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This book contains the complete Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald in the chronological order of their original publication.
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First digital edition 2017 by Anna Ruggieri
Metropolitan Magazine (December 1922)
Some of the caddies were poor as sin and lived in one-room houses with a neurasthenic cow in the front yard, but Dexter Green’s father owned the second best grocery-store in Black Bear — the best one was “The Hub,” patronized by the wealthy people from Sherry Island — and Dexter caddied only for pocket-money.
In the fall when the days became crisp and gray, and the long Minnesota winter shut down like the white lid of a box, Dexter’s skis moved over the snow that hid the fairways of the golf course. At these times the country gave him a feeling of profound melancholy — it offended him that the links should lie in enforced fallowness, haunted by ragged sparrows for the long season. It was dreary, too, that on the tees where the gay colors fluttered in summer there were now only the desolate sand-boxes knee-deep in crusted ice. When hecrossed the hills the wind blew cold as misery, and if the sun was out he tramped with his eyes squinted up against the hard dimensionless glare.
In April the winter ceased abruptly. The snow ran down into Black Bear Lake scarcely tarrying for the early golfers to brave the season with red and black balls. Without elation, without an interval of moist glory, the cold was gone.
Dexter knew that there was something dismal about this Northern spring, just as he knew there was something gorgeous about the fall.Fall made him clinch his hands and tremble and repeat idiotic sentences to himself, and make brisk abrupt gestures of command to imaginary audiences and armies. October filled him with hope which November raised to a sort of ecstatic triumph, and in thismood the fleeting brilliant impressions of the summer at Sherry Island were ready grist to his mill. He became a golf champion and defeated Mr. T. A. Hedrick in a marvellous match played a hundred times over the fairways of his imagination, a match each detail of which he changed about untiringly — sometimes he won with almost laughable ease, sometimes he came up magnificently from behind. Again, stepping from a Pierce-Arrow automobile, like Mr. Mortimer Jones, he strolled frigidly into the lounge of the Sherry Island Golf Club — or perhaps, surrounded by an admiring crowd, he gave an exhibition of fancy diving from the spring-board of the club raft. . . . Among those who watched him in open-mouthed wonder was Mr. Mortimer Jones.
And one day it came to passthat Mr. Jones — himself and not his ghost — came up to Dexter with tears in his eyes and said that Dexter was the —— best caddy in the club, and wouldn’t he decide not to quit if Mr. Jones made it worth his while, because every other —— caddy in the clublost one ball a hole for him — regularly —
“No, sir,” said Dexter decisively, “I don’t want to caddy any more.” Then, after a pause: “I’m too old.”
“You’re not more than fourteen. Why the devil did you decide just this morning that you wanted to quit? Youpromised that next week you’d go over to the State tournament with me.”
“I decided I was too old.”
Dexter handed in his “A Class” badge, collected what money was due him from the caddy master, and walked home to Black Bear Village.
“The best —— caddy I ever saw,” shouted Mr. Mortimer Jones over a drink that afternoon. “Never lost a ball! Willing! Intelligent! Quiet! Honest! Grateful!”
The little girl who had done this was eleven — beautifully ugly as little girls are apt to be who are destined after a few years to be inexpressibly lovely and bring no end of misery to a great number of men. The spark, however, was perceptible. There was a general ungodliness in the way her lips twisted down at the corners when she smiled, and in the — Heaven help us! — in thealmost passionate quality of her eyes. Vitality is born early in such women. It was utterly in evidence now, shining through her thin frame in a sort of glow.
She had come eagerly out on to the course at nine o’clock with a white linen nurse and five small new golf-clubs in a white canvas bag which the nurse was carrying. When Dexter first saw her she was standing by the caddy house, rather ill at ease and trying to conceal the fact by engaging her nurse in an obviously unnatural conversation graced by startling and irrelevant grimaces from herself.
“Well, it’s certainly a nice day, Hilda,” Dexter heard her say. She drew down the corners of her mouth, smiled, and glanced furtively around, her eyes in transit falling for an instant on Dexter.
Then to thenurse:
“Well, I guess there aren’t very many people out here this morning, are there?”
The smile again — radiant, blatantly artificial — convincing.
“I don’t know what we’re supposed to do now,” said the nurse, looking nowhere in particular.
“Oh, that’s all right. I’ll fix it up.”
Dexter stood perfectly still, his mouth slightly ajar. He knew that if he moved forward a step his stare would be in her line of vision — if he moved backward he would lose his full view of her face. For a moment he had not realized how young she was. Now he remembered having seen her several times the year before — in bloomers.
Suddenly, involuntarily, he laughed, a short abrupt laugh — then, startled by himself, he turned and began to walk quickly away.
“Boy — ”
Beyond question he was addressed. Not only that, but he was treated to that absurd smile, that preposterous smile — the memory of which at least a dozen men were to carry into middle age.
“Boy, do you know where the golf teacher is?”
“He’s givinga lesson.”
“Well, do you know where the caddy-master is?”
“He isn’t here yet this morning.”
“Oh.” For a moment this baffled her. She stood alternately on her right and left foot.
“We’d like to get a caddy,” said the nurse. “Mrs. Mortimer Jones sent us outto play golf, and we don’t know how without we get a caddy.”
Here she was stopped by an ominous glance from Miss Jones, followed immediately by the smile.
“There aren’t any caddies here except me,” said Dexter to the nurse, “and I got to stay here in charge until the caddy-master gets here.”
Miss Jones and her retinue now withdrew, and at a proper distance from Dexter became involved in a heated conversation, which was concluded by Miss Jones taking one of the clubs and hitting it on the ground with violence. For further emphasis she raised it again and was about to bring it down smartly upon the nurse’s bosom, when the nurse seized the club and twisted it from her hands.
“You damn little mean oldthing!” cried Miss Jones wildly.
Another argument ensued. Realizing that the elements of the comedy were implied in the scene, Dexter several times began to laugh, but each time restrained the laugh before it reached audibility. He could not resist the monstrous conviction that the little girl was justified inbeating the nurse.
The situation was resolved by the fortuitous appearance of the caddy-master, who was appealed to immediately by the nurse.
“Miss Jones is to have a little caddy, and this one says he can’t go.”
“Mr. McKenna said I was to wait here tillyou came,” said Dexter quickly.
“Well, he’s here now.” Miss Jones smiled cheerfully at the caddy-master. Then she dropped her bag and set off at a haughty mince toward the first tee.
“Well?” The caddy-master turned to Dexter. “What you standing there likea dummy for? Go pick up the young lady’s clubs.”
“I don’t think I’ll go out to-day,” said Dexter.
“You don’t — ”
“I think I’ll quit.”
The enormity of his decision frightened him. He was a favorite caddy, and the thirty dollars a month he earned through thesummer were not to be made elsewhere around the lake. But he had received a strong emotional shock, and his perturbation required a violent and immediate outlet.
It is not so simple as that, either. As so frequently would be the case in the future, Dexterwas unconsciously dictated to by his winter dreams.
Now, of course, the quality and the seasonability of thesewinter dreams varied, but the stuff of them remained. Theypersuaded Dexter several years later to pass up a business courseat the State university — his father, prospering now, wouldhave paid his way — for the precarious advantage of attendingan older and more famous university in the East, where he wasbothered by his scanty funds. But do not get the impression,because his winter dreams happened to be concerned at first withmusings on the rich, that there was anything merely snobbish in theboy. He wanted not association with glittering things andglittering people — he wanted the glittering thingsthemselves. Often he reached out for the best without knowing whyhe wanted it — and sometimes he ran up against the mysteriousdenials and prohibitions in which life indulges. It is with one ofthose denials and not with his career as a whole that this storydeals.
He made money. It was rather amazing. After college he went tothe city from which Black Bear Lake draws its wealthy patrons. Whenhe was only twenty-three and had been there not quite two years,there were already people who liked to say:“Nowthere’sa boy — ” All about him richmen’s sons were peddling bonds precariously, or investingpatrimonies precariously, or plodding through the two dozen volumesof the “George Washington Commercial Course,” butDexter borrowed a thousand dollars on his college degree and hisconfident mouth, and bought a partnership in a laundry.
It was a small laundry when he went into it but Dexter made aspecialty of learning how the English washed fine woollengolf-stockings without shrinking them, and within a year he wascatering to the trade that wore knickerbockers. Men were insistingthat their Shetland hose and sweaters go to his laundry just asthey had insisted on a caddy who could find golf-balls. A littlelater he was doing their wives’ lingerie as well — andrunning five branches in differentparts of the city. Before he wastwenty-seven he owned the largest string of laundries in hissection of the country. It was then that he sold out and went toNew York. But the part of his story that concerns us goes back tothe days when he was making his first big success.
When he was twenty-three Mr. Hart — one of the gray-hairedmen who like to say “Now there’s a boy” —gave him a guest card to the Sherry Island Golf Club for aweek-end. So he signed his name one day on the register, and thatafternoonplayed golf in a foursome with Mr. Hart and Mr. Sandwoodand Mr. T. A. Hedrick. He did not consider it necessary to remarkthat he had once carried Mr. Hart’s bag over this same links,and that he knew every trap and gully with his eyes shut —but he found himself glancing at the four caddies who trailed them,trying to catch a gleam or gesture that would remind him ofhimself, that would lessen the gap which lay between his presentand his past.
It was a curious day, slashed abruptly with fleeting, familiarimpressions. One minute he had the sense of being a trespasser— in the next he was impressed by the tremendoussuperiorityhe felt toward Mr. T. A. Hedrick, who was a bore and not even agood golfer any more.
Then, because of a ball Mr. Hart lost nearthe fifteenth green,an enormous thing happened. While they were searching the stiffgrasses of the rough there was a clear call of “Fore!”from behind a hill in their rear. And as they all turned abruptlyfrom their search a bright new ball sliced abruptly over the hilland caught Mr. T. A. Hedrick in the abdomen.
“By Gad!” cried Mr. T. A. Hedrick, “they oughtto put some of these crazy women off the course. It’s gettingto be outrageous.”
A head and a voice came up together over the hill:
“Do you mind ifwe go through?”
“You hit me in the stomach!” declared Mr. Hedrickwildly.
“Did I?” The girl approached the group of men.“I’m sorry. I yelled ‘Fore!’”
Her glance fell casually on each of the men — then scannedthe fairway for her ball.
“Did I bounce into the rough?”
It was impossible to determine whether this question wasingenuous or malicious. In a moment, however, she left no doubt,for as her partner came up over the hill she called cheerfully:
“Here I am! I’d have gone on the green except that Ihit something.”
As she took her stance for a short mashie shot, Dexter looked ather closely. She wore a blue gingham dress, rimmed at throat andshoulders with a white edging that accentuated her tan. The qualityof exaggeration, of thinness, which had made herpassionate eyes anddown-turning mouth absurd at eleven, was gone now. She wasarrestingly beautiful. The color in her cheeks was centered likethe color in a picture — it was not a “high”color, but a son of fluctuating and feverish warmth, so shaded thatit seemed at any moment it would recede and disappear. This colorand the mobility of her mouth gave a continual impression of flux,of intense life, of passionate vitality — balanced onlypartially by the sad luxury of her eyes.
She swung her mashie impatiently and without interest, pitchingthe ball into a sand-pit on the other side of the green. With aquick, insincere smile and a careless “Thank you!” shewent on after it.
“That Judy Jones!” remarked Mr. Hedrick on the nexttee, as they waited — somemoments — for her to play onahead. “All she needs is to be turned up and spanked for sixmonths and then to be married off to an old-fashioned cavalrycaptain.”
“My God, she’s good-looking!” said Mr.Sandwood, who was just over thirty.
“Good-looking!”cried Mr. Hedrick contemptuously,“she always looks as if she wanted to be kissed! Turningthose big cow-eyes on every calf in town!”
It was doubtful if Mr. Hedrick intended a reference to thematernal instinct.
“She’d play pretty good golf if she’dtry,”said Mr. Sandwood.
“She has no form,” said Mr. Hedrick solemnly.
“She has a nice figure,” said Mr. Sandwood.
“Better thank the Lord she doesn’t drive a swifterball,” said Mr. Hart, winking at Dexter.
Later in the afternoon the sun went down with a riotousswirl ofgold and varying blues and scarlets, and left the dry, rustlingnight of Western summer. Dexter watched from the veranda of theGolf Club, watched the even overlap of the waters in the littlewind, silver molasses under the harvest-moon. Then themoon held afinger to her lips and the lake became a clear pool, pale andquiet. Dexter put on his bathing-suit and swam out to the farthestraft, where he stretched dripping on the wet canvas of thespringboard.
There was a fish jumping and a star shining and the lightsaround the lake were gleaming. Over on a dark peninsula a piano wasplaying the songs of last summer and of summers before that —songs from “Chin-Chin” and “The Count ofLuxemburg” and “The Chocolate Soldier” —and because the sound of apiano over a stretch of water had alwaysseemed beautiful to Dexter he lay perfectly quiet and listened.
The tune the piano was playing at that moment had been gay andnew five years before when Dexter was a sophomore at college. Theyhad played it at a prom once when he could not afford the luxury ofproms, and he had stood outside the gymnasium and listened. Thesound of the tune precipitated in him a sort of ecstasy and it waswith that ecstasy he viewed what happened to him now. It was a moodof intenseappreciation, a sense that, for once, he wasmagnificently attune to life and that everything about him wasradiating a brightness and a glamour he might never know again.
A low, pale oblong detached itself suddenly from the darkness ofthe Island, spitting forth the reverberate sound of a racingmotor-boat. Two white streamers of cleft water rolled themselvesout behind it and almost immediately the boat was beside him,drowning out the hot tinkle of the piano in the drone of its spray.Dexter raising himself on his arms was aware of a figure standingat the wheel, of two dark eyes regarding him over the lengtheningspace of water — then the boat had gone by and was sweepingin an immense and purposeless circle of spray round and round inthe middle of thelake. With equal eccentricity one of the circlesflattened out and headed back toward the raft.
“Who’s that?” she called, shutting off hermotor. She was so near now that Dexter could see her bathing-suit,which consisted apparently of pink rompers.
The nose of the boat bumped the raft, and as the latter tiltedrakishly he was precipitated toward her. With different degrees ofinterest they recognized each other.
“Aren’t you one of those men we played through thisafternoon?” she demanded.
“Well, do you know how to drive a motor-boat? Because ifyou do I wish you’d drive this one so I can ride on thesurf-board behind. My name is Judy Jones” — she favoredhim with an absurd smirk — rather, what tried to be a smirk,for, twist her mouth as she might,it was not grotesque, it wasmerely beautiful — “and I live in a house over there onthe Island, and in that house there is a man waiting for me. Whenhe drove up at the door I drove out of the dock because he saysI’m his ideal.”
There was a fish jumpingand a star shining and the lights aroundthe lake were gleaming. Dexter sat beside Judy Jones and sheexplained how her boat was driven. Then she was in the water,swimming to the floating surfboard with a sinuous crawl. Watchingher was without effort tothe eye, watching a branch waving or asea-gull flying. Her arms, burned to butternut, moved sinuouslyamong the dull platinum ripples, elbow appearing first, casting theforearm back with a cadence of falling water, then reaching out anddown, stabbing apath ahead.
They moved out into the lake; turning, Dexter saw that she waskneeling on the low rear of the now uptilted surf-board.
“Go faster,” she called, “fast as it’llgo.”
Obediently he jammed the lever forward and the white spraymounted at the bow.When he looked around again the girl wasstanding up on the rushing board, her arms spread wide, her eyeslifted toward the moon.
“It’s awful cold,” she shouted.“What’s your name?”
He told her.
“Well, why don’t you come to dinner to-morrownight?”
His heart turned over like the fly-wheel of the boat, and, forthe second time, her casual whim gave a new direction to hislife.
Next evening while he waited for her to come down-stairs, Dexterpeopled the soft deep summer room and the sun-porch thatopened fromit with the men who had already loved Judy Jones. He knew the sortof men they were — the men who when he first went to collegehad entered from the great prep schools with graceful clothes andthe deep tan of healthy summers. He had seen that,in one sense, hewas better than these men. He was newer and stronger. Yet inacknowledging to himself that he wished his children to be likethem he was admitting that he was but the rough, strong stuff fromwhich they eternally sprang.
When the time hadcome for him to wear good clothes, he had knownwho were the best tailors in America, and the best tailors inAmerica had made him the suit he wore this evening. He had acquiredthat particular reserve peculiar to his university, that set it offfrom other universities. He recognized the value to him of such amannerism and he had adopted it; he knew that to be careless indress and manner required more confidence than to be careful. Butcarelessness was for his children. His mother’s name had beenKrimslich. She was a Bohemian of the peasant class and she hadtalked broken English to the end of her days. Her son must keep tothe set patterns.
At a little after seven Judy Jones came down-stairs. She wore ablue silk afternoon dress, and he was disappointedat first that shehad not put on something more elaborate. This feeling wasaccentuated when, after a brief greeting, she went to the door of abutler’s pantry and pushing it open called: “You canserve dinner, Martha.” He had rather expected that abutlerwould announce dinner, that there would be a cocktail. Thenhe put these thoughts behind him as they sat down side by side on alounge and looked at each other.
“Father and mother won’t be here,” she saidthoughtfully.
He remembered the last time he had seen her father, and he wasglad the parents were not to be here to-night — they mightwonder who he was. He had been born in Keeble, a Minnesota villagefifty miles farther north, and he always gave Keeble as his homeinstead of Black Bear Village. Countrytowns were well enough tocome from if they weren’t inconveniently in sight and used asfootstools by fashionable lakes.
They talked of his university, which she had visited frequentlyduring the past two years, and of the near-by city which suppliedSherry Island with its patrons, and whither Dexter would returnnext day to his prospering laundries.
During dinner she slipped into a moody depression which gaveDexter a feeling of uneasiness. Whatever petulance she uttered inher throaty voice worried him.Whatever she smiled at — athim, at a chicken liver, at nothing — it disturbed him thather smilecould have no root in mirth, or even in amusement. Whenthe scarlet corners of her lips curved down, it was less a smilethan an invitation to a kiss.
Then, after dinner, she led him out on the dark sun-porch anddeliberately changed the atmosphere.
“Do you mind if I weep a little?” she said.
“I’m afraid I’m boring you,” heresponded quickly.
“You’re not. I like you. But I’ve just had aterrible afternoon. There was a man I cared about, and thisafternoon he told me out of a clear sky that he was poor as achurch-mouse. He’d never even hinted it before. Does thissound horribly mundane?”
“Perhaps he was afraid to tell you.”
“Suppose he was,” she answered. “Hedidn’t start right. You see, if I’d thought of him aspoor — well, I’ve been mad about loads of poor men, andfully intended to marry them all. But in this case, I hadn’tthought of him that way, and my interest in him wasn’t strongenough to survive the shock. As if a girl calmly informed herfiancé that she was a widow. He might not object to widows,but —
“Let’s start right,” she interrupted herselfsuddenly. “Who are you, anyhow?”
For a moment Dexter hesitated. Then:
“I’m nobody,” he announced. “My careerislargely a matter of futures.”
“Are you poor?”
“No,” he said frankly, “I’m probablymaking more money than any man my age in the Northwest. I knowthat’s an obnoxious remark, but you advised me to startright.”
There was a pause. Then she smiled and thecorners of her mouthdrooped and an almost imperceptible sway brought her closer to him,looking up into his eyes. A lump rose in Dexter’s throat, andhe waited breathless for the experiment, facing the unpredictablecompound that would form mysteriouslyfrom the elements of theirlips. Then he saw — she communicated her excitement to him,lavishly, deeply, with kisses that were not a promise but afulfillment. They aroused in him not hunger demanding renewal butsurfeit that would demand more surfeit . .. kisses that were likecharity, creating want by holding back nothing at all.
It did not take him many hours to decide that he had wanted JudyJones ever since he was a proud, desirous little boy.
It began like that — and continued, with varyingshades ofintensity, on such a note right up to the dénouement. Dextersurrendered a part of himself to the most direct and unprincipledpersonality with which he had ever come in contact. Whatever Judywanted, she went after with the full pressure of hercharm. Therewas no divergence of method, no jockeying for position orpremeditation of effects — there was a very little mentalside to any of her affairs. She simply made men conscious to thehighest degree of her physical loveliness. Dexter had no desire tochange her. Her deficiencies were knit up with a passionate energythat transcended and justified them.
When, as Judy’s head lay against his shoulder that firstnight, she whispered, “I don’t know what’s thematter with me. Last night I thought I wasin love with a man andto-night I think I’m in love with you — " — itseemed to him a beautiful and romantic thing to say. It was theexquisite excitability that for the moment he controlled and owned.But a week later he was compelled to view this same quality in adifferent light. She took him in her roadster to a picnic supper,and after supper she disappeared, likewise in her roadster, withanother man. Dexter became enormously upset and was scarcely ableto be decently civil to the other people present. When she assuredhim that she had not kissed the other man, he knew she was lying— yet he was glad that she had taken the trouble to lie tohim.
He was, as he found before the summer ended, one of a varyingdozen who circulated about her. Each of them had at one time beenfavored above all others — about half of them still basked inthe solace of occasional sentimental revivals. Whenever one showedsigns of dropping out through long neglect, she granted him a briefhoneyed hour, which encouraged him to tag along for a year or solonger. Judy made these forays upon the helpless and defeatedwithout malice, indeed half unconscious that there was anythingmischievous in what she did.
When a new man came to town every one dropped out — dateswere automatically cancelled.
The helpless part of trying to do anything about it was that shedid it all herself. She was not a girl who could be“won” in the kinetic sense — she was proofagainst cleverness, she was proof against charm; if any of theseassailed her too strongly she would immediately resolve the affairto a physical basis, and under the magic of her physical splendorthe strong as well as the brilliant played her game and not theirown. She was entertained only by the gratification of her desiresand by the direct exercise of her own charm. Perhaps from so muchyouthful love, so many youthful lovers, she had come, inself-defense, to nourish herself wholly from within.
Succeeding Dexter’s first exhilaration came restlessnessand dissatisfaction. The helpless ecstasy of losing himself in herwas opiate rather than tonic. It was fortunate for his work duringthe winter that those moments of ecstasy came infrequently. Earlyin their acquaintance it had seemed for a while that there was adeep and spontaneous mutual attraction — that first August,for example — three days of long evenings on her duskyveranda, of strange wan kisses through the late afternoon, inshadowy alcoves or behind the protecting trellises of the gardenarbors, of mornings when she was fresh as a dream and almost shy atmeeting him in the clarity of the rising day. There was all theecstasy of an engagement about it, sharpened by his realizationthat there was no engagement. It was during those three days that,for the first time, he had asked her to marry him. She said“maybe some day,” she said “kiss me,” shesaid “I’d like to marry you,” she said “Ilove you” — she said — nothing.
The three days were interrupted by the arrival of a New York manwho visited at her house for half September.To Dexter’sagony, rumor engaged them. The man was the son of the president ofa great trust company. But at the end of a month it was reportedthat Judy was yawning. At a dance one night she sat all evening ina motor-boat with a local beau, while the NewYorker searched theclub for her frantically. She told the local beau that she wasbored with her visitor, and two days later he left. She was seenwith him at the station, and it was reported that he looked verymournful indeed.
On this note the summerended. Dexter was twenty-four, and hefound himself increasingly in a position to do as he wished. Hejoined two clubs in the city and lived at one of them. Though hewas by no means an integral part of the stag-lines at these clubs,he managed to be on hand at dances where Judy Jones was likely toappear. He could have gone out socially as much as he liked —he was an eligible young man, now, and popular with down-townfathers. His confessed devotion to Judy Jones had rather solidifiedhis position. But hehad no social aspirations and rather despisedthe dancing men who were always on tap for the Thursday or Saturdayparties and who filled in at dinners with the younger married set.Already he was playing with the idea of going East to New York. Hewantedto take Judy Jones with him. No disillusion as to the worldin which she had grown up could cure his illusion as to herdesirability.
Remember that — for only in the light of it can what hedid for her be understood.
Eighteen months after he first met JudyJones he became engagedto another girl. Her name was Irene Scheerer, and her father wasone of the men who had always believed in Dexter. Irene waslight-haired and sweet and honorable, and a little stout, and shehad two suitors whom she pleasantly relinquished when Dexterformally asked her to marry him.
Summer, fall, winter, spring, another summer, another fall— so much he had given of his active life to the incorrigiblelips of Judy Jones. She had treated him with interest, withencouragement, with malice, with indifference, with contempt. Shehad inflicted on him the innumerable little slights and indignitiespossible in such a case — as if in revenge for having evercared for him at all. She had beckoned him and yawned at himandbeckoned him againand he had responded often with bitterness andnarrowed eyes. She had brought him ecstatic happiness andintolerable agony of spirit. She had caused him untoldinconvenience and not a little trouble. She had insulted him, andshe had ridden over him, and she had played his interest in heragainst his interest in his work — for fun. She had doneeverything to him except to criticise him — this she had notdone — it seemed to him only because it might have sulliedthe utter indifference she manifested and sincerely felt towardhim.
When autumn had come and gone again it occurred to him that hecould not have Judy Jones. He had to beat this into his mind but heconvinced himself at last. He lay awake at night for a while andargued it over. He told himself thetrouble and the pain she hadcaused him, he enumerated her glaring deficiencies as a wife. Thenhe said to himself that he loved her, and after a while he fellasleep. For a week, lest he imagined her husky voice over thetelephone or her eyes opposite himat lunch, he worked hard andlate, and at night he went to his office and plotted out hisyears.
At the end of a week he went to a dance and cut in on her once.For almost the first time since they had met he did not ask her tosit out with him or tell her that she was lovely. It hurt him thatshe did not miss these things — that was all. He was notjealous when he saw that there was a new man to-night. He had beenhardened against jealousy long before.
He stayed late at the dance. He sat for an hour withIreneScheerer and talked about books and about music. He knew verylittle about either. But he was beginning to be master of his owntime now, and he had a rather priggish notion that he — theyoung and already fabulously successful Dexter Green —shouldknow more about such things.
That was in October, when he was twenty-five. In January, Dexterand Irene became engaged. It was to be announced in June, and theywere to be married three months later.
The Minnesota winter prolonged itself interminably, andit wasalmost May when the winds came soft and the snow ran down intoBlack Bear Lake at last. For the first time in over a year Dexterwas enjoying a certain tranquility of spirit. Judy Jones had beenin Florida, and afterward in Hot Springs, and somewhere she hadbeen engaged, and somewhere she had broken it off. At first, whenDexter had definitely given her up, it had made him sad that peoplestill linked them together and asked for news of her, but when hebegan to be placed at dinner next to Irene Scheerer peopledidn’t ask him about her any more — they told him abouther. He ceased to be an authority on her.
May at last. Dexter walked the streets at night when thedarkness was damp as rain, wondering that so soon, with so littledone, so much of ecstasy had gone from him. May one year back hadbeen marked by Judy’s poignant, unforgivable, yet forgiventurbulence — it had been one of those rare times when hefancied she had grown to care for him. That old penny’s worthof happiness he had spent for thisbushel of content. He knew thatIrene would be no more than a curtain spread behind him, a handmovingamong gleaming tea-cups, a voice calling to children . . .fire and loveliness were gone, the magic of nights and the wonderof the varying hours and seasons . . . slender lips, down-turning,dropping to his lips and bearing him up into a heaven of eyes. . .. The thing was deep in him. He was too strong and alive for it todie lightly.
In the middle of May when the weather balanced for a few days onthethin bridge that led to deep summer he turned in one night atIrene’s house. Their engagement was to be announced in a weeknow — no one would be surprised at it. And to-night theywould sit together on the lounge at the University Club and look onfor anhour at the dancers. It gave him a sense of solidity to gowith her — she was so sturdily popular, so intensely“great.”
He mounted the steps of the brownstone house and steppedinside.
“Irene,” he called.
Mrs. Scheerer came out of the living-room to meethim.
“Dexter,” she said, “Irene’s goneup-stairs with a splitting headache. She wanted to go with you butI made her go to bed.”
“Nothing serious, I— ”
“Oh, no. She’s going to play golf with you in themorning. You can spare her for just one night, can’t you,Dexter?”
Her smile was kind. She and Dexter liked each other. In theliving-room he talked for a moment before he said good-night.
Returning to the University Club, where he had rooms, he stoodin the doorway for a moment and watched the dancers. He leanedagainst the door-post, nodded at a man or two — yawned.
The familiar voice at his elbow startled him. Judy Jones hadleft a man and crossed the room to him — Judy Jones, aslender enamelled doll in cloth of gold: gold in a band at herhead, gold in two slipper points at her dress’s hem. Thefragile glow of her face seemed to blossom as she smiled at him. Abreeze of warmth and light blew through the room. His hands in thepockets of his dinner-jacket tightened spasmodically. He was filledwith a sudden excitement.
“When did you get back?” he asked casually.
“Come here and I’ll tell you about it.”
She turned and he followed her. She had been away — hecould have wept at the wonder of her return. She had passed throughenchanted streets,doing things that were likeprovocative music. Allmysterious happenings, all fresh and quickening hopes, had goneaway with her, come back with her now.
She turned in the doorway.
“Have you a car here? If you haven’t, Ihave.”
“I have a coupé.”
In then,with a rustle of golden cloth. He slammed the door. Intoso many cars she had stepped — like this — like that— her back against the leather, so — her elbow restingon the door — waiting. She would have been soiled long sincehad there been anything to soil her — except herself —but this was her own self outpouring.
With an effort he forced himself to start the car and back intothe street. This was nothing, he must remember. She had done thisbefore, and he had put her behind him, as he would have crossedabad account from his books.
He drove slowly down-town and, affecting abstraction, traversedthe deserted streets of the business section, peopled here andthere where a movie was giving out its crowd or where consumptiveor pugilistic youth lounged in front of pool halls. The clink ofglasses and the slap of hands on the bars issued from saloons,cloisters of glazed glass and dirty yellow light.
She was watching him closely and the silence was embarrassing,yet in this crisis he could find no casual wordwith which toprofane the hour. At a convenient turning he began to zigzag backtoward the University Club.
“Have you missed me?” she asked suddenly.
“Everybody missed you.”
He wondered if she knew of Irene Scheerer. She had been backonly a day — her absence had been almost contemporaneous withhis engagement.
“What a remark!” Judy laughed sadly — withoutsadness. She looked at him searchingly. He became absorbed in thedashboard.
“You’re handsomer than you used to be,” shesaid thoughtfully. “Dexter, youhave the most rememberableeyes.”
He could have laughed at this, but he did not laugh. It was thesort of thing that was said to sophomores. Yet it stabbed athim.
“I’m awfully tired of everything, darling.”She called every one darling, endowing the endearment withcareless, individual comraderie. “I wish you’d marryme.”
The directness of this confused him. He should have told her nowthat he was going to marry another girl, but he could not tell her.He could as easily have sworn that he had never lovedher.
“I think we’d get along,” she continued, onthe same note, “unless probably you’ve forgotten me andfallen in love with another girl.”
Her confidence was obviously enormous. She had said, in effect,that she found such a thing impossible to believe,that if it weretrue he had merely committed a childish indiscretion — andprobably to show off. She would forgive him, because it was not amatter of any moment but rather something to be brushed asidelightly.
“Of course you could never love anybody butme,” shecontinued. “I like the way you love me. Oh, Dexter, have youforgotten last year?”
“No, I haven’t forgotten.”
“Neither have I!”
Was she sincerely moved — or was she carried along by thewave of her own acting?
“I wish we could be like that again,”she said, andhe forced himself to answer:
“I don’t think we can.”
“I suppose not. . . . I hear you’re giving IreneScheerer a violent rush.”
There was not the faintest emphasis on the name, yet Dexter wassuddenly ashamed.
“Oh, take me home,” cried Judysuddenly; “Idon’t want to go back to that idiotic dance — withthose children.”
Then, as he turned up the street that led to the residencedistrict, Judy began to cry quietly to herself. He had never seenher cry before.
The dark street lightened, thedwellings of the rich loomed uparound them, he stopped his coupé in front of the great whitebulk of the Mortimer Joneses house, somnolent, gorgeous, drenchedwith the splendor of the damp moonlight. Its solidity startled him.The strong walls, the steelof the girders, the breadth and beam andpomp of it were there only to bring out the contrast with the youngbeauty beside him. It was sturdy to accentuate her slightness— as if to show what a breeze could be generated by abutterfly’s wing.
He sat perfectly quiet, his nerves in wild clamor, afraid thatif he moved he would find her irresistibly in his arms. Two tearshad rolled down her wet face and trembled on her upper lip.
“I’m more beautiful than anybody else,” shesaid brokenly, “why can’t I be happy?” Her moisteyes tore at his stability — her mouth turned slowly downwardwith an exquisitesadness: “I’d like to marry you ifyou’ll have me, Dexter. I suppose you think I’m notworth having, but I’ll be so beautiful for you,Dexter.”
A million phrases of anger, pride, passion, hatred, tendernessfought on his lips. Then a perfect wave of emotion washed over him,carrying off with it a sediment of wisdom, of convention, of doubt,of honor. This was his girl who was speaking, his own, hisbeautiful, his pride.
“Won’t you come in?” He heard her draw in herbreath sharply.
“All right,” his voice was trembling,“I’ll come in.”
It was strange that neither when it was over nor a long timeafterward did he regret that night. Looking at it fromtheperspective of ten years, the fact that Judy’s flare forhim endured just one month seemed of little importance. Nor did itmatter that by his yielding he subjected himself to a deeper agonyin the end and gave serious hurt to Irene Scheerer and toIrene’s parents, who had befriended him. There was nothingsufficiently pictorial about Irene’s grief to stamp itself onhis mind.
Dexter was at bottom hard-minded. The attitude of the city onhis action was of no importance to him, not because he was going toleave the city, but because any outside attitude on the situationseemed superficial. He was completely indifferent to popularopinion. Nor, when he had seen that it was no use, that he did notpossess in himself the power to move fundamentally or to hold JudyJones, did he bear any malice toward her. He loved her, and hewould love her until the day he was too old for loving — buthe could not have her. So he tasted the deep pain that is reservedonly for the strong, just as he had tasted for a little whilethedeep happiness.
Even the ultimate falsity of the grounds upon which Judyterminated the engagement that she did not want to “take himaway” from Irene — Judy, who had wanted nothing else— did not revolt him. He was beyond any revulsion or anyamusement.
He went East in February with the intention of selling out hislaundries and settling in New York — but the war came toAmerica in March and changed his plans. He returned to the West,handed over the management of the business to his partner, andwentinto the first officers’ training-camp in late April. Hewas one of those young thousands who greeted the war with a certainamount of relief, welcoming the liberation from webs of tangledemotion.
This story is not his biography, remember, although things creepinto it which have nothing to do with those dreams he had when hewas young. We are almost done with them and with him now. There isonly one more incident to be related here, and it happens sevenyears farther on.
It took place in New York, where he had done well — sowell that there were no barriers too high for him. He wasthirty-two years old, and, except for one flying trip immediatelyafter the war, he had not been West in seven years. A man namedDevlin from Detroit came into his office to see him in a businessway, and then and there this incident occurred, and closed out, soto speak, this particular side of his life.
“So you’re from the Middle West,” said the manDevlin with careless curiosity. “That’s funny — Ithought men like youwere probably born and raised on Wall Street.You know — wife of one of my best friends in Detroit camefrom your city. I was an usher at the wedding.”
Dexter waited with no apprehension of what was coming.
“Judy Simms,” said Devlin with no particularinterest; “Judy Jones she was once.”
“Yes, I knew her.” A dull impatience spread overhim. He had heard, of course, that she was married — perhapsdeliberately he had heard no more.
“Awfully nice girl,” brooded Devlin meaninglessly,“I’m sort of sorry forher.”
“Why?” Something in Dexter was alert, receptive, atonce.
“Oh, Lud Simms has gone to pieces in a way. I don’tmean he ill-uses her, but he drinks and runs around —”
“Doesn’t she run around?”
“No. Stays at home with her kids.”
“She’s a little too old for him,” saidDevlin.
“Too old!” cried Dexter. “Why, man,she’s only twenty-seven.”
He was possessed with a wild notion of rushing out into thestreets and taking a train to Detroit. He rose to his feetspasmodically.
“I guess you’re busy,” Devlinapologizedquickly. “I didn’t realize — ”
“No, I’m not busy,” said Dexter, steadying hisvoice. “I’m not busy at all. Not busy at all. Did yousay she was — twenty-seven? No, I said she wastwenty-seven.”
“Yes, you did,” agreed Devlin dryly.
“Go on, then.Go on.”
“What do you mean?”
“About Judy Jones.”
Devlin looked at him helplessly.
“Well, that’s — I told you all there is to it.He treats her like the devil. Oh, they’re not going to getdivorced or anything. When he’s particularly outrageous sheforgiveshim. In fact, I’m inclined to think she loves him.She was a pretty girl when she first came to Detroit.”
A pretty girl! The phrase struck Dexter as ludicrous.
“Isn’t she — a pretty girl, anymore?”
“Oh, she’s all right.”
“Look here,” said Dexter, sittingdown suddenly,“I don’t understand. You say she was a ‘prettygirl’ and now you say she’s ‘all right.’ Idon’t understand what you mean — Judy Joneswasn’t a pretty girl, at all. She was a great beauty. Why, Iknew her, I knew her. She was — ”
Devlin laughed pleasantly.
“I’m not trying to start a row,” he said.“I think Judy’s a nice girl and I like her. Ican’t understand how a man like Lud Simms could fall madly inlove with her, but he did.” Then he added: “Most of thewomen like her.”
Dexter looked closely at Devlin, thinking wildly that there mustbe a reason for this, some insensitivity in the man or some privatemalice.
“Lots of women fade just likethat,” Devlin snappedhis fingers. “You must have seen it happen. PerhapsI’ve forgotten how pretty shewas at her wedding. I’veseen her so much since then, you see. She has nice eyes.”
A sort of dulness settled down upon Dexter. For the first timein his life he felt like getting very drunk. He knew that he waslaughing loudly at something Devlin had said, but he did not knowwhat it was or why it was funny. When, in a few minutes, Devlinwent he lay down on his lounge and looked out the window at the NewYork sky-line into which the sun was sinking in dull lovely shadesof pink and gold.
He had thought that having nothing else to lose he wasinvulnerable at last — but he knew that he had just lostsomething more, as surely as if he had married Judy Jones and seenher fade away before his eyes.
The dream was gone. Something had been taken from him. In a sortof panic he pushed the palms of his hands into his eyes and triedto bring up a picture of the waters lapping on Sherry Island andthe moonlit veranda, and gingham on the golf-links and the dry sunand the gold color of her neck’s soft down. And her mouthdamp to his kisses and her eyes plaintive with melancholy and herfreshness like new fine linen in the morning. Why, these thingswere no longer in the world! They had existed and they existed nolonger.
For the first time in years the tears werestreaming down hisface. But they were for himself now. He did not care about mouthand eyes and moving hands. He wanted to care, and he could notcare. For he had gone away and he could never go back any more. Thegates were closed, the sun was gone down,and there was no beautybut the gray beauty of steel that withstands all time. Even thegrief he could have borne was left behind in the country ofillusion, of youth, of the richness of life, where his winterdreams had flourished.
“Long ago,” he said, “long ago, there wassomething in me, but now that thing is gone. Now that thing isgone, that thing is gone. I cannot cry. I cannot care. That thingwill come back no more.”
Dice, Brassknuckles & Guitar
International (May 1923)
Parts of New Jersey, asyou know, are under water, and otherparts are under continual surveillance by the authorities. But hereand there lie patches of garden country dotted with old-fashionedframe mansions, which have wide shady porches and a red swing onthe lawn. And perhaps, on the widest and shadiest of the porchesthere is even a hammock left over from the hammock days, stirringgently in a mid-Victorian wind.
When tourists come to such last-century landmarks they stoptheir cars and gaze for a while and then mutter: “Well, thankGod this age is joined on to something” or else they say:“Well, of course, that house is mostly halls and has athousand rats and one bathroom, but there’s an atmosphereabout it — ”
The tourist doesn’t stay long. He drives on to hisElizabethanvilla of pressed cardboard or his early Normanmeat-market or his medieval Italian pigeon-coop — becausethis is the twentieth century and Victorian houses are asunfashionable as the works of Mrs. Humphry Ward.
He can’t see the hammock from the road — butsometimes there’s a girl in the hammock. There was thisafternoon. She was asleep in it and apparently unaware of theesthetic horrors which surrounded her, the stone statue of Diana,for instance, which grinned idiotically under the sunlight on thelawn.
There was something enormously yellow about the whole scene— there was this sunlight, for instance, that was yellow, andthe hammock was of the particularly hideous yellow peculiar tohammocks, and the girl’s yellow hair was spread out upon thehammockin a sort of invidious comparison.
She slept with her lips closed and her hands clasped behind herhead, as it is proper for young girls to sleep. Her breast rose andfell slightly with no more emphasis than the sway of thehammock’s fringe.
Her name, Amanthis, was as old-fashioned as the house she livedin. I regret to say that her mid-Victorian connections ceasedabruptly at this point.
Now if this were a moving picture (as, of course, I hope it willsome day be) I would take as many thousand feet of heras I wasallowed — then I would move the camera up close and show theyellow down on the back of her neck where her hair stopped and thewarm color of her cheeks and arms, because I like to think of hersleeping there, as you yourself might have slept, back in youryoung days. Then I would hire a man named Israel Glucose to writesome idiotic line of transition, and switch thereby to anotherscene that was taking place at no particular spot far down theroad.
In a moving automobile sat a southern gentlemanaccompanied byhis body-servant. He was on his way, after a fashion, to New Yorkbut he was somewhat hampered by the fact that the upper and lowerportions of his automobile were no longer in exact juxtaposition.In fact from time to time the two riders would dismount, shove thebody on to the chassis, corner to corner, and then continue onward,vibrating slightly in involuntary unison with the motor.
Except that it had no door in back the car might have been builtearly in the mechanical age. It was covered with the mud of eightstates and adorned in front by an enormous but defunct motometerand behind by a mangy pennant bearing the legend “Tarleton,Ga.” In the dim past someone had begun to paint the hoodyellow but unfortunately had been called away whenbut half throughthe task.
As the gentleman and his body-servant were passing the housewhere Amanthis lay beautifully asleep in the hammock, somethinghappened — the body fell off the car. My only apology forstating this so suddenly is that it happenedvery suddenly indeed.When the noise had died down and the dust had drifted away masterand man arose and inspected the two halves.
“Look-a-there,” said the gentleman in disgust,“the doggone thing got all separated that time.”
“She bust in two,” agreed the body-servant.
“Hugo,” said the gentleman, after someconsideration, “we got to get a hammer an’ nailsan’tackit on.”
They glanced up at the Victorian house. On all sides faintlyirregular fields stretched away to a faintly irregular unpopulatedhorizon. There was no choice, so the black Hugo opened the gate andfollowed his master up a gravel walk, casting only the blaséglances of a confirmed traveler at the red swing and the stonestatue of Diana which turned on them a storm-crazed stare.
At the exactmoment when they reached the porch Amanthis awoke,sat up suddenly and looked them over.
The gentleman was young, perhaps twenty-four, and his name wasJim Powell. He was dressed in a tight and dusty readymade suitwhich was evidently expected to take flight at a moment’snotice, for it was secured to his body by a line of sixpreposterous buttons.
There were supernumerary buttons upon the coat-sleeves also andAmanthis could not resist a glance to determine whether or not morebuttons ran up the side of his trouser leg. But the trouser bottomswere distinguished only by their shape, which was that of a bell.His vest was cut low, barely restraining an amazing necktie fromfluttering in the wind.
He bowed formally, dusting his knees with a thatched straw hat.Simultaneously he smiled, half shutting his faded blue eyes anddisplaying white and beautifully symmetrical teeth.
“Good evenin’,” he said in abandoned Georgian.“My automobile has met with an accident out yonder by yourgate. I wondered if it wouldn’tbe too much to ask you if Icould have the use of a hammer and some tacks — nails, for alittle while.”
Amanthis laughed. For a moment she laughed uncontrollably. Mr.Jim Powell laughed, politely and appreciatively, with her. Hisbody-servant, deep in thethroes of colored adolescence, alonepreserved a dignified gravity.
“I better introduce who I am, maybe,” said thevisitor. “My name’s Powell. I’m a resident ofTarleton, Georgia. This here nigger’s my boy Hugo.”
“Yourson!“ The girl stared from one to the other inwild fascination.
“No, he’s my body-servant, I guess you’d callit. We call a nigger a boy down yonder.”
At this reference to the finer customs of his native soil theboy Hugo put his hands behind his back and looked darkly andsuperciliously down the lawn.
“Yas’m,” he muttered, “I’m abody-servant.”
“Where you going in your automobile,” demandedAmanthis.
“Goin’ north for the summer.”
The tourist waved his hand with a careless gesture as if toindicate the Adirondacks, the Thousand Islands, Newport — buthe said:
“We’re tryin’ New York.”
“Have you ever been there before?”
“Never have. But I been to Atlanta lots of times.An’ we passed through all kinds of cities this trip.Man!”
He whistled to express the enormous spectacularity of his recenttravels.
“Listen,” said Amanthis intently, “you betterhave something to eat. Tell your — your body-servant to go‘round in back and ask the cook to send us out somesandwiches and lemonade. Or maybe you don’t drink lemonade— very few people do any more.”
Mr. Powell by a circular motion of his finger sped Hugo on thedesignated mission. Then he seated himself gingerly in arocking-chair and began revolving his thatched straw hat rapidly inhis hands.
“You cer’nly are mighty kind,” he told her.“An’ if I wanted anything stronger than lemonade I gota bottle of good old corn out in the car. I brought it alongbecause I thought maybe I wouldn’t be able to drink thewhisky they got up here.”
“Listen,” she said, “my name’s Powelltoo. Amanthis Powell.”
“Say, is that right?” He laughed ecstatically.“Maybe we’re kin to each other. I come from mighty goodpeople,” he went on. “Pore though. I got some moneybecause my aunt she was using it to keep her in a sanitarium andshe died.” He paused, presumably outof respect to his lateaunt. Then he concluded with brisk nonchalance, “Iain’t touched the principal but I got a lot of the income allat once so I thought I’d come north for thesummer.”
At this point Hugo reappeared on the veranda steps and becameaudible.
“White lady back there she asked me don’t I want eatsome too. What I tell her?”
“You tell her yes mamm if she be so kind,” directedhis master. And as Hugo retired he confided to Amanthis:“That boy’s got no sense at all. He don’t want todo nothingwithout I tell him he can. I brought him up,” headded, not without pride.
When the sandwiches arrived Mr. Powell stood up. He wasunaccustomed to white servants and obviously expected anintroduction.
“Are you a married lady?” he inquired ofAmanthis,when the servant was gone.
“No,” she answered, and added from the security ofeighteen, “I’m an old maid.”
Again he laughed politely.
“You mean you’re a society girl.”
She shook her head. Mr. Powell noted with embarrassed enthusiasmthe particular yellowness of her yellow hair.
“Does this old place look like it?” she saidcheerfully. “No, you perceive in me a daughter of thecountryside. Color — one hundred percent spontaneous —in the daytime anyhow. Suitors — promising young barbers fromthe neighboringvillage with somebody’s late hair stillclinging to their coat-sleeves.”
“Your daddy oughtn’t to let you go with a countrybarber,” said the tourist disapprovingly. He considered— “You ought to be a New York society girl.”
“No.” Amanthis shook her head sadly.“I’m too good-looking. To be a New York society girlyou have to have a long nose and projecting teeth and dress likethe actresses did three years ago.”
Jim began to tap his foot rhythmically on the porch and in amoment Amanthis discovered that shewas unconsciously doing the samething.
“Stop!” she commanded, “Don’t make me dothat.”
He looked down at his foot.
“Excuse me,” he said humbly. “I don’tknow — it’s just something I do.”
This intense discussion was now interrupted by Hugo who appearedonthe steps bearing a hammer and a handful of nails.
Mr. Powell arose unwillingly and looked at his watch.
“We got to go, daggone it,” he said, frowningheavily. “See here. Wouldn’t youliketo be a New Yorksociety girl and go to those dances an’ all, likeyou readabout, where they throw gold pieces away?”
She looked at him with a curious expression.
“Don’t your folks know some society people?”he went on.
“All I’ve got’s my daddy — and, you see,he’s a judge.”
“That’s too bad,” he agreed.
She got herself by some means from the hammock and they wentdown toward the road, side by side.
“Well, I’ll keep my eyes open for you and let youknow,” he persisted. “A pretty girl like you ought togo around in society. We may be kin to each other, you see, and usPowells ought to stick together.”
“What are you going to do in New York?”
They were now almost at the gate and the tourist pointed to thetwo depressing sectors of his automobile.
“I’m goin’ to drive a taxi. This one righthere. Only it’s got so it busts in twoall thetime.”
“You’re going to drivethatin New York?”
Jim looked at her uncertainly. Such a pretty girl shouldcertainly control the habit of shaking all over upon no provocationat all.
“Yes mamm,” he said with dignity.
Amanthis watched while they placed the upper half of the carupon the lower half and nailed it severely into place. Then Mr.Powell took the wheel and his body-servant climbed in besidehim.
“I’m cer’nly very much obliged to you indeedfor your hospitality. Convey my respects to your father.”
“I will,” she assured him. “Come back and seeme, if you don’t mind barbers in the room.”
He dismissed this unpleasant thought with a gesture.
“Your company would always be charming.” He put thecar into gear as though to drown out the temerity of his partingspeech. “You’re the prettiest girl I’ve seen upnorth — by far.”
Then with a groan and a rattle Mr. Powell of southern Georgiawith his own car and his own body-servant and his own ambitions andhis own private cloud of dust continued on north for thesummer.
She thought she would never see him again. She lay in herhammock, slim and beautiful, opened her left eye slightly to seeJune come in and then closed it and retired contentedly back intoher dreams.
But one day when the midsummer vines hadclimbed the precarioussides of the red swing in the lawn, Mr. Jim Powell of Tarleton,Georgia, came vibrating back into her life. They sat on the wideporch as before.
“I’ve got a great scheme,” he told her.
“Did you drive your taxi like you said?”
“Yesmamm, but the business was right bad. I waited aroundin front of all those hotels and theaters an’ nobody ever gotin.”
“Well, one night there was some drunk fellas they got in,only just as I was gettin’ started my automobile came apart.And another night it was rainin’ and there wasn’t noother taxis and a lady got in because she said she had to go a longways. But before we got there she made me stop and she got out. Sheseemed kinda mad and she went walkin’ off in the rain. Mightyproud lot of people they got up in New York.”
“And so you’re going home?” asked Amanthissympathetically.
“Nomamm.I got an idea.” His blue eyes grew narrow.“Has that barber been around here — with hair on hissleeves?”
“No. He’s — he’s gone away.”
“Well, then, first thing is I want to leave this car ofmine here with you, if that’s all right. It ain’t theright color for a taxi. To pay for its keep I’d like to haveyou drive it just as much as you want. ‘Long as you got ahammer an’ nails with you there ain’t muchbad that canhappen — ”
“I’ll take care of it,” interrupted Amanthis,“but where areyougoing?”
“Southampton. It’s about the most aristocraticwatering trough — watering-place there is around here, sothat’s where I’m going.”
She sat up in amazement.
“What are you going to do there?”
“Listen.” He leaned toward her confidentially.“Were you serious about wanting to be a New York societygirl?”
“That’s all I wanted to know,” he saidinscrutably. “You just wait here on this porch a couple ofweeks and — and sleep. And if any barbers come to see youwith hair on their sleeves you tell ’em you’re toosleepy to see ’em.”
“Then you’ll hear from me. Just tell your old daddyhe can do all the judging he wants but you’re goin’ todosomedancin’.Mamm,” he continued decisively,“you talk about society! Before one month I’mgoin’ to have you in more society than you eversaw.”
Further than this he would say nothing. His manner conveyed thatshe was going to be suspended over a perfectpool of gaiety andviolently immersed, to an accompaniment of: “Is it gay enoughfor you, mamm? Shall I let in a little more excitement,mamm?”
“Well,” answered Amanthis, lazily considering,“there are few things for which I’d forego the luxuryof sleeping through July and August — but if you’llwrite me a letter I’ll — I’ll run up toSouthampton.”
Jim snapped his fingers ecstatically.
“More society,” he assured her with all theconfidence at his command, “than anybody ever saw.”
Three days later a young man wearing a straw hat that might havebeen cut from the thatched roof of an English cottage rang thedoorbell of the enormous and astounding Madison Harlan house atSouthampton. He asked the butler if there were any people in thehouse between the ages ofsixteen and twenty. He was informed thatMiss Genevieve Harlan and Mr. Ronald Harlan answered thatdescription and thereupon he handed in a most peculiar card andrequested in fetching Georgian that it be brought to theirattention.
As a result he was closeted for almost an hour with Mr. RonaldHarlan (who was a student at the Hillkiss School) and MissGenevieve Harlan (who was not uncelebrated at Southampton dances).When he left he bore a short note in Miss Harlan’shandwriting which he presented together with his peculiar card atthe next large estate. It happenedto be that of the CliftonGarneaus. Here, as if by magic, the same audience was grantedhim.
He went on — it was a hot day, and men who could notafford to do so were carrying their coats on the public highway,but Jim, a native of southernmost Georgia, was as fresh and cool atthe last house as at the first. He visited ten houses that day.Anyone following him in his course might have taken him to be somecuriously gifted book-agent with a muchsought-after volume as hisstock in trade.
There was something in his unexpected demand for the adolescentmembers of the family which made hardened butlers lose theircritical acumen. As he left each house a close observer might haveseen that fascinatedeyes followed him to the door and excitedvoices whispered something which hinted at a future meeting.
The second day he visited twelve houses. Southampton has grownenormously — he might have kept on his round for a week andnever seen the same butler twice — but it was only thepalatial, the amazing houses which intrigued him.
On the third day he did a thing that many people have been toldto do and few have done — he hired a hall. Perhaps thesixteen-to-twenty-year-old people in the enormous houses hadtoldhim to. The hall he hired had once been “Mr. Snorkey’sPrivate Gymnasium for Gentlemen.” It was situated over agarage on the south edge of Southampton and in the days of itsprosperity had been, I regret to say, a place where gentlemencould, under Mr. Snorkey’s direction, work off the effects ofthe night before. It was now abandoned — Mr. Snorkey hadgiven up and gone away and died.
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