Tales of the Jazz Age
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Part 1 out of 7
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TALES FROM THE JAZZ AGE
F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
A TABLE OF CONTENTS
MY LAST FLAPPERS
This is a Southern story, with the scene laid in the small Lily of
Tarleton, Georgia. I have a profound affection for Tarleton, but
somehow whenever I write a story about it I receive letters from all
over the South denouncing me in no uncertain terms. "The Jelly-Bean,"
published in "The Metropolitan," drew its full share of these
It was written under strange circumstances shortly after my first
novel was published, and, moreover, it was the first story in which I
had a collaborator. For, finding that I was unable to manage the
crap-shooting episode, I turned it over to my wife, who, as a Southern
girl, was presumably an expert on the technique and terminology of
that great sectional pastime.
THE CAMEL'S BACK
I suppose that of all the stories I have ever written this one cost me
the least travail and perhaps gave me the most amusement. As to the
labor involved, it was written during one day in the city of New
Orleans, with the express purpose of buying a platinum and diamond
wrist watch which cost six hundred dollars. I began it at seven in the
morning and finished it at two o'clock the same night. It was
published in the "Saturday Evening Post" in 1920, and later included
in the O. Henry Memorial Collection for the same year. I like it least
of all the stories in this volume.
My amusement was derived from the fact that the camel part of the
story is literally true; in fact, I have a standing engagement with
the gentleman involved to attend the next fancy-dress party to which
we are mutually invited, attired as the latter part of the camel--this
as a sort of atonement for being his historian.
This somewhat unpleasant tale, published as a novelette in the "Smart
Set" in July, 1920, relates a series of events which took place in the
spring of the previous year. Each of the three events made a great
impression upon me. In life they were unrelated, except by the general
hysteria of that spring which inaugurated the Age of Jazz, but in my
story I have tried, unsuccessfully I fear, to weave them into a
pattern--a pattern which would give the effect of those months in New
York as they appeared to at least one member of what was then the
PORCELAIN AND PINK.
"And do you write for any other magazines?" inquired the young lady.
"Oh, yes," I assured her. "I've had some stories and plays in the
'Smart Set,' for instance------"
The young lady shivered.
"The 'Smart Set'!" she exclaimed. "How can you? Why, they publish
stuff about girls in blue bathtubs, and silly things like that"
And I had the magnificent joy of telling her that she was referring to
"Porcelain and Pink," which had appeared there several months before.
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ.
These next stories are written in what, were I of imposing stature, I
should call my "second manner." "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,"
which appeared last summer in the "Smart Set," was designed utterly
for my own amusement. I was in that familiar mood characterized by a
perfect craving for luxury, and the story began as an attempt to feed
that craving on imaginary foods.
One well-known critic has been pleased to like this extravaganza
better than anything I have written. Personally I prefer "The Offshore
Pirate." But, to tamper slightly with Lincoln: If you like this sort
of thing, this, possibly, is the sort of thing you'll like.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON.
This story was inspired by a remark of Mark Twain's to the effect that
it was a pity that the best part of life came at the beginning and the
worst part at the end. By trying the experiment upon only one man in a
perfectly normal world I have scarcely given his idea a fair trial.
Several weeks after completing it, I discovered an almost identical
plot in Samuel Butler's "Note-books."
The story was published in "Collier's" last summer and provoked this
startling letter from an anonymous admirer in Cincinnati:
I have read the story Benjamin Button in Colliers and I wish to say
that as a short story writer you would make a good lunatic I have seen
many peices of cheese in my life but of all the peices of cheese I
have ever seen you are the biggest peice. I hate to waste a peice of
stationary on you but I will."
TARQUIN OF CHEAPSIDE.
Written almost six years ago, this story is a product of undergraduate
days at Princeton. Considerably revised, it was published in the
"Smart Set" in 1921. At the time of its conception I had but one
idea--to be a poet--and the fact that I was interested in the ring of
every phrase, that I dreaded the obvious in prose if not in plot,
shows throughout. Probably the peculiar affection I feel for it
depends more upon its age than upon any intrinsic merit.
"O RUSSET WITCH!"
When this was written I had just completed the first draft of my
second novel, and a natural reaction made me revel in a story wherein
none of the characters need be taken seriously. And I'm afraid that I
was somewhat carried away by the feeling that there was no ordered
scheme to which I must conform. After due consideration, however, I
have decided to let it stand as it is, although the reader may find
himself somewhat puzzled at the time element. I had best say that
however the years may have dealt with Merlin Grainger, I myself was
thinking always in the present. It was published in the
THE LEES OF HAPPINESS.
Of this story I can say that it came to me in an irresistible form,
crying to be written. It will be accused perhaps of being a mere piece
of sentimentality, but, as I saw it, it was a great deal more. If,
therefore, it lacks the ring of sincerity, or even, of tragedy, the
fault rests not with the theme but with my handling of it.
It appeared in the "Chicago Tribune," and later obtained, I believe,
the quadruple gold laurel leaf or some such encomium from one of the
anthologists who at present swarm among us. The gentleman I refer to
runs as a rule to stark melodramas with a volcano or the ghost of John
Paul Jones in the role of Nemesis, melodramas carefully disguised by
early paragraphs in Jamesian manner which hint dark and subtle
complexities to follow. On this order:
"The case of Shaw McPhee, curiously enough, had no hearing on the
almost incredible attitude of Martin Sulo. This is parenthetical and,
to at least three observers, whose names for the present I must
conceal, it seems improbable, etc., etc., etc.," until the poor rat of
fiction is at last forced out into the open and the melodrama begins.
This has the distinction of being the only magazine piece ever written
in a New York hotel. The business was done in a bedroom in the
Knickerbocker, and shortly afterward that memorable hostelry closed
its doors forever.
When a fitting period of mourning had elapsed it was published in the
Written, like "Tarquin of Cheapside," while I was at Princeton, this
sketch was published years later in "Vanity Fair." For its technique I
must apologize to Mr. Stephen Leacock.
I have laughed over it a great deal, especially when I first wrote it,
but I can laugh over it no longer. Still, as other people tell me it
is amusing, I include it here. It seems to me worth preserving a few
years--at least until the ennui of changing fashions suppresses me, my
books, and it together.
With due apologies for this impossible Table of Contents, I tender
these tales of the Jazz Age into the hands of those who read as they
run and run as they read.
MY LAST FLAPPERS
Jim Powell was a Jelly-bean. Much as I desire to make him an appealing
character, I feel that it would be unscrupulous to deceive you on that
point. He was a bred-in-the-bone, dyed-in-the-wool, ninety-nine
three-quarters per cent Jelly-bean and he grew lazily all during
Jelly-bean season, which is every season, down in the land of the
Jelly-beans well below the Mason-Dixon line.
Now if you call a Memphis man a Jelly-bean he will quite possibly pull
a long sinewy rope from his hip pocket and hang you to a convenient
telegraph-pole. If you Call a New Orleans man a Jelly-bean he will
probably grin and ask you who is taking your girl to the Mardi Gras
ball. The particular Jelly-bean patch which produced the protagonist
of this history lies somewhere between the two--a little city of forty
thousand that has dozed sleepily for forty thousand years in southern
Georgia occasionally stirring in its slumbers and muttering something
about a war that took place sometime, somewhere, and that everyone
else has forgotten long ago.
Jim was a Jelly-bean. I write that again because it has such a
pleasant sound--rather like the beginning of a fairy story--as if Jim
were nice. It somehow gives me a picture of him with a round,
appetizing face and all sort of leaves and vegetables growing out of
his cap. But Jim was long and thin and bent at the waist from stooping
over pool-tables, and he was what might have been known in the
indiscriminating North as a corner loafer. "Jelly-bean" is the name
throughout the undissolved Confederacy for one who spends his life
conjugating the verb to idle in the first person singular--I am
idling, I have idled, I will idle.
Jim was born in a white house on a green corner, It had four
weather-beaten pillars in front and a great amount of lattice-work in
the rear that made a cheerful criss-cross background for a flowery
sun-drenched lawn. Originally the dwellers in the white house had
owned the ground next door and next door to that and next door to
that, but this had been so long ago that even Jim's father, scarcely
remembered it. He had, in fact, thought it a matter of so little
moment that when he was dying from a pistol wound got in a brawl he
neglected even to tell little Jim, who was five years old and
miserably frightened. The white house became a boarding-house run by a
tight-lipped lady from Macon, whom Jim called Aunt Mamie and detested
with all his soul.
He became fifteen, went to high school, wore his hair in black snarls,
and was afraid of girls. He hated his home where four women and one
old man prolonged an interminable chatter from summer to summer about
what lots the Powell place had originally included and what sorts of
flowers would be out next. Sometimes the parents of little girls in
town, remembering Jim's. mother and fancying a resemblance in the dark
eyes and hair, invited him to parties, but parties made him shy and he
much preferred sitting on a disconnected axle in Tilly's Garage,
rolling the bones or exploring his mouth endlessly with a long straw.
For pocket money, he picked up odd jobs, and it was due to this that
he stopped going to parties. At his third party little Marjorie Haight
had whispered indiscreetly and within hearing distance that he was a
boy who brought the groceries sometimes. So instead of the two-step
and polka, Jim had learned to throw, any number he desired on the dice
and had listened to spicy tales of all the shootings that had occurred
in the surrounding country during the past fifty years.
He became eighteen. The war broke out and he enlisted as a gob and
polished brass in the Charleston Navy-yard for a year. Then, by way of
variety, he went North and polished brass in the Brooklyn Navy-yard
for a year.
When the war was over he came home, He was twenty-one, has trousers
were too short and too tight. His buttoned shoes were long and narrow.
His tie was an alarming conspiracy of purple and pink marvellously
scrolled, and over it were two blue eyes faded like a piece of very
good old cloth, long exposed to the sun.
In the twilight of one April evening when a soft gray had drifted down
along the cottonfields and over the sultry town, he was a vague figure
leaning against a board fence, whistling and gazing at the moon's rim
above the lights of Jackson Street. His mind was working persistently
on a problem that had held his attention for an. The Jelly-bean had
been invited to a party.
Back in the days when all the boys had detested all the girls, Clark
Darrow and Jim had sat side by side in school. But, while Jim's social
aspirations had died in the oily air of the garage, Clark had
alternately fallen in and out of love, gone to college, taken to
drink, given it up, and, in short, become one of the best beaux of the
town. Nevertheless Clark and Jim had retained a friendship that,
though casual, was perfectly definite. That afternoon Clark's ancient
Ford had slowed up beside Jim, who was on the sidewalk and, out of a
clear sky, Clark invited him to a party at the country club. The
impulse that made him do this was no stranger than the impulse which
made Jim accept. The latter was probably an unconscious ennui, a
half-frightened sense of adventure. And now Jim was soberly thinking
He began to sing, drumming his long foot idly on a stone block in the
sidewalk till it wobbled up and down in time to the low throaty tune:
"One smile from Home in Jelly-bean town,
Lives Jeanne, the Jelly-bean Queen.
She loves her dice and treats 'em nice;
No dice would treat her mean."
He broke off and agitated the sidewalk to a bumpy gallop.
"Daggone!" he muttered, half aloud. They would all be there--the old
crowd, the crowd to which, by right of the white house, sold long
since, and the portrait of the officer in gray over the mantel, Jim
should have belonged. But that crowd had grown up together into a
tight little set as gradually as the girls' dresses had lengthened
inch by inch, as definitely as the boys' trousers had dropped suddenly
to their ankles. And to that society of first names and dead puppy
loves Jim was an outsider--a running mate of poor whites. Most of the
men knew him, condescendingly; he tipped his hat to three or four
girls. That was all.
When the dusk had thickened into a blue setting for the moon, he
walked through the hot, pleasantly pungent town to Jackson Street. The
stores were closing and the last shoppers were drifting homeward, as
if borne on the dreamy revolution of a slow merry-go-round. A
street-fair farther down a brilliant alley of varicolored booths and
contributed a blend of music to the night--an oriental dance on a
calliope, a melancholy bugle in front of a freak show, a cheerful
rendition of "Back Home in Tennessee" on a hand-organ.
The Jelly-bean stopped in a store and bought a collar. Then he
sauntered along toward Soda Sam's, where he found the usual three or
four cars of a summer evening parked in front and the little darkies
running back and forth with sundaes and lemonades.
It was a voice at his elbow--Joe Ewing sitting in an automobile with
Marylyn Wade. Nancy Lamar and a strange man were in the back seat.
The Jelly-bean tipped his hat quickly.
"Hi Ben--" then, after an almost imperceptible pause--"How y' all?"
Passing, he ambled on toward the garage where he had a room up-stairs.
His "How y'all" had been said to Nancy Lamar, to whom he had not
spoken in fifteen years.
Nancy had a mouth like a remembered kiss and shadowy eyes and
blue-black hair inherited from her mother who had been born in
Budapest. Jim passed her often on the street, walking small-boy
fashion with her hands in her pockets and he knew that with her
inseparable Sally Carrol Hopper she had left a trail of broken hearts
from Atlanta to New Orleans.
For a few fleeting moments Jim wished he could dance. Then he laughed
and as he reached his door began to sing softly to himself:
"Her Jelly Roll can twist your soul,
Her eyes are big and brown,
She's the Queen of the Queens of the Jelly-beans--
My Jeanne of Jelly-bean Town."
At nine-thirty, Jim and Clark met in front of Soda Sam's and started
for the Country Club in Clark's Ford. "Jim," asked Clark casually, as
they rattled through the jasmine-scented night, "how do you keep
The Jelly-bean paused, considered.
"Well," he said finally, "I got a room over Tilly's garage. I help him
some with the cars in the afternoon an' he gives it to me free.
Sometimes I drive one of his taxies and pick up a little thataway. I
get fed up doin' that regular though."
"Well, when there's a lot of work I help him by the day--Saturdays
usually--and then there's one main source of revenue I don't generally
mention. Maybe you don't recollect I'm about the champion crap-shooter
of this town. They make me shoot from a cup now because once I get the
feel of a pair of dice they just roll for me."
Clark grinned appreciatively,
"I never could learn to set 'em so's they'd do what I wanted. Wish
you'd shoot with Nancy Lamar some day and take all her money away from
her. She will roll 'em with the boys and she loses more than her daddy
can afford to give her. I happen to know she sold a good ring last
month to pay a debt."
The Jelly-bean was noncommittal.
"The white house on Elm Street still belong to you?"
Jim shook his head.
"Sold. Got a pretty good price, seein' it wasn't in a good part of
town no more. Lawyer told me to put it into Liberty bonds. But Aunt
Mamie got so she didn't have no sense, so it takes all the interest to
keep her up at Great Farms Sanitarium.
"I got an old uncle up-state an' I reckin I kin go up there if ever I
get sure enough pore. Nice farm, but not enough niggers around to work
it. He's asked me to come up and help him, but I don't guess I'd take
much to it. Too doggone lonesome--" He broke off suddenly. "Clark, I
want to tell you I'm much obliged to you for askin' me out, but I'd be
a lot happier if you'd just stop the car right here an' let me walk
back into town."
"Shucks!" Clark grunted. "Do you good to step out. You don't have to
dance--just get out there on the floor and shake."
"Hold on," exclaimed. Jim uneasily, "Don't you go leadin' me up to any
girls and leavin' me there so I'll have to dance with 'em."
"'Cause," continued Jim desperately, "without you swear you won't do
that I'm agoin' to get out right here an' my good legs goin' carry me
back to Jackson street."
They agreed after some argument that Jim, unmolested by females, was
to view the spectacle from a secluded settee in the corner where Clark
would join him whenever he wasn't dancing.
So ten o'clock found the Jelly-bean with his legs crossed and his arms
conservatively folded, trying to look casually at home and politely
uninterested in the dancers. At heart he was torn between overwhelming
self-consciousness and an intense curiosity as to all that went on
around him. He saw the girls emerge one by one from the dressing-room,
stretching and pluming themselves like bright birds, smiling over
their powdered shoulders at the chaperones, casting a quick glance
around to take in the room and, simultaneously, the room's reaction to
their entrance--and then, again like birds, alighting and nestling in
the sober arms of their waiting escorts. Sally Carrol Hopper, blonde
and lazy-eyed, appeared clad in her favorite pink and blinking like an
awakened rose. Marjorie Haight, Marylyn Wade, Harriet Cary, all the
girls he had seen loitering down Jackson Street by noon, now, curled
and brilliantined and delicately tinted for the overhead lights, were
miraculously strange Dresden figures of pink and blue and red and
gold, fresh from the shop and not yet fully dried.
He had been there half an hour, totally uncheered by Clark's jovial
visits which were each one accompanied by a "Hello, old boy, how you
making out?" and a slap at his knee. A dozen males had spoken to him
or stopped for a moment beside him, but he knew that they were each
one surprised at finding him there and fancied that one or two were
even slightly resentful. But at half past ten his embarrassment
suddenly left him and a pull of breathless interest took him
completely out of himself--Nancy Lamar had come out of the
She was dressed in yellow organdie, a costume of a hundred cool
corners, with three tiers of ruffles and a big bow in back until she
shed black and yellow around her in a sort of phosphorescent lustre.
The Jelly-bean's eyes opened wide and a lump arose in his throat. For
she stood beside the door until her partner hurried up. Jim recognized
him as the stranger who had been with her in Joe Ewing's car that
afternoon. He saw her set her arms akimbo and say something in a low
voice, and laugh. The man laughed too and Jim experienced the quick
pang of a weird new kind of pain. Some ray had passed between the
pair, a shaft of beauty from that sun that had warmed him a moment
since. The Jelly-bean felt suddenly like a weed in a shadow.
A minute later Clark approached him, bright-eyed and glowing.
"Hi, old man" he cried with some lack of originality. "How you making
Jim replied that he was making out as well as could be expected.
"You come along with me," commanded Clark. "I've got something that'll
put an edge on the evening."
Jim followed him awkwardly across the floor and up the stairs to the
locker-room where Clark produced a flask of nameless yellow liquid.
"Good old corn."
Ginger ale arrived on a tray. Such potent nectar as "good old corn"
needed some disguise beyond seltzer.
"Say, boy," exclaimed Clark breathlessly, "doesn't Nancy Lamar look
"Mighty beautiful," he agreed.
"She's all dolled up to a fare-you-well to-night," continued Clark.
"Notice that fellow she's with?"
"Big fella? White pants?"
"Yeah. Well, that's Ogden Merritt from Savannah. Old man Merritt makes
the Merritt safety razors. This fella's crazy about her. Been chasing,
after her all year.
"She's a wild baby," continued Clark, "but I like her. So does
everybody. But she sure does do crazy stunts. She usually gets out
alive, but she's got scars all over her reputation from one thing or
another she's done."
"That so?" Jim passed over his glass. "That's good corn."
"Not so bad. Oh, she's a wild one. Shoot craps, say, boy! And she do
like her high-balls. Promised I'd give her one later on."
"She in love with this--Merritt?"
"Damned if I know. Seems like all the best girls around here marry
fellas and go off somewhere."
He poured himself one more drink and carefully corked the bottle.
"Listen, Jim, I got to go dance and I'd be much obliged if you just
stick this corn right on your hip as long as you're not dancing. If a
man notices I've had a drink he'll come up and ask me and before I
know it it's all gone and somebody else is having my good time."
So Nancy Lamar was going to marry. This toast of a town was to become
the private property of an individual in white trousers--and all
because white trousers' father had made a better razor than his
neighbor. As they descended the stairs Jim found the idea inexplicably
depressing. For the first time in his life he felt a vague and
romantic yearning. A picture of her began to form in his
imagination--Nancy walking boylike and debonnaire along the street,
taking an orange as tithe from a worshipful fruit-dealer, charging a
dope on a mythical account, at Soda Sam's, assembling a convoy of
beaux and then driving off in triumphal state for an afternoon of
splashing and singing.
The Jelly-bean walked out on the porch to a deserted corner, dark
between the moon on the lawn and the single lighted door of the
ballroom. There he found a chair and, lighting a cigarette, drifted
into the thoughtless reverie that was his usual mood. Yet now it was a
reverie made sensuous by the night and by the hot smell of damp powder
puffs, tucked in the fronts of low dresses and distilling a thousand
rich scents, to float out through the open door. The music itself,
blurred by a loud trombone, became hot and shadowy, a languorous
overtone to the scraping of many shoes and slippers.
Suddenly the square of yellow light that fell through the door was
obscured by a dark figure. A girl had come out of the dressing-room
and was standing on the porch not more than ten feet away. Jim heard a
low-breathed "doggone" and then she turned and saw him. It was Nancy
Jim rose to his feet.
"Hello--" she paused, hesitated and then approached. "Oh, it's--Jim
He bowed slightly, tried to think of a casual remark.
"Do you suppose," she began quickly, "I mean--do you know anything
"What?" "I've got gum on my shoe. Some utter ass left his or her gum
on the floor and of course I stepped in it."
Jim blushed, inappropriately.
"Do you know how to get it off?" she demanded petulantly. "I've tried
a knife. I've tried every damn thing in the dressing-room. I've tried
soap and water--and even perfume and I've ruined my powder-puff trying
to make it stick to that."
Jim considered the question in some agitation.
"Why--I think maybe gasolene--"
The words had scarcely left his lips when she grasped his hand and
pulled him at a run off the low veranda, over a flower bed and at a
gallop toward a group of cars parked in the moonlight by the first
hole of the golf course.
"Turn on the gasolene," she commanded breathlessly.
"For the gum of course. I've got to get it off. I can't dance with gum
Obediently Jim turned to the cars and began inspecting them with a
view to obtaining the desired solvent. Had she demanded a cylinder he
would have done his best to wrench one out.
"Here," he said after a moment's search. "'Here's one that's easy. Got
"It's up-stairs wet. I used it for the soap and water."
Jim laboriously explored his pockets.
"Don't believe I got one either."
"Doggone it! Well, we can turn it on and let it run on the ground."
He turned the spout; a dripping began.
He turned it on fuller. The dripping became a flow and formed an oily
pool that glistened brightly, reflecting a dozen tremulous moons on
its quivering bosom.
"Ah," she sighed contentedly, "let it all out. The only thing to do is
to wade in it."
In desperation he turned on the tap full and the pool suddenly widened
sending tiny rivers and trickles in all directions.
"That's fine. That's something like."
Raising her skirts she stepped gracefully in.
"I know this'll take it off," she murmured.
"There's lots more cars."
She stepped daintily out of the gasolene and began scraping her
slippers, side and bottom, on the running-board of the automobile. The
jelly-bean contained himself no longer. He bent double with explosive
laughter and after a second she joined in.
"You're here with Clark Darrow, aren't you?" she asked as they walked
back toward the veranda.
"You know where he is now?"
"Out dancin', I reckin."
"The deuce. He promised me a highball."
"Well," said Jim, "I guess that'll be all right. I got his bottle right
here in my pocket."
She smiled at him radiantly.
"I guess maybe you'll need ginger ale though," he added.
"Not me. Just the bottle."
She laughed scornfully.
"Try me. I can drink anything any man can. Let's sit down."
She perched herself on the side of a table and he dropped into one of
the wicker chairs beside her. Taking out the cork she held the flask
to her lips and took a long drink. He watched her fascinated.
She shook her head breathlessly.
"No, but I like the way it makes me feel. I think most people are that
"My daddy liked it too well. It got him."
"American men," said Nancy gravely, "don't know how to drink."
"What?" Jim was startled.
"In fact," she went on carelessly, "they don't know how to do anything
very well. The one thing I regret in my life is that I wasn't born in
"Yes. It's the one regret of my life that I wasn't."
"Do you like it over there?" "Yes. Immensely. I've never been there in
person, but I've met a lot of Englishmen who were over here in the
army, Oxford and Cambridge men--you know, that's like Sewanee and
University of Georgia are here--and of course I've read a lot of
Jim was interested, amazed.
"D' you ever hear of Lady Diana Manner?" she asked earnestly.
No, Jim had not.
"Well, she's what I'd like to be. Dark, you know, like me, and wild as
sin. She's the girl who rode her horse up the steps of some cathedral
or church or something and all the novelists made their heroines do it
Jim nodded politely. He was out of his depths.
"Pass the bottle," suggested Nancy. "I'm going to take another little
one. A little drink wouldn't hurt a baby.
"You see," she continued, again breathless after a draught. "People
over there have style, Nobody has style here. I mean the boys here
aren't really worth dressing up for or doing sensational things for.
Don't you know?"
"I suppose so--I mean I suppose not," murmured Jim.
"And I'd like to do 'em an' all. I'm really the only girl in town that
She stretched, out her arms and yawned pleasantly.
"Sure is," agreed Jim.
"Like to have boat" she suggested dreamily. "Like to sail out on a
silver lake, say the Thames, for instance. Have champagne and caviare
sandwiches along. Have about eight people. And one of the men would
jump overboard to amuse the party, and get drowned like a man did with
Lady Diana Manners once."
"Did he do it to please her?" "Didn't mean drown himself to please
her. He just meant to jump overboard and make everybody laugh,"
"I reckin they just died laughin' when he drowned."
"Oh, I suppose they laughed a little," she admitted. "I imagine she
did, anyway. She's pretty hard, I guess--like I am."
"Like nails." She yawned again and added, "Give me a little more from
Jim hesitated but she held out her hand defiantly, "Don't treat me
like a girl;" she warned him. "I'm not like any girl _you_ ever
saw," She considered. "Still, perhaps you're right. You got--you got
old head on young shoulders."
She jumped to her feet and moved toward the door. The Jelly-bean rose
"Good-bye," she said politely, "good-bye. Thanks, Jelly-bean."
Then she stepped inside and left him wide-eyed upon the porch.
At twelve o'clock a procession of cloaks issued single file from the
women's dressing-room and, each one pairing with a coated beau like
dancers meeting in a cotillion figure, drifted through the door with
sleepy happy laughter--through the door into the dark where autos
backed and snorted and parties called to one another and gathered
around the water-cooler.
Jim, sitting in his corner, rose to look for Clark. They had met at
eleven; then Clark had gone in to dance. So, seeking him, Jim wandered
into the soft-drink stand that had once been a bar. The room was
deserted except for a sleepy negro dozing behind the counter and two
boys lazily fingering a pair of dice at one of the tables. Jim was
about to leave when he saw Clark coming in. At the same moment Clark
"Hi, Jim" he commanded. "C'mon over and help us with this bottle. I
guess there's not much left, but there's one all around."
Nancy, the man from Savannah, Marylyn Wade, and Joe Ewing were lolling
and laughing in the doorway. Nancy caught Jim's eye and winked at him
They drifted over to a table and arranging themselves around it waited
for the waiter to bring ginger ale. Jim, faintly ill at ease, turned
his eyes on Nancy, who had drifted into a nickel crap game with the
two boys at the next table.
"Bring them over here," suggested Clark.
Joe looked around.
"We don't want to draw a crowd. It's against club rules.
"Nobody's around," insisted Clark, "except Mr. Taylor. He's walking up
and down, like a wild-man trying find out who let all the gasolene out
of his car."
There was a general laugh.
"I bet a million Nancy got something on her shoe again. You can't park
when she's around."
"O Nancy, Mr. Taylor's looking for you!"
Nancy's cheeks were glowing with excitement over the game. "I haven't
seen his silly little flivver in two weeks."
Jim felt a sudden silence. He turned and saw an individual of
uncertain age standing in the doorway.
Clark's voice punctuated the embarrassment.
"Won't you join us Mr. Taylor?"
Mr. Taylor spread his unwelcome presence over a chair. "Have to, I
guess. I'm waiting till they dig me up some gasolene. Somebody got
funny with my car."
His eyes narrowed and he looked quickly from one to the other. Jim
wondered what he had heard from the doorway--tried to remember what
had been said.
"I'm right to-night," Nancy sang out, "and my four bits is in the
"Faded!" snapped Taylor suddenly.
"Why, Mr. Taylor, I didn't know you shot craps!" Nancy was overjoyed
to find that he had seated himself and instantly covered her bet. They
had openly disliked each other since the night she had definitely
discouraged a series of rather pointed advances.
"All right, babies, do it for your mamma. Just one little seven."
Nancy was _cooing_ to the dice. She rattled them with a brave
underhand flourish, and rolled them out on the table.
"Ah-h! I suspected it. And now again with the dollar up."
Five passes to her credit found Taylor a bad loser. She was making it
personal, and after each success Jim watched triumph flutter across
her face. She was doubling with each throw--such luck could scarcely
last. "Better go easy," he cautioned her timidly.
"Ah, but watch this one," she whispered. It was eight on the dice and
she called her number.
"Little Ada, this time we're going South."
Ada from Decatur rolled over the table. Nancy was flushed and
half-hysterical, but her luck was holding.
She drove the pot up and up, refusing to drag. Taylor was drumming
with his fingers on the table but he was in to stay.
Then Nancy tried for a ten and lost the dice. Taylor seized them
avidly. He shot in silence, and in the hush of excitement the clatter
of one pass after another on the table was the only sound.
Now Nancy had the dice again, but her luck had broken. An hour passed.
Back and forth it went. Taylor had been at it again--and again and
again. They were even at last--Nancy lost her ultimate five dollars.
"Will you take my check," she said quickly, "for fifty, and we'll
shoot it all?" Her voice was a little unsteady and her hand shook as
she reached to the money.
Clark exchanged an uncertain but alarmed glance with Joe Ewing. Taylor
shot again. He had Nancy's check.
"How 'bout another?" she said wildly. "Jes' any bank'll do--money
everywhere as a matter of fact."
Jim understood---the "good old corn" he had given her--the "good old
corn" she had taken since. He wished he dared interfere--a girl of
that age and position would hardly have two bank accounts. When the
clock struck two he contained himself no longer.
"May I--can't you let me roll 'em for you?" he suggested, his low,
lazy voice a little strained.
Suddenly sleepy and listless, Nancy flung the dice down before him.
"All right--old boy! As Lady Diana Manners says, 'Shoot 'em,
Jelly-bean'--My luck's gone."
"Mr. Taylor," said Jim, carelessly, "we'll shoot for one of those
there checks against the cash."
Half an hour later Nancy swayed forward and clapped him on the back.
"Stole my luck, you did." She was nodding her head sagely.
Jim swept up the last check and putting it with the others tore them
into confetti and scattered them on the floor. Someone started singing
and Nancy kicking her chair backward rose to her feet.
"Ladies and gentlemen," she announced, "Ladies--that's you Marylyn. I
want to tell the world that Mr. Jim Powell, who is a well-known
Jelly-bean of this city, is an exception to the great rule--'lucky in
dice--unlucky in love.' He's lucky in dice, and as matter of fact I--I
_love_ him. Ladies and gentlemen, Nancy Lamar, famous dark-haired
beauty often featured in the _Herald_ as one the most popular
members of younger set as other girls are often featured in this
particular case; Wish to announce--wish to announce, anyway,
Gentlemen--" She tipped suddenly. Clark caught her and restored her
"My error," she laughed, "she--stoops to--stoops to--anyways--We'll
drink to Jelly-bean ... Mr. Jim Powell, King of the Jelly-beans."
And a few minutes later as Jim waited hat in hand for Clark in the
darkness of that same corner of the porch where she had come searching
for gasolene, she appeared suddenly beside him.
"Jelly-bean," she said, "are you here, Jelly-bean? I think--" and her
slight unsteadiness seemed part of an enchanted dream--"I think you
deserve one of my sweetest kisses for that, Jelly-bean."
For an instant her arms were around his neck--her lips were pressed to
"I'm a wild part of the world, Jelly-bean, but you did me a good
Then she was gone, down the porch, over the cricket-loud lawn. Jim saw
Merritt come out the front door and say something to her angrily--saw
her laugh and, turning away, walk with averted eyes to his car.
Marylyn and Joe followed, singing a drowsy song about a Jazz baby.
Clark came out and joined Jim on the steps. "All pretty lit, I guess,"
he yawned. "Merritt's in a mean mood. He's certainly off Nancy."
Over east along the golf course a faint rug of gray spread itself
across the feet of the night. The party in the car began to chant a
chorus as the engine warmed up.
"Good-night everybody," called Clark.
There was a pause, and then a soft, happy voice added,
The car drove off to a burst of singing. A rooster on a farm across
the way took up a solitary mournful crow, and behind them, a last
negro waiter turned out the porch light, Jim and Clark strolled over
toward the Ford, their, shoes crunching raucously on the gravel drive.
"Oh boy!" sighed Clark softly, "how you can set those dice!"
It was still too dark for him to see the flush on Jim's thin
cheeks--or to know that it was a flush of unfamiliar shame.
Over Tilly's garage a bleak room echoed all day to the rumble and
snorting down-stairs and the singing of the negro washers as they
turned the hose on the cars outside. It was a cheerless square of a
room, punctuated with a bed and a battered table on which lay half a
dozen books--Joe Miller's "Slow Train thru Arkansas," "Lucille," in an
old edition very much annotated in an old-fashioned hand; "The Eyes of
the World," by Harold Bell Wright, and an ancient prayer-book of the
Church of England with the name Alice Powell and the date 1831 written
on the fly-leaf.
The East, gray when Jelly-bean entered the garage, became a rich and
vivid blue as he turned on his solitary electric light. He snapped it
out again, and going to the window rested his elbows on the sill and
stared into the deepening morning. With the awakening of his emotions,
his first perception was a sense of futility, a dull ache at the utter
grayness of his life. A wall had sprung up suddenly around him hedging
him in, a wall as definite and tangible as the white wall of his bare
room. And with his perception of this wall all that had been the
romance of his existence, the casualness, the light-hearted
improvidence, the miraculous open-handedness of life faded out. The
Jelly-bean strolling up Jackson Street humming a lazy song, known at
every shop and street stand, cropful of easy greeting and local wit,
sad sometimes for only the sake of sadness and the flight of
time--that Jelly-bean was suddenly vanished. The very name was a
reproach, a triviality. With a flood of insight he knew that Merritt
must despise him, that even Nancy's kiss in the dawn would have
awakened not jealousy but only a contempt for Nancy's so lowering
herself. And on his part the Jelly-bean had used for her a dingy
subterfuge learned from the garage. He had been her moral laundry; the
stains were his.
As the gray became blue, brightened and filled the room, he crossed to
his bed and threw himself down on it, gripping the edges fiercely.
"I love her," he cried aloud, "God!"
As he said this something gave way within him like a lump melting in
his throat. The air cleared and became radiant with dawn, and turning
over on his face he began to sob dully into the pillow.
In the sunshine of three o'clock Clark Darrow chugging painfully along
Jackson Street was hailed by the Jelly-bean, who stood on the curb
with his fingers in his vest pockets.
"Hi!" called Clark, bringing his Ford to an astonishing stop
alongside. "Just get up?"
The Jelly-bean shook his head.
"Never did go to bed. Felt sorta restless, so I took a long walk this
morning out in the country. Just got into town this minute."
"Should think you _would_ feel restless. I been feeling thataway
"I'm thinkin' of leavin' town" continued the Jelly-bean, absorbed by
his own thoughts. "Been thinkin' of goin' up on the farm, and takin' a
little that work off Uncle Dun. Reckin I been bummin' too long."
Clark was silent and the Jelly-bean continued:
"I reckin maybe after Aunt Mamie dies I could sink that money of mine
in the farm and make somethin' out of it. All my people originally
came from that part up there. Had a big place."
Clark looked at him curiously.
"That's funny," he said. "This--this sort of affected me the same
The Jelly-bean hesitated.
"I don't know," he began slowly, "somethin' about--about that girl
last night talkin' about a lady named Diana Manners--an English lady,
sorta got me thinkin'!" He drew himself up and looked oddly at Clark,
"I had a family once," he said defiantly.
"And I'm the last of 'em," continued the Jelly-bean his voice rising
slightly, "and I ain't worth shucks. Name they call me by means
jelly--weak and wobbly like. People who weren't nothin' when my folks
was a lot turn up their noses when they pass me on the street."
Again Clark was silent.
"So I'm through, I'm goin' to-day. And when I come back to this town
it's going to be like a gentleman."
Clark took out his handkerchief and wiped his damp brow.
"Reckon you're not the only one it shook up," he admitted gloomily.
"All this thing of girls going round like they do is going to stop
right quick. Too bad, too, but everybody'll have to see it thataway."
"Do you mean," demanded Jim in surprise, "that all that's leaked out?"
"Leaked out? How on earth could they keep it secret. It'll be
announced in the papers to-night. Doctor Lamar's got to save his name
Jim put his hands on the sides of the car and tightened his long
fingers on the metal.
"Do you mean Taylor investigated those checks?"
It was Clark's turn to be surprised.
"Haven't you heard what happened?"
Jim's startled eyes were answer enough.
"Why," announced Clark dramatically, "those four got another bottle of
corn, got tight and decided to shock the town--so Nancy and that fella
Merritt were married in Rockville at seven o'clock this morning."
A tiny indentation appeared in the metal under the Jelly-bean's
"Sure enough. Nancy sobered up and rushed back into town, crying and
frightened to death--claimed it'd all been a mistake. First Doctor
Lamar went wild and was going to kill Merritt, but finally they got it
patched up some way, and Nancy and Merritt went to Savannah on the
Jim closed his eyes and with an effort overcame a sudden sickness.
"It's too bad," said Clark philosophically. "I don't mean the
wedding--reckon that's all right, though I don't guess Nancy cared a
darn about him. But it's a crime for a nice girl like that to hurt her
family that way."
The Jelly-bean let go the car and turned away. Again something was
going on inside him, some inexplicable but almost chemical change.
"Where you going?" asked Clark.
The Jelly-bean turned and looked dully back over his shoulder.
"Got to go," he muttered. "Been up too long; feelin' right sick."
* * * * *
The street was hot at three and hotter still at four, the April dust
seeming to enmesh the sun and give it forth again as a world-old joke
forever played on an eternity of afternoons. But at half past four a
first layer of quiet fell and the shades lengthened under the awnings
and heavy foliaged trees. In this heat nothing mattered. All life was
weather, a waiting through the hot where events had no significance
for the cool that was soft and caressing like a woman's hand on a
tired forehead. Down in Georgia there is a feeling--perhaps
inarticulate--that this is the greatest wisdom of the South--so after
a while the Jelly-bean turned into a poolhall on Jackson Street where
he was sure to find a congenial crowd who would make all the old
jokes--the ones he knew.
THE CAMEL'S BACK
The glazed eye of the tired reader resting for a second on the above
title will presume it to be merely metaphorical. Stories about the cup
and the lip and the bad penny and the new broom rarely have anything,
to do with cups or lips or pennies or brooms. This story Is the
exception. It has to do with a material, visible and large-as-life
Starting from the neck we shall work toward the tail. I want you to
meet Mr. Perry Parkhurst, twenty-eight, lawyer, native of Toledo.
Perry has nice teeth, a Harvard diploma, parts his hair in the middle.
You have met him before--in Cleveland, Portland, St. Paul,
Indianapolis, Kansas City, and so forth. Baker Brothers, New York,
pause on their semi-annual trip through the West to clothe him;
Montmorency & Co. dispatch a young man post-haste every three months
to see that he has the correct number of little punctures on his
shoes. He has a domestic roadster now, will have a French roadster if
he lives long enough, and doubtless a Chinese tank if it comes into
fashion. He looks like the advertisement of the young man rubbing his
sunset-colored chest with liniment and goes East every other year to
his class reunion.
I want you to meet his Love. Her name is Betty Medill, and she would
take well in the movies. Her father gives her three hundred a month to
dress on, and she has tawny eyes and hair and feather fans of five
colors. I shall also introduce her father, Cyrus Medill. Though he is
to all appearances flesh and blood, he is, strange to say, commonly
known in Toledo as the Aluminum Man. But when he sits in his club
window with two or three Iron Men, and the White Pine Man, and the
Brass Man, they look very much as you and I do, only more so, if you
know what I mean.
Now during the Christmas holidays of 1919 there took place in Toledo,
counting only the people with the italicized _the_, forty-one
dinner parties, sixteen dances, six luncheons, male and female, twelve
teas, four stag dinners, two weddings, and thirteen bridge parties. It
was the cumulative effect of all this that moved Perry Parkhurst on
the twenty-ninth day of December to a decision.
This Medill girl would marry him and she wouldn't marry him. She was
having such a good time that she hated to take such a definite step.
Meanwhile, their secret engagement had got so long that it seemed as
if any day it might break off of its own weight. A little man named
Warburton, who knew it all, persuaded Perry to superman her, to get a
marriage license and go up to the Medill house and tell her she'd have
to marry him at once or call it off forever. So he presented himself,
his heart, his license, and his ultimatum, and within five minutes
they were in the midst of a violent quarrel, a burst of sporadic open
fighting such as occurs near the end of all long wars and engagements.
It brought about one of those ghastly lapses in which two people who
are in love pull up sharp, look at each other coolly and think it's
all been a mistake. Afterward they usually kiss wholesomely and assure
the other person it was all their fault. Say it all was my fault! Say
it was! I want to hear you say it!
But while reconciliation was trembling in the air, while each was, in
a measure, stalling it off, so that they might the more voluptuously
and sentimentally enjoy it when it came, they were permanently
interrupted by a twenty-minute phone call for Betty from a garrulous
aunt. At the end of eighteen minutes Perry Parkhurst, urged on by
pride and suspicion and injured dignity, put on his long fur coat,
picked up his light brown soft hat, and stalked out the door,
"It's all over," he muttered brokenly as he tried to jam his car into
first. "It's all over--if I have to choke you for an hour, damn you!".
The last to the car, which had been standing some time and was quite
He drove downtown--that is, he got into a snow rut that led him
downtown. He sat slouched down very low in his seat, much too
dispirited to care where he went.
In front of the Clarendon Hotel he was hailed from the sidewalk by a
bad man named Baily, who had big teeth and lived at the hotel and had
never been in love.
"Perry," said the bad man softly when the roadster drew up beside him
at the, curb, "I've got six quarts of the doggonedest still champagne
you ever tasted. A third of it's yours, Perry, if you'll come
up-stairs and help Martin Macy and me drink it."
"Baily," said Perry tensely, "I'll drink your champagne. I'll drink
every drop of it, I don't care if it kills me."
"Shut up, you nut!" said the bad man gently. "They don't put wood
alcohol in champagne. This is the stuff that proves the world is more
than six thousand years old. It's so ancient that the cork is
petrified. You have to pull it with a stone drill."
"Take me up-stairs," said Perry moodily. "If that cork sees my heart
it'll fall out from pure mortification."
The room up-stairs was full of those innocent hotel pictures of little
girls eating apples and sitting in swings and talking to dogs. The
other decorations were neckties and a pink man reading a pink paper
devoted to ladies in pink tights.
"When you have to go into the highways and byways----" said the pink
man, looking reproachfully at Baily and Perry.
"Hello, Martin Macy," said Perry shortly, "where's this stone-age
"What's the rush? This isn't an operation, understand. This is a
Perry sat down dully and looked disapprovingly at all the neckties.
Baily leisurely opened the door of a wardrobe and brought out six
"Take off that darn fur coat!" said Martin Macy to Perry. "Or maybe
you'd like to have us open all the windows."
"Give me champagne," said Perry.
"Going to the Townsends' circus ball to-night?"
"Why not go?"
"Oh, I'm sick of parties," exclaimed Perry. "I'm sick of 'em. I've
been to so many that I'm sick of 'em."
"Maybe you're going to the Howard Tates' party?"
"No, I tell you; I'm sick of 'em."
"Well," said Macy consolingly, "the Tates' is just for college kids
"I tell you----"
"I thought you'd be going to one of 'em anyways. I see by the papers
you haven't missed a one this Christmas."
"Hm," grunted Perry morosely.
He would never go to any more parties. Classical phrases played in his
mind--that side of his life was closed, closed. Now when a man says
"closed, closed" like that, you can be pretty sure that some woman has
double-closed him, so to speak. Perry was also thinking that other
classical thought, about how cowardly suicide is. A noble thought that
one---warm and inspiring. Think of all the fine men we should lose if
suicide were not so cowardly!
An hour later was six o'clock, and Perry had lost all resemblance to
the young man in the liniment advertisement. He looked like a rough
draft for a riotous cartoon. They were singing--an impromptu song of
_"One Lump Perry, the parlor snake,
Famous through the city for the way he drinks his tea;
Plays with it, toys with it
Makes no noise with it,
Balanced on a napkin on his well-trained knee--"_
"Trouble is," said Perry, who had just banged his hair with Baily's
comb and was tying an orange tie round it to get the effect of Julius
Caesar, "that you fellas can't sing worth a damn. Soon's I leave the
air and start singing tenor you start singin' tenor too,"
"'M a natural tenor," said Macy gravely. "Voice lacks cultivation,
tha's all. Gotta natural voice, m'aunt used say. Naturally good
"Singers, singers, all good singers," remarked Baily, who was at the
telephone. "No, not the cabaret; I want night egg. I mean some
dog-gone clerk 'at's got food--food! I want----"
"Julius Caesar," announced Perry, turning round from the mirror. "Man
of iron will and stern 'termination"
"Shut up!" yelled Baily. "Say, iss Mr. Baily Sen' up enormous supper.
Use y'own judgment. Right away."
He connected the receiver and the hook with some difficulty, and then
with his lips closed and an expression of solemn intensity in his eyes
went to the lower drawer of his dresser and pulled it open.
"Lookit!" he commanded. In his hands he held a truncated garment of
"Pants," he exclaimed gravely. "Lookit!"
This was a pink blouse, a red tie, and a Buster Brown collar.
"Lookit!" he repeated. "Costume for the Townsends' circus ball. I'm
li'l' boy carries water for the elephants."
Perry was impressed in spite of himself.
"I'm going to be Julius Caesar," he announced after a moment of
"Thought you weren't going!" said Macy.
"Me? Sure I'm goin', Never miss a party. Good for the nerves--like
"Caesar!" scoffed Baily. "Can't be Caesar! He is not about a circus.
Caesar's Shakespeare. Go as a clown."
Perry shook his head.
Light dawned on Baily.
"That's right. Good idea."
Perry looked round the room searchingly.
"You lend me a bathrobe and this tie," he said finally. Baily
"Sure, tha's all I need. Caesar was a savage. They can't kick if I
come as Caesar, if he was a savage."
"No," said Baily, shaking his head slowly. "Get a costume over at a
costumer's. Over at Nolak's."
After a puzzling five minutes at the phone a small, weary voice
managed to convince Perry that it was Mr. Nolak speaking, and that
they would remain open until eight because of the Townsends' ball.
Thus assured, Perry ate a great amount of filet mignon and drank his
third of the last bottle of champagne. At eight-fifteen the man in the
tall hat who stands in front of the Clarendon found him trying to
start his roadster.
"Froze up," said Perry wisely. "The cold froze it. The cold air."
"Yes. Cold air froze it."
"Can't start it?"
"Nope. Let it stand here till summer. One those hot ole August days'll
thaw it out awright."
"Goin' let it stand?"
"Sure. Let 'er stand. Take a hot thief to steal it. Gemme taxi."
The man in the tall hat summoned a taxi.
"Where to, mister?"
"Go to Nolak's--costume fella."
Mrs. Nolak was short and ineffectual looking, and on the cessation of
the world war had belonged for a while to one of the new
nationalities. Owing to unsettled European conditions she had never
since been quite sure what she was. The shop in which she and her
husband performed their daily stint was dim and ghostly, and peopled
with suits of armor and Chinese mandarins, and enormous papier-mâché
birds suspended from the ceiling. In a vague background many rows of
masks glared eyelessly at the visitor, and there were glass cases full
of crowns and scepters, and jewels and enormous stomachers, and
paints, and crape hair, and wigs of all colors.
When Perry ambled into the shop Mrs. Nolak was folding up the last
troubles of a strenuous day, so she thought, in a drawer full of pink
"Something for you?" she queried pessimistically. "Want costume of
Julius Hur, the charioteer."
Mrs. Nolak was sorry, but every stitch of charioteer had been rented
long ago. Was it for the Townsends' circus ball?
"Sorry," she said, "but I don't think there's anything left that's
This was an obstacle.
"Hm," said Perry. An idea struck him suddenly. "If you've got a, piece
of canvas I could go's a tent."
"Sorry, but we haven't anything like that. A hardware store is where
you'd have to go to. We have some very nice Confederate soldiers."
"No. No soldiers."
"And I have a very handsome king."
He shook his head.
"Several of the gentlemen" she continued hopefully, "are wearing
stovepipe hats and swallow-tail coats and going as ringmasters--but
we're all out of tall hats. I can let you have some crape hair for a
"Want somep'n 'stinctive."
"Something--let's see. Well, we have a lion's head, and a goose, and a
"Camel?" The idea seized Perry's imagination, gripped it fiercely.
"Yes, but It needs two people."
"Camel, That's the idea. Lemme see it."
The camel was produced from his resting place on a top shelf. At first
glance he appeared to consist entirely of a very gaunt, cadaverous
head and a sizable hump, but on being spread out he was found to
possess a dark brown, unwholesome-looking body made of thick, cottony
"You see it takes two people," explained Mrs. Nolak, holding the camel
in frank admiration. "If you have a friend he could be part of it. You
see there's sorta pants for two people. One pair is for the fella in
front, and the other pair for the fella in back. The fella in front
does the lookin' out through these here eyes, an' the fella in back
he's just gotta stoop over an' folla the front fella round."
"Put it on," commanded Perry.
Obediently Mrs. Nolak put her tabby-cat face inside the camel's head
and turned it from side to side ferociously.
Perry was fascinated.
"What noise does a camel make?"
"What?" asked Mrs. Nolak as her face emerged, somewhat smudgy. "Oh,
what noise? Why, he sorta brays."
"Lemme see it in a mirror."
Before a wide mirror Perry tried on the head and turned from side to
side appraisingly. In the dim light the effect was distinctly
pleasing. The camel's face was a study in pessimism, decorated with
numerous abrasions, and it must be admitted that his coat was in that
state of general negligence peculiar to camels--in fact, he needed to
be cleaned and pressed--but distinctive he certainly was. He was
majestic. He would have attracted attention in any gathering, if only
by his melancholy cast of feature and the look of hunger lurking round
his shadowy eyes.
"You see you have to have two people," said Mrs. Nolak again.
Perry tentatively gathered up the body and legs and wrapped them about
him, tying the hind legs as a girdle round his waist. The effect on
the whole was bad. It was even irreverent--like one of those mediaeval
pictures of a monk changed into a beast by the ministrations of Satan.
At the very best the ensemble resembled a humpbacked cow sitting on
her haunches among blankets.
"Don't look like anything at all," objected Perry gloomily.
"No," said Mrs. Nolak; "you see you got to have two people."
A solution flashed upon Perry.
"You got a date to-night?"
"Oh, I couldn't possibly----"
"Oh, come on," said Perry encouragingly. "Sure you can! Here! Be good
sport, and climb into these hind legs."
With difficulty he located them, and extended their yawning depths
ingratiatingly. But Mrs. Nolak seemed loath. She backed perversely
"C'mon! You can be the front if you want to. Or we'll flip a coin."
"Make it worth your while."
Mrs. Nolak set her lips firmly together.
"Now you just stop!" she said with no coyness implied. "None of the
gentlemen ever acted up this way before. My husband----"
"You got a husband?" demanded Perry. "Where is he?"
"Wha's telephone number?"
After considerable parley he obtained the telephone number pertaining
to the Nolak penates and got into communication with that small, weary
voice he had heard once before that day. But Mr. Nolak, though taken
off his guard and somewhat confused by Perry's brilliant flow of
logic, stuck staunchly to his point. He refused firmly, but with
dignity, to help out Mr. Parkhurst in the capacity of back part of a
Having rung off, or rather having been rung off on, Perry sat down on
a three-legged stool to think it over. He named over to himself those
friends on whom he might call, and then his mind paused as Betty
Medill's name hazily and sorrowfully occurred to him. He had a
sentimental thought. He would ask her. Their love affair was over, but
she could not refuse this last request. Surely it was not much to
ask--to help him keep up his end of social obligation for one short
night. And if she insisted, she could be the front part of the camel
and he would go as the back. His magnanimity pleased him. His mind
even turned to rosy-colored dreams of a tender reconciliation inside
the camel--there hidden away from all the world....
"Now you'd better decide right off."
The bourgeois voice of Mrs. Nolak broke in upon his mellow fancies and
roused him to action. He went to the phone and called up the Medill
house. Miss Betty was out; had gone out to dinner.
Then, when all seemed lost, the camel's back wandered curiously into
the store. He was a dilapidated individual with a cold in his head and
a general trend about him of downwardness. His cap was pulled down low
on his head, and his chin was pulled down low on his chest, his coat
hung down to his shoes, he looked run-down, down at the heels,
and--Salvation Army to the contrary--down and out. He said that he was
the taxicab-driver that the gentleman had hired at the Clarendon
Hotel. He had been instructed to wait outside, but he had waited some
time, and a suspicion had grown upon him that the gentleman had gone
out the back way with purpose to defraud him--gentlemen sometimes
did--so he had come in. He sank down onto the three-legged stool.
"Wanta go to a party?" demanded Perry sternly.
"I gotta work," answered the taxi-driver lugubriously. "I gotta keep
"It's a very good party."
"'S a very good job."
"Come on!" urged Perry. "Be a good fella. See--it's pretty!" He held
the camel up and the taxi-driver looked at it cynically.
Perry searched feverishly among the folds of the cloth.
"See!" he cried enthusiastically, holding up a selection of folds.
"This is your part. You don't even have to talk. All you have to do is
to walk--and sit down occasionally. You do all the sitting down. Think
of it. I'm on my feet all the time and _you_ can sit down some of
the time. The only time _I_ can sit down is when we're lying
down, and you can sit down when--oh, any time. See?"
"What's 'at thing?" demanded the individual dubiously. "A shroud?"
"Not at all," said Perry indignantly. "It's a camel."
Then Perry mentioned a sum of money, and the conversation left the
land of grunts and assumed a practical tinge. Perry and the
taxi-driver tried on the camel in front of the mirror.
"You can't see it," explained Perry, peering anxiously out through the
eyeholes, "but honestly, ole man, you look sim'ly great! Honestly!"
A grunt from the hump acknowledged this somewhat dubious compliment.
"Honestly, you look great!" repeated Perry enthusiastically. "Move
round a little."
The hind legs moved forward, giving the effect of a huge cat-camel
hunching his back preparatory to a spring.
"No; move sideways."
The camel's hips went neatly out of joint; a hula dancer would have
writhed in envy.
"Good, isn't it?" demanded Perry, turning to Mrs. Nolak for approval.
"It looks lovely," agreed Mrs. Nolak.
"We'll take it," said Perry.
The bundle was stowed under Perry's arm and they left the shop.
"Go to the party!" he commanded as he took his seat in the back.
"Where'bouts is it?"
This presented a new problem. Perry tried to remember, but the names
of all those who had given parties during the holidays danced
confusedly before his eyes. He could ask Mrs. Nolak, but on looking
out the window he saw that the shop was dark. Mrs. Nolak had already
faded out, a little black smudge far down the snowy street.
"Drive uptown," directed Perry with fine confidence. "If you see a
party, stop. Otherwise I'll tell you when we get there."
He fell into a hazy daydream and his thoughts wandered again to
Betty--he imagined vaguely that they had had a disagreement because
she refused to go to the party as the back part of the camel. He was
just slipping off into a chilly doze when he was wakened by the
taxi-driver opening the door and shaking him by the arm.
"Here we are, maybe."
Perry looked out sleepily. A striped awning led from the curb up to a
spreading gray stone house, from which issued the low drummy whine of
expensive jazz. He recognized the Howard Tate house.
"Sure," he said emphatically; "'at's it! Tate's party to-night. Sure,
"Say," said the individual anxiously after another look at the awning,
"you sure these people ain't gonna romp on me for comin' here?"
Perry drew himself up with dignity.
"'F anybody says anything to you, just tell 'em you're part of my
The visualization of himself as a thing rather than a person seemed to
reassure the individual.
"All right," he said reluctantly.
Perry stepped out under the shelter of the awning and began unrolling
"Let's go," he commanded.
Several minutes later a melancholy, hungry-looking camel, emitting
clouds of smoke from his mouth and from the tip of his noble hump,
might have been seen crossing the threshold of the Howard Tate
residence, passing a startled footman without so much as a snort, and
heading directly for the main stairs that led up to the ballroom. The
beast walked with a peculiar gait which varied between an uncertain
lockstep and a stampede--but can best be described by the word
"halting." The camel had a halting gait--and as he walked he
alternately elongated and contracted like a gigantic concertina.
The Howard Tates are, as every one who lives in Toledo knows, the most
formidable people in town. Mrs. Howard Tate was a Chicago Todd before
she became a Toledo Tate, and the family generally affect that
conscious simplicity which has begun to be the earmark of American
aristocracy. The Tates have reached the stage where they talk about
pigs and farms and look at you icy-eyed if you are not amused. They
have begun to prefer retainers rather than friends as dinner guests,
spend a lot of money in a quiet way, and, having lost all sense of
competition, are in process of growing quite dull.
The dance this evening was for little Millicent Tate, and though all
ages were represented, the dancers were mostly from school and
college--the younger married crowd was at the Townsends' circus ball
up at the Tallyho Club. Mrs. Tate was standing just inside tie
ballroom, following Millicent round with her eyes, and beaming
whenever she caught her bye. Beside her were two middle-aged
sycophants, who were saying what a perfectly exquisite child Millicent
was. It was at this moment that Mrs. Tate was grasped firmly by the
skirt and her youngest daughter, Emily, aged eleven, hurled herself
with an "Oof!" into her mother's arms.
"Why, Emily, what's the trouble?"
"Mamma," said Emily, wild-eyed but voluble, "there's something out on
"There's a thing out on the stairs, mamma. I think it's a big dog,
mamma, but it doesn't look like a dog."
"What do you mean, Emily?"
The sycophants waved their heads sympathetically.
"Mamma, it looks like a--like a camel."
Mrs. Tate laughed.
"You saw a mean old shadow, dear, that's all."
"No, I didn't. No, it was some kind of thing, mamma--big. I was going
down-stairs to see if there were any more people, and this dog or
something, he was coming up-stairs. Kinda funny, mamma, like he was
lame. And then he saw me and gave a sort of growl, and then he slipped
at the top of the landing, and I ran."
Mrs. Tate's laugh faded.
"The child must have seen something," she said.
The sycophants agreed that the child must have seen something--and
suddenly all three women took an instinctive step away from the door
as the sounds of muffled steps were audible just outside.
And then three startled gasps rang out as a dark brown form rounded
the corner, and they saw what was apparently a huge beast looking down
at them hungrily.
"Oof!" cried Mrs. Tate.
"O-o-oh!" cried the ladies in a chorus.
The camel suddenly humped his back, and the gasps turned to shrieks.
"What is it?"
The dancing stopped, bat the dancers hurrying over got quite a
different impression of the invader; in fact, the young people
immediately suspected that it was a stunt, a hired entertainer come to
amuse the party. The boys in long trousers looked at it rather
disdainfully, and sauntered over with their hands in their pockets,
feeling that their intelligence was being insulted. But the girls
uttered little shouts of glee.
"It's a camel!"
"Well, if he isn't the funniest!"
The camel stood there uncertainly, swaying slightly from side to aide,
and seeming to take in the room in a careful, appraising glance; then
as if he had come to an abrupt decision, he turned and ambled swiftly
out the door.
Mr. Howard Tate had just come out of the library on the lower floor,
and was standing chatting with a young man in the hall. Suddenly they
heard the noise of shouting up-stairs, and almost immediately a
succession of bumping sounds, followed by the precipitous appearance
at the foot of the stairway of a large brown beast that seemed to be
going somewhere in a great hurry.
"Now what the devil!" said Mr. Tate, starting.
The beast picked itself up not without dignity and, affecting an air
of extreme nonchalance, as if he had just remembered an important
engagement, started at a mixed gait toward the front door. In fact,
his front legs began casually to run.
"See here now," said Mr. Tate sternly. "Here! Grab it, Butterfield!
The young man enveloped the rear of the camel in a pair of compelling
arms, and, realizing that further locomotion was impossible, the front
end submitted to capture and stood resignedly in a state of some
agitation. By this time a flood of young people was pouring
down-stairs, and Mr. Tate, suspecting everything from an ingenious
burglar to an escaped lunatic, gave crisp directions to the young man:
"Hold him! Lead him in here; we'll soon see."
The camel consented to be led into the library, and Mr. Tate, after
locking the door, took a revolver from a table drawer and instructed
the young man to take the thing's head off. Then he gasped and
returned the revolver to its hiding-place.
"Well, Perry Parkhurst!" he exclaimed in amazement.
"Got the wrong party, Mr. Tate," said Perry sheepishly. "Hope I didn't
"Well--you gave us a thrill, Perry." Realization dawned on him.
"You're bound for the Townsends' circus ball."
"That's the general idea."
"Let me introduce Mr. Butterfield, Mr. Parkhurst." Then turning to
Perry; "Butterfield is staying with us for a few days."
"I got a little mixed up," mumbled Perry. "I'm very sorry."
"Perfectly all right; most natural mistake in the world. I've got a
clown rig and I'm going down there myself after a while." He turned to
Butterfield. "Better change your mind and come down with us."
The young man demurred. He was going to bed.
"Have a drink, Perry?" suggested Mr. Tate.
"Thanks, I will."
"And, say," continued Tate quickly, "I'd forgotten all about
your--friend here." He indicated the rear part of the camel. "I didn't
mean to seem discourteous. Is it any one I know? Bring him out."
"It's not a friend," explained Perry hurriedly. "I just rented him."
"Does he drink?"
"Do you?" demanded Perry, twisting himself tortuously round.
There was a faint sound of assent.
"Sure he does!" said Mr. Tate heartily. "A really efficient camel
ought to be able to drink enough so it'd last him three days."
"Tell you," said Perry anxiously, "he isn't exactly dressed up enough
to come out. If you give me the bottle I can hand it back to him and
he can take his inside."
From under the cloth was audible the enthusiastic smacking sound
inspired by this suggestion. When a butler had appeared with bottles,
glasses, and siphon one of the bottles was handed back; thereafter the
silent partner could be heard imbibing long potations at frequent
Thus passed a benign hour. At ten o'clock Mr. Tate decided that they'd
better be starting. He donned his clown's costume; Perry replaced the
camel's head, arid side by side they traversed on foot the single
block between the Tate house and the Tallyho Club.
The circus ball was in full swing. A great tent fly had been put up
inside the ballroom and round the walls had been built rows of booths
representing the various attractions of a circus side show, but these
were now vacated and over the floor swarmed a shouting, laughing
medley of youth and color--downs, bearded ladies, acrobats, bareback
riders, ringmasters, tattooed men, and charioteers. The Townsends had
determined to assure their party of success, so a great quantity of
liquor had been surreptitiously brought over from their house and was
now flowing freely. A green ribbon ran along the wall completely round
the ballroom, with pointing arrows alongside and signs which
instructed the uninitiated to "Follow the green line!" The green line
led down to the bar, where waited pure punch and wicked punch and
plain dark-green bottles.
On the wall above the bar was another arrow, red and very wavy, and
under it the slogan: "Now follow this!"
But even amid the luxury of costume and high spirits represented,
there, the entrance of the camel created something of a stir, and
Perry was immediately surrounded by a curious, laughing crowd
attempting to penetrate the identity of this beast that stood by the
wide doorway eying the dancers with his hungry, melancholy gaze.
And then Perry saw Betty standing in front of a booth, talking to a
comic policeman. She was dressed in the costume of an Egyptian
snake-charmer: her tawny hair was braided and drawn through brass
rings, the effect crowned with a glittering Oriental tiara. Her fair
face was stained to a warm olive glow and on her arms and the half
moon of her back writhed painted serpents with single eyes of venomous
green. Her feet were in sandals and her skirt was slit to the knees,
so that when she walked one caught a glimpse of other slim serpents
painted just above her bare ankles. Wound about her neck was a
glittering cobra. Altogether a charming costume--one that caused the
more nervous among the older women to shrink away from her when she
passed, and the more troublesome ones to make great talk about
"shouldn't be allowed" and "perfectly disgraceful."
But Perry, peering through the uncertain eyes of the camel, saw only
her face, radiant, animated, and glowing with excitement, and her arms
and shoulders, whose mobile, expressive gestures made her always the
outstanding figure in any group. He was fascinated and his fascination
exercised a sobering effect on him. With a growing clarity the events
of the day came back--rage rose within him, and with a half-formed
intention of taking her away from the crowd he started toward her--or
rather he elongated slightly, for he had neglected to issue the
preparatory command necessary to locomotion.
But at this point fickle Kismet, who for a day had played with him
bitterly and sardonically, decided to reward him in full for the
amusement he had afforded her. Kismet turned the tawny eyes of the
snake-charmer to the camel. Kismet led her to lean toward the man
beside her and say, "Who's that? That camel?"
"Darned if I know."
But a little man named Warburton, who knew it all, found it necessary
to hazard an opinion:
"It came in with Mr. Tate. I think part of it's probably Warren
Butterfield, the architect from New York, who's visiting the Tates."
Something stirred in Betty Medill--that age-old interest of the
provincial girl in the visiting man.
"Oh," she said casually after a slight pause.
At the end of the next dance Betty and her partner finished up within
a few feet of the camel. With the informal audacity that was the
key-note of the evening she reached out and gently rubbed the camel's
"Hello, old camel."
The camel stirred uneasily.
"You 'fraid of me?" said Betty, lifting her eyebrows in reproof.
"Don't be. You see I'm a snake-charmer, but I'm pretty good at camels
The camel bowed very low and some one made the obvious remark about
beauty and the beast.
Mrs. Townsend approached the group.
"Well, Mr. Butterfield," she said helpfully, "I wouldn't have
Perry bowed again and smiled gleefully behind his mask.
"And who is this with you?" she inquired.
"Oh," said Perry, his voice muffled by the thick cloth and quite
unrecognizable, "he isn't a fellow, Mrs. Townsend. He's just part of
Mrs. Townsend laughed and moved away. Perry turned again to Betty,
"So," he thought, "this is how much she cares! On the very day of our
final rupture she starts a flirtation with another man--an absolute
On an impulse he gave her a soft nudge with his shoulder and waved his
head suggestively toward the hall, making it clear that he desired her
to leave her partner and accompany him.
"By-by, Rus," she called to her partner. "This old camel's got me.
Where we going, Prince of Beasts?"
The noble animal made no rejoinder, but stalked gravely along in the
direction of a secluded nook on the side stairs.
There she seated herself, and the camel, after some seconds of
confusion which included gruff orders and sounds of a heated dispute
going on in his interior, placed himself beside her--his hind legs
stretching out uncomfortably across two steps.
"Well, old egg," said Betty cheerfully, "how do you like our happy
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