The Gorgeous Girl
by Nalbro Bartley
THE GORGEOUS GIRL
[Illustration: He was very diplomatic in his undertaking"]
Garden CityNew York Doubleday, Page &Company 1920
Copyright, 1920, By Doubleday, Page &Company All Rights Reserved,
Including That of Translation into Foreign Languages, Including the
Copyright, 1919, 1920, by The Curtis Publishing Company
Before long two bank accounts will beat as one, Trudy said to Mary
Faithful. Tra-la-la-la-la, humming the wedding march while the office
force of the O'Valley Leather Company listened with expressions ranging
from grins to frowns.
Sh-h-h! Mr. O'Valley has just opened his door. As she was private
secretary and general guardian to Steve O'Valley, president of the
concern, Miss Faithful's word usually had a decisive effect.
But Trudy was irrepressible. Besides boarding at the Faithful home
and thus enjoying a certain intimacy with Mary, she was one of those
young persons who holds a position merely as a means to an endthe
sort who dresses to impress everyone, from the president of the concern
if he is in the matrimonial or romantic market to the elevator boy if
said elevator boy happens to have a bank account capable of taking one
to all the musical shows and to supper afterward. Having been by turns
a milliner's apprentice, assistant in a beauty parlour, and cashier in
a business men's restaurant, Truletta Burrows had acquired a certain
chicness enabling her to twist a remnant of chiffon or straw into a
creation and wear it in impressive contrast with her baby-blue eyes and
Titian-red hair. In the majority of cases where a girl has neither
family nor finances she must seek a business situation in order to win
a husband. Trudy went after her game in no hesitating manner.
She had no intention of becoming one of the multitude of commercial
nuns who inhabit the United States of America this dayquiet women
with quick eyes, a trifle cold or pensive if analyzed, severely combed
hair, trim tailor suits and mannish blouses with dazzling neckties as
their bit of vanitythe type that often shoulders half the
responsibility of the firm. Whether achieving a private office and a
nervous stenographer who is disappointed at having a lady boss is to be
preferred to a house-and-garden career is, like all vital issues, a
question for debate.
Neither did Trudy propose to shrivel into a timid, slave-like type
of person kept on the pay roll from pity or by reason of the fact that
initiating a novice would be troublesome. Such a one was Miss Nellie
Lunk, who sat in a corner of the hall making out requisition slips and
taking care of unwelcome visitorsa pathetic figure with faded eyes
and scraggly hair, always keeping a posy on her old-style desk and
crocheting whenever there was a lull in work. Thirty years in business
was Miss Lunk's record, twenty-five in Mark Constantine's office and
five in the employ of Mr. O'Valley, that lovable, piratical Irishman
who achieved his success by being a brilliant opportunist and who, it
would seem, ran a shoestring into a fortune by a wink of his blue eyes.
Trudy knew that Miss Lunk lived alonethe third story back, where
she cooked most of her meals, while a forlorn canary cheeped a welcome.
She possessed a little talking machine with sentimental records, and on
Sundays she went to a cafeteria for a good, hearty meal unless cousins
asked her to their establishment. Some day Miss Lunk would find herself
in a home with other no longer useful old people and here she would
stay with her few keepsakes, of which the world knew nothing and cared
less, the cousins dropping in at intervals to impress upon her how
carefree and fortunate she was!
In conclusion Trudy had decided not to accept the third choice of
the modern business woman, which, she decided, was Mary Faithful's
fateto give your heart to a man who never had thought of you and
never would think of you as other than a reliable and agreeable
machine; as someoneshould Florida and a certain Gorgeous Girl named
Beatrice Constantine beckonwho would say:
Yes, Mr. O'Valley, I understand what to do. I arranged the New
Haven sale this morning. You were at the jewellery store to see about
Miss Constantine's ring. So I long-distanced Martin &Newman and put it
through. If the ring is sent in your absence I know what you have
ordered and can return it if it does not comply with
instructionsplatinum set with diamonds, three large stones of a carat
each and the twenty smaller stones surrounding them. And a king's-blue
velvet case with her initials in platinum. And you want me to discharge
Dundee and divide up his work. Yes, I gave the janitor the gold piece
for finding your pet cane. I'll wire you every day.
And Steve O'Valley had swung jauntily out of the office, secure in
his secretary's ability to meet any crisis, to have to work alone in
the almost garish office apparently quite content that she was not
going to Florida, too. Trudy's imagination pictured there a someone
petulant, spoiled, and altogether irresistible in the laciest of white
frocks and a leghorn hat with pink streamers, at whose feet Steve
O'Valley offered some surprise gift worth months of Mary Faithful's
salary while he said: I ran away from work to play with you, Gorgeous
Girl! See how you demoralize me? Even your father frowned when I said I
was coming. How are you, darling? I don't give a hang if I make poor
Miss Faithful run the shop for a year as long as you want me to play
Having the advantage of studying Mary Faithful's position both from
the business and family aspects Trudy had long ago decided that she was
not going to be like her. In no way did she envy Mary's position.
Since her dreamer of a father had died and left dependent upon her
her four-year-old brother and a mother whose chief concern in life was
to have the smartest-looking window curtains in the neighbourhood, Mary
went to work at thirteen with a remnant of an education. Possessions
spelled happiness to Mrs. Faithful; poetical dreams had been Mr.
Faithful's chief concern, and as an unexpected consequence their first
child had been endowed with common sense. With Mary at the wheel there
had been just enough to get along with, so they stayed on in the
old-fashioned house while Mrs. Faithful bewailed Mary's having to work
for a living and not be a lady, as she could have been if her father
had had any judgment.
Mrs. Faithful had become quite happy in her martyrdom as she was
still able to maintain the starched window curtains. After a
conventional period of mourning she began to relive the past, her
husband's mistakes, her own girlhood and offers of marriagesuch
incidents as these sufficed to keep her from enjoying the present,
while Mary rose from errand girl to grocery clerk, with night school as
a recreation, from grocery clerk to filing clerk, assistant bookkeeper,
bookkeeper, stenographer, and finally private secretary to Steve
O'Valley, one of the war-fortune kings. And she had given her heart to
him in the same loyal way she had always given her services.
At home Trudy noted that Mary worked round the house because she
liked the change from office routine, deaf to the complaining maternal
voice reciting past glories in which Mary had no part. If the parlour
furniture with its tidies and a Rogers group in the front window
sometimes got on her nerves she forced herself to laugh over it and
say: It's mother's house, and all she has. She concerned herself far
more with Luke, an active, fair-to-middling American boy somewhat
inclined to be spoiled. Mary had taken Luke into the office after
school hours to keep a weather eye on him and make him contribute a
stipend to the expenses.
If a man won't work he should not eat, she informed him as she
proportioned his wage.
Recalling Mary's position at homethough Trudy rejoiced in her own
front room and the comforts of the householdshe shrugged her
shoulders in disapproval. Certainly she could never endure the same lot
in life. For if one man will not love you why waste time bewailing the
fact? Find another. Mary could have had other suitors. Mr. Tompkins,
the city salesman, and young Elias, of Elias &Son, had both made brave
attempts to plead their cause, only to be treated in the same firm
manner that Luke was treated when he hinted of making off to sea.
She'll spend her life loving Steve O'Valley and slaving for him,
Trudy had confided to her dozen intimate friends, who never repeated
anything told them. And he will spend his life being trampled on by
Beatrice Constantine, and after they are married she will be meaner
than ever to him. But he will love her all the more. Honest, business
men make the grandest husbands! College professors are lots harder to
get along withbut business men are as cross as two sticks in their
offices and at home they're so sweet it would melt pig iron.
The first plank in Trudy's platform was to marry a business man as
nearly like Steve O'Valley as possible. The second waswhether or not
she had a stunning home with brick fireplacesnever to spend her days
hanging round them. Her most envied friend lived in New York, and her
life was just one roof garden after another. She had everything heart
could desireOriental rugs, a grandfather's clock, a mechanical piano,
bird-of-paradise sprays for her hat, a sealskin ulster, and plenty of
alimony. And in case said business man proved unsatisfactory Trudy had
resolved to exchange him for unlimited legal support at the earliest
But she would not trespass upon Mary's platform, which consisted of
loving Steve O'Valley yet knowing of his love for the Gorgeous Girl, as
Mark Constantine had named his daughter. And of course Mary must have
realized that though she might earn three thousand a year as private
secretary she would eternally lock her desk at six o'clock and trudge
home to her mother and the starched window curtains, watch Luke fall in
love and scorn her advice, wash her hemstitched ruffles and black her
boots, and keep her secret as she grew older and plainer of face!
Trudy often tried to decide just how handsome and how plain Mary
was; it was a matter for argument because the expression of Mary
Faithful's eyes largely determined her charm. She was a sober young
person with thick braids of brown hair and surprising niceties of
dress, sensible shoes, a frill of real lace on her serge dress, no hint
of perfume, no attempt at wearing party attire for business as the rest
of the staff not only attempted but unfortunately achieved. She had
honest gray eyes, the prophecy of true greatness in her face with its
flexible mouth and prominent cheek bones, the sort of woman who would
be the mother of great men, tall and angular in build and walking with
an athletic stride offset by a feminine cry-baby chin and the usual
mediocre allotment of freckles on the usual mediocre nose! Mary
Faithful was not pretty; she was a good-looking thing, Trudy would
usually conclude, glancing in a near-by mirror to approve of the way
her fluff of pink tulle harmonized with her pink camisole under the
Indulging in one of these reveries Trudy suddenly realized that she
had not added the checks on her desk. She went to work disdainfully,
first feeling of her skirt and waist at the back, slipping a caramel in
her mouth, and making eyes at a clerk who passed her desk.
Mary came out of her office and stopped before Trudy accusingly.
I've been waiting for these, she said.
It's so grand out to-daylook at that sunshine! May's the hardest
month of the year to work; you just can't help planning your summer
Miss Constantine is coming to call for Mr. O'Valley and I want his
O. K. on those before he gets away.
Listen, don't you think the diamonds he is buying her are vulgar? A
bunch of electric bulbs is what I call it, I certainly would not
Mary's pencil tapped authoritatively on the desk, then she signed an
order someone brought her.
Are they going to be married at high noon in church?
YesJune the first.
Lucky girl! She's older than me; everyone says so. It's only her
money and clothes that has built her up. I don't think she's so much.
Her nose is as flat as a pancake and she rouges something fierce. I saw
them at the theatre and I certainly was
Mary took the checks out of Trudy's hand and walked away. Undecided
as to her course of action Trudy hummed a few bars of Moving Man,
Don't Take My Baby Grand and then followed Mary into her office.
Mary added up the checks without glancing at her caller. Then she
said sharply: I cannot pay out someone else's money for work that is
Don't get a grouch on; it will spread through the whole plant. When
you're cross everybody's cross.
Then do your workfor it isn't much. She could not help adding:
You think I can smooth over everything just because you board with
Trudy giggled. It's the wedding in the air, and spring, and those
diamonds! She never works, she never does anything but spend the money
we make for her. All she has is a good time, and what's the use of
living if you don't have a good time? I'll have it if I have to steal
it. Oh, you needn't look so horrified. Steve O'Valley almost stole his
fortune just because he had to be a rich man before Constantine would
let him marry his daughter. Anyway, I'd rather have a good time for a
few years and then die than to live to be a hundred and never have an
honest-to-goodness party. Wouldn't you?
You're foolish to-day. If you only wouldn't wear such low-cut
waists and talk to the men! Mr. O'Valley has noticed it.
I can get another job and another boarding house, Trudy began,
You wouldn't last out at either. You need this sort of a place and
our sort of house, you ridiculous little thing. Besides, you have
Gaylord at your beck and callTrudy blushedand you seem to manage
to have a pretty good time when all is said and done. I do feel
responsible for you because at twenty-three you are more scatterbrained
Finish itthan you were at thirteen! Well, what of it? I'm out for
a good time and you are always talking about the right time, I suppose.
I'll take your lecture without weeping and promise to reform. But don't
be surprised at anything I may do regarding tra-la-la-la-la. She burst
into the wedding march again and vanished, Mary shaking her head as she
prepared to sign off some letters.
Steve O'Valley opened the door connecting their offices, displaying
a face as happy as a schoolboy's on a Christmas holiday. Miss
Constantine is downstairs, I'm going to escort her up, he announced,
shutting the door as abruptly as he had opened it.
Presently there came into Steve's office someone who was saying in a
light, gay voice: Perfectly awful old place, Stevunsas bad as
papa's. I hate business offices; make my head ache. It was Red Cross
to-day, and after that I had to rush to cooking school
Steve answered in rapt fashion: I'll have to talk to Miss Faithful
for half a jiffy and then I'm free for the rest of the day opening
the door of Mary's office and beckoning to her.
Coming into his office Mary nodded pleasantly at the Gorgeous Girl,
who nodded pleasantly in return and settled herself in an easy-chair
while Steve rehearsed the things to be attended to the following day
since he was not to be at the office.
I'm getting Miss Faithful ready to run the shop single-handed, he
explained, telling Mary details which she already knew better than he
but to which she listened patiently, her twilight eyes glancing now at
Beatrice and back again at Steve.
Outside the hum of commerce played the proper accompaniment to Steve
O'Valley's orders and Mary's thoughts and Beatrice's actionsa
jangling yet accurate rhythm of typewriters and adding machines and
office chatter, pencil sharpeners, windows being opened, shades
adjusted, wastebaskets dragged into position, boys demanding their
telegrams or delivering the same, phone bells ringing, voices asking
for Mr. O'Valley and being told that he was not in, other voices asking
for Miss Faithful and being told she was not at liberty just nowwould
they be seated? Trudy's giggle rose above the hum at odd intervals,
elevators crept up and down, and outside the spring air escorted the
odour of hides and tallow and what not, grease and machine oil and
general junk from across the courtyard; trucks rumbled on the
cobblestones while workingmen laughed and quarrelleda confusing
symphony of the business world. While Steve hurriedly gave his orders
Mary Faithful in almost the panoramic fashion of the drowning swiftly
recalled the incidents of Steve's life and of the Gorgeous Girl's and
her own as well, forcing herself mechanically to say yes and no in
answer to his questions and to make an occasional notation.
[Illustration: The Gorgeous Girl had never known anything but the
most gorgeous side of life"]
The panorama rather bewildered her; it was like being asked to
describe a blizzard while still in it, whereas one should be sitting in
a warm, cheery room looking impersonally at the storm swirl.
First of all, she thought of Steve O'Valley's Irish grandfather, by
like name, who spent his life in Virginia City trying to find a claim
equal to the Comstock lode, dying penniless but with a prospector's
optimism that had he been permitted to live manana surely would
have seen the turning of the tide. Old O'Valley's only son and his
son's wife survived him until their ability to borrow was at an end and
work would have been their only alternative. So they left a small,
black-haired, blue-eyed young man named Stephen O'Valley to battle
single-handed with the world and bring honour to his name.
The first twelve years of the battle were spent in an orphanage in
the Grass Valley, the next four as a chore boy on a ranch, after which
the young man decided with naïve determination that in order to obtain
anything at all worth while he must be fully prepared to pay its price,
and that he desired above all else to become a rich mana truly rich
man, and marry a fairy-princess sort of person. And as far as education
was concerned he felt that if he was not quite so brushed up on his A B
C's as he was on minding his P's and Q's the result would not be half
bad. Unconsciously his attitude toward the world was a composite of the
philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, the cynical wisdom of Omar Khayyam, and
plain and not to be duplicated Yankee pep.
As Steve planned it he was to leave his mark on the world and not
endure the world's mark upon himself. This straight-limbed and
altogether too handsome youngsterhis grandmother had been a
Basquepossessed the same quality of the fortune hunter as his
grandfather, only he did not propose to do his prospecting in the mines
of Nevada. Following the general tactics of a Stone Age mana belief
in muscle and great initiativeSteve found himself at twenty-four in
the city of Hanover and in the employ of Mark Constantine, a
hide-and-leather magnate who was said to be like all hard-boiled
eggsimpossible to beat. After Steve advanced to the top notch of his
ability he discovered that the only reason he was not considered as a
junior member of the firm was because he could not buy stock. At this
same time Beatrice Constantine had become interested in him.
To her mind Steve was different in other ways than merely being
handsome and possessed of physical strength. And she considered that if
he had a fortune he would be far more wonderful than any of the young
gentlemen of her set who wondered which would be the lucky chap to lead
Constantine's Gorgeous Girl to the wedding-license bureau.
In the seventeen-year-old patronizing fashion of a Gorgeous Girl she
permitted Steve to see that she was interested, and Steve with the
romance of his Basque grandmother and the audacity of his Irish
grandfather immediately thought of what a strange and wonderful thing
it would be if he could by hook or crook become a rich man all in the
twinkling of an eye, and marry this superior, elegant little person.
The Gorgeous Girl had never known anything but the most gorgeous
side of life. Her father, self-made from a boyhood as poor as Steve's,
carved his way to the top without delay or remorse for any one he may
have halted or harmed in the so doing. He had wisely married a working
girl whom he loved in undemonstrative fashion, and when at the turning
point of his career she bore him a daughter and then died he erected an
expensive monument to her memory and took his oath that their daughter
should be the most gorgeous girl in Hanover and that her life should be
spent in having as good a time as her father's fortune allowed. He then
invited his widowed sister to live with him and take charge of his
After this interlude he returned to his business grimmer of face and
harsher of heart, and the world was none the wiser regarding his grief
for the plain-faced woman in the churchyard. As his fortune multiplied
almost ironically he would often take time to think of his wife Hannah,
who was so tired of pots and pans and making dollars squeal so that he
might succeed and who was now at rest with an imposing marble column to
call attention to the fact.
So the Gorgeous Girl, as Hanover called her, half in ridicule and
half in envy, developed into a gorgeous young woman, as might be
expected with her father to pay her bills and her Aunt Belle to toddle
meekly after her. Aunt Belle, once married to a carpenter who had
conveniently died, never ceased to rejoice in her good fortune. She was
never really quite used to the luxury that had come to her instead of
to the woman in the churchyard. She revelled in Beatrice's clothes, her
own elaborate costumes, ordered the servants about, went to Florida and
the Bermudas whenever the Gorgeous Girl saw fit, rolled about the
country in limousines, and secretly admired the hideous mansion
Constantine had builtan ornate, overbearing brick affair with
curlicue trimmings and a tower with a handful of minor turrets. It was
furnished according to the dictates of a New York decorator, though
Constantine added several large pieces of village colour after the
decorator had pronounced his work as ended.
Hannah had always planned for a red-velvet cozy corner, and
Constantine didn't give a dozen damns if they were out of datea red
velvet cozy corner was going to be installed in the blue drawing room.
A Swiss music box was another thing Hannah had hankered afterspoken
of just before she diedso the Swiss music box was given a place of
honour beside the residence pipe organ, and likewise some draperies
with plush tassels. The decorator, having his check, did not attempt to
argue, since his clientele were not apt to stop off at Hanover and
discover the crime.
Aunt Belle saw that Beatrice had a governess, a dancing teacher,
more party frocks than any other little girl in Hanover, and later on a
French maid and other accessories necessary to being a Gorgeous Girl.
In reality a parasitical little snob, hopelessly self-indulged, though
originally kind-hearted and rather clever; and utterly useless but
unconscious of the fact. She was sent to a finishing school, after
which she thought it would be more fun to go abroad to another
finishing school and study music and art, travelling summers instead of
having a formal début. Most of her chums were doing this and so she
went with them. The red velvet cozy corner and the music box and so on
disappeared immediately upon her first return visit. Likewise Beatrice
succeeded finally in dissuading Aunt Belle from wearing her jewellery
while travelling, though that outspoken lady never could refrain from
vivid descriptions of it to her fellow passengers.
After the European sojourn the Gorgeous Girl went in for Hanover
society and proved herself a valuable asset. She was nearly
twenty-four, almost as slight of figure as a child, as dainty as
Watteau's most delicate imaginings, with tiny, nondescript features,
lovely sunshine hair, and big dove-coloured eyes with pale-gold lashes.
Meantime, the question of a husband for this lovely young person was
before the household. She had had a dozen offers of marriage but
accepted none of them because she had plenty of time and loads of money
and she wanted to make the best of her unencumbered youth as long as
possible. Besides, it was now considered great fun to go in for
charities, she was ever so busy serving on committees, she never had a
moment for herself, and it would take months to plan a trousseau and a
wedding and decide about her house. Most important of all was the fact
that when she was about to go to the French finishing school she had
told Steve O'Valley that if he did not come to her farewell party she
would be quite hurt. She felt he did not appreciate the honour in
having been asked.
Steve, who would have lain down and let her walk over him roughshod,
said simply: But I'm poor. I'm not in a position to meet your
Then be richand I'll ask you again, she challenged.
If I were a rich manwould you let me try?
See if I wouldn't. And she disappeared before he realized she had
practically said yes.
Characteristically Steve lost no time. He went to her father the day
after she had sailed, having sent her a veritable washtub of flowers
for bon voyageand said briefly: I have loved your daughter ever
since I first saw her. I'm as poor as you were once, but if I see my
way to making a fortune and can give her everything she ought to have
will you oppose my efforts to make her marry me?
The daring of the thing pleased Constantine to the point of saying:
Do you want a loan, O'Valley? I think you'll make good. Then it's up
to my daughter; she knows whom she wants to marry better than I do.
You're a decent sorther mother would have liked you.
I don't want a loan just yet. I want to make her marry me because I
have made my own money and can take care of my own wife. I'm just
asking you not to interfere if I do win out. I've saved a littleI'm
going to take a plunge in stocks and draw out before it's too late.
Then I'm going into business if I can; but I'll have to try my luck
gambling before I do. When I hang out my shingle I may ask you to
helpa little. Self-made men of to-day are made on papernot by
splitting logs or teaching school in the backwoods in order to buy a
dictionary and law bookswe haven't the time for that. So I'll take my
chances and you'll hear from me later.
While Beatrice was skimming through school and taking walking trips
through Norway punctuated by fleeting visits home, remaining as
childish and unconcerned as to vital things as her mother had been at
fourteen, Steve left the Constantine factory and took the plunge.
Good luck favoured him, and for five golden years he continued to
rise in the financial world, causing his rivals to say: A fool's luck
first then the war made himthe government contracts, you know. He's
only succeeded because of luck and the fact of it's being the
psychological moment. Worked in the ordnance gamedidn't see active
servicemoney just kept rolling in. Well, who wants a war fortune?
Some folks in 1860 bought government mules for limousine prices and
sold them for the same. Besides, it's only so he can marry the Gorgeous
Girl. I guess he'll find out it was cheap at half the price!
While talk ran riot Steve's fortune multiplied with almost sinister
speed. He learned that flattery and ridicule were the best weapons
known to man. And while the Gorgeous Girl flew home at the first war
cloud to bury herself in serious war activities Steve climbed the
upward path and never once glanced backward lest he grow dizzy.
At thirty-two, in the year 1919, he was able to say to Mark
Constantine, in the fashion of a fairy-story hero: I still love your
daughter, sir, and I've made my fortune. We want to be married. Your
blessing, please. And to himself: I'll show the worst side of me to
the world so wolves won't come and steal my precious gold that I had to
have in order to win her; and I'll show my best side to the woman I
love, and that's fair enough!
With surprising accuracy Mary Faithful's keen mind, aided by a
tender heart, had pieced this mosaic business and love story together,
and as she finished the panorama she glanced at the Gorgeous Girl in
her mink dolman and bright red straw hat, the useless knitting bag on
her arm, and Steve's engagement ring blazing away on her finger, and
she sighed unconsciously.
Don't tell Miss Faithful any more, Beatrice protested. I'm sure
she knows about everything, and it's lateI'm tired.
All right, lady fair. That's all, Miss Faithful. Good-night, Steve
dismissed her abruptly.
As Mary left the room he was saying tenderly: What did you do at
And the Gorgeous Girl was answering: We made pistachio fondant; and
next week it will be Scotch broth. It takes an hour to assemble the
vegetables and I dread it. Only half the class were there, the rest
were at Miss Harper's classical-dancing lesson. That's fun, too. I
think I'll take it up next year. I was just thinking how glad I am papa
built the big apartment house five years ago; it's so much nicer to
begin housekeeping there instead of a big place of one's own. It's such
work to have a house on your hands. Are you ready?
Hold on. Don't I deserve a single kiss?... Thank you, Mrs.
O'Valley. Then the door closed.
Mary Faithful picked up her notations. She tried to comfort herself
with the thought that no one should ever have reason to guess her
secret. If all honest men steal umbrellas and kisses, so do all honest
women fib as to the size of their shoes and the person they love best
of all the world!
Sunday was a much-dreaded day in Mary's calendar, partly because she
surrendered herself to the maternal monologue of how dreadful it was to
have a daughter in business and not a lady in a home of her own, and
partly because she missed the office routine and the magical
stimulation of Steve's presence. Besides, Trudy was a thorn in Mary's
flesh and on Sundays the thorn had a chance to assert herself in
particularly unendurable fashion.
For instancethe Sunday morning following the Gorgeous Girl's visit
to Steve's office Trudy unwillingly dragged herself downstairs at
half-past ten in a faded, bescrolled kimono over careless lingerie, her
hair bundled under a partially soiled boudoir cap, and her feet
flopping along in tattered silk slippers.
Oh, dear, it's Sunday again, she began. Goodness me, Mary, I'd
hate to be as good as you arealways up and smiling! Why don't you
have a permanent smile put on your face? It would be lots easier.
At which joke Luke giggled, and Mrs. Faithful, ensconced in a large
rocker behind the starched curtains so that nothing passing on the
street could escape her eagle, melancholy eye, nodded approval and
added: I should think Mary would lie abed the one morning she could.
But no, she gets Luke up no matter what the weather is, and flies round
like a house afire. When I was in my father's house I never had to lift
a finger. Trudy, I wish you could have seen my bedroom. I had a
mahogany four-poster bed with white draperies, and a dresser to match
the bed, and my father bought me a silver toilet set when he was in
Lexington, Kentucky, one time. He used to go there to sell horses. I
remember one time I went with him and if I do say so I was much
I rode horseback those days and I had a dappled-gray pony named
Pet, and everyone said it was just like looking at a picture to see me
go prancing by. Of course I never thought about it. I wore a black
velvet riding habit with a long train and a black velvet hat with a
white plume just floating behind, and I had white gauntlets, too.
Mary, Trudy wants her coffee. Hot cakes? Oh, pshaw, they won't hurt
you a mite. I was raised on 'em. I guess I'll have another plateful,
Mary, while you're frying 'em. I'm so comfortable I hate to get up....
You poor little girls having to go out and hustle all week long and not
half appreciated! Never mind, some Prince Charming will come and carry
you off sometime. Whereat she waddled to the table to wait for the hot
cakes to arrive.
Mrs. Faithful had pepper-and-salt-coloured hair and small dark eyes
that snapped like an angry bird's, and a huge double chin. Her
nondescript shape resolved itself into a high, peaked lap over which,
when not eating hot cakes, her stubby hands seemed eternally clasped.
Mary takes after her pa, poor child, she had told Trudy
confidentially. Lean and lank as a clothes pole! And those gray eyes
that look you straight through. I wish she didn't think so much of the
office and would get a nice young man. I'd like to know what it is in
those books she finds so fascinating. Can you tell me? I tried to read
Omar Canine myself but it was too much for me.
I'm no highbrow, Trudy had laughed. Mary is; and a fine girl,
besides, she had added, resentfully.
With all Trudy's shallow nature and shrewd selfishness she was as
fond of Mary as she was capable of being fond of any one. Besides, it
was more comfortable to be a member of the Faithful household for nine
dollars a week and be allowed hot cakes and sirup à la kimono on Sunday
morning; to have Gaylord Vondeplosshe, her friend, frequent the parlour
at will; to use the telephone and laundry, and to occupy the best room
in the house than to have to tuck into a room similar to Miss
Lunk'sand she was truly grateful to Mary for having taken her in. She
felt that Mrs. Faithful underestimated her man of the family.
Mary at the present time earned forty dollars a week. Out of this
she supported her family and saved a little. At regular intervals she
tried persuading her mother to leave the old-fashioned house and move
into a modern apartment, which would give her the opportunity of
dispensing with Trudy as a boarder. But her mother liked Trudy, with
her airs and graces, her beaux, her startling frocks. Trudy was
company; Mary was not. She was the breadwinner and a wonderful
daughter, as Mrs. Faithful always said when callers mentioned her. But
the mother had never been friends with her children nor with their
father. So Mary had grown up accustomed to work and loneliness; and,
most important of all, accustomed to considering everyone else first
and herself last. It was Mary who saw beneath the boisterousness of
Luke's boy nature and spied the good therein, trying to develop it as
best she could. Aside from Luke and her business she found amusement in
her dream life of loving Steve O'Valley and vicariously sharing his
joys and sorrows, safeguarding his interests.
She had told herself four years ago: You clumsy, thin business
womanthe idea of halfway dreaming that such a man as Steve would ever
love you! Of course he's intended for the Gorgeous Girl; the very law
of opposites makes him care for herpretty, useless doll. So take your
joy in being his business partner, because the Gorgeous Girl can never
share the partnership any more than you could share his name; and
there's a heap of comfort in being of some use.
After which self-inflicted homily Mary had set to work and followed
her own advice. She had discovered very shortly that there were many
things to enjoy and be thankful for.
As soon as she was able Mary had refurnished her father's study and
taken it for her own. Here she made out household bills, lectured Luke,
planned work, sewed, and read. It was a shabby, cheery room with a
faded old carpet, an open fireplace, some easy-chairs, and a
black-walnut secretary over which her father had dreamed his dreams. On
the walls were stereotyped engravings such as Cherry Ripe and The Call
to Arms, which Mrs. Faithful refused to part with; no one, herself
included, ever knowing just why.
Mary also took herself to task in the little study in as impersonal
a manner as a true father confessor. You are twenty-six and growing
set in your ways, she would mentally accusealways wanting a certain
table at the café and a certain waitress. Old Maid! Must have your
little French book to read away at as you munch your rolls and refuse
to be sociable. Hermitess! And always buy chocolates and a London
News on Saturday night. Getting so you fuss if you have
square-topped hairpins instead of round, and letting milliners sell you
any sort of hats because you are too busy to prink! Going to art
galleries and concerts aloneand quite satisfied to do so. Now,
please, Mary, try not to be so queer and horrid! Followed by a
one-sided debate as to whether or not these were normal symptoms of
maturity, and if she were mistress of a house would she not entertain
equally set notions regarding brands of soap, and so on?
Office notions are not so nice as the frilly,
cry-on-a-shoulder-when-the-biscuits-burn notions, she would end,
dolefully. Fancy my tall self weeping on the superintendent's shoulder
because a cablegram has gone astray! Making women over into commercial
nuns is a problemsome of us take it easily and don't try to fight
back, some of us fight and end defeated and bitter, and some of us
don't play the game but just our own handlike Trudy. And what's the
square game for a commercial nun? That is what I'd like to know.
She would then find herself dreaming of two distinct forks in the
road, both of which might be possible for her but only one of which was
probable. Each fork led to a feminine rainbow ending.
The more probable fork would resolve itself, a few years hence, into
a trim suburban bungalow with a neat roadster to whisk her into
business and whisk her away from it. The frilly,
cry-on-a-shoulder-when-the-biscuits-burn part of Mary would have long
ago vanished, leaving the business woman quite serene and satisfied.
She would find her happiness in mere thingsin owning her home; in
facing old age single-handed and knowing it would not bring the gray
wolf; in helping Luke through college while her mother was in a comfy
orthodox heaven with plenty of plates of hot cakes and dozens of
starched window curtains; in rejoicing at some new possession for her
living room, at her immaculate business costumes, new books, tickets
for the opera season; in vacationing wherever she wished, sometimes
with other commercial nuns and sometimes alone; in having that selfish,
tempting freedom of time and lack of personal demands which permit a
woman to be always well groomed and physically rested, and to take
refuge in a sanitarium whenever business worries pressed too hard. To
sum it up: it meant to sit on the curbstonea nice, steam-heated,
artistically furnished curbstone, to be sure, and have to watch the
procession pass by.
The other fork in the road led to a shadowy rainbow since Mary knew
so little concerning it. It comprised the exacting, unselfish role of
having baby fingers tagging at her skirts and shutting her away from
easy routines and lack of responsibility; of having a house to suit her
family first and herself last; of growing old and tired with the
younger things growing up and away from her, and the strong-shouldered
man demanding to be mothered, after the fashion of all really
strong-shouldered and successful menrequiring more of her patience
and love than all the young things combined; of subordinating her
personality, perhaps her ideas, and most certainly her surface
interests. To be that almost mystical relation, a wife; which includes
far more than having Mrs. Stephen O'Valleyjust for exampleon a
To her lot would fall the task of always being there to welcome the
strong man with tender joy when he has succeeded or to comfort him with
equal tenderness when he has failed, and at all times spurring him to
live up to the ideal his wife has set for him. To stay aloof from his
work inasmuch as it would annoy him, yet to be adviser emeritus,
whether the matter involved hiring a new sweeper-out or moving the
whole plant to the end of the world. Someone who ministered to the
needs of the strong man's very soul in unsuspected, often unconscious
and unthanked fashion; such a trifle as a rose-shaded lamp for tired
eyes; a funny bundle of domestic happenings told cleverly to offset the
jarring problems of commerce; a song played by sympathetic fingers; a
little poem tucked in the blotter of the strong man's desk, an artful
praising of the strong man's self!
Mary realized this latter fork was not probablenor was she unhappy
because of it. She sometimes retired to her study to vow eternal wrath
upon Trudy Burrows for having attached herself to the household; or to
pray that her mother be enlightened to the extent of moving; but beyond
an occasional mad on, as Luke said, Mary viewed life from the angle
of the doughnut and not that of the hole.
I wish someone else would try baking these greasy things, she
said, coming in with another plateful.
Why don't you slip on a kimono instead of a starched house dress,
Mary? Whoever is spick-and-span on Sunday morning?
Don't get Mary to lecturing, Mrs. Faithful warned between bites.
She'll make us all go to church if we're not careful. Are you going
out with Gay to-day, Trudy?
Yes. And I'm awfully mad at him, too. It's fierce the way he
Don't be too harsh; it's a mistake to nag too much beforehand. He's
a lovely young man and I wish Luke could have one of those green
paddock coats. I always like a gentleman's coat with a sealskin collar,
If it's paid for. Trudy's eyes darkened. Just because Gay comes
of a wonderful family he thinks he has the keys to the city.
He's a lovely young man, Mrs. Faithful reiterated. Oh, what did
Beatrice Constantine wear when she came down to the office?
Clothes. Mary was deep in the Sunday paper art section.
She looked like a Christmas tree on fire, Luke supplemented.
Lovely butter-coloured hair she has!
That will do. She is very nice, but different from our sort. Mary
glanced up from her paper.
Trudy bridled. She's no different; she has money. My things have as
much style. Gaylord knows her intimately, and he says she is a wretched
dancer and pouts if things don't please her. The best tailors and
modistes in the country make her things. Who wouldn't look well? If I
had one tenth of her income I'd be a more Gorgeous Girl than she
isand don't I wish I had it! Oh, boy! Why, that girl has her maid,
the most wonderful jewellery you ever saw, two automobiles of her own
and a saddle horse, and her father owns the best apartment house in
town, and Beatrice is going to have the best apartment in it when she
marries Steve. And you can just bet she knew she was going to marry him
a long time agobecause she knew he'd rob the Bank of England to get a
fortune. She's flirted with everyone from an English nobleman to the
Prince of Siam, and now she's marrying the handsomest, brightest, most
devoted cave man in the world. Trudy glanced at Mary. Yet she doesn't
really care for him, she just wants to be married before she is
considered passée. Trudy was very proud of her occasional French.
She'll be twenty-six her next birthday!
Dear me, girls take their time these days; I was eighteen the day
Mr. Faithful led me to the altar.
When are you going to get married? Luke asked Trudy with malice
Oh, I'll give Mary a chance. She don't want to dance in the pig
Mary laid down the paper. I wish you people would finish eating.
Luke, are you going fishing with me out at the old mill? Then you
better get the walks swept. We'll be home in time for dinner, mother.
I'll leave the things as nearly ready as I can. How about you, Trudy?
Gay wants me to go to the Boulevard Caféthey dance on Sunday just
the same as weekdaysand then we'll do a movie afterward. I suppose
Steve and his Beatrice are now revelling in the Constantine
conservatory, with Steve walking on all fours to prove his devotion.
Why is it some girls have everything? Look at meno one cares if I
live or die. First I had a stepmother, and then I tried living with a
great-aunt, and then I went to work. Here I am still working, and a lot
of thanks I get for it. I'd like to see the Gorgeous Girl have to
workwell, I would!
Mary brushed by with some dishes. Whereupon Trudy settled herself in
an easy-chair and ran through the supplement sections, discussing the
latest New York scandal with Mrs. Faithful. The next thing on Trudy's
Sunday program was washing out just a few little things, Mary dear;
and have you a bit of soap I could borrow and may I use the electric
iron for half a jiffy?
Presently there were hung on the line some dabs of chiffon and lace,
and Trudy, taking advantage of her softened cuticle, sat down and did
her nails, Mrs. Faithful admiring the high polish she achieved and
reading Advice to the Anxious aloud for general edification.
After ironing the few little things Trudy shampooed her hair with
scented soap and by the time its reddish loveliness was dry it was high
noon and she repaired to her bedroom to mend and write letters. At one
o'clock, in the process of dressing, she rapped at Mary's door and
asked to borrow a quarter.
I'm terribly poor this week and if I should have a quarrel with Gay
I want to have enough carfare to come home aloneyou know how we
scrap, she explained.
About two o'clock there emerged from the front bedroom an excellent
imitation of the Gorgeous Girl. Trudy had not exaggerated when she
boasted of her own style. Though patronizing credit houses exclusively
and possessing not a single woollen garment nor a penny of savings, she
tripped down the stairs in answer to Luke's summons, a fearful,
wonderful little person in a gown of fog-coloured chiffon with a violet
sash and a great many trimmings of blue crystal beads. She boasted of a
large black hat which seemed a combination of a Spanish scarf and a
South Sea pirate's pet headgear, since it had red coral earrings
hanging at either side of it. Over her shoulders was a luxurious feline
pelt masquerading comfortably under the title of spotted fox. White kid
boots, white kid gloves, a silver vanity case, and a red satin rose at
her waist completed the costume.
Standing in the offing, about to decamp with Mary, Luke gave a low
whistle to tip her off to look out the window and not miss it. Mrs.
Faithful was peeking from behind the starched window curtains as there
glided before her eyes the most elegant young woman and impressive
young man ever earning fifteen dollars and no dollars a week
How do they do it? Mary sighed. Come, Luke, let's get on the
trail of something green and real.
A few moments later there hurried along the same pathway a tall
young woman in an old tailored suit which impressed one with the
wearer's plainness. Instead of a silver vanity case she was laden with
a basket of newspapers, string, and a garden trowel, indicating that
fern roots would be the vogue shortly. Shouldering fishing tackle Luke
turned his freckled face toward Mary as they began a conversation, and
his perpetual grin was momentarily replaced by an expression of
respect. At least his sister was not like the average woman, who
depends solely on her clothes to make her interesting.
Meantime, Trudy and Gaylord Vondeplosshe were beginning their Sunday
outing by walking to the corner in silencethe usual preliminary to a
dispute. Gaylord was quite Trudy's equal as to clothes, not only in
style but in forgetfulness to pay for them. Still, he was not unusual
after one fully comprehended the type, for they flourished like
mushrooms. His had been a rich and powerful
familyonly-the-father-drank-you-see varietythe sort taking the
fastest and most expensive steamer to Europe and bringing shame upon
the name of American traveller after arriving. Gaylord had been the
adored and only son, and his adored and older sister had managed to
marry fairly well before the crash came and debts surrounded the entire
He was small and frail, a trifle bow-legged to be exact, with pale
and perpetually weeping eyes, a crooked little nose with an incipient
moustache doing its best to hide a thick upper lip. His forehead sloped
back like a cat's, and his scanty, sandy hair was brushed into a
shining pompadour, while white eyelashes gave an uncanny expression to
his face. Abortive lumps of flesh stuck on at careless intervals
sufficed for ears, and his scrawny neck with its absurdly correct
collar and wild necktie seemed like an old, old man's when he dresses
for his golden-wedding anniversary. Everything about Gaylord seemed
old, exhausted, quite ineffectual. His mother had never tired boasting
that Gaylord had had mumps, measles, chicken pox, whooping cough, St.
Vitus dance, double pneumonia, and typhoid, had broken three ribs, his
left arm, his right leg, and his noseall before reaching the age of
sixteen. And yet she raised him!
Coupled with this and the fact of his father's failure people were
lenient to him.
He's Vondeplosshe's boy, they said; so they gave him a position or
a loan or a letter of introduction, and thought at the same time what a
splendid thing it was Vondeplosshe was out of it instead of having to
stand by and see his son make a complete foozle. For some time Gaylord
had been scampering up and down the gauntlet of sympathy, and as long
as he could borrow more money in Hanover than he could possibly earn he
refused to go to work.
Originally he would have been almost as rich as the Gorgeous Girl
herself, but as it was he was poor as Trudy Burrows, only Trudy was a
nobody, her family being a dark and uncertain quantity in the wilds of
Whereas Gaylord was Vondeplosshe and he couldand didsaunter past
a red-brick mansion and remark pensively: I was born in the room over
the large bay window; the one next to it was my nurserya dear old
spot. Rather tough, old dear, to have to stand outside! Or: Father
was a charter member of the club, so they carry me along without dues.
Decent of them, isn't it? Father was a prince among men, robbed right
and left, y'knowalways the way when a gentleman tries to be in
business. Some say it was Constantine himself who did the worst of it.
Of course never repeat it, will you? It takes a man with Steve
O'Valley's coarseness to forge ahead.
His wobbly, rickety little body always wore the most startling of
costumes. A green paddock coat, well padded, a yellow walking stick in
the thin fingers, a rakish hat, patent-leather boots, striped suits,
silk shirts with handkerchiefs to match, a gold cigarette case, and a
watch chain like a woman's, were a few of Gaylord's daily requisites.
He lived at a club called The Hunters of Arcadia, where he paid an
occasional stipend and gambled regularly, sometimes winning. He also
promoted things in half-dishonest, half-idiotic fashion, undertaking to
bring on opera singers for a concert, sometimes realizing a decent sum
and sometimes going behind only to be rescued by an old family friend.
Gaylord was always keen on dinner invitations. And because he was a
son of Vondeplosshe the same family friends endured his conceited
twaddle and his knock-kneed, wicked little self, and sighed with relief
when he went away. It would be so much easier to send these dethroned
sons of rich men a supply of groceries and an order for coal!
Besides these lines of activity Gaylord wrote society items for the
paper, and as he knew everyone and everything about them he was worth a
stipend to the editor. He was considered a divine dancer by the buds,
and counted as a cutey by widows. But his standing among creditors was:
If he offered a check for the entire amount or a dollar on account,
pass up the check!
Steve had destroyed several IOU's with Gaylord's name attached for
the sole reason that Gay had been a playmate of Beatrice's and she
rather favoured him.
He is so convenient, she had defended. You can always call him up
at the last minute if someone has disappointed for cards or dinner, and
he is never busy. He can shop with you as well as a woman, lunch with
you, dance with youand he does know the proper way to handle small
silver. Besides, he loves Monster. Monster was Bea's pound-and-a-half
spaniel, which barked her wonder at the silken beauty of Beatrice's
So Gaylord travelled his own peculiar gait, with his married sister
occasionally sending him checks; as busy as a kitten with a ball of
yarn in making everyone tolerate though loathing him. When he visited
Steve's office in the first flush of Steve's success, to ask the
thousandth favour from him, and spied Trudy Burrows in all her
lemon-kid booted, pink-chiffon waisted, red-haired lovelinessas
virile and bewitching as any one Gaylord's pale little mind could
picturehe proved himself a true democrat, as he boasted at the
club, and offered her his hand in marriage in short order.
Having just despaired of winning a moneyed bride Gaylord chose
Truletta, reasoning that if she were a little nobody it would give him
the whiphand over her, since she would feel that to marry a
Vondeplosshe was no small triumph. Besides, a chic red-haired wife who
knew how to make the most of nothing and to smile, showing thirty-two
pearly teeth as cleverly as any dental ad, would not be a bad asset
among his men friends. Had the Vondeplosshe fortunes remained intact
and Gay met Trudy he would still have pressed his attentions upon her,
though they might not have taken the form of an offer of marriage.
Trudy's virile, magnetic personality would have commanded this
weakling's attention and admiration at any time and in any
circumstanceswhich is the way of things.
Very wisely Trudy kept the engagement somewhat of a secret. She
estimated that by being seen with Gay she might meet a not impoverished
and real man; and Gaywho still hoped for an heiress to fall madly in
love with himwas willing to let the matter be a mere understanding.
So this oversubscribed flirt and this underendowed young gentleman had
been waiting for nearly two years for something to live on in order to
be married or else two new affinities in order that they might part
They did not speak until they were in the café, where it looked well
for Gaylord to be attentive and Trudy gracious.
Under the mask of a smile Trudy began: I'm cross. You were gambling
againyes, you were! Never mind how I know. I know!... I'll have
macaroni, ripe olives, and a cream puff.
The same, Gay said, mournfully; adding: Well, deary, I have to
Why not work? I do. You sponge along and waste everyone's time. I'm
not getting any younger, and it's pretty rough to be in an office with
horrid people ordering you roundto have to hear all about Beatrice
Constantine and her wonderful wedding. I'm as good as she isyet I'll
not be asked, and you will be.
Of course I am. I'm her oldest playmate, he said, proudly.
Trudy's temper jumped the stockade. So, you paste jewel, you'll go
mincing into church and see her married and dance with everyone
afterward; and I'll sit in the office licking postage stamps while you
kiss the bride! I'm better looking than she is; and if you are good
enough to go to that wedding so am I!
Why, Trudy, he began, in a bewildered fashion, don't make a
No use making a scene in a fifty-cent café, she told him,
bitterly, but I'm plenty good looking enough to have a real man buy me
a real dinner with a taxi and wine and violets as extras. Don't think
you are doing me a big favour by being engaged to me.
Oh, you're a great little girl, he said, nervously; and it's all
going to come out right. It does rile me to think of your working for
Steve. Never mind, my ship will come in and then we'll show them all.
I'm twenty-three and you're twenty-six, and my eyes ache when I
work steadily. I'll have to wear glasses in another yearbut I'll wash
clothes before I'll do it!
When it gets that bad we'll be married, he said, seriously.
The humour passed over Trudy's head. Married on what? She was her
prettiest when angry and she stirred in Gaylord's one-cylinder brain a
resolve to play fairy-godfather husband and somehow deliver a fortune
at her feet.
I can't live at your club, she continued; and your sister is
jealous of her husband and wouldn't want me round. We couldn't live
with the Faithfuls; Mary's a nice girl but I can't go their quiet ways.
I only stay because it's cheap. I owe more than two hundred dollars
Gaylord was sympathetic. I owe more than that, he admitted; but
I'm going to have some concerts and there'll be good horse races
soonsure things, you know. You'll see, little girl. What would you
say if I showed you a real bank account?
I wouldn't waste time talking. I'd marry you. Her good humour was
returning. Honest, Gay, do you think you might draw down some kale?
Like all her kind she had an absurd trust in any one who was paying
her attention. With a different type of man Trudy would have been
beaten, courageously had the gentleman arrested, and then interfered
when the judge was directing him to the penitentiary.
I wish you wouldn't talk that way. When we are married and you meet
my friends you'll have to brush up on a lot of things.
I guess I'll manage to be understood, she retorted; and when we
are married maybe you can get my job so as to support your wife!
The orchestra began playing a new rag, and Trudy and Gay immediately
left their chairs to be the first couple on the floor. They were
prouder of their dancing than of each other.
After several dances they became optimistic over the future and
finished their dinner with the understanding that at the first possible
moment they would be married and Trudy was to be a hard-working little
bride causing her husband's men friends to be nice to the
Vondeplosshes, while husband would persuade the Gorgeous Girl to be
nice to his wife.
They decided, too, that Mary Faithful was clever and goodbut
That Steve O'Valley would discover that a self-made man could not
marry an heiress and make a go of it as well as a man of an
aristocratic family could marry an adorable red-haired young lady and
elevate her to his position.
That Trudy was far more beautiful than Beatrice Constantine, and as
one lived only once in this worldwhy not always strive for a good
Whereat they had a farewell dance and moved on to the moving-picture
world, where they held hands and stared vapidly at the films, repairing
to a cafeteria on a side street for a lunch, and then to the Faithful
parlour. Mary had gone to church, Luke had boy friends in to discuss a
summer camp, and his mother snored mildly on the dining-room sofa.
They took possession of the front parlour, and the enlarged crayons
of the Faithful ancestors bore witness that for more than two hours
these young people giggled over the comic supplement, debated as to the
private life of the movie stars, tried new dance steps, and then
planned how to get everything for nothing and, having done so, not to
share their spoils.
A perfectly lovely time! Trudy said, glibly, as she kissed Gay
Perfectly lovely! he echoed, politely. Don't work too hard
to-morrow, Babseley, will you? And do nothing rash until you see me.
Call me up to-morrow at eight, Bubseley, she giggled. The pet
names were of Gay's choice.
So Bubseley tottered down the walk while Babseley turned out the
lights and retired to her room with a bag of candy and a paprika-brand
of novel. At midnight she tossed it aside and with self-pity prepared
to go to sleep.
And I'll have to go to work to-morrow, she sighed, planning her
next silk dress as she did up the Titian hair in curlers.
WHEN the world was considerably younger it dressed children in
imitation of its adultsthose awful headdresses and heavy stays, long
skirts to trip up tender little feet, and jewelled collars to make tiny
necks ache. Now that the world is growing evil and the time is waxing
late the grown-ups have turned the tables and they dress like the
childrenwitness thereof to be found in the costume of Aunt Belle
Todd, Mark Constantine's sister, who had shared her brother's fortunes
ever since his wife had been presented with the marble monument.
Like all women who have ceased having birthdays Aunt Belle had not
ceased struggling. She still had hopes of a financier who would carry
her off in a storm of warmed-over romance to a castle in Kansas. Her
first husband was Thomas Todd, the carpenter, chiefly distinguished for
falling off a three-story building on which he was working and never
harming a hair of his head; also for singing first bass in the village
quartet. Aunt Belle had slightly recoloured her past since she had
lived with her brother. The account of Mr. Todd's singing in the
quartet was made to resemble a brilliant début in grand opera which was
abandoned because of Aunt Belle's dislike of stage life and its
temptations, while his rolling off the three-story building was never
alluded to except when Mark Constantine wished to tease.
She was a short, plump person with permanently jet-black hair and
twinkling eyes. Prepared to forgo all else save elegance, she had
brought up her gorgeous niece with the idea that it was never possible
to have too much luxury. Seated in the Gorgeous Girl's dressing room
she now presented excellent proof that the world was growing very old
indeed, for her plump self was squeezed into a short purple affair made
like a pinafore, her high-heeled bronze slippers causing her to totter
like a mandarin's wife; and strings of coral beads and a gold lorgnette
rose and fell with rhythmic motion as she sighed very properly over her
It will never be the same, darling, she was saying, glancing in a
mirror to see if the light showed the rouge boundaries too
clearlynever quite the same. You'll understand when your daughter
marriesfor you have been just as dear as one.
Beatrice, who was busy inspecting some newly arrived lingerie, did
not glance up as she answered: Don't be silly. You know it's a relief.
You can sit back and rest from now onuntil I'm divorced, she added
with a smile.
How can you even say such a thing?
Beatrice tossed the filmy creamy silk somethings or other away and
delivered herself of her mind. Alice Twill was divorced before she
married this specimen; so was Coralie Minter; and Harold Atwater; and
both the Deralto girls were divorced, and their mother, too. And Jill
Briggs is considering it, and I'm sure I don't blame her. Everyone
seems to think a divorce quite the proper caper when things grow dull.
You may as well have all the fun you can. Steve wants me to have
everything I fancy, and I'm sure he'd never deny me a divorce.
You are marrying a splendid, self-made young man who adores you and
who is making money every day in the week. No girl is to be more
enviedyou have had a wonderful ten years of being a 'Gorgeous Girl,'
as your dear papa calls it, and at twenty-six you are to become the
bride of a wonderful manneither too early nor too late an age. I
cannot really grievewhen I realize how happy you are going to be, and
Don't work so hard, aunty, Bea said, easily. Of course Steve's a
wonderful old dear and all thatI wish I had asked him for the moon. I
do believe he'd have gotten an option on it. She laughed and reached
over to a bonbon dish to rummage for a favourite flavour. She selected
a fat, deadly looking affair, only to bite into it and discover her
mistake. She tossed it on the floor so that Monster could creep out of
her silk-lined basket and devour the remains.
If you call natural feelings of a mother and an aunt 'working hard'
I am at a loss her aunt began with attempted indignation.
Oh, I don't call anything anything; I'm dead and almost buried.
She looked at her small self in the pier glass. Think of all I have to
go through with before it is over and we are on our way west. Here it
is half-past twelve and I've not eaten breakfast really. I'm so tired
of presents and bored with clothes that I cannot acknowledge another
thing or decide anything. I think weddings are a frightful ordeal. Did
you know the women on my war-relief committee presented me with a
silver jewel box? Lovely of them, wasn't it? But I deserve itafter
slaving all last winter. My bronchitis was just because I sold tags for
them during that rainy weather.
No, I haven't seen it. But I am glad you decided on a church
weddingthere is such a difference between a wedding and just a
Beatrice shoved the box of lingerie away. Those are all wrong, so
back they go; and I can't help it if that woman does need money, I told
her I wanted a full inch-and-a-half beading and she has put this
crochet edge all round everywhere. I shan't accept a single piece!
Whereupon she sat down at her dressing table and rang for her maid.
Madame Pompadour herself had no lovelier boudoir than Beatrice. It was
replete with rose-coloured taffeta curtains, padded sky-blue silk walls
with garlands of appliquéd flowers. Lace frills covered every possible
object; the ivory furniture was emphasized by smart rose upholstery,
and the dressing table itself fairly dazzled one by the array of
gold-topped bottles and gold-backed brushes.
Johanna, the maid, began brushing the sunshiny hair, the Gorgeous
Girl stamping her feet as snarls asserted themselves.
Two more days before the wedding, she complained. There's the
Twill luncheon to-day and a bridge and tea at Marion Kavanaugh'sI
hate her, too. She gave me the most atrocious Chinese idol. I'm going
to tell her I have no proper place for it, that it deserves to be alone
in a room in order to have it properly appreciated. She laughed at
herself. So I'll leave it for papa. The apartment won't hold but just
so muchit's a tiny affair. She laughed again, the apartment having
only eleven rooms and a profusion of iron grille work at all the
windows. But it's a wonderful way to startin an apartmentit is
such a good excuse for not dragging in all the terrible wedding
presents. I can leave everything I like with papa because he never
minds anything as long as he has old slippers and plenty of mince pie.
After a year or so I'm going to have a wonderful house copied after one
I saw in Italy. By then they will all have forgotten what they gave me
and I can furnish it so we won't have to go about wearing blinders....
The blue dress, Jody, that's right.
And what is it to-night? her aunt asked, meekly.
The Farmsworth dinner; and to-morrow another luncheon and the
garden party at the club. Then the dinner here, rehearsal; and
Wednesday, thank heaven, it will be all ended!
Johanna helped fasten the king's-blue satin with seed-pearl
trimmings and place a trig black hat atilt on the yellow hair.
The ermine scarf, please.
The Gorgeous Girl was slipping matronly looking rings on her fingers
and adding an extra dab of powder. She took another chocolate, hugged
Monster, gave orders about sending back the lingerie, remarked that she
must send her photograph to the society editor for the next day's
edition, and she thought the one taken in her Red Cross outfit would be
the sweetest; and then kissing the tip of her aunt's right ear she
sailed downstairs and into the closed car to be whirled to Alice
Twill's house, a duplicate of the Gorgeous Girl's. There she was
enthusiastically embraced and there followed a mutual admiration as to
gowns, make-ups, and jewellery, and a mutual sympathy as to being
desperately tired and busy.
My dear, I haven't had time to breathit's perfectly awful! I'll
have to drop out of things next winter. Steve will never allow me to be
so overburdened. I can't sleep unless I take a powder and I can't have
any enthusiasm in the morning unless I have oodles of black coffee. Of
course one has had to do serious workthank heavens the war is
over!but you can't give up all the good times.... What a lovely
centre piece! And those cunning little gilt suitcases for favours! A
really truly gold veil pin in each one? You love! Oh, let's have a
cocktail before any one comes in. It does pick me up wonderfully....
Thanks.... Yes, I had breakfast in bedsome coffee and gluten crackers
was all, and aunty had to stay in my room half the morning trying to be
pensive about my wedding! No, Markham didn't make my travelling suit
half as well as he did Peggy Brewster's. I shall never go near him
again.... And did you hear that Jill found her diamond pendant in her
cold cream jar, so it wasn't a burglar at all!
Yes, Gaylord Vondeplosshe is going to be an usher.... Well, what
else could I do at the last moment? Wasn't it absurd for a grown man
like Fred Jennings to go have the mumps? Gay knows everyone and I'm
sure he is quite harmless.... Oh, Steve is well and terribly busy, you
know. He is giving me the most wonderful present. Papa hasn't given me
his yet and I'm dying to know what it is, he always gives me such
wonderful things, too.... There's the bell. I do hope it isn't Lois
Taylor, because she always wants people to sign petitions and appear in
court. It is Lois Taylor! Why didn't you leave word to have all
petitions checked with wraps? Giggles. Good heavens, what a fright of
a hat. Well, are you ready to go down?
Five hours later Beatrice was being dressed for the evening's
frolic, dipping into the bonbon box for a stray maple cream, and
complaining of her headache. At this juncture her father tiptoed
clumsily into her room and laid a white velvet jewel case on her
dressing table, standing back to watch her open it.
You dear she began in stereotyped, high-pitched tones as she
pressed the spring. You duck! she added a trifle more
enthusiastically, viewing the bowknot of gems in the form of a pina
design of diamonds four inches wide with a centre stone of
pigeon's-blood ruby. You couldn't have pleased me moretrying it
against her dressing gown. See, Jody, isn't this wonderful? I must
kiss you. She rustled over to her father and brushed her lips across
his cheek, rustling back again to tell Jody that she must try the neck
coil againit was entirely too loose.
I guess Steve can't go any better than that, her father said,
balancing himself on his toes and, in so doing, rumpling the rug.
He was a tall, heavily built man with harsh features and gray hair,
the numerous signs of a self-made man who is satisfied with his own
achievements. He had often told his sister: Bea can be the lady of the
family. I'm willing to set back and pay for it. It'd never do for me to
start buying antiques or quoting poetry. I can wear a dress suit
without disgracing Bea, and make an after-dinner speech if they let me
talk about the stockyards. But when it comes to musicals and monocles I
ask to be counted out. I had to work too hard the first half of my life
to be able to play the last half of it. I wasn't born in cold storage
and baptized with cracked ice the way these rich men's sons are. I've
shown this city that a farmer's boy can own the best in the layout and
have his girl be the most gorgeous of the crewbarring none!
This is a joy, Beatrice was saying, rapidly, her small face
wrinkled with displeasure.
She wished her father would go away because she wanted to think of a
hundred details of the next forty-eight hours and her nerves were
giving warning that their limit of endurance was near at hand. This
big, awkward man who was so harsh a task-master to the world and so
abject a slave to her own useless little self annoyed her. He offended
in an even deeper sensehe did not interest her. Things which did not
interest her were met with grave displeasure. Religion did not interest
her; neither did Steve O'Valley's businessher head ached whenever he
ventured to explain it. She never had to listen to anything to which
she did not wish to listen; the only rule imposed upon her was that of
becoming the most gorgeous girl in Hanover, and this rule she had
Tired? he asked, timidly.
Dead. It's terrible, papa. I don't know how I'll stay bucked up. I
want to burst out crying every time a bell rings or any one speaks to
me.... Oh, Jody, your fingers are all thumbs! Please try it again.
It looks nice, her father ventured, indicating the puff of gold
Beatrice did not answer; she sighed and had Johanna proceed.
The Harkin detectives will watch the presents, her father ventured
again. There are some more packages downstairs.
I'm tired of presents; I want to be through unwrapping crystal
vases and gold-lined fruit dishes and silly book ends and having to
write notes of thanks when I hate the gifts. My mind seems quivering
little wires that won't let me have a moment's rest. She took another
piece of candy.
When I married your mother, her father remarked, softly, evidently
forgetting Johanna's presence, we walked to a minister's house in
Gardenville about five miles south of here. Your mother was working for
a farmer's wife and she didn't say she was going to be married. She was
afraid they might try talking her out of ityou know how women do. He
looked round the elegant little room. I was getting ten dollars a
weekthat seemed big money in those days. I rented two rooms in the
rear cottage of a house on Ontario Streetit's torn down now. And I
bought some second-hand stuff to furnish it.
He paced up and down; he had a habit of so doing since he was always
whisked about in his motor car and he feared growing stiff if he did
But your mother liked the roomsand the things. I remember I
bought a combination chair and stepladder for a dollar and it didn't
work. He gave a chuckle. It stayed in a sort of betwixt and between
position, about one third stepladder and about two thirds chair, and
that worried me a lot. A dollar meant a good deal then. But your mother
knew what to do with it, she used it for kindling wood and said we'd
charge it up to experience. Yes, sir, we walked to the minister'sshe
wore a blue-print dress with a little pink sprig in it, and a sort of a
bonnet. His hand made an awkward descriptive gesture.
The minister was mighty nicehe took us into his garden and let
your mother pick a bunch of roses, and then he hitched up his horse and
buggy and drove us back to the farmer's house. The farmer's wife cried
a little when we told her; she liked your mother. She gave us a crock
of butter and some jam. While your mother packed her little trunkit
wasn't any bigger than one of your hatboxesI went out and stood at
the gate. I kept thinking, 'By jingo, I'm a married man! Mr. and Mrs.
Mark Constantine.' And I felt sort of afraidand almost ashamed. It
frightened me because I knew it was two to feed instead of one, and I
wondered if I'd done wrong to take Hannah away from the farmer's wife
when I was only getting ten dollars a week.
Well, when she came out of the door she looked as pretty as you'll
look in all your stuff, and she came right up to me and said, game as a
pebble, 'Mark, we're man and wife and we'll never be sorry, will we?
And when you're rich and I'm old we will stay just as loving!' I didn't
feel sorry or frightened any morenot once. Not until you came and
they told me she had gone on. Then I felt mighty sorryand frightened.
She looked so tired when I saw her thenso tired.
He paused, staring at his sunken gardens as seen from Beatrice's
windows. Some men lazily raked new-cut grass and a peacock preened
itself by the sundial. The glass conservatory showed signs of activity.
The florists were at work for the coming event. Then he looked at his
daughter, who waited with polite restraint until his reverie was ended.
I've given you all she would have had, he said, as if in debate
with himself that this was the last rebuttal against possible
Beatrice glided over beside him; she looked out of the window, too,
and then at her father. Something quite like tears was in his harsh
Daddy, she began with a quick indrawing of her breath, do you
think she'd have wanted me to have allall this?
Why wouldn't she? he answered, taking her arm gently. He had
always treated her with a formality amounting almost to awe.
I don't knowonly I sometimes do almost thinkwould you suspect
it? When I go to the office and watch those queerly dressed women
bending over desks and earning a few dollars a week and having to live
on itand when I see how they manage to smile in spite of itand how
I waste and spendand shed a great many tearswell, I wonder if it is
quite safe to start as Steve and I are starting! Then she threw her
arms round him. Steve won't believe that I've been serious, will he?
Now, daddy dear, please go 'way and let me dress, for I'm 'way late.
She kissed him almost patronizingly and he tiptoed out of her room,
rather glad to get into his own domainthe majestic library with its
partially arranged wedding gifts.
We're doing ourselves proud, he remarked to his sister, who had
been rearranging them.
What I told Beatrice this morning. Only she is all nerves. She
can't enjoy anythingit will be a relief to me, Mark, as well as a
loss, when it is over.
Her brother viewed her with a quizzical expression. Like the rest of
the world his sister never fooled him. But like all supermen there was
one human being in whom all his trust was centred, and who very often
thus brought about his defeat. In his case, as with Steve O'Valley, it
chanced to be Beatrice.
Regarding her both menmerciless with their associates and dubbed
as fish-blooded coroners by their enemieswere like gullible children
following a lovely and willful Pied Piperess. But Mark's sister with
her vanities and fibs irritated and amused him by turns. Perhaps he
resented her sharing this material triumph instead of the tired-faced
woman in the churchyard.
Do you remember the time you did the beadwork for the head
carpenter's wife and when she paid you for it you spent the dollar for
liquid rouge? Todd was so mad he wouldn't speak for a week, he
Don't say such things! Think how it would embarrass Bea. Of course
I don't remember. Neither do you.
Oh, don't I? What's the harm recalling old times? I remember when
you tried to make Todd a winter overcoat and he said it looked most as
good as a deep-sea diver's outfit. My Hannah nearly died a-laughing.
Fortunately Steve appeared, flourishing Beatrice's corsage by way of
Aha, the conquerer comes. My dear lad, your lady love has just
ousted me from her room, she'll be down presently. Belle, Steve and I
are going into the den to smoke.
I'm trying to look as amiable as possible, but I wish fuss and
feathers were not the mode. Steve smiled his sweetest at Aunt Belle
and then took Constantine's arm. The cave-man style of clubbing one's
chosen into unconsciousness and strolling at leisure through the jungle
with her wasn't half bad. By the way, I did sell the Allandale man
to-day, and the razor-factory stock is going to boom instead of flatten
outI'm sure of it.
He lit a cigarette and threw himself into an easy-chair. Constantine
selected a cigar and trimmed its end, watching Steve as he did so.
You've come on about as well as they ever do, he remarked,
unexpectedly. None of these rich young dogs could have matched you.
Seen the presents?
Scads of 'em. Awful stuff. I don't know what half of it is for. Bea
is going to hand you most of it. The apartment is to be a thing of
beauty and she won't hear of taking the offerings along.
How is the shop?
SplendidMary Faithful will manage it quite as well as I do. I
shall hear from her daily, you'll stroll over that way, and I can
manage to keep my left little finger on the wheel.
Mary's a good sort, Constantine mused. Sorry I ever let her go
over to your shebang. What's her family like?
Don't know. Never thought about 'em. Her kid brother works round
the place after school. Guess Mary's the man of the family.
How much do you pay her?
Forty a week.
Cheap enough. A man would draw down seventy and demand an
assistant. I never had any luck with women secretariesthey all wanted
to marry me, he admitted, grimly.
Mary's not that sort. Business is her life. If she were a man I'd
have a rival. I'm going to give her fifty a week from now on; she's
giving up her vacation to stay on the job.
Don't spoil her.
No danger. I've promised Beatrice to really learn to play bridge,
he changed the conversation.
Accept my sympathy Constantine began and then Beatrice in a
lovely Bohemian rainbow dinner gown came stealing in to stand before
them and complain of her headache and admire her corsage and let Steve
wrap her in her cape and half carry her to the limousine.
I shan't see you a moment until we're married, he began,
mournfully. I've been most awfully neglected. But as you are going to
be all mine I can't complain. You're prettier than ever, Bea.... Love
me?... Lots?... Whole lots? You don't say it the way I want you to,
laughing at his own nonsense.
I'll scream it and a crowd can gather to bear witness. She dimpled
prettily and nibbled at a rose leaf. It's all like a fairy
taleeveryone says so, and lots of the girls would like to be marrying
you on Wednesday.
Tell them I belong to the Gorgeous Girl until six men are walking
quietly beside me and assisting me to a permanent resting place. Even
then I'll belong to her, he added.
Your nose is so handsome, she said, wistfully, recalling her own.
Talking of noses! Bea, sometimes it's terrible to realize that my
ambitions have become true. To dream and work without ceasing and
without much caring what you do until your dream merges into
realityit makes even a six-footer as hysterical as a schoolgirl.
You're intense, she said, soberly. Jill says you'd make a
Steve looked annoyed. Those scatterbrained time wastersdon't
listen to them. Let's find our real selvesyou and I; be worth while.
Now that I've made my fortune I want to spend it in a right fashionI
want to be interested in things, not just dollars and cents. Help me,
dearest. You know about such things; you've never had the ugliness of
poverty bruise the very soul of you.
You mean having a good timeand parties she began.
No; books, music; studying human conditions. I want to study the
slow healing of industrial wounds and determine the best treatment for
them. I have made the real me go 'way, 'way off somewheres for a long
time until I won my pile of gold that helped me capture the girl I
loved. Now it is done the real me wants to come back and stay.
Oh, I see, she said, vaguely. Of course there are tiny things to
brush up ongreeting people, and you mustn't be so in earnest at
dinner parties and contradict and thump your fist. It isn't good form.
When whippersnappers like Gaylord Vondeplosshe
Sh-h-h! Gay's a dear. He is accepted every place.
We're nearly there, tough luck! One kiss, please; no one can see.
Say you care, then everything else must true up.
The wedding took place at high noon in church, with the bishop and
two curates to officiate. There was a vested choir singing The Voice
That Breathed O'er Eden; a thousand dollars' worth of flowers; six
bridesmaids in pastel frocks and picture hats, shepherdess' staffs, and
baskets of lilies of the valley; a matron of honour, flower girls,
ushers; a best man, a papa, an aunty in black satin with a large
section of an ostrich farm for her hatand a bridegroom.
After the wedding came the breakfast at the Constantine house.
Though certain guests murmured that it was a trifle too ultra like the
house itself, which was half a medieval castle and half the makings of
a village fire department, it was generally considered a success.
Nothing was left undone. The bride left the church amid the ringing of
chimes; her health was drunk, and she slipped up to the
rose-taffeta-adorned boudoir to exchange her ivory satin for a trim
suit of emerald green. Everyone wished on the platinum circlet of
diamonds and there was the conventional throwing of the bouquet, the
rush through the back of the grounds to the hired taxi, the screams of
disappointment at the escapeand Mr. and Mrs. O'Valley were en route
on their honeymoon.
It remained for the detectives to guard the presents, the society
reporters to discover new adjectives of superlative praise, and the
guests to drink up the champagne and say: Wonderful. Must have cost
thousands. Handsome couple. Couldn't have happened in any other
country but America. War fortune. Oh, yes, no doubt of ithides
and razors turned the trick. Well, how long do you think it is going
The office forces of the O'Valley and Constantine companies had been
excused so as to be present at the ceremony. But Mary Faithful and
Trudy Burrows had not availed themselves of the opportunity. Womanly
rebellion and heartache suddenly blotted out Mary's emotionless scheme
of action. Besides, there was a valid excuse of waiting to catch an
important long-distance call. With Trudy it was mere envy causing her
to say over and over: See Gay, the ragged little beggar, walk up the
aisle with one of those rich girls and never glance at mejust because
he's a Vondeplosshe? And me have to sit beside Nellie Lunk, who'll cry
when the organ plays and wear that ridiculous bathtub of a hat? Never!
I won't go unless I can walk up the aisle with Gay. Wait until I see
him to-night; I'll make it very pleasant.
Life seemed rather empty for Trudy as she sat in the deserted
offices pretending to add figures and trying to hum gayly. Even the box
of wedding cake laid on her deskit was laid on everyone's
deskbrought forth no smile or intention of dreaming over it. Was she
to spend her days earning fifteen dollars a week in this feudal baron's
employ? Tears marred the intensive cultivation on her rouged cheeks as
she looked out the window to see the office force being brought back
from the church in trucks.
Like cattlepeasantsall because of money. A war profiteer,
that's what he was. And she isn't anything at all except that she has
her father's money. She glanced toward Mary's closed door. Poor
Mary, she thought; she cares! I don'tthat makes it easier. Well, he
could have done worse than to take Mary, tossing her head as she tried
to create the impression of indifference now that the employees were
coming back to their desks.
For there was a forked road for Trudy as well as for Mary Faithful.
Women are no longer compelled to accept the one unending pathway of
domesticity. Trudy's forked road resolved itself into either marriage
with Gay as a stepping stone to marriage with someone else, or a smart
shop with society women and actresses as patrons, being able to live at
a hotel and do as she wished, inventing a neat little past of escaping
from a Turkish harem or being the widow of an English officer who died
serving his country. Trudy was not without resources, in her own
estimation, and whether she married Gay or achieved the shop was a
toss-up. Like the rest of the world she considered herself capable of
Hearing the scuffle of feet Mary opened the door and forced herself
to ask about the wedding. Presently the excitement died down and the
round of mechanical drudgery took its place. An hour later someone
knocked at an inner door which led to steep side stairs connecting with
a side street entrance. Wondering who it was Mary opened it, to find
Steve, very flushed and handsome, a flower in his buttonhole yet no
hint of rice about him.
Sh-h-h! Not a word out loud! I want to escape. Mrs. O'Valley is
waiting round the corner in a cab. I forgot the long-distance callthe
one we expected yesterday.
It came while everyone was at the church. I stayed here in case it
did. They will pay your price, so I closed the deal.
Hurrah for Mary Faithful! But I wish you could have been there. It
was like a picture. I never saw her look so lovely. Well, that's
settled. Wire me at Chicago. I think that's everything. Oh, you're to
have fifty a week from now on. What man isn't generous on his wedding
day? Good-bye, Miss Head of Affairs. A moment later he was climbing
down the rickety flight of stairs.
For a long time Mary sat watching the hands of her desk clock slowly
proceed round the dial. Someone knocked at the door and she said to
come in, but her voice sounded faint and far away.
Fifty dollars a weekgenerous on his wedding day! She ought to be
very glad; it meant she could save more and have an occasional treat
for Luke. It was good to think that women had forked roads these days.
How terrible if she were left in the shelter of a home to mourn
unchecked. Besides, she was guarding his business; that was a great
comfort. The Gorgeous Girl was sharing him with Mary Faithfulwould
always share him. That was a comfort, too.
After the errand boy left, Mary tried to write a letter but she
found herself going into the washroom off Steve's office and without
warning weakly burying her face in an old working coat he had left
behind. She had just made a great many dollars for him which he would
spend on the Gorgeous Girl; she would make many more during the long
summer while she stayed at the post and was Miss Head of Affairs. She
had laid her woman's hopes on the altar of commerce because of Steve
O'Valley, and he rewarded her with a ten-dollar-a-week raise since a
man was always generous on his wedding day.
Yet there was a distinct satisfaction in the heartache and the
responsibility, even in the irony of the ten-dollar-a-week advance.
Life might be hardbut it was not empty! She was glad to be in the
deserted office replete with his belongings and breathing of his
personality. She was glad to be an acknowledged Miss Head of Affairs.
You'd miss even a heartache if it was all you had, she whispered
to herself from within the folds of Steve's office coat.
During the summer the O'Valley Leather Company discovered that Mary
Faithful made quite as efficient a manager as Steve O'Valley himself.
Nor did she neglect any of a multitude of petty detailssuch as the
amount of ice needed for the water cooler, the judicious issue of
office supplies; the innovation of a rest-room for girls metamorphosed
out of a hitherto dingy storeroom; the eradication of friction between
two ancient bookkeepers who had come to regard the universe as against
them. Even the janitor's feelings were appeased by a few kind words and
a crossing of his palm with silver when Mary decided to houseclean
before Steve's return.
It is impossible for a business woman not to have feminine notions.
They stray into her routine existence like blades of pale grass
persistently shooting up between the cracks of paving blocks. Quite
frilly curtains adorned Mary's office windows, fresh flowers were kept
in a fragile vase, a marble bust of Dante guarded the filing cabinet,
and despite the general cleaning she used a special little silk duster
for her own knicknacks. On a table was a very simple tea service with a
brass samovar for days when the luncheon hour proved too stormy for an
Sharing Steve with the Gorgeous Girl, Mary had decided to clean his
business home just as the Gorgeous Girl would have the apartment set in
spick-and-span order. It was during the general upsetting with brooms,
mops, paint pots, and what not, while Mary good-naturedly tried to work
at a standing desk, that Mark Constantine dropped in unexpectedly.
Gad! he began, characteristically. Thought I'd find you in your
cool and hospitable office inviting me to have a siesta. He mopped his
face with a huge silk handkerchief.
Try it in a few days and we will be quite shipshape. Mary wheeled
up a chair for him. Anything I can do for you?
He sank down with relief; his fast-accumulating flesh made him
awkward and fond of lopping down at unexpected intervals. He glanced up
at this amazing young woman, crisp and cool in her blue muslin dress,
the tiny gold watch in a black silk guard being her only ornament. His
brows drew into what appeared to be a forbidding frown; he really liked
Mary, with her steady eyes somehow suggesting eternity and her funny
freckled nose destroying any such notion.
How are you getting on? was all he said.
Splendidly. We expect Mr. O'Valley a week from Mondaybut of
course you know that yourself.
Gad, Constantine repeated.
And how is Mr. Constantine? Mary asked, almost graciously.
In the hands of my enemy, he protested. Bea left a hundred and
one things to be seen to. My sister has sprained her ankle and is out
of the running. It's the apartment that causes the troubleBea has
sent letter after letter telling what she wants us to do. I thought
everything was all set before she went away buthere! He drew out
violet notepaper and handed it over. Sorry to bother you, but when
that girl gets home and settled I hope she'll be able to tend to her
own affairs and leave us in peace. I guess you understand how women are
about settling a new house.
Reluctantly Mary deciphered the slanting, curlicue handwriting,
which said in part:
Now, papa dear, I'm terribly worried about the painted Chinese
wall panels for the little salon. They are likely to be the wrong
design. Jill has written that hers were. So please get the man to
give you a guarantee that he will correct any mistakes. I want
to go to Brayton's and get white-and-gold jars that will look
in the dining roomBrayton knows my tastes. Besides this, he is
to have two rose pots of old Wheldon ware for methey will
contain electrically lighted flowerslike old-fashioned
I wish you and aunty would drive out to the arts-and-crafts shop
and bid on the red lacquer cabinet and the French clock that is
stock; I am sure no one has bought them. I could not decide
whether I wanted them or not until now, and I must have them.
will tone in beautifully with the rugs.
Mary turned the page:
Also, Aunt Belle has not answered my letter asking her to order
the monogrammed stationeryfour sizes, please, ashes of roses
shade and lined with gold tissue. I also told Aunt Belle to see
about relining my mink cape and muff. I shall wish to wear it
early in the season, and I want something in a smart striped
effect with a pleated frill for the muff. And the little house
Monster completely slipped my mindAunt Belle knows about
itwith a wind-harp sort of thing at one side and funny pictures
painted on the outside. I have changed my mind about the colour
scheme for the breakfast nookI am going to have light gray,
almost a silver, and I would like some good pewter things.
It seems to me I shall never be rested. Steve wants to see every
sunrise and explore every trail. We have met quite nice people
the dancing at the hotels is lovely. Oh, yes, if you need any
I know Miss Faithful will be glad to help, and Gaylord has
Loads of love to you, dear papa. Your own
Mary returned the letter without comment.
Will you help me? Constantine demanded almost piteously. Belle's
out of the running, you know.
I'm cleaning my own house, Mary began, looking at the surrounding
disorder, but I can run up to the apartment with you and see what must
be done; though it seems to me
Seems to you what, young woman?
that your daughter would prefer to do these at her leisurethey
are so personal.
Constantine moved uneasily in his chair. I guess women don't like
to do things these daysrather disgruntled in generalbut she might
as well have asked an African medicine man as to ask me. What do I know
about red lacquered cabinets and relining fur capes? I just pay for
Mary smiled. Something about his gruff, merciless personality had
always attracted her. She had sometimes suspected that the day would
come when she would be sorry for himjust why she did not know. She
had watched him from afar during the period of being his assistant
bookkeeper, and now, having risen with the fortunes of Steve O'Valley,
she faced him on an almost equal footinganother queer quirk of
She realized that his tense race after wealth had been in a sense
his strange manner of grieving for his wife. But his absolute
concentration along one line resulted in a lack of wisdom concerning
all other lines. Though he could figure to the fraction of a dollar how
to beat the game, play big-fish-swallow-little-fish and get away with
it, he had no more judgment as to his daughter's absurd self than
Monster, who had gone on the honeymoon wrapped in a new silken blanket.
You cannot have your cake and eat it, too, as Mary had decided during
her early days of running errands for nervous modistes who boxed her
ears one moment and gave her a silk remnant the next. Neither can a man
put all his powers of action into one channel, blinding himself to all
else in the world, and expect to emerge well balanced and normal in his
As Mary agreed to help Constantine out of his débris of French
clocks and pewter for the breakfast room she began to feel sorry for
him even if he was a business piratefor he had paid an extremely high
price for the privilege of being made a fool of by his own child.
He escorted her to the limousine and they whirled up to the
apartment house, where in all the gray stone, iron grille work,
hall-boy elegance there now resided three couples of the Gorgeous Girl
type, and where Bea's apartment awaited her coming, the former tenants
having been forced to vacate in time to have the place completely
I wouldn't ask Gaylord if I had to do it myself, Constantine said,
brushing by the maid who opened the door. There is a young man we
could easily spare. If he ever gets as good a job as painting spots on
rocking-horses I'll eat my hat.
Mary was surveying the room. Wherewhere do we go to from here?
Constantine sank into a large chair, shaking his head. Damned if I
know, he panted. Look at that truck!pointing to piles of wedding
Mary walked the length of the drawing room. It had black velvet
panels and a tan carpet with angora rugs spread at perilous intervals;
there was a flowered-silk chaise-longue, bright yellow damask
furniture, and an Italian-Renaissance screen before the marble
Opening out of this was a salonthis was where the Chinese panels
were to find a havenand already cream-and-gold furniture had been
placed at artistic angles with blue velvet hangings for an abrupt
contrast. There was a multitude of books bound in dove-coloured ooze;
cut glass, crystal, silver candelabra sprinkled throughout. Men were
working on fluted white satin window drapes, and Mary glanced toward
the dining room to view the antique mahogany and sparkle of plate.
Someone was fitting more hangings in the den, and a woman was disputing
with her co-worker as to the best place for the goldfish globe and the
co-worker was telling her that Monster's house was to occupy the
roomyes, Monster, the O'Valley doga pound and a half, he weighed,
and was subject to pneumonia. Here they began to laugh, and someone
else, knowing of Constantine's presence, discreetly closed the door.
Flushing, Mary returned to the drawing room and standing before
Constantine's chair she said swiftly: I'm afraid I cannot help you,
sir. I'm not this sort. I shouldn't be able to please. Besides, it is
robbing your daughter of a great joyand a wonderful duty, if you
don't mind my saying itthis arranging of her own home. We have no
right to do it for her.
She's asked us to do it, spluttered the big man.
Then you will have to ask her to excuse me.
Mary was almost stern. It seemed quite enough to have to stay at her
post all summer, run the business and houseclean the office for his
return, without being expected to come into the Gorgeous Girl's realm
and do likewise. In this new atmosphere she began to feel old and
plain, quite impossible! The yellow damask furniture, the rugs, the
silver and gold and lovely extravagances seemed laughing at her and
suggesting: Go back to your filing cabinet and your old-maid silk
dusting cloths, to your rest-rooms for girls, and to your arguments
with city salesmen. You have no more right here than she will ever have
in your office.
When Constantine would have argued further she threw back her head
defiantly, saying: Someone explains the difference between men and
women by the fact that men swear and women scream, which is true as far
as it goes. But in these days you often find a screaming gentleman and
a profane ladyand there's a howdy-do! You can't ask the profane
ladyno matter if she is a right-hand business manto come fix
pretties. You better write your daughter what I've said, and if you
don't mind I'd like to get back to the office.
Constantine rose, frowning down at her with an expression that would
have frightened a good many women stauncher than Mary Faithful. For she
had mentioned to him what no one, not even his sluggish conscience, had
ever hinted athis daughter's duty.
But all he said was: Profane ladies and screaming gentlemen. Well,
I've put a screaming-gentleman tag on Gaylord Vondeplosshebut what
about yourself? Where are you attempting to classify?
Me? I'll be damned if I help you out, she laughed up at him as she
moved toward the door.
Chuckling, yet defeated, Constantine admitted her triumph and sent
her back to the office in the limousine.
At that identical moment Gaylord, alias the screaming gentleman, had
been summoned to Aunt Belle's bedside. For Beatrice believed in having
two strings to her bow and she had written her aunt a second deluge of
complaints and requests. Bemoaning the sprained ankleand the probable
regaining of three pounds which had been laboriously massaged
awayAunt Belle had called for Gaylord's sympathy and support.
While Mary, rather perturbed yet unshaken in her convictions,
returned to the office and Constantine had decided his blood pressure
could not stand any traipsing round after folderols, Gaylord was
eagerly taking notes and saying pretty nothings to the doleful Mrs.
Todd, who relied utterly on his artistic judgment and promptness of
Whereupon Gaylord proudly rolled out of the Constantine gates in a
motor car bearing Constantine's monogram, and by late afternoon he had
come to a most satisfactory understanding with decorators and antique
dealersan understanding which led to an increase in the prices
Beatrice was to pay and the splitting of the profits between one
Gaylord Vondeplosshe and the tradesmen.
A supper! Mark Constantine demanded crisply that same evening,
merely groaning when his sister told him that Gaylord had undertaken
all the errands and was such a dear boy. And send it up to my
roomham, biscuits, pie, and iced coffee, and I'm not at home if the
lord mayor calls.
He departed to the plainest room in the mansion and turned on an
electric fan to keep him company. He sat watching the lawn men at their
work, wondering what he was to do with this barn of a place. Beatrice
had told him forcibly that she was not going to live in it. Wherein was
the object of keeping it open for Belle Todd and himself when more and
more he wished for semi-solitude? Noise and crowds and luxuries
irritated him. He liked meals such as the one he had ordered, the
plebeian joy of taking off tight shoes and putting on disreputable
slippers, sitting in an easy-chair with his feet on another, while he
read detective stories or adventurous romances with neither sense nor
moral. He liked to relive in dream fashion the years of early
endeavourof his married life with Hannah. After he finished the
reverie he would tell himself with a flash of honesty, Gad, it might
as well have happened to some other fellowfor all the good it does
you. Nothing seemed real to Constantine except his check book and his
It was still to dawn upon him that his daughter partly despised him.
He had always said that no one loved him but his child, and that no one
but his child mattered so far as he was concerned. Since Beatrice's
marriage he had become restless, wretched, desperately lonesome; he
found himself missing Steve quite as much as he missed Beatrice. Their
letters were unsatisfactory since they were chiefly concerned with
thingsendless things that they coveted or had bought or wanted in
readiness for their return. As he sat watching the lawn men gossip he
knitted his black brows and wondered if he ought to sell the mansion
and be done with it. Then it occurred to him that grandchildren playing
on the velvety lawn would make it quite worth while. With a thrill of
anticipation he began to plan for his grandchildren and to wonder if
they, too, would be eternally concerned with things.
As he recalled Mary's defiance he chuckled. A ten-dollar-a-week
raise was cheap for such a woman, he thought.
Meantime, Trudy informed the Faithful family at supper: Gay has
telephoned that he is coming to-night. Were you going to use the
parlour, Mary? A mere formality always observed for no reason at all.
No, I'm going to water the garden. It's as dry as Sahara.
Don't make Luke help you. He's stoop-shouldered enough from study
without making him carry sprinkling cans, Mrs. Faithful objected.
Nonsense! It's good for him, and he will be through in an hour.
Too late for the first movie show, expostulated Luke.
A world tragedy, his sister answered.
I wanted to go to-night, her mother insisted. It's a lovely
story. Mrs. Bowen was in to tell me about itall about a Russian war
bride. They built a whole town and burnt it up at the end of the story.
I guess it cost half a millionand there's fighting in it, too.
All right, go and take Luke. But I don't think the movies are as
good for him as working in a garden.
You never want me to have pleasure. Home all day with only memories
of the dead for company, and then you come in as cross as a witch,
ready to stick your nose in a book or go dig in the mud! Excuse me,
Trudy, but a body has to speak out sometimes. Your father to the
lifereading and grubbing with plants. Oh, mother's proud of you,
Mary, but if you would only get yourself up a little smarter and go out
with young people you'd soon enough want Luke to go out, too! I don't
pretend to know what your judgment toward your poor old mother would
Mary's day had included a dispute with a firm's London
representative, the Constantine incident, a session at the dentist's as
a noon-recess attraction, housecleaning the office, and two mutually
contradictory wires from Steve. She laid her knife and fork down with a
defiant little clatter.
I can't burn the candle at both ends. I work all day and I have to
relax when I leave the office. If my form of a good time is to read or
set out primroses it is nothing to cry thief for, is it? I want you to
go out, mother, as you very well know. And you are welcome to fill the
house with company. Only if I'm to do a man's work and earn his wage I
must claim my spare time for myself.
Now listen here, dear, interposed Trudy, who took Mary's part when
it came to a real argument, don't get peeved. Let me buy your next
dress and show you how to dance. You'll be surprised what a difference
it will make. You'll get so you just hate ever to think of work.
Splendid! Who will pay the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker?
Mary thought of the wedding presents carelessly stacked about
Beatrice's apartment. One pile of them, as she measured expenses, would
have paid the aforementioned gentlemen for a year or more.
Now you've got her going, Luke objected. Say, Trudy, you don't
kill yourself tearing off any work at the shop!
Luke, began his mother, be a gentleman. Dear me, I wish I hadn't
said a word. To think of my children in business! Why, Luke ought to be
attending a private school and going to little cotillion parties like
my brothers did; and Mary in her own home. She pressed her napkin to
I admit Mary carries me along on the pay rollI'm Mary's
foolishness, Trudy said, easily. Mary's a good scout even if she does
keep us stepping. She has to fall down once in a while, and she fell
hard when she hired me and took me in as a boarder.
Mary flushed. I try to make you do your share, she began,
I ought to pay more board, Trudy giggled at her own audacity. But
I won't. You're too decent to make me. You know I'm such a funny fool
I'd go jump in the river if I got blue or things went wrong, and you
like me well enough to not want that. Don't worry about our Mary, Mrs.
Faithful. Just let her manage Luke and he won't wander from her apron
strings like he will if you and I keep him in tow.
Luke made a low bow, scraping his chair back from the table. I'll
go ahead and get reserved seats and mother can come when she's ready,
Mrs. Faithful beamed with triumph. That's my son! Get them far
enough back, the pictures blur if I'm too close.
I'll do the dishes, Mary said, briefly. Go and get ready.
I'd wipe them only Gay is coming so early, Trudy explained,
I'd rather be alone. Mary was piling up the pots and pans.
Now, deary, if you don't feel right about mother's going, her
mother resumed a little later as she poked her head into the kitchen,
just say so. But I certainly want to see that town burnt up; and
besides, it's teaching Luke history. Dear me, your hair is dull. Why
don't you try that stuff Trudy uses?
Because I'm not Trudy. Good-bye.
You're all nerves again. I'd certainly let someone else do the
I need a vacation.
That means you want to get away from us. Well, I try to keep the
home together. Leave that coffeepot just as it is, I'll want a drop
when I get back. Waddling out the door Mrs. Faithful left Mary to
assault the dishes and long for Steve's return.
I wonder why the great plan did not make it possible for all folks
to like their relatives? she asked herself as she finally hung the tea
towels on the line; or their star boarder?
Then she became engrossed in the way the newly set out plants had
taken root. Bending over the flower beds she was hardly conscious that
darkness had fallen over the eartha heavenly, summer-cool darkness
with veiled stars prophetic of a blessed shower. She repaired to the
porch swing to dream her dreams of fluffs and frills, arrange a dream
house and live therein. It should be quite unlike the Gorgeous Girl's
apartmentbut a roomy, sprawling affair with old furniture that was
used and loved and shabby, well-read books, carefully chosen pictures,
dull rugs, and oddly shaped lamps, a shaggy old dog to lie before the
open fireplace and be patted occasionally, fat blue jugs of Ragged
Robin roses at frequent intervals. Perhaps there would be a baby's toy
left somewhere along the stairway leading to the nursery. When one has
the cool of a summer's night, a porch screened with roses and a
comfortable swing, what does it matter if there are unlikable persons
and china-shop apartment houses?
Had Mary known what was taking place in the front parlour it would
not have jarred her from her dreams. For Gaylord, resplendent in
ice-cream flannels, and Trudy, wearing an unpaid-for black-satin dress
with red collar and cuffs, were both busier than the proverbial beaver
planning their wedding. It was to be an informal and unexpected little
affair, being the direct result of the Gorgeous Girl's demands as to
settling her household.
You've no idea how jolly easy it was, Babseley. There was a
dressing case I know Bea will keepit brought me a cool hundred
commissionit had just come in. I plunged and bought two altar scarfs
she can use for her reading standshe likes such things, besides all
the bona-fide orders. I've been working for fairand I've made over a
Trudy kissed Bubseley between his pale little eyes. You Lamb! Sure
you won't have to give it back or that they will tell?
Of course not! They'd give their own selves away. That's the way
such things are always done, y'know. I've an idea that I'll go in
seriously for the business by and by. I don't feel any compunction; I'm
entitled to every cent of it; in fact, I call it cheap for Bea at a
But will they really pay you? Trudy was skeptical. It seemed such
a prodigious amount for buying a few trifles.
The Constantine credit is like the Bank of England. I'll have my
money and we'll make our getaway before Bea arrives in town.
Why? Trudy did not approve of this. The contrast between her
marriage and the Gorgeous Girl's wedding rankled.
Gay hesitated. I want to go to New York and see concert managers
and father's friends, he evaded. Then we'll visit my sister in
Connecticut as long as she'll have us. And when we come backwell,
you'llyou'll know the smart ways better.
He was a trifle afraid of Trudy and he did not know how best to
advise her that her slips in speech and manners would be more easily
remedied by setting her an example of the correct thing than by staying
in Hanover and leading a cat-and-dog life, getting nowhere at all.
Trudy kissed him again. Hurrah for the eternal frolic! she said,
adding: But we'll know Beatrice and Steve socially, won't we?
Of course! he said, in helpless concession.
His one-cylinder little brain had not yet reckoned with Trudy's
determination to conquer the social arena. He knew he must have her to
help him; his efforts with creditors were failing sadly of late.
Besides, he admired her tremendously; he felt like a rake and a deuce
of a chap when they went out together, and he relied on her
vivacityPep had been his pet name for her before he originated
Babseleyto carry him through. It really would be quite an easy matter
to live on nothing a year until something turned up. The graft from
Beatrice was the open sesame, however, and the Gorgeous Girl would
never suspect the truth.
Keep right on working hard, Trudy said, fondly, as they kissed
each other good-night. I'll tell Mary to-morrow. I want to leave my
big trunk here because we might want to stay here for a few days when
we come back.
Never!masterfully pointing his cane at the moon. My wife is
going to have her own apartment. One of father's friends has built
several apartment houses and he'll be sure to let me in.
Are we dreaming? Trudy asked, thinking of how indebted she was to
Beatrice O'Valley, yet how she envied and hated her.
No, Babseley, I'll phone you to-morrow and come down. If you see me
flying about in a machine don't be surprised; I'm to use their big car
as much as I like. But it would be a little thick to have us seen
I'll see that the whole social set gets a draft from me that will
open their eyes, Trudy promised, loath to have him go.
If old man Constantine knew I drew that money down! Gay chuckled
with delight. When his favourite after-dinner story is to tell how
Steve O'Valley lay on his stomach and watched goats for an education.
I'd hate to have my finger between his teeth when he learns the
truth, Trudy prompted.
She spent half the night taking inventory of her wardrobe, her
debts, and her personal charms, practising airs and graces before her
mirror and calculating how long the thousand would last them. All the
world was before her, to Trudy's way of thinking. She would be Mrs.
Gaylord Vondeplosshe, and with Gay's name and her brainwell, to give
Trudy's own sentiments, they would soon be able to carry the whole show
in their grip and use the baggage cars to bring back the profits!
Gaylord's sudden marriage and departure for New York caused no small
comment. In the Faithful family Mary and Luke stood against Mrs.
Faithful, who declared with meaning emphasis that some girls had more
sense than others and it was better to marry and make a mistake the
first time than to remain an old maid. With Trudy's style and high
spirits she was going to carry Gaylord into the front ranks without any
effort. Luke described the event by saying that a bad pair of
disturbers had teamed for life, and relied upon Mary to take up the
burden of the proof.
Don't mourn so, mother. I'm a happy old maid, she insisted when
the comments grew too numerous for her peace of mind. Trudy was not
the sort to blush unseen, and it's a relief not to have to cover up her
mistakes at the office. Everything will be serene once more. As for
Gay's futureI suppose he is likely to bring home anything from a
mousetrap to a diamond tiara. I don't pretend to understand his ways.
Of course it isn't like Mrs. O'Valley's wedding, her mother
resumed, with a resonant sniffle. You have been so used to hearing
about her ways that poor little Trudy seems cheap. Perhaps your mother
and brother and the little home seem so, too. But we can't all be
Gorgeous Girls, and I think Trudy was right to take Gaylord when he had
the money for a ring and a license.
He had more than that, Mary ruminated. People don't walk to New
Did he win it on a horse race? Luke had an eye to the future.
Maybe his father's friends helped him, Mrs. Faithful added.
Can't prove anything by me. Mary shook her head.
Neither Trudy nor Gaylord knew that all Beatrice's bills were sent
to Mary to discount, and Mary, not without a certain shrewdness, had
her own ideas on the matter. But it amused more than it annoyed her.
Gay might as well have a few hundred to spend in getting a wife and
caretaker as tradesmen whose weakness it was to swell their profits
beyond all respectability.
I wonder where they will live. Mrs. Faithful found the subject
entirely too fascinating to let alone.
Not here, her daughter assured her. And if you'd only say yes I
could get such a sunny, pretty flat where the work would be worlds
Leave my home? Never! It would be like uprooting an oak forest.
Time for that when I am dead and gone. The double chin quivered with
indignation. I don't see why Trudy and Gay won't come here and take
the two front rooms. They'd be company for me.
She approved of Trudy's views of life as much as she disapproved and
was rather afraid of this young woman who wanted to bustle her into
trim house dresses instead of the eternal wrappers.
I kept Trudy only because she needed workand a home, Mary said,
frankly; and because you wanted her. But my salary does nicely for us.
Besides, it would be a bad influence for Luke to have such a person as
Gay about. We must make a man out of Luke.
Don't go upsetting him. He eats his three good meals a day and
always acts like a little gentleman. You'll nag at him until he runs
away like my brother Amos did.
Better run away from us than run over us, Mary argued; but there
is no need of planning for Trudy's return. Their home will be in a good
part of the city, if it consists in merely hanging onto a lamp-post.
You don't realize that Gay is a bankrupt snob and married Trudy only
because he could play off cad behind his pretty wife's skirts. Men will
like Trudy and the women ridicule and snub her until she finds she has
a real use for her claws. Up to now she has only halfway kept them
sharpened. In a few years you will find Mr. and Mrs. Gaylord
Vondeplosshe in Hanover society with capital letters, hobnobbing with
Beatrice O'Valley and her set and somehow managing to exist in
elegance. Don't ask how they will do itbut they will. However, they
would never consider starting from our house. That would be getting off
on a sprained ankle.
Mrs. Faithful gulped the rest of her coffee. No one has any use for
me because I haven't money. Our parlour was good enough for them to do
their courting in, and if they don't come and see me real often I'll
write Trudy a letter and tell her some good plain facts!
Be sure to say we all think Gay's mother must have been awful fond
of children to have raised him, Luke suggested from the offing.
Mary tossed a sofa pillow at him and disappeared. She could have
electrified her mother by telling her that Steve was to return that
morning, that the office was prepared to welcome him back, and that
Mrs. O'Valley would be anchored at the telephone to get into
communication with her dearest and best of friends.
As she walked to the street car she reproached herself for not
having told the news. It was a tiny thing to tell a woman whose horizon
was bounded by coffee pots, spotted wrappers, and inane movies.
You're mean in spots, Mary told herself. You know how it would
have pleased her.
She sometimes felt a maternal compassion for this helpless dear with
her double chins and self-sacrificing past, and she wondered whether
her father had not had the same attitude during the years of nagging
reproach at his lack of material prosperity. She resolved to come home
that night with a budget of news items concerning Steve's return, even
bringing a rose from the floral offering that was to be placed on his
After all, she's mother, Mary thought, rounding the corner leading
to the office building, and like most of us she does the best she
She tried to maintain a calm demeanour in the office as she answered
inquiries and opened the mail. But all the time she kept glancing at
her desk clock. Half-past nineof course he would be latesurely he
must come by ten. She wished she had flung maidenly discretion to the
winds and worn the white silk sport blouse she had just bought. But she
had made herself dress in a crumpled waist of nondescript type. The
floral piece on Steve's long-deserted desk made her keep glancing up to
smile at its almost funeral magnificence.
She answered a telephone call. Yes, Mr. O'Valley was
expectedundoubtedly he would wish to reserve a plate for the Chamber
of Commerce luncheonunless they heard to the contrary they could do
so. ... Oh, it was to include the wives and so on. Then reserve places
for Mr. and Mrs. O'Valley. She hung up the receiver abruptly and went
to making memoranda.
Even if she demanded and would receive a share of Steve's time and
attention it would be the thankless, almost bitter portionsuch as
reserving plates for Mr. and Mrs. O'Valley or O.K.ing Mrs. O'Valley's
bills. Still it was hers, awarded to her because of keenness of brain
and faithfulness of action. Steve needed her as much as he needed to
come home to his miniature palace to watch the Gorgeous Girl display
her latest creation, to be able to take the Gorgeous Girl fast in his
arms and say: You are mineminemine! very likely punctuating the
words with kisses. Yet he must return each day to Mary Faithful and
say: You are my right-hand man; I need you.
A penny for your thoughts. Steve O'Valley was standing beside her.
You look as if work agreed with you. Say something nice nowthat a
long holiday has improved me!
She managed to put a shaking hand into his, wondering if she
betrayed her thoughts. Being as tall as Steve she was able to look at
him, not up at him; and there they stoodthe handsome, reckless man
with just a suggestion of nervous tension in his Irish blue eyes, and
the plain young woman in a rumpled linen blouse.
Ahso I don't please, he bantered. Well, tell us all about it.
I've a thousand questionsmy father-in-law says you are the only thing
I have that he covets. How about that? He led the way into his office,
Then he fell upon his mountain of mail and memoranda, demands for
this charity and that patriotic subscription, and Mary began a careful
explanation of affairs and they sat talking and arguing until the
general superintendent looked in to suggest that the shop might like to
have Mr. O'Valley say hello.
It's nearly eleven, Steve exclaimed, and we haven't begun to say
a tenth of all there is to discuss. See the funeral piece, Hodges? Why
didn't you label it 'Rest in pieces' and be done with it, eh? I shall
now appear to make a formal speech. Here he cut a rosebud from the big
wreath and handed it gravely to Mary; he cut a second one and fastened
it in his own buttonhole. Lead me out, Hodges. I'm a bit
unsteadybeen playing too long.
Mary stood in the doorway, one hand caressing the little rose. That
Beatrice should have had the flower was her first thought. Then it
occurred to her that Beatrice would have all the flowers at the formal
affairs to be given the bridal couple, besides sitting opposite Steve
at his own table. She no longer felt that she had stolen the rose or
usurped attention. There was a clapping of hands and the usual laughter
which accompanies listening to any generous proprietor's speech, a
trifle forced perhaps but very jolly sounding. Then Steve returned to
his office to become engrossed in conversation with Mary until Mark
Constantine dropped in to bowl him off to the club for luncheon.
She's kept things humming, hasn't she? Constantine asked, sinking
into the nearest chair.
A prize, Steve said, proudly. I don't find a slip-up any place.
I'll be back at two, Miss Faithful, in case any one calls.... How is
Bea? His voice softened noticeably.
Mary slipped away.
Bea doesn't like one half of her things and the other half are so
much better than the apartment that she says they don't show up, her
father admitted, drolly. She is tired to deathso you'll find her at
home, my boy, with a box of candy and the latest novel. Belle was
talking her head off when I left the house and the girls keep calling
her on the telephone for those little three-quarters-of-an-hour hello
talks. It seems to me that for rich girls, my daughter and her friends
are the busiest, most tired women I ever knewand yet do the least.
He put on his hat and waited for Steve to open the door.
I don't pretend to understand them, Steve answered. Maybe that's
why I'm so happy. Bea fusses if the shade of draperies doesn't match
her gown, and if Monster has a snarl in her precious hair it is cause
for a tragedy. But I just grin and go along and presently she has
forgotten all about it.
I tried to get that young woman helper of yours to help me fix up
Bea's things, Constantine complained. Let's walk to the clubmy
knees are going stiff on me.
She looked round the apartment and plain refused to put away
another woman's pots and pans. It was just spunk. I don't know that I
blame her. So Belle got that low order of animal life
Yes; and now the husband, I understand, of one of your thinnest
clad and thinnest brained former clerks. Gay was in his element; he
kept the machine working overtime and flattered Belle until he had
everything his own way. Yet Beatrice seems quite satisfied with his
You must have been hanging round the house this morning.
I couldn't get down to brass tacks, he admitted. You've had her
all summerbut you can bet your clothes you wouldn't have had her if I
hadn't been willing. He slapped Steve on the shoulder good-naturedly.
Steve nodded briskly. Then he suggested: Bea has the New York idea
rather strong. Has she ever hinted it to you?
Don't let that flourish, Steve. Kill it at the start. She knew
better than to try to wheedle me into going. I'm smarter than most of
the men round these parts but I'd be fleeced properly by the New York
band of highbinders if I tried to go among them. And you're not as good
at the game as I am. Not He paused as if undecided how much would
be best to tell Steve. He evidently decided that generalities would be
the wisest arguments, so he continued: Don't winceit's the truth,
and there must be no secrets between us from now on. Besides, you're in
love and you can't concentrate absolutely. My best advice to you is to
stay home and tend to your knitting.
You and Bea can go play round New York all you like. Let the New
York crowd come to see you and be entertained, they'll be glad to eat
your dinners and drink your wine if they don't have to pay for it. We
can get away with Hanover but we'd be handcuffed if we tried New York.
When I made a hundred thousand dollars I was tempted to try New York
instead of staying hereto make Bea the most gorgeous girl in the
metropolis. But horse sense made me pass it by and stay on my own home
diamond. So I've made a good many more hundreds of thousands and,
what's to the point, I've kept 'em!
Here the conversation drifted into more technical business detail
with Steve expostulating and contradicting and Constantine frowning at
his son-in-law through his bushy eyebrows, admiring him prodigiously
all the while.
* * * * *
Beatrice had telephoned Steve's office, to be told that her husband
was at lunch and would not be in until two o'clock.
Have him come to our apartment, she left word, just as soon as he
can. I am just leaving Mr. Constantine's house to go there.
After which she began telling Aunt Belle good-bye.
Dear me, Bea, what a wonderful hat! her aunt sighed. I never saw
anything more becoming.
It took ten minutes to admire Bea's costume of rosewood crape and
the jewelled-cap effect, somewhat like Juliet's, caught over each ear
by a pink satin rose.
Steve doesn't appreciate anything in the way of costumes, she
complained. He just says: 'Yes, deary, I love you, and anything you
wear suits me.' Quite discouraging and so different from the other
I'd call it very comfortable, suggested her aunt.
I suppose sobut comfortable things are often tiresome. It is
tiresome, too, to see too much of the same person. I was really bored
to death in the YosemiteSteve is so primitivehe wanted to stay
there for days and days.
Steve comes from primitive people, her aunt said, soberly, not
realizing her own humour.
Don't mention it. Didn't he force me to go to Virginia City, the
most terrible little ghost world of tumbledown shacks and funny
one-eyed, one-suspendered men, and old women smoking pipes and wearing
blue sunbonnets! He was actually sentimental and enthusiastic about it
all, trying to hunt up old cronies of his grandfather'sI was cross as
could be until we came back to Reno. Now Reno is interesting.
She spent the better part of an hour describing the divorcees and
Well, I'm off for home. I think I shall entertain the Red Cross
committee first of all. It's only right, I believethe dove eyes very
seriousthey've been under such terrible strains. I'm going to send a
large bundle of clothes for the Armenian Relief, too. Oh, aunty, the
whole world seems under a cloud, doesn't it? But I met the funniest
woman in Pasadena; she actually teed her golf ball on a valuable Swiss
watch her husband had given her! She said her only thrills in life came
from making her husband cross.
Was hewhen he found it out?
No; she was dreadfully disappointed. He called her a naughty child
and bought her another!
When Beatrice reached the apartment she found Steve standing on the
steps looking anxiously up and down the street.
What's happened? he asked, half lifting her out of the car.
Don't! People will see us. I was telling aunty about Reno. Oh, it's
so good to be here! as she came inside her own door. I hope people
will let me alone the rest of the day. I'm just a wreck. She found a
box of chocolates and began to eat them.
A charming-looking wreck, I'll say. He stooped to kiss her.
The rose-coloured glasses were still attached to Steve's naturally
keen eyes. Like many persons he knew a multitude of facts but was quite
ignorant concerning vital issues. He had spent his honeymoon in rapt
and unreal fashion. He had realized his boyhood dream of returning to
Nevada a rich and respected man with a fairy-princess sort of wife. The
deadly anaesthesia of unreality which these get-rich-quick candidates
of to-day indulge in at the outset of their struggle still had Steve in
its clutch. He had not even stirred from out its influence. He had
accomplished what he had set out to accomplishand he was now about to
realize that there is a distinct melancholy in the fact that everyone
needs an Aladdin's window to finish. But under the influence of the
anæsthesia he had proposed to have an everlasting good time the rest of
his life, like the closing words of a fairy tale: And then the
beautiful young princess and the brave young prince, having slain the
seven-headed monster, lived happily ever, ever after!
With this viewpoint, emphasized by the natural conceit of youth,
Steve had passed his holiday with the Gorgeous Girl.
What did you want, darling? he urged.
To talk to youI want you to listen to my plan. You are to come
with me to New York for the fall opera and all the theatresoh, along
in November. It's terribly dull here. Jill Briggs and her husband and
some of the others are going, and we can take rooms at the Astor and
all be together and have a wonderful time!
I'd rather stay in our own home, he pleaded. It's such fun to
have a real home. We can entertain, you know. Besides, I'm the worker
and you are the player, and I don't understand your sort of life any
more than you can understand mine. So you must play and let me look
onand love me, that's all I'll ever ask.
You're a dear, was his reward; but we'll go to New York?
I'll have to take you down and leave youI'm needed at the
But I'd be the odd oneI'd have to have a partner. Steve, dear,
you don't have to grub. When we were engaged you always had time for
Because you had so little for me! And so I always shall have time
for you, the anæsthesia causing his decision. Besides, those were
courtship daysand I wasn't quite so sure of you, which is the way of
all men. He kissed her hair gently.
She drew away and rearranged a lock. I don't want a husband who
won't play with me.
We'll fix it all right, don't worry. Now was that all you wanted?
I want you to stay home and go driving with me. I want you to call
on some peopleand look at a new cellaret I'd like to buy. It is
expensive, but no one else would have one anywhere near as charming. I
need you this afternoonyou're so calm and strong, and my head aches.
I'm always tired.
Yet you never work, he said, almost unconsciously.
My dear boy, society is the hardest work in the world. I'm simply
dragged to a frazzle by the end of the season. Besides, there is all my
war work and my clubs and my charities. And I've just promised to take
an advanced course in domestic science.
I see, Steve said, meekly.
I think it is the duty of rich women to know all about frying
things as well as eating them, she said, as she took a third caramel.
Quite true. Having money isn't always keeping it
Oh, papa has loads of moneyenough for all of us, she remarked,
easily. It isn't that. I'd never cook if I were poor, anyway; that
would be the last thing I'd ever dream of doing. It's fun to go to the
domestic-science class as long as all my set go. Wellwill you be a
nice angel-man and stay home to amuse your fractious wife?
I'll call Miss Faithful on the phone and say I'm going to play
hooky, he consented. By the way, you must come down to the office and
say hello to her when you get the time.
Beatrice kissed him. Must I? I hate offices. Besides, Gaylord has
married your prettiest clerk, and there will be no one to play with me
except my husband.
Funny thingthat marriage, Steve commented. If it was any one
but Gay I'd send condolences for loading the office nuisance onto him.
Wasn't she any use at all? she asked, curiously.
Nonealways having a headache and being excused for the day. That
was the only thing I ever questioned in Mary Faithfulwhy she engaged
Trudy and took her into her own home as a boarder.
Oh, so Mary isn't perfection? Don't be too hard on the other girl.
I'd be quite as useless if I ever had to work. I'd do just the
samehave as many headaches as the firm would stand for, and marry the
first man who asked me.
But think of marrying Gay!
Poor old Gayhis father was a dear, and he is terribly well
behaved. Besides, see how obliging he is. Your Miss Faithful refused to
help me out, and Gay ran his legs off to get everything I wanted. I'll
never be rude to Gay as long as he amuses me.
That's the thing that leads them all, isn't it, princess?
After the first round of excessively formal entertainments for Mr.
and Mrs. O'Valley, Steve found a mental hunger suddenly asserting
itself. It was as if a farm hand were asked to subsist upon a diet of
weak tea and wafers.
In the first place, no masculine mind can quite admit the
superiority of a feminine mind when it concerns handling said masculine
mind's business affairs. Though Steve insisted that Mary had done quite
as well as he would have done, he told himself secretly that he must
get down to hard work and go over the letters and memoranda which had
developed during his absence.
With quiet amusement Mary had agreed to the investigation, watching
him prowl among the files with the same tolerant attitude she would
have entertained toward Luke had he insisted that he could run the
household more efficiently than a mere sister.
Poor tired boy, she used to think when Steve would come into the
office with a fagged look on his handsome face and new lines steadily
growing across his forehead. You don't realize yetyou haven't begun
And Steve, trying to catch up with work and plan for the future, to
respond graciously to every civic call made upon him, would find
himself enmeshed in a desperate combination of Beatrice's dismay over
the cut of her new coat, her delight at the latest scandal, her
headaches, the special order for glacé chestnuts he must not forget,
the demand that he come home for luncheon just because she wanted him
to talk to, the New York trip looming ahead with Bea coaxing him to
stay the entire time and let business slide along as it would. All the
while the anæsthesia of unreality was lessening in its effect now that
he had attained his goal.
The rapt adoration he felt for his wife was in a sense a rather
subtle form of egotism he felt for himself. The Gorgeous Girl or rather
any Gorgeous Girl personified his starved dreams and frantic ambitions.
He had turned his face toward such a goal for so many tense years,
goading himself on and breathing in the anæsthesia of indifference and
unreality to all else about him that having obtained it he now paused
exhausted and about to make many disconcerting discoveries. Had the
Gorgeous Girl had hair as black as his own or a nose such as Mary
Faithful's she would have still been his goal, symbol of his aims.
Having finished the long battle Steve now felt an urge to begin to
battle for something else besides wealth and social position. He felt
ill at ease in Beatrice's salon and among her friends, who all seemed
particularly inane and ridiculous, who were all just as busy and tired
and nervous as Beatrice was for some strange reason, and who considered
it middle class not to smoke and common to show any natural sentiment
or emotion. He soon found it was quite the thing to display the
temperament of an oyster when any vital issue was discussed or any
play, for example, had a scene of deep and inspiring words. A queer
little smirk or titter was the proper applause, but one must wax
enthusiastic and superlative over a clever burglary, a new-style dance,
a chafing-dish concoction, or, a risqué story retold in drawing-room
Before his marriage Beatrice had always been terribly rushed and he
had had more time in which to work and glow with pride at the nearing
of his goal. She kept him at arm's length very cleverly anchored with
the two-carat engagement ring and Steve had to fight for time and plead
for an audience. It fired his imagination, making him twice as keen for
the final capture.
But when two persons live in the same apartment, notwithstanding the
eleven rooms and so on, a monotony of existence pervades even the
grandeur of velvet-panelled walls. There are the inevitable three meals
a day to be gone through withfive meals if tea and a supper party are
counted. There are the same ever-rising questions as to the cook's
honesty and the chauffeur's graft in the matter of buying, new tires.
There are just so many persons who have to be wined and dined and who
revenge themselves by doing likewise to their former host; the
everlasting exchanging of courtesies and pleasantriesall the dull,
decent habits of ultra living.
Steve found his small store of possessions huddled into a corner,
his pet slippers and gown graciously bestowed upon a passing
panhandler, and he was obliged to don a very correct gray shroud, as
he named it in thankless terms, and to put his cigar and cigar ashes
into something having the earmarks of an Etruscan coal scuttle, though
Beatrice said it was a priceless antique Gay had bought for a song!
There were many times when Steve would have liked to roam about his
house in plebeian shirt sleeves, eat a plain steak and French-fried
potatoes with a hunk of homemade pie as a finish, and spend the evening
in that harmless, disorderly fashion known to men of doing nothing but
stroll about smoking, playing semi-popular records, reading the papers,
and very likely having another hunk of pie at bedtime.
Besides all this there were the topics of the day to discuss. During
his courtship love was an all-absorbing topic. There were many
questions that Beatrice asked that required intricate and tiring
answers. During the first six weeks of living at the apartment Steve
realized a telling difference between men and women is that a woman
demands a specific caseyou must rush special incidents to back up any
theory you may advancewhereas men, for the most part, are content
with abstract reasoning and supply their own incidents if they feel
inclined. Also that a finely bred fragile type of woman such as
Beatrice inspires both fear and a maudlin sort of sympathy, and that
man is prevented from crossing such a one to any great extent since men
are as easily conquered by maudlin sympathy as by fear.
When a yellow-haired child with dove-coloured eyes manages to
squeeze out a tear and at the same moment depart in wrath to her room
and lock the doors, refusing to answerthe trouble being why in
heaven's name must a pound-and-a-half spaniel called Monster, nothing
but a flea-bearing dust mop, do nothing but sit and yap for
chocolates?what man is going to dare do otherwise than suppress a
little profanity and then go and whisper apologies at the keyhole?
After several uncomfortable weeks of this sort of mental chaos Steve
determined to do what many business men doparticularly the sort
starting life in an orphan asylum and ending by having residence pipe
organs and Russian wolfhounds frolicking at their heelsto bury
himself in his work and defend his seclusion by never refusing to write
a check for his wife. When he finally reached this decision he was
conscious of a strange joy.
Everything was a trifle too perfect to suit Steve. The entire effect
was that of the well-set stage of a society drama. Beatrice was too
correctly gowned and coiffured, always upstage if any one was about,
her high-pitched, thin voice saying superlative nothings upon the
slightest provocation; or else she was dissolving into tears and
tantrums if no one was about.
Steve could not grasp the wherefore of having such stress laid upon
the exact position of a floor cushion or the colour scheme for a bridge
luncheonhe would have so rejoiced in really mediocre table service,
in less precision as to the various angles of the shades or the
unrumpled condition of the rugs. He had not the oasis Mark Constantine
had provided for himself when he kept his room of old-fashioned
trappings apart from the rest of the mansion.
Steve needed such a room. He planned almost guiltily upon building a
shack in the woods whither he could run when things became too
impossible for his peace of mind. If he could convince his wife that a
thing was smart or different from everything else its success and
welcome in their house were assured. But an apple pie, a smelly pipe, a
maidless dinner table, or a disorderly den had never been considered
smart in Beatrice's estimation, and Steve never attempted trying to
change her point of view.
Beatrice wondered, during moments of seriousness, how it was that
this handsome cave man of hers rebelled so constantly against the
beauty and correctness of the apartment and yet never really disgraced
her as her own father would have done. It gave her added admiration for
Steve though she felt it would be a mistake to tell him so. She did not
believe in letting her husband see that she was too much in love with
Despite his growls and protests about this and that, and his
ignorance as to the things in life Beatrice counted paramount, Steve
adapted himself to the new environment with a certain poise that
astonished everyone. The old saying Every Basque a noble rang true in
this descendant of a dark-haired, romantic young woman whom his
grandfather had married. There was blood in Steve which Beatrice might
have envied had she been aware of it. But Steve was in ignorance, and
very willingly so, regarding his ancestors. There had merely been my
folkswhich began and ended the matter.
Still it was the thoroughbred strain which the Basque woman had
given her grandson that enabled Steve to be master of his house even if
he knew very little of what it was all about. It was fortunate for his
peace of mindand pocketbookthat Beatrice had accepted the general
rumour of a goat-tending ancestry and pried no further. Had she ever
glimpsed the genealogy tables of the Benefacio family, from which Steve
descended, she would have had the best time of all; coats of arms and
family crests and mottoes would have been the vogue; a trip to the
Pyrenees would have followed; mantillas and rebozos would have crowded
her wardrobe, and Steve would have been forced to learn Spanish and
cultivate a troubadourish air.
Moreover, the Gorgeous Girl was not willing that her husband be
buried in business. She could not have so good a time without
himbesides, it was meet that he acquired polish. Her father was a
different matter; everyone knew his ways and would be as likely to try
to change the gruff, harsh-featured man as to try surveying Gibraltar
with a penny ruler. Now Beatrice had married Steve because cave men
were rather the mode, cave men who were wonderfully successful and had
no hampering relatives. Besides, her father favoured Steve and he would
not have been amiable had he been forced to accept a son-in-law of whom
he did not approve. Mark Constantine had never learned graciousness of
the heart, nor had his child.
So Beatrice proceeded to badger Steve whenever he pleaded business,
with the result that she kept dropping in at his office, sometimes
bringing friends, coaxing him to close his desk and come and play for
the rest of the day. Sometimes she would peek in at Mary Faithful's
office and baby talkfor Steve's edificationsomething like this:
Ise a naughty dirlI iswant somebody to play wif mewant to be
amoosed. Do oo care? Nice, busy ladybig brain.
Often she would bring a gift for Mary in her surface generous
fashiona box of candy or a little silk handkerchief. She pitied Mary
as all butterflies pity all ants, and she little knew that as soon as
she had departed Mary would open the window to let fresh air drive out
distracting perfume, and would look at the useless trifle on her desk
with scornful amusement.
Before the New York trip Steve took refuge in his first deliberate
lie to his wife. He had lied to himself throughout his courtship but
was most innocent of the offence.
If Mrs. O'Valley telephones or calls please say I have gone out to
the stockyards, he told Mary. And will you lend me your office for
the afternoon? I'm so rushed I must be alone where I can work without
Mary gathered up her papers. I'll keep you under cover. She was
What's the joke?
I was thinking of how very busy idle people always are and of how
much time busy people always manage to make for the idle people's
He did not answer until he had collected his work materials. Then he
said: I should like to know just what these idle people do with
themselves but I shall never have the time to find out. He vanished
into Mary's office, banging the door.
Beatrice telephoned that afternoon, only to be given her husband's
I'll drive out to the stockyards and get him, she proposed.
He went with some men and I don't believe I'd try it if I were
you, Mary floundered.
I see. Well, have him call me up as soon as he comes in. It is very
When Steve reached home that night he found Beatrice in a
Didn't you get my message? she demanded, sharply.
Just as I was leaving the office. I looked in there onon my way
back. I saw no use in telephoning then. What is it, dear?
It's too late now. You have ruined my day.
Sorry. What is too late?
I wanted you to go to Amityville with me; there is a wonderful
astrologer there who casts life horoscopes. He predicted this whole war
and the Bolsheviki and bombs and everything, and I wanted him to do
ours. Alice Twill says he is positively uncanny.
Steve shook his head. No long-haired cocoanut throwers for mine,
he said, briefly, unfolding his paper.
But I wanted you to go.
Well, I do not approve of such things; they are a waste of time and
I have my own money, she informed him, curtly.
Steve laid aside the paper. I have known that for some time.
Besides, it is rude to refuse to call me when I have asked you to
do so. It makes me ridiculous in the eyes of your employees.
Recalling the shift of offices Steve suppressed a smile. It was
nothing important, Bea, and I am mighty busy. Your father never had
time to play; he worked a great deal harder than I have worked.
I can't help that. You must not expect me to be a little
stay-at-home. You knew that before we were even engaged. Besides, I'm
No, but you act like one. He spoke almost before he thought. You
are a woman nearly twenty-six years old, yet you haven't the poise of
girls eighteen that I have known. Still, they were farm or working
girls. I've sometimes wondered what it is that makes you and your
friends always seem so childish and naïveat times. Aren't you ever
going to grow upany of you?
Do you want a pack of old women? she demanded. How can you find
fault with my friends? You seem to forget how splendidly they have
A cave man must be muzzled, handcuffed, and Under the anæsthetic of
unreality and indifference to be a satisfactory husband for a modern
Why shouldn't they treat me splendidly? I have never robbed or
maltreated any of them. Tell me something. It is time we talked
seriously. We can't exist on the cream-puff kind of conversation. What
in the world has your way of going through these finishing schools done
The dove-coloured eyes flickered angrily. I had a terribly good
time, she began. Besides, it's the proper thinggirls don't come out
at twenty and marry off and let that be the end of it. You really have
a much better time now if you wait until you are twenty-five, and then
you somehow have learned how to be a girl for an indefinite period. As
for the finishing school in Americawell, we had a wonderful
I've met college women who were clear-headed persons deserving the
best and usually attaining itbut I've never taken a microscope to the
sort of women playing the game from the froth end. I'm wondering what
your ideas were.
You visited meyou met my friendsmy chaperonsyou wrote me each
I was in love and busy making my fortune. I was as shy as a
backwoods productyou know thatand afraid you would be carried off
by someone else before I could come up to the sum your father demanded
of me. I have nothing but a hazy idea as to a great many girls of all
sorts and sizesand mostly you.
Well, we had wonderful lectures and things; and I had a wonderful
crush on some of the younger teachersthat is a great deal of fun.
You must have crushes unless you're a nobodyand there's nothing
so much a lark. You select your crush and then you rush her. I had a
darling teacher, she is doing war work in Paris now. She was a doll. I
adored her the moment I saw her and I sent her presents and left
flowers in her room, orchids on Sundays, until she made me stop. One
day a whole lot of us who had been rushing her clipped off locks of our
hair and fastened them in little gauze bags and we strung a doll
clothes line across her room and pinned the little bags on it and left
a note for her saying: 'Your scalp line!'
What did that amount to?
Oh, it was fun. And I had another crush right after that one. Then
some of the classes were interesting. I liked psychology best of all
because you could fake the answers and cram for exams more easily.
Math. and history require facts. There was one perfectly thrilling
experience with fish. You know fish distinguish colours, one from the
other, and are guided by colour sense rather than a sense of smell. We
had red sticks and green sticks and blue sticks in a tank of fish, and
for days we put the fish food on the green sticks and the fish would
swim right over to get it, and then we put it on the red sticks and
they still swam over to the green sticks and waited roundso it was
recognizing colour and not the food. And a lot of things like that.
Steve laughed. I hope the fish wised up in time.
Beatrice looked at him disapprovingly. If you had gone to college
it might have made a great difference, she said.
Possibly, he admitted; but I'll let the rest of the boys wait on
the fishes. Did you go to domestic science this morning?
Yes, it was omelet. Mine was like leather. The gas stove makes my
head ache. But we are going to have a Roman pageant to close the
seasonall about a Roman matron, and that will be lots of fun.
You eat too much candy; that is what makes your head ache, he
She pretended not to hear him. It is time to dress.
Don't say there's a party to-night, he begged.
Of course there is, and you know it. The Homers are giving a dinner
for their daughter. Everyone is to wear their costumes wrong side out.
Isn't that clever? I laid out a white linen suit for you; it will look
so well turned inside out; and I am going to wear an organdie that has
a wonderful satin lining. There is no reason why we must be frumps.
I'd rather stay home and play cribbage, Steve said, almost
wistfully. There's a rain creeping up. Let's not go!
I hate staying home when it is raining. Beatrice went into her
room to try the effect of a sash wrong side out. It is so dull in a
big drawing room when there are just two people, she added, as Steve
appeared in the doorway.
Two people make a home, he found himself answering.
The Gorgeous Girl glanced at him briefly, during which instant she
seemed quite twenty-six years old and the spoiled daughter of a rich
man, the childish, senseless part of her had vanished. Would you
please take Monster into the kitchen for her supper? she asked, almost
So the owner of the O'Valley Leather Works found his solace in
tucking the pound-and-a-half spaniel under his arm and trying to
convince himself that he was all wrong and a self-made man must keep a
watch on himself lest he become a boor!
* * * * *
The day the O'Valleys left for New York in company with three other
couples Mr. and Mrs. Gaylord Vondeplosshe arrived in Hanover, having
visited until their welcome was not alone worn out but impossible ever
to be replaced. A social item in the evening paper stated that they had
taken an apartment at the Graystone and would be at home to their
friendswhoever they might be.
If Gay's club and his friends had determined merely to be polite and
not welcome his wife, Trudy had determined that they would not only
welcome her but insist upon being helpful to them; as for her former
associatesthey would be treated to a curt bow. This, however, did not
include the Faithfuls. Mary was not to be ignored, nor did Trudy wish
to ignore her. All the good that was in Trudy responded to Mary's
goodness. She never tried to be to Maryno one did more than once. Nor
did she try to flatter her. She was truly sorry for Mary's colourless
life, truly grieved that Mary would not consent to shape her eyebrows.
But she respected her, and it was to Mary's house that Mrs.
Vondeplosshe repaired shortly after her arrival.
It was quite true that Beatrice Constantine would have developed
much as Trudy had were the pampered person compelled to earn her
living, and, like Trudy, too, would have married a half portion,
bankrupt snob. As Trudy dashed into the Faithful living room, kissing
Mary and her mother and shaking a finger at Luke, Mary thought what a
splendid imitation she was of Beatrice returning from her honeymoon.
As pretty as a picture, Mrs. Faithful declared, quite chirked up
by the bridal atmosphere. How do you do it, Trudy? And why didn't you
write us something besides postals? They always seem like printed
handbills to me.
Especially mine, Luke protested. One of Sing Sing with the line:
'I am thinking of you.'
Trudy giggled. I didn't have a minute and I bought postals in
flocks. Oh, I adore New York! I'm wild to live there. I nearly passed
away in New England, but of course we had to stay as long as they would
She looked at herself in a mirror, conscious of Mary's amused
expression. She wore a painfully bright blue tailored suitshe had
made the skirt herself and hunted up a Harlem tailor to do the
jacketround-toed, white leather shoes stitched with bright blue,
white silk stockings, an aviatrix cap of blue suéde, and a white fox
fur purchased at half price at a fire sale.
I haven't any new jewellery except my wedding ring, she mourned.
I expected Gay's sister to give me one of her mother's diamond
earringsI think she might have. They are lovely stonesbut she never
made a move that wayshe's horrid. As soon as I can afford to be
independent I shall cut her, for she did her best to politely ask us to
You were there several weeks, weren't you? Mary ventured.
YesI grew tame. I learned a lot from herI was pretty crude in
some ways. Which was true. Trudy was quite as well-bred looking, at
first glance, as the Gorgeous Girl. It is always better to get your
experience where the neighbours aren't watching. I didn't lose a
minute. If I never did an honest day's work for Steve O'Valley I worked
like a steam engine learning how to be a real lady, the sort Gay tried
to marry but couldn't!
As if you weren't a little lady at all times, Mrs. Faithful added.
Of course we are stony broke but Gay's brother-in-law just had to
loan us some money in order to have us go. They gave us fifty dollars
for a wedding present. Well, it was better than nothing. Gay has talked
to a lot of concert managers and he's going to have some wonderful
attractions next season. People have never taken Gaylord seriously; he
really has had to discover himself, and he is
Are you practising small talk on me? Mary asked.
You've said it, Trudy admitted. That last is the way I'm going to
talk about Gaylord to his friends. I'll make him a success if he will
only mind me. Just thinkI'll be calling on Beatrice O'Valley before
long! She will have to know me because Gay helped furnish her apartment
and was one of her ushers. It will mean everything for us to know
herand I'm never going to appear at all down and out, either. People
never take you seriously if you seem to need money. Debt can't frighten
me. I was raised on it. All I need is Gay's family reputation and my
own hair and teeth and I'll breeze in before any of the other entries.
I came to ask if you won't come to see where I live? She smiled her
prettiest. Gay is at his club and we can talk. It was quite a bomb in
the enemies' camp when he marriedpeople just can't dun a married man
like they do a bachelor.
I'll come next week. Mary tried putting off the evil day.
Nonow. I want your adviceand to show you my clothes.
You will have clothes, Trudy, when you don't have food.
You have to these daysno good time unless you do.
She kissed Mrs. Faithful and promised to have them all up for
dinner. Then she tucked her arm in Mary's and pranced down the street
with her, talking at top speed of how horrid it was that they had to
walk and not drive in a cab like Beatrice, and concluding with a
dissertation on Gaylord's mean disposition.
I'm not mean, Mary, unless I want to accomplish somethingbut
Gaylord is mean on general principle. He sulks and tells silly lies
when you come to really know him. Oh, I'm not madly in lovebut we can
get along without throwing things. It's better than marrying a
clod-hopper who couldn't show me anything better than his mother's
Doesn't it seem hard to have to pretend to love him?
No, he's so stupid, said the debonair Mrs. Vondeplosshe as she
brought Mary up before the entrance of the Graystone, a cheap apartment
house with a marble entrance that extended only a quarter of the way
up; from there on ordinary wood and marbleized paper finished the deed.
The Vondeplosshes had a rear apartment. Their windows looked upon ash
cans and delivery entrances, the front apartments with their bulging
bay windows being twenty-five dollars a month more rent. As it was,
they were paying forty-five, and very lucky to have the chance to pay
Trudy unlocked the door with a flourish. All that Trudy had
considered as really essential to the making of a home was a phonograph
and a pier glass; the rest was simplerent a furnished place and wear
out someone else's things. The bandbox of a place with four cell-like
rooms was by turns pitiful and amusing to Mary Faithful.
We are just starting from here, Trudy reminded her as she watched
the gray eyes flicker with humour or narrow with displeasure. Wait and
seewe'll soon be living neighbour to the O'Valleys. Besides, there is
such an advantage in being married. You don't have to worry for fear
you'll be an
Old maid, finished Mary. Out with it! You can't frighten me. I
hope you and Gay never try changing your minds at the same time, for it
would be a squeeze.
She selected a fragile gilt chair in the tiny living room with its
imitation fireplace and row of painted imitation books in the little
bookcase. This was in case the tenants had no books of their ownwhich
the Vondeplosshes had not. If they possessed a library they could
easily remove the painted board and give it to the janitor for
safekeeping. There were imitation Oriental rugs and imitation-leather
chairs and imitation-mahogany furniture, plated silver, and imitations
of china and of linen were to be found in the small three-cornered
dining room, which resembled a penurious wedge of cake, Mary thought as
she tried saying something polite. The imitation extended to the
bedroom with its wall bed and built-in chiffonier and dresser of gaudy
walnut. Trudy had promptly cluttered up the last-mentioned article with
smart-looking cretonne and near-ivory toilet articles. There was even a
pathetic little wardrobe trunk they had bought for $28.75 in New York,
and Trudy had painstakingly soaked off old European hotel labels she
had found on one of Gay's father's satchels and repasted them on the
trunk to give the impression of travel and money.
The kitchen was nothing but a dark hole with a rusty range and
nondescript pots and pans. Being in the kitchen gets me nothing, so
why bother about it? Trudy explained, hardly opening the door. We
have no halls or furnace to care for, and an apartment house sounds so
well when you give an address. I wish we could have afforded a front
one; it will be hard to have people climbing through the back halls. I
have put in a good supply of canned soups and vegetables and powdered
puddings, and we can save a lot on our food. We'll be invited out, too,
and when we eat at home I can get a meal in a few minutes and I'll make
Gay wash the dishes. Besides, I have a wonderful recipe for vanishing
cream that his sister bought in Paris, and I'm going to have a little
business myself, making it to supply to a few select customers as a
favour. I'll sell small jars for a dollar and large ones for three, and
I can make liquid face powder, too. Oh, we won't starve. And if you
could wait for the money I know I owe you
Call it a wedding present, Mary said, briefly.
Trudy fell on her neck and was in the throes of explaining how
grateful she was and how she had an evening dress modelled after one of
Gay's sister's, which cost seven hundred dollars before the war, when
Gay appearedvery debonair and optimistic in his checked suit, velours
hat, and toothpick-toed tan shoes, and his pale little eyes were quite
animated as he kissed Trudy and dutifully shook hands with Mary,
explaining that the Hunters of Arcadia had just offered him a clerical
position at the club, ordering supplies and making out bills and so
onbecause he was married, very likely. It would pay forty a month and
And only take up your mornings! You can slip extra sandwiches in
your pockets for me, deary. I'll give you a rubber-pocketed vest for a
Christmas present, Trudy exclaimed. Oh, say everything in front of
Maryshe knows what we really are!
At which Mary fled, with the general after impression of pale,
wicked eyes and a checked suit and a dashing, red-haired young matron
with a can opener always on hand, and the fact that the Vondeplosshes
were going to lay siege to the O'Valleys as soon as possible.
Mary decided that it was a great privilege to be a profane lady
concealing a heartache compared to other alternatives. At least
heartaches were quite real.
It was almost Christmas week before the realization of Trudy's
ambition to have Beatrice call upon her as the wife of Gaylord
Vondeplosshe instead of an unimportant employee of her own husband.
Trudy counted upon Beatrice to help her far more than Gaylord dared to
Bea is like all her sort, he warned Trudy when the point of
Beatrice's having to invite the Vondeplosshes for dinner was close at
hand; she is crazy about herself and her money. She would cheat for
ten cents and then turn right round and buy a thousand-dollar dress
without questioning the price.
Which was true. Beatrice had never had to acquire any sense of
values regarding either money or character. By turns she was penurious
and lavish, suspecting a maid of stealing a sheet of notepaper and then
writing a handsome check for a charity in which she had only a passing
interest. She would send her soiled finery to relief committees, and
when someone told her that satin slippers and torn chiffon frocks were
not practical she would say in injured astonishment: Sell them and use
the money. I never have practical clothes.
If a maid pleased her Beatrice pampered her until she became
overbearing, and there would be a scene in which the maid would be told
to pack her things and depart without any prospect of a reference; and
someone else would be rushed into her place, only to have the same
experience. Beatrice was like most indulged and superfluously rich
women, both unreasonable and foolishly lenient in her demands. She had
no schedule, no routine, no rules either for herself or others. She had
been denied the chance of developing and discovering her own
limitations and abilities. She expected her maids and her friends to be
at her beck and call twenty-four hours out of the twenty-four, she
would not accept an excuse of being unfitted by illness for some task
or of not knowing how to do any intricate, unheard-of thing which
suddenly it occurred to her must be done.
When a servant would plead her case Beatrice always told her that
for days at a time she left her alone in her beautiful home with
nothing to do but keep it clean and eat up all her food and very likely
give parties and use her talking machine and pianowhich was quite
trueand that she must consider this when she was asked to stay on
duty until three or four o'clock in the morning or be up at five
o'clock with an elaborate breakfast for Beatrice and her friends just
returning from a fancy-dress ball.
On a sunny day she often sent the maids driving in her car, and if a
blizzard came up she was certain to ask them to walk downtown to match
yarn for her, not even offering car fare. She would borrow small sums
and stamps from them and deliberately forget to pay them back, at the
same time giving her cook a forty-dollar hat because it made her own
self look too old. She had never had any one but herself to rely upon
for discipline, and whenever she wanted anything she had merely to ask
for it. When anything displeased her it was removed without question.
American business men do not always toil until they are middle-aged
for the reward of being made a fool by a chorus girl or an adventuress.
That belongs to yellow-backed penny-dreadfuls and Sunday supplement
tales of breach-of-promise suits. More often the daughter of the
business man is both the victim and the vampire of his own shortsighted
neglectfulness. The business man expresses it as working like a slave
to give her the best in the land. And sometimes, as in the case of
Steve O'Valley, it is his own wife instead of a blonde soul mate who
lures him to destruction in six installments.
When Beatrice first knew of Gaylord's return she was inclined to pay
no attention to his wife, despite her remarks to Steve. Then Gaylord
telephoned, and she had him up for afternoon tea, during which he told
her all about it. He was very diplomatic in his undertaking. He
pictured Trudy as a diamond in the rough, and in subtle, careful
fashion gave Beatrice to understand that just as she had married a
diamond in the roughwith a Virginia City grandfather and a Basque
grandmother and the champion record of goat tendingso he, too, had
been democratic enough to put aside precedent and marry a charming,
unspoiled little person with both beauty and ability, and certainly he
was to be congratulated since he had been married for love alone,
Truletta knowing full well his unfortunate and straitened
circumstances.... Yes, her people lived in Michigan but were
uncongenial. Still, there was good blood in the family only it was a
long ways back, probably as far back as the age of spear fighting, and
he relied upon Beatrice, his old playmate, to sympathize with and
uphold his course.
Secretly annoyed that the tables had been so skillfully turned, yet
not willing to admit it to this bullying morsel, Beatrice was obliged
to say she would call upon his wife and ask them for dinner the
Gaylord fairly floated home, to find Trudy remodelling a dress,
scraps of fur and shreds of satin on the floor.
Babseley, she's coming to call to-morrow! he said, joyfully,
hanging up his velours hat and straddling a little gilt chair.
Really? I wish we had a better place. I feel at a disadvantage. If
it were a man I wouldn't mind, I could act humble and bravethat sort
of dope. But it never goes with a woman; you have to bully a rich
woman, and I'm wondering if I can.
I did, he said, his pale eyes twinkling with delight. It was
easy, too. I dragged in O'Valley's orphan-asylum days and all, and how
we both married diamonds in the rough. Woof, how she squirmed! He rose
and went to the absurd little buffet, pouring out two glasses of red
ink and gulping down one of them. I wish I had O'Valley's money; I'd
put away a houseful of this stuff. I'm going to dig up a few bottles at
the clubin case of illness. Trudy did not want her glass, so he
drank that as well.
You take too much of that stuff, Trudy warned, gathering up her
débris; and when you have taken too much you talk too much.
Gaylord rewarded her by consuming a third glass. Shall we eat out?
She shook her head. Too expensive. There's no need for it now. I
bought some potato salad and I have canned pineapple and sugar
She dumped her work into a basket and flew round the dining room
until she summoned Gaylord to join her in a meal laid out on the corner
of a dingy luncheon table.
The wine dulled Gay's appetite and Trudy's had been taken quite away
by Beatrice's proposed visit. Besides, they put the latest jazz record
on their little talking machine, which helped substitute for a decent
meal. They danced a little while and then Trudy planned what she should
wear for the O'Valley dinner party and Gaylord figured how much money
he needed before he would dare try buying an automobile, and they
finished the evening by attending the nine-o'clock movie performance
and buying fifteen cents' worth of lemon ice and two sponge cakes to
bring home as a pièce de resistance.
* * * * *
Beatrice found herself amused instead of annoyed as she climbed the
stairs to the Vondeplosshe residence. At Trudy's request Gay had
discreetly consented to be absent. He had pretty well picked up the
threads of his various enterprises and what with his club duties, his
second-rate concerts, his gambling, and commissions from antique
dealers, he managed to put in what he termed a full day. So he swung
out of the house early in the afternoon to buy himself a new winter
outfit, wondering if Trudy would row when she discovered the fact.
Gaylord's theory of married life was What's mine is my own, and
what's yours is mine. He relied on Trudy to mend his clothes and make
his neckties, keep house and manage with a laundress a half day a week,
yet always be as well dressed and pretty as when she had slacked in the
office and boarded without cares at Mary's house. She must always seem
happy and proud of her husband and have her old pepbeing on the
lookout for a way to make their fortunes. She must also remain as young
looking as ever and always be at his beck and call. Gaylord was rapidly
developing into an impossible little bully, the usual result of an
impoverished snob who manages to become a barnacle-like fixture on
someone a trifle more foolish yet better of nature than himself.
Had he been less aristocratic of family and stronger of brawn he
would have beaten Trudy if she displeased him. As it was, after the
first flush of romance passed, he began to sneer at her in private when
she made mistakes in the ways of the smart set into which Gaylord had
been born, and when she protested he only sneered the louder. He felt
Trudy should be eternally grateful to him. Trudy found herself
bewildered, hurtyet unable to combat his contemptible little laughs
and sneers. Trudy was shallow and she knew not the meaning of the word
ideal, but for the most part she was rather amiable and unless she
had a certain goal to attain she wished everyone about her to be happy
and content. As she had married Gaylord only as a stepping-stone she
was fair enough to remind herself of this fact when unpleasant
developments occurred. As long as he was useful to her she was not
going to seize upon pin-pricks and try to make them into actual wounds.
She decided to wear her one decent tea gown when Beatrice called,
pleading a bad headache as an excuse for its appearance. She knew the
tea gown was an excellent French model, a hand-me-down from Gay's
sister, and her nimble fingers had cleaned and mended the trailing
pink-silk loveliness until it would make quite a satisfactory first
She cleaned the apartment, recklessly bought cut flowers, bonbons,
and two fashion magazines to give an impression of plenty. She even set
old golf clubs and motor togs in the tiny hall, and she timed
Beatrice's arrival so as to put the one grand-opera record on the
talking machine just as she was coming up the stairs.
Then she ran to the door in pretty confusion, to say spiritedly:
Oh, Mrs. O'Valley, so good of you. I'm ever so happy to have you. I'm
afraid it isn't proper to be wearing this old tea gown but I had a bad
headache this morning and I stayed in bed until nearly luncheon, then I
slipped into the first thing handy.... Oh, no. Only a nervous headache.
We took too long a motor trip yesterday, the sun was so bright.... No,
indeed; you do not make my headache worse. It's better right this
minute.... Now please don't laugh at our little place. Can't you play
you're a doll and this is the house you were supposed to live in? I
doI find myself laughing every time I really take time to stand back
and look at the rooms.... Put your coat here. Such a charming one, the
skins are so exquisitely matched. I do so want to talk to you.
She had such an honest, innocent expression that Beatrice found
herself won over to the cause. Trudy understood Beatrice at first
sight; she knew how to proceed without blundering.
Sit here, Mrs. Steve, for I can't call you Mrs. O'Valley with Gay
singing the praises of Bea and Beatrice and the Gorgeous Girl.
Thenercall me Beatrice, she found herself saying.
How wonderful! But only on condition that I am Trudy to you. How
pleased Gay is going to be! He adores you. You have no idea of how much
he talks about you and approves all you do and say. I used to be a
teeny weeny bit jealous of you when I was a poor little nobody. She
passed the chocolates, nodding graciously as Beatrice selected the
largest one in the box.
Trudy chattered ahead: I was glancing through these fashion books
this afternoon to get an idea for an afternoon dress. Of course I can't
have wonderful things like you havelooking with envy at the Gorgeous
Girl's black-velvet costumestill, I don't mind. When one is happy
mere things do not matter, do theyBeatrice?
Beatrice hesitated. Then she fortified herself by another bonbon.
This strange girl was both interesting and dangerous. Certainly she was
not to be snubbed or ridiculed. Vaguely Beatrice tried to analyze her
hostess, but as she had never been called upon to judge human nature
she was sluggish in even trying to exercise her faculties.
In China fathers have their daughters' feet bound and make them
sleep away from the house so their moans will not disturb the family.
In America fathers often repress their daughters' self-sufficiency and
intellect by bonds of self-indulgence, and when the daughters realize
that a stockade of dollars is a most flimsy fortress in the world
against the experiences which come to every man and woman the American
girls are the mental complement of their physically tortured Chinese
cousinshopeless and without redress.
You have made this place look well, Beatrice said, presently, It
is a perfect tinder box. Papa knows the man who built it.
Trudy flushed. We are merely trying out love in a cliffette, she
said, sweetly, instead of the old-style cottage. We can't expect
anything like your apartment. We have that prospect to look forward to.
Besides, we have the advantage of knowing just who our real friends
are, she added, smiling her prettiest.
Beatrice disposed of another chocolate. She told herself she was
being placed in an awkward position. She had occasion to keep thinking
so every moment of her visit, for Trudy hastened to add that she had
never liked office work and yet Mr. O'Valley had been so good to her,
and wasn't it splendid that America was a country where one had a
chance and could rise to whatsoever place one deserved; and when one
thought of Beatrice's own dear papa and handsome husband, well, it was
all quite inspiring and wonderfuluntil Beatrice was as uncomfortable
about Steve's goat tending and her father's marital selection of a
farmer's hired girl as Trudy really was of the apartment and her
Trudy lost no time in introducing the magic vanishing-cream and
liquid face power, and before the call ended Beatrice had ordered five
dollars' worth of each and some for Aunt Belle, and she had offered to
take Trudy to her bridge club some time soon.
As the door closed Trudy sank back in her chair, informing the
imitation fireplace joyously: It was almost too easy; I didn't have to
work as hard as I really wanted to. Wearily she dragged off her tea
gown for a bungalow apron and then prepared a supper of delicatessen
baked beans and instantaneous pudding for her lord and master.
* * * * *
The dinner with the O'Valleys was equally fruitful of results.
Despite Steve's protests that he did not wish to know Gay and that
Trudy was impossible he was forced to listen to their inane jokes and
absurd flatteries and to look at Trudy in her taupe chiffon with
exclamatory strands of burnt ostrich, and watch her deft fashion of
handling his wife, realizing that people with one-cylinder brains and
smart-looking, redheaded wives usually get by with things!
After their guests had departed Steve began brusquely: Do you
No; I told you before that they amused me. She is fun, and poor Gay
is a dear.
Are you going to have them round all the time? That woman's laugh
gets on my nerves, and I want him shot at sunrise. They can't talk
about anything but the movies and jazz dancing and clothes.
What do you want them to talk about? Don't pace up and down like a
wild beast. Beatrice came up and stood before him to prevent his
turning the corner.
He looked down at her without answering. She was clad in shimmering
white loveliness cut along the same medieval lines as the gown another
Beatrice had worn when Dante first saw her walking by the Arno; her
hair was very sunshiny and fragrant and her dove-coloured eyes most
He burst out laughing at his own protest. Am I a bear? Come and
kiss me. If you like them or they amuse you just tote 'em about,
darling. Only can't you manage to do it while I am out of town? They do
fleck me on the raw.
Hermitbeast, she dimpled and shook her finger at him.
I just want you, he said, simply; or else people who can do
something besides spend money or sponge round for it.
Sometimes you frighten meyou sound booky.
I'm not; I want real things, Bea. I feel hungry for plain people.
You have them all day long in your office and your shops; I should
think when you come home you'd welcome a good time.
Our definitions differ. Anyhow, I'm not going to find fault with
your friends. I've nothing against them except that they are time
Trudy boarded at your wonderful Miss Faithful's house.
In spite of Mary's common sense, and not because of it.
You think a great deal of that girl, don't you? she asked, patting
She deserves a great deal of credit; she has worked since she was
thirteen, and she is as true-blue as they come.
Do you think she will ever marry and leave you? she asked, laying
the sunshiny head on his arm.
I never want her to; I'd feel like buying off any prospective
That's not fair. Her hand stole up to pat his cheek. She has the
right to be happyas we are, Steve!
He stared at her in all her lovely uselessness. You funny little
wife, he whisperedfighting over losing a postage stamp one minute
and buying a new motor car the next; going to luncheon with the washed
of Hanover and spending the afternoon with Trudy; making fun of Mary
Faithful's shirt waists and then pleading for her woman's happiness....
Beatrice, you've never had half a chance!
* * * * *
The next afternoon Mary and Luke Faithful were summoned home. Later
in the day Steve received word that their mother had succumbed to a
violent heart attack. He found himself feeling concerned and truly
sorry, wondering if Mary had any one to see to things and relieve her
of the responsibility. Then he wondered if this death would cause a
dormant affection to become active love as often happens, causing him
to lose his right-hand man. He reproached himself for knowing so little
of her private life. When he went into her deserted office to find a
letter it seemed distinctly lonesome. It was hard to realize how
suddenly things happen and how easily the world at large becomes
accustomed to radical changes. Already a snub-nosed little clerk was
taking up a collection for the flowers.
For the first time in years Steve felt depressed and weary. The
anaesthesia was losing its power.
Within the coming week as vital a mental change was to come to Steve
as the death of Mrs. Faithful was to cause in Mary's life. And as Mary,
to all purposes, would resume her business routine with not a hint of
the change, so would Steve fail to betray the mental revolution that
was to take place in his hitherto ambitious and obedient brain.
Briefly what was to happen was thisafter visiting Mary in her home
and after seeing the Gorgeous Girl during a test of one's abilities,
Steve was to realize that there are two kinds of person in the world:
Those who make brittle, detailed plans, and those who have but a
steadfast purpose. His wife belonged to the former class and Mary to
the latter, which he was to discover was his choice at all times!
The day of Mrs. Faithful's funeral was the day that Beatrice
O'Valley had arranged to introduce Trudy Vondeplosshe to her bridge
club, the members of which were keen to see Gay's wife in order to
prove whether or not Bea's report concerning her was correctthat she
was a clever young person quite capable of taking care of both her own
and Gay's futures.
Beatrice particularly looked forward to the afternoon. Introducing
Trudy served as an attraction, and besides the hostess had telephoned
her that she had just received a box of Russian sweetmeats made by a
refugee who was starting life anew in New York, and two barrels of
china, each barrel containing but three plates and each plate being
valued at six hundred dollars. Furthermore, Beatrice was wearing an
afternoon costume that would demand no small share of attention, and
there was the additional joy of dazzling Trudy by her tapestry-lined
winter car. So when Steve reminded her in a matter-of-fact way that the
funeral services for Mrs. Faithful were to be at three she stared in
My dear boy, I am very sorry your secretary's muzzy has diedbut I
cannot change my plans. I accepted for both Trudy Vondeplosshe and
myself more than a week ago.
Steve wondered if he had heard correctly. You don't imagine for an
instant that Trudy will not go? She boarded there; they did everything
Beatrice shrugged her shoulders. She was phoning me before lunch
and is all agog with excitement. Poor little thing, it means a lot for
her. She will be ready at three and I am to call for her.
I don't think she understands the funeral is to-day. I know she is
heartless and shallow, but even she would scarcely omit such a duty.
Beatrice gave a long sigh. Dear me, you ought to have been an
evangelist. I can't understand why you suddenly become punctilious and
altruistic. For years you never did anything but try to make money and
wonder if I would marry youyou never cared who was dead or what
happened as long as you were secure.
Quite true. But I have made a fortune and married you, and it is
time for other things.
You are welcome to them, she said, quite enjoying the argument.
Besides, I sent my card with the flowers.
It isn't the same as going yourself, it is your duty to go, Bea.
The girl has taken the brunt of business while we played and she has
only the reward of a salary. Her mother has died, which means that her
home is gone. I call it thick to choose a bridge party instead of
paying a humane debt.
Why am I dragged into it? She isn't working for me! Papa never
asked me to go when any of his people had relatives who died. I don't
think he ever went himself unless there was a claim to be adjusted.
I shouldn't ask it if it were any one elsebut Mary Faithful is
You are quite ardent in your defence of her. Be sensible, Steve.
What does it matter whether I go or don't go? I think it quite enough
if you appear. Now if she were in need of actual money
Oh, certainly! he said, bitterly. That would give you the chance
to play off Lady Bountiful, drive up in state with your check book and
accept figurative kisses on the hand! But when a plain American
business girl who has served me more loyally than she has herself loses
her mother you won't be a few moments late at a bridge party in order
to pay her the respect employers should pay their employees. I don't
blame TrudyI expect nothing of herbut I do blame you.
So my plans are to be set aside?
Plans! he interrupted. If someone else were to tell you that they
had an East Indian yogi who was going to give a seance this very
afternoon you would hotfoot it to the telephone to inform Trudy that
you must break your engagement with her, and send word to your original
hostess as well. That is about all your plans amount to.
Beatrice's eyes had grown slanting, shining with rage. I wish you
would remember you are speaking to your wife and not to an employee. I
would not go to that funeral now if it meantif it meant a divorce.
She pushed her chair back from the tablethey were at luncheonand
stood up indignantly.
Looking at her in her gay light chiffon with its traceries of gold
Steve wondered vaguely whether or not he had been wrong in selecting
his goal, whether he would ever be able really to understand this
Gorgeous Girl now that she belonged to him, or would discover that
there was nothing much to understand about her, that it could all be
summed up in the statement that her father by denying her a chance at
development had stunted the growth of her ability and her character
into raggle-taggle weeds of self-indulgence and willful temper.
I shall not ask you to go with me, he knew he answered. It is
quite as terrifying to find that one's goal has been wrongly chosen and
ethically unsound as to find a boyhood dream merging into gorgeous
Beatrice swept out of the room. Steve made an elaborate pretense of
finishing his meal. Then he went into the drawing room in search of a
newspaper. He came upon Beatrice sitting on a floor cushion, feeding
Monster some bonbons.
Have you been at her house? she said, curiosity overcoming the
Yes. Where is that paper? I dropped it in this chair when I came in
I had it taken away. I abominate newspapers in a drawing roomor
muddy shoes, she added, looking at his own. What did she say? What
sort of a house is it?
Steve stared at her in bewilderment. What the devil difference does
it make to you? he demanded, roughly.
She gave a little scream. Don't you dare say such things to me.
Then she began to cry very prettily in a singsong, high-pitched voice.
Monsternobody loves usnobody loves uswe can't have a merry
Christmas after all.
I shan't be home for dinner, Steve added more politely. Miss
Faithful's absence just now makes things quite rushedI'll work until
Beatrice sprang up, letting Monster scramble unheeded to the floor.
Oh, you are trying to punish me!pretending mock horror. Stevuns
dear, don't mind my not going! Plans are plans, you must learn to
understand. And I'll send her a lovely black waist and a plum pudding
for her Christmas. Tell her I was laid up with one of my bad heads....
No? You won't let me fib? Horrid old thingcome and kiss me!... Ah,
you never refuse to kiss me, nice cave man with bad manners and muddy
shoes, wanting to thump his strong dear fists on my little Chippendale
tablesand grow so good and booky all in an instant. Forgets he was
ever a bad pirate and robbed everyone until he could buy his Gorgeous
Girl. Good-bye, story-book man, don't let the old funeral frazzle you!
Steve left the house, undecided whether he was taking things too
seriously and ought to apologize for being rude to Beatrice or whether
his intuitive impression was correctthat Beatrice was not the sort of
person he had imagined but that he, per se, was to blame in the matter.
Steve chose to take a street car to the Faithful house. He shrank
from creating the atmosphere of a generous and overbearing magnate
whose chauffeur opened the door of his machine and waited for him to
step majestically upon terra firma. He felt merely a sympathetic
friend, for some reason, as he walked the three blocks from the street
car through slush and ice, and realized that Mary Faithful trudged back
and forth this same pathway twice a day.
Unexpectedly he met Mary at the door, rather white faced and grayer
of eyes than usual, but the same sensible Mary who did not believe in
any of the customary agonies of grieving proper, as she afterward told
him. The old house had not assumed a funereal air. There were flowers
on the tables and the cheery fire crackled in the grate, and even the
face of the dead woman seemed more content and optimistic than it had
ever been in life.
Steve was not expected to go to the cemetery so he trudged back
through the same slush to the street car. A fish-market doorway proved
a haven during a long wait. He lounged idly against the doorway as if
he were an unemployed person casting about for new fields of endeavour
instead of the rushed young Midas whose office phone was ringing
He was thinking about Mary Faithful's pleasant manner, the
atmosphere of the old-fashioned house, where there was no effort to be
smart or gorgeous or to conceal its shabbiness. He hoped Mary would
return to the office within the next few days. He wanted her more than
he wanted any one else, but he told himself this was because he was
selfish and she was a capable machine. No, that was not it, he decided
a moment later as he looked in at the activities of the fish market
with passing interest.
Mary no longer seemed a mere machine but a remarkable woman, a
womanly woman, too. He liked the old house with its atrocious horsehair
sofa and chair tidies and the Rogers group in the front bay window. The
fire had been so elemental and soothing, so were the pots of flowers,
the shabby piano, and even more shabby books. One could rest there,
distributing whole flocks of newspapers where he would. The death awe
had not been permitted to take a paramount place. How lucky Luke was,
to have such a sister.
Mary was about Beatrice's age. At thirteen she had begun to earn her
own living. At thirteen Beatrice had had a pony cart, a governess, a
multitude of frocks, her midwinter trip to New York, where she saw all
the musical comedies and gorged on chocolates and pastry.
The upshot of it was that Steve decided to call on Mary the
following afternoon; it was only courtesy he told himself by way of an
excuse. He wanted to talk to hernot of business but of life, of the
shabby old house. Outwardly he wanted to ask if he might help her and
what her plans were, but in reality he wanted her to help him. He no
longer felt displeased that Beatrice had not come with him; he felt
positive Mary would understand, that she would dismiss Trudy's slight
with proper scorn. Beatrice would have insisted upon arriving in state.
By this time the bridge club with its Russian sweetmeats, its
six-hundred-dollar china plates, the new afternoon frock, and the
spoofing of Trudy must be well under way!
The fish market was not doing a land-office business. Stray
purchasers approached and halted before the cashier's cage. Steve began
watching them. Suddenly he became aware of the gorgeous young woman
presiding behind the wire cage, reluctantly pushing out change and
accepting slips, completely preoccupied in her own thoughts, while a
copy of the High Blood Pressure Weekly lay at one side. What
attracted Steve was the horrible similarity between this young person
and his own wife! Both had the same fluffed, frizzled hair and a gay
light chiffon frock with gold trimmings. Though it was December the
toothpick point of a white-kid slipper protruded from the cage. An
imitation Egyptian necklace called attention to the thin, powdered
throat. The cashier was altogether a cheap copy of Beatrice's general
appearance. She had the same tiny, nondescript features and indolent
expression in her eyes; she was most superior in her fashion of dealing
with the customers, never deigning to speak or be spoken to. As soon as
she spied Steve, however, she smiled an invitation to enter and become
owner of half a whitefish or so.
Then the car came and he leaped aboard. It seemed unbearable that a
counterpart of Beatrice O'Valley was making change at Sullivan's Fish
Marketbut more unbearable to realize that women in the position of
Beatrice O'Valley dressed and rougedand acted very oftenin such a
fashion that women in the position of Trudy and this cashier queen
sought industriously to imitate them.
* * * * *
Luke showed his grief in the normal manner of any half-grown,
true-blue lad, singularly thoughtful of his sister's wishes, and
mentioning everyone and everything except their mother and her death.
We won't give up having a home, Mary told him the night of the
funeral; we'll move into a smaller place so I can take care of it.
I guess I'll work pretty hard at school, was all he answered.
Of course you will. I'm proud of you now, and if you work and show
you deserve it I'll help you through college.
Luke shook his head. Takes too long before I could get to earning
real money. You ought to have it easy pretty soon.
I love my work. Besides, you will live your own life, and so you
must grow up and love someone and marry her. I can't depend on any one
but myself, she added, a little bitterly.
Luke stared into the fire. Perhaps this tousle-haired, freckle-faced
boy surmised his sister's love-story. If so no oneleast of all his
sistershould ever hear of the facts from his lips.
I'm never going to get married. I want to make a lot of money like
Mr. O'Valley didquick. Then we'll go and live in Europe and maybe
I'll get a steam yacht and we'll hunt for buried treasure, he could
not refrain from adding.
All right, dear. Just work hard for now and be my pal; we'll let
the future take care of itself. Another thingwe want to have as merry
a Christmas as if mother were with us. It's the only thing to do or
else we'll find ourselves morbid and unable to keep going.
Shamed tears were stoically refused entrance into Luke's blue eyes.
I guess I'll buy you a silver-backed comb and brush. I got some extra
Oh, Lukedear! Mary made the fatal error of trying to hug him. He
Trudy never came near us, he said, sternly.
Mary was silent.
But Mr. O'Valley came like a regular
Don't you think you ought to get to bed? Mary changed the subject.
Sleep in the room next to mine if you like.
When are you coming upstairs?
Soon. I want to look over the letters.
Luke rose and pretended a nonchalant stretching.
Are you going to the office right away?
Not until New Year's.
Something in the tired way she spoke evoked Luke's pity and sent him
away to smother his boy-man's grief by promises of a glorious future in
which his sister should live in the lap of luxury.
With its customary shock death had for the time being given Mary a
false estimate of her mother and herself, the usual neurasthenic
experience people undergo at such a time. It seemed, as she sat alone
by the fire, that she must have been a strangely selfish and ungrateful
child who misunderstood, neglected, and underestimated her mother, and
she would be forced to live with reproachful memories the rest of her
days. Each difference of opinionand there had been little elsewhich
had risen between them was magnified into brutal injustice on Mary's
part and righteous indignation on her mother's. This state of mind
would find a proper readjustment in time but that did not comfort Mary
at the present moment. Her mother was dead, and when a mother is gone
so is the home unless someone bravely slips into the absent one's place
without delay and assumes its responsibilities and credits. For Luke's
sake this was what Mary had resolved to do.
As she could not sleep she rummaged in a cabinet containing old
letters and mementos, which added fuel to her self-reproach and misery.
She had borne up until now. Mary had always been the sort who could
meet a crisis. Reaction had set in and she felt weak and faulty,
longing for a strong shoulder upon which to cry and be forgiven for her
imagined shortcomings. As she read yellowed letters of bygone days and
lives, finding the record of a baby sister who had lived only a few
days and of whom she had been in ignorance, a scrap of her mother's
wedding gown, old tintypesshe realized that her family was no more
and that everyone needed a family, a group of related persons whose
interests, arguments, events, and achievements are of particular
benefit and importance each to the other and who unconsciously
challenge the world, no matter what secret disagreements there may be,
to disrupt them if they dare! Now only Luke and Mary comprised the
After midnight Mary battled herself into the commonsense attitude of
going to bed. Wakening after the dreamless sleep of the exhausted she
found low spirits and self-blame had somewhat diminished and though her
state of mind was as serious as her gray eyes yet life was not utterly
bereft of compensations.
Luke had thoughtfully risen early, clumsily tiptoeing about to get
breakfast. Neighbours had furnished the customary donations of cake,
pie, and doughnuts, which gave Luke the opportunity of spreading the
breakfast table with these kingly viands and doing justice to them in
no half-hearted fashion.
The sun streamed through the starched window curtains, and even the
empty rocking-chair seemed serene in the relief from its morbid burden.
Christmas was only a few days away. Mary decided that they should have
a truly Christmas dinner, and that the words she had bravely spoken as
a three-year-old runaway, found a mile from home and offered assistance
by kindly strangers, should become quite true: Not anybody need take
care of myself, Mary had declared in dauntless fashion.
Later in the day Luke went to the office because Mary thought it
best. So when Steve called he found her alone, the same cheery fire
burning in the grate, the same posies blooming in their window pots,
and the smell of homemade bread pervading the house, Mary in a soft
gray frock presiding over the walnut secretary.
I'm sorry not to be at the office, she began, thinking he had come
to persuade her to return. Sit down. Wellyou see, indicating the
stacks of addressed envelopesI really can't come back until after
the New Year. Do you mind? There is a great deal to be seen to here,
and I feel I've earned the right to loaf for a week. I want
particularly to make the holidays happy for Luke.
Of course you do. Besides, you never had your vacation.
We'll call this a vacation and I'll work extra hard to prove to you
that it was worth the granting. Still she did not understand that he
wanted to talk to her for the very comfort of her companionship, to
enjoy the fire, the smell of homemade bread, the atmosphere of shabby,
lovely, everyday plain living.
We'll decide that later. I came to see justyou. Surprised? I
wanted to ask if there is anything I can do for you. I want to help if
I've no exact plans. Just a definite idea of finding a small
apartment and making it as homey as possible. I loathe apartments
usually, she added, impulsively, but we must have a home and I can't
assume a whole house. We will take our old things and fix them over,
and the worst of them we'll pass on to someone needing them badly
enough not to mind what they are. She was quite frank in admitting the
tortured walnut and the engravings.
I'm glad you are not going to break up and boardthough it's none
of my business. I brought some fruit. Do you mind? He had been trying
to hide behind the chair a mammoth basket of fruit.
No. How lovely of you and Mrs. O'Valley!
It was not possible for Mrs. O'Valley to come yesterday, he forced
himself to say. She was very sorry and is going to call on you later.
Thank you, Mary answered, briefly.
You have a nice old place here. Mind if I stroll about and stare? I
have very seldom been in rooms like this one. An orphan asylum, a
ranch, a hall bedroom, star boarder, a club, a better club, the young
palaceis my record. How different you seem in your home, Miss
Faithful. Perhaps it's the dress. I like soft gray he caught
himself in time.
Mary was blushing. She called his attention to some wood carving her
father had done. Presently Steve changed the subject back to himself.
You don't know how I'd like a slice of homemade bread, he pleaded.
Must I turn up my coat collar and go stand at the side door?
I made it because Luke had eaten nothing but pie and cake. You
really don't want just bread?
I dotwo slices, thick, stepmother size, please.
It seemed quite unreal to Mary as she was finally prevailed upon to
bring in the tea wagon with the bread and jam trimmings to accompany
the steaming little kettle.
Man alive, sighed Steve, stretching out leisurely, I came to
console you and I'm being consoled and fedin body and mindmade fit
for work.... I say, what do you think of letting the Boston merger be
made public at the banquet on He began a budget of business detail
upon which Mary commented, agreeing or objecting as she felt inclined.
It was so easy to become clear-headed about workdetails became
adjusted with magical speedwhen one had a gray-eyed girl with a
tilted freckled nose sitting opposite. The soft gray dress played a
prominent part, too, even if the Gorgeous Girl would have been amused
at its style and material. Besides this, there was the wood fire, the
easy-chair with gay Turkey-red cushions designed for use and not
admiration, and no yapping spaniel getting tangled up in one's heels.
Before they realized it twilight arrived, and simultaneously they
began to be self-conscious and formal, telling themselves that this
would never do, no, indeed! Dear me, what queer things do happen all in
a day! Still, it would always be a splendid thing to remember.
Certainly it was more edifying than to confront a nervous Gorgeous
Girl who had discovered that her maid had been reading her personal
I sprinkled talcum powder on them and the powder is all smudged
away, so Jody has been spying. She is packing her things now and I
shall refuse any references. But who will ever take such good care of
me, Steve? And please get dressed; we are invited to the Marcus Baynes
for dinner. They have a wonderful poet from Greenwich Village who is
spending the holidays with themlong hair, green-velvet jacket,
cigar-box ukulele, and all. A darling! And I am going to take Monster
because he does black-and-white sketches and I want one of my ittey,
bittey dirl. And so on.
Certainly it was more pleasing than to have a shamed and confused
Trudy elegantly attired come dashing in with a jar of vanishing cream
as a peace offering, presumably to smooth out any wrinkles of grief,
and to explain hastily that it looked like a lack of feeling not to be
at the funeral but most certainly it was notno, indeed; it was just
tending to business. She was sure Mary realized how essential it was
not to offend the Gorgeous Girl. How dreadful it was for poor Mary.
She, Trudy, had cried her old eyes out thinking about it. Did Mary get
the flowers she and Gay sent? She wished she could do something nice
for Mary. How would she like to have a black-satin dress made at cost
price? No? She wasn't going to wear mourning! Well, it was very brave
but it would certainly look queer and cause talk.... Gay's moustache
was coming on beautifully and no one at the bridge club had dared to
At least there was some excuse for the delivery on Christmas Day of
a parcel addressed to Miss Mary Faithful. It contained Steve's card,
some wonderful new books with an ivory paper knife slipped between
them. And when Mary wrote to thank him she found herself inclosing a
demure new silver dime, explaining:
I must give you a coin because you gave me a knife, and unless I
did so the old superstition might come trueand cut our 'business
affections' right straight in two!
Mary returned to the office with a premeditatedly formal air toward
Steve. She had taken a New Year's resolution to refrain from letting an
impulsive expression of sympathy assume false meanings in her heart. On
the other hand, Steve felt a boor for having sent the books. He was so
used to being called cave man and told not to do this or say that that
he now pictured himself an awkward villain who had best confine himself
to writing checks and growling at the business world.
He almost dreaded seeing Mary lest she show she considered the gift
improper despite her delightful little note of thanks. This demeanour,
however, was of short duration. They became their real selves before
the morning passed, the medium being the question of keeping John
Gager, an old clerk pressed into service during the war period and now
Are you going to let him go? Mary reproached Steve.
I think so; he's a doddering nuisance they tell me.
But he's old and he has always served so faithfully. I don't think
it's right to send him away now. He does do what is expected of him.
Mary's vacation had somewhat dimmed her business sagacity.
I suppose; but we'll be doddering idiots some day, too. No one will
keep us. No one can expect to be carried along indefinitely.
It's the first time I have ever asked you to do such a thing, she
insisted, fearlessly. To see him trying to act as fit as twenty-five,
wearing juvenile shirts and ties, struggling to be brisk, slangy, to
oblige everyone and step along, you know. Oh, don't turn him away just
yet; he is honest and he tries. I can't tell him, and can't you see his
old face quiver when he opens his envelope and finds the dismissal
Steve's resolutions faded like mist before the sun. He found himself
saying: You ought to be a little sister to the poor. I guess we'll
keep Gager for a while. He doesn't smoke cigarettes all day and try to
lie about it. How did you like those books? he added, boyishly.
Mary laid a finger on her lips. Sh-h-h. It's business. But I did
like themso would you.
I'd read them if I had an easy-chair and some homemade bread and
tea. Do you know what I had to do for my Christmas Day?
PleaseI'd rather not
I must tell someone, and ask if I'm all wrong about it, he said,
half humorously, half in earnest. I told my father-in-law in part and
it struck him as a huge joke. He purpled with laughing and said: 'Gad,
she'll always have her way!' Steve was thinking out loud. He was
realizing that Constantine was not even conscious he had raised his
daughter to be a rebel doll and he, apparently an honourable citizen,
encouraged and upheld her in her doctrine.
Well, what did you have to do? Mary asked in spite of herself.
I had to officiate at Monster's Christmas tree, which was in the
boudoir, laden with the treasures of the four corners. I presented a
diamond-studded gold purse and a sable cape to my wife and received a
diamond-studded cigar knifeI have two othersand a mink-lined coat
in return. I was dragged to a half-dozen different houses to deliver
presents and collect the same, and witness the tragedy of Bea's
receiving a vanity case she had given someone else two years before and
which had evidently been going the rounds. It was a bit disconcerting
to have it turn up.
I had a ponderous seven-course dinner at Mr. Constantine's, during
which I had to kiss Aunt Belle under the mistletoe and pretend to be
elated, hear several yards of grand opera torn off on the new talking
machine in its nine-hundred-dollar Chinese case, take my father-in-law
to the club, return to find Trudy and Gay having a Yuletide word with
my wife. Trudy brought a concoction of purple chiffon, jet beads, and
exploded hen which was entitled a breakfast jacket, and in return she
drew down a pair of silver candlesticks.
After that we dressed in all our grandeur for the fancy-dress ball
at Colonel Tatlock's, Beatrice as Juliet and I as the young and dashing
Romeo! Shivering in our finery we drove to the Tatlock's to make fools
of ourselves until three A. M. and shiver home again with aching heads
and a handful of damaged cotillion favours. About the same sort of
thing happened on New Year's. He laughed, but it was not a pleasant
sound, inviting a response.
Beatrice dashed in, to Mary's relief, to bestowover a week latea
Christmas present of perfume and a black-silk waist.
Mr. O'Valley has explained how rushed I have been with my classes,
she began, prettily, but I have thought of you in all your sorrow. I
lost my dear mother when I was too young to remember her, still it
means a bond between us.... Oh, you are not wearing black? Dear me,
that's too bad.... Well, you may have to go to somebody's funeral where
you feel you want to wear ita black waist is always useful.
She managed to carry Steve off to look at a set of pink glass
sherbet cups she was to give her father for his birthday, and Mary was
conscious of a certain pity for the Gorgeous Girlprompted not so much
by her present state of affairs as her inevitable future.
The last of January Steve was called away on a business trip through
the Middle West. Beatrice had no desire to go with him; she said she
simply could not conceive of having a good time in Indiana and
Illinois, and what was the sense in bearing with him in his misery? But
she was quite willing Steve should stay away as long as he was needed
by business entanglements. In fact, Beatrice now betrayed a certain
driving quality in trying to make him feel that as their honeymoon was
ended and everyone had entertained for them it was high time Steve must
retire from social life to a degree, and outdo her own father in the
making of a vast fortune. She seldom begged him to ride with her or
come home to luncheon to fritter away the best part of the afternoon in
a pursuit of silver-pheasant ornaments for the dinner table. That phase
of her selfishness was at an end. It was when Steve demanded the luxury
of merely staying at home with no chattering peacocks of women and
asinine, half-tipsy men playing with each other until early morning
that Beatrice refused her consent.
She did not wish any personal domestic life, Steve decided after
several experiences along these lines. She could not see the pleasure
in a Sunday afternoon hike; walking to see a sunset was absurd! All
very well to be whisked by at twenty miles an hour and give a careless
nod at the setting golden sphere, but to trudge through wintry roads
and up an icy hill and stand, frozen and fagged, weighted down by
sweaters, toDear me, Steve really needed to see a doctor! Perhaps
he had better start to play golf with papa!
Meals tête-à-tête caused her spirits to droop, and she soon fell
into the habit of waiting until Steve was away or having her luncheon
in her room. She was seldom up for breakfast, and when he protested
against this hotel-like custom she would say: I don't expect you to
appreciate my viewpoint and my wishes, but at least be well-bred enough
to tolerate them!
He was on the point of reminding her that his viewpoint and wishes
were treated only with argument and ridiculebut as usual he
refrained. Silence on the part of one who knows he is in the right yet
chooses apparently to yield the point in question is a significant
milestone on the road of separation. An argument with Beatrice meant
one of two outcomes: A violent scene of temper and overwrought nerves
with tears as the conquering slacker's weapon or a long, sulky period
of tenseness which made him take refuge in his office and his club.
He wondered sometimes how it was he had never before realized the
true worth of his wife, how he had been so madly infatuated and adoring
of her slightest whim during the years of earning his fortune and the
brief period of their formal engagement. Almost reluctantly the
anæsthesia of unreality and distorted values was disappearing, leaving
Steve with but one conclusion: That it had been his own conceited
fault, and therefore he deserved scant pity from either himself or the
world at large.
Mark Constantine, whose activities lessened each month, due to ill
health, began prowling about Steve's office at unexpected hours,
cornering him for prosy talks and conferences, under which Steve
writhed in helpless surrender. Since he realized the true meaning of
his marriage he began placing the blame on the culpritBeatrice's
father. As he did so he wondered if it was possible that Constantine
did not realize the havoc he had wrought. His wealth and Steve's
speedily accumulated fortune via hides and government razors suddenly
seemed stupid, inane; and he no longer felt a sense of pride at what he
had accomplished. He never wanted to hear details of Constantine's more
gradual and bitter rise in the world; there was certain to be slimy
spots of which Steve in his new frame of mind could no longer approve.
He was weary of hearing about money, just as his good sense caused him
to be weary of socialistic prattling and absurd pleas for Bolshevism.
It seemed to him that the dollar standard was the paramount means both
magnate and socialist used to value inanimate and animate objects. He
longed for a new unit of measure.
He was keen on business trips. At least he could have the freedom of
his hotel and could roam about without being pointed out as the
Gorgeous Girl's husband, the lucky young dog and so on. Neither would
he be dragged from this house to that to sit on impossible futurist
chairs while young things of thirty-nine clad in belladonna plasters
and jet sequins gathered about to tell him what perfectly wonderful
times their class in cosmic consciousness was having.
Mary Faithful was keen to have him go. She dreaded any furthering of
the personal understanding between them. When one has become master of
a heartache and thoroughly demonstrated that mastery it is not sensible
to let it verge toward a heart throb, even if one is positive of the
ability to change it back at will into the hopeless ache. It is like
unhandcuffing a prisoner and saying: Sprint a bit, I can catch up to
On the other hand, Beatrice had any number of activities to take up
her time. Her period of being a romantic parasitethe world called it
a sweet bridewas ended. She was now bent on becoming as mad and
ruthless a butterfly as there ever was, and to the accomplishment of
her aim she did not purpose to stint herself in any way. She still drew
her own allowance from her father and accepted extra checks for extra
things necessary for her welfare and popularity.
More than once Steve counted the monthly expenditures, with the same
resultBeatrice was living on her father's income quite as much as on
his own. Her position was not unlike that of people who say to their
prosperous neighbours possessing a motor car: We'll furnish the lunch
and the gasolene, and you take us to the picnic grounds! Constantine
still owned the figurative motor car, or the substantial end of
Beatrice's expenses, while Steve furnished the lunch and the gasolene,
trying to delude himself that he was supporting his wife. Beatrice's
clothes were beyond his income, for he was not yet a millionaire.
Neither could he afford the affairs which she gave, with favours of
jewellery; nor the trips here and there in private cars.
Furnishing the lunch and gasolene and perhaps a possible tire or so
does not give one the sense of ownership that having the motor car
gives; nor was it Steve's notion of being the possessor of a home. He
spoke to Beatrice about it, only to be kissed affectionately and
scolded prettily by way of answer; or else to have those eternal
omnipresent tears reproach him for being cross when papa wants me to
have things and he has no one else in the world to spend all his money
After a few attempts he gave it up but resolved to make his fortune
equal to his father-in-law's, as Beatrice wished. He saw no other way
out of the situation. To do so in his present interests was
impossiblehe had fancied that half a million was a fair sum to offer
a Gorgeous Girlbut he saw it was only a nibble at the line. He must
outdo Constantine. He cast about for some unsuspected fields of effort,
this time to strike out into work of which Constantine was ignorant. He
began to resent the fact that after his lucky strike on the exchange he
had played copy cat and gone mincing into the hide-and-leather
business, using Constantine's good will as his stepping stone. The same
was true of the stock bought in the razor factory; he had merely paid
for the stock; he did not know the steps of progress necessary to the
This time he would prove his own merit, he would not take
Constantine into his confidence. Unknown to any one save Mary, Steve
selected a new-style talking machine to promote. He knew as much about
talking machines as Beatrice knew about cooking a square meal. But
Steve had lost his clear-headedness and he thought, as do most
get-rich-quick men, that, possessed of the Midas touch, he could come
in contact with nothing but gold.
He began backing the inventor and looking round for a factory site.
He sought it away from Hanover, for he wanted it to be a complete
surprise. He begrudged his father-in-law's knowing anything of it. He
went into the enterprise rather heavilybut it did not worry him, for
he was quite sure he possessed the luck eternal, and he must support
his own wife. Side speculating was the only way he thought it possible
to do so.
Meanwhile, Beatrice found Trudy to be both a good foil and a
dangerous enemy, one who was not to be ridiculed or set aside. Trudy
had never stopped working since the day Beatrice climbed the rear
stairs of the Graystone and had been bullied into buying the vanishing
cream. Beatrice scarcely knew the various steps which Trudy had climbed
in a figurative sense, dragging Gay after her, grumbling and sneering
but quite willing to be dragged.
You see, aunty, she explained one stormy February afternoon while
they were having a permanent wave put in their hair, Trudy is so
obliging and useful, and I'm sorry for her. She tries to do so many
nice things for me that I never have a chance to become offended. I've
tried! But she just won't break away. And I like to tease Steve by
knowing her, Steve is such a bear when he doesn't like people. Rude is
a mild term. He particularly hates Gay. Now Gay is quite a dear and he
always played nicely with me. I should hate to lose himso how can I
offend his wife; particularly when she takes so well with older men?
Aunt Belle sniffed. Men old enough to be her fatheryou'd think
they would appreciate mellowed love instead of a selfish little
The beauty doctor, who had spent the greater share of the day at the
Constantine house, suppressed a smile and stored up the remark for her
Oh, I don't know, Beatrice murmured as she consulted a hand glass.
I am beginning to wish I had married a man about papa's age. It would
have been much jollier in some ways. Steve is so strenuous and rude. A
cave man is fun to be engaged to and keep a record about in your
chapbookbut when you marry him it is a different matter. I remember
how thrilled and enthusiastic about Steve I used to be when he was
working for papa and living in a hall bedroom. I knew he adored me yet
had to keep his place, and I used to dream about him and wonder if he
really would keep his word and make a fortune so he could marry me. But
now he has done it She shrugged her shoulders.
I wouldn't be too disappointed. Elderly men usually have wheel
chairs and diets after a little, and you'd feel it your duty to play
Oh, it's far better to be disappointed in one's husband than one's
friends, Beatrice agreed. I know that. For you can manage to see very
little of your husband; but your friendsdeary me, they your very
Does Trudy ever mention the days she worked in Steve's office?
Yes. Clever little thing, she knows enough to admit it prettily
every now and then, so there is nothing to badger her about. She has
even trained Gay to talk of it occasionally. She has done wonders for
him; one of the clubmen is backing him to go into the
interior-decorating business. Of course he will make good because
everyone will feel morally obliged to go there. So the Vondeplosshes on
the strength of this have moved to the Touraine, a different sort of
apartment house, I assure you. They are entertaining, if you please;
everyone asks them everywhere. Gay is painting garlands of
old-fashioned flowers in panels for Jill's boudoir. I think I'll have
the same thing done in mine.
Gay is painting them?
Oh, no. Some limp artist who could never get the commission for
himself. Gay stands about in a natty blue-serge effect and takes the
credit and the check. What's new?turning to the beauty doctor. I'm
as dull as the Dead Sea.
Miss Flinks informed them of a labour revolt in the West.
Horrid creatures, always wanting more! Well, they won't get it. I
think Steve is ridiculous with his banquets and bonuses and all, and
upon my word, Mary Faithful has as good an Oriental rug in her office
as I have in my house. Tell us something really important, Miss
Retrieving her error the beauty doctor whispered a scandal
concerning the newly married Teddy Markhams, who had had such a violent
quarrel the week before that Mrs. Teddy had pushed the piano halfway
out the window and police had rushed to the scene thinking it might be
another bomb explosion.
Beatrice was all animation, and she gave Miss Flinks no peace until
she learned all the details, and the rumour about the actress who had
rented an expensive town house for the season and a débutante who was
being rushed to a retreat to prevent her marriage to a gypsy violinist
who had already taught her the drug habit.
Trudy telephoned the latter part of the afternoon, and as it was a
gray, blowy day with nothing special to do to revive one's spirits
Beatrice urged her to come in for teatea to be cocktails and buttered
Within a few moments she appeareda symphony of blonde broadcloth
set in black furs, very charming and chic, and so solicitous about Aunt
Belle's recently removed mole and the scar left by the electric needle,
and so admiring of the two newly beautified ladies that they were quite
won in spite of themselves.
Were you near here when you telephoned? Beatrice asked, curiously.
You weren't ten minutes getting here and you look as spick and span as
if you had stepped out of a bandbox.
Look outside and you'll see that Gay and I have had a true case of
Outside the window there proved to be a smart, selfish roadster,
battleship-gray with vivid scarlet trimmings.
Well! Beatrice said in astonishment. At this identical moment she
began to envy Trudy. She was really ashamed of the fact, nor did she
understand why she should envy this bankrupt yet progressive little
nobody in her homemade bargain-remnant costume. The reason was that
Beatrice's latent abilities longed to be doing something, achieving
something, capturing, inventing, destroying, earning if need bebut
doing something. The daughter of Mark and Hannah Constantine could not
help but have the germ of great ability within her, sluggish and
spoiled as it might be; and it must perforce duly manifest itself from
time to time. Beatrice realized that Trudy felt a greater joy and
satisfaction in displaying this not-paid-for cheap machinehaving sat
up half the night to make the shirred curtainsthan Beatrice ever
could feel in her tapestry-lined, orchid-adorned limousine. So she
began to envy Trudy just as Trudy envied her. Trudy had done nothing
but struggle to be able to live, as she termed it; Beatrice had never
been allowed to struggle!
We owe for all but the left back tire, Trudy said before any one
had the chance to hint of the fact; but Gay has to have it for his new
business, and it is such a joy! I hope you approve, Beatrice. And what
a darling gown!
There was nothing left for Beatrice but to order the cocktails and
toast, and for Aunt Belle to agree smilingly with Trudy's clever
Trudy never came to see Beatrice unless she gained some material
point or had one in view, and the point she had come to gain this
afternoon was of no small importance. In her own fashion she managed to
inform her hostess that Gay had received an order fromwell, it was a
tremendous secret and he would be terribly cross if he knew she told
even her dearest Bea and her sweet Aunt Belle, but she just couldn't
help ithe had an order from Alice Twill, who thought she was going to
beat everyone in town to the greatest sensation of the year: To have
the barn of a Twill mansion remodelled, decorated and so on, from coal
bin to cupola, until it was an exact copy of a French palaceshe
really forgot just which one. ... Yes, Alice's aunt in Australia had
died and left her everything; Alice said she was not going to wait
until she was on crutches before she spent it. Gay was simply out of
his head trying to plan the thing and Alice was to move to a hotel for
several weeks until a newly furnished wing was ready to be inhabited.
There was no reason why New York persons should have their homes
like palaces and châteaux and so on, and turn their noses up at upstate
residences. Alice was going to show them. Andthis very subtlyGay
had said that if only Beatrice could have the authority to redecorate
her father's home into an Italian villa Alice Twill would be the loser
when comparisons were madesince the Constantine house had twice the
possibilities and so on, and Beatrice twice the taste. And what an
achievement it would be; a distinct civic improvement!... Yes, Gay was
working with the best firms in New York, and there was no doubt of his
success in the enterprise.
Before she left, Trudy had almost secured Beatrice's promise that
the Constantine house should be made into an Italian villa and that, if
she so decided, Gay should have the commission. There was a place at
Frascati she had always admired, and they could use some ideas from a
show place in Florida.
Had Trafalgar terminated differently Napoleon would have been no
more surprised or jubilant than Trudy, who fairly skidded home to the
new and more pretentious apartment, where she found Gay in one of his
sneering, sulky moods and quite angry to think Trudy was carrying the
How do I know Alice Twill will really come across? he began. And
I suppose you've got the machine covered with mud, too. Anyway, what do
I know about decorating? I work on my reputation and everyone's
sympathies and I'm in fear all the time some real decorator will turn
up and show my hand or else refuse to work under me and split
commissions. You're too damned optimistic.
If I wasn't optimistic where would we be? Starving, she said with
no attempt at politeness. Common courtesies between them had long since
been dispensed with. I've gotten you nearly everything you have, and
if you'll do as I say I'll go right on getting things for you. But
you're lazy and jealousthat's what's the matter.
He gave a sneering little laugh. Why, you poor nobody, people only
tolerate you because of me. They roar behind your back.
Do they? They pity me because I'm married to such a weak fish! Men
are nice to you because of meand there isn't a woman I've met that I
have not made afraid of me. Beatrice hasn't the will power of a slug;
you can hand her flattery in chunks as big as boulders and she swallows
them without choking. It's her husband who sees through us.
Whatthe goat tender? Oh, beg pardontreading on someone else's
toes. Or didn't they have goats in Michigan?
We'll never hang together another year, she said, recklessly. The
first chance I have to exchange you for a real man your day is over.
You think any one else would marry you?
I don't think. I just go ahead grabbing everything I can, and when
a person has to grab for someone else as well as herself it keeps them
You're a crude and impossible little fool.
Without warning Trudy's hand shot out, and on Gay's cheek rested a
red mark for the greater part of the evening.
A half hour later he was trying to apologize, having bucked himself
up to it with brandy, in order to borrow enough money to play pool with
that same evening.
After Gay left, Trudy put on her things and trudged over to Mary's
house. Gay had driven off in the car and she was glad he had. Like
Steve the day of the funeral, she did not wish to drive but to have the
nervous outlet of walking.
Trudy was seldom angry. But when she found Mary in the old library,
the same true-blue, good-looking thing with just a little coldness of
manner as Trudy tried to enthuse over her, Trudy felt ashamed. And she
was angry far more often than she was ashamed.
Where is Luke? she asked, taking off her things and lying down
wearily on the sofa. Oh, Mary mine, you don't know how good it is to
be here again, to be able to talkreally talk to someone.
Luke is at basketball Mary began, stopping as she discovered
that Trudy was in tears. Why, what is it? as Trudy sobbed the harsh,
long sobs of a tormented and frail mind.
You ought to hate meselfish, insincere hypocritecheatliar.
Oh, I hate myself! I hate him, and Bea, and all of them! They aren't
worth your blessed little finger. Mary, Mary, please stay quite
contrary and never change. Never get to be a Gorgeous Girl, will you?
... Nerves, I suppose; and I haven't had the right things to eat. She
sat up and began smoothing her injured flounces.
You're so thin, and there are funny lilac shadows under your eyes.
You can't live on nerve energy forever. And I know your delicatessen
suppers or else the rich orgies to which you are invitednot enough
sleepand always that eternal upstage pose!
Gay wears on me; he is growing strong, with never an ache or pain.
I never used to have them but I'm all unnerved and weak. He hates me,
Mary. Yes, he does. She began a detailed recital of woes.
Why not leave him? Mary asked as there came a pause.
Without any one else to marry? Trudy's eyes were wide open in
Must you have someone waiting to pay your board bill?
I couldn't go to work again.
I thought you worked rather hard right now.
That's different. I'm working to have a good time. And I'm a
wonder; everyone says so. The clubmen are so nice to me. Beatrice has
done a great deal, even if Steve hates us and acts as if we were
poison.... He isn't happy.
Mary knew she was flushing. Tell me some more about yourself.
But Trudy was not to be swerved from the other topic. Beatrice
makes fun of him and she flirts shamefully. She has half a dozen flames
all the time. One was a common cabaret singer; she had him for tea when
Steve wasn't there. Now she is tired of him. You see, she had to have
someone to take Gay's place! I don't think Steve flirts with any one;
he isn't that sort. He's so intense he will break his heart in the
old-fashioned way and then go and be a socialist or something dreadful.
They scarcely see each other, and of course Beatrice's father thinks
everything is lovely and they are both perfection. He just can't see
the truth. Steve is a cave man and Beatrice is a butterflyI'm a
fraudand you're just an old dear!
Yes, I am a fraud, she said, with sudden honesty. I wouldn't come
to see you unless I wanted something. I want to talk to you with all
barriers down. I wish you had ever done some terrible thing or were
unhappy. I don't know why, Mary dear; it's not as horrid as it sounds.
I think it's because I want to know the real soul of you, and if you
showed me how you met troubles and trials, you being so good, I'd be
the better woman for it in meeting my problems.
It was truly a tired, oldish Trudy speaking. In the last sentence
Trudy had touched the greatest depths of which she was capablecausing
Mary to hint of her one deep secret.
You're growing up, that's all. And I'm not goodnot a bit good.
Why, Trudy, do you know I have had to fight hardterribly hard about
something? I've never told any one before. I can't really tell what it
Over what? You saint in white blouses and crisp ties, always
smiling and working and helping people! How have you battled? Tell me,
Mary came over to the sofa and sat beside Trudy, holding the white,
cold hands laden with foolish rings. I loved and do love someone very
much who never did and never will love me. I must be near that person
daily, be useful to him, earn my own living by so doingand I've made
myself be content of heart in spite of it and not live on starved hopes
and jealous dreams.... You see, I'm quite human.
Trudy drew her hands away. She had caused Mary to confirm her
suspicions, and she was sorry she had done so. The better part of her
knew that she had been admitted into the very sanctuary of the girl's
soul, and that the worst part of her, which usually dominated, was not
worthy to be trusted with such a secret. She wished Mary had not said
the wordssince it changed everything and made a singularly pleasing
weapon to use against Beatrice O'Valley should occasion rise. Mary was
goodand it was safer to slander a good person than a bad one because
there was less chance of a come-back. As she tried to make herself
forget what she had just heard she knew that in the heat of anger or to
gain some material goal she would use this effectual weapon without
thinking and without remorse.
Oh, my poor girl! was all she said; and Mary, believing that Trudy
so reverenced her secret that she was not going to stab it with clumsy
words, kissed her and very practically set about getting a lunch.
Trudy went home taking some biscuit and half a cake with her, and by
the time she reached the Touraine she was in a cheerful frame of mind
once more. The relief of confession, the home food, and the knowledge
of Mary's secret had buoyed her up past caring for or considering Gay.
To her surprise Gay was at home, jubilant and repentant. He had won
at pool and had also consumed some 1879 Burgundy, which conspired to
make him adore his red-haired wife and tell her that he had quite
deserved and enjoyed having his face smacked.
The pool money in her safe keeping, visions of a new hat to wear at
the next luncheon caused Trudy to equal his elation. Together they ate
up Mary's biscuits and cake and talked about Beatrice's remodelling the
Constantine mansion at the cost of many thousands.
We could almost retire, Trudy suggested; but I'm afraid Steve
will never give his consent.
Don't worry. Bea would never let a little thing like a husband
stand in the way of her progress.
In March, just as Steve was returning, Beatrice and her aunt
departed for a whirl in Florida, with a laconic invitation that Steve
and his father-in-law follow them. Steve declined the invitation with
Though Constantine worried in his peculiar way because Steve did not
rush down to Florida to play with the rest of the snapping turtles
Beatrice had about her heels he did not succeed in getting anything but
a logical explanation as to a business rush from his son-in-law. More
and more Steve was being saddled with Constantine's end of the game as
well as his ownand he did not know how to proceed with the double
responsibility. So Constantine went to Florida alone, to find his
daughter revelling in new frocks and flirtations, both of which she
temporarily sidetracked while she made her father give his consent to
having the house done over after the manner of a Frascati villa.
Gad, commented her father, during the heat of the argument, I
thought you were pretty well off as you were. Will Steve like it?
He doesn't care what I do, she hastened to assure him. Of course
he willhe ought toI'm paying for it. He'll have as wonderful a home
as there is in the United States. Alice's will be a caricature by
contrast. Gay says so. As soon as we go home I'm going to signal them
Well, don't touch my room or I'll burn down the whole plant, her
father warned. And if I were you I'd tell Steve firstit's only
But it's my money, she insisted.
Yes, yes, I knowbut you could pretend to consult him. Your mother
and I never bought a toothpick that we hadn't agreed on beforehand.
Dear old papa. She kissed him graciously by way of dismissal.
So Steve received the letter announcing the plans a few days later.
It was a semi-patronizing, semi-affectionate letter with a great many
underlined words and superlative adjectives and intended to convey the
impression that he was a mighty lucky chap to have married a fairy
princess who would spend her ducats in rigging up an uncomfortable
moth-eaten villa of the days of kingdom come.
As he finished it Gay appeared, having received a letter telling him
to hurry ahead with the plans and contracts. Gay was rather obsequious
in his manner since he did not know whether it was Steve or Beatrice
who was to pay for this transformation.
If my wife insists, go aheadbut don't move your arts-and-crafts
shop into my office. I'm not enough interested to see designs and so
on. I never had time to be one of the leisure class, and I'm too old to
be kidded into thinking I'm one of them now. But I did make a mistake,
he added, slowly, whether for Gay's benefit or not no one could
tellI thought the world owed me more than a livingthat it owed me
a bargain. And there never was a bargain cheaply won that didn't prove
a white elephant in time.
Gay's one-cylinder brain did not follow the intricacies of the
statement. He merely thought of Steve in more than usually profane
termsand concluded that Beatrice was paying the bill.
It was April before Steve found himself visiting with Mary Faithful
again and admiring as heartily as Luke had admired the new apartment
Mary had chosen for her family.
It had, to Steve's mind, the same delightful air of freedom and
attractive shabbiness that he had come to consider as essential for a
true home. While Beatrice was launched on her new object in
lifemaking the house into a villa, from upholstering a gondola in
sky-blue satin and expecting people to use it as a sofa to having the
walls frescoed with fat, pouting cherubsMary had selected funny old
chairs and soft shades of blue cretonne found in the remnant
department, queer pottery, Indian blankets, and a set of blue dishes
which just naturally demanded to be heaped with good things and eaten
before an open fire at Sunday-night supper.
The whole expense came within Mary's economical pocketbook, yet it
seemed to Steve to have the combined richness of a Persian palace and
the geniality of a nursery on Christmas Eve.
He deliberately invented an excuse to call, some detail of work
which, more easily than not, could have waited until the next day. He
was not only using the detail of work as a means to visit Mary but as
an excuse to escape a parlour lecture on What astral vibrations does
your given name bring you? by a pale-faced young woman. The pale-faced
young woman boasted of an advanced soul and was making a snug bank
account from the rich set in undertaking occult analyses of their names
by which to decide whether or not the accompanying astral vibrations
harmonized with their auras; and if they did notand were therefore
detrimental and hampering to spiritual development and material
progressshe would evolve occult names for them which would be sort of
spiritual bits of cheese in material mousetraps baiting and capturing
all the good things of this world and the next.
Convinced that Beatrice was not the proper name for her the Gorgeous
Girl had ordered a chart of cabalistic signs and mystical statements,
the sum total of which was that Radia was the name the astral forces
wished her to be called, and by using this name she would develop into
a wonderful medium. She paid fifty dollars to discover that she ought
to be called Radia and that her aura was of smoky lavender, denoting an
advanced soulaccording to the pale-faced young woman, who had tired
of teaching nonsensical flappers, had no chance to marry, and had hit
upon this as her means of painlessly extracting a little joie de vie.
Declining to learn his astral name Steve left Gaylord to mop up the
astral vibrations. Beatrice did not mind his absence though he
neglected to say that the work was to be done at Miss Faithful's
apartment and not at the office. Never having questioned Steve in such
details Beatrice merely murmured inwardly that goat tending in one's
past strangely enough led to pigheadedness in later life. It was a
relief to have him away, for if drawn into an argument he still thumped
his fists. For everyday living Beatrice preferred her own pet robins
and angel-ducks, as she called the boys of the younger set, who flocked
to flirt with her because she was extremely rich and pretty and they
were in no danger of being matrimonially entangled.
Of course Gaylord ate up this occult-name affair. It was discovered
that Gaylord's was a most hampering name and had his parents only
consulted the stars and named him Scintarwho knows to what heights he
might not have risen? Trudy's astral title should have been Urcia,
which she now adopted, blushing deeply as she recalled the vulgar
Babseley and Bubseley of former days. But when Aunt Belle was informed
that Cinil was the cognomen needed to make her discover an
Indian-summer millionaire waiting to bestow his heart upon her Mark
Constantine had packed his bags and departed unceremoniously for Hot
Meantime, Mary did not know just how to treat this imperious
lonesome young man who came boldly into her household without apology
You don't know how often I've wanted to come and see you, he said,
unashamedly, delighted that Luke was out of the way and he could play
in his fashion the same as Beatrice did in hers. It isn't business,
really. I just wanted to talk to you. You assume so much formality at
the office that though I admit it may be wise I miss the real you.
You mean you just trumped up an excuse
Then Mary began to laugh.
I do. The DeGraff muddle can wait. It's nice to be able just to
sprawl aboutsprawl in a comfortable old chair. I like this little
room. We are being turned into an Italian villa, you know. I don't
quite see how I'll ever live up to it. As he spoke he took out a
plebeian tobacco pouch and a nondescript pipe. May I?
Do! Only you ought not to be here at alltrying to be severe, and
Because you think only of yourself and of what you wish, she
surprised him by answering. Why not think of the other chap
He paused in the lighting of his pipe. Ohyou mean my coming
here. He looked like an unjustly punished child without redress. You
mean to consign me to the gloom of the grill room or one of those
slippery leather chairs in a far corner of the club? Come, you can't
say that. I won't listen if you do. I just want to be friends with
With unsuspected coquetry she suggested: Why not your wife?
We're not friendsmerely married. He lit his pipe and flipped the
match away. Cheap to say, isn't it? Don't look at me like that; you
make me quite conscience-stricken. You seem to be aiming at me as
directly as a small boy aims his snowball. Why?
It wouldn't do the slightest good to tell you what I think.
Yes, it would; someone must tell me. I've never been as lonesome in
my life as nowwhen I'm a rich man and the husband of a very lovely
woman. It sort of chills me to the marrow at first thought. I've been
in a delirium, quite irresponsible. These last few months I've been
coming down to earth. Only instead of getting my feet planted firmly on
the sod I think I've struck a quicksand bed. I say, lend us a hand.
Why ask me?
I don't just know. I don't think I shall ever be quite so sure of
anything again. After all, a person has just so much capacity for joy
and sorrow, and so much energy, and so much will power, allotted at
birth; and if he chooses to go burn it all up in one fell swoop doing
one thinghe is at liberty to do so; but he is not given any second
helping. Isn't that true? Quite a terrible thing to realize when you
know you used up your joy allotment in anticipationand it has been so
much keener and finer than any of the realization. And all my energy
went into making money the easiest way I could; but it does not pay.
Mary clasped her hands tightly in her lap; she was afraid to let him
see her joy at the long-awaited confession.
Yet you ask me, a reliable machine, to help you in your
I don't think of you as a capable machine any more. I used to, that
is true enough. I didn't know or care whether your hair was red or your
eyes greenbut I know now that you have gray eyes, and
You really want to know my opinions? she interrupted,
As much as I used to seek out the stock reports.
WellI think people who have planned as exactly as you and Mr.
Constantine have planned always banish real principle at the start.
After a time you are punished by having an almost fungous growth of
sickly conscienceyou don't want to face the truth of things, yet
isolated incidents, sentimental memories, certain sights and definite
statements annoy, haunt, heartbreak you! Still, you have lost your
principle, the backbone of the soul, and the fungus-like growth of
conscience is such a clumsy imitationlike a paper rose stuck in the
ground. Mr. Constantine's typeyour typeis flourishing and
multiplying among us, I fear, and such are the wishbone, or sickly
conscience, and not the backbone, or sterling principle, of the nation.
After all, fortunes alone do not make real gentilitythanks be! But
you know as well as I that all thethe Gorgeous Girls and their kind
and you and I and the next chap we meet belong to the great majority,
and of that we have every right to be proud.
Furthermore, we ought to hold to our place in the social scheme and
be the backbone of the nation, keep our principle and not be nagged
eternally by a sickly conscience after we have gone and sold our
birthrights. Gorgeous Girls and their sort have the sole fortification
of dollars, endless dollars, endless price tags; their whims bring
whole wings of foreign castles floating across the ocean by the
wholesale to be reassembled somewhere in good old helpless Illinois or
New Jersey. And these people try to be everything but good old American
stockwhich is quite wrong, for their example causes spendthrifts and
Bolsheviki to flourish without end.
Go on, he said, almost sulkily, as she paused.
I've watched it for thirteen years from the various angles of the
working girl with an average amount of brain and disposition. When all
is said and done you really have to work before you have earned the
right to pass judgmentworknot read or patronize or take someone
else's statements as final. Do you know how I used to identify the
kinds of people that rode in the street cars with me?... From seven
until eight there were the Frumps. The majority boasted of white kid
boots or someone's discarded near-electric-seal jacket, plumes in their
hats, and an absence of warm woollens. And everyone yawned, between
patting thin cheeks with soiled face chamois, 'What d'ja do las'
From eight to nine came the Funnies; and the majority had white kid
boots and flimsy silk frocks cut as low as our grandmothers' party
gowns, and plumes in their hats and silver vanity cases. Their main
topics of conversation were: 'He said,' and 'She said,' and 'I don't
care if I'm late. I'm going to quit anyway!'
From nine until noon came the Frillsthe wives of modest-salaried
men who cannot motor, yet write to out-of-town relatives that they do
And every one of those Frumps, Funnies, and Frills apes the
Gorgeous-Girl kindwhite kids for shopping, low-cut pumps in January,
bizarre coat, chiffon waist disclosing a thin little neck fairly
panting for protection, rouged cheeks, and a plume in her hatand not
a cent of savings in the bank!
Now there's something wrong when we've come to this, and the wrong
does not lie with these people but with those they imitateGorgeous
Girls, new-rich with sickly consciences and lack of principle and
common sense; and these Gorgeous Girls in turn take their styles, slang
phrases, and modes of recreation, as well as theories of life from the
boldest dancer, the most sensational chorus girland it's wrong and
not what America should be called upon to endure. And it all reverts
back in a sense to you busy, unprincipled, yet conscience-stricken
American business men who write checks for these Gorgeous Girlsand
the heathen in Africaand wonder why golf doesn't bring your blood
pressure down to normalwhen your grandfather had such a wonderful
constitution at eighty-four! Don't you know that get-rich-quick people
always pay a usurer's interest on the suddenly accumulated principle?
Keep on, he said in the same surly tone.
And when I go downtown and view the weary, unwashed females and the
overly ambitious painted ones, people in impossible bargain shoes and
summer furs; fat men in plaid suits and Alpine hats; undernourished
children being dragged along by unthinking adults; stray dogs wistfully
sniffing at passers-by in hopes of finding a permanent friend; tired,
blind work horses standing in the sun and resignedly being overloaded
for the day's haul; fire sales of fur coats; candy sales of gooey
hunks; a jewellery special of earrings warranted to betray no tarnish
until well after Christmas; brokers' ads and vaudeville billboards and
rows upon rows of awful, huddled-up, gardenless homes with families
lodged somewhere between the first and twelfth storiesthe general
chasing after nothing, saving nothing and, saddest of all, the
complacent delusion that they have achieved something well worth
whileit makes me willing to earn and learn as I do.
Don't leave me in the quicksand. What can we do about it?
Make that sort of American woman realize that she is more needed in
the home and can accomplish more with that as her goal than in any
other place in the world. You don't know all my dreams for the American
womandon't you think that this Gorgeous Girl parasitical type is a
result of the Victorian revolt? Too late for themselves the Victorian
matrons said: 'Our daughters shall never slave as we have done; they
shall be ladiesand have careers, too, bless their hearts.' The
Victorian matrons were emerging from the unfair conditions of ignorance
and drudgery and they could realize only one side of the argumentthat
all work and no play made Jill quite a stupid girl.
But we must grasp the other side of the matterthat all play and
no work make her simply impossible; that culture and self-sufficiency
can go hand in hand. The American woman really isand must continue to
bethe all-round, regular fellow of the feminine world. Then she will
not only teach a great and needed truth to her backward European
sisters but she will produce a great future race. American women have
tried frivolity in nearly every form and they have worked seriously
likewise; they have intruded into men's professions and careers and in
cases have beaten men at their own game. They have successfully broken
down the narrow prejudice and limitations which the Victorian era tried
making immortal under the title of sentimentbut after they have had
the reward of victory and the knowledge of the game, why not be square,
as they really are, and do the part the Great Plan meant them to do? Be
women firstlet the career take the woman if need be, but always thank
the good Lord if it needn't be.
And to think you have been working for me, Steve said, softly.
I know that culture and enjoyment of life may be yoked with
so-called drudgery. I know, too, that women are retiring not in defeat
but with honour and victory in its truest sense when they step out of
business life back to their homes. Nor are they empty-handed like the
Victorian matrons; but with the energy of tried and true warriors, the
ballot in one hand, the child led by the other, they are in a position
to right old wrongs, for they have won new rights. They will be able to
put into practice in their homes all they have gleaned from the sojourn
in the world; the ill-given service of unfitted menials will disappear,
as will waste and nerve-racking detail.
And love must be the leavener of it allwith all her progress and
her ability, trained talents and clever logic, the American woman must
not and will not renounce her romancefor it is part of God's very
promise of immortality.
How often may I come here? he begged.
Mary shook her head. You've got me started, as Luke says, and I'm
hard to check. But have you never thought that out of all the world the
American woman is the only woman who cooks and serves her dinner if it
is necessary, adjourns to her parlour afterward and discusses poetry
and politics and the latest style hat with her guests? For she has
learned how to possess true democracy, not rebellion, courage and not
hysterical threats to play the rebel, the slacker.
And now I'll make you a cup of coffee. And never let me catch you
When Luke arrived home he found Steve O'Valley basking in the big
chair he was wont to occupy, though it was past ten o'clock and he had
anticipated questions from Mary as to his tardiness. Instead he found a
very rosy-cheeked, almost sunrise-eyed sister who stammered her
greeting as the flustered Mr. O'Valley found his hat and the neglected
business portfolio and took his leave.
To keep down the rising tide of overweight Beatrice abandoned the
occult method of having a good time and turned her interest to new
creeds containing continual bogus joy and a denial of the vicarious
theory of life. But when she discovered that optimism was no deterrent
to the oncoming tide of flesh she began a vigorous course in face
bleaching, reducing, massage, and electrical treatments, with Trudy
playing attentive friend and confidante and secretly chuckling over the
Gorgeous Girl's fast-appearing double chin and her disappearing
The extensive work of making the house into an Italian villa kept
Beatrice from brooding too much over her embonpoint. She enjoyed
the endless conferences with the decorators, drapers, artists, and
who-nots, with Gay's suave, flattering little self always at her elbow,
his tactful remarks about So-and-so being altogether too thin, and the
wonderful nutritive value of chocolate.
Bea will look like a fishwife when she is forty, he told Trudy
soon after the villa was under way and the first anniversary drew near.
She eats as much candy in a week as an orphan asylum on Christmas Day.
Why doesn't someone tell her to stop?
Gay felt rather kindly toward Beatrice, for his commissions from the
villa transformation made him secure for some time to come; Alice
Twill's idea of a French château, however, had blown up unexpectedly.
Well, why don't people tell you that you look an utter fool with
that extra-intelligent edition of tortoise-shell glasses that you
wear? Trudy retorted. Gay was her husband and her property as long as
she saw fit to stay his wife, and she did not approve of his constant
attendance on the Gorgeous Girl. Even her deliberate retaliation by
flirting with the gouty-toe brigade did not make amends. She had
moments of depression similar to the time she had learned Mary's
secret. But she did not go back to Mary in the same abandoned spirit.
It would never do. If she were not careful she would begin to think for
herself and want to take to sensible shoes and a real job, hating
herself so utterly that she could never have any more good times. So
she saw Mary only at intervals and tried to do nice trifles for her.
Trudy was thinner than ever and she had an annoying cough. She still
used a can opener as an aide-de-camp in housekeeping and laughed at
snow flurries in her low shoes and gauze-like draperies.
It delighted her to have Beatrice become heavy of figureit almost
gave her a hold on her, she fanciedfor Beatrice sighed with envy at
Trudy's one hundred and ten pounds and used Trudy as an argument for
Trudy eats candy, lots of it, and she stays thin, she told Steve.
Yes; but she works and you don't. You don't even pay a gymnasium
instructor for daily perseverance, for you could do exercises yourself
if you wanted. You sleep late and keep the house like the equator, he
Beatrice looked at him in scorn. Do I ever please you?
You married me, he said, gallantly.
When I did that I was thinking about pleasing only you, I'm
afraid, was his reward. I wish you would study Frenchyou have such
a queer education you can't help having queer ideas. And you can't
always go along with such funny views and be like papa. There isn't
room for two in the same family.
Do you know the Bible? he demanded.
There you are! You think I haven't studied in my own fashion. Well,
if you did know the Bible intellectually, and Milton
It sounds like a correspondence-school course. Don't, Stevuns! Do
you know the latest dance from Spainthe paso-doble? Of course
you don't. You don't know any of the romance of the Ming Dynasty or how
to tell a Tanagra figurine from a plaster-of-paris shepherdess. You
haven't read a single Russian novel; you just glare and stare when
they're mentioned. You won't play bridge, you can't sing or make shadow
pictures or imitate any one. Good gracious, now that you've made a
Steve was silent. It was not only futile to argueit was
nerve-racking. Besides, he had found someone else with whom argument
was a rare joy and a personal gainMary Faithful. At frequent
intervals he had won a welcome at the doorway of the little apartment.
He almost wished that Beatrice would find it out and row about it,
leaving him in peace. He had not yet assumed unselfish views as to the
matter. He was no longer in love with his wife but he was not yet in
love with Mary. Instead he was passing through that interlude, whose
brevity has made the world doubt its existence, known as platonic
friendship. Platonic friendship does exist but it is like tropical
twilightthe one whirlwind second in which brilliant sunshine and blue
skies dip down and the stars and the moon dash upand then the trick
But like the thief who audaciously walks by the house of his victim,
Steve was never accused of anything worse than using his leisure time
to frequent those low restaurants where they serve everything on a
two-inch-thick platter. Which, he had retorted, was a relief from
eating turtle steak off green-glass dinner plates.
The first wedding anniversary was a rather disappointing affair
since Beatrice had to remodel her wedding gown in order to wear it.
That fact alone was distressing. And at the eleventh hour Steve was
called out of town, which left Beatrice in the hands of her angel-duck
brigade, who all felt it their duty to paint Steve in terms of
Now Steve felt just as badly about going as you do to have him
away, her father said by way of clumsy consolation. And he bought you
a mighty handsome gift.
But I have one quite as lovely, Beatrice objected. It was
unpardonable of him to go, even if there was a strike and a fire. Let
the police arrest everybody.
She laid aside the gift, a glittering head-dress in the form of
platinum Mercury wings set with diamonds, fitting close to the head and
giving a decided Brunnhilde effect. I hate duplicates; I always want
something different and novel.
It's a good thing I gave you a check, said her father.
Yes, because Gay can always find me somethingbrightening. And
tell me, how is the salon fresco coming on?
Her father held up his hands in protest. Ask something easy. A mob
of workmen and sleek gentlemen that tiptoe about like undertakers'
assistantsthat's all I know. But not one of them touches my room!
All right, papa. She kissed him prettily. And as I'm dead for
sleep and aunty is snoring in her chair, suppose you wake her up and
Summoning Aunt Belle, who was approaching the Mrs. Skewton stage of
wanting a continuous rose-curtain effect, Beatrice stood at the window
with unusual affection to wave the last of her guests a good-bye.
She sat up until daylight, to her maid's dismay, still in her
remodelled wedding gown. She was thinking chaotic, rebellious,
ridiculous nothings, punctuated with uneven ragged thoughts about
matching gloves to gowns or getting potted goose livers at the
East-Side store Trudy had just recommended. The general trend of her
reverie was the dissatisfaction not over this first year of married
life but at the twenty-seven years as a Gorgeous Girl, the
disappointment at not having some vital impelling thing to do, which
should of course supply a good time as well as a desirable achievement.
The inherited energy was demanding an outlet. She recalled the
evening's entertainmenta paper chase with every room left littered
and disordered, her lace flounce badly torn, her head thumping with
pain, the latest dances, the inane music, the scandal whispered between
numbers, the elaborate supper and favours, the elaborate farewellsand
the elaborate lies about the charm of the hostess and the good time.
She began to envy Steve as well as Trudy, Steve in his hotel busy
with Labour delegates, wrangling, demanding, threatening, winning or
losing as the case might be. She, too, must do something. She had
finished with another series of adventuresthat of being a mad
butterfly. It was shelved with the months of a romantic, parasitical
existence misnaming jealous monopoly as love, an existence which all at
once seemed as long ago as another lifetime.
She would now be an advanced woman, intellectual, daring; she would
allow her stunted abilities to have definite expression. Either she
would find a new circle of friends or else swerve the course of the
present circle into an atmosphere of Ibsen, Pater, advanced feminine
thought, and so onwith Egyptology as a special side line. She would
even become an advocate of parlour socialism, perhaps. She would
encourage languid poets and sarcastic sex novelists with matted hair
and puff satin ties. She would seek out short-haired mannish women with
theories and oodles of unpublished short stories, and feed them well,
opening her house for their drawing-room talks. She would be a lion
tamer! She was done with sighing and tears, belonging to the first
stage of Glorious Girlism; and with pouting and flirting, which
belonged to the secondshe would now make them roar, herself included!
At noon the next day she sought Mary Faithful in her office, to
everyone's surprise. To her own astonishment she discovered her husband
busily engaged in conversation with some members of the Board of Trade,
his travelling bag on a side table.
I didn't bother to telephone you or wireI got in at eight this
morning and came right up here. I knew you'd not be up, he added,
curtly. Would you mind waiting in Miss Faithful's office until I'm at
Beatrice was forced to consent graciously and pass into the other
room, where Mary was giving dictation.
When Mary finished she offered Beatrice a magazine but the Gorgeous
Girl declined it and began in petulant fashion:
I've been thinking about you, Miss Faithful, and I do envy you. Do
you know why? You have more of my husband than I have; that was what I
came to tell you. For business is his very life and you are his
business partner. I only have the tired remnant that occasionally
Mary wondered what Beatrice would say if she knew of the supper
talks she had had with the tired remnant, who flung discretion to the
winds and clamoured for invitations as keenly as he had once begged for
the Gorgeous Girl's kisses.
Oh, no, that's not true. You see she began, but she simply
could not finish the lie.
I've decided that if business is more important to my husband than
his wedding anniversary I shall be of importance to him in his
business, she continued. Be carefulyou've a rival looming ahead.
Steve opened the door and nodded for his wife to come in. Mary was
left with rather unsteady nerves and a pessimistic attitude to round
out her day. Beatrice's hint had had an unpleasant petty sound that she
did not quite understand. She wished she had never allowed Steve to
draw her out of her businesslike attitude. However, when she learned
that he had very unexpectedly called off work for the rest of the day
to do his wife's bidding she told herself she was needlessly alarmed,
though it was always a rash thing to try exchanging her heartache for a
temporary joyful mirage!
The next evening, when Mary was in the throes of explaining this
thing in guarded fashion to Steve and Steve was arguing angrily and
begging for his welcome, Trudy Vondeplosshe happened in unexpectedly
and very much rejoiced inwardly at finding this delightful little
tête-à-tête in full progress.
Of course the couple gave business and the recent strike as an
alarming necessity for a private conference, and then Steve scuttled
away, leaving Mary to try to look unconscious and change the subject to
Trudy's new hat. But ever mindful of Mary's confession Trudy was not to
be swerved from the topic.
I'm glad Beatrice was not with me, she said, sweetly, for like
all heartless flirts she is jealousashamed of Steve half of the time
and mad about him the other half. I'd try to have the business all
transacted at the office. You used to. And Beatrice says business isn't
half as brisk as it was then.
The upshot of the matter resulted in Mary's applying for a
two-months' leave of absence. Spent in the Far North woods with Luke it
would make common sense win over starved dreams.
I think I've earned it, was all she said to Steve.
A year ago I went away and you stayed. Of course you have earned
it. But I am going to miss you.
The day before she leftit was well into July before she could
conscientiously see her way clear to goshe received a plaid steamer
rug. There was no card attached to the gift, and when she was summoned
to Steve's apartment to inform him about some matters, Steve having a
slight attack of grippe, she was so formal to both Steve and Beatrice,
who stayed in the room, making them very conscious of her apricot satin
and cream-lace presence, that Beatrice remarked later:
It's a fortunate thing that she isn't going to visit the North
Pole; she'd be so chilly when she returned you'd have to wrap the
entire office in a warming pad. I was thinking this morning that with
the way she lives and manages she must have saved some money. Do you
know if she hasand how much? I hope you won't pay her her salary
while she is gone. It's no wonder she can afford nervous prostration if
I didn't know she had it, Steve said, dully.
Whatever it is, then, that makes her take all this time. The way
employees act, walking roughshod in their rights! And now, deary, hurry
and get well, for I've a wonderful surprise for you. She knelt beside
the couch and patted his cheek. I'm going to be your private secretary
during her absenceyes, I am. As soon as I finish making the mannikins
for the knitting bags at the kermis. Then I'm going to try to take her
placewell, a tiny part of her place to start with, and work into the
position gradually. Yes, I am. I'm determined to try it. I've worried
and worried to decide what to do with myself.
Worry was Beatrice's sole form of prayer. Steve wondered if what
Mary had recently said to him could be true, at least in his own case.
She had said that defeat at thirty should be an incentiveonly after
fifty could it be counted a definite disaster.
You don't know how I've missed you, Steve told Mary upon her
return. Don't I look it? he added, wistfully.
Mary had appeared at the office late one September afternoon rather
than appear the following morning as a model of exact punctuality. She
had had to force herself to remain away until her leave of absence
expired. It was Luke who rejoiced in the freedom of the woods and the
green growing things in which his sister had tried to take consolation,
telling herself they would revive her common sense and banish absurd
notions concerning Steve O'Valley. It was Luke who rejoiced at catching
the largest trout of the season, who never wearied of hayrack rides and
corn roasts and bonfires with circles of ghostlike figures enduring the
smoke and the damp and the rapid-fire gossiping and giggling. Luke had
returned with a healthy coat of tan and a large correspondence list,
pledging himself to revisit the spot every season.
But Mary felt defeated in the very purpose of her holiday. The
atmosphere of weary school-teachers trying to appear as golden-haired
flappers foot-loose for a romance; the white shoes always drying
outside tents or along window sills; the college professors eternally
talking about their one three-months' tour of Europe; the mosquitoes;
the professional invalid, the inevitable divorcee; the woman with
literary ambitions and a typewriter set in action on the greenest, most
secluded spot for miles about; the constant snapshotting of everything
from an angleworm to a group of arm-entwined bathers about to play
splash-me; the cheap talk and aping of such Gorgeous Girls as Beatrice
Constantineall this on one side, and a great and eternal loneliness
for Steve on the other.
It was small wonder that defeat was the result. And yet in her heart
of hearts Mary was glad that it was so. There is something splendid and
breathless in trying to shut away a forbidden rapture, and being unable
to do so; in telling oneself one will never try repression again but
will shamelessly acknowledge the forbidden rapture and register a
desire to thrill to it whenever possible.
Besides the irritations of the summer camp Mary had been forced to
leave Hanover remembering Steve as ill, worried over business; of
Beatrice's hinting that she would usurp her place. There had been so
many womanly trifles she would have done for Steve had she been in
Beatrice's positiona linen cover for the water glass; a soft shade on
the window instead of the glaring white-and-gold-striped affair; exile
for that ubiquitous spaniel; home cooking, with old-fashioned milk
toast and real coffee of a forefather's day.
Strange how such homey trifles persist in the mind of a commercial
nun through two months of supposed enjoyment and liberty. In the same
way incongruous associations of ideas spring into the brain with no
apparent reason at all causing fossilized professors to write
essays-under-glass that elucidate matters not in the slightest.
So Mary returned to the office two days ahead of time, her heart
thumping so loudly that she thought Miss Lunk would surely detect the
sound. She deliberately dressed herself in a demure new suit and a
becoming black-winged hat which made her seem as if delightfully
arrayed for afternoon tea. And it was with a charming timidity that she
tiptoed into the office.
Before Steve had asked her opinion she had given one swift look
about the two offices, and she was glad that they looked as they did.
It would have been disappointing to have found them spick and span and
quite self-sufficient, without a hint that Mary Faithful was missed or
Evidences of Beatrice's brief sojourn in the business world still
remainedan elaborate easy-chair with rose pillows, a thermos bottle
and cut-glass tumbler, a curlicue French mirror slightly awry and, on
her desk, a gay-bordered silk handkerchief, a silver-mesh bag, and a
great amount of cluttered notations; all of which proved that the
understudy secretary had not yet mastered the law of efficiency.
It seemed amusing to Mary. She thought: How stupid! How can
shewhen the wicker basket is the one logical place for
Then she spied Steve's desk, bearing a suggestion of the same
disorder about it. When she spoke his name and he started up, holding
out both hands, she saw a queer, bright look in his eyes, as if he,
too, were trying to convince himself that everything was all right.
So you really missed me?
Missed you! Heaven alone can record the unselfish struggle I
endured to let you play. I give you my word.
He wheeled up a chair for her, just as he used to wheel up a chair
for Beatrice, and sitting opposite him Mary heard an almost womanish
enumeration of petty troubles and disturbances, a pathetic threat as to
the avalanche of work which would await her in the morning.
And now I will be polite enough to ask if you had a good time?
Very! And Mrs. O'Valley?
It was so horrid to have to pretend when each knew the other was
pretending; and as they pretended to the world in general, what a
relief and blessed lightening of tension it would have been to have
said merely an honest: We don't care about Mrs. Gorgeous Girl or any
one else. We are quite content with each other. True, this is still
platonic friendshipwith one of usbut all tropical twilight is of
short duration. It won't be platonic much longer. So let's talk about
ourselves all we like!
But being thoroughbred young persons they felt it was not the thing
even to think frankly.
She is well, Steve said, briefly.
She came down here, she wrote me, when she wanted to find out about
something or other. I've forgotten just what.
Steve smiled. Yes, for nearly a week Mrs. O'Valley managed to
create a furore among her own set. Before she came here she ordered an
entire new outfit of clothesbusiness togs. There were queer hats and
shirt waists and things. He laughed at the remembrance. Then she had
to practise getting up early; that took a lot of time. Meanwhile, Miss
Sartwell did your work just as we planned. It was found necessary to
postpone her business career still further because of an out-of-door
pageant that required her services as a nymph. She caught cold at
rehearsal and enjoyed a week of indoors.
Then Gay turned up with a whole flock of new decorators for the
dfor the villa thing, and I was left without aid from the
ennuied for another ten days. Jill Briggs had a wedding anniversary
and relied on Beatrice's aid. Of course she could not refuse, and
Trudy, who, by the way, has come on very rapidly, persuaded Beatrice to
take a booth at a charity kettledrum.
So after several weeks my wife appeared on my business horizon and
hung that mirror up and had those other things moved in and then she
discovered that the impudent girls were all copying her coats and hats
and stuff and even used her sort of perfume, and she decided that her
duty lay not in making me a competent secretary but in reforming these
extravagant young persons so that she could wear a model gown in
comfort and not see it copied within a month. It was quite an
experience for her; she was here about five days. Miss Sartwell just
moved her desk out there and we managed nicely. Beatrice also had a
private teacher for typewriting and so on, but she gave it all up
because she felt the confinement and long hours made her head ache and
she gained weight. She fled in haste. Sorry she had to do so, but under
the circumstances it was better to jeopardize my business career than
her own figure!
Aren't you a little unfair? Mary said, seriously.
Am I? I never thought so. WaitI must finish the tale. For a whole
week after being my business partner she tried what she called holiness
as a cosmetic, and became high-church and quite trying. At the end of
that time she felt a veritable dynamo of nerves and scandal and
proceeded to become a liberated and advanced woman. You'll soon enough
see what I mean. She doesn't run to short-haired ladies with theories
so much as to hollow-eyed gentlemen embroidering cantos in the drawing
room and trying to make the world safe for poetry. De-luxe
adventuresses strike her as harmonious just now. You'll hear about one
Sezanne del Monte who is staying in town and living off of Bea and her
The woman who is divorced every seasonand stars in musical
The same. Sezanne is now writing the intimate story of her life;
sort of heart throbs instead of punctuation markslots of asterisks,
you know, separating the paragraphs. Beatrice is going to finance the
publication of it and Gay is going to be the sales manager. Yes, it's
funny, but a blamed nuisance when you come home and you find yourself
wandering through a crowd of Sezanne del Montes and Gays and Trudys,
all bent on playing parlour steeplechase, and you can't find a plain
chair to sit down or eat a plain meal or read a newspaper. It's more
than a blamed nuisanceit's cause for a trial by jury, he added,
whimsically. Now what's wrong?watching Mary's face.
It isn't cricket to tell all this.
Somehow the old struggle began with renewed energy in Mary's heart,
the puritanical part saying: Forget you ever thought twice of this
man; and the dreamer part urging: You have earned the right to love
him. She has not. Just be fairmerely fair. You have the right; don't
let your opportunity slip by.
[Illustration: It was with a charming timidity that she tip-toed
into the office"]
Why can't I tell you? I have no one else to whom I can tell
thingsand I'm so everlastingly tired. Goat tending and living off
dried buffalo meat never fagged me like trying to dance with Trudy and
living on truffles and champagne. First you are mentally bewildered and
physically fagged, then you become defiant; then you realize that that
is no use, you've brought this on your own selfit is quite the common
fate of men like myselfand so you keep on with the steady grind; and
by and by you find yourself longing to play in your own way with your
own sort. The other sort have no use for you so long as you pay their
bills; you are hardly missed, if the truth were told.
Well, you must keep on with the grind. And you want your sort of
playmates and fun, and it's such decent, upright fun in comparisonoh,
pshaw! He stood up, kicking the edge of the rug with his foot in
almost boyish, shamed fashion.
Business isn't quite so good, he began anew in an impersonal, even
voice. Mr. Constantine thinks that the abnormal prosperity is on the
wane for keepswe must prepare for itbut Mr. Constantine has
practically retired since you have been away. He's not well. To-morrow
morning, if you don't mind, I'll take you over there and we can
straighten out some things for him. He is selling the greater share of
stock to men from the West. And he's saved out some pretty nice sugar
plums to hand over to me. I haven't been asked whether or not I want
I knew you would be, Miss Iconoclast.
Why do you accept them?
How can I refuse?
By saying you are not prepared to be a mental wreck at fortywhich
you will be if you try such a gigantic scheme with so little
preparation. I've an idea that when Mr. Constantine is known to have
withdrawn from the business world there will be a change in many
things. And when you are known to be alone in the fort She paused.
Go on, he demanded, irritably. Can I never make you understand
how much I want your advice, your opinions, your scoldings?
I think you will have new enemies with whom to dealenemies you
never thought existed. I don't believe you can deal with them because
you have always been so cotton-woolled, so to speak, by being
Constantine's special project
I've done what I've done myself, he interrupted, and I'm afraid
of no one.
You think you have, she corrected. You have done what you have
because Constantine was back of youand now he is an old, tired man,
and very soon he will think more of his days with Hannah than of the
present. Which is perfectly safe for him to do. Because Mr. Constantine
reckoned on his enemies he knew to a man who hated him and who was
afraid of him, who admired him and who would be indifferent; and that
is just as essential to success as to reckon on your friends. You never
did thatyou hadn't the timeit was all so dazzling and sudden with
the war helping things along at breakneck speed. You will find that if
you have an Achilles' heel it will be because you did not reckon on
your enemies and are somewhat like a blindfolded man with money in your
purse set down in a strange locality.... There. How does that sound for
Steve was pacing up and down the floor. I'd like enemies, he said.
I'd like to see them try jumping at my throat. I'd make them cry
quits. You don't frighten me; you stimulate me.
That was my intentionpicking up her purse.
Don't goor let me come to supper, he begged.
She shook her head. Someone came in just then to whom she spoke of
the pleasure it was to be back at the office; the word spread that Miss
Faithful was back and girls came in groups to smile and say some pretty
thing, and the men nodded with a pleased expression. Watching the
procedure Steve realized that Mary was as dominant a personality in his
office as he was himself, and instead of feeling a vague disapproval of
the fact he was genuinely elated that it was so.
After the last of the visitors had gone and the clock pointed to
five he said: Of course I'm going to be dragged some place this
evening, so I wouldn't have much timebut may I come to supper? I'm
going out of town next week. There, isn't that a good reason to come
Suppose the world knew thisour little business world?
Hang the world!
You never did. You flattered it, and were delighted when the world
patted you on the head and said, 'Nice Stevens, come in and bring your
bags of goldthe living's fine.'
Are you starting in to tell me that people would misunderstand my
motives? Sezanne del Monte has chapters along those lines. And Beatrice
has quite a fad of slumming and taking a notebook along to write down
new slang phrases or oaths or bits of heart-broken philosophy spilled
in a drunken moment.... I've grown careless to everything presumably
orderly and conventional. I'm ready to walk the plank for my
indifference if need bebut I do want to come home with you for
Mary did not answer for a moment. Then she said, in a quick
breathless tone, as if she did not want to hear her own words: I
wonder if it would do any good to try explainingreally explaining and
not fibbing or pretending
It has always done me good when you have explainedand I can't
imagine you telling cheap untruths.
Then I will try it. The gray eyes grew stormy. For if we are to
continue as employer and secretaryand you must have such a person and
I must earn my livingit would be much easier if you really understood
and it was all settled. You've talked about early hardships,
misunderstood childhood, goat tending, and what not; and the world
gives you credit for your achievements. Then surely you must understand
the woman's end of the gamethe American woman's part in business, for
it's not easy to be errand girl or to fill endless underpaid clerical
positions. It's not easy to pile out every morning at such and such an
hour and stand at a desk and work as if you had neither heart nor eye
for the other things in life until gradually the woman part of yourself
is changed and it is often too late to enjoy anything but desk
drudgeryand a bonus!
Now the man in the business game forgoes nothing; he has the
world's applause if he succeeds and the kisses of the woman he loves
for his recreation, and all is complete and as it should be. But we
commercial women of to-day do a man's work and earn a man's wage. We do
stay starved women, even if that fact doesn't appear on the surface. We
cannot have the things of romance as well as our livelihood. And by the
very nature of the average business woman's life she is often in love
with someone in her officefrom propinquity if for no other reason.
She must. Don't you see? They're practically the only men she really
comes to know or who come to know her, and she just can't stab her
heart into sudden death.
So she wears her prettiest frock for this mana wooden-faced
bookkeeper perhaps; or a preoccupied presidentand she dreams of him
and is jealous of him and very likely gossips about him. And the years
pass and she stays just as shut away and misunderstood and starved. And
sometimes a woman, originally the most honest in the world, under these
circumstances will deliberately steal another woman's husband if she
has the chance. Yes, she willshe does.
What do you mean, Mary? He was almost unconscious of using the
That I am no different from the others. I came here with the same
starved heart and woman's hopes, and I put into your career the
devotion and service and very prayers that I should have put into a
home and a familyyour joys were my joys, your problems mine. It has
not been my clever brain that has made me worth so much to you. That is
what the superficial public says, but I know better. It's been the
loveyes, the love for you that has made me indispensable! The
unreturned and unsuspected and I presume wicked love I felt for you.
And now I've told youbroken precedent and told the truth. And as you
don't love me you'll feel very uncomfortable with me about. And you
won't want to play off pal; you'll fight shy of me except for everyday
work. So it has been the only square thing to dohumiliate myself into
I love you, I always have, and I always willbut I'm no
home-wrecking, emotional being and I expect that you will resume our
old relationships and I shall go on serving you and knowing my
recompense will be a handsome farewell gift and a pension.
Oh, the business woman's life isn't all beer and skittles. We're
expected to lie about our hearts, yet be as reliable as an adding
machine about our columns of figures; to be shut away from the social
world, thrown with men more hours a day than their wives see them and
yet remain immovable, aloof, disinterested! Just good fellows, you
know. Isn't it hideous to think I've really told the truth?
At this identical moment their platonic friendship, alias tropical
twilight, ended, and Mary's evening star of romance rose to stay. But
such being the case Steve was the last person in the world to try to
convince her that it was so.
All he said was: I never appreciated you before. Please don't feel
that telling me this will make any difference save that I'll stay
aloofas you suggest. I can forget it, somewhat, if that will make you
feel any better about it. It is all quite true and equally
hopelesstrue things usually areand if you like I'll send you home
in the car, because you must be a trifle tired.
Thank you, she remembered answering as she told Steve's chauffeur
where to drive.
You look as tired as before we went away, Luke complained that
same night when Mary sat at her desk adding up expenses and making out
Oh, no. This shade makes everyone look ghastly, she said.
I'll have to get a hump on and make my pile, he consoled. I don't
want my sister being all tired out before she's too old to have a good
A good time? Mary repeated. Are you inoculated, too?
What's wrong with a good time? I guess Steve O'Valley plays all he
Yes, dear, I guess he does, Mary forced herself to answer.
When Steve returned home that evening he found one of those
impromptu dinner parties on hand instead of a formal engagement. They
had become quite the fad in Bea's set. The idea was thisyoung matrons
convened in the afternoon at one of their homes for cocktails and
confidences; very likely Sezanne del Monte would drop in to read her
last chapter or Gay Vondeplosshe would arrive brandishing his cane and
telling everyone how beautiful the Italian villa was to be; and by and
by they would gather round the piano to sing the latest songs; then
when the clock struck six there would be a wild flutter and a
Let's phone cook to bring over our dinner. Then our husbands can
come along or not just as they like. We'll have a parlour picnic; and
no one will bother about being dressed. And we'll go to the nickel
dance hall later.
This was followed by a procession of cooks arriving in state in
various motor cars and carrying covered trays and vacuum bottles and
departing in high spirits at the early close of their day's work. Then
the procession of subdued husbands would follow, and conglomerate menus
would be spread on a series of tea tables throughout the rooms, with
Sezanne smoking her small amber-stemmed pipe and describing her sojourn
in a Turkish harem while Gay picked minor chords on his ukulele. After
a later diversion of nickel dance halls and slumming the young matrons
would say good-bye, preparing to sleep until noon, quite convinced that
any one would have called it a day.
Such a party greeted Steve, with Gay showing plans for Beatrice's
secret room with a sliding panelclever idea, splendid when they would
be playing hide and seekand the cooks en route with the kettles and
bottles of wine and the husbands meekly arriving in sulky silence.
A little before two in the morning Steve escorted Aunt Belle back to
the Constantine house.
Beatrice had started to go to bed, but thinking of something she
wished to ask Steve she stationed herself in his room, some candy near
at hand and Sezanne's manuscript as solace until he should arrive.
I wanted to ask you if Mary Faithful has returned, she said,
throwing down the manuscript as he came in. Heavens, don't look like a
thundercloud! You used to complain about getting into evening dress for
dinner; and now when they are as informal as a church supper you row
even more. How was papa? Did you go in to see him? Does the house look
Of course I didn't see your father at two in the morning; he was
asleep. Your aunt fell into a bucket of plaster.
Plaster! Why did the men leave it where she could fall into it? Did
it hurt her dress?
No, just her bones. Steve laughed in spite of himself. The dress
hadn't started to begin where the bones hit the bucket.
Beatrice giggled. Aunt Belle will try to look like a Kate Greenaway
creation. And isn't Jill stout? I'd eat stones before I'd get like her.
Well, what about the Faithful woman?
Why such a title? It was always Mary Faithful, and even Mary.
I don't knowbut ever since I worked with you this summer I've
realized what an easy time she has. She isn't burdened with friends and
social duties. It's all so clearcut and straight-ahead sailing for her.
I suppose she laughs at her day's work.
She has returned.
Then we can go to the Berkshires. Sezanne knows an artist and some
people from Chicago who are ripping company and they are going to visit
her cousin at Great Barrington and we are all invited there
Once and for all, Steve said, shortly, to his own surprise, I am
not in on this! Just count yourself a fair young widow for the time
being. I cannot run my business, help close up your father's affairs,
be a social puppet, and go chasing off with bob-haired freaks to the
Berkshires, and expect to survive. I'm going to work and keep on the
jobit will be bad enough when I have to live in an Italian villa. Who
knows what new tortures that will bring? But for a few months I am
certain of my whereabouts, so plan on going alone.
So you won't come with me! Oh, Steve, sometimes I can just see the
whole mistakeyou should never have made a fortune. Rather you should
have been a nice foreman with a meek little wife in four-dollar hats
and a large portion of offspring. You should have lived in a model
bungalow with even a broom closet in the kitchen and leaded windows at
one side. You would have been a socialist and headed labour-union
picnics. But as my husband and my father's assistant and all thatyou
are as impossible as that Faithful woman would be if she tried to be a
For a moment Steve hesitated. But the average day does not include
losing ten thousand on the stock exchange from sheer folly, finding out
that your blood pressure is too high, that your faithful secretary
loves you and is truer blue than ever, and discovering at the same
moment that you love her yet may not tell her so. Nor is a day so
hectic usually concluded by finding an impromptu parlour picnic in full
swing at home where rest was soughtfinding, too, the full realization
that you not only do not love your wife but you do not even approve of
So he said, quietly: If you wish to make some radical change
regarding your husband would you mind waiting until he has had a chance
at a shower bath and some breakfast?
For the first time in her life the Gorgeous Girl found herself
gathering up Monster, the candy, and the novel manuscript in her
lace-draped arms and standing outside her husband's firmly closed door.
The shock was so great that she could not squeeze out a single tear.
Mary Faithful felt no regrets at having told the truth about her
love for Steve O'Valley. The regrets were all on Steve's side of the
ledger. Contrary to customary procedure it was he who practised
nonchalance and indifference, and the office force saw no whit of
difference in the attitude of the president toward his private
secretary or vice versa.
Long ago the force had accepted the attitude of these two persons as
strictly businesslike and their conception of Mary Faithful was tinged
with awe and a bit of envy at her success. To imagine her desperately
in love with her employer, working for and with him each day, and
finally in extreme desperation telling the truth as brutally as women
sometimes tell it to women over clandestine cups of teawas farthest
from their comprehension.
Nor would they have thought it credible that Steve, married to his
coveted fairy princess, should first become attached to Mary Faithful
by friendship and then find that friendship replaced by a deep and
never-to-be-changed love. It was an impossible situation, they would
The morning following Beatrice's parlour picnic and Mary's
hard-wrung confession Steve made it a point to be at his desk when Mary
came in, despite the few hours' sleep and the fact that Beatrice had
willfully chosen to take breakfast with him in sulky, tearful reproach.
When Mary was taking off her hat and coat he came to the door of her
office and made a formal little bow.
He found himself more in love with her than the night previous.
There was something so pathetic and lonely about her, successful
business woman that she was; the very fact of people's not suspecting
it, labelling her as self-sufficient and carefree, only emphasized this
loneliness now that he looked at her with a lover's eyes. He realized
that whereas he had had to win a fortune to marry the Gorgeous Girl it
would be as necessary to lose a fortune to marry Maryif such a thing
were possible; that she was a woman not easy to win, one who would find
her happiness not in taking hastily accumulated wealth but in making a
man by slow processes and honourable methods until he was fitted to
obtain a fortune and then enjoy it with her.
Good morningwondering if he looked confusedI wanted to say
that I am on the country-club committee to welcome English golfers, and
I'll be away this week off and on. Andand whenever you want me to
I'll try to keep under cover for a bit.... I think I do appreciate your
telling me the truth last night more than anything else that has ever
happened to me; there was something so stoically splendid about itand
I don't want to abuse the confidence. Please don't mind my just
mentioning it, I'll promise not to do so again; and we'll go on as
before. I was a cad to play about your fireplacequite wrongand you
had to make me realize it. Do you know, I was half afraid you'd send in
your resignation this morning? Women always do those things in books.
Please say something and help a chap out.
Mary was at her desk opening mail with slow, steady fingers.
I have my living and Luke's living to make, and I could not resign
unless you asked me to do so, she told him. I wondered whether or not
you would feel it the thing for me to do. It is a unique situation,
she said in a slightly more animated tonenot the situation, but my
calm betrayal of it. Usually my sort go along in silence and take our
bursts of truthful rebellion on our mothers' shoulders or in
sanitariums. I really feel a great deal better now that I have told
you. Her gray eyes were quite fearless in their honesty as she glanced
up. I feel that I can settle down in an even routine and be of more
service to everyone.
We'll be friends, he urged, impulsively. It seemed hard not to say
foolish, loverish little things, try to make her believe in miracles,
make wild and impossible rainbow plans, precluding any Gorgeous Girls
and newly remodelled Italian villas.
I wanted to add a postscript, she interrupted. That's only
running true to form, isn't it? Here it is: If you ever at any time,
because you are emotional and in many ways untried, find yourself
unhappy and at cross purposes, and try to lean on a sentimental crutch
which inclines in my directionI shall leave this office just as they
do in novels. And I shall not come back, which they always do in
novels. This would deprive you of a good employee and myself of a good
position and be foolish all round. You men are no different from us
women; once a woman knows a man loves her she cannot quite hate him
even if her heart is another's. Instinctively she labels him as a
rainy-day proposition and during some wild thunderstormwell, idiotic
things happen! Whereas if she never knew he cared she might go about
finding a mild mission in life. A man is the same; and since I have
trusted you with my secret, and that secret happens to concern
yourself, the logical consequence is that you will never quite hate me
because I care. In some moods you might even try telling yourself that
you cared, too. Then I should not only leave your employ but I should
She went on with the morning's mail. Outside, the office force was
stirring. Raps at the door and phone calls would soon begin.
Would you really? he asked, so soberly that Mary's hands trembled
and she blotted ink on her clean desk pad as she tried to make a
Really. I never can bring myself to believe in warmed-over magic.
Then I shall never have any such moods.
He answered a phone call and there fell upon the office an
atmosphere of strange peace which had been missing for many months.
During the winter the rift between Steve and Beatrice became
noticeable even to the Gorgeous Girl's friends, to Trudy's infinite
delight; and by the time spring came it was an accepted thing that
Steve's share in the scheme of things was to write checks and occupy as
little space as possible in the apartment, whereas Beatrice's part in
the scheme of things was to badger and nag at her husband eternally or
be frigidly polite and civil, which was far harder to endure than her
The Gorgeous Girl's endeavours to become an advanced woman, an
intellectual patroness and so on, were amusing and ineffectual. She
soon found neither pleasure nor satisfaction in any of her near-lions.
Nor did she succeed in making them roar. Whether it was a parlour
lecture on Did a Chinese Monk Visit America a Thousand Years before
Columbus? or a Baby Party at which Beatrice and Gay dressed as twins
and were wheeled about in a white pram by Trudy, dressed as a French
bonnethe reaction was one of depression and defeat. Though
Beatrice still had her name printed on the reports of charity
committees she no longer took what was termed an active part. She
shrugged her shoulders carelessly and gave the reason that it was all
so hopelessand no fun at all.
Inanimate things afforded the most satisfaction; at least she could
buy an individual breakfast service costing a thousand dollars and have
the item recorded in all the fashion journals, with her photograph, and
she could have the most unique dinner favours and the smartest frocks,
and they never disappointed her.
Besides, the Italian villa was to be finished shortly and that would
necessitate a new round of entertainments and minor adjustments and no
end of enviable publicity and comment. This diversion would take her
through the late spring and summer, and in the fall she fully intended
to take up dress reform and become a feminist. She had an idea of
wearing nothing but draped Grecian robeswhich could be made to look
quite fetching if one had enough jewellery to punctuate the drapesand
of going in for barefoot dancing on the lawn. It would be more
convenient if she could persuade her father and aunt not to stay on at
the Villa Rosa, as it was to be called. And certainly it would have
been more æsthetic to look across the street and see something besides
another expensive and hopelessly mediocre brick house which another
rich man somewhat after Constantine's own heart had built with pride
and joy. She wished she had bought a site back from the town and
created a real estate. The fact that she had not done so made her
miserable for over a week, during which Gay consoled her in most
flattering fashion, neglecting his own wife to do so.
Well, after the Villa Rosawhat then? Life seemed very empty. With
a certain natural squareness of nature Beatrice was not the sort of
woman to indulge in unwise affairs beyond a certain discreet point. She
had never learned how to study, so she could not become a devotee of
some fascinating and exacting subject. Her really keen mind had merely
skimmed through her studies.
Nor was she over fond of children. As she told Trudy, children were
absorbing things and goodness knew if she ever had any of her own she
would have a wonderful enough nursery and sun parlour with panels
designed by a child psychologist; there was everything in first
impressions. But take care of one of them? The actual responsibility?
Heavens, what a fate! She would engage a trained baby nurseand then
drop in at the nursery for a few moments each day to see that
everything was going well.
Later, after the trying first years, she would be very proud of her
children. Besides, planning children's clothes was a great deal of fun;
and if she had a daughter she would see that the daughter married
properly. Whether or not she was thinking of Steve, Trudy did not dare
to ask; but she evidently was, as she added that one might better marry
an impoverished nobleman and live in an atmosphere of culture and smart
society than marry someone who never attempted to be anything.
A child demanded of one intelligence up to a certain point, and
faithful service, but it did not require keen intellect. A primitive
knowledge of what their hurt or hunger or plain-temper cry meantand a
primitive tender fashion of coping with whichever it might bewere all
that young babies demanded; and hence the Gorgeous Girl, like all
finely bred and thoroughly selfish women of to-day who are bent on
psychological nursery panels, refused to be tied down to the narrow
routine of a nursemaid, as she called it. Love-gardening is the title
old-fashioned gentlewomen originated.
Then Beatrice cited how carefree Jill Briggs was with her four
children. Goodness knew that Jill was always within hailing distance of
the big time; and except for a few little illnesses and the fact that
the oldest boy had died of croup the children were a complete success
and perfect darlings, and Jill dressed them like old-style portraits.
Besides, Jill had tried out a new system of education on the oldest
boy; he had been taught to develop his individuality to the highest
possible degree. At eight, just before the croup attackthough he did
not know his alphabet or how to tell time and had never been cuddled or
rocked to sleep with nursery jingles as soothing mental foodhe could
play quite a shrewd game of poker and drive a bug roadster. Beatrice,
in talking over the child problem with Trudy, decided that if she ever
had a son she, too, would develop the poker shark in him rather than
the admirer of Santa Claus and the student of Mother Goose.
Of course Steve thinks a woman should drudge and slave over those
crying mites as if the nation depended upon it, she concluded, but I
should never pay any attention to him. He said, in front of Jill, that
he always felt well acquainted with rich children, for he had passed a
similar childhoodmeaning that living in an orphan asylum and being
brought up by a nursemaid were much the same thing. Quite lovely of
him, wasn't it?
Trudy could not suppress her giggle.
I'm sure the children get on well enough. Just think, if you had to
plan all the meals and dress and undress them and all the bathsugh, I
never could! And when Steve begins his eloquent stories about these
nursemaids who neglect children or dope them or do something dreadful I
simply leave the room. He actually told Mrs. Ostrander that he saw her
nurse slap her child across the face, and proceeded to add: 'It is
never fair to strike a child that way. It breeds bad things in him. And
he wasn't doing anything; it was just nurse's day for nerves.' Of
course the Ostranders will never forget it. Now, Mrs. Ostrander is a
member of the Mothers' Council, and a dear. She just slaved over her
children's nursery and she reads all their books before she allows the
nurse to read them aloud. I'm sure no children were ever brought up as
scientifically; they have a wonderful schedule. She told me she had
never held them except when they were having their pictures
madenever!and that crying strengthens the lungs. Of course Steve
says we feed our lap dogs when they whine but close the door on the
baby when he tries it. So what can you do with such a person?
To which Trudy agreed. Trudy agreed to anything Beatrice might say
until the bills for the villa were settled and the O'Valleys
established in the gondola-endowed home. Trudy sometimes pinched
herself to realize that in such a short space of time she was living in
the Touraine apartment house and that her husband, whom she loathed
more each day, had actually scrambled into the position of being the
best decorator in Hanover and was busy splitting commissions and
wheedling orders from New York art dealers and Hanover's social set.
Sometimes Nature takes her own methods of revenge, and to Mark
Constantine's child she saw fit to send no son or daughter. Constantine
never mentioned his hunger for grandchildren. He had a strange shyness
about admitting the desire and the plans he had made for them. But when
he saw the completion of this villa and realized the thousands of
dollars squandered upon it and the impossible existence his daughter
would lead living therein he went to his untouched plain room, looking
out on sunken gardens, to try to figure out how this had all come
He fumbled in mental chaos as to the meaning of all this nonsense
and longed more than ever for a grandchild, someone who should be quite
unspoiled and who would not approach him with light, begrudged kisses
and a request for money.
The formal Venetian ball which Beatrice gave to open her new home
merely amused Steve, who had really dreaded it with the hysteria of a
schoolgirl. He hated the whole scheme of the house and the man who was
reaping a rich harvest by engaging the army of persons who had done the
work therein. He rejoiced openly at each delay on the part of the
plumber, the tinsmith, the decorator; and openly gave a thanksgiving
when the illustrated wall paper for the halls, which told the legend of
Psyche and Cupid, had been sent to Davy Jones's locker en route from
Florence. Steve's name for the Villa Rosa was the Fuller Gloom.
But when they did move into the new-old home and Steve was led
through each room of gammon and spinach, as he had faintly whispered to
Mary Faithful, he found himself only amused. Now that he considered it,
it was a relief to know Beatrice had such a new and absorbing plaything
to take up her time and keep her aloof from his personal affairs. He
sought out his father-in-law in his plain room with its walnut set and
stand of detective stories, and sat down in relief, though the two men
honourably refrained from criticizing a certain person openly.
At the ball Beatrice appeared in a wonderful black gown, so
wonderful and expensive that its creator had given it a distinct
titleThe Plume. Steve did his duty as a handsome figurehead, as
someone called him; after which he was free to stroll in the gardens
and smoke and wonder what manner of folks inhabited the stars.
An inspection of the house had taken place with Beatrice and Gay
leading the procession, and Aunt Belle bringing up the rear. The oh's
and ah's and exclamations of approval, resultant of fairy cocktails,
rewarded Beatrice for her expenditure. When she brought them into her
own apartment she stood back, while Gay lisped out the story of the
greatest achievement and novelty of the entire house, watching the
faces of her guests so as to catch the first expression of envy which
should reveal itself.
The novelty consisted in the set of bedroom furniture, which, though
the rest of the house was Italian, as Gay hastily explained, was of
Chinese workmanship, carved and inlaid in intricate designtwo dragons
fighting over pearls, with the various stages of the struggle
represented on the bed legs, the bureau drawers, the easy-chair, the
dressing table, and so on. The set had been made for the Emperor of
China, but when his private council inspected it, it was found that one
of the carved dragons on top of the four-poster bed had captured the
pearl for which they had been fighting in sixty-seven or so other
carvings. This signified bad luck for the emperor; misfortune and
rebellion would be his lot if he slept in the bed. Though regretting
the loss of the furniture the emperor felt the loss of his kingdom
would be even greater, and the furniture was placed on the market. To
Mrs. Stephen O'Valley was awarded the ownership as well as the
privilege of writing the check that made the purchase possible. On the
bed was a pillow of the material woven for emperors only, thrown in on
account of the ill luck that would attend him who slept in the bed
beneath the conquering dragon; and on a carved bone platter was an
antique Maltese shawl which gave a rare note to the entire room.
Steve, who had regarded the emperor's rejected furniture as a cross
between a joke and an outrage, gave way to his feelings by pacing up
and down the hall and capturing a tray of sandwiches being carried to
the supper room. But Beatrice, after Gay's speech, felt a rare joyfor
every guest in the room hated her for having won the prize. What more
could she ask by way of reward?
When they were alone in the new-old home Steve felt it only decent
to congratulate her. Somehow he had come to feel that keeping up sham
courtesies made everything easier.
You have worked very hard, haven't you? he asked. But you have
Do you think so? Everyone hates me now, for there will never be
another royal bedroom set like mine on the marketwhen you think that
Gay skirmished about and won it for me, it is quite remarkable. And it
shows what Gay can do when he has a little encouragement. Alice Twill
was almost cross-eyed and crying; her husband nipped the château idea
in the bud. New York men are coming here to take photographs next week.
I wish the garden were in better shape. They are going to run feature
stories about it.... Oh, Steve, do you think of any new place to go
I thought we had just moved to Venice, he said, still dazed at the
amount of carved fire screens, tapestries, dim, impractical
candlelights, and soft-eyed Madonnas which smiled at him on all sides.
I must have all the office force come and see thisit would be
such a treat. And we can serve tea on the lawn.
Do. They don't often take time to go to museums.
Steve's bad nature was getting the better of polite resolves. He was
thinking of Mary's clear, witty eyes as she would view the remains of a
plain American house.
The next thing of interest to keep Beatrice at home was the advent
of a real lion cub, following Monster's departure to canine heaven.
Being too impossible of shape and disposition for any one's pride or
comfort, Monster was disposed of and buried in a satin-lined coffin
with a neat white headstone telling salient facts of her short
While Steve was giving devout thanks for the event Beatrice was
realizing that the gardens needed a dominating note, as Gay said.
During her reading of old fables and romantic legends about superwomen
or extremely wicked matrons she had discovered that they nearly all
possessed a lion or a bear or a brace of elephants to gambol on the
green. Such a pet symbolized its owner's power and fearlessness, and
any young woman who could have the Emperor of China's bedroom suite
brought post haste into Hanover, U. S. A., was surely entitled to
something in the jungle line for her front yard!
For the first time in his daughter's life Mark Constantine made a
faint protest, suggesting that she have a taxidermist mount several
lion cubs and group them about the hallwhile Steve sat back in
cynical amusement and asked if she were going to request the goldfish
to step aside in favour of a few Alaska seals?
If she gets a live lionand she will, because I'm writing to a
circus man now, Gay told TrudyI'm going to sprain my ankle and be
laid up from the day the beast arrives until he goeshe won't tarry
long, the police won't have it. But I'm not going to take any chances.
Still, it would never do to make a fat commission on the deal and then
act as if I were afraid to come over and play cannibal with him. I
guess you can go, he added, insolently.
Trudy looked at him in scorn. You are cheap, she said. Well, I
will go! I'd just as soon be eaten by a lion as to have to live with a
The lion arrived in due time and was named Tawny Adonis. Beatrice
considered him a perfect love. He was a gay young cub and quite
effective in the new background, well intentioned but lonesome for his
old atmosphere of circus life and his mother and brothers. He was given
a large run in the Constantine grounds, and while Aunt Belle stayed
locked in her room the greater share of the time and Gay immediately
sprained his ankle and was forced to send Trudy as his messenger, Mark
Constantine and Steve found their time well occupied in convincing the
authorities that the town infantry would not be devoured piecemeal.
Hanover had never really approved of having an Italian villa crammed
down its throat, and it was certainly not agreeable, to say the least,
to have a lion cub at large as a dominating garden note.
You cannot keep him, even if you pulled all his teeth and taught
him to be a dope fiend, Steve said in desperation after the roars of
Tawny Adonis had been reported to the police as annoying. He is
growing bigger every day and all he has done is demolish flowers and
shrubs and chew up fence posts. I'm sorry for him, and I'm not
particularly afraid of him, but if there was an accident with a child
even the owner of a dominating garden note could not expect to go
Her father and her friends championed Steve's stand in the matter
and after a little rebelling and pouting and having the pleasure of
seeing her name in all the papers as the owner of the lion cub and so
on, Beatrice consented to part with him on the condition that she be
allowed to give him a farewell birthday party, he being nearly a year
old. She was going to ask the children of all her friends. But getting
a hint of the event her friends hastily arranged a Tom Thumb wedding
for charity, and then assured Beatrice it was merely a coincidence that
the two things interfered with each other, wasn't it a shame? Realizing
that this dominating note was not a social asset Beatrice hastily sided
in with her father and the authorities.
Besides, she was tired of Tawny Adonis; he was destructive, and a
secret source of worry if she could have been made to admit it. So she
prepared for a birthday fête and determined to have the public-school
children as the guests. But these refused her invitation as well; so
she went into the slums and collected thirty harmless waifs who felt
that a lion's birthday party was not to be despised, and brought them
triumphantly into the Italian gardens.
The waifs gathered round an outdoor table, too busy swallowing food
to bother about their possible and likely fate. In the centre of the
table was a huge birthday cake for Tawny Adonis. It was made of raw
hamburger steak, generously iced with bone marrow, and the single
anniversary candle took the form of a balanced soup bone. After the
children had eaten their fill Tawny Adonis was let loose upon the scene
and at the birthday cake, and during the wild smashing of glass and
china and the excited shrieks of the waifs Tawny went to the birthday
cake and devoured it, soup bone and all.
Gay was out of town the day of the party but Trudy bravely assisted,
as did one or two others, Mark Constantine and his sister sitting in
the windows to watch the procedure while Beatrice in a gown of
turquoise velvet with a coronet of frosted leaves played Lady Bountiful
and dismissed the slum brigade as soon as possible, sending them home
with the confused knowledge that a beautiful lady in angel clothes and
a wild animal sometimes meant plenty of ham sandwiches and ice cream,
as well as the opportunity to slip a fork into one's pocket.
Steve declined to take any part in the celebration, but at the
conclusion of the event he appeared with policemen and a patrol wagon
containing a cage, and amid gay farewells and grim coaxings Tawny
Adonis was escorted to the railway station and shipped back to the
circus man, at a loss of five hundred dollarsnot counting the damage
doneto the Gorgeous Girl!
Trudy was keen as a brier whenever her own realm was threatened.
With the shrewdness which caused her to refrain from ever speaking ill
of a woman when talking to a man and never speaking aught but ill of
women when talking to their own kind, she foresaw in Gay's constant
attendance on the Gorgeous Girl the possibility of an unpleasant
For the Gorgeous Girl had said not only to her husband but to her
friends that she must find some other kind of a good time now the
novelty of the Villa Rosa was exhausted. Even inky people bored her,
she added; poets were no longer permitted in her drawing room, and the
circle of pet robins and angel ducks had somehow wandered out of her
safe keeping. An unusually pretty flock of sweetsome débutantes had
thinned the bachelor ranks, and Jill Briggs's youngest boy died of some
childish ailment, disturbing Beatrice more than she admitted, for some
reason, and making her own thoughts poor company.
It was while she was talking of this child's death with Trudy that
the latter glimpsed the handwriting on the wall, and with scantily
concealed enmity determined to beat Beatrice at her own game.
Jill is going away for the winter, poor thing, Beatrice said. I
don't blame her; it would be too horrible to have to stay and see all
his things about. And it's the second child she's lost. Goodness me,
she has spent hundreds on baby specialists and nurses! Well, you know
yourself, Trudyyou've seen how wonderful she has been. This boy's
death has so distressed her that she has decided to have two nurses
stay with the children instead of one. Mighty sweet of her, as it all
comes out of Jill's pocketbook and not her husband's. She says she
cannot think of leaving them with one person, and she must go away
because her nerves are frazzled.
She is going to the West Indies with an artist friend, and they are
going to make a marvellous collection of water-colour paintings of
birds and flowers, a sort of memorial to the boy. Jill says she will
sell them and give the proceeds for the crèche charity. Well,
that is all very well for Jill to do; she has a real heartache to live
down. But when you have no earthly reason to go and paint wild birds
and flowers and you are bored to distraction with everything She
shrugged her shoulders.
Meaning yourself? asked Trudy. Really?delighted that this was
Are you ever bored?
Only enough to be fashionable. You see I have to live Gay's life
and career and my own at the same time. Instinctively Trudy knew this
caused envy in her hostess's heart for a multitude of reasons. Gay
never amounted to anything until we were marriedshe paused for this
to take full effectand I enjoy playing the game. I have grown fond
of makeshifts and make-believes and hedging, bluffing, stalling,
jumping mental hurdlesit's funit keeps you alive and never weighing
more than a hundred and ten pounds.
Trudy rose to go. She was a chic little vixen in a fantastic
costume of black velvet with a jacket of blush pink. No one but Trudy
could have worn such a thinga semi-Dick-Whittington effectand have
gotten away with it. Though she was physically very tired from sewing
late the night before, and mal-nourished because she was too indolent
to bother to cook, Trudy looked quite fit for a long stretch of hard
Why don't you diet seriously? she purred. It's only right for
your true friends to tell you. The double chin is permanent, I'm
afraid. She shook her shapely little head, to Beatrice's inward rage.
As Beatrice sat looking up at this impertinent little person she
suddenly became angered to think she had ever bothered with an
ex-office girl or permitted Gaylord to coax her into being nice to his
wife. And if this impossible person could bring Gaylord into the ranks
of prosperity in a short time, making everyone accept her, what
couldn't she, Beatrice O'Valley, do with Gay if she triedseriously
tried? He would not linger beside Trudy if Beatrice gave him to
understand there was a place for him at her own hearth. She knew
Gaylord too well; he suddenly assumed the figurative form of a goal, as
she had once assumed to Stevea play pastimein the true sense. A
real man would not play off property doll in the hands of any woman,
not excepting his own wife; which Beatrice realized. Living with a cave
man had taught her many things. Yet it would be rare fun to have a
property doll all one's own, different from the impersonal, harmless
herd of boys and poets, a really innocent pastime if you considered it
in the eyes of man-written law. What a larkto switch Gay from this
cheap, red-haired little woman, dominate his life, suddenly assert her
starved abilities, and make him become far greater than anything Trudy
had ever been able to do! It would cause such a jolly row and
excitement and pep everyone up. Pet and flatter him and show Trudy that
after all she had only been an incompetent clerk in Steve's office!
Perhaps I will diet, was all she said, smiling sweetly. And tell
Gay he must come see me to-morrow. I have a plan that I want to tell
himand no one else. Besides, there is a flaw in the last pair of
candlesticks he bought for me.
Trudy realized perfectly well that sweetness from the lips of an
obese lady, after one has assured her of the arrival of a double chin,
always augurs ill for everyone.
Originally Trudy had determined to use Gaylord as a stepping-stone,
a rather satisfactory first husband. But since Beatrice's commission to
do the villa and the stream of like orders from the new-rich who were
trying to unload their war fortunes before they were caught at it,
Trudy had grown content and even keen about Gaylord in an impersonal
sense. She felt that she could not better herself if he continued to do
as well as he had the last few months, and that she would continue to
do her share of hill-climbing indefinitely. In other words, having won
Gaylord in the remnant department, Trudy decided to keep him and make
him answer the purpose of paying her board bill.
Besides, though she admitted it only to Mary, she felt anything but
well. The more money Gaylord made the more he spent on himself, and he
seemed to expect Trudy to manage out of the ozone, yet to appear as the
indulged wife of her enterprising young husband. It never endedthe
eternal searching for bargains; dyeing clothes and mending, cleaning,
and pressing; living on delicatessen food; sitting up nights to help
out with the work, often doing odds and ends of sewing, and appearing
the next afternoon in the customer's house to admire the effect of the
new drapery and tell of the bright-eyed Italian woman who had done the
Trudy saw little of Mary. Her better self made her stay aloof lest
she win from her friend other details to add to her already safeguarded
secret. And she never attempted to amuse Steve. She fought shy of him
when he was about, wisely limiting herself to shy nods and smiles and
occasionally a very meek compliment, which he usually pretended not to
As she walked home from the villaGay had the roadstershe told
herself that she must watch out or Beatrice would attempt to spoil Gay
to the extent of making him wish to be rid of his wife. She realized
that Gay was extremely scornful and careless of her. Having married her
and satisfied his one-cylinder brain that he was a deuce of a chap and
a democratic rake in marrying this dashing nobody Gaylord turned bully
and permitted Trudy to take the cares of the family on her shoulders.
He was now enjoying the fruits of her industry with a fair credit
rating, very different from formerly, a bank account of which Trudy
knew nothing, and the congenial work of pussyfooting about boudoirs and
guzzling tea while perched on Beatrice's blue-satin gondolas.
He no longer needed Trudy. He could see now that to be single-handed
once more, but with his new standing and profession, would be a most
satisfactory state of affairs. In fact, if Trudy would only fall in
love with a travelling man and decampwhat a chap he would soon rise
to be! For a broken heart is often a man's strongest asset and a
woman's gravest suspicion. Trudy, however, gave him no hope in this
direction. She hung about her fireplace contrary to her former plans
concerning it. She really put in an eighteen-hour day as both slavey
and sylph, and seemed filled with everlasting patience and jazz.
Coming into the Touraine apartment Trudy found Gaylord showing old
prints to some woman customers and advising as to the smartness of
having them framed and used in sun parlours or any intriguing little
nook. Trudy was de tropshe was prettier than the prospective
customers, but in their eyes she had only a Winter-Garden
personalityand Gay frowned his welcome.
Had Trudy not come in Gay would have served cocktails of his own
making, which would cause them to order the prints at fabulous prices;
and then sat in the dusk talking about the occult and the popularity of
Persian pussy cats and how to make pear-and-cottage-cheese salad and
serve it on cabbage leaves, which was quite the mode. It never does for
an interior decorator, particularly if specializing in boudoirs, to
have a wife, Gaylord decided as his customers patronized Trudy and
departed, Gaylord seeing them to their car and standing bareheaded to
wave his bejewelled hand as they whirled round the corner.
He then returned to give Trudy his unbiassed opinion. I thought you
were going to stay away until evening, he said. You spoiled the
Did I? What were you about to doplay soul mate if they'd take the
old things? I'm the one who found those prints in a second-hand store
and had sense enough to buy the lot. I'm the one who found the remnants
of cretonne you paste them onand told you to charge ten dollars
eachand I'm the one who sits out in the little back room and pastes
them on, too!
She threw her purse down with an angry gesture.
You are the crudest thing, he said.
I slapped you once for calling me a crude little fooland the next
time you try it I'll do better than that! She was unable to control
her temper. If you think being a bachelor and languishing in this
place would keep you afloat you're mistaken. It's meI'm the one that
buys the bargains and runs the sewing machine half the night, sends out
the bills and wheedles the salesmen into looking at youto say nothing
of doing the housekeeping, and keeping every good-looking woman afraid
of me, yet polite. Why, if you were alone any real business man could
come in here and start a shop and put you behind the bench overnight.
You're nothing! You never were. You lived on a dead man's reputation
until you married me, and now you're living on a redheaded girl's
nerve. I'll scold as shrilly as I like. If the neighbours hear, all the
Trudy had lost control of herself. Besides, she was very tired. Who
told you to wear gray-velvet smocks in your drawing-room shop and to
have soft ties poured down softer collars? You look a hundred per cent,
better than when you hopped round in a check suit that gave you a
gameboard appearance. I did that. If I'd ever worked for O'Valley as I
have for you, thinking I'd get a good time out of it somehow, I'd have
had Mary Faithful on the run.
She did not add the rest of her ideasthat Beatrice O'Valley, not
contented with her store of possessions and avenues of interests,
contemplated playing property doll with this half-portion little snob
who stood before her in his ridiculous smock costume, half afraid and
The interview concluded with Trudy's going to the kitchen for some
kind of a supper and Gay's driving off post haste to see Beatrice.
* * * * *
When Steve returned from his hurried two-day trip he asked Beatrice
if she realized the amount of money she was spending.
Why should I? she answered, aggrievedly. Steve looked unusually
handsome this afternoon, and seemed to fit into the antique chair; and,
in contrast to her contemplated property doll, Beatrice felt amiable
and willing to play for favour. I haven't asked you for one quarter of
That's the troubleyour father has gone on paying your bills, and
you don't seem to realize I am not an enormously rich manand never
will be, abnormal business conditions having ceased. We are back where
we started, so to speak, and I don't look for a time of unheralded
prosperity for some days to come. I was figuring up while I was away,
in detail; and here are the results. He handed her a memorandum. You
see? I earn a splendid living and I have a neat nest egg not to be
despised. But I have no Italian-villa income. Your father has, so you
came back to your father to take his money and I am merely a necessary
accessory to the entire ensemble. His voice was bitter.
Oh, no, Stevuns! She was quite the romantic parasite as she came
and knelt beside him in coaxing attitude. Why, papa wishes me to have
everything I want. He would be terribly worried if he thought I had to
do without a single shoe button!
But must all the shoe buttons be of gold? Steve interpolated.
She paid no attention to him. I'm papa's only heirthe money is
all mine, anyway, and it always has been. You know how simple papa's
Like my ownlike those of all busy people who are doing things. We
haven't time to pamper ourselves.
Someone has to buy up the trash! And you ought to thank us rich
darlings of the gods for existing at allwe make you look so
respectable by contrast. She waited for his answer.
He rose and went over to the carved mantel, standing so he could
look down the long room crowded with luxuries.
But this place isn't the home of an American man and his wife. It's
a show placebought with your father's money! And I've failed. I'm not
supporting my wife. Good heavens, if I were I'd have to be cracking
safes every week-end to do it. I can't make any more money than I am
makingand stay at largeand you cannot go on living off your father
and being my wife. I won't have it! I won't be that kind of a failure!
What shall I do with the money, throw it to the birds? Her head
began to ache, as it always did when a serious conversation was at
Wait until it is yours and then spend it on something for the
goodnot the delightof someone else, or of a great many other
people. Be my wifelet me take care of you, he begged, earnestly.
Beatrice hesitated. I couldn't, was her final answer. I couldn't
manage with the allowance you give medon't worry, dearest, there's no
reason at all that we shouldn't have as good a time as there is. Papa
wants us to.
Don't you see what I'm trying to get at? he insisted. Won't you
try to see? Just tryput yourself in my place, make yourself think
with my viewpoint as a starting place. Suppose you had been a dreamer
of a boy with a pirate's daring and a poet's unreal delusions, and you
combined the two to produce a fortune, a fortune everyone marvelled at,
the lucky turn of the wheel. Suppose you used that fortune with the
same daring and fancy, loving someone with all your heart, to make
money in a regular business and under the guidance of a well-trained
merchant like your fatherand then you married the person you loved
and saw her deliberately belittle your manhood by going to her father's
house to live, spending her father's money, and leaving you quite alone
and without the joyous and needed responsibility of supporting your
wife. Now what would you do?
I'd start right in spending my own money for things I wanted, she
But suppose you did not want thingscluttery, everlasting things,
glaring, upholstered, painted, carved, what notlugged from the four
corners of the earth, not harmonizing with your own aims or interests?
Suppose you wanted to create an individual and representative home and
take care of it and the guardian angel who presided thereinthen what
would you do?
Ohyou mean you want another style of house? Then let's buy a
country tractand I promise to let you build and furnish just as you
wish. That's a bully idea, dear, to have an abrupt contrast to this
houseold-English manor type would be wonderful!
The dinner gong brought a merciful release. Beatrice danced through
the archway throwing him a kiss as the rest of her decision.
It was at this identical moment that Steve concluded it was too late
for his wife ever to develop anything more than a double chin or so.
During Beatrice's house party, at which twenty or so equally
Gorgeous Girls and their husbands were quartered in the Villa Rosa,
while a string orchestra danced them further along the road toward
nervous prostration each night, a fire ignited in the offices of the
O'Valley Leather Company.
Steve's office and Mary's adjoining room were damaged by water
rather than by the slight blaze itself and during an enforced recess
from work both Mary and Steve found that a fire in an office building
may cause a loss of time from routine yet be a great personal boon.
The day following the accident, Steve having been summoned at
midnight to view the flames, Mary came to the office to try to rescue
the files and sweep aside the débris.
Nothing is really hurt, but they always mess things up, Steve
said, coming to the doorway to hold up a precious record book. See
this? I wonder why they always leave such a lot of stuff to clear away.
Now the whole extent of damage is the destroying of that rickety side
stairway that is never used and could have been done away with long
ago. Some boys, playing craps and smoking, left the makings of the fire
and before it touched these rooms there was water poured into the whole
plant. As a consequence, we have a three-day vacation and instead of
having the side stairs torn down I'm in line for a chunk of insurance.
Even the tea isn't spilled from my caddy, Mary answered; Look.
Wonder what they used this side stairway for? It was rickety when I
bought the place. He looked at the blackened remains of steps.
I don't know, Mary answered, absent-mindedly. She could have added
that whenever she looked at those stairs or their closed door she saw
but one thingSteve on his wedding day as he came stealing up to ask
about the long-distance telephone call, aglow with happiness and
dreams. For her own reasons, therefore, Mary did not regret the
destruction of the side stairs.
They've shoved this cabinet over as if they had a special
antagonism to it, he was saying, righting a small piece of furniture
containing mostly Mary's papers. Therenot hurt, is it? Do the
drawers open? He began pulling them out, one after another. The last
refused to open.
What's in this oneit blocks the spring?
Mary tried her hand at it. Something wedged right at the edge. I'm
sure I don't see what it can be. I never used that drawer for anything
At their combined jerk the drawer came flying into space, and with
it the remains of a white cardboard box with the monograms of B. C. and
S. O. entwined by means of a cupid and a tiny wreath of flowers. Dried
cake crumbs lay in the bottom of the drawer. It was the Gorgeous Girl's
box of wedding cake which Mary Faithful had found on her desk.
Neither spoke immediately. Finally Mary said: I suppose that's as
bad an omen as to break a mirror under a ladder on Friday the
thirteenth. Now shall I have the men sweep the office out? There is no
reason we cannot get to work to-morrow.
Wait a moment about sweeping out offices and going to work, Steve
insisted. If you want to break the hoodoo you have just brought on
yourself by smashing up wedding cakelet me talk and act as high
She shook her head. You promised, and you've been true-bluedon't
spoil it. Besides, it can do no good.
I want to ask a question, he insisted. I'm not going to break
faith with you or take advantage of knowing what you told me. I shall
always try to appreciate the honour done me, no matter if I am
unworthy. I want to ask a question in as impersonal a way as if I wrote
in to a woman's column. He tried to laugh.
Ask away. Mary sat down in the nearest chair, the broken cardboard
box at her feet.
Why is it that a man can honestly be in love with the woman he
marries and yet in an amazingly short time find himself playing the cad
in feeling disappointed, discontented, utterly lacking affection? It's
a ghastly happening. Why is it he saw no handwriting on the wall? I am
not stupid, Mary, neither am I given to inconstancyI've had to
struggle too much not to have my mind made up once and for all time.
Why didn't I see through this veneer of a good time that these Gorgeous
Girls manage to have painted over their real selves? Why did I never
suspect? And what is a man to do when he discovers the disillusionment?
You see it all, there's no sense in not admitting itwhy do I find
myself ill at ease, now tense, now irritable over trifles, now sulky,
despondentas plainly sulky and despondent as a wild animal
successfully caged and labelled, which must perforce stay put yet which
will not afford its spectators the satisfaction of walking wistfully
from cage corner to cage corner and yowling in unanswered anguish!
Is it as bad as that? she asked, softly.
He nodded as he continued: I sometimes feel the way the monkish
fraternity did at Oxford when they claimed 'they banished God and
admitted women.' I want a man-made world, womanless, without a single
trace of romance or a good time. Not right, is it? Sometimes I think
I'll crack under the pretense, go raving mad and scream out the whole
miserable sham under which I liveand every time I indulge myself in
such a reverie I find myself writing Beatrice an extra check and going
with her to this thing or that, steel-hammer pulses beating at my
forehead and a languor about even the attempt at breathing.
Mary would have spoken but he rushed ahead: I like this fire, this
debris. Most people would curse at itit's real and rather common,
sort of plain boiled-dinner variety. It gives me an excuse to take time
off from the eternal frolic. I'm glad when there's a strike or a row
and I dig out of town to stay in a commercial hotel. I have to get away
from the whole tinsel show. And yet it was what I wanted, was willing
to play modern Faust to any Wall Street Mephistopheles
And you are sure it wasn't a Mephistopheles?
Of course notfor that much I can draw a deep breath and give
thanksit was my own luck.
Other times, other titles, she murmured.
One time you told me what you thought of the future of American
women, the all-round good fellows of the worlddo you remember? I wish
you had not told me. It's just another thing to irritate. I'm driven
mad by triflesI'm starved for a big tragedy; that's the way this
craving for a fortune and a good time is playing boomerang. I'm so
infernally weary of hearing about the cut-glass slipper heels of some
chorus girl and so hungry to hear about a shipwreck, a new creed, a
daring crime that
You foolish, funny boy, she said, taking pity on his involved
analysis, don't you see what you have done? It's quite the common fate
of get-rich-quick dreamers; you merely symbolized your goal by Beatrice
Constantine, she stood for the combined relationships of wife, comrade,
lady luxuryand you captured your goal, and the greater effort ceased.
You have had time to examine your prize in microscopic fashion. It
isn't at all what you intendedbut it is quite what you deserve. No
one can make a lie serve for the truthat all times and for an
indefinite period. There is bound to come a cropper somewhereusually
where you least expect it. And you lied to yourself in the beginning, a
passive sort of falsehood, in merely refusing to see the truth and
groping for the unreal. You had to justify your race for wealth, so you
said, 'Oho, I'll love a story-book princess and let that be my
incentive. Story-book princesses are expensive lovelies and you have to
have money bags to jingle before their fair selves!' So you became more
and more infatuated with the fairy-book princess who happened to be in
your pathwayand it was Beatrice. She made you feel that anything your
slightly mad and quite unrealizing young self might do was proper. Just
as the boy with a new air rifle deliberately sets up a target to shoot
away at because the savage in him must justify hitting something
besides the ozone, so you have merely wooed and won your own falsehood
You say it rather neatly; but that isn't all. The thing is that I'm
not game enough to go on and take the punishment. Are you surprised?
No. But are you prepared to give up the thing which won her?
My money? I've thought of it. He folded his arms and began walking
up and down the littered, water-soaked office. Would you like me any
better? he asked, tenderly.
Mary's eyes grew stormy. If the men go to work at once we can have
the rugs sent to the cleaner's and put down old matting for a temporary
coveringand I can go ahead taking inventory, was her answer.
I see, Steve made himself respond. WellI didn't trespass very
much, he whispered as he passed her to leave the building.
* * * * *
Beatrice regarded the fire as an amusing happening and before Steve
realized what was being done she had proposed that Gaylord refurnish
the office in an arts-and-crafts fashion. It had long seemed to her a
most inartistic and clumsy place and when Steve refused her offer and
told her that a splint-bottomed chair and a kitchen chair were his
office equipment some years ago she sent for Gaylord on her own
initiative and told him to beard the lion in the den to see if he could
win Steve to the cause of painted wall panels typifying commerce,
industry, and such, and crippled beer steins and so on as artistic
There had never been an active feud between Gaylord and Steve; it
was always that hidden enmity of a weak culprit toward a strong man.
Neither had Trudy been able to win Steve by her Titian curls, baby-blue
eyes, and obese compliments. In fact, Gaylord had avoided Steve the
last year. He was the one Beatrice called upon to play with her, he
accompanied her shopping, even unto the milliner's, and had been in New
York one time when Beatrice had gone down to see about buying a
moleskin wrap. Not even Trudy knew that he had actually adopted a
monocle and squired Beatrice round in state.
So he approached Steve with the attitude of I hate you and am only
waiting to prove it but meanwhile I'll play off the friend lizard no
matter how painful.
But after a few my dear fellows and old dears and gibes about
the disordered office with its prosaic chairs and Mary Faithful, quite
flushed and plain looking as she dashed round giving orders, Gaylord
found himself being neatly set outside on the curbstone and told to
remain in that exact position.
I hate this decorating business, Steve said in final condemnation.
I agree with my father-in-law that when a man approaches me with a
book of sample braids and cretonnes under his arm I feel it only
righteous that he be shot at sunriseand now you know how strong you
stand with me. I don't mind Beatrice having her whirl at the thing. A
new colour scheme as often as she has a manicure; that's different. But
my office stays as I wish it and you can't rush in any globes of
goldfish and inkstands composed of reclining young females with their
little hands forming the ink cup, while a single spray of cherry
blossoms flourishes over the hook I hang my hat and coat upon. Oh, no,
trot back to your boudoirs and purr your prettiest, but stop trying to
tackle real men.
Gaylord's one-cylinder brain had become more efficient by dint of
daily sparring with his wife. So he retorted: She is going to make you
a present of ityour birthday gift, I understand. Does that alter the
Steve looked at him with an even wilder frown. Tell her to build a
bomb-proof pergola for herself and mark it for me just the same. When
we redecorate round here it takes Miss Faithful about a half hour to
plan the show. Good-bye, Gay, I'm awfully rushed. Thanks just as much.
Gaylord sauntered outside, smiling, apparently as if he accepted the
entire universe. But his one-cylinder brain harboured an unpleasant
secret which concerned Steve. Gaylord knew that Steve had not reckoned
with his enemies and that he was in no condition to begin doing so now.
Constantine was no longer at the helm, fearless, respected, and
dominating. Steve was quite the reckless egotist, out of love with his
wife, mentally jaded, and weary of the gameand his enemies surmised
all this in rough fashion and were making their plans accordingly. How
wonderful it would be if certain catastrophes did happen. How lucky
Beatrice had her own income! She would never cease ordering bomb-proof
pergolas or bird cages carved from rare woods.
The next daybefore Beatrice and Steve had a chance to argue the
matter out to a fine pointMark Constantine had a stroke. It was like
the sudden crashing down of a great oak tree which within had been
hollow and decayed for some time but to all exterior appearances quite
the sturdy monarch. Without warning he became first a mighty thing
lying day after day on a bed, fussed over and exclaimed over and prayed
over by a multitude of people. Then he assumed the new and final
proportions of a childish invalidhis fierce, true grasp of things,
his wide-sweeping and ambitious viewpoint narrowed hastily to the four
walls of the sick room. Instead of the stock-market fluctuation
bringing forth his Gad, that's good! or oaths of disapproval, the
taste of an especially good custard or the way the masseuse neglected
his left forearm were cause for joy or grief.
Life had suddenly changed into the monotonous and wearing routine of
a broken, lonesome old man who had plenty of time to think of the past
with his wife Hannah, recalling incidents he had not recalled until
this dull, long day arrived. And after reaching many conclusions about
many things Constantine was forced to realize that no one particularly
cared for or sought out his opinions. He was placed in the category of
all fallen oakssomeone who would have one of the largest funerals
ever held in the city. And friends murmured that for Bea's sake they
hoped it would not be long.
But it was to be longfor with the tenacity of purpose he had
always exhibited Constantine readjusted himself to the narrow realm of
four walls. His former tyranny toward the business world was now
exercised toward his daughter and son-in-law, his sister and his
attendants. He resolved to liveor existjust as long as life was
possible, to vampire-borrow from those about him all the vitality that
he could, to have every care and comfort and every new doctor ever
heard of called in to attend him; he now said he wished to live as many
years as God willed. There was a God, now that he was partially
paralyzed, a very real God, to whom he prayed in orthodox fashion. He
wanted to keep remembering the past with Hannah, to shed the tears for
her death which he had never taken the time to shed, to decide what it
was that had been so wrong in his life in order that his death and
hereafter might be very properly right.
Aunt Belle had taken this new affliction after the fashion of a Mrs.
Gummidge. It affected her worse than any one else, first because the
ridicule and fault-finding to which her brother had always treated her
were tripled in their amount and quality, and yet as she was dependent
upon this childishly weak brother she must endure the treatment.
Secondly, she was reminded that her age was somewhat near Mark
Constantine's age and perhaps a similar fate lay in store for her.
Lastly, it tied her downpropriety demanded that someone be in the
sick room a share of the time and certainly Beatrice had no intention
of undertaking the responsibility.
Steve had acted as Aunt Belle fancied he would act, genuinely
concerned over the catastrophe and seeking refuge with this tired old
child a greater share of the time. By degrees Aunt Belle left Steve to
play the role of comforter and companion, since no nurse ever stayed at
the Constantine bedside for longer than a fortnight. So she was allowed
to gambol about in her pinafore frocks and high-heeled shoes, wondering
if her brother had made a fair will, taking into account the fact that
a woman is only as old as she looksand with a tidy fortune who knows
what might happen after the proper mourning period?
Beatrice had been prostrated at the news. For two days she stayed in
bed and sobbed hysterically. Then she was prevailed upon to see her
father and to take the sensible attitude of preparing for a long siege,
as Steve suggested.
How cold-hearted it soundsa long siege! she reproached.
But it is true. He will not diehe will live until that splendid
vitality of his has been snuffed out by a careless law of rhythm, so
you may as well buck up and run in to see him every day and then go
about as usual.
A sick room drives me wild. I wish I had taken a course in
practical nursing instead of the domestic-science things.
Steve did not answer.
I can't bear to think of it. It's like having life-in-death in the
very house. Oh, Steve, can't you talk him into going to a sanitarium?
They'd have so many interesting kinds of baths to try!
He won't mind your parties, if that is what is bothering you. The
only thing he asks is to be left in peace in his room with plenty of
detective stories and plenty of medical attention, and he won't know if
you dance the roof off. But if you really want to hasten the end send
Gay up there with plans for remodelling his roomit will either kill
or cure, he laughed.
I must do something to help me forget and make it easier for him,
she said, soberly. I'm going to try a faith healernot because I
believe in them but because I don't want to leave any stone unturned. I
think a new interest would help papa. Would you try adopting a child or
my taking up classical dancing in deadly earnest? She was quite
sincere and emotionally wrought up as she came up to him and laid her
head on his shoulder.
Oh, I'd take up classical dancing, he advised.
She gave a sigh of relief. Yes, it's what I really think would be
the best. I will dance on the lawn so papa can watch me.
He gave vent to his father-in-law's favourite expletive, Gad!
under his breath.
He did not add what was an unpleasant probability: that, having to
assume full responsibility of affairs, there were likely to be
astonishing complications. Crashed-down oak trees are quite helpless
concerning their enemies, reckoned upon or otherwise, and Steve, who
had never taken count of his foes, would be called upon to meet them
In a jewellery store Trudy Vondeplosshe, wrapped in wine-coloured
velours, was coquetting with diamond rings under glass and trying to
affect an air of indifference concerning them. With all her husband's
rise in the world he did not see fit to bestow upon his wife any
substantial token of his regard. The vague and transitory idea he once
entertained of playing off fairy godfather to her and placing a fortune
at her feet had become past history. Now that Gay did run a motor and
wear monogrammed silk shirts he saw to it that Trudy had as little as
the law allowed. She still continued remaking her dresses and haunting
remnant counters, sewing on Gay's work, playing off the same
overstrained, underfed Trudy as in the first days at the Graystone
apartment. But as it was for a good time she never thought of
She had decided, however, that it was time now to adopt other and
more forceful methods of obtaining the things she craved and felt she
had earned. Foremost, as with many women, was a diamond ring. After
obtaining this she would turn in her wedding ring for old gold, the
price to apply on a platinum circlet studded with brilliants. For
months Trudy's eyes had glittered greedily as she observed Gay's
clientele with their jewelled bags, rings, brooches, watches, and what
notyet she possessed not a single gem.
She had often enough asked Gay for one, to which he would sneer:
What do you want with a diamond? You know I'm always on the ragged
edge of failing!
Because you gamble and drink and are a born fool, she protested.
You could make real money if you would listen to me and keep quiet.
I can't see what that has to do with your wanting a diamond ring!
If I ever make real money you can have one but not when auto tires are
as high as they are
And when husbands grow tipsy and drive into ditches and have to be
brought home by horses and wagons. Oh, no. But you'll go shopping with
Beatrice and pick out her jewellery and tell her jewels have souls and
a lot more bunk, and then get a commission as soon as her back is
turned! Why don't you get me a diamond instead, and omit the bunk? I'll
take one with a flawI'm used to seconds. You must believe me when I
say that, because I married you.
Gay no longer feared Trudy; in fact, he felt he had little use for
her. She was an obstacle to his making an excellent marriage. Through
Trudy and all the rest of the complicated ladder climbing he was now
recognized, and real men were extremely busy these days getting the tag
ends of war-debris business in shape. It was quite a different
situationhe could have had his choice of several widows. Take it all
in all, he preferred a matron, his days at playing with debutantes were
in the discard. The business of buying and selling antiques and
interior decorating had so inflated his one-cylinder brain that he
really fancied he needed a mature companionship and understanding.
I'll buy you a diamond ring, old dear, he said, lightly, when you
have me in a corner, hands upso set your wits to work and see what
you can do about it.
It was over their hurried breakfast that the discussion took place,
with Trudy, quite a fright in a tousled boudoir cap and négligé,
scuttling about the dining room with the breakfast tray and planning to
send out bills, reorder some draperies, and call up her friends until
one of them should offer to take her to a fashionable morning musical
in the near future. After which she would go down town and make good at
her star actwindow wishing.
You make me so tired I wonder why I don't clear out, she retorted.
You think I'm afraid to buy a diamond ring and charge it to you? Watch
Just try it and see what will happen.
I will, kind sir. Dropping him a curtsy, Trudy repaired to do the
dishes and swiggle an oil mop about the floor briefly. Then she burnt
some scented powder and pulled down the window shades. This constituted
getting the establishment in order, the slavey having gone tootling off
on a party some days before.
Trudy did not refer to the breakfast-table discussion before she
left the apartment. She was dangerously sweet, and even went into Gay's
room, where he was donning his gray-velvet studio blouse for the
morning's labours. She told him she was quite sure of securing a fairly
good-sized order for some window shades. Gay did not think it necessary
to answer. He did not glance at her; instead he yawned and sprinkled
toilet water profusely on his pink lawn handkerchief.
After a moment's hesitation she went her own way. When she had
lingered about the jewellery counter like a wilful yet not quite wicked
childpeering down at the wonderful, enchanting things which mocked
her empty purse; recalling Gay's first flush of romance and devotion;
her own clever, untiring methods of pushing him into the front ranks;
Mary and Mary's little secret, so unsafe in Trudy's keeping; Beatrice,
who did not know quite how many rings she possessed; the whole
maddening and really uninteresting tangleshe wondered if she could
force Gay to buy her a ring. Should she boldly order such-and-such a
stone and pick out a setting and present him with the bill? Why she
hesitated she did not know; she was like all her wilful sisters who
gaze and sigh, pity themselves, and then steal away to Oriental shops
to appease the hunger by a near-silver ring with a bulging
near-precious stone set in Hoboken style.
This Trudy did not do. For some reason or other she let her errands
go by and took a car to Mary's office, stopping at the corner to buy
her a flower. Instinctively one connected Mary and flowers as one
associated Beatrice and jewellery.
She found Mary had gone into the old office building to see about
something and that Steve, who was always as restless as a polar bear
when forced into a tête-à-tête with Trudy, was alone in his office. He
was obliged to ask her to sit down and wait for Mary. Trudy peered
curiously about the rooms. She had never lost that rare sense of
triumphreturning as a fine lady to the very place where she had once
worked for fifteen per. Smiling graciously at former associates she
imagined that she created as much excitement as Beatrice's visits
It seems so good to come back here, she began without mercy.
Steve had to lay aside his work and wonder why Miss Lunk ever let
this creature into his private domain. He would see that it did not
AhI suppose, he knew he answered.
You are such a busy man; you don't know how I admire you. Trudy
tried fresh tactics.
Umhave you seen the morning papers?
Thank you but Gay read them to me at breakfast.... You never come
to our little home, do you? Too busy, I presume. Or are you one of
those who can forgive everyone but the interior decorator? This with
an arch expression and a slight twinkle of the blue eyesit could not
quite be called a wink.
I'm afraid so, Mrs. Vondeplosshe. I leave such things to Beatrice.
Oh, I understand. Trudy took her cue quickly. It is out of your
province. You can't do big, gigantic things if you bother with
doll-house notions. Now I really preferoh, far prefermen like
Steve started the electric fan whirring.
Don't you ever long for camping trips or long horseback
ridessomething away from the everlasting fuss and feathers? I do.
Would you believe it? she fibbed glibly.
Had Steve been seventy-five he might have believed her. But he
merely nodded and said that if there was a draft from the fan she could
Piqued, Trudy turned to Mary Faithful.
Mary is a wonderful girl, isn't she? Of course you have a Gorgeous
Girl, toobut she is for playtime. I should think it would mean a
great deal to have Mary for your chief confidanteshe is so good, and
yet human and
Steve stood up abruptly and wondered why no kind friend saw fit to
enter at this moment. He would have really welcomed Trudy's husband. He
looked at Trudy briefly, it did not take Steve long these days to look
at Gorgeous Girls and Gorgeous Girl seconds and realize the whole story
of their purpose and strugglethings, to have more gayly coloured or
delicate coloured, gold, silver, velvet, carved, perfumed or
whatever-the-mode-dictated things, flaunting these priceless sticks and
stones in each other's faces with pretended friendship.
He did not answer this last lead at conversation, but, not
discouraged, Trudy went on down the list of her resources.
How is dear old Mr. Constantine?
The same. Steve thanked fortune his father-in-law was paralyzed
and could furnish a neutral topic of debate.
Poor dear. So hard for Bea, too. She says she will not do much this
season. She feels ifif it should not be much longer, you
understanda lowered tone of voice and a sighthat she wants to
have nothing on her conscience. Still, a sick room is wearing, but of
course love makes any task easy.
Steve suppressed a smile. It was surprising how well this funny
little person managed to ape the jargon and chatter of Bea's set as
well as their mode of appearance. She did it mightily well, everything
considered, and when she proceeded to offer to go and sit with the old
dear or bring her game board and play with him Steve released a broad
grin as he pictured Constantine in his helpless captive state welcoming
Trudy as an entertainer about as much as he would have begged for a
tête-à-tête with a lady major bent on conquest.
She would even marry him if she could dispose of Gay, he thought,
and rightly, as he watched her.
As she was telling him of the head-dress party she intended to give
for Gay's birthday and how he must come because she wanted him to wear
a pirate turban, in came Mary, much flurried over a mistake made in a
shipment, and her nose guilty of a slight but unmistakable shine.
Oh, Trudy! Run homeyour house is on fire! Your cretonnes will
burn! she said, half in earnest. My dear child, I'm mighty busy. It
is so stupid of Parker! She turned to Steve. He made the original
error and I have to keep cross-examining everyone else to prove to him
that I know he is at fault and that he must 'fess up. But he
won'tpeople never want to say: 'Yes, it is my fault and I'm sorry,'
Sort of habit since the Garden of Eden, I guessyou can't expect
it to change now. Steve had lost his listless air. All unconsciously
he had the same animated, interested attitude that he had had during
the days of being engaged to the Gorgeous Girl. Trudy saw at a glance
that Mary had not only realized her starved hopes but that she was
quite ignorant of the fact that she had done so. To Trudy's mind it was
a most stupid situation; also an inexcusable one. Here was Mary, the
good-looking thing who deserved a love such as Steve O'Valley's yet
never dared to hope he would ever think of her twice except if she
asked for a raise in salary. This Trudy knew, also. And since it is
inevitable that a cave man cannot exist on truffles, chiffon frocks
that must not be rumpled, and an interior decorator with a ukulele at
his beck and call, Steve had been forced into realizing Mary's worth
and loving her for it, giving to her the mature and steady love of a
strong man who, like Parker, had made a mistake and not yet 'fessed up.
Why Mary did not realize that happiness was within her reach, and why
Steve did not realize that Mary adored him, and why they were not in
the throes of talking over her lawyer and my lawyer and alimony but we
love each other and let the whole world go hangwas not within Trudy's
jurisdiction to determine. She only knew what she would have done and
be doing were she Maryand Steve O'Valley loved her.
She felt the situation was as unforgivable and stupid as to have Gay
offer her a two-carat diamond ring and to have her say: No, Bubseley;
sell it and let us use the money to start a fund for heating the huts
of aged and infirm Eskimos. The Salvation Army has never dropped up
The great miracle had happened. And, envying Mary a trifle and
pitying Steve for not having won his cause, Trudy justified a hidden
resolve of long ago: To use Mary's secret in case Beatrice became
overbearing or impossible. It was mighty fine plunder, upon which she
flattered herself she had a single-handed option.
So she released Steve from the agony of conversation, and watching
the tender, happy look as he talked to Mary over some other detail of
the cropper, she went inside to Mary's office to powder her own little
nose and realize that she was no nearer to obtaining a diamond ring
than when she first began to crave for one.
I'm going to bundle you off, Mary informed her. I really mustor
was it anything special?
It was all Trudy could do not to offer to play the confidential
bosom friend and urge Mary to show Beatrice where she stood. But
somehow the brisk business atmosphere, which was very real and brusque,
prevented her from saying anything except that she had wanted to talk
to her. She was lonesomeshe was going to come some evening and have a
good, old-time visit.
Of coursejust let me know when.
Oharchlyare you busy on certain evenings?
Sometimes. French lessons; theatre; general odd jobs.
No particular caller?
No, Mary laughed.
I thought perhapsyou know, one time I came in and
You came one time and found Mr. O'Valley, Mary hastened to add.
Yes, I remember, but that was an unusual occurrence. He came in on
business and when he discovered I did not object to a pipehe stayed.
Trudy was disappointed. Did Beatrice ever know?
Don't know myself. Mary was determined to win out. I can't see
why she shouldit would not interest her. She never listens to things
that do not interest her.... You won't know Luke. He grows like a
Trudy found herself dismissed. She did not know just how it had come
about but Mary was smiling her into the elevator and Trudy was sinking
to the ground floor feeling that though it was none of her business
unless she got a diamond ring she was just going to make other people
Why this conclusion was reached was not at all clear to Trudy any
more than to the rest of the world. But after all, it is only fair to
leave something for the psychologists to debate about. At all events,
it was the definite conclusion at which she arrived.
She could not resist paying a fleeting return visit to the largest
of the jewellery stores. After which she told herself that it was
little short of going without shoes or stockings through the streets to
have been married the length of time she had been married and to
possess not a single diamond.
Returning home for a canned luncheon she discovered Gaylord humming
a love song and strumming on his ukulele.
I say, old dear, he began, I have had the greatest luck! I call
it nothing short of a fairy tale. He pointed at his neckscarf. Coming
near, Trudy bent over and gave way to a shrill scream. A handsome
diamond pin reposed in the old-rose silk.
Wherewhere did you get it? she managed to articulate.
Beatrice reallythe result of the raffle for the children's
charity. You remember we took tickets? She donated this scarfpin, and
this morning Jill Briggs came in and presented the trophy. My number
was the winning one: 56.
She made you win it. You know she did, you toadying little
abomination! You fairly lick her bootsand she has to tip you
occasionally. And you sit there wearing that pin and never offering to
have it set in a pin for me. You dare to keep ityou dare? She lost
Gay sprang up in alarm, the ukulele being the only weapon handy,
holding her off at arm's length. How low! he chattered. How
Is it? I'll show youI'll show you whether or not you can wear
diamond stickpins while I have to endure a wedding ring like a
Before Gay knew what was happening Trudy had left the house. A half
hour later a suave clerk's voice from the jewellery store was asking
him to step down at once, his wife had requested it, she had decided on
a ring for herself but wished his seal of approvalso did the
storeand a small depositwould he be able to be with them shortly?
He would, struggling with a man-size rage. After all, the little
five-eighths-carat stone he had so proudly adorned his bosom with would
be dearly paid for in the end. That was what came of marrying beneath
him, he reproached himself as he locked up the apartment and went down
to the store. To make a scene in a fifty-cent café was not worth the
effort, Trudy had once proclaimed, but to run the gauntlet of real
rough-house emotion in a jewellery store frequented by his clientele
would be social suicide. The only thing was to make Beatrice pay a
larger commission on the things for her new tea house so that he could
pay for this red-haired vixen's ring. But this would not in the least
dim the red-haired vixen's triumph, which was the issue at stake. From
that moment he began really to hate Trudy.
To her amazement he greeted her in honeyed tones, approved the ring,
and suggested that the wedding ring be turned in for old gold and
replaced by a modern creation and so on, produced a deposit, and walked
out with Trudy, who wore the new symbol of triumph on her finger,
proposing that they lunch downtown. He was determined to carry it
through without a moment's faltering.
Even Trudy was nonplussed. Once the treasure was secure in her
possession she told herself it had been so easy that she was a fool not
to have tried it beforeshe even complimented Gay on his scarfpin. But
she began hating him also. No one would have suspected it, to watch
these diamond-adorned young people guzzling crab-meat cocktails and
planning fiercer raids on Beatrice O'Valley's pocketbook.
Moreover, Trudy did not change in her decision to make someone
unhappy. She found that possessing a diamond ring did not remove her
discontentand a shamed feeling stole over her, causing her to wonder
how loudly she had screamed at Gay and how she must have looked when
she started to strike him in her blind rage; how horrible it was to go
off on tangents just because you wanted rings on your fingers and bells
on your toes when all the time the world did contain such persons as
Mary Faithful, who did not choose to claim a paradise which longed to
Trudy was unable to keep her fingers out of the pie. She found
herself naturally gravitating over to see Beatrice. Ostensibly she
wanted to display her new ring and talk about Gay's luck and the daring
gypsy embroideries he had just received from New York but really to
tell her Steve O'Valley, supposedly enslaved cave man, loved another
and a plainer woman than her own gorgeous self.
She found Beatrice in a négligé of delicately embroidered chiffon
with luxurious black-satin flowers as a corsage. She had seldom seen
her look as lovely; even the too-abundant curves of flesh were
concealed behind the lace draperies. She seemed this day of days to fit
into the background of the villa, as if some old master had let his
most adored brain child come tripping from a tarnished framea little
lady in old lace, as it were.
Beatrice had taken up a new activity since her father's stroke. At
first the stroke had frightened, then bored, then amused her. She
really liked having what she termed a comfortable calamity in the
family. It was something so new to plan for and talk about, such a
valid excuse if she did not wish to accept invitations, and an
excellent reason for runaway trips to Atlantic City or New York to get
away from it all for a littlepoor, dear papa.
So she sat with her father rather more than one would have expected,
made him listen to opera records which drove him to distraction, talked
to him of nothing, and tried to be a little sister to the afflicted in
a pink-satin and cream-lace setting.
She had lost her interest in TrudyTrudy no longer amused or
frightened her. And Gay had become so useful and attentive that had the
truth about the raffle been known it would be the astonishing
information that as Beatrice donated the tie pin she decided she should
pick the future ownerand Gay was the logical candidate to her way of
Also she was quite contented with Steve. He let her alone and he
adored hershe never doubted that. He wanted her to have everything
she wishedand that was the biggest, finest way to show one's love for
another. It was the only way that she had ever known existed. Of course
all brides have silly notions of perpetual adoration, that sort of
thing, and Steve was a cave man first and last, bless his old heart,
but they had passed any mid-channel which might exist and were happy
for all time to come. They seldom quarrelled, and she no longer tried
to make Steve over to her liking in small ways, and he seldom offered
her suggestions. Moreover, he was so good to her fatherand of course
everything was as it should be. It was simply the rather drab fashion
in which most lives are lived, and Beatrice was quite contented. She
had never gotten another toy dog, not even as a contrast to Tawny
Adonis. Really, Gay answered a multitude of needs!
But Trudy was a real personand a constant reminder of what
Beatrice herself might have been, and therefore Beatrice never ceased
to envy her or to picture how much better she could do were she in
Trudy's place. She preferred not having her about. Besides, Trudy was
impossible in Italian villasshe belonged in a near-mahogany
atmosphere with cerise-silk drapes and gaudy vases. Age-old elegancies
did not harmonize with her vivid self.
So she was not overly cordial in greeting Trudy. But Trudy with an
eye to mischief managed to draw her little lady-in-old-lace hostess
into a heart-to-heart talk. And before the afternoon ended Beatrice had
experienced the first real shock of her life. Her husband smoked a pipe
in Mary Faithful's living room and never told her; and Mary Faithful
admitted she loved someone very much and was with him each day in
business and so on; and Trudy had seen the smile pass between them
which signifies the perfect understanding! And oh, she did not know a
tenth of it, deary; not a tenth of it! It was one of those subtle,
hidden things, nothing tangible or dreadfullike a purgatorial state
of mind which may result in brimstone or lovely angels with harps.
Neither could she do anything about it since they were both perfect
dears and always would be. Not for worlds, in Trudy's estimation, would
they ever take it upon themselves to prove the brittleness of vows.
After which Beatrice thanked Trudy, wishing her a speedy death by
way of gratitude, going to her room to decide what her attitude should
To accuse Steve was crude; besides, she must be positive that it was
true. To get up an affair herself would be no heart balm since she had
never ceased having affairswell-bred episodes, rather, perfectly
harmless when all is said and done, quite like Steve's, for that
matter! She could not find a new interest in life until she had reduced
at least twenty pounds, since her dieting and exercises required all
surplus will power and thought. She would go away only her plans were
made for months ahead. She could not tell her fatherthe shock might
kill him.... There was really nothing left to do but sufferbe
wretched and wonder if it was true. A horrid state of uncertaintyto
ask herself how it could ever have happened and what would be the end,
and terrible thingsjust terrible things! No matter how large a check
she might write to buy herself a new toy it would have no bearing
whatsoever upon the matter. She wished to heaven Trudy had confined her
gossip to the funny little manicure with champagne eyes who flirted
with someone else's husband! This was her reward for having taken up
with a shopgirl person!
The final conclusion she reached was that she did not believe a word
Trudy had told her.
Beatrice took occasion to go to see Mary within the next few days.
In a particularly fetching costume of green satin with fly-away sleeves
steadied by silver tassels and a black hat aglow with iridescent plumes
she surprised Mary at an hour when Steve would be absent. On this
occasion Beatrice dressed to dazzle and intimidate one of her own sex.
But the result was unsatisfactory. She found Mary quite passable in
cloud-blue organdie, a contented look in her gray eyes.
Her own satin costume and plumed bonnet seemed a trifle theatrical.
She wished she had worn her trimmest tailored effect to impress upon
this tall young woman that no one else could wear tailor things so well
as Mrs. Beatrice O'Valley if she chose to do so.
What can I do for Mrs. O'Valley? Mary said, almost patronizingly,
I came in to say hello. I've neglected you lately. But you have
been so horrid about not coming to see my gardens that you deserve to
be neglected. Her dove-coloured eyes watched Mary closely. Besides, I
want to get something for Mr. O'Valley's deskas a surprise. You must
help me because, as I have realized, you know so much more about him
than I do.... There, am I not generous?
Very. Mary surmised that something of greater importance lay
behind the call than showing off the satin costume or selecting a
surprise for Steve.
What do you suggest? I'm such a frivolous person my husband never
tells me his affairs or wishes. The rugs might be in rags and he would
never ask me to replenish. I understand now so much more clearly than
ever before why business men and women are prone to fall in love with
each other; they see each other so constantly under tests of each one's
abilities. They have to ask each other favours and grant them.
Sometimes it is a loan of a pencil sharpener, more often it must be the
aid of the other fellow's brain to help solve a problem. And they are
so shut away from my world. I'm just the pretty mischief-maker who
squanders the dollars, and by and by, when self-pity sets in, they find
there is a mutual bond of admiration and sympathy. Quite a step toward
love, isn't it? As I came in here to-day I could not help thinking of
how beautifully you keep business house for my husband. Why, Mary
Faithful, aren't you afraid I am going to be jealous? She was
laughing, but the intention was to have the laugh blow away and the
sting of the truth remain.
Mary knew thisand Beatrice knew that she did. So trying to make
herself as formidable as a bunch of nettles Mary took heed to answer:
I'm afraid you have been reading novelsthe ones where the
business woman grows paler and more interesting looking each day and
somehow happens to be wearing a tempting little chiffon frock when the
firm fails and the young and handsome junior partner takes refuge in
her office and proceeds to brandish a gun and say farewell to the
world. You see, you don't come down to play with us enough to know what
prosaic rows there are over pencil sharpeners or who has spirited away
the drinking cup or why the window must be six inches from the top
because So-and-so has muscular rheumatism. I don't think you are fair,
Mrs. O'Valley, and I'm going to risk being quite unpopular by telling
you that you have no right to say such things even in jest.
Mary's eyes were very honest and her face seemed even firmer of chin
as she leaned her elbows on her desk, looking up at this pretty
figurine in satin and plumes.
Do you fancy it is any fun to go to work at thirteen or fourteen?
To rush through breakfast to stand in a crowded car, to have to make
your heart very small as the Chinese say, in order to appreciate the
pennies and keep them until they become dollarswhen all of you longs
to play Lady Bountiful? To rub elbows with untruthful mischief-makers,
coarse-mouthed foremen, impossible young fools who wish to flirt with
you and whom you do not dare to rebuke too sharply; to take your
hurried noon hour with little food and less fresh air and come back to
the daily grind; to walk home or hang on to the tag end of a street-car
strap and finally get to your room or your home so tired in body and
mind that you wish you had no soul, protesting faintly against girls
and women having to be in business?
No, I don't think you do realize. Or to run errands icy-cold days,
down slushy streets or slippery hills? To carry great bundles of such
daintiness as you are wearing and leave them at the doors of big houses
such as your own, numbed, hungry, enviousand not understanding the
wherefore of it? To catch glimpses of warm halls, the sound of a piano
playing in a flower-scented salon, to see girls your own age in dainty
silk dresses sitting in the window and looking at you curiously as you
go down the steps? Oh, I could tell you a great deal more, Mrs.
Eventually some of us survive and some do notwhich is another
story! Those of us who do, who endure such days that we may go to night
school, and who wear mended gloves and queer hats, forgoing the cheap
joys of our associateswe do forge ahead and grow grimmer of heart and
graver of soul. We realize that we are earning everything we are
gettingperhaps moreonly we cannot get the recognition we deserve.
We are quite different from what you stay-at-home women fancy. Tempting
chiffon frocks and love affairs de luxe with handsome junior partners
are farthest from our thoughts. We plan for lonely old agea home and
an annuity, a trip to Europe or some other Carcassonne of our thwarted
selves. We revel in things as you women dobut we revel in them
because people are shut away from us. You women shut away people that
you may revel in things.
All this time the handsome junior partners and so on for whom we
keep business house and through propinquity are supposed to lovethey
have fallen in love with sheltered girls such as your own self, and
everything is quite as it ought to be. Now do you really think the
capable business women of to-day are letting their abilities be spent
in useless rebellion against their fate and loving the members of the
firm in Victorian fashion or doing their work intelligently and earning
their wage? I hardly think there is room for an argument. You must
understand that the years of errand girl, night school, underpaid clerk
have taken out of us a certain capacity for enjoyment which you women
have had emphasized. But thank God it has also taken from us a capacity
for hysterical suffering, for going on the rocks when we see some joy
we crave yet know can never be ours!
Oh! Beatrice murmured, wishing Steve would come in or else Mary be
called to the telephone. Oh
But I do think there is a certain justice developed among modern
business women which home women do not comprehend as a rule. Oh, not
that I underestimate the home women or the sheltered women. There is a
distinction between the twobut I say that the business woman who
earns a man's wage and does his work has a certain squareness, for want
of a better term, which makes her say, 'If I earn something it is mine
and I shall not hesitate thus to label it. Look outany one who tries
to take it from me!' Do you see?
Mary paused, annoyed at what she had been prevailed upon to say, and
wondering if by good fortune her opinions had been delivered to empty
So you think you would fight for something to which you felt
Perhaps. The gray eyes had a warrior's strength in them. Fight,
win it, and then spend no time in sentimental regrets. We learn one
thing that all women should learn in this great age of selection: That
you must earn the things you win, and that if you do so you will most
likely keep them.
And if you felt that you had earned somethingand another woman
had notyou would play off the conqueror and take the spoils?
If I felt it the right thing to do.
Feeling as confused as a bank cashier when caught studying a
railroad map Mary hastened to suggest a picture of Beatrice handsomely
framed as a surprise for Steve. She was sure he would like nothing any
Beatrice felt chirked up upon hearing this. She told herself that
Trudy was an inveterate gossip and this queer young person must be
thinking aloud about revolutions in Russia or something like that;
anything else was too absurd. So she repeated her invitation to come to
see the gardens with their jewel-like pools and riotous masses of
colour, and went on her way to select a most gorgeous frame for a most
gorgeous portrait of herself.
Steve expressed his thanks for the surprise picture quite properly,
and after giving it a few days of prominence on his desk he relegated
it to a shelf beside a weather-beaten map of the Great Lakes which had
always been in the office.
And here another phase of the Gorgeous Girl's effort to do something
and exercise her faculties occurred. Though she regarded Trudy's gossip
as absurd she did not forget it. No woman would. It lay in waiting
until the right moment.
Her father's illness and Steve's worried look as he came home each
night caused Beatrice to cast about for something noble and remarkable
to do. The conclusion she reached was that it was her duty to retrench;
she was not going to have floor-scrubbing duchesses corner all the
economy feats. She would make it the mode to live simply, even be
penurious in some waysnow that she had the Villa Rosa and a season's
budget of frocks. She began looking over the monthly bills in deadly
earnest. The result was a blinding headache which prevented her going
in to see her father. She retired to her room in cream lace with
endless strings of coral, and left word for Steve to drop in on his way
to his own room.
Deary, I've been too extravagant, she began faintly as he opened
the door. She reached out her hand to find his.
He brought a chair over beside the chaise-longue and sat down
obediently, holding the small, fragrant fingers in his own. I'd be
mighty glad if you felt you could live more simply.
You duck! Just what I'm about to do. I'm going to be the loveliest
Queen Calico you ever did seeI've no doubt but what I'll be making
you a beefsteak pudding before long.
Steve smiled. Who will take this castle of gloom from under us?
Oh! We may as well stay hereI don't mean that sort of
retrenchingI mean in other ways. I'm not going to give expensive
bridge parties or keep three motors and a saddle horseI can't ride
any more, anywayand I'm not going to have a professional reader for
papa. Aunt Belle, you, and I can manage thatthat will take fifteen
dollars a week from the expenses. Besides, I am going to have
three-course dinners from now onno game, fish, or extra sweet. That
will make a differencein time. I shall not buy the new dinner set I
had halfway orderedit was wonderful, of course, but I have no right
to use money for nonsense. Papa can give it to me for my birthday if he
wants to. Gifts don't count, do they, Stevuns?
Then there is the servant question. Now cook is seventy-five
dollars a month; the three maids are fifty each, besides all they steal
and waste; the laundress and her helper, the chauffeur and all the
garden men; the food, light, heatto say nothing of extra expenses; my
parties and trips and the enormous bills for taxes and upkeep that papa
paysI'm afraid to say how much it comes to each month. But it is
going to stop! Then my clothesI'm just ashamed to thinkwhile you,
poor dear, exist on nothingOh, thank you, Elsie. A maid had
brought in a supper tray.
I didn't want to come downstairs, so I sent for some lunch. She
watched Steve's amused expression. Aunt Belle gets on my nerves and
unless we are having people in, the room is too big to have a family
On the tray was a dish heaped with tartlettes aux fruits, cornets à
la crème, babas au rhum, petits fours, madeleines, and Napoléons. There
was another dish filled with marrons glacés and malaga grapes preserved
in sugar. A few faint wedges of bread and butter pointed the way to the
pot of iced chocolate and the pitcher of whipped cream.
Well, Steve ventured, looking at the tray, I'm afraid I don't
I know your ideas. You think I ought to be frying chops for you and
giving praise because I have a nineteen-dollar near-taffeta dress. I
can just see you walking round a two-by-four back yard measuring the
corn and putting the watermelons into eiderdown sleeping bags so they
won't freeze; then telling everyone at the shop what an ideal home life
you lead! No, deary, I'm retrenching because it's a novelty, and you
would like to retrench
Because I may be forced to do so. I hate to worry youI never mean
to unless there is no other way outbut I must warn you that the
abnormal war conditions are no longer inflating business and everyone
is watching his step. I cannot take your father's place; he carved it
out step by step. I fairly aeroplaned to the top and found that while I
was sitting there in fancied security other people were busy chopping
down the steps and I should find myself having a great old fall down to
Don't tell any more things, she murmured, deep in a fruit tart. I
can't understand. You are a big, strong man. Go keep your fortune; let
me play. I'll retrench for fun, and you must love me for it.
But you are not sincere, he protested. You don't earn anything.
You don't save anything
Beatrice sat upright, laying aside her plate and fork. So you
believe that, too, she half whispered.
See here, Steve added, in desperation. I wish we were back in the
apartmentor a simple house. I wish we kept a cook and a maid and you
had a simple outfit of clothes and a simple routine. I wish we were
just folksyou know the sortyou don't find them any place else but
Americait's a tremendous chance to be just folks if you would only
realize. I feel as if this were a soap-bubble castle, as if we were
deliberately playing a wrong game all round.
You tell papa, she begged; and if he thinks I'm unhappy he will
write me another check.
Then the retrenching is to be the elimination of the
fifteen-dollar-a-week professional reader, who needs the work and earns
the money, and two courses from our already aldermanic meals? What
I shall send the silver to the bank and use plate. The smartest
people do that. I shall make aunty embroider my monograms; she can as
well as notthe last were frightfully expensive. I'm going to bargain
sales after this, and take cook and drive out to the Polish market.
Why, things are two and three cents a pound cheaper
Steve rose abruptly, tipping over the dainty chair as he did so. He
tried to straighten out the pinky rug and set the chair properly upon
it. Then he squared off his shoulders and dutifully stooped to kiss his
economical little helpmate.
All right, darling, he said, glibly, feeling that Gorgeous Girls
were get-rich-quick men's albatrosses, that will be very amusing for
you. It will tide you over until the horse-show season. Now if you
don't mind I'm going below to ask what the chances are for some roast
Toward Christmas, when Beatrice had gone to New York with friends
and Mark Constantine discovered that dying is ever so much harder than
death, Mary told Steve that she was considering a new position, with a
firm dealing in fabrics, a firm of old and honourable reputation.
She laid the letter from her prospective employers on his desk, in
almost naïve fashion. It was as if she wanted to show this was no
woman's threat but a bona-fide and businesslike proposition. And if she
blushed from sheer foolish joy at the disappointed and protesting
expression that came into his face it was small solace after the
struggle she had undergone before she made herself take this step.
You are not going, he began, angrily. I'm damned if you do!
Oh, my dear, my own dear, she murmured within. Outwardly she shook
her head briskly and added, Yes, I am. The hoursthe salary
The deuce take that stuff! How much more money do you want me to
pay you? How few hours a day will you consent to work? You know so well
it has been you who have done your own slave driving. Besides, I can't
get on without you.
You must; I haven't the right to stay.
Steve stood up, crumpling the letter in his hand. You mean because
of what I saidthat time?
Partly; partly because I find myself disapproving of your
They are a safe gamble, he began, vehemently.
Are they? I doubt it. Don't ask me to stay. I want to remain poised
and content. If I cannot be radiantly happy I can be content, the sort
of old-lavender-and-star-dust peace that used to be mine.
Have I ever said things, made you feel or do
Oh, no. As she looked at him the gray eyes turned wistful purple.
But it is what we may say or do, Mister Penny Wise.
Steve looked at the crumpled letter. So you are going over to staid
graybeards who deal in cotton and woollens, and play commercial nun to
the endis that it?
And you do care? he persisted, brutally.
Yes, she answered, defiantly.
Well, I don't care about fool lawsthey are mighty thin stuff. I
love you, he told her with quiet emphasis.
Mary did not answer but the purple of the eyes changed back to
Why don't you say something? Abuse me, claim me
I haven't the courage even if I have the right, she said,
presently. Besides, the last year I have been loving an idealthe
Steve O'Valley who existed one time and might still exist if other
things were equal. But in reality you are a prematurely
nerve-shattered, blundering pirate; not my Steve. She spoke his name
softly. The failure of my idealand it's a little hard to live with
and work with such a failure. My hands are tied, yet my eyes see.
Besides, there is Luke to think about and care for until some other
woman does it. I cannot endure this tangle; neither can I get you out
of it. So I am going away. And I'll keep on loving my ideal and find
the old-lavender-and-star-dust sort of peace.
You are not going! he repeated, sharply, taking her hand. Do you
hear? I love you. I have loved you enough to keep silent about it ever
since that day. Does it mean nothing to you?
Don't say it againit is so hopeless, part of the tangle. You
haven't the faintest idea how hopeless it is; you are so involved you
cannot judge. My boy, don't you see that the whole trouble lies in
getting things you have never earned? The sort of joy you people
indulge in and try to hold as your own is a state of mind and emotion
from which no lessons may be learnedcalm, stagnant pools of
superlative surface pleasure. No one learns things worth while when he
is too happy or too successful. That is why success is a wiser and more
enduring thing when it comes at middle age. The young man or woman has
not been tried out, has not had to struggle and discover personal
limitations. It's the struggle that brings the wisdom.
But when you have a ready-made stock-market fortune handed to you,
and a Gorgeous Girl wife, and the world comes to fawn upon youyou
soon become intoxicated with a false sense of your own achievements and
values. It does not lastnor does it pay. Such joy periods are merely
recuperative periods. By and by something comes along and bumps into
you and you are shoved out into the struggling seasthe learning and
conquering game. It is not a sad state of affairsbut a mighty wise
one. Then how can you, who have never earned, expect a joy to be yours
You have struggled and earned. You have the right to love me!
Perhapsbut you cannot hide behind my skirts and claim the same
right. I shall give you up. Why, this is no tragedyit is the way many
commercial nuns find their lives are cast. Commercial nuns, like their
religious sisters, serve a novitiatetheir vocation being tested out.
We who find that the things of our fancy are husks leave them behind
and go on in our abilities. We are needed women to-day; we must have
recognition and respect. We possess a certain unwomanly honesty
according to old standards, which makes us say such things as I have
said to you. I love you, the ideal of you; yet I am hopeless to realize
it. I refuse to keep on making my petty moan for sympathy when all the
time the bigger part of me demands work and contentmentand things
just like Gorgeous Girls.
But there must be a way out. I can't lose you. Do you know what it
I fancy I do. The gray eyes were so maternal that Steve felt
Are you pushing me out of a stagnant joy pool? he tried saying
Perhaps I'm heading that way when I stop serving you before all
Mary, Mary, quite contraryhe gave her a gentle little
shakesay it all again. Then tell me if this is a mood and you'll
change your mind and stay. You must stayor else you don't love me.
Eternal masculine! That we love to be beaten, cry loudly, tell our
neighbours, but we must prove our affections by crawling back to have
you kiss the bruises. She shook her head. You cannot believe that the
world recognizes a difference between women with sentiments and
sentimental women! Why, my boy, do you know that convictions, real
convictions, do make a convict of a man, put a mental ball and chain on
him which he can never deny? I have told you my convictionsI am
convinced I should be doing wrong to both of us to stay. I shall
goand love my ideal and spend my salary in soothing things.
I'm not afraid of a divorce, he found himself insisting.
Nor I. But should you get one I would not marry you.
Not ever? he asked.
Unconsciously they both looked at the photograph of the Gorgeous
Girl smiling down on them in serene and frivolous fashion.
Not ever, she told him, turning away.
There was a directors' meeting, which Steve was obliged to attend.
He knew he sat about a table smoking innumerable cigars without a
coherent idea in his head as to what was being said or considered. When
he rushed back to the office Mary had gone home and left a note tucked
in his blotter. He did not know that Beatrice had dropped in and
discovered it, reading it with great satisfaction and carefully
replacing it so as to have the appearance of never having been
disturbed. All it said was:
I shall go to the Meldrum Brothers on the fifteenth.M. F.
He tore the note up in a despairing kind of rage and wrote Mary as
impetuous a love letter as the Gorgeous Girl had ever received. Five
minutes after writing it he tore that up, too. Then he called himself
several kinds of a fool and dashed out to order an armful of flowers
sent to her apartment. He had his supper in a grill room, to give him a
necessary interlude before he went home. He walked round and round a
city square watching the queer, shuffling old men with their trays of
needles and pins, wrinkled-faced women with fortune-telling parrots,
and silly young things prancing up and down, bent on mischief.
Something about human beings bored him; he regretted exceedingly that
he was one himself; and at the same tune he wished he might countermand
the florist's order. He took a taxi home and wondered what apology he
should make for being late. He had forgotten that there was a dinner
In silver gauze with an impressive square train Beatrice greeted
him, to say he might as well remain invisible the rest of the evening,
it would look too absurd to have him appear an hour late with some
clumsy excuseand as there was an interesting Englishman who made an
acceptable partner for her everything was taken care of. Papa, minus
the professional reader, was lonesome. He had discovered an intricate
complaint of his circulation and would welcome an audience.
With relief Steve stole away to Constantine's room and amid medicine
bottles and boxes, air cushions, hot-water bags, and detective stories,
he listened with half an ear to the reasons why his blood count must be
taken again and what horse thieves the best of doctors were anyhow!
The fifteenth of December Mary Faithful left the office of the
O'Valley Leather Company, carrying the thing off as successfully as
Beatrice O'Valley carried off her wildest flirtation. As Mary had often
said: When you can fool the letter man and the charwoman you have
nothing to fear from the secret service.
And no employee of the office suspected that anything lay beneath
the surface reasons given for changing firms. She accepted the handsome
farewell gift with as much apparent pleasure as if she were to be
married and it were a start toward her silver chest. Mary, too, had
learned how to pretend. Nor did she permit Steve to come
snarlingmasculine fashion of sobbingat her in vain protests trying
to shake her from her resolve.
During the last days of rushed work to help her successor find the
way comparatively easy Mary kept Steve at arm's length. The same
strange joy at having told him her secret and released the tension was
being relived again in knowing that she was to leave the tangle with
the Gorgeous Girl in command of it, and go live her commercial nun's
existence in the offices of unromantic old graybeards who merely
thought of her as a mighty clever woman who would not demand an
Mary felt that she had truly passed her commercial novitiate; she
made herself admit that a commercial life was hers for all time. She
would leave a forbidden world of romance, watching Luke become a
six-footer and an embryo inventor as her special pride and pleasure. It
was good to have it settled, to have it a scar, pale and calm,
throbbing only under extreme pressure. She even welcomed Beatrice's
hurried visit to the office and met with gentle patience her
half-veiled reproaches for leaving her husband's employ.
I can't see why you go, Beatrice protested, undecided whether it
was because Steve and Mary had come to some understanding, as Trudy
hinted, and it would be wiser for Mary to be removed from the everyday
scene of action; or whether Mary had never thought of Steve except as a
man who would not pay her such and such a salary and therefore, being
tailor-made of heart as well as dress, she coolly picked up her pad and
pencil and was walking off the lot. With the complacent conceit of all
Gorgeous Girls who fancy that clothes can always conquer, Beatrice
really inclined toward the latter theory. But being a woman she could
not resist having a few pangs of unrest and trying out her fancied
detective ability upon Mary.
She brought her a farewell gift alsoa veil case which had been
given to Beatrice two summers ago. A fresh ribbon had made it quite all
right, so she acted the Lady Bountiful as she presented her offering
and listened carefully to Mary's sensible reply.
I can't go running off to Bermuda and Florida like you people can.
I am forced to find my recreation in my workand hides and razors are
a queer combination for a woman who really likes gardens and sea
bathing. She laughed so genuinely that Beatrice told herself that
Trudy was an unpardonable little fool. I have stayed at the post for
some time, and now that I've the chance to change my recreation to
fabricsI'm tempted to try it. I'm sure you do understandand it is
with great regret that I leave the office.
It will make it hard for Mr. O'Valley, Beatrice continued,
blandly. Of course I have realized what an unusual man my husband
ishis phenomenal rise and all that; and papa has always said he never
met any one who was so keen as Steve. I have always tried to be
diplomatic in whatever I said to Mr. O'Valley about his business; I
never encourage his discussing it at home since it is not fair to ask
him to drag it into his playtime. So I can't talk over actual details
with you. But I know it will be hard for him and he will have quite a
time getting readjusted. He says this Miss Coulson is a nice girl but
temperamentally a Jersey cow.
Beatrice smiled at this; she had viewed Miss Coulson immediately
upon the news concerning Mary's resignation, and had felt more than
satisfied. Even Beatrice realized that Miss Coulson was a nice
pink-and-white thing who undoubtedly had a cedar chest half filled with
hope treasures and would at the first opportunity exchange her desk for
a kitchen cabinet and be happy ever after.
When Beatrice tried discussing the matter with Steve he responded so
listlessly and seemed so apathetic about either Miss Coulson or Mary
that Beatrice became vastly interested in fall projects of her own,
telling Aunt Belle that her theory was correct: It was easier to be
disappointed in one's husband than in one's friends, and that Steve was
the sort who was never going to be concerned about his wife's
disappointment; in fact, he would never realize it had occurred.
The night Mary left the office for good and all, leaving clean and
empty desk room for Miss Coulson and the little tea appointments as a
token of good will, Luke met her at the corner and they walked home
Are you sorry? Luke asked, curiously. He had been too busy in
technical high school to be office boy for some time past.
No; only you grow accustomed to things. You remember how mother
felt about the old house. Somehow the thing was harder to discuss with
Luke as a questioner than with any one else.
I guess they'll miss you a lot.
Everyone's place can be filled, we must never forget that. And I
think the change is wise. The new firm seems agreeable.
Did Mr. O'Valley give you anything?
Mary flushed. It had been Luke who received the armful of flowers
The firm gave me the wonderful desk set; you saw it before it was
sent to be monogrammed.
Yes, but I mean Mr. O'Valley himself. Luke was quite manly and
threatening as he strode along. Something for a keepsake because
you've worked so hard for him.
They paused at a corner to wait for the traffic to abate. Mary felt
faint and queer, as if she had lost her good right hand and was trying
to tell herself it wasn't such a bad thing after all because she would
only have to buy one glove from now on. Never to go into Steve's
office, never to talk with him, listen to him, advise and influence
him! She wanted to forget the sudden burst of affection, the protests
of love, for she could not believe them true. What she wanted was to
return to the old days of guarded control.
Beatrice's cab whirled by just then and Mary caught a glimpse of the
Gorgeous Girl in a gray cloak with a wonderful jewelled collar, and
Steve beside her. As the cab passed and Mary and Luke struck out across
the street Mary experienced a sense of defeat. As she talked to Luke of
this and that to turn his mind from the too-fascinating question of who
sent the flowers, she began to wonder if she, too, would not wish to be
a Gorgeous Girl should the opportunity present itself? What would her
brave platitudes count if she could wear bright gold tulle with slim
shoulder straps of jet supporting it? Away with sport attire and
untrimmed hats! To have absurdly frivolous little shoes of blue
brocade; to wear the brown hair in puffs and curls and adorned with
jade and pearls; to have a lace scarf thrown over her shoulders and a
greatcoat of white fur covering the tulle frock; to go riding, riding,
riding, at dusk through the crowded streets filled with envying
shop-girls and clerks, hard-working men and women. To ride in an
elegant little car with fresh flowers in a gold-banded vase, a tiny
clock saying it was nearly half after six, outside a gray fog and a
rain creeping up to make the crowds jostle wearily that they might
reach shelter before the storm broke. To have Steve, handsome and
adoring, beside her, laughing at her indulgently, excusing her
frivolous little self, adoring the fragile, foolish soul of her. At
least it would be worth while trying.
I can get a construction set for six dollars, Luke was saying.
That will make the bridge models I told you about last week. I'm going
to get one.
Yes, dear, I would, she punctuated the conversation recklessly,
and then another crowd swept about them and more elegant little cabs
with more Gorgeous Girls and their cavaliers whirled by. Mary hated her
stupid sophistry about commercial nuns, novitiates and all, her plain
gray-eyed spinster self doomed to a Persian cat and a bonus at sixty.
She realized that she had merely given herself an anæsthetic, just
as Steve had done, one of unreality and indifference, and that no one
stays dormant under its power for all time. That all so-called
commercial nuns try hard to convince themselves that watching the
procession pass by is quite the best way of all. Yet there is scant
truth or satisfaction in the statement. At some time or other the
hunger for being loved crashes through the spinster's brave little
platform, the hunger for becoming necessary to someone in other ways
than writing letters or adding figuresto be home, beside the hearth,
keeping the fires burning, with woes and cares and monotonous incidents
of such a narrowed horizon. It was for this we were created, Mary
Faithful told herselfto be the dreamers and the ballast and the
inspiration of the race. And if commercial nuns have managed to tell
themselves otherwisewell, who shall be brutal enough to cry I spy
on their little secret? She understood now the abnormal restlessness
that she had seen in others of her friendsthe marriages with men
beneath them in class who earned but half what they did; unwise
flirtations, even the sordid things that occasionally creep into the
horizon. And she blamed none of them for any of it.
She knew now that should the chance come she would want to be a
Gorgeous Girl. Gorgeous Girls have the faculty of being loved, even if
they do not merit the emotion. Tailor-made nuns only love, and finally
set their consciences to work to convince themselves that a new firm
and more severe collars will be the best way to forget.
Luke was still talking about the construction set and the new
invention and patent rights and heavy wool sweater with a bean cap for
the summer vacation. Mary was saying: Yes, of course, and How
interesting! at intervals; and so they reached home, where Mary could
plead a headache and go to her room to battle it out alone.
She felt, too, that the town crier could truthfully announce that
milady was returning to tea gowns for an indefinite period. And she
felt a passionate hunger to be one of them. That women were going to
rejoice, the majority of them, to take off their lady-major uniforms,
stop driving tractors and wearing overalls, and with the precious
knowledge of the experience they would evolve quite a new-old standard,
as charming as lavender and lace and as old as Timethe gentlewoman!
They would no longer accentuate their ugliness with that unlovely
honesty of the feminist which has been quite as distressing as the
impossible Victorian lack of honesty and everlasting concealment of
vital things. They would no longer be feminists or ladies, but
gentlewomen who sew their own seam, who neither struggle unseen nor
flaunt their emotions in the face of sex psychologists.
And that both commercial nuns and Gorgeous Girls must be on the
wane. Yet it was too late for Mary Faithful.
* * * * *
For many reasons Steve stayed away from Mary. At intervals he sent
her flowers without a card, such a schoolboyish trick to do and yet so
harmless that Mary sent him no word of thanks or blame. She merely
dreamed her gentlewoman's dreams and did her work in the new office
with the same systematic ability as she had employed for Steve's
benefit, causing the new firm to beam with delight. She had an even
more imposing office than formerly, spread generously with fur rugs,
traps for the weak ankles of innocent callers. She was treated with
great respect. One time Steve came to see about some civic banquet in
which the head of Mary's new firm was concerned, and Mary made herself
close her door and begin dictating so as to appear to be occupied. The
next day he slipped a love letter into the bouquet of old-fashioned
flowers he selected for her benefit, and Mary forced herself to write a
card and forbid his continuing the attentions.
In March Gaylord Vondeplosshe telephoned Mary, about nine o'clock
one evening, that Trudy was quite ill and wanted to see her. Would Mary
mind coming over if he called in the roadster? There was a fearsome
tone in his voice which made Mary consent despite Luke's protests.
Gay was even more pale and weaker eyed than ever when he came into
the apartment, his motor coat seeming to hang on his knock-kneed,
It seemed Trudy had not been really well for some time. She was such
an ambitious little girl, he explained, excusing himself in the matter
at the outset. He had begged her to rest, to go away, even commanding
it, but she was so ambitious, and there was so much work on hand that
she stayed. It all began with a cold. Those low-cut waists and pumps in
zero weather. She would not take care of herself and she dragged round,
and refused medicine, and he, Gay, had done everything possible under
the circumstances; he wanted Mary to be quite clear as to this point.
They finally reached the apartment house, where Gay clambered out
and offered Mary his left little finger as a means of support on the
icy walk. When she came into the front bedroom of the apartmenta
shabby room when one looked at it closelyand looked at Trudy she saw
death written in the thin white face bereft of rouge, the red curls
lying in limp confusion on the silly little head.
Oh, Mary, Trudy began, coughing and trying to sit up, I thought
you'd never come. Why, I'm not so sickGay, go outside and wait for
the doctor and the nurse. Just think, I'm going to afford a nurse. Oh,
the pain in the chest is something fierce. She had lapsed into her
old-time vernacular. Every bone of me aches and my heart thumps as if
it was awful mad at me. I guess it ought to be, Mary. How good it is to
have you. Take off your things. Gee, that pain is some pain! UmI
wonder if the doctor can help.
Do you want me to stay all night?
Mary was doing some trifle to make her more comfortable. Trudy
seemed too weak to answer but she smiled like a delighted child. She
pointed a finger, the one wearing the diamond ring, to a chair beside
the bed. Mary drew it up closer and sat down.
Now, my dear, you must put on a warm dressing gown and something to
pad your chestthis nightgown is a farce, she said, sternly, rising.
Where shall I find something? Oh, Trudydon't!
Trudy had halfway lifted herself in bed with sudden pain, moaning
and laughing in terrible fashion. Mary caught her in her arms. Trudy
lay back, quite contented.
My, but I've been a bluff, she said, tears on the white, shiny
cheeks. Gee, but that doctor takes his time, too. I had to beg
something great before husband would go for you. He's awful mean, but I
always told you he was, and he would have a fine time if I should die,
wouldn't he? More terrible little laughs as Trudy still nestled in the
warm curve of Mary's arm.
You mustn't talk, Mary said. That's an order.
Gay tiptoed in to say that the doctor had returned but no nurse was
available. They might get one in a few days.
I'll stay, Mary offered.
Trudy smiled again. RatherhaveMary, she managed to gasp.
The doctor was a preoccupied man who did not fancy late calls on
foolish little creatures wearing silk nightgowns when they were nearing
death. He gave some drastic orders and Gay was dispatched with a list
of articles to be bought while Mary hunted high and low in the
disorderly apartment, finally wrapping Trudy in thick draperies, the
only sensible things she could discover.
Trudy lay very still for a few minutes. Mary thought she was dozing
until she said in an animated voice: Did you see the ring? It's a
wonderful stone. Wilfully she thrust her skeleton-like fingers out
from the bed covers.
Mary nodded. But Trudy was not to be discouraged.
Gee, but that ring made a lot of trouble. Mary, come here, deary.
Will you forgive me? They say you forgive the dead anything. Listen, I
was awfully discouraged and Gay was so mean and I was all wrong,
anywayyou knowfoolishsee? Beatrice was mean, too.... I want you
to marry Steve because he loves you, and a divorce won't break her
heartyou just see if it does. I always knew he was the one you
likedand he does care now. Sure, he does. You can tell. Even I can
tell, Mary.... I just told her soand my, she is wild but won't admit
it. She never asked me to her house after that if she could get out of
it. And now I'm sorryand I want you to have the ring. That will help
some, won't it? You tell Gay what I said. You must have it. Your
fingers are thin and long and can carry it off well. And so you do
forgive me, don't you? I shouldn't have told her, but I couldn't help
it, she was so mean. And now he caresand you can be happy
You told Mrs. O'Valley?
Trudy was panting. Perspiration stood on the white forehead as she
managed to finish: I said you always loved her husband and now he
loves youand I am sorry. But I was mad at them all; you can't
understand because you're not my sort.... But you can be happy now.
Marry him and make him happy.
She dozed into a contented sleep. A little later it was all over.
Gay's course of action was exactly what his wife had prophesied. He
displayed all the proper symptoms of mourning and grief as far as his
clothing and stationery went. After a brief period of retirement from
the world, during which he chattered with fear when he wrapped Trudy's
gay little possessions in bundles and gave them away, he emerged in the
satisfactory role of a young widower on the loose who feels that
Perhaps it was all for the best; an idyl of youth, y'know; someone
quite out of my sphere, and was welcomed by the old set
Beatrice particularly saw to it that he was petted and properly
cared for regarding invitations and dainties to eat and drink. In this
new rôle, with a well-established business and no shrewd red-haired
wife to point out his meannesses and try to make him go fifty-fifty
with the profits, Gay felt at peace with all the world.
He did not even miss Trudy's work after a little. The only thing
that bothered him was an occasional memory of the white, thin face and
those limp, red curls, the hacking cough and the way her big eyes had
stared at him that last night. He hated anything connected with
suffering of any kind, let alone death itself.
Before long Gay found himself back at the club and running a neat
shop on a prominent corner with deaf mutes from charity institutions
ensconced in the back rooms to do the work. Memories of Trudy and of
their life together became as remote as the menu of a dinner eaten
twelve months past.
He had her ring set over for himself, Mary never having mentioned
the matter. In fact, he avoided Mary as he avoided Steve, for it was
Mary who had spent the last moments with Trudy, and whatever was said
remained a most uncomfortable mystery, to Gay's way of thinking. She
had remained at the apartment to help Gay through his sorrow, looking
at him with brief scorn as he stammered inane thanks, scantily
concealing his impatience to sample a basket of wine just sent in.
As Easter Sunday came slipping into the calendar, with Mary and Luke
sightseeing in New York in plebeian fashion and not ashamed of it,
there came a great though not unexpected crash in Steve O'Valley's
fortunes. Steve's unreckoned-with enemies were about to have their
innings; they succeeded in bringing Steve down to the level of being
forced to ask his father-in-law for aid and admit that he could not
handle Constantine's affairs or what remained of them.
This was exactly what the enemies desired. A number of things
combined to make the crash a mighty one. Steve still speculated,
secure, he fancied, in his surplus savings; his speculations all ended
disastrously and his factories were no longer hustling places of
commerce. It was a case of keen competition for orders, and closing
round Steve relentlessly was a circle of enemies forming a gigantic
trust which played the big-fish-swallow-the-little-fish game. Knowing
of Steve's disaster on the stock exchange, as well as the thin ice on
which his industries were managing to survive, the trust now invited
him to become one of themat a ridiculous figureor else be squeezed
out of the game overnight.
Steve's first emotion upon receiving the offer was nonchalance and
determination to appear unconcerned and weather it throughso he held
out as long as he could, plunging in the stock market, with the result
that he was beaten as if he had been a street vendor whose wares were
confiscated by the police authorities.
It was not a time to do some new devil-may-care thing. Fortunes were
not achieved as they had been from 1914 to 1919, and Steve told himself
in vain that since it was luck that had made him it must be luck that
should again bring him out on top of the heap. All at once luck seemed
no jaunty chap with endless pockets of gold but rather a disgruntled,
threadbare old chap who said: None of you ever treats me rightly when
I do smile on you; now go take care of yourselves any way you like, for
you have ruined me, too.
With this pleasant state of affairs Steve came home to the Villa
Rosa one April day, half of him wondering if Mary would let him come
and tell his story and the other half trying to hope that the news of
his failure would prove the saving grace between the Gorgeous Girl and
himself, that she would accept his plea of becoming just folks and
starting anew, her father's wealth in the background, entirely removed
from Steve's new field of endeavours.
[Illustration: A get-rich-quick man always pays for his own speed"]
It did not take long to disillusion Steve as to this. Beatrice
accepted the news of the stock failure and the new trust so easily that
he saw she was incapable of changing her viewpoint.
Why gamble so, my dear Stevuns? she began, almost petulantly. And
do you know that every time I make engagements for you you are late?
You are nearly a half hour late to-night.
I am losing the factory as well. I'll have to sell out for a song.
I can't compete with cutthroats
Are you going to hurry and dress so we can go? She smiled her
At one time Steve would have noted only that white tulle and pearls
spun witchery, and her skirt possessed the charm of a Hawaiian girl's
dancing costume. Even at this juncture he recalled and smiled at past
You don't seem to understand what I am saying, and all that is
happening. First I played Arizona copper until they taught me not to
monkey with the band wagon; then I played Cobalt until the same thing
took place. He sank impolitely into an easy-chair. Then I got the
chance to come in with the gangan insulting proposition any way you
want to figurea paltry sum for everything I have and the statement in
veiled terms that I need not expect to have that unless I did as they
Wellsell your business to someone else before this happens!
I couldn't even if I wished to cheat; it is quite the talk of the
Wellmanage. Papa will tell you how. Why do you come running to
me? Goodness, don't stare like that. It's nothing unusual to manage! I
don't know about businessyou made a lot of money once and I should
think you could do it again.
It doesn't bother me as much as you think, he said, almost
breathlessly, eager to know the worst. It means I am a poor man in
your estimation. I can sell out to these people, who have thrown a
steel ring round their game, so to speak, and had to do it until your
father was out of the running. I can never buck themI'm not fool
enough to be goaded on to try. Your father could not win out the way
things are nowbut he could have prevented their ever getting the
upper handbecause he knows every last turn of the wheel. They could
not have fooled him. I didn't know what was coming until it was too
late. A get-rich-quick man always pays for his own speed!
Stevuns, you'll make me so nervous I can't go to-night. It's a
lovely party. You stay home and tell papa all about it, but leave me in
Thank you, I will. And is this the sympathy and the understanding
you give me when I say we are being ruined?
Don't keep saying it. She stamped her little foot. Papa has lots
of money in English and Chinese securities and I don't know what-all.
Why, that factory of his was the least of his fortune.
That is why your father deliberately lifted three fourths of his
money from the business just before he was taken ill. He was not going
to risk cutthroats getting together. He overestimated my ability to
keep clear of disaster. But after all, I'm not sorryI don't want
anything more than I have earned. For you always pay for it in some
way. The world may not know but these snap-judgment profiteers, these
get-rich-quick phenomena, always have to pay. But you don't
understand, he added, gently, do you? You must not be blamed for not
understanding anything unless it comprises a good time!
I shall not try, she said, petulantly, and if you love me you
will hurry to change your things and tell papa briefly. To-morrow will
be time enough to go into detail and have him start you into something
I didn't take your father's money to marry you with, and even if I
stole it in a sense it was my own efforts that brought it to pass. I
took no help from him until I was established. And I shall not sneak
back to let my wife's father support me now. I'm going to drop out of
this game, Beatrice. It is for you to decide whether you go with me or
stay at the Villa Rosa. He stood up suddenly and came close to her,
looking down at her, in all her fragile loveliness, wondering, half
hoping, halfway expecting that a miracle might happen even as he had
hoped for the miracle of his fortunethat at this late hour she might
cease to be a mere Gorgeous Girl and understand.
Beatrice frowned, playing with her fan. You look shabby and tired,
she complained; not my handsome Steve. You don't mean such things,
because you do love me and you know I could never be happy living any
other way. I'm all papa has and he wants me to have everything I want.
Of course I want this dear house and you and all that both of you mean,
so be a lamb and get dressed and papa will help you into some nice safe
business that can never fail.
She stood on her tiptoes, about to kiss him. But he pushed her away.
You mean you won't begin with me, you won't take our one chance for
happiness? Just to begin together to learn and earn, be real? Do you
think for one instant I will be like Gay Vondeplosshe, subsisting on a
woman's bounty? No. I shall support my wife; it was never my wish that
we come here to live, and you insisted upon luxuries my purse could not
afford. In the main, to the outsider, I have supported you. But we both
know it is not true; I have merely been a needful accessory. From now
on I shall either support you or else not live with you. I ask you to
stop having a good time long enough to give me your decision.
Oh, Stevunsyou funny old brutish dear!
If it were a direct loan of money from your father it would be a
different matterbut it is one of those intricate, involved deals that
mean more than you or I choose to admit. It means that I have learned
the hollow satisfaction in being a rich man and husband of a Gorgeous
Girl. I want to be a plain American with a wife who is content with
something else save a Villa Rosa and pound-and-a-half lap dogs. I am
going to be a mediocre failure in the eyes of your set, since it is the
only way in which I can start to be a true success in other than dollar
standards. The two elements that collect a crowd and breed newspaper
headlines are mystery and struggle; remove them and you find yourself
serene and secure. That is what I propose to do. I ask if it is too
late for you to come with me or are you going to linger in the Villa
Rosa? Answer meI want something real, common, definitecan't you
If you ever dare treat me like this again she began,
Steve brushed by her and up the stairs. He went into Constantine's
room, where the old man lay in helpless discontent, his dulling eyes
looking at the sunken gardens and the chattering peacocks and his heart
longing for Hannah and the early days together.
Why, Steve, he said in a pleased tone, you look as if they were
after you. Thought you'd forgotten me. That nurse Bea engaged has a
voice like a scissors grinder in action.
Briefly Steve told him what had taken place, not mentioning
Beatrice's name. It had an astonishing effect; as a mental tonic it was
not to be surpassed, for the fallen oak of a man throbbed anew with
life, as much as was possible, his hands twitching with rage, his teeth
grinding, and the dulled eyes bright with interest.
The dogs! I knew it! Why didn't you tell me long before? Blocked
'em offsnuffed 'em out. Meddling with wildcat stocksasinine any way
you figure it! Well, I don't know that I blame you. The first success
was too sweet to leave untried again, eh? He chuckled as if something
amused him. We'll close out to 'em. We'll start again
I don't want another fortune handed me, Steve interrupted. I want
to earn it, if you please. I'm not a pauper in the true sense of the
word; I am merely trained down to the proper financial weight for a man
of my age and experience to carry, and I can now enter the ring with
good chances. The other way was as absurd as the four-year-old prodigy
who typewrites and is rather fond of Greek. But I loved your daughter
and I thought it quite the right thing to do. I asked your daughter
just now if she was willing to live with a poor man, according to her
standards, as your wife lived with youto give me her help and her
faith in me.
Do you know what she answered? She told me to come to you and
truckle for another big loan, which I am not capable of handling, to
cheat legally and never hint to the world the truth of the affair. She
hadn't the most remote idea that I was in earnest when I told her I was
going to be a failure in the eyes of the worldbut I was not going to
have my wife's father support me. I'm not sorry this has happenedfeel
as if the Old Man of the Sea had dropped off me. But this is the thing:
either my wife and I will live in a home of our own, and such a home as
I can provide, being an independent and proper family and keeping our
problems and responsibilities within our gates; or else your daughter
is going to stay with you and lose her one chance of freedom while I
The Basque grandmother and the Celtic grandfather lent Steve all
their passionate determination and keenness of insight, as they once
lent him chivalry, humour, and charm. He stood before the old man taut
with excitement and flushed with sudden fury.
It is you I blame, he added before Constantine could make answer.
You kept her as useless as a china shepherdess; it is not her fault if
she fails to rise to the occasion now.
Constantine's face quivered; what the emotion was none but himself
You poor fool boy! he said, thickly. Don't you know I made you a
rich man all along the line? You never did anything at all. It wasn't
luck on the stock exchangeit was Mark Constantine back of you. Gad,
to have made what you did in the time you did you'd have had to do
worse than dabble your hands in the mud. You'd have had to roll in
itlike I did. He gave a coarse laugh. That was what I figured out
when you said you wanted Beatrice and what you were going to do to try
to get her. I liked you, I wanted you for her husband. I hated the
other puppies. So I wasn't going to have Beatrice's husband a cutthroat
and a highbinder as he would have to be if he had turned the whole
You young fool, don't you suppose I made the stock exchange yield
you the sugarplums? Gad, I knew every cent you spent and made. It was
for my girl, my Gorgeous Girl, so why wouldn't I do it? I saved your
ideals and kept your hands white so that you would be good enough for
her; that was what I figured out the hour after you had told me your
intentions. I followed you like the fairy books tell of; I brought you
your fortune and your factory and scotched all the enemies about
youand gave you the girl. And you thought you killed the seven-headed
dragon yourself.... I don't blame you for the foozle, Steve; I
cotton-woolled you all alongit was bound to come. But, damme, you'll
come down to brass tacks and take more of my money now and keep her
from being unhappy and stop this snivel about earning what you get and
needing responsibilitiesor you'll find you've put your foot into hell
and you can't pull it out!
White-heat anger enveloped Steve's very soul, yet strangely enough
he felt not like sinning but rather like Laertes crying out in mental
anguish: Do you see this, O God?
Steve knew he brushed by Aunt Belle, who was coming in to see what
her brother was roaring about, and down those detestable gilded
curlicue stairs to seek out his wife and try again to make her realize
that for once he was determined on what should come to pass as regarded
their future together, to force her to realize even if he created a
Whatever blame fell upon Constantine's shoulders was not within his
province to judgeConstantine was a dying man and Steve was not quite
thirty-five. So that ended the matter from Steve's viewpoint. It was
his intention not to try to evade his personal blame in the matter but
to make reparation to his own self and to his wife if he were
permitted. If he could once convince his wife that their sole chance of
future happiness and sanity lay in beginning as medium-incomed young
persons with all the sane world before them it would have been worth it
allexcepting for Mary Faithful.
Even as Steve tried in a quick, tense fashion to dismiss Mary from
his mind and say that Beatrice was his wife and that love must come as
the leavener once this hideous wealth was removed, he knew the thing
was impossible. The best solution of which he was capable was to say
that he owed it to both Mary Faithful and Beatrice to play the game
from the right angle and that in causing Beatrice to disclaim her title
of Gorgeous Girl and all it implied he at least would find
contentmentthe same sort of uninteresting contentment of which Mary
He found Beatrice in a furore of tears and protests, angered at
missing the dinner engagement and not understanding why any of it was
necessary. She felt her own territory had been infringed upon, since
making a scene was her peculiar form of mental intoxication.
But Steve was composed, even smiling, and as he came up to her she
fancied her father had made everything all right as his check book had
seen fit to do upon so many occasions. The slight worry over Steve's
possible folly vanished, and she felt it safe to proceed to reproach
him for having been so horrid.
Now, my dear Stevuns, why did you get me all upset? And yourself
and poor papa, to say nothing of my having to send word at the last
moment that we could not attend the dinner. Oh, Steve, Steve, will you
ever be really tamed?
Come and sit beside me. He drew out a notebook and pencil. I must
tell you some things.
Rather curious, she obeyed, but keeping a discreet distance so her
frock would not be ruffled. I'm still cross, she warned.
Steve was writing down figures, adding them and making notations.
Look here, dear, he began, patiently; this is just where I shall
standa poor man to your way of thinking, almost as poor as when I set
out to win you. I'm going into a salaried job for a few yearsa real
hope-to-die joband we can have a house
I thought we talked that all out before, she interrupted, half
petulantly, half wistfully. Why do you keep repeating yourself? You'll
be thumping your fists the first thing we know!
Do you fancy I am not going to do this? Are you not sufficiently
concerned to listen, to realize that I have been a blind, conceited
fool? But I have learned my lesson. I shall support my wife from now on
and live in my own house or else I shall no longer be your husband.
She opened and shut her fan quickly, then it fell to the floor. But
he did not pick it up.
You were never keen for details, so I shall not irritate you now by
introducing them. But the fact remains that I have been made and backed
by your father merely because he wished me to be your husband. You
picked me outand I was keen to be picked outand he decided to make
me as proper a companion for you as possible. I am in some ways as
untried to-day as any youngster starting out; as I was when I fancied I
made the grand and initial stride by myself. Your father feels that I
ought to be eternally gratefulbut then, what else could the father of
the Gorgeous Girl think? He has harmed mebut he has ruined you. I
hardly thought you would meet me halfway, still it was worth the try.
Forgetful of her flounces Beatrice crumpled them in her hands,
saying sharply: Are you taking this way of getting out of it?
Good heavens! Steve murmured, half inaudibly, I keep forgetting
you have never been taught values or sincerity! There is no way I can
prove to you how in earnest I am, is there?
You mean to say that I am a failure? she preened herself
The most gorgeous failure we have with us to-day! And the worst of
it is it is growing to be a common type of failure since gorgeousness
is becoming prevalent. There are many like younot many more gorgeous,
and thousands less so. You are a type that has developed in the last
twenty years and is developing these days at breakneck speed! And you
can't understand and you don't want to and I'm damned if I'll try to
Well, she asked, shrewdly, quite the woman of the world, what is
it you are about to do? Wear corduroy trousers and a red bandanna and
start a butcher-paper-covered East-Side magazine filled with ravings?
No; that is another type we plain Americans have on our hands.
Don't spar for time.
I'm not. I'm through sparring; I want to go to work. I want
What was the use? He stopped before adding another spark to her
I suppose you want to marry that womanMary Faithful, who has
loved you so long and made herself so useful! She was clever enough to
pretend to efface herself and go to work for someone else, but I dare
say you have seen her as often as before. Oh, are you surprised I know?
I gave you the credit of being above such a thing, but Trudy told me
that this woman had told her the truthso you see even your Mary
Faithful cannot be trusted. You had better turn monk, Steve, be done
with the whole annoying pack of us! Anyway, Trudy came running to me,
but I never lost sleep over the rumour. I felt you were above such
things, as I said, but presently little indicationsstraws, you
knowtold me she cared; and if a woman cares for a man and is able to
pass several hours each day in his employ, unless she is cross-eyed or
a blithering idiot she cannot fail to win the game! Now can she,
Steve raised his hand in protest. Please leave her out of it.
Sowe must talk about my being a failure, my father clipping your
wings of industry and all thatyet we must not mention a woman who has
loved youand gossiped about it.
She did not! You know Trudyyou know her nature, he interrupted.
Taking up her defence! Noble Stevuns! Then you do reciprocateand
you are planning one of those ready-to-be-served bungalows with even a
broom closet and lovely glass doorknobs, where Mary may gambol about in
organdie and boast of the prize pie she has baked for your supper. Oh,
Stevuns, you are too funny for words!
She laughed, but there was a malicious sparkle in her eyes. She was
carrying off the situation as best she knew how, for she did not
comprehend its true significance, its highest motive. Underneath her
veneer of sarcasm and ridicule she was hurt, stabbedquite helpless.
With her father's spirit she resolved to take the death gamelyand
make Steve as ridiculous as possible, to have as good a time as she
could out of such a sorry ending. But she knew as she stood facing him,
so tired and heavy-eyed, the rejected sheet of figures fallen on the
brocaded sofa between them, that it was she who met and experienced
By turns she had been the spoiled child of fortune, the romantic
parasite, the mad butterfly, the advanced woman, the Bolshevik de luxe;
and finally and for all time to come she was confronted with the last
possibilitythere was no forked road for herthat of a shrewd, cold
flirt. She realized too late the injustice done her under the name of a
father's loving protection. Moreover, she determined never to let
herself realize to any great extent the awfulness of the injustice. It
was, as Steve said, a common fate these daysthere was solace in the
fact of never being alone in her defeat. But at five minutes after
twelve she had glimpsed the situation and regretted briefly all she was
denied. Still it was an impossibility to cease being a Gorgeous Girl.
She felt cheated, stunted, revengeful because of this common fate.
Steve was setting out for new worlds to conquerhe very likely would
have a good time in so doing. She must continue to be fearfully rushed
and terribly popular, having a good time, too. How dull everything was!
Strangely, she did not give Mary Faithful or her part in Steve's future
a thoughtjust then. She was thinking that Ibsen merely showed the
awakened Nora's going out the dooras have Victorian matrons shown
their daughters, urging them to do likewise. But it really begins to be
interesting at this very point since it is not the dramatic closing of
the door that is so vital, but the pitfalls and adventures on the long
road that Nora and her sisters have seen fit to travel.
Beatrice was deprived of even this chance, even the falling by the
wayside and admitting a new sort of defeat, or travelling the road in
cold, supreme fashion and ending with selfish victory and impersonal
theories warranted to upset the most domestic and content of her
stay-at-home sisters. But she, like all Gorgeous Girls, must be content
to stand peering through the luxurious gates of her father's house,
watching Steve go down the long road, then glancing back at her lovely
habitation, where no one except tradesmen really took her seriously,
and where all that was expected of her, or really permitted, was to
have a good time.
Steve shrugged his shoulders. He felt a great weariness concerning
the situation, nonchalant scorn of what happened in the future of this
woman. As for Mary Faithfulthat was a different matter, but he could
not think about Mary Faithful while standing in the salon of the Villa
Rosa with the Gorgeous Girl as mentor.
Suppose we do not try to talk any more just now? he suggested. We
are neither one fit to do so. Wait until morning and then come to an
agreement. He spoke as impersonally as if a stranger asking aid
interrupted his busiest time.
Beatrice recognized the tone and what it implied. I am agreed, she
said, after a second's hesitation. Do not fancy my father and I will
come on our knees to you.
She swept from the room in a dignified manner. Steve waited until he
heard the door of Constantine's room bang. He knew his wife had rushed
to tell her father her side of the matterto receive the eternal
heart's ease in the form of a check so she could go and play and forget
all about Stevuns the brute.
He walked unsteadily through the rooms of the lower floor, out on to
the main balcony, and back again. He could not think in these rooms; he
could not think in any corner of the whole tinsel house. It seemed a
consolation prize to those who have been forbidden to think.
He went to his own ornate and impossible room, which should have
belonged to an actor desiring publicity, or some such puppet as Gay. He
tried to sleep, but that too was impossible. He kept pacing back and
forth and back and forth, playing the white bear as Beatrice had so
often said, wondering if it would be too much the act of a cad to go to
Mary Faithful and merely tell her. He could think at Mary's househe
must have a chance to think, to realize that Beatrice refused to come
with him and to tell himself that nothing should force him to remain in
the Villa Rosa and be the husband of the Gorgeous Girl, set right by
her father's checks, the laughingstock of the business world that had
called his hand.
The humiliation, the failure, the losswere good to have;
Wonderfully alive and keen, he did not know how to express the new
sensation that took possession of his jaded brain. He was like a
gourmand dyspeptic who has long hesitated before trying the diet of a
workingman and when someone has whisked him off to a sanitarium and fed
him bran and milk until he has forgotten nerves, headaches, and
logginess he vows eternal thankfulness to bran and milk, and is humbly
setting out to adopt the workingman's diet instead of the old-time
Steve could begin to work simply, to find his permanent place in the
commercial world. He had enough moneyor would haveto start a home
in simple yet pleasant fashion; he had knowledge and ability that would
place him favourably and furnish him the chance to work normally toward
the top. That was all very well, he told himself toward early
morningbut must it be done alone? He had had the Gorgeous Girl as the
incentive to make his fortune, and now he had Mary Faithful as the
incentive to lose itand if the Gorgeous Girl stayed on at the villa
and became that pitied, dangerous object, a divorcee; and if Mary did
care-Strange things, both wonderful and fearsome, happen in the
United States of America.
Beatrice, never having gone to her father for anything save money,
did not know how to broach the subject in heartfelt and deep-water
fashion. When she went into his room she found him with scarlet spots
burning in his grayish cheeks, his dark eyes harsher and more
formidable than ever. He tried twisting himself on the bed, resulting
in awkward, halfway muscular contortions and gruff moans punctuating
the failure. He held out his arms to her and she went flying into them,
not the dignified woman of the world putting a cave man in his proper
He is impossible! was all she said, giving way to hysterical sobs.
Don't even try talking to him again
More gruff moans before Constantine began coherently: He'll do what
I say or he'll not stay in this house. I expected this
Oh, you don't understand, papa. He doesn't want to stay here, not
at all! He does not want me. There, now you know it! He must have said
something of this to youperhaps you didn't believe him. Neither did
Iat first. Oh, my head aches terribly and I know I shall be ill. He
wants me to be a poor man's wifestarting again, he calls itwhile he
earns a salary and we live in a poky house and I do the cooking. I'd
think it awfully funny if it was happening to any of my friendsbut
this is terrible! Well, goat-tending tells, doesn't it? And after all
we have done for himto babble on about honesty and earning and all
those socialistic ideas. He is a dangerous man, papa; really. I don't
Constantine stopped moaning. Look up at me. He made her lift her
face from the tangle of silk bed quilts. Do you love him?
Why, papa, I always adored Stevunsbut of course I can't give up
the things to which I've been accustomed! It's so silly that I think he
is queer even to suggest itdon't you?
You won't love him if he goes out of here and you stay, the old
man said, slowly; but if he will stay and do as I tell himthen
you'll love him?
Yeswith great relief that she was not called upon to keep on
explaining and analyzing her own feelings and Steve's motives; it was
entirely too much of a strainthat is it. If Steve will stay here and
do what you tell himI think he'd better retire from business and just
look after our interestsI shall forgive him. But if he keeps up this
low anarchistic talk about dragging me to a washtuboh, it's too
absurd!I'm going to Reno and be done with all of it. She drew away
from her father and the same cold, shrewd look of the mature flirt
replaced her confusion. Don't you think that is sensible?
Her father closed his eyes for a moment. Then he whispered: So you
don't love him.
Beatrice had to stoop to catch the words. You can't be expected to
love people that make you unhappy.
Oh, can't you? he asked. Can't you? Did you never think that
loving someone is the bravest thing in the world? It takes courage to
keep on loving the dead, for instance; the dead that keep stabbing away
at your heart all through the years. Loving doesn't always make you
happy, it makes you bravereal love!
He opened his eyes to look at her closely. Beatrice whimpered.
Isn't it time for your drops? You're too excited, papa dear.
Then you don't love him, he repeated. Well, then, it's best for
you both that he gothat's all I've got to say. I thought you cared.
Beatrice's eyebrows lifted. Really, I can't find any one who can
talk about this thing sensibly, she began.
Suddenly she thought of Gay. There was always Gay; at least she
could never disappoint him, which was what she meant by having him talk
sensibly. Gay knew everyone, how to laugh at the most foolish whims,
pick up fans, exercise lap dogs, and wear a fancy ball costume. What a
blessed thing it was there was Gay.
It has been quite too strenuous an evening, she said, in
conclusion, so I'm off for bed. Steve and I will talk more to-morrow.
Good-night, papa. I'm terribly distressed that this has come up to
annoy you. She bent and kissed him prettily.
I've seen you make more fuss when your lap dog had a goitre
operation, her father surprised her by way of an answer. It's all
different in my mind now. The thick fingers picked at the bed quilt.
I thought it would break your heart, but it's just that you want to
break his spirit; so it's better he should go.
Left alone, Constantine lay staring into darkness, his harsh eyes
winking and blinking, and the gnarled thick fingers, which had robbed
so cleverly by way of mahogany-trimmed offices and which had written so
many checks for his Gorgeous Girl, kept on their childish picking at
the quilt. Yet his love for Beatrice, monument to his folly, never
dimmed. He merely was beginning to realize the truthtoo late to
change it. And as the pain of loving his dead wife had never ceased
throughout the years, so the new and more poignant pain of loving his
daughter and knowing that she was in the wrong began tugging at his
heartstrings. Well, he was the original culprit; he must see her
through the game with flying colours. As for Stevehe envied him!
In the morning Steve was accosted by Aunt Belle, who felt she must
say her conventional, marcelled, gray-satin, and violet-perfumed
reproaches. All Beatrice had told her was that Steve was now an
impossible pauper, that he loved Mary Faithful and had loved her for
years, that it was quite awful, and she was going to divorce him. Her
aunt, with the proper emotions of a Gorgeous Girl's aunt, and
uncomfortable memories of love in a cottage with the late Mr. Todd,
began to upbraid Steve. She began in a cold, stereotyped fashion,
calling his attention to the broken-hearted wife, the sick man who lay
upstairs and who had befriended him, and of the social ostracism that
was to result should he take such a drastic step.
She felt it indelicate to mention Mary but she did say there were
other vicious deceits of which we are well aware, my young man,
warning him that in years to come old age would bring nothing but
remorse and terror, asking him what he would be forced to think when
his marriage was recalled?
My marriage? Steve answered, too pleasantly to be safe. I dare
say in time I'll come to realize it is always the open season for
salamanders. Which left Aunt Belle with the wild thought that she must
accompany Beatrice to Reno to sit out in the sagebrush for the best
part of a year.
Steve found his wife in her dressing room; she had waited as eagerly
for his coming as she had done during the first days of their
engagement. She, too, during a sleepless night had resolved that the
only solution was a divorce, but she was going to have just as gay a
time out of the event as was possible, which included making Steve as
wretched as could be. Even with the rumours concerning Mary she
believed, in the conceited fashion of all persons so cowardly that they
merely consent to be loved, that Steve still adored her and that she
was dealing with the deluded man of a few years ago.
She wore a sapphire-coloured negligé with slippers to match, and lay
in her chaise-longue gondola, her prayer books with their silver covers
and a new Pom as touching details to the farewell tableau. Then Steve
was permitted to come into the room.
She gazed at him in a sorrowful, forgiving fashion, quite enjoying
the situation. Then she held out her hand, wondering if he would kiss
it; but he took it as meaning that he might sit down or try to sit down
on a perilous little hassock which he had always named the Rocky Road
to Dublin despite its Florentine appearance.
I hope you agree with me, he began, in businesslike fashion as he
noted the prayer books, the untouched breakfast tray, the snapping Pom,
which never tolerated his presence without protest. I am going to see
your father, out of courtesy, and explain more in detail how things
stand. It won't interest you so I sha'n't bore you. I have enough money
and securities to cover the loss of any of his money. I shall apply for
a position in another city. I am reasonably sure of obtaining it. It
seems to me it would be better that I go away.
I forgive you, Steve, she said, sadly, shaking her golden head.
I presume you will want to do something about a legal
separationand if you do not I shall.
The prayer books fell to the floor in collision with the slipping
Pom but Beatrice did not notice.
So you do love her! There was a hint of a snarl in her
high-pitched voice. So you want to marry her after all!
I think, Steve continued, in the same even voice, that as you are
going to tire of being a divorcee playing about, and will want a second
husband to help with the ennui that is bound to occur, you had best
select your form of a divorce and let me do what I can to aid in the
matter. You are very lovely this morning, as you usually are. There is
no doubt but what many men far better suited to you than I will try to
have you marry themthey will wisely never expect to marry you. That
was our great mistake, Beatrice. I thought I was marrying youbut you
were really marrying me.
So you do love her, she repeated, paying no heed to what else he
Yes, I do, Steve said, with sudden honesty. It was a relief to be
as brutal and uncomplimentary as possible; it offset the silver-covered
prayer books, the breakfast tray, the bejewelled Pom, the whole
studied, inane effect of a discontented woman trying to play coquette
up to the last moment.
I have loved her a long time. I could no more have refrained from
it than you can refrain from feeling a pique at the fact, though you
have nothing but contempt for us both and only a passing interest if
the truth were known. I am glad you have persisted in asking me until I
told you. I think one of the most promising signs that women will
survive is the fact that they are never afraid to ask questions, no
matter how delicate the situation. Men keep silence and often bring
disaster on their sulky heads as a result.
Soand you dare tell me this?
Of course I do. I dare to tell you the truth, which no one else has
ever taken the pains to tell you. If you do not get a divorce I intend
to. Not that I champion the custom as a particularly healthy
institution, but it is sometimes a necessary one. If it is any
satisfaction to you I do not think Miss Faithful has the slightest idea
of marrying me. She has put that part of her aside for business and
taking care of Luke. The time has passed when she would have married
me. Still, I shall try to make her change her mind, he added with the
same spirit he had once displayed toward winning the Gorgeous Girl.
Only this time I shall not bargain for her.
Beatrice gave an affected laugh. Quite a satisfactory arrangement
all round. I hope you do not bother me again. Tell my father what you
like, and then take yourself off to the new position and do as you
please. When I decide what course I shall pursue you will be informed.
Would you please pick up my prayer book? she added, languidly.
Steve bent over to grasp the intricate nothing in his hand and lay
it gently in the sapphire-velvet lap.
Good-bye, Beatrice, he said, a trifle sadlyfor the day the child
discovers there are no fairies is one of sadness.
It was something of this Steve felt as he looked at his wife for the
last time. How thrilled and adoring he would have one time been. Just
such visions, a trifle cruder no doubt, had stirred his young soul in
the bleak orphanage daysthe boo'ful princess and the valiant young
hero chaining the seven-headed dragon. And in America it was just bound
to have come true!
Good-bye, Stevuns, she answered, in the same gay voicebut a
trifle forced if one knew her well. I hope you have a wonderful time
leading a mob somewhere and your wife selling your photographs on the
next corner curbstone!
She pretended to become interested in the prayer book; and, with the
Pom shooing him out by sharp, ear-piercing barks, Steve left the room.
Not an hour later Mrs. Stephen O'Valley's card was taken in to Mary
Faithful as she sat trying to work in the new officeit never ceased
to be new to her. She had heard the swift rumours of Steve's failure.
Understanding that the visitor's card had a deeper significance than
the messenger who delivered it realized, Mary closed the outer doors of
her office and waited for her guest.
It was a very Gorgeous Girl who swept serenely into the room and
lost no time in introducing the nature of her errand.
I don't know how well informed you are in business reports, she
began in her high-pitched voice, but perhaps you have heard
The report of the new leather trustwithout including your
husband's factory? Yesbut it was bound to come. I always told him
Beatrice lost sight of the business introduction she had so
carefully planned while dressing and then driving downtown.
You have told my husband a great many things, haven't you? she
insisted. Don't seem to be surprised. I am quite well informed.
She was scrutinizing Mary as she talked. Within her mind was the
undeniable thought that there was something about this thin, tall woman
with gray eyes which was real and comforting. She even wished that
Steve had fallen in love with someone else, and that she, Beatrice,
might have come to Mary for comfort and advice. If any one could have
set her right with herself it would be just such a good-looking thing,
as Trudy used to say, a commercial nun who had kept her ideals and was
not bereft of ideas. Faith and intellect had been properly introduced
in Mary's mind.
Mary blushed. I have always wished to speak to you about something
Mrs. Vondeplosshe told you shortly before her death. Won't you sit
down? I am sure we have much to say to each other.
Beatrice found herself obeying like a docile child. As she took a
chair facing Mary's desk she realized that in just such a kind,
practical fashion would Mary proceed to manage Steve, that the years of
experience in the business world as an independent woman would give
Mary quite a new-fashioned charm in his eyes. Whether she was dealing
with gigantic business interests in deft fashion or showing tenderness
for the little girl who puts away her dolls for the last time, Mary
possessed a flexibility of comprehension and power. One could not be
cheap in dealings with her. And as the eternal sex barrier was not
present in Beatrice's behalf she realized that her jargon so
impulsively planned would never be said. Nor could she dismiss Mary
patronizingly and say the halfway melodramatic things she had said to
Steve. It occurred to her as Mary began to talk that Mary had been
brave enough to love, not merely be loved, the truth of this causing
her to wince within.
In a malicious moment Trudy told you of mymy affection for your
husband. It is true, if that is what you have come to ask me about. I
told myself months ago that if you did come to ask me this thing I
should answer you truthfully, and we must remain at least polite
acquaintances over a hard situation. I think I have played fairly.
Mary's face had a tired look that bore proof to the statement. I even
left his employ. As I once told you from an impersonal statement, I
have a theory that many business women of to-day are in love with
someone in their office. Propinquity perhaps and the shut-in existence
that they lead account for much of it. Yet no woman is a true woman who
forgets her employer is a married or engaged man.
You and I know, however, that love does not stop to ask if this is
the case, and I sometimes feelimpersonally, rememberthat the
business women earn the love of their employers and associates more
than said employers' and associates' wives. Does it sound strange? Of
course you need not agreeI hardly expect it. Yet the fact remains
that we watch and save that you Gorgeous Girls may spend and play. In
time the man, tense and non-understanding of it all, discovers that his
trust and confidence may be placed in the business woman while romantic
love is not enduring in his home. Not always, of course; but many times
in these days of overnight prosperity and endless good times. So I have
neither shame nor remorseI have as much right to love your husband as
you haveand because of that I shall be as fair to you as I would ask
any woman to be toward me in similar circumstances.
I think I understand, the Gorgeous Girl said, swiftly. I see
something of the light. She laughed nervously. It was easier to laugh
than to cry, and one or the other was necessary at this moment. I
wanted to tell you that my husband is going away to take a rather
mediocre position. I shall divorce him.
He's won out, Mary said, in spite of herself.
Has he? So you have been the urge behind him and his poverty talk?
I'd like to claim the credit, Mary retorted.
Beatrice found herself in another mental box, undecided how to cope
with the situation. She had fancied she could make Mary cry and beg for
silence, be afraid and unpoised. Instead she felt as ornate as a circus
rider in her costume, and as stupid regarding the truth as the snapping
Pom under her arm. Her head began to ache. She wondered why all these
people delighted in accepting sacrifice and seeking self-denialand
she thought of Gay again and of what a consolation he was. And through
it all ran a curious mental pain which informed her that she had not
the power to hurt or to please either of these persons, and she was
being politely labelled and put in her own groove by Mary Faithful.
This stung her on to action, just as any poorly prepared enemy loses
his head when he sees the tide is turning.
In desperation she said, coldly: After all, I shall play square
with you because you have played square with him. I'll give you the
best advice a retiring wife can give her advancing rival. Don't copy
meno matter how Steve may prosper in years to come, do you
understand? Oh, I'm not so terrible or abnormal as you people think.
I'd have done quite well if my father had never earned more than three
thousand a year and I had had to put my shoulder to the wheel. But
don't ever start to be a Gorgeous Girlstay thrifty and be not too
discerning of handmade lace or lap dogs. You know, there's no need to
enumerate. Stay the woman who won my husband away from meand you'll
keep him. What is more, I think you will make him a successin time
for your golden-wedding anniversary! There, that's as fair as I can
Quite, Mary said, softly.
Once you admit to him there is a craving in your sensible heart to
be as useless as I amthen someone else will come along to play Mary
Faithful to your Gorgeous Girl. There was a catch in the light, gay
voice. I don't want him, she added, vigorously. Heavens, no, we
never could patch it up! I shall always think of this last twelve
months as l'année terrible! My Tawny Adonis was a far more
soothing companion than Steve. Nor do I envy you and your future. I
don't really want Steveand you deserve him. Besides, we women never
feel so secure as novelists like to paint us as being in their last
chapters! So I'm giving you the best hint concerning our mutual cave
man that a defeated Gorgeous Girl ever gave a Mary Faithful. As far as
I am concerned the thing is painless. I shall have a ripping time out
West, and some day perhaps marry someone nice and mild, someone who
will stand for my moods and not spend too much of my money in ways I
don't know abouta society coward out of a job! The thing that does
hurt, she finished, suddenly, is the fact that I'd honestly like to
feel broken-heartedbut I don't know how. I've been brought up in such
a gorgeous fashion that it would take a jewel robbery or an unbecoming
hat to wring my soul.
Thanks, Mary said, lightly. I may as well tell you I've
determined never to marry Steve, for all your good advice.
Why? All the tenseness of her nature rushed to the occasion. This
was decidedly interesting, since it resembled her own whims. She felt
almost friendly toward the other woman.
Because, Mary answered, handing the psychologists another problem
for a rainy afternoon.
Beatrice nodded, satisfied at the answer and the eternal damnable
woman's notion inspiring it, for it was just what she would have
replied in like circumstances. She felt there was nothing more to be
said about the matter and that Gorgeous Girls and commercial nuns had
much in common. As usual, Steve was appointed the official blackguard
of the inevitable triangle!
Going home that night Mary felt that truly the day was a bitter
almond. It even began to be dramatically muggy and threatening, in
keeping with her state of mindthe sort of forced weather that issues
offstage in roars of thunder the moment the villain begins his
plotting. She took a street car, having meant to walk and give herself
time to pull together and adopt the fat smile of a professional
A tired-faced woman, heavily rouged, was talking to another
tired-faced woman, also rouged. Mary listened because it was a relief
to listen to someone else besides herself, to realize there were other
persons in this world occupied with other problems besides a commercial
nun with a heartache, a tired cave man about to start again, and a
Gorgeous Girl defeated in no uncertain terms. The whole thing was
beyond Mary's comprehension just now; as much as the graybeards' lack
of understanding when they try to Freud the schoolboy's mind.
That's me, too, Mame, all overand when she tried telling me she
was a natural blonde, never using lemon juice in even the last rinse
waterwell, when you've been handing out doll dope and baby bluster
over the counter of a beauty department as long as I have you know
there ain't no such animal! Good-bye, Mame. I hope you get home safe.
There ain't no such animal, Mary found herself repeating. No,
there sure ain't!
There were no real commercial nuns; it was a premeditated affair
entirely, merely a comfortable phrase borrowed by the lonesome ones
unwilling to be called old maids; a big, brave bluff that women have
adopted during these times of commercial necessity and economic stress.
Commercial nuns! As foolish as the tales told children of the wunks
living in the coalbinsas if there ever could be such creatures! The
reason Mary would not marry Steve was because she, Mary, did not want
to disappoint him even as the Gorgeous Girl had done. She did not want
to be all helpmate, practical comrade; she had fed herself with this
delusion during the years of loneliness. She had adopted the veneer,
convinced herself that it was true, but she knew now that it was false.
It had taken a Gorgeous Girl to scratch beneath the veneer in true
feminine fashion. Mary did wish to be dependent, helplessto have
Gorgeous Girl propensities. The cheap phrases of the shopwomen kept
interrupting her attempts to think of practical detail. There ain't no
She found Luke wild-eyed and excited, brandishing an evening paper.
Look what's happenedthe O'Valley Leather Company has gone under!
Won't Constantine help him out? I always said you were the mascot
I'd rather not talk about it.
Why? I always tell you everything.
Mary smiled. Luke was so boyish and square. She felt that
particularly toward Luke must she keep up the delusion of being a
commercial nun, content with her part in things.
It's such a horrid day. I rode on a car that was as crowded as a
cattle shipment. My head aches. The stenographer has left to be
You mean you are not interested about Steve O'Valley? Luke was not
to be trifled with regarding the affair.
Mary sank down into the nearest chair. Of course I am. But what
right have I to be? she asked, almost bitterly. It never pays to be
too keenly interested.
Luke laid the paper aside. Mary, he began, his voice very basso
profondo, do you like this man?
Mary gave a little cry. Stopall of youall of you! Then she
began sobbing quite as helplessly as the Gorgeous Girl could have done.
Luke stood before her in helpless posture. He might have coped with
her temper but his reliable tailor-made sister in tears?Never. As she
cried he experienced a new sympathy, a delightful sense of
protectorship. He decided that his wife should cry occasionallyit
See here, he began, shyly, you mustn't cry about him; it won't do
any good. If he has failed it isn't your fault. And if you do like
himwell, you like him. He likes you, he finished with emphasis. I
know it. I've known it all along.
Oh, Luke! Mary said, helplessly. Luke!
He put his arm round her, clumsily. Therenow I wouldn'tplease
don't, it makes me feel awful badthere's no sense worrying about
ityou have a lot of good things ahead of you. There, that's the
At that moment Luke grew up and became far more manly and
self-sufficient than all Mary's practical naggings and deeply laid
plans could have achieved. He felt he must protect his sister; hitherto
it had been his sister who had protected him. And he watched with pride
the way she smiled up through her tears in rainbow fashion and patted
his cheek, calling him a dear. She was a new kind of Mary. Both of them
felt the better for the happening.
But when Steve came unceremoniously to Mary's apartment that same
evening, and Luke, very amusing and pathetic in his dignity, met him,
innocent of the tornado of emotion sweeping about his nice boyish
selfMary almost wished the happening had not taken place. For a
moment she feared that Luke would try to take command of the situation.
There was something maternal in Mary's wishing Luke to be ignorant of
the hard things until the ripe time should come. And Luke, quite
willing to be released, since it was a trifle beyond his powers of
comprehension, retired to read a magazine and resolve to be ready for
action at the first sound of a sister's sob!
I had to come, Steve said, simply. I've been like the man who
never took time to walk because he had always been so busy running. I
want to walk but I don't know how.
Mary shook her head, really shaking it at herself. Go away, Steve.
I shall, after a little. But I had to come now. Her aunt said she
saw you and made quite a time of it. I'm sorry.
I'm not. We are good friends, in a sense; far better than we have
ever been before. We found we were in accordafter all.
He looked at her in the same helpless fashion Luke had adopted.
She will divorce you and marry someone else and continue to be a
Gorgeous Girl, Mary finished, quietly. No terrible fate will overtake
her, nothing occur to rouse or develop her abilities. She will remain
young and apparently childish until she suddenly reaches the stately
dowager age overnight. Gorgeous Girls are like gypsiesthey should
either be very young and lissom or old, crinkled, and vested with
powers of fortune-tellingthe middle stage is impossible. I realized
this morning that I've been fooling myself, all the heart in me trying
to be 100 per cent efficient, when I really want to be a Gorgeous
Girlfluffy, helplessa blooming little idiot. And I'm glad you have
come so I can tell you.
You don't mean that, he corrected.
Being incurably honest I am bound to tell tales on myself. Yes, I
do mean it. I'd probably be rushing round for freckle lotion and patent
nose pins, to give me a Greek-boy effect. I'd take to swathing myself
in chiffons and have my hair a different tint each season. I think
every business woman would do the same, tooif she had the chance. We
have to fool ourselves to keep on going down the broad highway; or else
we would be sanitarium devotees, neurasthenic muddles. So we strike our
brave pose and call ourselves superwomen, advanced feminists, and all
the rest of the feeble rubbish until the right man comes along.
Sometimes he never comesso we keep right ahead, growing dry as dust
at heart and even fooling ourselves. I did. But it took your wife to
show me my smug conceit, my fancy that I was a bulwark of commerce, so
proper, so perfect! She showed me that I was just plain woman making
the best of having been born into the twentieth century! There is a
Gorgeous Girl in all of us, Steve. So I can't advise or comfort or do
any of the things I used toa bag of tricks we women in business have
adopted to make the heart loneliness the less. Go away and make good!
That is just what she told youisn't it? You will never believe in any
of us again. And I don't know that you should, after all. For cave men
need Gorgeous Girls.
Steve was laughing down at her. Truebut they need the right
Gorgeous Girl. I'm glad you have finally told the truth; I always
suspected it. You have over-emphasized it somewhatand the woman I
married was unfairly over-emphasized as well. But in the main, what you
have said is the truth. I assure you I am twice as glad to have an
incentive instead of a lady directress. And I want you to be
helplessif you can; and fluffyif you will! Don't you see that you
are the right Gorgeous Girland she was the wrong oneand I'm the
culprit? Why, Mary, the worst thing you could do would be to descend
upon me in curl papers under a pink net cap. Even that prospect does
not frighten me!
Are you going away? she asked, shyly.
Not farnothing spectacular or romantic. I'm done with that.
Beatrice goes West, I believe. She is quite happy. She is going to New
York first to get her divorce wardrobe. It is her father I pityhe has
to face another son-in-law, Steve laughed. I am merely going to work
for an old and reliable firmuse my nest egg for a house. A
brown-shingled house, I think, with plain yard and a few ambitious
shrubs blooming along the walks. I don't know what they will be; I
leave that to you!
Luke wondered why he was not called upon for action, but he wondered
still more as Mary came presently to ask that he tell Steve good-night.
Her gray eyes were like captured sunrise.
Luke, dear, she said in as feminine a manner as Beatrice might
have done, don't worry about me any more. I'm a queer old sisterbut
it's all coming out all right, kissing him before Steve, to his utter
Beatrice sent for Gay before she decided to run down to New York to
gather up some good-looking things to wear while West. More and more
the novelty of the situation was appealing to her. She would ship her
car out and take with her a maid, the Pom, and her aunt, besides three
trunks of clothes. She also had learned of hot springs that were
extremely reducing; and of a wonderful lawyer whom several of her
friends recommended. It had grown very distressing to have a cave man
prowl about the villa, the eternal disapproval of whatsoever she did,
then her father's presence got on her nerves. Considering everything
she was glad to escape, and she welcomed the sympathy and peculiar
publicity that would be hers. The rôle of an injured woman is almost as
attractive as that of a romantic parasite. All in all, she was just
bound to have a good time.
To be sure she thought of Steve working for someone else, making one
twentieth of his former income, marrying Mary and starting housekeeping
in eight rooms and a pocket handkerchief of a lawnand she envied
them. This was only natural; it would be fun to be in Mary's place for
a fortnight or so, so she could tell about it afterward. And she
thought of Mary and of all she had admitted in the tenseness of their
When she returned from New York Gay met her at the train. He carried
a single long-stemmed white rose, which, he lisped, stood for
friendship. And Beatricethree pounds heavier if the truth were
toldquite languid and easily pleased, looked affectionately upon Gay,
who was trying to smile his sweetest.
Of course this is very hardfeeling it the thing to saybut
I always knew it, he supplemented, feeling that the gates of
paradise were slowly opening for him. Within a year or so he would not
even have the pretense at a business. I understand only too well. May
I say to my old friend, one whose opinions have swayed me far more than
she has imagined, that I, too, have experienced a similar
disillusionment which terminated more tragically?
Really? Beatrice roused from her cushions. Tell me, Gay, just
when did you begin to regret having married Trudy?
The barriers down, Gay began a rapid fire of incidents concerning
Trudy's gross nature and lack of comprehension, and the patience it had
required to bear with her. He twirled her diamond ring on his finger.
Beatrice spied it.
Why, that setting is just a little different from any I have, she
said, almost crossly. I never saw it before.
She held out her hand, and the minor question of a dead wife and a
discarded husband was put aside until further ennui should overtake
Aunt Belle opposed the divorce trip more vigorously than any one
else concerned. It seemed to her naught but a wild panorama of
rattlesnakes and Indians, with no opportunity for her daily massage.
Besides, she knew Beatrice's moods, and as time went on, between
Constantine's ridicule and his daughter's tempers, Aunt Belle was
forced to work hard to maintain a look of joyous contentment.
But there was nothing else for her to do unless she wished to be
taken to an old ladies' home. Her brother had said he would be
delighted to have her away, her pretenses and simpering nothings drove
him to distraction; and he had at last secured a man attendant who knew
how to dodge small articles skilfully for the compensation of a hundred
dollars a month and all he could pilfer. Like Beatrice, Aunt Belle
regretted that the actual divorce must lack a gorgeous setting; it was
quite commonplace. But one cannot have everything, and Beatrice had as
much as hinted that for her second wedding she would use the sunken
gardens at the Villa Rosa and wear a cloth-of-gold gown without a veil
but a smart aigrette of gilded feathers.
Beatrice shrank from saying good-bye to her father. It was more than
her usual dislike of entering the sick room. She had come to realize
that though her father caused her to be the sort of person she was, he
himself had remained both real and simple, succeeding by force of this
fact, and her contact with both Steve and Mary convinced her that she
did not wish to know real, everyday personsthey had nothing in common
with her and caused her to be restless and distressed. Gay was as wild
a mental tonic as she desired.
However, she bent solicitously over him and murmured the usual
things: Take best care of yourselfmiss you worldsdo be
carefulwill write every day.
Constantine looked up at her, tears in the harsh eyes, which had
lost their black sparkle. I'm sorry, he said, in childish fashion, as
she waited for an equally conventional reply. Your mother would have
Papa!shocked at his lack of fairnesshow horrid!
Maybe I was wrongmaybe if your mother had lived it would have
been different. She would have liked Steve.
Beatrice played her final weapon against Steve's reputation in her
He is going to marry Miss Faithful. He has loved her for a long
time. Now you see what I have endured.
Are you sure?
Oh, quite. He admitted it. So did she. Beatrice knew that Mary's
declaration against ever marrying Steve would have as much effect as to
attempt to keep the sun from shining if it so inclined. I've no doubt
they will be the model couple of a model village, for if ever there was
a reformer it is Steve. He never should have been a rich man.
Not at thirty, his father-in-law championed. Soit's the woman
who worked for him that won.... I guess it's the way of things, Bea.
You uphold him? Her temper was rising.
Constantine shook his head, closing the dull eyes. I'm out of it
all, he excused himself. There's a check for you on the table.
Either pretended or real, he seemed to go to sleep without delay.
* * * * *
Some months later Gaylord, very suave in white flannels, came in to
tell Constantino that he was to meet Beatrice in Chicago, en route from
the West, and that they were planning to announce their engagement
shortly after their arrival in Hanover. At which Constantine managed to
curse Gay in as horrid fashion as he knew how. But Gay was quite too
happy and secure to mind the reception. Besides, there was nothing
Constantine could do about it. It was a rather neat form of revenge
since his daughter would bring into his family the son of one of the
men he had ruthlessly ruined in his own ascent of the ladder.
Gay had done nothing but write letters to Beatrice, in which he
copied all the smart sayings and quips of everyone else, purporting
them as original, impoverishing himself for florists' orders and gifts,
and even taking a desperate run out to see Beatrice ensconced in state
in a Western town with her tortured aunt and lady's maid and a stout
squaw to do the housekeeping. Gay knew that all this work would not
count in vain. So when he proposed to Beatrice, having taken three days
in which to write the love missive, he knew that he would be accepted,
and therefore counted Constantine's wrath as a passing annoyance.
Everything considered, Beatrice could do no better. She had inclined
toward a minister as a second husband, she one time said, but her
chances there were small since she was not a bona-fide widow. Gay would
endure anything at her hands; he knew no pride, he had no purpose in
existing save to have a good time, neither did he possess annoying
theories about life. He was an adept at flattery, and he understood
Beatrice's sensitiveness about being called stout. With a suitor at
hand well trained for the part, why waste time looking further, she
So the wedding in the sunken gardens with the cloth-of-gold-garbed
bride was planned for the next season's calendar and there would be all
the pleasure of talking it over, the entertainments, the new clothes,
and so on. His father-in-law was paralyzed and his aunt-in-law was
senile. Gay was bound to be master of all he surveyed before long.
Perhaps during the breaking up of his establishment he might be
unpleasantly reminded of a red-haired girl who had died unmourned and
whose very ring Beatrice now worein exchange for one of hers which
Gay wore. But he could take an extra cordial if that was the case and
soon forget. After all, Trudy, like Steve, had been impossible; and Gay
felt positive that impossible people would not count at judgment day.
Likewise Beatrice, who regarded the whole thing as a lark, thought
sometimes of Steve, who, she understood, was superintendent of a large
plant some two hundred miles removed from Hanover, and of the time when
the slightest flicker of her eyes made him glad for all the day, or the
suggestion of a pout brought him to the level of despair. Perhaps she
thought, too, of the very few moments as his wife during which she had
wished things might have been as he wanted. No, not really wishedbut
wondered how it would have been. And of Mary she thought a great
dealthat was to be expected. No one wrote her about Mary, no one
seemed to think it would be interesting. The dozen dear friends who
deluged her with weekly items of local scandal never once told her of
her wife-in-law, as Gay dubbed her. Therefore she thought of her more
than she did of any one elseeven Gay.
She wondered if Mary was making simple hemstitched things for her
trousseau; if she would shamelessly marry this divorced man,
superintendent of a cement works; if she would go live in a
brown-shingled house and belong to the town social centre and all the
rest of the woman's-column, bargain-day, sewing-society things. And
Beatrice knew that Mary would. Moreover, that she would make a complete
success of so doing. Whereas even now Beatrice merely regarded Gay as
essential to complete her defeat.
When she reached home, in company with Gay, her aunt, the maid, and
an armful of flowers, the attendant told them her father was dead. He
had had a bad turn in the early morningno painjust drifted off.
Well, the only intelligible things he had said wereshould he repeat
them now? Well, the two words he had said over and over again were
So the cloth-of-gold wedding with the sunken-garden setting was
changed for a wedding at twilight in the conservatory, Beatrice dressed
in shimmery mauve out of memory to dear papa!
* * * * *
You have renounced your economic independence and you are now
approaching the legal-vassal stage, Steve warned Mary as they viewed
the rooms of the new brown house. Do you know what it all means?
No; probably that is why we women do so, she retorted. Luke says
you are bully and everything is finoand I set quite a store by Luke's
You'll have green-plush and golden-oak people call on you, I'm
afraid, and a few who run to Sheraton and crystal goblets. There will
be funny entertainments and dinner parties where the hostess fries the
steak and then removes her apron to display her best silk gown.
I am prepared. And the maid will leave us before the month is over
and I shall be her understudy. Well, I can. That is something.
I'm not going to ask permission to smokeI'm going to sprawl in
all the chairs and puff away at my leisure.
Do. I'll try to remember it is good for moths.
Mary, are you satisfied? he asked, wistfully.
Of course. It never does to have it all perfectto the last detail
of the wallpaper designs. That never lasts.
She went to lay her head on his shoulder for a brief second, almost
boyishly darting away and running upstairs to see to some detail in
which Steve was not concerned.
He went to the side doorway of the house to look out at the other
houses and yardspleasant, livable dwellings without romantic
construction or extravagant detailsthe homes of the people who keep
the world moving and mostly turning to the right.
He felt he had earned this brown houseand the woman who was
upstairs examining the linen-closet capacity. He had neither stolen nor
bargained for either. It was true there was a tinge of regret, like a
calm stretch of road without the suggestion of a stirring breeze. One
cannot chain youth, romance, and Irish-Basque ancestry together and let
them go breakneck speed without glorious and eternal memories of the
Mary realized thiseven though she might pretend ignorance of the
fact. She had reckoned with it before she gave Steve her word. Perhaps
it, too, had been a factor in stripping off the mask of commercial nun
and showing him the Gorgeous-Girl propensities. Nothing would content
him so much as to think of someone dependent upon him, make him
shoulder responsibility, surround him in a halo of hero worship. Even
if they both knew this to be a lovely rosy jokeaide-de-camp of
romance, which even the most practical American woman will not
forgoMary had been wise in telling him the truth. The only time women
do at all well in fibbing is to each other. Besides, there is a vast
difference between fibs and rosy jokes!
Steve had earned this, therefore it would be his for all time. And
though he felt youth had gone from himthe optimistic swashbuckling
youth which conquered all in his pathwayapproaching middle age was
good to have, and he rejoiced that this mad noonday was over. As he
looked out at the simple grounds and thought of how sensible Mary was,
and how sensible was the colour of their modest car, and a hundred
similar factsthere crossed his mind a vision of the Gorgeous Girl
like a frail, exotic jungle flower, clad in copper-coloured tulle with
tiny rusty satin slippers and surrounded by a bodyguard of the season's
Why, Stevuns, he almost fancied her light, gay voice saying,
aren't you funny! Then the tiny rusty satin slippers tripped away to
the latest of waltz tunes.
Well, that was at an end. Perhaps even to Mary, who had come
downstairs, delighted at finding extra shelf room, Steve would never
confide these fleeting visions that would cross his mind from time to
time; also his banished boy heart. Mary would grow a trifle matronly of
figure, become addicted to severe striped silks, perhaps insist on
meatless daysand smokeless rooms, for all she said not just now. She
would dominate a trifle and be on committees, raise a great hue and cry
as to the right schools for the children. But she would always be his
Mary Faithful, gray-eyed and incurably honest and loving him without
pause and without thought of her own splendid self. Truly he was a
fortunate man, for though there is an abundance of Gorgeous Girls these
days there are seldom enough Mary Faithfuls to go round.
But he would never tell even his nearest and dearest of the visions.
This would be Steve's one secret.
And as Steve thought sometimes of the Gorgeous Girl in
copper-coloured tulle and with a dancing bodyguard, or in white fur
coats being halfway carried into her motor car, so would the Gorgeous
Girl sometimes find Gay and his simpering servility quite beside her
own thoughts. Once more she would see Steve, young and flushed with a
The same germ of greatness in these Gorgeous Girls as in their
fathers frequently causes them to produce good results in the lives of
those they apparently harm. As in Steve's casehe found his ultimate
salvation not so much by Mary Faithful's love and service as by
realizing the Gorgeous Girl's shallow tragedy. With iron wills
concealed behind childish faces and misdirected energy searching for
novelty, so the Gorgeous Girls stand to-day a deluxe monument to the
failure of their adoring, check-bestowing, shortsighted parents. They
are neither salamanders nor vampires. Steve had not spoken truly. They
are more chaste and generous of heart than the former, more aloof from
sordid things than the latter. Wonderful, curious little creatures with
frail, tempting physiques and virile endurance, playing whatever game
is handy without remorse and without vicious intent just as long as it
interests themin the same careless fashion their fathers stoked an
engine or became a baker's assistant as long as it proved advantageous.
Moreover, they are so apart from the workaday world that it is
impossible to refrain from thinking of them in unwise fashioneven
after life has fallen into pleasant channels and the dearly beloved of
all the world is by one's side. So strong yet so weak, so tantalizing
yet generous, they have the power to haunt at strange intervals and in
strange fashion. So it was with Steve. He could not experience a storm
of definite reproach at the thought of Beatricenor bitter hatred.
Only a vague, lonesome urge, which soon dulled beside the sharp
commands of common sense.
It was only Mary who was done with visions and could give herself
unreservedly to the making of her home, the rearing of her family. But
Mary had realized her visionnot relinquished it.
THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS
GARDEN CITY, N. Y.