Part 8 out of 12
tryst Connery had arranged with her to get her out of the way.
At length, when time had passed sufficiently, they had crossed to
the apartment-house and told the elevator-boy they were expected by
the tenants above. He took them up without question. They pretended
to ring the bell there, waited for the elevator to disappear, then
walked down a flight of steps and paused at the fatal sill.
Connery inserted the key stealthily into the lock, turned it, opened
the door in silence, and let Gilfoyle slip through. He followed and
closed the door without shock.
They heard Kedzie's murmurous tones and the rumble of Dyckman's
answer. Then Gilfoyle strode forward. He saw Kedzie coiled on the
floor with her elbows on Dyckman's knees. He caught her eye, and
her start of bewilderment held him spellbound a moment. Then he
"There you are! I've got you! You faithless little beast."
Dyckman rose to an amazing height, lifted Kedzie to her feet,
"Who the devil are you, and what the devil do you want?"
"I'm the husband of that shameless woman; that's who I am," Gilfoyle
shrilled, a little cowed by Dyckman's stature.
"Oh, you are, are you!" said Dyckman. "Well, you're the very chap
I'm looking for. Come in, by all means."
Connery, seeing that the initiative was slipping from Gilfoyle's
flaccid hand, pushed forward with truculence.
"None of that, you big bluff! You needn't think you can put
anything over on me."
"And who are you?" said Dyckman.
"I'm Connery the detective, and I've got the goods on you."
He advanced on Dyckman, and Gilfoyle came with him. Gilfoyle took
courage from the puzzled confusion of Dyckman, and he poured forth
"You think because you're rich you can go around breaking up homes
and decoying wives away, do you? Not that she isn't willing enough
to be decoyed! I wasn't good enough for her. She had to sell herself
for money and jewelry and a gay time! I ought to kill you both, and
maybe I will; but first I'm going to show you up in the newspapers."
"Oh, you are, are you!" was the best that Dyckman could improvise.
"Yes, he is," Connery roared. "I'm a newspaper man, and your name's
worth head-lines in every paper in the country. And I'll see that it
gets there, too. It will go on the wires to-night unless--"
"Unless you come across with--"
"Oh, that's it, is it!" said Dyckman. "Just a little old-fashioned
He had tasted the joys of violence in his bout with Cheever, and now
he had recourse to it again. His long arms went out swiftly toward
the twain of his assailants. His big hands cupped their heads as if
they were melons, and he knocked their skulls together smartly.
He might have battered them to death, but he heard Kedzie's little
cry of horror, and forbore. He flung the heads from him, and the
bodies followed limply. Connery went to the floor, and Gilfoyle
sprawled across a chair. They were almost unconscious, their brains
reduced to swirling nebulae.
Kedzie thought for a moment that she and her love-affairs had brought
about a double murder. She saw herself becoming one of those little
women who appear with an almost periodic regularity in the annals of
crime, and whose red smiles drag now this, now that great family's
name into the mud and vomit of public nausea.
She would lose Jim Dyckman, after all, and ruin him in the losing.
She clung to his arm to check him in his work of devastation. He,
too, stood wondering at the amazing deed of his rebellious hands,
and wondering what the result would be.
He and Kedzie rejoiced at seeing the victims move. Connery began
to squirm on the floor and get to his wabbly knees, and Gilfoyle
writhed back to consciousness with wits a-flutter.
There was a silence of mutual attention for a while. Connery was
growling from all-fours like a surly dog:
"I'll get you for this--you'll see! You'll be sorry for this."
This restored Dyckman's temper to its throne. He seized Connery by
the scruff of his coat, jerked him to his feet, and snarled at him:
"Haven't you had enough, you little mucker? You threaten me or
Miss Adair again and I'll not leave enough of you to--to--"
He was not apt at phrases, but Connery felt metaphors enough in
the size of the fist before his nose. He put up his hands, palms
forward, in the ancient gesture of surrender. Then Gilfoyle turned
cry-baby and began to sob.
"You call her Miss Adair! But she's my wife. Mrs. Gilfoyle is what
she is, and you've taken her away from me. This is a rotten country,
and you rotten millionaires can do nearly anything you want to--but
not quite. You'll find that out. There are still a few courts and
a few newspapers you can't muzzle."
Dyckman advanced against him, but Gilfoyle merely clung to the back
of his chair, and his non-resistance was his best shelter. It was
impossible for Dyckman to strike him. Secure in his helplessness,
he took full advantage of the tyranny of impotence. He rose to his
feet and went on with his lachrymose philippic.
"You're going to pay for what you've done, and pay high!"
The one thing that restrained Dyckman from offering to buy him out
was that he demanded purchase. Like most rich people, Dyckman was
the everlasting target of prayers and threats. He could be generous
to an appeal, but a demand locked his heart.
He answered Gilfoyle's menace, bluntly, "I'll pay you when hell
freezes over, and not a cent before."
"Well, then, you stand from under," Gilfoyle squealed. "There's a
law in this State against home-wreckers like you, and I can send
you to the penitentiary for breaking it."
Dyckman's rage blackened again; he caught Gilfoyle by the shoulder
and roared: "You foul-mouthed, filthy-minded little sneak! You say
a word against your wife and I'll throw you out of the window.
She's too decent for you to understand. You get down on your knees
and ask her pardon."
He forced Gilfoyle to his knees, but he could not make him pray. And
Kedzie fell back from him. She was afraid to pose as a saint worthy
of genuflection. Connery re-entered the conflict with a sneer:
"Aw, tell it to the judge, Dyckman! Tell it to the judge! See how
good it listens to him. We'll tell him how we found you here; and
you tell him you were holding a prayer-meeting. You didn't want to
be disturbed, so you didn't have even a servant around--all alone
together at this hour."
Then a new, strange voice spoke in.
"Who said they were alone?"
The four turned to see Mrs. Thropp filling the hall doorway, and
Adna's head back of her shoulder. It was really a little too
melodramatic. The village lassie goes to the great city; her father
and mother arrive in all their bucolic innocence just in time to
save her from destruction.
Connery, whose climax she had spoiled, though she had probably saved
his bones, gasped, "Who the hell are you?"
"I'm this child's mother; that's who I am. And that's her father.
And what's more, we've been here all evening, and you'd better look
out how you swear at me or I'll sick Mr. Dyckman on you."
If there are gallery gods in heaven, and angels with a melodramatic
taste (as there must be, for how else could we have acquired it?),
they must have shaken the cloudy rafters with applause. Only one
touch was needed to perfect the scene, and that was for the
_First_ and _Second_ Villains to slink off, cursing
and muttering, "Foiled again!"
But these villains were not professionals, and they had not been
rehearsed. They were like childish actors in a juvenile production
at five pins per admission. An unexpected line threw them into
Connery turned to Gilfoyle. "Did you ever lamp this old lady
Gilfoyle answered, stoutly enough, "I never laid eyes on her."
Connery was about to order Mrs. Thropp out of the room as an
impostor, but she would not be denied her retort.
"O' course he never laid eyes on me. If he had have he'd never tried
to pull the wool over that innocent baby's eyes; and if I'd ever laid
eyes on him I'd have run him out of the country before I'd ever have
let my child look at him a second time."
Connery made one last struggle: "What proof have you got that
you're her mother?"
"Ask my husband here."
"What good is his word in such a matter?"
Connery did not mean this as in any sense a reflection on Mrs.
Thropp's marital integrity, but she took it so. Now, in Nimrim
the question of fidelity is not dealt with lightly, at least in
repartee. Mrs. Thropp emitted a roar of scandalized virtue and
would have attacked the young men with her fists if her husband,
who should have attacked them in her stead, had not clung to her,
"Now, momma, don't get excited. You young fellers better vamoose
quick. I can't holt her very long."
So they vamosed and were much obliged for the opportunity, leaving
Kedzie to fling her arms about her mother with spontaneous filial
affection, and to present Dyckman to her with genuine pride.
Dyckman had been almost as frightened as Kedzie, He had been more
afraid of his own temper than of his assailants, but afraid enough
of their shadowy powers. Mrs. Thropp would have had to be far less
comely than she was to be unwelcome. She had the ultimate charm
of perfect timeliness. He greeted her with that deference he paid
to all women, and she adored him at once, independently of his
Adna said that he had always been an admirer of the old Dyckman and
was glad to meet his boy, being as he was a railroad man himself,
in a small way. He rather gave the impression that he was at least
a third vice-president, but very modest about it.
Mrs. Thropp gleaned from the first words that Kedzie had gone
contrary to her advice and had told Dyckman the truth. She took
the credit calmly.
"I come on East to clear things up, and I advised my daughter to
tell you just the way things were--as I always say to my children,
use the truth and shame the devil."
Kedzie was too busy to notice the outrage. She was thanking Heaven
for her impulse to reveal the facts, realizing how appalling it
would have been if Gilfoyle had been the first to inform Dyckman.
They were all having a joyous family party when it suddenly came
over them that Gilfoyle had once more appeared and resubmerged.
But Dyckman said: "I'll find him for you, and I'll buy him. He'll
be cheap at any price."
He bade good night early and went to his own home, carrying a
backload of trouble. He was plainly in for it. Whatever happened,
he was the scapegoat-elect.
The villain in melodrama is as likely as not to be as decent a fellow
as any. When he slinks from the stage in his final hissed exit he
goes to his dressing-room, scours off his grease-paint, and probably
returns to his devoted family or seats himself before a bowl of
milk-and-crackers in his club.
Gilfoyle was as decent a fellow as ever villain was. Circumstances
and not himself cast him in an evil rôle, and as actors know, once
so established, it is almost impossible to return to heroic parts.
Gilfoyle could not even remove his grease-paint. He could not go
back to his dressing-room, for his landlady had told him that the
only key to her front door was cash. He had gone out to bring home
a millionaire, and he had achieved nothing but a headache and a
He hardly knew how he escaped from the apartment-house. The dark
cool of the street brought him into the night of things. It came
upon him like a black fog what he had tried to do. The bitter
disgrace of a man who has been whipped in a fight was his, but
other disgraces were heaped upon it. For the first time he saw
himself as Kedzie saw him.
He had neglected his wife till she grew famous in spite of him.
He had gone back to her to share her bounty. When she repulsed
him he had entered into a conspiracy to spy on her. He had waited
impatiently for a rich man to compromise her, so that he could
surprise them in guilt and extort money from them.
He had not warned the girl of her danger from the other man or from
himself. He had not pleaded with her to be good, had not asked her
to come back to honeymoon again in poverty with him; he had preferred
to live on borrowed money and on unpaid board while he fooled with
verses and refused the manual tasks that waited everywhere about
the busy city. He might have cleaned the streets or earned a decent
living handling garbage in the city scows. But he had preferred to
speculate in blackmail and play the badger-game with his wife as
an unwitting accomplice. He had hated millionaires, and counted them
all criminals deserving spoliation, but he felt that he had sunk
lower than the millionaires.
The remembrance of Kedzie haunted him. She had been supremely
beautiful to-night, frightened into greater beauty than ever. She
was afraid of him who should have been her refuge, and she hid for
protection behind the man who should have seemed her enemy.
He recalled her as she was when he first loved her, the pretty
little candy-store clerk, the lissome, living marble in her Greek
tunic, the quaint, sweet girl who came to him in the Grand Central
Terminal, lugging her suit-case, the shy thing at the License
Bureau, the ineffably exquisite bride he had made his wife. He saw
her at the gas-stove and loved her very petulance and the pretty
way she banged the oven door and pouted at fate.
The lyrics he had written to her sang through his aching head. He
was wrung to anguish between the lover and the poet he had meant
to be, and the spurned and hated cur he had become. He stumbled
along the street at Connery's side, whispering to himself, while
his earliest verses to Kedzie ran in and out through his thoughts
like a catchy tune:
Pretty maid, pretty maid, may I call you Anita?
Your last name is sweet, but your first name is sweeter.
He recalled the sonnets he had begun which were to make them both
immortal. He regretted the spitefulness that had led him to write
in another name than hers because she had refused to support him.
He had been a viler beast than the cutpurse poet of old France,
without the lilies of verse that bloom pure white above the dunghill
of Villon's life.
Gilfoyle's soul went down into a hell of regret and wriggled in
the flames of self-condemnation. He grew maudlin with repentance
and clung to his friend Connery with odious garrulity. Connery was
disgusted with him, but he was afraid to leave him because he kept
"I guess the river's the only place for me now."
At length Connery steered him into a saloon for medicine and bought
him a stiff bracer of whisky and vermouth. But it only threw Gilfoyle
into deeper befuddlement. He was like Charles Lamb, in that a
thimbleful of alcohol affected him as much as a tumbler another.
He wanted to tell his troubles to the barkeeper, and Connery had
to drag him away.
In the hope that a walk in the air might help to steady him, Connery
set out toward his own boarding-house. They started across Columbus
Avenue under the pillars of the Elevated tracks.
Habituated to the traffic customs, the New-Yorker crossing a street
looks to the left for traffic till he gets half-way across, then
looks to the right for traffic bound in the opposite direction.
Connery led Gilfoyle to the middle of the avenue, paused for a
south-bound street-car to go banging by them, darted back of it
and looked to the right for a north-bound car or motor. But a
taxicab trying to pass the south-bound car was shooting south
along the north-bound tracks.
Connery saw it barely in time to jump back. He yanked Gilfoyle's
arm, but Gilfoyle had plunged forward. He might have escaped if
Connery had let him go. But the cab struck him, hurled him in air
against an iron pillar, caught him on the rebound and ran him down.
Kedzie Thropp was a widow.
Deaths from the wheeled torpedoes that shoot along the city streets
are too monotonously numerous to make a stir in the newspapers unless
the victims have some other claim on the public attention.
Gilfoyle had been writing advertisements of other people's wares, but
nobody was going to pay for the advertisement of him. The things that
he might have become were even more obscure than the things he was.
The pity of his taking-off would have had no more record than a few
lines of small type, but for one further accident.
The taxicab-driver whose reckless haste had sent him down the wrong
side of the street had been spurred on by the reckless haste of his
passenger. The pretty Mrs. Twyford had been for years encouraging
the reporters to emphasize her social altitude, and had seen that
they obtained her photographs at frequent intervals. But on this
night she had gone up-town upon one of the few affairs for which
she did not wish publicity. She had learned by telephone that her
husband had returned to New York unexpectedly, and she was intensely
impatient to be at home when he got there.
When her scudding taxicab solved all of Gilfoyle's earthly problems
in one fierce erasure she made such efforts to escape from the
instantly gathered crowd that she attracted the attention of the
policeman who happened to be at the next corner. He proceeded to
take the name and addresses of witnesses and principals, and he
detained her as an important accessory.
Connery was one of the news-men who had been indebted to Mrs. Twyford
for many a half-column of gossip, and he recognized her at once. He
was a reporter, first, last, and all the time, and he was very much
in need of something to sell.
He was greatly shattered by the annihilation of his friend, but
his instinctive journalism led him to control himself long enough
to call Mrs. Twyford by name and assure the policeman that she was
a lady of high degree who should not be bothered.
Neither the policeman nor Mrs. Twyford thanked him. They were
equally rude to him and to each other, Connery thought the incident
might interest the night city editor of his paper, and so he
telephoned a good story in to the office as soon as he had released
himself from the inquisition and had seen an ambulance carry poor
Mrs. Twyford reached home too late, and in such a state of nerves
that she made the most unconvincing replies to the cross-examination
that ensued. When she saw her name in the paper the next morning
her friends also began to make inquiries--and eventually to deny
that they were her friends or had ever been.
It was her name in the heavy type that caught the heavy eyes of
Jim Dyckman at breakfast the next morning. It was thus that he came
upon the fate of Thomas Gilfoyle, whose death had been the cause
of all this pother.
Before he could telephone Anita--or Kedzie, as he mentally corrected
himself--he was informed that a Mr. Connery was at the door, asking
for him. He nodded and went into the library, carrying the newspaper
Connery grinned sadly and mumbled: "I see you've seen it. I thought
you'd like to know about it."
"I should," said Dyckman. "Sit down."
Connery sat down and told of the accident and what led up to it.
He spoke in a lowered voice and kept his eye on the door. When he
had finished his story he said, "Now, of course this all comes out
very convenient for you, but I suppose you see how easy it would
be for me to tell what I know, and that mightn't be so convenient
"Are you beginning your blackmail again so early in the morning?"
"Cut out that kind of talk or there's nothing doing," said Connery.
"I can make a lot of trouble for you, and I can hush up a lot. Unless
I speak I don't suppose anybody else is going to peep about Miss
Adair being Mrs. Gilfoyle, and about Mr. Dyckman being interested
in his wife. If I do speak it would take a lot of explaining."
"I am not afraid of explaining to the whole world that Miss Adair
is a friend of mine and that her father and mother were present
when I called."
Connery met this with a smile. "But how often were they present
when you called?"
Dyckman grew belligerent again: "Do you want me to finish what
I began on you last night?"
"I'm in no hurry, thank you. You can outclass me in the ring, but
it wouldn't help you much to beat me up, would it?--or Miss Adair,
either. She's got some rights, hasn't she?"
"Has she any that you are capable of respecting?"
"Sure she has. I don't want to cause the little lady any
inconvenience. She and Tommie Gilfoyle didn't belong together,
anyway. She was through with him long ago, and the only thing
that saved his face was the fact that he's dead--poor fellow!
"But you see I've got to appear as a witness in the trial of
the taxicab-driver, who'll be held for manslaughter or something.
If I say that Gilfoyle and I had just come from a battle with you
and that he got the wits knocked out of him because he accused
you of making a mistress out of his wife--"
"The same to you, Mr. Dyckman."
Dyckman felt himself nettled. Kedzie's silence about the existence
of a husband had enmeshed him. He would not attempt to justify
himself. It would do no good to thresh about. The big gladiator
sat still waiting for the _retiarius_ to finish him. But
Connery's voice grew merciful. It was a luxury beyond price to
extend an alms to this plutocrat.
"What I'm getting at, Mr. Dyckman," he resumed, "is this: Tommie
owed some money to his landlady. He owed me some money that I could
use. He's got a mother and father up-State. He told me he'd never
told them about his marriage. They'll want him back, I suppose.
From what he's told me, it would be a real hardship for them to pay
the funeral expenses. You could pay all that, and you could even say
that he had a little money in the bank and send that along with him,
and never know the difference. But they would."
"I see," said Dyckman, very solemnly.
"You called me some rough names, Mr. Dyckman, and I guess I earned
'em. Looking things over the morning after, I'm not so stuck on
myself as I was, but you stack up pretty well. I like a man who can
use his hands in an argument. My name is Connery, you know. What you
did to me was a plenty, but it looks better to me now than it felt
"You know a reporter just gets naturally hungry to see a man face
a scandal in a manly way. If you had shown a yellow streak and tried
to buy your way out I would have taken your money and thought I was
doing a public service in getting it away from a quitter. But when
you cracked my bean against poor Gilfoyle's you made me see a lot
of things besides stars.
"There's nothing to be gained by keeping up this war. I want to put
it all out of sight for your sake and for Gilfoyle's mother's sake,
and for the sake of that pretty little Adair lady. I don't know what
she's been or done, but she's pretty and she's got a nice, spunky
"I'm a good newspaper man, Mr. Dyckman, and that means I've kept
quiet about even better stories than I've sprung. If I had a lot of
money now I'd add this story to the list and treat Gilfoyle's folks
right without giving you a look-in. But being dead-broke, I thought
maybe you'd like to see things done in a decent manner. It's going
to be hard enough for that old couple up-State to get Tommie back,
as they've got to, without taking any excess heartbreak up in the
baggage-car. Do you follow me?"
"I do," said Dyckman; and now he asked the "How much?" that he
had refused to speak the night before.
Connery did a little figuring with a pencil, and Dyckman thought
that some life-insurance in the mother's name would be a pleasant
thing to add. Then he doubled the total, wrote a check for it, and
"There'll probably be something left over. I wish you'd keep it
as your--attorney-fee, Mr. Connery."
They shook hands as they parted.
Dyckman telephoned to Kedzie and asked if he could see her. She said
that he could, and dressed furiously while he made the distance to
She gleaned from his look and from the way he took her two hands
in his that he had serious news to bring her. She had not been
awake long enough to read the papers, and this was her first death.
She cried helplessly when she learned that her husband was gone away
with all her bitterness for his farewell. She remembered the best
of him, and he came back to her for a while as the poet who had
made her his muse--the only one she could telegraph to when she
returned to New York alone, her first and only husband.
She was afraid that she belittled herself in Dyckman's eyes when
she let slip the remorseful Wail, "I wish I had been kinder to
the poor boy!"
But she did not belittle herself in any such tendernesses of regret.
She endeared herself by her grief, her self-reproach, her childish
humility before the power of death. Her tears were beautiful in Jim's
sight. But it is the blessing and the shame of tears that they cure
the grief that causes them. At first they bleed and burn; then they
flow soft and cool. They cleanse and brighten the eyes and even wash
away the cinders from the funeral smoke.
Dyckman's heart was drawn out of him toward Kedzie and his arms
held her shaken body devotedly. But at length she ceased to weep,
and a last long sob became dangerously like a sigh of relief. She
smiled through the rain and apologized for weeping, when she should
have apologized for stopping weeping. Then Dyckman's love of her
seemed to withdraw backward into his heart. And his arms suddenly
wearied of clasping her.
When she had seemed hardly to know that he was there he felt
necessary and justified. When she took comfort in his arms and
held them about her he felt ashamed, revolted, profane.
Mrs. Thropp had wept a little in sympathy with Kedzie, and Adna
had looked amiably disconsolate; but by and by Mrs. Thropp was
"After all, perhaps it was for the best. The Lord's will be done!"
Dyckman shrank as if a blasphemy had been shouted. In a hideously
short time Mrs. Thropp was saying, briskly:
"Of course, honey, you've got no idea of puttin' on black for him."
"If I believed in mourning, I would," Kedzie answered without delay,
"but the true mourning is in the heart."
Dyckman felt an almost uncontrollable desire to get away before he
said something that might be true. He began to wonder what, after
all, poor Gilfoyle had experienced from this hard-hearted little
beauty. He saw that he was almost forgotten already. He thought,
"How fast they go, the dead!" That same Villon had said it centuries
before: "_Les morts vont vites_."
The Thropps settled down to a comfortable discussion of future plans.
One ledger had been finished. They would open a new one. Jim saw that
Gilfoyle's departure had been accepted as a Heaven-sent solution of
Abruptly it came to Dyckman that the solution of their problem
was the beginning of a whole volume of new problems for him. He
recalled that while he had become Kedzie's fiancé in ignorance of
his predecessor, he had rashly promised to buy off Gilfoyle as soon
as he learned of him. But death had come in like a perfect waiter
and subtly removed from the banquet-table the thing that offended.
Nothing had happened, however, to release Dyckman from his
engagement. Gilfoyle's death ought not to have made a more
important difference than his life would have made, and yet it
made all the difference in the world to Dyckman's feelings.
He could not say this, however. He could not ask to be excused
from his compact. His heart and his brain cried out that they
did not want this merry little widow for their wife, but his lips
could not frame the words. During the long silences and the evasive
chatter that alternated he felt one idea in the air: "Why doesn't
Mr. Dyckman offer to go on with the marriage?" Yet he could not
make the offer. Nor could he make the counterclaim for a dissolving
of the betrothal.
He studied the Thropp trio and pictured the ridicule and the
hostility they would arouse among his family and friends--not
because they were poor and simple and lowly, but because they were
not honest and sweet and meek. The Dyckmans had poor relations and
friends in poverty and old peasant-folk whom they loved and admired
and were proud to know. But Dyckman felt that the elder Thropps
deserved to be rebuffed with snobbery because of their own snobbery.
Nevertheless, he was absolutely incapable of administering
At last Mrs. Thropp grew restive, fearsome that the marriage might
not take place, and desperately fearful that she might be cheated
out of her visit in the spare room, at the home of the great Mrs.
Dyckman. She said, grimly:
"Well, we might as well understand one another, Mr. Dyckman. You
asked my daughter to marry you, didn't you?"
"Yes, Mrs. Thropp."
"Do you see anything in what's happened to prevent your getting
"No, Mrs. Thropp."
"Then I don't see much use wastin' time, do you? Life's too uncertain
to go postponin' happiness when it's right within your reach.
Kedzie's father and I ought to be gettin' back home, and I'd feel
a heap more comfortable if I could know my poor little chick was
safe in the care of a good man."
The possibility of getting Mr. and Mrs. Thropp out of town soon was
the one bright thought in Dyckman's mind. He felt compelled to say:
"Then let us have the ceremony, by all means. We shall have to wait
awhile, I suppose, for decency's sake."
"Decency!" said Mrs. Thropp, managerially. "My Kedzie hadn't lived
with the man for a long while. Nobody but us knows that she ever did
live with him. He'd abandoned her, and when he came back it was only
to try to get money out of her. I can't see that she has any call
to worry about decency's sake. He's done her harm enough. She can't
do him any good by keepin' you waitin'."
"Just as you think best, Mrs. Thropp," said Dyckman. He began to
smile in spite of himself. He was thinking how many mothers and
daughters had tried to get him to the altar, not because they loved
him, but because they loved his father's money and fame. Jim had
dodged them all and made a kind of sport of it. And now he was
cornered and captured by this old barbarian with her movie-beauty
daughter who was a widow and wouldn't wear weeds.
Mrs. Thropp saw Dyckman's smile, but did not dare to ask its origin.
She asked, instead:
"Would you be having a church wedding, do you think?"
"Indeed not," said Dyckman, with such incision that Mrs. Thropp
felt it best not to risk a debate.
"Just a quiet wedding, then?"
"As quiet as possible, if you don't mind."
Kedzie sat speechless through all this. She wished that Jim would
show more ardor for her, but she felt that he was doing fairly well
not to knock her parents' heads together the way he had her husband's
and his friend's. She was as eager as Jim to get rid of the elder
Thropps, but she wanted to make sure of the wedding, and her mother
was evidently to be trusted to bring it about. At length Jim spoke
in the tone of the condemned man who says, "Well, let's hurry up
and get the execution off our minds".
"I'll go and see a lawyer and make inquiries about how the marriage
can be done."
He started to say to Kedzie, "You ought to know."
She started to tell him about the Marriage License Bureau in the
Municipal Building. Both recaptured silence tactfully.
He kissed Kedzie, and he had a narrow escape from being kissed
by Mrs. Thropp.
THE THIRD BOOK
MRS. JIM DYCKMAN IS NOT SATISFIED
In the history of nations sometimes a paragraph serves for a certain
decade, while a volume is not enough for a certain day. It is so with
the history of persons.
In the thirty-six hours after he received Charity Coe's invitation to
call Jim Dyckman passed from being Charity's champion against her own
husband to being Kedzie's champion against hers. Charity rewarded his
chivalrous pommeling of Cheever by asking him never to come near her
again. Kedzie rewarded his punishment of Gilfoyle by arranging that
he should never leave her again.
It was Charity that he longed for, and Kedzie that he engaged to
In that period Peter Cheever had traveled a very short distance
in a journey he had postponed too long. Cheever had been hardly
conscious when they smuggled him at midnight from his club to his
own home. He had slept ill and achily. He was ashamed to face the
servants, and he wanted to murder his valet for being aware of
the master's defeat.
He did not know how ashamed the household retainers were of him and
of themselves. The valet and butler had earned good sums on occasions
by taking tips from Cheever on prize-fighters and jockeys. But they
felt betrayed now, and as disconsolate as the bottle-holders and
towel-flappers of a defeated pugilist.
They did not know who had whipped their master till the word came
from the Dyckman household that their master had come home glorious
from whipping the stuffing out of somebody. It was easy to put one
and one together and make two.
One of Cheever's worst embarrassments was the matter of Zada.
His battered head suffered tortures before it contrived a proper
lie for her. Then he called Zada up from his house and explained
that as he was leaving his club to fly to her, his car had skidded
into another, with the result that he had been knocked senseless
and cut up with flying glass; otherwise he was in perfect shape.
Unfortunately, he had been recognized and taken to his official
home instead of to the residence of his heart.
Zada was all for dashing to him at once; but he persuaded her that
that would be quite impossible. He was in no real danger in his own
house, and he would come back to his heart's one real first, last,
only, and onliest darling love just as soon as he could.
She subsided in wails of terror and loneliness. They touched his
heart so that he determined to end his effort at amphibian existence,
give up his legal establishment and legalize the illegal.
He wrote a note to Charity with much difficulty, since his knuckles
were sore and his pride was black and blue. His spoken language was
of the same tints. His written language was polite and formal.
It was a silly, tragic situation that led a husband to write
his wife a letter requesting an interview. Charity sent back
a scrawl--"_Yes, in fifteen minutes_."
Cheever spent a bad quarter of an hour dressing himself. His face
was too raw to endure a razor, and the surgeon had put little
cross-patches of adhesive tape on one of his cheek-bones and at
the edge of his mouth, where his lip had split as the tooth behind
it went overboard.
He yowled as he slipped his arms into a long bathrobe, and he struck
at the valet when the wretch suggested a little powder for one eye.
Charity had seen Cheever brought in at midnight and had looked
to it that he had every care. But now she came into his room with a
maidenly timidity. He did not know that she had rebuked Jim Dyckman
with uncharacteristic wrath for the attack. She did not tell Cheever
this, even though his first words to her demanded some such defense.
In the quarrels of lovers, or of those who have exchanged loves,
it makes little difference what the accusation is all about: the
thing that hurts is the fact of accusation.
Charity was so shamed at being stormed at by her husband that it
was a mere detail that he stormed at her with a charge that she
had goaded Jim Dyckman on to attack him.
Cheever had a favor to ask; so he put the charge more mildly now
than he had in his first bewildered rage. He accepted Charity's
silence as pleading guilty. So he went on:
"The fact that you chose Dyckman for your authorized thug and
bravo proves what I have thought for some time, that you love him
and he loves you. Now I have no desire to come between two such
turtle-doves, especially when one of them is one of those German
flying-machine _Taubes_ and goes around dropping dynamite-bombs
on me through club roofs.
"I'm not afraid of your little friend, and as soon as I get well
I'll get him; but I want it to be purely an exercise in the fistic
art, and not a public fluttering of family linen. So since you want
Jim Dyckman, take him, by all means, and let me bow myself out of
"I'll give you a nice, quiet little divorce, and do the fair thing
in the alimony line, and then after a proper interval you and
little Jimmie can toddle over to the parson and then toddle off to
hell-and-gone, for all I care. How does that strike you, my dear?"
Charity pondered, and then she said, "And where do you toddle off
"Does that interest you?"
"Anything that concerns your welfare interests me."
"I see. Well, don't worry about me."
"There's no hurry, of course?"
"Not on my part," said Cheever. "But Dyckman must be growing
impatient, since he tries to murder me to save the lawyer's
"Well, if you're in no hurry, Peter, I'm not. I'll think it over
for a few months. It's bad weather for divorces now, anyway."
Cheever's heart churned in his breast. He knew that Zada could not
afford to wait. He should have married her long ago, and there was
no time to spare now. Charity's indifference frightened him. He did
not dream that through the dictagraph Charity had shared with him
Zada's annunciation of her approaching motherhood.
He turned and twisted in flesh and spirit, trying to persuade
Charity to proceed immediately for a divorce, but in vain.
Finally she ceased to laugh at him and demanded, sternly, "Why
don't you tell me the truth for once?"
He stared at her, and after a crisis of hesitation broke and
informed her of what she already knew. Now that he was at her feet,
Charity felt only pity for him, and even for Zada. She was sorrier
for them than for herself.
So she said: "All right, old man; let's divorce us. Will you or
"You'd better, of course; but you must not mention poor Zada."
"Oh, of course not!"
A brief and friendly discussion of ways and means followed, and
then Charity turned to go, saying:
"Well, I'll let you know when you're free. Are there any other
little chores I can do for you?"
"No, thanks. You're one damned good sport, and I'm infernally
"Let's not begin on sorries. Good night!"
And such was unmarriage _à la mode_.
And now having felt sorry for everybody else, Charity began to
feel pleasantly sorry for Jim Dyckman. Her own rebuke of him for
assaulting Cheever had absolved him. In the retrospect, the attack
took on a knightliness of devotion. She recalled his lonely dogging
of her footsteps. If he had played the dog, after all, she loved
dogs. What was so faithful, trustworthy, and lovable as a dog?
But how was Charity to get word to Jim of her new heart? She could
not whistle him back. She could hardly go to him and apologize for
having been a good wife to a bad husband. And a married lady simply
must not say to a bachelor: "Pardon me a moment, while I divorce my
present consort. I'd like to wear your name for a change."
Charity might have been capable even of such a derring-do if she
had known that Jim Dyckman's bachelorhood was threatened with
immediate extinction by the Thropps. But she could not know. For,
however Jim's soul may have been mumbling, "Help, help!" he made no
audible sound. Unwilling brides may shriek for rescue, but unwilling
bridegrooms must not complain.
By a coincidence that was not strange Charity selected for her lawyer
Travers McNiven, the very man that Jim Dyckman selected. All three
had been friends since childhood. McNiven had been taken into the
famous partnership of Hamnett, Dawsey, Coggeshall, Thurlow & McNiven.
When Jim Dyckman telephoned him for an appointment he was told
to make it the next morning, as another client had pre-empted the
afternoon. Jim was glad enough of an excuse to postpone his marriage
by a day, never dreaming that Charity was the client who had
McNiven wondered at the synchrony, but naturally mentioned neither
client to the other. His office was far down-town and far up in
the air. Its windows gave an amplitudinous vision of the Harbor
which Mr. Ernest Poole has made his own, but which was now a
vestibule to the hell of the European war. All the adjoining
land was choked far backward with a vast blockade of explosive
freight-trains waiting to be unloaded into the unheard-of multitude
of munition-ships waiting to run the gantlet of the German
Charity had run that gantlet and was ready to run it again on another
errand of mercy, but first she must make sure that Zada's baby should
not enter the world before its mother entered wedlock.
After McNiven had proffered her a chair and she had exclaimed upon
the grandeur of the harborscape, she began:
"Sandy, I've come to see you about--"
"One moment!" McNiven broke in. "Before you speak I must as an
honest lawyer warn you against the step you contemplate."
"But you don't know what it is yet."
"I don't have to. I know that people come to lawyers only to get
out of scrapes or to get into scrapes dishonestly or unwisely.
Furthermore, every step that any human being contemplates is
a dangerous one and bound to lead to trouble."
"Oh, hush!" said Charity. "Am I supposed to pay you for that sort
"Being a friend, and a woman, and very rich, you will doubtless
never pay me at all. But let me warn you, Charity, that there is
nothing in life more dangerous than taking a step in any possible
direction--unless it is staying where you are."
"Oh, dear," sighed Charity, "you're worse than dear Doctor Mosely."
"Ah, you've been to the dear old doctor! And he's refused to help
you. When the Church denies a woman her way she comes to the devil.
You interest me. It's a divorce, then?"
McNiven remembered Jim Dyckman's ancient squiredom to Charity and
his recent telephony and he said to himself, "Aha!" But he said to
Charity, "Go on."
"Sandy, my husband and I have agreed to disagree."
"Then for Heaven's sake don't tell me about it!"
"But I've got to."
"But you mustn't! Say, rather, I have decided to divorce my husband."
"All right. Consider my first break unmade. Peter has asked me--I
mean, Peter has said that he will furnish me with the evidence on
one condition: that I shall not mention a certain person with whom
he has been living. He offers to provide me with any sort of evidence
you lawyers care to cook up."
McNiven stared at her and spoke with startling rigor. "Are you trying
to involve me in your own crimes?"
"Don't be silly. Peter says it is done all the time."
"Not in this office. Do you think I'd risk and deserve disbarment
even to oblige a friend?"
"You mean you won't help me, then?" Charity sighed, rising with
a forlorn sense of friendlessness.
McNiven growled: "Sit down! Of course I'll help you, but I don't
intend to let you drag me into ruin, and I won't help you get
a divorce that would be disallowed at the first peep of light."
"What can I do then? Peter said it could be managed quickly
"There are ways and ways, Charity Coe. The great curse of divorce
is the awful word 'collusion.' It can be avoided as other curses
can with a little attention to the language. Remember the old song,
'It's not so much the thing you say, as the nasty way you say it.'
That hound of a husband of yours wants to protect that creature
he has been flaunting before the world. So he offers to arrange
to be caught in a trap with another woman, and make you a present
of the evidence. Isn't that so?"
"I believe it is."
"Now the law says that 'any understanding preceding the act of
adultery' is collusion; it involves the committing of a crime. It
would be appalling for a nice little body like you to connive at
such a thing, wouldn't it?"
Charity turned pale. "I hadn't realized just what it meant."
"I thought not," said McNiven.
"He'll have to give me evidence of--of something that has already
happened, then, won't he?"
"The law calls that collusion also."
"Then what am I to do?"
"Couldn't you get evidence somehow without taking it from him?"
Charity was about to shake her head, but she nodded it violently.
She remembered the detectives she had engaged and the superabundant
evidence they had furnished her. She told McNiven about it and he
was delighted till she reminded him that she had promised not to
make use of Zada's name.
McNiven told her that she had no other recourse, and advised her
to see her husband. She said that it was hopeless and she expressed
a bitter opinion of the law. It seemed harsher than the Church,
especially harsh to those who did not flout its authority.
While Charity talked McNiven let his pipe-smoke trail out of the
window into the infinite where dreams fade from reality and often
from memory, and he thought, "If I can help Jim and Charity to get
together after all this blundering it will be a good job."
He was tempted to tell her that Jim was coming to see him, too, but
he was afraid that she knew it. If he had told her--but there goes
that eternal "if" again!
It is a fierce and searching test of a woman's mettle when first
she is confronted with temptation to rebel against the control of
her preacher. Men are used to it, and women must grow more and more
used to it as they advance into their long-deferred heritage.
Charity Coe Cheever was religious by every instinct. From childhood
she had thrilled to the creed and the music and the eloquence of
her Sundays. The beautiful industries of Christianity had engaged
her. She had been happy within the walls and had felt that her
piety gave her wings rather than chains.
And then she came abruptly to the end of her tether. She found
her soul revolted by a situation which her pastor commanded her
to accept as her lifelong portion. She found that to tolerate, and
by tolerating to collaborate in, the adultery of her husband and
his mistress was better religion than to free herself from odious
triplicity. She found that it was better religion to annul her
womanhood and remain childless, husbandless, and comfortless than
to claim the privileges, the freedoms, the renewing opportunities
the law allowed.
She came suddenly face to face with the terrifying fact that the
State offered her help and strength that the Church denied her.
She had reached indeed what the doleful balladists would call
"the parting of the ways," though no poet has yet chosen for his
heroine the distraught wretch who is driven to the bleak refuge
So long as it concerned only her own happiness Charity could
put away the choice. But the more she pondered that unless she
divorced her husband his mistress's baby would come into the world
with a hideous birthmark, the more she felt it her duty to flout
the Church. She shuddered to think of the future for that
baby, especially if it should be a girl. She felt curiously a
mother-obligation toward it. She blamed herself for her husband's
infidelity. She humbled herself and bowed her neck to the shame.
She left the Church and went to the law. And then she found that
the law had its own cruelties, its own fetters and walls and
loopholes and hypocrisies. She found that it is not even possible
to be a martyr and retain all one's dignity. One cannot even go
to the stake without some guile.
The wicked law which the Church abhorred had its own idea of
wickedness, and in the eyes of the law the agreement of a husband
and a wife to part was something loathsome. She expressed her
amazement to McNiven.
"It seems to me," she sighed, "if both husband and wife want
a divorce, they know best; and that fact ought to be sufficient
grounds in itself. And yet you tell me that if the law once gets
wind of the fact they've got to live together forever."
"That's it. They've got to live together whether they love together
or not--though of course you can get a separation very easily, on
almost any ground."
"But a separation is only a guarantee of--of infidelity,
I should think."
"Of course it is," said Lawyer McNiven.
"Then everything seems all wrong."
"Of course it is."
"Then why doesn't somebody correct it?"
"Who's going to bell the cat? Anybody who advocates divorce by mutual
consent is sure to be lynched more or less fatally, and especially
lynched by the very people who are making a mockery of matrimony in
their own lives.
"One marriage in twelve in the United States ends in divorce. You'll
not find anybody who dares to say that that is not a crying scandal.
Yet you and I know that home life in America is as pure and honorable
as in any other country. I'm an awful heathen, of course, but I'll
bet you I'm a true prophet when I say that divorce will increase
as the world goes on, instead of decreasing, and that in all the
countries where divorce is forbidden or restricted it will grow freer
and freer. Statistics prove it all over the globe."
To Charity Coe, the devout churchwoman, this picture was appalling.
"Oh, in Heaven's name, what will happen? The world will go all
"That's what they said when men asked for the vote and for education,
when women asked for education and the vote; that's what they said
when people opposed the divine right of kings, and when they asked
for religious freedom; that's what they said when people opposed
slavery; that's what they said when people said that insane people
were not inhabited by devils and should be treated as invalids.
The trouble, Charity, is that a certain spirit has always been abroad
in the world fighting imaginary devils with the best intentions in
the world. And in all history there has never been anybody so
dangerous to human welfare as the zealot who wants to protect other
people from themselves and from the devils.
"The insane people were never inhabited by devils, and neither are
the sane people. Most men want one wife and most women want one
husband. Even in the polygamous countries you'll not find any more
real polygamy than you find in the countries with the strictest
marriage laws. Bluebeard was a Mohammedan, but Don Juan was a
Christian. Spain has no divorce on any grounds; neither has Italy.
Would you point to those countries as models of domestic purity?
Does any sane person dare say that home life in Spain is purer than
in the United States?
"I tell you, easy divorce goes right along with merciful laws,
public schools, clean prisons, free press, free speech."
Mrs. Cheever was a very good woman, and she abominated divorces.
She had very peculiar reasons for wanting one herself, as every one
has who wants one, but she felt her case to be so exceptional that
it proved the rule against divorces. She shrank a little from the
iconoclastic lawyer she had come to for aid, and reminded him of
the solemnity of the theme.
"Don't you believe in the sanctity of matrimony?"
"Just as much as I believe in the sanctity of personal liberty and
a contract and a debt and the obligation to vote and bear arms and
equality of opportunity and responsibility and--oh, a lot of other
sacred things--just as much and no more."
"But the Church calls marriage a sacrament."
"It does now, yes; but it didn't for over fifteen hundred years."
"It's true. The trouble with you religious people is that you never
know the history of your own religion. And remember one more thing:
the marriage rules of the Christian Church are all founded on the
theories of men who never married. No wonder they found it easy
to lay down hard and fast rules. Remember another thing: the early
Church fathers, Saint Paul, Hieronymus, and thousands of others,
believed that marriage was only a little bit better than the worst
evil, and that womankind was hardly more than the devil's natural
"It was not until the Church was eleven hundred and sixty-four years
old that Peter Lombard put marriage among the seven sacraments. And
marriage did not become an official matter of Church jurisdiction
till the Council of Trent in fifteen hundred and sixty-three. Think
of that! Marriage was not a sacrament for fifteen centuries, and
it has been one for less than four. And at that the Church could
only manage the problem by increasing the number of impediments to
marriage, which meant that it increased the number of excuses for
"The total number of marriages annulled would amaze you. History
is full of the most picturesque devices for granting divorce
without seeming to. Sometimes they would illegitimize two or
three generations in order to find a marriage within the forbidden
"According to Saint Matthew, Christ allowed divorce on the ground
of adultery; according to Mark and Luke he made no such allowance.
New York State follows Saint Matthew. The Catholic Church follows
Luke and John. Old Martin Luther said that marriage was none of
the Church's business. And that's what I think."
"You don't believe in the religious ceremony?"
"I'm afraid I don't believe in religious ceremonies about anything.
I'm rather a heathen, you know--brought up in a good Presbyterian
Calvinistic atmosphere, but I've lost it all. I'll give three
cheers for virtue and the home as well as anybody; but my study
and my experience lead me to distrust preachers and preaching.
"Still, this is a free country, and married people have a right to
go to church if they want to, or to stay away. But I believe that
marriage must be a civil contract and that no preacher has a right
to denounce the State's prerogative, or try to belittle it. It is
strange, but true, that when the Church has ruled the State the
world has always groaned in corruption and cruelty.
"I believe that the law of New York is ridiculous in allowing only
one ground for divorce, and if the United States ever arranges
a uniform divorce law it will undoubtedly follow the policy of
the more liberal States. I believe, with Bernard Shaw and John
Galsworthy and a number of other good, great men, in cheap and
easy divorce, divorce within reach of the poor.
"As for morality, you have only to read the literature of the time
when there was no divorce to realize how little a safeguard it is
for the home. Boccaccio gives a social portrait of such a life,
and he is almost too indecent to read. Yet the picture he gives
is not half so terrible as Saint Catherine of Siena gives. They
had to cut that chapter out of her works."
"Oh, do you read her works, too?" said Charity, remembering her
experience with that flaming biography.
"I read a little of everybody. But everything I read and see confirms
my opinion that too much law is the curse of the world. Still, as I
say, I'm not a lawmaker. I'm a law-manipulator. I've been wondering
how long you would stand Cheever's scandalous behavior, and how long
you could be convinced that you were helping the morals of the world
by condoning and encouraging such immorality. Now that you've brought
your troubles to my shop I'm going to help you if I can. But I don't
want to get you or myself into the clutches of the law. You'll have
to take care of your Church relations as best you can. They may turn
you out, and you may roast on a gridiron hereafter, but that's your
business. Personally, I think the only wicked thing I've ever heard
of you doing was permitting your husband to board and lodge at your
house while he carried on with that--woman. A harem divided against
itself will not stand."
Charity was terrified by the man's profane view of sacred things,
and she was horrified to learn that she could only release herself
and Cheever from the shackles by a kind of trickery. She would have
to make her escape somewhat as she had seen Houdini break from his
ropes in the vaudevilles, by retiring behind dark curtains for
She felt guilty and craven whichever way she turned, and she imagined
the revulsion with which the good pastor would regard her. Yet she
was in a kind of mania to accept the scapegoat's burdens and be off
into the wilderness. She was resolved to undergo everything for the
sake of that poor child of Zada's hastening toward the world. She
thanked Heaven she had no child of her own to complicate her duty.
She understood why Cheever wanted to protect the name of the child's
mother from the courts, and she was baffled by the situation. The
lawyer, who was so flippant about the things the Church held so
sacred, was like a priest in his abhorrence of any tampering with
the letter of the law.
She left his office for a conference with Cheever. She found at home
that he had been telephoning to her. She called him up, and he came
over at once.
"I'm in a devil of a mess, Charity," he said. "My lawyer refuses
to help me give you evidence, and Zada--Miss L'Etoile--has developed
a peculiar streak of obstinacy. She is determined that no other woman
shall be named as the--er--co-respondent. She would rather be named
herself. She says everybody knows about our--er--relations, anyway;
and she doesn't care if they do."
Zada's character and her career had rendered her as contemptuous
of public disapproval as any zealot of a loftier cause than love.
There was a kind of barbaric insolence in her passion that Charity
could not help admiring a little. She felt a whit ashamed of her
own timidities and delicacies. The trouble with these proud defiers
of the public, however, is that they do not ask the consent of the
babies that are more or less implied in their superb amours.
Cheever was so distracted between the scruples of his lawyer and
Zada's lack of them that when Charity confessed how she had set
detectives on him and had secured a dictagraphic record of his
alliance with Zada he was overcome with gratitude.
So little a shift of circumstances makes all the difference between
a spy and a savior. The deed that he would once have cursed his wife
for stooping to, perhaps have beaten her for, was now an occasion
for overwhelming her with thanks.
He hurried away to his lawyer, and Charity telephoned McNiven for
another appointment the next afternoon. Jim Dyckman's appointment
was for the next morning.
When Jim reached his office the next morning McNiven recommended
the view to him, gave him a chair, refused a cigar, lighted his pipe
instead, opened a drawer in his desk, put his feet in it, and leaned
far back in his swivel chair.
Jim began, "Well, you see, Sandy, it's like this--"
"One moment," McNiven broke in. "Before you speak I must as an
honest lawyer warn you against the step you contemplate."
"But, damn it, you don't know what it is yet."
"I don't have to. I know you, and I know that people don't come
to lawyers, as a rule, except to get out of a scrape dishonestly
or to get into one unwisely."
It was his office joke, and something more, a kind of formula for
squaring himself with his conscience, a phrase for warding off
the devil--as a beggar spits on the penny he accepts.
Having exorcised the demon, he said, "Go on, tell me: what's her
name and how much does she want for silence?"
"How much do you want for silence?" Jim growled.
McNiven was startled and grieved when he learned that Jim was not
making ready to marry Charity Coe, but some one else. Jim told
him as much as he thought necessary, and McNiven guessed the rest.
He groaned: "It seems impossible to surround marriage with such
difficulties that people won't break in and out. I've got a friend
of yours trying to bust a home as quietly as you're trying to
Of course, he did not mention Charity's name. He tried fervently
to convince Jim that he ought not to marry Kedzie, but, failing to
persuade him from the perils of matrimony, he did his best to help
him to a decent secrecy. His best was the program Jim and Kedzie
They motored over to the village of Jolicoeur in New Jersey. There
a local attorney, a friend of McNiven's, met them and vouched for
them before the town clerk, who made out the license. He asked
Kedzie if she had been married before, and she was so young and
pretty and so plainly a girl that he laughed when he asked the
question. And for answer Kedzie just laughed, too. He wrote down
that she had never been married before. Kedzie had not really lied,
and they can't arrest a person, surely, for just laughing. Not that
she did not believe in the motto which Blanche Bates used to read
so convincingly in "The Darling of the Gods": "It is better to lie
a little than to be unhappy much."
Jim was shocked at the situation, but he could hardly be so ungallant
as to call his fiancée a liar at such a time. Besides, he had heard
that the law is interested in people's persons and not their names,
and he was marrying Kedzie personally.
When the license was made out the lawyer whispered to the town clerk
that it would be made worth his while to suppress the news for thirty
days or more, and the clerk winked and grinned. Business was slow
in matrimony, and he needed any little tips.
Now that they were licensed, Jim and Kedzie, being non-residents of
New Jersey, must wait twenty-four hours before they could be married.
They motored back to New York and went to the theater to kill the
evening. The next afternoon Jim called for Kedzie, and they motored
again to Jolicoeur for the ceremony. Mr. and Mrs. Thropp went along
as witnesses and to make sure.
The lawyer had found a starveling parson in Jolicoeur who asked
the fatal questions and pronounced the twain man and wife, adding
the warning, "Whom God hath joined, let no man put asunder." Jim
Dyckman was so befuddled that he heard it, "Let no man join whom God
hath put asunder." But he paid the preacher well and added a large
sum for the church on condition that the news of the marriage be
kept out of the public records till the last legal moment.
Dyckman had tried to do the honorable thing by Kedzie. He was
certainly generous, for a man can hardly give a woman more than
himself and all he has. Dyckman, however, had been ashamed of
a mental reservation or two. He could not repress a sneaking
feeling that he had been less the kidnapper than the napped kid
in this elopement. If anybody were to be arrested for abduction,
it would not be he.
He reviled himself for confessing this to himself, and his sympathies
went out to Kedzie because the poor child had to be yoked with
a reluctant mate. A bridegroom ought to bring to his bride, above
all things else, an eager heart. And that Jim could not bring.
He had been in his time a man and had sowed his measure of wild oats
--more than a poor man could, less than a rich man might, far less
than his unusual opportunities and the greedy throngs of temptresses
encouraged. But he had taken Kedzie seriously, never dreaming how
large a part ambition played in her devotion to him. He had been
good to her and with her. The marriage ceremony had solemnized him
He had made a try at secrecy, because he felt shy about the affair.
He knew that his name would lead the newspapers to haze him, as
the rustic neighbors deride a rural couple with a noisy "chivaree."
He dreaded the head-lines, as a kind of invasion of the bridal
In any case he had always hated flamboyant weddings with crowds and
splendor. He did not believe that a marriage should be circused.
And thus at last he and Kedzie were united into one soul and one
flesh, for better, for worse, etc., etc. Then they sped away to
the remotest pleasant hotel to be found in darkest Jersey.
Jim registered under his own name, but blushed more hotly than if
he had been engaged in an escapade. He could, perhaps, have taken
Kedzie so with less regret than under the blessing of the clergy.
For now he felt that he owed to her the all-hallowing grace of
that utter love which was something he could not bestow.
She was the first wife he had ever had, and he wished a devoutness
in that consummation. Lacking the sanctifying ardor, he was
remorseful rather than triumphant, feeling himself more of a
brute than even a bridegroom usually feels.
Kedzie did not seem to miss any perfection in his devotion, but
he imputed that more to her innocent kindliness than to any grace
of his own. The more he studied her the more he wondered why he
did not love her more. She was tremendously exquisite, ferociously
delicate, and almighty pretty. She was altogether too delectable,
too cunningly wrought and fragile, for a hulking Titan like him.
He was positively afraid of her, and greatly amazed to see that
she was not at all afraid of him. The moment the parson had done
his worst a new Kedzie had appeared. She took command of everything
instantly: ordered the parson about, shipped her mother and father
back to town as if they were bothersome children, gave directions
to Jim's chauffeur in a way that taught him who was to be who
thenceforward, and made demands upon the hotel clerk in a tone
that was more convincing of her wifehood than a marriage license
could have been.
The quality missing in Kedzie was the sense of terror and meekness
expectable in brides. Her sole distress was, to Jim's amazement,
the obscurity and solitude of their retreat. Kedzie was rapturous,
but she had not the slightest desire to hide it from the world.
She was Mrs. Jim Dyckman, and she didn't care who knew it.
Poor Kedzie had her own sorrows to mar her triumph. She was being
driven to believe that the world was as badly managed as the
Hyperfilm Studio. Providence seemed to provide tribulations for her
like a scenario editor pursuing a movie heroine. The second reel had
begun well, the rich but honest lover putting the poor but dishonest
husband to flight. And now Honeymoon Number Two! She had dreamed
of a gorgeous church ceremony with two pipe-organs, and an enlarged
cast of clergymen, and wedding guests composed of real millionaires
instead of movie "extras." But lo and behold, her adorer whisks her
off to a little town in New Jersey and the great treaty is sealed
in the shoddy parlor of a village parsonage! Gilfoyle's Municipal
Building was a cathedral compared to this.
Then with never a white ribbon fluttering, not an old shoe or
a grain of rice hurtling, the limousine of love rolled away to
a neglected roadhouse. It was attractive enough as a roadhouse,
but it was wretched as an imitation paradise.
In the face of this outrage everything else was a detail, a minor
humiliation. There was no parrot on an area fire-escape to mock her
next morning, but there was a still earlier rooster to banish sleep
and parody her triumph. She slipped out of bed and went barefoot
to the window-seat and gazed out into a garden.
She made a picture there that Ferriday would have loved in
a "close-up." Her hair was tumbling down upon and around her
shoulders, and her silken nightgown shimmered blissfully about her,
sketching her contours in iridescent lines. She gazed, through an
Elizabethan of small panes, into a garden where sunrise bloomed
rosily in petals of light. She was the prettiest thing in the
pretty picture; yet she was pouting at Fate--Fate, the old scenario
writer who never could seem to bring off a happy ending.
Jim Dyckman, waking, saw her there and rubbed his eyes. Then he
remembered. He pondered her and saw a tear or two slip out of her
eyes, run along her cheek and pitch off into the tiny ravine of her
bosom. He felt that he was a contemptible fiend who had committed
a lynchable crime upon a tender and helpless victim. He closed his
eyes in remorse, pretending to sleep, tormented like the repentant
purchaser of a "white slave"--or rather a pink slave.
They breakfasted early and prettily. Kedzie was radiant now. She
usually was when she was dealing in futures. They took up the
question of their future residence. Jim proposed all the honeymoon
haunts. Europe was out of the question, so he suggested Bermuda,
Jamaica, California, Atlantic City, North Carolina, the Adirondacks.
But Kedzie wanted to get back to New York.
This pained and bewildered him at first, because he felt that wedded
rapture should hide itself awhile in its own lovely loneliness.
Besides, his appearance in New York with a wife would involve him
in endless explanations--and there would be reporters to see, and
society editors and photographers, and his family and all his
But those were just what Kedzie wanted. And at last she told him so.
"You act as if you were ashamed to be seen with me," she cried out.
The only answering argument to this was to take her back to town
at once. The question of how and where they were to live was
important. They had not settled it in the flurry of their hasty
Jim supposed that a hotel would be necessary till they found a house.
He loathed the thought of a hotel, but a suitable furnished house
might not be in the market at the moment. He suggested an apartment.
This reminded Kedzie of how Gilfoyle had sent her out on a flat-hunt.
She would have more money now, but there would doubtless be something
the matter with every place. The most urgent thing was to get out of
New Jersey. They could discuss residences in the car.
And they did discuss them. Building a new house would take years.
Buying a ready-made house and furnishing it would take days, perhaps
weeks. Kedzie could not choose which one of the big hotels she most
wanted to camp in. Each had its qualities and their defects.
When they were on the ferry crossing the river she had not yet made
up her mind. Jim had no mind to make up. He was reduced to a mere
waiter on her orders. He laughed at himself. This morning at daybreak
he had been reproaching himself for being a vicious gorilla who had
carried off a little girl; now he was realizing that the little girl
had carried him off and was making a monkey of him.
Kedzie's mental disarray was the overwhelming influence of infinite
money. For the first time in her life she could disregard price-marks
entirely. Curiously, that took away half the fun of the thing. It
seemed practically impossible for her to be extravagant. She would
learn before long that there are countless things that plutocrats
cannot afford, that they also must deny themselves much, feel shabby,
and envy their neighbors. For the present she realized only that she
had oodles of money to sprinkle.
But it takes training to spend money, and Kedzie was now unpractised.
Her wisher was so undeveloped that she could only wish for things
available to people of moderate affluence. She could not wish for
a yacht, because Jim had a yacht. She could not wish for a balloon
because she would not go up in it. She could wish for a house, but
she could not walk into it without delay. She could not live in two
hotels at once. Jewelry she could use in quantities, but even at that
she had only so much surface area to hang it on. In fact, when she
came right face to face with facts, what was there worth wishing for?
What was the use of being so dog-on rich, anyway?
And there she hung on the door-sill of her new life like a child
catching sight of a loaded Christmas tree and palsied with inability
to decide which toy to grab first, horrified to realize that he
cannot suck the orange and blow the trumpet at the same time.
When they reached the New York side of the Hudson the car rolled off
the boat into the ferry-house and into the street, and when Jim said
again, "Well, where do you want to go?" she had to sigh.
"Oh, Heavens! let's go home to my old apartment and talk it over."
She gave the address to the chauffeur, and Jim smiled grimly. It
gave him a little cynical amusement to act as passenger.
On the way up-town Kedzie realized that she was hungry and that
here would be no food in her apartment. They turned to Sherry's.
Kedzie left Jim and went into the dressing-room to smooth her hair
after the motor flight.
And now, just too late, Charity Coe Cheever happened to arrive as
the guest of Mrs. Duane. The sight of Jim alone brought a flush of
hope to Charity's eyes. She greeted him with a breeziness she had
hardly known since she was a girl. There was nothing about his
appearance to indicate that he had just come across from New Jersey,
where he had been made the husband of Mrs. Kedzie Thropp Gilfoyle.
Seeing Charity so unusually bright, Jim said, "What's happened to
you, Charity, that you look so gay and free?"
"That's what I am."
"Gay and free. Can you keep a secret?"
"I'm getting divorced."
"My Lord, no!"
"Yes, my lord."
"Oh, God, and me just married!"
Charity looked for an instant as if an arrow had flashed into her
heart and struck her dead. Then with relentless courage she plucked
out the steel and let the blood gush while she smiled.
"Congratulations, old boy. Who's the lucky lady?"
"It's the little girl I yanked out of Mrs. Noxon's pool."
"The one I asked you to look out for?"
"Well, isn't that fine! She was very pretty. I hope you'll be ever
"Thanks, Charity--thank you. Mighty nice of you! Of course, you
know--er--Well, here she is." He beckoned to Kedzie, who came
forward. "Mrs. Cheever, my wife. But you've met, haven't you?"
"Oh yes, indeed," said Charity Coe, with an effusion of cordiality
that roused Kedzie's suspicions more than her gratitude. The first
woman she met was already trying to get into her good graces! Charity
Coe went on, with a little difficulty:
"But Mrs. Dyckman doesn't remember me. I met you at Mrs. Noxon's."
"Oh yes," said Kedzie, and a slow, heavy crimson darkened her face
like a stream of treacle.
The first woman she met was reminding her of the time she was a
poor young dancer with neither clothes nor money. It was outrageous
to have this flung in her face at the very gate of Eden.
She was extremely cold to Charity Coe, and Charity saw it. Jim
Dyckman died the death at finding Kedzie so cruel to the one who
had befriended her. But he could not rebuke his wife, even before
his lost love. So he said nothing.
Charity caught the heartsick, hangdog look in his eyes, and she
forbore to slice Kedzie up with sarcasm. She bade her a most
gracious farewell and moved on.
Kedzie stared after her and her beautiful gown, and said: "Say, Jim,
who were the Coes, anyway? Did they make their money in trade?"
Jim said that he would be divinely condemned, or words to that
And now Kedzie Thropp was satisfied at last--at least for the time
being. She was a plump kitten, replete and purr-full, and the world
was her catnip-ball.
There was no visible horizon to her wealth. Her name was one of the
oldest, richest, noblest in the republic. She was a Dyckman now,
double-riveted to the name with a civil license and a religious
certificate. Tommie Gilfoyle had politely died, and like an obliging
rat had died outside the premises. Hardly anybody knew that she had
married him, and nobody who knew was going to tell.
Kedzie forgot Charity in the joy of ordering a millionaire's
luncheon. This was not easy. She was never a glutton for food;
excitement dimmed what appetite she had, and her husband, as she
knew, hated made dishes with complex sauces.
Kedzie was baffled by the futility of commanding a lot of things
she could not eat, just for the fun of making a large bill. She was
like the traditional prospector who struck it rich and, hastening
to civilization, could think of nothing to order but "forty dollars'
worth of pork and beans."
Kedzie had to satisfy her plutocratic pride by bossing the waiter
about, by complaining that the oysters were not chilled and the
sherry was. She sent back the salad for redressing and insisted
that the meat was from cold storage. She was no longer the poor
girl afraid of the waiter.
Kedzie was having a good time, but she regretted that her
wedding-ring was so small. She felt that wives ought to wear some
special kind of plume, the price of the feather varying with the
bank account. Kedzie would have had to carry an umbrella of plumes.
Still, she did pretty well on her exit. She went out like a million
dollars. But her haughtiness fell from her when she reached home
and found Mr. and Mrs. Thropp comfortably installed there, saving
Charity Coe had gone out feeling a million years old. She left
the presence of Kedzie in a mood of tragic laughter. She was
in one of those contemptible, ridiculous plights in which good
people frequently find themselves as a result of kindliness and
For well-meant actions are as often and as heavily punished in
this world as ill-meant--if indeed the word _punishment_ has
any respectability left. It is certainly obsolescent.
Many great good men, such as Brand Whitlock, the saint of Belgium,
had been saying that the whole idea of human punishment of human
beings is false, cruel, and futile, that it has never accomplished
anything worth while for either victim or inflictor. They place it
among the ugly follies, the bloody superstitions that mankind has
clung to with a fanaticism impervious to experience. They would
change the prisons from hells to schools and hospitals.
Even the doctrine of a hell beyond the grave is rather neglected
now, except by such sulphuric press agents as Mr. Sunday. But in
this world we cannot sanely allege that vice is punished and virtue
rewarded until we know better what virtue is and what is vice. All
that it is safe to say is that punishment is a something unpleasant
and reward a something pleasant that follows a deed--merely follows
in point of time, not in proof of judgment.
So the mockery of Charity's good works was neither a punishment
nor a ridicule. It was a coincidence, but a sad one. Charity had
befriended Kedzie without making a friend thereby; she had lost,
indeed, her good friend Jim. Charity's affection for Jim would make
her suspect in Kedzie's eyes, and Kedzie's gratitude had evidently
already cut its sharper-than-a-serpent's wisdom tooth.
Charity had been patient with her husband and had lost him. She
had asked the Church for her freedom and had been threatened with
exile. Then her husband had demanded his freedom and forced her
to choose between blackening her own soul with the brand "divorcée"
or blackening her husband's mistress's baby's soul with the brand
She had preferred to take the shame upon herself. But who would give
her credit? She knew how false was the phrase that old Ovid uttered
but could not comfort even himself with, "The mind conscious of
rectitude laughs at the lies of gossip." No woman can afford such
Charity had such a self-guying meekness, indeed, that instead of
clothing herself in the robes of martyrdom she ridiculed herself
because of one thing: In a pigeonhole of her brain a little
back-thought had lurked, a dim hope that if she gave her husband
the divorce he implored she might be free to remold her shattered
life nearer to her heart's desire--with Jim Dyckman. Her husband,
indeed, had taunted her with that intention, and now she had no
sooner launched her good name down the slippery ways of divorce
than she found Jim Dyckman married and learned that her premature
and unwomanly hopes for him were ludicrously thwarted!
She went to McNiven's office with a dark life ahead of her. She had
no desire left except to disentangle herself from Peter Cheever's
life as quietly and swiftly as possible. She told McNiven this and
"How quickly can the ghastly job be finished?"
"Theoretically it could be done in a day, but practically it takes
a little longer. For we must avoid the look of collusion like the
plague. So we'll allow, say, a week. If we're lucky with our judges,
it may take less."
Then he outlined the steps to be taken. An unusual chain of
circumstances enabled him to carry them out with unexpected neatness
and despatch, so that the case became a very model of how gracefully
the rigid laws of divorce could be manipulated in the Year of Our
Lord 1916 and of the Founding of the Republic 140.
It may be interesting to outline the procedure as a social document
in chicanery, or social surgery, as one wills to call it.
McNiven first laid under Charity's eyes a summons and complaint
against Peter Cheever. She glanced over it and found it true except
that Zada L'Etoile was not named; Cheever's alleged income was vastly
larger than she imagined, and her claim for alimony was exorbitant.
Her first question was: "Who is this unknown woman going by the name
of Sarah Tishler? I thought Miss L'Etoile was to be the only woman
McNiven explained: "L'Etoile is her stage name. She doesn't know
her real name herself, for she was taken from the foundling-asylum
as a child by a family named Tishler. We have taken advantage of
Charity bowed to this, but she protested the income credited to
"Peter doesn't earn half as much as that."
"How do you know what he earns?" said McNiven.
"He's told me often enough."
"Do you believe all he told you?"
"No; but, anyway, I don't want any of his old alimony. I have money
enough of my own."
"That can be arranged later, but if you don't swear to this as it
lies you can't have your divorce."
"Because there has to be a contest, and we've got to give his lawyer
something to fight."
Charity yielded wearily. She fought against making an affidavit to
the truth of the complaint, but when NcNiven said, "No affidavit,
no divorce," she took her oath before the clerk who was called in
as a notary public.
"Now you may go home," said McNiven; and Charity stole out, feeling
herself a perjured criminal. Then the divorce-mill began to grind.
A process-server from McNiven's office went across Broadway to
Tessier's office, where Cheever was waiting. He handed the papers
to Cheever, who handed them to Tessier, who hastily dictated an
answer denying the adultery, the alleged income, and the propriety
of the alimony claimed.
Tessier and Cheever visited McNiven in his office and served him
with this answer. The two lawyers then dictated an agreement to
a reference, Tessier adding a statement that he considered his
client equipped with a good defense and that he intended to oppose
the suit in good faith.
Their clerks took this to the County Court House in City Hall Square
and filed it with the clerk of the Supreme Court, Special Term,
Justice Cardwell, before leaving his chambers, read the papers and
issued an order naming as referee the lawyer Henry Firth.
Here for a moment the veil of secrecy was rent, for this order
could not be suppressed. It was published in _The Law Journal_
the next morning, and the eager reporters reading therein that
Mrs. Peter Cheever was suing her husband for a divorce on statutory
grounds, dashed to the records and learned that she accused him
of undue intimacy with an unknown woman going by the name of Sarah
By selecting an obscure town this publicity might have been deferred,
but it would have meant delay in the case as well.
A flock of reporters sped like hawks for Charity's home, where they
were denied admittance; for Cheever's office, where they were told
that he was out of town; and even for Zada L'Etoile's apartment,
where they were informed that she had left the State, as indeed she
had. Sarah Tishler had a right, being named as co-respondent, to
enter the case and defend her name, but she waived the privilege.
The evening papers made what they could of the sensation, but nobody
mentioned Zada, for nobody knew that fate had tried to conceal her
by naming her Tishler, and nobody quite dared to mention her without
On the next day Lawyer Firth held court in his office. Reporters were
excluded, and the lawyers and detectives and Cheever and Charity, who
had to be present, declined to answer any of the questions rained
upon them in the corridors and the elevators.
Mr. Firth was empowered to swear in witnesses and take testimony.
The evidence of the detectives, corroborated by the evidence of
a hall-boy and a janitor and by proof of the installation of the
dictagraph, seemed conclusive to Mr. Firth.
Cheever denied that he had committed the alleged adultery and gave
proof that his income was not as stated. Attorney Tessier evaded
the evidence of adultery, but fought hard against the evidence of
prosperity. Referee Firth made his report finding the defendant
guilty of the statutory offense, and ordered a decree of divorce,
with a diminished alimony. He appended a transcript of the evidence
and filed it with the Clerk of the County of New York. The statutory
fee for a referee was ten dollars a day, but the lawyers had quietly
agreed on the payment of a thousand dollars for expediting the case.
With this recompense Mr. Firth ended his duties in the matter.
McNiven prepared a motion to confirm the report of the referee and
took it to Tessier, who accepted service for his client. McNiven then
went to the county clerk and filed a notice that the motion would be
called up the next morning. The clerk put it on the calendar of
Special Term, Part III.
The next morning McNiven appeared before Justice Palfrey, submitted
his motion, and asked for an interlocutory decree. He left his paper
with the clerk. During the afternoon Justice Palfrey looked over
the referee's report and decided to grant McNiven's motion. In view
of the prominence of the contestants and since he had heard of
Charity's good works, and felt sure that she had suffered enough
in the wreck of her home, he ordered the evidence sealed. This
harmed nobody but the hungry reporters and the gossip-appetite
of the public.
McNiven was waiting in the office of the clerk, and as soon as
he learned that the judge had granted the motion he submitted the
formal orders to be signed. The clerk entered the interlocutory
decree. And now the marriage was ended except for three months of
The first day after that period had passed McNiven submitted an
affidavit that there had been no change in the feelings of the
parties and there was no good reason why the decree should not be
granted. He made up the final papers, gave Tessier notice, and
deposited the record with the clerk. Justice Cruden, then sitting
in Special Term, Part III., signed the judgment. And the deed was
done. Mrs. Cheever was permitted to resume her maiden name, but
that meant too much confusion; she needed the "Mrs." for protection
of a sort.
The divorce carried with it a clause forbidding the guilty husband
to marry any one else before five years had passed. But while the
divorce was legal all over the world, this restriction ended at
the State bounds.
So Peter Cheever and Zada L'Etoile went over into the convenient
realm of New Jersey the next morning, secured a license, and on the
following day were there made man and wife before all the world.
This entitled them to a triumphant return to New York. And now Peter
Cheever had also done the honorable thing. This "honorable thing"
business will be one of the first burdens dropped by the men when
the women perfect their claim to equality.
In about two weeks a daughter was born to the happy twain. Thanks to
Charity's obliging nature, it was christened in church and accepted
in law as a complete Cheever. Mr. and Mrs. and Miss Cheever now began
to live (more or less) happily ever after (temporarily).
Altogether it was a triumph of legal, social, and surgical technic.
It outraged many virtuous people. There was a good deal of harsh
criticism of everybody concerned. The worthies who believe that
divorce is the cause of the present depraved state of the United
States bewailed one more instance of the vile condition of the
lawless Gomorrah. The eternal critics of the rich used the case as
another text in proof of the complete control that wealth has over
our courts, though seventy-five divorces to obscure persons were
granted at the same time without difficulty, with little expense
and no newspaper punishment.
Dr. Mosely wrote Charity a letter of heartbroken condemnation,
and she slunk away to the mountains to escape from the reproach
of all good people and to recuperate for another try at the French
war hospitals. She had let her great moving-picture project lapse.
She felt hopelessly out of the world and she was afraid to face
her friends. Still, she had money and her "freedom," and one really
cannot expect everything.
The ninety days following Charity's encounter with Jim Dyckman and
his bride at Sherry's had been busy times for her and epochal in
their changes. From being one of the loneliest and most approved
women in America she had become one of the loneliest and least
approved. Altruism is perhaps the most expensive of the virtues.
No less epochal were those months for the Dyckmans, bride and groom.
Their problems began to bourgeon immediately after they left New
Jersey and went to Kedzie's old apartment for further debate as to
their future lodgings.
Mr. and Mrs. Thropp were amazed by their sudden return. Adna was
a trifle sheepish. They found him sitting in the parlor in his
shirt-sleeves and stocking feet, and staring out of the window at
the neighbors opposite. In Nimrim it was a luxury to be able to spy
into the windows of one neighbor at a time. Opposite Adna there were
a hundred and fifty neighbors whom it cost nothing to watch. Some
of them were very startling; some of them were stupid old ladies who
rocked, or children who flattened their noses against the windows,
or Pekingese doglets who were born with their noses against a pane,
apparently. But some of the neighbors were fascinatingly careless
of inspection--and they always promised to be more careless than
Mrs. Thropp came rushing in from the kitchen. She had been trying
in vain to make a friend of Kedzie's one servant. But this maid,
like a self-respectful employee or a good soldier, resented the
familiarity of an official superior as an indecency and an insult.
She made up her mind to quit.
After Mrs. Thropp had expressed her wonderment at seeing her children
return, she turned the full power of her hospitality on poor Jim
Dyckman. He could not give notice and seek another job.
Mrs. Thropp's first problem was the proper style and title of
"What am I goin' to call you, anyhow?" she said. "_Jim_ sounds
kind of familiar on short acquaintance, and _James_ is sort of
distant. _Son-in-law_ is hor'ble, and _Son_ is--How would
you like it if I was to call you '_Son_'? What does your own