It is seven-thirty of an August evening. The windows in the living room
of the gray house are wide open, patiently exchanging the tainted inner
atmosphere of liquor and smoke for the fresh drowsiness of the late hot
dusk. There are dying flower scents upon the air, so thin, so fragile,
as to hint already of a summer laid away in time. But August is still
proclaimed relentlessly by a thousand crickets around the side-porch,
and by one who has broken into the house and concealed himself
confidently behind a bookcase, from time to time shrieking of his
cleverness and his indomitable will.
The room itself is in messy disorder. On the table is a dish of fruit,
which is real but appears artificial. Around it are grouped an ominous
assortment of decanters, glasses, and heaped ash-trays, the latter still
raising wavy smoke-ladders into the stale air, the effect on the whole
needing but a skull to resemble that venerable chromo, once a fixture in
every "den," which presents the appendages to the life of pleasure with
delightful and awe-inspiring sentiment.
After a while the sprightly solo of the supercricket is interrupted
rather than joined by a new sound--the melancholy wail of an erratically
fingered flute. It is obvious that the musician is practising rather
than performing, for from time to time the gnarled strain breaks off
and, after an interval of indistinct mutterings, recommences.
Just prior to the seventh false start a third sound contributes to the
subdued discord. It is a taxi outside. A minute's silence, then the taxi
again, its boisterous retreat almost obliterating the scrape of
footsteps on the cinder walk. The door-bell shrieks alarmingly through
_From the kitchen enters a small, fatigued Japanese, hastily buttoning a
servant's coat of white duck. He opens the front screen-door and admits
a handsome young man of thirty, clad in the sort of well-intentioned
clothes peculiar to those who serve mankind. To his whole personality
clings a well-intentioned air: his glance about the room is compounded
of curiosity and a determined optimism; when he looks at Tana the entire
burden of uplifting the godless Oriental is in his eyes. His name is_
FREDERICK E. PARAMORE. _He was at Harvard with_ ANTHONY, _where because
of the initials of their surnames they were constantly placed next to
each other in classes. A fragmentary acquaintance developed--but since
that time they have never met._
_Nevertheless,_ PARAMORE _enters the room with a certain air of arriving
for the evening._
_Tana is answering a question._
TANA: (_Grinning with ingratiation_) Gone to Inn for dinnah. Be back
half-hour. Gone since ha' past six.
PARAMORE: (_Regarding the glasses on the table_) Have they company?
TANA: Yes. Company. Mistah Caramel, Mistah and Missays Barnes, Miss
Kane, all stay here.
PARAMORE: I see. (_Kindly_) They've been having a spree, I see.
TANA: I no un'stan'.
PARAMORE: They've been having a fling.
TANA: Yes, they have drink. Oh, many, many, many drink.
PARAMORE: (_Receding delicately from the subject_) "Didn't I hear the
sounds of music as I approached the house"?
TANA:(_With a spasmodic giggle_)Yes, I play.
PARAMORE: One of the Japanese instruments.
(_He is quite obviously a subscriber to the "National Geographic
TANA: I play flu-u-ute, Japanese flu-u-ute.
PARAMORE: What song were you playing? One of your Japanese melodies?
TANA:(_His brow undergoing preposterous contraction_) I play train song.
How you call?--railroad song. So call in my countree. Like train. It go
so-o-o; that mean whistle; train start. Then go so-o-o; that mean train
go. Go like that. Vera nice song in my countree. Children song.
PARAMORE: It sounded very nice. (_It is apparent at this point that only
a gigantic effort at control restrains Tana from rushing up-stairs for
his post cards, including the six made in America_.)
TANA: I fix high-ball for gentleman?
PARAMORE: "No, thanks. I don't use it". (_He smiles_.)
(TANA _withdraws into the kitchen, leaving the intervening door slightly
ajar. From the crevice there suddenly issues again the melody of the
Japanese train song--this time not a practice, surely, but a
performance, a lusty, spirited performance._
_The phone rings._ TANA, _absorbed in his harmonics, gives no heed, so_
PARAMORE _takes up the receiver_.)
PARAMORE: Hello.... Yes.... No, he's not here now, but he'll be back any
moment.... Butterworth? Hello, I didn't quite catch the name.... Hello,
hello, hello. Hello! ... Huh!
(_The phone obstinately refuses to yield up any more sound. Paramore
replaces the receiver._
_At this point the taxi motif re-enters, wafting with it a second young
man; he carries a suitcase and opens the front door without ringing
MAURY: (_In the hall_) "Oh, Anthony! Yoho"! (_He comes into the large
room and sees_ PARAMORE) How do?
PARAMORE: (_Gazing at him with gathering intensity_) Is this--is this
MAURY: "That's it". (_He advances, smiling, and holding out his hand_)
How are you, old boy? Haven't seen you for years.
(_He has vaguely associated the face with Harvard, but is not even
positive about that. The name, if he ever knew it, he has long since
forgotten. However, with a fine sensitiveness and an equally commendable
charity_ PARAMORE _recognizes the fact and tactfully relieves the
PARAMORE: You've forgotten Fred Paramore? We were both in old Unc
Robert's history class.
MAURY: No, I haven't, Unc--I mean Fred. Fred was--I mean Unc was a great
old fellow, wasn't he?
PARAMORE: (_Nodding his head humorously several times_) Great old
character. Great old character.
MAURY: (_After a short pause_) Yes--he was. Where's Anthony?
PARAMORE: The Japanese servant told me he was at some inn. Having
dinner, I suppose.
MAURY: (_Looking at his watch_) Gone long?
PARAMORE: I guess so. The Japanese told me they'd be back shortly.
MAURY: Suppose we have a drink.
PARAMORE: No, thanks. I don't use it. (_He smiles_.)
MAURY: Mind if I do? (_Yawning as he helps himself from a bottle_) What
have you been doing since you left college?
PARAMORE: Oh, many things. I've led a very active life. Knocked about
here and there. (_His tone implies anything front lion-stalking to
MAURY: Oh, been over to Europe?
PARAMORE: No, I haven't--unfortunately.
MAURY: I guess we'll all go over before long.
PARAMORE: Do you really think so?
MAURY: Sure! Country's been fed on sensationalism for more than two
years. Everybody getting restless. Want to have some fun.
PARAMORE: Then you don't believe any ideals are at stake?
MAURY: Nothing of much importance. People want excitement every so
PARAMORE: (_Intently_) It's very interesting to hear you say that. Now I
was talking to a man who'd been over there----
(_During the ensuing testament, left to be filled in by the reader with
such phrases as "Saw with his own eyes," "Splendid spirit of France,"
and "Salvation of civilization,"_ MAURY _sits with lowered eyelids,
MAURY: (_At the first available opportunity_) By the way, do you happen
to know that there's a German agent in this very house?
PARAMORE: (_Smiling cautiously_) Are you serious?
MAURY: Absolutely. Feel it my duty to warn you.
PARAMORE: (_Convinced_) A governess?
MAURY: (_In a whisper, indicating the kitchen with his thumb_) _Tana!_
That's not his real name. I understand he constantly gets mail addressed
to Lieutenant Emile Tannenbaum.
PARAMORE: (_Laughing with hearty tolerance_) You were kidding me.
MAURY: I may be accusing him falsely. But, you haven't told me what
you've been doing.
PARAMORE: For one thing--writing.
PARAMORE: No. Non-fiction.
MAURY: What's that? A sort of literature that's half fiction and half
PARAMORE: Oh, I've confined myself to fact. I've been doing a good deal
of social-service work.
(_An immediate glow of suspicion leaps into his eyes. It is as though_
PARAMORE _had announced himself as an amateur pickpocket._)
PARAMORE: At present I'm doing service work in Stamford. Only last week
some one told me that Anthony Patch lived so near.
(_They are interrupted by a clamor outside, unmistakable as that of two
sexes in conversation and laughter. Then there enter the room in a body_
ANTHONY, GLORIA, RICHARD CARAMEL, MURIEL KANE, RACHAEL BARNES _and_
RODMAN BARNES, _her husband. They surge about_ MAURY, _illogically
replying_ "Fine!" _to his general_ "Hello." ... ANTHONY, _meanwhile,
approaches his other guest._)
ANTHONY: Well, I'll be darned. How are you? Mighty glad to see you.
PARAMORE: It's good to see you, Anthony. I'm stationed in Stamford, so I
thought I'd run over. (_Roguishly_) We have to work to beat the devil
most of the time, so we're entitled to a few hours' vacation.
(_In an agony of concentration_ ANTHONY _tries to recall the name. After
a struggle of parturition his memory gives up the fragment "Fred,"
around which he hastily builds the sentence "Glad you did, Fred!"
Meanwhile the slight hush prefatory to an introduction has fallen upon
the company._ MAURY, _who could help, prefers to look on in malicious
ANTHONY: (_In desperation_) Ladies and gentlemen, this is--this is Fred.
MURIEL: (_With obliging levity_) Hello, Fred!
(RICHARD CARAMEL _and_ PARAMORE _greet each other intimately by their
first names, the latter recollecting that_ DICK _was one of the men in
his class who had never before troubled to speak to him._ DICK
_fatuously imagines that_ PARAMORE _is some one he has previously met
in_ ANTHONY'S _house._
_The three young women go up-stairs._)
MAURY: (_In an undertone to_ DICK) Haven't seen Muriel since Anthony's
DICK: She's now in her prime. Her latest is "I'll say so!"
(ANTHONY _struggles for a while with_ PARAMORE _and at length attempts
to make the conversation general by asking every one to have a drink._)
MAURY: I've done pretty well on this bottle. I've gone from "Proof" down
to "Distillery." (_He indicates the words on the label._)
ANTHONY: (_To_ PARAMORE) Never can tell when these two will turn up.
Said good-by to them one afternoon at five and darned if they didn't
appear about two in the morning. A big hired touring-car from New York
drove up to the door and out they stepped, drunk as lords, of course.
(_In an ecstasy of consideration_ PARAMORE _regards the cover of a book
which he holds in his hand._ MAURY _and_ DICK _exchange a glance._)
DICK: (_Innocently, to_ PARAMORE) You work here in town?
PARAMORE: No, I'm in the Laird Street Settlement in Stamford. (_To_
ANTHONY) You have no idea of the amount of poverty in these small
Connecticut towns. Italians and other immigrants. Catholics mostly, you
know, so it's very hard to reach them.
ANTHONY: (_Politely_) Lot of crime?
PARAMORE: Not so much crime as ignorance and dirt.
MAURY: That's my theory: immediate electrocution of all ignorant and
dirty people. I'm all for the criminals--give color to life. Trouble is
if you started to punish ignorance you'd have to begin in the first
families, then you could take up the moving picture people, and finally
Congress and the clergy.
PARAMORE: (_Smiling uneasily_) I was speaking of the more fundamental
ignorance--of even our language.
MAURY: (_Thoughtfully_) I suppose it is rather hard. Can't even keep up
with the new poetry.
PARAMORE: It's only when the settlement work has gone on for months that
one realizes how bad things are. As our secretary said to me, your
finger-nails never seem dirty until you wash your hands. Of course we're
already attracting much attention.
MAURY: (_Rudely_) As your secretary might say, if you stuff paper into a
grate it'll burn brightly for a moment.
(_At this point_ GLORIA, _freshly tinted and lustful of admiration and
entertainment, rejoins the party, followed by her two friends. For
several moments the conversation becomes entirely fragmentary._ GLORIA
_calls_ ANTHONY _aside._)
GLORIA: Please don't drink much, Anthony.
GLORIA: Because you're so simple when you're drunk.
ANTHONY: Good Lord! What's the matter now?
GLORIA: (_After a pause during which her eyes gaze coolly into his_)
Several things. In the first place, why do you insist on paying for
everything? Both those men have more money than you!
ANTHONY: Why, Gloria! They're my guests!
GLORIA: That's no reason why you should pay for a bottle of champagne
Rachael Barnes smashed. Dick tried to fix that second taxi bill, and you
wouldn't let him.
ANTHONY: Why, Gloria--
GLORIA: When we have to keep selling bonds to even pay our bills, it's
time to cut down on excess generosities. Moreover, I wouldn't be quite
so attentive to Rachael Barnes. Her husband doesn't like it any more
than I do!
ANTHONY: Why, Gloria--
GLORIA: (_Mimicking him sharply_) "Why, Gloria!" But that's happened a
little too often this summer--with every pretty woman you meet. It's
grown to be a sort of habit, and I'm _not_ going to stand it! If you can
play around, I can, too. (_Then, as an afterthought_) By the way, this
Fred person isn't a second Joe Hull, is he?
ANTHONY: Heavens, no! He probably came up to get me to wheedle some
money out of grandfather for his flock.
(GLORIA _turns away from a very depressed_ ANTHONY _and returns to her
_By nine o'clock these can be divided into two classes--those who have
been drinking consistently and those who have taken little or nothing.
In the second group are the_ BARNESES, MURIEL, _and_ FREDERICK E.
MURIEL: I wish I could write. I get these ideas but I never seem to be
able to put them in words.
DICK: As Goliath said, he understood how David felt, but he couldn't
express himself. The remark was immediately adopted for a motto by the
MURIEL: I don't get you. I must be getting stupid in my old age.
GLORIA: (_Weaving unsteadily among the company like an exhilarated
angel_) If any one's hungry there's some French pastry on the dining
MAURY: Can't tolerate those Victorian designs it comes in.
MURIEL: (_Violently amused_) _I'll_ say you're tight, Maury.
(_Her bosom is still a pavement that she offers to the hoofs of many
passing stallions, hoping that their iron shoes may strike even a spark
of romance in the darkness ..._
_Messrs._ BARNES _and_ PARAMORE _have been engaged in conversation upon
some wholesome subject, a subject so wholesome that_ MR. BARNES _has
been trying for several moments to creep into the more tainted air
around the central lounge. Whether_ PARAMORE _is lingering in the gray
house out of politeness or curiosity, or in order at some future time to
make a sociological report on the decadence of American life, is
MAURY: Fred, I imagined you were very broad-minded.
PARAMORE: I am.
MURIEL: Me, too. I believe one religion's as good as another and
PARAMORE: There's some good in all religions.
MURIEL: I'm a Catholic but, as I always say, I'm not working at it.
PARAMORE: (_With a tremendous burst of tolerance_) The Catholic religion
is a very--a very powerful religion.
MAURY: Well, such a broad-minded man should consider the raised plane of
sensation and the stimulated optimism contained in this cocktail.
PARAMORE: (_Taking the drink, rather defiantly_) Thanks, I'll try--one.
MAURY: One? Outrageous! Here we have a class of 'nineteen ten reunion,
and you refuse to be even a little pickled. Come on!
"_Here's a health to King Charles, Here's a health to King Charles,
Bring the bowl that you boast_----"
(PARAMORE _joins in with a hearty voice_.)
MAURY: Fill the cup, Frederick. You know everything's subordinated to
nature's purposes with us, and her purpose with you is to make you a
PARAMORE: If a fellow can drink like a gentleman--
MAURY: What is a gentleman, anyway?
ANTHONY: A man who never has pins under his coat lapel.
MAURY: Nonsense! A man's social rank is determined by the amount of
bread he eats in a sandwich.
DICK: He's a man who prefers the first edition of a book to the last
edition of a newspaper.
RACHAEL: A man who never gives an impersonation of a dope-fiend.
MAURY: An American who can fool an English butler into thinking he's
MURIEL: A man who comes from a good family and went to Yale or Harvard
or Princeton, and has money and dances well, and all that.
MAURY: At last--the perfect definition! Cardinal Newman's is now a back
PARAMORE: I think we ought to look on the question more broad-mindedly.
Was it Abraham Lincoln who said that a gentleman is one who never
MAURY: It's attributed, I believe, to General Ludendorff.
PARAMORE: Surely you're joking.
MAURY: Have another drink.
PARAMORE: I oughtn't to. (_Lowering his voice for_ MAURY'S _ear alone_)
What if I were to tell you this is the third drink I've ever taken in
(DICK _starts the phonograph, which provokes_ MURIEL _to rise and sway
from side to side, her elbows against her ribs, her forearms
perpendicular to her body and out like fins._)
MURIEL: Oh, let's take up the rugs and dance!
(_This suggestion is received by_ ANTHONY _and_ GLORIA _with interior
groans and sickly smiles of acquiescence._)
MURIEL: Come on, you lazy-bones. Get up and move the furniture back.
DICK: Wait till I finish my drink.
MAURY: (_Intent on his purpose toward_ PARAMORE) I'll tell you what.
Let's each fill one glass, drink it off and then we'll dance.
(_A wave of protest which breaks against the rock of_ MAURY'S
MURIEL: My head is simply going _round_ now.
RACHAEL: (_In an undertone to_ ANTHONY) Did Gloria tell you to stay away
ANTHONY: (_Confused_) Why, certainly not. Of course not.
(RACHAEL _smiles at him inscrutably. Two years have given her a sort of
hard, well-groomed beauty._)
MAURY: (_Holding up his glass_) Here's to the defeat of democracy and
the fall of Christianity.
MURIEL: Now really!
(_She flashes a mock-reproachful glance at_ MAURY _and then drinks._
_They all drink, with varying degrees of difficulty._)
MURIEL: Clear the floor!
(_It seems inevitable that this process is to be gone through, so_
ANTHONY _and_ GLORIA _join in the great moving of tables, piling of
chairs, rolling of carpets, and breaking of lamps. When the furniture
has been stacked in ugly masses at the sides, there appears a space
about eight feet square._)
MURIEL: Oh, let's have music!
MAURY: Tana will render the love song of an eye, ear, nose, and throat
(_Amid some confusion due to the fact that_ TANA _has retired for the
night, preparations are made for the performance. The pajamaed Japanese,
flute in hand, is wrapped in a comforter and placed in a chair atop one
of the tables, where he makes a ludicrous and grotesque spectacle._
PARAMORE _is perceptibly drunk and so enraptured with the notion that he
increases the effect by simulating funny-paper staggers and even
venturing on an occasional hiccough._)
PARAMORE: (_To_ GLORIA) Want to dance with me?
GLORIA: No, sir! Want to do the swan dance. Can you do it?
PARAMORE: Sure. Do them all.
GLORIA: All right. You start from that side of the room and I'll start
MURIEL: Let's go!
(_Then Bedlam creeps screaming out of the bottles:_ TANA _plunges into
the recondite mazes of the train song, the plaintive "tootle toot-toot"
blending its melancholy cadences with the_ "Poor Butter-fly
(tink-atink), by the blossoms wait-ing" _of the phonograph._ MURIEL _is
too weak with laughter to do more than cling desperately to_ BARNES,
_who, dancing with the ominous rigidity of an army officer, tramps
without humor around the small space._ ANTHONY _is trying to hear_
RACHAEL'S _whisper--without attracting_ GLORIA's _attention...._
_But the grotesque, the unbelievable, the histrionic incident is about
to occur, one of those incidents in which life seems set upon the
passionate imitation of the lowest forms of literature._ PARAMORE _has
been trying to emulate_ GLORIA, _and as the commotion reaches its height
he begins to spin round and round, more and more dizzily--he staggers,
recovers, staggers again and then falls in the direction of the hall ...
almost into the arms of old_ ADAM PATCH, _whose approach has been
rendered inaudible by the pandemonium in the room._
ADAM PATCH _is very white. He leans upon a stick. The man with him is_
EDWARD SHUTTLEWORTH, _and it is he who seizes_ PARAMORE _by the shoulder
and deflects the course of his fall away from the venerable
_The time required for quiet to descend upon the room like a monstrous
pall may be estimated at two minutes, though for a short period after
that the phonograph gags and the notes of the Japanese train song
dribble from the end of_ TANA'S _flute. Of the nine people only_ BARNES,
PARAMORE, _and_ TANA _are unaware of the late-comer's identity. Of the
nine not one is aware that_ ADAM PATCH _has that morning made a
contribution of fifty thousand dollars to the cause of national
_It is given to_ PARAMORE _to break the gathering silence; the high tide
of his life's depravity is reached in his incredible remark._)
PARAMORE: (_Crawling rapidly toward the kitchen on his hands and knees_)
I'm not a guest here--I work here.
(_Again silence falls--so deep now, so weighted with intolerably
contagious apprehension, that_ RACHAEL _gives a nervous little giggle,
and_ DICK _finds himself telling over and over a line from Swinburne,
grotesquely appropriate to the scene:_
"One gaunt bleak blossom of scentless breath."
... _Out of the hush the voice of_ ANTHONY, _sober and strained, saying
something to_ ADAM PATCH; _then this, too, dies away._)
SHUTTLEWORTH: (_Passionately_) Your grandfather thought he would motor
over to see your house. I phoned from Rye and left a message.
(_A series of little gasps, emanating, apparently, from nowhere, from no
one, fall into the next pause._ ANTHONY _is the color of chalk._
GLORIA'S _lips are parted and her level gaze at the old man is tense and
frightened. There is not one smile in the room. Not one? Or does_ CROSS
PATCH'S _drawn mouth tremble slightly open, to expose the even rows of
his thin teeth? He speaks--five mild and simple words._)
ADAM PATCH: We'll go back now, Shuttleworth--(_And that is all. He
turns, and assisted by his cane goes out through the hall, through the
front door, and with hellish portentousness his uncertain footsteps
crunch on the gravel path under the August moon._)
In this extremity they were like two goldfish in a bowl from which all
the water had been drawn; they could not even swim across to each other.
Gloria would be twenty-six in May. There was nothing, she had said, that
she wanted, except to be young and beautiful for a long time, to be gay
and happy, and to have money and love. She wanted what most women want,
but she wanted it much more fiercely and passionately. She had been
married over two years. At first there had been days of serene
understanding, rising to ecstasies of proprietorship and pride.
Alternating with these periods had occurred sporadic hates, enduring a
short hour, and forgetfulnesses lasting no longer than an afternoon.
That had been for half a year.
Then the serenity, the content, had become less jubilant, had become,
gray--very rarely, with the spur of jealousy or forced separation, the
ancient ecstasies returned, the apparent communion of soul and soul, the
emotional excitement. It was possible for her to hate Anthony for as
much as a full day, to be carelessly incensed at him for as long as a
week. Recrimination had displaced affection as an indulgence, almost as
an entertainment, and there were nights when they would go to sleep
trying to remember who was angry and who should be reserved next
morning. And as the second year waned there had entered two new
elements. Gloria realized that Anthony had become capable of utter
indifference toward her, a temporary indifference, more than half
lethargic, but one from which she could no longer stir him by a
whispered word, or a certain intimate smile. There were days when her
caresses affected him as a sort of suffocation. She was conscious of
these things; she never entirely admitted them to herself.
It was only recently that she perceived that in spite of her adoration
of him, her jealousy, her servitude, her pride, she fundamentally
despised him--and her contempt blended indistinguishably with her other
emotions.... All this was her love--the vital and feminine illusion that
had directed itself toward him one April night, many months before.
On Anthony's part she was, in spite of these qualifications, his sole
preoccupation. Had he lost her he would have been a broken man,
wretchedly and sentimentally absorbed in her memory for the remainder of
life. He seldom took pleasure in an entire day spent alone with
her--except on occasions he preferred to have a third person with them.
There were times when he felt that if he were not left absolutely alone
he would go mad--there were a few times when he definitely hated her. In
his cups he was capable of short attractions toward other women, the
hitherto-suppressed outcroppings of an experimental temperament.
That spring, that summer, they had speculated upon future happiness--how
they were to travel from summer land to summer land, returning
eventually to a gorgeous estate and possible idyllic children, then
entering diplomacy or politics, to accomplish, for a while, beautiful
and important things, until finally as a white-haired (beautifully,
silkily, white-haired) couple they were to loll about in serene glory,
worshipped by the bourgeoisie of the land.... These times were to begin
"when we get our money"; it was on such dreams rather than on any
satisfaction with their increasingly irregular, increasingly dissipated
life that their hope rested. On gray mornings when the jests of the
night before had shrunk to ribaldries without wit or dignity, they
could, after a fashion, bring out this batch of common hopes and count
them over, then smile at each other and repeat, by way of clinching the
matter, the terse yet sincere Nietzscheanism of Gloria's defiant "I
Things had been slipping perceptibly. There was the money question,
increasingly annoying, increasingly ominous; there was the realization
that liquor had become a practical necessity to their amusement--not an
uncommon phenomenon in the British aristocracy of a hundred years ago,
but a somewhat alarming one in a civilization steadily becoming more
temperate and more circumspect. Moreover, both of them seemed vaguely
weaker in fibre, not so much in what they did as in their subtle
reactions to the civilization about them. In Gloria had been born
something that she had hitherto never needed--the skeleton, incomplete
but nevertheless unmistakable, of her ancient abhorrence, a conscience.
This admission to herself was coincidental with the slow decline of her
Then, on the August morning after Adam Patch's unexpected call, they
awoke, nauseated and tired, dispirited with life, capable only of one
"Well?" Anthony sat up in bed and looked down at her. The corners of his
lips were drooping with depression, his voice was strained and hollow.
Her reply was to raise her hand to her mouth and begin a slow, precise
nibbling at her finger.
"We've done it," he said after a pause; then, as she was still silent,
he became exasperated. "Why don't you say something?"
"What on earth do you want me to say?"
"What are you thinking?"
"Then stop biting your finger!"
Ensued a short confused discussion of whether or not she had been
thinking. It seemed essential to Anthony that she should muse aloud upon
last night's disaster. Her silence was a method of settling the
responsibility on him. For her part she saw no necessity for speech--the
moment required that she should gnaw at her finger like a nervous child.
"I've got to fix up this damn mess with my grandfather," he said with
uneasy conviction. A faint newborn respect was indicated by his use of
"my grandfather" instead of "grampa."
"You can't," she affirmed abruptly. "You can't--_ever_. He'll never
forgive you as long as he lives."
"Perhaps not," agreed Anthony miserably. "Still--I might possibly square
myself by some sort of reformation and all that sort of thing--"
"He looked sick," she interrupted, "pale as flour."
"He _is_ sick. I told you that three months ago."
"I wish he'd died last week!" she said petulantly. "Inconsiderate old
Neither of them laughed.
"But just let me say," she added quietly, "the next time I see you
acting with any woman like you did with Rachael Barnes last night, I'll
leave you--_just--like--that!_ I'm simply _not_ going to stand it!"
"Oh, don't be absurd," he protested. "You know there's no woman in the
world for me except you--none, dearest."
His attempt at a tender note failed miserably--the more imminent danger
stalked back into the foreground.
"If I went to him," suggested Anthony, "and said with appropriate
biblical quotations that I'd walked too long in the way of
unrighteousness and at last seen the light--" He broke off and glanced
with a whimsical expression at his wife. "I wonder what he'd do?"
"I don't know."
She was speculating as to whether or not their guests would have the
acumen to leave directly after breakfast.
Not for a week did Anthony muster the courage to go to Tarrytown. The
prospect was revolting and left alone he would have been incapable of
making the trip--but if his will had deteriorated in these past three
years, so had his power to resist urging. Gloria compelled him to go. It
was all very well to wait a week, she said, for that would give his
grandfather's violent animosity time to cool--but to wait longer would
be an error--it would give it a chance to harden.
He went, in trepidation ... and vainly. Adam Patch was not well, said
Shuttleworth indignantly. Positive instructions had been given that no
one was to see him. Before the ex-"gin-physician's" vindictive eye
Anthony's front wilted. He walked out to his taxicab with what was
almost a slink--recovering only a little of his self-respect as he
boarded the train; glad to escape, boylike, to the wonder palaces of
consolation that still rose and glittered in his own mind.
Gloria was scornful when he returned to Marietta. Why had he not forced
his way in? That was what she would have done!
Between them they drafted a letter to the old man, and after
considerable revision sent it off. It was half an apology, half a
manufactured explanation. The letter was not answered.
Came a day in September, a day slashed with alternate sun and rain, sun
without warmth, rain without freshness. On that day they left the gray
house, which had seen the flower of their love. Four trunks and three
monstrous crates were piled in the dismantled room where, two years
before, they had sprawled lazily, thinking in terms of dreams, remote,
languorous, content. The room echoed with emptiness. Gloria, in a new
brown dress edged with fur, sat upon a trunk in silence, and Anthony
walked nervously to and fro smoking, as they waited for the truck that
would take their things to the city.
"What are those?" she demanded, pointing to some books piled upon one of
"That's my old stamp collection," he confessed sheepishly. "I forgot to
"Anthony, it's so silly to carry it around."
"Well, I was looking through it the day we left the apartment last
spring, and I decided not to store it."
"Can't you sell it? Haven't we enough junk?"
"I'm sorry," he said humbly.
With a thunderous rattling the truck rolled up to the door. Gloria shook
her fist defiantly at the four walls.
"I'm so glad to go!" she cried, "so glad. Oh, my God, how I hate this
So the brilliant and beautiful lady went up with her husband to New
York. On the very train that bore them away they quarrelled--her bitter
words had the frequency, the regularity, the inevitability of the
stations they passed.
"Don't be cross," begged Anthony piteously. "We've got nothing but each
other, after all."
"We haven't even that, most of the time," cried Gloria.
"When haven't we?"
"A lot of times--beginning with one occasion on the station platform at
"You don't mean to say that--"
"No," she interrupted coolly, "I don't brood over it. It came and
went--and when it went it took something with it."
She finished abruptly. Anthony sat in silence, confused, depressed. The
drab visions of train-side Mamaroneck, Larchmont, Rye, Pelham Manor,
succeeded each other with intervals of bleak and shoddy wastes posing
ineffectually as country. He found himself remembering how on one summer
morning they two had started from New York in search of happiness. They
had never expected to find it, perhaps, yet in itself that quest had
been happier than anything he expected forevermore. Life, it seemed,
must be a setting up of props around one--otherwise it was disaster.
There was no rest, no quiet. He had been futile in longing to drift and
dream; no one drifted except to maelstroms, no one dreamed, without his
dreams becoming fantastic nightmares of indecision and regret.
Pelham! They had quarrelled in Pelham because Gloria must drive. And
when she set her little foot on the accelerator the car had jumped off
spunkily, and their two heads had jerked back like marionettes worked by
a single string.
The Bronx--the houses gathering and gleaming in the sun, which was
falling now through wide refulgent skies and tumbling caravans of light
down into the streets. New York, he supposed, was home--the city of
luxury and mystery, of preposterous hopes and exotic dreams. Here on the
outskirts absurd stucco palaces reared themselves in the cool sunset,
poised for an instant in cool unreality, glided off far away, succeeded
by the mazed confusion of the Harlem River. The train moved in through
the deepening twilight, above and past half a hundred cheerful sweating
streets of the upper East Side, each one passing the car window like the
space between the spokes of a gigantic wheel, each one with its vigorous
colorful revelation of poor children swarming in feverish activity like
vivid ants in alleys of red sand. From the tenement windows leaned
rotund, moon-shaped mothers, as constellations of this sordid heaven;
women like dark imperfect jewels, women like vegetables, women like
great bags of abominably dirty laundry.
"I like these streets," observed Anthony aloud. "I always feel as though
it's a performance being staged for me; as though the second I've passed
they'll all stop leaping and laughing and, instead, grow very sad,
remembering how poor they are, and retreat with bowed heads into their
houses. You often get that effect abroad, but seldom in this country."
Down in a tall busy street he read a dozen Jewish names on a line of
stores; in the door of each stood a dark little man watching the passers
from intent eyes--eyes gleaming with suspicion, with pride, with
clarity, with cupidity, with comprehension. New York--he could not
dissociate it now from the slow, upward creep of this people--the little
stores, growing, expanding, consolidating, moving, watched over with
hawk's eyes and a bee's attention to detail--they slathered out on all
sides. It was impressive--in perspective it was tremendous.
Gloria's voice broke in with strange appropriateness upon his thoughts.
"I wonder where Bloeckman's been this summer."
After the sureties of youth there sets in a period of intense and
intolerable complexity. With the soda-jerker this period is so short as
to be almost negligible. Men higher in the scale hold out longer in the
attempt to preserve the ultimate niceties of relationship, to retain
"impractical" ideas of integrity. But by the late twenties the business
has grown too intricate, and what has hitherto been imminent and
confusing has become gradually remote and dim. Routine comes down like
twilight on a harsh landscape, softening it until it is tolerable. The
complexity is too subtle, too varied; the values are changing utterly
with each lesion of vitality; it has begun to appear that we can learn
nothing from the past with which to face the future--so we cease to be
impulsive, convincible men, interested in what is ethically true by fine
margins, we substitute rules of conduct for ideas of integrity, we value
safety above romance, we become, quite unconsciously, pragmatic. It is
left to the few to be persistently concerned with the nuances of
relationships--and even this few only in certain hours especially set
aside for the task.
Anthony Patch had ceased to be an individual of mental adventure, of
curiosity, and had become an individual of bias and prejudice, with a
longing to be emotionally undisturbed. This gradual change had taken
place through the past several years, accelerated by a succession of
anxieties preying on his mind. There was, first of all, the sense of
waste, always dormant in his heart, now awakened by the circumstances of
his position. In his moments of insecurity he was haunted by the
suggestion that life might be, after all, significant. In his early
twenties the conviction of the futility of effort, of the wisdom of
abnegation, had been confirmed by the philosophies he had admired as
well as by his association with Maury Noble, and later with his wife.
Yet there had been occasions--just before his first meeting with Gloria,
for example, and when his grandfather had suggested that he should go
abroad as a war correspondent--upon which his dissatisfaction had driven
him almost to a positive step.
One day just before they left Marietta for the last time, in carelessly
turning over the pages of a Harvard Alumni Bulletin, he had found a
column which told him what his contemporaries had been about in this six
years since graduation. Most of them were in business, it was true, and
several were converting the heathen of China or America to a nebulous
protestantism; but a few, he found, were working constructively at jobs
that were neither sinecures nor routines. There was Calvin Boyd, for
instance, who, though barely out of medical school, had discovered a new
treatment for typhus, had shipped abroad and was mitigating some of the
civilization that the Great Powers had brought to Servia; there was
Eugene Bronson, whose articles in The New Democracy were stamping him as
a man with ideas transcending both vulgar timeliness and popular
hysteria; there was a man named Daly who had been suspended from the
faculty of a righteous university for preaching Marxian doctrines in the
classroom: in art, science, politics, he saw the authentic personalities
of his time emerging--there was even Severance, the quarter-back, who
had given up his life rather neatly and gracefully with the Foreign
Legion on the Aisne.
He laid down the magazine and thought for a while about these diverse
men. In the days of his integrity he would have defended his attitude to
the last--an Epicurus in Nirvana, he would have cried that to struggle
was to believe, to believe was to limit. He would as soon have become a
churchgoer because the prospect of immortality gratified him as he would
have considered entering the leather business because the intensity of
the competition would have kept him from unhappiness. But at present he
had no such delicate scruples. This autumn, as his twenty-ninth year
began, he was inclined to close his mind to many things, to avoid prying
deeply into motive and first causes, and mostly to long passionately for
security from the world and from himself. He hated to be alone, as has
been said he often dreaded being alone with Gloria.
Because of the chasm which his grandfather's visit had opened before
him, and the consequent revulsion from his late mode of life, it was
inevitable that he should look around in this suddenly hostile city for
the friends and environments that had once seemed the warmest and most
secure. His first step was a desperate attempt to get back his old
In the spring of 1912 he had signed a four-year lease at seventeen
hundred a year, with an option of renewal. This lease had expired the
previous May. When he had first rented the rooms they had been mere
potentialities, scarcely to be discerned as that, but Anthony had seen
into these potentialities and arranged in the lease that he and the
landlord should each spend a certain amount in improvements. Rents had
gone up in the past four years, and last spring when Anthony had waived
his option the landlord, a Mr. Sohenberg, had realized that he could get
a much bigger price for what was now a prepossessing apartment.
Accordingly, when Anthony approached him on the subject in September he
was met with Sohenberg's offer of a three-year lease at twenty-five
hundred a year. This, it seemed to Anthony, was outrageous. It meant
that well over a third of their income would be consumed in rent. In
vain he argued that his own money, his own ideas on the repartitioning,
had made the rooms attractive.
In vain he offered two thousand dollars--twenty-two hundred, though they
could ill afford it: Mr. Sohenberg was obdurate. It seemed that two
other gentlemen were considering it; just that sort of an apartment was
in demand for the moment, and it would scarcely be business to _give_ it
to Mr. Patch. Besides, though he had never mentioned it before, several
of the other tenants had complained of noise during the previous
winter--singing and dancing late at night, that sort of thing.
Internally raging Anthony hurried back to the Ritz to report his
discomfiture to Gloria.
"I can just see you," she stormed, "letting him back you down!"
"What could I say?"
"You could have told him what he _was_. I wouldn't have _stood_ it. No
other man in the world would have stood it! You just let people order
you around and cheat you and bully you and take advantage of you as if
you were a silly little boy. It's absurd!"
"Oh, for Heaven's sake, don't lose your temper."
"I know, Anthony, but you _are_ such an ass!"
"Well, possibly. Anyway, we can't afford that apartment. But we can
afford it better than living here at the Ritz."
"You were the one who insisted on coming here."
"Yes, because I knew you'd be miserable in a cheap hotel."
"Of course I would!"
"At any rate we've got to find a place to live."
"How much can we pay?" she demanded.
"Well, we can pay even his price if we sell more bonds, but we agreed
last night that until I had gotten something definite to do we-"
"Oh, I know all that. I asked you how much we can pay out of just our
"They say you ought not to pay more than a fourth."
"How much is a fourth?"
"One hundred and fifty a month."
"Do you mean to say we've got only six hundred dollars coming in every
month?" A subdued note crept into her voice.
"Of course!" he answered angrily. "Do you think we've gone on spending
more than twelve thousand a year without cutting way into our capital?"
"I knew we'd sold bonds, but--have we spent that much a year? How did
we?" Her awe increased.
"Oh, I'll look in those careful account-books we kept," he remarked
ironically, and then added: "Two rents a good part of the time, clothes,
travel--why, each of those springs in California cost about four
thousand dollars. That darn car was an expense from start to finish. And
parties and amusements and--oh, one thing or another."
They were both excited now and inordinately depressed. The situation
seemed worse in the actual telling Gloria than it had when he had first
made the discovery himself.
"You've got to make some money," she said suddenly.
"I know it."
"And you've got to make another attempt to see your grandfather."
"When we get settled."
This eventuality occurred a week later. They rented a small apartment on
Fifty-seventh Street at one hundred and fifty a month. It included
bedroom, living-room, kitchenette, and bath, in a thin, white-stone
apartment house, and though the rooms were too small to display
Anthony's best furniture, they were clean, new, and, in a blonde and
sanitary way, not unattractive. Bounds had gone abroad to enlist in the
British army, and in his place they tolerated rather than enjoyed the
services of a gaunt, big-boned Irishwoman, whom Gloria loathed because
she discussed the glories of Sinn Fein as she served breakfast. But they
vowed they would have no more Japanese, and English servants were for
the present hard to obtain. Like Bounds, the woman prepared only
breakfast. Their other meals they took at restaurants and hotels.
What finally drove Anthony post-haste up to Tarrytown was an
announcement in several New York papers that Adam Patch, the
multimillionaire, the philanthropist, the venerable uplifter, was
seriously ill and not expected to recover.
Anthony could not see him. The doctors' instructions were that he was to
talk to no one, said Mr. Shuttleworth--who offered kindly to take any
message that Anthony might care to intrust with him, and deliver it to
Adam Patch when his condition permitted. But by obvious innuendo he
confirmed Anthony's melancholy inference that the prodigal grandson
would be particularly unwelcome at the bedside. At one point in the
conversation Anthony, with Gloria's positive instructions in mind, made
a move as though to brush by the secretary, but Shuttleworth with a
smile squared his brawny shoulders, and Anthony saw how futile such an
attempt would be.
Miserably intimidated, he returned to New York, where husband and wife
passed a restless week. A little incident that occurred one evening
indicated to what tension their nerves were drawn.
Walking home along a cross-street after dinner, Anthony noticed a
night-bound cat prowling near a railing.
"I always have an instinct to kick a cat," he said idly.
"I like them."
"I yielded to it once."
"Oh, years ago; before I met you. One night between the acts of a show.
Cold night, like this, and I was a little tight--one of the first times
I was ever tight," he added. "The poor little beggar was looking for a
place to sleep, I guess, and I was in a mean mood, so it took my fancy
to kick it--"
"Oh, the poor kitty!" cried Gloria, sincerely moved. Inspired with the
narrative instinct, Anthony enlarged on the theme.
"It was pretty bad," he admitted. "The poor little beast turned around
and looked at me rather plaintively as though hoping I'd pick him up and
be kind to him--he was really just a kitten--and before he knew it a big
foot launched out at him and caught his little back"
"Oh!" Gloria's cry was full of anguish.
"It was such a cold night," he continued, perversely, keeping his voice
upon a melancholy note. "I guess it expected kindness from somebody, and
it got only pain--"
He broke off suddenly--Gloria was sobbing. They had reached home, and
when they entered the apartment she threw herself upon the lounge,
crying as though he had struck at her very soul.
"Oh, the poor little kitty!" she repeated piteously, "the poor little
kitty. So cold--"
"Don't come near me! Please, don't come near me. You killed the soft
Touched, Anthony knelt beside her.
"Dear," he said. "Oh, Gloria, darling. It isn't true. I invented
it--every word of it."
But she would not believe him. There had been something in the details
he had chosen to describe that made her cry herself asleep that night,
for the kitten, for Anthony for herself, for the pain and bitterness and
cruelty of all the world.
THE PASSING OF AN AMERICAN MORALIST
Old Adam died on a midnight of late November with a pious compliment to
his God on his thin lips. He, who had been flattered so much, faded out
flattering the Omnipotent Abstraction which he fancied he might have
angered in the more lascivious moments of his youth. It was announced
that he had arranged some sort of an armistice with the deity, the terms
of which were not made public, though they were thought to have included
a large cash payment. All the newspapers printed his biography, and two
of them ran short editorials on his sterling worth, and his part in the
drama of industrialism, with which he had grown up. They referred
guardedly to the reforms he had sponsored and financed. The memories of
Comstock and Cato the Censor were resuscitated and paraded like gaunt
ghosts through the columns.
Every newspaper remarked that he was survived by a single grandson,
Anthony Comstock Patch, of New York.
The burial took place in the family plot at Tarrytown. Anthony and
Gloria rode in the first carriage, too worried to feel grotesque, both
trying desperately to glean presage of fortune from the faces of
retainers who had been with him at the end.
They waited a frantic week for decency, and then, having received no
notification of any kind, Anthony called up his grandfather's lawyer.
Mr. Brett was not he was expected back in an hour. Anthony left his
It was the last day of November, cool and crackling outside, with a
lustreless sun peering bleakly in at the windows. While they waited for
the call, ostensibly engaged in reading, the atmosphere, within and
without, seemed pervaded with a deliberate rendition of the pathetic
fallacy. After an interminable while, the bell jingled, and Anthony,
starting violently, took up the receiver.
"Hello ..." His voice was strained and hollow. "Yes--I did leave word.
Who is this, please? ... Yes.... Why, it was about the estate. Naturally
I'm interested, and I've received no word about the reading of the
will--I thought you might not have my address.... What? ... Yes ..."
Gloria fell on her knees. The intervals between Anthony's speeches were
like tourniquets winding on her heart. She found herself helplessly
twisting the large buttons from a velvet cushion. Then:
"That's--that's very, very odd--that's very odd--that's very odd. Not
even any--ah--mention or any--ah--reason?"
His voice sounded faint and far away. She uttered a little sound, half
gasp, half cry.
"Yes, I'll see.... All right, thanks ... thanks...."
The phone clicked. Her eyes looking along the floor saw his feet cut the
pattern of a patch of sunlight on the carpet. She arose and faced him
with a gray, level glance just as his arms folded about her.
"My dearest," he whispered huskily. "He did it, God damn him!"
"Who are the heirs?" asked Mr. Haight. "You see when you can tell me so
little about it--"
Mr. Haight was tall and bent and beetle-browed. He had been recommended
to Anthony as an astute and tenacious lawyer.
"I only know vaguely," answered Anthony. "A man named Shuttleworth, who
was a sort of pet of his, has the whole thing in charge as administrator
or trustee or something--all except the direct bequests to charity and
the provisions for servants and for those two cousins in Idaho."
"How distant are the cousins?"
"Oh, third or fourth, anyway. I never even heard of them."
Mr. Haight nodded comprehensively.
"And you want to contest a provision of the will?"
"I guess so," admitted Anthony helplessly. "I want to do what sounds
most hopeful--that's what I want you to tell me."
"You want them to refuse probate to the will?"
Anthony shook his head.
"You've got me. I haven't any idea what 'probate' is. I want a share of
"Suppose you tell me some more details. For instance, do you know why
the testator disinherited you?"
"Why--yes," began Anthony. "You see he was always a sucker for moral
reform, and all that--"
"I know," interjected Mr. Haight humorlessly.
"--and I don't suppose he ever thought I was much good. I didn't go into
business, you see. But I feel certain that up to last summer I was one
of the beneficiaries. We had a house out in Marietta, and one night
grandfather got the notion he'd come over and see us. It just happened
that there was a rather gay party going on and he arrived without any
warning. Well, he took one look, he and this fellow Shuttleworth, and
then turned around and tore right back to Tarrytown. After that he never
answered my letters or even let me see him."
"He was a prohibitionist, wasn't he?"
"He was everything--regular religious maniac."
"How long before his death was the will made that disinherited you?"
"Recently--I mean since August."
"And you think that the direct reason for his not leaving you the
majority of the estate was his displeasure with your recent actions?"
Mr. Haight considered. Upon what grounds was Anthony thinking of
contesting the will?
"Why, isn't there something about evil influence?"
"Undue influence is one ground--but it's the most difficult. You would
have to show that such pressure was brought to bear so that the deceased
was in a condition where he disposed of his property contrary to his
"Well, suppose this fellow Shuttleworth dragged him over to Marietta
just when he thought some sort of a celebration was probably going on?"
"That wouldn't have any bearing on the case. There's a strong division
between advice and influence. You'd have to prove that the secretary had
a sinister intention. I'd suggest some other grounds. A will is
automatically refused probate in case of insanity, drunkenness"--here
Anthony smiled--"or feeble-mindedness through premature old age."
"But," objected Anthony, "his private physician, being one of the
beneficiaries, would testify that he wasn't feeble-minded. And he
wasn't. As a matter of fact he probably did just what he intended to
with his money--it was perfectly consistent with everything he'd ever
done in his life--"
"Well, you see, feeble-mindedness is a great deal like undue
influence--it implies that the property wasn't disposed of as originally
intended. The most common ground is duress--physical pressure."
Anthony shook his head.
"Not much chance on that, I'm afraid. Undue influence sounds best to
After more discussion, so technical as to be largely unintelligible to
Anthony, he retained Mr. Haight as counsel. The lawyer proposed an
interview with Shuttleworth, who, jointly with Wilson, Hiemer and Hardy,
was executor of the will. Anthony was to come back later in the week.
It transpired that the estate consisted of approximately forty million
dollars. The largest bequest to an individual was of one million, to
Edward Shuttleworth, who received in addition thirty thousand a year
salary as administrator of the thirty-million-dollar trust fund, left to
be doled out to various charities and reform societies practically at
his own discretion. The remaining nine millions were proportioned among
the two cousins in Idaho and about twenty-five other beneficiaries:
friends, secretaries, servants, and employees, who had, at one time or
another, earned the seal of Adam Patch's approval.
At the end of another fortnight Mr. Haight, on a retainer's fee of
fifteen thousand dollars, had begun preparations for contesting
THE WINTER OF DISCONTENT
Before they had been two months in the little apartment on Fifty-seventh
Street, it had assumed for both of them the same indefinable but almost
material taint that had impregnated the gray house in Marietta. There
was the odor of tobacco always--both of them smoked incessantly; it was
in their clothes, their blankets, the curtains, and the ash-littered
carpets. Added to this was the wretched aura of stale wine, with its
inevitable suggestion of beauty gone foul and revelry remembered in
disgust. About a particular set of glass goblets on the sideboard the
odor was particularly noticeable, and in the main room the mahogany
table was ringed with white circles where glasses had been set down upon
it. There had been many parties--people broke things; people became sick
in Gloria's bathroom; people spilled wine; people made unbelievable
messes of the kitchenette.
These things were a regular part of their existence. Despite the
resolutions of many Mondays it was tacitly understood as the week end
approached that it should be observed with some sort of unholy
excitement. When Saturday came they would not discuss the matter, but
would call up this person or that from among their circle of
sufficiently irresponsible friends, and suggest a rendezvous. Only after
the friends had gathered and Anthony had set out decanters, would he
murmur casually "I guess I'll have just one high-ball myself--"
Then they were off for two days--realizing on a wintry dawn that they
had been the noisiest and most conspicuous members of the noisiest and
most conspicuous party at the Boul' Mich', or the Club Ramée, or at
other resorts much less particular about the hilarity of their
clientèle. They would find that they had, somehow, squandered eighty or
ninety dollars, how, they never knew; they customarily attributed it to
the general penury of the "friends" who had accompanied them.
It began to be not unusual for the more sincere of their friends to
remonstrate with them, in the very course of a party, and to predict a
sombre end for them in the loss of Gloria's "looks" and Anthony's
The story of the summarily interrupted revel in Marietta had, of course,
leaked out in detail--"Muriel doesn't mean to tell every one she knows,"
said Gloria to Anthony, "but she thinks every one she tells is the only
one she's going to tell"--and, diaphanously veiled, the tale had been
given a conspicuous place in Town Tattle. When the terms of Adam Patch's
will were made public and the newspapers printed items concerning
Anthony's suit, the story was beautifully rounded out--to Anthony's
infinite disparagement. They began to hear rumors about themselves from
all quarters, rumors founded usually on a soupcon of truth, but overlaid
with preposterous and sinister detail.
Outwardly they showed no signs of deterioration. Gloria at twenty-six
was still the Gloria of twenty; her complexion a fresh damp setting for
her candid eyes; her hair still a childish glory, darkening slowly from
corn color to a deep russet gold; her slender body suggesting ever a
nymph running and dancing through Orphic groves. Masculine eyes, dozens
of them, followed her with a fascinated stare when she walked through a
hotel lobby or down the aisle of a theatre. Men asked to be introduced
to her, fell into prolonged states of sincere admiration, made definite
love to her--for she was still a thing of exquisite and unbelievable
beauty. And for his part Anthony had rather gained than lost in
appearance; his face had taken on a certain intangible air of tragedy,
romantically contrasted with his trim and immaculate person.
Early in the winter, when all conversation turned on the probability of
America's going into the war, when Anthony was making a desperate and
sincere attempt to write, Muriel Kane arrived in New York and came
immediately to see them. Like Gloria, she seemed never to change. She
knew the latest slang, danced the latest dances, and talked of the
latest songs and plays with all the fervor of her first season as a New
York drifter. Her coyness was eternally new, eternally ineffectual; her
clothes were extreme; her black hair was bobbed, now, like Gloria's.
"I've come up for the midwinter prom at New Haven," she announced,
imparting her delightful secret. Though she must have been older then
than any of the boys in college, she managed always to secure some sort
of invitation, imagining vaguely that at the next party would occur the
flirtation which was to end at the romantic altar.
"Where've you been?" inquired Anthony, unfailingly amused.
"I've been at Hot Springs. It's been slick and peppy this fall--more
"Are you in love, Muriel?"
"What do you mean 'love'?" This was the rhetorical question of the year.
"I'm going to tell you something," she said, switching the subject
abruptly. "I suppose it's none of my business, but I think it's time for
you two to settle down."
"Why, we are settled down."
"Yes, you are!" she scoffed archly. "Everywhere I go I hear stories of
your escapades. Let me tell you, I have an awful time sticking up
"You needn't bother," said Gloria coldly.
"Now, Gloria," she protested, "you know I'm one of your best friends."
Gloria was silent. Muriel continued:
"It's not so much the idea of a woman drinking, but Gloria's so pretty,
and so many people know her by sight all around, that it's naturally
"What have you heard recently?" demanded Gloria, her dignity going down
before her curiosity.
"Well, for instance, that that party in Marietta _killed_ Anthony's
Instantly husband and wife were tense with annoyance.
"Why, I think that's outrageous."
"That's what they say," persisted Muriel stubbornly.
Anthony paced the room. "It's preposterous!" he declared. "The very
people we take on parties shout the story around as a great joke--and
eventually it gets back to us in some such form as this."
Gloria began running her finger through a stray red-dish curl. Muriel
licked her veil as she considered her next remark.
"You ought to have a baby."
Gloria looked up wearily.
"We can't afford it."
"All the people in the slums have them," said Muriel triumphantly.
Anthony and Gloria exchanged a smile. They had reached the stage of
violent quarrels that were never made up, quarrels that smouldered and
broke out again at intervals or died away from sheer indifference--but
this visit of Muriel's drew them temporarily together. When the
discomfort under which they were living was remarked upon by a third
party, it gave them the impetus to face this hostile world together. It
was very seldom, now, that the impulse toward reunion sprang
Anthony found himself associating his own existence with that of the
apartment's night elevator man, a pale, scraggly bearded person of about
sixty, with an air of being somewhat above his station. It was probably
because of this quality that he had secured the position; it made him a
pathetic and memorable figure of failure. Anthony recollected, without
humor, a hoary jest about the elevator man's career being a matter of
ups and downs--it was, at any rate, an enclosed life of infinite
dreariness. Each time Anthony stepped into the car he waited
breathlessly for the old man's "Well, I guess we're going to have some
sunshine to-day." Anthony thought how little rain or sunshine he would
enjoy shut into that close little cage in the smoke-colored,
A darkling figure, he attained tragedy in leaving the life that had used
him so shabbily. Three young gunmen came in one night, tied him up and
left him on a pile of coal in the cellar while they went through the
trunk room. When the janitor found him next morning he had collapsed
from chill. He died of pneumonia four days later.
He was replaced by a glib Martinique negro, with an incongruous British
accent and a tendency to be surly, whom Anthony detested. The passing of
the old man had approximately the same effect on him that the kitten
story had had on Gloria. He was reminded of the cruelty of all life and,
in consequence, of the increasing bitterness of his own.
He was writing--and in earnest at last. He had gone to Dick and listened
for a tense hour to an elucidation of those minutiae of procedure which
hitherto he had rather scornfully looked down upon. He needed money
immediately--he was selling bonds every month to pay their bills. Dick
was frank and explicit:
"So far as articles on literary subjects in these obscure magazines go,
you couldn't make enough to pay your rent. Of course if a man has the
gift of humor, or a chance at a big biography, or some specialized
knowledge, he may strike it rich. But for you, fiction's the only thing.
You say you need money right away?"
"I certainly do."
"Well, it'd be a year and a half before you'd make any money out of a
novel. Try some popular short stories. And, by the way, unless they're
exceptionally brilliant they have to be cheerful and on the side of the
heaviest artillery to make you any money."
Anthony thought of Dick's recent output, which had been appearing in a
well-known monthly. It was concerned chiefly with the preposterous
actions of a class of sawdust effigies who, one was assured, were New
York society people, and it turned, as a rule, upon questions of the
heroine's technical purity, with mock-sociological overtones about the
"mad antics of the four hundred."
"But your stories--" exclaimed Anthony aloud, almost involuntarily.
"Oh, that's different," Dick asserted astoundingly. "I have a
reputation, you see, so I'm expected to deal with strong themes."
Anthony gave an interior start, realizing with this remark how much
Richard Caramel had fallen off. Did he actually think that these amazing
latter productions were as good as his first novel?
Anthony went back to the apartment and set to work. He found that the
business of optimism was no mean task. After half a dozen futile starts
he went to the public library and for a week investigated the files of a
popular magazine. Then, better equipped, he accomplished his first
story, "The Dictaphone of Fate." It was founded upon one of his few
remaining impressions of that six weeks in Wall Street the year before.
It purported to be the sunny tale of an office boy who, quite by
accident, hummed a wonderful melody into the dictaphone. The cylinder
was discovered by the boss's brother, a well-known producer of musical
comedy--and then immediately lost. The body of the story was concerned
with the pursuit of the missing cylinder and the eventual marriage of
the noble office boy (now a successful composer) to Miss Rooney, the
virtuous stenographer, who was half Joan of Arc and half Florence
He had gathered that this was what the magazines wanted. He offered, in
his protagonists, the customary denizens of the pink-and-blue literary
world, immersing them in a saccharine plot that would offend not a
single stomach in Marietta. He had it typed in double space--this last
as advised by a booklet, "Success as a Writer Made Easy," by R. Meggs
Widdlestien, which assured the ambitious plumber of the futility of
perspiration, since after a six-lesson course he could make at least a
thousand dollars a month.
After reading it to a bored Gloria and coaxing from her the immemorial
remark that it was "better than a lot of stuff that gets published," he
satirically affixed the nom de plume of "Gilles de Sade," enclosed the
proper return envelope, and sent it off.
Following the gigantic labor of conception he decided to wait until he
heard from the first story before beginning another. Dick had told him
that he might get as much as two hundred dollars. If by any chance it
did happen to be unsuited, the editor's letter would, no doubt, give him
an idea of what changes should be made.
"It is, without question, the most abominable piece of writing in
existence," said Anthony.
The editor quite conceivably agreed with him. He returned the manuscript
with a rejection slip. Anthony sent it off elsewhere and began another
story. The second one was called "The Little Open Doors"; it was written
in three days. It concerned the occult: an estranged couple were brought
together by a medium in a vaudeville show.
There were six altogether, six wretched and pitiable efforts to "write
down" by a man who had never before made a consistent effort to write at
all. Not one of them contained a spark of vitality, and their total
yield of grace and felicity was less than that of an average newspaper
column. During their circulation they collected, all told, thirty-one
rejection slips, headstones for the packages that he would find lying
like dead bodies at his door.
In mid-January Gloria's father died, and they went again to Kansas
City--a miserable trip, for Gloria brooded interminably, not upon her
father's death, but on her mother's. Russel Gilbert's affairs having
been cleared up they came into possession of about three thousand
dollars, and a great amount of furniture. This was in storage, for he
had spent his last days in a small hotel. It was due to his death that
Anthony made a new discovery concerning Gloria. On the journey East she
disclosed herself, astonishingly, as a Bilphist.
"Why, Gloria," he cried, "you don't mean to tell me you believe that
"Well," she said defiantly, "why not?"
"Because it's--it's fantastic. You know that in every sense of the word
you're an agnostic. You'd laugh at any orthodox form of
Christianity--and then you come out with the statement that you believe
in some silly rule of reincarnation."
"What if I do? I've heard you and Maury, and every one else for whose
intellect I have the slightest respect, agree that life as it appears is
utterly meaningless. But it's always seemed to me that if I were
unconsciously learning something here it might not be so meaningless."
"You're not learning anything--you're just getting tired. And if you
must have a faith to soften things, take up one that appeals to the
reason of some one beside a lot of hysterical women. A person like you
oughtn't to accept anything unless it's decently demonstrable."
"I don't care about truth. I want some happiness."
"Well, if you've got a decent mind the second has got to be qualified by
the first. Any simple soul can delude himself with mental garbage."
"I don't care," she held out stoutly, "and, what's more, I'm not
propounding any doctrine."
The argument faded off, but reoccurred to Anthony several times
thereafter. It was disturbing to find this old belief, evidently
assimilated from her mother, inserting itself again under its immemorial
disguise as an innate idea.
They reached New York in March after an expensive and ill-advised week
spent in Hot Springs, and Anthony resumed his abortive attempts at
fiction. As it became plainer to both of them that escape did not lie in
the way of popular literature, there was a further slipping of their
mutual confidence and courage. A complicated struggle went on
incessantly between them. All efforts to keep down expenses died away
from sheer inertia, and by March they were again using any pretext as an
excuse for a "party." With an assumption of recklessness Gloria tossed
out the suggestion that they should take all their money and go on a
real spree while it lasted--anything seemed better than to see it go in
"Gloria, you want parties as much as I do."
"It doesn't matter about me. Everything I do is in accordance with my
ideas: to use every minute of these years, when I'm young, in having the
best time I possibly can."
"How about after that?"
"After that I won't care."
"Yes, you will."
"Well, I may--but I won't be able to do anything about it. And I'll have
had my good time."
"You'll be the same then. After a fashion, we _have_ had our good time,
raised the devil, and we're in the state of paying for it."
Nevertheless, the money kept going. There would be two days of gaiety,
two days of moroseness--an endless, almost invariable round. The sharp
pull-ups, when they occurred, resulted usually in a spurt of work for
Anthony, while Gloria, nervous and bored, remained in bed or else chewed
abstractedly at her fingers. After a day or so of this, they would make
an engagement, and then--Oh, what did it matter? This night, this glow,
the cessation of anxiety and the sense that if living was not purposeful
it was, at any rate, essentially romantic! Wine gave a sort of gallantry
to their own failure.
Meanwhile the suit progressed slowly, with interminable examinations of
witnesses and marshallings of evidence. The preliminary proceedings of
settling the estate were finished. Mr. Haight saw no reason why the case
should not come up for trial before summer.
Bloeckman appeared in New York late in March; he had been in England for
nearly a year on matters concerned with "Films Par Excellence." The
process of general refinement was still in progress--always he dressed a
little better, his intonation was mellower, and in his manner there was
perceptibly more assurance that the fine things of the world were his by
a natural and inalienable right. He called at the apartment, remained
only an hour, during which he talked chiefly of the war, and left
telling them he was coming again. On his second visit Anthony was not at
home, but an absorbed and excited Gloria greeted her husband later in
"Anthony," she began, "would you still object if I went in the movies?"
His whole heart hardened against the idea. As she seemed to recede from
him, if only in threat, her presence became again not so much precious
as desperately necessary.
"Blockhead said he'd put me in--only if I'm ever going to do anything
I'll have to start now. They only want young women. Think of the
"For you--yes. But how about me?"
"Don't you know that anything I have is yours too?"
"It's such a hell of a career!" he burst out, the moral, the infinitely
circumspect Anthony, "and such a hell of a bunch. And I'm so utterly
tired of that fellow Bloeckman coming here and interfering. I hate
"It isn't theatrical! It's utterly different."
"What am I supposed to do? Chase you all over the country? Live on your
"Then make some yourself."
The conversation developed into one of the most violent quarrels they
had ever had. After the ensuing reconciliation and the inevitable period
of moral inertia, she realized that he had taken the life out of the
project. Neither of them ever mentioned the probability that Bloeckman
was by no means disinterested, but they both knew that it lay back of
In April war was declared with Germany. Wilson and his cabinet--a
cabinet that in its lack of distinction was strangely reminiscent of the
twelve apostles--let loose the carefully starved dogs of war, and the
press began to whoop hysterically against the sinister morals, sinister
philosophy, and sinister music produced by the Teutonic temperament.
Those who fancied themselves particularly broad-minded made the
exquisite distinction that it was only the German Government which
aroused them to hysteria; the rest were worked up to a condition of
retching indecency. Any song which contained the word "mother" and the
word "kaiser" was assured of a tremendous success. At last every one had
something to talk about--and almost every one fully enjoyed it, as
though they had been cast for parts in a sombre and romantic play.
Anthony, Maury, and Dick sent in their applications for officers'
training-camps and the two latter went about feeling strangely exalted
and reproachless; they chattered to each other, like college boys, of
war's being the one excuse for, and justification of, the aristocrat,
and conjured up an impossible caste of officers, to be composed, it
appeared, chiefly of the more attractive alumni of three or four Eastern
colleges. It seemed to Gloria that in this huge red light streaming
across the nation even Anthony took on a new glamour.
The Tenth Infantry, arriving in New York from Panama, were escorted from
saloon to saloon by patriotic citizens, to their great bewilderment.
West Pointers began to be noticed for the first time in years, and the
general impression was that everything was glorious, but not half so
glorious as it was going to be pretty soon, and that everybody was a
fine fellow, and every race a great race--always excepting the
Germans--and in every strata of society outcasts and scapegoats had but
to appear in uniform to be forgiven, cheered, and wept over by
relatives, ex-friends, and utter strangers.
Unfortunately, a small and precise doctor decided that there was
something the matter with Anthony's blood-pressure. He could not
conscientiously pass him for an officers' training-camp.
THE BROKEN LUTE
Their third anniversary passed, uncelebrated, unnoticed. The season
warmed in thaw, melted into hotter summer, simmered and boiled away. In
July the will was offered for probate, and upon the contestation was
assigned by the surrogate to trial term for trial. The matter was
prolonged into September--there was difficulty in empanelling an
unbiassed jury because of the moral sentiments involved. To Anthony's
disappointment a verdict was finally returned in favor of the testator,
whereupon Mr. Haight caused a notice of appeal to be served upon Edward
As the summer waned Anthony and Gloria talked of the things they were to
do when the money was theirs, and of the places they were to go to after
the war, when they would "agree on things again," for both of them
looked forward to a time when love, springing like the phoenix from its
own ashes, should be born again in its mysterious and unfathomable haunts.
He was drafted early in the fall, and the examining doctor made no
mention of low blood-pressure. It was all very purposeless and sad when
Anthony told Gloria one night that he wanted, above all things, to be
killed. But, as always, they were sorry for each other for the wrong
things at the wrong times....
They decided that for the present she was not to go with him to the
Southern camp where his contingent was ordered. She would remain in New
York to "use the apartment," to save money, and to watch the progress of
the case--which was pending now in the Appellate Division, of which the
calendar, Mr. Haight told them, was far behind.
Almost their last conversation was a senseless quarrel about the proper
division of the income--at a word either would have given it all to the
other. It was typical of the muddle and confusion of their lives that on
the October night when Anthony reported at the Grand Central Station for
the journey to camp, she arrived only in time to catch his eye over the
anxious heads of a gathered crowd. Through the dark light of the
enclosed train-sheds their glances stretched across a hysterical area,
foul with yellow sobbing and the smells of poor women. They must have
pondered upon what they had done to one another, and each must have
accused himself of drawing this sombre pattern through which they were
tracing tragically and obscurely. At the last they were too far away for
either to see the other's tears.