One Basket [31 Stories]
Edna Ferber

Part 1 out of 3

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The Woman Who Tried to Be Good

Before she tried to be a good woman she had been a very bad
woman--so bad that she could trail her wonderful apparel up and
down Main Street, from the Elm Tree Bakery to the railroad
tracks, without once having a man doff his hat to her or a woman
bow. You passed her on the street with a surreptitious glance,
though she was well worth looking at-- in her furs and laces and
plumes. She had the only full-length mink coat in our town, and
Ganz's shoe store sent to Chicago for her shoes. Hers were the
miraculously small feet you frequently see in stout women.

Usually she walked alone; but on rare occasions, especially round
Christmastime, she might have been seen accompanied by some
silent, dull-eyed, stupid-looking girl, who would follow her
dumbly in and out of stores, stopping now and then to admire a
cheap comb or a chain set with flashy imitation stones--or,
queerly enough, a doll with yellow hair and blue eyes and very
pink cheeks. But, alone or in company, her appearance in the
stores of our town was the signal for a sudden jump in the cost
of living. The storekeepers mulcted her; and she knew it and paid
in silence, for she was of the class that has no redress. She
owned the House with the Closed Shutters, near the freight
depot--did Blanche Devine.

In a larger town than ours she would have passed unnoticed. She
did not look like a bad woman. Of course she used too much
make-up, and as she passed you caught the oversweet breath of a
certain heavy scent. Then, too, her diamond eardrops would have
made any woman's features look hard; but her plump face, in spite
of its heaviness, wore an expression of good-humored
intelligence, and her eyeglasses gave her somehow a look of
respectability. We do not associate vice with eyeglasses. So in
a large city she would have passed for a well-dressed,
prosperous, comfortable wife and mother who was in danger of
losing her figure from an overabundance of good living; but with
us she was a town character, like Old Man Givins, the drunkard,
or the weak-minded Binns girl. When she passed the drug- store
corner there would be a sniggering among the vacant-eyed loafers
idling there, and they would leer at each other and jest in

So, knowing Blanche Devine as we did, there was something
resembling a riot in one of our most respectable neighborhoods
when it was learned that she had given up her interest in the
house near the freight depot and was going to settle down in the
white cottage on the corner and be good. All the husbands in the
block, urged on by righteously indignant wives, dropped in on
Alderman Mooney after supper to see if the thing could not be
stopped. The fourth of the protesting husbands to arrive was the
Very Young Husband who lived next door to the corner cottage that
Blanche Devine had bought. The Very Young Husband had a Very
Young Wife, and they were the joint owners of Snooky. Snooky was
three-going- on-four, and looked something like an angel--only
healthier and with grimier hands. The whole neighborhood
borrowed her and tried to spoil her; but Snooky would not spoil.

Alderman Mooney was down in the cellar, fooling with the furnace.

He was in his furnace overalls; a short black pipe in his mouth.
Three protesting husbands had just left. As the Very Young
Husband, following Mrs. Mooney's directions, descended the cellar
stairs, Alderman Mooney looked up from his tinkering. He peered
through a haze of pipe smoke.

"Hello!" he called, and waved the haze away with his open palm.

"Come on down! Been tinkering with this blamed furnace since
supper. She don't draw like she ought. 'Long toward spring a
furnace always gets balky. How many tons you used this winter?"

"Oh-five," said the Very Young Husband shortly. Alderman
Mooney considered it thoughtfully. The Young Husband leaned up
against the side of the water tank, his hands in his pockets.
"Say, Mooney, is that right about Blanche Devine's having bought
the house on the corner?"

"You're the fourth man that's been in to ask me that this
evening. I'm expecting the rest of the block before bedtime.
She bought it all right."

The Young Husband flushed and kicked at a piece of coal with the
toe of his boot.

"Well, it's a darned shame!" he began hotly. "Jen was ready
to cry at supper. This'll be a fine neighborhood for Snooky to
grow up in! What's a woman like that want to come into a
respectable street for, anyway? I own my home and pay my

Alderman Mooney looked up.

"So does she," he interrupted. "She's going to improve the
place--paint it, and put in a cellar and a furnace, and build a
porch, and lay a cement walk all round."

The Young Husband took his hands out of his pockets in order to
emphasize his remarks with gestures.

"Whati's that got to do with it? I don't care if she puts in
diamonds for windows and sets out Italian gardens and a terrace
with peacocks on it. You're the alderman of this ward, aren't
you? Well, it was up to you to keep her out of this block! You
could have fixed it with an injunction or somethng. I'm going to
get up a petition--that's what I'm going----"

Alderman Mooney closed the furnace door with a bang that drowned
the rest of the threat. He turned the draft in a pipe overhead
and brushed his sooty palms briskly together like one who would
put an end to a profitless conversation.

"She's bought the house," he said mildly, "and paid for it.
And it's hers. She's got a right to live in this neighborhood as
long as she acts respectable."

The Very Young Husband laughed.

"She won't last! They never do."

Alderman Mooney had taken his pipe out of his mouth and was
rubbing his thumb over the smooth bowl, looking down at it with
unseeing eyes. On his face was a queer look--the look of one who
is embarrassed because he is about to say something honest.

"Look here! I want to tell you something: I happened to be up
in the mayor's office the day Blanche signed for the place. She
had to go through a lot of red tape before she got it--had quite
a time of it, she did! And say, kid, that woman ain't so--bad."

The Very Young Husband exclaimed impatiently:

"Oh, don't give me any of that, Mooney! Blanche Devine's a town
character. Even the kids know what she is. If she's got
religion or something, and wants to quit and be decent, why
doesn't she go to another town-- Chicago or someplace--where
nobody knows her?"

That motion of Alderman Mooney's thumb against the smooth pipe
bowl stopped. He looked up slowly.

"That's what I said--the mayor too. But Blanche Devine said she
wanted to try it here. She said this was home to her.
Funny--ain't it? Said she wouldn't be fooling anybody here.
They know her. And if she moved away, she said, it'd leak out
some way sooner or later. It does, she said. Always! Seems she
wants to live like--well, like other women. She put it like
this: she says she hasn't got religion, or any of that. She says
she's no different than she was when she was twenty. She says
that for the last ten years the ambition of her life has been to
be able to go into a grocery store and ask the price of, say,
celery; and, if the clerk charged her ten when it ought to be
seven, to be able to sass him with a regular piece of her mind--
and then sail out and trade somewhere else until he saw that she
didn't have to stand anything from storekeepers, any more than
any other woman that did her own marketing. She's a smart woman,
Blanche is! God knows I ain't taking her part--exactly; but she
talked a little, and the mayor and me got a little of her

A sneer appeared on the face of the Very Young Husband. He had
been known before he met Jen as a rather industrious sower of
wild oats. He knew a thing or two, did the Very Young Husband,
in spite of his youth! He always fussed when Jen wore even a
V-necked summer gown on the street.

"Oh, she wasn't playing for sympathy," went on Alderman Mooney
in answer to the sneer. "She said she'd always paid her way and
always expected to. Seems her husband left her without a cent
when she was eighteen--with a baby. She worked for four dollars
a week in a cheap eating house. The two of 'em couldn't live on
that. Then the baby----"

"Good night!" said the Very Young Husband. "I suppose Mrs.
Mooney's going to call?"

"Minnie! It was her scolding all through supper that drove me
down to monkey with the furnace. She's wild--Minnie is." He
peeled off his overalls and hung them on a nail. The Young
Husband started to ascend the cellar stairs. Alderman Mooney
laid a detaining finger on his sleeve. "Don't say anything in
front of Minnie! She's boiling! Minnie and the kids are going
to visit her folks out West this summer; so I wouldn't so much as
dare to say `Good morning!' to the Devine woman. Anyway, a
person wouldn't talk to her, I suppose. But I kind of thought
I'd tell you about her.

"Thanks!" said the Very Young Husband dryly.

In the early spring, before Blanche Devine moved in, there came
stone- masons, who began to build something. It was a great
stone fireplace that rose in massive incongruity at the side of
the little white cottage. Blanche Devine was trying to make a
home for herself.

Blanche Devine used to come and watch them now and then as the
work progressed. She had a way of walking round and round the
house, looking up at it and poking at plaster and paint with her
umbrella or finger tip. One day she brought with her a man with
a spade. He spaded up a neat square of ground at the side of the
cottage and a long ridge near the fence that separated her yard
from that of the Very Young Couple next door. The ridge spelled
sweet peas and nasturtiums to our small-town eyes.

On the day that Blanche Devine moved in there was wild agitation
among the white-ruffed bedroom curtains of the neighborhood.
Later on certain odors, as of burning dinners, pervaded the
atmosphere. Blanche Devine, flushed and excited, her hair
slightly askew, her diamond eardrops flashing, directed the
moving, wrapped in her great fur coat; but on the third morning
we gasped when she appeared out-of-doors, carrying a little
household ladder, a pail of steaming water, and sundry voluminous
white cloths. She reared the little ladder against the side of
the house, mounted it cautiously, and began to wash windows with
housewifely thoroughness. Her stout figure was swathed in a gray
sweater and on her head was a battered felt hat--the sort of
window--washing costume that has been worn by women from time
immemorial. We noticed that she used plenty of hot water and
clean rags, and that she rubbed the glass until it sparkled,
leaning perilously sideways on the ladder to detect elusive
streaks. Our keenest housekeeping eye could find no fault with
the way Blanche Devine washed windows.

By May, Blanche Devine had left off her diamond eardrops--perhaps
it was their absence that gave her face a new expression. When
she went downtown we noticed that her hats were more like the
hats the other women in our town wore; but she still affected
extravagant footgear, as is right and proper for a stout woman
who has cause to be vain of her feet. We noticed that her trips
downtown were rare that spring and summer. She used to come home
laden with little bundles; and before supper she would change her
street clothes for a neat, washable housedress, as is our thrifty
custom. Through her bright windows we could see her moving
briskly about from kitchen to sitting room; and from the smells
that floated out from her kitchen door, she seemed to be
preparing for her solitary supper the same homely viands that
were frying or stewing or baking in our kitchens. Sometimes you
could detect the delectable scent of browning, hot tea biscuit.
It takes a determined woman to make tea biscuit for no one but

Blanche Devine joined the church. On the first Sunday morning
she came to the service there was a little flurry among the
ushers at the vestibule door. They seated her well in the rear.
The second Sunday morning a dreadful thing happened. The woman
next to whom they seated her turned, regarded her stonily for a
moment, then rose agitatedly and moved to a pew across the aisle.

Blanche Devine's face went a dull red beneath her white powder.
She never came again--though we saw the minister visit her once
or twice. She always accompanied him to the door pleasantly,
holding it well open until he was down the little flight of steps
and on the sidewalk. The minister's wife did not call.

She rose early, like the rest of us; and as summer came on we
used to see her moving about in her little garden patch in the
dewy, golden morning. She wore absurd pale-blue negligees that
made her stout figure loom immense against the greenery of garden
and apple tree. The neighborhood women viewed these negligees
with Puritan disapproval as they smoothed down their own prim,
starched gingham skirts. They said it was disgusting --and
perhaps it was; but the habit of years is not easily overcome.
Blanche Devine--snipping her sweet peas, peering anxiously at the
Virginia creeper that clung with such fragile fingers to the
trellis, watering the flower baskets that hung from her
porch--was blissfully unconscious of the disapproving eyes. I
wish one of us had just stopped to call good morning to her over
the fence, and to say in our neighborly, small-town way: "My,
ain't this a scorcher! So early too! It'll be fierce by noon!"

But we did not.

I think perhaps the evenings must have been the loneliest for
her. The summer evenings in our little town are filled with
intimate, human, neighborly sounds. After the heat of the day it
is pleasant to relax in the cool comfort of the front porch, with
the life of the town eddying about us. We sew and read out there
until it grows dusk. We call across lots to our next- door
neighbor. The men water the lawns and the flower boxes and get
together in little, quiet groups to discuss the new street
paving. I have even known Mrs. Hines to bring her cherries out
there when she had canning to do, and pit them there on the front
porch partially shielded by her porch vine, but not so
effectually that she was deprived of the sights and sounds about
her. The kettle in her lap and the dishpan full of great ripe
cherries on the porch floor by her chair, she would pit and chat
and peer out through the vines, the red juice staining her plump
bare arms.

I have wondered since what Blanche Devine thought of us those
lonesome evenings--those evenings filled with friendly sights and
sounds. It must have been difficult for her, who had dwelt
behind closed shutters so long, to seat herself on the new front
porch for all the world to stare at; but she did sit
there--resolutely--watching us in silence.

She seized hungrily upon the stray crumbs of conversation that
fell to her. The milkman and the iceman and the butcher boy used
to hold daily conversation with her. They--sociable
gentlemen--would stand on her door- step, one grimy hand resting
against the white of her doorpost, exchanging the time of day
with Blanche in the doorway--a tea towel in one hand, perhaps,
and a plate in the other. Her little house was a miracle of
cleanliness. It was no uncommon sight to see her down on her
knees on the kitchen floor, wielding her brush and rag like the
rest of us. In canning and preserving time there floated out
from her kitchen the pungent scent of pickled crab apples; the
mouth-watering smell that meant sweet pickles; or the cloying,
divinely sticky odor that meant raspberry jam. Snooky, from her
side of the fence, often used to peer through the pickets, gazing
in the direction of the enticing smells next door.

Early one September morning there floated out from Blanche
Devine's kitchen that fragrant, sweet scent of fresh-baked
cookies--cookies with butter in them, and spice, and with nuts on
top. Just by the smell of them your mind's eye pictured them
coming from the oven-crisp brown circlets, crumbly, delectable.
Snooky, in her scarlet sweater and cap, sniffed them from afar
and straightway deserted her sand pile to take her stand at the
fence. She peered through the restraining bars, standing on
tiptoe. Blanche Devine, glancing up from her board and rolling
pin, saw the eager golden head. And Snooky, with guile in her
heart, raised one fat, dimpled hand above the fence and waved it
friendlily. Blanche Devine waved back. Thus encouraged,
Snooky's two hands wigwagged frantically above the pickets.
Blanche Devine hesitated a moment, her floury hand on her hip.
Then she went to the pantry shelf and took out a clean white
saucer. She selected from the brown jar on the table three of
the brownest, crumbliest, most perfect cookies, with a walnut
meat perched atop of each, placed them temptingly on the saucer
and, descending the steps, came swiftly across the grass to the
triumphant Snooky. Blanche Devine held out the saucer, her lips
smiling, her eyes tender. Snooky reached up with one plump white

"Snooky!" shrilled a high voice. "Snooky!" A voice of
horror and of wrath. "Come here to me this minute! And don't
you dare to touch those!" Snooky hesitated rebelliously, one
pink finger in her pouting mouth.

"Snooky! Do you hear me?"

And the Very Young Wife began to descend the steps of her back
porch. Snooky, regretful eyes on the toothsome dainties, turned
away aggrieved. The Very Young Wife, her lips set, her eyes
flashing, advanced and seized the shrieking Snooky by one arm and
dragged her away toward home and safety.

Blanche Devine stood there at the fence, holding the saucer in
her hand. The saucer tipped slowly, and the three cookies slipped
off and fell to the grass. Blanche Devine stood staring at them
a moment. Then she turned quickly, went into the house, and shut
the door.

It was about this time we noticed that Blanche Devine was away
much of the time. The little white cottage would be empty for
weeks. We knew she was out of town because the expressman would
come for her trunk. We used to lift our eyebrows significantly.
The newspapers and handbills would accumulate in a dusty little
heap on the porch; but when she returned there was always a grand
cleaning, with the windows open, and Blanche--her head bound
turbanwise in a towel--appearing at a window every few minutes to
shake out a dustcloth. She seemed to put an enormous amount of
energy into those cleanings--as if they were a sort of safety

As winter came on she used to sit up before her grate fire long,
long after we were asleep in our beds. When she neglected to
pull down the shades we could see the flames of her cosy fire
dancing gnomelike on the wall.
There came a night of sleet and snow, and wind and rattling
hail--one of those blustering, wild nights that are followed by
morning-paper reports of trains stalled in drifts, mail delayed,
telephone and telegraph wires down. It must have been midnight
or past when there came a hammering at Blanche Devine's door--a
persistent, clamorous rapping. Blanche Devine, sitting before
her dying fire half asleep, started and cringed when she heard
it, then jumped to her feet, her hand at her breast--her eyes
darting this way and that, as though seeking escape.

She had heard a rapping like that before. It had meant bluecoats
swarming up the stairway, and frightened cries and pleadings, and
wild confusion. So she started forward now, quivering. And then
she remembered, being wholly awake now--she remembered, and threw
up her head and smiled a little bitterly and walked toward the
door. The hammering continued, louder than ever. Blanche Devine
flicked on the porch light and opened the door. The half-clad
figure of the Very Young Wife next door staggered into the room.
She seized Blanche Devine's arm with both her frenzied hands and
shook her, the wind and snow beating in upon both of them.

"The baby!" she screamed in a high, hysterical voice. "The
baby! The baby----!"

Blanche Devine shut the door and shook the Young Wife smartly by
the shoulders.

"Stop screaming," she said quietly. "Is she sick?"

The Young Wife told her, her teeth chattering:

"Come quick! She's dying! Will's out of town. I tried to get
the doctor. The telephone wouldn't---- I saw your light! For
God's sake----"

Blanche Devine grasped the Young Wife's arm, opened the door, and
together they sped across the little space that separated the two
houses. Blanche Devine was a big woman, but she took the stairs
like a girl and found the right bedroom by some miraculous woman
instinct. A dreadful choking, rattling sound was coming from
Snooky's bed.

"Croup," said Blanche Devine, and began her fight.

It was a good fight. She marshaled her inadequate forces, made
up of the half-fainting Young Wife and the terrified and awkward
hired girl.

"Get the hot water on--lots of it!" Blanche Devine pinned up
her sleeves. "Hot cloths! Tear up a sheet--or anything! Got an
oilstove? I want a tea- kettle boiling in the room. She's got
to have the steam. If that don't do it we'll raise an umbrella
over her and throw a sheet over, and hold the kettle under till
the steam gets to her that way. Got any ipecac?"

The Young Wife obeyed orders, white-faced and shaking. Once
Blanche Devine glanced up at her sharply.

"Don't you dare faint!" she commanded.

And the fight went on. Gradually the breathing that had been so
frightful became softer, easier. Blanche Devine did not relax.
It was not until the little figure breathed gently in sleep that
Blanche Devine sat back, satisfied. Then she tucked a cover at
the side of the bed, took a last satisfied look at the face on
the pillow, and turned to look at the wan, disheveled Young Wife.

"She's all right now. We can get the doctor when morning
comes-- though I don't know's you'll need him."

The Young Wife came round to Blanche Devine's side of the bed and
stood looking up at her.

"My baby died," said Blanche Devine simply. The Young Wife
gave a little inarticulate cry, put her two hands on Blanche
Devine's broad shoulders, and laid her tired head on her breast.

"I guess I'd better be going," said Blanche Devine.

The Young Wife raised her head. Her eyes were round with fright.

"Going! Oh, please stay! I'm so afraid. Suppose she should
take sick again! That awful--breathing----"

"I'll stay if you want me to."

"Oh, please! I'll make up your bed and you can rest----"

"I'm not sleepy. I'm not much of a hand to sleep anyway. I'll
sit up here in the hall, where there's a light. You get to bed.
I'll watch and see that everything's all right. Have you got
something I can read out here--something kind of lively--with a
love story in it?"

So the night went by. Snooky slept in her white bed. The Very
Young Wife half dozed in her bed, so near the little one. In the
hall, her stout figure looming grotesque in wall shadows, sat
Blanche Devine, pretending to read. Now and then she rose and
tiptoed into the bedroom with miraculous quiet, and stooped over
the little bed and listened and looked--and tiptoed away again,

The Young Husband came home from his business trip next day with
tales of snowdrifts and stalled engines. Blanche Devine breathed
a sigh of relief when she saw him from her kitchen window. She
watched the house now with a sort of proprietary eye. She
wondered about Snooky; but she knew better than to ask. So she
waited. The Young Wife next door had told her husband all about
that awful night--had told him with tears and sobs. The Very
Young Husband had been very, very angry with her-- angry, he
said, and astonished! Snooky could not have been so sick! Look
at her now! As well as ever. And to have called such a woman!
Well, he did not want to be harsh; but she must understand that
she must never speak to the woman again. Never!

So the next day the Very Young Wife happened to go by with the
Young Husband. Blanche Devine spied them from her sitting-room
window, and she made the excuse of looking in her mailbox in
order to go to the door. She stood in the doorway and the Very
Young Wife went by on the arm of her husband. She went
by--rather white-faced--without a look or a word or a sign!

And then this happened! There came into Blanche Devine's face a
look that made slits of her eyes, and drew her mouth down into an
ugly, narrow line, and that made the muscles of her jaw tense and
hard. It was the ugliest look you can imagine. Then she
smiled--if having one's lips curl away from one's teeth can be
called smiling.

Two days later there was great news of the white cottage on the
corner. The curtains were down; the furniture was packed; the
rugs were rolled. The wagons came and backed up to the house and
took those things that had made a home for Blanche Devine. And
when we heard that she had bought back her interest in the House
with the Closed Shutters, near the freight depot, we sniffed.

"I knew she wouldn't last!" we said.

"They never do!" said we.

The Gay Old Dog

Those of you who have dwelt--or even lingered--in Chicago,
Illinois, are familiar with the region known as the Loop. For
those others of you to whom Chicago is a transfer point between
New York and California there is presented this brief

The Loop is a clamorous, smoke-infested district embraced by the
iron arms of the elevated tracks. In a city boasting fewer
millions, it would be known familiarly as downtown. From
Congress to Lake Street, from Wabash almost to the river, those
thunderous tracks make a complete circle, or loop. Within it lie
the retail shops, the commercial hotels, the theaters, the
restaurants. It is the Fifth Avenue and the Broadway of Chicago.

And he who frequents it by night in search of amusement and cheer
is known, vulgarly, as a Loop-hound.

Jo Hertz was a Loop-hound. On the occasion of those sparse first
nights granted the metropolis of the Middle West he was always
present, third row, aisle, left. When a new Loop cafe' was
opened, Jo's table always commanded an unobstructed view of
anything worth viewing. On entering he was wont to say, "Hello,
Gus," with careless cordiality to the headwaiter, the while his
eye roved expertly from table to table as he removed his gloves.
He ordered things under glass, so that his table, at midnight or
thereabouts, resembled a hotbed that favors the bell system. The
waiters fought for him. He was the kind of man who mixes his own
salad dressing. He liked to call for a bowl, some cracked ice,
lemon, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, vinegar, and oil and make a
rite of it. People at near-by tables would lay down their knives
and forks to watch, fascinated. The secret of it seemed to lie
in using all the oil in sight and calling for more.

That was Jo--a plump and lonely bachelor of fifty. A plethoric,
roving- eyed, and kindly man, clutching vainly at the garments of
a youth that had long slipped past him. Jo Hertz, in one of
those pinch-waist suits and a belted coat and a little green hat,
walking up Michigan Avenue of a bright winter's afternoon, trying
to take the curb with a jaunty youthfulness against which every
one of his fat-encased muscles rebelled, was a sight for mirth or
pity, depending on one's vision.

The gay-dog business was a late phase in the life of Jo Hertz.
He had been a quite different sort of canine. The staid and
harassed brother of three unwed and selfish sisters is an

At twenty-seven Jo had been the dutiful, hard-working son (in the
wholesale harness business) of a widowed and gummidging mother,
who called him Joey. Now and then a double wrinkle would appear
between Jo's eyes--a wrinkle that had no business there at
twenty-seven. Then Jo's mother died, leaving him handicapped by
a deathbed promise, the three sisters, and a
three-story-and-basement house on Calumet Avenue. Jo's wrinkle
became a fixture.

"Joey," his mother had said, in her high, thin voice, "take
care of the girls."

"I will, Ma," Jo had choked.

"Joey," and the voice was weaker, "promise me you won't marry
till the girls are all provided for." Then as Jo had hesitated,
appalled: "Joey, it's my dying wish. Promise!"

"I promise, Ma," he had said.

Whereupon his mother had died, comfortably, leaving him with a
completely ruined life.

They were not bad-looking girls, and they had a certain style,
too. That is, Stell and Eva had. Carrie, the middle one, taught
school over on the West Side. In those days it took her almost
two hours each way. She said the kind of costume she required
should have been corrugated steel. But all three knew what was
being worn, and they wore it--or fairly faithful copies of it.
Eva, the housekeeping sister, had a needle knack. She could skim
the State Street windows and come away with a mental photograph
of every separate tuck, hem, yoke, and ribbon. Heads of
departments showed her the things they kept in drawers, and she
went home and reproduced them with the aid of a seamstress by the
day. Stell, the youngest, was the beauty. They called her Babe.

Twenty-three years ago one's sisters did not strain at the
household leash, nor crave a career. Carrie taught school, and
hated it. Eva kept house expertly and complainingly. Babe's
profession was being the family beauty, and it took all her spare
time. Eva always let her sleep until ten.

This was Jo's household, and he was the nominal head of it. But
it was an empty title. The three women dominated his life. They
weren't con- sciously selfish. If you had called them cruel they
would have put you down as mad. When you are the lone brother of
three sisters, it means that you must constantly be calling for,
escorting, or dropping one of them somewhere. Most men of Jo's
age were standing before their mirror of a Saturday night,
whistling blithely and abstractedly while they discarded a blue
polka-dot for a maroon tie, whipped off the maroon for a
shot-silk and at the last moment decided against the shot-silk in
favor of a plain black-and-white because she had once said she
preferred quiet ties. Jo, when he should have been preening his
feathers for conquest, was saying:

"Well, my God, I AM hurrying! Give a man time, can't you? I
just got home. You girls been laying around the house all day.
No wonder you're ready."

He took a certain pride in seeing his sisters well dressed, at a
time when he should have been reveling in fancy waistcoats and
brilliant-hued socks, according to the style of that day and the
inalienable right of any unwed male under thirty, in any day. On
those rare occasions when his business necessitated an
out-of-town trip, he would spend half a day floundering about the
shops selecting handkerchiefs, or stockings, or feathers, or
gloves for the girls. They always turned out to be the wrong
kind, judging by their reception.

From Carrie, "What in the world do I want of long white

"I thought you didn't have any," Jo would say.

"I haven't. I never wear evening clothes."

Jo would pass a futile hand over the top of his head, as was his
way when disturbed. "I just thought you'd like them. I thought
every girl liked long white gloves. Just," feebly, "just
to--to have."

"Oh, for pity's sake!"

And from Eva or Babe, "I've GOT silk stockings, Jo." Or, "You
brought me handkerchiefs the last time."

There was something selfish in his giving, as there always is in
any gift freely and joyfully made. They never suspected the
exquisite pleasure it gave him to select these things, these
fine, soft, silken things. There were many things about this
slow-going, amiable brother of theirs that they never suspected.
If you had told them he was a dreamer of dreams, for example,
they would have been amused. Sometimes, dead-tired by nine
o'clock after a hard day downtown, he would doze over the evening
paper. At intervals he would wake, red-eyed, to a snatch of
conversation such as, "Yes, but if you get a blue you can wear
it anywhere. It's dressy, and at the same time it's quiet,
too." Eva, the expert, wrestling with Carrie over the problem
of the new spring dress. They never guessed that the com-
monplace man in the frayed old smoking jacket had banished them
all from the room long ago; had banished himself, for that
matter. In his place was a tall, debonair, and rather
dangerously handsome man to whom six o'clock spelled evening
clothes. The kind of man who can lean up against a mantel, or
propose a toast, or give an order to a manservant, or whisper a
gallant speech in a lady's ear with equal ease. The shabby old
house on Calumet Avenue was transformed into a brocaded and
chandeliered rendezvous for the brilliance of the city. Beauty
was here, and wit. But none so beautiful and witty as She.
Mrs.--er--Jo Hertz. There was wine, of course; but no vulgar
display. There was music; the soft sheen of satin; laughter.
And he, the gracious, tactful host, king of his own domain----

"Jo, for heaven's sake, if you're going to snore, go to bed!"

"Why--did I fall asleep?"

"You haven't been doing anything else all evening. A person
would think you were fifty instead of thirty."

And Jo Hertz was again just the dull, gray, commonplace brother
of three well-meaning sisters.

Babe used to say petulantly, "Jo, why don't you ever bring home
any of your men friends? A girl might as well not have any
brother, all the good you do."

Jo, conscience-stricken, did his best to make amends. But a man
who has been petticoat-ridden for years loses the knack, somehow,
of comradeship with men.

One Sunday in May Jo came home from a late-Sunday-afternoon walk
to find company for supper. Carrie often had in one of her
schoolteacher friends, or Babe one of her frivolous intimates, or
even Eva a staid guest of the old-girl type. There was always a
Sunday-night supper of potato salad, and cold meat, and coffee,
and perhaps a fresh cake. Jo rather enjoyed it, being a
hospitable soul. But he regarded the guests with the undazzled
eyes of a man to whom they were just so many petticoats, timid of
the night streets and requiring escort home. If you had
suggested to him that some of his sisters' popularity was due to
his own presence, or if you had hinted that the more kittenish of
these visitors were probably making eyes at him, he would have
stared in amazement and unbelief.

This Sunday night it turned out to be one of Carrie's friends.

"Emily," said Carrie, "this is my brother, Jo."

Jo had learned what to expect in Carrie's friends. Drab-looking
women in the late thirties, whose facial lines all slanted

"Happy to meet you," said Jo, and looked down at a different
sort altogether. A most surprisingly different sort, for one of
Carrie's friends. This Emily person was very small, and fluffy,
and blue-eyed, and crinkly looking. The corners of her mouth when
she smiled, and her eyes when she looked up at you, and her hair,
which was brown, but had the miraculous effect, somehow, of
looking golden.

Jo shook hands with her. Her hand was incredibly small, and
soft, so that you were afraid of crushing it, until you
discovered she had a firm little grip all her own. It surprised
and amused you, that grip, as does a baby's unexpected clutch on
your patronizing forefinger. As Jo felt it in his own big clasp,
the strangest thing happened to him. Something inside Jo Hertz
stopped working for a moment, then lurched sickeningly, then
thumped like mad. It was his heart. He stood staring down at
her, and she up at him, until the others laughed. Then their
hands fell apart, lingeringly.

"Are you a schoolteacher, Emily?" he said.

"Kindergarten. It's my first year. And don't call me Emily,

"Why not? It's your name. I think it's the prettiest name in
the world." Which he hadn't meant to say at all. In fact, he
was perfectly aghast to find himself saying it. But he meant it.

At supper he passed her things, and stared, until everybody
laughed again, and Eva said acidly, "Why don't you feed her?"

It wasn't that Emily had an air of helplessness. She just made
him feel he wanted her to be helpless, so that he could help her.

Jo took her home, and from that Sunday night he began to strain
at the leash. He took his sisters out, dutifully, but he would
suggest, with a carelessness that deceived no one, "Don't you
want one of your girl friends to come along? That little
What's-her-name-Emily, or something. So long's I've got three of
you, I might as well have a full squad."

For a long time he didn't know what was the matter with him. He
only knew he was miserable, and yet happy. Sometimes his heart
seemed to ache with an actual physical ache. He realized that he
wanted to do things for Emily. He wanted to buy things for
Emily--useless, pretty, expensive things that he couldn't afford.

He wanted to buy everything that Emily needed, and everything
that Emily desired. He wanted to marry Emily. That was it. He
discovered that one day, with a shock, in the midst of a
transaction in the harness business. He stared at the man with
whom he was dealing until that startled person grew
uncomfortable. "What's the matter, Hertz?" "Matter?" "You
look as if you'd seen a ghost or found a gold mine. I don't know
which." "Gold mine," said Jo. And then, "No. Ghost." For
he remembered that high, thin voice, and his promise. And the
harness business was slithering downhill with dreadful rapidity,
as the automobile business began its amazing climb. Jo tried to
stop it. But he was not that kind of businessman. It never
occurred to him to jump out of the down-going vehicle and catch
the up-going one. He stayed on, vainly applying brakes that
refused to work. "You know, Emily, I couldn't support two
households now. Not the way things are. But if you'll wait. If
you'll only wait. The girls might--that is, Babe and Carrie--"

She was a sensible little thing, Emily. "Of course I'll wait.
But we mustn't just sit back and let the years go by. We've got
to help."

She went about it as if she were already a little matchmaking
matron. She corralled all the men she had ever known and
introduced them to Babe, Carrie, and Eva separately, in pairs,
and en masse. She got up picnics. She stayed home while Jo took
the three about. When she was present she tried to look as plain
and obscure as possible, so that the sisters should show up to
advantage. She schemed, and planned, and contrived, and hoped;
and smiled into Jo's despairing eyes.

And three years went by. Three precious years. Carrie still
taught school, and hated it. Eva kept house more and more
complainingly as prices advanced and allowance retreated. Stell
was still Babe, the family beauty. Emily's hair, somehow, lost
its glint and began to look just plain brown. Her crinkliness
began to iron out.

"Now, look here!" Jo argued, desperately, one night. "We
could be happy, anyway. There's plenty of room at the house.
Lots of people begin that way. Of course, I couldn't give you
all I'd like to, at first. But maybe, after a while--" No
dreams of salons, and brocade, and velvet-footed servitors, and
satin damask now. Just two rooms, all their own, all alone, and
Emily to work for. That was his dream. But it seemed less
possible than that other absurd one had been.

Emily was as practical a little thing as she looked fluffy. She
knew women. Especially did she know Eva, and Carrie, and Babe.
She tried to imagine herself taking the household affairs and the
housekeeping pocket- book out of Eva's expert hands. So then she
tried to picture herself allowing the reins of Jo's house to
remain in Eva's hands. And everything feminine and normal in her
rebelled. Emily knew she'd want to put away her own freshly
laundered linen, and smooth it, and pat it. She was that kind of
woman. She knew she'd want to do her own delightful haggling
with butcher and grocer. She knew she'd want to muss Jo's hair,
and sit on his knee, and even quarrel with him, if necessary,
without the awareness of three ever-present pairs of maiden eyes
and ears.

"No! No! We'd only be miserable. I know. Even if they didn't
object. And they would, Jo. Wouldn't they?"

His silence was miserable assent. Then, "But you do love me.
don't you, Emily?"

"I do, Jo. I love you--and love you--and love you. But, Jo,

"I know it, dear. I knew it all the time, really. I just
thought, maybe, somehow----"

The two sat staring for a moment into space, their hands clasped.

Then they both shut their eyes with a little shudder, as though
what they saw was terrible to look upon. Emily's hand, the tiny
hand that was so unexpectedly firm, tightened its hold on his,
and his crushed the absurd fingers until she winced with pain.

That was the beginning of the end, and they knew it.

Emily wasn't the kind of girl who would be left to pine. There
are too many Jos in the world whose hearts are prone to lurch and
then thump at the feel of a soft, fluttering, incredibly small
hand in their grip. One year later Emily was married to a young
man whose father owned a large, pie- shaped slice of the
prosperous state of Michigan.

That being safely accomplished, there was something grimly
humorous in the trend taken by affairs in the old house on
Calumet. For Eva married. Married well, too, though he was a
great deal older than she. She went off in a hat she had copied
from a French model at Field's, and a suit she had contrived with
a home dressmaker, aided by pressing on the part of the little
tailor in the basement over on Thirty-first Street. It was the
last of that, though. The next time they saw her, she had on a
hat that even she would have despaired of copying, and a suit
that sort of melted into your gaze. She moved to the North Side
(trust Eva for that), and Babe assumed the management of the
household on Calumet Avenue. It was rather a pinched little
household now, for the harness business shrank and shrank.

"I don't see how you can expect me to keep house decently on
this!" Babe would say contemptuously. Babe's nose, always a
little inclined to sharpness, had whittled down to a point of
late. "If you knew what Ben gives Eva."

"It's the best I can do, Sis. Business is something rotten."

"Ben says if you had the least bit of----" Ben was Eva's
husband, and quotable, as are all successful men.

"I don't care what Ben says," shouted Jo, goaded into rage.
"I'm sick of your everlasting Ben. Go and get a Ben of your
own, why don't you, if you're so stuck on the way he does

And Babe did. She made a last desperate drive, aided by Eva, and
she captured a rather surprised young man in the brokerage way,
who had made up his mind not to marry for years and years. Eva
wanted to give her her wedding things, but at that Jo broke into
sudden rebellion.

"No, sir! No Ben is going to buy my sister's wedding clothes,
understand? I guess I'm not broke--yet. I'll furnish the money
for her things, and there'll be enough of them, too." Babe had
as useless a trousseau, and as filled with extravagant pink-and-
blue and lacy and frilly things, as any daughter of doting
parents. Jo seemed to find a grim pleasure in providing them.
But it left him pretty well pinched. After Babe's marriage (she
insisted that they call her Estelle now) Jo sold the house on
Calumet. He and Carrie took one of those little flats that were
springing up, seemingly overnight, all through Chicago's South

There was nothing domestic about Carrie. She had given up
teaching two years before, and had gone into social-service work
on the West Side. She had what is known as a legal mind--hard,
clear, orderly--and she made a great success of it. Her dream
was to live at the Settlement House and give all her time to the
work. Upon the little household she bestowed a certain amount of
grim, capable attention. It was the same kind of attention she
would have given a piece of machinery whose oiling and running
had been entrusted to her care. She hated it, and didn't
hesitate to say so.

Jo took to prowling about department-store basements, and
household goods sections. He was always sending home a bargain
in a ham, or a sack of potatoes, or fifty pounds of sugar, or a
window clamp, or a new kind of paring knife. He was forever
doing odd jobs that the janitor should have done. It was the
domestic in him claiming its own.

Then, one night, Carrie came home with a dull glow in her
leathery cheeks, and her eyes alight with resolve. They had what
she called a plain talk.

"Listen, Jo. They've offered me the job of first assistant
resident worker. And I'm going to take it. Take it! I know
fifty other girls who'd give their ears for it. I go in next

They were at dinner. Jo looked up from his plate, dully. Then
he glanced around the little dining room, with its ugly tan walls
and its heavy, dark furniture (the Calumet Avenue pieces fitted
cumbersomely into the five-room flat).

"Away? Away from here, you mean--to live?"

Carrie laid down her fork. "Well, really, Jo! After all that

"But to go over there to live! Why, that neighborhood's full of
dirt, and disease, and crime, and the Lord knows what all. I
can't let you do that, Carrie."

Carrie's chin came up. She laughed a short little laugh. "Let
me! That's eighteenth-century talk, Jo. My life's my own to
live. I'm going."

And she went.

Jo stayed on in the apartment until the lease was up. Then he
sold what furniture he could, stored or gave away the rest, and
took a room on Michigan Avenue in one of the old stone mansions
whose decayed splendor was being put to such purpose.

Jo Hertz was his own master. Free to marry. Free to come and
go. And he found he didn't even think of marrying. He didn't
even want to come or go, particularly. A rather frumpy old
bachelor, with thinning hair and a thickening neck.

Every Thursday evening he took dinner at Eva's, and on Sunday
noon at Stell's. He tucked his napkin under his chin and openly
enjoyed the homemade soup and the well-cooked meats. After
dinner he tried to talk business with Eva's husband, or Stell's.
His business talks were the old- fashioned kind, beginning:

"Well, now, looka here. Take, f'rinstance, your raw hides and

But Ben and George didn't want to take, f'rinstance, your raw
hides and leathers. They wanted, when they took anything at all,
to take golf, or politics, or stocks. They were the modern type
of businessman who prefers to leave his work out of his play.
Business, with them, was a profession-- a finely graded and
balanced thing, differing from Jo's clumsy, down- hill style as
completely as does the method of a great criminal detective
differ from that of a village constable. They would listen,
restively, and say, "Uh-uh," at intervals, and at the first
chance they would sort of fade out of the room, with a meaning
glance at their wives. Eva had two children now. Girls. They
treated Uncle Jo with good-natured tolerance. Stell had no
children. Uncle Jo degenerated, by almost imperceptible degrees,
from the position of honored guest, who is served with white
meat, to that of one who is content with a leg and one of those
obscure and bony sections which, after much turning with a
bewildered and investigating knife and fork, leave one baffled
and unsatisfied.

Eva and Stell got together and decided that Jo ought to marry.

"It isn't natural," Eva told him. "I never saw a man who took
so little interest in women."

"Me!" protested Jo, almost shyly. "Women!"

"Yes. Of course. You act like a frightened schoolboy."

So they had in for dinner certain friends and acquaintances of
fitting age. They spoke of them as "splendid girls." Between
thirty-six and forty. They talked awfully well, in a firm, clear
way, about civics, and classes, and politics, and economics, and
boards. They rather terrified Jo. He didn't understand much
that they talked about, and he felt humbly inferior, and yet a
little resentful, as if something had passed him by. He escorted
them home, dutifully, though they told him not to bother, and
they evidently meant it. They seemed capable not only of going
home quite unattended but of delivering a pointed lecture to any
highwayman or brawler who might molest them.

The following Thursday Eva would say, "How did you like her,

"Like who?" Joe would spar feebly.

"Miss Matthews."

"Who's she?"

"Now, don't be funny, Jo. You know very well I mean the girl who
was here for dinner. The one who talked so well on the
emigration question."

"Oh, her! Why, I liked her all right. Seems to be a smart

"Smart! She's a perfectly splendid girl."

"Sure," Jo would agree cheerfully.

"But didn't you like her?"

"I can't say I did, Eve. And I can't say I didn't. She made me
think a lot of a teacher I had in the fifth reader. Name of
Himes. As I recall her, she must have been a fine woman. But I
never thought of Himes as a woman at all. She was just

"You make me tired," snapped Eva impatiently. "A man of your
age. You don't expect to marry a girl, do you? A child!"

"I don't expect to marry anybody," Jo had answered.

And that was the truth, lonely though he often was.

The following spring Eva moved to Winnetka. Anyone who got the
meaning of the Loop knows the significance of a move to a North
Shore suburb, and a house. Eva's daughter, Ethel, was growing
up, and her mother had an eye on society.

That did away with Jo's Thursday dinners. Then Stell's husband
bought a car. They went out into the country every Sunday.
Stell said it was getting so that maids objected to Sunday
dinners, anyway. Besides, they were unhealthful, old-fashioned
things. They always meant to ask Jo to come along, but by the
time their friends were placed, and the lunch, and the boxes, and
sweaters, and George's camera, and everything, there seemed to be
no room for a man of Jo's bulk. So that eliminated the Sunday

"Just drop in any time during the week," Stell said, "for
dinner. Except Wednesday--that's our bridge night--and Saturday.

And, of course, Thursday. Cook is out that night. Don't wait for
me to phone."

And so Jo drifted into that sad-eyed, dyspeptic family made up of
those you see dining in second-rate restaurants, their paper
propped up against the bowl of oyster crackers, munching solemnly
and with indifference to the stare of the passer-by surveying
them through the brazen plate-glass window.

And then came the war. The war that spelled death and
destruction to millions. The war that brought a fortune to Jo
Hertz, and transformed him, overnight, from a baggy-kneed old
bachelor whose business was a failure to a prosperous
manufacturer whose only trouble was the shortage in hides for the
making of his product. Leather! The armies of Europe called for
it. Harnesses! More harnesses! Straps! Millions of straps.
More! More!

The musty old harness business over on Lake Street was magically
changed from a dust-covered, dead-alive concern to an orderly
hive that hummed and glittered with success. Orders poured in.
Jo Hertz had inside information on the war. He knew about troops
and horses. He talked with French and English and Italian buyers
commissioned by their countries to get American-made supplies.
And now, when he said to Ben or George, "Take, f'rinstance, your
raw hides and leathers," they listened with respectful

And then began the gay-dog business in the life of Jo Hertz. He
developed into a Loop-hound, ever keen on the scent of fresh
pleasure. That side of Jo Hertz which had been repressed and
crushed and ignored began to bloom, unhealthily. At first he
spent money on his rather contemptuous nieces. He sent them
gorgeous furs, and watch bracelets, and bags. He took two
expensive rooms at a downtown hotel, and there was something more
tear-compelling than grotesque about the way he gloated over the
luxury of a separate ice-water tap in the bathroom. He explained

"Just turn it on. Any hour of the day or night. Ice water!"

He bought a car. Naturally. A glittering affair; in color a
bright blue, with pale-blue leather straps and a great deal of
gold fittings, and special tires. Eva said it was the kind of
thing a chorus girl would use, rather than an elderly
businessman. You saw him driving about in it, red-faced and
rather awkward at the wheel. You saw him, too, in the Pompeian
Room at the Congress Hotel of a Saturday afternoon when
roving-eyed matrons in mink coats are wont to congregate to sip
pale-amber drinks. Actors grew to recognize the semibald head and
the shining, round, good- natured face looming out at them from
the dim well of the theater, and sometimes, in a musical show,
they directed a quip at him, and he liked it. He could pick out
the critics as they came down the aisle, and even had a nodding
acquaintance with two of them.

"Kelly, of the Herald," he would say carelessly. "Bean. of
the Trib. They're all afraid of him."

So he frolicked, ponderously. In New York he might have been
called a Man About Town.

And he was lonesome. He was very lonesome. So he searched about
in his mind and brought from the dim past the memory of the
luxuriously furnished establishment of which he used to dream in
the evenings when he dozed over his paper in the old house on
Calumet. So he rented an apartment, many-roomed and expensive,
with a manservant in charge, and furnished it in styles and
periods ranging through all the Louis. The living room was
mostly rose color. It was like an unhealthy and bloated boudoir.
And yet there was nothing sybaritic or uncleanly in the sight of
this paunchy, middle-aged man sinking into the rosy-cushioned
luxury of his ridiculous home. It was a frank and naive
indulgence of long-starved senses, and there was in it a great
resemblance to the rolling-eyed ecstasy of a schoolboy smacking
his lips over an all-day sucker.

The war went on, and on, and on. And the money continued to roll
in-- a flood of it. Then, one afternoon, Eva, in town on
shopping bent, entered a small, exclusive, and expensive shop on
Michigan Avenue. Eva's weakness was hats. She was seeking a hat
now. She described what she sought with a languid conciseness,
and stood looking about her after the saleswoman had vanished in
quest of it. The room was becomingly rose-illumined and somewhat
dim, so that some minutes had passed before she realized that a
man seated on a raspberry brocade settee not five feet away-- a
man with a walking stick, and yellow gloves, and tan spats, and a
check suit--was her brother Jo. From him Eva's wild-eyed glance
leaped to the woman who was trying on hats before one of the many
long mirrors. She was seated, and a saleswoman was exclaiming
discreetly at her elbow.

Eva turned sharply and encountered her own saleswoman returning
hat-laden. "Not today," she gasped. "I'm feeling ill.
Suddenly." And almost ran from the room.

That evening she told Stell, relating her news in that telephone
pidgin English devised by every family of married sisters as
protection against the neighbors. Translated, it ran thus:

"He looked straight at me. My dear, I thought I'd die! But at
least he had sense enough not to speak. She was one of those
limp, willowy creatures with the greediest eyes that she tried to
keep softened to a baby stare, and couldn't, she was so crazy to
get her hands on those hats. I saw it all in one awful minute.
You know the way I do. I suppose some people would call her
pretty. I don't. And her color. Well! And the most expensive-
looking hats. Not one of them under seventy-five. Isn't it
disgusting! At his age! Suppose Ethel had been with me!"

The next time it was Stell who saw them. In a restaurant. She
said it spoiled her evening. And the third time it was Ethel.
She was one of the guests at a theater party given by Nicky
Overton II. The North Shore Overtons. Lake Forest. They came
in late, and occupied the entire third row at the opening
performance of Believe Me! And Ethel was Nicky's partner. She
was glowing like a rose. When the lights went up after the first
act Ethel saw that her uncle Jo was seated just ahead of her with
what she afterward described as a blonde. Then her uncle had
turned around, and seeing her, had been surprised into a smile
that spread genially all over his plump and rubicund face. Then
he had turned to face forward again, quickly.

"Who's the old bird?" Nicky had asked. Ethel had pretended not
to hear, so he had asked again.

"My uncle," Ethel answered, and flushed all over her delicate
face, and down to her throat. Nicky had looked at the blonde,
and his eyebrows had gone up ever so slightly.

It spoiled Ethel's evening. More than that, as she told her
mother of it later, weeping, she declared it had spoiled her

Eva talked it over with her husband in that intimate hour that
precedes bedtime. She gesticulated heatedly with her hairbrush.

"It's disgusting, that's what it is. Perfectly disgusting.
There's no fool like an old fool. Imagine! A creature like
that. At his time of life."

"Well, I don't know," Ben said, and even grinned a little. "I
suppose a boy's got to sow his wild oats sometime."

"Don't be any more vulgar than you can help," Eva retorted.
"And I think you know, as well as I, what it means to have that
Overton boy interested in Ethel."

"If he's interested in her," Ben blundered, "I guess the fact
that Ethel's uncle went to the theater with someone who isn't
Ethel's aunt won't cause a shudder to run up and down his frail
young frame, will it?"

"All right," Eva had retorted. "If you're not man enough to
stop it, I'll have to, that's all. I'm going up there with Stell
this week."

They did not notify Jo of their coming. Eva telephoned his
apartment when she knew he would be out, and asked his man if he
expected his master home to dinner that evening. The man had
said yes. Eva arranged to meet Stell in town. They would drive
to Jo's apartment together, and wait for him there.

When she reached the city Eva found turmoil there. The first of
the American troops to be sent to France were leaving. Michigan
Boulevard was a billowing, surging mass: flags, pennants,
banners, crowds. All the elements that make for demonstration.
And over the whole-quiet. No holiday crowd, this. A solid,
determined mass of people waiting patient hours to see the
khaki-clads go by. Three years had brought them to a clear
knowledge of what these boys were going to.

"Isn't it dreadful!" Stell gasped.

"Nicky Overton's too young, thank goodness."

Their car was caught in the jam. When they moved at all, it was
by inches. When at last they reached Jo's apartment they were
flushed, nervous, apprehensive. But he had not yet come in. So
they waited.

No, they were not staying to dinner with their brother, they told
the relieved houseman.

Stell and Eva, sunk in rose-colored cushions, viewed the place
with disgust and some mirth. They rather avoided each other's

"Carrie ought to be here," Eva said. They both smiled at the
thought of the austere Carrie in the midst of those rosy
cushions, and hangings, and lamps. Stell rose and began to walk
about restlessly. She picked up a vase and laid it down;
straightened a picture. Eva got up, too, and wandered into the
hall. She stood there a moment, listening. Then she turned and
passed into Jo's bedroom, Stell following. And there you knew Jo
for what he was.

This room was as bare as the other had been ornate. It was Jo,
the clean-minded and simplehearted, in revolt against the cloying
luxury with which he had surrounded himself. The bedroom, of all
rooms in any house, reflects the personality of its occupant.
True, the actual furniture was paneled, cupid-surmounted, and
ridiculous. It had been the fruit of Jo's first orgy of the
senses. But now it stood out in that stark little room with an
air as incongruous and ashamed as that of a pink tarlatan
danseuse who finds herself in a monk's cell. None of those wall
pictures with which bachelor bedrooms are reputed to be hung. No
satin slippers. No scented notes. Two plain-backed military
brushes on the chiffonier (and he so nearly hairless!). A little
orderly stack of books on the table near the bed. Eva fingered
their titles and gave a little gasp. One of them was on

"Well, of all things!" exclaimed Stell. A book on the war, by
an Englishman. A detective story of the lurid type that lulls us
to sleep. His shoes ranged in a careful row in the closet, with
a shoe tree in every one of them. There was something speaking
about them. They looked so human. Eva shut the door on them
quickly. Some bottles on the dresser. A jar of pomade. An
ointment such as a man uses who is growing bald and is panic-
stricken too late. An insurance calendar on the wall. Some
rhubarb-and- soda mixture on the shelf in the bathroom, and a
little box of pepsin tablets.

"Eats all kinds of things at all hours of the night," Eva said,
and wandered out into the rose-colored front room again with the
air of one who is chagrined at her failure to find what she has
sought. Stell followed her furtively.

"Where do you suppose he can be?" she demanded. "It's"--she
glanced at her wrist--"why, it's after six!"

And then there was a little click. The two women sat up, tense.
The door opened. Jo came in. He blinked a little. The two
women in the rosy room stood up.

"Why--Eve! Why, Babe! Well! Why didn't you let me know?"

"We were just about to leave. We thought you weren't coming

Jo came in slowly.

"I was in the jam on Michigan, watching the boys go by." He
sat down, heavily. The light from the window fell on him. And
you saw that his eyes were red.

He had found himself one of the thousands in the jam on Michigan
Avenue, as he said. He had a place near the curb, where his big
frame shut off the view of the unfortunates behind him. He
waited with the placid interest of one who has subscribed to all
the funds and societies to which a prosperous, middle-aged
businessman is called upon to subscribe in war-time. Then, just
as he was about to leave, impatient at the delay, the crowd had
cried, with a queer, dramatic, exultant note in its voice, "Here
they come! Here come the boys!"

Just at that moment two little, futile, frenzied fists began to
beat a mad tattoo on Jo Hertz's broad back. Jo tried to turn in
the crowd, all indignant resentment. "Say, looka here!"

The little fists kept up their frantic beating and pushing. And
a voice--a choked, high little voice--cried, "Let me by! I
can't see! You MAN, you! You big fat man! My boy's going by--to
war--and I can't see! Let me by!"

Jo scrooged around, still keeping his place. He looked down.
And upturned to him in agonized appeal was the face of Emily.
They stared at each other for what seemed a long, long time. It
was really only the fraction of a second. Then Jo put one great
arm firmly around Emily's waist and swung her around in front of
him. His great bulk protected her. Emily was clinging to his
hand. She was breathing rapidly, as if she had been running.
Her eyes were straining up the street.

"Why, Emily, how in the world----!"

"I ran away. Fred didn't want me to come. He said it would
excite me too much."


"My husband. He made me promise to say good-by to Jo at home."


"Jo's my boy. And he's going to war. So I ran away. I had to
see him. I had to see him go."

She was dry-eyed. Her gaze was straining up the street.

"Why, sure," said Jo. "Of course you want to see him." And
then the crowd gave a great roar. There came over Jo a feeling
of weakness. He was trembling. The boys went marching by.

"There he is," Emily shrilled, above the din. "There he is!
There he is! There he----" And waved a futile little hand. It
wasn't so much a wave as a clutching. A clutching after
something beyond her reach.

"Which one? Which one, Emily?"

"The handsome one. The handsome one." Her voice quavered and

Jo put a steady hand on her shoulder. "Point him out," he
commanded "Show me." And the next instant, "Never mind. I
see him."

Somehow, miraculously, he had picked him from among the hundreds.
Had picked him as surely as his own father might have. It was
Emily's boy. He was marching by, rather stiffly. He was
nineteen, and fun-loving, and he had a girl, and he didn't
particularly want to go to France and--to go to France. But more
than he had hated going, he had hated not to go. So he marched
by, looking straight ahead, his jaw set so that his chin stuck
out just a little. Emily's boy.

Jo looked at him, and his face flushed purple. His eyes, the
hard-boiled eyes of a Loop-hound, took on the look of a sad old
man. And suddenly he was no longer Jo, the sport; old J. Hertz,
the gay dog. He was Jo Hertz, thirty, in love with life, in love
with Emily, and with the stinging blood of young manhood coursing
through his veins.

Another minute and the boy had passed on up the broad street--the
fine, flag-bedecked street--just one of a hundred service hats
bobbing in rhythmic motion like sandy waves lapping a shore and
flowing on.

Then he disappeared altogether.

Emily was clinging to Jo. She was mumbling something, over and
over. "I can't. I can't. Don't ask me to. I can't let him go.

Like that. I can't."

Jo said a queer thing.

"Why, Emily! We wouldn't have him stay home, would we? We
wouldn't want him to do anything different, would we? Not our
boy. I'm glad he enlisted. I'm proud of him. So are you

Little by little he quieted her. He took her to the car that was
waiting, a worried chauffeur in charge. They said good-by,
awkwardly. Emily's face was a red, swollen mass.

So it was that when Jo entered his own hallway half an hour later
he blinked, dazedly, and when the light from the window fell on
him you saw that his eyes were red.

Eva was not one to beat about the bush. She sat forward in her
chair, clutching her bag rather nervously.

"Now, look here, Jo. Stell and I are here for a reason. We're
here to tell you that this thing's going to stop."

"Thing? Stop?"

"You know very well what I mean. You saw me at the milliner's
that day. And night before last, Ethel. We're all disgusted.
If you must go about with people like that, please have some
sense of decency."

Something gathering in Jo's face should have warned her. But he
was slumped down in his chair in such a huddle, and he looked so
old and fat that she did not heed it. She went on. "You've got
us to consider. Your sisters. And your nieces. Not to speak of
your own----"

But he got to his feet then, shaking, and at what she saw in his
face even Eva faltered and stopped. It wasn't at all the face of
a fat, middle-aged sport. It was a face Jovian, terrible.

"You!" he began, low-voiced, ominous. "You!" He raised a
great fist high. "You two murderers! You didn't consider me,
twenty years ago. You come to me with talk like that. Where's
my boy! You killed him, you two, twenty years ago. And now he
belongs to somebody else. Where's my son that should have gone
marching by today?" He flung his arms out in a great gesture of
longing. The red veins stood out on his forehead. "Where's my
son! Answer me that, you two selfish, miserable women. Where's
my son!" Then, as they huddled together, frightened, wild-eyed.

"Out of my house! Out of my house! Before I hurt you!"

They fled, terrified. The door banged behind them.

Jo stood, shaking, in the center of the room. Then he reached
for a chair, gropingly, and sat down. He passed one moist,
flabby hand over his forehead and it came away wet. The
telephone rang. He sat still. It sounded far away and
unimportant, like something forgotten. But it rang and rang
insistently. Jo liked to answer his telephone when he was at

"Hello!" He knew instantly the voice at the other end.

"That you, Jo?" it said.


"How's my boy?"

"I'm--all right."

"Listen, Jo. The crowd's coming over tonight. I've fixed up a
little poker game for you. Just eight of us."

"I can't come tonight, Gert."

"Can't! Why not?"

"I'm not feeling so good."

"You just said you were all right."

"I AM all right. Just kind of tired."

The voice took on a cooing note. "Is my Joey tired? Then he
shall be all comfy on the sofa, and he doesn't need to play if he
don't want to. No, sir."

Jo stood staring at the black mouthpiece of the telephone. He
was seeing a procession go marching by. Boys, hundreds of boys,
in khaki.

"Hello! Hello!" The voice took on an anxious note. "Are you

"Yes," wearily.

"Jo, there's something the matter. You're sick. I'm coming
right over."

"No!" "Why not? You sound as if you'd been sleeping. Look

"Leave me alone!" cried Jo, suddenly, and the receiver clacked
onto the hook. "Leave me alone. Leave me alone." Long after
the connection had been broken.

He stood staring at the instrument with unseeing eyes. Then he
turned and walked into the front room. All the light had gone
out of it. Dusk had come on. All the light had gone out of
everything. The zest had gone out of life. The game was
over--the game he had been playing against loneliness and
disappointment. And he was just a tired old man. A lonely,
tired old man in a ridiculous rose-colored room that had grown,
all of a sudden, drab {sic}

That's Marriage

Theresa Platt (she had been Terry Sheehan) watched her husband
across the breakfast table with eyes that smoldered. But Orville
Platt was quite unaware of any smoldering in progress. He was
occupied with his eggs. How could he know that these very eggs
were feeding the dull red menace in Terry Platt's eyes?

When Orville Platt ate a soft-boiled egg he concentrated on it.
He treated it as a great adventure. Which, after all, it is.
Few adjuncts of our daily life contain the element of chance that
is to be found in a three-minute breakfast egg.

This was Orville Platt's method of attack: first, he chipped off
the top, neatly. Then he bent forward and subjected it to a
passionate and relentless scrutiny. Straightening--preparatory
to plunging his spoon therein--he flapped his right elbow. It
wasn't exactly a flap; it was a pass between a hitch and a flap,
and presented external evidence of a mental state. Orville Platt
always gave that little preliminary jerk when he was
contemplating a serious step, or when he was moved, or
argumentative. It was a trick as innocent as it was maddening.

Terry Platt had learned to look for that flap--they had been
married four years--to look for it, and to hate it with a morbid,
unreasoning hate. That flap of the elbow was tearing Terry
Platt's nerves into raw, bleeding fragments.

Her fingers were clenched tightly under the table, now. She was
breathing unevenly. "If he does that again," she told herself,
"if he flaps again when he opens the second egg, I'll scream.
I'll scream. I'll scream! I'll sc----"

He had scooped the first egg into his cup. Now he picked up the
second, chipped it, concentrated, straightened, then--up went the
elbow, and down, with the accustomed little flap.

The tortured nerves snapped. Through the early-morning quiet of
Wetona, Wisconsin, hurtled the shrill, piercing shriek of Terry
Platt's hysteria.

"Terry! For God's sake! What's the matter!"

Orville Platt dropped the second egg, and his spoon. The egg
yolk trickled down his plate. The spoon made a clatter and flung
a gay spot of yellow on the cloth. He started toward her.

Terry, wild-eyed, pointed a shaking finger at him. She was
laughing, now, uncontrollably. "Your elbow! Your elbow!"

"Elbow?" He looked down at it, bewildered, then up, fright in
his face. "What's the matter with it?"

She mopped her eyes. Sobs shook her. "You f-f-flapped it."

"F-f-f----" The bewilderment in Orville Platt's face gave way
to anger. "Do you mean to tell me that you screeched like that
because my--because I moved my elbow?"


His anger deepened and reddened to fury. He choked. He had
started from his chair with his napkin in his hand. He still
clutched it. Now he crumpled it into a wad and hurled it to the
center of the table, where it struck a sugar bowl, dropped back,
and uncrumpled slowly, reprovingly. "You--you----" Then
bewilderment closed down again like a fog over his countenance.
"But why? I can't see----"

"Because it--because I can't stand it any longer. Flapping.
This is what you do. Like this."

And she did it. Did it with insulting fidelity, being a clever

"Well, all I can say is you're crazy, yelling like that, for

"It isn't nothing."

"Isn't, huh? If that isn't nothing, what is?" They were
growing incoherent. "What d'you mean, screeching like a maniac?

Like a wild woman? The neighbors'll think I've killed you. What
d'you mean, anyway!"

"I mean I'm tired of watching it, that's what. Sick and

"Y'are, huh? Well, young lady, just let me tell YOU

He told her. There followed one of those incredible quarrels, as
sickening as they are human, which can take place only between
two people who love each other; who love each other so well that
each knows with cruel certainty the surest way to wound the
other; and who stab, and tear, and claw at these vulnerable spots
in exact proportion to their love.

Ugly words. Bitter words. Words that neither knew they knew
flew between them like sparks between steel striking steel.

From him: "Trouble with you is you haven't got enough to do.
That's the trouble with half you women. Just lay around the
house, rotting. I'm a fool, slaving on the road to keep a

"I suppose you call sitting around hotel lobbies slaving! I
suppose the house runs itself! How about my evenings? Sitting
here alone, night after night, when you're on the road."

Finally, "Well, if you don't like it," he snarled, and lifted
his chair by the back and slammed it down, savagely, "if you
don't like it, why don't you get out, hm? Why don't you get

And from her, her eyes narrowed to two slits, her cheeks scarlet:

"Why, thanks. I guess I will."

Ten minutes later he had flung out of the house to catch the 8:19
for Manitowoc. He marched down the street, his shoulders
swinging rhythmically to the weight of the burden he carried--his
black leather handbag and the shiny tan sample case,
battle-scarred, both, from many encounters with ruthless porters
and busmen and bellboys. For four years, as he left for his
semi-monthly trip, he and Terry had observed a certain little
ceremony (as had the neighbors). She would stand in the doorway,
watching him down the street, the heavier sample case banging
occasionally at his shin. The depot was only three blocks away.
Terry watched him with fond but unillusioned eyes, which proves
that she really loved him. He was a dapper, well-dressed fat
man, with a weakness for pronounced patterns in suitings, and
addicted to derbies. One week on the road, one week at home.
That was his routine. The wholesale grocery trade liked Platt,
and he had for his customers the fondness that a traveling
salesman has who is successful in his territory. Before his
marriage to Terry Sheehan his little red address book had been
overwhelming proof against the theory that nobody loves a fat

Terry, standing in the doorway, always knew that when he reached
the corner just where Schroeder's house threatened to hide him
from view, he would stop, drop the sample case, wave his hand
just once, pick up the sample case and go on, proceeding backward
for a step or two until Schroeder's house made good its threat.
It was a comic scene in the eyes of the onlooker, perhaps because
a chubby Romeo offends the sense of fitness. The neighbors,
lurking behind their parlor curtains, had laughed at first. But
after a while they learned to look for that little scene, and to
take it unto themselves, as if it were a personal thing.
Fifteen-year wives whose husbands had long since abandoned
flowery farewells used to get a vicarious thrill out of it, and
to eye Terry with a sort of envy.

This morning Orville Platt did not even falter when he reached
Schroeder's corner. He marched straight on, looking steadily
ahead, the heavy bags swinging from either hand. Even if he had
stopped--though she knew he wouldn't--Terry Platt would not have
seen him. She remained seated at the disordered breakfast table,
a dreadfully still figure, and sinister; a figure of stone and
fire, of ice and flame. Over and over in her mind she was
milling the things she might have said to him, and had not. She
brewed a hundred vitriolic cruelties that she might have flung in
his face. She would concoct one biting brutality, and dismiss it
for a second, and abandon that for a third. She was too angry to
cry--a dangerous state in a woman. She was what is known as cold
mad, so that her mind was working clearly and with amazing
swiftness, and yet as though it were a thing detached; a thing
that was no part of her.

She sat thus for the better part of an hour, motionless except
for one forefinger that was, quite unconsciously, tapping out a
popular and cheap little air that she had been strumming at the
piano the evening before, having bought it downtown that same
afternoon. It had struck Orville's fancy, and she had played it
over and over for him. Her right forefinger was playing the
entire tune, and something in the back of her head was following
it accurately, though the separate thinking process was going on
just the same. Her eyes were bright, and wide, and hot.
Suddenly she became conscious of the musical antics of her
finger. She folded it in with its mates, so that her hand became
a fist. She stood up and stared down at the clutter of the
breakfast table. The egg--that fateful second egg--had congealed
to a mottled mess of yellow and white. The spoon lay on the
cloth. His coffee, only half consumed, showed tan with a cold
gray film over it. A slice of toast at the left of his plate
seemed to grin at her with the semi-circular wedge that he had
bitten out of it.

Terry stared down at these congealing remnants. Then she
laughed, a hard high little laugh, pushed a plate away
contemptuously with her hand, and walked into the sitting room.
On the piano was the piece of music (Bennie Gottschalk's great
song hit, "Hicky Boola") which she had been playing the night
before. She picked it up, tore it straight across, once, placed
the pieces back to back, and tore it across again. Then she
dropped the pieces to the floor.

"You bet I'm going," she said, as though concluding a train of
thought. "You just bet I'm going. Right now!" And Terry went.
She went for much the same reason as that given by the ladye of
high degree in the old English song--she who had left her lord
and bed and board to go with the raggle-taggle gipsies-O! The
thing that was sending Terry Platt away was much more than a
conjugal quarrel precipitated by a soft-boiled egg and a flap of
the arm. It went so deep that it is necessary to delve back to
the days when Theresa Platt was Terry Sheehan to get the real
significance of it, and of the things she did after she went.

When Mrs. Orville Platt had been Terry Sheehan, she had played
the piano, afternoons and evenings, in the orchestra of the Bijou
Theater, on Cass Street, Wetona, Wisconsin. Anyone with a name
like Terry Sheehan would, perforce, do well anything she might
set out to do. There was nothing of genius in Terry, but there
was something of fire, and much that was Irish. Which meant that
the Watson Team, Eccentric Song and Dance Artists, never needed a
rehearsal when they played the Bijou. Ruby Watson used merely to
approach Terry before the Monday performance, sheet music in
hand, and say, "Listen, dearie. We've got some new business I
want to wise you to. Right here it goes `TUM dee-dee DUM dee-dee
TUM DUM DUM.' See? Like that. And then Jim vamps. Get me?"

Terry, at the piano, would pucker her pretty brow a moment.
Then, "Like this, you mean?"

"That's it! You've got it."

"All right. I'll tell the drum."

She could play any tune by ear, once heard. She got the spirit
of a thing, and transmitted it. When Terry played a martial
number you tapped the floor with your foot, and unconsciously
straightened your shoulders. When she played a home-and-mother
song you hoped that the man next to you didn't know you were
crying (which he probably didn't, because he was weeping, too).

At that time motion pictures had not attained their present
virulence. Vaudeville, polite or otherwise, had not yet been
crowded out by the ubiquitous film. The Bijou offered
entertainment of the cigar-box-tramp variety, interspersed with
trick bicyclists, soubrettes in slightly soiled pink, trained
seals, and Family Fours with lumpy legs who tossed each other
about and struck Goldbergian attitudes.

Contact with these gave Terry Sheehan a semiprofessional tone.
The more conservative of her townspeople looked at her askance.
There never had been an evil thing about Terry, but Wetona
considered her rather fly. Terry's hair was very black, and she
had a fondness for those little, close-fitting scarlet turbans.
Terry's mother had died when the girl was eight, and Terry's
father had been what is known as easygoing. A good-natured,
lovable, shiftless chap in the contracting business. He drove
around Wetona in a sagging, one-seated cart and never made any
money because he did honest work and charged as little for it as
men who did not. His mortar stuck, and his bricks did not
crumble, and his lumber did not crack. Riches are not acquired in
the contracting business in that way. Ed Sheehan and his
daughter were great friends. When he died (she was nineteen)
they say she screamed once, like a banshee, and dropped to the

After they had straightened out the muddle of books in Ed
Sheehan's gritty, dusty little office Terry turned her
piano-playing talent to practical account. At twenty-one she was
still playing at the Bijou, and into her face was creeping the
first hint of that look of sophistication which comes from daily
contact with the artificial world of the footlights.

There are, in a small Midwest town like Wetona, just two kinds of
girls. Those who go downtown Saturday nights, and those who
don't. Terry, if she had not been busy with her job at the Bijou,
would have come in the first group. She craved excitement.
There was little chance to satisfy such craving in Wetona, but
she managed to find certain means. The traveling men from the
Burke House just across the street used to drop in at the Bijou
for an evening's entertainment. They usually sat well toward the
front, and Terry's expert playing, and the gloss of her black
hair, and her piquant profile as she sometimes looked up toward
the stage for a signal from one of the performers caught their
fancy, and held it.

She found herself, at the end of a year or two, with a rather
large acquaintance among these peripatetic gentlemen. You
occasionally saw one of them strolling home with her. Sometimes
she went driving with one of them of a Sunday afternoon. And she
rather enjoyed taking Sunday dinner at the Burke Hotel with a
favored friend. She thought those small-town hotel Sunday
dinners the last word in elegance. The roast course was always
accompanied by an aqueous, semifrozen concoction which the bill
of fare revealed as Roman Punch. It added a royal touch to the
repast, even when served with roast pork.

Terry was twenty-two when Orville Platt, making his initial
Wisconsin trip for the wholesale grocery house he represented,
first beheld her piquant Irish profile, and heard her deft
manipulation of the keys. Orville had the fat man's sense of
rhythm and love of music. He had a buttery tenor voice, too, of
which he was rather proud.

He spent three days in Wetona that first trip, and every evening
saw him at the Bijou, first row, center. He stayed through two
shows each time, and before he had been there fifteen minutes
Terry was conscious of him through the back of her head. Orville
Platt paid no more heed to the stage, and what was occurring
thereon, than if it had not been. He sat looking at Terry, and
waggling his head in time to the music. Not that Terry was a
beauty. But she was one of those immaculately clean types. That
look of fragrant cleanliness was her chief charm. Her clear,
smooth skin contributed to it, and the natural penciling of her
eyebrows. But the thing that accented it, and gave it a last
touch, was the way in which her black hair came down in a little
point just in the center of her forehead, where hair meets brow.
It grew to form what is known as a cowlick. (A prettier name for
it is widow's peak.) Your eye lighted on it, pleased, and from
it traveled its gratified way down her white temples, past her
little ears, to the smooth black coil at the nape of her neck.
It was a trip that rested you.

At the end of the last performance on the night of his second
visit to the Bijou, Orville waited until the audience had begun
to file out. Then he leaned forward over the rail that separated
orchestra from audience.

"Could you," he said, his tones dulcet, "could you oblige me
with the name of that last piece you played?"

Terry was stacking her music. "George!" she called to the
drum. "Gentleman wants to know the name of that last piece."
And prepared to leave.

"`My Georgia Crackerjack,'" said the laconic drum.

Orville Platt took a hasty side step in the direction of the door
toward which Terry was headed. "It's a pretty thing," he said
fervently. "An awful pretty thing. Thanks. It's beautiful."

Terry flung a last insult at him over her shoulder: "Don't
thank ME for it. I didn't write it."

Orville Platt did not go across the street to the hotel. He
wandered up Cass Street, and into the ten-o'clock quiet of Main
Street, and down as far as the park and back. "Pretty as a
pink! And play! . . . And good, too. Good."

A fat man in love.

At the end of six months they were married. Terry was surprised
into it. Not that she was not fond of him. She was; and
grateful to him, as well. For, pretty as she was, no man had
ever before asked Terry to be his wife. They had made love to
her. They had paid court to her. They had sent her large boxes
of stale drugstore chocolates, and called her endearing names as
they made cautious declarations such as:

"I've known a lot of girls, but you've got something different.
I don't know. You've got so much sense. A fellow can chum
around with you. Little pal."

Wetona would be their home. They rented a comfortable,
seven-room house in a comfortable, middle-class neighborhood, and
Terry dropped the red velvet turbans and went in for picture
hats. Orville bought her a piano whose tone was so good that to
her ear, accustomed to the metallic discords of the Bijou
instrument, it sounded out of tune. She played a great deal at
first, but unconsciously she missed the sharp spat of applause
that used to follow her public performance. She would play a
piece, brilliantly, and then her hands would drop to her lap.
And the silence of her own sitting room would fall flat on her
ears. It was better on the evenings when Orville was home. He
sang, in his throaty, fat man's tenor, to Terry's expert

"This is better than playing for those ham actors, isn't it,
hon?" And he would pinch her ear.


But after the first year she became accustomed to what she termed
private life. She joined an afternoon sewing club, and was
active in the ladies' branch of the U.C.T. She developed a knack
at cooking, too, and Orville, after a week or ten days of hotel
fare in small Wisconsin towns, would come home to sea-foam
biscuits, and real soup, and honest pies and cake. Sometimes, in
the midst of an appetizing meal he would lay down his knife and
fork and lean back in his chair, and regard the cool and
unruffled Terry with a sort of reverence in his eyes. Then he
would get up, and come around to the other side of the table, and
tip her pretty face up to his.

"I'll bet I'll wake up, someday, and find out it's all a dream.
You know this kind of thing doesn't really happen--not to a dub
like me."

One year; two; three; four. Routine. A little boredom. Some
impatience. She began to find fault with the very things she had
liked in him: his superneatness; his fondness for dashing suit
patterns; his throaty tenor; his worship of her. And the flap.
Oh, above all, that flap! That little, innocent, meaningless
mannerism that made her tremble with nervousness. She hated it
so that she could not trust herself to speak of it to him. That
was the trouble. Had she spoken of it, laughingly or in earnest,
before it became an obsession with her, that hideous breakfast
quarrel, with its taunts, and revilings, and open hate, might
never have come to pass.

Terry Platt herself didn't know what was the matter with her.
She would have denied that anything was wrong. She didn't even
throw her hands above her head and shriek: "I want to live! I
want to live! I want to live!" like a lady in a play. She only
knew she was sick of sewing at the Wetona West End Red Cross
shop; sick of marketing, of home comforts, of Orville, of the

Orville, you may remember, left at 8:19. The 11:23 bore Terry
Chicago-ward. She had left the house as it was--beds unmade,
rooms unswept, breakfast table uncleared. She intended never to
come back.

Now and then a picture of the chaos she had left behind would
flash across her order-loving mind. The spoon on the tablecloth.

Orville's pajamas dangling over the bathroom chair. The
coffeepot on the gas stove.

"Pooh! What do I care?"

In her pocketbook she had a tidy sum saved out of the
housekeeping money. She was naturally thrifty, and Orville had
never been niggardly. Her meals when Orville was on the road had
been those sketchy, haphazard affairs with which women content
themselves when their household is manless. At noon she went
into the dining car and ordered a flaunting little repast of
chicken salad and asparagus and Neapolitan ice cream. The men in
the dining car eyed her speculatively and with appreciation.
Then their glance dropped to the third finger of her left hand,
and wandered away. She had meant to remove it. In fact, she had
taken it off and dropped it into her bag. But her hand felt so
queer, so unaccustomed, so naked, that she had found herself
slipping the narrow band on again, and her thumb groped for it,

It was almost five o'clock when she reached Chicago. She felt no
uncertainty or bewilderment. She had been in Chicago three or
four times since her marriage. She went to a downtown hotel. It
was too late, she told herself, to look for a less expensive room
that night. When she had tidied herself she went out. The
things she did were the childish, aimless things that one does
who finds herself in possession of sudden liberty. She walked up
State Street, and stared in the windows; came back, turned into


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