Breakers Ahead by Fannie Hurst
In the ink-blue shrieking trail of the twenty-two-hour Imperial
flyer, Slateville lay stark alongside the singing tracks as if hurtled
there like a spark off a speed-hot emery wheel.
The Imperial flyer swooped through the dun-colored village like the
glance of a lovely coquette shoots through her victim's heart and
leaves it bare.
At eight-one the far-off Imperial voice hallooed through the
darkness like a conquering hero whose vanguard is a waving sword which
flashes in the sunlight before he and his steed come up out of the
At eight-four a steam yodel shook the panes and lamp-chimneys of
Slateville, a semaphore studded with a ruby stiffened out against the
sky, and a white eyethe size of a bicycle-wheelflashed down the
Then the howl of a fiend, and a mile-long checkerboard of lighted
car-windows, and cinders rattling against them like hail.
A fire-boweled engine with a grimy-faced demon leaning out of his
red-hot cab, and, on every alternate night, a green eye with a black
pupil which winked a signal from that same heat-roaring cab and from a
dirt-colored frame shanty in a dirt-brown yard, where a naked tree
stretched its thin arms against the sky, an answering eye which gleamed
through a bandana-bound lantern and outlined the Hebe-like silhouette
of a woman in the window.
Then the flash of a mahogany-lined dining-car with nodding
vis-à-vis, pink-shaded candles and white-coated, black-faded genii
of the bowl and weal; an occasional vague figure peering through cupped
hands out from an electric-lighted berth; a plate-glass observation-car
with figures lounging in shallow leather chairs like oil-kings and
merchant princes and only sons in a Fifth Avenue club, and a great
trailing plume of smoke that lingered for a moment and died in the
still tingling air.
For a full half-hour, even an hour, after the Imperial flyer had
gouged through the village the yellow lights of Slateville burned on
behind its unwashed windows, which were half opaque with train-dust and
the grimy finger-prints of children. Then they began to flick out,
here, therehere, there. In a slate-roofed shanty beside the quarry,
in an out-of-balance bookkeeper's office in the Slateville Varnish
Factory, in the Red Trunk general store and post-office, the parson's
study, a maiden's bedroom, in the dirt-colored frame house, another
slate-roofed shanty beside the quarry, another, and yet another. Here,
The clerk in the signal-tower slumped in his chair, the doctor's
tin-tired buggy rattled up a hilly street that was shaped like a
crooked finger, and away beyond the melancholy stretches of
close-bitten grazing-land and runty corn-fields the flyer shrieked
upward, and the miles scuttled the echoes back to Slateville.
On an alternate night that was as singingly still as the inside of a
cup the flyer tore through the village with the cinders tattooing
against its panes and the white eye searching like a near-sighted
But from the red fireman's cab the green lantern with the black
bull's-eye painted on the outward side dangled unlit, and in the
dirt-colored house, behind drawn shades, the Hebe-like figure was
crouched in another woman's arms, and, in the room adjoining, John
Blaney lay dead with a dent in his head.
Listen, Cottie, listen!
The crouching women crouched closer together, a dove-note in the
crooning voice of one like the coo of a mate. 'Sh-h-h, darlin'.
There it goes, Cottie. Gawd, just like nothing had happened.
'Sh-h-h, dearie; lay still!
Listen. The engine's playin' a different tune on the tracks; it's
lighter and smoother.
Just hear, Cottie; they got the old diner on. I know her screech.
I hear, dearie.
And the Cleveland sleeper wasn't touched, neither. Hear her. They
say she didn't even leave the tracks. He used to say she had a rattle
like a dice-box. Just the same, it was the smooth-runnin' Washington
sleeper lit on the engine. Listen, Cottie, oh, listen! Just like
nothin' had happened.
Don't tremble so, darlin'. That's life every timeit just rides
over its dead.
He hated the flyer, ohoh
Don't take on so, Della darlin'. He died on his job.
He hated the flyer; he
He could have jumped like Jim Dirkey did, and lived to face the
shame of it, but he died on his job. You can always say your man died
on his job, Della darlin'.
Della raised her crouching head and brushed the hair back from her
eyes. Helen's face that launched a thousand ships was no more fair.
That he diddidn't he, Cottie? He died on his job.
Sure he did, darlin'sure he did.
You rememberyou remember, Cottie, the first night they put him on
Try to forget it, Della, and don't go gettin' all
I was over home that night with you and maw, andand he came in
for supper with the news andand he was like a funeral about bein'
Yes, I remember.
Even with the extra pay he was for stickin' to the accommodation,
because he loved her insides.
And because it was a chance to spite you.
But II was all for the flyer. I told him he was afraid of her
speed, and he hauled off and nearly hit me for callin' him a coward
before you and maw, and you up and
He was rough with you, Della, but he wouldn't 'a' dared do it with
me there. I had him bluffed, all righty; he wouldn't 'a' done it with
me and maw there.
Lots maw would 'a' cared. Poor maw! She never knew nothing else but
Paw wasn't so bad, Dellahe always brought home the envelope.
Johnhe made me eat the words when we got home that night; but,
just the samey, hehe wouldn't 'a' took the Imperial, Cottie, if I
hadn't nagged him to ithe wouldn't have!
Well, what if he wouldn't? You wouldn't 'a' married him, neither,
if he hadn't nagged you to it when paw died, and he knew you had a
stepmother that was devilin' and abusin' the life out of usyou.
He used to say, when he came home with a face as black as a crazy
devil's, that coaling the flyer was just like stoking hell. She ate and
ate and bellowed for more. He hated the flyer, he did. He stoked her
with more hate than coal, and I drove him to it, Cottie. I put the hole
in his head.
Aw, no, dearie! Nobody ever made John Blaney do nothing he didn't
want to do. He's dead now and can't take up for hisself, but he was
hard as nailseven if he was my brother-in-law.
'Sh-h-h, Cottie, little sister.
I always say, Della, Gawd knows I ain't got a cinch! I hate the
factory like I hate a green devil, and you know what it is to live
around maw's doggin' and abuse, but it's like I tole Joe the other
night: I wouldn't marry the finest man livin' before I'd had my chance
to try out what I had my heart set on. I told him he could save his
breath. I'm goin' to take a chance on gettin' out of this dumpnot on
tyin' up to it.
Joe's a good boy, Cottie. He's a saint alongside of what John was.
Steady fellows and foremen ain't layin' around loose, dearie. He's a
good boy, Cottienone finer.
Della! You ain't
No; I ain't urgin' you, Cottie. I ain't sayin' you're not right to
hold off, but Joe's the finest boy in these parts, ain't he?
That ain't sayin' much. You wasn't a big-enough gambler, Della. You
remember how I begged you the night before the wedding to hold off. I
ain't goin' to make your mistake. You ought 'a' done what Lily
donetook a chance. Tessie says her pictures were all pasted up
outside of Indianapolis last week. Lily Divette in the 'Twinkling
Belles.' If Lily Maloney with her baby face and
II stuck to John to the end, thoughdidn't I, Cottie? Nobody can
say I didn't stick to himcan they, Cottie?
No, no! Now don't go gettin' excited again, dearie.
Oh, Gawd, Gawd, Cottie. II feelsosoqueer!
Yes, darlin', I know!
The cryptic quiescence of death hung over the unpainted pine
bedchamber and chilled their skin like damp in a cave seeps through
clothing. From the far side of the bed a lamp wavered against a tin
reflector and danced through their hair like firelight in copper; wind
galloped over the flat country, shook the box-shaped house, and
whinnied on every flue.
Cottie, whose head was Tiziano's Flora yet more radiant, held her
sister's equally radiant head close to her warm bosom, and through the
calico of her open-at-the-throat waist, her heart pumped the
organ-prelude of LifeLife in the midst of Death.
Della darlin'don'tdon't be afraid to talk to me. Ain'tain't I
II knowwhat you're thinkin', Della
'Sh-h-h; not now!
You're thinkin' that you'rethat you're free, now,
Free, darlin'thinkthere ain't nothin' can hold you! A hundred
dollars' benefit-money and
Gawd, CottieCottie'sh-h-h! Him layin' in there dead! Itit
ain't no time to talk about that now. Anyways, you're the one to go.
I'll stay with maw.
Her words tumbled, and her tones were galvanized with fear and
fear's offspring, superstition. She glanced toward the half-open door
with eyes two shades too dark.
No, no, Della; you're the oldest. You go first, and II'll stick
it out with maw tillshe's gettin' feebler every day, Delia, and I'll
be joinin' you some day not far off.
'Sh-h-h; it ain't right. II'll give herhalf the benefit-money,
Cottie, but it's a sin to
You and folks make me sick. If the devil hisself was to die you'd
snivel and bury him in priest's robes. What John was he was
dyin' didn't change it. Ten days ago you were standin' at this very
window answering his signal and hating him with every swing of the
Cottie, you mustn't!
I used to see you sit across from him at the table, and when he
yelled at you or wanted to pet you I've seen you run your finger-nails
into you palms from hatin' him, clear in till they bled, like you used
to do when you was a kid and hated any one, and now, just because he's
Oh, Gawd, I never done the right thing by him! He was my husband.
Look how bare I kept everything from him. He used to come home from a
forty-eight-hour shift and say this house reminded him of hell with the
fire gone out. I never did the right thing by him.
He didn't by you, neither.
He was my husband.
He knew if we'd 'a' had the money to light out and do like Lily he
wouldn't 'a' stood a show of bein' your husband, though. He knew, from
the day they put the bandages on maw's eyes, thet he was just the only
way out for us. He knew one of us had to quit the factory and stay home
with herand where was the money comin' from? He knew.
Yes, he knew, Cottie. Even on the New York accommodation, that time
on the wedding-trip, trouble began right off. When that fellow on the
train got talkin' to me and told me he could give me a job in the
biggest show on Broadway, he nearly hauled off and raised a row right
there on the train when he came back and seen me talkin' to him.
If only you'd got the fellow's name, Della, and his street in New
How could I, when John came back and began snarlin' like
Would you know him if you seen him again, Della? Think, darlin',
Would I? In my sleep I'd know him. He was a short fellow with eyes
so little they didn't show when he laughed, and a mouth full of gold
teeth that stuck out like a buck's. And say, Cottie, for diamonds! A
diamond horseshoe scarf-pin as big as a dollar!
There's money in it, Della. Look at Lily. Tessie says she's diamond
rings to her knuckles.
John knew what took the life out of me, from that day on. He used
to say if he ever laid eyes on that little bullet-headed, rat-eyed
sport, as he called him, he'd shake the life out of him. Just like
Faugh! he wouldn't 'a' had the nerve!
Don't you forget he knew what was eatin' us, Cottie.
Well, wasn't it our righta beauty like you in this dump?
Their faces, startlingly alike, were upturned, and in their eyes was
the golden fluid of dawn.
He knew. You remember that letter Lily wrote when you asked her to
get you in her show?
He found it in my pocket one night and read it, and laughed and
laughed. He used to know it by heart, and he'd cackle it to me whenever
he caught me red-eyed from cryin'.
That letter she wrote out of jealousy? He seen that?
Yeh! 'Stay home, dearie,' he used to sing to me, laughin' to split
his sides; 'stay home, like Della did, and make happiness and a home
Then he'd go off in a real fit of laughin' again. 'You ain't got no
ideas of the breakers ahead, Cottie dearie,' he'd holler, 'and in this
business there ain't many of us got the strength to fight 'em.'
Wasn't that like himstealin' a letter!
Then he'd laugh some more, wag his finger at me and make me cry,
and keep yellin' 'Breakers ahead! Breakers ahead!'
There, there, dearie; it's all over, now. He was too dumb and too
mean to know that Lily was as jealous as a snake of me and youalways,
even, when we was kids. Sure she don't want us in her showwe'd walk
away with it. John was too dumb to see the letter was only
'Sh-h-h; it's a sin to run down the dead.
Anyway, you never lied to John like he did to you. I can still hear
him that dark night, down by the quarry, trying to scare you. Lyin' to
you about what girls got to buck up against in the city, that night,
when they first put the bandages on maw's eyes, and he was beggin' and
beggin' you to marry him.
Gawd! I was ashamed to listen to some of the things he tried to
scare me with that night.
He couldn't answer when I piped up about his cousin, Tessie Hobbs,
that went to St. Louis to learn millinery and sends home four dollars a
week. He couldn't answer that, could he?
No, he couldn't, Cottie.
A silencethe great stone silence of a coliseumclosed in about
them. Della shivered and burrowed her head deeper into her sister's
Aw, Gawd, us talkin' like this, with him layin' in there!
If he wasn't layin' in there we wouldn't be talkin'.
A shutter swung in on its hinges.
There, there! It ain't nothin' but the wind, Della.
He was goin' to fix that shutter to-day when he was off shift.
Gawd, he didn't have no more idea of dyin' than I did!
That's just like maw. Sometimes in the night I can almost hear her
stop breathin'she's so weak, but she's always talkin' about next
It'll be awful for you, little sister, with me gone and you alone
Itit ain't a sin to say it, Delia. Sheshe ain't here for long,
and I'll be comin' to join you soon. You'll tell 'em I'm comin'.
Gawd, how I wish we was going together, little sister! Leavin' you
is just like leavin' my heart. There's nobody I love like you, Cottie.
Della darlin', look at Lilyshe went alone.
II ain't afraidyou got the best voice of us two, but I'll make
the way for you, dearie. I'll make it easier for you to come.
It won't be long.
If I could only have got his name that time on the train, Cottie!
You got Lily's boardin'-house, dearie. Ain't that something?
Oh, darlin'him layin' in there!
Don't begin that again, dearie.
Listen, Cottielistenthat can't be the six-thirty accommodation
already, is it? It ain't the funeral-day already, is it?
Yes, dearie; but it's a long way off. See, it's just gettin' light
through the crack in the shade.
Don't raise it, Cottie. It's a sin to let in the light, with him
layin' there and dead.
Darlin', it ain't goin' to hurt him, and the lamp's low. See; there
ain't no harm in raisin' itlook how light it's gettin'!
Off toward the east dawn trembled on the edge of eternity and sent
up, as if the earth were lighting the horizon, a pearlish light shotted
with pink. A smattering of stars lingered and trembled as though cold.
They paled; dawn grew pinker, and the black village, with its naked
trees standing darkly against the sky, sent up wispy spirals of smoke.
A derrick in the jagged bowl of the quarry moved its giant arms slowly,
and a steam-whistle shrieked.
The New York accommodation hallooed to the trembling dawn and tore
The sisters pressed their white faces close to the cold pane and
watched it rush into the sunrise. A cock crowed to the dawn, and, from
afar, another. A dirt-team rumbled up the road, and the steam-whistle
from the quarry blew a second reveille.
Youyou take the accommodation, darlin'. It's cheaper, and you'll
be feelin' scary about the flyer for a while. You can catch it down by
Terre Haute at five-thirty-one, Monday morningeh, darlin'?
Soso soon, Cottieonly three days after, and him hardly cold.
Don't let's drag it out, darlin'.
Oh, Cottie, I'll be waitin' for you! There won't be a day that I
won't be waitin' for you. There's nothin' I love like you.
Their faces were close and wet with tears, and the first ray of sun
burnished their heads and whitened their white bosoms.
Kiss me, Cottie.
My little sister!
You're goin', Dellatry to think, darlin', what it meansyou're
'Sh-h-h, dearie'sh-h-h. YesII'm goin'.
And in the room adjoining John Blaney lay dead with a dent in his
* * * * *
The city has a thousand throats, its voice is like a storm running
on the wind, and like ship-high waves plunging on ship-high rocks, and
like unto the undertone of lost souls adrift in a sheol of fog and
The voice of the city knows none of the acoustic limitations of
architects and prima donnas. Its dome is as high as fifty-story
sky-scrapers, and its sounding-board the bases of a thousand thousand
It penetrates the Persian-velvet hangings of the most rococo palace
toward which the sight-seeing automobile points its megaphone, and
beats against brains neurotic with the problems of solid-gold-edged
bonds and solid-gold cotillion favors. It is the birth-song of the
tenement child and the swan-song of the weak. It travels out over
fields of new-mown hay and sings to the boy at the plow. It shouts to
the victor and whispers to the stranger.
Through the morning bedlam of alarm-clocks, slamming doors, the
rattle of ash-cans, and the internal disorders of a rooming-house, came
the voice a-whispering to Della.
Out from the mouths of babes and truck-drivers, out from the mouths
of débutantes and coal-stokers, out from the mouths of those who toil
and those who spin not. Drifting over the sea of housetops, up from the
steep-walled streets. The laugh of the glad, the taut laugh of the mad;
the lover's sigh, and the convict's sighand, beneath, like arpeggio
scales under a melody, the swiftly running gabble-gabble of life.
Della stirred on her cot, raised her arms, and yawned to the
faun-colored oblong of October sky; breathed in the stale air and salty
pungency of bad ventilation and the city's breakfast-bacon, and swung
herself out of bed.
So awoke Adriana, too, with her hair falling in a torrent over her
breasts and her languid limbs unfolding.
She shook her hair backward with the changeless gesture of women,
held her hands at arm's-length, and regarded them. They were whiter,
and the broken nails were shaping themselves into ovals. A callous
ridge along her forefinger, souvenir of a cistern which pumped
reluctantly, was disappearing.
She smiled to herself in the mirror, like the legendary people who
have eyes to see the grass grow must smile at the secret of each blade.
Then she slid into a high-necked, long-sleeved wrapper and bound the
whorl of her hair in a loose bun at her neck.
Mrs. Fallows's minimum-priced, minimum-sized hall bedroom speaks for
its nine-by-twelve neatly furnished self. The hall bedrooms of
Forty-fourth Street and Forty-fifth Street and Forty-ad-infinitum
Street are furnished in that same white-iron bed with the dented brass
knobs, light-oak, easy-payment dresser, wash-stand, and square table
with a too short fourth leg and shelf beneath for dustand above the
dresser, slightly askew, a heart-rendering, art-rendering version of
Narcissus at the Pool, or any of the well-worn incidents favorite to
mythology and lithographers.
But life, like love and the high cost of living and a good cigar, is
comparative. To Della, stretching her limbs to the morning, Mrs.
Fallows's carpeted fourth-floor back, painted furniture, and a light
that sprang into brilliancy at a tweak, was a sybarite's retreat,
eighteen hours removed from wash-day, and rising in the dark, black
mud-roads and a dirt-colored shanty that met the wind broadside and
trembled to its innards.
Two flights below her a mezzo-soprano struggled for high C;
adjoining, an early-morning-throated barytone leaned out of a doorway
and called for a fresh towel. Came three staccato raps at Della's
portal, and enter on the wings of the morning and a pair of
white-topped, French-heeled shoes Miss Ysobel Du Prez, late of the
third road company of the Broadway success, Oh, Oh, Marietta! and
with a history in pony ballets that entitled her to a pedigree and
Girl, ain't you dressed yet? What you doin'? Waitin' for your
French maid to get your French lawngerie from the French laundry?
Miss Du Prez swung herself atop the trunk and crossed her slim
limbs. Chatelaine jewelry jangled; Herculean perfume dominated the air,
and that expressive sobriquet for soubrette, a fourteen-inch
willow-plume, and long as the tail of a male pheasant, brushed her left
Miss Ysobel Du Prezone of the ornamental line of tottering
caryatids who uphold on their narrow, whitewashed shoulders the
gold-paper thrones of musical-comedy principalities, and on those same
shoulders carry every tradition of that section of Broadway which
Thespis occupies on a ninety-nine-year, privilege-of-renewal leasethe
fumes of grease-paint the incense of her temple, the footlights the
white flame of her sacrifice!
You gotta do a quick change if you're going to the offices with me
to-day, girl. I gotta be up at the Empire in the Putney Building by
eleven and stop in at the Bijou first.
Delia shed her comfortable shroud of repose like Thais dropping her
mantle in an Alexandrian theater.
I must 'a' overslept, Ysobel. Trying on them duds we bought
yesterday up to so late last night done me up. Three days in New York
ain't got me used to the pace.
You should worry! If I had your face and figure I'd sleep till the
call-boy rapped twice.
Ah, Ysobel, you with your cute little face and cute little ways!
Soft pedal on the ingenoo stuff, girl. You know you don't hate
yourself. I didn't notice that you exactly despised anything about you
when they called the floor-walker to have a look at you in that black
Honest, Ysobel, I dreamt about it all night.
Sure you did! But who was it steered you into a 'slightly used,'
classy place where you could buy a gown that Mrs. Asterbilt wore once
to a reception at the Sultan of Sulu's or the Prince of Pilsen's or any
of that crowd; who steered you in a place where you could buy a real
gown for one-tenth the cost of production?
You did, Ysobel. I don't know what I'd 'a' done if Mrs. Fallows
hadn't brought you up.
That little black dream that only let you back twenty-nine-fifty
cost three hundred if it cost a cent, and nothing but a snag in the hem
and the lace in front as good as new. Gee, I could show this cheap
bunch around here how to dress if I had a month's advance in hand!
Get off the trunk, Ysobel, and sit here, will you? I want to get it
out. Say, if Cottie could see me with the black hat to match! My little
sister I was telling you about could
Who you got to thank? Who gave you the right steer? Take it from
me, if I hadn't gone along with you, every store on Sixth Avenue would
have X-rayed the corner of your handkerchief for the thirty-eight
dollars tied up in it and body-snatched you for your own funeral. Even
with me along you had a lean like a bent pin for that
made-on-Canal-Street, thirty-two-fifty, red silk they hauled out of the
morgue to show you. I seen you edgin' for that Kokome model.
Me and Cottie was always great ones for red. I ought to had the red
serge you made so much fun of dyed for mourning, but Cottie
Red! When you, in a tight-lookin' black that hugs you like it was
wet, and a black hat with a tilt that Anna Held would buy right off
your head, can walk into any office in the row this morning and land in
the show-girl row of any chorus on the bills. If you think that's an
easy stunt, ask any girl in this house.
II ain't scared a bit now, since I'm going around with you,
Ysobel: but gee, if I had to go alone!
Fallows does the same thing for all of them. When I was in last
spring from first pony in a Middle West company of the 'Merry
Whirl'remind me, and I'll show you my noticeswhen I was in last
spring Fallows dumped a little doll-eyed soubrette on me that didn't do
a thing, after I dragged her around to the offices, but grab a part
away from me in a Snooky Ookums quartet that Jim Simmons was puttin'
Sure! A production I'd been holding off for all season. Me that's
made the boards of more stages creak than she's ever seen!
Mrs. Fallows says you're just the one to show me around, that you
are one swell little pony, and an old one in the offices.
An old one in the offices! I don't see Fallows herself suffering
from no growing-pains. They don't come any farther gone to seed than
her. She tried to stick to her soft-shoe act till the office boys of
the Consolidated Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Managers
got up a subscription and bought her this four-flights' rooming-house
to keep her feet busy with. Fallows better lay low with me or I can do
some fancy tongue-work.
She didn't mean
Easy there, girl! Didn't I learn you for two hours last night to
get the cold-cream on smooth, first? Smoothnow the powdermore white
on the nosemore!
Say, I met Vyette D'Orsay up in a office yesterday, and she thought
I was tryin' out a comedy line on her when I told her I found one I had
to learn how to make up.
Lily, a girl from our town, used to powder and
Little more red over the cheek-bonessee, honey?like minesay,
if you wanna see swell work you ought to see me made up for
spotdidn't I tell you to work back toward the ears?
Theremoregood! Don't give yourself a mouth like a low-comedy gash.
Use the cheese-cloth, honey.
Look how it smears!
There, a Cupid bow in the middle is all you need. You got a mouth
just the size of a kiss, anyway.
JohnJohn used to say about it that
Good! Say, you're some little learneryou are! Easy therealways
line an eyebrow downwardtheremoreso!
Say, you got Zaza, Perfecta, Lillie Russell, and the whole hothouse
bunch of them knocked through the glass ceiling.
Delia leaned to her radiant reflection in the mirror and smiled
through teeth faintly pink from the ruby richness of her lips.
You ought to see my little sister Cottie, Ysobel. When she comes
you'll sit up and take real notice. I ain't even in her class. She can
sit on her hairit's so longand it's so gold it's hot-lookin'.
Before I had typhoid mine was the same wayyou can't put them
dresses on over your head, girl. You gotta climb inthere ain't no
room for a overhead act. There! Say, look at that side-drape, will you!
I bet that lace set some dame back ten a yard. Some class! Don't forget
to strike for thirty right off the batthey'll think more of you. Say,
girl, it's worth the time I'm wasting on you to see Casey's face when I
steer you into there this morning.
Ain't ita beauty, Ysobel! But it's a little tight, kinda
Now begin that again, will you? Honest, if Vyette could hear that
Around the knees I mean, Ysobel. It's hard for me to walk.
If it was any looser I'd get a fit of the laughs like I did over
that red serge. If it was any looserfor Gawd's sake, leave that neck
open! No, no; down like that! A strip of real, lily-white,
garden-variety neck, and she wants to pin it shut!
II feel ashamedIIkinda hate to leave it open.
Shades of Vyette! Leave that neck alone, can't you? After all my
preachin' yesterday, look where I landed you. Nowheres!
Like that, Ysobel?
Take the pin out, there; center left like that. Say, girl, I wish
you knew about this game what I've forgot.
Me, too, Ysobel.
Say, listen to her warblin' down there, will you? What's she
practisin' for, I wondera chaser act on a four-a-day circuit? Breathe
in, girl, you may be a perfect thirty-six, but you'll never make a
tape-measure see it your way.
Shall Ishall I tell 'em I got a voice, Ysobel? Me and my little
sister used to sing in
Miss Du Prez glanced up over Della's shoulder and, by proxy of the
mirror, their eyes met. The red of exertion was high in her face, and
one corner of her mouth compressed over pins, so that her words leaked
out as through the lips of a faun.
Voice! You remind me of the fellow that went down to Bowling Green
to bowl. They got as much room for voices in musical comedy as a
magazine's got for anything besides the advertisin' pages.
My little sister's got
Can you beat it? 'Voice,' she says. You put your voice in your
ankles and waist-line, girl, and it'll get you further. And as for
scales like our friend down-stairs, learn to keep the runners out of
your silk stockings first. There, give it the Anna Held
Swell, and then some. Who you got to thank? Who steered you right?
Like a pale-gold aura of moonlight spreading out from behind a black
cloud sprang Della's hair against the drooping brim of her hat. She was
like a tight-draped, firm-stayed Venus, lyric in every line, her limbs
wrapped in an ephod of grace and a skirt that restricted her steps like
anklets joined by a too short chain.
Here, put them white gloves in your bag and save 'em for outside
the office doors. Ready?
Oh, Ysobel, if my little sister Cottie could only see me now!
Don't forget the lines I learnt you last nighttwo years'
experience on Western short circuitspot-light work, and silent
Western short circuitWestern short circuit!
Dancing and first-row promenade specialty.
Dancing and first
Say, you ain't unlearnt it already, have you?
Down four flights of narrow, unlit stairs with their gauzy laughter,
lingering in black hall corners, and then out into a sunlit morning.
At the end of the tall-walled block, lined on both sides with
brownstone, straight-front phalanxes of rooming-houses, a segment of
Broadway, flashing with automobiles, darting pedestrians, white-façaded
buildings, and sun-reflecting windows, flowed like a mountain stream in
GeeYsobel, look at that jam, will you!
Well, whatta you know! There goes Vance Dudley! If you want to know
what kind of work I do, ask Vance. Me and him did a duet solo in a
two-a-day musical sketch that would have landed us on Broadway sure if
the lead hadn't put in his lady friend when she came in off the road,
flat. I'll show you my notices sometime. That act was good enough for a
Hy Myers house if it had been worked right.
I bet you're grand, Ysobelyour cute little feet and all.
Ask any of 'em around the offices about me. I could soft-shoe
Clarice off the 'Winter Revue' this minute ifif I wasn't what they
call in the profesh aa tin saint. I kinda got my ideas about
About what, Ysobel?
None of them ingenoo lines again, girl. Leave it to you merry
widows to take care of yourselves every time. There's nothin' I can
learn a merry widow. A merry widow can make Methuselah, herself, feel
like a squab when it comes to bein' wise.
That baby stare ain't the kind of a cue to throw me, girl. I can
steer you up as far as the offices, but I'm done after you once get
past the office boy.
After she gets past the ground-glass door every girl in the
business has got to decide for herself. I decided myself, and look
where I got to! Nine years in the business and never creaked a Broadway
board yet. I ain't got the looks to get there on my own stuffand what
happens? I wake up dead some day doin' short circuit in a Kansas
tank-town. I'll be doin' thirty-a-week, West-of-the-Mississippi stuff
to the bitter end becausebecause I decided my way and selected
the rocky lane.
The rocky lane?
Sure! The first job I ever went out for I could 'a' had. Five sides
to the parttwo songs and a specialty solo, but, instead, I hit him
flop across the cheek with my glove and walked out, leavin' him
staggerin' and my engagement layin' on the floor. II ain't preachin'
to you, honeyI'm just tellin'! Every girl in this business has got to
decide for herselfI ain't sayin' one thing or the other.
Ysobelhit who across the cheekhit who?
Take it from me, honey, and remember I ain't tryin' to sing you the
'Saint's Serenade,' but take it from me, if I was startin' all over
againway back where you areII'd do the glove act over again. I
would, honey, I would, and I ain't preachin', neither.
Honest to Gawd, Ysobel; I don't know what
Ain't I told you to cut out that ingenoo with mehonest, it gets
on my nerves! Watch out, there!
Gee; that scart me!
Them are pay-as-you-exit taxi-cabs we're dodging. The chorus-girls'
sun-parlors, if you listen to the Sunday supplements and funny papers.
The time wecameJohnwas a great one for watchin' them.
Take it from me that about all nine out of ten of us gay la-la
girls you read about, get out of 'em, is watchin'. All we know about
them is dodgin' them after the show to get home in a hurry, stick our
feet in hot water to get some of the ache out, and fall into bed too
tired to smear the cold-cream off.
Watch out, there, Ysobel!
The truth about the chorus-girl would cripple the box-office and
put the feature supplements and press-agents out of business. Here we
are, DellaI got to stop off at nine just a minute, and you wait
outside for me; remember when we get up to elevenWestern circuit,
silent principal and
Western circuitWestern circuit!
The Putney Building reared nineteen white-tile, marble-façaded
stories straight up from the most expensive heart-acreage of Broadway
and stemmed the Thespian tide that rushed in from every side and surged
against its booking-offices.
A bronze elevator the size of a Harlem bedroom and crowded to its
capacity shot them upward with the breath-taking flight of a frightened
Ysobel crowded into a corner and nudged a youthful-looking old man
in a blue-and-white striped collar and too much bay-rum.
Hello yourself, Ysobel.
How are yuh?
What you doin', Eddie?
Rehearsin' with a act.
Noerhigh-class burlesquetwo a day.
You workin', Ysobel?
Got three things danglin'ain't signed yet. Just came in last
S'long. Come on, Della. Watch out there, Eddiea fellow burnt a
hole in my friend lookin' at her like that once.
A titter ran around the elevator, and the old young man writhed in
his blue-striped collar.
'Sh-h-h, Ysobel; everybody heard you. A rosily opalescent hue swam
high into Della's face as she stepped out of the elevator, and dyed her
I should worry! I was never out with him in a show in my life that
he didn't ogle a hole in every queen he seen. Out in Spokane onct he
Western circuitWestern circuit
They hurried down a curving, white-tile corridor, rows of doors with
eye-like glass panes were lined up on each side, and the tick-tack of
typewriters penetrating. Della's breath came heavier and faster, and a
layer of vivid pink showed through the artificial red.
You wait out here a minute, Della. I wanna step in here, at the
Bijou, and see if Louis Rafalsky is doin' anything this morning. Then
we'll shoot up to the Empire
SureII'll wait, Ysobel.
She leaned against the wall and placed her hand over the region of
her lace yoke and heart, as if she would regulate their heaving.
A flash of cerise plume, a jangle of chatelaine jewelry, and Ysobel
disappeared behind one of the doors, her many-angled silhouette
flashing against the far side of the ground glass.
Della breathed in deep and gulped in her dry, hot throat; her
fingers, the damp cold born of nervousness, curled in toward her warm
palms. She daubed at her lips with a handkerchief.
Simultaneously a door opposite her opened, and a short,
bullet-headed figure in a light checked suit, and a diamond horseshoe
scarf-pin that caught the points of light stepped out into the pale
nimbus cast by the white signal-light of an up-going elevator.
With a gasp that caught in her throat Della darted in her too narrow
skirt across the corridor, reached out, and grasped the light-gray
Look, she cried, thrusting herself between him and the
trellis-work of the elevator-shaft and throwing back her head so that
her bare neck, soft as the breast feathers of a dove, rose and fell
with a dove's agitated breathing, LookI'm here!
The short figure turned on his heel and looked up at her, his
shoulder-line a full three inches below hers, and his small, predaceous
eyes squinting far back into his head.
II'm heresirdon't you remembermeI'm here.
He regarded her with the detailed appraisal of the expert, and his
glance registered points in her favor.
Gad! he repeated.
Not bad for a big girlare youeh?
Don't you remember?
Sureyou're the little girl I met out Westdidn't I?two seasons
Nonono! Don't you remember me now?
She tore her hat backward from its carefully adjusted tilt, so that
it revealed the brassy gold of her hair, and took a step toward him.
Now don't you remember?
Suresureyou're the little girl fromsure I'd remember a big
little girl like you anywhere.
You remember now? On the twenty-eight-hour accommodation out of St.
Louis. WeI got on at Terre Haute and sat across from you while
hethey made up the berth, and you said
Could I forget a big little queen like you! You've grown to a real
big girl, ain't you? Come back in my office, sister. That's how much I
think of youwith a whole company waitin' for me over at the Gotham
Ijust got hereMr.Mr.
Myers, if anybody should ask you. That's who you're dealin'
withHy Myers, if you should happen to forget.
Ain't it funny, Mr. Myers, my runnin' into you right off. I never
thought I'd find you in this town. My little sister I was tellin' you
about will be here soon and
I'm ready to take that job you was tellin' me about till
In here, sister, where we can talk business alone.
She followed him back through the glazed door, through an outer
office arranged like a school-room with aisle-forming desks, and
white-shirt-waisted girls and men clerks with green eye-shades bent
double over typewriters and books as big as the marble tablets on which
are writ the debit and credit of all men for all time.
Boys scurried and darted; telephone bells jangled; and finally the
quiet of an inner office, shut off from the noises like a padded cell,
almost entirely carpeted in a leopard's skin and hung with colored
lithographs of many season's comedy queens, whose dynasties were sprung
from caprice and whose papier-mâché thrones had long since slumped to
Now sit here, sisterhere in this chair next to my desk, where I
can look at you. Gad, ain't you grown to be a big girl, though!
I'm ready for that job now, Mr.Mr. Myers.
Mr. Myers swung on his swivel-chair, squinted his eyes further back
into his head, and nodded further appraisal and approval.
Big little girlcan I call you that, Queenie? How have you been?
I've had a hard time of it, Mr.
Hold out your hand and lemme tell your fortune, sister.
Dear childyou mustn't act like thatherehold out your
We want jobs, me and my little sisterwhen she gets here. I told
you about her, you remember. II've had experience on Western
Naughtynaughty eyesdevilish eyes! Don't you look at me like
thatdon't! You big little devil, you!
What is it, sir?
Good! Sit there with the sun on youyou've got hair like
I've had experience with first-row
Gad! He swerved suddenly forward in his chair so that his small
feet touched the floor. Gad, stand up therestand over there in that
sunshine by the window!
Stand upthere, agin that screen there
Dark as a nun in her wimple, but golden as a sun-flower, she rose as
Trilby rose to the eye of Svengali
Gad! he repeated, bringing his small tight fist down on a littered
ash-tray, by Gad!
Wine was suddenly in her blood.
You ought to see me and my little sister when we pose together;
Take off your hat, girl.
She stood suddenly quiet, as if the wine in her blood had seethed
Awnowhatta you think I amI
Take off your hat, big little girl, and if you're good to me I'll
tell you something. If I hadn't taken a fancy to you I wouldn't tell
She lifted the heavy brim with both hands and stood in the bar of
Gad! he criedGad! and jerked open a drawer and threw the big
bulk of a typewritten manuscript on the desk before him. Read that;
read that, sister! His heavy spatulate finger underlined the caption.
'TheRedWidow,' 'The Red Widow,' by Al Wilson.
He rose and jerked her by her two wrists so that she flounced toward
him, her hair awry and the breath jumping out of her bosom.
That's you, sisterthe Red Widow!
You're goin' out in a road chorus next week and get broke in. At
the end of a season I'm goin' to feature you in the biggest show that
ever I had up my sleeve.
She regarded him with glazed eyes of one dazed, and backed away from
Youthe Red Widow, sister! You know what a Hy Myers production
means, don't you? You know what an Al Wilson show is, don't you? Add
them two. I'll make you make that show or bust. Stand off there and
lemme look at you againthereso!
She sprang back from his touch and raised her hand with the glove
dangling in the attitude of a horseman cracking his whip. Youyou
quit! Like Dryope changed into a tree, with the woodiness creeping up
her limbs and the glove in her passive hand, she stood with her arm
flung upward. You quit!
Dear child, you mustn't
II'm goin'lemme go!
Aw, come now, sister; don't get friskyI didn't mean to make you
sore. Gee! Ain't you a touchy little devil?
If that's your number, all rightybut you're just kiddin'you
ain't goin' to be too independent in one of the worst seasons in the
She moved toward the door with her hand outstretched to the knob.
You better think twice, sisterbut don't lemme keep youthere's
other Red Widows as good and better'n you beatin' like an army at my
door this minute. But don't lemme keep you.
Willwill you lemme alone?
Sure I will, if it'll make you feel any betteryou cold little
queen, you. Nervous as a unbroke colt, ain't you? Sit down there and
He touched a buzzer, and a uniformed boy sprang through the door to
Write Al Wilson to meet me here to-morrow at ten.
Yes, sir. The uniform flashed out.
She moved around him cautiously, not taking her eyes from his face.
Have Ihave I got a job?
Sure you have. I'll send you out to Frisco in a chorus that'll
limber you up, all right, but I won't let you stay long. I won't let a
little queen like you run away for long.
Gad! maybe I won't neither. How would you like to play right close
to home over in Brooklyn? I've got a chorus over there that'll take the
stiffness out of you. I don't want to let a great, big, beautiful doll
like you too far away.
FriscoI like Frisco.
But hold up your right hand. Don't you tell nobody I'm pushing you
for next season's featurethat's our little secretbetween you and me
I was gettin' thirty dollars.
Don't you worry about that, Doll-Doll. You come back here to-morrow
at ten. I wanna show Al how the Red Widow we've been lookin' for
dropped right into my hands. He can't squeal to me no more about
II'm going now, Mr. Myersto-morrow, then, at ten
Where you goin', Doll?
Home. I guess I've lost my friend now.
Wait; I'm going your way.
You don't even know which way I'm goin'.
Sure I do. I'll drop you there in my car.
OhII wantto walkI do.
None of that, sister. I'm treatin' you white, and you gotta do the
same by me. I won't bite you, you little scare-cat! I'm goin' to make
things happen to you that'll make you wake up every day pinchin'
My little sister, Mr. Myers, has got me beat on looks.
But you gotta treat me white, sister. We can talk business in the
car, but you gotta have confidence in me. I won't biteyou big little
I don't wantto gothat way, Mr. MyersI gotta go some place
* * * * *
On its hundredth night The Red Widow, playing capacity houses at
the Gotham Theater, presented each lady in the audience a handsome
souvenir of Red Widow perfume attractively nestled in a red-satin box
with a color picture of Della Delaney on the label.
To the pretty whifflings and ah's! of every feminine nose present,
to the over-a-million-copies-sold waltz-theme that was puckering the
mouth of every newsboy in New York, to the rustly settling back into
chairs, furs, and standing-room-only attitudes against Corinthian
pillars, the hundredth-night, second-act curtain rose on an audience
with an additional sense unexpectedly gratified and the souvenir-loving
soul of every woman present sniffing its appreciation.
Comedy is a classic prodigal who has wandered far. Comus has
discarded his mantle and donned a red nose, a split-up-the-back
waistcoat, and a pair of clap-sticks.
Harlequin and Cap-and-Bells have doffed the sock and many colors for
the sixty-dollar-a-week rôle of million-dollar pickle-magnate pursuing
a forty-dollar juvenile, who, in turn, is pursuing the
two-hundred-dollar-a-week Red Widow from Act Onesummer hotel at
Manhattan Beach to Act Twotropical isle off the Bay of Bungel.
For the hundredth time the opening act of The Red Widowa ghoul
at the grave of a hundred musical comediessang to its background of
white-flannel chorus-men, drop-curtain of too-blue ocean and jungle of
A painted ship idled on a painted ocean. Trees reared their tropical
leaves into a visible drop-net.
It is the Bayit is the Bayit is the Ba-a-ay
Of Love and Bunge-e-e-e-l
announced the two front rows, kicking backward three times.
It is the Ba-a-a-ay
Of Love and Bunge-e-e-el
agreed the kicked-at, white-flannel background.
A shapely octet in silk-and-lisle regimentals, black-astrakhan capes
flung over one shoulder, and black-astrakhan hats as high as a
majordomo's bent eight silk-and-lisle left knees with rhythmic
regularity. Six ponies in yellow skirts, as effulgent as inverted
chrysanthemums, and led by a black pony with a gold star in her hair,
kicked to the wings and adored the audience. A chain of Bungel belles
stretched their thin arms above their heads in a letter O and prinked
about on their toes like bantams in a dust road.
Five trombones, ten violas, twelve violins, a drum and bass-viol
bombardment rose to a high-C climax, with the chorus scrambling loyally
after them like a mountaineer scaling a cliff for an eaglet's nest.
It is the Bayit is the Bayit is the Ba-a-ay
Of Love and Bunge-e-e-l
shouted the seventy-five of them, receding with a grape-vine motion
into the wings.
Enter Cyrus Hinkelstein, mayor and pickle-magnate of Brineytown, on
the Suwanee, in a too large white waistcoat, white-duck comedy spats,
and a pink-canvas bald head.
He institutes an immediate search behind tropical vines and along
the under sides of palm fronds for the forty-dollar juvenile who is
pursuing the Red Widow from the summer hotel, Act One to Act Two,
tropical isle off the Bay of Bungel.
Enter the Red Widow in a black, fish-scale gown that calls out the
stealthy pencil of every Middle West dressmaker in the house and rapid
calculation from the women with a good memory and some fish-scales on a
The Red Widow, with a poinsettia sprawling like a frantic clutch at
her heart, and her burnished gold head rising with the grace of a gold
flower out of a vase!
Cyrus assumes a swoon of delight, throws out a cueThe date-trees
are bloomingthe conductor raps his baton twice for their feature
duet entitled, Oh, Let Me Die on Broadway, and the spot-light
The house clamors for a fourth encore, but the lights flash on. The
pursuing son, in the face of prolonged applause, white trousers, and a
straw katy, bursts upon the scene with his features in first position
for the dénouement.
But the audience clamors on. The son postpones his expression and
leans against a jungle to a fourth encore of the tuneful Thanatopsis.
On the final curtain of the hundredth night the company bowed two
curtain-calls to the capacity house busily struggling into wraps and up
The Red Widow, linked between the pickle-magnate and the triumphant
son, flanked by sextets, octets, and regimentals, bowed four times over
three sheaths of American beauties and a high-handled basket of
Then, almost on the drop of the curtain, the immediate roar of
sliding wings, which mingled with the exit strains of the orchestra,
like a Debussy right-hand theme defying the left, and the rumble of
Scene-shifters, to whom every encore is a knell, demolished whole
kingdoms at a lunge, half a hundred satin slippers flashed up a spiral
staircase to chorus dressing-rooms, the Red Widow flung the trail of
the gown she had onso carelessly dragged across the tarpaulin terra
firma of Bungelacross one bare arm and darted through the door with a
red star painted on the panel.
Her dressing-room, hung in vivid chintz, with a canopied table
replacing the make-up shelf, and a passing show of signed photographs
tacked along the wall, was as fantastic as Gnomes' Cave.
A wildness of chiffon and sleazy silk hung from the wall-hooks, a
pair of gauze aeroplane wings hovered across a chair, and, atop a
trunk, impertinent as a Pierette, the black pony was removing the gold
star from her hair.
Warm house to-night, Del. I sent Sibbie across to the hotel with
Yehbest house yet.
But gee! it's a wonder he wouldn't give away kerosene.
It made me so dizzy I nearly flopped like a seal in the pony
prance. He must 'a' bought it by the keg.
I told him it was strong enough to run his new motor-boat. Gawd,
ain't I tired! How'd the aeroplane song go, Ysobel?
Swell! But leave it to Billy to hog your act every time. I seen him
grab a laugh when the propellers was workin'.
Undo me, Ysobel? Why'd you let Sibbie go? Can't you let me get used
to having a maid, hon'?
Poor kid, you're dead, ain't you? But you gotta go with him
to-night or he'll howl.
Della lowered her beaded lashes over eyes that smarted, and raised
her arms like Niobe entreating fate.
Sure, I gotta go. He's been bragging about this hundredth-night
blow-out for a month.
Quit squirming, Del! Hold still, can't you?
Five recalls on 'Let me die,' Ysobel.
You never went better.
Della slid out of her gown and into a gold-colored kimono
embroidered in black flying swans, and creamed off her make-up in long,
Look, he wants me to wear that silver-fox coat and the
cloth-of-silver gown. Honest, it's so heavy I nearly fainted in it the
other night. Lots he cares!
It'll be a swell blow, Del. The hundredth night he gave when
Perfecta was starring was town talk. He don't stop at nothin'.
No, he don't stop at nothin'.
He gimme a look to-night when I came off from the prance. He'd
gimme notice in a minute if he didn't need me. He knows that ballet
would fall like a bride's biscuit without me.
Sure it would! He likes your work, hon'. I never pulled any strings
for you, neither. He just seen your try-out and liked it swell.
Sure he did, but he's that jealous of you! He was dead sore when
you brought me down here to dress with you. Gee, you're tired, ain't
Dog-tired! That staircase waltz always does me up.
Lay your head down here a minute. Ain't that just life, though?
Here we are kicking just like a year ago in Fallows's 'Neatly
I ain't kickin', Ysobel. I wake up every morning pinchin' myself.
Gawd, if you gotta long face, what ought the rest of us to have?
You're the luckiest girl any of us knows. Did you see what the new
Yellow Book says about you? 'The Titian-headed Venus de
Just the same, you wouldn't change places with me, Ysobel! Don't
wriggle out of answering me! Now, would you?
Watch out, you're mussing up your beauty curls. Here, lemme pin
that diamond heart on the left shoulder of your dress. Hurry up, honey,
Myers will be here any minute, and you know how sore he gets if you
keep him waitin'.
Say, but that silver's swell on you!
Say, Ysobel, wait till they see my little sister. We could do a
twin act that would take 'em off their feet. That new 'Heavenly Twin'
show that Al read us the first act of, with Cottie and me featured, and
you doin' the Columbinegee
It can't be Hy already. II ain't dressed yet, Hyjust a minute!
Oh, it's a telegram, Ysobel; take it, like a good girl.
Say, it ain't another from Third Row Bobbie, is it? You ought to
tip him off that he's wastin' his pin-money on you, hon'.
Della ripped the flap, read, and very suddenly sat down on the
silver-fox coat. The color drained out of her face, and her breath came
irregularly as if her heart had missed a beat.
DellaDeldarlin'what's the matter?
Ysobel peered across the bare shoulder, her slim silk legs tiptoed
and her neck arched.
Maw buried yesterday. Money you sent for her birthday
paid funeral. Am ready. Wire directions.
Awaw, Del darlin'honest, II don't know what to say, only
itonlyit ain't like she was your real mother, Del darlin'.
You can't be hard hit over a blind old dame that used to make it hot as
sixty for you.
Poor old soulshe lived like a rat anddied like one, I guess.
With you sending her money all the timenixy!
Like a rat! Poor old maw.
Della's voice was far removed, like one who speaks through the film
of a trance.
When my old dame died I felt bad, too, but Gawd knows she wasn't
peaches and cream to have around the house. And look, darlin'Cottie's
comin' nowlookCottie's comin'!
Sure she issee, read, honey'Am ready.'
Oh, Gawd, Ysobel, now that it's come II'm scaredsheshe's such
a kidsheYsobelII'm scaredI
'Sh-h-h. There he is knockin', Del. Try and smile, hon'. You know
how sore a long face makes him. Maybe you won't have to go to-night,
nowsmile, darlin'smile! Come in!
The door opened with a fling, and enter Mr. Hy Myers, an unlighted
cigar at a sharp oblique in one corner of his mouth, hat slightly
askew, and a full-length overcoat flung open to reveal a mink lining
and studded shirt-front.
Gad, he said, dallying backward on his heels, his thumbs in the
arm-circles of his waistcoat, and regarding the shining silver
figureGad, girl, you're all right.
Della drew back against the dressing-table and twirled the rings on
II got bad news, Hy. I can't go to-night. Here, read for
He reached for the paper, passing Ysobel as if she belonged to the
trappings of the room.
II can'tgo to-night, Hy.
He read with the sharp eyes of a gray hawk of the world, and drew
his coat together in a gesture of buttoning up.
Don't pull any of that stuff on me, Beauty. Just because the old
devil you've been tellin' me about
Them ain't real tearsyou'd be laughin' in your sleeve if you had
any on. Come on; step lively, Beauty. I ain't givin' this blow-out to
be made a fool out of. Give her a daub of color there, Du Prez.
Hy! She was my stepmother, and
Come, Beauty, what you actin' up for? Ain't that doll you've been
piping about all these months comin' now that the old woman is out of
the way? Bring her on and lemme have a look at her. If she's in your
class, lemme look her over.
Gimmea minute, Hy. II just wanna senda wire.
Sure; tell her to come on. I'll send it for you. I'll look her
Nono! Let Ysobel send it. You do it, Ysobel. Here, gimme your
She wrote with her breath half a moan in her throat, and her bosom
heaving and flashing the diamond heart.
Send it right off, Ysobel darlin'read it and send it off,
She daubed a rabbit's foot under each eye and slid into the
Read it, darlin', and send it.
Ysobel read slowly like a child spelling out its task.
Breakersahead. Stay at home, dearie.
Through eyes that were magnified through the glaze of tears Ysobel
burrowed her head in the silver-fox collar.
Oh, DelDel darlin'I'm wisebut, oh, my darlin'.
Come on. Whatta you think this is, a soul-kiss sceneyou two?
Good night, Ysobel; lemme go, dearielemme go.
Then out through a labyrinth of stacked scenery, with her elbow in
the cup of his hand, and the silver shimmering in the gloom.
Gad, you will have that scrawny little hanger-on around and gettin'
on my nerves! If I weren't always humorin' the daylights out of you she
wouldn't spoil a ballet of mine for fifteen minutes, she
It's darn little I ask out of you, but you gotta lemme have
heryou gotta lemme have that much, or the whole blame show can
Keep cool, there, Tragedy Queen, and watch your step! I don't want
you limpin' in there to-night with a busted ankle on top of your long
They high-stepped through a dirty passageway stacked with stage
bric-à-brac, out into a whiff of night air, across a pavement, and into
a wine-colored limousine.
He climbed in after her, throwing open the great fur collar of his
coat and lighting his cigar.
They plunged forward into the white flare of Broadway, and within
her plate-glass inclosure she was like a doomed queen riding to her
Light up there, Dolly! No long face to-night! The crowd's going to
be there waitin' for you. Look at me, you little devilyou little
Gawd, what are you made of? Ain't you got no feelings?
Tush! You ain't real on that talk. I know you better'n you know
yourself. Ain't I told you that you can bring the little sister on and
lemme look her over? There's nothin' I wouldn't do for you, Beauty. You
got me crazy to-night over you. Eh! Pretty soft for a little hayseed
She smiled suddenly, flashed her teeth, cooed in her throat, and
reared her white throat out of its fur like a swan rears its head out
of its snowy neck.
II'll be all right in a minute, Hy. Just lemme sit quiet a
second, Hy. II'm dog-tired, encores and all. Gimme a little while to
tune upbeforewe get there. Just a minute, Hy.
That's more like it. Look at me, Beauty. Do you love me, eh?
Easy on that stuff, Hy. They might chain your wrists for ravin'.
I'm ravin' crazy over you to-night, that's what I am. Love me,
ehdo you, Beauty?
She receded from his approaching face close back against the
upholstery, and within the satin-down interior of her muff her fingers
clasped each other until the nails bit into her palms and broke the
Don't make me sore to-night, Queenie. I ain't in the humor. Gowann,
answer like a good girl. Love me?
Aw, Hy, quit your kiddin'.
No, no; none of that; come on, Silver Queen. I'll give you six to