Tales of the Jazz Age
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Part 2 out of 7
The old egg indicated that he liked it by rolling his head
ecstatically and executing a gleeful kick with his hoofs.
"This is the first time that I ever had a tête-à-tête with a man's
valet 'round"--she pointed to the hind legs--"or whatever that is."
"Oh," mumbled Perry, "he's deaf and blind."
"I should think you'd feel rather handicapped--you can't very well
toddle, even if you want to."
The camel hang his head lugubriously.
"I wish you'd say something," continued Betty sweetly. "Say you like
me, camel. Say you think I'm beautiful. Say you'd like to belong to a
The camel would.
"Will you dance with me, camel?"
The camel would try.
Betty devoted half an hour to the camel. She devoted at least half an
hour to all visiting men. It was usually sufficient. When she
approached a new man the current débutantes were accustomed to scatter
right and left like a close column deploying before a machine-gun. And
so to Perry Parkhurst was awarded the unique privilege of seeing his
love as others saw her. He was flirted with violently!
This paradise of frail foundation was broken into by the sounds of a
general ingress to the ballroom; the cotillion was beginning. Betty
and the camel joined the crowd, her brown hand resting lightly on his
shoulder, defiantly symbolizing her complete adoption of him.
When they entered the couples were already seating themselves at
tables round the walls, and Mrs. Townsend, resplendent as a super
bareback rider with rather too rotund calves, was standing in the
centre with the ringmaster in charge of arrangements. At a signal to
the band every one rose and began to dance.
"Isn't it just slick!" sighed Betty. "Do you think you can possibly
Perry nodded enthusiastically. He felt suddenly exuberant. After all,
he was here incognito talking to his love---he could wink
patronizingly at the world.
So Perry danced the cotillion. I say danced, but that is stretching
the word far beyond the wildest dreams of the jazziest terpsichorean.
He suffered his partner to put her hands on his helpless shoulders and
pull him here and there over the floor while he hung his huge head
docilely over her shoulder and made futile dummy motions with his
feet. His hind legs danced in a manner all their own, chiefly by
hopping first on one foot and then on the other. Never being sure
whether dancing was going on or not, the hind legs played safe by
going through a series of steps whenever the music started playing. So
the spectacle was frequently presented of the front part of the camel
standing at ease and the rear keeping up a constant energetic motion
calculated to rouse a sympathetic perspiration in any soft-hearted
He was frequently favored. He danced first with a tall lady covered
with straw who announced jovially that she was a bale of hay and coyly
begged him not to eat her.
"I'd like to; you're so sweet," said the camel gallantly.
Each time the ringmaster shouted his call of "Men up!" he lumbered
ferociously for Betty with the cardboard wienerwurst or the photograph
of the bearded lady or whatever the favor chanced to be. Sometimes he
reached her first, but usually his rushes were unsuccessful and
resulted in intense interior arguments.
"For Heaven's sake," Perry would snarl, fiercely between his clenched
teeth, "get a little pep! I could have gotten her that time if you'd
picked your feet up."
"Well, gimme a little warnin'!"
"I did, darn you."
"I can't see a dog-gone thing in here."
"All you have to do is follow me. It's just like dragging a load of
sand round to walk with you."
"Maybe you wanta try back hare."
"You shut up! If these people found you in this room they'd give you
the worst beating you ever had. They'd take your taxi license away
Perry surprised himself by the ease with which he made this monstrous
threat, but it seemed to have a soporific influence on his companion,
for he gave out an "aw gwan" and subsided into abashed silence.
The ringmaster mounted to the top of the piano and waved his hand for
"Prizes!" he cried. "Gather round!"
Self-consciously the circle swayed forward. The rather pretty girl who
had mustered the nerve to come as a bearded lady trembled with
excitement, thinking to be rewarded for an evening's hideousness. The
man who had spent the afternoon having tattoo marks painted on him
skulked on the edge of the crowd, blushing furiously when any one told
him he was sure to get it.
"Lady and gent performers of this circus," announced the ringmaster
jovially, "I am sure we will all agree that a good time has been had
by all. We will now bestow honor where honor is due by bestowing the
prizes. Mrs. Townsend has asked me to bestow the prices. Now, fellow
performers, the first prize is for that lady who has displayed this
evening the most striking, becoming"--at this point the bearded lady
sighed resignedly--"and original costume." Here the bale of hay
pricked up her ears. "Now I am sure that the decision which has been
agreed upon will be unanimous with all here present. The first prize
goes to Miss Betty Medill, the charming Egyptian snake-charmer." There
was a burst of applause, chiefly masculine, and Miss Betty Medill,
blushing beautifully through her olive paint, was passed up to receive
her award. With a tender glance the ringmaster handed down to her a
huge bouquet of orchids.
"And now," he continued, looking round him, "the other prize is for
that man who has the most amusing and original costume. This prize
goes without dispute to a guest in our midst, a gentleman who is
visiting here but whose stay we all hope will be long and merry--in
short, to the noble camel who has entertained us all by his hungry
look and his brilliant dancing throughout the evening."
He ceased and there was a violent clapping, and yeaing, for it was a
popular choice. The prize, a large box of cigars, was put aside for
the camel, as he was anatomically unable to accept it in person.
"And now," continued the ringmaster, "we will wind up the cotillion
with the marriage of Mirth to Folly!
"Form for the grand wedding march, the beautiful snake-charmer and the
noble camel in front!"
Betty skipped forward cheerily and wound an olive arm round the
camel's neck. Behind them formed the procession of little boys, little
girls, country jakes, fat ladies, thin men, sword-swallowers, wild men
of Borneo, and armless wonders, many of them well in their cups, all
of them excited and happy and dazzled by the flow of light and color
round them, and by the familiar faces, strangely unfamiliar under
bizarre wigs and barbaric paint. The voluptuous chords of the wedding
march done in blasphemous syncopation issued in a delirious blend from
the trombones and saxophones--and the march began.
"Aren't you glad, camel?" demanded Betty sweetly as they stepped off.
"Aren't you glad we're going to be married and you're going to belong
to the nice snake-charmer ever afterward?"
The camel's front legs pranced, expressing excessive joy.
"Minister! Minister! Where's the minister?" cried voices out of the
revel. "Who's going to be the clergyman?"
The head of Jumbo, obese negro, waiter at the Tally-ho Club for many
years, appeared rashly through a half-opened pantry door.
"Get old Jumbo. He's the fella!"
"Come on, Jumbo. How 'bout marrying us a couple?"
Jumbo was seized by four comedians, stripped of his apron, and
escorted to a raised daïs at the head of the ball. There his collar
was removed and replaced back side forward with ecclesiastical effect.
The parade separated into two lines, leaving an aisle for the bride
"Lawdy, man," roared Jumbo, "Ah got ole Bible 'n' ev'ythin', sho
He produced a battered Bible from an interior pocket.
"Yea! Jumbo's got a Bible!"
"Razor, too, I'll bet!"
Together the snake-charmer and the camel ascended the cheering aisle
and stopped in front of Jumbo.
"Where's yo license, camel?"
A man near by prodded Perry.
"Give him a piece of paper. Anything'll do."
Perry fumbled confusedly in his pocket, found a folded paper, and
pushed it out through the camel's mouth. Holding it upside down Jumbo
pretended to scan it earnestly.
"Dis yeah's a special camel's license," he said. "Get you ring ready,
Inside the camel Perry turned round and addressed his worse half.
"Gimme a ring, for Heaven's sake!"
"I ain't got none," protested a weary voice.
"You have. I saw it."
"I ain't goin' to take it offen my hand."
"If you don't I'll kill you."
There was a gasp and Perry felt a huge affair of rhinestone and brass
inserted into his hand.
Again he was nudged from the outside.
"I do!" cried Perry quickly.
He heard Betty's responses given in a debonair tone, and even in this
burlesque the sound thrilled him.
Then he had pushed the rhinestone through a tear in the camel's coat
and was slipping it on her finger, muttering ancient and historic
words after Jumbo. He didn't want any one to know about this ever. His
one idea was to slip away without having to disclose his identity, for
Mr. Tate had so far kept his secret well. A dignified young man,
Perry--and this might injure his infant law practice.
"Embrace the bride!"
"Unmask, camel, and kiss her!"
Instinctively his heart beat high as Betty turned to him laughingly
and began to strike the card-board muzzle. He felt his self-control
giving way, he longed to surround her with his arms and declare his
identity and kiss those lips that smiled only a foot away--when
suddenly the laughter and applause round them died off and a curious
hush fell over the hall. Perry and Betty looked up in surprise. Jumbo
had given vent to a huge "Hello!" in such a startled voice that all
eyes were bent on him.
"Hello!" he said again. He had turned round the camel's marriage
license, which he had been holding upside down, produced spectacles,
and was studying it agonizingly.
"Why," he exclaimed, and in the pervading silence his words were heard
plainly by every one in the room, "this yeah's a sho-nuff marriage
"Say it again, Jumbo!"
"Sure you can read?"
Jumbo waved them to silence and Perry's blood burned to fire in his
veins as he realized the break he had made.
"Yassuh!" repeated Jumbo. "This yeah's a sho-nuff license, and the
pa'ties concerned one of 'em is dis yeah young lady, Miz Betty Medill,
and th' other's Mistah Perry Pa'khurst."
There was a general gasp, and a low rumble broke out as all eyes fell
on the camel. Betty shrank away from him quickly, her tawny eyes
giving out sparks of fury.
"Is you Mistah Pa'khurst, you camel?"
Perry made no answer. The crowd pressed up closer and stared at him.
He stood frozen rigid with embarrassment, his cardboard face still
hungry and sardonic as he regarded the ominous Jumbo.
"Y'all bettah speak up!" said Jumbo slowly, "this yeah's a mighty
serious mattah. Outside mah duties at this club ah happens to be a
sho-nuff minister in the Firs' Cullud Baptis' Church. It done look to
me as though y'all is gone an' got married."
The scene that followed will go down forever in the annals of the
Tallyho Club. Stout matrons fainted, one hundred per cent Americans
swore, wild-eyed débutantes babbled in lightning groups instantly
formed and instantly dissolved, and a great buzz of chatter, virulent
yet oddly subdued, hummed through the chaotic ballroom. Feverish
youths swore they would kill Perry or Jumbo or themselves or some one,
and the Baptis' preacheh was besieged by a tempestuous covey of
clamorous amateur lawyers, asking questions, making threats, demanding
precedents, ordering the bonds annulled, and especially trying to
ferret out any hint of prearrangement in what had occurred.
In the corner Mrs. Townsend was crying softly on the shoulder of Mr.
Howard Tate, who was trying vainly to comfort her; they were
exchanging "all my fault's" volubly and voluminously. Outside on a
snow-covered walk Mr. Cyrus Medill, the Aluminum Man, was being paced
slowly up and down between two brawny charioteers, giving vent now to
a string of unrepeatables, now to wild pleadings that they'd just let
him get at Jumbo. He was facetiously attired for the evening as a wild
man of Borneo, and the most exacting stage-manager would have
acknowledged any improvement in casting the part to be quite
Meanwhile the two principals held the real centre of the stage. Betty
Medill--or was it Betty Parkhurst?--storming furiously, was surrounded
by the plainer girls--the prettier ones were too busy talking about
her to pay much attention to her--and over on the other side of the
hall stood the camel, still intact except for his headpiece, which
dangled pathetically on his chest. Perry was earnestly engaged in
making protestations of his innocence to a ring of angry, puzzled men.
Every few minutes, just as he had apparently proved his case, some one
would mention the marriage certificate, and the inquisition would
A girl named Marion Cloud, considered the second best belle of Toledo,
changed the gist of the situation by a remark she made to Betty.
"Well," she said maliciously, "it'll all blow over, dear. The courts
will annul it without question."
Betty's angry tears dried miraculously in her eyes, her lips shut
tight together, and she looked stonily at Marion. Then she rose and,
scattering her sympathizers right and left, walked directly across the
room to Perry, who stared at her in terror. Again silence crept down
upon the room.
"Will you have the decency to grant me five minutes' conversation--or
wasn't that included in your plans?"
He nodded, his mouth unable to form words.
Indicating coldly that he was to follow her she walked out into the
hall with her chin uptilted and headed for the privacy of one of the
Perry started after her, but was brought to a jerky halt by the
failure of his hind legs to function.
"You stay here!" he commanded savagely.
"I can't," whined a voice from the hump, "unless you get out first and
let me get out."
Perry hesitated, but unable any longer to tolerate the eyes of the
curious crowd he muttered a command and the camel moved carefully from
the room on its four legs.
Betty was waiting for him.
"Well," she began furiously, "you see what you've done! You and that
crazy license! I told you you shouldn't have gotten it!"
"My dear girl, I--"
"Don't say 'dear girl' to me! Save that for your real wife if you ever
get one after this disgraceful performance. And don't try to pretend
it wasn't all arranged. You know you gave that colored waiter money!
You know you did! Do you mean to say you didn't try to marry me?"
"Yes, you'd better admit it! You tried it, and now what are you going
to do? Do you know my father's nearly crazy? It'll serve you right if
he tries to kill you. He'll take his gun and put some cold steel in
you. Even if this wed--this _thing_ can be annulled it'll hang
over me all the rest of my life!"
Perry could not resist quoting softly: "'Oh, camel, wouldn't you like
to belong to the pretty snake-charmer for all your--"
"Shut-up!" cried Betty.
There was a pause.
"Betty," said Perry finally, "there's only one thing to do that will
really get us out clear. That's for you to marry me."
"Yes. Really it's the only--"
"You shut up! I wouldn't marry you if--if--"
"I know. If I were the last man on earth. But if you care anything
about your reputation--"
"Reputation!" she cried. "You're a nice one to think about my
reputation _now_. Why didn't you think about my reputation before
you hired that horrible Jumbo to--to--"
Perry tossed up his hands hopelessly.
"Very well. I'll do anything you want. Lord knows I renounce all
"But," said a new voice, "I don't."
Perry and Betty started, and she put her hand to her heart.
"For Heaven's sake, what was that?"
"It's me," said the camel's back.
In a minute Perry had whipped off the camel's skin, and a lax, limp
object, his clothes hanging on him damply, his hand clenched tightly
on an almost empty bottle, stood defiantly before them.
"Oh," cried Betty, "you brought that object in here to frighten me!
You told me he was deaf--that awful person!"
The camel's back sat down on a chair with a sigh of satisfaction.
"Don't talk 'at way about me, lady. I ain't no person. I'm your
The cry was wrung simultaneously from Betty and Perry.
"Why, sure. I'm as much your husband as that gink is. The smoke didn't
marry you to the camel's front. He married you to the whole camel.
Why, that's my ring you got on your finger!"
With a little yelp she snatched the ring from her finger and flung it
passionately at the floor.
"What's all this?" demanded Perry dazedly.
"Jes' that you better fix me an' fix me right. If you don't I'm
a-gonna have the same claim you got to bein' married to her!"
"That's bigamy," said Perry, turning gravely to Betty.
Then came the supreme moment of Perry's evening, the ultimate chance
on which he risked his fortunes. He rose and looked first at Betty,
where she sat weakly, aghast at this new complication, and then at the
individual who swayed from side to side on his chair, uncertainly,
"Very well," said Perry slowly to the individual, "you can have her.
Betty, I'm going to prove to you that as far as I'm concerned our
marriage was entirely accidental. I'm going to renounce utterly my
rights to have you as my wife, and give you to--to the man whose ring
you wear--your lawful husband."
There was a pause and four horror-stricken eyes were turned on him,
"Good-by, Betty," he said brokenly. "Don't forget me in your new-found
happiness. I'm going to leave for the Far West on the morning train.
Think of me kindly, Betty."
With a last glance at them he turned and his head rested on his chest
as his hand touched the door-knob.
"Good-by," he repeated. He turned the door-knob.
But at this sound the snakes and silk and tawny hair precipitated
themselves violently toward him.
"Oh, Perry, don't leave me! Perry, Perry, take me with you!"
Her tears flowed damply on his neck. Calmly he folded his arms about
"I don't care," she cried. "I love you and if you can wake up a
minister at this hour and have it done over again I'll go West with
Over her shoulder the front part of the camel looked at the back part
of the camel--and they exchanged a particularly subtle, esoteric sort
of wink that only true camels can understand.
There had been a war fought and won and the great city of the
conquering people was crossed with triumphal arches and vivid with
thrown flowers of white, red, and rose. All through the long spring
days the returning soldiers marched up the chief highway behind the
strump of drums and the joyous, resonant wind of the brasses, while
merchants and clerks left their bickerings and figurings and, crowding
to the windows, turned their white-bunched faces gravely upon the
Never had there been such splendor in the great city, for the
victorious war had brought plenty in its train, and the merchants had
flocked thither from the South and West with their households to taste
of all the luscious feasts and witness the lavish entertainments
prepared--and to buy for their women furs against the next winter and
bags of golden mesh and varicolored slippers of silk and silver and
rose satin and cloth of gold.
So gaily and noisily were the peace and prosperity impending hymned by
the scribes and poets of the conquering people that more and more
spenders had gathered from the provinces to drink the wine of
excitement, and faster and faster did the merchants dispose of their
trinkets and slippers until they sent up a mighty cry for more
trinkets and more slippers in order that they might give in barter
what was demanded of them. Some even of them flung up their hands
"Alas! I have no more slippers! and alas! I have no more trinkets! May
heaven help me for I know not what I shall do!"
But no one listened to their great outcry, for the throngs were far
too busy--day by day, the foot-soldiers trod jauntily the highway and
all exulted because the young men returning were pure and brave, sound
of tooth and pink of cheek, and the young women of the land were
virgins and comely both of face and of figure.
So during all this time there were many adventures that happened in
the great city, and, of these, several--or perhaps one--are here set
At nine o'clock on the morning of the first of May, 1919, a young man
spoke to the room clerk at the Biltmore Hotel, asking if Mr. Philip
Dean were registered there, and if so, could he be connected with Mr.
Dean's rooms. The inquirer was dressed in a well-cut, shabby suit. He
was small, slender, and darkly handsome; his eyes were framed above
with unusually long eyelashes and below with the blue semicircle of
ill health, this latter effect heightened by an unnatural glow which
colored his face like a low, incessant fever.
Mr. Dean was staying there. The young man was directed to a telephone
at the side.
After a second his connection was made; a sleepy voice hello'd from
"Mr. Dean?"--this very eagerly--"it's Gordon, Phil. It's Gordon
Sterrett. I'm down-stairs. I heard you were in New York and I had a
hunch you'd be here."
The sleepy voice became gradually enthusiastic. Well, how was Gordy,
old boy! Well, he certainly was surprised and tickled! Would Gordy
come right up, for Pete's sake!
A few minutes later Philip Dean, dressed in blue silk pajamas, opened
his door and the two young men greeted each other with a
half-embarrassed exuberance. They were both about twenty-four, Yale
graduates of the year before the war; but there the resemblance
stopped abruptly. Dean was blond, ruddy, and rugged under his thin
pajamas. Everything about him radiated fitness and bodily comfort. He
smiled frequently, showing large and prominent teeth.
"I was going to look you up," he cried enthusiastically. "I'm taking a
couple of weeks off. If you'll sit down a sec I'll be right with you.
Going to take a shower."
As he vanished into the bathroom his visitor's dark eyes roved
nervously around the room, resting for a moment on a great English
travelling bag in the corner and on a family of thick silk shirts
littered on the chairs amid impressive neckties and soft woollen
Gordon rose and, picking up one of the shirts, gave it a minute
examination. It was of very heavy silk, yellow, with a pale blue
stripe--and there were nearly a dozen of them. He stared
involuntarily at his own shirt-cuffs--they were ragged and linty at
the edges and soiled to a faint gray. Dropping the silk shirt, he held
his coat-sleeves down and worked the frayed shirt-cuffs up till they
were out of sight. Then he went to the mirror and looked at himself
with listless, unhappy interest. His tie, of former glory, was faded
and thumb-creased--it served no longer to hide the jagged buttonholes
of his collar. He thought, quite without amusement, that only three
years before he had received a scattering vote in the senior elections
at college for being the best-dressed man in his class.
Dean emerged from the bathroom polishing his body.
"Saw an old friend of yours last night," he remarked.
"Passed her in the lobby and couldn't think of her name to save my
neck. That girl you brought up to New Haven senior year."
"Edith Bradin? That whom you mean?"
"'At's the one. Damn good looking. She's still sort of a pretty
doll--you know what I mean: as if you touched her she'd smear."
He surveyed his shining self complacently in the mirror, smiled
faintly, exposing a section of teeth.
"She must be twenty-three anyway," he continued.
"Twenty-two last month," said Gordon absently.
"What? Oh, last month. Well, I imagine she's down for the Gamma Psi
dance. Did you know we're having a Yale Gamma Psi dance to-night at
Delmonico's? You better come up, Gordy. Half of New Haven'll probably
be there. I can get you an invitation."
Draping himself reluctantly in fresh underwear, Dean lit a cigarette
and sat down by the open window, inspecting his calves and knees under
the morning sunshine which poured into the room.
"Sit down, Gordy," he suggested, "and tell me all about what you've
been doing and what you're doing now and everything."
Gordon collapsed unexpectedly upon the bed; lay there inert and
spiritless. His mouth, which habitually dropped a little open when his
face was in repose, became suddenly helpless and pathetic.
"What's the matter?" asked Dean quickly.
"What's the matter?"
"Every God damn thing in the world," he said miserably, "I've
absolutely gone to pieces, Phil. I'm all in."
"I'm all in." His voice was shaking.
Dean scrutinized him more closely with appraising blue eyes.
"You certainly look all shot."
"I am. I've made a hell of a mess of everything." He paused. "I'd
better start at the beginning--or will it bore you?" "Not at all; go
on." There was, however, a hesitant note in Dean's voice. This trip
East had been planned for a holiday--to find Gordon Sterrett in
trouble exasperated him a little.
"Go on," he repeated, and then added half under his breath, "Get it
"Well," began Gordon unsteadily, "I got back from France in February,
went home to Harrisburg for a month, and then came down to New York to
get a job. I got one--with an export company. They fired me
"I'm coming to that, Phil. I want to tell you frankly. You're about
the only man I can turn to in a matter like this. You won't mind if I
just tell you frankly, will you, Phil?"
Dean stiffened a bit more. The pats he was bestowing on his knees grew
perfunctory. He felt vaguely that he was being unfairly saddled with
responsibility; he was not even sure he wanted to be told. Though
never surprised at finding Gordon Sterrett in mild difficulty, there
was something in this present misery that repelled him and hardened
him, even though it excited his curiosity.
"It's a girl."
"Hm." Dean resolved that nothing was going to spoil his trip. If
Gordon was going to be depressing, then he'd have to see less of
"Her name is Jewel Hudson," went on the distressed voice from the bed.
"She used to be 'pure,' I guess, up to about a year ago." Lived here
in New York--poor family. Her people are dead now and she lives with
an old aunt. You see it was just about the time I met her that
everybody began to come back from France in droves--and all I did was
to welcome the newly arrived and go on parties with 'em. That's the
way it started, Phil, just from being glad to see everybody and having
them glad to see me."
"You ought to've had more sense."
"I know," Gordon paused, and then continued listlessly. "I'm on my own
now, you know, and Phil, I can't stand being poor. Then came this darn
girl. She sort of fell in love with me for a while and, though I never
intended to get so involved, I'd always seem to run into her
somewhere. You can imagine the sort of work I was doing for those
exporting people--of course, I always intended to draw; do
illustrating for magazines; there's a pile of money in it."
"Why didn't you? You've got to buckle down if you want to make good,"
suggested Dean with cold formalism.
"I tried, a little, but my stuff's crude. I've got talent, Phil; I can
draw--but I just don't know how. I ought to go to art school and I
can't afford it. Well, things came to a crisis about a week ago. Just
as I was down to about my last dollar this girl began bothering me.
She wants some money; claims she can make trouble for me if she
doesn't get it."
"I'm afraid she can. That's one reason I lost my job--she kept calling
up the office all the time, and that was sort of the last straw down
there. She's got a letter all written to send to my family. Oh, she's
got me, all right. I've got to have some money for her."
There was an awkward pause. Gordon lay very still, his hands clenched
by his side.
"I'm all in," he continued, his voice trembling. "I'm half crazy,
Phil. If I hadn't known you were coming East, I think I'd have killed
myself. I want you to lend me three hundred dollars."
Dean's hands, which had been patting his bare ankles, were suddenly
quiet--and the curious uncertainty playing between the two became taut
After a second Gordon continued:
"I've bled the family until I'm ashamed to ask for another nickel."
Still Dean made no answer.
"Jewel says she's got to have two hundred dollars."
"Tell her where she can go."
"Yes, that sounds easy, but she's got a couple of drunken letters I
wrote her. Unfortunately she's not at all the flabby sort of person
Dean made an expression of distaste.
"I can't stand that sort of woman. You ought to have kept away."
"I know," admitted Gordon wearily.
"You've got to look at things as they are. If you haven't got money
you've got to work and stay away from women."
"That's easy for you to say," began Gordon, his eyes narrowing.
"You've got all the money in the world."
"I most certainly have not. My family keep darn close tab on what I
spend. Just because I have a little leeway I have to be extra careful
not to abuse it."
He raised the blind and let in a further flood of sunshine.
"I'm no prig, Lord knows," he went on deliberately. "I like
pleasure--and I like a lot of it on a vacation like this, but
you're--you're in awful shape. I never heard you talk just this way
before. You seem to be sort of bankrupt--morally as well as
"Don't they usually go together?"
Dean shook his head impatiently.
"There's a regular aura about you that I don't understand. It's a sort
"It's an air of worry and poverty and sleepless nights," said Gordon,
"I don't know."
"Oh, I admit I'm depressing. I depress myself. But, my God, Phil, a
week's rest and a new suit and some ready money and I'd be like--like
I was. Phil, I can draw like a streak, and you know it. But half the
time I haven't had the money to buy decent drawing materials--and I
can't draw when I'm tired and discouraged and all in. With a little
ready money I can take a few weeks off and get started."
"How do I know you wouldn't use it on some other woman?"
"Why rub it in?" said Gordon, quietly.
"I'm not rubbing it in. I hate to see you this way."
"Will you lend me the money, Phil?"
"I can't decide right off. That's a lot of money and it'll be darn
inconvenient for me."
"It'll be hell for me if you can't--I know I'm whining, and it's all
my own fault but--that doesn't change it."
"When could you pay it back?"
This was encouraging. Gordon considered. It was probably wisest to be
"Of course, I could promise to send it back next month, but--I'd
better say three months. Just as soon as I start to sell drawings."
"How do I know you'll sell any drawings?"
A new hardness in Dean's voice sent a faint chill of doubt over
Gordon. Was it possible that he wouldn't get the money?
"I supposed you had a little confidence in me."
"I did have--but when I see you like this I begin to wonder."
"Do you suppose if I wasn't at the end of my rope I'd come to you like
this? Do you think I'm enjoying it?" He broke off and bit his lip,
feeling that he had better subdue the rising anger in his voice. After
all, he was the suppliant.
"You seem to manage it pretty easily," said Dean angrily. "You put me
in the position where, if I don't lend it to you, I'm a sucker--oh,
yes, you do. And let me tell you it's no easy thing for me to get hold
of three hundred dollars. My income isn't so big but that a slice like
that won't play the deuce with it."
He left his chair and began to dress, choosing his clothes carefully.
Gordon stretched out his arms and clenched the edges of the bed,
fighting back a desire to cry out. His head was splitting and
whirring, his mouth was dry and bitter and he could feel the fever in
his blood resolving itself into innumerable regular counts like a slow
dripping from a roof.
Dean tied his tie precisely, brushed his eyebrows, and removed a piece
of tobacco from his teeth with solemnity. Next he filled his cigarette
case, tossed the empty box thoughtfully into the waste basket, and
settled the case in his vest pocket.
"Had breakfast?" he demanded.
"No; I don't eat it any more."
"Well, we'll go out and have some. We'll decide about that money
later. I'm sick of the subject. I came East to have a good time.
"Let's go over to the Yale Club," he continued moodily, and then added
with an implied reproof: "You've given up your job. You've got nothing
else to do."
"I'd have a lot to do if I had a little money," said Gordon pointedly.
"Oh, for Heaven's sake drop the subject for a while! No point in
glooming on my whole trip. Here, here's some money."
He took a five-dollar bill from his wallet and tossed it over to
Gordon, who folded it carefully and put it in his pocket. There was an
added spot of color in his cheeks, an added glow that was not fever.
For an instant before they turned to go out their eyes met and in that
instant each found something that made him lower his own glance
quickly. For in that instant they quite suddenly and definitely hated
Fifth Avenue and Forty-fourth Street swarmed with the noon crowd. The
wealthy, happy sun glittered in transient gold through the thick
windows of the smart shops, lighting upon mesh bags and purses and
strings of pearls in gray velvet cases; upon gaudy feather fans of
many colors; upon the laces and silks of expensive dresses; upon the
bad paintings and the fine period furniture in the elaborate show
rooms of interior decorators.
Working-girls, in pairs and groups and swarms, loitered by these
windows, choosing their future boudoirs from some resplendent display
which included even a man's silk pajamas laid domestically across the
bed. They stood in front of the jewelry stores and picked out their
engagement rings, and their wedding rings and their platinum wrist
watches, and then drifted on to inspect the feather fans and opera
cloaks; meanwhile digesting the sandwiches and sundaes they had eaten
All through the crowd were men in uniform, sailors from the great
fleet anchored in the Hudson, soldiers with divisional insignia from
Massachusetts to California, wanting fearfully to be noticed, and
finding the great city thoroughly fed up with soldiers unless they
were nicely massed into pretty formations and uncomfortable under the
weight of a pack and rifle. Through this medley Dean and Gordon
wandered; the former interested, made alert by the display of humanity
at its frothiest and gaudiest; the latter reminded of how often he had
been one of the crowd, tired, casually fed, overworked, and
dissipated. To Dean the struggle was significant, young, cheerful; to
Gordon it was dismal, meaningless, endless.
In the Yale Club they met a group of their former classmates who
greeted the visiting Dean vociferously. Sitting in a semicircle of
lounges and great chairs, they had a highball all around.
Gordon found the conversation tiresome and interminable. They lunched
together _en masse_, warmed with liquor as the afternoon began.
They were all going to the Gamma Psi dance that night--it promised to
be the best party since the war.
"Edith Bradin's coming," said some one to Gordon. "Didn't she used to
be an old flame of yours? Aren't you both from Harrisburg?"
"Yes." He tried to change the subject. "I see her brother
occasionally. He's sort of a socialistic nut. Runs a paper or
something here in New York."
"Not like his gay sister, eh?" continued his eager informant. "Well,
she's coming to-night--with a junior named Peter Himmel."
Gordon was to meet Jewel Hudson at eight o'clock--he had promised to
have some money for her. Several times he glanced nervously at his
wrist watch. At four, to his relief, Dean rose and announced that he
was going over to Rivers Brothers to buy some collars and ties. But as
they left the Club another of the party joined them, to Gordon's great
dismay. Dean was in a jovial mood now, happy, expectant of the
evening's party, faintly hilarious. Over in Rivers' he chose a dozen
neckties, selecting each one after long consultations with the other
man. Did he think narrow ties were coming back? And wasn't it a shame
that Rivers couldn't get any more Welsh Margotson collars? There never
was a collar like the "Covington."
Gordon was in something of a panic. He wanted the money immediately.
And he was now inspired also with a vague idea of attending the Gamma
Psi dance. He wanted to see Edith--Edith whom he hadn't met since one
romantic night at the Harrisburg Country Club just before he went to
France. The affair had died, drowned in the turmoil of the war and
quite forgotten in the arabesque of these three months, but a picture
of her, poignant, debonnaire, immersed in her own inconsequential
chatter, recurred to him unexpectedly and brought a hundred memories
with it. It was Edith's face that he had cherished through college
with a sort of detached yet affectionate admiration. He had loved to
draw her--around his room had been a dozen sketches of her--playing
golf, swimming--he could draw her pert, arresting profile with his
They left Rivers' at five-thirty and parsed for a moment on the
"Well," said Dean genially, "I'm all set now. Think I'll go back to
the hotel and get a shave, haircut, and massage."
"Good enough," said the other man, "I think I'll join you."
Gordon wondered if he was to be beaten after all. With difficulty he
restrained himself from turning to the man and snarling out, "Go on
away, damn you!" In despair he suspected that perhaps Dean had spoken
to him, was keeping him along in order to avoid a dispute about the
They went into the Biltmore--a Biltmore alive with girls--mostly from
the West and South, the stellar débutantes of many cities gathered for
the dance of a famous fraternity of a famous university. But to Gordon
they were faces in a dream. He gathered together his forces for a last
appeal, was about to come out with he knew not what, when Dean
suddenly excused himself to the other man and taking Gordon's arm led
"Gordy," he said quickly, "I've thought the whole thing over carefully
and I've decided that I can't lend you that money. I'd like to oblige
you, but I don't feel I ought to--it'd put a crimp in me for a month."
Gordon, watching him dully, wondered why he had never before noticed
how much those upper teeth projected.
"I'm--mighty sorry, Gordon," continued Dean, "but that's the way it
He took out his wallet and deliberately counted out seventy-five
dollars in bills.
"Here," he said, holding them out, "here's seventy-five; that makes
eighty all together. That's all the actual cash I have with me,
besides what I'll actually spend on the trip."
Gordon raised his clenched hand automatically, opened it as though it
were a tongs he was holding, and clenched it again on the money.
"I'll see you at the dance," continued Dean. "I've got to get along to
the barber shop."
"So-long," said Gordon in a strained and husky voice.
Dean, began to smile, but seemed to change his mind. He nodded briskly
But Gordon stood there, his handsome face awry with distress, the roll
of bills clenched tightly in his hand. Then, blinded by sudden tears,
he stumbled clumsily down the Biltmore steps.
About nine o'clock of the same night two human beings came out of a
cheap restaurant in Sixth Avenue. They were ugly, ill-nourished,
devoid of all except the very lowest form of intelligence, and without
even that animal exuberance that in itself brings color into life;
they were lately vermin-ridden, cold, and hungry in a dirty town of a
strange land; they were poor, friendless; tossed as driftwood from
their births, they would be tossed as driftwood to their deaths. They
were dressed in the uniform of the United States Army, and on the
shoulder of each was the insignia of a drafted division from New
Jersey, landed three days before.
The taller of the two was named Carrol Key, a name hinting that in his
veins, however thinly diluted by generations of degeneration, ran
blood of some potentiality. But one could stare endlessly at the long,
chinless face, the dull, watery eyes, and high cheek-bones, without
finding suggestion of either ancestral worth or native resourcefulness.
His companion was swart and bandy-legged, with rat-eyes and a
much-broken hooked nose. His defiant air was obviously a pretense, a
weapon of protection borrowed from that world of snarl and snap, of
physical bluff and physical menace, in which he had always lived. His
name was Gus Rose.
Leaving the café they sauntered down Sixth Avenue, wielding toothpicks
with great gusto and complete detachment.
"Where to?" asked Rose, in a tone which implied that he would not be
surprised if Key suggested the South Sea Islands.
"What you say we see if we can getta holda some liquor?" Prohibition
was not yet. The ginger in the suggestion was caused by the law
forbidding the selling of liquor to soldiers.
Rose agreed enthusiastically.
"I got an idea," continued Key, after a moment's thought, "I got a
"In New York?"
"Yeah. He's an old fella." He meant that he was an elder brother.
"He's a waiter in a hash joint."
"Maybe he can get us some."
"I'll say he can!"
"B'lieve me, I'm goin' to get this darn uniform off me to-morra. Never
get me in it again, neither. I'm goin' to get me some regular
"Say, maybe I'm not."
As their combined finances were something less than five dollars, this
intention can be taken largely as a pleasant game of words, harmless
and consoling. It seemed to please both of them, however, for they
reinforced it with chuckling and mention of personages high in
biblical circles, adding such further emphasis as "Oh, boy!" "You
know!" and "I'll say so!" repeated many times over.
The entire mental pabulum of these two men consisted of an offended
nasal comment extended through the years upon the institution--army,
business, or poorhouse--which kept them alive, and toward their
immediate superior in that institution. Until that very morning the
institution had been the "government" and the immediate superior had
been the "Cap'n"--from these two they had glided out and were now in
the vaguely uncomfortable state before they should adopt their next
bondage. They were uncertain, resentful, and somewhat ill at ease.
This they hid by pretending an elaborate relief at being out of the
army, and by assuring each other that military discipline should never
again rule their stubborn, liberty-loving wills. Yet, as a matter of
fact, they would have felt more at home in a prison than in this
new-found and unquestionable freedom.
Suddenly Key increased his gait. Rose, looking up and following his
glance, discovered a crowd that was collecting fifty yards down the
street. Key chuckled and began to run in the direction of the crowd;
Rose thereupon also chuckled and his short bandy legs twinkled beside
the long, awkward strides of his companion.
Reaching the outskirts of the crowd they immediately became an
indistinguishable part of it. It was composed of ragged civilians
somewhat the worse for liquor, and of soldiers representing many
divisions and many stages of sobriety, all clustered around a
gesticulating little Jew with long black whiskers, who was waving his
arms and delivering an excited but succinct harangue. Key and Rose,
having wedged themselves into the approximate parquet, scrutinized him
with acute suspicion, as his words penetrated their common
"--What have you got outa the war?" he was crying fiercely. "Look
arounja, look arounja! Are you rich? Have you got a lot of money
offered you?--no; you're lucky if you're alive and got both your legs;
you're lucky if you came back an' find your wife ain't gone off with
some other fella that had the money to buy himself out of the war!
That's when you're lucky! Who got anything out of it except J. P.
Morgan an' John D. Rockerfeller?"
At this point the little Jew's oration was interrupted by the hostile
impact of a fist upon the point of his bearded chin and he toppled
backward to a sprawl on the pavement.
"God damn Bolsheviki!" cried the big soldier-blacksmith, who had
delivered the blow. There was a rumble of approval, the crowd closed
The Jew staggered to his feet, and immediately went down again before
a half-dozen reaching-in fists. This time he stayed down, breathing
heavily, blood oozing from his lip where it was cut within and
There was a riot of voices, and in a minute Rose and Key found
themselves flowing with the jumbled crowd down Sixth Avenue under the
leadership of a thin civilian in a slouch hat and the brawny soldier
who had summarily ended the oration. The crowd had marvellously
swollen to formidable proportions and a stream of more non-committal
citizens followed it along the sidewalks lending their moral support
by intermittent huzzas.
"Where we goin'?" yelled Key to the man nearest him
His neighbor pointed up to the leader in the slouch hat.
"That guy knows where there's a lot of 'em! We're goin' to show 'em!"
"We're goin' to show 'em!" whispered Key delightedly to Rose, who
repeated the phrase rapturously to a man on the other side.
Down Sixth Avenue swept the procession, joined here and there by
soldiers and marines, and now and then by civilians, who came up with
the inevitable cry that they were just out of the army themselves, as
if presenting it as a card of admission to a newly formed Sporting and
Then the procession swerved down a cross street and headed for Fifth
Avenue and the word filtered here and there that they were bound for a
Red meeting at Tolliver Hall.
"Where is it?"
The question went up the line and a moment later the answer floated
hack. Tolliver Hall was down on Tenth Street. There was a bunch of
other sojers who was goin' to break it up and was down there now!
But Tenth Street had a faraway sound and at the word a general groan
went up and a score of the procession dropped out. Among these were
Rose and Key, who slowed down to a saunter and let the more
enthusiastic sweep on by.
"I'd rather get some liquor," said Key as they halted and made their
way to the sidewalk amid cries of "Shell hole!" and "Quitters!"
"Does your brother work around here?" asked Rose, assuming the air of
one passing from the superficial to the eternal.
"He oughta," replied Key. "I ain't seen him for a coupla years. I been
out to Pennsylvania since. Maybe he don't work at night anyhow. It's
right along here. He can get us some o'right if he ain't gone."
They found the place after a few minutes' patrol of the street--a
shoddy tablecloth restaurant between Fifth Avenue and Broadway. Here
Key went inside to inquire for his brother George, while Rose waited
on the sidewalk.
"He ain't here no more," said Key emerging. "He's a waiter up to
Rose nodded wisely, as if he'd expected as much. One should not be
surprised at a capable man changing jobs occasionally. He knew a
waiter once--there ensued a long conversation as they waited as to
whether waiters made more in actual wages than in tips--it was decided
that it depended on the social tone of the joint wherein the waiter
labored. After having given each other vivid pictures of millionaires
dining at Delmonico's and throwing away fifty-dollar bills after their
first quart of champagne, both men thought privately of becoming
waiters. In fact, Key's narrow brow was secreting a resolution to ask
his brother to get him a job.
"A waiter can drink up all the champagne those fellas leave in
bottles," suggested Rose with some relish, and then added as an
afterthought, "Oh, boy!"
By the time they reached Delmonico's it was half past ten, and they
were surprised to see a stream of taxis driving up to the door one
after the other and emitting marvelous, hatless young ladies, each one
attended by a stiff young gentleman in evening clothes.
"It's a party," said Rose with some awe. "Maybe we better not go in.
He'll be busy."
"No, he won't. He'll be o'right."
After some hesitation they entered what appeared to them to be the
least elaborate door and, indecision falling upon them immediately,
stationed themselves nervously in an inconspicuous corner of the small
dining-room in which they found themselves. They took off their caps
and held them in their hands. A cloud of gloom fell upon them and both
started when a door at one end of the room crashed open, emitting a
comet-like waiter who streaked across the floor and vanished through
another door on the other side.
There had been three of these lightning passages before the seekers
mustered the acumen to hail a waiter. He turned, looked at them
suspiciously, and then approached with soft, catlike steps, as if
prepared at any moment to turn and flee.
"Say," began Key, "say, do you know my brother? He's a waiter here."
"His name is Key," annotated Rose.
Yes, the waiter knew Key. He was up-stairs, he thought. There was a
big dance going on in the main ballroom. He'd tell him.
Ten minutes later George Key appeared and greeted his brother with the
utmost suspicion; his first and most natural thought being that he was
going to be asked for money.
George was tall and weak chinned, but there his resemblance to his
brother ceased. The waiter's eyes were not dull, they were alert and
twinkling, and his manner was suave, in-door, and faintly superior.
They exchanged formalities. George was married and had three children.
He seemed fairly interested, but not impressed by the news that Carrol
had been abroad in the army. This disappointed Carrol.
"George," said the younger brother, these amenities having been
disposed of, "we want to get some booze, and they won't sell us none.
Can you get us some?"
"Sure. Maybe I can. It may be half an hour, though."
"All right," agreed Carrol, "we'll wait"
At this Rose started to sit down in a convenient chair, but was hailed
to his feet by the indignant George.
"Hey! Watch out, you! Can't sit down here! This room's all set for a
twelve o'clock banquet."
"I ain't goin' to hurt it," said Rose resentfully. "I been through the
"Never mind," said George sternly, "if the head waiter seen me here
talkin' he'd romp all over me."
The mention of the head waiter was full explanation to the other two;
they fingered their overseas caps nervously and waited for a
"I tell you," said George, after a pause, "I got a place you can wait;
you just come here with me."
They followed him out the far door, through a deserted pantry and up a
pair of dark winding stairs, emerging finally into a small room
chiefly furnished by piles of pails and stacks of scrubbing brushes,
and illuminated by a single dim electric light. There he left them,
after soliciting two dollars and agreeing to return in half an hour
with a quart of whiskey.
"George is makin' money, I bet," said Key gloomily as he seated
himself on an inverted pail. "I bet he's making fifty dollars a week."
Rose nodded his head and spat.
"I bet he is, too."
"What'd he say the dance was of?"
"A lot of college fellas. Yale College."
They, both nodded solemnly at each other.
"Wonder where that crowda sojers is now?"
"I don't know. I know that's too damn long to walk for me."
"Me too. You don't catch me walkin' that far."
Ten minutes later restlessness seized them.
"I'm goin' to see what's out here," said Rose, stepping cautiously
toward the other door.
It was a swinging door of green baize and he pushed it open a cautious
For answer Rose drew in his breath sharply.
"Doggone! Here's some liquor I'll say!"
Key joined Rose at the door, and looked eagerly.
"I'll tell the world that's liquor," he said, after a moment of
It was a room about twice as large as the one they were in--and in it
was prepared a radiant feast of spirits. There were long walls of
alternating bottles set along two white covered tables; whiskey, gin,
brandy, French and Italian vermouths, and orange juice, not to mention
an array of syphons and two great empty punch bowls. The room was as
"It's for this dance they're just starting," whispered Key; "hear the
violins playin'? Say, boy, I wouldn't mind havin' a dance."
They closed the door softly and exchanged a glance of mutual
comprehension. There was no need of feeling each other out.
"I'd like to get my hands on a coupla those bottles," said Rose
"Do you suppose we'd get seen?"
"Maybe we better wait till they start drinkin' 'em. They got 'em all
laid out now, and they know how many of them there are."
They debated this point for several minutes. Rose was all for getting
his hands on a bottle now and tucking it under his coat before anyone
came into the room. Key, however, advocated caution. He was afraid he
might get his brother in trouble. If they waited till some of the
bottles were opened it'd be all right to take one, and everybody'd
think it was one of the college fellas.
While they were still engaged in argument George Key hurried through
the room and, barely grunting at them, disappeared by way of the green
baize door. A minute later they heard several corks pop, and then the
sound of cracking ice and splashing liquid. George was mixing the
The soldiers exchanged delighted grins.
"Oh, boy!" whispered Rose.
"Just keep low, boys," he said quickly. "Ill have your stuff for you
in five minutes."
He disappeared through the door by which he had come.
As soon as his footsteps receded down the stairs, Rose, after a
cautious look, darted into the room of delights and reappeared with a
bottle in his hand.
"Here's what I say," he said, as they sat radiantly digesting their
first drink. "We'll wait till he comes up, and we'll ask him if we
can't just stay here and drink what he brings us--see. We'll tell him
we haven't got any place to drink it--see. Then we can sneak in there
whenever there ain't nobody in that there room and tuck a bottle under
our coats. We'll have enough to last us a coupla days--see?"
"Sure," agreed Rose enthusiastically. "Oh, boy! And if we want to we
can sell it to sojers any time we want to."
They were silent for a moment thinking rosily of this idea. Then Key
reached up and unhooked the collar of his O. D. coat.
"It's hot in here, ain't it?"
Rose agreed earnestly.
"Hot as hell."
She was still quite angry when she came out of the dressing-room and
crossed the intervening parlor of politeness that opened onto the
hall--angry not so much at the actual happening which was, after all,
the merest commonplace of her social existence, but because it had
occurred on this particular night. She had no quarrel with herself.
She had acted with that correct mixture of dignity and reticent pity
which she always employed. She had succinctly and deftly snubbed him.
It had happened when their taxi was leaving the Biltmore--hadn't gone
half a block. He had lifted his right arm awkwardly--she was on his
right side--and attempted to settle it snugly around the crimson
fur-trimmed opera cloak she wore. This in itself had been a mistake.
It was inevitably more graceful for a young man attempting to embrace
a young lady of whose acquiescence he was not certain, to first put
his far arm around her. It avoided that awkward movement of raising
the near arm.
His second _faux pas_ was unconscious. She had spent the
afternoon at the hairdresser's; the idea of any calamity overtaking
her hair was extremely repugnant--yet as Peter made his unfortunate
attempt the point of his elbow had just faintly brushed it. That was
his second _faux pas_. Two were quite enough.
He had begun to murmur. At the first murmur she had decided that he
was nothing but a college boy--Edith was twenty-two, and anyhow, this
dance, first of its kind since the war, was reminding her, with the
accelerating rhythm of its associations, of something else--of another
dance and another man, a man for whom her feelings had been little
more than a sad-eyed, adolescent mooniness. Edith Bradin was falling
in love with her recollection of Gordon Sterrett.
So she came out of the dressing-room at Delmonico's and stood for a
second in the doorway looking over the shoulders of a black dress in
front of her at the groups of Yale men who flitted like dignified
black moths around the head of the stairs. From the room she had left
drifted out the heavy fragrance left by the passage to and fro of many
scented young beauties--rich perfumes and the fragile memory-laden
dust of fragrant powders. This odor drifting out acquired the tang of
cigarette smoke in the hall, and then settled sensuously down the
stairs and permeated the ballroom where the Gamma Psi dance was to be
held. It was an odor she knew well, exciting, stimulating, restlessly
sweet--the odor of a fashionable dance.
She thought of her own appearance. Her bare arms and shoulders were
powdered to a creamy white. She knew they looked very soft and would
gleam like milk against the black backs that were to silhouette them
to-night. The hairdressing had been a success; her reddish mass of
hair was piled and crushed and creased to an arrogant marvel of mobile
curves. Her lips were finely made of deep carmine; the irises of her
eyes were delicate, breakable blue, like china eyes. She was a
complete, infinitely delicate, quite perfect thing of beauty, flowing
in an even line from a complex coiffure to two small slim feet.
She thought of what she would say to-night at this revel, faintly
prestiged already by the sounds of high and low laughter and slippered
footsteps, and movements of couples up and down the stairs. She would
talk the language she had talked for many years--her line--made up of
the current expressions, bits of journalese and college slang strung
together into an intrinsic whole, careless, faintly provocative,
delicately sentimental. She stalled faintly as she heard a girl
sitting on the stairs near her say: "You don't know the half of it,
And as she smiled her anger melted for a moment, and closing her eyes
she drew in a deep breath of pleasure. She dropped her arms to her
side until they were faintly touching the sleek sheath that covered
and suggested her figure. She had never felt her own softness so much
nor so enjoyed the whiteness of her own arms.
"I smell sweet," she said to herself simply, and then came another
thought "I'm made for love."
She liked the sound of this and thought it again; then inevitable
succession came her new-born riot of dreams about Gordon. The twist of
her imagination which, two months before, had disclosed to her her
unguessed desire to see him again, seemed now to have been leading up
to this dance, this hour.
For all her sleek beauty, Edith was a grave, slow-thinking girl. There
was a streak in her of that same desire to ponder, of that adolescent
idealism that had turned her brother socialist and pacifist. Henry
Bradin had left Cornell, where he had been an instructor in economies,
and had come to New York to pour the latest cures for incurable evils
into the columns of a radical weekly newspaper.
Edith, less fatuously, would have been content to cure Gordon
Sterrett. There was a quality of weakness in Gordon that she wanted to
take care of; there was a helplessness in him that she wanted to
protect. And she wanted someone she had known a long while, someone
who had loved her a long while. She was a little tired; she wanted to
get married. Out of a pile of letters, half a dozen pictures and as
many memories, and this weariness, she had decided that next time she
saw Gordon their relations were going to be changed. She would say
something that would change them. There was this evening. This was her
evening. All evenings were her evenings.
Then her thoughts were interrupted by a solemn undergraduate with a
hurt look and an air of strained formality who presented himself
before her and bowed unusually low. It was the man she had come with,
Peter Himmel. He was tall and humorous, with horned-rimmed glasses and
an air of attractive whimsicality. She suddenly rather disliked
him--probably because he had not succeeded in kissing her.
"Well," she began, "are you still furious at me?"
"Not at all."
She stepped forward and took his arm.
"I'm sorry," she said softly. "I don't know why I snapped out that
way. I'm in a bum humor to-night for some strange reason. I'm sorry."
"S'all right," he mumbled, "don't mention it."
He felt disagreeably embarrassed. Was she rubbing in the fact of his
"It was a mistake," she continued, on the same consciously gentle key.
"We'll both forget it." For this he hated her.
A few minutes later they drifted out on the floor while the dozen
swaying, sighing members of the specially hired jazz orchestra
informed the crowded ballroom that "if a saxophone and me are left
alone why then two is com-pan-ee!"
A man with a mustache cut in.
"Hello," he began reprovingly. "You don't remember me."
"I can't just think of your name," she said lightly--"and I know you
"I met you up at--" His voice trailed disconsolately off as a man with
very fair hair cut in. Edith murmured a conventional "Thanks,
loads--cut in later," to the _inconnu_.
The very fair man insisted on shaking hands enthusiastically. She
placed him as one of the numerous Jims of her acquaintance--last name
a mystery. She remembered even that he had a peculiar rhythm in
dancing and found as they started that she was right.
"Going to be here long?" he breathed confidentially.
She leaned back and looked up at him.
"Couple of weeks."
"Where are you?"
"Biltmore. Call me up some day."
"I mean it," he assured her. "I will. We'll go to tea."
"So do I--Do."
A dark man cut in with intense formality.
"You don't remember me, do you?" he said gravely.
"I should say I do. Your name's Harlan."
"Well, I knew there were two syllables anyway. You're the boy that
played the ukulele so well up at Howard Marshall's house party.
"I played--but not--"
A man with prominent teeth cut in. Edith inhaled a slight cloud of
whiskey. She liked men to have had something to drink; they were so
much more cheerful, and appreciative and complimentary--much easier to
"My name's Dean, Philip Dean," he said cheerfully. "You don't remember
me, I know, but you used to come up to New Haven with a fellow I
roomed with senior year, Gordon Sterrett."
Edith looked up quickly.
"Yes, I went up with him twice--to the Pump and Slipper and the Junior
"You've seen him, of course," said Dean carelessly. "He's here
to-night. I saw him just a minute ago."
Edith started. Yet she had felt quite sure he would be here.
"Why, no, I haven't--"
A fat man with red hair cut in.
"Hello, Edith," he began.
She slipped, stumbled lightly.
"I'm sorry, dear," she murmured mechanically.
She had seen Gordon--Gordon very white and listless, leaning against
the side of a doorway, smoking, and looking into the ballroom. Edith
could see that his face was thin and wan--that the hand he raised to
his lips with a cigarette, was trembling. They were dancing quite
close to him now.
"--They invite so darn many extra fellas that you--" the short man was
"Hello, Gordon," called Edith over her partner's shoulder. Her heart
was pounding wildly.
His large dark eyes were fixed on her. He took a step in her
direction. Her partner turned her away--she heard his voice
"--but half the stags get lit and leave before long, so--" Then a low
tone at her side.
"May I, please?"
She was dancing suddenly with Gordon; one of his arms was around her;
she felt it tighten spasmodically; felt his hand on her back with the
fingers spread. Her hand holding the little lace handkerchief was
crushed in his.
"Why Gordon," she began breathlessly.
She slipped again--was tossed forward by her recovery until her face
touched the black cloth of his dinner coat. She loved him--she knew
she loved him--then for a minute there was silence while a strange
feeling of uneasiness crept over her. Something was wrong.
Of a sudden her heart wrenched, and turned over as she realized what
it was. He was pitiful and wretched, a little drunk, and miserably
"Oh--" she cried involuntarily.
His eyes looked down at her. She saw suddenly that they were
blood-streaked and rolling uncontrollably.
"Gordon," she murmured, "we'll sit down; I want to sit down."
They were nearly in mid-floor, but she had seen two men start toward
her from opposite sides of the room, so she halted, seized Gordon's
limp hand and led him bumping through the crowd, her mouth tight shut,
her face a little pale under her rouge, her eyes trembling with tears.
She found a place high up on the soft-carpeted stairs, and he sat down
heavily beside her.
"Well," he began, staring at her unsteadily, "I certainly am glad to
see you, Edith."
She looked at him without answering. The effect of this on her was
immeasurable. For years she had seen men in various stages of
intoxication, from uncles all the way down to chauffeurs, and her
feelings had varied from amusement to disgust, but here for the first
time she was seized with a new feeling--an unutterable horror.
"Gordon," she said accusingly and almost crying, "you look like the
He nodded, "I've had trouble, Edith."
"All sorts of trouble. Don't you say anything to the family, but I'm
all gone to pieces. I'm a mess, Edith."
His lower lip was sagging. He seemed scarcely to see her.
"Can't you--can't you," she hesitated, "can't you tell me about it,
Gordon? You know I'm always interested in you."
She bit her lip--she had intended to say something stronger, but found
at the end that she couldn't bring it out.
Gordon shook his head dully. "I can't tell you. You're a good woman. I
can't tell a good woman the story."
"Rot," she said, defiantly. "I think it's a perfect insult to call any
one a good woman in that way. It's a slam. You've been drinking,
"Thanks." He inclined his head gravely. "Thanks for the information."
"Why do you drink?"
"Because I'm so damn miserable."
"Do you think drinking's going to make it any better?"
"What you doing--trying to reform me?"
"No; I'm trying to help you, Gordon. Can't you tell me about it?"
"I'm in an awful mess. Best thing you can do is to pretend not to know
"I'm sorry I cut in on you--its unfair to you. You're pure woman--and
all that sort of thing. Here, I'll get some one else to dance with
He rose clumsily to his feet, but she reached up and pulled him down
beside her on the stairs.
"Here, Gordon. You're ridiculous. You're hurting me. You're acting
like a--like a crazy man--"
"I admit it. I'm a little crazy. Something's wrong with me, Edith.
There's something left me. It doesn't matter."
"It does, tell me."
"Just that. I was always queer--little bit different from other boys.
All right in college, but now it's all wrong. Things have been
snapping inside me for four months like little hooks on a dress, and
it's about to come off when a few more hooks go. I'm very gradually
He turned his eyes full on her and began to laugh, and she shrank away
"What _is_ the matter?"
"Just me," he repeated. "I'm going loony. This whole place is like a
dream to me--this Delmonico's--"
As he talked she saw he had changed utterly. He wasn't at all light
and gay and careless--a great lethargy and discouragement had come
over him. Revulsion seized her, followed by a faint, surprising
boredom. His voice seemed to come out of a great void.
"Edith," he said, "I used to think I was clever, talented, an artist.
Now I know I'm nothing. Can't draw, Edith. Don't know why I'm telling
She nodded absently.
"I can't draw, I can't do anything. I'm poor as a church mouse." He
laughed, bitterly and rather too loud. "I've become a damn beggar, a
leech on my friends. I'm a failure. I'm poor as hell."
Her distaste was growing. She barely nodded this time, waiting for her
first possible cue to rise.
Suddenly Gordon's eyes filled with tears.
"Edith," he said, turning to her with what was evidently a strong
effort at self-control, "I can't tell you what it means to me to know
there's one person left who's interested in me."
He reached out and patted her hand, and involuntarily she drew it
"It's mighty fine of you," he repeated.
"Well," she said slowly, looking him in the eye, "any one's always
glad to see an old friend--but I'm sorry to see you like this,
There was a pause while they looked at each other, and the momentary
eagerness in his eyes wavered. She rose and stood looking at him, her
face quite expressionless.
"Shall we dance?" she suggested, coolly.
--Love is fragile--she was thinking--but perhaps the pieces are saved,
the things that hovered on lips, that might have been said. The new
love words, the tendernesses learned, are treasured up for the next
Peter Himmel, escort to the lovely Edith, was unaccustomed to being
snubbed; having been snubbed, he was hurt and embarrassed, and ashamed
of himself. For a matter of two months he had been on special delivery
terms with Edith Bradin, and knowing that the one excuse and
explanation of the special delivery letter is its value in sentimental
correspondence, he had believed himself quite sure of his ground. He
searched in vain for any reason why she should have taken this
attitude in the matter of a simple kiss.
Therefore when he was cut in on by the man with the mustache he went
out into the hall and, making up a sentence, said it over to himself
several times. Considerably deleted, this was it:
"Well, if any girl ever led a man on and then jolted him, she did--and
she has no kick coming if I go out and get beautifully boiled."
So he walked through the supper room into a small room adjoining it,
which he had located earlier in the evening. It was a room in which
there were several large bowls of punch flanked by many bottles. He
took a seat beside the table which held the bottles.
At the second highball, boredom, disgust, the monotony of time, the
turbidity of events, sank into a vague background before which
glittering cobwebs formed. Things became reconciled to themselves,
things lay quietly on their shelves; the troubles of the day arranged
themselves in trim formation and at his curt wish of dismissal,
marched off and disappeared. And with the departure of worry came
brilliant, permeating symbolism. Edith became a flighty, negligible
girl, not to be worried over; rather to be laughed at. She fitted like
a figure of his own dream into the surface world forming about him. He
himself became in a measure symbolic, a type of the continent
bacchanal, the brilliant dreamer at play.
Then the symbolic mood faded and as he sipped his third highball his
imagination yielded to the warm glow and he lapsed into a state
similar to floating on his back in pleasant water. It was at this
point that he noticed that a green baize door near him was open about
two inches, and that through the aperture a pair of eyes were watching
"Hm," murmured Peter calmly.
The green door closed--and then opened again--a bare half inch this
"Peek-a-boo," murmured Peter.
The door remained stationary and then he became aware of a series of
tense intermittent whispers.
"What's he doin'?"
"He's sittin' lookin'."
"He better beat it off. We gotta get another li'l' bottle."
Peter listened while the words filtered into his consciousness.
"Now this," he thought, "is most remarkable."
He was excited. He was jubilant. He felt that he had stumbled upon a
mystery. Affecting an elaborate carelessness he arose and waited
around the table--then, turning quickly, pulled open the green door,
precipitating Private Rose into the room.
"How do you do?" he said.
Private Rose set one foot slightly in front of the other, poised for
fight, flight, or compromise.
"How do you do?" repeated Peter politely.
"Can I offer you a drink?"
Private Rose looked at him searchingly, suspecting possible sarcasm.
"O'right," he said finally.
Peter indicated a chair.
"I got a friend," said Rose, "I got a friend in there." He pointed to
the green door.
"By all means let's have him in."
Peter crossed over, opened the door and welcomed in Private Key, very
suspicious and uncertain and guilty. Chairs were found and the three
took their seats around the punch bowl. Peter gave them each a
highball and offered them a cigarette from his case. They accepted
both with some diffidence.
"Now," continued Peter easily, "may I ask why you gentlemen prefer to
lounge away your leisure hours in a room which is chiefly furnished,
as far as I can see, with scrubbing brushes. And when the human race
has progressed to the stage where seventeen thousand chairs are
manufactured on every day except Sunday--" he paused. Rose and Key
regarded him vacantly. "Will you tell me," went on Peter, "why you
choose to rest yourselves on articles, intended for the transportation
of water from one place to another?"
At this point Rose contributed a grunt to the conversation.
"And lastly," finished Peter, "will you tell me why, when you are in a
building beautifully hung with enormous candelabra, you prefer to
spend these evening hours under one anemic electric light?"
Rose looked at Key; Key looked at Rose. They laughed; they laughed
uproariously; they found it was impossible to look at each other
without laughing. But they were not laughing with this man--they were
laughing at him. To them a man who talked after this fashion was
either raving drunk or raving crazy.
"You are Yale men, I presume," said Peter, finishing his highball and
They laughed again.
"So? I thought perhaps you might be members of that lowly section of
the university known as the Sheffield Scientific School."
"Hm. Well, that's too bad. No doubt you are Harvard men, anxious to
preserve your incognito in this--this paradise of violet blue, as the
"Na-ah," said Key scornfully, "we was just waitin' for somebody."
"Ah," exclaimed Peter, rising and filling their glasses, "very
interestin'. Had a date with a scrublady, eh?"
They both denied this indignantly.
"It's all right," Peter reassured them, "don't apologize. A
scrublady's as good as any lady in the world."
Kipling says 'Any lady and Judy O'Grady under the skin.'"
"Sure," said Key, winking broadly at Rose.
"My case, for instance," continued Peter, finishing his glass. "I got
a girl up here that's spoiled. Spoildest darn girl I ever saw. Refused
to kiss me; no reason whatsoever. Led me on deliberately to think sure
I want to kiss you and then plunk! Threw me over! What's the younger
generation comin' to?"
"Say tha's hard luck," said Key--"that's awful hard luck."
"Oh, boy!" said Rose.
"Have another?" said Peter.
"We got in a sort of fight for a while," said Key after a pause, "but
it was too far away."
"A fight?--tha's stuff!" said Peter, seating himself unsteadily.
"Fight 'em all! I was in the army."
"This was with a Bolshevik fella."
"Tha's stuff!" exclaimed Peter, enthusiastic. "That's, what I say!
Kill the Bolshevik! Exterminate 'em!"
"We're Americuns," said Rose, implying a sturdy, defiant patriotism.
"Sure," said Peter. "Greatest race in the world! We're all Americans!
They had another.
At one o'clock a special orchestra, special even in a day of special
orchestras, arrived at Delmonico's, and its members, seating
themselves arrogantly around the piano, took up the burden of
providing music for the Gamma Psi Fraternity. They were headed by a
famous flute-player, distinguished throughout New York for his feat of
standing on his head and shimmying with his shoulders while he played
the latest jazz on his flute. During his performance the lights were
extinguished except for the spotlight on the flute-player and another
roving beam that threw flickering shadows and changing kaleidoscopic
colors over the massed dancers.
Edith had danced herself into that tired, dreamy state habitual only
with débutantes, a state equivalent to the glow of a noble soul after
several long highballs. Her mind floated vaguely on the bosom of her
music; her partners changed with the unreality of phantoms under the
colorful shifting dusk, and to her present coma it seemed as if days
had passed since the dance began. She had talked on many fragmentary
subjects with many men. She had been kissed once and made love to six
times. Earlier in the evening different under-graduates had danced
with her, but now, like all the more popular girls there, she had her
own entourage--that is, half a dozen gallants had singled her out or
were alternating her charms with those of some other chosen beauty;
they cut in on her in regular, inevitable succession.
Several times she had seen Gordon--he had been sitting a long time on
the stairway with his palm to his head, his dull eyes fixed at an
infinite spark on the floor before him, very depressed, he looked, and
quite drunk--but Edith each time had averted her glance hurriedly. All
that seemed long ago; her mind was passive now, her senses were lulled
to trance-like sleep; only her feet danced and her voice talked on in
hazy sentimental banter.
But Edith was not nearly so tired as to be incapable of moral
indignation when Peter Himmel cut in on her, sublimely and happily
drunk. She gasped and looked up at him.
"I'm a li'l' stewed, Edith."
"Why, Peter, you're a _peach_, you are! Don't you think it's a
bum way of doing--when you're with me?"
Then she smiled unwillingly, for he was looking at her with owlish
sentimentality varied with a silly spasmodic smile.
"Darlin' Edith," he began earnestly, "you know I love you, don't you?"
"You tell it well."
"I love you--and I merely wanted you to kiss me," he added sadly.
His embarrassment, his shame, were both gone. She was a mos' beautiful
girl in whole worl'. Mos' beautiful eyes, like stars above. He wanted
to 'pologize--firs', for presuming try to kiss her; second, for
drinking--but he'd been so discouraged 'cause he had thought she was
mad at him----
The red-fat man cut in, and looking up at Edith smiled radiantly.
"Did you bring any one?" she asked.
No. The red-fat man was a stag.
"Well, would you mind--would it be an awful bother for you to--to take
me home to-night?" (this extreme diffidence was a charming affectation
on Edith's part--she knew that the red-fat man would immediately
dissolve into a paroxysm of delight).
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