TALES FROM THE JAZZ AGE

 

 

BY

 

F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

 

1922

 

 

A TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

MY LAST FLAPPERS

 

THE JELLY-BEAN

 

 

This is a Southern story, with the scene laid in the small Lily of

Tarleton, Georgia. I have a profound affection for Tarleton, but

somehow whenever I write a story about it I receive letters from all

over the South denouncing me in no uncertain terms. "The Jelly-Bean,"

published in "The Metropolitan," drew its full share of these

admonitory notes.

 

It was written under strange circumstances shortly after my first

novel was published, and, moreover, it was the first story in which I

had a collaborator. For, finding that I was unable to manage the

crap-shooting episode, I turned it over to my wife, who, as a Southern

girl, was presumably an expert on the technique and terminology of

that great sectional pastime.

 

 

THE CAMEL'S BACK

 

I suppose that of all the stories I have ever written this one cost me

the least travail and perhaps gave me the most amusement. As to the

labor involved, it was written during one day in the city of New

Orleans, with the express purpose of buying a platinum and diamond

wrist watch which cost six hundred dollars. I began it at seven in the

morning and finished it at two o'clock the same night. It was

published in the "Saturday Evening Post" in 1920, and later included

in the O. Henry Memorial Collection for the same year. I like it least

of all the stories in this volume.

 

My amusement was derived from the fact that the camel part of the

story is literally true; in fact, I have a standing engagement with

the gentleman involved to attend the next fancy-dress party to which

we are mutually invited, attired as the latter part of the camel--this

as a sort of atonement for being his historian.

 

 

MAY DAY.

 

This somewhat unpleasant tale, published as a novelette in the "Smart

Set" in July, 1920, relates a series of events which took place in the

spring of the previous year. Each of the three events made a great

impression upon me. In life they were unrelated, except by the general

hysteria of that spring which inaugurated the Age of Jazz, but in my

story I have tried, unsuccessfully I fear, to weave them into a

pattern--a pattern which would give the effect of those months in New

York as they appeared to at least one member of what was then the

younger generation.

 

 

PORCELAIN AND PINK.

 

"And do you write for any other magazines?" inquired the young lady.

 

"Oh, yes," I assured her. "I've had some stories and plays in the

'Smart Set,' for instance------"

 

The young lady shivered.

 

"The 'Smart Set'!" she exclaimed. "How can you? Why, they publish

stuff about girls in blue bathtubs, and silly things like that"

 

And I had the magnificent joy of telling her that she was referring to

"Porcelain and Pink," which had appeared there several months before.

 

 

FANTASIES

 

 

THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ.

 

These next stories are written in what, were I of imposing stature, I

should call my "second manner." "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,"

which appeared last summer in the "Smart Set," was designed utterly

for my own amusement. I was in that familiar mood characterized by a

perfect craving for luxury, and the story began as an attempt to feed

that craving on imaginary foods.

 

One well-known critic has been pleased to like this extravaganza

better than anything I have written. Personally I prefer "The Offshore

Pirate." But, to tamper slightly with Lincoln: If you like this sort

of thing, this, possibly, is the sort of thing you'll like.

 

 

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON.

 

This story was inspired by a remark of Mark Twain's to the effect that

it was a pity that the best part of life came at the beginning and the

worst part at the end. By trying the experiment upon only one man in a

perfectly normal world I have scarcely given his idea a fair trial.

Several weeks after completing it, I discovered an almost identical

plot in Samuel Butler's "Note-books."

 

The story was published in "Collier's" last summer and provoked this

startling letter from an anonymous admirer in Cincinnati:

 

"Sir--

 

I have read the story Benjamin Button in Colliers and I wish to say

that as a short story writer you would make a good lunatic I have seen

many peices of cheese in my life but of all the peices of cheese I

have ever seen you are the biggest peice. I hate to waste a peice of

stationary on you but I will."

 

 

TARQUIN OF CHEAPSIDE.

 

Written almost six years ago, this story is a product of undergraduate

days at Princeton. Considerably revised, it was published in the

"Smart Set" in 1921. At the time of its conception I had but one

idea--to be a poet--and the fact that I was interested in the ring of

every phrase, that I dreaded the obvious in prose if not in plot,

shows throughout. Probably the peculiar affection I feel for it

depends more upon its age than upon any intrinsic merit.

 

 

"O RUSSET WITCH!"

 

When this was written I had just completed the first draft of my

second novel, and a natural reaction made me revel in a story wherein

none of the characters need be taken seriously. And I'm afraid that I

was somewhat carried away by the feeling that there was no ordered

scheme to which I must conform. After due consideration, however, I

have decided to let it stand as it is, although the reader may find

himself somewhat puzzled at the time element. I had best say that

however the years may have dealt with Merlin Grainger, I myself was

thinking always in the present. It was published in the

"Metropolitan."

 

 

UNCLASSIFIED MASTERPIECES

 

 

THE LEES OF HAPPINESS.

 

Of this story I can say that it came to me in an irresistible form,

crying to be written. It will be accused perhaps of being a mere piece

of sentimentality, but, as I saw it, it was a great deal more. If,

therefore, it lacks the ring of sincerity, or even, of tragedy, the

fault rests not with the theme but with my handling of it.

 

It appeared in the "Chicago Tribune," and later obtained, I believe,

the quadruple gold laurel leaf or some such encomium from one of the

anthologists who at present swarm among us. The gentleman I refer to

runs as a rule to stark melodramas with a volcano or the ghost of John

Paul Jones in the role of Nemesis, melodramas carefully disguised by

early paragraphs in Jamesian manner which hint dark and subtle

complexities to follow. On this order:

 

"The case of Shaw McPhee, curiously enough, had no hearing on the

almost incredible attitude of Martin Sulo. This is parenthetical and,

to at least three observers, whose names for the present I must

conceal, it seems improbable, etc., etc., etc.," until the poor rat of

fiction is at last forced out into the open and the melodrama begins.

 

 

MR. ICKY

 

This has the distinction of being the only magazine piece ever written

in a New York hotel. The business was done in a bedroom in the

Knickerbocker, and shortly afterward that memorable hostelry closed

its doors forever.

 

When a fitting period of mourning had elapsed it was published in the

"Smart Set."

 

 

JEMINA.

 

Written, like "Tarquin of Cheapside," while I was at Princeton, this

sketch was published years later in "Vanity Fair." For its technique I

must apologize to Mr. Stephen Leacock.

 

I have laughed over it a great deal, especially when I first wrote it,

but I can laugh over it no longer. Still, as other people tell me it

is amusing, I include it here. It seems to me worth preserving a few

years--at least until the ennui of changing fashions suppresses me, my

books, and it together.

 

With due apologies for this impossible Table of Contents, I tender

these tales of the Jazz Age into the hands of those who read as they

run and run as they read.

 

 

 

 

MY LAST FLAPPERS

 

 

 

THE JELLY-BEAN.

 

 

Jim Powell was a Jelly-bean. Much as I desire to make him an appealing

character, I feel that it would be unscrupulous to deceive you on that

point. He was a bred-in-the-bone, dyed-in-the-wool, ninety-nine

three-quarters per cent Jelly-bean and he grew lazily all during

Jelly-bean season, which is every season, down in the land of the

Jelly-beans well below the Mason-Dixon line.

 

Now if you call a Memphis man a Jelly-bean he will quite possibly pull

a long sinewy rope from his hip pocket and hang you to a convenient

telegraph-pole. If you Call a New Orleans man a Jelly-bean he will

probably grin and ask you who is taking your girl to the Mardi Gras

ball. The particular Jelly-bean patch which produced the protagonist

of this history lies somewhere between the two--a little city of forty

thousand that has dozed sleepily for forty thousand years in southern

Georgia occasionally stirring in its slumbers and muttering something

about a war that took place sometime, somewhere, and that everyone

else has forgotten long ago.

 

Jim was a Jelly-bean. I write that again because it has such a

pleasant sound--rather like the beginning of a fairy story--as if Jim

were nice. It somehow gives me a picture of him with a round,

appetizing face and all sort of leaves and vegetables growing out of

his cap. But Jim was long and thin and bent at the waist from stooping

over pool-tables, and he was what might have been known in the

indiscriminating North as a corner loafer. "Jelly-bean" is the name

throughout the undissolved Confederacy for one who spends his life

conjugating the verb to idle in the first person singular--I am

idling, I have idled, I will idle.

 

Jim was born in a white house on a green corner, It had four

weather-beaten pillars in front and a great amount of lattice-work in

the rear that made a cheerful criss-cross background for a flowery

sun-drenched lawn. Originally the dwellers in the white house had

owned the ground next door and next door to that and next door to

that, but this had been so long ago that even Jim's father, scarcely

remembered it. He had, in fact, thought it a matter of so little

moment that when he was dying from a pistol wound got in a brawl he

neglected even to tell little Jim, who was five years old and

miserably frightened. The white house became a boarding-house run by a

tight-lipped lady from Macon, whom Jim called Aunt Mamie and detested

with all his soul.

 

He became fifteen, went to high school, wore his hair in black snarls,

and was afraid of girls. He hated his home where four women and one

old man prolonged an interminable chatter from summer to summer about

what lots the Powell place had originally included and what sorts of

flowers would be out next. Sometimes the parents of little girls in

town, remembering Jim's. mother and fancying a resemblance in the dark

eyes and hair, invited him to parties, but parties made him shy and he

much preferred sitting on a disconnected axle in Tilly's Garage,

rolling the bones or exploring his mouth endlessly with a long straw.

For pocket money, he picked up odd jobs, and it was due to this that

he stopped going to parties. At his third party little Marjorie Haight

had whispered indiscreetly and within hearing distance that he was a

boy who brought the groceries sometimes. So instead of the two-step

and polka, Jim had learned to throw, any number he desired on the dice

and had listened to spicy tales of all the shootings that had occurred

in the surrounding country during the past fifty years.

 

He became eighteen. The war broke out and he enlisted as a gob and

polished brass in the Charleston Navy-yard for a year. Then, by way of

variety, he went North and polished brass in the Brooklyn Navy-yard

for a year.

 

When the war was over he came home, He was twenty-one, has trousers

were too short and too tight. His buttoned shoes were long and narrow.

His tie was an alarming conspiracy of purple and pink marvellously

scrolled, and over it were two blue eyes faded like a piece of very

good old cloth, long exposed to the sun.

 

In the twilight of one April evening when a soft gray had drifted down

along the cottonfields and over the sultry town, he was a vague figure

leaning against a board fence, whistling and gazing at the moon's rim

above the lights of Jackson Street. His mind was working persistently

on a problem that had held his attention for an. The Jelly-bean had

been invited to a party.

 

Back in the days when all the boys had detested all the girls, Clark

Darrow and Jim had sat side by side in school. But, while Jim's social

aspirations had died in the oily air of the garage, Clark had

alternately fallen in and out of love, gone to college, taken to

drink, given it up, and, in short, become one of the best beaux of the

town. Nevertheless Clark and Jim had retained a friendship that,

though casual, was perfectly definite. That afternoon Clark's ancient

Ford had slowed up beside Jim, who was on the sidewalk and, out of a

clear sky, Clark invited him to a party at the country club. The

impulse that made him do this was no stranger than the impulse which

made Jim accept. The latter was probably an unconscious ennui, a

half-frightened sense of adventure. And now Jim was soberly thinking

it over.

 

He began to sing, drumming his long foot idly on a stone block in the

sidewalk till it wobbled up and down in time to the low throaty tune:

 

   "One smile from Home in Jelly-bean town,

   Lives Jeanne, the Jelly-bean Queen.

   She loves her dice and treats 'em nice;

   No dice would treat her mean."

 

He broke off and agitated the sidewalk to a bumpy gallop.

 

"Daggone!" he muttered, half aloud. They would all be there--the old

crowd, the crowd to which, by right of the white house, sold long

since, and the portrait of the officer in gray over the mantel, Jim

should have belonged. But that crowd had grown up together into a

tight little set as gradually as the girls' dresses had lengthened

inch by inch, as definitely as the boys' trousers had dropped suddenly

to their ankles. And to that society of first names and dead puppy

loves Jim was an outsider--a running mate of poor whites. Most of the

men knew him, condescendingly; he tipped his hat to three or four

girls. That was all.

 

When the dusk had thickened into a blue setting for the moon, he

walked through the hot, pleasantly pungent town to Jackson Street. The

stores were closing and the last shoppers were drifting homeward, as

if borne on the dreamy revolution of a slow merry-go-round. A

street-fair farther down a brilliant alley of varicolored booths and

contributed a blend of music to the night--an oriental dance on a

calliope, a melancholy bugle in front of a freak show, a cheerful

rendition of "Back Home in Tennessee" on a hand-organ.

 

The Jelly-bean stopped in a store and bought a collar. Then he

sauntered along toward Soda Sam's, where he found the usual three or

four cars of a summer evening parked in front and the little darkies

running back and forth with sundaes and lemonades.

 

"Hello, Jim."

 

It was a voice at his elbow--Joe Ewing sitting in an automobile with

Marylyn Wade. Nancy Lamar and a strange man were in the back seat.

 

The Jelly-bean tipped his hat quickly.

 

"Hi Ben--" then, after an almost imperceptible pause--"How y' all?"

 

Passing, he ambled on toward the garage where he had a room up-stairs.

His "How y'all" had been said to Nancy Lamar, to whom he had not

spoken in fifteen years.

 

Nancy had a mouth like a remembered kiss and shadowy eyes and

blue-black hair inherited from her mother who had been born in

Budapest. Jim passed her often on the street, walking small-boy

fashion with her hands in her pockets and he knew that with her

inseparable Sally Carrol Hopper she had left a trail of broken hearts

from Atlanta to New Orleans.

 

For a few fleeting moments Jim wished he could dance. Then he laughed

and as he reached his door began to sing softly to himself:

 

  "Her Jelly Roll can twist your soul,

  Her eyes are big and brown,

  She's the Queen of the Queens of the Jelly-beans--

  My Jeanne of Jelly-bean Town."

 

 

II

 

At nine-thirty, Jim and Clark met in front of Soda Sam's and started

for the Country Club in Clark's Ford. "Jim," asked Clark casually, as

they rattled through the jasmine-scented night, "how do you keep

alive?"

 

The Jelly-bean paused, considered.

 

"Well," he said finally, "I got a room over Tilly's garage. I help him

some with the cars in the afternoon an' he gives it to me free.

Sometimes I drive one of his taxies and pick up a little thataway. I

get fed up doin' that regular though."

 

"That all?"

 

"Well, when there's a lot of work I help him by the day--Saturdays

usually--and then there's one main source of revenue I don't generally

mention. Maybe you don't recollect I'm about the champion crap-shooter

of this town. They make me shoot from a cup now because once I get the

feel of a pair of dice they just roll for me."

 

Clark grinned appreciatively,

 

"I never could learn to set 'em so's they'd do what I wanted. Wish

you'd shoot with Nancy Lamar some day and take all her money away from

her. She will roll 'em with the boys and she loses more than her daddy

can afford to give her. I happen to know she sold a good ring last

month to pay a debt."

 

The Jelly-bean was noncommittal.

 

"The white house on Elm Street still belong to you?"

 

Jim shook his head.

 

"Sold. Got a pretty good price, seein' it wasn't in a good part of

town no more. Lawyer told me to put it into Liberty bonds. But Aunt

Mamie got so she didn't have no sense, so it takes all the interest to

keep her up at Great Farms Sanitarium.

 

"Hm."

 

"I got an old uncle up-state an' I reckin I kin go up there if ever I

get sure enough pore. Nice farm, but not enough niggers around to work

it. He's asked me to come up and help him, but I don't guess I'd take

much to it. Too doggone lonesome--" He broke off suddenly. "Clark, I

want to tell you I'm much obliged to you for askin' me out, but I'd be

a lot happier if you'd just stop the car right here an' let me walk

back into town."

 

"Shucks!" Clark grunted. "Do you good to step out. You don't have to

dance--just get out there on the floor and shake."

 

"Hold on," exclaimed. Jim uneasily, "Don't you go leadin' me up to any

girls and leavin' me there so I'll have to dance with 'em."

 

Clark laughed.

 

"'Cause," continued Jim desperately, "without you swear you won't do

that I'm agoin' to get out right here an' my good legs goin' carry me

back to Jackson street."

 

They agreed after some argument that Jim, unmolested by females, was

to view the spectacle from a secluded settee in the corner where Clark

would join him whenever he wasn't dancing.

 

So ten o'clock found the Jelly-bean with his legs crossed and his arms

conservatively folded, trying to look casually at home and politely

uninterested in the dancers. At heart he was torn between overwhelming

self-consciousness and an intense curiosity as to all that went on

around him. He saw the girls emerge one by one from the dressing-room,

stretching and pluming themselves like bright birds, smiling over

their powdered shoulders at the chaperones, casting a quick glance

around to take in the room and, simultaneously, the room's reaction to

their entrance--and then, again like birds, alighting and nestling in

the sober arms of their waiting escorts. Sally Carrol Hopper, blonde

and lazy-eyed, appeared clad in her favorite pink and blinking like an

awakened rose. Marjorie Haight, Marylyn Wade, Harriet Cary, all the

girls he had seen loitering down Jackson Street by noon, now, curled

and brilliantined and delicately tinted for the overhead lights, were

miraculously strange Dresden figures of pink and blue and red and

gold, fresh from the shop and not yet fully dried.

 

He had been there half an hour, totally uncheered by Clark's jovial

visits which were each one accompanied by a "Hello, old boy, how you

making out?" and a slap at his knee. A dozen males had spoken to him

or stopped for a moment beside him, but he knew that they were each

one surprised at finding him there and fancied that one or two were

even slightly resentful. But at half past ten his embarrassment

suddenly left him and a pull of breathless interest took him

completely out of himself--Nancy Lamar had come out of the

dressing-room.

 

She was dressed in yellow organdie, a costume of a hundred cool

corners, with three tiers of ruffles and a big bow in back until she

shed black and yellow around her in a sort of phosphorescent lustre.

The Jelly-bean's eyes opened wide and a lump arose in his throat. For

she stood beside the door until her partner hurried up. Jim recognized

him as the stranger who had been with her in Joe Ewing's car that

afternoon. He saw her set her arms akimbo and say something in a low

voice, and laugh. The man laughed too and Jim experienced the quick

pang of a weird new kind of pain. Some ray had passed between the

pair, a shaft of beauty from that sun that had warmed him a moment

since. The Jelly-bean felt suddenly like a weed in a shadow.

 

A minute later Clark approached him, bright-eyed and glowing.

 

"Hi, old man" he cried with some lack of originality. "How you making

out?"

 

Jim replied that he was making out as well as could be expected.

 

"You come along with me," commanded Clark. "I've got something that'll

put an edge on the evening."

 

Jim followed him awkwardly across the floor and up the stairs to the

locker-room where Clark produced a flask of nameless yellow liquid.

 

"Good old corn."

 

Ginger ale arrived on a tray. Such potent nectar as "good old corn"

needed some disguise beyond seltzer.

 

"Say, boy," exclaimed Clark breathlessly, "doesn't Nancy Lamar look

beautiful?"

 

Jim nodded.

 

"Mighty beautiful," he agreed.

 

"She's all dolled up to a fare-you-well to-night," continued Clark.

"Notice that fellow she's with?"

 

"Big fella? White pants?"

 

"Yeah. Well, that's Ogden Merritt from Savannah. Old man Merritt makes

the Merritt safety razors. This fella's crazy about her. Been chasing,

after her all year.

 

"She's a wild baby," continued Clark, "but I like her. So does

everybody. But she sure does do crazy stunts. She usually gets out

alive, but she's got scars all over her reputation from one thing or

another she's done."

 

"That so?" Jim passed over his glass. "That's good corn."

 

"Not so bad. Oh, she's a wild one. Shoot craps, say, boy! And she do

like her high-balls. Promised I'd give her one later on."

 

"She in love with this--Merritt?"

 

"Damned if I know. Seems like all the best girls around here marry

fellas and go off somewhere."

 

He poured himself one more drink and carefully corked the bottle.

 

"Listen, Jim, I got to go dance and I'd be much obliged if you just

stick this corn right on your hip as long as you're not dancing. If a

man notices I've had a drink he'll come up and ask me and before I

know it it's all gone and somebody else is having my good time."

 

So Nancy Lamar was going to marry. This toast of a town was to become

the private property of an individual in white trousers--and all

because white trousers' father had made a better razor than his

neighbor. As they descended the stairs Jim found the idea inexplicably

depressing. For the first time in his life he felt a vague and

romantic yearning. A picture of her began to form in his

imagination--Nancy walking boylike and debonnaire along the street,

taking an orange as tithe from a worshipful fruit-dealer, charging a

dope on a mythical account, at Soda Sam's, assembling a convoy of

beaux and then driving off in triumphal state for an afternoon of

splashing and singing.

 

The Jelly-bean walked out on the porch to a deserted corner, dark

between the moon on the lawn and the single lighted door of the

ballroom. There he found a chair and, lighting a cigarette, drifted

into the thoughtless reverie that was his usual mood. Yet now it was a

reverie made sensuous by the night and by the hot smell of damp powder

puffs, tucked in the fronts of low dresses and distilling a thousand

rich scents, to float out through the open door. The music itself,

blurred by a loud trombone, became hot and shadowy, a languorous

overtone to the scraping of many shoes and slippers.

 

Suddenly the square of yellow light that fell through the door was

obscured by a dark figure. A girl had come out of the dressing-room

and was standing on the porch not more than ten feet away. Jim heard a

low-breathed "doggone" and then she turned and saw him. It was Nancy

Lamar.

 

Jim rose to his feet.

 

"Howdy?"

 

"Hello--" she paused, hesitated and then approached. "Oh, it's--Jim

Powell."

 

He bowed slightly, tried to think of a casual remark.

 

"Do you suppose," she began quickly, "I mean--do you know anything

about gum?"

 

"What?" "I've got gum on my shoe. Some utter ass left his or her gum

on the floor and of course I stepped in it."

 

Jim blushed, inappropriately.

 

"Do you know how to get it off?" she demanded petulantly. "I've tried

a knife. I've tried every damn thing in the dressing-room. I've tried

soap and water--and even perfume and I've ruined my powder-puff trying

to make it stick to that."

 

Jim considered the question in some agitation.

 

"Why--I think maybe gasolene--"

 

The words had scarcely left his lips when she grasped his hand and

pulled him at a run off the low veranda, over a flower bed and at a

gallop toward a group of cars parked in the moonlight by the first

hole of the golf course.

 

"Turn on the gasolene," she commanded breathlessly.

 

"What?"

 

"For the gum of course. I've got to get it off. I can't dance with gum

on."

 

Obediently Jim turned to the cars and began inspecting them with a

view to obtaining the desired solvent. Had she demanded a cylinder he

would have done his best to wrench one out.

 

"Here," he said after a moment's search. "'Here's one that's easy. Got

a handkerchief?"

 

"It's up-stairs wet. I used it for the soap and water."

 

Jim laboriously explored his pockets.

 

"Don't believe I got one either."

 

"Doggone it! Well, we can turn it on and let it run on the ground."

 

He turned the spout; a dripping began.

 

"More!"

 

He turned it on fuller. The dripping became a flow and formed an oily

pool that glistened brightly, reflecting a dozen tremulous moons on

its quivering bosom.

 

"Ah," she sighed contentedly, "let it all out. The only thing to do is

to wade in it."

 

In desperation he turned on the tap full and the pool suddenly widened

sending tiny rivers and trickles in all directions.

 

"That's fine. That's something like."

 

Raising her skirts she stepped gracefully in.

 

"I know this'll take it off," she murmured.

 

Jim smiled.

 

"There's lots more cars."

 

She stepped daintily out of the gasolene and began scraping her

slippers, side and bottom, on the running-board of the automobile. The

jelly-bean contained himself no longer. He bent double with explosive

laughter and after a second she joined in.

 

"You're here with Clark Darrow, aren't you?" she asked as they walked

back toward the veranda.

 

"Yes."

 

"You know where he is now?"

 

"Out dancin', I reckin."

 

"The deuce. He promised me a highball."

 

"Well," said Jim, "I guess that'll be all right. I got his bottle right

here in my pocket."

 

She smiled at him radiantly.

 

"I guess maybe you'll need ginger ale though," he added.

 

"Not me. Just the bottle."

 

"Sure enough?"

 

She laughed scornfully.

 

"Try me. I can drink anything any man can. Let's sit down."

 

She perched herself on the side of a table and he dropped into one of

the wicker chairs beside her. Taking out the cork she held the flask

to her lips and took a long drink. He watched her fascinated.

 

"Like it?"

 

She shook her head breathlessly.

 

"No, but I like the way it makes me feel. I think most people are that

way."

 

Jim agreed.

 

"My daddy liked it too well. It got him."

 

"American men," said Nancy gravely, "don't know how to drink."

 

"What?" Jim was startled.

 

"In fact," she went on carelessly, "they don't know how to do anything

very well. The one thing I regret in my life is that I wasn't born in

England."

 

"In England?"

 

"Yes. It's the one regret of my life that I wasn't."

 

"Do you like it over there?" "Yes. Immensely. I've never been there in

person, but I've met a lot of Englishmen who were over here in the

army, Oxford and Cambridge men--you know, that's like Sewanee and

University of Georgia are here--and of course I've read a lot of

English novels."

 

Jim was interested, amazed.

 

"D' you ever hear of Lady Diana Manner?" she asked earnestly.

 

No, Jim had not.

 

"Well, she's what I'd like to be. Dark, you know, like me, and wild as

sin. She's the girl who rode her horse up the steps of some cathedral

or church or something and all the novelists made their heroines do it

afterwards."

 

Jim nodded politely. He was out of his depths.

 

"Pass the bottle," suggested Nancy. "I'm going to take another little

one. A little drink wouldn't hurt a baby.

 

"You see," she continued, again breathless after a draught. "People

over there have style, Nobody has style here. I mean the boys here

aren't really worth dressing up for or doing sensational things for.

Don't you know?"

 

"I suppose so--I mean I suppose not," murmured Jim.

 

"And I'd like to do 'em an' all. I'm really the only girl in town that

has style."

 

She stretched, out her arms and yawned pleasantly.

 

"Pretty evening."

 

"Sure is," agreed Jim.

 

"Like to have boat" she suggested dreamily. "Like to sail out on a

silver lake, say the Thames, for instance. Have champagne and caviare

sandwiches along. Have about eight people. And one of the men would

jump overboard to amuse the party, and get drowned like a man did with

Lady Diana Manners once."

 

"Did he do it to please her?" "Didn't mean drown himself to please

her. He just meant to jump overboard and make everybody laugh,"

 

"I reckin they just died laughin' when he drowned."

 

"Oh, I suppose they laughed a little," she admitted. "I imagine she

did, anyway. She's pretty hard, I guess--like I am."

 

"You hard?"

 

"Like nails." She yawned again and added, "Give me a little more from

that bottle."

 

Jim hesitated but she held out her hand defiantly, "Don't treat me

like a girl;" she warned him. "I'm not like any girl _you_ ever

saw," She considered. "Still, perhaps you're right. You got--you got

old head on young shoulders."

 

She jumped to her feet and moved toward the door. The Jelly-bean rose

also.

 

"Good-bye," she said politely, "good-bye. Thanks, Jelly-bean."

 

Then she stepped inside and left him wide-eyed upon the porch.

 

 

 

III

 

At twelve o'clock a procession of cloaks issued single file from the

women's dressing-room and, each one pairing with a coated beau like

dancers meeting in a cotillion figure, drifted through the door with

sleepy happy laughter--through the door into the dark where autos

backed and snorted and parties called to one another and gathered

around the water-cooler.

 

Jim, sitting in his corner, rose to look for Clark. They had met at

eleven; then Clark had gone in to dance. So, seeking him, Jim wandered

into the soft-drink stand that had once been a bar. The room was

deserted except for a sleepy negro dozing behind the counter and two

boys lazily fingering a pair of dice at one of the tables. Jim was

about to leave when he saw Clark coming in. At the same moment Clark

looked up.

 

"Hi, Jim" he commanded. "C'mon over and help us with this bottle. I

guess there's not much left, but there's one all around."

 

Nancy, the man from Savannah, Marylyn Wade, and Joe Ewing were lolling

and laughing in the doorway. Nancy caught Jim's eye and winked at him

humorously.

 

They drifted over to a table and arranging themselves around it waited

for the waiter to bring ginger ale. Jim, faintly ill at ease, turned

his eyes on Nancy, who had drifted into a nickel crap game with the

two boys at the next table.

 

"Bring them over here," suggested Clark.

 

Joe looked around.

 

"We don't want to draw a crowd. It's against club rules.

 

"Nobody's around," insisted Clark, "except Mr. Taylor. He's walking up

and down, like a wild-man trying find out who let all the gasolene out

of his car."

 

There was a general laugh.

 

"I bet a million Nancy got something on her shoe again. You can't park

when she's around."

 

"O Nancy, Mr. Taylor's looking for you!"

 

Nancy's cheeks were glowing with excitement over the game. "I haven't

seen his silly little flivver in two weeks."

 

Jim felt a sudden silence. He turned and saw an individual of

uncertain age standing in the doorway.

 

Clark's voice punctuated the embarrassment.

 

"Won't you join us Mr. Taylor?"

 

"Thanks."

 

Mr. Taylor spread his unwelcome presence over a chair. "Have to, I

guess. I'm waiting till they dig me up some gasolene. Somebody got

funny with my car."

 

His eyes narrowed and he looked quickly from one to the other. Jim

wondered what he had heard from the doorway--tried to remember what

had been said.

 

"I'm right to-night," Nancy sang out, "and my four bits is in the

ring."

 

"Faded!" snapped Taylor suddenly.

 

"Why, Mr. Taylor, I didn't know you shot craps!" Nancy was overjoyed

to find that he had seated himself and instantly covered her bet. They

had openly disliked each other since the night she had definitely

discouraged a series of rather pointed advances.

 

"All right, babies, do it for your mamma. Just one little seven."

Nancy was _cooing_ to the dice. She rattled them with a brave

underhand flourish, and rolled them out on the table.

 

"Ah-h! I suspected it. And now again with the dollar up."

 

Five passes to her credit found Taylor a bad loser. She was making it

personal, and after each success Jim watched triumph flutter across

her face. She was doubling with each throw--such luck could scarcely

last. "Better go easy," he cautioned her timidly.

 

"Ah, but watch this one," she whispered. It was eight on the dice and

she called her number.

 

"Little Ada, this time we're going South."

 

Ada from Decatur rolled over the table. Nancy was flushed and

half-hysterical, but her luck was holding.

 

She drove the pot up and up, refusing to drag. Taylor was drumming

with his fingers on the table but he was in to stay.

 

Then Nancy tried for a ten and lost the dice. Taylor seized them

avidly. He shot in silence, and in the hush of excitement the clatter

of one pass after another on the table was the only sound.

 

Now Nancy had the dice again, but her luck had broken. An hour passed.

Back and forth it went. Taylor had been at it again--and again and

again. They were even at last--Nancy lost her ultimate five dollars.

 

"Will you take my check," she said quickly, "for fifty, and we'll

shoot it all?" Her voice was a little unsteady and her hand shook as

she reached to the money.

 

Clark exchanged an uncertain but alarmed glance with Joe Ewing. Taylor

shot again. He had Nancy's check.

 

"How 'bout another?" she said wildly. "Jes' any bank'll do--money

everywhere as a matter of fact."

 

Jim understood---the "good old corn" he had given her--the "good old

corn" she had taken since. He wished he dared interfere--a girl of

that age and position would hardly have two bank accounts. When the

clock struck two he contained himself no longer.

 

"May I--can't you let me roll 'em for you?" he suggested, his low,

lazy voice a little strained.

 

Suddenly sleepy and listless, Nancy flung the dice down before him.

 

"All right--old boy! As Lady Diana Manners says, 'Shoot 'em,

Jelly-bean'--My luck's gone."

 

"Mr. Taylor," said Jim, carelessly, "we'll shoot for one of those

there checks against the cash."

 

Half an hour later Nancy swayed forward and clapped him on the back.

 

"Stole my luck, you did." She was nodding her head sagely.

 

Jim swept up the last check and putting it with the others tore them

into confetti and scattered them on the floor. Someone started singing

and Nancy kicking her chair backward rose to her feet.

 

"Ladies and gentlemen," she announced, "Ladies--that's you Marylyn. I

want to tell the world that Mr. Jim Powell, who is a well-known

Jelly-bean of this city, is an exception to the great rule--'lucky in

dice--unlucky in love.' He's lucky in dice, and as matter of fact I--I

_love_ him. Ladies and gentlemen, Nancy Lamar, famous dark-haired

beauty often featured in the _Herald_ as one the most popular

members of younger set as other girls are often featured in this

particular case; Wish to announce--wish to announce, anyway,

Gentlemen--" She tipped suddenly. Clark caught her and restored her

balance.

 

"My error," she laughed, "she--stoops to--stoops to--anyways--We'll

drink to Jelly-bean ... Mr. Jim Powell, King of the Jelly-beans."

 

And a few minutes later as Jim waited hat in hand for Clark in the

darkness of that same corner of the porch where she had come searching

for gasolene, she appeared suddenly beside him.

 

"Jelly-bean," she said, "are you here, Jelly-bean? I think--" and her

slight unsteadiness seemed part of an enchanted dream--"I think you

deserve one of my sweetest kisses for that, Jelly-bean."

 

For an instant her arms were around his neck--her lips were pressed to

his.

 

"I'm a wild part of the world, Jelly-bean, but you did me a good

turn."

 

Then she was gone, down the porch, over the cricket-loud lawn. Jim saw

Merritt come out the front door and say something to her angrily--saw

her laugh and, turning away, walk with averted eyes to his car.

Marylyn and Joe followed, singing a drowsy song about a Jazz baby.

 

Clark came out and joined Jim on the steps. "All pretty lit, I guess,"

he yawned. "Merritt's in a mean mood. He's certainly off Nancy."

 

Over east along the golf course a faint rug of gray spread itself

across the feet of the night. The party in the car began to chant a

chorus as the engine warmed up.

 

"Good-night everybody," called Clark.

 

"Good-night, Clark."

 

"Good-night."

 

There was a pause, and then a soft, happy voice added,

 

"Good-night, Jelly-bean."

 

The car drove off to a burst of singing. A rooster on a farm across

the way took up a solitary mournful crow, and behind them, a last

negro waiter turned out the porch light, Jim and Clark strolled over

toward the Ford, their, shoes crunching raucously on the gravel drive.

 

"Oh boy!" sighed Clark softly, "how you can set those dice!"

 

It was still too dark for him to see the flush on Jim's thin

cheeks--or to know that it was a flush of unfamiliar shame.

 

 

 

IV

 

Over Tilly's garage a bleak room echoed all day to the rumble and

snorting down-stairs and the singing of the negro washers as they

turned the hose on the cars outside. It was a cheerless square of a

room, punctuated with a bed and a battered table on which lay half a

dozen books--Joe Miller's "Slow Train thru Arkansas," "Lucille," in an

old edition very much annotated in an old-fashioned hand; "The Eyes of

the World," by Harold Bell Wright, and an ancient prayer-book of the

Church of England with the name Alice Powell and the date 1831 written

on the fly-leaf.

 

The East, gray when Jelly-bean entered the garage, became a rich and

vivid blue as he turned on his solitary electric light. He snapped it

out again, and going to the window rested his elbows on the sill and

stared into the deepening morning. With the awakening of his emotions,

his first perception was a sense of futility, a dull ache at the utter

grayness of his life. A wall had sprung up suddenly around him hedging

him in, a wall as definite and tangible as the white wall of his bare

room. And with his perception of this wall all that had been the

romance of his existence, the casualness, the light-hearted

improvidence, the miraculous open-handedness of life faded out. The

Jelly-bean strolling up Jackson Street humming a lazy song, known at

every shop and street stand, cropful of easy greeting and local wit,

sad sometimes for only the sake of sadness and the flight of

time--that Jelly-bean was suddenly vanished. The very name was a

reproach, a triviality. With a flood of insight he knew that Merritt

must despise him, that even Nancy's kiss in the dawn would have

awakened not jealousy but only a contempt for Nancy's so lowering

herself. And on his part the Jelly-bean had used for her a dingy

subterfuge learned from the garage. He had been her moral laundry; the

stains were his.

 

As the gray became blue, brightened and filled the room, he crossed to

his bed and threw himself down on it, gripping the edges fiercely.

 

"I love her," he cried aloud, "God!"

 

As he said this something gave way within him like a lump melting in

his throat. The air cleared and became radiant with dawn, and turning

over on his face he began to sob dully into the pillow.

 

In the sunshine of three o'clock Clark Darrow chugging painfully along

Jackson Street was hailed by the Jelly-bean, who stood on the curb

with his fingers in his vest pockets.

 

"Hi!" called Clark, bringing his Ford to an astonishing stop

alongside. "Just get up?"

 

The Jelly-bean shook his head.

 

"Never did go to bed. Felt sorta restless, so I took a long walk this

morning out in the country. Just got into town this minute."

 

"Should think you _would_ feel restless. I been feeling thataway

all day--"

 

"I'm thinkin' of leavin' town" continued the Jelly-bean, absorbed by

his own thoughts. "Been thinkin' of goin' up on the farm, and takin' a

little that work off Uncle Dun. Reckin I been bummin' too long."

 

Clark was silent and the Jelly-bean continued:

 

"I reckin maybe after Aunt Mamie dies I could sink that money of mine

in the farm and make somethin' out of it. All my people originally

came from that part up there. Had a big place."

 

Clark looked at him curiously.

 

"That's funny," he said. "This--this sort of affected me the same

way."

 

The Jelly-bean hesitated.

 

"I don't know," he began slowly, "somethin' about--about that girl

last night talkin' about a lady named Diana Manners--an English lady,

sorta got me thinkin'!" He drew himself up and looked oddly at Clark,

"I had a family once," he said defiantly.

 

Clark nodded.

 

"I know."

 

"And I'm the last of 'em," continued the Jelly-bean his voice rising

slightly, "and I ain't worth shucks. Name they call me by means

jelly--weak and wobbly like. People who weren't nothin' when my folks

was a lot turn up their noses when they pass me on the street."

 

Again Clark was silent.

 

"So I'm through, I'm goin' to-day. And when I come back to this town

it's going to be like a gentleman."

 

Clark took out his handkerchief and wiped his damp brow.

 

"Reckon you're not the only one it shook up," he admitted gloomily.

"All this thing of girls going round like they do is going to stop

right quick. Too bad, too, but everybody'll have to see it thataway."

 

"Do you mean," demanded Jim in surprise, "that all that's leaked out?"

 

"Leaked out? How on earth could they keep it secret. It'll be

announced in the papers to-night. Doctor Lamar's got to save his name

somehow."

 

Jim put his hands on the sides of the car and tightened his long

fingers on the metal.

 

"Do you mean Taylor investigated those checks?"

 

It was Clark's turn to be surprised.

 

"Haven't you heard what happened?"

 

Jim's startled eyes were answer enough.

 

"Why," announced Clark dramatically, "those four got another bottle of

corn, got tight and decided to shock the town--so Nancy and that fella

Merritt were married in Rockville at seven o'clock this morning."

 

A tiny indentation appeared in the metal under the Jelly-bean's

fingers.

 

"Married?"

 

"Sure enough. Nancy sobered up and rushed back into town, crying and

frightened to death--claimed it'd all been a mistake. First Doctor

Lamar went wild and was going to kill Merritt, but finally they got it

patched up some way, and Nancy and Merritt went to Savannah on the

two-thirty train."

 

Jim closed his eyes and with an effort overcame a sudden sickness.

 

"It's too bad," said Clark philosophically. "I don't mean the

wedding--reckon that's all right, though I don't guess Nancy cared a

darn about him. But it's a crime for a nice girl like that to hurt her

family that way."

 

The Jelly-bean let go the car and turned away. Again something was

going on inside him, some inexplicable but almost chemical change.

 

"Where you going?" asked Clark.

 

The Jelly-bean turned and looked dully back over his shoulder.

 

"Got to go," he muttered. "Been up too long; feelin' right sick."

 

"Oh."

 

       *       *       *       *       *

 

The street was hot at three and hotter still at four, the April dust

seeming to enmesh the sun and give it forth again as a world-old joke

forever played on an eternity of afternoons. But at half past four a

first layer of quiet fell and the shades lengthened under the awnings

and heavy foliaged trees. In this heat nothing mattered. All life was

weather, a waiting through the hot where events had no significance

for the cool that was soft and caressing like a woman's hand on a

tired forehead. Down in Georgia there is a feeling--perhaps

inarticulate--that this is the greatest wisdom of the South--so after

a while the Jelly-bean turned into a poolhall on Jackson Street where

he was sure to find a congenial crowd who would make all the old

jokes--the ones he knew.

 

 

 

 

THE CAMEL'S BACK

 

 

The glazed eye of the tired reader resting for a second on the above

title will presume it to be merely metaphorical. Stories about the cup

and the lip and the bad penny and the new broom rarely have anything,

to do with cups or lips or pennies or brooms. This story Is the

exception. It has to do with a material, visible and large-as-life

camel's back.

 

Starting from the neck we shall work toward the tail. I want you to

meet Mr. Perry Parkhurst, twenty-eight, lawyer, native of Toledo.

Perry has nice teeth, a Harvard diploma, parts his hair in the middle.

You have met him before--in Cleveland, Portland, St. Paul,

Indianapolis, Kansas City, and so forth. Baker Brothers, New York,

pause on their semi-annual trip through the West to clothe him;

Montmorency & Co. dispatch a young man post-haste every three months

to see that he has the correct number of little punctures on his

shoes. He has a domestic roadster now, will have a French roadster if

he lives long enough, and doubtless a Chinese tank if it comes into

fashion. He looks like the advertisement of the young man rubbing his

sunset-colored chest with liniment and goes East every other year to

his class reunion.

 

I want you to meet his Love. Her name is Betty Medill, and she would

take well in the movies. Her father gives her three hundred a month to

dress on, and she has tawny eyes and hair and feather fans of five

colors. I shall also introduce her father, Cyrus Medill. Though he is

to all appearances flesh and blood, he is, strange to say, commonly

known in Toledo as the Aluminum Man. But when he sits in his club

window with two or three Iron Men, and the White Pine Man, and the

Brass Man, they look very much as you and I do, only more so, if you

know what I mean.

 

Now during the Christmas holidays of 1919 there took place in Toledo,

counting only the people with the italicized _the_, forty-one

dinner parties, sixteen dances, six luncheons, male and female, twelve

teas, four stag dinners, two weddings, and thirteen bridge parties. It

was the cumulative effect of all this that moved Perry Parkhurst on

the twenty-ninth day of December to a decision.

 

This Medill girl would marry him and she wouldn't marry him. She was

having such a good time that she hated to take such a definite step.

Meanwhile, their secret engagement had got so long that it seemed as

if any day it might break off of its own weight. A little man named

Warburton, who knew it all, persuaded Perry to superman her, to get a

marriage license and go up to the Medill house and tell her she'd have

to marry him at once or call it off forever. So he presented himself,

his heart, his license, and his ultimatum, and within five minutes

they were in the midst of a violent quarrel, a burst of sporadic open

fighting such as occurs near the end of all long wars and engagements.

It brought about one of those ghastly lapses in which two people who

are in love pull up sharp, look at each other coolly and think it's

all been a mistake. Afterward they usually kiss wholesomely and assure

the other person it was all their fault. Say it all was my fault! Say

it was! I want to hear you say it!

 

But while reconciliation was trembling in the air, while each was, in

a measure, stalling it off, so that they might the more voluptuously

and sentimentally enjoy it when it came, they were permanently

interrupted by a twenty-minute phone call for Betty from a garrulous

aunt. At the end of eighteen minutes Perry Parkhurst, urged on by

pride and suspicion and injured dignity, put on his long fur coat,

picked up his light brown soft hat, and stalked out the door,

 

"It's all over," he muttered brokenly as he tried to jam his car into

first. "It's all over--if I have to choke you for an hour, damn you!".

The last to the car, which had been standing some time and was quite

cold.

 

He drove downtown--that is, he got into a snow rut that led him

downtown. He sat slouched down very low in his seat, much too

dispirited to care where he went.

 

In front of the Clarendon Hotel he was hailed from the sidewalk by a

bad man named Baily, who had big teeth and lived at the hotel and had

never been in love.

 

"Perry," said the bad man softly when the roadster drew up beside him

at the, curb, "I've got six quarts of the doggonedest still champagne

you ever tasted. A third of it's yours, Perry, if you'll come

up-stairs and help Martin Macy and me drink it."

 

"Baily," said Perry tensely, "I'll drink your champagne. I'll drink

every drop of it, I don't care if it kills me."

 

"Shut up, you nut!" said the bad man gently. "They don't put wood

alcohol in champagne. This is the stuff that proves the world is more

than six thousand years old. It's so ancient that the cork is

petrified. You have to pull it with a stone drill."

 

"Take me up-stairs," said Perry moodily. "If that cork sees my heart

it'll fall out from pure mortification."

 

The room up-stairs was full of those innocent hotel pictures of little

girls eating apples and sitting in swings and talking to dogs. The

other decorations were neckties and a pink man reading a pink paper

devoted to ladies in pink tights.

 

"When you have to go into the highways and byways----" said the pink

man, looking reproachfully at Baily and Perry.

 

"Hello, Martin Macy," said Perry shortly, "where's this stone-age

champagne?"

 

"What's the rush? This isn't an operation, understand. This is a

party."

 

Perry sat down dully and looked disapprovingly at all the neckties.

 

Baily leisurely opened the door of a wardrobe and brought out six

handsome bottles.

 

"Take off that darn fur coat!" said Martin Macy to Perry. "Or maybe

you'd like to have us open all the windows."

 

"Give me champagne," said Perry.

 

"Going to the Townsends' circus ball to-night?"

 

"Am not!"

 

"'Vited?"

 

"Uh-huh."

 

"Why not go?"

 

"Oh, I'm sick of parties," exclaimed Perry. "I'm sick of 'em. I've

been to so many that I'm sick of 'em."

 

"Maybe you're going to the Howard Tates' party?"

 

"No, I tell you; I'm sick of 'em."

 

"Well," said Macy consolingly, "the Tates' is just for college kids

anyways."

 

"I tell you----"

 

"I thought you'd be going to one of 'em anyways. I see by the papers

you haven't missed a one this Christmas."

 

"Hm," grunted Perry morosely.

 

He would never go to any more parties. Classical phrases played in his

mind--that side of his life was closed, closed. Now when a man says

"closed, closed" like that, you can be pretty sure that some woman has

double-closed him, so to speak. Perry was also thinking that other

classical thought, about how cowardly suicide is. A noble thought that

one---warm and inspiring. Think of all the fine men we should lose if

suicide were not so cowardly!

 

An hour later was six o'clock, and Perry had lost all resemblance to

the young man in the liniment advertisement. He looked like a rough

draft for a riotous cartoon. They were singing--an impromptu song of

Baily's improvisation:

 

     _"One Lump Perry, the parlor snake,

     Famous through the city for the way he drinks his tea;

       Plays with it, toys with it

       Makes no noise with it,

     Balanced on a napkin on his well-trained knee--"_

 

"Trouble is," said Perry, who had just banged his hair with Baily's

comb and was tying an orange tie round it to get the effect of Julius

Caesar, "that you fellas can't sing worth a damn. Soon's I leave the

air and start singing tenor you start singin' tenor too,"

 

"'M a natural tenor," said Macy gravely. "Voice lacks cultivation,

tha's all. Gotta natural voice, m'aunt used say. Naturally good

singer."

 

"Singers, singers, all good singers," remarked Baily, who was at the

telephone. "No, not the cabaret; I want night egg. I mean some

dog-gone clerk 'at's got food--food! I want----"

 

"Julius Caesar," announced Perry, turning round from the mirror. "Man

of iron will and stern 'termination"

 

"Shut up!" yelled Baily. "Say, iss Mr. Baily Sen' up enormous supper.

Use y'own judgment. Right away."

 

He connected the receiver and the hook with some difficulty, and then

with his lips closed and an expression of solemn intensity in his eyes

went to the lower drawer of his dresser and pulled it open.

 

"Lookit!" he commanded. In his hands he held a truncated garment of

pink gingham.

 

"Pants," he exclaimed gravely. "Lookit!"

 

This was a pink blouse, a red tie, and a Buster Brown collar.

 

"Lookit!" he repeated. "Costume for the Townsends' circus ball. I'm

li'l' boy carries water for the elephants."

 

Perry was impressed in spite of himself.

 

"I'm going to be Julius Caesar," he announced after a moment of

concentration.

 

"Thought you weren't going!" said Macy.

 

"Me? Sure I'm goin', Never miss a party. Good for the nerves--like

celery."

 

"Caesar!" scoffed Baily. "Can't be Caesar! He is not about a circus.

Caesar's Shakespeare. Go as a clown."

 

Perry shook his head.

 

"Nope; Caesar,"

 

"Caesar?"

 

"Sure. Chariot."

 

Light dawned on Baily.

 

"That's right. Good idea."

 

Perry looked round the room searchingly.

 

"You lend me a bathrobe and this tie," he said finally. Baily

considered.

 

"No good."

 

"Sure, tha's all I need. Caesar was a savage. They can't kick if I

come as Caesar, if he was a savage."

 

"No," said Baily, shaking his head slowly. "Get a costume over at a

costumer's. Over at Nolak's."

 

"Closed up."

 

"Find out."

 

After a puzzling five minutes at the phone a small, weary voice

managed to convince Perry that it was Mr. Nolak speaking, and that

they would remain open until eight because of the Townsends' ball.

Thus assured, Perry ate a great amount of filet mignon and drank his

third of the last bottle of champagne. At eight-fifteen the man in the

tall hat who stands in front of the Clarendon found him trying to

start his roadster.

 

"Froze up," said Perry wisely. "The cold froze it. The cold air."

 

"Froze, eh?"

 

"Yes. Cold air froze it."

 

"Can't start it?"

 

"Nope. Let it stand here till summer. One those hot ole August days'll

thaw it out awright."

 

"Goin' let it stand?"

 

"Sure. Let 'er stand. Take a hot thief to steal it. Gemme taxi."

 

The man in the tall hat summoned a taxi.

 

"Where to, mister?"

 

"Go to Nolak's--costume fella."

 

 

II

 

Mrs. Nolak was short and ineffectual looking, and on the cessation of

the world war had belonged for a while to one of the new

nationalities. Owing to unsettled European conditions she had never

since been quite sure what she was. The shop in which she and her

husband performed their daily stint was dim and ghostly, and peopled

with suits of armor and Chinese mandarins, and enormous papier-mâché

birds suspended from the ceiling. In a vague background many rows of

masks glared eyelessly at the visitor, and there were glass cases full

of crowns and scepters, and jewels and enormous stomachers, and

paints, and crape hair, and wigs of all colors.

 

When Perry ambled into the shop Mrs. Nolak was folding up the last

troubles of a strenuous day, so she thought, in a drawer full of pink

silk stockings.

 

"Something for you?" she queried pessimistically. "Want costume of

Julius Hur, the charioteer."

 

Mrs. Nolak was sorry, but every stitch of charioteer had been rented

long ago. Was it for the Townsends' circus ball?

 

It was.

 

"Sorry," she said, "but I don't think there's anything left that's

really circus."

 

This was an obstacle.

 

"Hm," said Perry. An idea struck him suddenly. "If you've got a, piece

of canvas I could go's a tent."

 

"Sorry, but we haven't anything like that. A hardware store is where

you'd have to go to. We have some very nice Confederate soldiers."

 

"No. No soldiers."

 

"And I have a very handsome king."

 

He shook his head.

 

"Several of the gentlemen" she continued hopefully, "are wearing

stovepipe hats and swallow-tail coats and going as ringmasters--but

we're all out of tall hats. I can let you have some crape hair for a

mustache."

 

"Want somep'n 'stinctive."

 

"Something--let's see. Well, we have a lion's head, and a goose, and a

camel--"

 

"Camel?" The idea seized Perry's imagination, gripped it fiercely.

 

"Yes, but It needs two people."

 

"Camel, That's the idea. Lemme see it."

 

The camel was produced from his resting place on a top shelf. At first

glance he appeared to consist entirely of a very gaunt, cadaverous

head and a sizable hump, but on being spread out he was found to

possess a dark brown, unwholesome-looking body made of thick, cottony

cloth.

 

"You see it takes two people," explained Mrs. Nolak, holding the camel

in frank admiration. "If you have a friend he could be part of it. You

see there's sorta pants for two people. One pair is for the fella in

front, and the other pair for the fella in back. The fella in front

does the lookin' out through these here eyes, an' the fella in back

he's just gotta stoop over an' folla the front fella round."

 

"Put it on," commanded Perry.

 

Obediently Mrs. Nolak put her tabby-cat face inside the camel's head

and turned it from side to side ferociously.

 

Perry was fascinated.

 

"What noise does a camel make?"

 

"What?" asked Mrs. Nolak as her face emerged, somewhat smudgy. "Oh,

what noise? Why, he sorta brays."

 

"Lemme see it in a mirror."

 

Before a wide mirror Perry tried on the head and turned from side to

side appraisingly. In the dim light the effect was distinctly

pleasing. The camel's face was a study in pessimism, decorated with

numerous abrasions, and it must be admitted that his coat was in that

state of general negligence peculiar to camels--in fact, he needed to

be cleaned and pressed--but distinctive he certainly was. He was

majestic. He would have attracted attention in any gathering, if only

by his melancholy cast of feature and the look of hunger lurking round

his shadowy eyes.

 

"You see you have to have two people," said Mrs. Nolak again.

 

Perry tentatively gathered up the body and legs and wrapped them about

him, tying the hind legs as a girdle round his waist. The effect on

the whole was bad. It was even irreverent--like one of those mediaeval

pictures of a monk changed into a beast by the ministrations of Satan.

At the very best the ensemble resembled a humpbacked cow sitting on

her haunches among blankets.

 

"Don't look like anything at all," objected Perry gloomily.

 

"No," said Mrs. Nolak; "you see you got to have two people."

 

A solution flashed upon Perry.

 

"You got a date to-night?"

 

"Oh, I couldn't possibly----"

 

"Oh, come on," said Perry encouragingly. "Sure you can! Here! Be good

sport, and climb into these hind legs."

 

With difficulty he located them, and extended their yawning depths

ingratiatingly. But Mrs. Nolak seemed loath. She backed perversely

away.

 

"Oh, no----"

 

"C'mon! You can be the front if you want to. Or we'll flip a coin."

 

"Make it worth your while."

 

Mrs. Nolak set her lips firmly together.

 

"Now you just stop!" she said with no coyness implied. "None of the

gentlemen ever acted up this way before. My husband----"

 

"You got a husband?" demanded Perry. "Where is he?"

 

"He's home."

 

"Wha's telephone number?"

 

After considerable parley he obtained the telephone number pertaining

to the Nolak penates and got into communication with that small, weary

voice he had heard once before that day. But Mr. Nolak, though taken

off his guard and somewhat confused by Perry's brilliant flow of

logic, stuck staunchly to his point. He refused firmly, but with

dignity, to help out Mr. Parkhurst in the capacity of back part of a

camel.

 

Having rung off, or rather having been rung off on, Perry sat down on

a three-legged stool to think it over. He named over to himself those

friends on whom he might call, and then his mind paused as Betty

Medill's name hazily and sorrowfully occurred to him. He had a

sentimental thought. He would ask her. Their love affair was over, but

she could not refuse this last request. Surely it was not much to

ask--to help him keep up his end of social obligation for one short

night. And if she insisted, she could be the front part of the camel

and he would go as the back. His magnanimity pleased him. His mind

even turned to rosy-colored dreams of a tender reconciliation inside

the camel--there hidden away from all the world....

 

"Now you'd better decide right off."

 

The bourgeois voice of Mrs. Nolak broke in upon his mellow fancies and

roused him to action. He went to the phone and called up the Medill

house. Miss Betty was out; had gone out to dinner.

 

Then, when all seemed lost, the camel's back wandered curiously into

the store. He was a dilapidated individual with a cold in his head and

a general trend about him of downwardness. His cap was pulled down low

on his head, and his chin was pulled down low on his chest, his coat

hung down to his shoes, he looked run-down, down at the heels,

and--Salvation Army to the contrary--down and out. He said that he was

the taxicab-driver that the gentleman had hired at the Clarendon

Hotel. He had been instructed to wait outside, but he had waited some

time, and a suspicion had grown upon him that the gentleman had gone

out the back way with purpose to defraud him--gentlemen sometimes

did--so he had come in. He sank down onto the three-legged stool.

 

"Wanta go to a party?" demanded Perry sternly.

 

"I gotta work," answered the taxi-driver lugubriously. "I gotta keep

my job."

 

"It's a very good party."

 

"'S a very good job."

 

"Come on!" urged Perry. "Be a good fella. See--it's pretty!" He held

the camel up and the taxi-driver looked at it cynically.

 

"Huh!"

 

Perry searched feverishly among the folds of the cloth.

 

"See!" he cried enthusiastically, holding up a selection of folds.

"This is your part. You don't even have to talk. All you have to do is

to walk--and sit down occasionally. You do all the sitting down. Think

of it. I'm on my feet all the time and _you_ can sit down some of

the time. The only time _I_ can sit down is when we're lying

down, and you can sit down when--oh, any time. See?"

 

"What's 'at thing?" demanded the individual dubiously. "A shroud?"

 

"Not at all," said Perry indignantly. "It's a camel."

 

"Huh?"

 

Then Perry mentioned a sum of money, and the conversation left the

land of grunts and assumed a practical tinge. Perry and the

taxi-driver tried on the camel in front of the mirror.

 

"You can't see it," explained Perry, peering anxiously out through the

eyeholes, "but honestly, ole man, you look sim'ly great! Honestly!"

 

A grunt from the hump acknowledged this somewhat dubious compliment.

 

"Honestly, you look great!" repeated Perry enthusiastically. "Move

round a little."

 

The hind legs moved forward, giving the effect of a huge cat-camel

hunching his back preparatory to a spring.

 

"No; move sideways."

 

The camel's hips went neatly out of joint; a hula dancer would have

writhed in envy.

 

"Good, isn't it?" demanded Perry, turning to Mrs. Nolak for approval.

 

"It looks lovely," agreed Mrs. Nolak.

 

"We'll take it," said Perry.

 

The bundle was stowed under Perry's arm and they left the shop.

 

"Go to the party!" he commanded as he took his seat in the back.

 

"What party?"

 

"Fanzy-dress party."

 

"Where'bouts is it?"

 

This presented a new problem. Perry tried to remember, but the names

of all those who had given parties during the holidays danced

confusedly before his eyes. He could ask Mrs. Nolak, but on looking

out the window he saw that the shop was dark. Mrs. Nolak had already

faded out, a little black smudge far down the snowy street.

 

"Drive uptown," directed Perry with fine confidence. "If you see a

party, stop. Otherwise I'll tell you when we get there."

 

He fell into a hazy daydream and his thoughts wandered again to

Betty--he imagined vaguely that they had had a disagreement because

she refused to go to the party as the back part of the camel. He was

just slipping off into a chilly doze when he was wakened by the

taxi-driver opening the door and shaking him by the arm.

 

"Here we are, maybe."

 

Perry looked out sleepily. A striped awning led from the curb up to a

spreading gray stone house, from which issued the low drummy whine of

expensive jazz. He recognized the Howard Tate house.

 

"Sure," he said emphatically; "'at's it! Tate's party to-night. Sure,

everybody's goin'."

 

"Say," said the individual anxiously after another look at the awning,

"you sure these people ain't gonna romp on me for comin' here?"

 

Perry drew himself up with dignity.

 

"'F anybody says anything to you, just tell 'em you're part of my

costume."

 

The visualization of himself as a thing rather than a person seemed to

reassure the individual.

 

"All right," he said reluctantly.

 

Perry stepped out under the shelter of the awning and began unrolling

the camel.

 

"Let's go," he commanded.

 

Several minutes later a melancholy, hungry-looking camel, emitting

clouds of smoke from his mouth and from the tip of his noble hump,

might have been seen crossing the threshold of the Howard Tate

residence, passing a startled footman without so much as a snort, and

heading directly for the main stairs that led up to the ballroom. The

beast walked with a peculiar gait which varied between an uncertain

lockstep and a stampede--but can best be described by the word

"halting." The camel had a halting gait--and as he walked he

alternately elongated and contracted like a gigantic concertina.

 

 

 

III

 

The Howard Tates are, as every one who lives in Toledo knows, the most

formidable people in town. Mrs. Howard Tate was a Chicago Todd before

she became a Toledo Tate, and the family generally affect that

conscious simplicity which has begun to be the earmark of American

aristocracy. The Tates have reached the stage where they talk about

pigs and farms and look at you icy-eyed if you are not amused. They

have begun to prefer retainers rather than friends as dinner guests,

spend a lot of money in a quiet way, and, having lost all sense of

competition, are in process of growing quite dull.

 

The dance this evening was for little Millicent Tate, and though all

ages were represented, the dancers were mostly from school and

college--the younger married crowd was at the Townsends' circus ball

up at the Tallyho Club. Mrs. Tate was standing just inside tie

ballroom, following Millicent round with her eyes, and beaming

whenever she caught her bye. Beside her were two middle-aged

sycophants, who were saying what a perfectly exquisite child Millicent

was. It was at this moment that Mrs. Tate was grasped firmly by the

skirt and her youngest daughter, Emily, aged eleven, hurled herself

with an "Oof!" into her mother's arms.

 

"Why, Emily, what's the trouble?"

 

"Mamma," said Emily, wild-eyed but voluble, "there's something out on

the stairs."

 

"What?"

 

"There's a thing out on the stairs, mamma. I think it's a big dog,

mamma, but it doesn't look like a dog."

 

"What do you mean, Emily?"

 

The sycophants waved their heads sympathetically.

 

"Mamma, it looks like a--like a camel."

 

Mrs. Tate laughed.

 

"You saw a mean old shadow, dear, that's all."

 

"No, I didn't. No, it was some kind of thing, mamma--big. I was going

down-stairs to see if there were any more people, and this dog or

something, he was coming up-stairs. Kinda funny, mamma, like he was

lame. And then he saw me and gave a sort of growl, and then he slipped

at the top of the landing, and I ran."

 

Mrs. Tate's laugh faded.

 

"The child must have seen something," she said.

 

The sycophants agreed that the child must have seen something--and

suddenly all three women took an instinctive step away from the door

as the sounds of muffled steps were audible just outside.

 

And then three startled gasps rang out as a dark brown form rounded

the corner, and they saw what was apparently a huge beast looking down

at them hungrily.

 

"Oof!" cried Mrs. Tate.

 

"O-o-oh!" cried the ladies in a chorus.

 

The camel suddenly humped his back, and the gasps turned to shrieks.

 

"Oh--look!"

 

"What is it?"

 

The dancing stopped, bat the dancers hurrying over got quite a

different impression of the invader; in fact, the young people

immediately suspected that it was a stunt, a hired entertainer come to

amuse the party. The boys in long trousers looked at it rather

disdainfully, and sauntered over with their hands in their pockets,

feeling that their intelligence was being insulted. But the girls

uttered little shouts of glee.

 

"It's a camel!"

 

"Well, if he isn't the funniest!"

 

The camel stood there uncertainly, swaying slightly from side to aide,

and seeming to take in the room in a careful, appraising glance; then

as if he had come to an abrupt decision, he turned and ambled swiftly

out the door.

 

Mr. Howard Tate had just come out of the library on the lower floor,

and was standing chatting with a young man in the hall. Suddenly they

heard the noise of shouting up-stairs, and almost immediately a

succession of bumping sounds, followed by the precipitous appearance

at the foot of the stairway of a large brown beast that seemed to be

going somewhere in a great hurry.

 

"Now what the devil!" said Mr. Tate, starting.

 

The beast picked itself up not without dignity and, affecting an air

of extreme nonchalance, as if he had just remembered an important

engagement, started at a mixed gait toward the front door. In fact,

his front legs began casually to run.

 

"See here now," said Mr. Tate sternly. "Here! Grab it, Butterfield!

Grab it!"

 

The young man enveloped the rear of the camel in a pair of compelling

arms, and, realizing that further locomotion was impossible, the front

end submitted to capture and stood resignedly in a state of some

agitation. By this time a flood of young people was pouring

down-stairs, and Mr. Tate, suspecting everything from an ingenious

burglar to an escaped lunatic, gave crisp directions to the young man:

 

"Hold him! Lead him in here; we'll soon see."

 

The camel consented to be led into the library, and Mr. Tate, after

locking the door, took a revolver from a table drawer and instructed

the young man to take the thing's head off. Then he gasped and

returned the revolver to its hiding-place.

 

"Well, Perry Parkhurst!" he exclaimed in amazement.

 

"Got the wrong party, Mr. Tate," said Perry sheepishly. "Hope I didn't

scare you."

 

"Well--you gave us a thrill, Perry." Realization dawned on him.

"You're bound for the Townsends' circus ball."

 

"That's the general idea."

 

"Let me introduce Mr. Butterfield, Mr. Parkhurst." Then turning to

Perry; "Butterfield is staying with us for a few days."

 

"I got a little mixed up," mumbled Perry. "I'm very sorry."

 

"Perfectly all right; most natural mistake in the world. I've got a

clown rig and I'm going down there myself after a while." He turned to

Butterfield. "Better change your mind and come down with us."

 

The young man demurred. He was going to bed.

 

"Have a drink, Perry?" suggested Mr. Tate.

 

"Thanks, I will."

 

"And, say," continued Tate quickly, "I'd forgotten all about

your--friend here." He indicated the rear part of the camel. "I didn't

mean to seem discourteous. Is it any one I know? Bring him out."

 

"It's not a friend," explained Perry hurriedly. "I just rented him."

 

"Does he drink?"

 

"Do you?" demanded Perry, twisting himself tortuously round.

 

There was a faint sound of assent.

 

"Sure he does!" said Mr. Tate heartily. "A really efficient camel

ought to be able to drink enough so it'd last him three days."

 

"Tell you," said Perry anxiously, "he isn't exactly dressed up enough

to come out. If you give me the bottle I can hand it back to him and

he can take his inside."

 

From under the cloth was audible the enthusiastic smacking sound

inspired by this suggestion. When a butler had appeared with bottles,

glasses, and siphon one of the bottles was handed back; thereafter the

silent partner could be heard imbibing long potations at frequent

intervals.

 

Thus passed a benign hour. At ten o'clock Mr. Tate decided that they'd

better be starting. He donned his clown's costume; Perry replaced the

camel's head, arid side by side they traversed on foot the single

block between the Tate house and the Tallyho Club.

 

The circus ball was in full swing. A great tent fly had been put up

inside the ballroom and round the walls had been built rows of booths

representing the various attractions of a circus side show, but these

were now vacated and over the floor swarmed a shouting, laughing

medley of youth and color--downs, bearded ladies, acrobats, bareback

riders, ringmasters, tattooed men, and charioteers. The Townsends had

determined to assure their party of success, so a great quantity of

liquor had been surreptitiously brought over from their house and was

now flowing freely. A green ribbon ran along the wall completely round

the ballroom, with pointing arrows alongside and signs which

instructed the uninitiated to "Follow the green line!" The green line

led down to the bar, where waited pure punch and wicked punch and

plain dark-green bottles.

 

On the wall above the bar was another arrow, red and very wavy, and

under it the slogan: "Now follow this!"

 

But even amid the luxury of costume and high spirits represented,

there, the entrance of the camel created something of a stir, and

Perry was immediately surrounded by a curious, laughing crowd

attempting to penetrate the identity of this beast that stood by the

wide doorway eying the dancers with his hungry, melancholy gaze.

 

And then Perry saw Betty standing in front of a booth, talking to a

comic policeman. She was dressed in the costume of an Egyptian

snake-charmer: her tawny hair was braided and drawn through brass

rings, the effect crowned with a glittering Oriental tiara. Her fair

face was stained to a warm olive glow and on her arms and the half

moon of her back writhed painted serpents with single eyes of venomous

green. Her feet were in sandals and her skirt was slit to the knees,

so that when she walked one caught a glimpse of other slim serpents

painted just above her bare ankles. Wound about her neck was a

glittering cobra. Altogether a charming costume--one that caused the

more nervous among the older women to shrink away from her when she

passed, and the more troublesome ones to make great talk about

"shouldn't be allowed" and "perfectly disgraceful."

 

But Perry, peering through the uncertain eyes of the camel, saw only

her face, radiant, animated, and glowing with excitement, and her arms

and shoulders, whose mobile, expressive gestures made her always the

outstanding figure in any group. He was fascinated and his fascination

exercised a sobering effect on him. With a growing clarity the events

of the day came back--rage rose within him, and with a half-formed

intention of taking her away from the crowd he started toward her--or

rather he elongated slightly, for he had neglected to issue the

preparatory command necessary to locomotion.

 

But at this point fickle Kismet, who for a day had played with him

bitterly and sardonically, decided to reward him in full for the

amusement he had afforded her. Kismet turned the tawny eyes of the

snake-charmer to the camel. Kismet led her to lean toward the man

beside her and say, "Who's that? That camel?"

 

"Darned if I know."

 

But a little man named Warburton, who knew it all, found it necessary

to hazard an opinion:

 

"It came in with Mr. Tate. I think part of it's probably Warren

Butterfield, the architect from New York, who's visiting the Tates."

 

Something stirred in Betty Medill--that age-old interest of the

provincial girl in the visiting man.

 

"Oh," she said casually after a slight pause.

 

At the end of the next dance Betty and her partner finished up within

a few feet of the camel. With the informal audacity that was the

key-note of the evening she reached out and gently rubbed the camel's

nose.

 

"Hello, old camel."

 

The camel stirred uneasily.

 

"You 'fraid of me?" said Betty, lifting her eyebrows in reproof.

"Don't be. You see I'm a snake-charmer, but I'm pretty good at camels

too."

 

The camel bowed very low and some one made the obvious remark about

beauty and the beast.

 

Mrs. Townsend approached the group.

 

"Well, Mr. Butterfield," she said helpfully, "I wouldn't have

recognised you."

 

Perry bowed again and smiled gleefully behind his mask.

 

"And who is this with you?" she inquired.

 

"Oh," said Perry, his voice muffled by the thick cloth and quite

unrecognizable, "he isn't a fellow, Mrs. Townsend. He's just part of

my costume."

 

Mrs. Townsend laughed and moved away. Perry turned again to Betty,

 

"So," he thought, "this is how much she cares! On the very day of our

final rupture she starts a flirtation with another man--an absolute

stranger."

 

On an impulse he gave her a soft nudge with his shoulder and waved his

head suggestively toward the hall, making it clear that he desired her

to leave her partner and accompany him.

 

"By-by, Rus," she called to her partner. "This old camel's got me.

Where we going, Prince of Beasts?"

 

The noble animal made no rejoinder, but stalked gravely along in the

direction of a secluded nook on the side stairs.

 

There she seated herself, and the camel, after some seconds of

confusion which included gruff orders and sounds of a heated dispute

going on in his interior, placed himself beside her--his hind legs

stretching out uncomfortably across two steps.

 

"Well, old egg," said Betty cheerfully, "how do you like our happy

party?"

 

The old egg indicated that he liked it by rolling his head

ecstatically and executing a gleeful kick with his hoofs.

 

"This is the first time that I ever had a tête-à-tête with a man's

valet 'round"--she pointed to the hind legs--"or whatever that is."

 

"Oh," mumbled Perry, "he's deaf and blind."

 

"I should think you'd feel rather handicapped--you can't very well

toddle, even if you want to."

 

The camel hang his head lugubriously.

 

"I wish you'd say something," continued Betty sweetly. "Say you like

me, camel. Say you think I'm beautiful. Say you'd like to belong to a

pretty snake-charmer."

 

The camel would.

 

"Will you dance with me, camel?"

 

The camel would try.

 

Betty devoted half an hour to the camel. She devoted at least half an

hour to all visiting men. It was usually sufficient. When she

approached a new man the current débutantes were accustomed to scatter

right and left like a close column deploying before a machine-gun. And

so to Perry Parkhurst was awarded the unique privilege of seeing his

love as others saw her. He was flirted with violently!

 

 

IV

 

This paradise of frail foundation was broken into by the sounds of a

general ingress to the ballroom; the cotillion was beginning. Betty

and the camel joined the crowd, her brown hand resting lightly on his

shoulder, defiantly symbolizing her complete adoption of him.

 

When they entered the couples were already seating themselves at

tables round the walls, and Mrs. Townsend, resplendent as a super

bareback rider with rather too rotund calves, was standing in the

centre with the ringmaster in charge of arrangements. At a signal to

the band every one rose and began to dance.

 

"Isn't it just slick!" sighed Betty. "Do you think you can possibly

dance?"

 

Perry nodded enthusiastically. He felt suddenly exuberant. After all,

he was here incognito talking to his love---he could wink

patronizingly at the world.

 

So Perry danced the cotillion. I say danced, but that is stretching

the word far beyond the wildest dreams of the jazziest terpsichorean.

He suffered his partner to put her hands on his helpless shoulders and

pull him here and there over the floor while he hung his huge head

docilely over her shoulder and made futile dummy motions with his

feet. His hind legs danced in a manner all their own, chiefly by

hopping first on one foot and then on the other. Never being sure

whether dancing was going on or not, the hind legs played safe by

going through a series of steps whenever the music started playing. So

the spectacle was frequently presented of the front part of the camel

standing at ease and the rear keeping up a constant energetic motion

calculated to rouse a sympathetic perspiration in any soft-hearted

observer.

 

He was frequently favored. He danced first with a tall lady covered

with straw who announced jovially that she was a bale of hay and coyly

begged him not to eat her.

 

"I'd like to; you're so sweet," said the camel gallantly.

 

Each time the ringmaster shouted his call of "Men up!" he lumbered

ferociously for Betty with the cardboard wienerwurst or the photograph

of the bearded lady or whatever the favor chanced to be. Sometimes he

reached her first, but usually his rushes were unsuccessful and

resulted in intense interior arguments.

 

"For Heaven's sake," Perry would snarl, fiercely between his clenched

teeth, "get a little pep! I could have gotten her that time if you'd

picked your feet up."

 

"Well, gimme a little warnin'!"

 

"I did, darn you."

 

"I can't see a dog-gone thing in here."

 

"All you have to do is follow me. It's just like dragging a load of

sand round to walk with you."

 

"Maybe you wanta try back hare."

 

"You shut up! If these people found you in this room they'd give you

the worst beating you ever had. They'd take your taxi license away

from you!"

 

Perry surprised himself by the ease with which he made this monstrous

threat, but it seemed to have a soporific influence on his companion,

for he gave out an "aw gwan" and subsided into abashed silence.

 

The ringmaster mounted to the top of the piano and waved his hand for

silence.

 

"Prizes!" he cried. "Gather round!"

 

"Yea! Prizes!"

 

Self-consciously the circle swayed forward. The rather pretty girl who

had mustered the nerve to come as a bearded lady trembled with

excitement, thinking to be rewarded for an evening's hideousness. The

man who had spent the afternoon having tattoo marks painted on him

skulked on the edge of the crowd, blushing furiously when any one told

him he was sure to get it.

 

"Lady and gent performers of this circus," announced the ringmaster

jovially, "I am sure we will all agree that a good time has been had

by all. We will now bestow honor where honor is due by bestowing the

prizes. Mrs. Townsend has asked me to bestow the prices. Now, fellow

performers, the first prize is for that lady who has displayed this

evening the most striking, becoming"--at this point the bearded lady

sighed resignedly--"and original costume." Here the bale of hay

pricked up her ears. "Now I am sure that the decision which has been

agreed upon will be unanimous with all here present. The first prize

goes to Miss Betty Medill, the charming Egyptian snake-charmer." There

was a burst of applause, chiefly masculine, and Miss Betty Medill,

blushing beautifully through her olive paint, was passed up to receive

her award. With a tender glance the ringmaster handed down to her a

huge bouquet of orchids.

 

"And now," he continued, looking round him, "the other prize is for

that man who has the most amusing and original costume. This prize

goes without dispute to a guest in our midst, a gentleman who is

visiting here but whose stay we all hope will be long and merry--in

short, to the noble camel who has entertained us all by his hungry

look and his brilliant dancing throughout the evening."

 

He ceased and there was a violent clapping, and yeaing, for it was a

popular choice. The prize, a large box of cigars, was put aside for

the camel, as he was anatomically unable to accept it in person.

 

"And now," continued the ringmaster, "we will wind up the cotillion

with the marriage of Mirth to Folly!

 

"Form for the grand wedding march, the beautiful snake-charmer and the

noble camel in front!"

 

Betty skipped forward cheerily and wound an olive arm round the

camel's neck. Behind them formed the procession of little boys, little

girls, country jakes, fat ladies, thin men, sword-swallowers, wild men

of Borneo, and armless wonders, many of them well in their cups, all

of them excited and happy and dazzled by the flow of light and color

round them, and by the familiar faces, strangely unfamiliar under

bizarre wigs and barbaric paint. The voluptuous chords of the wedding

march done in blasphemous syncopation issued in a delirious blend from

the trombones and saxophones--and the march began.

 

"Aren't you glad, camel?" demanded Betty sweetly as they stepped off.

"Aren't you glad we're going to be married and you're going to belong

to the nice snake-charmer ever afterward?"

 

The camel's front legs pranced, expressing excessive joy.

 

"Minister! Minister! Where's the minister?" cried voices out of the

revel. "Who's going to be the clergyman?"

 

The head of Jumbo, obese negro, waiter at the Tally-ho Club for many

years, appeared rashly through a half-opened pantry door.

 

"Oh, Jumbo!"

 

"Get old Jumbo. He's the fella!"

 

"Come on, Jumbo. How 'bout marrying us a couple?"

 

"Yea!"

 

Jumbo was seized by four comedians, stripped of his apron, and

escorted to a raised daïs at the head of the ball. There his collar

was removed and replaced back side forward with ecclesiastical effect.

The parade separated into two lines, leaving an aisle for the bride

and groom.

 

"Lawdy, man," roared Jumbo, "Ah got ole Bible 'n' ev'ythin', sho

nuff."

 

He produced a battered Bible from an interior pocket.

 

"Yea! Jumbo's got a Bible!"

 

"Razor, too, I'll bet!"

 

Together the snake-charmer and the camel ascended the cheering aisle

and stopped in front of Jumbo.

 

"Where's yo license, camel?"

 

A man near by prodded Perry.

 

"Give him a piece of paper. Anything'll do."

 

Perry fumbled confusedly in his pocket, found a folded paper, and

pushed it out through the camel's mouth. Holding it upside down Jumbo

pretended to scan it earnestly.

 

"Dis yeah's a special camel's license," he said. "Get you ring ready,

camel."

 

Inside the camel Perry turned round and addressed his worse half.

 

"Gimme a ring, for Heaven's sake!"

 

"I ain't got none," protested a weary voice.

 

"You have. I saw it."

 

"I ain't goin' to take it offen my hand."

 

"If you don't I'll kill you."

 

There was a gasp and Perry felt a huge affair of rhinestone and brass

inserted into his hand.

 

Again he was nudged from the outside.

 

"Speak up!"

 

"I do!" cried Perry quickly.

 

He heard Betty's responses given in a debonair tone, and even in this

burlesque the sound thrilled him.

 

Then he had pushed the rhinestone through a tear in the camel's coat

and was slipping it on her finger, muttering ancient and historic

words after Jumbo. He didn't want any one to know about this ever. His

one idea was to slip away without having to disclose his identity, for

Mr. Tate had so far kept his secret well. A dignified young man,

Perry--and this might injure his infant law practice.

 

"Embrace the bride!"

 

"Unmask, camel, and kiss her!"

 

Instinctively his heart beat high as Betty turned to him laughingly

and began to strike the card-board muzzle. He felt his self-control

giving way, he longed to surround her with his arms and declare his

identity and kiss those lips that smiled only a foot away--when

suddenly the laughter and applause round them died off and a curious

hush fell over the hall. Perry and Betty looked up in surprise. Jumbo

had given vent to a huge "Hello!" in such a startled voice that all

eyes were bent on him.

 

"Hello!" he said again. He had turned round the camel's marriage

license, which he had been holding upside down, produced spectacles,

and was studying it agonizingly.

 

"Why," he exclaimed, and in the pervading silence his words were heard

plainly by every one in the room, "this yeah's a sho-nuff marriage

permit."

 

"What?"

 

"Huh?"

 

"Say it again, Jumbo!"

 

"Sure you can read?"

 

Jumbo waved them to silence and Perry's blood burned to fire in his

veins as he realized the break he had made.

 

"Yassuh!" repeated Jumbo. "This yeah's a sho-nuff license, and the

pa'ties concerned one of 'em is dis yeah young lady, Miz Betty Medill,

and th' other's Mistah Perry Pa'khurst."

 

There was a general gasp, and a low rumble broke out as all eyes fell

on the camel. Betty shrank away from him quickly, her tawny eyes

giving out sparks of fury.

 

"Is you Mistah Pa'khurst, you camel?"

 

Perry made no answer. The crowd pressed up closer and stared at him.

He stood frozen rigid with embarrassment, his cardboard face still

hungry and sardonic as he regarded the ominous Jumbo.

 

"Y'all bettah speak up!" said Jumbo slowly, "this yeah's a mighty

serious mattah. Outside mah duties at this club ah happens to be a

sho-nuff minister in the Firs' Cullud Baptis' Church. It done look to

me as though y'all is gone an' got married."

 

 

V

 

The scene that followed will go down forever in the annals of the

Tallyho Club. Stout matrons fainted, one hundred per cent Americans

swore, wild-eyed débutantes babbled in lightning groups instantly

formed and instantly dissolved, and a great buzz of chatter, virulent

yet oddly subdued, hummed through the chaotic ballroom. Feverish

youths swore they would kill Perry or Jumbo or themselves or some one,

and the Baptis' preacheh was besieged by a tempestuous covey of

clamorous amateur lawyers, asking questions, making threats, demanding

precedents, ordering the bonds annulled, and especially trying to

ferret out any hint of prearrangement in what had occurred.

 

In the corner Mrs. Townsend was crying softly on the shoulder of Mr.

Howard Tate, who was trying vainly to comfort her; they were

exchanging "all my fault's" volubly and voluminously. Outside on a

snow-covered walk Mr. Cyrus Medill, the Aluminum Man, was being paced

slowly up and down between two brawny charioteers, giving vent now to

a string of unrepeatables, now to wild pleadings that they'd just let

him get at Jumbo. He was facetiously attired for the evening as a wild

man of Borneo, and the most exacting stage-manager would have

acknowledged any improvement in casting the part to be quite

impossible.

 

Meanwhile the two principals held the real centre of the stage. Betty

Medill--or was it Betty Parkhurst?--storming furiously, was surrounded

by the plainer girls--the prettier ones were too busy talking about

her to pay much attention to her--and over on the other side of the

hall stood the camel, still intact except for his headpiece, which

dangled pathetically on his chest. Perry was earnestly engaged in

making protestations of his innocence to a ring of angry, puzzled men.

Every few minutes, just as he had apparently proved his case, some one

would mention the marriage certificate, and the inquisition would

begin again.

 

A girl named Marion Cloud, considered the second best belle of Toledo,

changed the gist of the situation by a remark she made to Betty.

 

"Well," she said maliciously, "it'll all blow over, dear. The courts

will annul it without question."

 

Betty's angry tears dried miraculously in her eyes, her lips shut

tight together, and she looked stonily at Marion. Then she rose and,

scattering her sympathizers right and left, walked directly across the

room to Perry, who stared at her in terror. Again silence crept down

upon the room.

 

"Will you have the decency to grant me five minutes' conversation--or

wasn't that included in your plans?"

 

He nodded, his mouth unable to form words.

 

Indicating coldly that he was to follow her she walked out into the

hall with her chin uptilted and headed for the privacy of one of the

little card-rooms.

 

Perry started after her, but was brought to a jerky halt by the

failure of his hind legs to function.

 

"You stay here!" he commanded savagely.

 

"I can't," whined a voice from the hump, "unless you get out first and

let me get out."

 

Perry hesitated, but unable any longer to tolerate the eyes of the

curious crowd he muttered a command and the camel moved carefully from

the room on its four legs.

 

Betty was waiting for him.

 

"Well," she began furiously, "you see what you've done! You and that

crazy license! I told you you shouldn't have gotten it!"

 

"My dear girl, I--"

 

"Don't say 'dear girl' to me! Save that for your real wife if you ever

get one after this disgraceful performance. And don't try to pretend

it wasn't all arranged. You know you gave that colored waiter money!

You know you did! Do you mean to say you didn't try to marry me?"

 

"No--of course--"

 

"Yes, you'd better admit it! You tried it, and now what are you going

to do? Do you know my father's nearly crazy? It'll serve you right if

he tries to kill you. He'll take his gun and put some cold steel in

you. Even if this wed--this _thing_ can be annulled it'll hang

over me all the rest of my life!"

 

Perry could not resist quoting softly: "'Oh, camel, wouldn't you like

to belong to the pretty snake-charmer for all your--"

 

"Shut-up!" cried Betty.

 

There was a pause.

 

"Betty," said Perry finally, "there's only one thing to do that will

really get us out clear. That's for you to marry me."

 

"Marry you!"

 

"Yes. Really it's the only--"

 

"You shut up! I wouldn't marry you if--if--"

 

"I know. If I were the last man on earth. But if you care anything

about your reputation--"

 

"Reputation!" she cried. "You're a nice one to think about my

reputation _now_. Why didn't you think about my reputation before

you hired that horrible Jumbo to--to--"

 

Perry tossed up his hands hopelessly.

 

"Very well. I'll do anything you want. Lord knows I renounce all

claims!"

 

"But," said a new voice, "I don't."

 

Perry and Betty started, and she put her hand to her heart.

 

"For Heaven's sake, what was that?"

 

"It's me," said the camel's back.

 

In a minute Perry had whipped off the camel's skin, and a lax, limp

object, his clothes hanging on him damply, his hand clenched tightly

on an almost empty bottle, stood defiantly before them.

 

"Oh," cried Betty, "you brought that object in here to frighten me!

You told me he was deaf--that awful person!"

 

The camel's back sat down on a chair with a sigh of satisfaction.

 

"Don't talk 'at way about me, lady. I ain't no person. I'm your

husband."

 

"Husband!"

 

The cry was wrung simultaneously from Betty and Perry.

 

"Why, sure. I'm as much your husband as that gink is. The smoke didn't

marry you to the camel's front. He married you to the whole camel.

Why, that's my ring you got on your finger!"

 

With a little yelp she snatched the ring from her finger and flung it

passionately at the floor.

 

"What's all this?" demanded Perry dazedly.

 

"Jes' that you better fix me an' fix me right. If you don't I'm

a[A1] -gonna have the same claim you got to bein' married to her!"

 

"That's bigamy," said Perry, turning gravely to Betty.

 

Then came the supreme moment of Perry's evening, the ultimate chance

on which he risked his fortunes. He rose and looked first at Betty,

where she sat weakly, aghast at this new complication, and then at the

individual who swayed from side to side on his chair, uncertainly,

menacingly.

 

"Very well," said Perry slowly to the individual, "you can have her.

Betty, I'm going to prove to you that as far as I'm concerned our

marriage was entirely accidental. I'm going to renounce utterly my

rights to have you as my wife, and give you to--to the man whose ring

you wear--your lawful husband."

 

There was a pause and four horror-stricken eyes were turned on him,

 

"Good-by, Betty," he said brokenly. "Don't forget me in your new-found

happiness. I'm going to leave for the Far West on the morning train.

Think of me kindly, Betty."

 

With a last glance at them he turned and his head rested on his chest

as his hand touched the door-knob.

 

"Good-by," he repeated. He turned the door-knob.

 

But at this sound the snakes and silk and tawny hair precipitated

themselves violently toward him.

 

"Oh, Perry, don't leave me! Perry, Perry, take me with you!"

 

Her tears flowed damply on his neck. Calmly he folded his arms about

her.

 

"I don't care," she cried. "I love you and if you can wake up a

minister at this hour and have it done over again I'll go West with

you."

 

Over her shoulder the front part of the camel looked at the back part

of the camel--and they exchanged a particularly subtle, esoteric sort

of wink that only true camels can understand.

 

 

 

 

MAY DAY

 

 

There had been a war fought and won and the great city of the

conquering people was crossed with triumphal arches and vivid with

thrown flowers of white, red, and rose. All through the long spring

days the returning soldiers marched up the chief highway behind the

strump of drums and the joyous, resonant wind of the brasses, while

merchants and clerks left their bickerings and figurings and, crowding

to the windows, turned their white-bunched faces gravely upon the

passing battalions.

 

Never had there been such splendor in the great city, for the

victorious war had brought plenty in its train, and the merchants had

flocked thither from the South and West with their households to taste

of all the luscious feasts and witness the lavish entertainments

prepared--and to buy for their women furs against the next winter and

bags of golden mesh and varicolored slippers of silk and silver and

rose satin and cloth of gold.

 

So gaily and noisily were the peace and prosperity impending hymned by

the scribes and poets of the conquering people that more and more

spenders had gathered from the provinces to drink the wine of

excitement, and faster and faster did the merchants dispose of their

trinkets and slippers until they sent up a mighty cry for more

trinkets and more slippers in order that they might give in barter

what was demanded of them. Some even of them flung up their hands

helplessly, shouting:

 

"Alas! I have no more slippers! and alas! I have no more trinkets! May

heaven help me for I know not what I shall do!"

 

But no one listened to their great outcry, for the throngs were far

too busy--day by day, the foot-soldiers trod jauntily the highway and

all exulted because the young men returning were pure and brave, sound

of tooth and pink of cheek, and the young women of the land were

virgins and comely both of face and of figure.

 

So during all this time there were many adventures that happened in

the great city, and, of these, several--or perhaps one--are here set

down.

 

I

 

At nine o'clock on the morning of the first of May, 1919, a young man

spoke to the room clerk at the Biltmore Hotel, asking if Mr. Philip

Dean were registered there, and if so, could he be connected with Mr.

Dean's rooms. The inquirer was dressed in a well-cut, shabby suit. He

was small, slender, and darkly handsome; his eyes were framed above

with unusually long eyelashes and below with the blue semicircle of

ill health, this latter effect heightened by an unnatural glow which

colored his face like a low, incessant fever.

 

Mr. Dean was staying there. The young man was directed to a telephone

at the side.

 

After a second his connection was made; a sleepy voice hello'd from

somewhere above.

 

"Mr. Dean?"--this very eagerly--"it's Gordon, Phil. It's Gordon

Sterrett. I'm down-stairs. I heard you were in New York and I had a

hunch you'd be here."

 

The sleepy voice became gradually enthusiastic. Well, how was Gordy,

old boy! Well, he certainly was surprised and tickled! Would Gordy

come right up, for Pete's sake!

 

A few minutes later Philip Dean, dressed in blue silk pajamas, opened

his door and the two young men greeted each other with a

half-embarrassed exuberance. They were both about twenty-four, Yale

graduates of the year before the war; but there the resemblance

stopped abruptly. Dean was blond, ruddy, and rugged under his thin

pajamas. Everything about him radiated fitness and bodily comfort. He

smiled frequently, showing large and prominent teeth.

 

"I was going to look you up," he cried enthusiastically. "I'm taking a

couple of weeks off. If you'll sit down a sec I'll be right with you.

Going to take a shower."

 

As he vanished into the bathroom his visitor's dark eyes roved

nervously around the room, resting for a moment on a great English

travelling bag in the corner and on a family of thick silk shirts

littered on the chairs amid impressive neckties and soft woollen

socks.

 

Gordon rose and, picking up one of the shirts, gave it a minute

examination. It was of very heavy silk, yellow, with a pale blue

stripe--and there were nearly a dozen of them. He stared

involuntarily at his own shirt-cuffs--they were ragged and linty at

the edges and soiled to a faint gray. Dropping the silk shirt, he held

his coat-sleeves down and worked the frayed shirt-cuffs up till they

were out of sight. Then he went to the mirror and looked at himself

with listless, unhappy interest. His tie, of former glory, was faded

and thumb-creased--it served no longer to hide the jagged buttonholes

of his collar. He thought, quite without amusement, that only three

years before he had received a scattering vote in the senior elections

at college for being the best-dressed man in his class.

 

Dean emerged from the bathroom polishing his body.

 

"Saw an old friend of yours last night," he remarked.

"Passed her in the lobby and couldn't think of her name to save my

neck. That girl you brought up to New Haven senior year."

 

Gordon started.

 

"Edith Bradin? That whom you mean?"

 

"'At's the one. Damn good looking. She's still sort of a pretty

doll--you know what I mean: as if you touched her she'd smear."

 

He surveyed his shining self complacently in the mirror, smiled

faintly, exposing a section of teeth.

 

"She must be twenty-three anyway," he continued.

 

"Twenty-two last month," said Gordon absently.

 

"What? Oh, last month. Well, I imagine she's down for the Gamma Psi

dance. Did you know we're having a Yale Gamma Psi dance to-night at

Delmonico's? You better come up, Gordy. Half of New Haven'll probably

be there. I can get you an invitation."

 

Draping himself reluctantly in fresh underwear, Dean lit a cigarette

and sat down by the open window, inspecting his calves and knees under

the morning sunshine which poured into the room.

 

"Sit down, Gordy," he suggested, "and tell me all about what you've

been doing and what you're doing now and everything."

 

Gordon collapsed unexpectedly upon the bed; lay there inert and

spiritless. His mouth, which habitually dropped a little open when his

face was in repose, became suddenly helpless and pathetic.

 

"What's the matter?" asked Dean quickly.

 

"Oh, God!"

 

"What's the matter?"

 

"Every God damn thing in the world," he said miserably, "I've

absolutely gone to pieces, Phil. I'm all in."

 

"Huh?"

 

"I'm all in." His voice was shaking.

 

Dean scrutinized him more closely with appraising blue eyes.

 

"You certainly look all shot."

 

"I am. I've made a hell of a mess of everything." He paused. "I'd

better start at the beginning--or will it bore you?" "Not at all; go

on." There was, however, a hesitant note in Dean's voice. This trip

East had been planned for a holiday--to find Gordon Sterrett in

trouble exasperated him a little.

 

"Go on," he repeated, and then added half under his breath, "Get it

over with."

 

"Well," began Gordon unsteadily, "I got back from France in February,

went home to Harrisburg for a month, and then came down to New York to

get a job. I got one--with an export company. They fired me

yesterday."

 

"Fired you?"

 

"I'm coming to that, Phil. I want to tell you frankly. You're about

the only man I can turn to in a matter like this. You won't mind if I

just tell you frankly, will you, Phil?"

 

Dean stiffened a bit more. The pats he was bestowing on his knees grew

perfunctory. He felt vaguely that he was being unfairly saddled with

responsibility; he was not even sure he wanted to be told. Though

never surprised at finding Gordon Sterrett in mild difficulty, there

was something in this present misery that repelled him and hardened

him, even though it excited his curiosity.

 

"Go on."

 

"It's a girl."

 

"Hm." Dean resolved that nothing was going to spoil his trip. If

Gordon was going to be depressing, then he'd have to see less of

Gordon.

 

"Her name is Jewel Hudson," went on the distressed voice from the bed.

"She used to be 'pure,' I guess, up to about a year ago." Lived here

in New York--poor family. Her people are dead now and she lives with

an old aunt. You see it was just about the time I met her that

everybody began to come back from France in droves--and all I did was

to welcome the newly arrived and go on parties with 'em. That's the

way it started, Phil, just from being glad to see everybody and having

them glad to see me."

 

"You ought to've had more sense."

 

"I know," Gordon paused, and then continued listlessly. "I'm on my own

now, you know, and Phil, I can't stand being poor. Then came this darn

girl. She sort of fell in love with me for a while and, though I never

intended to get so involved, I'd always seem to run into her

somewhere. You can imagine the sort of work I was doing for those

exporting people--of course, I always intended to draw; do

illustrating for magazines; there's a pile of money in it."

 

"Why didn't you? You've got to buckle down if you want to make good,"

suggested Dean with cold formalism.

 

"I tried, a little, but my stuff's crude. I've got talent, Phil; I can

draw--but I just don't know how. I ought to go to art school and I

can't afford it. Well, things came to a crisis about a week ago. Just

as I was down to about my last dollar this girl began bothering me.

She wants some money; claims she can make trouble for me if she

doesn't get it."

 

"Can she?"

 

"I'm afraid she can. That's one reason I lost my job--she kept calling

up the office all the time, and that was sort of the last straw down

there. She's got a letter all written to send to my family. Oh, she's

got me, all right. I've got to have some money for her."

 

There was an awkward pause. Gordon lay very still, his hands clenched

by his side.

 

"I'm all in," he continued, his voice trembling. "I'm half crazy,

Phil. If I hadn't known you were coming East, I think I'd have killed

myself. I want you to lend me three hundred dollars."

 

Dean's hands, which had been patting his bare ankles, were suddenly

quiet--and the curious uncertainty playing between the two became taut

and strained.

 

After a second Gordon continued:

 

"I've bled the family until I'm ashamed to ask for another nickel."

 

Still Dean made no answer.

 

"Jewel says she's got to have two hundred dollars."

 

"Tell her where she can go."

 

"Yes, that sounds easy, but she's got a couple of drunken letters I

wrote her. Unfortunately she's not at all the flabby sort of person

you'd expect."

 

Dean made an expression of distaste.

 

"I can't stand that sort of woman. You ought to have kept away."

 

"I know," admitted Gordon wearily.

 

"You've got to look at things as they are. If you haven't got money

you've got to work and stay away from women."

 

"That's easy for you to say," began Gordon, his eyes narrowing.

"You've got all the money in the world."

 

"I most certainly have not. My family keep darn close tab on what I

spend. Just because I have a little leeway I have to be extra careful

not to abuse it."

 

He raised the blind and let in a further flood of sunshine.

 

"I'm no prig, Lord knows," he went on deliberately. "I like

pleasure--and I like a lot of it on a vacation like this, but

you're--you're in awful shape. I never heard you talk just this way

before. You seem to be sort of bankrupt--morally as well as

financially."

 

"Don't they usually go together?"

 

Dean shook his head impatiently.

 

"There's a regular aura about you that I don't understand. It's a sort

of evil."

 

"It's an air of worry and poverty and sleepless nights," said Gordon,

rather defiantly.

 

"I don't know."

 

"Oh, I admit I'm depressing. I depress myself. But, my God, Phil, a

week's rest and a new suit and some ready money and I'd be like--like

I was. Phil, I can draw like a streak, and you know it. But half the

time I haven't had the money to buy decent drawing materials--and I

can't draw when I'm tired and discouraged and all in. With a little

ready money I can take a few weeks off and get started."

 

"How do I know you wouldn't use it on some other woman?"

 

"Why rub it in?" said Gordon, quietly.

 

"I'm not rubbing it in. I hate to see you this way."

 

"Will you lend me the money, Phil?"

 

"I can't decide right off. That's a lot of money and it'll be darn

inconvenient for me."

 

"It'll be hell for me if you can't--I know I'm whining, and it's all

my own fault but--that doesn't change it."

 

"When could you pay it back?"

 

This was encouraging. Gordon considered. It was probably wisest to be

frank.

 

"Of course, I could promise to send it back next month, but--I'd

better say three months. Just as soon as I start to sell drawings."

 

"How do I know you'll sell any drawings?"

 

A new hardness in Dean's voice sent a faint chill of doubt over

Gordon. Was it possible that he wouldn't get the money?

 

"I supposed you had a little confidence in me."

 

"I did have--but when I see you like this I begin to wonder."

 

"Do you suppose if I wasn't at the end of my rope I'd come to you like

this? Do you think I'm enjoying it?" He broke off and bit his lip,

feeling that he had better subdue the rising anger in his voice. After

all, he was the suppliant.

 

"You seem to manage it pretty easily," said Dean angrily. "You put me

in the position where, if I don't lend it to you, I'm a sucker--oh,

yes, you do. And let me tell you it's no easy thing for me to get hold

of three hundred dollars. My income isn't so big but that a slice like

that won't play the deuce with it."

 

He left his chair and began to dress, choosing his clothes carefully.

Gordon stretched out his arms and clenched the edges of the bed,

fighting back a desire to cry out. His head was splitting and

whirring, his mouth was dry and bitter and he could feel the fever in

his blood resolving itself into innumerable regular counts like a slow

dripping from a roof.

 

Dean tied his tie precisely, brushed his eyebrows, and removed a piece

of tobacco from his teeth with solemnity. Next he filled his cigarette

case, tossed the empty box thoughtfully into the waste basket, and

settled the case in his vest pocket.

 

"Had breakfast?" he demanded.

 

"No; I don't eat it any more."

 

"Well, we'll go out and have some. We'll decide about that money

later. I'm sick of the subject. I came East to have a good time.

 

"Let's go over to the Yale Club," he continued moodily, and then added

with an implied reproof: "You've given up your job. You've got nothing

else to do."

 

"I'd have a lot to do if I had a little money," said Gordon pointedly.

 

"Oh, for Heaven's sake drop the subject for a while! No point in

glooming on my whole trip. Here, here's some money."

 

He took a five-dollar bill from his wallet and tossed it over to

Gordon, who folded it carefully and put it in his pocket. There was an

added spot of color in his cheeks, an added glow that was not fever.

For an instant before they turned to go out their eyes met and in that

instant each found something that made him lower his own glance

quickly. For in that instant they quite suddenly and definitely hated

each other.

 

 

II

 

Fifth Avenue and Forty-fourth Street swarmed with the noon crowd. The

wealthy, happy sun glittered in transient gold through the thick

windows of the smart shops, lighting upon mesh bags and purses and

strings of pearls in gray velvet cases; upon gaudy feather fans of

many colors; upon the laces and silks of expensive dresses; upon the

bad paintings and the fine period furniture in the elaborate show

rooms of interior decorators.

 

Working-girls, in pairs and groups and swarms, loitered by these

windows, choosing their future boudoirs from some resplendent display

which included even a man's silk pajamas laid domestically across the

bed. They stood in front of the jewelry stores and picked out their

engagement rings, and their wedding rings and their platinum wrist

watches, and then drifted on to inspect the feather fans and opera

cloaks; meanwhile digesting the sandwiches and sundaes they had eaten

for lunch.

 

All through the crowd were men in uniform, sailors from the great

fleet anchored in the Hudson, soldiers with divisional insignia from

Massachusetts to California, wanting fearfully to be noticed, and

finding the great city thoroughly fed up with soldiers unless they

were nicely massed into pretty formations and uncomfortable under the

weight of a pack and rifle. Through this medley Dean and Gordon

wandered; the former interested, made alert by the display of humanity

at its frothiest and gaudiest; the latter reminded of how often he had

been one of the crowd, tired, casually fed, overworked, and

dissipated. To Dean the struggle was significant, young, cheerful; to

Gordon it was dismal, meaningless, endless.

 

In the Yale Club they met a group of their former classmates who

greeted the visiting Dean vociferously. Sitting in a semicircle of

lounges and great chairs, they had a highball all around.

 

Gordon found the conversation tiresome and interminable. They lunched

together _en masse_, warmed with liquor as the afternoon began.

They were all going to the Gamma Psi dance that night--it promised to

be the best party since the war.

 

"Edith Bradin's coming," said some one to Gordon. "Didn't she used to

be an old flame of yours? Aren't you both from Harrisburg?"

 

"Yes." He tried to change the subject. "I see her brother

occasionally. He's sort of a socialistic nut. Runs a paper or

something here in New York."

 

"Not like his gay sister, eh?" continued his eager informant. "Well,

she's coming to-night--with a junior named Peter Himmel."

 

Gordon was to meet Jewel Hudson at eight o'clock--he had promised to

have some money for her. Several times he glanced nervously at his

wrist watch. At four, to his relief, Dean rose and announced that he

was going over to Rivers Brothers to buy some collars and ties. But as

they left the Club another of the party joined them, to Gordon's great

dismay. Dean was in a jovial mood now, happy, expectant of the

evening's party, faintly hilarious. Over in Rivers' he chose a dozen

neckties, selecting each one after long consultations with the other

man. Did he think narrow ties were coming back? And wasn't it a shame

that Rivers couldn't get any more Welsh Margotson collars? There never

was a collar like the "Covington."

 

Gordon was in something of a panic. He wanted the money immediately.

And he was now inspired also with a vague idea of attending the Gamma

Psi dance. He wanted to see Edith--Edith whom he hadn't met since one

romantic night at the Harrisburg Country Club just before he went to

France. The affair had died, drowned in the turmoil of the war and

quite forgotten in the arabesque of these three months, but a picture

of her, poignant, debonnaire, immersed in her own inconsequential

chatter, recurred to him unexpectedly and brought a hundred memories

with it. It was Edith's face that he had cherished through college

with a sort of detached yet affectionate admiration. He had loved to

draw her--around his room had been a dozen sketches of her--playing

golf, swimming--he could draw her pert, arresting profile with his

eyes shut.

 

They left Rivers' at five-thirty and parsed for a moment on the

sidewalk.

 

"Well," said Dean genially, "I'm all set now. Think I'll go back to

the hotel and get a shave, haircut, and massage."

 

"Good enough," said the other man, "I think I'll join you."

 

Gordon wondered if he was to be beaten after all. With difficulty he

restrained himself from turning to the man and snarling out, "Go on

away, damn you!" In despair he suspected that perhaps Dean had spoken

to him, was keeping him along in order to avoid a dispute about the

money.

 

They went into the Biltmore--a Biltmore alive with girls--mostly from

the West and South, the stellar débutantes of many cities gathered for

the dance of a famous fraternity of a famous university. But to Gordon

they were faces in a dream. He gathered together his forces for a last

appeal, was about to come out with he knew not what, when Dean

suddenly excused himself to the other man and taking Gordon's arm led

him aside.

 

"Gordy," he said quickly, "I've thought the whole thing over carefully

and I've decided that I can't lend you that money. I'd like to oblige

you, but I don't feel I ought to--it'd put a crimp in me for a month."

 

Gordon, watching him dully, wondered why he had never before noticed

how much those upper teeth projected.

 

"I'm--mighty sorry, Gordon," continued Dean, "but that's the way it

is."

 

He took out his wallet and deliberately counted out seventy-five

dollars in bills.

 

"Here," he said, holding them out, "here's seventy-five; that makes

eighty all together. That's all the actual cash I have with me,

besides what I'll actually spend on the trip."

 

Gordon raised his clenched hand automatically, opened it as though it

were a tongs he was holding, and clenched it again on the money.

 

"I'll see you at the dance," continued Dean. "I've got to get along to

the barber shop."

 

"So-long," said Gordon in a strained and husky voice.

 

"So-long."

 

Dean, began to smile, but seemed to change his mind. He nodded briskly

and disappeared.

 

But Gordon stood there, his handsome face awry with distress, the roll

of bills clenched tightly in his hand. Then, blinded by sudden tears,

he stumbled clumsily down the Biltmore steps.

 

 

III

 

About nine o'clock of the same night two human beings came out of a

cheap restaurant in Sixth Avenue. They were ugly, ill-nourished,

devoid of all except the very lowest form of intelligence, and without

even that animal exuberance that in itself brings color into life;

they were lately vermin-ridden, cold, and hungry in a dirty town of a

strange land; they were poor, friendless; tossed as driftwood from

their births, they would be tossed as driftwood to their deaths. They

were dressed in the uniform of the United States Army, and on the

shoulder of each was the insignia of a drafted division from New

Jersey, landed three days before.

 

The taller of the two was named Carrol Key, a name hinting that in his

veins, however thinly diluted by generations of degeneration, ran

blood of some potentiality. But one could stare endlessly at the long,

chinless face, the dull, watery eyes, and high cheek-bones, without

finding suggestion of either ancestral worth or native resourcefulness.

 

His companion was swart and bandy-legged, with rat-eyes and a

much-broken hooked nose. His defiant air was obviously a pretense, a

weapon of protection borrowed from that world of snarl and snap, of

physical bluff and physical menace, in which he had always lived. His

name was Gus Rose.

 

Leaving the café they sauntered down Sixth Avenue, wielding toothpicks

with great gusto and complete detachment.

 

"Where to?" asked Rose, in a tone which implied that he would not be

surprised if Key suggested the South Sea Islands.

 

"What you say we see if we can getta holda some liquor?" Prohibition

was not yet. The ginger in the suggestion was caused by the law

forbidding the selling of liquor to soldiers.

 

Rose agreed enthusiastically.

 

"I got an idea," continued Key, after a moment's thought, "I got a

brother somewhere."

 

"In New York?"

 

"Yeah. He's an old fella." He meant that he was an elder brother.

"He's a waiter in a hash joint."

 

"Maybe he can get us some."

 

"I'll say he can!"

 

"B'lieve me, I'm goin' to get this darn uniform off me to-morra. Never

get me in it again, neither. I'm goin' to get me some regular

clothes."

 

"Say, maybe I'm not."

 

As their combined finances were something less than five dollars, this

intention can be taken largely as a pleasant game of words, harmless

and consoling. It seemed to please both of them, however, for they

reinforced it with chuckling and mention of personages high in

biblical circles, adding such further emphasis as "Oh, boy!" "You

know!" and "I'll say so!" repeated many times over.

 

The entire mental pabulum of these two men consisted of an offended

nasal comment extended through the years upon the institution--army,

business, or poorhouse--which kept them alive, and toward their

immediate superior in that institution. Until that very morning the

institution had been the "government" and the immediate superior had

been the "Cap'n"--from these two they had glided out and were now in

the vaguely uncomfortable state before they should adopt their next

bondage. They were uncertain, resentful, and somewhat ill at ease.

This they hid by pretending an elaborate relief at being out of the

army, and by assuring each other that military discipline should never

again rule their stubborn, liberty-loving wills. Yet, as a matter of

fact, they would have felt more at home in a prison than in this

new-found and unquestionable freedom.

 

Suddenly Key increased his gait. Rose, looking up and following his

glance, discovered a crowd that was collecting fifty yards down the

street. Key chuckled and began to run in the direction of the crowd;

Rose thereupon also chuckled and his short bandy legs twinkled beside

the long, awkward strides of his companion.

 

Reaching the outskirts of the crowd they immediately became an

indistinguishable part of it. It was composed of ragged civilians

somewhat the worse for liquor, and of soldiers representing many

divisions and many stages of sobriety, all clustered around a

gesticulating little Jew with long black whiskers, who was waving his

arms and delivering an excited but succinct harangue. Key and Rose,

having wedged themselves into the approximate parquet, scrutinized him

with acute suspicion, as his words penetrated their common

consciousness.

 

"--What have you got outa the war?" he was crying fiercely. "Look

arounja, look arounja! Are you rich? Have you got a lot of money

offered you?--no; you're lucky if you're alive and got both your legs;

you're lucky if you came back an' find your wife ain't gone off with

some other fella that had the money to buy himself out of the war!

That's when you're lucky! Who got anything out of it except J. P.

Morgan an' John D. Rockerfeller?"

 

At this point the little Jew's oration was interrupted by the hostile

impact of a fist upon the point of his bearded chin and he toppled

backward to a sprawl on the pavement.

 

"God damn Bolsheviki!" cried the big soldier-blacksmith, who had

delivered the blow. There was a rumble of approval, the crowd closed

in nearer.

 

The Jew staggered to his feet, and immediately went down again before

a half-dozen reaching-in fists. This time he stayed down, breathing

heavily, blood oozing from his lip where it was cut within and

without.

 

There was a riot of voices, and in a minute Rose and Key found

themselves flowing with the jumbled crowd down Sixth Avenue under the

leadership of a thin civilian in a slouch hat and the brawny soldier

who had summarily ended the oration. The crowd had marvellously

swollen to formidable proportions and a stream of more non-committal

citizens followed it along the sidewalks lending their moral support

by intermittent huzzas.

 

"Where we goin'?" yelled Key to the man nearest him

 

His neighbor pointed up to the leader in the slouch hat.

 

"That guy knows where there's a lot of 'em! We're goin' to show 'em!"

 

"We're goin' to show 'em!" whispered Key delightedly to Rose, who

repeated the phrase rapturously to a man on the other side.

 

Down Sixth Avenue swept the procession, joined here and there by

soldiers and marines, and now and then by civilians, who came up with

the inevitable cry that they were just out of the army themselves, as

if presenting it as a card of admission to a newly formed Sporting and

Amusement Club.

 

Then the procession swerved down a cross street and headed for Fifth

Avenue and the word filtered here and there that they were bound for a

Red meeting at Tolliver Hall.

 

"Where is it?"

 

The question went up the line and a moment later the answer floated

hack. Tolliver Hall was down on Tenth Street. There was a bunch of

other sojers who was goin' to break it up and was down there now!

 

But Tenth Street had a faraway sound and at the word a general groan

went up and a score of the procession dropped out. Among these were

Rose and Key, who slowed down to a saunter and let the more

enthusiastic sweep on by.

 

"I'd rather get some liquor," said Key as they halted and made their

way to the sidewalk amid cries of "Shell hole!" and  "Quitters!"

 

"Does your brother work around here?" asked Rose, assuming the air of

one passing from the superficial to the eternal.

 

"He oughta," replied Key. "I ain't seen him for a coupla years. I been

out to Pennsylvania since. Maybe he don't work at night anyhow. It's

right along here. He can get us some o'right if he ain't gone."

 

They found the place after a few minutes' patrol of the street--a

shoddy tablecloth restaurant between Fifth Avenue and Broadway. Here

Key went inside to inquire for his brother George, while Rose waited

on the sidewalk.

 

"He ain't here no more," said Key emerging. "He's a waiter up to

Delmonico's."

 

Rose nodded wisely, as if he'd expected as much. One should not be

surprised at a capable man changing jobs occasionally. He knew a

waiter once--there ensued a long conversation as they waited as to

whether waiters made more in actual wages than in tips--it was decided

that it depended on the social tone of the joint wherein the waiter

labored. After having given each other vivid pictures of millionaires

dining at Delmonico's and throwing away fifty-dollar bills after their

first quart of champagne, both men thought privately of becoming

waiters. In fact, Key's narrow brow was secreting a resolution to ask

his brother to get him a job.

 

"A waiter can drink up all the champagne those fellas leave in

bottles," suggested Rose with some relish, and then added as an

afterthought, "Oh, boy!"

 

By the time they reached Delmonico's it was half past ten, and they

were surprised to see a stream of taxis driving up to the door one

after the other and emitting marvelous, hatless young ladies, each one

attended by a stiff young gentleman in evening clothes.

 

"It's a party," said Rose with some awe. "Maybe we better not go in.

He'll be busy."

 

"No, he won't. He'll be o'right."

 

After some hesitation they entered what appeared to them to be the

least elaborate door and, indecision falling upon them immediately,

stationed themselves nervously in an inconspicuous corner of the small

dining-room in which they found themselves. They took off their caps

and held them in their hands. A cloud of gloom fell upon them and both

started when a door at one end of the room crashed open, emitting a

comet-like waiter who streaked across the floor and vanished through

another door on the other side.

 

There had been three of these lightning passages before the seekers

mustered the acumen to hail a waiter. He turned, looked at them

suspiciously, and then approached with soft, catlike steps, as if

prepared at any moment to turn and flee.

 

"Say," began Key, "say, do you know my brother? He's a waiter here."

 

"His name is Key," annotated Rose.

 

Yes, the waiter knew Key. He was up-stairs, he thought. There was a

big dance going on in the main ballroom. He'd tell him.

 

Ten minutes later George Key appeared and greeted his brother with the

utmost suspicion; his first and most natural thought being that he was

going to be asked for money.

 

George was tall and weak chinned, but there his resemblance to his

brother ceased. The waiter's eyes were not dull, they were alert and

twinkling, and his manner was suave, in-door, and faintly superior.

They exchanged formalities. George was married and had three children.

He seemed fairly interested, but not impressed by the news that Carrol

had been abroad in the army. This disappointed Carrol.

 

"George," said the younger brother, these amenities having been

disposed of, "we want to get some booze, and they won't sell us none.

Can you get us some?"

 

George considered.

 

"Sure. Maybe I can. It may be half an hour, though."

 

"All right," agreed Carrol, "we'll wait"

 

At this Rose started to sit down in a convenient chair, but was hailed

to his feet by the indignant George.

 

"Hey! Watch out, you! Can't sit down here! This room's all set for a

twelve o'clock banquet."

 

"I ain't goin' to hurt it," said Rose resentfully. "I been through the

delouser."

 

"Never mind," said George sternly, "if the head waiter seen me here

talkin' he'd romp all over me."

 

"Oh."

 

The mention of the head waiter was full explanation to the other two;

they fingered their overseas caps nervously and waited for a

suggestion.

 

"I tell you," said George, after a pause, "I got a place you can wait;

you just come here with me."

 

They followed him out the far door, through a deserted pantry and up a

pair of dark winding stairs, emerging finally into a small room

chiefly furnished by piles of pails and stacks of scrubbing brushes,

and illuminated by a single dim electric light. There he left them,

after soliciting two dollars and agreeing to return in half an hour

with a quart of whiskey.

 

"George is makin' money, I bet," said Key gloomily as he seated

himself on an inverted pail. "I bet he's making fifty dollars a week."

 

Rose nodded his head and spat.

 

"I bet he is, too."

 

"What'd he say the dance was of?"

 

"A lot of college fellas. Yale College."

 

They, both nodded solemnly at each other.

 

"Wonder where that crowda sojers is now?"

 

"I don't know. I know that's too damn long to walk for me."

 

"Me too. You don't catch me walkin' that far."

 

Ten minutes later restlessness seized them.

 

"I'm goin' to see what's out here," said Rose, stepping cautiously

toward the other door.

 

It was a swinging door of green baize and he pushed it open a cautious

inch.

 

"See anything?"

 

For answer Rose drew in his breath sharply.

 

"Doggone! Here's some liquor I'll say!"

 

"Liquor?"

 

Key joined Rose at the door, and looked eagerly.

 

"I'll tell the world that's liquor," he said, after a moment of

concentrated gazing.

 

It was a room about twice as large as the one they were in--and in it

was prepared a radiant feast of spirits. There were long walls of

alternating bottles set along two white covered tables; whiskey, gin,

brandy, French and Italian vermouths, and orange juice, not to mention

an array of syphons and two great empty punch bowls. The room was as

yet uninhabited.

 

"It's for this dance they're just starting," whispered Key; "hear the

violins playin'? Say, boy, I wouldn't mind havin' a dance."

 

They closed the door softly and exchanged a glance of mutual

comprehension. There was no need of feeling each other out.

 

"I'd like to get my hands on a coupla those bottles," said Rose

emphatically.

 

"Me too."

 

"Do you suppose we'd get seen?"

 

Key considered.

 

"Maybe we better wait till they start drinkin' 'em. They got 'em all

laid out now, and they know how many of them there are."

 

They debated this point for several minutes. Rose was all for getting

his hands on a bottle now and tucking it under his coat before anyone

came into the room. Key, however, advocated caution. He was afraid he

might get his brother in trouble. If they waited till some of the

bottles were opened it'd be all right to take one, and everybody'd

think it was one of the college fellas.

 

While they were still engaged in argument George Key hurried through

the room and, barely grunting at them, disappeared by way of the green

baize door. A minute later they heard several corks pop, and then the

sound of cracking ice and splashing liquid. George was mixing the

punch.

 

The soldiers exchanged delighted grins.

 

"Oh, boy!" whispered Rose.

 

George reappeared.

 

"Just keep low, boys," he said quickly. "Ill have your stuff for you

in five minutes."

 

He disappeared through the door by which he had come.

 

As soon as his footsteps receded down the stairs, Rose, after a

cautious look, darted into the room of delights and reappeared with a

bottle in his hand.

 

"Here's what I say," he said, as they sat radiantly digesting their

first drink. "We'll wait till he comes up, and we'll ask him if we

can't just stay here and drink what he brings us--see. We'll tell him

we haven't got any place to drink it--see. Then we can sneak in there

whenever there ain't nobody in that there room and tuck a bottle under

our coats. We'll have enough to last us a coupla days--see?"

 

"Sure," agreed Rose enthusiastically. "Oh, boy! And if we want to we

can sell it to sojers any time we want to."

 

They were silent for a moment thinking rosily of this idea. Then Key

reached up and unhooked the collar of his O. D. coat.

 

"It's hot in here, ain't it?"

 

Rose agreed earnestly.

 

"Hot as hell."

 

 

IV

 

She was still quite angry when she came out of the dressing-room and

crossed the intervening parlor of politeness that opened onto the

hall--angry not so much at the actual happening which was, after all,

the merest commonplace of her social existence, but because it had

occurred on this particular night. She had no quarrel with herself.

She had acted with that correct mixture of dignity and reticent pity

which she always employed. She had succinctly and deftly snubbed him.

 

It had happened when their taxi was leaving the Biltmore--hadn't gone

half a block. He had lifted his right arm awkwardly--she was on his

right side--and attempted to settle it snugly around the crimson

fur-trimmed opera cloak she wore. This in itself had been a mistake.

It was inevitably more graceful for a young man attempting to embrace

a young lady of whose acquiescence he was not certain, to first put

his far arm around her. It avoided that awkward movement of raising

the near arm.

 

His second _faux pas_ was unconscious. She had spent the

afternoon at the hairdresser's; the idea of any calamity overtaking

her hair was extremely repugnant--yet as Peter made his unfortunate

attempt the point of his elbow had just faintly brushed it. That was

his second _faux pas_. Two were quite enough.

 

He had begun to murmur. At the first murmur she had decided that he

was nothing but a college boy--Edith was twenty-two, and anyhow, this

dance, first of its kind since the war, was reminding her, with the

accelerating rhythm of its associations, of something else--of another

dance and another man, a man for whom her feelings had been little

more than a sad-eyed, adolescent mooniness. Edith Bradin was falling

in love with her recollection of Gordon Sterrett.

 

So she came out of the dressing-room at Delmonico's and stood for a

second in the doorway looking over the shoulders of a black dress in

front of her at the groups of Yale men who flitted like dignified

black moths around the head of the stairs. From the room she had left

drifted out the heavy fragrance left by the passage to and fro of many

scented young beauties--rich perfumes and the fragile memory-laden

dust of fragrant powders. This odor drifting out acquired the tang of

cigarette smoke in the hall, and then settled sensuously down the

stairs and permeated the ballroom where the Gamma Psi dance was to be

held. It was an odor she knew well, exciting, stimulating, restlessly

sweet--the odor of a fashionable dance.

 

She thought of her own appearance. Her bare arms and shoulders were

powdered to a creamy white. She knew they looked very soft and would

gleam like milk against the black backs that were to silhouette them

to-night. The hairdressing had been a success; her reddish mass of

hair was piled and crushed and creased to an arrogant marvel of mobile

curves. Her lips were finely made of deep carmine; the irises of her

eyes were delicate, breakable blue, like china eyes. She was a

complete, infinitely delicate, quite perfect thing of beauty, flowing

in an even line from a complex coiffure to two small slim feet.

 

She thought of what she would say to-night at this revel, faintly

prestiged already by the sounds of high and low laughter and slippered

footsteps, and movements of couples up and down the stairs. She would

talk the language she had talked for many years--her line--made up of

the current expressions, bits of journalese and college slang strung

together into an intrinsic whole, careless, faintly provocative,

delicately sentimental. She stalled faintly as she heard a girl

sitting on the stairs near her say: "You don't know the half of it,

dearie!"

 

And as she smiled her anger melted for a moment, and closing her eyes

she drew in a deep breath of pleasure. She dropped her arms to her

side until they were faintly touching the sleek sheath that covered

and suggested her figure. She had never felt her own softness so much

nor so enjoyed the whiteness of her own arms.

 

"I smell sweet," she said to herself simply, and then came another

thought "I'm made for love."

 

She liked the sound of this and thought it again; then inevitable

succession came her new-born riot of dreams about Gordon. The twist of

her imagination which, two months before, had disclosed to her her

unguessed desire to see him again, seemed now to have been leading up

to this dance, this hour.

 

For all her sleek beauty, Edith was a grave, slow-thinking girl. There

was a streak in her of that same desire to ponder, of that adolescent

idealism that had turned her brother socialist and pacifist. Henry

Bradin had left Cornell, where he had been an instructor in economies,

and had come to New York to pour the latest cures for incurable evils

into the columns of a radical weekly newspaper.

 

Edith, less fatuously, would have been content to cure Gordon

Sterrett. There was a quality of weakness in Gordon that she wanted to

take care of; there was a helplessness in him that she wanted to

protect. And she wanted someone she had known a long while, someone

who had loved her a long while. She was a little tired; she wanted to

get married. Out of a pile of letters, half a dozen pictures and as

many memories, and this weariness, she had decided that next time she

saw Gordon their relations were going to be changed. She would say

something that would change them. There was this evening. This was her

evening. All evenings were her evenings.

 

Then her thoughts were interrupted by a solemn undergraduate with a

hurt look and an air of strained formality who presented himself

before her and bowed unusually low. It was the man she had come with,

Peter Himmel. He was tall and humorous, with horned-rimmed glasses and

an air of attractive whimsicality. She suddenly rather disliked

him--probably because he had not succeeded in kissing her.

 

"Well," she began, "are you still furious at me?"

 

"Not at all."

 

She stepped forward and took his arm.

 

"I'm sorry," she said softly. "I don't know why I snapped out that

way. I'm in a bum humor to-night for some strange reason. I'm sorry."

 

"S'all right," he mumbled, "don't mention it."

 

He felt disagreeably embarrassed. Was she rubbing in the fact of his

late failure?

 

"It was a mistake," she continued, on the same consciously gentle key.

"We'll both forget it." For this he hated her.

 

A few minutes later they drifted out on the floor while the dozen

swaying, sighing members of the specially hired jazz orchestra

informed the crowded ballroom that "if a saxophone and me are left

alone why then two is com-pan-ee!"

 

A man with a mustache cut in.

 

"Hello," he began reprovingly. "You don't remember me."

 

"I can't just think of your name," she said lightly--"and I know you

so well."

 

"I met you up at--" His voice trailed disconsolately off as a man with

very fair hair cut in. Edith murmured a conventional "Thanks,

loads--cut in later," to the _inconnu_.

 

The very fair man insisted on shaking hands enthusiastically. She

placed him as one of the numerous Jims of her acquaintance--last name

a mystery. She remembered even that he had a peculiar rhythm in

dancing and found as they started that she was right.

 

"Going to be here long?" he breathed confidentially.

 

She leaned back and looked up at him.

 

"Couple of weeks."

 

"Where are you?"

 

"Biltmore. Call me up some day."

 

"I mean it," he assured her. "I will. We'll go to tea."

 

"So do I--Do."

 

A dark man cut in with intense formality.

 

"You don't remember me, do you?" he said gravely.

 

"I should say I do. Your name's Harlan."

 

"No-ope. Barlow."

 

"Well, I knew there were two syllables anyway. You're the boy that

played the ukulele so well up at Howard Marshall's house party.

 

"I played--but not--"

 

A man with prominent teeth cut in. Edith inhaled a slight cloud of

whiskey. She liked men to have had something to drink; they were so

much more cheerful, and appreciative and complimentary--much easier to

talk to.

 

"My name's Dean, Philip Dean," he said cheerfully. "You don't remember

me, I know, but you used to come up to New Haven with a fellow I

roomed with senior year, Gordon Sterrett."

 

Edith looked up quickly.

 

"Yes, I went up with him twice--to the Pump and Slipper and the Junior

prom."

 

"You've seen him, of course," said Dean carelessly. "He's here

to-night. I saw him just a minute ago."

 

Edith started. Yet she had felt quite sure he would be here.

 

"Why, no, I haven't--"

 

A fat man with red hair cut in.

 

"Hello, Edith," he began.

 

"Why--hello there--"

 

She slipped, stumbled lightly.

 

"I'm sorry, dear," she murmured mechanically.

 

She had seen Gordon--Gordon very white and listless, leaning against

the side of a doorway, smoking, and looking into the ballroom. Edith

could see that his face was thin and wan--that the hand he raised to

his lips with a cigarette, was trembling. They were dancing quite

close to him now.

 

"--They invite so darn many extra fellas that you--" the short man was

saying.

 

"Hello, Gordon," called Edith over her partner's shoulder. Her heart

was pounding wildly.

 

His large dark eyes were fixed on her. He took a step in her

direction. Her partner turned her away--she heard his voice

bleating----

 

"--but half the stags get lit and leave before long, so--" Then a low

tone at her side.

 

"May I, please?"

 

She was dancing suddenly with Gordon; one of his arms was around her;

she felt it tighten spasmodically; felt his hand on her back with the

fingers spread. Her hand holding the little lace handkerchief was

crushed in his.

 

"Why Gordon," she began breathlessly.

 

"Hello, Edith."

 

She slipped again--was tossed forward by her recovery until her face

touched the black cloth of his dinner coat. She loved him--she knew

she loved him--then for a minute there was silence while a strange

feeling of uneasiness crept over her. Something was wrong.

 

Of a sudden her heart wrenched, and turned over as she realized what

it was. He was pitiful and wretched, a little drunk, and miserably

tired.

 

"Oh--" she cried involuntarily.

 

His eyes looked down at her. She saw suddenly that they were

blood-streaked and rolling uncontrollably.

 

"Gordon," she murmured, "we'll sit down; I want to sit down."

 

They were nearly in mid-floor, but she had seen two men start toward

her from opposite sides of the room, so she halted, seized Gordon's

limp hand and led him bumping through the crowd, her mouth tight shut,

her face a little pale under her rouge, her eyes trembling with tears.

 

She found a place high up on the soft-carpeted stairs, and he sat down

heavily beside her.

 

"Well," he began, staring at her unsteadily, "I certainly am glad to

see you, Edith."

 

She looked at him without answering. The effect of this on her was

immeasurable. For years she had seen men in various stages of

intoxication, from uncles all the way down to chauffeurs, and her

feelings had varied from amusement to disgust, but here for the first

time she was seized with a new feeling--an unutterable horror.

 

"Gordon," she said accusingly and almost crying, "you look like the

devil."

 

He nodded, "I've had trouble, Edith."

 

"Trouble?"

 

"All sorts of trouble. Don't you say anything to the family, but I'm

all gone to pieces. I'm a mess, Edith."

 

His lower lip was sagging. He seemed scarcely to see her.

 

"Can't you--can't you," she hesitated, "can't you tell me about it,

Gordon? You know I'm always interested in you."

 

She bit her lip--she had intended to say something stronger, but found

at the end that she couldn't bring it out.

 

Gordon shook his head dully. "I can't tell you. You're a good woman. I

can't tell a good woman the story."

 

"Rot," she said, defiantly. "I think it's a perfect insult to call any

one a good woman in that way. It's a slam. You've been drinking,

Gordon."

 

"Thanks." He inclined his head gravely. "Thanks for the information."

 

"Why do you drink?"

 

"Because I'm so damn miserable."

 

"Do you think drinking's going to make it any better?"

 

"What you doing--trying to reform me?"

 

"No; I'm trying to help you, Gordon. Can't you tell me about it?"

 

"I'm in an awful mess. Best thing you can do is to pretend not to know

me."

 

"Why, Gordon?"

 

"I'm sorry I cut in on you--its unfair to you. You're pure woman--and

all that sort of thing. Here, I'll get some one else to dance with

you."

 

He rose clumsily to his feet, but she reached up and pulled him down

beside her on the stairs.

 

"Here, Gordon. You're ridiculous. You're hurting me. You're acting

like a--like a crazy man--"

 

"I admit it. I'm a little crazy. Something's wrong with me, Edith.

There's something left me. It doesn't matter."

 

"It does, tell me."

 

"Just that. I was always queer--little bit different from other boys.

All right in college, but now it's all wrong. Things have been

snapping inside me for four months like little hooks on a dress, and

it's about to come off when a few more hooks go. I'm very gradually

going loony."

 

He turned his eyes full on her and began to laugh, and she shrank away

from him.

 

"What _is_ the matter?"

 

"Just me," he repeated. "I'm going loony. This whole place is like a

dream to me--this Delmonico's--"

 

As he talked she saw he had changed utterly. He wasn't at all light

and gay and careless--a great lethargy and discouragement had come

over him. Revulsion seized her, followed by a faint, surprising

boredom. His voice seemed to come out of a great void.

 

"Edith," he said, "I used to think I was clever, talented, an artist.

Now I know I'm nothing. Can't draw, Edith. Don't know why I'm telling

you this."

 

She nodded absently.

 

"I can't draw, I can't do anything. I'm poor as a church mouse." He

laughed, bitterly and rather too loud. "I've become a damn beggar, a

leech on my friends. I'm a failure. I'm poor as hell."

 

Her distaste was growing. She barely nodded this time, waiting for her

first possible cue to rise.

 

Suddenly Gordon's eyes filled with tears.

 

"Edith," he said, turning to her with what was evidently a strong

effort at self-control, "I can't tell you what it means to me to know

there's one person left who's interested in me."

 

He reached out and patted her hand, and involuntarily she drew it

away.

 

"It's mighty fine of you," he repeated.

 

"Well," she said slowly, looking him in the eye, "any one's always

glad to see an old friend--but I'm sorry to see you like this,

Gordon."

 

There was a pause while they looked at each other, and the momentary

eagerness in his eyes wavered. She rose and stood looking at him, her

face quite expressionless.

 

"Shall we dance?" she suggested, coolly.

 

--Love is fragile--she was thinking--but perhaps the pieces are saved,

the things that hovered on lips, that might have been said. The new

love words, the tendernesses learned, are treasured up for the next

lover.

 

 

V

 

Peter Himmel, escort to the lovely Edith, was unaccustomed to being

snubbed; having been snubbed, he was hurt and embarrassed, and ashamed

of himself. For a matter of two months he had been on special delivery

terms with Edith Bradin, and knowing that the one excuse and

explanation of the special delivery letter is its value in sentimental

correspondence, he had believed himself quite sure of his ground. He

searched in vain for any reason why she should have taken this

attitude in the matter of a simple kiss.

 

Therefore when he was cut in on by the man with the mustache he went

out into the hall and, making up a sentence, said it over to himself

several times. Considerably deleted, this was it:

 

"Well, if any girl ever led a man on and then jolted him, she did--and

she has no kick coming if I go out and get beautifully boiled."

 

So he walked through the supper room into a small room adjoining it,

which he had located earlier in the evening. It was a room in which

there were several large bowls of punch flanked by many bottles. He

took a seat beside the table which held the bottles.

 

At the second highball, boredom, disgust, the monotony of time, the

turbidity of events, sank into a vague background before which

glittering cobwebs formed. Things became reconciled to themselves,

things lay quietly on their shelves; the troubles of the day arranged

themselves in trim formation and at his curt wish of dismissal,

marched off and disappeared. And with the departure of worry came

brilliant, permeating symbolism. Edith became a flighty, negligible

girl, not to be worried over; rather to be laughed at. She fitted like

a figure of his own dream into the surface world forming about him. He

himself became in a measure symbolic, a type of the continent

bacchanal, the brilliant dreamer at play.

 

Then the symbolic mood faded and as he sipped his third highball his

imagination yielded to the warm glow and he lapsed into a state

similar to floating on his back in pleasant water. It was at this

point that he noticed that a green baize door near him was open about

two inches, and that through the aperture a pair of eyes were watching

him intently.

 

"Hm," murmured Peter calmly.

 

The green door closed--and then opened again--a bare half inch this

time.

 

"Peek-a-boo," murmured Peter.

 

The door remained stationary and then he became aware of a series of

tense intermittent whispers.

 

"One guy."

 

"What's he doin'?"

 

"He's sittin' lookin'."

 

"He better beat it off. We gotta get another li'l' bottle."

 

Peter listened while the words filtered into his consciousness.

 

"Now this," he thought, "is most remarkable."

 

He was excited. He was jubilant. He felt that he had stumbled upon a

mystery. Affecting an elaborate carelessness he arose and waited

around the table--then, turning quickly, pulled open the green door,

precipitating Private Rose into the room.

 

Peter bowed.

 

"How do you do?" he said.

 

Private Rose set one foot slightly in front of the other, poised for

fight, flight, or compromise.

 

"How do you do?" repeated Peter politely.

 

"I'm o'right."

 

"Can I offer you a drink?"

 

Private Rose looked at him searchingly, suspecting possible sarcasm.

 

"O'right," he said finally.

 

Peter indicated a chair.

 

"Sit down."

 

"I got a friend," said Rose, "I got a friend in there." He pointed to

the green door.

 

"By all means let's have him in."

 

Peter crossed over, opened the door and welcomed in Private Key, very

suspicious and uncertain and guilty. Chairs were found and the three

took their seats around the punch bowl. Peter gave them each a

highball and offered them a cigarette from his case. They accepted

both with some diffidence.

 

"Now," continued Peter easily, "may I ask why you gentlemen prefer to

lounge away your leisure hours in a room which is chiefly furnished,

as far as I can see, with scrubbing brushes. And when the human race

has progressed to the stage where seventeen thousand chairs are

manufactured on every day except Sunday--" he paused. Rose and Key

regarded him vacantly. "Will you tell me," went on Peter, "why you

choose to rest yourselves on articles, intended for the transportation

of water from one place to another?"

 

At this point Rose contributed a grunt to the conversation.

 

"And lastly," finished Peter, "will you tell me why, when you are in a

building beautifully hung with enormous candelabra, you prefer to

spend these evening hours under one anemic electric light?"

 

Rose looked at Key; Key looked at Rose. They laughed; they laughed

uproariously; they found it was impossible to look at each other

without laughing. But they were not laughing with this man--they were

laughing at him. To them a man who talked after this fashion was

either raving drunk or raving crazy.

 

"You are Yale men, I presume," said Peter, finishing his highball and

preparing another.

 

They laughed again.

 

"Na-ah."

 

"So? I thought perhaps you might be members of that lowly section of

the university known as the Sheffield Scientific School."

 

"Na-ah."

 

"Hm. Well, that's too bad. No doubt you are Harvard men, anxious to

preserve your incognito in this--this paradise of violet blue, as the

newspapers say."

 

"Na-ah," said Key scornfully, "we was just waitin' for somebody."

 

"Ah," exclaimed Peter, rising and filling their glasses, "very

interestin'. Had a date with a scrublady, eh?"

 

They both denied this indignantly.

 

"It's all right," Peter reassured them, "don't apologize. A

scrublady's as good as any lady in the world."

 

Kipling says 'Any lady and Judy O'Grady under the skin.'"

 

"Sure," said Key, winking broadly at Rose.

 

"My case, for instance," continued Peter, finishing his glass. "I got

a girl up here that's spoiled. Spoildest darn girl I ever saw. Refused

to kiss me; no reason whatsoever. Led me on deliberately to think sure

I want to kiss you and then plunk! Threw me over! What's the younger

generation comin' to?"

 

"Say tha's hard luck," said Key--"that's awful hard luck."

 

"Oh, boy!" said Rose.

 

"Have another?" said Peter.

 

"We got in a sort of fight for a while," said Key after a pause, "but

it was too far away."

 

"A fight?--tha's stuff!" said Peter, seating himself unsteadily.

"Fight 'em all! I was in the army."

 

"This was with a Bolshevik fella."

 

"Tha's stuff!" exclaimed Peter, enthusiastic. "That's, what I say!

Kill the Bolshevik! Exterminate 'em!"

 

"We're Americuns," said Rose, implying a sturdy, defiant patriotism.

 

"Sure," said Peter. "Greatest race in the world! We're all Americans!

Have another."

 

They had another.

 

 

VI

 

At one o'clock a special orchestra, special even in a day of special

orchestras, arrived at Delmonico's, and its members, seating

themselves arrogantly around the piano, took up the burden of

providing music for the Gamma Psi Fraternity. They were headed by a

famous flute-player, distinguished throughout New York for his feat of

standing on his head and shimmying with his shoulders while he played

the latest jazz on his flute. During his performance the lights were

extinguished except for the spotlight on the flute-player and another

roving beam that threw flickering shadows and changing kaleidoscopic

colors over the massed dancers.

 

Edith had danced herself into that tired, dreamy state habitual only

with débutantes, a state equivalent to the glow of a noble soul after

several long highballs. Her mind floated vaguely on the bosom of her

music; her partners changed with the unreality of phantoms under the

colorful shifting dusk, and to her present coma it seemed as if days

had passed since the dance began. She had talked on many fragmentary

subjects with many men. She had been kissed once and made love to six

times. Earlier in the evening different under-graduates had danced

with her, but now, like all the more popular girls there, she had her

own entourage--that is, half a dozen gallants had singled her out or

were alternating her charms with those of some other chosen beauty;

they cut in on her in regular, inevitable succession.

 

Several times she had seen Gordon--he had been sitting a long time on

the stairway with his palm to his head, his dull eyes fixed at an

infinite spark on the floor before him, very depressed, he looked, and

quite drunk--but Edith each time had averted her glance hurriedly. All

that seemed long ago; her mind was passive now, her senses were lulled

to trance-like sleep; only her feet danced and her voice talked on in

hazy sentimental banter.

 

But Edith was not nearly so tired as to be incapable of moral

indignation when Peter Himmel cut in on her, sublimely and happily

drunk. She gasped and looked up at him.

 

"Why, _Peter_!"

 

"I'm a li'l' stewed, Edith."

 

"Why, Peter, you're a _peach_, you are! Don't you think it's a

bum way of doing--when you're with me?"

 

Then she smiled unwillingly, for he was looking at her with owlish

sentimentality varied with a silly spasmodic smile.

 

"Darlin' Edith," he began earnestly, "you know I love you, don't you?"

 

"You tell it well."

 

"I love you--and I merely wanted you to kiss me," he added sadly.

 

His embarrassment, his shame, were both gone. She was a mos' beautiful

girl in whole worl'. Mos' beautiful eyes, like stars above. He wanted

to 'pologize--firs', for presuming try to kiss her; second, for

drinking--but he'd been so discouraged 'cause he had thought she was

mad at him----

 

The red-fat man cut in, and looking up at Edith smiled radiantly.

 

"Did you bring any one?" she asked.

 

No. The red-fat man was a stag.

 

"Well, would you mind--would it be an awful bother for you to--to take

me home to-night?" (this extreme diffidence was a charming affectation

on Edith's part--she knew that the red-fat man would immediately

dissolve into a paroxysm of delight).

 

"Bother? Why, good Lord, I'd be darn glad to! You know I'd be darn

glad to."

 

"Thanks _loads_! You're awfully sweet."

 

She glanced at her wrist-watch. It was half-past one. And, as she said

"half-past one" to herself, it floated vaguely into her mind that her

brother had told her at luncheon that he worked in the office of his

newspaper until after one-thirty every evening.

 

Edith turned suddenly to her current partner.

 

"What street is Delmonico's on, anyway?"

 

"Street? Oh, why Fifth Avenue, of course."

 

"I mean, what cross street?"

 

"Why--let's see--it's on Forty-fourth Street."

 

This verified what she had thought. Henry's office must be across the

street and just around the corner, and it occurred to her immediately

that she might slip over for a moment and surprise him, float in on

him, a shimmering marvel in her new crimson opera cloak and "cheer him

up." It was exactly the sort of thing Edith revelled in doing--an

unconventional, jaunty thing. The idea reached out and gripped at her

imagination--after an instant's hesitation she had decided.

 

"My hair is just about to tumble entirely down," she said pleasantly

to her partner; "would you mind if I go and fix it?"

 

"Not at all."

 

"You're a peach."

 

A few minutes later, wrapped in her crimson opera cloak, she flitted

down a side-stairs, her cheeks glowing with excitement at her little

adventure. She ran by a couple who stood at the door--a weak-chinned

waiter and an over-rouged young lady, in hot dispute--and opening the

outer door stepped into the warm May night.

 

VII

 

The over-rouged young lady followed her with a brief, bitter

glance--then turned again to the weak-chinned waiter and took up her

argument.

 

"You better go up and tell him I'm here," she said defiantly, "or I'll

go up myself."

 

"No, you don't!" said George sternly.

 

The girl smiled sardonically.

 

"Oh, I don't, don't I? Well, let me tell you I know more college

fellas and more of 'em know me, and are glad to take me out on a

party, than you ever saw in your whole life."

 

"Maybe so--"

 

"Maybe so," she interrupted. "Oh, it's all right for any of 'em like

that one that just ran out--God knows where _she_ went--it's all

right for them that are asked here to come or go as they like--but

when I want to see a friend they have some cheap, ham-slinging,

bring-me-a-doughnut waiter to stand here and keep me out."

 

"See here," said the elder Key indignantly, "I can't lose my job.

Maybe this fella you're talkin' about doesn't want to see you."

 

"Oh, he wants to see me all right."

 

"Anyways, how could I find him in all that crowd?"

 

"Oh, he'll be there," she asserted confidently. "You just ask anybody

for Gordon Sterrett and they'll point him out to you. They all know

each other, those fellas."

 

She produced a mesh bag, and taking out a dollar bill handed it to

George.

 

"Here," she said, "here's a bribe. You find him and give him my

message. You tell him if he isn't here in five minutes I'm coming up."

 

George shook his head pessimistically, considered the question for a

moment, wavered violently, and then withdrew.

 

In less than the allotted time Gordon came down-stairs. He was drunker

than he had been earlier in the evening and in a different way. The

liquor seemed to have hardened on him like a crust. He was heavy and

lurching--almost incoherent when he talked.

 

"'Lo, Jewel," he said thickly. "Came right away, Jewel, I couldn't get

that money. Tried my best."

 

"Money nothing!" she snapped. "You haven't been near me for ten days.

What's the matter?"

 

He shook his head slowly.

 

"Been very low, Jewel. Been sick."

 

"Why didn't you tell me if you were sick. I don't care about the money

that bad. I didn't start bothering you about it at all until you began

neglecting me."

 

Again he shook his head.

 

"Haven't been neglecting you. Not at all."

 

"Haven't! You haven't been near me for three weeks, unless you been so

drunk you didn't know what you were doing."

 

"Been sick. Jewel," he repeated, turning his eyes upon her wearily.

 

"You're well enough to come and play with your society friends here

all right. You told me you'd meet me for dinner, and you said you'd

have some money for me. You didn't even bother to ring me up."

 

"I couldn't get any money."

 

"Haven't I just been saying that doesn't matter? I wanted to see

_you_, Gordon, but you seem to prefer your somebody else."

 

He denied this bitterly.

 

"Then get your hat and come along," she suggested. Gordon

hesitated--and she came suddenly close to him and slipped her arms

around his neck.

 

"Come on with me, Gordon," she said in a half whisper. "We'll go over

to Devineries' and have a drink, and then we can go up to my

apartment."

 

"I can't, Jewel,----"

 

"You can," she said intensely.

 

"I'm sick as a dog!"

 

"Well, then, you oughtn't to stay here and dance."

 

With a glance around him in which relief and despair were mingled,

Gordon hesitated; then she suddenly pulled him to her and kissed him

with soft, pulpy lips.

 

"All right," he said heavily. "I'll get my hat."

 

 

VII

 

When Edith came out into the clear blue of the May night she found the

Avenue deserted. The windows of the big shops were dark; over their

doors were drawn great iron masks until they were only shadowy tombs

of the late day's splendor. Glancing down toward Forty-second Street

she saw a commingled blur of lights from the all-night restaurants.

Over on Sixth Avenue the elevated, a flare of fire, roared across the

street between the glimmering parallels of light at the station and

streaked along into the crisp dark. But at Forty-fourth Street it was

very quiet.

 

Pulling her cloak close about her Edith darted across the Avenue. She

started nervously as a solitary man passed her and said in a hoarse

whisper--"Where bound, kiddo?" She was reminded of a night in her

childhood when she had walked around the block in her pajamas and a

dog had howled at her from a mystery-big back yard.

 

In a minute she had reached her destination, a two-story,

comparatively old building on Forty-fourth, in the upper window of

which she thankfully detected a wisp of light. It was bright enough

outside for her to make out the sign beside the window--the _New

York Trumpet_. She stepped inside a dark hall and after a second

saw the stairs in the corner.

 

Then she was in a long, low room furnished with many desks and hung on

all sides with file copies of newspapers. There were only two

occupants. They were sitting at different ends of the room, each

wearing a green eye-shade and writing by a solitary desk light.

 

For a moment she stood uncertainly in the doorway, and then both men

turned around simultaneously and she recognized her brother.

 

"Why, Edith!" He rose quickly and approached her in surprise, removing

his eye-shade. He was tall, lean, and dark, with black, piercing eyes

under very thick glasses. They were far-away eyes that seemed always

fixed just over the head of the person to whom he was talking.

 

He put his hands on her arms and kissed her cheek.

 

"What is it?" he repeated in some alarm.

 

"I was at a dance across at Delmonico's, Henry," she said excitedly,

"and I couldn't resist tearing over to see you."

 

"I'm glad you did." His alertness gave way quickly to a habitual

vagueness. "You oughtn't to be out alone at night though, ought you?"

 

The man at the other end of the room had been looking at them

curiously, but at Henry's beckoning gesture he approached. He was

loosely fat with little twinkling eyes, and, having removed his collar

and tie, he gave the impression of a Middle-Western farmer on a Sunday

afternoon.

 

"This is my sister," said Henry. "She dropped in to see me."

 

"How do you do?" said the fat man, smiling. "My name's Bartholomew,

Miss Bradin. I know your brother has forgotten it long ago."

 

Edith laughed politely.

 

"Well," he continued, "not exactly gorgeous quarters we have here, are

they?"

 

Edith looked around the room.

 

"They seem very nice," she replied. "Where do you keep the bombs?"

 

"The bombs?" repeated Bartholomew, laughing. "That's pretty good--the

bombs. Did you hear her, Henry? She wants to know where we keep the

bombs. Say, that's pretty good."

 

Edith swung herself onto a vacant desk and sat dangling her feet over

the edge. Her brother took a seat beside her.

 

"Well," he asked, absent-mindedly, "how do you like New York this

trip?"

 

"Not bad. I'll be over at the Biltmore with the Hoyts until Sunday.

Can't you come to luncheon to-morrow?"

 

He thought a moment.

 

"I'm especially busy," he objected, "and I hate women in groups."

 

"All right," she agreed, unruffled. "Let's you and me have luncheon

together."

 

"Very well."

 

"I'll call for you at twelve."

 

Bartholomew was obviously anxious to return to his desk, but

apparently considered that it would be rude to leave without some

parting pleasantry.

 

"Well"--he began awkwardly.

 

They both turned to him.

 

"Well, we--we had an exciting time earlier in the evening."

 

The two men exchanged glances.

 

"You should have come earlier," continued Bartholomew, somewhat

encouraged. "We had a regular vaudeville."

 

"Did you really?"

 

"A serenade," said Henry. "A lot of soldiers gathered down there in

the street and began to yell at the sign."

 

"Why?" she demanded.

 

"Just a crowd," said Henry, abstractedly. "All crowds have to howl.

They didn't have anybody with much initiative in the lead, or they'd

probably have forced their way in here and smashed things up."

 

"Yes," said Bartholomew, turning again to Edith, "you should have been

here."

 

He seemed to consider this a sufficient cue for withdrawal, for he

turned abruptly and went back to his desk.

 

"Are the soldiers all set against the Socialists?" demanded Edith of

her brother. "I mean do they attack you violently and all that?"

 

Henry replaced his eye-shade and yawned.

 

"The human race has come a long way," he said casually, "but most of

us are throw-backs; the soldiers don't know what they want, or what

they hate, or what they like. They're used to acting in large bodies,

and they seem to have to make demonstrations. So it happens to be

against us. There've been riots all over the city to-night. It's May

Day, you see."

 

"Was the disturbance here pretty serious?"

 

"Not a bit," he said scornfully. "About twenty-five of them stopped in

the street about nine o'clock, and began to bellow at the moon."

 

"Oh"--She changed the subject. "You're glad to see me, Henry?"

 

"Why, sure."

 

"You don't seem to be."

 

"I am."

 

"I suppose you think I'm a--a waster. Sort of the World's Worst

Butterfly."

 

Henry laughed.

 

"Not at all. Have a good time while you're young. Why? Do I seem like

the priggish and earnest youth?"

 

"No--" she paused,"--but somehow I began thinking how absolutely

different the party I'm on is from--from all your purposes. It seems

sort of--of incongruous, doesn't it?--me being at a party like that,

and you over here working for a thing that'll make that sort of party

impossible ever any more, if your ideas work."

 

"I don't think of it that way. You're young, and you're acting just as

you were brought up to act. Go ahead--have a good time?"

 

Her feet, which had been idly swinging, stopped and her voice dropped

a note.

 

"I wish you'd--you'd come back to Harrisburg and have a good time. Do

you feel sure that you're on the right track----"

 

"You're wearing beautiful stockings," he interrupted. "What on earth

are they?"

 

"They're embroidered," she replied, glancing down; "Aren't they

cunning?" She raised her skirts and uncovered slim, silk-sheathed

calves. "Or do you disapprove of silk stockings?"

 

He seemed slightly exasperated, bent his dark eyes on her piercingly.

 

"Are you trying to make me out as criticizing you in any way, Edith?"

 

"Not at all-----"

 

She paused. Bartholomew had uttered a grunt. She turned and saw that

he had left his desk and was standing at the window.

 

"What is it?" demanded Henry.

 

"People," said Bartholomew, and then after an instant: "Whole jam of

them. They're coming from Sixth Avenue."

 

"People?"

 

The fat man pressed his nose to the pane.

 

"Soldiers, by God!" he said emphatically. "I had an idea they'd come

back."

 

Edith jumped to her feet, and running over joined Bartholomew at the

window.

 

"There's a lot of them!" she cried excitedly. "Come here, Henry!"

 

Henry readjusted his shade, but kept his seat.

 

"Hadn't we better turn out the lights?" suggested Bartholomew.

 

"No. They'll go away in a minute."

 

"They're not," said Edith, peering from the window. "They're not even

thinking of going away. There's more of them coming. Look--there's a

whole crowd turning the corner of Sixth Avenue,"

 

By the yellow glow and blue shadows of the street lamp she could see

that the sidewalk was crowded with men. They were mostly in uniform,

some sober, some enthusiastically drunk, and over the whole swept an

incoherent clamor and shouting.

 

Henry rose, and going to the window exposed himself as a long

silhouette against the office lights. Immediately the shouting became

a steady yell, and a rattling fusillade of small missiles, corners of

tobacco plugs, cigarette-boxes, and even pennies beat against the

window. The sounds of the racket now began floating up the stairs as

the folding doors revolved.

 

"They're coming up!" cried Bartholomew.

 

Edith turned anxiously to Henry.

 

"They're coming up, Henry."

 

From down-stairs in the lower hall their cries were now quite audible.

 

"--God Damn Socialists!"

 

"Pro-Germans! Boche-lovers!"

 

"Second floor, front! Come on!"

 

"We'll get the sons--"

 

The next five minutes passed in a dream. Edith was conscious that the

clamor burst suddenly upon the three of them like a cloud of rain,

that there was a thunder of many feet on the stairs, that Henry had

seized her arm and drawn her back toward the rear of the office. Then

the door opened and an overflow of men were forced into the room--not

the leaders, but simply those who happened to be in front.

 

"Hello, Bo!"

 

"Up late, ain't you!"

 

"You an' your girl. Damn _you_!"

 

She noticed that two very drunken soldiers had been forced to the

front, where they wobbled fatuously--one of them was short and dark,

the other was tall and weak of chin.

 

Henry stepped forward and raised his hand.

 

"Friends!" he said.

 

The clamor faded into a momentary stillness, punctuated with

mutterings.

 

"Friends!" he repeated, his far-away eyes fixed over the heads of the

crowd, "you're injuring no one but yourselves by breaking in here

to-night. Do we look like rich men? Do we look like Germans? I ask you

in all fairness--"

 

"Pipe down!"

 

"I'll say you do!"

 

"Say, who's your lady friend, buddy?"

 

A man in civilian clothes, who had been pawing over a table, suddenly

held up a newspaper.

 

"Here it is!" he shouted, "They wanted the Germans to win the war!"

 

A new overflow from the stairs was shouldered in and of a sudden the

room was full of men all closing around the pale little group at the

back. Edith saw that the tall soldier with the weak chin was still in

front. The short dark one had disappeared.

 

She edged slightly backward, stood close to the open window, through

which came a clear breath of cool night air.

 

Then the room was a riot. She realized that the soldiers were surging

forward, glimpsed the fat man swinging a chair over his

head--instantly the lights went out and she felt the push of warm

bodies under rough cloth, and her ears were full of shouting and

trampling and hard breathing.

 

A figure flashed by her out of nowhere, tottered, was edged sideways,

and of a sudden disappeared helplessly out through the open window

with a frightened, fragmentary cry that died staccato on the bosom of

the clamor. By the faint light streaming from the building backing on

the area Edith had a quick impression that it had been the tall

soldier with tie weak chin.

 

Anger rose astonishingly in her. She swung her arms wildly, edged

blindly toward the thickest of the scuffling. She heard grunts,

curses, the muffled impact of fists.

 

"Henry!" she called frantically, "Henry!"

 

Then, it was minutes later, she felt suddenly that there were other

figures in the room. She heard a voice, deep, bullying, authoritative;

she saw yellow rays of light sweeping here and there in the fracas.

The cries became more scattered. The scuffling increased and then

stopped.

 

Suddenly the lights were on and the room was full of policemen,

clubbing left and right. The deep voice boomed out:

 

"Here now! Here now! Here now!"

 

And then:

 

"Quiet down and get out! Here now!"

 

The room seemed to empty like a wash-bowl. A policeman fast-grappled

in the corner released his hold on his soldier antagonist and started

him with a shove toward the door. The deep voice continued. Edith

perceived now that it came from a bull-necked police captain standing

near the door.

 

"Here now! This is no way! One of your own sojers got shoved out of

the back window an' killed hisself!"

 

"Henry!" called Edith, "Henry!"

 

She beat wildly with her fists on the back of the man in front of her;

she brushed between two others; fought, shrieked, and beat her way to

a very pale figure sitting on the floor close to a desk.

 

"Henry," she cried passionately, "what's the matter? What's the

matter? Did they hurt you?"

 

His eyes were shut. He groaned and then looking up said disgustedly--

 

"They broke my leg. My God, the fools!"

 

"Here now!" called the police captain. "Here now! Here now!"

 

 

IX

 

"Childs', Fifty-ninth Street," at eight o'clock of any morning differs

from its sisters by less than the width of their marble tables or the

degree of polish on the frying-pans. You will see there a crowd of

poor people with sleep in the corners of their eyes, trying to look

straight before them at their food so as not to see the other poor

people. But Childs', Fifty-ninth, four hours earlier is quite unlike

any Childs' restaurant from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine.

Within its pale but sanitary walls one finds a noisy medley of chorus

girls, college boys, debutantes, rakes, _filles de joie_--a not

unrepresentative mixture of the gayest of Broadway, and even of Fifth

Avenue.

 

In the early morning of May the second it was unusually full. Over the

marble-topped tables were bent the excited faces of flappers whose

fathers owned individual villages. They were eating buckwheat cakes

and scrambled eggs with relish and gusto, an accomplishment that it

would have been utterly impossible for them to repeat in the same

place four hours later.

 

Almost the entire crowd were from the Gamma Psi dance at Delmonico's

except for several chorus girls from a midnight revue who sat at a

side table and wished they'd taken off a little more make-up after the

show. Here and there a drab, mouse-like figure, desperately out of

place, watched the butterflies with a weary, puzzled curiosity. But

the drab figure was the exception. This was the morning after May Day,

and celebration was still in the air.

 

Gus Rose, sober but a little dazed, must be classed as one of the drab

figures. How he had got himself from Forty-fourth Street to

Fifty-ninth Street after the riot was only a hazy half-memory. He had

seen the body of Carrol Key put in an ambulance and driven off, and

then he had started up town with two or three soldiers. Somewhere

between Forty-fourth Street and Fifty-ninth Street the other soldiers

had met some women and disappeared. Rose had wandered to Columbus

Circle and chosen the gleaming lights of Childs' to minister to his

craving for coffee and doughnuts. He walked in and sat down.

 

All around him floated airy, inconsequential chatter and high-pitched

laughter. At first he failed to understand, but after a puzzled five

minutes he realized that this was the