor Mosely all about my affairs, and
I simply spoiled his day for him and he dropped me. So I think
I'll tell you."
"Go to the other extreme, eh?" said Jim.
"Yes, I'm between the devil and the high-Church. I've no doubt
I'm to blame, but I can't seem to stand the punishment with no
change in sight. I've tried to, but I've got to the end of my string
and--well--whether you can help me or not--I've got to talk or die.
Do you mind if I run on?"
"God bless you, I'd be tickled to death."
"It will probably only ruin your evening."
"Help yourself. I'd rather have you wreck all my evenings
He had begun well, which was more than usual. She did not expect him
to finish. She thanked him with a look of more than gratitude.
"Jim," she said, "I've found out that my husband is--well--there's
a certain ex-dancer named L'Etoile, and he--she--they--"
Instead of being astounded, Dyckman was glum.
"Oh, you've found that out at last, have you? Maybe you'll learn
before long that there's trouble in France. But of course you know
that. You were over there. Why, before you came back he was dragging
that animal around with him. I saw him with her."
"You knew it as long ago as that?"
"Everybody knew it."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because I'm a low-lived coward, I suppose. I tried to a dozen times,
but somehow I couldn't. By gad! I came near writing you an anonymous
letter. I couldn't seem to stoop to that, though, and I couldn't seem
to rise to telling you out and out. And now that you know, what are
you going to do about it?"
"That's what I don't know. Doctor Mosely wanted me to try to
get him back."
"Doctor Mosely's got softening of the brain. To think of your trying
to persuade a man to live with you! You of all people, and him of
all people! Agh! If you got him, what would you have? And how long
would you keep him? You can't make a household pet out of a laughing
hyena. Chuck him, I say."
"But that means the divorce-court, Jim."
"What of it? It's cleaner and sweeter than this arrangement."
"But the newspapers?"
"Ah, what do you care about them? They'd only publish what everybody
that knows you knows already. And what's the diff' if a lot of
strangers find out that you're too decent to tolerate that man's
behavior? Somebody is always roasting even the President, but he
gets along somehow. A lot of good people oppose divorce, but I was
reading that the best people used to oppose anesthetics and education
and republics. It's absolutely no argument against a thing to say
that a lot of the best people think it is outrageous. They've always
fought everything, especially freedom for the women. They said it
was dangerous for you to select your husbands, or manage your
property, or learn to read, or go out to work, or vote, or be in
a profession--or even be a war nurse. The hatred of divorce is all
of a piece with the same old habit good people have of trying to
mind other people's business for 'em."
"But Doctor Mosely says that marriage is a sacrament."
"Well, if a marriage like yours is a sacrament, give me a nice,
decent white-slave market."
"That's the way it seems to me, but the Church, especially our
Church, is so ferocious. Doctor Mosely preached a sermon against
divorce and remarriage, and it was frightful what he said about
women who change husbands. I'm afraid of it, Jim. I can't face the
abuse and the newspapers, and I can't face the loneliness, either.
I'm desperately lonely."
"For him?" Jim groaned.
"No, I've got over loving him. I'll never endure him again,
especially now that she has a better right to him."
She could not bring herself at first to tell him what she knew
of Zada, but at length she confessed that she had listened to the
dictagraph and had heard that Zada was to be a mother. Dyckman was
dumfounded; then he snarled:
"Thank God it's not you that's going to be--for him--Well, don't you
call that divorce enough? How can you call your marriage a sacrament
when he has gone and made a real sacrament with another woman? It
takes two to keep a sacrament, doesn't it? Or does it? I don't think
I know what a sacrament is. But I tell you, there was never a plainer
duty in the world. Turn him over to his Zada. She's the worst woman
in town, and she's too good for him, at that. I don't see how you
can hesitate! How long can you stand it?"
"I don't know. I'm ready to die now. I'd rather die. I'd better die."
And once more she was weeping, now merely a lonely little girl. He
could not resist the impulse to go to her side. He dropped down by
her and patted her wrist gawkily. She caught his hand and clenched
it with strange power. He could tell by her throat that her heart
was leaping like a wild bird against a cage.
His own heart beat about his breast like a bird that has been set
frantic by another bird, and his soul ached for her. He yearned to
put his long arm about her and hold her tight, but he could not.
He had never seen her so. He could not understand what it was that
made a darkling mist of her eyes and gave her parted lips such an
impatient ecstasy of pain.
Suddenly, with an intuition unusual to him, he understood. He shrank
from her, but not with contempt or blame. There was something divine
about his merciful comprehension, but his only human response was
a most ungodly wrath. He got to his feet, muttering:
"I ought to kill him. Maybe I will. I've got to beat him within
an inch of his life."
Charity was dazed by his abrupt revolt. "What do you mean, Jim?
Who is it you want to beat?"
He laughed, a bloodthirsty laugh. "I'll find him!"
He rushed out into the hall, caught up his hat and coat, and was
gone. Charity was bewildered out of her wits. She could not imagine
what had maddened him. She only knew that Dyckman also had abandoned
her. He would find Cheever and fight him as one stag another. And
the only result would be the death of one or both and a far more
odious disgrace than the scandal she had determined to avoid.
Dyckman was at least half mad, and half inspired. Charity had been
his lifelong religion. He had thought of her with ardor, but also
with a kind of awe. He had wanted to be her husband. Failing to win
her, he had been horrified to see that Cheever, possessing her, was
still not satisfied.
He had never dreamed what this neglect might mean to her. He had
not thought of her as mere woman, after all, with more than pride
to satisfy, with more than a mind to suffer. When the realization
overwhelmed him her nobility was not diminished in his eyes,
but to all her former qualities was added the human element. She
was flesh and blood, and a martyr in the flames. And the ingrate
who had the godlike privilege of her embrace abandoned her for
a public creature.
Dyckman felt himself summoned to avenge her.
It happened that he found the Cheever limousine waiting outside.
He said to the chauffeur:
"Where does Miss Zada L'Etoile live?"
The chauffeur was startled. He answered, with a touch of raillery:
"Search me, sir. How should I know?"
"I want none of your back talk," said Dyckman, ready to maul the
chauffeur or anybody for practice. He took out his pocket-book and
lifted the first bill he came to. It was a yellow boy. He repeated,
"Where does Zada L'Etoile live?"
The chauffeur told him and got the bill. It was better than the
poke in the eye he could have had instead.
Dyckman had sent his own car home. He had difficulty in finding
a taxicab on Fifth Avenue along there. At length he stopped one
and named the apartment-house where Zada lived.
The hall-boy was startled by his manner, amazed to hear the famous
Dyckman ask for Miss L'Etoile. He telephoned the name while Dyckman
fumed. After some delay he was told to come up.
Zada was alone--at least Cheever was not there. She had been
astounded when Dyckman's name came through the telephone. Her
first thought had been that Cheever had met with an accident and
that Dyckman was bringing the news. She had given up the hope
of involving Dyckman with Mrs. Cheever, after wasting Cheever's
money on vain detectives.
When Dyckman was ushered in she greeted him from her divan.
"Pardon my negligée," she said. "I'm not very well."
He saw at a glance that the dictagraph had told the truth. She was
entirely too well. He felt his wrath at Zada vanishing. But this
also he transferred to Cheever's account. He spoke as quietly as
he could, though his face revealed his excitement.
"Sorry to trouble you, but I had hoped to find Mr. Cheever here."
"Mr. Cheever?! Here?!" Zada exclaimed, with that mixture of the
interrogation and exclamation points for which we have no symbol.
She tried to look surprised at the unimaginable suggestion of
Cheever's being in her environs. She succeeded as well as Dyckman
did in pretending that his errand was trivial.
"Er--yes, I imagined you might happen to know where I could find
him. I have a little business with him."
Zada thought to crush him with a condescension--a manicurial
"Have you been to the gentleman's home?"
Dyckman laughed: "Yes, but he wasn't there. He isn't there much
"Oh, do they?" Zada sneered. "Well, did They tell you he would be
"No, but I thought--"
"Better try his office in the morning."
"Thanks. I can't wait. What club does he affect most now?"
"Ask They," said Zada, ending the interview with a labored yawn.
But when Dyckman bowed and turned to go, her curiosity bested her
indignation. "In case I should by any chance see him, could I give
him your message?"
Dyckman laughed a sort of pugilistic laugh, and his self-conscious
fist asserted itself.
"No, thanks, I'm afraid you couldn't. Good-by."
Zada saw his big fingers gathering--convening, as it were, into a
fist like a mace, and she was terrified for her man. She scrambled
to her feet and caught Dyckman in the hall.
"What are you going to do to Mr. Cheever?"
Dyckman answered in the ironic slang, "I'm not going to do a thing
Zada's terror increased. "What harm has he ever done to you?"
"I didn't say he had done me any harm."
"Is it because of his wife?"
"Leave her out of it."
There was the old phrase again. Cheever kept hurling it at her
whenever she referred to the third corner of the triangle.
Zada remembered when Cheever had threatened to kill Dyckman if he
found him. Now he would be unarmed. He was not so big a man as
Dyckman. She could see him being throttled slowly to death, leaving
her and her child-to-be unprotected in their shameful folly.
"For God's sake, don't!" she implored him. "I'm not well. I mustn't
have any excitement, I beg you--for my sake--"
"For your sake," said Dyckman, with a scorn that changed to pity
as she clung to him--"for your sake I'll give him a couple of extra
That was rather dazzling, the compliment of having Jim Dyckman as
her champion! Her old habit of taking everybody's flattery made her
forget for the moment that she was now a one-man woman. Her clutch
relaxed under the compliment just long enough for Dyckman to escape
without violence. He darted through the door and closed it behind
She tugged at the inside knob, but he was so long that he could
hold the outside knob with one hand and reach the elevator-bell
with the other.
When the car came up he released the knob and lifted his hat with
a pleasant "Good-night." She dared not pursue him in the garb
She returned terrified to her room. Then she ran to the telephone to
pursue Cheever and warn him. They had quarreled at the dinner-table.
He had left her on the ground that it was dangerous for her to be
excited as he evidently excited her. It is one of the most craven
shifts of a man for ending an endless wrangle with a woman.
Zada tried three clubs before she found Cheever. When she heard
his voice at last she was enraptured. She tried to entice him into
her own shelter.
"I'm sorry I was so mean. Come on home and make peace with me."
"All right, dear, I will."
"After a while, darling. I'm sitting in a little game of poker."
"You'd better not keep me waiting!" she warned. The note was an
unfortunate reminder of his bondage. It rattled his shackles. He
could not even have a few hours with old cronies at the club. She
was worse than Charity had ever dreamed of being. She heard the
resentment in his answer and felt that he would stay away from her
for discipline. She threw aside diplomacy and tried to frighten him
"Jim Dyckman is looking for you."
"Dyckman? Me! Why?"
"He wants to beat you up."
Cheever laughed outright at this. "You're crazy, darling. What
has Dyckman got against me?"
"I don't know, but I know he's hunting you."
"I haven't laid eyes on him for weeks. We've had no quarrel."
Zada was frantic. She howled across the wire: "Come home, I beg
and implore you. He'll hurt you--he may kill you."
Again Cheever laughed: "You're having hallucinations, my love.
You'll feel better in the morning. Where the deuce did you get
such a foolish notion, anyway?"
"From Jim Dyckman," she stormed. "He was here looking for you. If
anybody's going crazy, he's the one. I had a struggle with him. He
broke away. I begged him not to harm you, but he said he'd give you
a few extra jolts for my sake. Please, please, don't let him find
Cheever was half convinced and quite puzzled. He knew that Dyckman
had never forgiven him for marrying Charity. The feud had smoldered.
He could not conceive what should have revived it, unless Charity
had been talking. He had not thought of any one's punishing him for
neglecting her. But if Dyckman had enlisted in her cause--well,
Cheever was afraid of hardly anything in the world except boredom
and the appearance of fear. He answered Zada with a gruff:
"Let him find me if he wants to. Or since you know him so well,
tell me where he'll be, and I'll go find him."
He could hear Zada's strangled moan. How many times, since male
and female began, have women made wild, vain protests against
the battle-habit, the duel-tribunal? Mothers, daughters, wives,
mistresses, they have been seldom heard and have been forced to wait
remote in anguish till their man has come back or been brought back,
victorious or baffled or defeated, maimed, wounded, or dead.
It meant everything to Zada that her mate should not suffer either
death or publicity. But chiefly her love of him made outcry now. She
could not endure the vision of her beloved receiving the hammering
of the giant Dyckman.
The telephone crackled under the load of her prayers, but Cheever
had only one answer:
"If you want me to run away from him or anybody, you don't get your
wish, my darling."
Finally she shrieked, "If you don't come home I'll come there and
"Ladies are not allowed in the main part of this club, dearest,"
said Cheever. "Thank God there are a few places where two men can
settle their affairs without the help of womanly intuition."
"He wants to pound you to death," she screamed. "If you don't
promise me, I'll come there and break in if I have to scratch
the eyes out of the doorkeeper."
He knew that she was capable of doing this very thing; so he made
answer, "All right, my dear. I surrender."
"You'll come home?"
"Yes, indeed. Right away."
"Oh, thank God! You do love me, then. How soon will you be here?"
"Very shortly, unless the taxi breaks down."
He hung up the reverberant receiver and said to the telephone-boy:
"If anybody calls me, I've gone out. No matter who calls me, I'm
Then he went to the card-room, found that the game had gone on
without him, cashed in his chips, and excused himself. He was neither
winning nor losing, so that he could not be accused of "cold feet."
That was one of the most intolerable accusations to him. He could
violate any of the Commandments, but in the sportsman's decalogue
"Thou shalt not have cold feet" was one that he honored in the
observance, not the breach.
He went down to the reading-room, a palatial hall fifty yards long
with a table nearly as big as a railroad platform, on a tremendous
rug as wide and deep as a lawn. About it were chairs and divans that
would have satisfied a lotus-eater.
Cheever avoided proffers of conversation and pretended to read the
magazines and newspapers. He kept his eyes on the doors. He did not
want to take any one into his confidence, as he felt that, after all,
Zada might have been out of her head. He did not want any seconds
or bottle-holders. He was not afraid. Still, he did not care to be
surprised by a mad bull. He felt that he could play toreador with
neatness and despatch provided he could foresee the charge.
Among the magazines Cheever glanced at was one with an article on
various modes of self-defense, jiu-jitsu, and other devices by which
any clever child could apparently remove or disable a mad elephant.
But Cheever's traditions did not incline to such methods. He had the
fisting habit. He did not feel called toward clinching or choking,
twisting, tripping, knifing, swording, or sandbagging. His wrath
expressed itself, and gaily, in the play of the triceps muscle.
For mobility he used footwork and headwork. For shield he had
his forearms or his open hands--for weapons, the ten knuckles at
the other end of the exquisite driving-shafts beginning in his
He had been a clever fighter from childhood. He had been a successful
boxer and had followed the art in its professional and amateur
developments. He knew more of prize-ring history and politics than
of any other. He often regretted that his inherited money had robbed
him of a career as a heavy-weight. He was not so big as Dyckman, but
he had made fools of bigger men. He felt that the odds were a trifle
in his favor, especially if Dyckman were angry, as he must be to go
roaring about town frightening one silly woman for another's sake.
He would have preferred not to fight in the club. It was the best
of all possible clubs, and he supposed that he would be expelled
for profaning its sacrosanctity with a vulgar brawl. But anything
was better than cold feet.
Finally his hundredth glance at the door revealed Jim Dyckman. He
was a long way off, but he looked bigger than Cheever remembered
him. Also he was calmer than Cheever had hoped him to be, and not
drunk, as he half expected.
Dyckman caught sight of Cheever, glared a moment, tossed his head
as if it had antlers on it, and came forward grimly and swiftly.
A few members of the club spoke to him. An attendant or two,
carrying cocktails or high-balls in or empty glasses out, stepped
Dyckman advanced down the room, and his manner was challenge enough.
But he paused honorably to say, "Cheever, I'm looking for you."
"So I hear."
"You had fair warning, then, from your--woman?"
"Which one?" said Cheever, with his irresistible impudence.
That was the fulminate that exploded Dyckman's wrath. "You
blackguard!" he roared, and plunged. His left hand was out and
open, his great right fist back. As he closed, it flashed past
him and drove into the spot where Cheever's face was smirking.
But the face was gone. Cheever had bent his neck just enough to
escape the fist. He met the weight of Dyckman's rush with all his
own weight in a short-arm jab that rocked Dyckman's whole frame
and crumpled the white cuirass of his shirt.
The fight was within an ace of being ended then and there, but
Dyckman's belly was covered with sinew, and he digested the bitter
medicine. He tried to turn his huge grunt into a laugh. He was
at least not to be guilty of assaulting a weakling.
Dyckman was a bit of a boxer, too. Like most rich men's sons, he
was practised in athletics. The gentleman of our day carries no
sword and no revolver; he carries his weapons in his gloves.
Dyckman acknowledged Cheever's skill and courage by deploying and
falling back. He sparred a moment. He saw that Cheever was quicker
than he at the feint and the sidestep.
He grew impatient at this dancing duet. His wrath was his worst
enemy and Cheever's ally. Cheever taunted him, and he heard the
voices of the club members who were rushing from their chairs in
consternation, and running in from the other rooms, summoned by
the wireless excitement that announces fights.
There was not going to be time for a bout, and the gallery was
bigger than Dyckman had expected. He went in hell-for-leather. He
felt a mighty satisfaction when his good left hand slashed through
Cheever's ineffectual palms, reached that perky little mustache
and smeared that amiable mouth with blood.
In the counterblow the edge of Cheever's cuff caught on Dyckman's
knuckles and ripped the skin. This saved Dyckman's eye from
mourning. And now wherever he struck he left a red mark. It
helped his target-practice.
Cheever gave up trying to mar Dyckman's face and went for his
waistcoat. All is fair in such a war, and below the belt was his
favorite territory. He hoped to put Dyckman out. Dyckman tried
to withhold his vulnerable solar plexus by crouching, but Cheever
kept whizzing through his guard like a blazing pinwheel even when
it brought his jaw in reach of an uppercut.
Dyckman clinched and tried to bear him down, but Cheever, reaching
round him, battered him with the terrific kidney-blow, and Dyckman
flung him off.
And now servants came leaping into the fray, venturing to lay hands
on the men. They could hear older members pleading: "Gentlemen!
Gentlemen! For God's sake remember where you are." One or two went
calling, "House Committee!"
Such blows as were struck now were struck across other heads and
in spite of other arms. Both men were seized at length and dragged
away, petted and talked to like infuriated stallions. They stood
panting and bleeding, trying not to hear the voices of reason. They
glared at each other, and it became unendurable to each that the
other should be able to stand erect and mock him.
As if by a signal agreed on, they wrenched and flung aside their
captors and dashed together again, forgetting science, defense,
caution, everything but the lust of carnage. Dyckman in freeing
himself left his coat in the grasp of his retainers.
There is nothing more sickeningly thrilling than the bare-handed
ferocity of two big men, all hate and stupid power, smashing and
being smashed, trying to defend and destroy and each longing to
knock the other lifeless before his own heart is stopped. It
seemed a pity to interrupt it, and it was perilous as well.
For a long moment the two men flailed each other, bored in, and
It was thud and thwack, slash and gouge. Wild blows went through
the air like broadswords, making the spectators groan at what they
might have done had they landed. Blows landed and sent a head back
with such a snap that one looked for it on the floor. Flesh split,
and blood spurted. Cheever reached up and swept his nose and mouth
clear of gore--then shot his reeking fist into Dyckman's heart as
if he would drive it through.
It was amazing to see Dyckman's answering swing batter Cheever
forward to one knee. Habit and not courtesy kept Dyckman from
jumping him. He stood off for Cheever to regain his feet. It was not
necessary, for Cheever's agility had carried him out of range, but
the tolerance maddened him more than anything yet, and he ceased
to duck and dodge. He stood in and battered at Dyckman's stomach
till a gray nausea began to weaken his enemy. Dyckman grew afraid
of a sudden blotting out of consciousness. He had known it once when
the chance blow of an instructor had stretched him flat for thirty
He could not keep Cheever off far enough to use his longer reach.
He forgot everything but the determination to make ruins of that
handsome face before he went out. He knocked loose one tooth and
bleared an eye, but it was not enough. Finally Cheever got to him
with a sledge-hammer smash in the groin. It hurled Dyckman against
and along the big table, just as he put home one magnificent,
majestic, mellifluous swinge with all his body in it. It planted
an earthquake under Cheever's ear.
Dyckman saw him go backward across a chair and spinning over it and
with it and under it to the floor. Then he had only the faintness
and the vomiting to fight. He made one groping, clutching, almighty
effort to stand up long enough to crow like a victorious fighting
cock, and he did. He stood up. He held to the table; he did not
drop. And he said one triumphant, "Humph!"
And now the storm of indignation began. Dyckman was a spent and
bankrupt object, and anybody could berate him. A member of the house
committee reviled him with profanity and took the names of witnesses
who could testify that Dyckman struck the first blow.
The pitiful stillness of Cheever, where a few men knelt about him,
turned the favor to him. One little whiffet told Dyckman to his
face that it was a dastardly thing he had done. He laughed. He had
his enemy on the floor. He did not want everything.
Dyckman made no answer to the accusations. He did not say that he
was a crusader punishing an infidel for his treachery to a poor,
neglected woman. He had almost forgotten what he was fighting for.
He was too weak even to oppose the vague advice he heard that
Cheever should be taken "home." He had a sardonic impulse to give
Zada's address, but he could not master his befuddled wits enough
The little fussy rooster who called Dyckman dastardly said that he
ought to be arrested. The reception he got for his proposal to bring
a policeman into the club or take a member out of it into the jail
and the newspapers was almost annihilating. The chairman of the house
"I trust that it is not necessary to say that this wretched and most
unheard-of affair must be kept--unheard of. But I may say that I have
here a list of the members present, and I shall make a list of the
club servants present. If one word of this leaks out, each gentleman
present will be brought before the council, and every servant will
be discharged immediately--every servant without regard to guilt,
innocence, or time of service."
Dyckman would have liked to spend the night at the club, but its
hospitable air had chilled. He sent for his big coat, turned up
the collar, pulled his hat low, and crept into a taxicab. His father
and mother were out, and he got to his room without explanations.
His valet, Dallam, gasped at the sight of him, but Dyckman laughed:
"You ought to see the other fellow."
Then he crept into the tub, thence into his bed, and slept till he
was called to the telephone the next morning by Mrs. Cheever.
As he might have expected, Charity was as far as possible from
gratitude. The only good news she gave him was that Cheever had
been brought home half dead, terribly mauled, broken in pride,
and weeping like a baby with his shame. Dyckman could not help
swelling a little at that.
But when Charity told him that Cheever accused her of setting him
on and swore that he would get even with them both, Dyckman realized
that fists are poor poultices for bruises, and revenge the worst
of all solutions. Finally, Charity denounced Jim and begged him
once more to keep out of her sight and out of her life.
Dyckman was in the depths of the blues, and a note to the effect
that he had been suspended from his club, to await action looking
toward his expulsion, left him quite alone in the world.
In such a mood Kedzie Thropp called him up, with a cheery hail
that rejoiced him like the first cheep of the first robin after
a miserable winter. He said that he would call that evening,
with the greatest possible delight. She said that she was very
lonely for him, and they should have a blissful evening with just
But it proved to be a rather crowded occasion in Kedzie's apartment.
Her father and mother reached there before Dyckman did, to Kedzie's
Turn a parable upside down, and nearly everything falls out of it.
Even the beautiful legend of the prodigal son returning home to
his parents could not retain its value when it was topsy-turvied
by the Thropps.
Their son was a daughter, but she had run away from them to batten
on the husks of city life, and had prospered exceedingly. It was
her parents who heard of her fame and had journeyed to the city
to ask her forgiveness and throw themselves on her neck. Kedzie
was now wonderful before the nation under the nom de film of Anita
Adair; but if her father had not spanked her that fatal day in New
York she might never have known glory. So many people have been
kicked up-stairs in this world.
But Kedzie had not forgiven the outrage, and her father had no
intention of reminding her how much she owed to it. In fact, he
wished he had thought to cut off his right hand, scripturally,
before it caused him to offend.
When the moving-picture patrons in Nimrim, Missouri, first saw
Kedzie's pictures on the screen they were thrilled far beyond the
intended effect of the thriller. The name "Anita Adair" had meant
nothing, of course, among her old neighbors, but everybody had known
Kedzie's ways ever since first she had had ways. Her image had no
sooner walked into her first scene than fellows who had kissed her,
and girls who had been jealous of her, began to buzz.
"Look, that's Kedzie."
"For mercy's sake, Kedzie Thropp!"
Yep, that's old Throppie."
"Why--would you believe it?--that's old Ad Thropp's girl--the one
what was lost so long."
In the Nimrim Nickeleum films were played twice of an evening. The
seven-thirty audience was usually willing to go home and leave space
for the nine-o'clock audience unless the night was cold. But on this
immortal evening people were torn between a frenzy to watch Kedzie
go by again and a frenzy to run and get Mr. and Mrs. Thropp.
A veritable Greek chorus ran and got the Thropps, and lost their
seats. There was no room for the Thropps to get in. If the manager
had not thrown out a few children and squeezed the parents through
the crowd they would have lost the view.
The old people stood in the narrow aisle staring at the apotheosis
of this brilliant creature in whose existence they had collaborated.
They had the mythological experience of two old peasants seeing their
child translated as in a chariot of fire. Their eyes were dazzled
with tears, for they had mourned her as lost, either dead in body
or dead of soul. They had imagined her drowned and floating down the
Bay, or floating along the sidewalks of New York. They had feared
for her the much-advertised fate of the white slaves--she might be
bound out to Singapore or destined for Alaskan dance-halls. There
are so many fates for parents to dread for their lost children.
To have their Kedzie float home to them on pinions of radiant beauty
was an almost intolerable beatitude. Kedzie's mother started down
the aisle, crying, "Kedzie, my baby! My little lost baby!" before
Adna could check her.
Kedzie did not answer her mother, but went on with her work as if
she were deaf. She came streaming from the projection-machine in
long beams of light. This vivid, smiling, weeping, dancing, sobbing
Kedzie was only a vibration rebounding from a screen. Perhaps that
is all any of us are.
One thing was certain: the Thropps determined to redeem their lost
lamb as soon as they could get to New York. Their lost lamb was
gamboling in blessed pastures. The Nimrim people spoke to the parents
with reverence, as if their son had been elected President--which
would not have been, after all, so wonderful as their daughter's
being a screen queen.
There is no end to the astonishments of our every-day life. While
the Thropps had been watching their daughter disport before them in
a little dark room in Missouri, and other people in numbers of other
cities were seeing her in duplicate, she herself was in none of the
places, but in her own room--with Jim Dyckman paying court to her.
Kedzie was engaged in reeling off a new life of her own for the
astonishment of the angels, or whatever audience it is for whose
amusement the eternal movie show of mankind is performed. Kedzie's
story was progressing with cinematographic speed and with transitions
almost as abrupt as the typical five-reeler.
Kedzie was an anxious spectator as well as an actor in her own life
film. She did not see how she could get out of the tangled situation
her whims, her necessities, and her fates had constructed about her.
She had been more or less forced into a betrothal with the wealthy
Jim Dyckman before she had dissolved her marriage with Tommie
Gilfoyle. She could not find Gilfoyle, and she grew frenzied with
the dread that her inability to find him might thwart all her dreams.
Then came the evening when Jim Dyckman telephoned her that he could
not keep his appointment with her. It was the evening he responded
to Charity Coe's appeal and met Peter Cheever fist to fist. Kedzie
heard, in the polite lie he told, a certain tang of prevarication,
and that frightened her. Why was Jim Dyckman trying to shake her?
Once begun, where would the habit end?
That was a dull evening for Kedzie. She stuck at home without other
society than her boredom and her terrors. She had few resources for
the enrichment of solitude. She tried to read, but she could not
find a popular novel or a short story in a magazine exciting enough
to keep her mind off the excruciating mystery of the next instalment
in her own life. Her heart ached with the fear that she might never
know the majesty of being Mrs. Jim Dyckman. That almost royal
prerogative grew more and more precious the more she feared to lose
it. She imagined the glory with a ridiculous extravagance. Her
theory of the life lived by the wealthy aristocrats was fantastic,
but she liked it and longed for it.
The next day she waited to hear from Jim till she could endure the
anxiety no longer. She ventured to call him at his father's home.
She waited with trepidation while she was put through to his room,
but his enthusiasm when he recognized her voice refreshed her hopes
and her pride. She did not know that part of her welcome was due to
the fierce rebuke Charity Coe had inflicted on him a little before
because he had mauled her husband into a wreck.
That evening she waited for Jim Dyckman's arrival with an ardor
almost akin to love. He had begged off from dinner. He did not
explain that he carried two or three visible fist marks from
Cheever's knuckles which he did not wish to exhibit in a public
So Kedzie dined at home in solitary gloom. She had only herself
for guest and found herself most stupid company.
She dined in her bathrobe and began immediately after dinner
to dress for conquest. She hoped that Dyckman would take her out
to the theater or a dance, and she put on her best bib and tucker,
the bib being conspicuously missing. She was taking a last look at
the arrangement of her little living-room when the telephone-bell
rang and the maid came to say:
"'Scuse me, Miss Adair, but hall-boy says your father and mother
Kedzie almost fainted. She did not dare refuse to see them. She had
not attained that indifference to the opinions of servants which is
the only real emancipation from being the servant of one's servants.
While she fumbled with her impulses the maid rather stated than
asked, "Shall I have 'em sent up, of course?"
"Of course," Kedzie snapped.
The Thropps knew Kedzie well enough to be afraid of her. A parental
intuition told them that if they wrote to her she would be a long
while answering; if they telephoned her she would be out of town.
So they came unannounced. It had taken them the whole day to trace
her. They learned with dismay that she was no longer "working" at
the Hyperfilm Studio.
Adna Thropp and his wife were impressed by the ornate lobby of the
apartment-house, by the livery of the hall-boy and the elevator-boy,
by the apron and cap of the maid who let them in, and by the hall
But when they saw their little Kedzie standing before them in her
evening gown--her party dress as Mrs. Thropp would say--they were
overwhelmed. A daughter is a fearsome thing to a father, especially
when she is grown up and dressed up. Adna turned his eyes away from
his shining child.
But the sense of shame is as amenable to costume as to the lack of
it, and Kedzie--the shoulder-revealer--was as much shocked by what
her parents had on as they by what she had off.
The three embraced automatically rather than heartily, and Kedzie
came out of her mother's bosom chilled, though it was a warm night
and Mrs. Thropp had traveled long. Also there was a lot of her.
Kedzie gave her parents the welcome that the prodigal's elder brother
gave him. She was thinking: "What will Jim Dyckman say when he learns
that my real name is Thropp and sees this pair of Thropps? They look
as if their name would be Thropp."
Adna made the apologies--glad tidings being manifestly out of place.
"Hope we 'ain't put you out, daughter. We thought we'd s'prise you.
We went to the fact'ry. Man at the door says you wasn't workin' there
no more. Give us this address. Right nice place here, ain't it? Looks
like a nice class of folks lived here."
Kedzie heard the rounded "r" and the flat "a" which she had discarded
and scorned the more because she had once practised them. Children
are generally disappointed in their parents, since they cherish
ideals to which few parents may conform from lack of time, birth,
breeding, or money. Kedzie was not in any mood for parents that
night, anyway, but if she had to have parents, she would have chosen
an earl and a countess with a Piccadilly accent and a concert-grand
manner. Such parents it would have given her pleasure and pride to
exhibit to Dyckman. They would awe-inspire him and arrange the
marriage settlement, whatever that was.
But these poor old shabby dubs in their shabby duds--a couple who
were plebeian even in Jayville! If there had not been such a popular
prejudice against mauling one's innocent parents about, Kedzie would
probably have taken her father and mother to the dumb-waiter and sent
them down to the ash-can.
As she hung between despair and anxiety the telephone-bell rang. Jim
Dyckman called her up to say that he was delayed for half an hour.
Kedzie came back and invited her parents in. It made her sick to see
their awkwardness among the furniture. They went like scows adrift.
They priced everything with their eyes, and the beauty was spoiled
by the estimated cost.
Mrs. Thropp asked Kedzie how she was half a dozen times, and, before
Kedzie could answer, went on to tell about her own pains. Mr. Thropp
was freshly alive to the fact that New York's population is divided
into two classes--innocent visitors and resident pirates.
While they asked Kedzie questions that she did not care to answer,
and answered questions she had not cared to ask, Kedzie kept
wondering how she could get rid of them before Dyckman came. She
thanked Heaven that there was no guest-room in her apartment. They
could not live with her, at least.
Suddenly it came over the pretty, bewildered little thing with her
previous riddle of how to get rid of a last-year's husband so that
she might get a new model--suddenly it came over Kedzie that she had
a tremendous necessity for help, advice, parentage. The crying need
for a father and a mother enhanced the importance of the two she had
She broke right into her mother's description of a harrowing lumbago
she had suffered from: it was that bad she couldn't neither lay
nor set--that is to say, comfortable. Kedzie's own new-fangled
pronunciations and phrases fell from her mind, and she spoke in
"Listen, momma and poppa. I'm in a peck of trouble, and maybe you
can help me out."
"Is it money?" Adna wailed, sepulchrally.
"No, unless it's too much of the darned stuff."
Adna gasped at the paradox. He had no time to comment before she
assailed him with:
"You see, I've gone and got married."
This shattered them both so that the rest was only shrapnel after
shell. But it was a leveling bombardment of everything near, dear,
respectable, sacred. They were fairly rocked by each detonation
"Yes, I went and married a dirty little rat--name's Gilfoyle--he
thinks my real name's Anita Adair. I got it out of a movie, first
day I ran off from you folks. I had an awful time, momma--like
to starved--would have, only for clerkin' in a candy-store. Then
I got work posln' for commercial photographers. Did you see the
Breathasweeta Chewin' Gum Girl? No? That was me. Then I was a dancer
for a while--on the stage--and--the other girls were awful cats. But
what d'you expect? The life was terrible. We didn't wear much clo'es.
That didn't affect me, though; some of those nood models are terribly
respectable--not that I was nood, o' course. But--well--so I married
Tommie Gilfoyle. I don't know how I ever came to. He must have
mesmerized me, I guess."
"What did he work at?" said Adna.
"Is poetry work?"
"Work? That's all it is. Poetry is all work and no pay. You should
have seen that gink sweatin' over the fool stuff. He'd work a week
for five dollars' worth of foolishness. And besides, as soon as he
married me he lost his job."
"Poetry?" Adna mumbled.
"Well, we didn't live together very long, and I was perfectly
miser'ble every minute."
"You poor little honey child!" said Mrs. Thropp, who felt her lamb
coming back to her, and even Adna reached over and squeezed her hand
and rubbed her knuckles with his rough thumb uncomfortably.
But it was good to have allies, and Kedzie went on:
"By an' by Gilfoyle got the offer of a position in Chicago, and he
couldn't get there without borrowing all I had. But I was glad enough
to pay it to him. I'd 'a' paid his fare to the moon if he'd 'a' gone
there. Then I got a position with a moving-picture company--as
a jobber--I began very humbly at first, you see, and I underwent
great hardships." (She was quoting now from one of her favorite
interviews.) "My talent attracted the attention of the director,
Mr. Ferriday. He stands very high in the p'fession, but he's very
conceited--very! He thought he owned me because he was the first
one I let direct me. He wanted me to marry him."
"Did you?" said Adna, who was prepared for anything.
"I should say not!" said Kedzie. "How could I, with a husband in
Chicago? He wasn't much of a husband--just enough to keep me from
marrying a real man. For one day, who should come to the studio
but Jim Dyckman!"
"Any relation to the big Dyckmans?" said Adna.
"He's the son of the biggest one of them all," said Kedzie.
"And you know him?"
"Do I know him? Doesn't he want to marry me? Isn't that the whole
trouble? He's coming here this evening."
To Adna, the humble railroad claim-agent, the careless tossing off
of the great railroad name of Dyckman was what it would have been
to a rural parson to hear Kedzie remark:
"I'm giving a little dinner to-night to my friends Isaiah, Jeremiah,
and Mr. Apostle Paul."
When the shaken wits of the parents began to return to a partial
calm they remembered that Kedzie had mentioned somebody named
Gilfoyle--_Gargoyle_ would have been a better name for him,
since he grinned down in mockery upon a cathedral of hope.
Adna whispered, "When did you divorce--the other feller?"
"I didn't; that's the trouble."
"Why don't you?"
"I can't find him."
Adna spoke up: "I'll go to Chicago and find him and get a divorce,
if I have to pound it out of him. You say he's a poet?"
Adna had the theory that poetry went with tatting and china-painting
as an athletic exercise. Kedzie had no reason to think differently.
She had whipped her own poet, scratched him and driven him away in
disorder. She told her people of this and of her inability to recall
him, and of his failure to answer the letter she had sent to Chicago.
Her father and mother grew incandescent with the strain between the
obstacle and the opportunity--the irresistible opportunity chained
to the immovable obstacle. They raged against the fiend who had
ruined Kedzie's life, met her on her pathway, gagged and bound her,
and haled her to his lair.
Poor young Gilfoyle would have been flattered at the importance they
gave him, but he would not have recognized himself or Kedzie.
According to his memory, he had married Kedzie because she was a
pitiful, heartbroken waif who had lost her job and thrown herself
on his mercy. He had married her because he adored her and he wanted
to protect her and love her under the hallowing shelter of matrimony.
He had given her his money and his love and his toil, and they had
not interested her. She had berated him, chucked him, taken up with
a fast millionaire; and when he returned to resume his place in her
heart she had greeted him with her finger-nails.
Thus, as usual in wars, each side had bitter grievances which the
other could neither acknowledge nor understand. Gilfoyle was as
bitter against Kedzie as she was against him.
And even while the three Thropps were wondering how they could summon
this vanquished monster out of the vasty deep of Chicago they could
have found him by putting their heads out of the window and shouting
his name. He was loitering opposite in the areaway of an empty
residence. He did not know that Kedzie's father and mother were
with her, any more than they knew that he was with them.
After a deal of vain abuse of Gilfoyle for abducting their child
and thwarting her golden opportunity, Adna asked at last, "What
does Mr. Dyckman think of all this?"
"You don't suppose I've told him I was married, do you?" Kedzie
stormed. "Do I look as loony as all that?"
"Oh!" said Adna.
"Why, he doesn't even know my name is Thropp, to say nothing of
"Oh!" said Adna.
"Who does he think you are?" asked Mrs. Thropp.
"Anita Adair, the famous favorite of the screen," said Kedzie,
"Hadn't you better tell him?" Adna ventured.
"I don't dast. He'd never speak to me again. He'd run like a rabbit
if he thought I was a grass widow."
Mrs. Thropp remonstrated: "I don't believe he'd ever give you up.
He must love you a heap if he wants to marry you."
"That's so," said Kedzie. "He's always begging me to name the day.
But I don't know what he'd think if I was to tell him I'd been
lying to him all this time. He thinks I'm an innocent little girl.
I just haven't got the face to tell him I'm an old married woman
with a mislaid husband."
"You mean to give him up, then?" Mrs. Thropp sighed.
Adna raged back: "Give up a billion-dollar man for a fool poet?
Not on your tintype!"
Kedzie gave her father an admiring look. They were getting on
sympathetic ground. They understood each other.
Adna was encouraged to say: "If I was you, Kedzie, I'd just lay
the facts before him. Maybe he could buy the feller off. You could
probably get him mighty cheap."
Mrs. Thropp habitually resented all her husband's arguments. She
scorned this proposal.
"Don't you do it, Kedzie. Just as you said, he'd most likely run
like a rabbit."
"Then what am I going to do?" Kedzie whimpered.
There was a long silence. Mrs. Thropp pondered bitterly. She was
the most moral of women. She had brought up her children with
all rigidity. She had abused them for the least dereliction. She
had upheld the grimmest standard of virtue, with "Don't!" for its
watchword. Of virtue as a warm-hearted, alert, eager, glowing spirit,
cultivating the best and most beautiful things in life, she had no
idea. Virtue was to her a critic, a satirist, a neighborhood gossip,
something scathing and ascetic. That delicate balance between failing
to mind one's own business and failing to respond to another's
need did not bother her--nor did that theory of motherhood which
instils courage, independence, originality, and enthusiasm for life,
and starts children precociously toward beauty, love, grace,
philanthropy, invention, art, glory.
She had the utmost contempt for girls who went right according to
their individualities, or went wrong for any reason soever. The least
indiscretions of her own daughters she visited with endless tirades.
Kedzie had escaped them for a long while. She had succeeded as far
as she had because she had escaped from the most dangerous of all
influences--a perniciously repressive mother. She would have been
scolded viciously now if it had not been for Dyckman's mighty
The Dyckman millions in person were about to enter this room.
The Dyckman millions wanted Kedzie. If they got her it would be
a wonderful thing for a poor, hard-working girl who had had the
spunk to strike out for herself and make her own way without expense
to her father and mother. The Dyckman millions, furthermore, would
bring the millennium at once to the father and mother.
Mrs. Thropp, fresh from her village (yet not so very fresh--say,
rather, recent from sordid humility), sat dreaming of herself
as a Dyckman by marriage. She imagined herself and the great
Mrs. Dyckman in adjoining rocking-chairs, exchanging gossip and
recipes and anecdotes of their joint grandchildren-to-be. Just
to inhale the aroma of that future, that vision of herself as
Mr. Dyckman's mother-in-law, was like breathing in deeply of
laughing-gas; a skilful dentist could have extracted a molar
from her without attracting her attention. And in the vapor of
that stupendous temptation the devil actually did extract from her
her entire moral code without her noticing the difference.
If Kedzie had been married to Gilfoyle and besought in marriage by
another fellow of the same relative standard of income Mrs. Thropp
could have waxed as indignant as anybody. If Kedzie's new suitor
had earned as high as four thousand a year, which was a pile of
money in Nimrim, she would still have raged against the immorality
of tampering with the sacrament of marriage. She might have
withstood as much as twenty thousand a year for the sake of home
and religion. She abhorred divorce, as well as other people do
But to resist a million dollars and all that went with it was
impossible. To resist a score of millions was twenty times
impossibler. She made up her mind that Dyckman should not escape
from this temporary alliance with the Thropps without paying at
least a handsome initiation-fee. Suddenly she set her jaw and
broke into the parley of her husband and their daughter:
"Well, I've made up my mind. Adna, you shut up awhile and get on
out this room. I'm going to have a few words with my girl."
Adna looked into the face of his wife and saw there that
red-and-white-striped expression which always puts a wise man
to flight. He was glad to be permitted to retreat. When he was
gone Mrs. Thropp beckoned Kedzie to sit by her on the _chaise
longue_. She gathered her child up as some adoring old buzzard
might cuddle her nestling and impart choice ideals of scavengery.
"Look here, honey: you listen to your mother what loves you and knows
what's best for you. You've struck out for yourself and you've won
the grandest chance any girl ever had. If you throw it away you'll
be slappin' Providence right in the face. The Lord would never have
put this op'tunity in your reach if He hadn't meant you to have it."
"What you talking about, momma?" said Kedzie.
"My father always used to say: 'Old Man Op'tunity is bald-headed
except for one long scalplock in the middle his forehead. Grab him
as he comes toward you, for there's nothing to lay holt on as he
"What's all this talk about bald-heads?" Kedzie protested.
"Hush your mouth and listen to a woman that's older'n what you
are and knows more. Look at me! I've slaved all my life. I've been
a hard-workin', church-goin' woman, a good mother to a lot of
ungrateful children, a faithful, lovin' wife--and what have I got
for it? Look at me. Do you want to be like me when you get my age?
It was a hard question to answer politely, so Kedzie said nothing.
Mrs. Thropp went on:
"You got a chance to look like me and live hard and die poor, and
that's what'll happen if you stick by this low-life, good-for-nothing
dawg you married. Don't do it. Money's come your way. Grab it quick.
Hold on to it tight. Money's the one thing that counts. You take
my word for it. It don't matter much how you get it; the main thing
is Get it! People don't ask you How? but How Much? If you got enough
they don't care How."
"That's all right enough," said Kedzie, "but the main question with
me is How?"
"How is easy," said Mrs. Thropp, and her face seemed to turn yellow
as she lowered her voice. "This Mr. Dyckman is crazy about you. He
wants you. If he's willin' to marry you to get you, I guess he'll
be still more willin' to get you without marryin' you."
It was just a whisper. Kedzie had lived through village perils and
city perils; she had been one of a band of dancers as scant of morals
as of clothes; she had drifted through all sorts of encounters with
all sorts of people; but she had never heard so terrible a thought
so terribly expressed. She flinched from her mother. Her mother saw
that shudder of retreat and grew harsher:
"You tell Mr. Dyckman about your husband, and you'll lose him. You
will--for sure! If you lose him, you lose the greatest chance a girl
ever had. Take him--and make him pay for you!--in advance. Do you
understand? You can't get much afterward. You can get a fortune if
you get your money first. Look at you, how pretty you are! He'd give
you a million if you asked him. Get your money; then tell him if you
want to; but don't lose this chance. Do you hear me?"
"Yes," Kedzie sighed. "Yes, momma."
"Promise me on your solemn honor!"
Kedzie giggled with sheer nervousness at the phrase. But she would
The door-bell rang, and the maid admitted Jim Dyckman, who had
not paused to send his name up by the telephone. While he gave his
hat and stick to the maid and peeled off his gloves Kedzie was
Mrs. Thropp struggled to her feet. "He mustn't find me here," she
said. "Don't tell him about us."
But before she could escape Dyckman was in the doorway, almost too
tall to walk through it, almost as tall as twenty million dollars.
To Mrs. Thropp he was as majestic as the Colossus of Rhodes would
have been. Like the Colossus of Rhodes, he was a gilded giant.
Kedzie was paralyzed. Mrs. Thropp was inspired. Unity of purpose
guided her true. She had told her daughter to ignore Gilfoyle as
an unimportant detail. She certainly did not intend to substitute
a couple of crude parents as a new handicap.
No one knew Mrs. Thropp's cheapness of appearance better than she did.
A woman may grow shoddy and careless, but she rarely grows oblivious
of her uncomeliness. She will rather cherish it as the final cruelty
of circumstances. Mrs. Thropp was keenly alive to the effect it would
have on Dyckman if Kedzie introduced her and Adna as the encumbrances
on her beauty.
Adna, hearing the door-bell and Dyckman's entrance, returned to
the living-room from the bathroom, where he had taken refuge. He
stood in the hall now behind the puzzled Dyckman.
There was a dreadful silence for a moment. Jim spoke, shyly:
"Hello, Anita! How are you?"
"Hello, Jim!" Kedzie stammered. "This is--"
"I'm the janitor's wife," said Mrs. Thropp. "My husband had to come
up to see about the worter not running in the bathroom, and I came
along to see Miss--the young lady. She's been awful good to me.
Well, I'll be gettin' along. Good night, miss. Good night, sir."
To save herself, she could not think of Kedzie's screen name.
To save her daughter's future, she disowned her. She pushed past
Dyckman, and silencing the stupefied Adna with a glare, swept him
out through the dining-room into the kitchen.
It amazed Mrs. Thropp to find a kitchen so many flights up-stairs.
The ingenuity of the devices, the step-saving cupboard, the dry
ice-box with its coils of cold-air pipes, the gas-stove, the
electric appliances, were like wonderful new toys to her.
Adna was as comfortable as a cow in a hammock, and she would have
sent him away, but his hat was in the hall and she dared not go for
it. Besides, she wanted to wait long enough to learn the outcome
of Kedzie's adventure with Dyckman.
As soon as he was alone with Kedzie, Jim had taken her into his
arms. She blushed with an unwonted timidity in a new sense of the
forbiddenness of her presence there.
Her upward glance showed her that Jim had been in trouble, too. His
jaw had a mottled look, and one eyebrow was a trifle mashed.
"What on earth has happened to you?" she gasped.
"Oh, I had a little run-in with a fellow."
"What about?" said Kedzie.
"He must have hurt you terribly."
"Think so? Well, you ought to see him."
"What was it all about?"
"Oh, just a bit of an argument."
"Who was he?"
"Nobody you know."
"You mean it's none of my business?"
"I wouldn't put it that way, honey. I'd just rather not talk
Kedzie felt rebuffed and afraid. He had spent an evening away from
her and had reappeared with scars from a battle he would not describe.
She would have been still more terrified if she had known that he had
fought as the cavalier of Charity Coe Cheever. She would have been
somewhat reassured if she had known that Jim smarted less under the
bruises of Cheever's fists than under the rebuke he had had from
Charity for his interference in her marital crisis.
Jim was the more in need of Kedzie's devotion for being discarded
again by Charity. The warmth in Kedzie's greeting was due to her
fear of losing him. But he did not know that. He only knew that
she was exceedingly cordial to him, and it was his nature to repay
cordiality with usury.
He noted, however, that Kedzie's warmth had an element of anxiety.
He asked her what was worrying her, but she would not answer.
At length he made his usual remark. It had become a sort of standing
joke for him to say, "When do we marry?"
She always answered, "Give me a little more time." But to-night when
he laughed, "Well, just to get the subject out of the way, when do
we marry?" Kedzie did not make her regular answer. Her pretty face
was suddenly darkened with pain. She moaned: "Never, I guess. Never,
"What's on your mind, Anita?"
She hesitated, but when he repeated his query she took the plunge
and told him the truth.
Her mother had pleaded just a little too well. If Mrs. Thropp had
begged Kedzie to do the right thing for the right's sake Kedzie
would have felt the natural reaction daughters feel toward motherly
advice. But the entreaty to do evil that evil might come of it
aroused even more resistance, issuing as it did from maternal lips
that traditionally give only holy counsel. It had a more reforming
effect on Kedzie's crooked plans than all the exhortations of all
the preachers in the world could have had.
Kedzie turned to honesty because it seemed the less horrible of
two evils. She assumed the role of a little penitent, and made
Jim Dyckman a father confessor. She told her story as truthfully
as she could tell it or feel it. She was too sincere to be just.
She made herself the martyr that she felt herself to be. She wept
plentifully and prettily, with irresistible gulps and swallowings
of lumps and catches of breath, fetches of sobs, and dartings and
gleamings of pearls from her shining eyelids. Her handkerchief was
soon a little wad of wet lace, ridiculously pathetic; her lips were
blubbered. She wept on and on till she just had to blow her little
red nose. She blew it with exquisite candor, and it gave forth the
heartbreaking squawk of the first toy trumpet a child breaks of
a Christmas morning.
One radical difference between romance and realism is that in romance
the heroines weep from the eyelashes out; in realism, some of the
tears get into the nostrils. In real life it is reality that moves
our hearts, and Dyckman was convinced by Kedzie's realism.
She did not need to tell him of her humble and Western birth. He
had recognized her accent from the first, and forgiven it. He knew
a little of her history, because Charity Coe had sent him to the
studio to look her up, reminding him that she had been the little
dancer he pulled out of Mrs. Noxon's pool.
At length Kedzie revealed the horrible fact that her real name was
Kedzie Thropp. He laughed aloud. He was so tickled by her babyish
remorse that he made her say it again. He told her he loved it
twice as well as the stilted, stagy "Anita Adair."
"That's one of the reasons I wanted you to marry me," he said,
"so that I could change your horrible name."
"But I changed it myself first," Kedzie howled; and now the truth
came ripping. "The day after you pulled me out of the pool at Newport
I--I--married a fellow named Tommie Gilfoyle."
Dyckman's smile was swept from his face; his chuckle ended in a
groan. Kedzie's explanation was a little different from the one she
gave her parents. Unconsciously she tuned it to her audience. It
grew a trifle more literary.
"What could I do? I was alone in the world, without friends or money
or position. He happened to be at the railroad station. He saw how
frightened I was, and he had loved me for a long time. He begged me
to take mercy on him and on myself, and marry him. He offered me
his protection; he said I should be his wife in name only until I
learned to love him. And I was alone in the world, without friends
or money--but I told you that once, didn't I?"
Dyckman was thinking hard, aching hard. He mumbled, "What became
"When he saw that I couldn't love him he took some money I had
left from my earnings and abandoned me. I had a desperate struggle
to get along, and then I got my chance in the moving pictures, and
I met you there--and--learned what love is--too late--too late!"
Dyckman broke in on her lyric grief, "What became of the man
"He never came near me till awhile ago. He saw my pictures on the
screen and thought I must be making a big lot of money. He came here
and tried to sneak back into my good graces. He even tried to kiss
me, and I nearly tore his eyes out."
"Why?" Jim asked.
"Because I belong to nobody but you--at least, I did belong to
nobody but you. But now you won't want me any more. I don't blame
you for hating me. I hate myself. I've deceived you, and you'll
never believe me again, or love me, or anything."
She wept ardently, for she was appalled by the magnitude of her
deception, now that it stood exposed. She had no idea of the
magnitude of Dyckman's chivalry. She slipped to the floor and
laid her head on his knee.
It was Dyckman's nature to respond at once to any appeal to his
sympathy or his courtesy. Automatically his heart warmed toward
human distress. He felt a deeper interest in Kedzie than before,
because she threw herself on his mercy as never before. His hand
went out to her head and fell upon her hair with a kind of apostolic
benediction. He poured, as it were, an ointment of absolution and
acceptance upon her curls.
She felt in his very fingers so much reassurance that she was
encouraged to unburden herself altogether of her hoard of secrets.
"There's one more awful thing you'll never forgive me for, Jim. I
want to tell you that, and then you'll know all the worst of me. My
father and mother came to town to-day, and--and that was my mother
who said she was the janitor's wife."
"Why did she do that?" said Jim.
"I had been telling them how much I loved you, and poor dear mother
was afraid you might be scared away if you knew how poor my people
"What kind of a ghastly snob do they take me for?" Jim growled.
"They don't know you as I do," said Kedzie; "but even I can't expect
you to forgive everything. I've lied to you about everything except
about loving you, and I was a long while telling you the truth about
that. But now you know all there is to know about me, and I wouldn't
blame you for despising me. Of course I don't expect you to want to
marry me any longer, so I'll give you back your beautiful engagement
With her arms across his knees, one of her delicate hands began to
draw from the other a gold circlet knobbed with diamonds.
"Don't do that," Jim said, taking her hands in his. "The engagement
"But how can it, darling?" said Kedzie. "You can't love me
"Of course I do, more and more."
"But you can never marry me, and surely you don't want--"
Suddenly she ran plump into the situation her mother had imagined
and encouraged. She blushed at the collision with it, and became
a very allegory of innocence confronted with abhorrent evil.
"Of course I don't," said Dyckman, divining exactly what she meant.
"I'll find this Gilfoyle and buy him up or beat him to a pulp."
Kedzie lifted her downcast eyes in gratitude for such a godlike
resolution. But before she could cry out in praise of it she cried
out in terror.
For right before her stood the long-lost Gilfoyle.
During his long wait this evening Gilfoyle had grown almost
uncontrollable with impatience to undertake the assault. His landlady
had warned him not to return to his room until he brought some cash
on account. He was for making the charge the moment he saw Jim
Dyckman enter the building, but Connery insisted on giving Dyckman
time to get forward with his courtship. They had seen the maid come
out of the servants' entrance and hurry up the street to the vain