In 1913, when Anthony Patch was twenty-five, two years were already gone
since irony, the Holy Ghost of this later day, had, theoretically at
least, descended upon him. Irony was the final polish of the shoe, the
ultimate dab of the clothes-brush, a sort of intellectual "There!"--yet
at the brink of this story he has as yet gone no further than the
conscious stage. As you first see him he wonders frequently whether he
is not without honor and slightly mad, a shameful and obscene thinness
glistening on the surface of the world like oil on a clean pond, these
occasions being varied, of course, with those in which he thinks himself
rather an exceptional young man, thoroughly sophisticated, well adjusted
to his environment, and somewhat more significant than any one else
This was his healthy state and it made him cheerful, pleasant, and very
attractive to intelligent men and to all women. In this state he
considered that he would one day accomplish some quiet subtle thing that
the elect would deem worthy and, passing on, would join the dimmer stars
in a nebulous, indeterminate heaven half-way between death and
immortality. Until the time came for this effort he would be Anthony
Patch--not a portrait of a man but a distinct and dynamic personality,
opinionated, contemptuous, functioning from within outward--a man who
was aware that there could be no honor and yet had honor, who knew the
sophistry of courage and yet was brave.
A WORTHY MAN AND HIS GIFTED SON
Anthony drew as much consciousness of social security from being the
grandson of Adam J. Patch as he would have had from tracing his line
over the sea to the crusaders. This is inevitable; Virginians and
Bostonians to the contrary notwithstanding, an aristocracy founded
sheerly on money postulates wealth in the particular.
Now Adam J. Patch, more familiarly known as "Cross Patch," left his
father's farm in Tarrytown early in sixty-one to join a New York cavalry
regiment. He came home from the war a major, charged into Wall Street,
and amid much fuss, fume, applause, and ill will he gathered to himself
some seventy-five million dollars.
This occupied his energies until he was fifty-seven years old. It was
then that he determined, after a severe attack of sclerosis, to
consecrate the remainder of his life to the moral regeneration of the
world. He became a reformer among reformers. Emulating the magnificent
efforts of Anthony Comstock, after whom his grandson was named, he
levelled a varied assortment of uppercuts and body-blows at liquor,
literature, vice, art, patent medicines, and Sunday theatres. His mind,
under the influence of that insidious mildew which eventually forms on
all but the few, gave itself up furiously to every indignation of the
age. From an armchair in the office of his Tarrytown estate he directed
against the enormous hypothetical enemy, unrighteousness, a campaign
which went on through fifteen years, during which he displayed himself a
rabid monomaniac, an unqualified nuisance, and an intolerable bore. The
year in which this story opens found him wearying; his campaign had
grown desultory; 1861 was creeping up slowly on 1895; his thoughts ran a
great deal on the Civil War, somewhat on his dead wife and son, almost
infinitesimally on his grandson Anthony.
Early in his career Adam Patch had married an anemic lady of thirty,
Alicia Withers, who brought him one hundred thousand dollars and an
impeccable entré into the banking circles of New York. Immediately and
rather spunkily she had borne him a son and, as if completely
devitalized by the magnificence of this performance, she had thenceforth
effaced herself within the shadowy dimensions of the nursery. The boy,
Adam Ulysses Patch, became an inveterate joiner of clubs, connoisseur of
good form, and driver of tandems--at the astonishing age of twenty-six
he began his memoirs under the title "New York Society as I Have Seen
It." On the rumor of its conception this work was eagerly bid for among
publishers, but as it proved after his death to be immoderately verbose
and overpoweringly dull, it never obtained even a private printing.
This Fifth Avenue Chesterfield married at twenty-two. His wife was
Henrietta Lebrune, the Boston "Society Contralto," and the single child
of the union was, at the request of his grandfather, christened Anthony
Comstock Patch. When he went to Harvard, the Comstock dropped out of his
name to a nether hell of oblivion and was never heard of thereafter.
Young Anthony had one picture of his father and mother together--so
often had it faced his eyes in childhood that it had acquired the
impersonality of furniture, but every one who came into his bedroom
regarded it with interest. It showed a dandy of the nineties, spare and
handsome, standing beside a tall dark lady with a muff and the
suggestion of a bustle. Between them was a little boy with long brown
curls, dressed in a velvet Lord Fauntleroy suit. This was Anthony at
five, the year of his mother's death.
His memories of the Boston Society Contralto were nebulous and musical.
She was a lady who sang, sang, sang, in the music room of their house on
Washington Square--sometimes with guests scattered all about her, the
men with their arms folded, balanced breathlessly on the edges of sofas,
the women with their hands in their laps, occasionally making little
whispers to the men and always clapping very briskly and uttering cooing
cries after each song--and often she sang to Anthony alone, in Italian
or French or in a strange and terrible dialect which she imagined to be
the speech of the Southern negro.
His recollections of the gallant Ulysses, the first man in America to
roll the lapels of his coat, were much more vivid. After Henrietta
Lebrune Patch had "joined another choir," as her widower huskily
remarked from time to time, father and son lived up at grampa's in
Tarrytown, and Ulysses came daily to Anthony's nursery and expelled
pleasant, thick-smelling words for sometimes as much as an hour. He was
continually promising Anthony hunting trips and fishing trips and
excursions to Atlantic City, "oh, some time soon now"; but none of them
ever materialized. One trip they did take; when Anthony was eleven they
went abroad, to England and Switzerland, and there in the best hotel in
Lucerne his father died with much sweating and grunting and crying aloud
for air. In a panic of despair and terror Anthony was brought back to
America, wedded to a vague melancholy that was to stay beside him
through the rest of his life.
PAST AND PERSON OF THE HERO
At eleven he had a horror of death. Within six impressionable years his
parents had died and his grandmother had faded off almost imperceptibly,
until, for the first time since her marriage, her person held for one
day an unquestioned supremacy over her own drawing room. So to Anthony
life was a struggle against death, that waited at every corner. It was
as a concession to his hypochondriacal imagination that he formed the
habit of reading in bed--it soothed him. He read until he was tired and
often fell asleep with the lights still on.
His favorite diversion until he was fourteen was his stamp collection;
enormous, as nearly exhaustive as a boy's could be--his grandfather
considered fatuously that it was teaching him geography. So Anthony kept
up a correspondence with a half dozen "Stamp and Coin" companies and it
was rare that the mail failed to bring him new stamp-books or packages
of glittering approval sheets--there was a mysterious fascination in
transferring his acquisitions interminably from one book to another. His
stamps were his greatest happiness and he bestowed impatient frowns on
any one who interrupted him at play with them; they devoured his
allowance every month, and he lay awake at night musing untiringly on
their variety and many-colored splendor.
At sixteen he had lived almost entirely within himself, an inarticulate
boy, thoroughly un-American, and politely bewildered by his
contemporaries. The two preceding years had been spent in Europe with a
private tutor, who persuaded him that Harvard was the thing; it would
"open doors," it would be a tremendous tonic, it would give him
innumerable self-sacrificing and devoted friends. So he went to
Harvard--there was no other logical thing to be done with him.
Oblivious to the social system, he lived for a while alone and unsought
in a high room in Beck Hall--a slim dark boy of medium height with a shy
sensitive mouth. His allowance was more than liberal. He laid the
foundations for a library by purchasing from a wandering bibliophile
first editions of Swinburne, Meredith, and Hardy, and a yellowed
illegible autograph letter of Keats's, finding later that he had been
amazingly overcharged. He became an exquisite dandy, amassed a rather
pathetic collection of silk pajamas, brocaded dressing-gowns, and
neckties too flamboyant to wear; in this secret finery he would parade
before a mirror in his room or lie stretched in satin along his
window-seat looking down on the yard and realizing dimly this clamor,
breathless and immediate, in which it seemed he was never to have
Curiously enough he found in senior year that he had acquired a position
in his class. He learned that he was looked upon as a rather romantic
figure, a scholar, a recluse, a tower of erudition. This amused him but
secretly pleased him--he began going out, at first a little and then a
great deal. He made the Pudding. He drank--quietly and in the proper
tradition. It was said of him that had he not come to college so young
he might have "done extremely well." In 1909, when he graduated, he was
only twenty years old.
Then abroad again--to Rome this time, where he dallied with architecture
and painting in turn, took up the violin, and wrote some ghastly Italian
sonnets, supposedly the ruminations of a thirteenth-century monk on the
joys of the contemplative life. It became established among his Harvard
intimates that he was in Rome, and those of them who were abroad that
year looked him up and discovered with him, on many moonlight
excursions, much in the city that was older than the Renaissance or
indeed than the republic. Maury Noble, from Philadelphia, for instance,
remained two months, and together they realized the peculiar charm of
Latin women and had a delightful sense of being very young and free in a
civilization that was very old and free. Not a few acquaintances of his
grandfather's called on him, and had he so desired he might have been
_persona grata_ with the diplomatic set--indeed, he found that his
inclinations tended more and more toward conviviality, but that long
adolescent aloofness and consequent shyness still dictated to
He returned to America in 1912 because of one of his grandfather's
sudden illnesses, and after an excessively tiresome talk with the
perpetually convalescent old man he decided to put off until his
grandfather's death the idea of living permanently abroad. After a
prolonged search he took an apartment on Fifty-second Street and to all
appearances settled down.
In 1913 Anthony Patch's adjustment of himself to the universe was in
process of consummation. Physically, he had improved since his
undergraduate days--he was still too thin but his shoulders had widened
and his brunette face had lost the frightened look of his freshman year.
He was secretly orderly and in person spick and span--his friends
declared that they had never seen his hair rumpled. His nose was too
sharp; his mouth was one of those unfortunate mirrors of mood inclined
to droop perceptibly in moments of unhappiness, but his blue eyes were
charming, whether alert with intelligence or half closed in an
expression of melancholy humor.
One of those men devoid of the symmetry of feature essential to the
Aryan ideal, he was yet, here and there, considered handsome--moreover,
he was very clean, in appearance and in reality, with that especial
cleanness borrowed from beauty.
THE REPROACHLESS APARTMENT
Fifth and Sixth Avenues, it seemed to Anthony, were the uprights of a
gigantic ladder stretching from Washington Square to Central Park.
Coming up-town on top of a bus toward Fifty-second Street invariably
gave him the sensation of hoisting himself hand by hand on a series of
treacherous rungs, and when the bus jolted to a stop at his own rung he
found something akin to relief as he descended the reckless metal steps
to the sidewalk.
After that, he had but to walk down Fifty-second Street half a block,
pass a stodgy family of brownstone houses--and then in a jiffy he was
under the high ceilings of his great front room. This was entirely
satisfactory. Here, after all, life began. Here he slept, breakfasted,
read, and entertained.
The house itself was of murky material, built in the late nineties; in
response to the steadily growing need of small apartments each floor had
been thoroughly remodelled and rented individually. Of the four
apartments Anthony's, on the second floor, was the most desirable.
The front room had fine high ceilings and three large windows that
loomed down pleasantly upon Fifty-second Street. In its appointments it
escaped by a safe margin being of any particular period; it escaped
stiffness, stuffiness, bareness, and decadence. It smelt neither of
smoke nor of incense--it was tall and faintly blue. There was a deep
lounge of the softest brown leather with somnolence drifting about it
like a haze. There was a high screen of Chinese lacquer chiefly
concerned with geometrical fishermen and huntsmen in black and gold;
this made a corner alcove for a voluminous chair guarded by an
orange-colored standing lamp. Deep in the fireplace a quartered shield
was burned to a murky black.
Passing through the dining-room, which, as Anthony took only breakfast
at home, was merely a magnificent potentiality, and down a comparatively
long hall, one came to the heart and core of the apartment--Anthony's
bedroom and bath.
Both of them were immense. Under the ceilings of the former even the
great canopied bed seemed of only average size. On the floor an exotic
rug of crimson velvet was soft as fleece on his bare feet. His bathroom,
in contrast to the rather portentous character of his bedroom, was gay,
bright, extremely habitable and even faintly facetious. Framed around
the walls were photographs of four celebrated thespian beauties of the
day: Julia Sanderson as "The Sunshine Girl," Ina Claire as "The Quaker
Girl," Billie Burke as "The Mind-the-Paint Girl," and Hazel Dawn as "The
Pink Lady." Between Billie Burke and Hazel Dawn hung a print
representing a great stretch of snow presided over by a cold and
formidable sun--this, claimed Anthony, symbolized the cold shower.
The bathtub, equipped with an ingenious bookholder, was low and large.
Beside it a wall wardrobe bulged with sufficient linen for three men and
with a generation of neckties. There was no skimpy glorified towel of a
carpet--instead, a rich rug, like the one in his bedroom a miracle of
softness, that seemed almost to massage the wet foot emerging from
All in all a room to conjure with--it was easy to see that Anthony
dressed there, arranged his immaculate hair there, in fact did
everything but sleep and eat there. It was his pride, this bathroom. He
felt that if he had a love he would have hung her picture just facing
the tub so that, lost in the soothing steamings of the hot water, he
might lie and look up at her and muse warmly and sensuously on
NOR DOES HE SPIN
The apartment was kept clean by an English servant with the singularly,
almost theatrically, appropriate name of Bounds, whose technic was
marred only by the fact that he wore a soft collar. Had he been entirely
Anthony's Bounds this defect would have been summarily remedied, but he
was also the Bounds of two other gentlemen in the neighborhood. From
eight until eleven in the morning he was entirely Anthony's. He arrived
with the mail and cooked breakfast. At nine-thirty he pulled the edge of
Anthony's blanket and spoke a few terse words--Anthony never remembered
clearly what they were and rather suspected they were deprecative; then
he served breakfast on a card-table in the front room, made the bed and,
after asking with some hostility if there was anything else, withdrew.
In the mornings, at least once a week, Anthony went to see his broker.
His income was slightly under seven thousand a year, the interest on
money inherited from his mother. His grandfather, who had never allowed
his own son to graduate from a very liberal allowance, judged that this
sum was sufficient for young Anthony's needs. Every Christmas he sent
him a five-hundred-dollar bond, which Anthony usually sold, if possible,
as he was always a little, not very, hard up.
The visits to his broker varied from semi-social chats to discussions of
the safety of eight per cent investments, and Anthony always enjoyed
them. The big trust company building seemed to link him definitely to
the great fortunes whose solidarity he respected and to assure him that
he was adequately chaperoned by the hierarchy of finance. From these
hurried men he derived the same sense of safety that he had in
contemplating his grandfather's money--even more, for the latter
appeared, vaguely, a demand loan made by the world to Adam Patch's own
moral righteousness, while this money down-town seemed rather to have
been grasped and held by sheer indomitable strengths and tremendous
feats of will; in addition, it seemed more definitely and
Closely as Anthony trod on the heels of his income, he considered it to
be enough. Some golden day, of course, he would have many millions;
meanwhile he possessed a _raison d'etre_ in the theoretical creation of
essays on the popes of the Renaissance. This flashes back to the
conversation with his grandfather immediately upon his return from Rome.
He had hoped to find his grandfather dead, but had learned by
telephoning from the pier that Adam Patch was comparatively well
again--the next day he had concealed his disappointment and gone out to
Tarrytown. Five miles from the station his taxicab entered an
elaborately groomed drive that threaded a veritable maze of walls and
wire fences guarding the estate--this, said the public, was because it
was definitely known that if the Socialists had their way, one of the
first men they'd assassinate would be old Cross Patch.
Anthony was late and the venerable philanthropist was awaiting him in a
glass-walled sun parlor, where he was glancing through the morning
papers for the second time. His secretary, Edward Shuttleworth--who
before his regeneration had been gambler, saloon-keeper, and general
reprobate--ushered Anthony into the room, exhibiting his redeemer and
benefactor as though he were displaying a treasure of immense value.
They shook hands gravely. "I'm awfully glad to hear you're better,"
The senior Patch, with an air of having seen his grandson only last
week, pulled out his watch.
"Train late?" he asked mildly.
It had irritated him to wait for Anthony. He was under the delusion not
only that in his youth he had handled his practical affairs with the
utmost scrupulousness, even to keeping every engagement on the dot, but
also that this was the direct and primary cause of his success.
"It's been late a good deal this month," he remarked with a shade of
meek accusation in his voice--and then after a long sigh, "Sit down."
Anthony surveyed his grandfather with that tacit amazement which always
attended the sight. That this feeble, unintelligent old man was
possessed of such power that, yellow journals to the contrary, the men
in the republic whose souls he could not have bought directly or
indirectly would scarcely have populated White Plains, seemed as
impossible to believe as that he had once been a pink-and-white baby.
The span of his seventy-five years had acted as a magic bellows--the
first quarter-century had blown him full with life, and the last had
sucked it all back. It had sucked in the cheeks and the chest and the
girth of arm and leg. It had tyrannously demanded his teeth, one by one,
suspended his small eyes in dark-bluish sacks, tweeked out his hairs,
changed him from gray to white in some places, from pink to yellow in
others--callously transposing his colors like a child trying over a
paintbox. Then through his body and his soul it had attacked his brain.
It had sent him night-sweats and tears and unfounded dreads. It had
split his intense normality into credulity and suspicion. Out of the
coarse material of his enthusiasm it had cut dozens of meek but petulant
obsessions; his energy was shrunk to the bad temper of a spoiled child,
and for his will to power was substituted a fatuous puerile desire for a
land of harps and canticles on earth.
The amenities having been gingerly touched upon, Anthony felt that he
was expected to outline his intentions--and simultaneously a glimmer in
the old man's eye warned him against broaching, for the present, his
desire to live abroad. He wished that Shuttleworth would have tact
enough to leave the room--he detested Shuttleworth--but the secretary
had settled blandly in a rocker and was dividing between the two Patches
the glances of his faded eyes.
"Now that you're here you ought to _do_ something," said his grandfather
softly, "accomplish something."
Anthony waited for him to speak of "leaving something done when you pass
on." Then he made a suggestion:
"I thought--it seemed to me that perhaps I'm best qualified to write--"
Adam Patch winced, visualizing a family poet with a long hair and three
"--history," finished Anthony.
"History? History of what? The Civil War? The Revolution?"
"Why--no, sir. A history of the Middle Ages." Simultaneously an idea was
born for a history of the Renaissance popes, written from some novel
angle. Still, he was glad he had said "Middle Ages."
"Middle Ages? Why not your own country? Something you know about?"
"Well, you see I've lived so much abroad--"
"Why you should write about the Middle Ages, I don't know. Dark Ages, we
used to call 'em. Nobody knows what happened, and nobody cares, except
that they're over now." He continued for some minutes on the uselessness
of such information, touching, naturally, on the Spanish Inquisition and
the "corruption of the monasteries." Then:
"Do you think you'll be able to do any work in New York--or do you
really intend to work at all?" This last with soft, almost
"Why, yes, I do, sir."
"When'll you be done?"
"Well, there'll be an outline, you see--and a lot of preliminary
"I should think you'd have done enough of that already."
The conversation worked itself jerkily toward a rather abrupt
conclusion, when Anthony rose, looked at his watch, and remarked that he
had an engagement with his broker that afternoon. He had intended to
stay a few days with his grandfather, but he was tired and irritated
from a rough crossing, and quite unwilling to stand a subtle and
sanctimonious browbeating. He would come out again in a few days,
Nevertheless, it was due to this encounter that work had come into his
life as a permanent idea. During the year that had passed since then, he
had made several lists of authorities, he had even experimented with
chapter titles and the division of his work into periods, but not one
line of actual writing existed at present, or seemed likely ever to
exist. He did nothing--and contrary to the most accredited copy-book
logic, he managed to divert himself with more than average content.
It was October in 1913, midway in a week of pleasant days, with the
sunshine loitering in the cross-streets and the atmosphere so languid as
to seem weighted with ghostly falling leaves. It was pleasant to sit
lazily by the open window finishing a chapter of "Erewhon." It was
pleasant to yawn about five, toss the book on a table, and saunter
humming along the hall to his bath.
"To ... you ... beaut-if-ul lady,"
he was singing as he turned on the tap.
"I raise ... my ... eyes;
To ... you ... beaut-if-ul la-a-dy
My ... heart ... cries--"
He raised his voice to compete with the flood of water pouring into the
tub, and as he looked at the picture of Hazel Dawn upon the wall he put
an imaginary violin to his shoulder and softly caressed it with a
phantom bow. Through his closed lips he made a humming noise, which he
vaguely imagined resembled the sound of a violin. After a moment his
hands ceased their gyrations and wandered to his shirt, which he began
to unfasten. Stripped, and adopting an athletic posture like the
tiger-skin man in the advertisement, he regarded himself with some
satisfaction in the mirror, breaking off to dabble a tentative foot in
the tub. Readjusting a faucet and indulging in a few preliminary grunts,
he slid in.
Once accustomed to the temperature of the water he relaxed into a state
of drowsy content. When he finished his bath he would dress leisurely
and walk down Fifth Avenue to the Ritz, where he had an appointment for
dinner with his two most frequent companions, Dick Caramel and Maury
Noble. Afterward he and Maury were going to the theatre--Caramel would
probably trot home and work on his book, which ought to be finished
Anthony was glad _he_ wasn't going to work on _his_ book. The notion of
sitting down and conjuring up, not only words in which to clothe
thoughts but thoughts worthy of being clothed--the whole thing was
absurdly beyond his desires.
Emerging from his bath he polished himself with the meticulous attention
of a bootblack. Then he wandered into the bedroom, and whistling the
while a weird, uncertain melody, strolled here and there buttoning,
adjusting, and enjoying the warmth of the thick carpet on his feet.
He lit a cigarette, tossed the match out the open top of the window,
then paused in his tracks with the cigarette two inches from his
mouth--which fell faintly ajar. His eyes were focussed upon a spot of
brilliant color on the roof of a house farther down the alley.
It was a girl in a red negligé, silk surely, drying her hair by the
still hot sun of late afternoon. His whistle died upon the stiff air of
the room; he walked cautiously another step nearer the window with a
sudden impression that she was beautiful. Sitting on the stone parapet
beside her was a cushion the same color as her garment and she was
leaning both arms upon it as she looked down into the sunny areaway,
where Anthony could hear children playing.
He watched her for several minutes. Something was stirred in him,
something not accounted for by the warm smell of the afternoon or the
triumphant vividness of red. He felt persistently that the girl was
beautiful--then of a sudden he understood: it was her distance, not a
rare and precious distance of soul but still distance, if only in
terrestrial yards. The autumn air was between them, and the roofs and
the blurred voices. Yet for a not altogether explained second, posing
perversely in time, his emotion had been nearer to adoration than in the
deepest kiss he had ever known.
He finished his dressing, found a black bow tie and adjusted it
carefully by the three-sided mirror in the bathroom. Then yielding to an
impulse he walked quickly into the bedroom and again looked out the
window. The woman was standing up now; she had tossed her hair back and
he had a full view of her. She was fat, full thirty-five, utterly
undistinguished. Making a clicking noise with his mouth he returned to
the bathroom and reparted his hair.
"To ... you ... beaut-if-ul lady,"
he sang lightly,
"I raise ... my ... eyes--"
Then with a last soothing brush that left an iridescent surface of sheer
gloss he left his bathroom and his apartment and walked down Fifth
Avenue to the Ritz-Carlton.
At seven Anthony and his friend Maury Noble are sitting at a corner
table on the cool roof. Maury Noble is like nothing so much as a large
slender and imposing cat. His eyes are narrow and full of incessant,
protracted blinks. His hair is smooth and flat, as though it has been
licked by a possible--and, if so, Herculean--mother-cat. During
Anthony's time at Harvard he had been considered the most unique figure
in his class, the most brilliant, the most original--smart, quiet and
among the saved.
This is the man whom Anthony considers his best friend. This is the only
man of all his acquaintance whom he admires and, to a bigger extent than
he likes to admit to himself, envies.
They are glad to see each other now--their eyes are full of kindness as
each feels the full effect of novelty after a short separation. They are
drawing a relaxation from each other's presence, a new serenity; Maury
Noble behind that fine and absurdly catlike face is all but purring. And
Anthony, nervous as a will-o'-the-wisp, restless--he is at rest now.
They are engaged in one of those easy short-speech conversations that
only men under thirty or men under great stress indulge in.
ANTHONY: Seven o'clock. Where's the Caramel? _(Impatiently.)_ I wish
he'd finish that interminable novel. I've spent more time hungry----
MAURY: He's got a new name for it. "The Demon Lover "--not bad, eh?
ANTHONY: _(interested)_ "The Demon Lover"? Oh "woman wailing"--No--not a
bit bad! Not bad at all--d'you think?
MAURY: Rather good. What time did you say?
MAURY:_(His eyes narrowing--not unpleasantly, but to express a faint
disapproval)_ Drove me crazy the other day.
MAURY: That habit of taking notes.
ANTHONY: Me, too. Seems I'd said something night before that he
considered material but he'd forgotten it--so he had at me. He'd say
"Can't you try to concentrate?" And I'd say "You bore me to tears. How
do I remember?"
_(MAURY laughs noiselessly, by a sort of bland and appreciative widening
of his features.)_
MAURY: Dick doesn't necessarily see more than any one else. He merely
can put down a larger proportion of what he sees.
ANTHONY: That rather impressive talent----
MAURY: Oh, yes. Impressive!
ANTHONY: And energy--ambitious, well-directed energy. He's so
entertaining--he's so tremendously stimulating and exciting. Often
there's something breathless in being with him.
MAURY: Oh, yes. _(Silence, and then:)_
ANTHONY: _(With his thin, somewhat uncertain face at its most convinced)
_But not indomitable energy. Some day, bit by bit, it'll blow away, and
his rather impressive talent with it, and leave only a wisp of a man,
fretful and egotistic and garrulous.
MAURY: _(With laughter)_ Here we sit vowing to each other that little
Dick sees less deeply into things than we do. And I'll bet he feels a
measure of superiority on his side--creative mind over merely critical
mind and all that.
ANTHONY: Oh, yes. But he's wrong. He's inclined to fall for a million
silly enthusiasms. If it wasn't that he's absorbed in realism and
therefore has to adopt the garments of the cynic he'd be--he'd be
credulous as a college religious leader. He's an idealist. Oh, yes. He
thinks he's not, because he's rejected Christianity. Remember him in
college? just swallow every writer whole, one after another, ideas,
technic, and characters, Chesterton, Shaw, Wells, each one as easily
as the last.
MAURY:_(Still considering his own last observation)_ I remember.
ANTHONY: It's true. Natural born fetich-worshipper. Take art--
MAURY: Let's order. He'll be--
ANTHONY: Sure. Let's order. I told him--
MAURY: Here he comes. Look--he's going to bump that waiter. _(He lifts
his finger as a signal--lifts it as though it were a soft and friendly
claw.)_ Here y'are, Caramel.
A NEW VOICE: _(Fiercely)_ Hello, Maury. Hello, Anthony Comstock Patch.
How is old Adam's grandson? Débutantes still after you, eh?
_In person_ RICHARD CARAMEL _is short and fair--he is to be bald at
thirty-five. He has yellowish eyes--one of them startlingly clear, the
other opaque as a muddy pool--and a bulging brow like a funny-paper
baby. He bulges in other places--his paunch bulges, prophetically, his
words have an air of bulging from his mouth, even his dinner coat
pockets bulge, as though from contamination, with a dog-eared collection
of time-tables, programmes, and miscellaneous scraps--on these he takes
his notes with great screwings up of his unmatched yellow eyes and
motions of silence with his disengaged left hand._
_When he reaches the table he shakes hands with ANTHONY and MAURY. He is
one of those men who invariably shake hands, even with people whom they
have seen an hour before._
ANTHONY: Hello, Caramel. Glad you're here. We needed a comic relief.
MAURY: You're late. Been racing the postman down the block? We've been
clawing over your character.
DICK: (_Fixing_ ANTHONY _eagerly with the bright eye_) What'd you say?
Tell me and I'll write it down. Cut three thousand words out of Part One
MAURY: Noble aesthete. And I poured alcohol into my stomach.
DICK: I don't doubt it. I bet you two have been sitting here for an hour
talking about liquor.
ANTHONY: We never pass out, my beardless boy.
MAURY: We never go home with ladies we meet when we're lit.
ANTHONY: All in our parties are characterized by a certain haughty
DICK: The particularly silly sort who boast about being "tanks"! Trouble
is you're both in the eighteenth century. School of the Old English
Squire. Drink quietly until you roll under the table. Never have a good
time. Oh, no, that isn't done at all.
ANTHONY: This from Chapter Six, I'll bet.
DICK: Going to the theatre?
MAURY: Yes. We intend to spend the evening doing some deep thinking over
of life's problems. The thing is tersely called "The Woman." I presume
that she will "pay."
ANTHONY: My God! Is that what it is? Let's go to the Follies again.
MAURY: I'm tired of it. I've seen it three times. (_To DICK:_) The first
time, we went out after Act One and found a most amazing bar. When we
came back we entered the wrong theatre.
ANTHONY: Had a protracted dispute with a scared young couple we thought
were in our seats.
DICK: (_As though talking to himself_) I think--that when I've done
another novel and a play, and maybe a book of short stories, I'll do a
MAURY: I know--with intellectual lyrics that no one will listen to. And
all the critics will groan and grunt about "Dear old Pinafore." And I
shall go on shining as a brilliantly meaningless figure in a
DICK: (_Pompously_) Art isn't meaningless.
MAURY: It is in itself. It isn't in that it tries to make life less so.
ANTHONY: In other words, Dick, you're playing before a grand stand
peopled with ghosts.
MAURY: Give a good show anyhow.
ANTHONY:(To MAURY) On the contrary, I'd feel that it being a meaningless
world, why write? The very attempt to give it purpose is purposeless.
DICK: Well, even admitting all that, be a decent pragmatist and grant a
poor man the instinct to live. Would you want every one to accept that
ANTHONY: Yeah, I suppose so.
MAURY: No, sir! I believe that every one in America but a selected
thousand should be compelled to accept a very rigid system of
morals--Roman Catholicism, for instance. I don't complain of
conventional morality. I complain rather of the mediocre heretics who
seize upon the findings of sophistication and adopt the pose of a moral
freedom to which they are by no means entitled by their intelligences.
(_Here the soup arrives and what MAURY might have gone on to say is lost
for all time._)
Afterward they visited a ticket speculator and, at a price, obtained
seats for a new musical comedy called "High Jinks." In the foyer of the
theatre they waited a few moments to see the first-night crowd come in.
There were opera cloaks stitched of myriad, many-colored silks and furs;
there were jewels dripping from arms and throats and ear-tips of white
and rose; there were innumerable broad shimmers down the middles of
innumerable silk hats; there were shoes of gold and bronze and red and
shining black; there were the high-piled, tight-packed coiffures of many
women and the slick, watered hair of well-kept men--most of all there
was the ebbing, flowing, chattering, chuckling, foaming, slow-rolling
wave effect of this cheerful sea of people as to-night it poured its
glittering torrent into the artificial lake of laughter....
After the play they parted--Maury was going to a dance at Sherry's,
Anthony homeward and to bed.
He found his way slowly over the jostled evening mass of Times Square,
which the chariot race and its thousand satellites made rarely beautiful
and bright and intimate with carnival. Faces swirled about him, a
kaleidoscope of girls, ugly, ugly as sin--too fat, too lean, yet
floating upon this autumn air as upon their own warm and passionate
breaths poured out into the night. Here, for all their vulgarity, he
thought, they were faintly and subtly mysterious. He inhaled carefully,
swallowing into his lungs perfume and the not unpleasant scent of many
cigarettes. He caught the glance of a dark young beauty sitting alone in
a closed taxicab. Her eyes in the half-light suggested night and
violets, and for a moment he stirred again to that half-forgotten
remoteness of the afternoon.
Two young Jewish men passed him, talking in loud voices and craning
their necks here and there in fatuous supercilious glances. They were
dressed in suits of the exaggerated tightness then semi-fashionable;
their turned over collars were notched at the Adam's apple; they wore
gray spats and carried gray gloves on their cane handles.
Passed a bewildered old lady borne along like a basket of eggs between
two men who exclaimed to her of the wonders of Times Square--explained
them so quickly that the old lady, trying to be impartially interested,
waved her head here and there like a piece of wind-worried old
orange-peel. Anthony heard a snatch of their conversation:
"There's the Astor, mama!"
"Look! See the chariot race sign----"
"There's where we were to-day. No, _there!_"
"Good gracious! ..."
"You should worry and grow thin like a dime." He recognized the current
witticism of the year as it issued stridently from one of the pairs at
"And I says to him, I says----"
The soft rush of taxis by him, and laughter, laughter hoarse as a
crow's, incessant and loud, with the rumble of the subways
underneath--and over all, the revolutions of light, the growings and
recedings of light--light dividing like pearls--forming and reforming in
glittering bars and circles and monstrous grotesque figures cut
amazingly on the sky.
He turned thankfully down the hush that blew like a dark wind out of a
cross-street, passed a bakery-restaurant in whose windows a dozen roast
chickens turned over and over on an automatic spit. From the door came a
smell that was hot, doughy, and pink. A drug-store next, exhaling
medicines, spilt soda water and a pleasant undertone from the cosmetic
counter; then a Chinese laundry, still open, steamy and stifling,
smelling folded and vaguely yellow. All these depressed him; reaching
Sixth Avenue he stopped at a corner cigar store and emerged feeling
better--the cigar store was cheerful, humanity in a navy blue mist,
buying a luxury ....
Once in his apartment he smoked a last cigarette, sitting in the dark by
his open front window. For the first time in over a year he found
himself thoroughly enjoying New York. There was a rare pungency in it
certainly, a quality almost Southern. A lonesome town, though. He who
had grown up alone had lately learned to avoid solitude. During the past
several months he had been careful, when he had no engagement for the
evening, to hurry to one of his clubs and find some one. Oh, there was a
His cigarette, its smoke bordering the thin folds of curtain with rims
of faint white spray, glowed on until the clock in St. Anne's down the
street struck one with a querulous fashionable beauty. The elevated,
half a quiet block away, sounded a rumble of drums--and should he lean
from his window he would see the train, like an angry eagle, breasting
the dark curve at the corner. He was reminded of a fantastic romance he
had lately read in which cities had been bombed from aerial trains, and
for a moment he fancied that Washington Square had declared war on
Central Park and that this was a north-bound menace loaded with battle
and sudden death. But as it passed the illusion faded; it diminished to
the faintest of drums--then to a far-away droning eagle.
There were the bells and the continued low blur of auto horns from Fifth
Avenue, but his own street was silent and he was safe in here from all
the threat of life, for there was his door and the long hall and his
guardian bedroom--safe, safe! The arc-light shining into his window
seemed for this hour like the moon, only brighter and more beautiful
than the moon.
A FLASH-BACK IN PARADISE
_Beauty, who was born anew every hundred years, sat in a sort of outdoor
waiting room through which blew gusts of white wind and occasionally a
breathless hurried star. The stars winked at her intimately as they went
by and the winds made a soft incessant flurry in her hair. She was
incomprehensible, for, in her, soul and spirit were one--the beauty of
her body was the essence of her soul. She was that unity sought for by
philosophers through many centuries. In this outdoor waiting room of
winds and stars she had been sitting for a hundred years, at peace in
the contemplation of herself._
_It became known to her, at length, that she was to be born again.
Sighing, she began a long conversation with a voice that was in the
white wind, a conversation that took many hours and of which I can give
only a fragment here._
BEAUTY: (_Her lips scarcely stirring, her eyes turned, as always, inward
upon herself_) Whither shall I journey now?
THE VOICE: To a new country--a land you have never seen before.
BEAUTY: (_Petulantly_) I loathe breaking into these new civilizations.
How long a stay this time?
THE VOICE: Fifteen years.
BEAUTY: And what's the name of the place?
THE VOICE: It is the most opulent, most gorgeous land on earth--a land
whose wisest are but little wiser than its dullest; a land where the
rulers have minds like little children and the law-givers believe in
Santa Claus; where ugly women control strong men----
BEAUTY: (_In astonishment_) What?
THE VOICE: (_Very much depressed_) Yes, it is truly a melancholy
spectacle. Women with receding chins and shapeless noses go about in
broad daylight saying "Do this!" and "Do that!" and all the men, even
those of great wealth, obey implicitly their women to whom they refer
sonorously either as "Mrs. So-and-so" or as "the wife."
BEAUTY: But this can't be true! I can understand, of course, their
obedience to women of charm--but to fat women? to bony women? to women
with scrawny cheeks?
THE VOICE: Even so.
BEAUTY: What of me? What chance shall I have?
THE VOICE: It will be "harder going," if I may borrow a phrase.
BEAUTY: (_After a dissatisfied pause_) Why not the old lands, the land
of grapes and soft-tongued men or the land of ships and seas?
THE VOICE: It's expected that they'll be very busy shortly.
THE VOICE: Your life on earth will be, as always, the interval between
two significant glances in a mundane mirror.
BEAUTY: What will I be? Tell me?
THE VOICE: At first it was thought that you would go this time as an
actress in the motion pictures but, after all, it's not advisable. You
will be disguised during your fifteen years as what is called a
BEAUTY: What's that?
(_There is a new sound in the wind which must for our purposes be
interpreted as_ THE VOICE _scratching its head._)
THE VOICE: (_At length_) It's a sort of bogus aristocrat.
BEAUTY: Bogus? What is bogus?
THE VOICE: That, too, you will discover in this land. You will find much
that is bogus. Also, you will do much that is bogus.
BEAUTY: (_Placidly_) It all sounds so vulgar.
THE VOICE: Not half as vulgar as it is. You will be known during your
fifteen years as a ragtime kid, a flapper, a jazz-baby, and a baby vamp.
You will dance new dances neither more nor less gracefully than you
danced the old ones.
BEAUTY: (_In a whisper_) Will I be paid?
THE VOICE: Yes, as usual--in love.
BEAUTY: (_With a faint laugh which disturbs only momentarily the
immobility of her lips_) And will I like being called a jazz-baby?
THE VOICE: (_Soberly_) You will love it....
(_The dialogue ends here, with_ BEAUTY _still sitting quietly, the stars
pausing in an ecstasy of appreciation, the wind, white and gusty,
blowing through her hair._
_All this took place seven years before_ ANTHONY _sat by the front
windows of his apartment and listened to the chimes of St. Anne's_.)