After a fortnight Anthony and Gloria began to indulge in "practical
discussions," as they called those sessions when under the guise of
severe realism they walked in an eternal moonlight.
"Not as much as I do you," the critic of belles-lettres would insist.
"If you really loved me you'd want every one to know it."
"I do," she protested; "I want to stand on the street corner like a
sandwich man, informing all the passers-by."
"Then tell me all the reasons why you're going to marry me in June."
"Well, because you're so clean. You're sort of blowy clean, like I am.
There's two sorts, you know. One's like Dick: he's clean like polished
pans. You and I are clean like streams and winds. I can tell whenever I
see a person whether he is clean, and if so, which kind of clean he is."
"Mother says"--she hesitated uncertainly--"mother says that two souls
are sometimes created together and--and in love before they're born."
Bilphism gained its easiest convert.... After a while he lifted up his
head and laughed soundlessly toward the ceiling. When his eyes came back
to her he saw that she was angry.
"Why did you laugh?" she cried, "you've done that twice before. There's
nothing funny about our relation to each other. I don't mind playing the
fool, and I don't mind having you do it, but I can't stand it when we're
"Oh, don't say you're sorry! If you can't think of anything better than
that, just keep quiet!"
"I love you."
"I don't care."
There was a pause. Anthony was depressed.... At length Gloria murmured:
"I'm sorry I was mean."
"You weren't. I was the one."
Peace was restored--the ensuing moments were so much more sweet and
sharp and poignant. They were stars on this stage, each playing to an
audience of two: the passion of their pretense created the actuality.
Here, finally, was the quintessence of self-expression--yet it was
probable that for the most part their love expressed Gloria rather than
Anthony. He felt often like a scarcely tolerated guest at a party she
Telling Mrs. Gilbert had been an embarrassed matter. She sat stuffed
into a small chair and listened with an intense and very blinky sort of
concentration. She must have known it--for three weeks Gloria had seen
no one else--and she must have noticed that this time there was an
authentic difference in her daughter's attitude. She had been given
special deliveries to post; she had heeded, as all mothers seem to heed,
the hither end of telephone conversations, disguised but still
--Yet she had delicately professed surprise and declared herself
immensely pleased; she doubtless was; so were the geranium plants
blossoming in the window-boxes, and so were the cabbies when the lovers
sought the romantic privacy of hansom cabs--quaint device--and the staid
bill of fares on which they scribbled "you know I do," pushing it over
for the other to see.
But between kisses Anthony and this golden girl quarrelled incessantly.
"Now, Gloria," he would cry, "please let me explain!"
"Don't explain. Kiss me."
"I don't think that's right. If I hurt your feelings we ought to discuss
it. I don't like this kiss-and-forget."
"But I don't want to argue. I think it's wonderful that we _can_ kiss
and forget, and when we can't it'll be time to argue."
At one time some gossamer difference attained such bulk that Anthony
arose and punched himself into his overcoat--for a moment it appeared
that the scene of the preceding February was to be repeated, but knowing
how deeply she was moved he retained his dignity with his pride, and in
a moment Gloria was sobbing in his arms, her lovely face miserable as a
frightened little girl's.
Meanwhile they kept unfolding to each other, unwillingly, by curious
reactions and evasions, by distastes and prejudices and unintended hints
of the past. The girl was proudly incapable of jealousy and, because he
was extremely jealous, this virtue piqued him. He told her recondite
incidents of his own life on purpose to arouse some spark of it, but to
no avail. She possessed him now--nor did she desire the dead years.
"Oh, Anthony," she would say, "always when I'm mean to you I'm sorry
afterward. I'd give my right hand to save you one little moment's pain."
And in that instant her eyes were brimming and she was not aware that
she was voicing an illusion. Yet Anthony knew that there were days when
they hurt each other purposely--taking almost a delight in the thrust.
Incessantly she puzzled him: one hour so intimate and charming, striving
desperately toward an unguessed, transcendent union; the next, silent
and cold, apparently unmoved by any consideration of their love or
anything he could say. Often he would eventually trace these portentous
reticences to some physical discomfort--of these she never complained
until they were over--or to some carelessness or presumption in him, or
to an unsatisfactory dish at dinner, but even then the means by which
she created the infinite distances she spread about herself were a
mystery, buried somewhere back in those twenty-two years of
"Why do you like Muriel?" he demanded one day.
"I don't very much."
"Then why do you go with her?"
"Just for some one to go with. They're no exertion, those girls. They
sort of believe everything I tell them--but I rather like Rachael. I
think she's cute--and so clean and slick, don't you? I used to have
other friends--in Kansas City and at school--casual, all of them, girls
who just flitted into my range and out of it for no more reason than
that boys took us places together. They didn't interest me after
environment stopped throwing us together. Now they're mostly married.
What does it matter--they were all just people."
"You like men better, don't you?"
"Oh, much better. I've got a man's mind."
"You've got a mind like mine. Not strongly gendered either way."
Later she told him about the beginnings of her friendship with
Bloeckman. One day in Delmonico's, Gloria and Rachael had come upon
Bloeckman and Mr. Gilbert having luncheon and curiosity had impelled her
to make it a party of four. She had liked him--rather. He was a relief
from younger men, satisfied as he was with so little. He humored her and
he laughed, whether he understood her or not. She met him several times,
despite the open disapproval of her parents, and within a month he had
asked her to marry him, tendering her everything from a villa in Italy
to a brilliant career on the screen. She had laughed in his face--and he
had laughed too.
But he had not given up. To the time of Anthony's arrival in the arena
he had been making steady progress. She treated him rather well--except
that she had called him always by an invidious nickname--perceiving,
meanwhile, that he was figuratively following along beside her as she
walked the fence, ready to catch her if she should fall.
The night before the engagement was announced she told Bloeckman. It was
a heavy blow. She did not enlighten Anthony as to the details, but she
implied that he had not hesitated to argue with her. Anthony gathered
that the interview had terminated on a stormy note, with Gloria very
cool and unmoved lying in her corner of the sofa and Joseph Bloeckman of
"Films Par Excellence" pacing the carpet with eyes narrowed and head
bowed. Gloria had been sorry for him but she had judged it best not to
show it. In a final burst of kindness she had tried to make him hate
her, there at the last. But Anthony, understanding that Gloria's
indifference was her strongest appeal, judged how futile this must have
been. He wondered, often but quite casually, about Bloeckman--finally he
forgot him entirely.
One afternoon they found front seats on the sunny roof of a bus and rode
for hours from the fading Square up along the sullied river, and then,
as the stray beams fled the westward streets, sailed down the turgid
Avenue, darkening with ominous bees from the department stores. The
traffic was clotted and gripped in a patternless jam; the busses were
packed four deep like platforms above the crowd as they waited for the
moan of the traffic whistle.
"Isn't it good!" cried Gloria. "Look!"
A miller's wagon, stark white with flour, driven by a powdery clown,
passed in front of them behind a white horse and his black team-mate.
"What a pity!" she complained; "they'd look so beautiful in the dusk, if
only both horses were white. I'm mighty happy just this minute, in
Anthony shook his head in disagreement.
"I think the city's a mountebank. Always struggling to approach the
tremendous and impressive urbanity ascribed to it. Trying to be
"I don't. I think it is impressive."
"Momentarily. But it's really a transparent, artificial sort of
spectacle. It's got its press-agented stars and its flimsy, unenduring
stage settings and, I'll admit, the greatest army of supers ever
assembled--" He paused, laughed shortly, and added: "Technically
excellent, perhaps, but not convincing."
"I'll bet policemen think people are fools," said Gloria thoughtfully,
as she watched a large but cowardly lady being helped across the street.
"He always sees them frightened and inefficient and old--they are," she
added. And then: "We'd better get off. I told mother I'd have an early
supper and go to bed. She says I look tired, damn it."
"I wish we were married," he muttered soberly; "there'll be no good
night then and we can do just as we want."
"Won't it be good! I think we ought to travel a lot. I want to go to the
Mediterranean and Italy. And I'd like to go on the stage some time--say
for about a year."
"You bet. I'll write a play for you."
"Won't that be good! And I'll act in it. And then some time when we have
more money"--old Adam's death was always thus tactfully alluded
to--"we'll build a magnificent estate, won't we?"
"Oh, yes, with private swimming pools."
"Dozens of them. And private rivers. Oh, I wish it were now."
Odd coincidence--he had just been wishing that very thing. They plunged
like divers into the dark eddying crowd and emerging in the cool fifties
sauntered indolently homeward, infinitely romantic to each other ...
both were walking alone in a dispassionate garden with a ghost found
in a dream.
Halcyon days like boats drifting along slow-moving rivers; spring
evenings full of a plaintive melancholy that made the past beautiful and
bitter, bidding them look back and see that the loves of other summers
long gone were dead with the forgotten waltzes of their years. Always
the most poignant moments were when some artificial barrier kept them
apart: in the theatre their hands would steal together, join, give and
return gentle pressures through the long dark; in crowded rooms they
would form words with their lips for each other's eyes--not knowing that
they were but following in the footsteps of dusty generations but
comprehending dimly that if truth is the end of life happiness is a mode
of it, to be cherished in its brief and tremulous moment. And then, one
fairy night, May became June. Sixteen days now--fifteen--fourteen----
Just before the engagement was announced Anthony had gone up to
Tarrytown to see his grandfather, who, a little more wizened and grizzly
as time played its ultimate chuckling tricks, greeted the news with
"Oh, you're going to get married, are you?" He said this with such a
dubious mildness and shook his head up and down so many times that
Anthony was not a little depressed. While he was unaware of his
grandfather's intentions he presumed that a large part of the money
would come to him. A good deal would go in charities, of course; a good
deal to carry on the business of reform.
"Are you going to work?"
"Why--" temporized Anthony, somewhat disconcerted. "I _am_ working. You
"Ah, I mean work," said Adam Patch dispassionately.
"I'm not quite sure yet what I'll do. I'm not exactly a beggar, grampa,"
he asserted with some spirit.
The old man considered this with eyes half closed. Then almost
apologetically he asked:
"How much do you save a year?"
"Nothing so far--"
"And so after just managing to get along on your money you've decided
that by some miracle two of you can get along on it."
"Gloria has some money of her own. Enough to buy clothes."
Without considering this question impertinent, Anthony answered it.
"About a hundred a month."
"That's altogether about seventy-five hundred a year." Then he added
softly: "It ought to be plenty. If you have any sense it ought to be
plenty. But the question is whether you have any or not."
"I suppose it is." It was shameful to be compelled to endure this pious
browbeating from the old man, and his next words were stiffened with
vanity. "I can manage very well. You seem convinced that I'm utterly
worthless. At any rate I came up here simply to tell you that I'm
getting married in June. Good-by, sir." With this he turned away and
headed for the door, unaware that in that instant his grandfather, for
the first time, rather liked him.
"Wait!" called Adam Patch, "I want to talk to you."
Anthony faced about.
"Sit down. Stay all night."
Somewhat mollified, Anthony resumed his seat.
"I'm sorry, sir, but I'm going to see Gloria to-night."
"What's her name?"
"New York girl? Someone you know?"
"She's from the Middle West."
"What business her father in?"
"In a celluloid corporation or trust or something. They're from Kansas
"You going to be married out there?"
"Why, no, sir. We thought we'd be married in New York--rather quietly."
"Like to have the wedding out here?"
Anthony hesitated. The suggestion made no appeal to him, but it was
certainly the part of wisdom to give the old man, if possible, a
proprietary interest in his married life. In addition Anthony was a
"That's very kind of you, grampa, but wouldn't it be a lot of trouble?"
"Everything's a lot of trouble. Your father was married here--but in the
"Why--I thought he was married in Boston."
Adam Patch considered.
"That's true. He _was_ married in Boston."
Anthony felt a moment's embarrassment at having made the correction, and
he covered it up with words.
"Well, I'll speak to Gloria about it. Personally I'd like to, but of
course it's up to the Gilberts, you see."
His grandfather drew a long sigh, half closed his eyes, and sank back in
"In a hurry?" he asked in a different tone.
"I wonder," began Adam Patch, looking out with a mild, kindly glance at
the lilac bushes that rustled against the windows, "I wonder if you ever
think about the after-life."
"I think a great deal about the after-life." His eyes were dim but his
voice was confident and clear. "I was sitting here to-day thinking about
what's lying in wait for us, and somehow I began to remember an
afternoon nearly sixty-five years ago, when I was playing with my little
sister Annie, down where that summer-house is now." He pointed out into
the long flower-garden, his eyes trembling of tears, his voice shaking.
"I began thinking--and it seemed to me that _you_ ought to think a
little more about the after-life. You ought to be--steadier"--he paused
and seemed to grope about for the right word--"more industrious--why--"
Then his expression altered, his entire personality seemed to snap
together like a trap, and when he continued the softness had gone from
"--Why, when I was just two years older than you," he rasped with a
cunning chuckle, "I sent three members of the firm of Wrenn and Hunt to
Anthony started with embarrassment.
"Well, good-by," added his grandfather suddenly, "you'll miss your
Anthony left the house unusually elated, and strangely sorry for the old
man; not because his wealth could buy him "neither youth nor digestion"
but because he had asked Anthony to be married there, and because he had
forgotten something about his son's wedding that he should have
Richard Caramel, who was one of the ushers, caused Anthony and Gloria
much distress in the last few weeks by continually stealing the rays of
their spot-light. "The Demon Lover" had been published in April, and it
interrupted the love affair as it may be said to have interrupted
everything its author came in contact with. It was a highly original,
rather overwritten piece of sustained description concerned with a Don
Juan of the New York slums. As Maury and Anthony had said before, as the
more hospitable critics were saying then, there was no writer in America
with such power to describe the atavistic and unsubtle reactions of that
section of society.
The book hesitated and then suddenly "went." Editions, small at first,
then larger, crowded each other week by week. A spokesman of the
Salvation Army denounced it as a cynical misrepresentation of all the
uplift taking place in the underworld. Clever press-agenting spread the
unfounded rumor that "Gypsy" Smith was beginning a libel suit because
one of the principal characters was a burlesque of himself. It was
barred from the public library of Burlington, Iowa, and a Mid-Western
columnist announced by innuendo that Richard Caramel was in a sanitarium
with delirium tremens.
The author, indeed, spent his days in a state of pleasant madness. The
book was in his conversation three-fourths of the time--he wanted to
know if one had heard "the latest"; he would go into a store and in a
loud voice order books to be charged to him, in order to catch a chance
morsel of recognition from clerk or customer. He knew to a town in what
sections of the country it was selling best; he knew exactly what he
cleared on each edition, and when he met any one who had not read it,
or, as it happened only too often, had not heard of it, he succumbed to
So it was natural for Anthony and Gloria to decide, in their jealousy,
that he was so swollen with conceit as to be a bore. To Dick's great
annoyance Gloria publicly boasted that she had never read "The Demon
Lover," and didn't intend to until every one stopped talking about it.
As a matter of fact, she had no time to read now, for the presents were
pouring in--first a scattering, then an avalanche, varying from the
bric-à-brac of forgotten family friends to the photographs of forgotten
Maury gave them an elaborate "drinking set," which included silver
goblets, cocktail shaker, and bottle-openers. The extortion from Dick
was more conventional--a tea set from Tiffany's. From Joseph Bloeckman
came a simple and exquisite travelling clock, with his card. There was
even a cigarette-holder from Bounds; this touched Anthony and made him
want to weep--indeed, any emotion short of hysteria seemed natural in
the half-dozen people who were swept up by this tremendous sacrifice to
convention. The room set aside in the Plaza bulged with offerings sent
by Harvard friends and by associates of his grandfather, with
remembrances of Gloria's Farmover days, and with rather pathetic
trophies from her former beaux, which last arrived with esoteric,
melancholy messages, written on cards tucked carefully inside, beginning
"I little thought when--" or "I'm sure I wish you all the happiness--"
or even "When you get this I shall be on my way to--"
The most munificent gift was simultaneously the most disappointing. It
was a concession of Adam Patch's--a check for five thousand dollars.
To most of the presents Anthony was cold. It seemed to him that they
would necessitate keeping a chart of the marital status of all their
acquaintances during the next half-century. But Gloria exulted in each
one, tearing at the tissue-paper and excelsior with the rapaciousness of
a dog digging for a bone, breathlessly seizing a ribbon or an edge of
metal and finally bringing to light the whole article and holding it up
critically, no emotion except rapt interest in her unsmiling face.
"Darn nice, isn't it!"
No answer until an hour later when she would give him a careful account
of her precise reaction to the gift, whether it would have been improved
by being smaller or larger, whether she was surprised at getting it,
and, if so, just how much surprised.
Mrs. Gilbert arranged and rearranged a hypothetical house, distributing
the gifts among the different rooms, tabulating articles as "second-best
clock" or "silver to use _every_ day," and embarrassing Anthony and
Gloria by semi-facetious references to a room she called the nursery.
She was pleased by old Adam's gift and thereafter had it that he was a
very ancient soul, "as much as anything else." As Adam Patch never quite
decided whether she referred to the advancing senility of his mind or to
some private and psychic schema of her own, it cannot be said to have
pleased him. Indeed he always spoke of her to Anthony as "that old
woman, the mother," as though she were a character in a comedy he had
seen staged many times before. Concerning Gloria he was unable to make
up his mind. She attracted him but, as she herself told Anthony, he had
decided that she was frivolous and was afraid to approve of her.
Five days!--A dancing platform was being erected on the lawn at
Tarrytown. Four days!--A special train was chartered to convey the
guests to and from New York. Three days!----
She was dressed in blue silk pajamas and standing by her bed with her
hand on the light to put the room in darkness, when she changed her mind
and opening a table drawer brought out a little black book--a
"Line-a-day" diary. This she had kept for seven years. Many of the
pencil entries were almost illegible and there were notes and references
to nights and afternoons long since forgotten, for it was not an
intimate diary, even though it began with the immemorial "I am going to
keep a diary for my children." Yet as she thumbed over the pages the
eyes of many men seemed to look out at her from their half-obliterated
names. With one she had gone to New Haven for the first time--in 1908,
when she was sixteen and padded shoulders were fashionable at Yale--she
had been flattered because "Touch down" Michaud had "rushed" her all
evening. She sighed, remembering the grown-up satin dress she had been
so proud of and the orchestra playing "Yama-yama, My Yama Man" and
"Jungle-Town." So long ago!--the names: Eltynge Reardon, Jim Parsons,
"Curly" McGregor, Kenneth Cowan, "Fish-eye" Fry (whom she had liked for
being so ugly), Carter Kirby--he had sent her a present; so had Tudor
Baird;--Marty Reffer, the first man she had been in love with for more
than a day, and Stuart Holcome, who had run away with her in his
automobile and tried to make her marry him by force. And Larry Fenwick,
whom she had always admired because he had told her one night that if
she wouldn't kiss him she could get out of his car and walk home. What
... And, after all, an obsolete list. She was in love now, set for the
eternal romance that was to be the synthesis of all romance, yet sad for
these men and these moonlights and for the "thrills" she had had--and
the kisses. The past--her past, oh, what a joy! She had been
Turning over the pages her eyes rested idly on the scattered entries of
the past four months. She read the last few carefully.
"_April 1st_.--I know Bill Carstairs hates me because I was so
disagreeable, but I hate to be sentimentalized over sometimes. We drove
out to the Rockyear Country Club and the most wonderful moon kept
shining through the trees. My silver dress is getting tarnished. Funny
how one forgets the other nights at Rockyear--with Kenneth Cowan when I
loved him so!
"_April 3rd_.--After two hours of Schroeder who, they inform me, has
millions, I've decided that this matter of sticking to things wears one
out, particularly when the things concerned are men. There's nothing so
often overdone and from to-day I swear to be amused. We talked about
'love'--how banal! With how many men have I talked about love?
"_April 11th_.--Patch actually called up to-day! and when he forswore me
about a month ago he fairly raged out the door. I'm gradually losing
faith in any man being susceptible to fatal injuries.
"_April 20th_.--Spent the day with Anthony. Maybe I'll marry him some
time. I kind of like his ideas--he stimulates all the originality in me.
Blockhead came around about ten in his new car and took me out Riverside
Drive. I liked him to-night: he's so considerate. He knew I didn't want
to talk so he was quiet all during the ride.
"_April 21st_.--Woke up thinking of Anthony and sure enough he called
and sounded sweet on the phone--so I broke a date for him. To-day I feel
I'd break anything for him, including the ten commandments and my neck.
He's coming at eight and I shall wear pink and look very fresh and
She paused here, remembering that after he had gone that night she had
undressed with the shivering April air streaming in the windows. Yet it
seemed she had not felt the cold, warmed by the profound banalities
burning in her heart.
The next entry occurred a few days later:
"_April 24th_.--I want to marry Anthony, because husbands are so often
'husbands' and I must marry a lover.
"There are four general types of husbands.
"(1) The husband who always wants to stay in in the evening, has no vices
and works for a salary. Totally undesirable!
"(2) The atavistic master whose mistress one is, to wait on his pleasure.
This sort always considers every pretty woman 'shallow,' a sort of
peacock with arrested development.
"(3) Next comes the worshipper, the idolater of his wife and all that is
his, to the utter oblivion of everything else. This sort demands an
emotional actress for a wife. God! it must be an exertion to be thought
"(4) And Anthony--a temporarily passionate lover with wisdom enough to
realize when it has flown and that it must fly. And I want to get
married to Anthony.
"What grubworms women are to crawl on their bellies through colorless
marriages! Marriage was created not to be a background but to need one.
Mine is going to be outstanding. It can't, shan't be the setting--it's
going to be the performance, the live, lovely, glamourous performance,
and the world shall be the scenery. I refuse to dedicate my life to
posterity. Surely one owes as much to the current generation as to one's
unwanted children. What a fate--to grow rotund and unseemly, to lose my
self-love, to think in terms of milk, oatmeal, nurse, diapers.... Dear
dream children, how much more beautiful you are, dazzling little
creatures who flutter (all dream children must flutter) on golden,
"Such children, however, poor dear babies, have little in common with the
"_June 7th_.--Moral question: Was it wrong to make Bloeckman love me?
Because I did really make him. He was almost sweetly sad to-night. How
opportune it was that my throat is swollen plunk together and tears were
easy to muster. But he's just the past--buried already in my
"_June 8th_.--And to-day I've promised not to chew my mouth. Well, I
won't, I suppose--but if he'd only asked me not to eat!
"Blowing bubbles--that's what we're doing, Anthony and me. And we blew
such beautiful ones to-day, and they'll explode and then we'll blow more
and more, I guess--bubbles just as big and just as beautiful, until all
the soap and water is used up."
On this note the diary ended. Her eyes wandered up the page, over the
June 8th's of 1912, 1910, 1907. The earliest entry was scrawled in the
plump, bulbous hand of a sixteen-year-old girl--it was the name, Bob
Lamar, and a word she could not decipher. Then she knew what it
was--and, knowing, she found her eyes misty with tears. There in a
graying blur was the record of her first kiss, faded as its intimate
afternoon, on a rainy veranda seven years before. She seemed to remember
something one of them had said that day and yet she could not remember.
Her tears came faster, until she could scarcely see the page. She was
crying, she told herself, because she could remember only the rain and
the wet flowers in the yard and the smell of the damp grass.
... After a moment she found a pencil and holding it unsteadily drew
three parallel lines beneath the last entry. Then she printed FINIS in
large capitals, put the book back in the drawer, and crept into bed.
BREATH OF THE CAVE
Back in his apartment after the bridal dinner, Anthony snapped out his
lights and, feeling impersonal and fragile as a piece of china waiting
on a serving table, got into bed. It was a warm night--a sheet was
enough for comfort--and through his wide-open windows came sound,
evanescent and summery, alive with remote anticipation. He was thinking
that the young years behind him, hollow and colorful, had been lived in
facile and vacillating cynicism upon the recorded emotions of men long
dust. And there was something beyond that; he knew now. There was the
union of his soul with Gloria's, whose radiant fire and freshness was
the living material of which the dead beauty of books was made.
From the night into his high-walled room there came, persistently, that
evanescent and dissolving sound--something the city was tossing up and
calling back again, like a child playing with a ball. In Harlem, the
Bronx, Gramercy Park, and along the water-fronts, in little parlors or
on pebble-strewn, moon-flooded roofs, a thousand lovers were making this
sound, crying little fragments of it into the air. All the city was
playing with this sound out there in the blue summer dark, throwing it
up and calling it back, promising that, in a little while, life would be
beautiful as a story, promising happiness--and by that promise giving
it. It gave love hope in its own survival. It could do no more.
It was then that a new note separated itself jarringly from the soft
crying of the night. It was a noise from an areaway within a hundred
feet from his rear window, the noise of a woman's laughter. It began
low, incessant and whining--some servant-maid with her fellow, he
thought--and then it grew in volume and became hysterical, until it
reminded him of a girl he had seen overcome with nervous laughter at a
vaudeville performance. Then it sank, receded, only to rise again and
include words--a coarse joke, some bit of obscure horseplay he could not
distinguish. It would break off for a moment and he would just catch the
low rumble of a man's voice, then begin again--interminably; at first
annoying, then strangely terrible. He shivered, and getting up out of
bed went to the window. It had reached a high point, tensed and stifled,
almost the quality of a scream--then it ceased and left behind it a
silence empty and menacing as the greater silence overhead. Anthony
stood by the window a moment longer before he returned to his bed. He
found himself upset and shaken. Try as he might to strangle his
reaction, some animal quality in that unrestrained laughter had grasped
at his imagination, and for the first time in four months aroused his
old aversion and horror toward all the business of life. The room had
grown smothery. He wanted to be out in some cool and bitter breeze,
miles above the cities, and to live serene and detached back in the
corners of his mind. Life was that sound out there, that ghastly
reiterated female sound.
"Oh, my _God_!" he cried, drawing in his breath sharply.
Burying his face in the pillows he tried in vain to concentrate upon the
details of the next day.
In the gray light he found that it was only five o'clock. He regretted
nervously that he had awakened so early--he would appear fagged at the
wedding. He envied Gloria who could hide her fatigue with careful
In his bathroom he contemplated himself in the mirror and saw that he
was unusually white--half a dozen small imperfections stood out against
the morning pallor of his complexion, and overnight he had grown the
faint stubble of a beard--the general effect, he fancied, was
unprepossessing, haggard, half unwell.
On his dressing table were spread a number of articles which he told
over carefully with suddenly fumbling fingers--their tickets to
California, the book of traveller's checks, his watch, set to the half
minute, the key to his apartment, which he must not forget to give to
Maury, and, most important of all, the ring. It was of platinum set
around with small emeralds; Gloria had insisted on this; she had always
wanted an emerald wedding ring, she said.
It was the third present he had given her; first had come the engagement
ring, and then a little gold cigarette-case. He would be giving her many
things now--clothes and jewels and friends and excitement. It seemed
absurd that from now on he would pay for all her meals. It was going to
cost: he wondered if he had not underestimated for this trip, and if he
had not better cash a larger check. The question worried him.
Then the breathless impendency of the event swept his mind clear of
details. This was the day--unsought, unsuspected six months before, but
now breaking in yellow light through his east window, dancing along the
carpet as though the sun were smiling at some ancient and reiterated gag
of his own.
Anthony laughed in a nervous one-syllable snort.
"By God!" he muttered to himself, "I'm as good as married!"
_Six young men in_ CROSS PATCH'S _library growing more and more cheery
under the influence of Mumm's Extra Dry, set surreptitiously in cold
pails by the bookcases._
THE FIRST YOUNG MAN: By golly! Believe me, in my next book I'm going to
do a wedding scene that'll knock 'em cold!
THE SECOND YOUNG MAN: Met a débutante th'other day said she thought your
book was powerful. As a rule young girls cry for this primitive business.
THE THIRD YOUNG MAN: Where's Anthony?
THE FOURTH YOUNG MAN: Walking up and down outside talking to himself.
SECOND YOUNG MAN: Lord! Did you see the minister? Most peculiar looking
FIFTH YOUNG MAN: Think they're natural. Funny thing people having gold
SIXTH YOUNG MAN: They say they love 'em. My dentist told me once a woman
came to him and insisted on having two of her teeth covered with gold.
No reason at all. All right the way they were.
FOURTH YOUNG MAN: Hear you got out a book, Dicky. 'Gratulations!
DICK: (_Stiffly_) Thanks.
FOURTH YOUNG MAN: (_Innocently_) What is it? College stories?
DICK: (_More stiffly_) No. Not college stories.
FOURTH YOUNG MAN: Pity! Hasn't been a good book about Harvard for years.
DICK: (_Touchily_) Why don't you supply the lack?
THIRD YOUNG MAN: I think I saw a squad of guests turn the drive in a
Packard just now.
SIXTH YOUNG MAN: Might open a couple more bottles on the strength of
THIRD YOUNG MAN: It was the shock of my life when I heard the old man
was going to have a wet wedding. Rabid prohibitionist, you know.
FOURTH YOUNG MAN: (_Snapping his fingers excitedly_) By gad! I knew I'd
forgotten something. Kept thinking it was my vest.
DICK: What was it?
FOURTH YOUNG MAN: By gad! By gad!
SIXTH YOUNG MAN: Here! Here! Why the tragedy?
SECOND YOUNG MAN: What'd you forget? The way home?
DICK: (_Maliciously_) He forgot the plot for his book of Harvard
FOURTH YOUNG MAN: No, sir, I forgot the present, by George! I forgot to
buy old Anthony a present. I kept putting it off and putting it off, and
by gad I've forgotten it! What'll they think?
SIXTH YOUNG MAN: (_Facetiously_) That's probably what's been holding up
(THE FOURTH YOUNG MAN _looks nervously at his watch. Laughter._)
FOURTH YOUNG MAN: By gad! What an ass I am!
SECOND YOUNG MAN: What d'you make of the bridesmaid who thinks she's
Nora Bayes? Kept telling me she wished this was a ragtime wedding.
Name's Haines or Hampton.
DICK: (_Hurriedly spurring his imagination_) Kane, you mean, Muriel
Kane. She's a sort of debt of honor, I believe. Once saved Gloria from
drowning, or something of the sort.
SECOND YOUNG MAN: I didn't think she could stop that perpetual swaying
long enough to swim. Fill up my glass, will you? Old man and I had a
long talk about the weather just now.
MAURY: Who? Old Adam?
SECOND YOUNG MAN: No, the bride's father. He must be with a weather
DICK: He's my uncle, Otis.
OTIS: Well, it's an honorable profession. (_Laughter._)
SIXTH YOUNG MAN: Bride your cousin, isn't she?
DICK: Yes, Cable, she is.
CABLE: She certainly is a beauty. Not like you, Dicky. Bet she brings
old Anthony to terms.
MAURY: Why are all grooms given the title of "old"? I think marriage is
an error of youth.
DICK: Maury, the professional cynic.
MAURY: Why, you intellectual faker!
FIFTH YOUNG MAN: Battle of the highbrows here, Otis. Pick up what crumbs
DICK: Faker yourself! What do _you_ know?
MAURY: What do _you_ know?
LICK: Ask me anything. Any branch of knowledge.
MAURY: All right. What's the fundamental principle of biology?
DICK: You don't know yourself.
MAURY: Don't hedge!
DICK: Well, natural selection?
DICK: I give it up.
MAURY: Ontogony recapitulates phyllogony.
FIFTH YOUNG MAN: Take your base!
MAURY: Ask you another. What's the influence of mice on the clover crop?
FOURTH YOUNG MAN: What's the influence of rats on the Decalogue?
MAURY: Shut up, you saphead. There _is_ a connection.
DICK: What is it then?
MAURY: (_Pausing a moment in growing disconcertion_) Why, let's see. I
seem to have forgotten exactly. Something about the bees eating
FOURTH YOUNG MAN: And the clover eating the mice! Haw! Haw!
MAURY: (_Frowning_) Let me just think a minute.
DICK: (_Sitting up suddenly_) Listen!
(_A volley of chatter explodes in the adjoining room. The six young men
arise, feeling at their neckties._)
DICK: (_Weightily_) We'd better join the firing squad. They're going to
take the picture, I guess. No, that's afterward.
OTIS: Cable, you take the ragtime bridesmaid.
FOURTH YOUNG MAN: I wish to God I'd sent that present.
MAURY: If you'll give me another minute I'll think of that about the
OTIS: I was usher last month for old Charlie McIntyre and----
(_They move slowly toward the door as the chatter becomes a babel and
the practising preliminary to the overture issues in long pious groans
from ADAM PATCH'S organ_.)
There were five hundred eyes boring through the back of his cutaway and
the sun glinting on the clergyman's inappropriately bourgeois teeth.
With difficulty he restrained a laugh. Gloria was saying something in a
clear proud voice and he tried to think that the affair was irrevocable,
that every second was significant, that his life was being slashed into
two periods and that the face of the world was changing before him. He
tried to recapture that ecstatic sensation of ten weeks before. All
these emotions eluded him, he did not even feel the physical nervousness
of that very morning--it was all one gigantic aftermath. And those gold
teeth! He wondered if the clergyman were married; he wondered perversely
if a clergyman could perform his own marriage service....
But as he took Gloria into his arms he was conscious of a strong
reaction. The blood was moving in his veins now. A languorous and
pleasant content settled like a weight upon him, bringing responsibility
and possession. He was married.
So many, such mingled emotions, that no one of them was separable from
the others! She could have wept for her mother, who was crying quietly
back there ten feet and for the loveliness of the June sunlight flooding
in at the windows. She was beyond all conscious perceptions. Only a
sense, colored with delirious wild excitement, that the ultimately
important was happening--and a trust, fierce and passionate, burning in
her like a prayer, that in a moment she would be forever and
Late one night they arrived in Santa Barbara, where the night clerk at
the Hotel Lafcadio refused to admit them, on the grounds that they were
The clerk thought that Gloria was beautiful. He did not think that
anything so beautiful as Gloria could be moral.
That first half-year--the trip West, the long months' loiter along the
California coast, and the gray house near Greenwich where they lived
until late autumn made the country dreary--those days, those places, saw
the enraptured hours. The breathless idyl of their engagement gave way,
first, to the intense romance of the more passionate relationship. The
breathless idyl left them, fled on to other lovers; they looked around
one day and it was gone, how they scarcely knew. Had either of them lost
the other in the days of the idyl, the love lost would have been ever to
the loser that dim desire without fulfilment which stands back of all
life. But magic must hurry on, and the lovers remain....
The idyl passed, bearing with it its extortion of youth. Came a day when
Gloria found that other men no longer bored her; came a day when Anthony
discovered that he could sit again late into the evening, talking with
Dick of those tremendous abstractions that had once occupied his world.
But, knowing they had had the best of love, they clung to what remained.
Love lingered--by way of long conversations at night into those stark
hours when the mind thins and sharpens and the borrowings from dreams
become the stuff of all life, by way of deep and intimate kindnesses
they developed toward each other, by way of their laughing at the same
absurdities and thinking the same things noble and the same things sad.
It was, first of all, a time of discovery. The things they found in each
other were so diverse, so intermixed and, moreover, so sugared with love
as to seem at the time not so much discoveries as isolated phenomena--to
be allowed for, and to be forgotten. Anthony found that he was living
with a girl of tremendous nervous tension and of the most high-handed
selfishness. Gloria knew within a month that her husband was an utter
coward toward any one of a million phantasms created by his imagination.
Her perception was intermittent, for this cowardice sprang out, became
almost obscenely evident, then faded and vanished as though it had been
only a creation of her own mind. Her reactions to it were not those
attributed to her sex--it roused her neither to disgust nor to a
premature feeling of motherhood. Herself almost completely without
physical fear, she was unable to understand, and so she made the most of
what she felt to be his fear's redeeming feature, which was that though
he was a coward under a shock and a coward under a strain--when his
imagination was given play--he had yet a sort of dashing recklessness
that moved her on its brief occasions almost to admiration, and a pride
that usually steadied him when he thought he was observed.
The trait first showed itself in a dozen incidents of little more than
nervousness--his warning to a taxi-driver against fast driving, in
Chicago; his refusal to take her to a certain tough café she had always
wished to visit; these of course admitted the conventional
interpretation--that it was of her he had been thinking; nevertheless,
their culminative weight disturbed her. But something that occurred in a
San Francisco hotel, when they had been married a week, gave the matter
It was after midnight and pitch dark in their room. Gloria was dozing
off and Anthony's even breathing beside her made her suppose that he was
asleep, when suddenly she saw him raise himself on his elbow and stare
at the window.
"What is it, dearest?" she murmured.
"Nothing"--he had relaxed to his pillow and turned toward her--"nothing,
my darling wife."
"Don't say 'wife.' I'm your mistress. Wife's such an ugly word. Your
'permanent mistress' is so much more tangible and desirable.... Come
into my arms," she added in a rush of tenderness; "I can sleep so well,
so well with you in my arms."
Coming into Gloria's arms had a quite definite meaning. It required that
he should slide one arm under her shoulder, lock both arms about her,
and arrange himself as nearly as possible as a sort of three-sided crib
for her luxurious ease. Anthony, who tossed, whose arms went tinglingly
to sleep after half an hour of that position, would wait until she was
asleep and roll her gently over to her side of the bed--then, left to
his own devices, he would curl himself into his usual knots.
Gloria, having attained sentimental comfort, retired into her doze. Five
minutes ticked away on Bloeckman's travelling clock; silence lay all
about the room, over the unfamiliar, impersonal furniture and the
half-oppressive ceiling that melted imperceptibly into invisible walls
on both sides. Then there was suddenly a rattling flutter at the window,
staccato and loud upon the hushed, pent air.
With a leap Anthony was out of the bed and standing tense beside it.
"Who's there?" he cried in an awful voice.
Gloria lay very still, wide awake now and engrossed not so much in the
rattling as in the rigid breathless figure whose voice had reached from
the bedside into that ominous dark.
The sound stopped; the room was quiet as before--then Anthony pouring
words in at the telephone.
"Some one just tried to get into the room! ...
"There's some one at the window!" His voice was emphatic now, faintly
"All right! Hurry!" He hung up the receiver; stood motionless.
... There was a rush and commotion at the door, a knocking--Anthony went
to open it upon an excited night clerk with three bell-boys grouped
staring behind him. Between thumb and finger the night clerk held a wet
pen with the threat of a weapon; one of the bell-boys had seized a
telephone directory and was looking at it sheepishly. Simultaneously the
group was joined by the hastily summoned house-detective, and as one man
they surged into the room.
Lights sprang on with a click. Gathering a piece of sheet about her
Gloria dove away from sight, shutting her eyes to keep out the horror of
this unpremeditated visitation. There was no vestige of an idea in her
stricken sensibilities save that her Anthony was at grievous fault.
... The night clerk was speaking from the window, his tone half of the
servant, half of the teacher reproving a schoolboy.
"Nobody out there," he declared conclusively; "my golly, nobody _could_
be out there. This here's a sheer fall to the street of fifty feet. It
was the wind you heard, tugging at the blind."
Then she was sorry for him. She wanted only to comfort him and draw him
back tenderly into her arms, to tell them to go away because the thing
their presence connotated was odious. Yet she could not raise her head
for shame. She heard a broken sentence, apologies, conventions of the
employee and one unrestrained snicker from a bell-boy.
"I've been nervous as the devil all evening," Anthony was saying;
"somehow that noise just shook me--I was only about half awake."
"Sure, I understand," said the night clerk with comfortable tact; "been
that way myself."
The door closed; the lights snapped out; Anthony crossed the floor
quietly and crept into bed. Gloria, feigning to be heavy with sleep,
gave a quiet little sigh and slipped into his arms.
"What was it, dear?"
"Nothing," he answered, his voice still shaken; "I thought there was
somebody at the window, so I looked out, but I couldn't see any one and
the noise kept up, so I phoned down-stairs. Sorry if I disturbed you,
but I'm awfully darn nervous to-night."
Catching the lie, she gave an interior start--he had not gone to the
window, nor near the window. He had stood by the bed and then sent in
his call of fear.
"Oh," she said--and then: "I'm so sleepy."
For an hour they lay awake side by side, Gloria with her eyes shut so
tight that blue moons formed and revolved against backgrounds of deepest
mauve, Anthony staring blindly into the darkness overhead.
After many weeks it came gradually out into the light, to be laughed and
joked at. They made a tradition to fit over it--whenever that
overpowering terror of the night attacked Anthony, she would put her
arms about him and croon, soft as a song:
"I'll protect my Anthony. Oh, nobody's ever going to harm my Anthony!"
He would laugh as though it were a jest they played for their mutual
amusement, but to Gloria it was never quite a jest. It was, at first, a
keen disappointment; later, it was one of the times when she controlled
The management of Gloria's temper, whether it was aroused by a lack of
hot water for her bath or by a skirmish with her husband, became almost
the primary duty of Anthony's day. It must be done just so--by this much
silence, by that much pressure, by this much yielding, by that much
force. It was in her angers with their attendant cruelties that her
inordinate egotism chiefly displayed itself. Because she was brave,
because she was "spoiled," because of her outrageous and commendable
independence of judgment, and finally because of her arrogant
consciousness that she had never seen a girl as beautiful as herself,
Gloria had developed into a consistent, practising Nietzschean. This, of
course, with overtones of profound sentiment.
There was, for example, her stomach. She was used to certain dishes, and
she had a strong conviction that she could not possibly eat anything
else. There must be a lemonade and a tomato sandwich late in the
morning, then a light lunch with a stuffed tomato. Not only did she
require food from a selection of a dozen dishes, but in addition this
food must be prepared in just a certain way. One of the most annoying
half hours of the first fortnight occurred in Los Angeles, when an
unhappy waiter brought her a tomato stuffed with chicken salad instead
"We always serve it that way, madame," he quavered to the gray eyes that
regarded him wrathfully.
Gloria made no answer, but when the waiter had turned discreetly away
she banged both fists upon the table until the china and silver rattled.
"Poor Gloria!" laughed Anthony unwittingly, "you can't get what you want
ever, can you?"
"I can't eat _stuff_!" she flared up.
"I'll call back the waiter."
"I don't want you to! He doesn't know anything, the darn _fool_!"
"Well, it isn't the hotel's fault. Either send it back, forget it, or be
a sport and eat it."
"Shut up!" she said succinctly.
"Why take it out on me?"
"Oh, I'm _not_," she wailed, "but I simply _can't_ eat it."
Anthony subsided helplessly.
"We'll go somewhere else," he suggested.
"I don't _want_ to go anywhere else. I'm tired of being trotted around
to a dozen cafés and not getting _one thing_ fit to eat."
"When did we go around to a dozen cafés?"
"You'd _have_ to in _this_ town," insisted Gloria with ready sophistry.
Anthony, bewildered, tried another tack.
"Why don't you try to eat it? It can't be as bad as you think."
She picked up her fork and began poking contemptuously at the tomato,
and Anthony expected her to begin flinging the stuffings in all
directions. He was sure that she was approximately as angry as she had
ever been--for an instant he had detected a spark of hate directed as
much toward him as toward any one else--and Gloria angry was, for the
Then, surprisingly, he saw that she had tentatively raised the fork to
her lips and tasted the chicken salad. Her frown had not abated and he
stared at her anxiously, making no comment and daring scarcely to
breathe. She tasted another forkful--in another moment she was eating.
With difficulty Anthony restrained a chuckle; when at length he spoke
his words had no possible connection with chicken salad.
This incident, with variations, ran like a lugubrious fugue through the
first year of marriage; always it left Anthony baffled, irritated, and
depressed. But another rough brushing of temperaments, a question of
laundry-bags, he found even more annoying as it ended inevitably in a
decisive defeat for him.
One afternoon in Coronado, where they made the longest stay of their
trip, more than three weeks, Gloria was arraying herself brilliantly for
tea. Anthony, who had been down-stairs listening to the latest rumor
bulletins of war in Europe, entered the room, kissed the back of her
powdered neck, and went to his dresser. After a great pulling out and
pushing in of drawers, evidently unsatisfactory, he turned around to the
"Got any handkerchiefs, Gloria?" he asked. Gloria shook her golden head.
"Not a one. I'm using one of yours."
"The last one, I deduce." He laughed dryly.
"Is it?" She applied an emphatic though very delicate contour to her
"Isn't the laundry back?"
"I don't know."
Anthony hesitated--then, with sudden discernment, opened the closet
door. His suspicions were verified. On the hook provided hung the blue
bag furnished by the hotel. This was full of his clothes--he had put
them there himself. The floor beneath it was littered with an
astonishing mass of finery--lingerie, stockings, dresses, nightgowns,
and pajamas--most of it scarcely worn but all of it coming indubitably
under the general heading of Gloria's laundry.
He stood holding the closet door open.
The lip line was being erased and corrected according to some mysterious
perspective; not a finger trembled as she manipulated the lip-stick, not
a glance wavered in his direction. It was a triumph of concentration.
"Haven't you ever sent out the laundry?"
"Is it there?"
"It most certainly is."
"Well, I guess I haven't, then."
"Gloria," began Anthony, sitting down on the bed and trying to catch her
mirrored eyes, "you're a nice fellow, you are! I've sent it out every
time it's been sent since we left New York, and over a week ago you
promised you'd do it for a change. All you'd have to do would be to cram
your own junk into that bag and ring for the chambermaid."
"Oh, why fuss about the laundry?" exclaimed Gloria petulantly, "I'll
take care of it."
"I haven't fussed about it. I'd just as soon divide the bother with you,
but when we run out of handkerchiefs it's darn near time
Anthony considered that he was being extraordinarily logical. But
Gloria, unimpressed, put away her cosmetics and casually offered him
"Hook me up," she suggested; "Anthony, dearest, I forgot all about it. I
meant to, honestly, and I will to-day. Don't be cross with your
What could Anthony do then but draw her down upon his knee and kiss a
shade of color from her lips.
"But I don't mind," she murmured with a smile, radiant and magnanimous.
"You can kiss all the paint off my lips any time you want."
They went down to tea. They bought some handkerchiefs in a notion store
near by. All was forgotten.
But two days later Anthony looked in the closet and saw the bag still
hung limp upon its hook and that the gay and vivid pile on the floor had
increased surprisingly in height.
"Gloria!" he cried.
"Oh--" Her voice was full of real distress. Despairingly Anthony went to
the phone and called the chambermaid.
"It seems to me," he said impatiently, "that you expect me to be some
sort of French valet to you."
Gloria laughed, so infectiously that Anthony was unwise enough to smile.
Unfortunate man! In some intangible manner his smile made her mistress
of the situation--with an air of injured righteousness she went
emphatically to the closet and began pushing her laundry violently into
the bag. Anthony watched her--ashamed of himself.
"There!" she said, implying that her fingers had been worked to the bone
by a brutal taskmaster.
He considered, nevertheless, that he had given her an object-lesson and
that the matter was closed, but on the contrary it was merely beginning.
Laundry pile followed laundry pile--at long intervals; dearth of
handkerchief followed dearth of handkerchief--at short ones; not to
mention dearth of sock, of shirt, of everything. And Anthony found at
length that either he must send it out himself or go through the
increasingly unpleasant ordeal of a verbal battle with Gloria.
GLORIA AND GENERAL LEE
On their way East they stopped two days in Washington, strolling about
with some hostility in its atmosphere of harsh repellent light, of
distance without freedom, of pomp without splendor--it seemed a
pasty-pale and self-conscious city. The second day they made an
ill-advised trip to General Lee's old home at Arlington.
The bus which bore them was crowded with hot, unprosperous people, and
Anthony, intimate to Gloria, felt a storm brewing. It broke at the Zoo,
where the party stopped for ten minutes. The Zoo, it seemed, smelt of
monkeys. Anthony laughed; Gloria called down the curse of Heaven upon
monkeys, including in her malevolence all the passengers of the bus and
their perspiring offspring who had hied themselves monkey-ward.
Eventually the bus moved on to Arlington. There it met other busses and
immediately a swarm of women and children were leaving a trail of
peanut-shells through the halls of General Lee and crowding at length
into the room where he was married. On the wall of this room a pleasing
sign announced in large red letters "Ladies' Toilet." At this final blow
Gloria broke down.
"I think it's perfectly terrible!" she said furiously, "the idea of
letting these people come here! And of encouraging them by making these
"Well," objected Anthony, "if they weren't kept up they'd go to pieces."
"What if they did!" she exclaimed as they sought the wide pillared
porch. "Do you think they've left a breath of 1860 here? This has become
a thing of 1914."
"Don't you want to preserve old things?"
"But you _can't_, Anthony. Beautiful things grow to a certain height and
then they fail and fade off, breathing out memories as they decay. And
just as any period decays in our minds, the things of that period should
decay too, and in that way they're preserved for a while in the few
hearts like mine that react to them. That graveyard at Tarrytown, for
instance. The asses who give money to preserve things have spoiled that
too. Sleepy Hollow's gone; Washington Irving's dead and his books are
rotting in our estimation year by year--then let the graveyard rot too,
as it should, as all things should. Trying to preserve a century by
keeping its relics up to date is like keeping a dying man alive by
"So you think that just as a time goes to pieces its houses ought to go
"Of course! Would you value your Keats letter if the signature was
traced over to make it last longer? It's just because I love the past
that I want this house to look back on its glamourous moment of youth
and beauty, and I want its stairs to creak as if to the footsteps of
women with hoop skirts and men in boots and spurs. But they've made it
into a blondined, rouged-up old woman of sixty. It hasn't any right to
look so prosperous. It might care enough for Lee to drop a brick now and
then. How many of these--these _animals_"--she waved her hand
around--"get anything from this, for all the histories and guide-books
and restorations in existence? How many of them who think that, at best,
appreciation is talking in undertones and walking on tiptoes would even
come here if it was any trouble? I want it to smell of magnolias instead
of peanuts and I want my shoes to crunch on the same gravel that Lee's
boots crunched on. There's no beauty without poignancy and there's no
poignancy without the feeling that it's going, men, names, books,
houses--bound for dust--mortal--"
A small boy appeared beside them and, swinging a handful of
banana-peels, flung them valiantly in the direction of the Potomac.
Simultaneously with the fall of Liège, Anthony and Gloria arrived in New
York. In retrospect the six weeks seemed miraculously happy. They had
found to a great extent, as most young couples find in some measure,
that they possessed in common many fixed ideas and curiosities and odd
quirks of mind; they were essentially companionable.
But it had been a struggle to keep many of their conversations on the
level of discussions. Arguments were fatal to Gloria's disposition. She
had all her life been associated either with her mental inferiors or
with men who, under the almost hostile intimidation of her beauty, had
not dared to contradict her; naturally, then, it irritated her when
Anthony emerged from the state in which her pronouncements were an
infallible and ultimate decision.
He failed to realize, at first, that this was the result partly of her
"female" education and partly of her beauty, and he was inclined to
include her with her entire sex as curiously and definitely limited. It
maddened him to find she had no sense of justice. But he discovered
that, when a subject did interest her, her brain tired less quickly than
his. What he chiefly missed in her mind was the pedantic teleology--the
sense of order and accuracy, the sense of life as a mysteriously
correlated piece of patchwork, but he understood after a while that such
a quality in her would have been incongruous.
Of the things they possessed in common, greatest of all was their almost
uncanny pull at each other's hearts. The day they left the hotel in
Coronado she sat down on one of the beds while they were packing, and
began to weep bitterly.
"Dearest--" His arms were around her; he pulled her head down upon his
shoulder. "What is it, my own Gloria? Tell me."
"We're going away," she sobbed. "Oh, Anthony, it's sort of the first
place we've lived together. Our two little beds here--side by
side--they'll be always waiting for us, and we're never coming back to
'em any more."
She was tearing at his heart as she always could. Sentiment came over
him, rushed into his eyes.
"Gloria, why, we're going on to another room. And two other little beds.
We're going to be together all our lives."
Words flooded from her in a low husky voice.
"But it won't be--like our two beds--ever again. Everywhere we go and
move on and change, something's lost--something's left behind. You can't
ever quite repeat anything, and I've been so yours, here--"
He held her passionately near, discerning far beyond any criticism of
her sentiment, a wise grasping of the minute, if only an indulgence of
her desire to cry--Gloria the idler, caresser of her own dreams,
extracting poignancy from the memorable things of life and youth.
Later in the afternoon when he returned from the station with the
tickets he found her asleep on one of the beds, her arm curled about a
black object which he could not at first identify. Coming closer he
found it was one of his shoes, not a particularly new one, nor clean
one, but her face, tear-stained, was pressed against it, and he
understood her ancient and most honorable message. There was almost
ecstasy in waking her and seeing her smile at him, shy but well aware of
her own nicety of imagination.
With no appraisal of the worth or dross of these two things, it seemed
to Anthony that they lay somewhere near the heart of love.
THE GRAY HOUSE
It is in the twenties that the actual momentum of life begins to
slacken, and it is a simple soul indeed to whom as many things are
significant and meaningful at thirty as at ten years before. At thirty
an organ-grinder is a more or less moth-eaten man who grinds an
organ--and once he was an organ-grinder! The unmistakable stigma of
humanity touches all those impersonal and beautiful things that only
youth ever grasps in their impersonal glory. A brilliant ball, gay with
light romantic laughter, wears through its own silks and satins to show
the bare framework of a man-made thing--oh, that eternal hand!--a play,
most tragic and most divine, becomes merely a succession of speeches,
sweated over by the eternal plagiarist in the clammy hours and acted by
men subject to cramps, cowardice, and manly sentiment.
And this time with Gloria and Anthony, this first year of marriage, and
the gray house caught them in that stage when the organ-grinder was
slowly undergoing his inevitable metamorphosis. She was twenty-three; he
The gray house was, at first, of sheerly pastoral intent. They lived
impatiently in Anthony's apartment for the first fortnight after the
return from California, in a stifled atmosphere of open trunks, too many
callers, and the eternal laundry-bags. They discussed with their friends
the stupendous problem of their future. Dick and Maury would sit with
them agreeing solemnly, almost thoughtfully, as Anthony ran through his
list of what they "ought" to do, and where they "ought" to live.
"I'd like to take Gloria abroad," he complained, "except for this damn
war--and next to that I'd sort of like to have a place in the country,
somewhere near New York, of course, where I could write--or whatever I
decide to do."
"Isn't he cute?" she required of Maury. "'Whatever he decides to do!'
But what am _I_ going to do if he works? Maury, will you take me around
if Anthony works?"
"Anyway, I'm not going to work yet," said Anthony quickly.
It was vaguely understood between them that on some misty day he would
enter a sort of glorified diplomatic service and be envied by princes
and prime ministers for his beautiful wife.
"Well," said Gloria helplessly, "I'm sure I don't know. We talk and talk
and never get anywhere, and we ask all our friends and they just answer
the way we want 'em to. I wish somebody'd take care of us."
"Why don't you go out to--out to Greenwich or something?" suggested
"I'd like that," said Gloria, brightening. "Do you think we could get a
Dick shrugged his shoulders and Maury laughed.
"You two amuse me," he said. "Of all the unpractical people! As soon as
a place is mentioned you expect us to pull great piles of photographs
out of our pockets showing the different styles of architecture
available in bungalows."
"That's just what I don't want," wailed Gloria, "a hot stuffy bungalow,
with a lot of babies next door and their father cutting the grass in his
"For Heaven's sake, Gloria," interrupted Maury, "nobody wants to lock
you up in a bungalow. Who in God's name brought bungalows into the
conversation? But you'll never get a place anywhere unless you go out
and hunt for it."
"Go where? You say 'go out and hunt for it,' but where?"
With dignity Maury waved his hand paw-like about the room.
"Out anywhere. Out in the country. There're lots of places."
"Look here!" Richard Caramel brought his yellow eye rakishly into play.
"The trouble with you two is that you're all disorganized. Do you know
anything about New York State? Shut up, Anthony, I'm talking to Gloria."
"Well," she admitted finally, "I've been to two or three house parties
in Portchester and around in Connecticut--but, of course, that isn't in
New York State, is it? And neither is Morristown," she finished with
There was a shout of laughter.
"Oh, Lord!" cried Dick, "neither is Morristown!' No, and neither is
Santa Barbara, Gloria. Now listen. To begin with, unless you have a
fortune there's no use considering any place like Newport or
Southhampton or Tuxedo. They're out of the question."
They all agreed to this solemnly.
"And personally I hate New Jersey. Then, of course, there's upper New
York, above Tuxedo."
"Too cold," said Gloria briefly. "I was there once in an automobile."
"Well, it seems to me there're a lot of towns like Rye between New York
and Greenwich where you could buy a little gray house of some--"
Gloria leaped at the phrase triumphantly. For the first time since their
return East she knew what she wanted.
"Oh, _yes_!" she cried. "Oh, _yes_! that's it: a little gray house with
sort of white around and a whole lot of swamp maples just as brown and
gold as an October picture in a gallery. Where can we find one?"
"Unfortunately, I've mislaid my list of little gray houses with swamp
maples around them--but I'll try to find it. Meanwhile you take a piece
of paper and write down the names of seven possible towns. And every day
this week you take a trip to one of those towns."
"Oh, gosh!" protested Gloria, collapsing mentally, "why won't you do it
for us? I hate trains."
"Well, hire a car, and--"
"I'm tired of discussing it. Seems to me all we do is talk about where
"My exquisite wife wearies of thought," remarked Anthony ironically.
"She must have a tomato sandwich to stimulate her jaded nerves. Let's go
out to tea."
As the unfortunate upshot of this conversation, they took Dick's advice
literally, and two days later went out to Rye, where they wandered
around with an irritated real estate agent, like bewildered babes in the
wood. They were shown houses at a hundred a month which closely adjoined
other houses at a hundred a month; they were shown isolated houses to
which they invariably took violent dislikes, though they submitted
weakly to the agent's desire that they "look at that stove--some stove!"
and to a great shaking of doorposts and tapping of walls, intended
evidently to show that the house would not immediately collapse, no
matter how convincingly it gave that impression. They gazed through
windows into interiors furnished either "commercially" with slab-like
chairs and unyielding settees, or "home-like" with the melancholy
bric-à-brac of other summers--crossed tennis rackets, fit-form couches,
and depressing Gibson girls. With a feeling of guilt they looked at a
few really nice houses, aloof, dignified, and cool--at three hundred a
month. They went away from Rye thanking the real estate agent very
On the crowded train back to New York the seat behind was occupied by a
super-respirating Latin whose last few meals had obviously been composed
entirely of garlic. They reached the apartment gratefully, almost
hysterically, and Gloria rushed for a hot bath in the reproachless
bathroom. So far as the question of a future abode was concerned both of
them were incapacitated for a week.
The matter eventually worked itself out with unhoped-for romance.
Anthony ran into the living room one afternoon fairly radiating
"I've got it," he was exclaiming as though he had just caught a mouse.
"We'll get a car."
"Gee whiz! Haven't we got troubles enough taking care of ourselves?"
"Give me a second to explain, can't you? just let's leave our stuff with
Dick and just pile a couple of suitcases in our car, the one we're going
to buy--we'll have to have one in the country anyway--and just start out
in the direction of New Haven. You see, as we get out of commuting
distance from New York, the rents'll get cheaper, and as soon as we find
a house we want we'll just settle down."
By his frequent and soothing interpolation of the word "just" he aroused
her lethargic enthusiasm. Strutting violently about the room, he
simulated a dynamic and irresistible efficiency. "We'll buy a car
Life, limping after imagination's ten-league boots, saw them out of town
a week later in a cheap but sparkling new roadster, saw them through the
chaotic unintelligible Bronx, then over a wide murky district which
alternated cheerless blue-green wastes with suburbs of tremendous and
sordid activity. They left New York at eleven and it was well past a hot
and beatific noon when they moved rakishly through Pelham.
"These aren't towns," said Gloria scornfully, "these are just city
blocks plumped down coldly into waste acres. I imagine all the men here
have their mustaches stained from drinking their coffee too quickly in
"And play pinochle on the commuting trains."
"Don't be so literal. How should I know? But it sounds as though they
ought to play it."
"I like it. It sounds as if it were something where you sort of cracked
your knuckles or something.... Let me drive."
Anthony looked at her suspiciously.
"You swear you're a good driver?"
"Since I was fourteen."
He stopped the car cautiously at the side of the road and they changed
seats. Then with a horrible grinding noise the car was put in gear,
Gloria adding an accompaniment of laughter which seemed to Anthony
disquieting and in the worst possible taste.
"Here we go!" she yelled. "Whoo-oop!"
Their heads snapped back like marionettes on a single wire as the car
leaped ahead and curved retchingly about a standing milk-wagon, whose
driver stood up on his seat and bellowed after them. In the immemorial
tradition of the road Anthony retorted with a few brief epigrams as to
the grossness of the milk-delivering profession. He cut his remarks
short, however, and turned to Gloria with the growing conviction that he
had made a grave mistake in relinquishing control and that Gloria was a
driver of many eccentricities and of infinite carelessness.
"Remember now!" he warned her nervously, "the man said we oughtn't to go
over twenty miles an hour for the first five thousand miles."
She nodded briefly, but evidently intending to accomplish the
prohibitive distance as quickly as possible, slightly increased her
speed. A moment later he made another attempt.
"See that sign? Do you want to get us pinched?"
"Oh, for Heaven's sake," cried Gloria in exasperation, "you _always_
exaggerate things so!"
"Well, I don't want to get arrested."
"Who's arresting you? You're so persistent--just like you were about my
cough medicine last night."
"It was for your own good."
"Ha! I might as well be living with mama."
"What a thing to say to me!"
A standing policeman swerved into view, was hastily passed.
"See him?" demanded Anthony.
"Oh, you drive me crazy! He didn't arrest us, did he?"
"When he does it'll be too late," countered Anthony brilliantly.
Her reply was scornful, almost injured.
"Why, this old thing won't _go_ over thirty-five."
"It isn't old."
"It is in spirit."
That afternoon the car joined the laundry-bags and Gloria's appetite as
one of the trinity of contention. He warned her of railroad tracks; he
pointed out approaching automobiles; finally he insisted on taking the
wheel and a furious, insulted Gloria sat silently beside him between the
towns of Larchmont and Rye.
But it was due to this furious silence of hers that the gray house
materialized from its abstraction, for just beyond Rye he surrendered
gloomily to it and re-relinquished the wheel. Mutely he beseeched her
and Gloria, instantly cheered, vowed to be more careful. But because a
discourteous street-car persisted callously in remaining upon its track
Gloria ducked down a side-street--and thereafter that afternoon was
never able to find her way back to the Post Road. The street they
finally mistook for it lost its Post-Road aspect when it had gone five
miles from Cos Cob. Its macadam became gravel, then dirt--moreover, it
narrowed and developed a border of maple trees, through which filtered
the weltering sun, making its endless experiments with shadow designs
upon the long grass.
"We're lost now," complained Anthony.
"Read that sign!"
"Marietta--Five Miles. What's Marietta?"
"Never heard of it, but let's go on. We can't turn here and there's
probably a detour back to the Post Road."
The way became scarred with deepening ruts and insidious shoulders of
stone. Three farmhouses faced them momentarily, slid by. A town sprang
up in a cluster of dull roofs around a white tall steeple.
Then Gloria, hesitating between two approaches, and making her choice
too late, drove over a fire-hydrant and ripped the transmission
violently from the car.
It was dark when the real-estate agent of Marietta showed them the gray
house. They came upon it just west of the village, where it rested
against a sky that was a warm blue cloak buttoned with tiny stars. The
gray house had been there when women who kept cats were probably
witches, when Paul Revere made false teeth in Boston preparatory to
arousing the great commercial people, when our ancestors were gloriously
deserting Washington in droves. Since those days the house had been
bolstered up in a feeble corner, considerably repartitioned and newly
plastered inside, amplified by a kitchen and added to by a
side-porch--but, save for where some jovial oaf had roofed the new
kitchen with red tin, Colonial it defiantly remained.
"How did you happen to come to Marietta?" demanded the real-estate agent
in a tone that was first cousin to suspicion. He was showing them
through four spacious and airy bedrooms.
"We broke down," explained Gloria. "I drove over a fire-hydrant and we
had ourselves towed to the garage and then we saw your sign."
The man nodded, unable to follow such a sally of spontaneity. There was
something subtly immoral in doing anything without several months'
They signed a lease that night and, in the agent's car, returned
jubilantly to the somnolent and dilapidated Marietta Inn, which was too
broken for even the chance immoralities and consequent gaieties of a
country road-house. Half the night they lay awake planning the things
they were to do there. Anthony was going to work at an astounding pace
on his history and thus ingratiate himself with his cynical
grandfather.... When the car was repaired they would explore the country
and join the nearest "really nice" club, where Gloria would play golf
"or something" while Anthony wrote. This, of course, was Anthony's
idea--Gloria was sure she wanted but to read and dream and be fed tomato
sandwiches and lemonades by some angelic servant still in a shadowy
hinterland. Between paragraphs Anthony would come and kiss her as she
lay indolently in the hammock.... The hammock! a host of new dreams in
tune to its imagined rhythm, while the wind stirred it and waves of sun
undulated over the shadows of blown wheat, or the dusty road freckled
and darkened with quiet summer rain....
And guests--here they had a long argument, both of them trying to be
extraordinarily mature and far-sighted. Anthony claimed that they would
need people at least every other week-end "as a sort of change." This
provoked an involved and extremely sentimental conversation as to
whether Anthony did not consider Gloria change enough. Though he assured
her that he did, she insisted upon doubting him.... Eventually the
conversation assumed its eternal monotone: "What then? Oh, what'll we
"Well, we'll have a dog," suggested Anthony.
"I don't want one. I want a kitty." She went thoroughly and with great
enthusiasm into the history, habits, and tastes of a cat she had once
possessed. Anthony considered that it must have been a horrible
character with neither personal magnetism nor a loyal heart.
Later they slept, to wake an hour before dawn with the gray house
dancing in phantom glory before their dazzled eyes.
THE SOUL OF GLORIA
For that autumn the gray house welcomed them with a rush of sentiment
that falsified its cynical old age. True, there were the laundry-bags,
there was Gloria's appetite, there was Anthony's tendency to brood and
his imaginative "nervousness," but there were intervals also of an
unhoped-for serenity. Close together on the porch they would wait for
the moon to stream across the silver acres of farmland, jump a thick
wood and tumble waves of radiance at their feet. In such a moonlight
Gloria's face was of a pervading, reminiscent white, and with a modicum
of effort they would slip off the blinders of custom and each would find
in the other almost the quintessential romance of the vanished June.
One night while her head lay upon his heart and their cigarettes glowed
in swerving buttons of light through the dome of darkness over the bed,
she spoke for the first time and fragmentarily of the men who had hung
for brief moments on her beauty.
"Do you ever think of them?" he asked her.
"Only occasionally--when something happens that recalls a particular
"What do you remember--their kisses?"
"All sorts of things.... Men are different with women."
"Different in what way?"
"Oh, entirely--and quite inexpressibly. Men who had the most firmly
rooted reputation for being this way or that would sometimes be
surprisingly inconsistent with me. Brutal men were tender, negligible
men were astonishingly loyal and lovable, and, often, honorable men took
attitudes that were anything but honorable."
"Well, there was a boy named Percy Wolcott from Cornell who was quite a
hero in college, a great athlete, and saved a lot of people from a fire
or something like that. But I soon found he was stupid in a rather
"It seems he had some naïve conception of a woman 'fit to be his wife,'
a particular conception that I used to run into a lot and that always
drove me wild. He demanded a girl who'd never been kissed and who liked
to sew and sit home and pay tribute to his self-esteem. And I'll bet a
hat if he's gotten an idiot to sit and be stupid with him he's tearing
out on the side with some much speedier lady."
"I'd be sorry for his wife."
"I wouldn't. Think what an ass she'd be not to realize it before she
married him. He's the sort whose idea of honoring and respecting a woman
would be never to give her any excitement. With the best intentions, he
was deep in the dark ages."
"What was his attitude toward you?"
"I'm coming to that. As I told you--or did I tell you?--he was mighty
good-looking: big brown honest eyes and one of those smiles that
guarantee the heart behind it is twenty-karat gold. Being young and
credulous, I thought he had some discretion, so I kissed him fervently
one night when we were riding around after a dance at the Homestead at
Hot Springs. It had been a wonderful week, I remember--with the most
luscious trees spread like green lather, sort of, all over the valley
and a mist rising out of them on October mornings like bonfires lit to
turn them brown--"
"How about your friend with the ideals?" interrupted Anthony.
"It seems that when he kissed me he began to think that perhaps he could
get away with a little more, that I needn't be 'respected' like this
Beatrice Fairfax glad-girl of his imagination."
"What'd he do?"
"Not much. I pushed him off a sixteen-foot embankment before he was well
"Hurt him?" inquired Anthony with a laugh.
"Broke his arm and sprained his ankle. He told the story all over Hot
Springs, and when his arm healed a man named Barley who liked me fought
him and broke it over again. Oh, it was all an awful mess. He threatened
to sue Barley, and Barley--he was from Georgia--was seen buying a gun in
town. But before that mama had dragged me North again, much against my
will, so I never did find out all that happened--though I saw Barley
once in the Vanderbilt lobby."
Anthony laughed long and loud.
"What a career! I suppose I ought to be furious because you've kissed so
many men. I'm not, though."
At this she sat up in bed.
"It's funny, but I'm so sure that those kisses left no mark on me--no
taint of promiscuity, I mean--even though a man once told me in all
seriousness that he hated to think I'd been a public drinking glass."
"He had his nerve."
"I just laughed and told him to think of me rather as a loving-cup that
goes from hand to hand but should be valued none the less."
"Somehow it doesn't bother me--on the other hand it would, of course, if
you'd done any more than kiss them. But I believe _you're_ absolutely
incapable of jealousy except as hurt vanity. Why don't you care what
I've done? Wouldn't you prefer it if I'd been absolutely innocent?"
"It's all in the impression it might have made on you. _My_ kisses were
because the man was good-looking, or because there was a slick moon, or
even because I've felt vaguely sentimental and a little stirred. But
that's all--it's had utterly no effect on me. But you'd remember and let
memories haunt you and worry you."
"Haven't you ever kissed any one like you've kissed me?"
"No," she answered simply. "As I've told you, men have tried--oh, lots
of things. Any pretty girl has that experience.... You see," she
resumed, "it doesn't matter to me how many women you've stayed with in
the past, so long as it was merely a physical satisfaction, but I don't
believe I could endure the idea of your ever having lived with another
woman for a protracted period or even having wanted to marry some
possible girl. It's different somehow. There'd be all the little
intimacies remembered--and they'd dull that freshness that after all is
the most precious part of love."
Rapturously he pulled her down beside him on the pillow.
"Oh, my darling," he whispered, "as if I remembered anything but your
Then Gloria, in a very mild voice:
"Anthony, did I hear anybody say they were thirsty?"
Anthony laughed abruptly and with a sheepish and amused grin got out of
"With just a _little_ piece of ice in the water," she added. "Do you
suppose I could have that?"
Gloria used the adjective "little" whenever she asked a favor--it made
the favor sound less arduous. But Anthony laughed again--whether she
wanted a cake of ice or a marble of it, he must go down-stairs to the
kitchen.... Her voice followed him through the hall: "And just a
_little_ cracker with just a _little_ marmalade on it...."
"Oh, gosh!" sighed Anthony in rapturous slang, "she's wonderful, that
girl! She _has_ it!"
"When we have a baby," she began one day--this, it had already been
decided, was to be after three years--"I want it to look like you."
"Except its legs," he insinuated slyly.
"Oh, yes, except his legs. He's got to have my legs. But the rest of him
can be you."
"Well, perhaps my nose. But certainly your eyes--and my mouth, and I
guess my shape of the face. I wonder; I think he'd be sort of cute if he
had my hair."
"My dear Gloria, you've appropriated the whole baby."
"Well, I didn't mean to," she apologized cheerfully.
"Let him have my neck at least," he urged, regarding himself gravely in
the glass. "You've often said you liked my neck because the Adam's apple
doesn't show, and, besides, your neck's too short."
"Why, it is _not_!" she cried indignantly, turning to the mirror, "it's
just right. I don't believe I've ever seen a better neck."
"It's too short," he repeated teasingly.
"Short?" Her tone expressed exasperated wonder.
"Short? You're crazy!" She elongated and contracted it to convince
herself of its reptilian sinuousness. "Do you call _that_ a short neck?"
"One of the shortest I've ever seen."
For the first time in weeks tears started from Gloria's eyes and the
look she gave him had a quality of real pain.
"My Lord, Gloria!" He approached her in bewilderment and took her elbows
in his hands. "Don't cry, _please_! Didn't you know I was only kidding?
Gloria, look at me! Why, dearest, you've got the longest neck I've ever
Her tears dissolved in a twisted smile.
"Well--you shouldn't have said that, then. Let's talk about the b-baby."
Anthony paced the floor and spoke as though rehearsing for a debate.
"To put it briefly, there are two babies we could have, two distinct and
logical babies, utterly differentiated. There's the baby that's the
combination of the best of both of us. Your body, my eyes, my mind, your
intelligence--and then there is the baby which is our worst--my body,
your disposition, and my irresolution."
"I like that second baby," she said.
"What I'd really like," continued Anthony, "would be to have two sets of
triplets one year apart and then experiment with the six boys--"
"Poor me," she interjected.
"--I'd educate them each in a different country and by a different
system and when they were twenty-three I'd call them together and see
what they were like."
"Let's have 'em all with my neck," suggested Gloria.
THE END OF A CHAPTER
The car was at length repaired and with a deliberate vengeance took up
where it left off the business of causing infinite dissension. Who
should drive? How fast should Gloria go? These two questions and the
eternal recriminations involved ran through the days. They motored to
the Post-Road towns, Rye, Portchester, and Greenwich, and called on a
dozen friends, mostly Gloria's, who all seemed to be in different stages
of having babies and in this respect as well as in others bored her to a
point of nervous distraction. For an hour after each visit she would
bite her fingers furiously and be inclined to take out her rancor
"I loathe women," she cried in a mild temper. "What on earth can you say
to them--except talk 'lady-lady'? I've enthused over a dozen babies that
I've wanted only to choke. And every one of those girls is either
incipiently jealous and suspicious of her husband if he's charming or
beginning to be bored with him if he isn't."
"Don't you ever intend to see any women?"
"I don't know. They never seem clean to me--never--never. Except just a
few. Constance Shaw--you know, the Mrs. Merriam who came over to see us
last Tuesday--is almost the only one. She's so tall and fresh-looking
"I don't like them so tall."
Though they went to several dinner dances at various country clubs, they
decided that the autumn was too nearly over for them to "go out" on any
scale, even had they been so inclined. He hated golf; Gloria liked it
only mildly, and though she enjoyed a violent rush that some
undergraduates gave her one night and was glad that Anthony should be
proud of her beauty, she also perceived that their hostess for the
evening, a Mrs. Granby, was somewhat disquieted by the fact that
Anthony's classmate, Alec Granby, joined with enthusiasm in the rush.
The Granbys never phoned again, and though Gloria laughed, it piqued her
not a little.
"You see," she explained to Anthony, "if I wasn't married it wouldn't
worry her--but she's been to the movies in her day and she thinks I may
be a vampire. But the point is that placating such people requires an
effort that I'm simply unwilling to make.... And those cute little
freshmen making eyes at me and paying me idiotic compliments! I've grown
Marietta itself offered little social life. Half a dozen farm-estates
formed a hectagon around it, but these belonged to ancient men who
displayed themselves only as inert, gray-thatched lumps in the back of
limousines on their way to the station, whither they were sometimes
accompanied by equally ancient and doubly massive wives. The townspeople
were a particularly uninteresting type--unmarried females were
predominant for the most part--with school-festival horizons and souls
bleak as the forbidding white architecture of the three churches. The
only native with whom they came into close contact was the broad-hipped,
broad-shouldered Swedish girl who came every day to do their work. She
was silent and efficient, and Gloria, after finding her weeping
violently into her bowed arms upon the kitchen table, developed an
uncanny fear of her and stopped complaining about the food. Because of
her untold and esoteric grief the girl stayed on.
Gloria's penchant for premonitions and her bursts of vague
supernaturalism were a surprise to Anthony. Either some complex,
properly and scientifically inhibited in the early years with her
Bilphistic mother, or some inherited hypersensitiveness, made her
susceptible to any suggestion of the psychic, and, far from gullible
about the motives of people, she was inclined to credit any
extraordinary happening attributed to the whimsical perambulations of
the buried. The desperate squeakings about the old house on windy nights
that to Anthony were burglars with revolvers ready in hand represented
to Gloria the auras, evil and restive, of dead generations, expiating
the inexpiable upon the ancient and romantic hearth. One night, because
of two swift bangs down-stairs, which Anthony fearfully but unavailingly
investigated, they lay awake nearly until dawn asking each other
examination-paper questions about the history of the world.
In October Muriel came out for a two weeks' visit. Gloria had
called her on long-distance, and Miss Kane ended the conversation
characteristically by saying "All-ll-ll righty. I'll be there with
bells!" She arrived with a dozen popular songs under her arm.
"You ought to have a phonograph out here in the country," she said,
"just a little Vic--they don't cost much. Then whenever you're lonesome
you can have Caruso or Al Jolson right at your door."
She worried Anthony to distraction by telling him that "he was the first
clever man she had ever known and she got so tired of shallow people."
He wondered that people fell in love with such women. Yet he supposed
that under a certain impassioned glance even she might take on a
softness and promise.
But Gloria, violently showing off her love for Anthony, was diverted
into a state of purring content.
Finally Richard Caramel arrived for a garrulous and to Gloria painfully
literary week-end, during which he discussed himself with Anthony long
after she lay in childlike sleep up-stairs.
"It's been mighty funny, this success and all," said Dick. "Just before
the novel appeared I'd been trying, without success, to sell some short
stories. Then, after my book came out, I polished up three and had them
accepted by one of the magazines that had rejected them before. I've
done a lot of them since; publishers don't pay me for my book till
"Don't let the victor belong to the spoils."
"You mean write trash?" He considered. "If you mean deliberately
injecting a slushy fade-out into each one, I'm not. But I don't suppose
I'm being so careful. I'm certainly writing faster and I don't seem to
be thinking as much as I used to. Perhaps it's because I don't get any
conversation, now that you're married and Maury's gone to Philadelphia.
Haven't the old urge and ambition. Early success and all that."
"Doesn't it worry you?"
"Frantically. I get a thing I call sentence-fever that must be like
buck-fever--it's a sort of intense literary self-consciousness that
comes when I try to force myself. But the really awful days aren't when
I think I can't write. They're when I wonder whether any writing is
worth while at all--I mean whether I'm not a sort of glorified buffoon."
"I like to hear you talk that way," said Anthony with a touch of his old
patronizing insolence. "I was afraid you'd gotten a bit idiotic over
your work. Read the damnedest interview you gave out----"
Dick interrupted with an agonized expression.
"Good Lord! Don't mention it. Young lady wrote it--most admiring young
lady. Kept telling me my work was 'strong,' and I sort of lost my head
and made a lot of strange pronouncements. Some of it was good, though,
don't you think?"
"Oh, yes; that part about the wise writer writing for the youth of his
generation, the critic of the next, and the schoolmaster of ever
"Oh, I believe a lot of it," admitted Richard Caramel with a faint beam.
"It simply was a mistake to give it out."
In November they moved into Anthony's apartment, from which they sallied
triumphantly to the Yale-Harvard and Harvard-Princeton football games,
to the St. Nicholas ice-skating rink, to a thorough round of the
theatres and to a miscellany of entertainments--from small, staid dances
to the great affairs that Gloria loved, held in those few houses where
lackeys with powdered wigs scurried around in magnificent Anglomania
under the direction of gigantic majordomos. Their intention was to go
abroad the first of the year or, at any rate, when the war was over.
Anthony had actually completed a Chestertonian essay on the twelfth
century by way of introduction to his proposed book and Gloria had done
some extensive research work on the question of Russian sable coats--in
fact the winter was approaching quite comfortably, when the Bilphistic
demiurge decided suddenly in mid-December that Mrs. Gilbert's soul had
aged sufficiently in its present incarnation. In consequence Anthony
took a miserable and hysterical Gloria out to Kansas City, where, in the
fashion of mankind, they paid the terrible and mind-shaking deference
to the dead.
Mr. Gilbert became, for the first and last time in his life, a truly
pathetic figure. That woman he had broken to wait upon his body and play
congregation to his mind had ironically deserted him--just when he could
not much longer have supported her. Never again would he be able so
satisfactorily to bore and bully a human soul.