Part 9 out of 12
mother call you?"
"_Jimsy_" Jim admitted, shamefacedly.
"_Jimsy_ is right nice," said Mrs. Thropp, and she Jimsied him
thenceforward, to his acute distress. He found that he had married
not Kedzie only but all the Thropps there were. The father and mother
were the mere foreground of a vast backward and abyss of relations,
beginning with a number of Kedzie's brothers and sisters and their
wives and husbands. Jim was a trifle stunned to learn what lowly
jobs some of his brothers-in-law were glad to hold.
Mrs. Thropp felt that it was only right to tell Jim as much as she
could about his new family. She told him for hours and hours. She
described people he had never seen or heard of and would travel many
a mile to avoid. He had never cared for genealogy, and his own long
and brilliant ancestry did not interest him in the slightest. He had
hundreds of relations of all degrees of fame and fortune, and he
felt under no further obligation to them than to let alone and be
His interest in his new horde of relations-in-law was vastly less
than nothing. But Mrs. Thropp gave him their names, their ages,
habits, diseases, vices, mannerisms, idiosyncrasies. She recounted
doings and sayings of infinite unimportance and uninterest.
With the fatuous, blindfolded enthusiasm of an after-dinner speaker
who rambles on and on and on while the victims yawn, groan, or fold
their napkins and silently steal away, Mrs. Thropp poured out her
Jim went from weariness to restiveness, to amazement, to wrath,
to panic, to catalepsy, before Kedzie realized that he was being
suffocated by these reminiscences. Then she intervened.
Mrs. Thropp's final cadence was a ghastly thought:
"Well, now, I've told you s'much about all our folks, you must tell
me all about yours."
"The Lord forbid!" said Jim.
Mrs. Thropp took this to mean that he did not dare confess the
scandals of his people. She knew, of course, from reading, that rich
people are very wicked, but she did want to know some of the details.
Jim refused to make disclosures. He was wakened from his coma by
Mrs. Thropp's casual remark:
"Say, Jimsy, how do folks do, on East here? Will your mother call
on me and Kedzie, or will she look for us to call on her first?"
"My God!" thought Jim.
"What say?" said Mrs. Thropp.
Jim floundered and threshed. He had never before realized what his
mother's famous pride might mean. She had always been only mother
to him, devoted, tender, patient, forgiving, amusing, sympathetic,
anxious, flattered by his least attention. Yet he had heard her
spoken of as a human glacier for freezing social climbers and pushers
of every sort. She was huge and slow; she could be frightfully cold
Now he understood what congelation the trembling approachers to her
majesty must have suffered. He was afraid to think what she would
do to the Thropps. Her first glance would turn them to icicles and
her first word would snap them to bits.
It is hard enough for any mother to receive the news that her son
is in love with any woman and wants to marry her. Mrs. Dyckman
must learn that her adored child had transferred his loyalty to
a foreigner, a girl she had never seen, could not conceivably have
selected, and could never approve. Even the Prodigal Son, when
he went home, did not bring a wife with him. Ten to one if he had
brought one she would have got no veal--or if she got it she would
not have cared for it.
Jim could not be blind even now in his alarm to Kedzie's intense
prettiness, but seeing her as through his mother's eyes coldly,
he saw for the first time the plebeiance of her grace.
If she had been strong and rugged her commonness would have had a
certain vigor; but to be nearly refined without being quite refined
is as harrowing as singing just a little off the key. To be far off
the key is to be in another key, but to smite at a note and muff it
is excruciation. Better far to drone middle C than to aim at high C
and miss it by a comma.
Yet Jim understood that he could not long prevent the encounter of
his wife and her relatives with his mother and her relatives. He
could not be so boorishly insolent as to forbid the meeting, and he
could not be so blind as to expect success. He got away at length on
the pretext of making arrangements with his mother, who was a very
busy woman, he said. Mrs. Thropp could not imagine why a rich woman
should be busy, but she held her whist.
Jim was glad to escape, even on so gruesome an errand, and now when
he kissed Kedzie good-by he had to kiss momma as well. He would
almost rather have kissed poppa.
He entered his home in the late afternoon with the reluctance
of boyhood days when he had slunk back after some misdemeanor.
He loathed his mission and himself and felt that he had earned
a trouncing and a disinheritance.
He found his mother and father in the library playing, or rather
fighting, a game of double Canfield. In the excitement of the finish
they were like frantic children, tied in knots of hurry, squealing
with emulation. The cards were coming out right, and the speedier
of the two to play the last would score two hundred and fifty to
the other's nothing.
Mrs. Dyckman was the more agile in snatching up her cards and
placing them. Her eyes darted along the stacks with certainty,
and she came in first by a lead of three cards.
Dyckman was puffing with exhaustion and pop-eyed from the effort
to look in seven directions at once. It rendered him scarlet to
be outrun by his wife, who was no Atalanta to look at. Besides,
she always crowed over him insufferably when she won, and that was
worse than the winning. When Jim entered the room she was laughing
uproariously, pointing the finger of derision at her husband and
"Where did you get a reputation as a man of brains? There must be
an awful crowd of simpletons in Wall Street." Then she caught sight
of her son and beckoned to him. "Come in and hold your father's
"Please don't call me Jimsy!" Jim exploded, prematurely.
His mother did not hear him, because his father exploded at the
"Come in and teach your mother how to be a sport. She won't play
fair. She cheats all the time and has no shame when she gets caught.
When she loses she won't pay, and when she wins she wants cash on
"Of course I do!"
"Why, there isn't a club in the country that wouldn't expel you
twice a week."
"Well, pay me what you owe me, before you die of apoplexy."
"How much do I owe you?"
"Eight dollars and thirty-two cents."
"I do not! That's robbery. Look here: you omitted my score twice
and added your own up wrong."
"Did I really?"
"Do five and two make nine?"
"They do not!"
"Well, must you have hydrophobia about it? What difference
does it make?"
"It makes the difference that I only owe you three dollars
and twenty-six cents."
"All right, pay it and simmer down. Isn't he wonderful, Jimsy? He
just sent a check for ten thousand dollars to the fund for blind
French soldiers and then begrudges his poor wife five dollars."
"But that's charity and this is cards; and it's humiliating to
think that you haven't learned addition yet."
Mrs. Dyckman winked at Jim and motioned him to sit beside her.
He could not help thinking of the humiliating addition he was about
to announce to the family. While his father counted out the change
with a miserly accuracy he winked his off eye at Jim and growled,
with a one-sided smile:
"Where have you been for the past few days, and what mischief have
you been up to? You have a guilty face."
But Mrs. Dyckman threw her great arm about his great shoulders,
stared at him as she kissed him, and murmured: "You don't look
happy. What's wrong?"
Jim scraped his feet along the floor gawkily and mumbled: "Well, I
suppose I'd better tell you. I was going to break it to you gently,
but I don't know how."
Mrs. Dyckman took alarm at once. "Break it gently? Bad news? Oh,
Jim, you Haven't gone and got yourself engaged to some fool girl,
have you? Not that?"
"Worse than that, mother!"
"Oh dear! what could be worse? Only one thing, Jim! You haven't--you
haven't married a circus-rider or a settlement-worker or anything
like that, have you?"
"Lord! what a relief! I breathe again."
Jim fired off his secret without further delay. "I've been married,
"Married? Already? Married to what? Anybody I ever heard of?"
His mother was gasping in a dangerous approach to heart failure.
"You never saw her, but she's a very nice girl. You'll love her
when you meet her."
Jim's father sputtered as he pulled himself out of his chair:
"Wha-what's this? You--you damned young cub! You--why--what--who--oh,
you jackass! You big, lumbering, brainless, heartless bonehead!
Oh--whew! Look at your poor mother!"
Jim was frightened. She was pounding at her huge breast with one
hand and clutching her big throat with another. Her husband whirled
to a siphon, filled a glass with vichy, and gave it to Jim to hold
to her lips while he ran to throw open a window.
Jim knelt by his mother and felt like Cain bringing home the news
of the first crime. Her son's remorse was the first thing that
Eve felt, no doubt; at least, it was the first that Mrs. Dyckman
understood when the paroxysm left her. She felt so sorry for her
lad that she could not blame him. She blamed the woman, of course.
She cried awhile before she spoke; then she caressed Jim's cheeks
"But we mustn't make too much of a fuss about a little thing like
a wedding. It's his first offense of the kind. I suppose he fell
into the trap of some little devil with a pretty face. Poor innocent
child, with no mother to protect him!"
"Poor innocent scoundrel!" old Dyckman snarled. "He probably got
her into trouble, and she played on his sympathy."
This was what Jim sorely needed, some unjust accusation to spur him
out of his shame. He sprang to his feet and confronted his father.
"Don't you dare say a word against my wife."
"Oh, look at him!" his father smiled. "He's grown so big he can
lick his old dad. Well, let me tell you, my young jackanapes, that
if anybody has said anything against your wife it was you."
"What have I said?"
"You've said that you married her secretly. You've not dared to let
us see her first. You've not dared to announce your engagement and
take her to the church like a gentleman. Why? Why? Answer me that,
before you grow so tall. And who is she, anyway? I hear that you had
a prize-fight with Peter Cheever and got expelled from the club."
"When did you hear that?"
"It's all over town. What was the fight about? Was he interested
in this lady, too?"
One set of Jim's muscles leaped to the attack; another set held
them in restraint.
"Be careful, dad!" he groaned. "Peter Cheever never met my wife."
"Well, then, what were you fighting him about?"
"That's my business."
"Well, it's my business, too, when I find the name of my son posted
for expulsion on the board of my pet club. You used to be sweet on
Cheever's wife. You weren't fighting about her, were you?"
This chance hit jolted the bridegroom so perceptibly that his
father regretted having made it. He gasped:
"Great Lord, but you're the busy young man! Solomon in all
"Let him alone now," Mrs. Dyckman broke in, "or you'll have me on
your hands." She needed only her husband's hostility to inflame her
in defense of her son. "If he's married, he's married, and words
won't divorce him. We might as well make the best of it. I've no
doubt the girl is a darling, or Jim wouldn't have cared for her.
Would you, Jimsy?"
"Naturally not," Jim agreed, with a rather sickly enthusiasm.
"Is she nice-looking?"
"She is famous for her beauty."
"Famous! Oh, Heavens! That sounds ominous. You mean she's
"Very--in certain circles."
"In certain circles!" Mrs. Dyckman was like a terrified echo. She
had known of such appalling misalliances that there was no telling
how far her son might have descended.
Old Dyckman snarled, "Do you mean that you've gone slumming for
Jim dared not answer this. His mother ignored it, too. But her
thoughts were in a panic.
"What circles is she famous in, your wife, for her beauty?"
Jim could not achieve the awful word "movies" at the moment. He
prowled round it.
"In professional circles."
"Oh, an actress, then?"
"Well, sort of."
"They call everything an actress nowadays. She isn't a--a chorus-girl
or a show-girl?"
"Lord, no!" His indignation was reassuring to a degree.
His father broke in again, "It might save a few hours of dodging
and cross-examination if you'd tell us who and what she is."
"She is known professionally as Anita Adair."
So parochial a thing is fame that the title which millions of
people had learned to know and love meant absolutely nothing to
the Dyckmans. They were so ignorant of the new arts that even Mary
Pickford meant hardly more to them than Picasso or Matisse.
Jim brought out a photograph of Kedzie, a small one that he carried
in his pocket-book for company. The problem of what she looked like
distracted attention for the moment from the problem of what she did
Mrs. Dyckman took the picture and perused it anxiously. Her husband
leaned over her shoulder and studied it, too. He was mollified
and won by the big, gentle eyes and that bee-stung upper lip. He
"Well, you're a good chooser for looks, anyway. Sweet little thing."
Mrs. Dyckman examined the face more knowingly. She saw in those big,
innocent eyes a serene selfishness and a kind of sweet ruthlessness.
In the pouting lips she saw discontent and a gift for wheedling. But
all she said was, "She's a darling."
Jim caught the knell-tone in her praise and feared that Kedzie was
dead to her already. He saw more elegy in her sigh of resignation
to fate and her resolution to take up her cross--the mother's cross
of a pretty, selfish daughter-in-law.
"You haven't told us yet how she won her--fame, you said."
And now Jim had to tell it.
"She has had great success in the--the--er--pictures."
"She's a painter--an illustrator?"
"No, she--well--you know, the moving pictures have become very
important; they're the fifth largest industry in the world, I
The silence of the parents was deafening. Their eyes rolled together
and clashed, as it were, like cannon-balls meeting. Dyckman senior
dropped back into his chair and whistled "Whew!" Then he laughed
"Well, I'm sure we should be proud of our alliance with the fifth
largest industry. The Dyckmans are coming up in the world."
"Hush!" said Mrs. Dyckman. She was thinking of the laugh that rival
mothers would have on her. She was thinking of the bitterness of
her other children, of her daughter who was a duchess in England,
and of the squirming of her relatives-in-law. But she was too fond
of her boy to mention her dreads. She passed on to the next topic.
"Where are you living?"
"Nowhere yet," Jim confessed. "We just got in from our--er--honeymoon
this morning. We haven't decided what to do."
Then Mrs. Dyckman took one of those heroic steps she was capable of.
"You'd better bring her here."
"Oh no; she'd be in your way. She'd put you out."
"I hope not, not so soon," Mrs. Dyckman laughed, dismally. "She'll
probably not like us at all, but we can start her off right."
"That's mighty white of you, mother."
"Did you expect me to be--yellow?"
"No, but I thought you might be a little--blue."
"If she'll make you happy I'll thank Heaven for her every day and
night of my life. So let's give her every chance we can, and I hope
she'll give us a chance."
Jim's arms were long enough to encircle her and hug her tight. He
whispered to her, "I never needed you more, you God-blessed--mother!"
Her tears streamed down her cheeks upon his lips, and he had a little
taste of the bitterness of maternal love. She felt better after she
had cried a little, and she said, with courage:
"Now we mustn't keep you away from her. If you want me to, I'll go
along with you and call on her and extend a formal invitation."
Jim could not permit his revered mother to make so complete a
submission as that. He shook his head:
"That won't be necessary. I'll go get Kedzie."
"Kedzie? I thought her name was Anita."
"That was her stage name--her film name."
"Oh! And her name wasn't Adair, either, perhaps?"
"No, it was--er--Thropp!"
"Oh!" She wanted to say "What a pretty name!" to make it easier for
him, but she could not arrange the words on her tongue. She asked,
instead, "Is she American?"
"American? I should say so! Born in Missouri."
Another "Oh!" from the mother.
Jim swallowed a bit more of quinine and made his escape, saying:
"You're as fine as they make 'em, mother. I won't be gone long."
The father was so disgusted with the whole affair that he could only
save himself from breaking the furniture by a sardonic taunt:
"Tell our daughter-in-law that if she wants to bring along her camera
she can have the ballroom for a studio. We never use it, anyway."
"Shame on you!" his wife cried. "Don't mind him, Jimsy."
"Jimsy" reminded Jim of Mrs. Thropp and his promise to ask his mother
to call on her. But he had confessed all that he could endure. He
was glad to get away without letting slip the fact that "Thropp" had
changed to "Dyckman" _via_ "Gilfoyle."
His mother called him back for another embrace and then let him go.
She had nowhere to turn for support but to her raging husband, and
she found herself crying her eyes out in his arms. He had his own
heartbreak and pridebreak, but he was only a man and no sympathy need
be wasted on him. He wasted none on himself. He laughed ruefully.
"You were saying, mother, only awhile ago that you wished he'd marry
some nice girl. Well, he's married, and we'll have to take what he
brings us. But, oh, these children, these damned children!"
A little later he was trying to brace himself and his wife against
"After all, marriage is only an infernal gamble. We might have
scoured the world and picked out an angel for him, and she might
have run off with the chauffeur the second week. I guess I got the
only real angel that's been captured in the last fifty years. The
boy may have stumbled on a prize unbeknownst. We'll give the kid
the benefit of the doubt, anyway. Won't we?"
"Of course, dear, if she'll give us the same."
"Well, Jim said she came from Missouri. We've got to show her."
"Ring for Wotton, will you?"
"What are you going to tell him?"
"Good Lord! Do you dare do that?"
"I don't dare not to. They'll find it out down-stairs quickly
enough in their own way."
"I see. You want to beat 'em to it."
For years the American world had been discussing the duty of parents
to teach their children the things they must inevitably learn in
uglier and more perilous ways. There were editorials on it, stories,
poems, novels, numberless volumes. It even reached the stage. Mrs.
Dyckman had left her own children to find things out for themselves.
It occurred to her that she should not make the same mistake with
the eager servants who gave the walls ears and the keyholes eyes.
It was a ferocious test of her courage, but she knew that she
would have all possible help from Wotton. He had not only been the
head steward of the family ship in countless storms, but he had an
inherited knowledge of the sufferings of homes. He had learned his
profession as page to his father, who had been a butler and the son
of a butler.
Wotton came in like a sweet old earl and waited while Mrs. Dyckman
gathered strength to say as offhandedly as if she were merely
announcing that Jim was arrested for murder:
"Oh, Wotton, I wanted to tell you that Mr. James Dyckman has
just brought us the news of his marriage."
Wotton's eyebrows went up and his hands sought each other and
whispered together as he faltered:
"Indeed, ma'am! That is a surprise, isn't it?"
"He has married a very brilliant young lady who has had great
success in--ah--in the--ah--moving pictures."
The old man gulped a moment, but finally got it down. "The moving
pictures! Indeed, ma'am! My wife and I are very fond of the--the
movies, as the saying is."
"Everybody is, isn't they--aren't they? Perhaps you have seen Miss
Anita Adair in the--er--pictures."
"Miss Anita Adair? Oh, I should say we 'ave! And is she the young
"Yes. They are coming to live with us for a time."
"Oh, that will be very pleasant! Quite an honor, you might say--That
will make two extra at dinner, then?"
"Yes. No--that is, we were expecting Mr. and Mrs. Schuyler, but
I wish you would telephone them that I am quite ill--not very, you
understand--a bad cold, I think, would be best. Something to keep
me to my room for the day."
"Very good, ma'am. Was there anything else?"
"No--oh yes--ask Mrs. Abby to have the Louis Seize room made ready,
"Very good--and some flowers, per'aps, I suppose."
He shuffled out, bowed under the weight of the calamity, as if
he had an invisible trunk on his back. He gathered the servants
in solemn conclave in their sitting-room and delivered a funeral
oration over young Mr. Jim. There were tears in the eyes of the
women-servants and curses in the throats of the men. They all adored
Mr. Jim, and their recent pride in his triumph over Peter Cheever
was turned to ashes. He had married into the movies! They supposed
that he must have been drinkin' very 'ard. Jim's valet said:
"This is as good as handin' me my notice."
But, then, Dallam was a ratty soul and was for deserting a sinking
ship. Wotton and the others felt that their loyalty was only now to
be put to the test. They must help the old folks through it. There
was one ray of hope: such marriages did not last long in America.
Jim hastened to Kedzie, and she greeted him with anxiety. She saw
by his radiant face that he brought cheerful news.
"I've seen mother," he exclaimed, "and she's tickled to death with
your picture. She wants to see you right away. She wouldn't listen
to anything but your coming right over to live at our house till
we decide what we want to do."
Kedzie's heart turned a somersault of joy; then it flopped.
"I've got no clothes fit for your house."
"Oh, Lord!" Jim groaned. "What do you think we are, a continual
reception? You can go out to-morrow and shop all you want to."
"We-ell, all ri-ight," Kedzie pondered.
Jim was taken aback at her failure to glow with his success; and
when she said, "I hate to leave momma and poppa," he writhed.
He had neither the courage nor the inclination to invite them to come
along and make a jolly house-party. There was room enough for a dozen
Thropps in the big house, but he doubted if there were room in his
mother's heart for three Thropps at a time, or for the elder Thropps
at any time. After all, his mother had some rights. He protected them
by lying glibly.
"My mother sent you her compliments, Mrs. Thropp, and said she would
call on you as soon as she could. She's very busy, you know--as I
told you. Well, come along, Kedzie. I'd like to have you home in
time for dinner."
"You dress for dinner, I suppose."
"But I haven't--"
"If you dare say it, I'll murder you. What do they care what
you've got on? They want to meet you, not your clothes."
She saw that he was in no mood to be trifled with; so she delayed
only long enough to fling into a small trunk a few of her best duds.
She remembered with sudden joy that Ferriday had made her a gift of
one or two of the gowns Lady Powell-Carewe had designed for her
camera-appearances, and she took them along for her début into the
topmost world. Jim arranged by telephone for the transportation of
her luggage, and they set out on their new and hazardous journey.
Kedzie bade her mother and father a farewell implying a beautiful
distress at parting. She thought it looked well, and she felt that
she owed to her mother her present splendor. She was horribly afraid,
too, of the ordeal ahead of her. She was, indeed, approaching one
of the most terrifying of duels: the first meeting of a mother and
Kedzie was not half so afraid as the elder Dyckmans were; for she
had her youth and her beauty, and they were only a plain, fat old
rich couple whose last remaining son had been stolen from them by
a stranger who might take him from them altogether or fling him back
at their feet with a ruined heart.
In her moving pictures Kedzie had played the millionairess many
a time, had driven up in state to mansions, and been admitted by
moving-picture butlers with frozen faces and only three or four
working joints. She had played the millionairess in boudoir and
banquet-hall; she had been loved by nice princes and had foiled
wicked barons. She had known valets and grooms and footmen
familiarly; but they had all been moving-picture people, actors
As the motor approached the Dyckman palace she recalled what Ferriday
had told her about how different real life in millionairedom was from
studio luxury, and she almost wished she had stayed married to Tommie
In her terror she seized the usual armor that terror assumes--bluff.
It would have been far better for her and everybody if she had
entered meekly into the presence of the very human old couple at her
approach, and had said to them, not in so many words, but at least
by her simple manner:
"I did not select my birthplace or my parents, my soul or my body or
my environment. I am not ashamed of them, but I want to make the best
of them. I am a new-comer in your world and I am only here because
your son happened to meet me and liked me and asked me to marry him.
So excuse me if I am frightened and ill at ease. I don't want to take
him away from you, but I want to love you as he does and have you
love me as he does. So help me with your wisdom."
If she had brought such a message or implied it she would have walked
right into the living-room of the parental hearts. But poor Kedzie
lacked the genius and the inspiration of simplicity and frankness,
and she marched up the steps in a panic which she disguised all too
well in a pretense of scorn that proclaimed:
"I am as good as you are. I have been in dozens of finer homes than
this. You can't teach me anything, you old snobs. I've got your son,
and you'd better mind your p's and q's."
Wotton opened the door and put on as much of a wedding face as he
could. Jim saw that the old man was informed, and he said:
"This is Wotton, my dear. He's the real head of the house."
Kedzie might better have shaken hands with him than have given him
the curt nod she begrudged him. She looked past him to see Mrs.
Dyckman, in whose arms she found herself smothered. Mrs. Dyckman,
in her bride-fright, had rather rushed the situation.
Kedzie hardly knew what to do. She was overawed by the very bulk as
well as the prestige of her mother-in-law. She did not quite dare
to embrace Mrs. Dyckman, and she could think of nothing at all
Mrs. Dyckman was impressed with Kedzie's beauty and paid it
"Oh, but you are an exquisite thing! No wonder our boy is mad
Kedzie's heart pranced at this, and she barely checked the giggle
of triumph that bounded in her throat. But the only thing she could
think of was what she dared not say: "So you're the famous Mrs.
Dyckman! Why, you're fatter than momma." She said nothing, but wore
one of her most popular smiles, that look of wistful sweetness that
had melted countless of her movie worshipers.
She was caught from Mrs. Dyckman's shadow by Jim's father, who
said, "Don't I get a kiss?" and took one. Kedzie returned this
kiss and found the old gentleman very handsome, not in the least
like her father. Brides almost always get along beautifully with
fathers-in-law. And so do sons-in-law. Women will learn how to get
along together better as soon as it ceases to be so important to
them how they get along together.
After the thrill of the first collision the four stood in silenced
embarrassment till Jim, eager to escape, said:
"What room do we get?"
"Cicely's, if you like," his mother answered.
Jim was pleased. Cicely was the duchess of the family, and she and
her duke had occupied that room before they went to England. Cicely
was a war nurse now, bedabbled in gore, and her husband was a
mud-daubed major in the trenches along the Somme. Jim saw that his
mother was making no stint of her hospitality, and he was grateful.
He dragged Kedzie away. She was trying to take in the splendor of
the house without seeming to, and she went up the stairway with
her eyes rolling frantically.
In the Academy at Venice is that famous picture of Titian's
representing the little Virgin climbing up the steps of the Temple,
a pathetic, frightened figure bearing no trace of the supreme
radiance that was to be hers. There was something of the same
religious awe in Kedzie's heart as she mounted the steps of the
house that was a temple in her religion. She was going up to her
heaven already. It was perfection because it was the next thing.
When Kedzie reaches the scriptural heaven, if she does (and it will
be hard for Anybody to deny her anything that she sets her heart on),
she will be happy till she gets there and finds that she is only in
the first of the seven heavens. But what will the poor girl do when
she goes on up and up and up and learns at last that there is no
eighth? She will weep like another Alexander the Great, because
there are no more heavens to hope for.
Jim led her into the best room there was up-stairs, and told her
that a duke had slept there. At first she was thrilled through.
Later it would occur to her, not tragically, yet a bit quellingly,
that, after all, she had not married a duke herself, but only a
commoner. She had as much right to a title as any other American
girl. A foreign title is part of a Yankee woman's birthright.
Hundreds of women had acquired theirs. Kedzie got only a plain
Still, she told herself that she must not be too critical, and she
let her enthusiasm fly. She did not have to pose before Jim, and
she ran about the suite as about a garden.
Kedzie was smitten with two facts: the canopied bed was raised on
a platform, and the marble bath-tub was sunk in the floor. She sat
on the bed and bounced up and down on the springs. She stared up
at the tasseled baldachin with its furled draperies, and fingered
the lace covering and the silken comforter.
She sat in the best chairs, studied the dressing-table with its
royal equipment. She went to the window and gazed out into Fifth
Avenue, reviewing its slow-flowing lava of humanity--young royalty
overlooking her subjects.
Mrs. Abby, the housekeeper, knocked and came in to be presented to
the new Princess of Wales, and to present the personal maid who had
been assigned to her. Even Mrs. Dyckman was afraid of Mrs. Abby,
who lacked the suavities of Wotton. Mrs. Abby gave Kedzie the chill
of her life, and Kedzie responded with an ardent hatred.
The maid, a young Frenchwoman, found her black dress with its black
silk apron an appropriate uniform, since her father, three brothers,
a dozen cousins, and two or three of her sweethearts were at the
wars. Some of them were dead, she knew, and the others were on their
way along the red stream that was bleeding France white, according
to German hopes.
Liliane, being a foreigner, saw in Kedzie the pathos of the alien,
and with the unequaled democracy of the French, forgave her her
plebeiance for that sake. She welcomed Kedzie's beauty, too,
and regarded her as a doll of the finest ware, whom it would be
fascinating to dress up. Kedzie and Liliane would prosper famously.
Liliane resolved that when Kedzie appeared at dinner she should
reflect credit not only on "Monsieur Zheem," but on Liliane as well.
When Kedzie's trunk arrived and Liliane drew forth the confections
of Lady Powell-Carewe she knew that she had all the necessary
weapons for a sensation.
Kedzie felt more aristocracy in being fluttered over by a French
maid with an accent than in anything she had encountered yet.
Liliane's phrase "Eef madame pair-meet" was a constant tribute
to her distinction.
Jim retired to his own dressing-room and faced the veiled contempt
of his valet, leaving Kedzie to the ministrations of Liliane, who
drew the tub and saw that it was just hot enough, sprinkled the
aromatic bath-salts, and laid out the towels and Kedzie's things.
Women are born linen-lovers, and Kedzie was not ashamed to have
even a millionaire maid see the things she wore next to her skin,
and Liliane was delighted to find by this secret wardrobe that
her new mistress was beautifully equipped.
She waited outside the door till Kedzie had stepped from the fragrant
pool--then came in to aid in the harnessing. She saw nothing but
the successive garments and had those ready magically. She laced
the stays and slid the stockings on and locked the garters and set
the slippers in place. She was miraculously deft with Kedzie's hair,
and her suggestions were the last word in tact. Then she fetched
the dinner-gown, floated it about Kedzie as delicately as if it
were a ring of smoke, hooked it, snapped it, and murmured little
compliments that were more tonic than cocktails.
When Jim came in he was struck aglow by Kedzie's comeliness and by
a certain authority she had, Liliane pointed to her, as an artist
might point to a canvas with which he has had success, and demanded
his admiration. His eyes paid the tribute his lips stammered over.
Kedzie was incandescent with her triumph, and she went down the
stairway to collect her dues.
Her parents-in-law were waiting, and she could see how tremendously
they were impressed and relieved by her grace. What did it matter who
she was or whence she came? She was as irresistible as some haunting
phrase from a folk-song, its authorship unknown and unimportant, its
Kedzie floated into the dining-room and passed the gantlet of the
servants. Ignoring them haughtily, she did not ignore the sudden
change of their scorn to homage. Nothing was said or done; yet the
air was full of her victory. Much was forgiven her for her beauty,
and she forgave the whole household much because of its surrender.
It was a family dinner and not elaborate. Mr. and Mrs. Dyckman
had arrived at the stage when nearly everything they liked to eat
or drink was forbidden to them. Jim had an athlete's appetite for
simples, and Kedzie had an actress' dread of fattening things and
sweets. There was a procession of dishes submitted to her inspection,
but seeing them refused first by Mrs. Dyckman, she declined most
of them in her turn.
Kedzie had been afraid that she would blunder in choice among a
long array of forks, but she escaped the test, since each course
was accompanied by the tools to eat it with. There was a little
champagne to toast the bride in.
She found the grandeur of the room belittling to the small party at
table. There were brave efforts to make her feel at home and brief
sallies of high spirits, but there was no real gaiety. How could
there be, when there was no possible congeniality? The elder couple
had lived in a world unknown to Kedzie. Their son had dazed them by
his sudden return with a strange captive from beyond the pale. She
was a pretty barbarian, but a barbarian she was, and no mistake.
She was not so barbaric as they had feared, but they knew nothing
of her past or of her.
It is not good manners to deal in personal questions; yet how else
could such strangers come to know one another? The Dyckmans were
afraid to quiz her about herself, and she dared not cross-examine
them. They had no common acquaintances or experiences to talk over.
The presence of the servants was depressing, and when the long meal
was over and the four Dyckmans were alone in the drawing-room, they
were less at ease than before. They had not even knives and forks
to play with.
Mrs. Dyckman said at length, "Are you going to the theater, do
Jim did not care--or dare--to take his bride abroad just yet.
He shook his head. Mrs. Dyckman tried again:
"Does your wife play--or sing, perhaps?"
"No, thank you," said Kedzie, and sank again.
Mrs. Dyckman was about to ask if she cared for cards, but she was
afraid that she might say yes. She grew so desperate at last that
she made a cowardly escape:
"I think we old people owe it to you youngsters to leave you alone."
She caught up her husband with a glance like a clutching hand, and
he made haste to follow her into the library.
Jim and Kedzie looked at each other sheepishly. Kedzie was taking
her initiation into the appalling boredom that can close down in
a black fog on the homes and souls of the very wealthy. She was
astounded and terrified to realize that there is no essential delight
attending the possession of vast means. Later she was to find herself
often one of large and glittering companies where nothing imaginable
was lacking to make one happy except the power to be happy. She would
go to dinners where an acute melancholia seemed to poison the food,
where people of the widest travel and unfettered opportunities could
find nothing to say to one another.
If she had loved Jim more truly, or he her, they could have been
blissful in spite of their lack of hardships; but the excitement of
flirtation had gone out of their lives. There seemed to be nothing
more to be afraid of except unhappiness. There seemed to be nothing
to be excited about at all. Time would soon provide them with wild
anxieties, but he withheld his hand for the moment.
Jim saw that Kedzie was growing restless. He dragged himself from
his chair and clasped her in his arms, but the element of pity in
his deed took all the fire out of it. He led her about the house
and showed her the pictures in the art gallery, but she knew nothing
about painters or paintings, and once around the gallery finished
that room for her forever. There were treasures in the library to
fascinate a bibliophile for years, but Kedzie knew nothing and cared
less about books as books; and a glance into the somber chamber where
the old people played cards listlessly drove her from that door.
The dinner had begun at eight and finished at half past nine. It was
ten o'clock now, and too late to go to the theater. The opera season
was over. There would be the dancing-places, but neither of the two
felt vivacity enough for dancing or watching others dance.
For lack of anything better, Jim proposed a drive. He was mad for
air and exercise. He would have preferred a long walk, and so would
Kedzie, but she could not have walked far without changing her
costume and her slippers.
She was glad of the chance to escape from the house. Jim rang for
Wotton and asked to have a car brought round. They put on light
wraps and went down the steps to the limousine.
The Avenue was lonely and the Park was lonelier. And, strangely, now
that they were together in the dark they felt happier; they drew more
closely together. They were common people now, and they had moonlight
and stars, a breeze and a shadowy landscape; they shared them with
the multitude, and they were happy for a while.
Something in Kedzie's heart whispered: "What's the use of being rich?
What's the good of living in a palace with a gang of servants hanging
over your shoulder? Happiness evidently doesn't come from ordering
whatever you want, for by the time somebody brings it to you you
don't want it any longer. Happiness must be the going after something
yourself and being anxious about it."
If she had listened to that airy whisperer she might have had an
inkling of a truth. But she dismissed philosophy as something stupid.
She turned into Jim's arms like a child afraid and clung to him,
"Jim, what do I want? Tell me. I'm bluer than blue, and I don't know
This was sufficiently discouraging for Jim. He had given the petulant
child the half of his kingdom, and she was blue. If anything could
have made him bluer than he was it would have been this proclamation
of his failure. He had done the honorable thing, and it had profited
He petted her as one pets a spoiled and fretful child at the end of
a long, long rainy day, with a rainy to-morrow ahead.
When they returned home the coziness of their hour together was lost.
The big mansion was as cozy as a court-house. It no longer had even
novelty. Climbing the steps had no further mystery than the Louvre
has to an American tourist who has promenaded through it once.
Her room was brilliant and beautiful, but the things she liked about
it most were the homely, comfortable touches: her bedroom slippers by
her chair, her nightgown laid across her pillow, and the turned-down
covers of the bed.
Liliane knocked and came in, and Jim retreated. It was pleasant for
the indolent Kedzie to have the harness taken from her. She yawned
and stretched and rubbed her sides when her corsets were off, and
when her things were whisked from sight and she was only Kedzie
Thropp alone in a nightgown she was more nearly glad than she had
been for ever so long.
She flung her hair loose and ran about the room. She sang grotesquely
as she brushed her teeth and scumbled her face with cold-cream,
rubbed it in and rubbed it out again. She was so glad to be a mere
girl in her own flesh and not much else that she went about the room
crooning to herself. She peeked out of the window at the Avenue, as
quiet as a country lane at this hour, save for the motors that slid
by as on skees and the jog-trot of an occasional hansom-horse.
She was crooning when she turned to see her husband come in in a
great bath-robe; he might have been a solemn monk, save for the big
cigar he smoked.
He was so dour that she laughed and ran to him and flung him into
a chair and clambered into his lap and throttled him in her arms,
"Oh, Jim, I am happy. I love you and you love me. Don't we?
Say we do!"
"Of course we do," he laughed, not quite convinced.
He could not resist her beauty, her warmth, her ingratiation. But
somehow he could not love her soul.
He had refused to make her his mistress before they were married.
Now that they were married, that was all he could make of her.
Their life together was thenceforward the life of such a pair. He
squandered money on her and let her squander it on herself. They
had ferocious quarrels and ferocious reconciliations, periods of
mutual aversion and tempests of erotic extravagance, excursions
of hilarious good-fellowship, hours of appalling boredom.
But there was a curious dishonesty about their relation: it was
an intrigue, not a communion. They were never closer to each other
than a reckless flirtation. Sometimes that seemed to be enough
for Kedzie. Sometimes she seemed to flounder in an abyss of gloomy
But sleep was sweet for her that first night in the bed where
the duchess had lain. She had an odd dream that she also became
a duchess. Her dreams had a way of coming true.
So there lay Kedzie Thropp of Nimrim, Missouri, the Girl Who Had
Never Had Anything. At her side was the Man Who Had Always Had
Everything. Under this canopy a duke and duchess had lain.
There was an element of faery in it; yet far stranger things have
happened and will happen anew.
There was once a Catholic peasant of Lithuania who died of the
plague, leaving a baby named Martha Skovronsky. A Protestant preacher
adopted the waif, and while she was yet a girl got rid of her by
marrying her to a common Swedish soldier, a sergeant. The Russians
bombarded the town; the Swedes fled; and a Russian soldier captured
the deserted wife in the ruins of, the city. He passed her on to his
marshal. The marshal sold her as a kind of white slave to a prince;
the prince took her to Russia as his concubine. Being of a liberal
disposition, he shared her capacious heart with the young czar, who
happened to be married. Martha Skovronsky bore him a daughter and
won his heart for keeps. He had her baptized in the Russian Church
as Catherine. He divorced his czaritza that he might marry the
foundling. He set on his bride's head the imperial crown studded
with twenty-five hundred gems. She became the Empress Catherine I.
of Russia and went to the wars with her husband, Peter the Great,
saved him from surrendering to the Turks, and made a success of a
great defeat for him.
He loved her so well that when she was accused of flirting with
another man he had the gentleman decapitated and his head preserved
in a jar of alcohol as a mantel ornament for Catherine's room. When
he died she reigned in his stead, recalling to her side as a favorite
the prince who had purchased her when she was a captive.
Alongside such a fantastic history, the rise of Kedzia Thropp was
petty enough. It did not even compare with the rocket-flight of that
Theodosia who danced naked in a vile theater in Byzantium and later
became the empress of the great Justinian.
Kedzie had never done anything very immoral. She had been a trifle
immodest, according to strict standards, when she danced the Grecian
dances. She had been selfish and hard-hearted, but she had never
sold her body. And there is no sillier lie, as there is no commoner
lie, than the trite old fallacy of the popular novels, sermons,
editorials, and other works of fiction that women succeed by selling
their bodies. It is one of the best ways a girl can find for going
bankrupt, and it leads oftener to the dark streets than to the bright
The credit for Kedzie's staying virtuous, as the word is used, was
not entirely hers. Probably if all the truth were known women are
no oftener seduced than seducing. Kedzie might have gone wrong half
a dozen times at least if she had not somehow inspired in the men
she met a livelier sense of protection than of spoliation. She
happened not to be a frenzied voluptuary, as are so many of the lost,
who are victims of their own physiological or pathological estates
before they make fellow-victims of the men they encounter.
The trick of success for a woman who has no other stock in trade
than her charm is to awaken the chivalry of men, to promise but not
relinquish the last favors till the last tributes are paid.
Meanwhile the old world is rolling into the daylight when women
will sell their wits instead of their embraces, and when there will
be no more compulsion for a woman to rent her body to pay her house
rent than for men to do the same. The pity of it is that these great
purifying, equalizing, freedom-spreading revolutions are gaining
more opposition than help from the religious and the conservative.
In any case Kedzie Thropp, who slept under a park bench when first
she came to town, found the city honorable, merciful, generous, as
most girls do who have graces to sell and sense enough to set a high
price on them.
And so Kedzie was sheltered and passed on upward by Skip Magruder
the lunch-room waiter, and by Mr. Kalteyer the chewing-gum purveyor,
by Eben E. Kiam the commercial photographer, by Thomas Gilfoyle the
advertising bard, by Ferriday the motion-picture director, on up
and up to Jim Dyckman. Every man gave her the best help he could.
And even the women she met unconsciously assisted her skyward.
But there is always more sky above, and Kedzie's motto was a
relentless _Excelsior!_ She spurned backward the ladders she
rose by, and it was her misfortune (which made her fortune) that
whatever rung she stood on hurt her pretty, restless feet. It was
inevitable that when at last she was bedded in the best bed in one
of America's most splendid homes, she should fall a-dreaming of
foreign splendors beyond the Yankee sky.
On the second morning of her honeymoon, when Kedzie woke to find that
she was no duchess, but a plain American "Mrs." that disappointment
colored her second impression of the Dyckman mansion.
She had her breakfast in bed. But she had enjoyed that dubious
luxury in her own flat. Many poor and lazy and sick people had the
same privilege. The things she had to eat were exquisitely cooked
and served, when Liliane took them from the footman at the door and
brought them to the bedside.
But, after all, there is not much difference between the breakfasts
of the rich and of the poor. There cannot be: one kind of fruit,
a cereal, an egg or two, some coffee, and some bread are about all
that it is safe to put into the morning stomach. Her plutocratic
father-in-law was not permitted to have even that much, and her
mother-in-law, who was one of the converts to Vance Thompson's
_Eat and Grow Thin_ scriptures, had almost none at all.
Busy and anxious days followed that morning. There was a great amount
of shopping to do. There were the wedding-announcement cards to order
and the list of recipients to go over with Mrs. Dyckman's secretary.
There was a secretary to hire for Kedzie, and it was no easy matter
for Kedzie to put herself into the woman's hands without debasing
her pride too utterly.
There was the problem of dinners to relatives, a reception to guests
for the proper exploitation of the new Mrs. Dyckman. There was the
embarrassment of meeting people who brought their prejudices with
their visiting-cards and did not leave their prejudices as they did
The newspapers had to have their say, and they did not make pleasant
reading to any of the Dyckmans. Kedzie took a little comfort from
reading what the papers had to say about Mrs. Cheever's divorce,
but she found that Jim was unresponsive to her gibes. This did not
sweeten her heart toward Charity.
Kedzie was hungry for friends and playmates, but she could not find
them among the new acquaintances she made. She saw curiosity in all
their eyes, patronage in those who were cordial, and insult in those
who were not effusive. She got along famously with the men, but their
manner was not quite satisfactory, either. There was a corrosive
something in their flattery, a menace in their approach.
There were the horrible experiences when Mrs. Dyckman called on
Mrs. Thropp and the worse burlesque when Mrs. Thropp called on
Mrs. Dyckman. The servants had a glorious time over it, and Kedzie
overheard Mrs. Dyckman's report of the ordeal to her husband. She
was angry at Mrs. Dyckman, but angrier still at her mother.
Kedzie's father and mother were an increasing annoyance to Kedzie's
pride and her peace. They wanted to get out to Nimrim and make a
triumph through the village. And Jim and Kedzie were glad to pay
the freight. But once the Thropps had gloated they were anxious to
get back again to the flesh-pots of New York.
The financing of the old couple was embarrassing. It did not look
right to Kedzie to have the father and mother of Mrs. Dyckman a
couple of shabby, poor relations, and Kedzie called it shameful that
her father, who was a kind of father-in-law-in-law to the duchess,
should earn a pittance as a claim-agent in the matter of damaged
pigs and things.
Jim, like all millionaires, had dozens of poor relations and felt
neither the right nor the obligation to enrich them all. There is
no gesture that grows tiresome quicker than the gesture of shoving
the hand into the cash-pocket, bringing it up full and emptying it.
There is no more painful disease than money-spender's cramp.
Kedzie learned, too, that to assure her father and mother even so
poor an income as five thousand dollars a year would require the
setting aside of a hundred thousand dollars at least in gilt-edged
securities. She began to have places where she could put a hundred
thousand dollars herself. On her neck was one place, for she
saw a woman with a dog-collar of that price, and it made Kedzie
feel absolutely nude in contrast. She met old Mrs. Noxon with her
infamously costly stomacher on, and Kedzie cried that night because
she could not have one for her own midriff.
Jim growled, "When you get a stomach as big as Mrs. Noxon's you
can put a lamp-post on it."
She said he was indecent, and a miser besides.
Meanwhile her own brothers, sisters, cousins, and aunts were calling
her a miser, a snob, a brute. The whole family wanted to move to New
York and make a house-party. They had every right to, too, for did
not the Declaration of Independence make all Americans equal?
Relatives whom Kedzie had never heard of and relatives whom she knew
all too well turned up in New York with schemes for extracting money
from the Dyckman hoard. Kedzie grew nearly wroth enough to stand at
the window and empty things on them as they dared to climb the noble
steps with their ignoble impertinences.
When she was not repelling repulsive relatives Kedzie was trying
to dodge old acquaintances. It seemed that everybody she had ever
met had learned of her rise in the world. Her old landladies wrote
whining letters. Moving-picture people out of a job asked her for
But the worst trial came one day when she was present at a committee
meeting for a war-relief benefit and that fiend of a Pet Bettany
proposed that one of the numbers should be Miss Silsby's troupe of
Greek dancers. She asked if anybody had any objections, and when
nobody spoke she turned to Kedzie and dared to ask her if she had
ever seen the dancers.
"Not recently," Kedzie mumbled, while her very legs blushed under
their stockings, remembering how bare they had been in the old days
when she was one of the Silsby slaves.
All the other women simmered pleasantly in the uncomfortable
situation till Mrs. Charity Cheever, who chanced to be there,
came to the rescue amazingly by turning the tables on the Bettany
"Anybody who ever saw you in a bathing-suit, Pet, would know that
there were two good reasons why you were never one of the Silsbies."
Charity could be cruel to be kind. Everybody roared at Pet, whose
crooked shanks had kept her modest from the knees down, at least.
Kedzie wanted to kiss Charity, but she suffered too much from the
reminder of her past.
She fiercely wanted to have been born of an aristocratic family.
Of all the vain wishes, the retroactive pluperfect are the vainest,
and an antenatal wish is sublimely ridiculous. But Kedzie wished it.
This was one of the wishes she did not get.
Mrs. Kedzie Dyckman received many jars of ointment, but her pretty
eyes found a fly in every one. She that should have gone about
boasting, "I came from a village and slept under a park bench, and
now look at me!" was slinking about, wishing that she could rather
say: "Oh, see my wonderful ancestors! Without them you could not
see me at all."
Kedzie had her picture printed at last in the "Social World"
departments of the newspapers. She had full-page portraits of herself
by the mystic Dr. Arnold Genthe and by other camera-masters printed
in _Town and Country_ and _The Spur, Vanity Fair, Vogue_
and _Harper's Bazar_. But some cursed spite half the time led
to the statement under her picture that she had been in the movies.
No adjectives of praise could sweeten that. Small wonder she pouted!
And she found the competition terrific. She had thought that when
she got into the upper world she would be on a sparsely populated
plateau. But she said to Jim:
"Good Lord! this is a merry-go-round! It's so crowded everybody
is falling off."
The most "exclusive" restaurants were packed like bargain-counters.
She went to highly advertised balls where there were so many people
that the crowd simply oozed and the effort to dance or to eat was
a struggle for life.
New York's four hundred families had swollen, it seemed, to four
hundred thousand, and the journals of society published countless
pictures of the aristocratic sets of everywhere else. There were
aristocrats of the Long Island sets--a dozen sets for one small
island--the Berkshire set, the Back Bay set, the Rhode Island reds,
the Plymouth Rock fowl, the old Connecticut connections, the Bar
Harbor oligarchy, the Tuxedonians, the Morristown and Germantown
noblesse, the pride of Philadelphia, the Baltimorioles, the
diplomatic cliques of Washington, the Virginia patricians, the
Piedmont Hunt set, the North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia,
Florida, and all the other State sets, the Cleveland coteries,
the Chicagocracy, the St. Louis and New Orleans and San Francisco
Exclusiveness was a joke. And yet Kedzie felt lonely and afraid. She
had too many rivals. There were young girls in myriads, beauties by
the drove, sirens in herds, millionaires in packs. The country was
so prosperous with the privilege of selling Europe the weapons of
suicide that the vast destructiveness of the German submarines was
There was a curious mixture of stupendous Samaritanism and tremendous
indifference. Millions were poured into charities and millions were
squandered on dissipation.
Kedzie's funds were drawn away astoundingly faster than even Dyckman
could replenish them. Hideous accounts of starving legions were
brandished before the eyes of all Americans. Every day Kedzie's mail
contained circulars about blind soldiers, orphan-throngs, bread-lines
in every nation at war. There were hellish chronicles of Armenian
women and children driven like cattle from desert to desert, outraged
and flogged and starved by the thousand.
The imagination gave up the task. The miseries of the earth were
more numerous than the sands, and the eyes came to regard them as
impassively as one looks at the night sky without pausing to count
the flakes in that snowstorm of stars. One says, "It is a nice
night." One said, "These are terrible times." Then one said, "May
I have the next dance?" or, "Isn't supper ready yet?"
Kedzie tried for a while to lift herself from the common ruck
of the aristocracy by outshining the others in charities and in
splendors. She soon grew weary of the everlasting appeals for money
to send to Europe. She grew weary of writing checks and putting on
costumes for bazaars, spectacles, parades, and carnivals. She found
herself circumscribed by so much altruism. Her benevolences left her
too little for her magnificences.
She grew frantic for more fun and more personal glory. The
extravagance of other women dazed her. Some of them had
inexhaustible resources. Some of them were bankrupting their
own boodle-bag husbands. Some of them flourished ingeniously by
running up bills and never running them down.
The competition was merciless. She kept turning to Jim for money.
He grew less and less gracious, because her extravagances were more
and more selfish. He grew less and less superior to complaints. He
started bank-accounts to get rid of her, but she got rid of them
with a speed that frightened him. He hated to be used.
Kedzie took umbrage at Mrs. Dyckman's manner. Mrs. Dyckman tried
for a while to be good to the child, strove to love her, forgave
her for her youth and her humble origin; but finally she tired of
her, because Kedzie was not making Jim's life happier, more useful,
or more distinguished.
Then one day Mrs. Dyckman asked Kedzie for a few moments of her
time. Kedzie was in a hurry to an appointment at her hairdresser's,
but she seated herself patiently. Mrs. Dyckman said:
"My dear, I have just had a cable from my daughter Cicely. She has
broken down, and her physician has ordered her out of England for
a rest. She is homesick, she says, and Heaven knows we are homesick
"I am afraid she would not feel at home in any room but her old
one, and I know you won't mind. You can have your choice. Some of
the other rooms are really pleasanter. Will you look them over and
let me know, so that I can have your things moved?"
"Certainly, my dear m'mah!" said Kedzie.
She walked blindly down the Avenue, snubbing her most precious
acquaintances. She was being put out of her room! She was being
shoved back to the second place. They'd ask her to eat at the second
table next, or have her meals in her room as the secretaries did.
Not much! Having slept in a duchess's bed, Kedzie would not
backslide. She would get a bed of her own. She remembered a
nice young man she had met, whose people were in real estate.
She telephoned to him from the Biltmore.
"Is that you, Polly? This is Kedzie Dyckman. Say, Polly, do you
know of a decent house that is for sale or rent right away quick?
Oh, I don't care how much it costs, so it's a cracker jack of
a house. I suppose I've got to take it furnished, being in such
a hurry; or could you get a gang of decorators in and do a rush
job? All right, look up your list right away and telephone me here
at the hairdresser's."
From under her cascade of hair she talked to him later and arranged
to be taken from place to place. She now dismissed chateaux with
contempt as too small, too old-fashioned, lacking in servants'
rooms, what not. She had quite forgotten the poor little Mrs.
Gilfoyle she had been, and her footsore tramp from cheap flat to
cheap flat, ending in the place that cost three hundred dollars
a year furnished.
She finally decided not to attempt housekeeping yet awhile, and
selected a double-decked apartment of twenty-four rooms and
forty-eight baths. And she talked the agent down to a rental of
ten thousand dollars a year unfurnished. She would show Jim that
she could economize.
When Kedzie told Mrs. Dyckman that she had decided to move, Mrs.
Dyckman was very much concerned lest Kedzie feel put out. But she
smiled to herself: she knew her Kedzie.
Jim was not at all pleased with the arrangement, but he yielded.
In the American family the wife is the quartermaster, selects the
camp and equips it. Jim spent more of his time at his clubs than
at his duplex home. So did Kedzie. She had been railroaded into
the Colony and one or two other clubs before they knew her so well.
When the Duchess Cicely came back Kedzie was invited to the family
dinner, of course. Cicely was Kedzie's first duchess, and though
Kedzie had met any number of titled people by now, she approached
this one with strange apprehensions. She was horribly disappointed.
Cicely turned out to be a poor shred of a woman in black, worn out,
meager, forlorn, broken in heart and soul with what she had been
She was plainly not much impressed with Kedzie, and she said to
her mother later: "Poor Jim, he always plays in the rottenest luck,
doesn't he? Still, he's got a pretty doll, and what does anything
She tried to be polite about the family banquet. But the food choked
her. She had seen so many gaunt hands pleading upward for a crust of
bread. She had seen so many shriveled lips guzzling over a bowl of
soup. She had seen so many once beautiful soldiers who had nothing
to eat anything with.
Cicely apologized for being such a death's head at the feast, but
she was ashamed of her people, ashamed of her country for keeping
out of the war and fattening on it. All the motives of pacifism,
of neutrality, of co-operation by financing and munitioning the
war, were foul in her eyes. She knew only her side of the conflict,
and she cared for no other. She found America craven and indifferent
either to its own obligations or its own dangers. She accused the
United States of basking in the protection of the British navy
and the Allied armies. She felt that the immortal crime of the
_Lusitania_ with its flotsam of dead women and children was
more disgraceful to the nation that endured it than to the nation
that committed it. She was very, very bitter, and Kedzie found her
most depressing company, especially for a dinner-table.
But she excited Jim Dyckman tremendously. He broke out into fierce
diatribes against the Chinafying of the United States with its
Lilliputian army guarding its gigantic interests. He began to toy
with the idea of enlisting in the Canadian army or of joining the
American aviators flying for France.
"The national bird is an eagle," he said, with unwonted poesy,
"and the best place an American eagle can fly is over France."
When Kedzie protested: "But you've got a family to consider. Let
the single men go," Jim laughed louder and longer than he had
laughed for weeks.
Cicely smiled her first smile and squeezed Jim's hand.
Kedzie went home early. It was depressing there, too. Now that she
had a house of her own, she found an extraordinary isolation in it.
Almost nobody called.
When she lived under the Dyckman roof she was included in the cards
left by all the callers; she was invited into the drawing-room to
meet them; she was present at all the big and little dinners, and
breakfasts and teas and suppers.
People who wanted to be asked to more of the Dyckman meals and
parties swapped meals and parties with them and included Kedzie
in their invitations, since she was one of the family. She went
about much in stately homes, and her name was celebrated in what
the newspapers insist upon calling the "exclusive" circles.
Kedzie laughed at the extraordinary inclusiveness of their High
Exclusivenesses until she got her own home. And then she learned
its bitter meaning. It was not that Mrs. Dyckman meant to freeze
her out. She urged her to "come in any time." But, as Kedzie told
Jim, "an invitation to come any time is an invitation to stay away
all the time." Kedzie's pride kept her aloof. She made it so hard
to get her to come that Mrs. Dyckman sincerely said to Cicely:
"We are too old and stupid for the child. She is glad to be rid
Mrs. Dyckman planned to call often, but she was an extremely busy
woman, doing many good works and many foolish works that were just
as hard. She said, "I ought to call," and failed to call, just as
one says, "I ought to visit the sick," and leaves them to their
Thus Kedzie floated out of the swirling eddies where the social
driftwood jostled in eternal circles. She sulked and considered
the formalities of who should call on whom and who owed whom a call.
New York life had grown too busy for anybody to pay much attention
to the older reciprocities of etiquette.
Almost nobody called on Kedzie. She took a pride in smothering
her complaints from Jim, who was not very much alive to her hours.
He was busy, too. He had joined the Seventh Regiment of the New York
National Guard, and it absorbed a vast amount of his time. He had
gone to the Plattsburg encampment the summer before and had kept up
with the correspondence-school work in map problems, and finally he
had obtained a second lieutenancy in the Seventh Regiment. It was his
little protest against the unpreparedness of the nation as it toppled
on the brink of the crater where the European war boiled and smoked.
One midnight after a drill he found Kedzie crying bitterly. He took
her in his arms, and his tenderness softened her pride so that she
wept like a disconsolate baby and told him how lonely she was. Nobody
called; nobody invited her out; nobody took her places. She had no
friends, and her husband had abandoned her for his old regiment.
He was deeply touched by her woe and promised that he would take
better care of her. But his military engagements were not elastic.
He dared not neglect them. They took more and more of his evenings
and invaded his days. Besides, he was poor company for Kedzie's mood.
He had little of the humming-bird restlessness, and he could not keep
up with her flights. She had darted her beak into a flower, and its
nectar was finished for her before she had realized that it was
He felt that what she needed was friends of her own sex. There were
women enough who would accept Kedzie's company and gad with her, vie
with her quivering speed. But they were not the sort he wanted her to
fly with. He wanted her to make friends with the Charity Coe type.
The next day Jim grew desperate enough to call on Charity. She was
out, but expected in at any moment. He sat down to wait for her.
The room, the books, the piano--all spoke of her lovingly and
lovably. He went to the piano and found there the song she had
played for him once in Newport--"Go, Lovely Rose!"
He thought it a marvelous coincidence that it should be there on
the rack. Like most coincidences, this was not hard to explain. It
chanced to be there because Charity played it often. She was lonelier
than Kedzie and almost as helpless to amuse herself. She read vastly,
but the stories of other people's unhappy loves were a poor anodyne
for her own. She thought incessantly of Jim Dyckman. Remembering
the song she had played for him, and his bitter comment on the verse,
"Tell her that wastes her time and me," she hunted it out, and the
plaintive chimes of Carpenter's music made a knell for her own hopes.
She had played it this very afternoon and wrought herself to such
sardonic regret that she forced herself into the open air. She walked
a mile or two, but slunk back home again to be rid of the crowds.
She was thinking of Dyckman when she entered her house. She let
herself in with her own key, and, walking into the drawing-room,
surprised him at the piano, reading the tender elegy of the rose.
"Jim!" she gasped.
"Charity!" he groaned.
Their souls seemed to rush from their bodies and embrace. But their
bodies stood fast before the abyss that gaped between them.
She whipped off her glove before she gave him her hand. That meeting
of the flesh was so bitter-sweet that their hands unclasped guiltily
by a kind of honest instinct of danger.
"What on earth brought you here?" Charity faltered.
"Why--I--Well, you see--it's like this." He groped for words, but,
having no genius in invention, he blurted the truth helplessly: "I
came to ask you if you wouldn't--You see, my poor wife isn't making
out very well with people--she's lonesome--and blue--and--why can't
you lend a hand and make friends with her?"
Charity laughed aloud. "Oh, Jim, Jim, what a darling old numskull
"In general, yes; but why just now?"
"Your wife will never make friends with me."
"Of course she will. She's lonely enough to take up with anybody."
"Well, will you call?"
"Have you told her you were going to ask me to?"
"Then I'll call, on one condition."
"What's that, Charity Coe?"
"That you don't tell her. You'd better not, or she'll have my eyes
and your scalp."
"But you'll call, won't you?"
"Of course. Anything you say--always."
"You're the damnedest decentest woman in the world, Charity Coe;
He paused. It is just as well not to go iffing about such matters.
Charity stopped short in her laughter. She and Jim stared at each
other again across that abyss. It was terribly deep, but only
a step over.
They heard the door-bell faintly, and a sense of guilt confused
them again. Jim rose and wished himself out of it.
"It's only Prissy Atterbury," said Charity.
Prissy came in tugging at the ferocious mustaches that only
emphasized his lady-like carriage. He paused on the door-sill
to stare and gasp, "My Gawd, at it again!"
They did not know what he meant, and he would not explain that he
had seen them together ages ago and spread the gossip that they were
in intrigue. The coincidence of his recurrence on their scene was not
strange, for Charity had been using him as a kind of messenger-boy.
Prissy was that sort. He looked the gentleman and was, a somewhat
too gentle gentleman, but very useful to ladies who needed an
uncompromising escort and were no longer young enough to permit
of chaperonage. He was considered perfectly harmless, but he was
a fiend of gossip, and he rejoiced in the recrudescence of the Jim
and Charity affair.
Jim confirmed Prissy's eager suspicions by taking himself off with
a maximum of embarrassment. Charity went to the door with him--to
kiss him good-by, as Prissy gloatingly supposed, but actually to
"I'll call on your wife to-morrow."
"You're an angel," said Jim, and meant it.
He thought all the way home what an angel she was, and Charity was
thinking at the same time what a fool she had been to let Peter
Cheever dazzle her to the fact that Jim Dyckman was the one man in
the world that she belonged to. She needed just him and he just her.
Sometimes Jim Dyckman was foolish enough to wish that he had been
his wife's first lover. But a man has to get up pretty early to be
that to any woman. The minxes begin to flirt with the milk-bottle,
then with the doctor, and then to cherish a precocious passion for
the first rag sailor-doll.
Jim had come as near as any man may to being a woman's first love
in the case of Charity, and what good had it done him? He was the
first boy Charity had ever played with. Her nurse had bragged about
her to his nurse when Charity was just beginning to take notice
of other than alimentary things. By that time Jim was a blasé roué
of five and his main interest in Charity was a desire to poke his
finger into the soft spot in her head.
The nurses restrained him in time, and his proud, young, little
mother of then, when she heard of it, decided that he was destined
to be a great explorer. His young father sniffed that he was more
likely to be a gynecologist. They had a grand quarrel over their
son's future. He became none of the things they feared or hoped that
he would and he carried out none of his own early ambitions.
His first impressions of Charity had ranged from contempt, through
curiosity, to protectiveness and affection. She got his heart first
by being helpless. He began by picking up the things she let fall
from her carriage or threw overboard and immediately cried for again.
She had been human enough to do a good deal of that. When things
cumbered her crib or her perambulator she brushed them into space
and then repented after them.
Following her marriage to Peter Cheever she did just that with Jim
Dyckman. His love cluttered up her domestic serenity and she chucked
it overboard. And then she wanted it again. Then her husband chucked
her overboard and she felt that it would not be so lonesome out there
since Jim would be out there, too. But she found that he had picked
himself up and toddled away with Kedzie. And now he could not pick
Charity up any more. His wife wouldn't let him.
Jim did not know that he wanted to pick Charity up again till he
called on her to ask her to call on his wife and pick Kedzie up out
of her loneliness. It was a terrific thought to the simple-minded
Jim when it came over him that the Charity Coe he had adored and
given up as beyond his reach on her high pedestal was now lying at
the foot of it with no worshiper at all.
Jim was the very reverse of a snob. Kedzie had won his devotion by
seeming to need it. She had lost it by showing that she cared less
for him than for the things she thought he could get for her. And
now Charity needed his love.
There were two potent principles in Jim's nature, as in many another
man's and woman's; one was an instant eagerness to help anybody
in trouble; another was an instant resentment of any coercion. Jim
could endure neither bossing nor being bossed; restraint of any sort
irked him. There may have been Irish blood in him, but at any rate
the saying was as true of him as of the typical Irishman--"You can
lead him to hell easier than you can drive him an inch."
When Jim left Charity's house his heart ached to think of her
distressful with loneliness. When he realized that somehow Kedzie
was automatically preventing him from helping Charity his marital
bonds began to chafe. He began to understand that matrimony was
hampering his freedom. He had something to resent on his own
He had been so troubled with the thought of his shortcomings
in devotion to Kedzie that he had not pondered how much he had
surrendered. He had repented his inability to give Kedzie his
entire and fanatic love. He saw that he had at least given his
precious liberty of soul into her little hands.
Galled as he was at this comprehension, he began to think over the
lessons of his honeymoon and to see that Kedzie had not given him
entirety of devotion any more than he her. Little selfishnesses,
exactions, tyrannies, petulances, began to recur to him.
He was in the dangerous frame of mind of a bridegroom thinking
things over. At that time it behooves the bride to exert her
fascinations and prove her devotion as never before.
Kedzie, knowing nothing of Jim's call on Charity or of his new mood,
chanced to be in a most unfortunate humor. She criticized Jim;
she declined to be amused or entertained; rebuffed his advances,
ridiculed his pretensions of love. She even chose to denounce his
mother for her heartlessness, his sister for her neglect, his father
for his snobbery. That is always bad business. It puts a husband
at bay with his back against the foundation walls of loyalty. They
quarreled wonderfully and slept dos-à-dos. They did not speak the
The next afternoon Jim saw to his dismay that Kedzie was putting on
her hat and gloves to go out on a shopping-cruise. If she went she
would miss Charity's call.
He knew that he ought not to tell her of Charity's visit in advance.
In fact, Charity had pledged him to a benevolent conspiracy in the
matter. He put up a flag of truce and resumed diplomatic relations.
With the diplomatic cunning of a hippopotamus he tried to decoy
Kedzie into staying at home awhile. His ponderous subtlety aroused
Kedzie's suspicions, and at length he confirmed them by desperately
"Mrs. Cheever is going to call."
Kedzie's first thought was of Peter Cheever's new wife, who had been
taken up by a certain set of those whom one may call loose-principled
or divinely tolerant, as one's own prejudices direct. Kedzie could
not yet afford to be so forgiving. She flared up.
"Mrs. Cheever! That Zada thing going to call on me? How dare she!"
"Of course not."
"Oh, the other one, then?"
"The abandoned one?"
"That's pretty rough. She's been very kind to you and she wants
to be again."
"Where did you learn so much?"
"We were talking about you."
"Oh, you were, were you? That's nice! And where was all this?"
He indulged in a concessive lie for the sake or the peace. "I met
her in the street and walked along with her."
"Fine! And how did my name come to come up?"
"It naturally would. I was saying that I wished she'd--er--I wished
that you and she might be friends."
"So that you and she could see each other still oftener, I suppose."
"It's rotten of you to say that."
"And it's rottener of you to go talking to another woman about
"But it was in the friendliest spirit, and she took it so."
"I see! Her first name is Charity and I'm to be one of her patients.
Well, you can receive her yourself. I don't want any of her old alms!
I won't be here!"
"Oh yes, you will!"
"Oh no, I won't!"
"You can't be as ill-mannered as that!"
"You talk to me of manners! Why, I've seen manners in your gang that
would disgrace a brakeman and a lunch-counter girl on one of dad's
railroads." Her father already had railroads! So many people had
them in the crowd she met that Kedzie was not strong enough to deny
her father one or two.
Kedzie had taken the most violent dislike to Charity for a dozen
reasons, all of them perfectly human and natural, and nasty and
unjustifiable, and therefore ineradicable. The first one was that
odious matter of obligation. Gratitude has been wisely diagnosticated
as a lively sense of benefits to come. The deadly sense of benefits
gone by is known as ingratitude.
No one knows just what the divinely unpardonable sin is, but the
humanly or at least womanly unpardonable sin is to have known one's
husband well before the wife met him, and then to try to be nice
to the wife. To have known the wife in her humble days and to have
done her a favor makes the sin unmentionable as well as unpardonable.
Jim Dyckman had involved himself in Charity's crime by trying to get
Charity to help his wife again. It was bad enough that Charity had
got Kedzie a job in the past and had sent Jim Dyckman to make sure
that she got it. But for Jim, after Kedzie and he had been married
and all, to ask Charity to rescue Kedzie from her social failure was
The fact that Jim had felt sorry for his lonely Kedzie marooned on
an iceberg in mid-society was humiliating enough; but for Charity
to dare to feel sorry for Kedzie, too, and to come sailing after
her--Kedzie shuddered when she thought of it.
She fought with her husband until it was too late for her to get
away. Charity's card came in while they were still wrangling. Kedzie
announced that she was not at home. Jim told the servant, "Wait!"
and gave Kedzie a look that she rather enjoyed. It was what they
call a caveman look. She felt that he already had his hands in her
hair and was dragging her across the floor bumpitty-bump. It made
her scalp creep deliciously. She was rather tempted to goad him
on to action. It would have a movie thrill.
But the look faded from Jim's eye and the blaze of wrath dulled to
a gray contempt. She was afraid that he might call her what she had
once overheard Pet Bettany call her--"A common little mucker." That
sort of contempt seared like a splash of vitriol.
Kedzie, like Zada, was a self-made lady and she wanted to conceal the
authorship from the great-grandmother-built ladies she encountered.
She pouted a moment, then she said to the servant, "We'll see her."
She turned to Jim. "Come along. I'll go and pet your old cat and
get her off my chest."
Jim thudded dismally along in her wake. Charity was in the
drawing-room wearing her politest face. She could tell from
Kedzie's very pose that she was as welcome as a submarine.
Kedzie said, "Awfully decent of you to come," and gave her
a handful of cold, limp fingers.
Charity politely pretended that she had called unexpectedly and that
she was in dire need of Kedzie's aid. She made herself unwittingly
ridiculous in the eyes of Kedzie, who knew and despised her motive,
not appreciating at all the consideration Charity was trying to show.
"I'm sorry to bother you, Mrs. Dyckman," Charity began, "but I've
got to throw myself on your mercy. A few of us are getting up a new
stunt for the settlement-work fund. It is to be rather elaborate
and ought to make a lot of money. It is to represent a day in the
life of a New York Bud. You can have your choice of several rôles,
and I hope you will lend us a hand."
Kedzie had heard of this project and she had gnawed her bitter
heart in a chagrin of yearning to take part in it. She had not been
invited, and she had blenched every time she thought of it. She was
so much relieved at being asked that she almost forgave Charity for
her benevolence. She stammered: "It's awfully decent of you to ask
me. I'll do my bit with the greatest of pleasure."
She rather regretted those last five words. They were a bit
Charity sketched the program for her.
"The Bud is discovered in bed. A street piano wakes her. There is
to be a dance to a hurdy-gurdy. Then the Bud has breakfast. It is
served by a dancing maid and butler. Tom Duane is to be the butler.
You could be--no, you wouldn't fancy the maid, I imagine."
Kedzie did not fancy the maid.
Charity went on: "The girl dresses and goes to a rehearsal of the
Junior League. That's to be a ballet of harlequins and columbines.
She goes from there to her dressmaker's. I am to play the dressmaker.
I have my _mannequins,_ and you might want to play one of those
and wear the latest thing--or you could be one of the customers. You
can think it over.
"Then the girl is seen reading a magazine and there is a dance of
cover girls. If you have any favorite illustrator you could be one
of his types.
"Next the Bud goes to an art exhibition. This year Zuloaga is the
craze, and several of his canvases will come to life. Do you care
"Immensely, but--" Kedzie said, wondering just what Zuloaga did to
his canvases. She had seen a cubist exhibition that gave her a
headache, and she thought it might have something to do with Zulus.
Charity ran on: "After dinner the Bud goes to the theater and sees
a pantomime and a series of ballets, dolls of the nations--Chinese,
Polish, also nursery characters. You could select something in one
of those dances, perhaps.
"And last of all there is a chimney-sweeps' dance as the worn-out
Bud crawls into bed. If none of these suit you we'd be glad to have
any suggestion that occurs to you. Of course, a girl of to-day does
a thousand more things than I've mentioned. But the main thing is,
we want you to help us out.
"You are--if you'll forgive me for slapping you in the face with
a bouquet--you are exquisitely beautiful and I know that you dance
"How do you know that?" Kedzie asked, rashly.
"I saw you once as a--" Charity paused, seeing the red run across
Kedzie's face. She had stumbled into Kedzie's past again, and
Kedzie's resentment braced her hurt pride.
Charity tried to mend matters by a little advice: "You mustn't blush,
my dear Mrs. Dyckman. If I were in your place I'd go around bragging
about it. To have been a Greek dancer, what a beautiful past!"
"Thanks!" said Kedzie, curtly, with basilisk eyes. "I think I'd
rather not dance any more. I'm an old married woman now. If you
don't mind, I'll be one of the customers at your shop. I'll come
in in the rippingest gown Jim can buy. I'll feel more comfortable,
too, under your protection, Mrs. Cheever."
Jim laughed and Kedzie grinned. But she was canny. She was thinking
that she would be safest among that pack of wolves if she relied on
her money to buy something dazzling rather than on the beauty that
Charity alleged. She did not want to dance before those people again.
She would never forget how her foot had slipped at Newport.
Thirdly, she felt that she would be sheltered a little from
persecution beneath the wing of Charity. It rather pleased her
to treat Charity as a motherly sort of person. It is the most
deliciously malicious compliment a woman can pay another.
Charity did not fail to receive the stab. But it amused her so far
as she was concerned. She felt that Kedzie was like one of those
incorrigible _gamines_ who throw things at kindly visitors to
the slums. She felt sorry for Jim, and wondered again by what strange
devices he had been led to marry so incompatible a girl as Kedzie.
Jim wondered, too. He sat and watched the two women, wondering as men
do when they see women painfully courteous to each other; wondering
as women must when they see men polite to their enemies.
Charity and Kedzie prattled on in a kind of two-story conversation,
and Jim studied them with shameless objectivity. He hardly heard
what they said. He watched the pantomime of their so different souls
and bodies: Charity, lean and smart and aristocratic, beautiful in
a peculiar mixture of sophistication and tenderness; Kedzie, small
and nymph-like and plebeian, beautiful in a mixture of innocence
and hardness of heart.
Charity's body was like the work of a dashing painter--long lines
drawn with brave force and direction. Kedzie's body was a thing of
dainty curves and timidities. Charity was fashionable and wise, but
her wisdom had lifted her above pettiness. Kedzie was of the village,
for all her Parisian garb, and she had cunning, which is the lowest
form of wisdom.
When at length Charity left, Jim and Kedzie sat brooding. Kedzie
wanted to say something nice about Charity and was afraid to. The
poor child always distrusted her generous impulses. She thought it
cleverer to withhold trust from everybody, lest she misplace it in
somebody. At length an imp of perversity taught her how to get rid
of the credit she owed to Charity. She spoke after a long silence.
"Mrs. Cheever must be horribly fond of you."
"Why do you say that?" said Jim, startled.
"Because she's so nice to me."
Jim groaned with disgust. Kedzie giggled, accepting the groan as
confession of a palpable hit. She sat musing on various costumes
she might wear. She had a woman's memory for things she had caught
a glimpse of in a shop-window or in a fashion magazine; she had
a woman's imagination for dressing herself up mentally.