Winter Dreams by
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 he crossed 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 this mood 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 pass that 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 club lost one ball a hole for him--
"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? You promised
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
"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 the
almost 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
Then to the nurse:
"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
Suddenly, involuntarily, he laughed, a short abrupt laugh--
then, startled by himself, he turned and began to walk quickly
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 giving a 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 out to 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
"You damn little mean old thing!" 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 in beating the nurse.
The situation was resolved by the fortuitous appearance of
the caddymaster, who was appealed to immediately by the nurse.
"Miss Jones is to have a little caddy, and this one says he
"Mr. McKenna said I was to wait here till you came," said
"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 like a dummy for? Go pick up the young lady's
"I don't think I'll go out to-day," said Dexter.
"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
the summer 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, Dexter was unconsciously dictated to
by his winter dreams.
NOW, OF COURSE, the quality and the seasonability of these winter
dreams varied, but the stuff of them remained. They persuaded
Dexter several years later to pass up a business course at the
State university--his father, prospering now, would have paid his
way--for the precarious advantage of attending an older and more
famous university in the East, where he was bothered by his
scanty funds. But do not get the impression, because his winter
dreams happened to be concerned at first with musings on the
rich, that there was anything merely snobbish in the boy. He
wanted not association with glittering things and glittering
people--he wanted the glittering things themselves. Often he
reached out for the best without knowing why he wanted it--and
sometimes he ran up against the mysterious denials and prohibitions
in which life indulges. It is with one of those
denials and not with his career as a whole that this story deals.
He made money. It was rather amazing. After college he
went to the city from which Black Bear Lake draws its wealthy
patrons. When he was only twenty-three and had been there not
quite two years, there were already people who liked to say:
"Now there's a boy--" All about him rich men's sons were peddling
bonds precariously, or investing patrimonies precariously, or
plodding through the two dozen volumes of the "George Washington
Commercial Course," but Dexter borrowed a thousand dollars on his
college degree and his confident mouth, and bought a partnership
in a laundry.
It was a small laundry when he went into it but Dexter made
a specialty of learning how the English washed fine woollen
golf-stockings without shrinking them, and within a year he was
catering to the trade that wore knickerbockers. Men were
insisting that their Shetland hose and sweaters go to his laundry
just as they had insisted on a caddy who could find golfballs. A
little later he was doing their wives' lingerie as well--and
running five branches in different parts of the city. Before he
was twenty-seven he owned the largest string of laundries in his
section of the country. It was then that he sold out and went to
New York. But the part of his story that concerns us goes back
to the days when he was making his first big success.
When he was twenty-three Mr. Hart--one of the gray-haired
men who like to say "Now there's a boy"--gave him a guest card to
the Sherry Island Golf Club for a week-end. So he signed his
name one day on the register, and that afternoon played golf in a
foursome with Mr. Hart and Mr. Sandwood and Mr. T. A. Hedrick.
He did not consider it necessary to remark that 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 of himself, that would
lessen the gap which lay between his present and his past.
It was a curious day, slashed abruptly with fleeting,
familiar impressions. One minute he had the sense of being a
trespasser--in the next he was impressed by the tremendous
superiority he felt toward Mr. T. A. Hedrick, who was a bore and
not even a good golfer any more.
Then, because of a ball Mr. Hart lost near the fifteenth
green, an enormous thing happened. While they were searching the
stiff grasses of the rough there was a clear call of "Fore!" from
behind a hill in their rear. And as they all turned abruptly
from their search a bright new ball sliced abruptly over the hill
and caught Mr. T. A. Hedrick in the abdomen.
"By Gad!" cried Mr. T. A. Hedrick, "they ought to put some
of these crazy women off the course. It's getting to be
A head and a voice came up together over the hill:
"Do you mind if we go through?"
"You hit me in the stomach!" declared Mr. Hedrick wildly.
"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 scanned
the fairway for her ball.
"Did I bounce into the rough?"
It was impossible to determine whether this question was
ingenuous 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 I hit
As she took her stance for a short mashie shot, Dexter
looked at her closely. She wore a blue gingham dress, rimmed at
throat and shoulders with a white edging that accentuated her
tan. The quality of exaggeration, of thinness, which had made
her passionate eyes and down-turning mouth absurd at eleven, was
gone now. She was arrestingly beautiful. The color in her
cheeks was centered like the color in a picture--it was not a
"high" color, but a sort of fluctuating and feverish warmth, so
shaded that it seemed at any moment it would recede and
disappear. This color and the mobility of her mouth gave a
continual impression of flux, of intense life, of passionate
vitality--balanced only partially by the sad luxury of her eyes.
She swung her mashie impatiently and without interest,
pitching the ball into a sand-pit on the other side of the green.
With a quick, insincere smile and a careless "Thank you!" she
went on after it.
"That Judy Jones!" remarked Mr. Hedrick on the next tee, as
they waited--some moments--for her to play on ahead. "All she
needs is to be turned up and spanked for six months and then to
be married off to an oldfashioned cavalry captain."
"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! Turning those big
cow-eyes on every calf in town!"
It was doubtful if Mr. Hedrick intended a reference to the
"She'd play pretty good golf if she'd try," said Mr.
"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 swifter ball,"
said Mr. Hart, winking at Dexter.
Later in the afternoon the sun went down with a riotous
swirl of gold and varying blues and scarlets, and left the dry,
rustling night of Western summer. Dexter watched from the
veranda of the Golf Club, watched the even overlap of the waters
in the little wind, silver molasses under the harvest-moon. Then
the moon held a finger to her lips and the lake became a clear
pool, pale and quiet. Dexter put on his bathing-suit and swam
out to the farthest raft, where he stretched dripping on the wet
canvas of the springboard.
There was a fish jumping and a star shining and the lights
around the lake were gleaming. Over on a dark peninsula a piano
was playing the songs of last summer and of summers before that--
songs from "Chin-Chin" and "The Count of Luxemburg" and "The
Chocolate Soldier"--and because the sound of a piano over a
stretch of water had always seemed beautiful to Dexter he lay
perfectly quiet and listened.
The tune the piano was playing at that moment had been gay
and new five years before when Dexter was a sophomore at college.
They had played it at a prom once when he could not afford the
luxury of proms, and he had stood outside the gymnasium and
listened. The sound of the tune precipitated in him a sort of
ecstasy and it was with that ecstasy he viewed what happened to
him now. It was a mood of intense appreciation, a sense that,
for once, he was magnificently attune to life and that everything
about him was radiating a brightness and a glamour he might never
A low, pale oblong detached itself suddenly from the
darkness of the Island, spitting forth the reverberate sound of a
racing motor-boat. Two white streamers of cleft water rolled
themselves out 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 standing at the wheel, of two dark eyes regarding him over
the lengthening space of water--then the boat had gone by and was
sweeping in an immense and purposeless circle of spray round and
round in the middle of the lake. With equal eccentricity one of
the circles flattened out and headed back toward the raft.
"Who's that?" she called, shutting off her motor. 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
tilted rakishly he was precipitated toward her. With different
degrees of interest they recognized each other.
"Aren't you one of those men we played through this
afternoon?" she demanded.
"Well, do you know how to drive a motor-boat? Because if you
do I wish you'd drive this one so I can ride on the surf-board
behind. My name is Judy Jones"--she favored him with an absurd
smirk--rather, what tried to be a smirk, for, twist her mouth as
she might, it was not grotesque, it was merely beautiful--"and I
live in a house over there on the Island, and in that house there
is a man waiting for me. When he drove up at the door I drove
out of the dock because he says I'm his ideal."
There was a fish jumping and a star shining and the lights
around the lake were gleaming. Dexter sat beside Judy Jones and
she explained how her boat was driven. Then she was in the
water, swimming to the floating surfboard with a sinuous crawl.
Watching her was without effort to the eye, watching a branch
waving or a sea-gull flying. Her arms, burned to butternut,
moved sinuously among the dull platinum ripples, elbow appearing
first, casting the forearm back with a cadence of falling water,
then reaching out and down, stabbing a path ahead.
They moved out into the lake; turning, Dexter saw that she
was kneeling on the low rear of the now uptilted surf-board.
"Go faster," she called, "fast as it'll go."
Obediently he jammed the lever forward and the white spray
mounted at the bow. When he looked around again the girl was
standing up on the rushing board, her arms spread wide, her eyes
lifted 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-morrow night?"
His heart turned over like the fly-wheel of the boat, and,
for the second time, her casual whim gave a new direction to his
NEXT EVENING while he waited for her to come down-stairs, Dexter
peopled the soft deep summer room and the sun-porch that opened
from it with the men who had already loved Judy Jones. He knew
the sort of men they were--the men who when he first went to
college had entered from the great prep schools with graceful
clothes and the deep tan of healthy summers. He had seen that,
in one sense, he was better than these men. He was newer and
stronger. Yet in acknowledging to himself that he wished his
children to be like them he was admitting that he was but the
rough, strong stuff from which they eternally sprang.
When the time had come for him to wear good clothes, he had
known who were the best tailors in America, and the best tailors
in America had made him the suit he wore this evening. He had
acquired that particular reserve peculiar to his university, that
set it off from other universities. He recognized the value to
him of such a mannerism and he had adopted it; he knew that to be
careless in dress and manner required more confidence than to be
careful. But carelessness was for his children. His mother's
name had been Krimslich. She was a Bohemian of the peasant class
and she had talked broken English to the end of her days. Her
son must keep to the set patterns.
At a little after seven Judy Jones came down-stairs. She
wore a blue silk afternoon dress, and he was disappointed at
first that she had not put on something more elaborate. This
feeling was accentuated when, after a brief greeting, she went to
the door of a butler's pantry and pushing it open called: "You
can serve dinner, Martha." He had rather expected that a butler
would announce dinner, that there would be a cocktail. Then he
put these thoughts behind him as they sat down side by side on a
lounge and looked at each other.
"Father and mother won't be here," she said thoughtfully.
He remembered the last time he had seen her father, and he
was glad the parents were not to be here to-night--they might
wonder who he was. He had been born in Keeble, a Minnesota
village fifty miles farther north, and he always gave Keeble as
his home instead of Black Bear Village. Country towns were well
enough to come from if they weren't inconveniently in sight and
used as footstools by fashionable lakes.
They talked of his university, which she had visited
frequently during the past two years, and of the near-by city
which supplied Sherry Island with its patrons, and whither Dexter
would return next day to his prospering laundries.
During dinner she slipped into a moody depression which gave
Dexter a feeling of uneasiness. Whatever petulance she uttered
in her throaty voice worried him. Whatever she smiled at--at
him, at a chicken liver, at nothing--it disturbed him that her
smile could have no root in mirth, or even in amusement. When
the scarlet corners of her lips curved down, it was less a smile
than an invitation to a kiss.
Then, after dinner, she led him out on the dark sun-porch
and deliberately changed the atmosphere.
"Do you mind if I weep a little?" she said.
"I'm afraid I'm boring you," he responded quickly.
"You're not. I like you. But I've just had a terrible
afternoon. There was a man I cared about, and this afternoon he
told me out of a clear sky that he was poor as a church-mouse.
He'd never even hinted it before. Does this sound horribly
"Perhaps he was afraid to tell you."
"Suppose he was," she answered. "He didn't start right.
You see, if I'd thought of him as poor--well, I've been mad about
loads of poor men, and fully intended to marry them all. But in
this case, I hadn't thought of him that way, and my interest in
him wasn't strong enough to survive the shock. As if a girl
calmly informed her fianc_ that she was a widow. He might not
object to widows, but----
"Let's start right," she interrupted herself suddenly. "Who
are you, anyhow?"
For a moment Dexter hesitated. Then:
"I'm nobody," he announced. "My career is largely a matter
"Are you poor?"
"No," he said frankly, "I'm probably making more money than
any man my age in the Northwest. I know that's an obnoxious
remark, but you advised me to start right."
There was a pause. Then she smiled and the corners of her
mouth drooped and an almost imperceptible sway brought her closer
to him, looking up into his eyes. A lump rose in Dexter's
throat, and he waited breathless for the experiment, facing the
unpredictable compound that would form mysteriously from the
elements of their lips. Then he saw--she communicated her
excitement to him, lavishly, deeply, with kisses that were not a
promise but a fulfillment. They aroused in him not hunger
demanding renewal but surfeit that would demand more surfeit
. . . kisses that were like charity, creating want by holding
back nothing at all.
It did not take him many hours to decide that he had wanted
Judy Jones ever since he was a proud, desirous little boy.
IT BEGAN like that--and continued, with varying shades of
intensity, on such a note right up to the d_nouement. Dexter
surrendered a part of himself to the most direct and unprincipled
personality with which he had ever come in contact. Whatever
Judy wanted, she went after with the full pressure of her charm.
There was no divergence of method, no jockeying for position or
premeditation of effects--there was a very little mental side to
any of her affairs. She simply made men conscious to the highest
degree of her physical loveliness. Dexter had no desire to
change her. Her deficiencies were knit up with a passionate
energy that transcended and justified them.
When, as Judy's head lay against his shoulder that first
night, she whispered, "I don't know what's the matter with me.
Last night I thought I was in love with a man and to-night I
think I'm in love with you----"--it seemed to him a beautiful and
romantic thing to say. It was the exquisite excitability that
for the moment he controlled and owned. But a week later he was
compelled to view this same quality in a different light. She
took him in her roadster to a picnic supper, and after supper she
disappeared, likewise in her roadster, with another man. Dexter
became enormously upset and was scarcely able to be decently
civil to the other people present. When she assured him 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 to him.
He was, as he found before the summer ended, one of a
varying dozen who circulated about her. Each of them had at one
time been favored above all others--about half of them still
basked in the solace of occasional sentimental revivals.
Whenever one showed signs of dropping out through long neglect,
she granted him a brief honeyed hour, which encouraged him to tag
along for a year or so longer. Judy made these forays upon the
helpless and defeated without malice, indeed half unconscious
that there was anything mischievous in what she did.
When a new man came to town every one dropped out--dates
were automatically cancelled.
The helpless part of trying to do anything about it was that
she did it all herself. She was not a girl who could be "won" in
the kinetic sense--she was proof against cleverness, she was
proof against charm; if any of these assailed her too strongly
she would immediately resolve the affair to a physical basis, and
under the magic of her physical splendor the strong as well as
the brilliant played her game and not their own. She was
entertained only by the gratification of her desires and by the
direct exercise of her own charm. Perhaps from so much youthful
love, so many youthful lovers, she had come, in self-defense, to
nourish herself wholly from within.
Succeeding Dexter's first exhilaration came restlessness and
dissatisfaction. The helpless ecstasy of losing himself in her
was opiate rather than tonic. It was fortunate for his work
during the winter that those moments of ecstasy came
infrequently. Early in their acquaintance it had seemed for a
while that there was a deep and spontaneous mutual attraction
that first August, for example--three days of long evenings on
her dusky veranda, of strange wan kisses through the late
afternoon, in shadowy alcoves or behind the protecting trellises
of the garden arbors, of mornings when she was fresh as a dream
and almost shy at meeting him in the clarity of the rising day.
There was all the ecstasy of an engagement about it, sharpened by
his realization that 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," she
said "I'd like to marry you," she said "I love you"--she said--
The three days were interrupted by the arrival of a New York
man who visited at her house for half September. To Dexter's
agony, rumor engaged them. The man was the son of the president
of a great trust company. But at the end of a month it was
reported that Judy was yawning. At a dance one night she sat all
evening in a motor-boat with a local beau, while the New Yorker
searched the club for her frantically. She told the local beau
that she was bored with her visitor, and two days later he left.
She was seen with him at the station, and it was reported that he
looked very mournful indeed.
On this note the summer ended. Dexter was twenty-four, and
he found himself increasingly in a position to do as he wished.
He joined two clubs in the city and lived at one of them. Though
he was 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 to appear. He could have gone out socially as much as he
liked--he was an eligible young man, now, and popular with
down-town fathers. His confessed devotion to Judy Jones had
rather solidified his position. But he had no social aspirations
and rather despised the dancing men who were always on tap for
the Thursday or Saturday parties and who filled in at dinners
with the younger married set. Already he was playing with the
idea of going East to New York. He wanted to take Judy Jones
with him. No disillusion as to the world in which she had grown
up could cure his illusion as to her desirability.
Remember that--for only in the light of it can what he did
for her be understood.
Eighteen months after he first met Judy Jones he became
engaged to another girl. Her name was Irene Scheerer, and her
father was one of the men who had always believed in Dexter.
Irene was light-haired and sweet and honorable, and a little
stout, and she had two suitors whom she pleasantly relinquished
when Dexter formally asked her to marry him.
Summer, fall, winter, spring, another summer, another fall--
so much he had given of his active life to the incorrigible lips
of Judy Jones. She had treated him with interest, with
encouragement, with malice, with indifference, with contempt.
She had inflicted on him the innumerable little slights and
indignities possible in such a case--as if in revenge for having
ever cared for him at all. She had beckoned him and yawned at
him and beckoned him again and he had responded often with
bitterness and narrowed eyes. She had brought him ecstatic
happiness and intolerable agony of spirit. She had caused him
untold inconvenience and not a little trouble. She had insulted
him, and she had ridden over him, and she had played his interest
in her against his interest in his work--for fun. She had done
everything to him except to criticise him--this she had not done--
it seemed to him only because it might have sullied the utter
indifference she manifested and sincerely felt toward him.
When autumn had come and gone again it occurred to him that
he could not have Judy Jones. He had to beat this into his mind
but he convinced himself at last. He lay awake at night for a
while and argued it over. He told himself the trouble and the
pain she had caused him, he enumerated her glaring deficiencies
as a wife. Then he said to himself that he loved her, and after
a while he fell asleep. For a week, lest he imagined her husky
voice over the telephone or her eyes opposite him at lunch, he
worked hard and late, and at night he went to his office and
plotted out his years.
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 to sit out with him or tell her that she was lovely. It
hurt him that she did not miss these things--that was all. He
was not jealous when he saw that there was a new man to-night.
He had been hardened against jealousy long before.
He stayed late at the dance. He sat for an hour with Irene
Scheerer and talked about books and about music. He knew very
little about either. But he was beginning to be master of his
own time now, and he had a rather priggish notion that he--the
young and already fabulously successful Dexter Green--should know
more about such things.
That was in October, when he was twenty-five. In January,
Dexter and Irene became engaged. It was to be announced in June,
and they were to be married three months later.
The Minnesota winter prolonged itself interminably, and it
was almost May when the winds came soft and the snow ran down
into Black Bear Lake at last. For the first time in over a year
Dexter was enjoying a certain tranquility of spirit. Judy Jones
had been in Florida, and afterward in Hot Springs, and somewhere
she had been engaged, and somewhere she had broken it off. At
first, when Dexter had definitely given her up, it had made him
sad that people still linked them together and asked for news of
her, but when he began to be placed at dinner next to Irene
Scheerer people didn't ask him about her any more--they told him
about her. He ceased to be an authority on her.
May at last. Dexter walked the streets at night when the
darkness was damp as rain, wondering that so soon, with so little
done, so much of ecstasy had gone from him. May one year back
had been marked by Judy's poignant, unforgivable, yet forgiven
turbulence--it had been one of those rare times when he fancied
she had grown to care for him. That old penny's worth of
happiness he had spent for this bushel of content. He knew that
Irene would be no more than a curtain spread behind him, a hand
moving among gleaming tea-cups, a voice calling to children . . .
fire and loveliness were gone, the magic of nights and the wonder
of 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 to die lightly.
In the middle of May when the weather balanced for a few
days on the thin bridge that led to deep summer he turned in one
night at Irene's house. Their engagement was to be announced in
a week now--no one would be surprised at it. And to-night they
would sit together on the lounge at the University Club and look
on for an hour at the dancers. It gave him a sense of solidity
to go with her--she was so sturdily popular, so intensely
He mounted the steps of the brownstone house and stepped
"Irene," he called.
Mrs. Scheerer came out of the living-room to meet him.
"Dexter," she said, "Irene's gone up-stairs with a splitting
headache. She wanted to go with you but I made her go to bed."
"Nothing serious, I----"
"Oh, no. She's going to play golf with you in the morning.
You can spare her for just one night, can't you, Dexter?"
Her smile was kind. She and Dexter liked each other. In
the living-room he talked for a moment before he said good-night.
Returning to the University Club, where he had rooms, he
stood in the doorway for a moment and watched the dancers. He
leaned against the door-post, nodded at a man or two--yawned.
The familiar voice at his elbow startled him. Judy Jones
had left a man and crossed the room to him--Judy Jones, a slender
enamelled doll in cloth of gold: gold in a band at her head, gold
in two slipper points at her dress's hem. The fragile glow of
her face seemed to blossom as she smiled at him. A breeze of
warmth and light blew through the room. His hands in the pockets
of his dinner-jacket tightened spasmodically. He was filled with
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--he could
have wept at the wonder of her return. She had passed through
enchanted streets, doing things that were like provocative music.
All mysterious happenings, all fresh and quickening hopes, had
gone away with her, come back with her now.
She turned in the doorway.
"Have you a car here? If you haven't, I have."
"I have a coup_."
In then, with a rustle of golden cloth. He slammed the
door. Into so many cars she had stepped--like this--like that--
her back against the leather, so--her elbow resting on the door--
waiting. She would have been soiled long since had there been
anything to soil her--except herself--but this was her own self
With an effort he forced himself to start the car and back
into the street. This was nothing, he must remember. She had
done this before, and he had put her behind him, as he would have
crossed a bad account from his books.
He drove slowly down-town and, affecting abstraction,
traversed the deserted streets of the business section, peopled
here and there where a movie was giving out its crowd or where
consumptive or pugilistic youth lounged in front of pool halls.
The clink of glasses 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 word
with which to profane the hour. At a convenient turning he began
to zigzag back toward the University Club.
"Have you missed me?" she asked suddenly.
"Everybody missed you."
He wondered if she knew of Irene Scheerer. She had been
back only a day--her absence had been almost contemporaneous with
"What a remark!" Judy laughed sadly--without sadness. She
looked at him searchingly. He became absorbed in the dashboard.
"You're handsomer than you used to be," she said
thoughtfully. "Dexter, you have the most rememberable eyes."
He could have laughed at this, but he did not laugh. It was
the sort of thing that was said to sophomores. Yet it stabbed at
"I'm awfully tired of everything, darling." She called every
one darling, endowing the endearment with careless, individual
comraderie. "I wish you'd marry me."
The directness of this confused him. He should have told
her now that he was going to marry another girl, but he could not
tell her. He could as easily have sworn that he had never loved
"I think we'd get along," she continued, on the same note,
"unless probably you've forgotten me and fallen in love with
Her confidence was obviously enormous. She had said, in
effect, that she found such a thing impossible to believe, that
if it were true he had merely committed a childish indiscretion--
and probably to show off. She would forgive him, because it was
not a matter of any moment but rather something to be brushed
"Of course you could never love anybody but me," she
continued. "I like the way you love me. Oh, Dexter, have you
forgotten last year?"
"No, I haven't forgotten."
"Neither have I! "
Was she sincerely moved--or was she carried along by the
wave of her own acting?
"I wish we could be like that again," she said, and he
forced himself to answer:
"I don't think we can."
"I suppose not. . . . I hear you're giving Irene Scheerer a
There was not the faintest emphasis on the name, yet Dexter
was suddenly ashamed.
"Oh, take me home," cried Judy suddenly; "I don't want to go
back to that idiotic dance--with those children."
Then, as he turned up the street that led to the residence
district, Judy began to cry quietly to herself. He had never
seen her cry before.
The dark street lightened, the dwellings of the rich loomed
up around them, he stopped his coup_ in front of the great white
bulk of the Mortimer Joneses house, somnolent, gorgeous, drenched
with the splendor of the damp moonlight. Its solidity startled
him. The strong walls, the steel of the girders, the breadth and
beam and pomp of it were there only to bring out the contrast
with the young beauty beside him. It was sturdy to accentuate
her slightness--as if to show what a breeze could be generated by
a butterfly's wing.
He sat perfectly quiet, his nerves in wild clamor, afraid
that if he moved he would find her irresistibly in his arms. Two
tears had rolled down her wet face and trembled on her upper lip.
"I'm more beautiful than anybody else," she said brokenly,
"why can't I be happy?" Her moist eyes tore at his stability--her
mouth turned slowly downward with an exquisite sadness: "I'd like
to marry you if you'll have me, Dexter. I suppose you think I'm
not worth having, but I'll be so beautiful for you, Dexter."
A million phrases of anger, pride, passion, hatred,
tenderness fought 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, his beautiful, his pride.
"Won't you come in?" He heard her draw in her breath
"All right," his voice was trembling, "I'll come in.
IT WAS STRANGE that neither when it was over nor a long time
afterward did he regret that night. Looking at it from the
perspective of ten years, the fact that Judy's flare for him
endured just one month seemed of little importance. Nor did it
matter that by his yielding he subjected himself to a deeper
agony in the end and gave serious hurt to Irene Scheerer and to
Irene's parents, who had befriended him. There was nothing
sufficiently pictorial about Irene's grief to stamp itself on his
Dexter was at bottom hard-minded. The attitude of the city
on his action was of no importance to him, not because he was
going to leave the city, but because any outside attitude on the
situation seemed superficial. He was completely indifferent to
popular opinion. Nor, when he had seen that it was no use, that
he did not possess in himself the power to move fundamentally or
to hold Judy Jones, did he bear any malice toward her. He loved
her, and he would love her until the day he was too old for
loving--but he could not have her. So he tasted the deep pain
that is reserved only for the strong, just as he had tasted for a
little while the deep happiness.
Even the ultimate falsity of the grounds upon which Judy
terminated the engagement that she did not want to "take him
away" from Irene--Judy, who had wanted nothing else--did not
revolt him. He was beyond any revulsion or any amusement.
He went East in February with the intention of selling out
his laundries and settling in New York--but the war came to
America in March and changed his plans. He returned to the West,
handed over the management of the business to his partner, and
went into the first officers' training-camp in late April. He
was one of those young thousands who greeted the war with a
certain amount of relief, welcoming the liberation from webs of
THIS STORY is not his biography, remember, although things
creep into it which have nothing to do with those dreams he had
when he was young. We are almost done with them and with him
now. There is only one more incident to be related here, and it
happens seven years farther on.
It took place in New York, where he had done well--so well
that there were no barriers too high for him. He was thirty-two
years old, and, except for one flying trip immediately after the
war, he had not been West in seven years. A man named Devlin
from Detroit came into his office to see him in a business way,
and then and there this incident occurred, and closed out, so to
speak, this particular side of his life.
"So you're from the Middle West," said the man Devlin with
careless curiosity. "That's funny--I thought men like you were
probably born and raised on Wall Street. You know--wife of one
of my best friends in Detroit came from your city. I was an
usher at the wedding."
Dexter waited with no apprehension of what was coming.
"Judy Simms," said Devlin with no particular interest; "Judy
Jones she was once."
"Yes, I knew her." A dull impatience spread over him. He had
heard, of course, that she was married--perhaps deliberately
he had heard no more.
"Awfully nice girl," brooded Devlin meaninglessly, "I'm sort
of sorry for her."
"Why?" Something in Dexter was alert, receptive, at once.
"Oh, Lud Simms has gone to pieces in a way. I don't mean 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," said Devlin.
"Too old!" cried Dexter. "Why, man, she's only
He was possessed with a wild notion of rushing out into the
streets and taking a train to Detroit. He rose to his feet
"I guess you're busy," Devlin apologized quickly. "I didn't
"No, I'm not busy," said Dexter, steadying his voice. "I'm
not busy at all. Not busy at all. Did you say she was--
twenty-seven? No, I said she was twenty-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 get divorced or
anything. When he's particularly outrageous she forgives him.
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, any more?"
"Oh, she's all right."
"Look here," said Dexter, sitting down suddenly, "I don't
understand. You say she was a 'pretty girl' and now you say
she's 'all right.' I don't understand what you mean--Judy Jones
wasn't a pretty girl, at all. She was a great beauty. Why, I
knew 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. I can't understand how a man like Lud
Simms could fall madly in love with her, but he did." Then he
added: "Most of the women like her."
Dexter looked closely at Devlin, thinking wildly that there
must be a reason for this, some insensitivity in the man or some
"Lots of women fade just like that," Devlin snapped his
fingers. "You must have seen it happen. Perhaps I've forgotten
how pretty she was at her wedding. I've seen her so much since
then, you see. She has nice eyes."
A sort of dulness settled down upon Dexter. For the first
time in his life he felt like getting very drunk. He knew that
he was laughing loudly at something Devlin had said, but he did
not know what it was or why it was funny. When, in a few
minutes, Devlin went he lay down on his lounge and looked out the
window at the New York sky-line into which the sun was sinking in
dull lovely shades of pink and gold.
He had thought that having nothing else to lose he was
invulnerable at last--but he knew that he had just lost something
more, as surely as if he had married Judy Jones and seen her fade
away before his eyes.
The dream was gone. Something had been taken from him. In
a sort of panic he pushed the palms of his hands into his eyes
and tried to bring up a picture of the waters lapping on Sherry
Island and the moonlit veranda, and gingham on the golf-links and
the dry sun and the gold color of her neck's soft down. And her
mouth damp to his kisses and her eyes plaintive with melancholy
and her freshness like new fine linen in the morning. Why, these
things were no longer in the world! They had existed and they
existed no longer.
For the first time in years the tears were streaming down
his face. But they were for himself now. He did not care about
mouth and eyes and moving hands. He wanted to care, and he could
not care. For he had gone away and he could never go back any
more. The gates were closed, the sun was gone down, and there
was no beauty but the gray beauty of steel that withstands all
time. Even the grief he could have borne was left behind in the
country of illusion, of youth, of the richness of life, where his
winter dreams had flourished.
"Long ago," he said, "long ago, there was something in me,
but now that thing is gone. Now that thing is gone, that thing
is gone. I cannot cry. I cannot care. That thing will come
back no more."