With the aid of the
BONI & LIVERIGHT
COPYRIGHT 1915 BY
BONI & LIVERIGHT, Inc.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES
JANE W. PRALL
B ruce Dudley stcxxl near a window that was
covered with flecks of paint and through which
could be faintly seen, first a pile of empty boxes, then
a more or less littered factory yard running down to a
steep bluff, and beyond the brown waters of the Ohio
River. Time very soon now to push the windows up.
Spring would be coming soon now. Near Bruce at
the next window, stood Sponge Martin, a thin wiry
little old man with a heavy black mustache. Sponge
chewed tobacco and had a wife who got drunk with
him sometimes on pay-days. Several times a year,
on the evening of such a day, the two did not dine at
home but went to a restaurant on the side of the hill
in the business part of the city of Old Harbor and
there had dinner in style.
After eating they got sandwiches and two quarts of
Kentucky-made ‘‘moon'' whisky and went off fishing in
the river. This only happened in the spring, summer
and fall and when the nights were fair and the fish
They built a fire of driftwood and sat around, hav-
ing put out catfish lines. There was a place up river
about four miles where there had formerly been, dur-
ing the river's flush days, a small sawmill and a wood-
yard for supplying river packets with fuel and they
went there. It was a long walk and neither Sponge
nor his wife was very young but they were both tough
wiry little people and they had the corn whisky to
cheer them on the way. The whisky was not colored
to look like the whisky of commerce but was clear
like water and very raw and burning to the throat and
its effect was quick and lasting.
Being out to make a night of it they gathered wood
to start a fire as soon as they had got to their favorite
fishing place. Then everything was all right. Sponge
had told Bruce dozens of times that his wife didnT
mind anything. ^^She’s as tough as a fox terrier/^ he
said. Two children had been born to the couple
earlier in life and the oldest, a boy, had got his leg cut
off hopping on a train. Sponge spent two hundred
and eighty dollars on doctors but might as well have
saved the money. The kid had died after six weeks
When he spoke of the other child, a girl playfully
called Bugs Martin, Sponge got a little upset and
chewed tobacco more vigorously than usual. She had
been a rip-terror right from the start. No doing any-
thing with her. You couldn’t keep her away from the
boys. Sponge tried and his wife tried but what good
did it do?
Once, on a pay-day night in the month of October,
when Sponge and his wife were up river at their fav-
orite fishing place, they got home at five o’clock the
next morning, both still a little lit up, and what did
Bruce Dudley think they had found going on? Mind
[ 10 ]
you, Bugs was only fifteen then. Well, Sponge had
gone into the house ahead of his wife and there, on
the new rag carpet in the front hallway was that kid
asleep and beside her was a young man also asleep.
What a nerve! The young man was a fellow who
worked in Mouser^s grocery. He didn^t live in Old
Harbor any more. Heaven knows what had become
of him. When he woke up and saw Sponge standing
there with his hand on the door-knob he jumped up
quick and lit out, almost knocking Sponge over as he
rushed through the door. Sponge kicked at him but
missed. He was pretty well lit up.
Then Sponge went after Bugs. He shook her till
her teeth fairly rattled but did Bruce think she hol-
lered? Not she! Whatever you might think of Bugs
she was a game little kid.
She was fifteen when Sponge beat her up that time.
He whacked her good. Now she was in a house in
Cincinnati, Sponge thought. Now and then she wrote
a letter to her mother and in the letters she always
lied. What she said was that she was working in a
store but that was the bunk. Sponge knew it was a lie
because he had got the dope about her from a man who
used to live in Old Harbor but who had a job in Cin-
cinnati now. One night he went out to a house and
saw Bugs there raising hell with a crowd of rich young
Cincinnati sports but she never saw him. He kept
himself in the background and then later wrote Sponge
about it. What he said was that Sponge ought to try
to straighten Bugs out but what was the use making a
fuss. She had been that way since she was a kid, hadn't
And when you came right down to it what did that
fellow want to butt in for. What was he doing in
such a place — so high and mighty afterwards ? He had
better keep his nose in his own back yard. Sponge
hadn't even shown the letter to his old woman. What
was the use of getting her all worked up? If she
wanted to believe that bunk about Bugs having a good
job in a store why not let her? If Bugs ever came
home on a visit, which she was always writing her
mother some day maybe she would, Sponge wouldn't
ever let on to her himself.
Sponge's old woman was all right. When she and
Sponge were out that way, after catfish, and they had
both taken five or six good stiff drinks of “moon,"
she was like a kid. She made Sponge feel — Lordy!
They were lying on a pile of half-rotten old saw-
dust near the fire, right where the old wood-yard had
been. When the old woman was a little lit up and acted
like a kid it made Sponge feel that way too. It was
a cinch the old woman was a good sport. Since he had
married her, when he was a young man about twenty-
two, Sponge hadn't ever fooled around any other
women at all — except maybe a few times when he was
away from home and was a little soused.
[ 12 ]
I T was a fancy notion all right, the one that had got
Bruce Dudley into the position he was now in —
working in a factory in the town of Old Harbor,
Indiana, where he had lived as a child and as a young
lad and where he was now masquerading as a workman
under an assumed name. The name amused him. A
thought flashing across the mind and John Stockton
had become Bruce Dudley. Why not? For the time
being anyway he was letting himself be anything that
it pleased his fancy to be. He had got the name in
an Illinois town to which he had come from the far
south — from the city of New Orleans to be exact.
That was when he was on his way back to Old Har-
bor to which he had also come following a whim. The
Illinois town was one where he was to change cars.
He had just walked along the main street of the town
and had seen two signs over two stores, “Bruce, Smart
and Feeble — Hardware” and “Dudley Brothers —
It was like being a criminal. Perhaps he was a
kind of criminal, had suddenly become one. It might
well be that a criminal was but a man like himself who
had suddenly stepped a little out of the beaten path
most all men travel. Criminals took other people’s
lives or took goods that did not belong to them and
[ 13 ]
he had taken — what? Himself? It might very well
be put that way.
“Slave, do you think your own life belongs to you?
Hocus, Pocus, now you see it and now you don’t.
Why not Bruce Dudley?”
Going about the town of Old Harbor as John Stock-
ton might lead to complications. It wasn’t likely any-
one there would remember the shy boy who had been
John Stockton, would recognize him in the man of
thirty-four, but a lot of people might remember the
boy’s father, the school-teacher, Edward Stockton. It
might even be that the two looked alike. “Like father
like son, eh?” The name Bruce Dudley had a kind of
something in it. It suggested solidity and respecta-
bility and Bruce had got an hour’s amusement, while
waiting for the train up to Old Harbor by walking
about the streets of an Illinois town and trying to
think of other possible Bruce Dudleys of the world.
“Captain Bruce Dudley of the American Army, Bruce
Dudley, Minister of the First Presbyterian Church
of Hartford, Connecticut. But why Hartford? Well,
why not Hartford? He, John Stockton, had never
been to Hartford, Connecticut. Why had the place
come into his mind? It stood for something, didn’t it?
Very likely it was because Mark Twain lived there for
a long time and there had been a kind of connection be-
tween Mark Twain and a Presbyterian or a Congrega-
tional or a Baptist minister of Hartford. Also there
was a kind of connection between Mark Twain and the
Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and John Stockton had
been fooling along, up and down the Mississippi River
for six months on that day when he got off the train at
the Illinois town bound for Old Harbor, And wasn’t
Old Harbor on the Ohio River?
T’witchelty, T’weedlety, T’wadelty, T’wum,
Catch a nigger by the thumb.
“Big slow river crawling down out of a wide rich
fat valley between mountains far away. Steamboats
on the river. Mates swearing and hitting niggers over
the heads with clubs. Niggers singing, niggers danc-
ing, niggers toting loads on their heads, nigger women
having babies — easy and free — half white a lot of the
The man who had been John Stockton and who sud-
denly, by a whim, became Bruce Dudley, had been think-
ing a lot about Mark Twain during the six months be-
fore he took the new name. Being near the river and
on the river had made him think. It wasn’t strange
after all that he chanced to think of Hartford, Con-
necticut, too. “He did get all crusted up, that boy,”
he whispered to himself that day when he went about
the streets of the Illinois town bearing for the first
time the name Bruce Dudley.
“A man like that, eh — who had seen what that man
had, a man who could write and feel and think a thing
like that Huckleberry Finn, going up there to Hartford
T’witchelty, T’weedlety, T’wadelty, T’wum,
Catch a nigger by the thumb, eh?
“What a lot of fun to think, feel, cut the grapes,
put some of the grapes of life into the mouth, spit
the seeds out.
“Mark Twain, learning to be a river pilot on the
Mississippi in the early days in the valley. What
things he must have seen, felt, heard, thought 1 When
he wrote a real book he had to put all aside, all he had
learned, felt, thought, as a man, had to go back into
childhood. He did it bouncing well, now didn’t he?
“But suppose he had really tried to put into books
a lot of what he had heard, felt, thought, seen as a man
on the river. What a howl raised ! He never did that,
did he? Once he wrote a thing. He called it “Con-
versations in the Court of Queen Elizabeth,’’ and he
and his friends used to pass it around and chuckle
“Had he got right down into the valley, in his day,
as a man, let’s say, he might have given us many
memorable things, eh? It must have been a rich
place, rank with life, fairly rancid with life.
“Big slow deep river crawling down between the
mud banks of an empire. Corn growing rank up north.
Rich Illinois, Iowa, Missouri lands getting their hair
cut of tall trees and then corn growing. Down fur-
ther south, forests still, hills, niggers. The river get-
ting slowly bigger and bigger. Toswns along the river
— tough towns.
“Then — ^away down — moss growing on the banks of
the rivers and the land of cotton and sugar-cane.
Tf you ain^t never been loved by a brown skin you
ain’t never been loved at all/
'‘After years of that — what — Hartford, Connecti-
cut! Those other things — 'The Innocents Abroad,’
'Roughing It’ — stale jokes piled up, everyone applaud*
T’witchelty, T’weedlety, T’wadelty, T’wiun.
Catch your nigger by the thuml>—
"Make a slave of him, eh? Tame the lad/’
• • • • •
Bruce didn’t look much like a factory hand. It had
taken more than two months to grow a short thick
beard and to let his mustache grow and while it was
growing his face itched all the time. Why had he
wanted to grow it? When he left Chicago and his
wife he had cut out to a place called La Salle in Illi-
nois and had started down the Illinois River in an
open boat. Later he lost the boat and spent nearly
two months, while he was growing the beard, in getting
down river to New Orleans. It was a little trick he
had always wanted to do. Since he was a kid and had
read Huckleberry Finn, he had kept some such notion
in mind. Nearly every man who lived long in the
Mississippi Valley had that notion tucked away in him
somewhere. The great river, lonely and empty now,
was, in some queet way, like a lost river. It had come
to represent the lost youth of Middle America perhaps.
Song, laughter, profanity, the smell of goods, dancing
niggers — life everywhere! Great gaudy boats on a
river, lumber rafts floating down, voices across the
silent nights, song, an empire unloading its wealth on
the face of the waters of a river! When the Civil
War came on, the Middle West got up and fought like
the Old Harry because it didn’t want its river taken
away. In its youth the Middle West had breathed
with the breathing of a river.
“The factory men were pretty smart, weren’t they?
First thing they did when they got the chance was to
choke off the river, take the romance out of com-
merce. They may not have intended anything of the
sort, romance and commerce were just natural enemies.
They made the river as dead as a door-nail with their
railroads and it has been that way ever since.”
Big river, silent now. Creeping slowly down past
mud banks, miserable little towns, the river as power-
ful as ever, strange as ever, but silent now, forgotten,
neglected. A few tugs with strings of barges. No
more gaudy boats, profanity, song, gamblers, excite-
When he was working his way down river, Bruce
Dudley had thought that Mark Twain, when he went
back to visit the river after the railroads had choked to
death the river life, that Mark might have written an
epic then. He might have written of song killed, of
laughter killed, of men herded into a new age of speed,
of factories, of swift, fast-running trains. Instead of
which he filled the book mostly with statistics, wrote
stale jokes. Oh, well! You can’t always be offending
someone, can you, brother scribblers?
W HEN he had got to Old Harbor, the place of
his boyhood, Bruce did not spend much time
thinking of epics. That wasn’t his lay just then. He
was after something, had been after it for a year.
What it was he couldn’t have said in so many words.
He had left his wife in Chicago, where she had a job
on the same newspaper he had worked on, and sud-
denly, with less than three hundred dollars to go on,
had started off on an adventure. There was a reason,
he thought, but he was willing enough to let reason
lie, for the time being an)rway. His growing the
beard had not been because his wife would make any
special effort to find him when he turned up missing.
It had been a whim. It was such fun to think of him-
self as going thus, unknown, mysteriously through life.
Had he told his wife what he was going to do there
would have been no end of talk, arguments, the rights
of women, the rights of men.
They had been that kind in their relations to each
other — he and Bernice — had got started together that
way and had kept it up. Bruce hadn’t thought his wife
to blame. “I helped start things wrong myself — ^acted
as though she were something superior,” he thought,
grinning. He remembered things he had said to her
concerning her superiority, her mind, her talent. They
had expressed a kind of hope that something grace-
ful and fine would flash up out of her. Perhaps, in
the beginning he had talked that way because he wanted
to worship. She had half seemed the great person he
had called her because he seemed to himself so worth-
less. He had played the game that way, not thinking
much about it and she had fallen for it, had liked it,
had taken what he said with entire seriousness and then
he did not like what she had become, what he had
helped make her.
Had he and Bernice ever had children perhaps what
he had done would have been an impossibility, but
they had none. She hadn’t wanted any. “Not by a
man like you. You’re too flighty,’’ she had said.
And Bruce was flighty. He knew it. Having drifted
into newspaper work he had kept on drifting for ten
years. All the time he had wanted to do something —
write perhaps — ^but every time he had tried his own
words and ideas, put down, made him weary. Per-
haps he had got too deep into the newspaper cliche,
the jargon — ^jargon of words, ideas, moods. As he
had gone along Bruce had put words down on paper
less and less. There was a way to be a newspaper
man, get by, without writing at all. You phoned your
stuff in, let someone else write it up. There were
plenty of the scribbling kind of fellows about — word-
Fellows making a mess at words, writing the news-
paper jargon. Every year it got worse and worse.
Deep in him perhaps Bruce had always had buried
away a kind of inner tenderness about words, ideas,
[ 20 ]
moods. He had wanted to experiment, slowly, going
carefully, handling words as you might precious
stones, giving them a setting.
It was a thing you didn’t talk about too much. Too
many people going into such things in a flashy way,
getting cheap acclaim — Bernice, his wife, for example.
And then the war, “bunk-shooting” worse than ever
— the very Government going into “bunk-shooting”
on the grand scale.
Lord, what a time! Bruce had managed to keep
himself on local stuff — murders, the capture of boot-
leggers, fires, labor rows, but all the time he had got
more and more bored, tired of it all.
As for his wife Bernice — ^he hadn’t seemed to her to
be getting anywhere either. She had both despised
and in an odd way feared him. She had called him
“flighty.” Had he but succeeded, after ten years, in
building up within himself a contempt for life?
In the factory at Old Harbor, where he was now
working, automobile wheels were made and he had got
a job in the varnishing roc«n. He had been compelled
to do something, being broke. There was a long room
in a great brick building near the river-bank and the
window that looked out into the factory yard. A boy
brought the wheels in a truck and dumped them down
beside a peg on which he put them one by one to lay
on the varnish.
It had been lucky for him he had got the place be-
side Sponge Martin. He thought of him often enough
in relation to the men with whom he had been asso-
ciated ever since he had grown to manhood, intellectual
men, newspaper reporters who wanted to write novels,
women feminists, illustrators who drew pictures for
the newspapers and for advertisements but who liked
to have what they called a studio and to sit about talk-
ing of art and life.
Next to Sponge Martin, on the other side, was a
surly fellow who hardly spoke all day long. Often
Sponge winked and whispered to Bruce about him.
“I’ll tell you what’s wrong. He thinks his wife is fool-
ing around with another man here in town and she is,
too, but he doesn’t dare inquire into the matter too
closely. He might find out that what he suspects is a
fact so he just glums around,’’ Sponge said.
As for Sponge himself, he had been a carriage-
painter in the town of Old Harbor before anyone ever
thought of building any such thing as a wheel factory
there, before anyone had ever thought of any such thing
as an automobile. On some days he talked altogether
of the earlier days when he had owned his own shop.
There was a kind of pride in him when he got on that
subject and for his present job, varnishing wheels, only
contempt. “Anyone could do it,” he said. “Look at
you. You ain’t got no special hand for it but if you
would pep up you could turn out almost as many wheels
as I can and do ’em just as well.”
But what was a fellow to do? Sponge could have
been foreman of the factory finishing room if he had
wanted to lick boots a little. One had to smile and kow-
tow a little when young Mr. Grey came around, which
he only did about once a month.
The trouble with Sponge was that he had known
[ 22 ]
the Greys too long. Maybe young Grey had got it
into his head that he, Sponge, was too much of a booze-
hoister. He had known the Greys when this young
one, that was now such a big bug, was just a kid.
Once he had finished a carriage for old Grey. He
used to come around to Sponge Martin’s shop bringing
his kid with him.
The carriage he was having built was sure a darby.
It had been built by old Sil Mooney, who had a carriage-
building shop right near Sponge Martin’s finishing
The description of the carriage built for Grey, the
banker of Old Harbor, when Bruce was himself a boy
and when Sponge had his own shop, took a whole after-
noon. The old workman was so deft and quick with
his brush that he could finish a wheel, catching every
corner, without looking at it. Most of the men in the
room worked in silence, but Sponge never stopped talk-
ing. In the room at Bruce Dudley’s back, behind a
brick wall, there was a constant low rumble of machines
but Sponge had got a trick of making his voice ride
just above the racket. He pitched it in a certain key
and every word came distinct and clear to the ears of
his fellow workman.
Bruce watched Sponge’s hands, tried to imitate the
movement of his hands. The brush was held just so.
There was a quick, soft movement. Sponge could fill
his brush very full and yet handle it in such a way
that the varnish did not drip down and he left no ugly
thick places on the wheels he did. The stroke of the
brush was like a caress.
[ 23 ]
Sponge talked of the days when he had a shop of his
own and told the story of the carriage built for old
Grey the banker. As he talked Bruce got a notion.
He kept thinking of his having left his wife so lightly.
There had been a sort of wordless quarrel — one of the
sort they had often got into. Bernice did special articles
for the Sunday paper and she had written a story that
had been accepted by a magazine. Then she joined a
writers’ club in Chicago. All this had been going on
and Bruce had not tried to do anything special on his
own job. He had done just what he had to do, nothing
more, and gradually Bernice had come to respect him
less and less. It was evident she had a career before
her. Writing special articles for Sunday newspapers,
becoming a successful writer of magazine stories, eh?
For a long time Bruce had gone along with her, going
with her to meetings of the writers’ club, going to
studios where men and women sat talking. There was
a place in Chicago, out near Forty-seventh Street near
the park, where a lot of writers and painters lived,
some low small building that had been put there during
the World’s Fair and Bernice had wanted him to go
out there to live. She had wanted to associate more
and more with people who wrote, made pictures, read
books, talked of books and pictures. Now and then
she spoke to Bruce in a certain way. Had she begun
to patronize him a little?
He smiled at the thought of it, smiled at the thought
of himself, now working in the factory beside Sponge
Martin. One day he had gone with Bernice to a meat
market — ^they were getting chops for dinner and he
had noted the way an old fat meat-cutter in the place
handled his tools. The sight had fascinated him and
as he had stood in the place beside his wife, waiting
her turn to be served, she began talking to him and
he did not hear. What he was thinking about was the
old meat-cutter, the deft quick hands of the old meat-
cutter. They represented something to him. What
was it? The man’s hands had handled a quarter of
beef with a sure quiet touch that represented to Bruce
perhaps a way in which he would like to handle words.
Well now, it might be that he did not want to handle
words at all. He was a little afraid of words. They
were such tricky, elusive things. It might be that he
did not know what he wanted to handle. That might
be what was the matter with him. Why not go and
With his wife Bruce had come out of the place and
had walked along a street, she still talking. Of what
was she talking? Suddenly Bruce had realized he did
not know, — did not care. When they got to their apart-
ment she went to cook the chops and he sat by a win-
dow, looking into a city street. The building stood
near a corner where men coming out from the down-
town district got off north- and south-bound cars to
take other cars going east or west and the evening
rush hour had begun. Bruce worked on an evening
paper and so would be free until early morning, but as
soon as he and Bernice had consumed the chops she
would go into a back room of the apartment and begin
to write. Lord, what a lot of stuff she wrote ! When
she was not at work on her Sunday special stuff she
worked on a story. She was at work on one just at
that moment. It concerned a very lonely man in the
city who while walking one evening saw in a shop win-
dow the wax dummy of what in the darkness he took
to be a very beautiful woman. Something had hap-
pened to the street light at the corner where the shop
stood and the man had for the moment thought the
woman in the window alive. He had stood looking at
her and she had looked back at him. It had been an
And then, you see, later, the man in Bernice’s story
had found out his absurd mistake, but he was as lonely
as ever and kept going back to the shop window night
after night. Sometimes the dummy woman was there
and sometimes she had been taken away. She ap-
peared now in one gown — ^now in another. She was in
rich furs and was walking along a winter street. Now
she had been arrayed in a summer frock and was stand-
ing on the shore of a sea or she was in a bathing cos-
tume and was about to plunge off into the sea.
The whole thing was a whimsical notion and Bernice
had been excited about it. How would she make it
turn out? One night after the street lamp at the
comer had been fixed the light was so strong that
the man could not help seeing that the woman he had
come to love was made of wax. How would it be to
have him take a cobblestone and break the street lamp?
Then he might press his lips against the cold window-
glass and run off down a side street never to be seen
T’wichelty, T’weedlety, T’wadelty, T’wum.
Bruce’s wife Bernice would be a great writer some
day, eh? Was he, Bruce, jealous of her? When they
went together to one of the places where other news-
paper men, illustrators, poets and young musicians gath-
ered the people were inclined to look at Bernice, ad-
dress their remarks to her rather than to him. She
had a way of doing things for people. A young girl
got out of college and wanted to be a journalist, or a
young musician wanted to meet some man of power in
the musical field and Bernice managed things for them.
Gradually she had come to have a following in Chicago
and was already planning to move on to New York. A
New York paper had made her an offer and she was
considering it. “You can get a job there as well as
here,” she had said to her husband.
As he stood beside his bench in the factory at Old
Harbor, varnishing an automobile wheel, Bruce lis-
tened to the words of Sponge Martin, boasting of the
days when he had a shop of his own and was finishing
the carriage that had been built for the elder Grey. He
described the wood that had been used, told how
straight and fine the grain was, how every part had
been carefully fitted into other parts. In the afternoon
old Grey sometimes came to the shop after the bank
was closed for the day and sometimes he brought his
son with him. He was in a hurry for the job to be
finished. Well, there was to be some kind of a special
affair in the town on a certain day. The Governor of
the State was to come and the banker was to entertain
him. He wanted the new carriage to haul him up from
the railroad station.
Sponge talked and talked, enjoying his own words,
and Bruce listened, hearing every word while he kept
right on having his own thoughts, too. How many
times had he heard Sponge’s story and how delightful
it was to keep on hearing it. The moment had been
the big one in Sponge Martin’s life. The carriage
couldn’t be finished in the way it should be and be
ready for the Governor’s coming. That was all to it.
In those days, when a man had his own shop, a man
like old Grey might rave and rave, but what good did it
do him? Silas Mooney, when he had built the car-
riage, had done a good job and did old Grey think that
Sponge was going to turn round and do a bum, hurried
job? They had it out one day, old Grey’s kid, young
Fred Grey, who now owned the wheel factory where
Sponge worked as a common laborer, standing and
listening. What Sponge thought was that young Grey
got an earful that day. No doubt he thought, just
because he owned a bank and because people like gov-
ernors of states came to visit at his house, that his
dad was a kind of God Almighty, but if he did he got
his eyes opened that time anyway.
Old Grey got mad and began to swear. “It’s my car-
riage and if I tell you to put on a few less coats and
not to let each coat set so long before you rub it down
and put on another you got to do what I say,’’ he had
declared, shaking his fist at Sponge.
Aha! And hadn’t that been a moment for Sponge?
Did Bruce want to know what he told old Grey? It
had just happened that he had about four good shots
in him that day and when he was a little lit up the Lord
Almighty couldn’t tell him how to do no job. He had
walked up close to old Grey and had doubled up his
fist. “Look here,” he had said, “you’re not so young
any more and you’re a little fat. You want to keep in
mind you been sitting up there in that bank of yours
too much. Suppose now you get gay with me and
because you want that carriage in a hurry you come
down here and try to take the job away from me or
something like that. Do you know what will happen
to you? You’ll get kicked out, that’s what will hap-
pen. I’ll cave your fat face in with my fist, that’s what
will happen and if you get foxy and send anyone else
down here I’ll come up to your bank and maul you
there, that’s what I’ll do.”
Sponge had told the banker that. He wasn’t going
to be hurried into doing no bum job, not by him or
anyone else. He had told the banker that and then
when the banker had walked out of his shop, saying
nothing, he had gone over to a comer saloon and had
got a bottle of good whisky. Just to show old Grey
something he had locked up his shop and knocked off
for the day. “Let him haul his Governor in a livery
hack.” That’s what he had said to himself. He had
got the bottle of whisky and he and his old woman had
gone fishing together. It had been one of the best
parties they had ever been on. He had told the old
woman about it and she had been tickled to death at
what he had done. “You done just right,” she had
said. Then she had told Sponge that he was worth a
dozen such men as old Grey. That might have been
exaggerating a little but Sponge had liked to hear it all
right. Bruce ought to have seen his old woman in them
days. She was young then and as good-looking a skirt
as there was in the state.
W ORDS flitting across the mind of Bruce Dud-
ley, varnishing wheels in the factory of the
Grey Wheel Company of Old Harbor, Indiana.
Thoughts flitting across his mind. Drifting images.
He had begun to get a little skill with his fingers.
Could one in time get a little skill with thoughts, too?
Could thoughts and images be laid on paper some day
as Sponge Martin laid on varnish, never too thick,
never too thin, never lumpy?
Sponge the workman telling old Grey to go to hell,
offering to kick him out of his shop. The governor
of a state riding in a livery hack because a workman
wouldn’t be hurried into doing a bum job. Bernice,
his wife, at her typewriter in Chicago, doing special
articles for the Sunday papers, writing that story about
the man and the dummy wax figure of a woman in a
shop window. Sponge Martin and his woman going off
to celebrate because Sponge had told the local prince,
the banker, to go to hell. The picture of a man and
woman on a sawdust pile with a bottle beside them.
A bonfire down near the river’s edge. Catfish lines
out. Bruce thought of the scene as taking place on a
soft summer night. There were wonderful soft sum-
mer nights in the valley of the Ohio. Up and down
river, above and below the hill on which Old Harbor
stood, the land was low and in the winter the floods
came up and covered the land. The floods left a soft
silt on the land and it was rich, rank with richness.
Wherever the land was not cultivated, weeds, flowers
and tall flowering berry bushes grew thick.
They would be lying there on the sawdust pile.
Sponge Martin and his wife, a little lit up, the fire
blazing between them and the river, the catfish lines
out, the air filled with smells, the soft fishy river smell,
smells of blossoms, smells of things growing. It might
be there would be a moon hanging over them.
The words Bruce had heard Sponge say —
“When she is a little lit up she acts like a kid and
makes me feel like a kid too.”
Lovers lying on an old sawdust pile under a summer
moon on the banks of the Ohio.
T hat story Bernice was writing about the man
who saw the wax figure in a shop window and
thought it was a woman.
Did Bruce really wonder how it had come out, what
sort of an ending she had given it? To tell the truth
he did not. There was something malicious in his
thoughts of the story. It seemed to him absurd and
childish and he was glad that it was so. Had Bernice
really succeeded in the thing she had undertaken — so
casually, in such an offhand way — the whole problem
of their relation would have been somewhat different.
“I would have had to look to my self-respect then,” he
thought. That grin would not have come so easily.
Sometimes Bernice used to talk — she and her friends
talked a good deal. They all, the young illustrators and
the writers who gathered in the rooms in the evenings
to talk — well, they all worked in newspaper offices or
in advertising offices just as Bruce did. They pre-
tended to despise what they were doing but kept on
doing it just the same. “We have to eat,” they said.
What a lot of talk there had been about the necessity
In Bruce Dudley’s mind, as he listened to Sponge
Martin’s story of the defiance of the banker, was the
memory of that evening when he had cut out from the
[ 35 ]
apartment where he had lived with Bernice and from
Chicago. He had been sitting by the front window of
the apartment and looking out, and at the back of
the apartment Bernice was cooking the chops. She
would have potatoes and a salad. It would take her
twenty minutes to cook the things and put them on the
table. Then the two would sit down at the table to
eat. How many evenings sitting down together like
that — within two or three feet of each other physically
and yet miles apart. They hadn’t any children because
Bernice had never wanted them. “I’ve got my work
to do,” she had said on the two or three occasions when
he had spoken of the matter as they lay in bed together.
She had said that but what she had meant was some-
thing else. She hadn’t wanted to tie herself down, not
to him, not to the man she had married. When she
spoke of him to others she always laughed good-
naturedly. “He’s all right but he’s flighty and he won’t
work. He isn’t very ambitious,” she sometimes said.
Bernice and her friends had a way of speaking openly
of their loves. They compared notes. Perhaps they
used every little emotion they had as material for
In the street before the window at which Bruce
sat waiting for the chops and the potatoes a lot of
men and women getting off street cars and waiting
for other cars. Gray figures in a gray street. “If a
man and a woman are so and so together — well, then
they are so and so.”
In the shop at Old Harbor, as when he had been a
newspaper man in Chicago, the same thing always going
on. Bruce had a technique of going along, doing the
thing before him well enough while his mind went
wool-gathering over the past and the present. Time
ceased for him. In the shop, working beside Sponge,
he had been thinking of Bernice, his wife, and now
suddenly he began thinking of his father. What had
happened to him? He had been a country school-
teacher near Old Harbor in Indiana and then he had
married another school-teacher who had come down
there from Indianapolis. Then he had got a job in
the town schools, and when Bruce was a small boy had
got a place working on a newspaper in Indianapolis.
The little family had moved there and the mother had
died. Bruce went then to live with his grandmother
and his father went to Chicago. He was there still.
Now he worked in an advertising agency and had got
himself another wife and with her three children. In
the city Bruce had seen him, perhaps twice a month,
when father and son lunched together at some down-
town restaurant. His father had married a young wife
and she didn’t like Bernice and Bernice didn’t like
her. They got on each other’s nerves.
Now Bruce was thinking old thoughts. His thoughts
went around in a circle. Was that because he had
wanted to be a man handling words, ideas, moods —
and hadn’t made it? The thoughts he had as he worked
in the factory at Old Harbor had been in his mind
before. They had been in his mind on a certain eve-
ning as the chops sizzled in the pan in the kitchen at
the back of the apartment in which he had lived for a
long time with Bernice. It was not his apartment.
When she had fixed it up Bernice had kept herself and
her own wants in mind and that was as it should be.
She wrote her Sunday special stuff there and also
worked on her stories. Bruce did not need a place to
write as he did little or no writing. ‘T only need a
place to sleep/’ he had said to Bernice.
‘The lonely man who fell in love with the dummy
figure in the shop window, eh? Wonder how she will
make it turn out. Why not have a sweet young girl,
working in the store, step into the window some night?
That would be the beginning of a romance. No, she
will have to handle it in a more modern way. That
would be too obvious.”
Bruce’s father was a funny chap. What a lot of
enthusiasms he had gone through in his long life and
now, although he was old and gray, when Bruce lunched
with him he almost always had a new one. When the
father and son went to lunch together they avoided
speaking of their wives. Bruce suspected that because
he had married a second wife who was almost as young
as the son, his father always felt a little guilty in his
presence. They never spoke of their wives. When
they met in some Loop restaurant Bruce said, “Well,
Dad, how’s the kids?” Then the father spoke of his
latest enthusiasm. He was an advertising writer and
was sent out to write advertisements of soap, safety
razors, automobiles. “I’ve got a new steam car ac-
count,” he said. “The car is a whizz. It will run
thirty miles on a gallon of kerosene oil. No gears
to shift. As smooth and soft as riding in a boat on a
calm sea. Lord, what power ! They have to work out
a few things yet but they’ll do it all right. The man
who invented this car is a wonder. The greatest me-
chanical genius I’ve ever seen yet. I’ll tell you what,
son, when this thing breaks it will smash the market
for gasoline. You wait and see.”
Bruce shifting nervously about in his chair in the
restaurant as his father talked — Bruce unable to say
anything when he went out with his wife among the
Chicago intellectual and artistic set. There was Mrs.
Douglas, the rich woman who had a country home
and one in town and who wrote poetry and plays. Her
husband owned a lot of property and was a connoisseur
of the arts. Then there was the crowd over on Bruce’s
own paper. When the paper was down in the after-
noon they sat about talking of Huysmans, Joyce, Ezra
Pound and Lawrence. There was great pride in word-
slinging. Such and such a man knew how to sling
words. Little groups all over town talking of word
men, sound men, color men and Bruce’s wife, Bernice,
knew them all. What was it all about, this eternal fuss-
ing about painting, music, writing? There was some-
thing in it. People couldn’t let the subjed: alone. A
man might write something, just knocking the props
out from under all the artists Bruce had ever heard
about — it wouldn’t be hard he thought — ^but after the
job was done it wouldn’t prove anything either.
From where he had been sitting by the window of
his apartment that evening in Chicago he could see men
and women getting on and off street cars at the street
intersection where the cross-town cars met the cars in
and out of the Loop. God, what a world of people in
Chicago! At his own job he had to do a lot of run-
ning about through Chicago streets. He phoned most
of his stuff in and some fellow in the office dressed it
up. There was a young Jew in the office who could
fairly make the words dance over the page. He did a
lot of Bruce’s stuff. What they liked about Bruce
in the local room was that he was supposed to have a
head. He had got a certain kind of reputation. His
own wife didn’t think he was much of a newspaper
man and the young Jew thought he wasn’t worth any-
thing, but he got a lot of important assignments that
the others wanted. He had a kind of knack. What
he did was to get at the heart of the matter — some-
thing of that sort. Bruce smiled at the praise he was
giving himself in his own thoughts. “I guess we’ve
all got to keep telling ourselves we’re some good or we
would all go and jump in the river,” he thought.
What a lot of people getting off one car and onto
another. They had all been downtown working and
now they were going to apartments much like the one
in which he lived with his wife. What was his father
like in his relations with his wife, the young wife he
had got after Bruce’s mother had died. With her he
had got three children, ready-made, while by Bruce’s
mother he had never got but the one — Bruce himself.
There had been plenty of time for more. Bruce was
ten when his mother died. The grandmother with
whom he had lived in Indianapolis was still alive.
When she died she would no doubt leave Bruce her
little fortune. She must be worth at least fifteen
thousand. He hadn’t written to her for over three
The men and women in the streets, such men and
women as were now getting off and on the cars in the
street before the apartment. Why did they all look so
tired ? What was the matter with them ? What he had
in his mind at the moment was not physical tiredness.
In Chicago and in other cities he had visited the people
were all inclined to have that tired, bored look on their
faces when you caught them off guard, when they were
walking along through the streets or standing at a
street corner waiting for a car and Bruce had a fear
that he looked the same way. Sometimes at night when
he went off by himself, when Bernice was going to
some party he wanted to avoid, he saw people eating
in some cafe or sitting together in the park who didn’t
look bored. Downtown, in the Loop, during the day,
people went along thinking of getting across the next
street crossing. The crossing policeman was about
to blow his whistle. They ran, little herds of them,
like flocks of quails, escaping with their lives most of
them. When they had got to the sidewalk on the
other side a look of triumph.
Tom Wills, the man on the city desk down at the
office, had a liking for Bruce. After the paper was
down in the afternoon he and Bruce often went to a
little German place where they could get drinks and
had a pint of whisky between them. The German made
Tom Wills a special rate on pretty good bootleg stuff
because Tom steered a lot of people in there.
In a little back room they sat, Tom and Bruce, and
when they had taken a few pulls out of the bottle
Tom talked. He always said the same things. First
he cursed the war and condemned America for getting
into it and then cursed himself. “I’m no good,” he
said. Tom was like all of the newspaper men Bruce
had ever known. He really wanted to write a novel
or a play and liked to talk about the matter to Bruce
because he didn’t think Bruce had any such ambitions.
“You’re a hard-boiled guy, ain’t you?” he said.
He told Bruce of his plan. “There’s a note I’d like
to strike. It’s about impotence. Have you noticed,
going along the streets, that all of the people you see
are tired out, impotent?” he asked. “What is a news-
paper — the most impotent thing in the world. What is
the theater? Have you gone much lately? They give
you such a weariness that your back aches, and the
movies, God, the movies are ten times worse, and if
this war isn’t a sign of universal impotence, sweeping
over the world like a disease, then I don’t know much.
A fellow I know, Hargrave of the Eagle, was out
there to that place called Hollywood. He was telling
me about it. He says all the people out there are like
fish with their fins cut off. They wriggle around trying
to make effective movements and can’t do it. He says
they all have an inferiority complex something awful —
tired-out magazine writers gone out there to get rich
in their old age, all that sort of thing. The women all
trying to be ladies. Well, not trying to be ladies ex-
actly. That isn’t the idea. They are trying to look
like ladies and gentlemen, live in the kind of houses
ladies and gentlemen are supposed to live in, walk and
talk like ladies and gentlemen. It’s such a God-awful
mess, he says, as you never dreamed of and you got
to bear in mind the movie people are America’s pets.
After you been there for a while, out in Los Angeles,
Hargrave says, if you don’t go jump in the sea you’ll
go crazy. He says the whole Pacific Coast is a lot like
that — in that tone I mean — impotence crying out to
God that it is beautiful, that it is big, that it is effective.
Look at Chicago, too, T will,’ that’s our motto as a
city. Did you know that? They got one out in San
Francisco, too, Hargrave says, ‘San Francisco knows
how.’ Knows how what? How to get the tired fish
out there from Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, eh? Har-
grave says that in Los Angeles the people walk along
the street by the thousands with no place to go. A lot
of smart guys, he says, sell them lots — places out on
the desert — because they are too tired out. to know their
own minds. They buy and then go back into town
and walk up and down the streets. He says a dog
smelling a street post out there will make ten thousand
people stop and look as though it was the most exciting
event in the world. I suppose he exaggerates a little.
"‘And, anyway. Pm not bragging. When it comes
to impotence if you can beat me you’re a darby. What
do I do ? I sit at a desk and give out little slips. And
what do you do ? You take the slips, read them and run
around town getting little items to be played up in the
paper and you’re so impotent you don’t even write
your own stuff. What’s it all about? One day they
murder someone in this town and get six lines out
of it and on the next day if they do the same murder
they get played up all over every paper in town. It
all depends what we got on just then. You know how
it is. And I ought to be writing my novel, or a play, if
I’m ever going to do it. If I write one about the only
thing I know anything about, do you think anyone in
the world would read it? Only thing I could possibly
write about would be just about this stuff I’m always
giving you — about impotence, what a lot of it there is.
Do you think anyone wants that kind of stuff ?”
O N that evening in the Chicago apartment Bruce
sat having these thoughts and smiling softly to
himself. For some reason Tom Wills, swearing at the
impotence of American life, had always amused him.
He, himself, did not think Tom was impotent. He
thought the proof of the man’s potence could have
been found just in the fact that he got so mad when
he talked. It took something in a man to be mad about
anything. He had to have some juice in him to do
He had got up from the window to walk across the
long studio room to where his wife Bernice had set
the table, still wearing the smile, and it was just the
kind of a smile that disconcerted Bernice. When he
wore it he never talked because he was living outside
himself and the people immediately about. They did
not exist. For the time being nothing very real had
any existence. Odd that at such times, when nothing
in the world was very definite, he was himself the most
likely to do some definite thing. At such a moment
he could have lighted a fuse connected with a building
filled with d)mamite and could have blown up himself,
all of the city of Chicago, all America, as calmly as he
could have lighted a cigarette. Perhaps he was him-
self, at such times, a building filled with dynamite.
When he was that way Bernice was afraid of him and
was ashamed of being afraid. Being afraid of anything
made her seem less important to herself. Sometimes
she grew sullenly silent and sometimes she tried to laugh
it off. At such times she said Bruce had the air of an
old Chinaman poking around in an alleyway.
The place in which Bruce then lived with his wife
was one of the sort of places that are being fixed up
nowadays in American cities to house just such child-
less couples as himself and Bernice. '"Married couples
who have no children and do not intend having any — •
people whose aspirations are above that/' Tom Wills in
one of his angry moods would have said. There were
a lot of such places in New York City and in Chicago
and they were fast coming into vogue in smaller cities
like Detroit, Cleveland and Des Moines. They were
called studio apartments.
The ohe Bernice had found and had fixed up for
herself and Bruce had a long room at the front with
a fireplace, a piano, a couch on which Bruce slept at
night — when he did not go to Bernice, which he didn't
very often — and back of that was a bedroom and a tiny
kitchen. Bernice slept in the bedroom and wrote in
the studio, and the bathroom was stuck in between the
studio and Bernice's bedroom. When the couple ate
at home they brought in something, usually f^om a
delicatessen store, for the occasion, and Bernice served
it on a folding table that could afterwards be put away
in a closet. In what was called Bernice's bedroom
there was a chest of drawers where Bruce kept his shirts
and underwear, and his clothes had to be hung up in
Bernice’s closet. “You should see me diving about
the joint in the morning in my shift,” he had once said
to Tom Wills. “It’s a shame Bernice isn’t an illus-
trator. She might get some good stuff on modem
city life from me in my B.V.D.’s. ‘The lady novelist’s
husband getting all set for the day.’ Some of that
stuff the fellows put in the Sunday papers and call
‘among us mortals.’ ‘Life as it is’ — something of
that sort. I don’t look at the Sundays once a month,
but you know what I mean. Why should I look at
the things? I don’t look at anything in any paper
except my own stuff and I only do that to see what
that smart Jew has managed to get out of it. If I
had his brain I’d write something myself.”
Bruce had walked slowly across the room toward
the table where Bernice had already seated herself. On
the wall back of her was a portrait of herself done by
a young man who had been in Germany for a year
or two after the Armistice and had come back filled
with enthusiasm about the reawakening of German art.
He had done Bernice in broad lines of color and had
twisted her mouth a little to one side. One ear had
been made twice the size of the other. That was for
distortion’s sake. Distortion often got effects you
couldn’t get at all by straight painting. The young man
had been at a party in Bernice’s apartment one evening
when Bruce was there and had talked a lot, and a few
days later, one afternoon when Bruce came from the
office there the fellow was, sitting with Bernice. Bruce
had had a feeling of having butted in where he wasn’t
wanted and had been embarrassed. It had been an
awkward moment and Bruce had wanted to back out
after putting his head in at the studio door, but had
not known how to do it without embarrassing them.
He had been compelled to do some fast thinking.
‘‘You'll excuse me," he said, “I have to go right out
again. Tve got an assignment on which I may have
to work all night." He had said that and then had gone
hurriedly through the studio and into Bernice's bedroom
to change his shirt. He had felt it was up to him to
change something. Was there something on between
Bernice and the young chap? He hadn't cared much.
Afterwards he wondered about the portrait. He had
wanted to ask Bernice about it but hadn't dared. What
he had wanted to ask was why she had stood for it to
be made to look as the portrait had made her look.
“It's for the sake of art, I guess," he thought, still
smiling on the evening when he sat down with Bernice
to the chops. Thoughts of Tom Wills talking,
thoughts of the look on Bernice’s face and on the young
painter's face — that time he came suddenly in on them,
thoughts of himself and the absurdities of his own
mind and his own life. How could he help smiling
although he knew the smile always upset Bernice ? How
could he explain that the smile had no more to do with
her absurdities than with his own?
“For the sake of art," he thought, putting one of
the chops on a plate and handing it to Bernice. His
mind liked to play with phrases like that, silently and
maliciously taunting her and himself too. Now she
was sore at him because of the smile and the meal
would be eaten in silence. After the meal he would go
to sit by the window and Bernice would hurry out of
the apartment to spend the evening with some of her
friends. She couldn’t very well order him out and he
would sit tight — smiling.
Perhaps she would go back into her bedroom and
work on that story. How would she make it come out ?
Suppose a policeman to come along and seeing the
man enamored of the wax woman in the store window
and thinking him crazy or a thief planning to break
into the store — suppose the policeman should arrest the
man. Bruce kept on smiling at his own thoughts. He
imagined a conversation between the policeman and the
young man, the young man trying to explain his lone-
liness and his love. In a bookstore downtown there
was a young man Bruce had once seen at an artists’
party to which he had once gone with Bernice and who
had now, for some unexplainable reason to Bruce, be-
come the hero of the tale Bernice was writing. The
man in the bookstore was short, pale and wan and had
a small neat black mustache and she had made her hero
like that. Also he had extraordinarily thick lips and
shining black eyes and Bruce remembered to have
heard that he wrote poetry. It might be that he actually
had fallen in love with a dummy figure in a store win-
dow and had told Bernice about it. Bruce thought that
might be what a poet was like. Surely only a poet
could fall in love with a dummy figure in a shop
“For the sake of art.” The phrase kept running
through his head like a refrain. He kept smiling and
now Bernice was furious. He had at any rate suc-
ceeded in spoiling her dinner and her evening. That
at any rate he had not intended. The poet and the wax
woman would be left, hanging in air as it were, un-
Bernice got up and stood over him, staring down at
him across the small table. How furious she was!
Was she going to strike him ? What a strange puzzled
baffled look in her eyes. Bruce looked up at her im-
personally — as he might have looked out a window
at a scene in the street. She did not say anything.
Had it got beyond speech between them? If it had
surely he was to blame. Would she dare strike him?
Well, he knew she would not. Why did he keep smil-
ing? That was what made her so furious. Better to
go softly through lile — let people alone. Did he have
any special desire to torture Bernice and if he did, why?
Now she wanted to have it out with him, to bite, strike,
kick, like a furious little female animal, but it was a
handicap Bernice had that when she was thoroughly
worked up she could not talk. She just got a little
white and that look came into her eyes. Bruce had a^^
idea. Did she, his wife Bernice, hate and fear all men
and was she making the hero of her story such a silly
fellow because she wanted to make all men sing small ^
That would certainly make her, the female, loom larger.
It might be that was what the whole feminist movement
was about. Bernice had already written several stories
and in alt of them the men were like that chap in the
book-shop. It was a little odd. Now she, herself,
looked something like the chap in the book-shop.
“For the sake of art, eh?”
Bernice went hurriedly out of the room. Had she
stayed, there was at least a chance he might have got
her, as it was possible men sometimes got their women.
“You come off your perch and I’ll come off mine.
Loosen up. Function as a woman and let me function
as a man, with you.’’ Was Bruce ready to have that
happen? He thought he had always been ready for
that — with Bernice or some other woman. When it
came to the test why did Bernice always run away?
Would she go into her bedroom and cry? Well, no.
Bernice wasn’t after all one of the crying sort. She
would get out of the house until he had gone and then
— when she was alone — would perhaps work on that
story — the soft little poet and the wax woman in the
window, eh? Bruce was perfectly aware of how ma-
licious were his own thoughts. Once in a long time
he had a notion Bernice wanted him to beat her. Could
that be possible? If so, why? If a woman got that
way in her relations with a man what brought it about ?
Bruce having got himself into deep water by his own
thoughts went to sit again by the window looking into
the street. Both he and Bernice had left their chops
uneaten. Whatever happened now Bernice would not
come back into the room to sit while he was there, not
on that evening, and the cold chops would lie like that,
on the table over there. The couple had no servant.
Every morning a woman came in for two hours to clean
the place up. That was the way such establishments
were run. Well, if she wanted to go out of the apart-
ment it would be necessary for her to pass through the
studio before his eyes. To slip out at the back door,
through an alleyway, would be beneath her dignity as
a woman. It would be a come-down for the female
sex — represented by Bernice — and she would never
lose her sense of the necessity of dignity — in the sex.
“For the sake of art.” Why did that phrase stick
in Bruce’s mind? It was a silly little refrain. Had
he been smiling all evening, making Bernice furious
by the smile — ^because of that phrase? What was art
anyway? Did such men as himself and Tom Wills
want to laugh at it? Did they incline to think of art
as a silly, mawkish sort of exhibitionism on the part
of silly people because to do so made them seem to
themselves rather grand and noble — ^above all such non-
sense — something of that sort? Once when she was
not angry, when she was soberly in earnest, a short
time after their marriage, Bernice had said something
of that sort. That was before Bruce had succeeded in
breaking down something in her, her own self-respect,
perhaps. Did all men want to break something down
in women — ^make slaves of them? Bernice said they
did and for a long time he had believed her. Then
they had seemed to get on all right. Now things had
surely gone to pot.
After all it was evident that, as far as Tom Wills
was concerned, he, at bottom, cared more about art
than all the other people Bruce had known, certainly
more than Bernice or any of her friends. Bruce did
not think he knew or understood Bernice or her friends
very well but did think he knew Tom Wills. The man
was a perfectionist. To him art was something out
beyond reality, a fragrance touching the reality of
things through the fingers of a humble man filled
with love — something like that — a. little perhaps like a
beautiful mistress to whom the man, the boy within the
man, wanted to bring all of the rich, beautiful things of
his mind, of his fancy. What he had to bring had
seemed to Tom Wills such a meager offering that the
thought of trying to make the offering made him
Although Bruce sat by the window pretending to look
out he was not seeing people in the street outside. Was
he waiting for Bernice to pass through the room, want-
ing to punish her a little more? “Am I becoming a
Sadist?” he asked himself. He sat with hands folded,
smiling, smoked a cigarette and looked at the floor and
the last feeling he was ever to have of the presence of
his wife Bernice was when she passed through the
room without his looking up.
And so she had made up her mind that she could
pass through the room, snubbing him. It had begun at
the meat market where he had been interested in the
hands of that meat-cutter cutting meat rather than in
what she was saying to him. What had she been talk-
ing about, her latest story or an idea for a special article
for the Sunday paper? Not having heard what she
said he could not remember. At any rate his mind
had checked her all right.
He heard her footsteps crossing the room where he
sat looking at the floor, but he was at that moment
thinking, not of her but of Tom Wills. He was doing
again what had made her angry in the first place, what
always made her angry when it happened. Perhaps he
was at just that moment smiling the peculiarly exasper-
ating smile that always drove her half mad. What a
fate that she should have to remember him thus. She
would always be thinking that he was laughing at her
— at her aspirations as a writer, at her pretensions to
strength of will. There was no doubt she did make
some such pretensions but then who didn’t make pre-
tensions of one kind or another?
Well, he and Bernice had sure got into a jam. She
had dressed for the evening and went out saying noth-
ing. Now she would spend the evening with her own
friends, perhaps with that chap who worked in the
bookstore or with the young painter who had been to
Germany and had painted her portrait.
Bruce got up out of his chair and snapping on an
electric light went to stand looking at the portrait.
The distortion idea meant something to the European
artists who began it no doubt, but he doubted the
young man’s knowing quite what it meant. How
superior he was! Did he mean to set himself up— to
decide offhand that he knew what the young man did
not know ?
He stood thus, looking at the portrait, and then sud-
denly his fingers, hanging at his side, felt something
greasy and unpleasant. It was the cold uneaten chop
on his own plate. His fingers touched it, felt it and
then with a shrug of his shoulders he took a handker-
chief out of his hip pocket and wiped his fingers.
‘T’witchelty, T’weedlety, T’wadelty, T’wum. Catch a
nigger by the thumb.” Suppose it were true that art
was the most exacting thing in the world? It was
[ 54 ]
true as a general thing that a certain type of men, who
did not look physically very strong, almost always went
in for the arts. When a fellow like himself went out
with his wife among the so-called artists, went into a
room where a lot of them had congregated, he so often
got an impression, not of masculine strength and viril-
ity, but of something on the whole feminine. Huskier
men, fellows like Tom Wills, tried to stay as far away
from art talk as they could. Tom Wills never discussed
the subject with anyone but Bruce and he hadn’t begun
doing that until the two men had known each other
for several months. There were a lot of other men.
Bruce, in his work as a reporter, went about a good deal
among gamblers, race-track men, baseball players, prize-
fighters, thieves, bootleggers, flash men of all sorts.
When he first went to work on the paper he was for a
time a sporting writer. On the paper he had a reputa-
tion, of a sort. He couldn’t write much — never tried.
What he could do, Tom Wills thought, was to sense
things. It was a faculty of which Bruce did not speak
often. Let him be on the track of a murder. Very
well, he went into a room where several men were con-
gregated, a bootlegger’s place up an alleyway, let us
say. He would be willing to bet something that in
such a case, if the fellow was hanging around, he
could spot the man who had done the job. Proving it
was another matter. However, he had the faculty, “the
nose for news,” it was called among newspaper men.
Others had it too.
Oh, Lordy! If he had it, was so almighty keen, why
[ 55 ]
had he wanted to marry Bernice? He had gone back
to his chair by the window, snapping out the light as
he went, but now it was quite dark in the street outside.
If he had that faculty why had it not worked at a
time when surely it was of vital importance to him to
have it work?
Again he smiled in the darkness. Now suppose, just
suppose now, that I am as much of a nut as Bernice or
any of the rest of them. Suppose I am ten times worse.
Suppose Tom Wills is ten times worse, too. It might
be that I was only a kid when I married Bernice and
that I have grown up a little. She thinks I’m a dead
one — that I haven’t kept up with the show, but, just
suppose now, it is she who has dropped behind. I might
as well think that. It is a lot more flattering to me
than just thinking I’m a chump or that I was a chtunp
when I got married.
I T was while thinking some such thoughts that John
Stockton, who later became Bruce Dudley, left his
wife on a certain fall evening. He sat in the darkness
for an hour or two and then got his hat and went out
of the house. His physical connection with the apart-
ment in which he had lived with Bernice was slight, a
few half-worn neckties hanging on a hook in a closet
— three pipes and some shirts and collars in a drawer,
two or three suits of clothes, a winter overcoat. Later
when he was a workman in the factory at Old Harbor,
Indiana, working beside Sponge Martin, hearing
Sponge talk, hearing something of the story of Spongers
relations with ^‘his old woman, ’’ he hadn’t much regret
for the way in which he had left. ‘Tf you’re leaving,
one way is as good as another -and the less fuss about
the matter the better,” he told himself. Most of the
things Sponge said he had heard before but it was pleas-
ant to hear good talk. The story about that time when
Sponge threw the banker out of his carriage-painting
shop — let Sponge tell it a thousand times and it would
be pleasant to hear. Maybe there was art in that, the
grasping of the real dramatic moment of a life, eh?
He shrugged his shoulders — thinking. ‘‘Sponge, the
sawdust pile, the drinks. Sponge coming home drunk
in the early morning and finding Bugs, lying on the
new rag" carpet asleep, her arms about the shoulders of
a young man. Bugs, a little live thing, filled with pas-
sion — ^made ugly later — living in a house in Cincinnati
now. Sponge in relation to the town, the Ohio River
Valley, sleeping on an old sawdust pile — ^his relation to
the ground beneath him, the stars overhead, the brush
in his hand as he painted automobile wheels, the caress
in the hand that held the brush, profanity, crudeness —
love of an old woman — ^alive like a fox terrier.”
What a floating disconnected thing Bruce felt him-
self. He was a strong man physically. Why had he
never taken hold of life with his hands? Words — the
beginning of poetry, perhaps. The poetry of seed hun-
ger. “I am a seed, floating on a wind. Why have I not
planted myself? Why have I not found ground in
which I can take root?”
Suppose I had come home some evening and walk-
ing up to Bernice had struck her a blow. Farmers be-
fore planting seed plowed the ground, ripped out old
roots, old weeds. Suppose I had thrown Bernice’s
typewriter through a window. “Damn you — no more
driveling words here. Words are tender things, lead-
ing to poetry— or lies. Leave craftsmanship to me.
I’m going towards it slowly, carefully, humbly. I’m
a working-man. You get in line and be a working-
man’s wife. I’ll plow you like a field. I’ll harrow
When Sponge Martin talked, telling that story, Bruce
could hear every word said and at the same time go on
having his own thoughts.
That evening when he left Bernice — ^all his life now
he would be thinking of her vaguely as a thing heard
far off — faint determined footsteps crossing a room
while he sat looking at the floor and thinking of Tom
Wills and of what do you think — oh, Lord, of words.
If one couldn’t smile at oneself, take a laugh for one-
self as one went along, what was the use living at all ?
Suppose he had gone to Tom Wills that night when he
left Bernice. He tried to fancy himself going on a
car to the suburbs where Tom lived and knocking on
the door. For all he knew Tom had a wife a good
deal like Bernice. She might not write stories but at
the same time she might be a nut on something — on re-
Suppose, on the night when he left Bernice, Bruce
had gone out to Tom Wills’ place. Tom’s wife coming
to the door. “Come in.” Then Tom coming in bed-
room slippers. Bruce shown into the front room.
Bruce remembered that someone down at the newspaper
office had once said to him, “Tom Wills’ wife is a
Just imagine Bruce in that house sitting in the front
room with Tom and his wife. “Do you know. I’ve a
notion to leave my wife. Well, you see, she’s more
interested in other things than in being a woman.
“I just thought I’d come out and tell you folks be-
cause I won’t be showing up down at the office in the
morning. I’m cutting out. To tell the truth I haven’t
thought much about where I’m going. I’m setting out
on a little voyage of discovery. I’ve a notion that My-
self is a land few men know about. I thought I’d take
a little trip into myself, look around a little there. God
knows what I’ll find. The idea excites me, that’s all.
I’m thirty-four and my wife and I have no kids. I
guess I’m a primitive man, a voyager, eh ?
“Maybe I’ll turn out to be a poet.’’
After Bruce left Chicago, while he wandered south-
ward for some months and later when he worked in the
factory beside Sponge Martin, striving to get from
Sponge something of the workman’s quick facility with
his hands, thinking the beginning of education might
lie in a man’s relations with his own hands, what he
could do with them, what he could feel with them, what
message they could carry up through his fingers to his
brain, about things, about steel, iron, earth, fire, and
water — while all of this was going on, he amused him-
self trying to think how he would go at it to tell his
purpose to Tom Wills and his wife — to anyone for
that matter. He thought how amusing it might be to
try to tell Tom and his Methodist wife just all the
thoughts in his head.
He never did go out to Tom and his wife, of course,
and in truth what he actually did had become of minor
importance to Bruce. He had a vague notion that he,
in common with almost all American men, had got out
of touch with things — stones lying in fields, the fields
themselves, houses, trees, rivers, factory walls, tools,
women’s bodies, sidewalks, people on sidewalks, men in
overalls, men and women in automobiles. The whole
business of the visit to Tom Wills was imagined, an
amusing idea to play with as he varnished wheels and
Tom Wills had himself become a sort of phantom.
He had been replaced by Sponge Martin, by the man
actually working beside him. “Perhaps I am a lover
of men. That may be why I couldn’t stand for the
presence of Bernice any more,” he thought, smiling at
There was a certain sum in the bank, some three
hundred and fifty dollars, that had been there in his
name for a year or two and that he had never told
Bernice about. Perhaps he had really intended, from
the time he had married her, to do to Bernice some
such thing as he finally did. When, as a young man, he
left his grandmother’s house to go live in Chicago,
she had given him five hundred dollars and he had kept
three hundred and fifty of it intact. Mighty lucky he
did, too, he thought, as he walked about the streets of
Chicago that evening after the silent quarrel with the
woman. After he left the apartment he went for a
walk in Jackson Park and then walked downtown
to a cheap hotel and paid two dollars for a room for
the night. He slept well enough, and in the morning
when he got into the bank at ten he had already found
out that there was a train for a town named La Salle,
Illinois, at eleven. It was an odd and amusing notion
he thought, that one about to go to a town named
La Salle, there to buy a second-hand rowboat and start
rowing quite casually down a river, leaving a puzzled
wife somewhere in the wake of his boat, that such a
one should spend the morning playing with the notion
of a visit to Tom Wills and his Methodist wife in a
house in a suburb.
“And wouldn’t his wife have been sore, wouldnt
she have given poor Tom a razzing for being the
friend of any such casual chap as myself? After all,
you see, life is a very serious affair, at least it is when
you get it related to somebody else,” was what he had
thought as he sat on the train — ^that morning when he
F irst one thing and then another. A liar, an
honest man, a thief abruptly slipping out of the
service of a daily newspaper in an American city. News-
papers are a necessary part of modern life. They weave
the loose ends of life into a pattern. Everyone interested
in Leopold and Loeb, the young murderers. All people
thinking alike. Leopold and Loeb become the nation’s
pets. The nation horror-struck about what Leopold
and Loeb did. What is Harry Thaw doing now, who
is divorced, who fled with the bishop’s daughter?
Dance life! Awake and dance!
A sneak leaving Chicago on a train at eleven o’clock
in the morning, having told his wife nothing of his
plans. A woman who has been married misses a man.
Living loosely is dangerous — ^to women. A habit once
established is hard to break. Better keep a man around
the house. He comes in handy. And then too, for
Bernice, the unannounced disappearance of Bruce would
be hard to explain. First she would lie. “He had to
go out of town for a few days.”
Everywhere men trying to explain the actions of
their wives, women trying to explain the actions of their
husbands. People didn’t have to break up homes to get
into a position where explanations had to be made.
Life should not be as it is. If life were not so com-
plex it would be more simple. Fm sure you would
like that kind of a man — if you happen to like that
kind of a man, eh?
Bernice would likely enough think Bruce was on
a drunk. He had been on two or three royal sprees
after he married her. Once he and Tom Wills stayed
on a bender for three days and would both have lost
their jobs but that it came during Tom’s vacation
time. Tom saved the reporter’s scalp. But never
mind that. Bernice might think the paper had sent
him out of town.
Tom Wills might phone up to the apartment — a little
angry — ‘Ts John sick or what t’ell?”
“No, he was here last night when I went out.”
Bernice having her pride hurt. A woman might
write short stories, do Sunday special stulf, go about
freely with men (modem women who had any sense
did that a lot nowdays — it’s the mood of the day)
“still and all,” as that Ring Lardner would say, “it don’t
make no difference.” Women nowdays are putting up
a great little fight to get something they want, some-
thing they think they want anyway.
That doesn’t make them any less women at bottom
— ^maybe it doesn’t.
A woman is a special thing then. You got to see
that. Wake up, man ! Things have changed in the last
twenty years. You mossback! If you can get her
you get her. If you can’t, you can’t. Don’t you think
the world progresses at all? Sure it does. Look at
the flying machines we got and the radio. Didn’t we
have a swell war? Didn’t we lick the Germans?
[ 66 ]
Men want to cheat. That's whereon there is a lot
of misunderstanding. What about that three-fifty
Bruce kept hidden away for over four years, his get-
away stake? When you go to the races, and the meet-
ing lasts, say, thirty days, and you haven’t taken a trick
and then the meeting is over, how you going to get out
of town if you haven’t a cent put away, on the quiet?
You got to walk out of town or sell the mare, haven’t
you? Better hide it in the hay.
T hree or four times after Bruce married Bernice
they were both busted higher than a kite. Bernice
had to borrow money and so did Bruce. Still and all he
said nothing about that three-fifty. Something to the
windward, eh ? Had he all the time intended just what
he finally did? If you’re that kind of a cove you
might as well smile, get a laugh out of yourself if
you can. Pretty soon you’ll be dead and then maybe
there’ll be no laughs. No one ever figured out even
Heaven a very jolly place. Dance life! Catch the
swing of the dance if you can.
Bruce and Tom Wills used to talk sometimes. They
both had the same bees in their bonnets, though the
buzzing never came out into words. Just a faint buzz-
ing far off. They talked, tentatively, when they had
taken several drinks — about some fellow, an imaginary
figure who cut out, left his job, went on the grand
sneak. Where to ? What for ? When they got to that
part of their talk both men always felt a little lost.
“They raise good apples up in Oregon,” Tom said.
“I’m not so apple-hungry,” Bruce replied.
Tom had an idea it wasn’t only men found life
a little dizzy and heavy most of the time, that women
had the same feeling — ^a lot of them anyway. “If
they aren’t reli^ous or haven’t kids there’s hell to
[ 68 ]
pay,” he said. He told of a woman he knew. “She
was a good quiet little wife and went along, tending
up to her house, making everything comfortable for
her husband, never a word out of her.
“Then something happened. She was pretty good-
looking and played the piano pretty well so she got a
job playing in a church and after that some fellow
who owned a movie theater went to church one Sunday,
because his little daughter had died and gone to Heaven
the summer before and he felt he ought to square
himself when the White Sox weren’t playing at home.
“And so he offered her a better job in his movie
place. She had a feeling for the keys and was a neat
good-looking little thing — or at least a lot of men
thought she was.” Tom Wills said he didn’t think
she ever intended it at all, but the first thing you know
she began to look down on her husband. “There she
was, up on the heights,” Tom said. “She took a slant
down and began to size up her hubby. He had seemed
quite a thing once, but now — it wasn’t her fault. After
all, young or old, rich or poor, men were pretty easy
to get — if you had the touch. She couldn’t help it —
being talented that way.” Wliat Tom meant to say
was that this escape hunch was in everyone’s bonnet.
Tom never said, “I’d like to beat it myself.” He
never came out quite that strong. In the newspaper
office they said that Tom’s wife had something on him.
The young Jew who worked there told Bruce once that
Tom was scared stiff of his wife, and the next day,
when Tom and Bruce were lunching together, Tom told
Bruce the same story about the young Jew. The Jew
and Tom never got on well together. When Tom
came down in the morning and didn’t feel very good-
natured he always jumped on the Jew. He never did
that to Bruce. “A nasty little word-slinger,” he said.
“He’s stuck on himself because he can make words
stand on their heads.’’ He leaned over and whispered
to Bruce. “Fact,” he said, “it happens every Saturday
Was Tom nicer to Bruce, did he give him a lot of
snap assignments because he thought they were in the
H eat ! Bruce Dudley had just come down river.
June, July, August, September in New Orleans.
You can’t make a place something it won’t be. It was
slow work getting down river. Few or no boats. Often
whole days idling about in river towns. You can take
a train and go where you please, but what’s the hurry?
Bruce at that time, when he had just left Bernice and
his newspaper job, had something in mind that
expressed itself in the phrase — “What’s your hurry?”
He sat in the shade of trees by the river-bank, got a
ride once on a. barge, rode on little local packets, sat in
front of stof^ in river towns, slept, dreamed. People
talked with a slow drawling speech, niggers were hoe-
ing cotton, other niggers fished for catfish in the
The niggers were something for Bruce to look at,
think about. So many black men slowly growing
brown. Then would come the light brown, the velvet-
browns, Caucasian features. The brown women tend-
ing up to the job — getting the race lighter and lighter.
Soft Southern nights, warm dusky nights. Shadows
flitting at the edge of cotton-fields, in dusky roads by
sawmill towns. Soft voices laughing, laughing.
Oh, ma banjo dog,
Oh, ho, ma banjo dog.
• • • • w
An’ I ain’t go’na give you
None of ma jelly roll.
So much of that sort of thing in American life. If
you are a thinking man — ^and Bruce was — you make
half acquaintances — half friendships — Frenchmen,
Germans, Italians, Englishmen — Jews. The Middle
Western intellectual circles along the edge of which
Bruce had played — watching Bernice plunge more
boldly in — were filled with men not American at all.
There was a young Polish sculptor, an Italian sculptor,
a French dilettante. Was there such a thing as an
American? Perhaps Bruce was the thing himself.
He was reckless, afraid, bold, shy.
If you are a canvas do you shudder sometimes when
the painter stands before you? All the others lending
their color to him. A composition being made. Him-
self the composition.
Could he ever really know a Jew, a German, a
Frenchman, an Englishman?
And now a nigger.
Consciousness of brown men, brown women, com-
ing more and more into American life — ^by that token
coming into him too.
More willing to come, more avid to come than any
Jew, German, Pole, Italian. Standing laughing —
coming by the back door — with shuffling feet, a laugh —
a dance in the body.
Facts established would have to be recognized some-
time — ^by individuals — when they were on an intellectual
jag perhaps — ^as Bruce was then.
In New Orleans, when Bruce got there, the long
docks facing the river. On the river just ahead of
him when he came the last twenty miles, a small house-
boat fitted up with a gas engine. Signs on it. “JESUS
WILL SAVE.” Some itinerant preacher from up
river starting south to save the world. “THY WILL
BE DONE.” The preacher, a sallow man with a
dirty beard, in bare feet, at the wheel of the little boat.
His wife, also in bare feet, sitting in a rocking-chair.
Her teeth were black stumps. Two children in bare
feet, lying on a narrow deck.
The docks of the city go around in a great crescent.
Big ocean freighters coming in bringing coffee, bananas,
fruits, goods, taking out cotton, lumber, corn, oils.
Niggers on the docks, niggers in the city streets,
niggers laugl^ig. A slow dance always going on.
German sea-captains, French, American, Swedish,
Japanese, English, Scotch. The Germans now sailing
under other flags than their own. The Scotch sailing
under the English flag. Clean ships, dirty tramp
ships, half-naked niggers — a shadow-dance.
How much does it cost to be a good man, an earnest
man? If we can’t produce good earnest men, how are
we ever going to make any progress? You can’t
ever get anywhere if you aren’t conscious — in earnest.
A brown woman having thirteen children — a different
man for every child — going to church too, singing,
dancing, broad shoulders, broad hips, soft eyes, a soft
laughing voice — getting God on Sunday night — getting
— ^what — on Wednesday night ?
Men, you've got to be up and doing if you want
William Allen White, Heywood Broun — passing
judgment on the arts — why not — Oh, ma banjo dog —
Van Wyck Brooks, Frank Crowninshield, Tululla Bank-
head, Henry Mencken, Anita Loos, Stark Young, Ring
Lardner, Eva Le Gallienne, Jack Johnson, Bill Hey-
wood, H. G. Wells write good books, don't you think ?
The Literary Digest, The Dial Book of Modern Art,
They dance south — out of doors — whites in a
pavilion in one field, blacks, browns, high browns,
velvet-browns in a pavilion in the next field — but one.
We've got to have more earnest men in this country.
Grass growing in a field between.
Oh, ma banjo dog!
Song in the air, a slow dance. Heat. Bruce had
some money then. He might have got a job, but what
was the use? Well, he might have gone uptown and
tackled the New Orleans Picayune, or the Item or
States for a job. Why not go see Jack McClure, the
ballad-maker — on the Picayune! Give us a song, Jack
— 3. dance — the gumbo drift. Come, the night is hot.
What was the use? He still had some of the money
he had slipped into his pocket when he left Chicago.
In New Orleans you can get a loft in which to sleep
for five dollars a month if you know how. You know
how when you don't want to work — when you want to
look and listen — when you want your body to be lazy
while your mind works. New Orleans is not Chicago.
It isn't Cleveland or Detroit. Thank God for that !
Nigger girls in the streets, nigger women, nigger
men. There is a brown cat lurking in the shadow
of a building. “Come, brown puss — come get your
cream.” The men who work on the docks in New
Orleans have slender flanks like running horses, broad
shoulders, loose heavy lips hanging down — faces like
old monkeys sometimes — ^bodies like young gods —
sometimes. On Sundays — ^when they go to church,
or to a bayou baptizing, the brown girls do sure cut
loose with the colors — gaudy nigger colors on nigger
women making the streets flame — deep purples, reds,
yellows, green like young corn-shoots coming up. They
sweat. The skin colors brown, golden yellow, reddish
brown, purple-brown. When the sweat runs down
high brown backs the colors come out and dance before
the eyes. K^sh that up, you silly painters, catch it
dancing. Song-tones in words, music in words — in
colors too. Silly American painters! They chase a
Gauguin shadow to the South Seas. Bruce wrote a
few poems. Bernice had got very far away in, oh
such a short time. Good thing she didn’t know. Good
thing no one knows how unimportant he is. We
need earnest men — got to have ’em. Who’ll run the
show if we don’t get that kind? For Bruce — for the
time — no sensual feeling that need be expressed through
Hot days. Sweet Mama!
Funny business, Bruce trying to write poems. When
he had that job on the newspaper, where a man is
supposed to write, he never wanted to write at all.
Southern white men writing songs — fill themselves first
with Keats and Shelley.
I am giving out of the richness of myself to many
At night, when the waters of the seas murmur I am
I have surrendered to seas and suns and days and
My blood is thick with surrender.
It shall be let out through wounds and shall color the
seas and the earth.
My blood shall color the earth where the seas come
for the night kiss and the seas shall be red.
What did that mean? Oh, laugh a little, men!
What matters what it means ?
Or again —
Give me the word.
Let my throat and my lips caress the words of your lips.
Give me the word.
Give me three words, a dozen, a hundred, a history.
Give me the word.
A broken jargon of words in the head. In old
New Orleans the narrow streets are filled with iron
gates leading away, past damp old walls, to cool patios.
It is very lovely — old shadows dancing on sweet old
walls, but some day it will all be torn away to make
room for factories.
Bruce lived for five months in an old house where
rent was low, where cockroaches scurried up and down
the walls. Nigger women lived in the building across
the narrow street
You lie naked on the bed on hot summer mornings
and let the slow creeping river-wind come, if it will.
Across the street, in another room, a nigger woman of
twenty arises at five and stretches her arms. Bruce
rolls and looks. Sometimes she sleeps alone but some-
times a brown man sleeps with her. Then they both
stretch. Thin-flanked brown man. Nigger girl with
slender flexible body. She knows Bruce is looking.
What does it matter? He is looking as one might
look at trees, at young colts playing in a pasture.
Bruce got out of his bed and went away along a
narrow street to another street near the river where
he got coffee and a roll of bread for five cents. Think-
ing of niggers-!^ What sort of business is that ? How
come? Northern men so often get ugly when they
think of niggers, or they get sentimental. Give pity
where none is needed. The men and women of the
South understand better, maybe. “Oh, hell, don’t get
fussy ! Let things flow ! Let us alone ! We’ll float !”
Brown blood flowing, white blood flowing, deep river
A slow dance, music, ships, cotton, corn, coffee.
Slow lazy laughter of niggers. Bruce remembered a
line he had once seen written by a negro. “Would
white poet ever know why my people walk so softly and
laugh at sunrise ?”
Heat. The sun coming up in a mustard-colored sky.
Driving rains that came, swirled over a half-dozen
blocks of city streets and in ten minutes no trace of
moisture left. Too much wet warmth for a little more
wet warmth to matter. The sun licking it up, taking
a drink for itself. One might get clear-headed here.
Clear-headed about what? Well, don’t hurry. Take
Bruce lay lazy in bed. The brown girl’s body was
like the thick waving leaf of a young banana plant. If
you were a painter now, you could paint that, maybe.
Paint a brown nigger girl in a broad leaf waving and
send it up North. Why not sell it to a society woman
of New Orleans? Get some money to loaf a while
longer on. She wouldn’t know, would never guess.
Paint a brown laborer’s narrow suave flanks onto the
trunk of a tree. Send it to the Art Institute in Chi-
cago. Send it to the Anderson Galleries in New York.
A French painter went down to the South Seas.
Freddy O’Brien went down. Remember when the
brown woman tried to ravage him and he said how he
escaped ? Gauguin put a lot of pep in his book but they
trimmed it for us. No one cared much, not after
Gauguin was dead anyway. You get a cup of such
coffee for five cents and a big roll of bread. No swill.
In Chicago, morning coffee at cheap places is like swill.
Niggers like good things. Good big sweet words,
flesh, corn, cane. Niggers like a free throat for song.
You’re a nigger down South and you get some white
blood in you. A little more, and a little more. North-
ern travelers help, they say. Oh, Lord! Oh, my
banjo dog! Do you remember the night when that
Gauguin came home to his little hut and there, in the
bed, was the slender brown girl waiting for him?
Better read that book. “Noa-Noa,” they call it.
Brown mysticism in the walls of a room, in the hair
— of a Frenchman, in the eyes of a brown girl. Noa-
Noa. Do you remember the sense of strangeness?
French painter kneeling on the floor in the darkness,
smelling the strangeness. The brown girl smelling
the strangeness. Love ? What ho ! Smelling strange-
Go softly. Don’t hurry. What’s all the shooting
A little more white, a little more white, graying
white, muddy white, thick lips — staying sometimes.
Over we go!
Something lost too. The dance of bodies, a slow
Bruce on a bed in a five-dollar room. Away off,
broad leaves of young banana plants waving. “D’you
know why my people laugh in the morning? Do you
know why my people walk softly?”
Sleep again, white man. No hurry. Then along
a street for coffee and a roll of bread, five cents.
Sailors off ships, bleary-eyed. Old nigger women and
white women going to market. They know each other,
white women, nigger women. Go soft. Don’t hurry 1
Song — a slow dance. A white man lying still on
docks, in a five-dollar-a-month bed. Heat. No hurry.
When you get that hurry out of you the mind works
maybe. Maybe song will start in you too.
Lord, it would be nice with Tom Wills down here.
Shall I write him a letter? No, better not. After a
while, when cool days come, you mosey along up North
again. Come back here some day. Stay here some
day. Look and listen.
Song — dance — a slow dance.
‘‘(O ATURDAY night and supper on the table. My
woman cooking supper — what! Me with
a pipe in my mouth.’’
Lif’ up the skillet, put down the lid,
Mama’s go’na make me some a-risen bread*
An’ I ain’t go’na give you
None of my jelly roll.
An’ I ain’t go’na give you
None of my jelly roll.
• • • • •
Saturday evening’ in the factory at Old Harbor.
Sponge Martin putting his brushes away and Bruce
imitating his every movement. “Leave the brushes
so and they’ll be fine and fit on Monday morning.”
Sponge singing as he puts things away, clears up.
An orderly little cuss — Sponge. He’s got the work-
man’s instinct. Likes things so and so, tools in order.
“Messy men make me sick. I hate ’em.”
The surly man who worked next to Sponge was in a
great hurry to get out at the door. He had been ready
to leave for ten minutes.
No cleaning up brushes, putting things in order for
him. Every two minutes he looked at his watch. His
hurry amused Sponge.
Wants to get home and see if his old woman is
still there — alone. He wants to go home and don’t
want to go. If he loses her he’s afraid he’ll never
get another woman. Women are so damned hard
to get. They haint hardly any left. Only about ten
million of ’em around loose — without any man — spe-
cially in New England, I’ve heard,” Sponge said, wink-
ing as the surly workman hurried away without saying
good-night to his two fellows.
Bruce had a suspicion that Sponge had made up the
story about the workman and his wife to amuse him-
self, to amuse Bruce.
He and Sponge went out at the door together. ‘Why
don’t you come on down for Sunday dinner?” Sponge
said. He invited Bruce every Saturday night, and
Bruce had already accepted several times.
Now he walked beside Sponge up a climbing street
toward his hotel, a small working-man’s hotel, on a
street half-way up the Old Harbor hill, a hill that
climbed abruptly up almost from the river’s edge. At
the river’s edge, on a shelf of land just above the high-
water line, there was only room for a line of rail-
road tracks and for the row of factory buildings be-
tween the tracks and the river’s edge. Across the
tracks and a narrow road by the factory doors, streets
climbed up the side of the hill and other streets ran
parallel with the tracks around the hill. The business
section of the town was almost half-way up the hillside.
The long red-brick buildings of the wheel company,
[ 86 ]
then a dusty road, the railroad tracks and after that
clusters of streets of working-men’s houses, small
frame affairs close together, then two streets of stores,
and above the beginning of what Sponge called “the
swell part of town.”
The hotel where Bruce lived was in a street of work-
ing-men’s houses, just above the business streets, “half
swell and half low-life,” Sponge said.
Time was — ^when Bruce, then John Stockton, was
a lad and lived for a time at the same hotel — that it
was in the “swellest” part of town. The land running
on up the hill was pretty much country then, with
trees covering the hill. Before automobiles came, it
was too much work getting up the hill and besides Old
Harbor hadn’t many swells. That was when his father
had got the job as principal in the high school at Old
Harbor and just before the little family went to live
Bruce, then in knee-pants, with his father and mother,
had lived in two adjoining rooms — small ones on the
second floor of the three-storied frame hotel. It
wasn’t the best hotel in town, even then, nor was it what
it had now become — half a laborers’ rooming-house.
The hotel was still owned by the same woman, a
widow, who had owned it when Bruce was a boy. Then
she was a young widow with two children, a boy and
a girl — the boy two or three years the older. He had
disappeared from the scene when Bruce came back
there to live — had gone to Chicago where he had a
job as copy-writer in an advertising agency. Bruce had
grinned when he heard of that. “Lordy, a kind of
circle of life. You start somewhere, come back to
where you started. It doesn’t much matter what your
intentions are. Round and round you go. Now you
see it and now you don’t.” His Dad and that kid
both working at the same job in Chicago, crossing
each other’s tracks, both in earnest about their jobs,
too. When he heard what the son of the house was
doing in Chicago, there popped into Bruce’s mind a
story one of the boys in the newspaper office had told
him. It was a story about certain people, Iowa people,
Illinois people, Ohio people. The Chicago newspaper
man had seen a lot of people when he went for a trip
with a friend in a car. ‘They are in business or they
own a farm and suddenly they begin to feel they aren’t
getting anywhere. Then they sell the little farm or
the store and buy a Ford. They start traveling, men,
women and kids. Out they go to California and get
tired of that. They move on down to Texas and then
to Florida. The car rattles and bangs like a milk-
wagon but they keep on the go. Finally they get back
to where they started and then begin the whole show all
over again. The country is getting all filled up with
such caravans, thousands of them. When such an out-
fit goes broke they settle down wherever they happen
to be, become farm-hands or factory-hands. There’s a
lot of them. It’s the American passion for being on
the go, a little going to seed, I guess.”
The son of the widow who owned the hotel had gone
off to Chicago and had got a job and married, but the
daughter hadn’t had any such luck. She hadn’t found
herself a man. Now the mother was getting old and
[ 88 ]
the daughter was slipping into her place. The hotel
had changed because the town had changed. When
Bruce was a kid, living there in knee-pants with his
father and mother, several half-important people —
like his father, the principal in the high school, a young
unmarried doctor and two young lawyers — lived there.
Traveling men who wanted to save a little money did
not go to the more expensive hotel on the chief busi-
ness street, but were satisfied with the neat little place
on the hillside above. In the evening, when Bruce
was a child, such men used to sit in chairs before the
hotel talking, explaining to each other their presence
in the less expensive place. “I like it. It’s quieter up
here,” one of them said. They were trying to make
a little money on their travelers’ expense accoimts and
seemed half ashamed of the fact.
The daughter of the house was then a pretty little
thing with long yellow curls. On spring and fall
evenings she was always playing about the front of
the hotel. The traveling men petted and fussed with
her and she liked it. One by one they took her to sit
in their laps and gave her pennies or sticks of candy.
“How long had that lasted?” Bruce wondered. At
what age had she become self-conscious, a woman?
Perhaps she had slid off one thing and into another
without knowing. One evening she had been sitting
on the knees of a young man and suddenly she had a
feeling. She didn’t know what it was. It wasn’t
proper for her to do that sort of thing any more.
Down she jumped and walked away with a certain dig-
nified air that made the traveling men and others sit-
ting about laugh. The young traveling man tried to
get her to come back and sit on his lap again but she
wouldn’t and then she went into the hotel and up to her
room feeling — Lord knows what.
Did that happen when Bruce was a child there ? He,
his father and mother used to go sit in the chairs before
the door of the hotel sometimes on spring and fall
evenings. His father’s position in the high school
gave him a certain dignity in the eyes of the others.
And what about Bruce’s mother, Martha Stockton.
It was odd what a distinct, and at the same time
indistinct figure she had been to him since he had
grown to manhood. He had all sorts of dreams about
her, thoughts about her. Now sometimes, in the life
of his fancy, she was young and handsome, and some-
times she was old and tired of life. Had she become
merely a figure his fancy played with? A mother,
after her death, or after you no longer live near her,
is something the male fancy can play with, dream of,
make a part of the movement of the grotesque dance
of life. Idealize her. Why not? She is gone. She
will not come near to break the thread of the dream.
The dream is as true as the reality. Who knows the
difference? Who knows anything?
Mother, dear mother, come home to me now
The clock in the steeple strikes ten.
• • . • •
Silver threads among the gold.
Sometimes Bruce wondered if the same thing had
happened to his father’s conception of the dead woman
that had happened to his own. When he and his father
lunched together in Chicago he had sometimes wanted
to ask the older man questions but dared not. It
might have been done perhaps if there hadn’t been that
feeling between Bernice and his father’s new wife.
Why had they taken such a dislike to each other? It
would have been worth while to have been able to say
to the older man; “What about it, eh, Dad? Which
do you most like having near you — the living body of
the younger woman or the half real, half manufactured
dream of the one who died?” A mother’s figure, held
in solution — in a floating, changing liquid thing — ^the
The flashy young Jew in the newspaper office could
sure sling great mother stuff — “gold-star mothers send-
ing sons off to war — the mother of a young murderer
in court — in black — put in there by the son’s attorney
— a fox, that fellow — good jury stuff.” When Bruce
was a child he, with his mother and father, lived on the
same floor of the hotel at Old Harbor where he later
got a room. Then there was the room for his father
and mother and the smaller one for himself. The
bathroom was on the same floor several doors away.
Perhaps the place looked then much as it did now, but
to Bruce it seemed infinitely more shabby. On the day
when he came back to Old Harbor and went to the
hotel, and when he was shown to a room, he trembled,
thinking the woman who led the way upstairs for him
was about to lead him to the same room. At first,
when he was left alone in the room, he thought it
might be the same one he had occupied as a child. His
mind went, ‘‘dick, click/’ like an old clock in an empty
house. “Oh, Lord! Ring around the rosy, eh?”
Gradually things cleared. He decided it wasn’t the
same room. He wouldn’t have it be the same.
“Better not. I might wake up some night, crying
for mother, wanting her soft arms about me, my head
on her soft breasts. Mother-complex — something of
that sort. I’m supposed to be trying to cut loose from
memories. Get some new breath into my nostrils if I
can. The dance of life! Don’t stop. Don’t go back.
Dance the dance out to the end. Listen, do you hear
the music ?”
The woman who had shown him to the room was
undoubtedly the child of the curls. That he knew by
her name. She had grown a little stout, but wore neat
clothes. Her hair was already a little gray. Was she,
inside herself, still a child? Did he want to be a child
again? Was that what had drawn him back to Old
Harbor? “Well, hardly,” he had said to himself,
stoutly. “I’m on another lay just now.”
But, about that woman, the hotel woman’s daugh-
ter — ^herself now a hotel woman?
Why hadn’t she got her a man? Perhaps she hadn’t
wanted one. It might be that she had seen too much
of men. He, himself, as a child, had never played with
the two hotel children because the little girl had made
him feel shy when he met her alone in the halls and
because, as the boy was two or three years older, he
felt shy with him too.
In the morning, when he was a child in knee-trou-
sers, living in the hotel with his father and mother, he
went off to school walking usually with his father, and
in the afternoon, when school was out, came home
alone. His father stayed at the schoolhouse until
later, correcting papers or something of that sort.
In the late afternoon and when the weather was fine
Bruce and his mother went for a walk. What had she
been doing all day ? There was no food to cook. They
dined in the hotel dining-room among the traveling
men and the farmers and town people who came there
to eat. A few business men also came. Supper then
was twenty-five cents. A procession of strange people
always passing in and out of a boy’s fancy. Plenty of
things for the fancy to feed on then. Bruce had been
a rather silent boy. His mother was that type too.
Bruce’s father did the talking for the family.
What did his mother do all day? She did a lot of
sewing. Also she made lace. Later, when Bruce mar-
ried Bernice, his grandmother, with whom he had lived
after his mother died, sent her a lot of lace the mother
had made. It was rather delicate stuff, turned a little
yellow with age. Bernice was glad to get it. She wrote
a note to the grandmother saying how sweet it was of
her to send it.
In the afternoon, when the lad, who was now a man
of thirty-four, got home from school, about four, his
mother took him for a walk. At that time several
river packets came regularly to Old Harbor and both
the woman and her child liked to go down to the levee.
What a bustle ! What a singing, swearing and shout-
ing! The town, that had been sleeping all day in the
heat of the river valley, suddenly awoke. Drays drove
pell-mell down the hillside streets, there was a cloud of
dust, dogs barked, boys ran and shouted, a whirlwind
of energy swept over the town. It seemed a life-and-
death matter that the boat not be kept at the landing an
unnecessary moment. The boats landed goods and
took on and put off passengers near a street of small
stores and saloons that stood on the ground now oc-
cupied by the Grey Wheel Factory. The stores faced
the river and at their back doors ran the railroad that
was slowly but surely choking the river life to death.
What an unromantic thing the railroad seemed, there
in sight of the river and the river life.
Bruce’s mother took her child down the sloping
streets to one of the small stores facing the river where
she usually bought some trifle, a package of pins or
needles or a spool of thread. Then she and the boy
sat on a bench before the store and the storekeeper
came to the door to speak to her. He was a neat-look-
ing man with a gray mustache. ‘'The boy likes look-
ing at the boats and the river, doesn’t he, Mrs. Stock-
ton?” he said. The man and the woman talked of the
heat of the late September day or of the chances for
rain. Then a customer appeared and the man disap-
peared inside the store and did not come out again.
The boy knew his mother had bought the trifle in the
store because she didn’t like to sit on the bench in front
without giving the store a little patronage. Already
that part of town was going to pieces. The business
of the town was drawing away from the river, had
turned its back on the river where all the town life had
The woman and the boy sat for an hour on the
bench. The light began to soften and a cool evening
breeze blew up the river valley. How seldom the
woman spoke! It was sure Bruce’s mother had not
been very social. The wife of the principal of the
school could have had a good many women friends in
the town but she did not seem to want them. Why?
When a boat was coming in or going out it was
very exciting. There was a long broad landing-plank
that had been let down on the sloping levee, into which
cobblestones had been set, and niggers ran or trotted
on and off the boat with loads on their heads or shoul-
ders. They were barefooted and often half naked.
On hot days in the late May or early September how
their black faces, backs and shoulders shone in the
afternoon light ! There was the boat, the slowly mov-
ing gray waters of the river, the green of the trees over
on the Kentucky shore and the woman sitting beside the
boy — so near and yet so far away.
Certain things, impressions, pictures, memories had
got fixed in the boy’s mind. They stayed there after
the woman was dead and he had himself become a man.
The woman. Mystery. Love of women. Scorn of
women. What are they like? Are they like trees?
How much can woman thrust into the mystery of life,
think, feel? Love men. Take women. Drift with the
drifting of days. That life goes on does not concern
you. It concerns women.
Thoughts of a man dissatisfied with life, as it had
presented itself to him confused with what he thought
a boy had felt sitting by a river with a woman. Be-
fore he got old enough to be at all conscious of her,
as a being like himself, she died. Had he, Bruce, in
the years after she died and while he was growing to
manhood and after he became a grown man, had he
manufactured the feeling he had come to have con-
cerning her ? That might be. It might be he had done
it because Bernice did not seem much of a mystery.
The lover must love. It is his nature. Did men
like Sponge Martin, who were workmen and lived and
felt down through their fingers — did they get life more
Bruce walking out at a factory door with Sponge on
a Saturday evening. Winter almost gone, spring
coming soon now.
Before the factory door at the wheel of an auto-
mobile a woman — the wife of Grey, the owner of the
factory. Another woman sitting on a bench beside
her boy looking at the moving face of a river in the
evening light. Drifting thoughts, fancies in a man’s
mind. The reality of life clouded at the moment.
Seed-sowing hunger, soil-hunger. A group of words
caught in the meshes of the mind drifting up into con-
sciousness, forming words on his lips. As Sponge
talked, Bruce and the woman in the car, for a moment
only, looked into each other’s eyes.
The words in Bruce’s mind at the moment were
from the Bible. “And Judah said unto Onan, Go in
unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up
seed to thy brother.”
What a queer jumble of words — ideas. Bruce had
been away from Bernice for several months. Was he
on the lookout for another woman now? Why the
startled look in the eyes of the woman in the automo-
bile? Had he embarrassed her by staring at her?
But she had stared at him. There had been a look in
her eyes as though she were about to speak to him, a
workman in her husband’s factory. He would listen
Bruce walked beside Sponge without looking back.
*‘What a thing that Bible!” It had been one of the
few books Bruce never tired of reading. When he
was a boy and after his mother died his grandmother
always had the book about — reading in the New Testa-
ment, but he read the older Testament. Stories —
men and women in relation to each other — fields,
sheep, grain growing, famine coming into a land, years
of plenty coming. Joseph, David, Saul, Samson, the
strong man — honey, bees, barns, cattle — men and
women going into barns to lie on the threshing-floors.
‘‘When he saw her — he thought her to be a harlot be-
cause she had covered her face.” That was when he
went up unto his sheep-shearers to Timorath, he and
his friend Hirah, the Adullamite.
“And he turned unto her by the way and said. Go
to, I pray thee, let me come in unto you.”
And why had not that young Jew in the newspaper
office in Chicago read the book of his fathers? There
would not have been such loose word-slinging then.
Sponge on a sawdust pile in the Ohio River Valley
beside his old woman — the old woman who was alive
like a fox terrier.
A woman in an automobile with her eyes on Bruce.
A workman, like Sponge, saw, felt, tasted things
through his fingers. There was a disease of life due
to men getting away from their own hands, their own
bodies too. Things felt with the whole body — rivers
— ^trees — skies — grasses growing — grain growing —
ships — seed stirring in the ground — city streets — dust
in city streets — steel — iron — sky-scrapers — faces in
city streets — bodies of men — ^bodies of women —
children’s quick slender bodies.
That young Jew in the Chicago newspaper office
slinging words brilliantly — slinging the bunk. Bernice
writing that story about the poet and the woman of
wax, Tom Wills swearing at the young Jew. “He’s
afraid of his woman.”
Bruce cutting out from Chicago — spending weeks on
a river — on the docks in New Orleans.
Thoughts of his mother — thoughts of a boy’s
thoughts of his mother. A man like Bruce could think
a hundred diverse thoughts walking ten steps beside a
workman named Sponge Martin.
Had Sponge noticed the little passage between him-
self — Bruce — and that woman in the car? He had
felt it — ^perhaps through his fingers.
“That woman’s taken a shine to you. Better look
out,” Sponge said.
More thoughts of his mother as he walked with
Sponge. Sponge talking. He did not press the theme
of the woman in the car. It might just have been a
workman’s slant. Workmen were like that, they
thought of women only in one way. There was a kind
of terrible matter-of-factness about workmen. More
than likely most of their observations were lies. De
diddle de dum dum ! De diddle de dum dum 1
Bruce remembered, or thought he remembered, cer-
tain things about his mother, and after he came back
to Old Harbor they piled up in his consciousness. The
nights in the hotel. After the evening meal and when
the nights were fair he, with his father and mother, sat
about with the strangers, travelers and others, before
the door of the hotel and then Bruce was put to bed.
Sometimes the principal of the school got into a dis-
cussion with some man. “Is a protective tariff a good
thing? Don’t you think it will raise prices too much?
The fellow between will get crushed between the
upper and the nether millstone.”
What was a nether millstone ?
The father and mother went to sit in their rooms, the
man reading school papers and the woman a book.
Sometimes she worked at her sewing. Then the
woman came into the boy’s room and kissed him on
both cheeks. “Now you go to sleep,” she said. Some-
times after he was in bed the parents went out for a
walk. Where did they go ? Did they go to sit on the
bench by the tree in front of the store on the street
facing the river ?
The river going on always — a huge thing. It never
seemed to hurry. After a while it joined another river,
called the Mississippi, and went away south. More and
more water flowing. When he was lying in bed the
river seemed to flow through the boy’s head. On
spring nights, sometimes, when the man and woman
were out, there came a sudden flaw of rain and he got
out of his bed and went to the open window. The sky
was dark and mysterious, but when one looked down
from his second-story room there was the cheerful sight
of people going hurriedly along a street, going down-
hill along a street toward the river, dodging in and out
of doorways to avoid the rain.
On other nights in bed there was just the dark space
where the window and the sky were. Men passed along
a hallway outside his door — traveling men going to
bed — ^heavy-footed fat men, most of them.
The man Bruce had somehow got his notion of his
mother mixed up with his feeling about the river. He
was quite conscious that it was all rather a muddle in
his head. Mother Mississippi, Mother Ohio, eh?
That was all tommyrot, of course. “Poetic bunk,” Tom
Wills would have called it. It was symbolism, getting
off your base, saying one thing and meaning another.
Still there might be something in it — something Mark
Twain had almost got and didn’t dare try to quite get
— ^the beginning of a kind of big continental poetry,
eh? Warm, big rich rivers flowing down — Mother
Ohio, Mother Mississippi. When you begin to get
smart you got to look out for that kind of bunk. Go
easy, brother, if you say it out loud some foxy city man
may laugh at you. Tom Wills growling, “Ah, cut it
out!” When you were a boy and sat looking at the
river something appeared, a dark spot away off up
river. You watched it coming slowly down hut it was
so far out that you could not see what it was. Water-
soaked logs sometimes bobbed along, just one end stick-
ing up like a man swimming. It might be a swimmer
away out there but of course it couldn’t be. Men do
not swim down the Ohio, miles and miles, down the
Mississippi, miles and miles. When Bruce was a child
and sat on the bench watching, he half closed his eyes,
and his mother sitting beside him did the same thing.
The thing to figure out later, when he was a grown
man, was whether or not he and his mother had, at the
same time, the same thoughts. Perhaps the thoughts
Bruce later fancied he had, as a child, hadn’t come at
all. The fancy was a tricky thing. What one was try-
ing to do with the fancy was to link oneself, in some
rather mysterious way, with others.
You watched the log bob along. Now it was oppo-
site you, away over near the Kentucky shore where the
slow strong current was.
And now it would begin to get smaller and smaller.
How long could you keep it in sight, on the gray face
of the waters, a little black thing getting smaller and
smaller? It became a test. The need was terrible.
What need? To keep the eyes glued on a drifting,
floating black spot on a moving surface of yellow-gray,
to hold the eyes there fixed, as long as possible.
What did a man or woman sitting on a bench on a
street on a dusky evening and looking at the darkening
face of a river, what did they see? Why had they
need to do the rather absurd thing together? When
the child’s father and mother were out alone together
[ loi 1
at night was there something of the same kind of need
in them? Did they meet the need in such a childish
way? When they came home and had got into bed
sometimes they talked in low tones and sometimes th^
O THER strange memories for Bruce, walking
with Sponge. When he went with his father
and mother from Old Harbor to Indianapolis they
went by boat to Louisville. Then Bruce was twelve.
His memories of that occasion might be more trust-
worthy. They got up in the early morning and went in
a hack to the boat-landing. There were two other
passengers, two young men who were evidently not
citizens of Old Harbor. Who were they? Certain
figures, seen under certain circumstances, remain
sharply in the memory always. A tricky business
though, taking such things too seriously. It might
lead to mysticism and an American mystic would be
That woman in the car by the factory door Bruce
and Sponge had just passed. Odd that Sponge had
known about there being a passage — of a sort — ^be-
tween her and Bruce. He hadn’t been looking.
Odd, too, if Bruce’s mother had been one who was
always making such contacts, making them and her
man — Bruce’s father — ^not knowing.
She, herself, might not have known — not con-
That day of his boyhood on the river had tmdoubt-
edly been very yiyid to Bruce.
To be sure, Bruce was a child then, and to a child
the adventure of going to live at a new place is some-
What will be seen at the new place, what people will
be there, what will life be like there?
The two young men who had got on the boat that
morning when he, with his father and mother, left Old
Harbor, had stood by a railing on an upper deck talking
while the boat got out into the stream. One was rather
heavy, a broad-shouldered man with black hair and big
hands. He smoked a pipe. The other was slender and
had a small black mustache which he kept stroking.
Bruce sat with his father and mother on a bench.
The morning passed. Landings were made and goods
were put off the boat. The two young men passengers
kept walking about, laughing and talking earnestly,
and the child had a feeling that one of them, the slen-
der man, had some sort of connection with his mother.
It was as though the man and the woman had once
known each other and now were embarrassed finding
themselves on the same boat. When they passed the
bench where the Stocktons sat the slender man did not
look at them but out over the river. Bruce had a shy
boyish desire to call to him. He became absorbed in
the young man and in his mother. How young she
looked that day — like a girl.
Bruce’s father got into a long talk with the captain
of the boat who bragged of his experiences in the early
days on the river. He talked of the black deck-hands,
“We owned them then, like so many horses, but we had
to take care of them like horses. It was after the war
we began getting the most out of them. They were our
property just the same, do you see, but we couldn't
sell them and we could always get all we wanted.
Niggers love the river. You can't keep a nigger off the
river. We used to get 'em for five or six dollars a
month and we didn't pay 'em that if we didn't want to.
Why should we? If a nigger got gay we knocked him
into the river. No one ever made any inquiry about a
missing nigger, them days."
The boat-captain and the school-teacher went away
to another part of the boat and Bruce sat alone with
his mother. In his memory — after she died — she re-
mained a slender, rather small woman with a sweet,
serious face. Almost always she was quiet and re-
served, but sometimes — rarely — as on that day on the
boat she became strangely alive and eager. In the
afternoon when the boy had grown tired running
about the boat he went to sit with her again. Evening
came. Within an hour they would be tied up at Louis-
ville. The captain had taken Bruce's father up into the
pilot-house. Near Bruce and his mother stood the two
young men. The boat came to a landing, the last land-
ing it would make before reaching the city.
There was a long sloping shore with cobblestones set
in the mud of the river levee and the town at which they
had stopped was much like the town of Old Harbor,
only somewhat smaller. Many bags of grain were to
be put off and the niggers were trotting up and down
the landing-stage singing as they worked.
From the throats of the ragged black men as they
trotted up and down the landing-stage, strange haunt-
ing notes. Words were caught up, tossed about, held
in the throat. Word-lovers, sound-lovers — ^the blacks
seemed to hold a tone in some warm place, under their
red tongues perhaps. Their thick lips were walls under
which the tone hid. Unconscious love of inanimate
things lost to the whites — skies, the river, a moving
boat — ^black mysticism — ^never expressed except in song
or in the movements of bodies. The bodies of the
black workers belonged to each other as the sky be-
longed to the river. Far off now, down river, where the
sky was splashed with red, it touched the face of the
river. The tones from the throats of the black work-
ers touched each other, caressed each other. On the
deck of the boat a red-faced mate stood swearing as
though at the sky and the river.
The words coming from the throats of the black
workers could not be understood by the boy but were
strong and lovely. Afterwards when he thought of
that moment Bruce always remembered the singing
voices of the negro deck-hands as colors. Streaming
reds, browns, golden yellows coming out of black
throats. He grew strangely excited inside himself, and
his mother, sitting beside him, was also excited. “Ah,
my baby ! Ah, my baby !” Sounds caught and held in
black throats. Notes split into quarter-notes. The
word, as meaning, of no importance. Perhaps words
were always unimportant. There were strange words
about a “banjo dog.” What was a “banjo dog?”
“Ah, my banjo dog 1 Oh, oh! Oh, oh I Ah, my banjo
Brown bodies trotting, black bodies trotting. The
bodies of all the men running up and down the landing-
stage were one body. One could not be distinguished
from another. They were lost in each other.
Could the bodies of people be so lost in each other?
Bruce’s mother had taken the boy’s hand and held it
closely, warmly. Near by stood the slender young man
who had got on the boat in the morning. Did he know
how the mother and the boy felt at that moment and
did he want to be a part of them? There was no doubt
that all day, as the boat labored up river, there had
been something between the woman and the man, some-
thing of which they had both been but semi-conscious.
The school-teacher had not known, but the boy and the
slender young man’s companion had known. Long
after that evening sometimes — ^thoughts coming into
the head of a man who had once been a boy on a boat
with his mother. All day as the man had gone about
the boat he had talked to his companion but there had
been a call in him toward the woman with the child.
Something within him went toward the woman as the
sun went toward the western horizon.
Now the evening sun seemed to be about to drop
into the river, far off to the west, and the sky was rosy
The young man’s hand rested on the shoulder of his
companion but his face was turned toward the woman
and the child. The woman’s face was red, like the
evening sky. She did not look at the young man, but
away from him across the river and the boy looked
from the young man’s face to his mother’s face. His
mother’s hand gripped his hand tightly.
Bruce never had any brothers or sisters. Could it
be that his mother had wanted more children ? Long
afterwards, sometimes — that time after he left Bernice,
when he was floating down the Mississippi River in
an open boat, before he lost his boat one night in a
storm when he had gone ashore — odd things happened.
He pulled the boat ashore under a tree somewhere and
lay down on the grass on the river-bank. An empty
river filled with ghosts before his eyes. He was half
asleep, half awake. Fancies flooded his mind. Before
the storm came that blew his boat away he lay for a
long time in the darkness near the water's edge reliving
another evening on a river. The strangeness and the
wonder of things — in nature — he had known as a boy
and that he had somehow later lost — the sense lost liv-
ing in a city and being married to Bernice — could he
get it back again? There was the strangeness and won-
der of trees, skies, city streets, black men, white men —
of buildings, words, sounds, thoughts, fancies. Per-
haps white men's getting on so fast in life, having
newspapers, advertising, great cities, smart clever
minds, ruling the world, had cost them more than they
had gained. They hadn't gained much.
That young man Bruce had once seen on an Ohio
river-boat when he was a boy taking the trip up river
with his father and mother — ^had he on that evening
been something of what Bruce later became ? It would
be an odd turn of the mind if the young man had never
existed — if a boy's mind had invented him. Suppose
he had just invented him later — as something — to ex-
plain his mother to himself as a means for getting
close to the woman, his mother. The man’s memory
of the woman, his mother, might also be an invention.
A mind like Bruce’s sought explanations for every-
On the boat on the Ohio River, evening coming on
fast. There was a town sitting high up on a bluflf and
three or four people had got off the boat. The niggers
kept singing — singing and trotting — dancing up and
down a landing-stage. A broken-down hack, to which
two decrepit-looking horses were hitched, went away
up along a street toward the town on the bluff. On the
shore were two white men. One was small and alert
and had an account-book in his hand. He was check-
ing off the grain-bags as they were brought ashore.
‘^One-hundred-twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four.”
'^Ah, my banjo dog! Oh, ho! Oh, ho!”
The second white man on the shore was tall and
lean and there was something wild about his eyes. On
the still evening air the voice of the captain of the boat,
talking to Bruce’s father up above in the pilot-house or
on the deck above, could be distinctly heard. ‘‘He’s a
crazy man.” The second white rhan ashore sat at the
top of the levee with his knees drawn up between his
arms. His body rocked slowly to and fro in the rhythm
of the singing negroes. The man had been in some
kind of an accident. There was a cut on his long lean
cheek and the blood had run down into his dirty beard
and dried there. There was a tiny streak of red faintly
seen like the streak of fiery red in the red sky of the
west the boy could see when he looked away down
river toward the setting sun. The injured man was
dressed in ragged clothes and his lips hung open, thick
lips hanging open like niggers’ lips when they sang.
His body rocked. The body of the slender young man
on the boat, who was trying to keep up a conversation
with his companion, the broad-shouldered man, was
rocking almost imperceptibly. The body of the woman
who was Bruce’s mother was rocking.
To the boy on the boat that evening the whole world,
the sky, the boat, the shore running away into the gath-
ering darkness seemed rocking with the voices of the
Had the whole thing been but a fancy, a whim ? Had
he, as a boy, gone to sleep on a boat with his hand
gripped in his mother’s hand and dreamed it all? It
had been hot all day on the narrow-decked river-boat.
The gray waters running along beside the boat made a
What had happened between a small woman sitting
silently on the deck of a boat and a young man with a
tiny mustache who talked all day to his friend, never
addressing a word to the woman? What could hap-
pen between people that no one knew anything about,
that they themselves knew little about?
As Bruce walked beside Sponge Martin and passed
a woman sitting in an automobile and something — a
flashing kind of thing passed between them — what did
On the boat, that day on the river, Bruce’s mother
had turned her face toward the young man, even as the
boy watched the two faces. It was as though she had
suddenly consented to something — a, kiss perhaps.
No one had known but the boy and perhaps — ^as a
wild fanciful notion — the crazy man sitting on the
river levee and staring at the boat — his thick lips hang-
ing open. “He’s three-quarters white and one-quarter
nigger, and he’s been crazy for ten years,” the voice of
the captain explained to the school-teacher on the deck
The crazy man sat hunched up ashore, on the top of
the levee, until the boat was pulling away from the land-
ing and then he got to his feet and shouted. Later the
captain said he did it whenever a boat landed at the
town. The man was harmless, the captain said. The
crazy man with the streak of red blood on his cheek got
to his feet and stood up very straight and tall. His
body seemed like the trunk of a dead tree growing at
the levee-top. There might have been a dead tree
there. The boy might have gone to sleep and dreamed
it all. He had been strangely attracted to the slender
young man. He might have wanted the young man
near himself and had let his fancy draw him near
through the body of a woman, his mother.
How ragged and dirty were the clothes of the crazy
man ! A kiss had passed between the young woman on
deck and the slender young man. The crazy man
shouted something. “Keep afloat! Keep afloat!” he
cried, and all the niggers down below on the lower deck
of the boat were silent. The body of the young man
with the mustache quivered. A woman’s body quiv-
ered. A boy’s body quivered.
"All right,” the captain’s voice shouted. “It’s all
right. We’ll take care of ourselves.”
"He’s just a harmless lunatic, comes down every
time a boat comes in and always shouts something like
that,” the captain explained to Bruce’s father as the
boat swung out into the stream,
S ATURDAY night and supper on the table. The
old woman cooking supper — what !
Lif’ up the skillet, put down the lid,
Mama’s go’na make me some a-risen bread !
An’ I ain’t go’na give you none of my jelly roll.
An’ I ain’t go’na give you none of my jelly roll.
A Saturday evening in the early spring in Old Har-
bor, Indiana. In the air the first faint promise of the
hot moist summer days to come. In the lowlands up
and down river from Old Harbor the river flood- waters
still covered the deep flat fields. A warm rich land of
growth — trees growing rank — woods and corn grow-
ing rank. The whole Middle Amerk:an empire — swept
by frequent and delicious rains, great forests, prairies
on which early spring flowers grow like a carpet —
land of many rivers running down to the brown slow
strong mother of rivers, land to live in, make love in,
dance in. Once the Indians danced there, made feasts
there. They threw poems about like seeds on a wind.
Names of rivers, names of towns. Ohio! Illinois!
Keokuk ! Chicago ! Illinois ! Michigan !
On Saturday evening when Sponge and Bruce put
away their brushes and came out of the factory, Sponge
kept urging Bruce to come to his house* for Sunday
dinner. ‘‘You ain’t got no old woman. My old woman
likes to have you there.
Sponge was in a playful mood, Saturday evening.
On Sunday he would stuff himself with fried chicken,
mashed potatoes, chicken gravy, pie. Then he would
stretch himself on the floor beside his front door and
sleep. If Bruce came he would manage in some way
to get a bottle of whisky and Sponge would have
several long pulls at the bottle. After Bruce had taken
a pull or two Sponge and his old woman would finish
it. Then the old woman would sit in a rocking-chair,
laughing and teasing Sponge. “He ain’t much good
any more — not much juice in him. I got to be looking
out for a younger man — ^like you maybe,” she said,
winking at Bruce. Sponge laughed and rolled on the
floor, grunting sometimes, like a fat clean old pig. “I
got you two kids. What’s got wrong with you?”
“Time now to think of going fishing — some pay-day
night — soon now, eh, old woman ?”
On the table the dishes unwashed. The two older
people slept. Sponge with his body across the open
door, the old woman in her rocking-chair. Her mouth
fell open. She had false teeth in the upper jaw. Flies
came in at the open door and settled on the table. Feed,
flies! Plenty of fried chicken left, plenty of gravy,
plenty of mashed potatoes.
Bruce had an idea the dishes were left unwashed be-
cause Sponge wanted to help clear up, but neither he
nor the old woman wanted another man to see him
helping do a woman^s task. Bruce could imagine a
conversation between them before he came. “Look
here, old woman, you let them dishes alone. You wait
’til later, ’til after he goes.”
Sponge owned an old brick house that had once been
a stable near the river’s edge where the stream bent
away to the north. The railroad ran past his kitchen
door, and in front of his house, down nearer the water’s
edge, there was a dirt road. In the spring floods, some-
times, the road was under water and Sponge had to
wade in water to get up to the tracks.
In an earlier day the dirt road had been the main
road into the town and there had been a tavern and a
stage-coach station, but the small brick stable Sponge
had bought at a low price and had converted into a
house — when he was a young man and had just got him
a wife — was the only indication of former grandeur
left along the road.
Five or six hens and a rooster walked in the road
that was full of deep ruts. Few automobiles came that
way and when the others slept Bruce stepped carefully
over Sponge’s body and walked away from town along
the road. When he had gone a half-mile and had
left the town behind, the road turned away from the
river into the hills and, just at that point, the current
set in sharp against the river-bank. The road there
was in danger of falling into the river and at this point
Bruce loved to sit on a log near the river’s edge and
look down. There was a fall of perhaps ten feet and
the current was eating and eating at the banks. Logs
and driftwood carried by the current almost touched
the shore and then were carried out again into the mid-
dle of the stream.
It was a place to sit, dreaming and thinking. When
he grew tired of the sight of the river he went into
the hill country, returning to town in the evening by
a new road directly over the hills.
Sponge in the shop just before the time when the
whistle blew on Saturday afternoon. He was a man
who had spent all the years of his life working and
eating and sleeping. When Bruce had worked on the
newspaper in Chicago he had gone out of the news-
paper office in the afternoon feeling dissatisfied, empty.
Often he and Tom Wills went to sit in some dark little
restaurant on a side street. There was a place just
over the river on the North Side where bootleg whisky
and wine could be had. For two or three hours they
sat drinking in the little dark place while Tom growled.
“What a life for a grown man — throwing bunk —
sending others out to gather up city scandal— the Jew
dressing it up in gaudy words.”
Although he was old Sponge did not seem tired
when the day’s work was done but as soon as he got
home and had eaten he wanted to sleep. All afternoon,
on Sunday, after the Sunday dinner, at noon, he slept.
Was the man entirely satisfied with life? Did his job
satisfy him, his wife, the house in which he lived, the
bed in which he slept ? Did he have no dreams, seek
nothing he could not find ? When he awoke on a sum-
mer morning after a night on the sawdust pile beside
the river and his old woman, what thoughts came into
his mind? Could it be that, to Sponge, his old woman
was like the river, like the sky overhead, like the trees
on a distant river-shore? Was she to him like a fact
in nature, something about which you asked no ques-
tions — something like birth or death?
Bruce decided the old man was not necessarily self-
satisfied. With him being satisfied or not satisfied did
not count. There was in him a kind of humbleness
as in Tom Wills and he liked the skill of his own hands.
That gave him something to rest on in life. Tom
Wills would have liked the man. “He’s got something
on you and me,” Tom would have said.
As to his old woman — he was used to her. Unlike
many working-men’s wives she did not look worn out.
That might have been because she had never had but
two children, but also it might have been because of
something else. There was a thing worth doing her
man could do better than most other men. He rested
in that fact and his wife rested in him. The man and
woman had stayed within the limits of their powers,
had moved freely within a small but clear circle of
life. The old woman cooked well and she liked going
off with Sponge on an occasional spree — they dignified
by calling it “going fishing.” She was a tough wiry
little thing and did not get tired of life — of Sponge her
Being satisfied or not satisfied with life had nothing
to do with Sponge Martin. On Saturday afternoon
when he and Bruce were getting ready to leave he
threw up his hands and declaimed : “Saturday night and
supper on the table. It’s the happiest time in a work-
ing-man’s life.” Was Bruce out for something very
like Sponge had got ? It might be he had left Bernice
just because she did not know how to team with him.
She hadn’t wanted to team with him. What had she
wanted? Well, never mind her. Bruce had been
thinking of her all afternoon, of her and his mother,
what he could remember of his mother.
Very likely a man like Sponge did not go around, as
he did, with his brain churning — fancies drifting — a
feeling of being all corked up — unreleased. It must
be that most men got into a place, after a time, where
all stood still. Little fragments of thoughts flying
about in the mind. Nothing organized. The thoughts
getting further and further away.
There was a log he had once, as a boy, seen bobbing
on the face of the river. It got further and further
away, was presently just a tiny black spot. Then it
went, disappeared into the vast flowing grayness. It
did not go suddenly. When you were gazing hard at
it, trying to see just how long it could be kept in sight,
Was it there? It was! It wasn’t! It was! It
A trick of the mind. Suppose most men were dead
and did not know it. When you were alive, a surge
of thoughts, fancies, through the mind. Perhaps if
you got the thoughts and fancies organized a little,
made them work through your body, made thoughts
and fancies a part of yourself —
They might be used then — perhaps as Sponge Mar-
tin used a brush. You might lay them on something
as Sponge Martin could lay varnish on. Suppose
about one man in a million got things organized a little.
What would that mean? What would such a man be?
Would he be a Napoleon, a Caesar?
Not likely. That would be too much bother. If he
became a Napoleon or a Caesar he would have to be
thinking all the time of the others, trying to use the
others, trying to wake them up. Well, no, he wouldn’t
try to wake them up. If they woke up they would be
just like him. “I like not his lean and hungry look.
He thinks too much.” That sort of thing, eh? A
Napoleon or a Caesar would have to give others toys
to play with, an army— conquests. He would have to
make a display before them, have wealth, wear fine
clothes, make them all envious, make them all want to
be as he was.
Bruce had many thoughts about Sponge as he
worked beside him in the shop, as he walked beside
him along a street, as he saw him sleeping on the floor
like a pig or a dog, after stuffing himself with food
his old woman had cooked. Sponge had lost his car-
riage-painting shop through no fault of his own.
There were too few carriages to paint. Later he might
have set up a shop to paint automobiles if he had wanted
to, but it was likely he was getting too old for that.
He would keep on painting wheels, talking of the time
when he did own a shop, eating, sleeping, getting
drunk. When he and his old woman were a little
drunk she seemed like a kid to him and he became like
a kid, for a time. How often? About four times a
week. Sponge said once, laughing. He might have
been bragging. Bruce tried to imagine himself Sponge
[ ” 9 ]
at such a moment, Sponge lying on the sawdust pile
beside the river with his old woman. He couldn’t do
it. What got mixed up in such fancies was his own
reaction to life. He couldn’t be Sponge, the old work-
man robbed of his position as a master workman —
drunk and trying to be like a kid with an old woman.
What happened was that at the thought certain un-
pleasant experiences of his own life came up to mock
him. Once he had read a book by Zola, “La Terre,’’
and later, but a short time before he left Chicago, Tom
Wills had shown him a new book by the Irishman
Joyce, “Ulysses.’’ There were certain pages. A mcm
named Bloom standing on a beach near some women.
A woman. Bloom’s wife, in her bedroom at home. The
thoughts of the woman — her night of animalism — all
set down — minutely. Realism in writing lifted up
sharp to something burning and raw like a raw sore.
Others coming to look at the sores. For Bruce, to try
to think of Sponge and his wife in their hour of plea-
sure in each other, such pleasure as youth knew, was
like that. It left a faint unpleasant smell in his nostrils
— like decayed eggs — dumped in a wood — across the
river — far off.
Oh, Lord ! Was his own mother — on the boat, that
time they saw the crazy man and the young fellow
with the mustache — was she, at that moment, a kind
Bruce did not want that thought. The figure of
Bloom had seemed true to him, beautifully true, but
it had sprung out of a brain not his. A European, a
Continental man — ^that Joyce. Over there men had
[ 120 ]
lived in one place a long time and had deposited some-
thing of themselves everywhere. A sensitive man
walking there, living there, got it into his being. In
America much of the land was still new, unsoiled.
Hang on to the sun, the wind and the rain.
A LAME ONE
TO J. J.
At night when there are no lights, my city is a man
who arises from a bed to stare into darkness.
In the daytime my city is the son of a dreamer. He
has become the companion of thieves and prostitutes.
He has denied his father.
My city is a thin little old man who lives in a rooming-
house in a dirty street. He wears false teeth that
have become loose and make a sharp clicking sound
when he eats. He cannot find himself a woman and
indulges in self -abuse. He picks cigar-ends out of
My city lives in the roofs of the houses, in the eaves.
A woman came to my city and he threw her far
down, out of the eaves onto a pile of stones. Those
who live in my city declare she fell.
There is an angry man whose wife is unfaithful. He
is my city. My city is in his hair, in his breath, in
his eyes. When he breathes his breath is the breath
of my city.
There are many cities standing in rows. There are
cities that sleep, cities that stand in the mud of
[ 121 ]
My city is very strange. It is tired and nervous. My
city has become a woman whose lover is ill. She
creeps in the hallways of a house and listens at the
door of a room.
I cannot tell what my city is like.
My city is a kiss from the feverish lips of many tired
My city is a murmur of voices coming out of a pit.
Had Bruce fled from his own city, Chicago, hoping
to find, in the soft nights of a river town, something
to cure him ?
What was he up to? Suppose it was something
like this — suppose that young man in the boat had
suddenly said to the woman sitting there with the child,
‘T know you aren’t going to live very long and that you
will not have any more children. I know everything
about you that you, yourself, cannot know.” There
might be such a thing as moments when men and men,
women and women, men and women could get like
that toward each other. ‘‘Ships that pass in the night.”
It was the sort of thing it made a man seem silly to
himself to think about definitely but it was quite sure
there was something that people like himself, his mother
before him, that young man on the river packet, peoph
scattered about, here and there, that they were after.
Bruce’s mind flopped back. Since he had left Ber-
nice he had done a lot of thinking and feeling he had
never done before and that was something gained. He
might not be getting anywhere in particular but he
[ 122 ]
was having fun of a sort and he wasn’t bored as he had
formerly been. The hours in the shop varnishing
wheels did not cut much figure. You could varnish
wheels and think of anything you pleased and the more
skillful your hands became the more freedom your
mind and your fancy had. There was a kind of plea-
sure in the passing hours. Sponge, the unmalicious, the
man child, playing, bragging, talking, showing Bruce
how to varnish wheels accurately and well. It was
the first time in his life Bruce had ever done anything
well with his hands.
If a man got so he could use his own thoughts, his
own feelings, his own fancies as Sponge could use a
paint-brush, what then ? What would the man be like ?
Would that be what an artist was? It would be a
fine to-do, if he, Bruce, in running away from Bernice
and her crowd, from the conscious artists, had only
done so because he wanted to be just what they wanted
to be. Men and women in Bernice’s crowd were al-
ways talking of being artists, speaking of themselves
as artists. Why had men, like Tom Wills and him-
self, a kind of contempt for them? Did he and Tom
Wills secretly want to be artists of another sort? Was
that what he, Bruce, had been up to when he lit out
from Bernice and when he came back to Old Harbor?
Was there something in the town he had missed as a
boy there — he wanted to find — ^some string he wanted
to pick up?
S ATURDAY evening and Bruce walking out at
the shop door with Sponge. The other work-
man, the surly man at the next bench, had gone hur-
riedly out just ahead of them, had hurried out with-
out saying good-night and Sponge had winked at
“He wants to get home quick to see if his old woman
is still there — wants to see if she has gone off with
that other chap she is always fooling with. He comes
to her house in the afternoon. No danger his wanting
to take her. He’d have to support her then. She’d
go fast enough if he asked her but he won’t. Much
better let this one do the work and make the money
to feed and clothe her, eh?”
Why had Bruce called Sponge unmalicious? Lord
knows he was malicious enough. There was a thing
called manhood, maleness, he had, and that he was
proud of — as he was of his craftsmanship. He had
got his own woman fast and hard and had contempt
for any man who couldn’t do the same thing. His con-
tempt had no doubt leaked across to the workman beside
him and had made him more surly than he would have
been had Sponge treated him as he did Bruce.
When he came into the shop in the morning Bruce
always spoke to the man at the second wheel-peg and
he thought the man sometimes looked at him wistfully,
as though to say, “If I could get a chance to tell you,
if I knew how to tell you there would be my side to
the story, too. I’m what I am. If I lost one woman
I wouldn’t ever know how to go at it to get me an-
other. I ain’t the kind that get ’em easy. I ain’t got
the nerve. To tell the truth, and if you only knew it.
I’m a good deal more like you than this Sponge. With
him everything is down in his hands. He gets every-
thing out of him through his hands. Take his woman
away and he would get another with his hands. I’m
like you. I’m a thinker, a dreamer maybe. I’m the
kind that makes a mess of his life.’’
How much easier for Bruce to be, in fancy, the
surly silent workman than for him to be Sponge. Still
it was Sponge he liked, wanted to be like. Did he?
Anyway he wanted to be, partly, like him.
In the street outside the factory as the two men
walked across railroad tracks and up along a climb-
ing cobblestone street toward the business part of Old
Harbor, in the gathering dusk of the early spring eve-
ning, Sponge was smiling. It was the same kind of
detached, half-malicious smile Bruce used to wear
sometimes in Bernice’s presence and that always drove
her half mad. It wasn’t directed at Bruce. Sponge
was thinking of the surly workman, strutting like a
rooster because he was more the man — more male. Had
Bruce been up to some such trick with Bernice? No
doubt he had. Lordy, she ought to be glad he wasn’t
around any more.
His thoughts whirling on. His thoughts centered
on the surly workman now. Awhile before, but a few
minutes before, he had tried to imagine himself Sponge
lying on a sawdust pile under the stars. Sponge with
his hide full of whisky, and his old woman lying be-
side him. He had tried to fancy himself, under such
circumstances, the stars shining down, the river run-
ning silently near at hand, had tried to imagine himself
under such circumstances, feeling like a kid and feeling
the woman beside him as a kid. It hadn’t worked.
What he would do, what such a fellow as himself
would do under such circumstances he knew only too
well. He would awake in the cold morning light, hav-
ing thoughts, too many thoughts. What he had suc-
ceeded in doing was to make himself feel, at the mo-
ment, very ineffectual. He had re-created himself, in
the fancy of the moment, not as Sponge, the effectual,
the direct, the man who could give himself completely,
but himself in some of his own more ineffectual mo-
ments. He had remembered times, two or three of
them, when he had been with women and had been in-
effectual. Perhaps he had been ineffectual with Ber-
nice. Had he been ineffectual or had she?
Much easier after all to imagine himself the surly
workman. That he could really do. He could imag-
ine himself beaten by a woman, afraid of her. He
could imagine himself a fellow like that Bloom in the
book “Ulysses” and it was evident that Joyce, the
writer and dreamer, was in the same boat. He had
certainly done his Bloom much better than he had his
Stephen, had made him a lot more real — ^and Bruce, in
fancy, could make the surly workman more real than
Sponge, could enter into him more quickly, understand
him better. He could be the surly ineffectual work-
man, could, in fancy, be the man in bed with the wife
— could lie there afraid, angry, hopeful, full of pre-
tense. That is what he had been with Bernice perhaps
— ^partly, anyway. Why hadn’t he told her, when she
was writing that story, why hadn’t he told her with
an oath what rot it was, what it really meant? In-
stead he had worn that grin that had so puzzled and
angered her. He had fled into the recesses of his own
mind where she could not follow and from that van-
tage-point had grinned out at her.
Now he was walking up along a street with Sponge
and Sponge was grinning the same kind of a grin he
himself had so often worn in Bernice’s presence. They
had been sitting together, dining perhaps, and she had
suddenly got up from a table and had said : “I’ve got
to go write now.’’ Then the grin had come. Often it
knocked her off her pins for a whole day. She
couldn’t write a word. What a dirty trick, really !
Sponge, however, was doing it, not to him, Bruce,
but to the surly workman. Bruce, was reasonably sure
of that. He felt safe.
They had got to the town’s business street and were
walking along with crowds of other workmen, all em-
ployees of the wheel factory. A car carrying young
Grey, the owner of the factory, and his wife, climbed
up the hill on second speed, the engine making a sharp
whining sound, and passed near them. The woman
at the wheel turned to look. It was Sponge told Bruce
who was in the car.
^‘She’s been coming down there quite often lately.
She totes him home. She's one he got away from
here somewhere, when he was in the war. I don’t
think he’s really got her. Maybe she’s lonesome, in
a strange town where there ain’t many of her kind,
and likes to come down to the factory at quitting-time
to look ’em over. She’s been looking you over pretty
regularly lately. I’ve noticed it.”
Sponge was smiling. Well, it wasn’t a smile. It
was a grin. At the moment Bruce thought he looked
like a wise old Chinaman — something of that sort.
He became self-conscious. Sponge might be making
fun of him as he did of the surly workman at the next
bench. In the picture Bruce had made of his fellow
workman, and that he liked. Sponge surely did not have
many very subtle thoughts. It would have been some-
thing of a come-down for Bruce to think of the work-
man as very sensitive to impressions. There was no
doubt he had got rather a jump out of the woman in
the car and it had happened three times now. To
think of Sponge as being very sensitive would be like
thinking of Bernice as better than he would ever be
at the very thing he wanted most to be. Bruce wanted
to be preeminent in something — in being more sensitive
to everything going on about him than others could
They came to the corner where Bruce turned upward
to go toward his hotel. Sponge still wearing that smile.
He kept urging Bruce to come to his house to dinner
on Sunday. ‘‘All right,” Bruce said, “and I’ll man-
age to get a bottle. There’s a young doc living at the
hotel, ni tackle him for a prescription. I guess
he’ll come across all right.”
Sponge kept smiling, having a good time with his
own thoughts. “It would be a jolt. You ain’t exactly
like the rest of us. Maybe you make her think of
someone she’s been stuck on before. I wouldn’t so
much mind seeing a Grey get a jolt like that.”
As though not wanting Bruce to comment on what
he had said the old workman changed the subject
quickly. “There’s something I been wanting to tell
you. You better look a little out. Sometimes you get
a look on your face exactly like that Smedley,” he
said, laughing. Smedley was the surly workman.
Still smiling Sponge walked away along the street,
Bruce standing to watch him go. As though conscious
of being watched he strutted a little, straightening his
old shoulders as though to say — “He don’t think I
know as much as I do.” The sight made Bruce also
“I guess I know what he means but there’s small
chance of that. I didn’t leave Bernice, looking for
some other woman. I’ve got another bee in my bon-
net although I don’t just know what it is,” he thought
as he climbed the hill toward the hotel. Thinking that
Sponge had shot and missed he felt relieved and rather
happy. “It wouldn’t do to have the little cuss know
more about me than I have been able to find out my-
self,” he thought again.
P erhaps she had figured it all out from the be-
ginning and didn’t quite dare tell herself. She
saw him first, walking with a small man, heavily mus-
tached, up a cobblestone street that led from her hus-
band’s factory, and the impression she had of her own
feelings was just that she would like to stop him some
evening as he came out at the factory door. It was
the same feeling she had about that man in Paris, the
one she saw at Rose Frank’s apartment, and he had
eluded her. She had never succeeded in getting near
him, in hearing a word from his lips. Perhaps he had
belonged to Rose and Rose had managed to keep him
out of the way. Still Rose didn’t seem that sort. She
had seemed like one woman who would take a chance.
It might be that this man and the one in Paris were
alike unconscious of her. Aline did not want to do
anything crude. She thought of herself as a lady.
And then, too, there was nothing in life at all if you
could not get at things in some subtle way. Plenty of
women went after men openly — drove straight at them
— ^but what did they get ? No use getting a man as a
man and in no other way. She had Fred, her husband,
that way — ^had, she thought, all he had to offer.
It wasn’t so much — a kind of sweet childlike faith
in her, hardly justified, she thought. He had a fixed
notion of what a woman, the wife of a man in his po-
sition, should be and he took it for granted she was
what he thought. Fred took too much for granted.
Outwardly she was all he expected. That was
hardly the point. One couldn^t prevent oneself having
thoughts. There might be nothing to life but just that
— living — seeing the days pass — ^being a wife and per-
haps presently a mother — dreaming — keeping the
thing, down inside, in order. If one couldn't always
keep it in order at least one could keep it out of sight.
You walked in a certain way — wore the right clothes
— ^knew how to talk — kept up a kind of touch with the
arts, with music, painting, the new moods in house
furnishings — read the latest novels. You and your
husband had together a certain position to maintain
and you did your share. He looked to you for certain
things, the keeping-up of a certain style — ^appearances.
In a town like Old Harbor, Indiana, it wasn't so hard.
And anyway a man who worked in a factory was
likely t6 be a factory-hand — nothing more. You
couldn't be thinking of him. His resemblance to that
other man she had seen in Rose's apartment was no
doubt a physical accident. There was about the two
men the same air, a kind of readiness to give and not
ask much. One thought of such a man going along,
quite casually, becoming absorbed In something, burn-
ing himself out in it, then dropping it — as casually
perhaps. Burning himself out in what? Well, say in
some kind of work, or In the love of a woman. Did
she want to be loved like that, by that sort of a man?
* ‘Well, I do ! Every woman does. We don't get it
though, and if it were offered, most of us would be
afraid. We are pretty practical and hard-headed, at
bottom, all of us, weVe made that way. It’s what a
woman is, that sort of thing.
wonder why we are always trying to create the
other illusion, feeding on it ourselves?”
One has to think. The days pass. They are too
much alike — the days. An imagined experience is not
the same as one actually gone through, but it is some-
thing. When a woman has been married things change
for her. She has to try to keep up the illusion that
everything is as it was before. It can’t be, of course.
We know too much.
Aline used to go for Fred quite often in the evening
and when he was a little delayed the men came pouring
out at the factory door and passed her as she sat at
the wheel of the car. What did she mean to them?
What did they mean to her ? Dark figures in overalls,
tall men, short men, old men, young men. She had
got the one man quite fixed in her mind. That was
Bruce as he came from the shop with Sponge Martin,
the little old man with the black mustache. She did
not know who Sponge was, had never heard of him,
but he talked and the man beside him listened. Did he
listen? At any rate he had only looked at her once
or twice — a fleeting self-conscious glance.
How many men in the world ! She had got herself
a man who had money and position. That had been
a lucky chance, maybe. She wasn’t very young any
more when Fred asked her to marry him, and some-
times she wondered dimly if she would have consented
[ 135 ]
if marriage with him hadn’t seemed such a perfect
solution. You had to take chances in life and it was
a good chance. By such a marriage you got a house,
position, clothes, an automobile. If you were stuck
off in a little Indiana town, eleven months out of the
year, at least you were on top of the heap in the town.
Caesar riding through a miserable little town, going to
join his army, Caesar addressing a comrade, “Better be
king on a dung-heap than a beggar in Rome.” Some-
thing of that sort. Aline wasn’t very accurate about
quotations and it is sure she did not think the word
“dung-heap.” It wasn’t the kind of word such women
as herself knew anything about — ^wasn’t in their vo-
She thought about men a good deal, wondered about
them. In Fred’s notion of things everything was set-
tled for her, but was it? When things got settled you
were through, might as well sit rocking in a chair wait-
ing for death. Death, before life came.
Aline hadn’t any children yet. She wondered why.
Hadn’t Fred touched her deeply enough? Was there
something in her still to be aroused, awakened from
Her thoughts drifted into a new channel and she
became what she herself would have called cynical. It
was, after all, rather amusing how she managed to im-
press people in Fred’s town, how she managed to im-
press him. It might be that was because she had lived
in Chicago and in New York and had been to Paris,
because her husband Fred had become, since his father’s
death, the chief man of the town, because she had a
knack for dress and a certain air.
When the women of the town came to call on her,
the Judge’s wife, the wife of Striker, the cashier of
the bank in which Fred was by far the largest stock-
holder — the doctor’s wife — when they came to her
house they thought it up to them to talk of cultural
things, of books, music and painting. Everyone knew
she had been an art student. That confused and both-
ered them. It was quite sure she wasn’t a favorite in
the town but the women did not dare pay her out for
snubbing them a little. If one of them could get some-
thing on her they might make mince-meat of her, but
how were they to do anything of that sort? Even to
think of such a thing was a little vulgar. Aline did
not like such thoughts.
There was nothing to be got on her, never would be.
Aline at the wheel of an expensive automobile
watched Bruce Dudley and Sponge Martin going up
a cobblestone street among many other working-men.
They were the only two of all the men she had seen
come out at the factory door who seemed much inter-
ested in each other, and what an odd-looking pair they
were. The younger man did not look much like a
laborer. Well, what did a laborer look like? What
differentiated a laborer from another man, from the
kind of men who were Fred’s friends, from the kind
of men she had known at her father’s house in Chicago
when she was a young girl? One might fancy that
a laborer would naturally look humble, but it was certain
that the little broad-backed man had nothing humble
about him, and as for Fred, her own husband, there
had been when she first saw him nothing to mark him
as anything special. Perhaps she was only attracted
to the two men because they seemed interested in each
other. The little old man was so cocky. He went
along up the cobblestone street like a banty rooster. If
Aline had been more like Rose Frank and that crowd
of hers in Paris she would have thought of Sponge
Martin as a man always liking to strut before women
as a rooster struts before hens, and such a thought,
put in somewhat different terms, did in fact cross her
mind. Smiling, she thought that Sponge might very
well have been a Napoleon Bonaparte walking along
like that, stroking a black mustache with stubby fin-
gers. The mustache was a bit too black for such an
old man. It was shiny — coal-black. Perhaps he dyed
it, the cocky little old thing. One had to get amuse-
ment somehow, had to think about something.
What was keeping Fred? Since his father had died
and he had come into his money Fred certainly took
life pretty seriously. He seemed to feel the weight of
things on his shoulders, was always talking as though
everything would go to pieces at the factory if he did
not stay on the job all the time. She wondered how
much of his talk about the importance of the things he
did was true ?
A LINE had met her husband Fred at Rose Frank’s
apartment in Paris. That was during the sum-
mer after the so-called World War came to an end and
it was an evening to be remembered. Funny, too,
about this World business. The Anglo-Saxons, the
Nordics, were always using the word — ^best in the
world — ^biggest in the world, world wars, champions of
You go along in life, not thinking very much, not
feeling very much, not knowing very much — about
yourself or anyone else — thinking life is so and so,
and then — ^bang! Something happens. You aren’t at
all what you had thought you were. A lot of people
found that out during the war.
Under certain circumstances you had thought you
knew just about what you would do, but all of your
thoughts were, as likely as not, lies. After all, it might
be, you never knew anything really until it had touched
your own life, your own body. There is a tree grow-
ing in a field. Is it really a tree? What is a tree?
Go touch it with your fingers. Stand back several feet
and hurl your body against it. It is unyielding — ^like
a rock. How rough the bark is! Your shoulder
hurts. There is blood on your cheek.
A tree is something to you but what is it to another ?
Suppose it were your job to cut the tree down. You
lay an ax to its body, to its sturdy trunk. Some trees
bleed when injured, others weep bitter tears. Once
when Aline Aldridge was a child, her father — who had
an interest in turpentine forests somewhere in the
South — came home from a trip down there and was
talking with another man in the living-room of the
Aldridge house. He told how they cut and maimed
the trees to get the sap for the turpentine. Aline had
been sitting in the room, on a stool by her father’s
knee, and had heard it all — ^the story of a vast forest of
trees all cut and maimed. For what? To get turpen-
tine. What was turpentine? Was it some strange
golden elixir of life?
What a tale ! When it was told, Aline grew a little
pale, but her father and his friend did not notice. Her
father had been giving a technical description of the
process of producing turpentine. The men were not
thinking her thoughts, did not sense her thoughts.
Later in her bed that night she cried. What did they
want to do it for? Why did they want their blamed
old turpentine ?
Trees crying out — bleeding. Men going about,
hurting them, cutting them with axes. Some of the
trees fell down groaning, while others stood up, the
blood running from them, crying out to the child in
the bed. The trees had eyes, they had arms, legs and
bodies. A forest of injured trees, staggering about,
bleeding. The ground under the trees was red with
When the World War came on and Aline had become
a woman she remembered her father’s story of the
turpentine-trees, how they got their turpentine. Her
brother George, three years older than herself, was
killed in France, and Teddy Copeland, the young man
she was engaged to marry, died of the “flu” in an
American camp; and in her consciousness of them they
did not remain as dead men, but as men injured and
bleeding, far off, in some strange place. Neither the
brother nor Ted Copeland had seemed very near to her,
no nearer perhaps than the trees of the forest of the
story. She had not touched them closely. She had said
she would marry Copeland because he was going off to
war and had asked her. It had seemed the right thing
to do. Could you say “no” to a young man at such
a time — going off to be killed perhaps? It would
have seemed like saying “no” to one of the trees. Sup-
pose you were asked to bind up one of the trees’ wounds
and said “no.” Well, Teddy Copeland had not been
exactly a tree. He had been a young man and a very
handsome one. Had she married him AHne’s father
and brother would have been pleased.
When the war was over Aline went for a visit to
Paris with Esther Walker and her husband Joe, the
painter who did the portrait of her dead brother from
a photograph. He also did one of Teddy Copeland
for his father and then another of Aline’s dead mother
— ^getting five thousand dollars for each — and Aline
had been the one who had told her father about the
painter. She had seen a portrait of his at the Art In-
stitute, where she then was a student, and had told her
father of him. Then she met Esther Walker and in-
[ 141 ]
vited her and her husband out to the Aldridge house.
Esther and Joe had both been good enough to say some
very nice things about her own work, but that, she felt,
was just politeness. Although she had a knack for
drawing she hadn’t taken her own cleverness very seri-
ously. There was something about painting, real paint-
ing, she could not get at, could not understand. After
the war started and her brother and Teddy went away
she wanted to do something and could not bring herself
to the business of working every minute to “help win
the war” by knitting socks or running about selling
Liberty Bonds. The war in fact bored her. She did
not know what it was about. If it had not come on
she would have married Ted Copeland and then — then
at least she would have found out some things.
Young men going away to be killed, thousands of
them, hundreds of thousands. How many women felt
as she did? It was taking something away from
women, the chances for something. Suppose you are
a field and it is spring. A farmer is coming toward
you with a bag filled with seed. Now he has almost
reached the field, but instead of coming to plant the seed
he stops by the roadside and burns it. Women can’t
have such thoughts, not directly. They can’t if they
are nice women.
Better to go in for art, take painting lessons — ^par-
ticularly if you are rather clever with a brush. If you
can’t do that go in for culture — read the latest books,
go to the theater, go to hear music. When music is
being played— certain kinds of music But never
mind that. That also is something a nice woman
doesn’t talk about or think about.
There are a lot of things to be let alone in life —
Until after she reached Paris, Aline did not know
what kind of a painter Joe Walker was or what kind
of a woman was Esther, but on the boat she began to
suspect, and when she did get a hunch about them she
had to smile to think how willing she had been to let
Esther work things out for her. The painter’s wife
had been so quick and clever about paying Aline back.
'‘You did a good turn for us — ^fifteen thousand is not
to be sneezed at — now we’ll do as much for you.”
There never had been, never would be, a thing so crude
as a wink or a shrug of the shoulders from Esther.
Aline’s father had been deeply hurt by the tragedy of
the war and his wife had been dead since Aline was
a child of ten and while she was in Chicago and Joe
was at work on the portraits — you can’t do five-thou-
sand-dollar portraits too fast, you must take at least
two or three weeks for each — while she was practically
living at the Aldridge house Esther made the older man
feel almost as though he again had a wife to look after
She spoke with such reverence of the man’s charac-
ter and of the undoubted ability of the daughter.
"Such men as you have made such sacrifices. It is the
quiet man of ability going straight alone, helping to
keep the social order intact, meeting every contingency
without a murmur — it is such men who — it is a thing
one can’t speak of openly, but in times like this, when
[ 143 ]
the whole social order has been shaken, when old stand-
ards of life are being torn down, when the young have
who are of an older order — we must be father
and mother to the younger generation now.’^
‘‘Beauty will persist — the things worth while in life
“Poor Aline — ^to have lost both a prospective hus-
band and a brother. And she has such talent, too.
She is like you, very quiet, not saying much. A year
abroad now may save her from some kind of a break-
How easily Esther had befuddled Aline's father, the
shrewd and capable corporation lawyer. Men were
really altogether too easy. There was no doubt Aline
should have stayed at home — in Chicago. A man, any
man unmarried, with money, should not be left lying
about loose with such women as Esther about. Al-
though she had not had much experience Aline was
no fool. Esther knew that. When Joe Walker came
to the Aldridge house in Chicago to paint the portraits
Aline was twenty-six. When she sat at the wheel of
her husband's car, that evening before the factory in
Old Harbor, she was twenty-nine.
What a jumble ! What a mixed unaccountable thing
life could be!
M ARRIAGE! Had she intended marriage, had
Fred really intended marriage that night in
Paris when both Rose Frank and Fred rather went off
their heads, one after the other? How did one ever
happen to get married anyway? How did it come
about? What did people think they were up to when
they did it? What made a man, after he had known
dozens of women, suddenly decide to marry a par-
Fred had been a young American in an Eastern col-
lege, an only son with a rich father, then a soldier, a
rich man rather grandly enlisting as a common private
— to help win a war — then in an American training
camp— later in France. When the first American con-
tingent went through England the English women —
war-starved — ^the English women —
American women too, “Help win the war!”
What a lot Fred must have known he had never told
• • • • •
On the evening as she sat in the car before the fac-
tory in Old Harbor, Fred surely was taking his time.
He had told her there was an advertising man coming
down from Chicago and he might decide to do a thing
called “putting on a national advertising campaign.”
[ 145 ]
The factory was making a lot of money and if a man
didn’t spend some of it to build up good-will for the
future he would have to pay it all out in taxes. Adver-
tising was an asset, a legitimate expenditure. Fred
thought he would try advertising. It was likely he
was in his office now talking to the advertising man
It was growing dark in the shadow of the factory,
but why snap on the lights. It was nice to sit in half-
darkness by the wheel, thinking. A slender woman in
a rather elegant dress, a good hat — one she had got
from Paris — long slender fingers resting on a driving-
wheel, men in overalls passing out at a factory door and
across a dusty road, passing very near the car — ^tall men
— short men — a low murmur of men’s voices.
A certain humbleness in working-men passing such
a car, such a woman.
Very little humbleness in a short, broad-shouldered
old man, stroking a too-black mustache with stubby
fingers. He seemed to want to laugh at Aline. “I’m
onto you,” he seemed to want to shout — ^the cocky
little old thing. His companion — to whom he seemed
devoted — did look like that man in Rose’s apartment
in Paris — that night — that so important night.
That night in Paris, when Aline first saw Fred!
She had gone with Esther and Joe Walker to Rose
Frank’s apartment because both Esther and Joe thought
they had better. By that time Esther and Joe amused
Aline. She had a notion that, had they stayed in
America long enough and had her father seen more
of them, he also would have caught on — ^after a time.
After all, they had rather had him at a disadvantage —
talking of art and beauty — ^that sort of thing to a man
who had just lost a son in the war, a son whose portrait
Joe was painting — and getting a very good likeness.
Never such a couple for looking out for the main
chance — never such a couple for educating a rather
quick shrewd woman like Aline. Little enough danger
such a couple ever staying in one spot too long. Their
arrangement with Aline had been something quite spe-
cial. No words about it. No words necessary.
^'We’ll give you a peep under the tent at the show and
you take no chances. We’re married. We’re quite
respectable — always know the best people, you can see
for yourself. That’s the advantage of being our kind
of artists. You see all sides of life and take no chance.
New York is getting more and more like Paris every
year. But Chicago . .
Aline had lived in New York two or three times, for
some months each time, with her father, when he had
important business there. They had lived at an ex-
pensive hotel, but it was evident the Walkers knew
things about modern New York life Aline did not
They had succeeded in making Aline’s father feel
comfortable about her — and perhaps he felt comfort-
able with her away — for a time at least. Esther had
been able to convey that notion to Aline. It had been
a good arrangement for all concerned.
And certainly, she thought, educational to Aline.
Such people, really ! How odd that her father, a clever
man in his own way, hadn’t caught onto them quicker.
They worked like a team, getting men like her father
at five thousand each. Solid respectable people, Joe
and Esther. Esther worked that string hard, and Joe,
who never ran any risks by being seen in any but the
best company — when they were in America — who
painted very skillfully and who talked just boldly
enough but not too boldly — he also helped to make
thick and warm the art atmosphere when they were
getting a new prospect lined up.
Aline smiled in the darkness. What a sweet little
cynic I am. You could live over, in fancy, a whole
year of your life while you waited, perhaps three min-
utes, for your husband to come out at a factory door
and then you could run up a hillside and overtake two
workmen, the sight of whom had started your brain
working, could overtake them before they had walked
three blocks up a hillside street.
As for Esther Walker, Aline thought she had got, on
rather well with her that summer in Paris. When they
had got off for Europe together both women had been
ready enough to put the cards on the table. Aline had
made a great pretense of being deeply interested in art
— perhaps it wasn't all just pretense — and had that
talent of hers for making little drawings, and Esther
had done a lot of talking about hidden ability that
should be brought out, all that sort of thing.
^‘You are onto me and I am onto you. Let's ride
along together, saying nothing about the matter."
Saying nothing Esther had managed to convey about
that message to the young woman and Aline had fallen
in with her mood. Well, it wasn't a mood. Such peo-
pie didn't have moods. What they did was to play a
game. If you wanted to play with them they could be
very friendly and sweet.
Aline had got it all, a confirmation of about what she
had thought, one night on the boat, and had to think
fast and hold onto herself hard — for perhaps thirty
seconds — while she made up her own mind about some-
thing. What an ugly lonely feeling ! She had to hold
her fists doubled and there was a fight to prevent tears
Then she fell for it — decided to play the game out —
with Esther. Joe didn't count. You get educated fast
if you only let yourself. She can't touch me, inside,
maybe. I'll ride along and keep my eyes open.
She had. They were rotten really, the Walkers, but
Esther had something in her. She was outwardly the
hard one, the schemer, but inside there was something
she tried to hold onto and that had never been touched.
It was sure her husband, Joe Walker, could never
touch it and Esther was perhaps too cautious to take
chances with another man. Once later she gave Aline
a hint. ‘‘The man was young and I had just married
Joe. It was during the year before the war started.
For about an hour I thought I would and then I didn't.
It would have given Joe an advantage I didn't dare let
him have. I'm not one who would ever go the whole
road — ruin myself. The young chap was the reckless
sort — a young American boy. I decided I had better
not. You understand."
She had tried something on Aline — ^that time on the
boat. What was it Esther had tried? One night when
Joe was talking with several people, telling them about
modern painting, telling them about Cezanne and
Picasso and the others, talking suavely, kindly, about
the rebels in the arts, Esther and Aline went off to sit
in chairs on another part of the deck. Two young men
came along and tried to join them, but Esther knew how
to fence off without giving offense. She evidently
thought Aline knew more than she did, but it was not
Aline’ s part to attempt to disillusion her.
What an instinct, away down inside, to preserve
What was it Esther had tried on Aline ?
There are a lot of things you can’t get down in
words, even in your own thoughts. What Esther had
talked about was a love that asked nothing, and how
really beautiful that sounded! ‘Tt should be between
two people of the same sex. Between yourself and a
man it won’t work. I’ve tried it,” she said.
She had taken AHne’s hand and for a long time they
sat in silence, an odd creepy feeling deep down in Aline.
What a test — to play the game out with such a woman
— not to let her know what your instincts are doing to
you — down inside — not to let the hands tremble — ^to
make no physical sign of any shrinking. The woman’s
soft voice, with the caress in it, a kind of sincerity too.
”They get each other in a more subtle way. It lasts
longer. It takes longer to understand but it lasts
longer. There is something white and fine you try for.
I’ve waited a long time for just you, maybe. As far
as Joe is concerned I have been all right with him. It’s
a little hard to talk. There’s so much that can’t be
[ 150 ]
said. In Chicago, when I saw you out there, I thought,
^At your age most women in your position have mar-
ried.' You'll have to do that sometime too, I suppose,
but it makes a difference to me that you haven't yet —
that you hadn't when I found you. It's getting so if
a man and another man or two women are seen too
much together there is talk. America is getting almost
as sophisticated, as wise, as Europe. That's where
husbands are a big help. You help them all you can,
whatever their game is, but you keep all the best of
yourself for the other — for the one who understands
what you are really driving at."
Aline moved restlessly at the wheel of the car think-
ing of that evening on the boat and all it had meant.
Had it been the beginning of sophistication for her?
Life isn't just as it is set down in the copy-books. How
much dare you let yourself find out? A game of life —
a game of death. Very easy to let yourself become ro-
mantic — and scared. American women surely have
had things easy. Their men know so little — dare let
themselves know so little. You can keep out of decid-
ing anything if you wish, but is it any fun, never to be
in the know — on the inside? If you look into life,
know much of the taint of life, can you keep outside
yourself? ‘‘Not much," Aline's father would no doubt
have said, and it was something of that sort her husband
Fred would have said too. You have to live your own
life then. When her boat left the shores of America
it left behind more than Aline wanted to think about.
President Wilson had been finding out something of
the sort at about that time. It killed him.
[• ISI ]
At any rate it was sure that the talk with Esther had
made Aline the more ready to marry Fred Grey when
she came to him later. Besides, it had made her less
exacting, less sure of herself, the others, most of the
others she had seen that summer in the company of Joe
and Esther. Fred had been, he was, as fine as, say, a
well-bred dog. If what he had was American she was
glad enough, as a woman, to take American chances —
she thought at the time.
Esther’s talk had been so slow and soft. Aline
could think of it all, remember it all very clearly in a
few seconds, but it must have taken Esther longer to
say all the sentences needed to convey her meaning.
And the meaning Aline had to jump at, knowing
nothing, get instinctively or not at all. Esther would
be one to leave herself always a clear alibi. She was
a very clever woman, no doubt of that. Joe had been
lucky to get her, being what he was.
It hadn’t worked, not yet.
You come up and you go down. A woman of
twenty-six, if she have anything in her at all, is ready.
And if she hasn’t anything in her, another one, like
Esther, doesn’t want her at all. If you want a fool, a
romantic fool, what about a man, a good American
business man? He’ll do well enough and you remain
safe and sound. Nothing ever really touches you at
all. A long life lived and you always high and dry and
safe. Do you want that ?
It was really as though Aline had been pushed by
Esther off the side of the steamboat into the sea. And
the sea was very lovely that evening when Esther
talked to her. That may have been one reason why
Aline kept feeling safe. You get something outside
you that way, like the sea, and it helps just because it
is lovely. There is the sea, little waves breaking, the
sea running white behind the ship’s wake, washing
against the side of the ship like soft silk tearing, and
in the sky stars coming out slowly. Why is it that
when you twist things out of their natural order, when
you become a little sophisticated and want more than
you ever did before, the risk is relatively greater? So
easy to become rotten. A tree never gets that way be-
cause it is a tree.
A voice talking, a hand touching your arm in just a
certain way. Words coming far apart. Over on the
other side the boat, Joe, Esther’s husband, talking that
stuff of art. Several ladies gathered about Joe. After-
wards they would speak of it, quoting his words. “As
my friend Joseph Walker, the famous portrait-painter,
you know, said to me — Cezanne is so and so. Picasso
is so and so.”
Take it that you are an American woman of twenty-
six, trained as the daughter of a well-to-do Chicago
lawyer would be trained, unsophisticated but shrewd,
your body fresh and strong. You have had a dream.
Well, young Copeland you had thought you were about
to marry, was not quite the dream. He was nice
enough. Not quite in the know enough — in some odd
way. Most American men never get to be beyond
seventeen — perhaps.
Take it you were that way and had been pushed off a
boat into the sea. Joe’s wife Esther has done that little
thing for you. What would you do? Try to save
yourself? Down you go — down and down, cutting
through the surface of the sea fast enough. Oh, Lord,
there are a lot of spots in life the mind of the average
man and woman never touches at all. I wonder why
not? Everything — at least most things — ^are obvious
enough. Perhaps even a tree is not a tree for you
until you have banged against it. Why is the lid lifted
for some, while everything remains sound and water-
tight for others ? Those women on the deck listening to
Joe as he talks — gabblers. Joe with his artist-mer-
chant’s eye peeled. Like as not either he or Esther put
down names and addresses in a little book. Good idea
their going across every summer. Back in the fall.
People like to meet artists and writers on a boat. It’s
a touch of what Europe stands for, right near, at first
hand. Lots of them work it. And don’t the Americans
fall for it ! Fish come to the bait ! Both Esther and
Joe having moments of dreadful weariness just the
What you do when you are pushed off like that, as
Aline was by Esther, is to hold your breath and not get
rattled or indignant. There isn’t anything to it if you
go getting indignant. If you think Esther can’t make
a getaway, can’t clear her own skirts, you don’t know
After you cut through the surface you think only of
coming up again as clear and clean as when you went
down. Down below all is cold and wet — death, that
road. You know the poets. Come and die with me.
Our hands clasped together in death. The white long
road together. Man and man, woman and woman.
That sort of love — ^with Esther. What is life about?
Who cares about life going on — in new forms, created
out of ourselves ?
If you’re one sort, it’s white dead fish to you — noth-
ing else. You have to figure it out for yourself, and if
you’re the kind no one pushes off the boat, the whole
thing will never come your way and you’re safe.
Maybe you’re hardly interesting enough ever to be in
danger. Most people walk high and safe — all their
Americans, eh? You got something out of it any-
way, going to Europe with a woman like Esther. After
that one time Esther never tried again. She had it all
figured out. If Aline wasn’t to be something she
wanted for herself she could use her anyway. The
Aldridge family stood well in Chicago and there would
be other portraits to do out there. Esther had learned,
fast enough, how people in general felt about art. If
Aldridge Senior had Joe Walker do two portraits
and they looked to him when finished as he thought his
wife and his son had looked, then he would be likely to
boost the Walker game in Chicago, and having paid
five thousand each he would value the portraits the more
for just that reason. “The greatest painter living, I
think,” Esther could imagine his saying to his Chicago
The daughter Aline might get wiser but she wouldn’t
be likely to talk. When Esther had her mind made up
about Aline she covered up her trail very neatly — did
it well enough that evening on the boat and made her
position stronger on that other evening, after six weeks
in Paris, when she. Aline and Joe walked together over
to Rose Frank’s apartment. On that particular evening,
when Aline had seen something of the Walkers’ life in
Paris and when Esther thought her a good deal more
in the know, she kept talking to Aline in low tones,
and Joe walked along without hearing, without trying
to hear. The evening was very lovely and they walked
along the left bank of the Seine, turning away from the
river at the Chambre des Deputes. People were
sitting in little cafes on the rue Voltaire and over the
scene hung the clear Parisian evening light — the paint-
er’s light. “Over here you’ve got to look out for both
women and men,’’ Esther said. “We Americans are
considered fools by most Europeans just because there
are things we don’t want to know. It’s because we are
from a new country and have a kind of freshness and
health in us.”
Esther had said a lot of things of that sort to Aline.
What she was really saying was something quite differ-
ent. She was really denying that she had meant any-
thing that night on the boat. “If you think I did, it
is because you aren’t very nice yourself.” Something
of that sort she was saying. Aline let it fly over her
head. That night on the boat she had won the battle,
she thought. There had been just a moment when she
had to fight to get fresh air into her lungs, not to let
her hands tremble as Esther held them, not to feel too
utterly lonely and sad — leaving childhood — girlhood —
behind, like that, but after the one moment she was
very quiet and mouselike, so much so that she had
Esther a bit afraid of her — ^and that was really what
she was after. It is always best to let the enemy clear
away the dead after a battle — no fuss about that.
F red had come out at the factory door and was a
little annoyed at Aline — or pretended to be — ^be-
cause she had been sitting in the car in the half-dark-
ness without letting him know. The advertising man
with whom he had been talking inside walked away up
the street and Fred did not offer to give him a lift.
That was because Aline was there. Fred would have
had to introduce him. It would have made a new con-
tact for both Fred and Aline, would have slightly
changed the relationship between Fred and the man.
Fred offered to drive but Aline laughed at him. She
liked the feel of the car, a rather powerful one, as it
ground its way up the steep streets. Fred lighted a
cigar and before dropping away into his own thoughts
made another protest about her sitting in the car in the
gathering darkness and waiting there without letting
him know. In reality he liked it, liked the notion of
Aline, the wife, half servant, waiting for him, the man
of affairs. 'Tf I had wanted you I had but to blow
the horn. As a matter of fact I could see you talking
in there with that man through the window,’^ Aline
The car ground its way up the street on second speed,
and there was that man, standing at a corner under a
light and still talking to the short broad-shouldered
man. Surely he had a face very like that other man,
the American she had seen at Rose Frank’s apartment
on the very evening she had met Fred. Odd that he
should be a working-man in her husband’s factory, and
yet she remembered, that evening in Paris — the Ameri-
can in Rose’s apartment had said to someone that he
was once a working-man in an American factory. That
was during a lull in the conversation and before Rose
Frank’s outbreak came. But why was this one so ab-
sorbed in the small man he was with? They weren’t
much alike — the two men.
Working-men, men coming out at the door of a fac-
tory, her husband’s factory. Tall men, short men,
broad men, slender men, lame men, men blind in one
eye, a one-handed man, men in sweaty clothes. They
went along, shuffle, shuffle — on the cobblestones in the
roadway before a factory door, crossed railroad tracks,
disappeared into a town. Her own house was at the
top of a hill above the town, looking down on the town,
looking down on the Ohio River where it made a great
bend about the town, looking down on miles of low
country where the valley of the river broadened out
above and below town. In the winter all was gray in
the valley. The river spreading out over the low-
lands, becoming a vast gray sea. When he was a
banker, Fred’s father — “Old Grey” he was called by
everyone in the town — had managed to get his hands
on a lot of the valley land. In the early days they did
not know how to work it profitably and because they
couldn’t build farm-houses and barns down there they
thought the land was no good. As a matter of fact
[ 159 ]
it was the richest land in the state. Every year the
river overflowing left a fine gray silt on the land and
that was marvelously enriching. The first farmers
had tried to build levees, but when they broke, houses
and barns were swept away in the floods.
Old Grey had waited like a spider. Farmers came
to the bank and borrowed a little money on the cheap
land and then let it go, let him foreclose. Had he been
wise or had it all been an accident ? Later it was found
that, if you just let the water flow in and cover the
land, it would run off again in the spring and leave that
fine rich silt that made the corn grow almost like trees.
What you did was to move out onto the land in the late
spring with an army of hired men who lived in tents
and in shacks set high up on stilts. You plowed and
planted and the corn grew rank. Then you picked the
corn and stored it in cribs, also built high up on stilts,
and when the floods came again you sent barges out
over the flooded lands to bring in the corn. You made
money hand over fist. Fred had told Aline all about it.
Fred thought that his father had been one of the
shrewdest men that ever lived. He spoke of him,
sometimes, as the Bible spoke of Father Abraham.
“The Nestor of the house of Grey,” something of that
sort. What did Fred think about the fact that his
wife had brought him no children? No doubt he had
many queer thoughts about her when he was alone.
That was why he sometimes acted so half frightened
when she looked at him. Perhaps he was afraid she
knew his thoughts. Did she?
“Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a
good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was
gathered to his people.
“And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the
cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of
Zohar the Hittite, which is before Manre.
“The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of
Heth; there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.
“And it came to pass after the death of Abraham,
that God blessed his son Isaac ; and Isaac dwelt by the
well of Lahairoi.”
It was a little odd that, in spite of all the things
Fred had told her Aline couldn’t get the figure of Old
Grey, the banker, fixed in her mind. He had died just
after Fred had married her, in Paris, and while Fred
was hurrying home to him, leaving his new wife be-
hind. It might have been that Fred did not want her
to see the father, did not want the father to see her.
He had just made a boat on the evening of the day he
got the word of his father’s illness and Aline did not
sail until a month later.
He remained then, for Aline — “Old Grey” — a myth.
Fred said he had lifted things up, had lifted the town
up. It had been a mere mudhole village before his
time, Fred said. “Now look at it.” He had made the
valley produce, he had made the town produce. Fred
had been a fool not to see things clearer. He had
stayed on in Paris after the war was over? hanging
around, had even thought for a time he might go in
for one of the arts, something of that sort. “In all
France there never was such a man as father,” Fred had
once declared to his wife Aline. He was a bit too em-
phatic when he made such declarations. If he had not
stayed on in Paris he would not have met Aline, would
never have married her. When he made such state-
ments Aline smiled, a soft knowing smile, and Fred
changed his tone — a little.
There was that fellow he roomed with at college.
The fellow was always talking and giving Fred books
to read, books by George Moore, James Joyce — “The
Artist as a Young Man.” He had got Fred all balled
up and he had even gone so far as to half defy his
father about coming home; and then, when he saw his
son’s mind was made up. Old Grey had done what he
had thought a shrewd thing. “You take a year in
Paris, studying art, doing whatever you choose, and
then you come home and have a year here with me,”
Old Grey had written. The son was to have whatever
monies he wanted. Now Fred wished he had taken the
first year at home. “I might have been some comfort
to him. I was shallow and thoughtless. I might have
met you. Aline, in Chicago, or in New York,” Fred
What Fred had got out of the year in Paris was
Aline. Was it worth the price? The old man living
alone at home, waiting. He never even saw his son’s
wife, never even heard of her. A man with but one
son, and that son in Paris, fooling around after the
war was over, after he had done his share of the job,
over there. Fred had a little knack for drawing, just
as Aline had, but what of that ? He never even knew
what he was after. Did Aline know what she was
after? It would be nice if he could talk to Aline about
it all. Why couldn’t he ? She was sweet and fine, very
quiet most of the time. With such a woman you had
to be careful.
The car was grinding its way up the hillside now.
There was one short street, very steep and crooked,
where you had to shift into low.
Men, working-men, advertising solicitors, business
men. Fred’s friend in Paris, the fellow who worked
him up to defy his father and to try his hand at be-
coming a painter. He was a man who might very well
turn out to be just such another fellow as Joe Walker.
Already he was working Fred. Fred thought that he,
Tom Burnside, his college friend, was everything a
painter should be. He knew how to sit in a cafe, knew
the names of wines, spoke French with an almost per-
fect Parisian accent. Pretty soon now he would be-
gin to make trips to America to sell paintings and do
portraits. Already he had sold Fred a painting for
eight hundred dollars. “It’s the best thing I’ve done
so far and a man here wants to buy it for two thou-
sand, but I don’t want to quite have it pass out of my
hands just yet. I would rather have it in your hands.
My one true friend.’’ Fred had fallen for that. An-
other Joe Walker. If he managed to pick himself up
an Esther somewhere he would do well. Nothing like
making a friend of some rich man while you are both
young. When Fred showed the painting to some of
his friends in the town of Old Harbor, Aline had a kind
of shaky feeling of being, not in the presence of a hus-
band, but at home in the presence of her father — ^her
father showing some fellow lawyer or a client the por-
traits Joe Walker had done.
If you are a woman why can’t you get the man you
have married as a child and be satisfied with that?
Was it because a woman wanted her own children, did
not want to adopt them, or marry them? Men, work-
ing-men, in her husband’s factory, tall men, short men.
Men walking along a Parisian boulevard at night.
Frenchmen with a certain air. They were onto the
women, the French. The idea was to stay on top of
the heap, when women were concerned, use them, make
them serve. Americans were sentimental fools about
women. They wanted them to do for a man what he
hadn’t strength to try to do for himself.
The man at Rose Frank’s apartment, that evening
when she first met Fred. Why was he in some odd
way different ? Why had he stayed so sharply in Aline’s
mind all these months? Just seeing, on the streets of
an Indiana town, a man who made the same sort of
impression on the mind, had stirred her all up, set her
mind and her fancy whirling. It had happened two or
three times, in the evening when she drove down for
It might be that, on the night in Paris when she got
Fred, she had wanted the other man instead.
He, the other man, she found at Rose’s apartment,
[ 164 ]
when she went there with Esther and Joe, had paid no
attention to her, hadn’t even spoken to her.
The working-man she had just seen, walking up the
hillside street with the short, broad-shouldered cocky-
looking man, was like that other in some indefinable
way. How absurd that she could not speak to him,
find out something about him. She asked Fred who
the short man was and he laughed. “That’s Sponge
Martin. He’s a card,’’ Fred said. He might have said
more but he wanted to think of what the Chicago ad-
vertising man had told him. He was smart, that ad-
vertising man. Up to a game of his own all right, but
if it fell in with Fred’s game, what of it?
AT Rose Frank’s apartment in Paris, that evening,
after the half -experience with Esther on the boat
coming over and after some weeks among Esther’s
and Joe’s acquaintances in Paris. The painter and his
wife knew a good many rich Americans in Paris look-
ing for an exciting time and Esther so managed it that
she and Joe got in on a good many parties without
spending much money. They added an artistic touch
and also they were discreet — when discretion was wise.
And after the evening on the boat Esther felt more
or less free with Aline. She gave Aline credit for
more knowledge of life than she had.
That was something gained, for Aline, at least she
thought it a gain. She had begun to move more freely
within the circle of her own thoughts and impulses.
Sometimes she thought — “Life is but a dramatization.
You decide on your part in life and then try to play
it skillfully.” To play it badly, bunglingly, was the
great sin. Americans in general, young men and
women like herself who had money enough and social
position enough to be secure, could do about as they
pleased if they were careful about covering their trails.
At home, in America, there was something in the very
air you breathed that made you feel secure while at
the same time it limited you terribly. Good and bad
were definite things, morality and immorality were defi-
nite things. You moved in a well-defined circle of
thoughts, ideas and emotions. Being a good woman
you got from men the respect they thought due a good
woman. Given money and a respectable position in life
you had to do openly something that defied openly the
social laws before you could step into a free world, and
the free world into which you stepped by any such
action was not free at all. It was dreadfully limited,
ugly in fact, the kind of world inhabited by — well, say,
by movie actresses.
In Paris, and rather in spite of Esther and Joe,
Aline had got a sharp sense of something in French
life that fascinated her. Little incidental things about
life, the men’s comfort-stalls in the open streets, the
stallions hitched to dust-carts and trumpeting to mares,
lovers kissing each other openly in the streets in the
late afternoons — a kind of matter-of-fact acceptance
of life that the English and Americans seemed un-
able to come to, rather charmed her. Sometimes she
went with Esther and Joe to the Place Vendome and
spent the day with their American friends, but more
and more she got into the habit of going off alone.
A woman unaccompanied in Paris always had to be
ready for annoyances. Men spoke to her, made sug-
gestive movements with their hands, their mouths,
followed her along the street. There was always going
on, whenever she went forth alone, a kind of attack
against herself, as a woman, as a being with woman’s
flesh, woman’s secret desires. If something was gained
by the frankness of Continental life there was also
She went to the Louvre. At home she had taken
drawing and painting lessons at the Institute and had
been called clever. Joe Walker had praised her work.
Others had praised it. Then she had thought Joe must
be a real painter. “I got caught by the American trick
of thinking that what succeeded, was, for that reason,
fine,” she thought, and the thought, coming as her own
and not having been forced upon her by another, was a
revelation. Of a sudden she, the American, began
walking in the presence of men’s work feeling really
humble. Joe Walker, all of his type of men, the suc-
cessful painters, writers, musicians, who were Amer-
ica’s heroes, got smaller and smaller in her eyes. Her
own clever little imitative art seemed in the presence
of work by El Greco, Cezanne, Fra Angelico and other
Latins but child’s prattling, and the American men who
stood high in the history of America’s attempts at the
cultural life ?
There was Mark Twain, who wrote a book called
"The Innocents Abroad,” that Aline’s father had loved.
When she was a child he was always reading it and
laughing with delight over it, and it had really been
nothing but a kind of small boy’s rather nasty disdain
of things he couldn’t understand. Pap for vulgar
minds. Could Aline honestly think her father or Mark
Twain were vulgar men? Well, she could not. To
Aline her father had always been sweet, kind and
tender — ^too tender perhaps.
One morning she sat on a bench in the Tuileries and
near her on another bench two young men were talking.
They were French and had not seen her take a seat on
the near-by bench, and they talked. It was good to hear
such talk. A kind of intense fervor about the art of
painting. What was the right road? One of them
declared for the Moderns, for Cezanne and Matisse,
and burst forth suddenly into warm hero-worship.
The men of whom he was speaking had kept, all their
lives, to the good road. Matisse was doing it yet.
Such men had in them devotion, bigness, the grand
manner. It had been pretty much lost to the world
until they came, and now — ^after their coming and be-
cause of their fine devotion — it had a chance of really
being born again into the world.
Aline on her bench had leaned forward to listen.
The words of the young Frenchman, flowing rapidly
forth, were a little hard to catch. Her own French
was rather slipshod. She waited for each word, lean-
ing forward. If such a man — if someone having such
fervor for what he thought fine in life — if he could
only be brought near herself
And then, at that moment, the young man, seeing her,
seeing the look on her face, got to his feet and started
toward her. Something warned her. She would have
to flee, get a taxicab. The man was after all a Con-
tinental. There was the touch of Europe, of the Old
World, of a world in which men knew too much about
women and not enough — perhaps. Were they right
or wrong? There was an inability to think or feel
women as anything but flesh, that was both terrible
and in an odd way also true enough — to an American
woman, to an English woman perhaps, too startling
though. When Aline met such a man, in the company
of Joe and Esther — ^as she sometimes did — when her
position was well-defined, safe, he seemed, beside most
American men she had ever known, altogether grown
up, graceful in his approach to life, much more worth
while, much more interesting, with infinitely greater
capacity for accomplishment — real accomplishment.
As she walked with Esther and Joe, Esther kept
pulling nervously at Aline. Her mind was filled with
little hooks that wanted to grapple about in Aline’s
mind. “Have you been stirred or moved by life over
here? Are you just a stupid, self-satisfied American
woman looking for a man — thinking that settles any-
thing? You go along — a. prim, neat little figure of a
woman, with good ankles, a small sharp interesting
face, a good neck — the body graceful and fascinating
too. What are you up to — really? Very soon now —
within three or four years — your body will begin to
settle into heaviness. Someone is going to tarnish
your loveliness. I would rather like to do it. There
would be satisfaction in that, a kind of joy. Do you
think you can escape ? Is that what you’re up to— you
little American fool V*
• • • • •
Esther walking through Parisian streets thinking.
Joe, her husband, missing it all — not caring. He
smoked cigarettes, twirled his cane. Rose Frank, to
whose apartment they were going, was a correspondent
for several American newspapers that wanted a weekly
letter, gossip about Americans in Paris, and Esther
thought it just as well to keep in with her. If Rose
was onto Esther and Joe what did it matter? They
were of the sort American newspapers want to gossip
It was the night after the Quat’z Arts Ball, and as
soon as they had got to the apartment Aline knew
something was wrong, although Esther — not at the
moment so keen— did not sense it. She was perhaps
occupied with Aline, thinking of her. Already several
people had gathered, Americans all, and at once Aline,
who from the first was very sensitive to Rose and her
moods, concluded that, had she not already invited the
people to come to her on that particular evening. Rose
would have been glad to be alone or almost alone.
There was a studio apartment with a large room in
which the people had gathered, and Rose, the hostess,
was wandering about among them, smoking cigarettes
and with a queer vacant look in her eyes. When she
saw Esther and Joe she made a gesture with the hand
that held the cigarette. “Oh, Lord, you too, did I in-
vite you?” the gesture seemed to say. At Aline she did
not at first look at all; but later, when several other
men and women had come in, she sat on a couch in a
corner still smoking the cigarettes and staring at Aline.
“Well, well, and so you are what you are? You
also are here? I do not remember ever to have met
you. You are with the Walker crew and so I fancy
[ 171 ]
you are newspaper stuff. Miss So-and-So of Indian-
apolis. Something of that sort. The Walkers take
no chances. When they tote anyone around it means
money for them.”
Rose Frank’s thoughts. She smiled as she looked
at Aline. “I’ve been up against something. I’ve been
banged. I’m going to talk. I’ve got to. It doesn’t
much matter to me who is here. People have to take
their chances. Now and then something happens to a
human being — it might happen even to a rich young
American woman like you — something that lies too
heavy on the mind. When it happens you’ve got to
talk. You’ve got to explode. Look out, you ! Some-
thing is going to happen to you, young lady, but I’m
not to blame. You’re to blame for being here.”
It was obvious something was wrong with the Amer-
ican newspaper woman. Everyone in the room felt it.
There was a hurried, rather nervous outbreak of talk,
all taking part in it except only Rose Frank, Aline and
a man who sat at the side of the room and who had not
noticed Aline, Joe, Esther or any of the others as they
came in. He spoke once, to a young woman who sat
near him. “Yes,” he said, “I was there, lived there
for a year. I worked as a painter of bicycle wheels
in a factory there. It’s about eighty miles from
Louisville, isn’t it?”
• • • • •
It was the evening after the night of the Quat’z
Arts Ball of the year after the war’s end, and Rose
Frank, having been to the ball with a young man — ^not
present at her party on the following evening — wanted
to talk of something that had happened to her.
“I’ll have to talk about it, or I’ll explode if I don’t,”
she was saying to herself, as she sat in her apartment
among her guests, staring at Aline.
She began. Her voice was highly pitched, filled with
All of the others in the room, all who had been talk-
ing, stopped suddenly. There was an embarrassed
hush. The people, men and women, had gathered in
little groups, disposing of themselves in chairs drawn
together and on a large couch in a corner. Several
rather younger men and women sat in a circle on the
floor. Aline, having, after that first look Rose had
given them, instinctively moved away from Joe and
Esther, sat alone on a chair near a window that looked
down into a street. The window was open and as
there was no screen she could see people moving about.
Men and women moving down toward the rue Voltaire
to cross one of the bridges into the Tuileries or to
go sit in a cafe on the boulevards. Paris! Paris at
night ! The silent young man who did not speak, ex-
cept for the one sentence about working in a bicycle
factory somewhere in America, obviously in reply to
a question, seemed to have some indefinable connection
with Rose Frank. Aline kept turning her head to
look at him and at Rose. Something was about to
happen in the room, and there was a reason, that could
not be explained, why it directly concerned the silent
man, herself and the young man named Fred Grey
who sat beside the silent man. “Perhaps he is like
myself, doesn’t know much,” Aline thought, glancing
at Fred Grey.
Four people, for the most part strangers to each
other, oddly isolated in a roomful of people. Some-
thing was about to happen that concerned them as it
could not concern any of the others. It was already
happening. Did the silent man, sitting alone and
looking at the floor, love Rose Frank? Could there be
such a thing as love among such a congregation of
people, Americans of that sort, gathered in a room in a
Paris apartment — newspaper people, young radicals,
art students? A queer notion that Esther and Joe
should be there. They didn’t fit in and Esther felt it.
She was a little nervous, but her husband Joe — ^he took
what followed as something delicious.
Four people, strangers to each other, isolated in a
roomful of people. People were like drops of water in
a river, flowing along. Suddenly the river became
angry. It became furiously energetic, spreading out
over lands, uprooting trees, sweeping houses away.
Little whirlpools formed. Certain drops of water were
whirled round and round in a circle, constantly touching
each other, merging into each other, being absorbed
into each other. There came times when human beings
ceased being isolated. What one felt others felt. One
might say that, at certain times, one left one’s own
body and went, quite completely, into the body of an-
other. Love might be something like that. The silent
man in the room seemed, as Rose Frank talked, to be
a part of her. How odd !
And the young American — ^Fred Grey — ^he clung
to Aline. “You are someone I can imderstand. I am
out of my depths here.”
A young Irish-American newspaper man, who had
been sent by his American newspaper to Ireland to make
a report on the Irish revolution and to interview the
revolutionary leader, began to talk — insistently inter-
rupting Rose Frank. “They took me in a cab blind-
folded. I, of course, had no notion of where I was
going. I had to trust the man and I did. The blinds
were drawn. I kept thinking of that ride of Madame
Bovary’s through the streets of Rouen. The cab rattled
over the cobblestones in darkness. Perhaps the Irish
love the drama of it.
“And, then, there I was. I was in a room with him
— with V , who is being hunted so hard by the
secret agents of the British government, sitting with
him in a room, as tight and snug as two bugs in a rug.
I got a great story. I’m going to hit for a raise.”
It was an attempt — to stop Rose Frank talking.
Everyone in the room then had felt something wrong
with the woman?
Having invited the others to her apartment for that
particular evening she did not want them there. She
did want Aline. She wanted the silent man sitting
by himself and a young American named Fred Grey,
Why she wanted just those four people Aline couldn’t
have said. She felt it. The young Irish-American
newspaper man had tried to speak of his experiences in
Ireland to relieve a kind of tension in the room. ‘‘Now
wait, you! I’ll talk and then someone else will talk.
We’ll get through the evening comfortably and nicely.
Something has happened. Perhaps Rose has quarreled
with her lover. That man sitting over there alone may
be her lover. I never saw him before but I’ll bet he
is. Give us a chance, Rose, and we’ll get you through
this bad moment.” It was something of that sort the
young man, by the telling of his tale, had been trying
to say to Rose and the others.
It would not work. Rose Frank laughed, a queer
high nervous laugh — dark laughter that. She was a
plump strong-looking little American woman of per-
haps thirty and was reputed to be very clever and able
at her job.
“Well, the devil, I was there. I took part in it all,
saw it all, felt it all,” she said in a loud harsh voice
and, although she had not said where she had been,
everyone in the room, even Aline and Fred Grey knew
what she meant.
It had been in the air for days — a promise, a threat
— ^the Quat’z Arts Ball of that year, and had come off
on the night before.
Aline had felt its coming in the air and so had Joe
and Esther. Joe had secretly wanted to go, had hun^
gered to go.
The Quat’z Arts Ball of Paris is an institution. It is
a part of student life in the capital of the arts. Every
year it is held, and on that night the young art stu-
dents, who have come to Paris from all over the West-
ern world — from America, England, South America,
Ireland, Canada, Spain — ^who have come to Paris to
study one of the four very delicate arts — on that night
they kick the roof off.
Delicacy of line, tenderness of line, color sensitive-
ness — for to-night — ^bah!
Women came — usually models from the studios —
free women. Everyone goes the limit. That is ex-
pected. This once — anyway!
It happens every year, but in the year after the
war’s end Well, it was a year, wasn’t it?
There had been something in the air for a long
For too long a time !
Aline had seen something of the blow-off in Chicago
on the first Armistice Day and it had moved her
.strangely as it had all people who saw and felt it.
There had been stories of the same sort of thing going
on in New York, Cleveland, St. Louis, New Orleans —
even in small American towns. Gray-haired women
kissing boys, young women kissing young men — fac-
tories deserted — the lid off prohibition — offices empty
— song — dance a little once again in life — you who
haven’t been in the war, in the trenches, you who are
just tired of whooping it up for war, for hate — ^joy —
grotesque joy. The lie given the lie.
The end of lies, the end of keeping up the pretense,
the end of that sort of cheapness — ^the end of the
Men lying, women lying, children lying, being taught
Preachers lying, priests lying, bishops, popes and
Kings lying, governments lying, writers lying, artists
drawing lying pictures.
A debauch of lying. Keep it up! The bitter end!
Outlast the other liar ! Make him eat it ! Kill i Kill
some more ! Keep on killing ! Liberty ! Love of God !
Love of men! Kill! Kill!
The thing in Paris had been carefully thought out —
planned. Had not the young artists of the world who
came to Paris — ^to study there the very delicate arts —
had they not gone into the trenches instead — for France
—dear France? Mother of arts, eh? Young men —
artists — the more sensitive men of the Western
Show ’em something! Show ’em up! Slap it into
Give ’em the limit !
They talk so big — ^make ’em like it!
Well, everything has gone to pot, the fields de-
stroyed, the fruit-trees cut, the vines torn out of the
ground, old Mother Earth herself given the riz-raz.
Is this damn cheap civilization of ours to go blandly
on, never getting a slap in the face ? What t’ell ?
Dada, eh? The innocents! Babes! Sweet woman-
hood ! Purity ! The hearth and home !
Choke the babe in the crib !
Bah, that isn’t the way ! Let’s show ’em !
Slap it home to the women! Hit ’em where they
live! Slap it home to the gabblers! Give ’em the
In the gardens in the cities, moonlight in the trees.
You never were in the trenches. Were you — a year, two
years, three, four, five, six?
What t’ell moonlight?
• • • * #
Slap it to the women once! They were in it up to
the neck. Sentimentality ! Gush I That’s what’s back
of it all — a lot anyway. They liked it all — ^the women.
Give ’em a party once ! Cherches la femme! We were
sold out, up to the hilt, and they helped, a lot. A lot
of David and Uriah stuff, too. Bathshebas aplenty.
Women talked a lot about tenderness — “our beloved
sons^^ — ^remember? French women whooping it up,
English women, Irish, Italian. How come ?
Roll ’em in the stench of it 1 Life ! Western civi-
Stench of the trenches — in the fingers, the clothes,
the hair — staying there — getting into the blood — trench
thoughts, trench feelings — trench love, eh?
Is not this dear Paris, the capital of our Western
What t’ell ? Let’s give ’em a look-m, once anyway 1
Were we not what we were? Did we not dream?
Did we not love a little, eh ?
• ... I*
Nudity now !
Perversion — well, what of that?
Throw ’em on the floor, dance on ’em.
How good are you? How much you got left in
How come your eye out and your nose not skun ?
• • • • •
All right. That little brown plump thing over there.
Watch me. Keep your eyes on the trench-hound once 1
Young artists of the Western world. Let’s show
’em the Western world — this once !
The limit, eh — this once I
Do you like it— eh?
How come ?
R ose Frank, the American newspaper woman, had
been to the Quat’z Arts Ball on the evening be-
fore Aline saw her. For several years, all through the
war, she had made her living by sending smart Parisian
gossip to American newspapers, but she also had hun-
gered for — the limit. It was in the air just then, the
hunger for the limit.
And on the evening in her apartment she had to
talk. It was a mad necessity with her. Having been
at the debauch all night she had been awake all day,
walking up and down in her room and smoking ciga-
rettes — waiting — to talk perhaps.
She had been through it all. It wasn’t on the cards
for newspaper men to get in, but a woman could work
it — if she would take the chances.
Rose had gone with a young American art student,
whose name she did not mention. When she had in-
sisted the young American had laughed.
“All right. You fool! I’ll do it.”
The young American had said he would try to take
care of her.
“I’ll try to manage. We’ll all be drunk of course.”
• • • • •
And after it was over, in the early morning, the two
had gone for a ride to the Bois in a fiacre. The birds
singing softly. Men, women and children walking
along. An old gray-haired man — rather fine-looking —
riding a horse in the park. He might have been a pub-
lic man — member of the chamber of deputies or some-
thing of that sort. On the grass in the park a young
boy, not over ten, was playing with a small white dog,
while a woman stood in a near-by path watching. There
was a soft little smile on her lips. The boy had such
It takes a long, lean
To make a preacher lay
his Bible down.
But what an experience it was ! It had taught Rose
something. What? She did not know.
What she was sorry for — ashamed of — was that she
had put the young American to a world of trouble.
After she got there and it was going on, everywhere,
everything whirled around — she got dizzy, faint.
And then desire — black, ugly, hungry desire — like a
desire to kill everything that ever had been lovely in
the world — in herself and others— everyone.
She danced with a man who tore her dress open.
She did not care. The young American came running
and snatched her away. It happened three, four, five
times, things like that. She could not remember. The
other men were all drunk and the young American
drank nothing. He didn’t even smoke cigarettes.
There was a reason. It did not matter.
Esther sat back of Aline looking a little nervous and
upset, like one on a ship in a storm, as Rose talked;
but Joe fairly licked his chops. He wasn’t very pleas-
ant to look at while Rose was talking.
When she talked, sometimes Rose laughed, some-
times there were tears in her eyes. “I’ll never talk
about it again, after this once,’’ she said.
What seemed to hurt her most was that she had come
out of it physically untouched, had escaped. “Such
cheating when I felt that way inside ! Mud ! Muddy
men ! Muddy women ! The war ! Why should I have
Once the Irish-American newspaper man tried to in-
“In Ireland,” he said, and then began again.
“In Ireland ”
“The fight for Irish freedom is going to go on.”
The pantomimes began at twelve. Rose said — ^twenty-
nine ways of love-making — ^all done in the life — naked
people. There was a moment. At twelve any woman
who wanted to save herself could get out. After that
all barriers down. “I stuck.”
“There was something to decide. There was every-
thing to decide. The youngster I went with had said
he would try to see me through. What t’ell about him ?
Did I want to cramp his style ?
“Such a strange feeling in me — something primitive
like a nigger woman in an African dance. That was
what they were after when they got up the show. You
strip all away, no pretense. If I’d been a nigger woman
— good night — something exotic. No chance then —
“Take a woman like me. I’ve been about a little. A
newspaper woman sees things. Suppose something,
your thoughts — we all have — that we are ashamed of
— all the thoughts and strange terrible dreams you
have when you’re a young girl — say fifteen at night —
when the bed is hot — you can’t sleep— you can’t come
awake — all that stripped bare.
“All your thoughts acted out by humans — ^men and
women, right before your eyes, showing yourself up to
yourself — for once — something like that. Most of the
women who stayed didn’t care. It was a man’s orgy,
that one. Men doing something to show women up,
for their gush — sentimentality — ^make ’em muddy —
make ’em reek with it — something of that sort. Could
a woman subscribe to it, fall into the swing of it?
Plenty did. I saw things. They liked it. I myself
escaped, by a lucky fluke, by cheating, as always. That
kid who went with me. When a man grabbed me he
always appeared and snatched me away. Everyone was
pretty drunk. That saved me if I was saved. Can
anyone be saved in this world?
“A kind of swoon, an orgy, a wild untamable thing.
Most of the men there were young fellows who had
been in the trenches, for France, for America, for Eng-
land, you know. France for preservation, England
for control of the seas, America for souvenirs. They
were getting their souvenirs fast enough. They had
got cynical — didn’t care. If you’re here and you are
a woman, what you doing here ? I’ll show you. Damn
your eyes. If you want to fight, all the better. I’ll
slug you. That’s a way of making love. Didn’t you
“The kid took me for the ride afterward. It was
early morning and up in the Bois the trees were green
and the birds were singing. Such thoughts in the
head, things the kid with me had seen, things I had
seen. The kid with me was fine, laughing. He had
been in the trenches two years. ‘Sure we kids can stand
a war. What t’ell. We got to stand for people all
our lives, ain’t we?’ He thought of the green things,
kept getting himself out of the riz-raz that way. ‘You
let yourself in for it. I told you. Rose,’ he said. He
might have taken me like a sandwich, consumed me,
eaten me up, I mean. What he told me was good sense.
‘Don’t try to go to sleep to-day,’ he said.
“ ‘I’ve seen this,’ he said. ‘What of it? Let her
ride. It doesn’t jar me no more than I’ve been jarred,
but now I don’t think you had better see me any more
to-day. You might get to hate me. You get to hate all
people in war — and in things like this. It doesn’t mat-
ter that nothing happened to you, that you slid out.
That doesn’t cut any figure. Don’t let it make you
ashamed. Count it that you married me and found
you didn’t want me or that I didn’t want you, something
of that sort.’ ”
Rose had stopped talking. She had been walking
nervously up and down the room and smoking cigarettes
as she talked. When the words stopped coming from
her lips she dropped into a chair and sat with the tears
running down her plump cheeks, and several of the
women in the room went and tried to comfort her.
They seemed to want to kiss her. One by one several
women went to her and leaning over kissed her hair,
but Esther and Aline sat each in her place with her
hands gripped. What it meant to the one it did not
mean to the other, but they were both upset. “A fool,
that woman, for letting anything get her like that, for
getting upset and giving herself away,” Esther would
T he Greys, Fred and Aline, having driven up the
hill to their house in Old Harbor, had dined.
Was Aline doing to her husband Fred the same little
trick Bruce had been in the habit of doing to his wife
Bernice in the Chicago apartment? Fred Grey spoke
of his affairs, of the plan to advertise in magazines
with a national circulation the wheels made in his
For him, the wheel factory had become the center
of life. There he moved about, a little king in a world
of smaller officials, clerks and workers. The factory
and his position meant even more to him because of
his experience as a private in the army during the war.
At the factory something within him seemed to expand.
It was, after all, a huge plaything, a world set apart
from the town — ^a walled town within the confines of a
town — in which he was ruler. Did the men want a day
off because of the celebration of some national holiday
— Armistice Day, something of that sort — ^he was the
one to say “Yes” or “No.” One Avas a bit careful not
to get chesty. Often Fred said to Harcourt, who was
secretary of the company — “I am, after all, but a ser-
vant.” It was good occasionally to say such things, to
remind oneself of the responsibility that must be shoul-
dered by the man of affairs, responsibility to property,
to other investors, to workmen, to workmen's families.
Fred had a hero— Theodore Roosevelt. What a shame
he was not at the helm during the World War. Had
not Roosevelt had things to say about men of wealth
who did not shoulder the responsibility of position?
Had Teddy been in there at the beginning of the World
War, we would have got in quicker — smashed ’em.
The factory was a little kingdom, but what about
Fred’s home? He was a little nervous about his posi-
tion there. That smile his wife wore sometimes when
he spoke of his affairs. What did she mean by it?
Fred thought he ought to talk.
We have a market for all the wheels we can make
now, but things may change. The question is — does
the average man who runs an automobile know or care
where the wheels come from? It’s a thing to think
about. It costs a lot of money to advertise nationally,
but if we don’t do it we will have to pay a lot more
taxes — surplus earnings, you know. The government
lets you deduct what you spend for advertising. What
I mean is, that they let you count it as legitimate ex-
pense. The newspapers and magazines have a lot of
power, I tell you. They weren’t going to let the gov-
ernment take that snap away. Well, I suppose I might
as well do it.
Aline sat smiling. Fred always thought she looked
more like a European woman than an American. When
she smiled like that and did not say anything, was she
laughing at him? Damn it all, the whole matter of
whether the wheel company made money or not was
as important to her as to himself. She had always
been used to nice things, as a child and after her mar-
riage. Lucky for her the man she had married had
plenty of money. Aline spent thirty dollars a pair for
shoes. Her feet were long and narrow, and it was
difficult to get custom-made shoes that did not hurt her
feet, so she ordered them made. There must be twenty
pairs in the closet of her room upstairs, and they had
cost her thirty to forty dollars a pair. Two times three
is six. Six hundred dollars for shoes alone. Good
Maybe she didn^t mean anything special by that smile.
Fred suspected that his affairs, the affairs of the fac-
tory, were a little over Aline's head. Women didn't
care for or understand such things. It took a man's
brain for that. Everyone had thought he, Fred Grey,
would make a mess of his father's affairs when he was
suddenly called upon to take charge, but he hadn't.
As for woman, he didn't want one of the smart-man-
aging sort, one of the kind who try to tell you how to
run things. Aline suited him all right. He wondered
why he hadn't any children. Was it her fault or his ?
Well, she was in one of her moods. When she was
. that way you might as well let her alone. She would
come out of it after a while.
When the Greys had dined, Fred rather insistently
keeping up the conversation about national advertising
of automobile wheels, he wandered into the living-room
of the house to sit in an easy chair under a lamp and
read the evening paper while he smoked a cigar and
Aline slipped unseen away. There had come a stretch
of unusually warm days for that time of the year, and
[ 191 ]
she put a cloak about her and walked out into the gar-
den. Nothing growing yet. The trees still bare. She
sat on a bench and lighted a cigarette. Fred, her hus-
band, liked her smoking. He thought it gave her rather
an air — of Europe perhaps — of class, anyway.
In the garden the soft dampness of a late winter —
or early spring night. Which was it? The seasons
hung balanced. How very quiet everything in the
garden on the hilltop ! There was no doubt the Middle
West was isolated from the world. In Paris, London,
New York — now at this hour — people getting ready
to drive out to the theater. Wine, lights, the swirl of
people, talk. You get caught up, carried along. No
time to get immeshed in a whirlpool of your own
thoughts — thoughts driving through you like raindrops,
Too many thoughts!
That night when Rose talked — the intensity of it,
that had caught Fred and Aline, that had played with
them as a wind plays with dry, dead leaves — the war —
the ugliness of it — men drenched with ugliness like
rain — ^years of that.
The Armistice — release — ^the attempt at naked joy.
Rose Frank talking — the flood of naked words —
dancing. After all, most of the women at the ball in
Paris were what? Whores? An attempt to throw off
pretense, fakiness. So much fake talk during the war.
The war for righteousness — to make the world Free.
The young men sick, sick, and sick of it. Laughing,
though — dark laughter. Taking it standing up — the
men. The words Rose Frank had said — ^about her
shame — that she had not gone the limit — in ugliness.
Queer, disconnected thoughts, women’s thoughts. You
want a man, but you want the best of the lot — if you
can get him.
There was that young Jewish man who talked to
Aline one evening in Paris after she married Fred.
He had for an hour got into the same mood Rose had
been in and that Fred got into — ^just once — that time
he asked Aline to marry him. She smiled at the
thought. The young American Jew, who was a con-
noisseur of prints and had a valuable collection, had
escaped going down into the trenches. '‘What I did
was to dig latrines — it seemed to me thousands of miles
of latrines. Digging, digging, digging in a rocky soil
— ^trenches — latrines. They got the habit of making
me do that. I was trying to write music when the war
began ; that is to say, when they raked me in. I thought
— 'Well, a sensitive man, a neurotic,’ I thought. I
thought they would pass me up. Every man, not a
silly blind fool, thought that, hoped that, whether he
said it or not. Anyway, he hoped. For once it was
grand to be a cripple, or blind, or have diabetes. There
was such a lot of it, drilling, the ugly shacks we lived
in, no privacy, finding out too much about your fellow
men too fast. Latrines. Then it was over, and I did
not try to write music any more. I had some money,
and I started to buy prints. I wanted things delicate^ —
delicacy of line and feeling — something outside myself
more delicate and sensitive than I could ever be — after
what I had been through.”
Rose Frank went to that ball where things blew off.
No one afterward in Aline’s presence talked much
about it. Rose was an American and she escaped. She
escaped getting clear into it, up to the limit, slid through
— thanks to that kid who took care of her — an Amer-
Had Aline slipped through, too? Had Fred, her
husband, slipped through untouched? Was Fred the
same thing he would have been if the war had never
come, thinking the same thoughts, taking life the same
That night, after they all got out of Rose Frank’s
place, Fred had been drawn to Aline — as by instinct.
He had come out of the place with Esther, Joe and
herself. Perhaps, after all, Esther had gathered him
in, having something in mind. “All is grist that comes
to mill” — something like that. That young man who
sat near Fred and said that about working in a factory
in America before Rose began talking. He had stayed
when the others got out. Being in Rose’s apartment
that night was, for all the people who had been there,
a good deal like walking into a bedroom in which a
woman lies naked. They had all felt that.
Fred had walked with Aline when they left the apart-
ment. What had happened had drawn him to her, had
drawn her to him. There was never any doubt of their
closeness to each other — for that one night, an3rway.
He was to her, that evening, like the American kid who
went with Rose to the ball, only nothing happened be-
tween them that was an)rthing like what Rose had
Why hadn’t something happened? If Fred had
wanted — ^that night. He hadn’t. They had just
walked along through the streets, Esther and Joe ahead
somewhere, and then presently they lost Esther and
Joe. If Esther felt any responsibility for Aline, she
wasn’t worried. She knew who Fred was if Aline did
not. Trust Esther to know about a young man who
had as much money as Fred. She was a regular hound-
dog at spotting that kind. And Fred had also known
who she was, that she was the respectable daughter of,
oh, such a respectable Chicago attorney ! Was that the
reason ? How many things to ask Fred that she
never had asked, couldn’t — now that she was his wife
— in Old Harbor, Indiana.
Both Fred and Aline had been shaken by what they
had heard. They went along the left bank of the Seine
and found a little cafe where they stopped and had a
drink. When they had taken the drink, Fred looked at
Aline. He was rather pale. “I don’t want to appear
greedy, but I want several stiff drinks — ^brandy — one
right on top of the other. Do you mind if I take
them ?” he asked. Then they wandered along the Quai
Voltaire, and crossed the Seine at the Pont Neuf.
Presently they had got into the little park in the rear
of Notre Dame de Paris. That she had never before
seen the man she was with had seemed good to Aline
that night and she had kept thinking : “If he wants any-
thing, I can ” He had been a soldier — a private
in the trenches for two years. Rose had made Aline
feel so vividly the shame of escape when the world is
plunged — into mud. That he had never before seen
the woman he was with seemed good to Fred Grey
that night. He had a notion about her. Esther had
told him something. Just what Fred’s notion had been,
Aline had not understood — not then.
In the little park-like place into which they had wan-
dered, French people of the neighborhood, young lovers,
old men with their wives, fat middle-class men and
women with children sitting about. Babies lying on
the grass, their little fat legs kicking, women nursing
babies, babies crying, a stream of talk, French talk.
There was something Aline had once heard a man say
concerning the French — when she was out for an eve-
ning with Esther and Joe. “They may be killing men
in a battle, bringing in the dead from a battlefield,
making love — it doesn’t matter. When it comes time
to sleep, they sleep. When it comes time to eat, they
It had really been Aline’s first night in Paris. “I
want to stay out all night. I want to think and feel
things. Maybe I want to get drunk,’’ she had said to
Fred had laughed. As soon as he got alone with
Aline he had begun to feel strong and manly, and it
was, he thought, a good feeling. The shakiness inside
had begun to go away. She was an American woman,
one of the sort he would marry when he got back to
America — which would be soon now. To have stayed
on in Paris had been a mistake. There were too many
things to remind you of what life was like when you
saw it raw.
What one wanted from woman was not a conscious
participation in the facts of life — ^its vulgarities.
Plenty of that sort of women about — in Paris, any-
way — Americans, a lot of them — Rose Frank and her
sort. Fred had only gone to Rose Frank’s apartment
because Tom Burnside took him there. Tom came
from good people in America, but thought — ^because
he was in Paris and because he was a painter — well, he
thought he ought to stick around with a lot of loose-
living people — Bohemians.
The thing was to explain to Aline, make her under-
stand. What? Well, that nice people — women, any-
way — ^know nothing of the sort of things Rose had
The three or four shots of brandy Fred had taken
had steadied him. In the dim light in the little park
back of the cathedral he kept looking at Aline — ^at her
sharp, delicate, small features, her slender feet, clad in
expensive shoes, the slender hands lying in her lap. In
Old Harbor, where the Greys had the brick house in
the garden set on the very top of the hill above the river,
how exquisite she would be — ^like one of the small,
old-fashioned white marble statues people used to set
on pedestals among green foliage in a garden.
The thing was to tell her — an American woman —
pure and fine — what? What an American, such an
American as himself, who had seen what he had seen
in Europe, what such a man wanted. Why, on the
very night before the one when he sat with Aline he
had seen — Tom Burnside had taken him to a place on
Montmartre to see Parisian life. Such women ! Ugly
women, ugly men — ^pandering to American men, Eng-
That Rose Frank! Her outbreak — ^such sentiments,
to come from a woman’s lips.
“I’ve something to say to you,’’ Fred had finally
managed to speak.
“What?” Aline asked.
Fred tried to explain. Something he felt. “I’ve
seen too many things like that Rose blowout,” he said.
“I’ve been up front.”
In reality it had been Fred’s intention to say some-
thing about America and the life at home — to remind
her. There was something he felt needed reasserting
to a young woman like Aline — to himself, too — some-
thing not to be forgotten. The brandy made him a bit
loquacious. Names floated before his mind — ^names of
men who stood for something in American life. Emer-
son, Benjamin Franklin, W. D. Howells — “The better
aspects of our American life” — Roosevelt, the poet
“Truth, liberty — the freedom of man. America,
mankind’s great experiment in Liberty.”
Was Fred drunk? He thought certain words and
said other words. That fool woman — ^hysterical —
talking back there in that apartment.
Thoughts dancing in the brain — ^horror. One night,
in the time of the fighting, he went out on patrol in
No Man’s Land and saw another man stumbling along
in darkness and shot him. The man pitched forward
dead. It had been the only time Fred consciously
killed a man. You don’t kill men in war much. They
just die. The act was rather hysterical on his part.
He and the men with him might have made the fellow
surrender. They had all got the jimjams. After it
happened, they all ran away together.
A man killed. They rot sometimes, lying like that
in shell-holes. You go out to gather them up, and they
fall to pieces.
Once later Fred crawled out during an advance and
got into a shell-hole. A fellow lying there, face down.
Fred had crawled in close beside him and had asked
him to move over a little. Move, hell ! The man was
dead — rotten with death.
Might have been the very fellow he shot that night
when he was hysterical. How could he tell whether
the fellow was a German or not — in darkness that way?
He had got hysterical, that time.
Other times, before an advance. The men praying,
speaking of God.
Then it was over and he and others were still alive.
Other men living — ^as he was — rotten with life.
The strange desire for nastiness — on the tongue. To
say words that reeked and stank as trenches stank — a
madness for that — ^after such an escape^ — an escape
with life — precious life — life to be nasty with, ugly
with. Swear— curse God — go the limit.
America — far oflf. Something sweet and fine.
You’ve got to believe in that — in the men there — ^the
Hang on! Grip it with your fingers, your soul!
Sweetness and truth! It’s got to be sweet and true.
Fields — cities — streets — ^houses — trees — ^women.
Specially women. Kill anyone who says anything
against our women — ^fields — cities.
Specially women. They don’t know what’s up to
We’re tired — damn tired, aching tired.
Fred Grey talking one night in a little park in Paris.
At night on the roof of Notre Dame angels may be
seen walking up into the sky — white-clad women —
stepping up to God.
It may have been Fred was drunk. Perhaps Rose
Frank’s words had made him drunk. What was the
matter with Aline? She cried. Fred clung to her.
He did not kiss her, did not want that. “I want you
to marry me — live with me in America.” When he
raised his head he could see the white-stone women —
angels — walking up into the sky, on the roof of the
Aline — to herself — “Woman ? If he wants anything
— he is a man hurt, befouled — why should I cling to
Rose Frank’s words in Aline’s mind, an impulse.
Rose Frank’s shame that she had remained — what is
Fred had begun to sob as he tried to talk to Aline,
and she took him into her arms. The French people
in the little park did not mind much. They had seen
a lot of things — shell-shock — ^all that sort of thing —
modern war. Getting late. Time to go home and
sleep. French prostitution during the war. “They
[ 200 ]
never forgot to ask for the money — did they, Buddy?”
Fred clung to Aline and Aline clung to Fred — that
night. “You are a nice girl, I spotted you. That
woman you were with told me, Tom Burnside intro-
duced me to her. I’m all right at home — nice people.
I’ve got to have you. We’ve got to believe in things —
kill people who don’t believe.”
They went to ride in a fiacre — all night — ^to the Bois
in the early morning — ^as Rose Frank and her American
kid had done. After that a marriage — it had seemed
Like a train when you are on and it starts. You
got to go somewhere.
More talk. “Talk, boy — it helps maybe.” Talk of
a man killed — in the darkness. I’m too full of haunts,
I don’t want more talk. We Americans were all right.
Getting along. Why did I stay here when the war was
over? Tom Burnside got me to — for you, maybe.
Tom never was in the trenches — lucky dog, I don’t
hold it against him.
“I want no more Europe-talk. I want you. You
marry me. You got to. All I want is to forget — wade
out. Let Europe rot.”
Aline rode all night in the fiacre with Fred. It was
such a courtship. He clung to her hand, but did not
kiss her, and said nothing tender.
He was like a child, wanting something she stood
for — to him — wanting it desperately.
Why not give herself? He was young and hand-
She had been willing to give
He had not seemed to want — that.
You get what you reach out your hand and take.
Women always do the taking — if they have the courage.
You take — a man — or a mood — or a child that has
been hurt too much. Esther was as hard as nails, but
she knew some things. It had been educational for
Aline to go to Europe with her. There wasn’t much
doubt that Esther felt the outcome of her having thrown
Fred and Aline together was a triiunph for her system,
for her way of managing things. She knew who Fred
was. It would be a feather in her cap, with Aline’s
father, when he realized what she had done. Had he
had the picking of a husband for his daughter he
would have picked — just Fred. Not many of that kind
lying about loose. With such a man a woman — ^like
Aline would be when she had grown a little wiser and
older — well, she could manage just anything. She
also would be grateful to Esther, after a while.
And that was why Esther put the marriage right
through, the next day — ^the same day, to be exact. “If
you are going to keep a woman like that out all night —
young man.” It had not been very hard to manage
Fred and Aline. Aline had seemed in a daze. She had
been in a daze. All that night and the next day and
for several days afterward she wasn’t herself. What
was she ? Perhaps she had been for the time, in fancy,
that newspaper woman, Rose Frank. The woman had
befuddled her — ^made all life seem strange and topsy-
[ 202 ]
turvy for the time being. Rose had given her the
war, the sense of it — all in a heap — like a blow.
She — Rose — had been in something and had escaped.
She was ashamed of her escape.
Aline wanted to be in something — up to the hilt —
the limit — once, anyway.
She had got into
A marriage with Fred Grey.
I N the garden Aline arose from the bench on which
she had been sitting for a half hour, perhaps for
an hour. The night was full of the promise of spring.
In another hour her husband would be ready to go to
bed. It had perhaps been a hard day for him at the
factory. She would go into the house. No doubt
he would have gone to sleep in his chair and she would
arouse him. There would be some talk. ‘‘Are things
going well at the factory?” “Yes, dear. I am very
busy these days. Now I am trying to decide about
advertising. Sometimes I think I will do it, sometimes
I think I won't.”
Aline would be alone in the house with the man, her
husband, and outside would be the night of which he
seemed so unconscious. When spring had advanced
but a few weeks more, tender green growth would be
springing up all over the hillside on which the house
stood. The soil was rich up there. Fred's grand-
father, still spoken of by old men of the town as Old
Wash Grey, had been a horse-dea?er on rather a grand
scale. It was said he had sold horses to both sides
during the Civil War, and had taken something of a
hand in several big horse-rtmning raids. He sold horses
to Grant's army, there was a rebel raid, the horses dis-
appeared and presently Old Wash sold them to Grant’s
army again. The whole hillside had once been a huge
A place of green things growing rank in the spring —
trees putting forth leaves, grasses springing up, the
early spring flowers coming, flowering bushes every-
In the house, after the few remarks, silence. Aline
and her husband would go up a flight of stairs.
Always, when they had got to the top of the steps, there
was a moment when something was to be decided.
“Shall I come to you to-night?" “No, dear; I’m a
little tired.” Something hung fire between the man
and woman, a wall separated them. It had always been
there — except once, for an hour, one night in Paris.
Did Fred really want to tear it away? To do so would
involve something. Really living with a woman is not
living alone. Life takes on a new aspect. There are
new problems. You must feel things, face things.
Aline wondered if she wanted the wall destroyed.
Sometimes she made an effort. At the top of the
stairs she turned and smiled at her husband. Then she
took his head in her two hands and kissed him, and
when she had done that went quickly into her own room,
where later, in the darkness, he came to her. It was
odd, amazing, how close another could come and yet
remain far away. Could Aline, if she willed it so,
knock the wall down and really come close to the man
she had married ? Did she want that?
It was so good to be out alone on such an evening
as the one during which we have crept into Aline’s
thoughts. In the garden, that had been terraced over
the crown of the hill on which the house stood, there
were several trees with benches beneath, and a low wall
that separated the garden from the street that went past
the house over the hill and down again. In the sum-
mer when the trees were in leaf and when tall bushes
grew thick upon the terraces one could not see the other
houses of the street, but now they stood distinctly
forth. In a neighboring house, where lived Mr. and
Mrs. Willmott, there were guests in for the evening,
and two or three motors stood before the door. The
people sat at tables in a brightly lighted room playing
cards. They laughed, talked, occasionally got up from
one table and went to another. Aline had been invited
to come with her husband, but had managed to get out
of it by saying she had a headache. Slowly, surely,
ever since she had been in Old Harbor, she had been
restricting her own and her husband's social life. Fred
said he liked it so and complimented her upon her ability
to get out of things. In the evening after dinner he
read the newspaper or a book. He preferred detective
stories, saying he got a kick out of them and that they
did not take his mind off business, as reading so-called
serious books did. Sometimes he and Aline went for
a drive in the evening, but not often. She had man-
aged to restrict the mutual use of the car also. It threw
her too much with Fred. There was nothing to talk
When Aline got up from her seat on the bench, she
walked slowly and softly about the garden. She was
dressed in white and there was a little childish game
she loved playing with herself. She went to stand near
a tree and, folding her arms, turned her face demurely
toward the ground, or, plucking a branch from a bush,
stood holding it against her breast as though it were a
cross. In old gardens in Europe and in some old Amer-
ican places, where there are trees and thick bushes, a
certain effect is achieved by setting small white figures
on columns among the deep foliage, and Aline in fancy
metamorphosed herself into such a white, dainty
figure. She was a stone woman leaning over to raise
to her arms a small child who stood with upraised
hands, or she was a nun in the garden of a convent
pressing a cross against her breast. As such a tiny
stone figure she had no thoughts, no feelings. What
she achieved was a kind of occasional loveliness among
the dark night foliage of the garden. She became a
part of the loveliness of the trees and of thick bushes
growing out of the ground. Although she did not
know it, her husband Fred had once in fancy seen her
just so — on the night when he had asked her to marry
him. For years, for days and nights, forever perhaps,
she could stand with outstretched arms about to take a
child into her arms, or as a nun holding to her body
the symbol of the cross on which had died her spiritual
lover. It was a dramatization, childish, meaningless,
and full of a kind of comforting satisfaction to one
who in the actuality of life remains unfulfilled. Some-
times when she stood thus in the garden, her husband
within the house reading his paper or asleep in his
chair, minutes passed when she did no thinking, felt
nothing. She had become a part of the sky, of the
ground, of passing winds. When it rained, she was the
rain. When thunder rolled down the Ohio River Val-
ley, her body trembled slightly. As a small, lovely
stone figure, she had achieved Nirvana. Now was the
time for her lover to come — to spring out of the ground
— to drop from the branches of a tree — ^to take her,
laughing at the very notion of asking consent. Such
a figure as Aline had become, placed in an exhibition
in a museum would have seemed absurd; but in a
garden among trees and bushes, and caressed by the
low color-tones of the night, it became strangely lovely,
and all of Aline’s relations with her husband had made
her want, above everything else, to be strange and lovely
in her own sight. Was she saving herself for some-
thing, and, if so, for what?
When she had posed herself thus, several times, she
grew weary of the childishness of the game and was
compelled to smile at her own foolishness. She went
back along the path toward the house and, looking
through a window, saw her husband asleep in his chair.
The newspaper had fallen from his hand and his body
had slumped into the chair’s generous depths so that
only his rather boyish-looking head was visible, and
after looking at him for a moment Aline moved again
along a path toward the gate leading to the street.
Where the Grey place faced the street there were no
houses. Two roads, coming up from the town below,
became a street near the comer of the garden, and on
the street were several houses, in one of which she
could, by raising her eyes, see the people still at their
Near the gate there was a large walnut-tree, and she
stood with her body pressed against it looking out into
the street. At the corner, where the two roads joined,
there was a street light, but at the entrance to the Grey
place the light was dim.
A man came up the road from below, passed under
the light and, turning, walked toward the Grey gate.
It was Bruce Dudley, the man she had seen walking
away from the factory with the small, broad-shouldered
workman. Aline’s heart jiunped and then seemed to
stop beating. If the man, inside himself, had been
occupied with thoughts of her as she had with thoughts
of him, then already they were something to each other.
They were something to each other that presently would
have to be taken into account.
The man in Paris, the one she had seen in Rose
Frank’s apartment that night when she got Fred. She
had made a faint little try for him, but had been unsuc-
cessful. Rose had got him. If the chance came again,
would she be more bold ? There was one thing sure —
if such a thing did happen, her husband Fred would not
be taken into account. “When such a thing happens
between a woman and a man, it happens between a
woman and a man. No one else really gets into it at
all,” she thought, smiling in spite of the fear that had
taken hold of her.
The man she now stood watching was coming along
the street directly toward her, and when he had got to
the gate leading up into the Grey garden he stopped.
Aline moved slightly, but a bush growing near the tree
hid her body. Did the man see her? An idea came.
She would try, to some purpose now, beings one of the
small stone statues people place in gardens. The man
worked in her husband’s factory and it might well be
that he was coming to the house to see Fred about busi-
ness. Aline’s notions of the relation between employee
and employer in a factory were very vague. If the
man actually came along the path toward the house,
he would pass near enough to touch her, and the situa-
tion might well become absurd. It would have been
better for Aline to walk quite nonchalantly along the
path away from the gate at which the man now stood.
That she realized, but she did not move. If the man
saw her and spoke to her, the tenseness of the moment
would be broken. He would ask something about her
husband and she would answer. The whole childish
game she had been playing inside herself would end.
As a bird crouches in the grass when a hunting dog
runs through a field so Aline crouched.
The man stood some ten feet away, looking first at
the lighted house above and then calmly at her. Did
he see her? Was he aware of her awareness? When
the hunting dog has found his bird he does not dash
in, but stands rigid and waiting.
How absurd that Aline could not speak to the man
in the road. She had been thinking of him for days.
Perhaps he had been thinking of her.
She wanted him.
For what ?
She did not know.
He stood for three or four minutes, and it seemed
to Aline one of those strange pauses in life that are so
absurdly unimportant and at the same time all-impor-
tant. Had she the courage to step out of the shelter of
the tree and the bush and speak to him ? “Something
would then begin. Something would then begin.” The
words danced in her head.
He turned and walked away reluctantly. Twice he
stopped to look back. First his legs, then his body,
and at the last his head disappeared into the darkness
of the hillside beyond the circle of light cast by the
street-lamp overhead. There was an effect of sinking
into the ground out of which he had suddenly appeared
but a few moments before.
The man had stood as close to Aline as the other man
in Paris, the man she had met coming out of Rose’s
apartment, the man on whom she had once tried with
so little success to exert her womanly charms.
The new man’s coming, in just that way, was a
Would she take it?
With a smile playing about her lips Aline walked
along the path toward the house and toward her hus-
band, who was still sound asleep in his chair with the
evening newspaper lying beside him on the floor.
S HE had got him. There remained little doubt in
his mind ; but because it gave him a kind of plea-
sure to think of himself as the devoted one, and of her
as indifferent, he did not tell himself the exact truth.
However, it had happened. When he saw it all fully
he smiled and was rather happy. “That is settled any-
way,” he told himself. It was flattering to think that
he could do it, that he could surrender like that. One
of the things Bruce said to himself at that time went
something like this — “A man must at some time in his
life focus all the strength of his being upon some one
thing, the doing of some job of work, utter absorption
in that or in some other human being, for a time
anyway.” All his life Bruce had been rather like that.
When he felt closest to people they seemed more re-
moved than when he felt — as rarely happened — suffi-
cient unto himself. It needed then a grand effort, an
outgoing toward someone.
As for work Bruce did not feel himself artist enough
to think he would find an outlet in the arts. Now and
then, when he was deeply moved, he wrote what might
have been called poems, but the idea of being a poet, of
being known as a poet, was rather dreadful to him.
“Something like being widely known as a lover, a pro-
fessional lover,” he thought.
Ordinary work, varnishing wheels in a factory,
scribbling news for a newspaper, that sort of thing.
Not much chance for an outpouring of the emotional
nature at least. Men like Tom Wills and Sponge Mar-
tin had puzzled him. They were shrewd, moved about
within a certain limited circle of life with an air of
ease. Perhaps they did not want or need what Bruce
wanted and thought he needed — periods of rather in-
tense emotional outpourings. Tom Wills at least had
consciousness of futility, impotence. He used to talk
with Bruce sometimes about the newspaper on which
they both worked. “Think of it, man,” he said, “three
hundred thousand readers. Think what that means.
Three hundred thousand pairs of eyes fixed on the
same page at practically the same hour every day, three
hundred thousand minds supposed to be at work ab-
sorbing the contents of a page. And such a page, such
stuff. If they were really minds what would happen?
Great God ! An explosion that would shake the world,
eh? If the eyes saw! If the fingers felt, if the ears
heard ! Man is dumb, blind, deaf. Could Chicago or
Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Youngstown or Akron — mod-
ern war, the modern factory, the modern college, Reno,
Los Angeles, movies, art schools, music-teachers, the
radio, governments — could such things go on blandly if
the three hundred thousand, all the three hundred thou-
sands, were not intellectual and emotional morons?”
As though that mattered to Bruce or to Sponge
Martin. It seemed to matter a lot to Tom. He was
hurt by the fact.
Sponge was the puzzle. He went fishing, drank
moon whisky, got satisfaction out of being aware. He
and his wife were both fox terriers, not quite human.
Aline had got Bruce. The mechanics of getting
him, her move, had been laughable, crude, almost like
putting an advertisement in a matrimonial paper.
When she had realized fully that she wanted him near
her, for a time anyway, wanted his person near her
person, she could not think at first of any way to bring
it about. She couldn’t very well send a note to his
hotel. “You look rather like a man I once saw in Paris,
give me the same subtle desires. I missed out on him.
A woman named Rose Frank got the better of me the
only chance I ever had. Would you mind coming a
bit nearer so that I may see what you are like?’’
You can’t do a thing like that in a small town. If
you are an Aline you can’t do it at all. What can you
Aline had taken a long chance. A negro gardener,
who worked about the Grey place, was discharged and
she put an advertisement in the local newspaper. Four
men came and were pronounced unsatisfactory before
she got Bruce, but in the end she got him.
It was an embarrassing moment when he came up the
path to the door and for the first time she saw him
very near, heard his voice.
That was in a way the test. Would he make it easy
for her? He at least tried, smiling inwardly. Some-
thing was dancing within him as it had since he had
seen the advertisement. He had seen it because two
laborers at the hotel spoke of it in his hearing. Sup-
pose you play with the idea that a game is going on
between you and a very charming woman. Most men
spend their lives at just that game. You tell yourself
many little lies, but perhaps you are wise to do so.
You’ve got to have some illusions, haven’t you? It’s
fun, like writing a novel. You make the charming
woman more charming if your fancy can be made to
help, make her do as you please, have imaginary con-
versations with her, at night sometimes imagined love-
meetings. That is not quite satisfactory. There isn’t,
however, always that limitation. Sometimes you win.
The book you are writing comes alive. The woman
you love wants you.
After all, Bruce did not know. He knew nothing.
An3rway he had enough of the wheel-varnishing job
and spring was coming. Had he not seen the advertise-
ment he would have quit presently. When he saw it he
smiled over the notion of Tom Wills, cursing the news-
papers. “Newspapers have some use anyway,” he
Since Bruce had been in Old Harbor he had spent
very little money and so he had silver to jingle in his
pocket. He wanted to apply for the place personally
and so he quit on the day before he saw her. A letter
would have spoiled everything. If she were what he
thought, what he wanted to think her, the writing of
a letter would have settled matters at once. She
wouldn’t have bothered with a reply. What puzzled
him most was Sponge Martin, who only smiled know-
ingly when Bruce announced his intention of quitting.
How did the little cuss know? When Sponge found
out what he was up to— if he got the place — ^well, a
moment of intense satisfaction for Sponge. “I spotted
that all right, knew it before he knew it himself. She
got him, didn’t she? Well, it’s all right. I like her
Odd how much a man hated giving another man that
kind of satisfaction.
With Aline, Bruce was frank enough, although he
Could not look directly at her during their first conver-
sation. He wondered whether or not she was looking
at him and rather thought she was. There was a way
in which he felt like a horse or a slave being bought
and he liked the feeling. “I’ve been working down at
your husband’s factory but I’ve quit,” he said. “You
see spring is coming and I want to try working out of
doors. As for my being a gardener, it is, of course,
absurd, but I would like trying it if you wouldn’t mind
helping me. It is a little rash of me to come up here
and apply. Spring is coming so fast and I want to
work out of doors. As a matter of fact I am quite
stupid with my hands and if you take me you will have
to tell me everything.”
How badly Bruce was playing his game. His note,
for a time at least, was to be a laborer. The words he
had been saying did not sound like words that would
come from the lips of any laborer he had known. If
you are going to dramatize yourself, play a certain role,
you should at least play it well. His mind danced about
seeking something more crude he might say.
“Don’t worry about the wages, ma’am,” he said, and
had a hard time suppressing a laugh. He kept lo okin g
at the ground and smiling. That was better. It was
the note. What fun it was going to be, playing the
game out with her, if she were willing. It might last
a long time, no let-down. There might even be a con-
test. Who would let down first?
[ 220 ]
H 'E was happy as he had never been before, ab-
surdly happy. Sometimes in the evening when
his day's work was done, as he sat on the bench in
the small building back of the house further up the
hill where he had been given a cot on which to sleep,
he thought he was consciously rather overdoing the
thing. On several Sunday mornings he had gone to see
Sponge and his wife and they had been very nice.
Just a little inward laugh on Sponge's part. He did
not like the Greys much. Once, long ago, he had as-
serted his own manhood over old Grey, had told him.
where to get off, and now Bruce, his friend At
night sometimes, when Sponge was in bed beside his
wife, he played with the idea of being himself in Bruce's
present position. He imagined things had already hap-
pened that might not happen at all, tried out his own
figure in Bruce's position. It would not work. In
such a house as the Greys' The truth was that in
Bruce's position, as he imagined it, he would have
been confused by the house itself, by the furniture of
the house, by the grounds about the house. That time
he had got Fred Grey’s father at a disadvantage he had
him in his own shop, on his own dung-hill. It was
really Sponge's wife who most enjoyed the thoughts of
what was going on. At night while Sponge was having
his own thoughts she lay beside him thinking of delicate
lingerie, soft colorful bed-hangings. Having Bruce
drop in on them on Sunday was like having in the
house the hero of a French novel. Or, something by
Laura Jean Libbey — ^books she used to read when she
was younger and her eyes were better. Her thoughts
did not frighten her as her husband’s thoughts did him,
and when Bruce came she had an inclination to give
him delicate things to eat. She wanted very much to
have him remain well, young-looking and handsome,
that she might the better use him in her night-thoughts.
That he had once worked in the shop beside Sponge
seemed to her a desecration of something almost holy.
It was like the Prince of Wales doing something of
the sort, a kind of joke. Like the pictures you see
sometimes in the Sunday papers — the President of the
United States pitching hay on a Vermont farm, the
Prince of Wales holding a horse for a jockey to mount,
the Mayor of New York throwing out the first baseball
at the beginning of the baseball season. Great men
being common in order to make common men happy.
Bruce had at any rate made life happier for Mrs.
Sponge Martin, and when he went to see them and had
come away walking along the little-used river-road, to
climb, by a path through the bushes, the hill to the
Grey place, he got it all and was both amused and
pleased. He felt like an actor who had been rehears-
ing a part before friends. They were uncritical, kindly.
Easy enough to play the part for them. Could he play
it successfully for Aline?
[ 222 ]
His own thoughts when he sat on the bench in the
shed in which he now slept at night were complex.
“I’m in love. That’s what it must be. As for her,
it perhaps does not matter. She is at least willing to
play with the thought of it.’’
One tried to escape love only when it was not love.
Very skillful men — skillful in life — pretend not to be-
lieve in it at all. Writers of books who believe in love,
who make love the background of their books, are
always strangely silly fellows. They make a mess of
it trying to write of it. No intelligent person wants
such love. It may be good enough for antiquated
unmarried women or something for tired stenographers
to read on the subway or elevated, going home from
the office in the evening. It is the sort of thing that
has to be kept within the confines of a cheap book. If
you try bringing it into life — bah!
In a book you make the simple statement — “they
loved’’ — ^and the reader must believe or throw the
book away. Easy enough to make statements — “John
stood with his back turned and Sylvester crept from
behind a tree. He raised his revolver and fired. John
tumbled forward, dead.” Such things happen, to be
sure, but they do not happen to anyone you know.
Killing a man with words .scrawled on a sheet of paper
is a quite different matter than killing him in life.
Words to make people lovers. You say they are.
Bruce did not so much want to be loved. He wanted
to love. When the flesh comes in, that is something
different. In him there was none of the vanity that
makes men so ready to believe themselves lovable.
Bruce was quite sure he had not yet begun to think
or to feel Aline as flesh. If that came it would be
another problem than the one he had now undertaken.
He wanted most of all to get outside himself, to center
his life upon something outside himself. He had tried
physical labor, but had found no work in which he
could absorb himself, and also he realized, after he
saw Aline, that for him Bernice had not offered enough
of the possibilities of loveliness in herself — in her per-
son. She was one who had thrown aside the possi-
bilities of personal loveliness, of womanhood. In truth
she was too much like Bruce himself.
And what an absurdity — really ! If one could but be
a lovely woman, if one could achieve loveliness in one’s
own person, was it not enough, was it not all one could
ask? Bruce, at the moment anyway, thought it was.
He thought Aline lovely — so lovely that he hesitated
about coming too near. If his own fancy was helping
to make her more lovely — in his own sight — ^was it not
an achievement? “Gently. Don’t move. Just be,” he
wanted to whisper to Aline.
Spring was coming on fast in southern Indiana. It
was middle April, and in middle April, in the Ohio
River Valley — at least many seasons — ^the spring is well
advanced. The winter flood-waters had already receded
from most of the flat lands in the river valley about
and below Old Harbor, and as Bruce went about his
new work in the Greys’ garden, directed by Aline, wheel-
ing barrows of dirt, digging in the ground, planting
seed, transplanting, he occasionally straightened his
body, and standing at attention looked out over the land.
Although the flood-waters, that in winter covered all
the lowlands in that country, were just receding, leav-
ing everywhere wide shallow pools — pools the south-
ern Indiana sun would soon drink up— although the
receding flood-waters had left everywhere a thin coat-
ing of gray river-mud, the gray was now fast re-
Ever)rwhere the green of growing things crept out
over the gray land. As the shallow pools dried, the
green advanced. On some of the warm spring days, he
could almost see the green creeping forward, cind now
that he had become a gardener, a digger in the earth,
he had occasionally the exciting feeling of being a part
of what was going on. He was a painter at work on
a vast canvas on which others were also at work. In
the ground where he was digging, red, blue and yellow
blossoms would presently appear. A little corner of
the vast earth’s surface belonged to Aline and to him-
self. There was an unspoken contrast. His own hands,
that had always been so awkward and useless, directed
now by her mind, might well become less useless. Now
and then, as she sat on a bench near him or walked
about the garden, he stole shy looks at her hands. They
were very dainty and quick. Well, they were not
strong, but his own hands were strong enough. Tough,
rather thick fingers, broad palms. When he worked in
the shop beside Sponge he had watched Sponge’s
hands. There was a caress in them. There was a
caress in Aline’s hands when, as occasionally happened,
she touched one of the plants Bruce had been handling
awkwardly. "You do it like this,” the quick deft
fingers seemed to be saying to his fingers. “Keep your-
self out of it. Let the rest of your person sleep. Cen-
ter everything now upon the fingers that are being
directed by her fingers,” Bruce whispered to himself.
Soon now the farmers who owned the flat lands in
the river valley far below the hill on which Bruce
worked, but who lived also back among the hills, would
be going out upon the flat lands with their teams and
tractors for the spring plowing. The low hills, lying
back from the river, were like hunting-dogs crouched
near the river’s edge. One of the dogs had crept near
and had thrust a tongue into the water. That was the
hill upon which Old Harbor stood. On the flat lands
down below, Bruce had already seen men walking about.
They were like flies walking across a distant window-
pane. Dark gray men walking across a vast light gray-
ness, looking, waiting the time of the coming of the
spring green, waiting to help the spring green come.
Bruce had seen the same thing when he was a boy
and had walked up the Old Harbor hill with his mother,
and now he was seeing it with Aline.
They did not speak of it. As yet they spoke of noth-
ing but the work to be done in the garden. When
Bruce was a boy and came up the hill with his mother,
the older woman had been unable to tell her son what
she felt. The son had been unable to tell the mother
what he felt.
Often he felt like shouting to the tiny gray figures
down below. “Come on! Come on! Start plowing!
He was himself a gray man like the tiny gray men
below. He was a crazy man like the crazy man he had
once seen sitting with dried blood on his cheek beside
the river. "Keep afloat!" the crazy man had called
to a steamboat plowing its way up river.
"Plow! Plow! Begin plowing! Tear up the soil !
Turn it over. The soil is growing warm ! Begin plow-
ing ! Plow and plant !” was what Bruce wanted to shout
B ruce had become a part of the life of the Grey
household on the hill above the river. Inside
himself something was being built. A hundred im-
aginary conversations with Aline, that were never to
take place in fact, went on in his mind. Sometimes
when she came into the garden and talked to him of his
work, he half waited, as though for her to pick up,
where it had been dropped, a fancied talk had with her
as he lay on his cot the night before. If Aline should
become absorbed in him, as he was in her, a break would
be inevitable, and after a break of any kind the whole
tone of life in the garden would be changed. Bruce
thought he had suddenly got an old wisdom. Sweet
moments in life are rare. The poet has his moment of
ecstasy and then it must be put aside. He works in
a bank or is a professor in a college. Keats singing to
the nightingale, Shelley to the skylark or to the moon.
Both men going home afterwards to wives. Keats sit-
ting at table with Fanny Brawne — a little fat, growing
a little coarse — using words that jarred on the ear-
drums. Shelley and that father-in-law of his. Lord
help the good, the true and the beautiful ! The house-
hold arrangements to be discussed. What shall we
have for dinner to-night, dear? Little wonder Tom
Wills was always swearing at life. “Good morning,
Life. Do you think the day .beautiful? Well, you
see I have an attack of indigestion. I should not have
eaten the shrimps. Sea-food hardly ever agrees with
Because moments are hard to come at, because every-
thing fades quickly away, is that any reason for be-
coming second-rate, cheap, a cynic? Any little smart
newspaper scribbler can turn you out a C5mic. Anyone
can show how rotten life is, how silly love is — it’s easy.
Take it and laugh. Then take also what comes later
as cheerfully as you can. It might be that Aline felt
nothing that Bruce felt, that what to him was the ex-
perience, the high spot perhaps of a lifetime, was to
her but a passing fancy. Boredom perhaps with life,
as the wife of a rather commonplace manufacturer in
an Indiana town. Perhaps physical desire alone — a
new experience in life. Bruce thought it might be to
him what he made it and he was proud and glad of what
he thought of as his own sophistication.
On his cot at night moments of intense sadness. He
could not sleep and arose to creep out into the garden
to sit on a bench. One night it rained and the cold
rain wet him to the skin but he did not mind. Already
the number of years he had lived had passed into the
thirties and he felt himself at a turning-point. To-
day I am young and can be foolish, but to-morrow I
shall become old and wise. If I do not love fully now
I shall never love. Old men do not walk or sit in the
cold rain in a garden, looking at a dark house drenched
by the rain. They take such feelings as I now have
and turn them into poems which they publish to en-
hance their fame. A man enamored of a woman, his
physical being all aroused, is a common enough sight.
Spring comes, and men and women walk in city parks
or along country roads. They sit together on the
grass under a tree. They will do it next spring and in
the spring of the year two thousand and ten. They
did it in the evening of the day Caesar crossed the
Rubicon. Does it matter? Men who have passed the
age of thirty and who have intelligence understand such
things. A German scientist can explain perfectly. If
there is anything you do not understand in human life
consult the works of Dr. Freud.
The rain was cold and the house dark. Did Aline
sleep beside the husband she had found in France, the
man she had found upset, torn because he had been in
battles, made hysterical because he had seen men in
the raw, because once in a moment of hysteria he had
killed a man ? Well, it would not do to have Aline in
just that situation. The picture did not fit into the
scheme. If I were her accepted lover, if I possessed
her, I would have to accept the husband as a necessary
fact. Later when I have left here, when this spring
has passed, I will accept him, but not now. Bruce
went softly through the rain and touched with his
fingers the wall of the house in which Aline slept.
Something had been decided for him. Both he and
Aline were in a hushed silent place midway between
events. Yesterday there was nothing. To-morrow or
the day after, when the breach came, there would be
nothing. Well, there would be something. There
would be a thing called knowledge of life. When
he had touched the wall of the house with his wet
fingers he crept back to his cot and lay down, but
after a time arose to light a light. After all, he could
not quite escape the desire to put down something of the
feelings of the moment, to preserve them,
I am building me a house slowly — a house in which I
may live. Day by day the bricks are piled in long
rows, making walls. Doors are hung and shingles are
cut for the roof. The air is heavy with the perfume of
In the morning you may see my house building — in the
street, at the corner by the stone church — in a valley
beyond your house, where the road dips down and
crosses a bridge.
It IS morning and the house is almost complete.
It is evening and my house is in ruins. Weeds and
vines have grown in the broken walls. The rafters of
the house I aspired to build are buried in long grass.
They have decayed. Worms live in them. You will
find the ruins of my house in a street of your town, on
a country road, in a long street hung with smoke-clouds
in a city.
This is a day, a week, a month. My house is not built.
Would you come into my house? Take this key.
Bruce wrote words on pieces of paper as he sat on
the edge of his cot and as the spring rains swept over
the hill on which he lived temporarily near Aline.
My house is in the perfume of the rose that grows in
her garden, it sleeps in the eyes of a nigger who works
on the docks in New Orleans. It is built on the foun-
dation of a thought I am not man enough to express.
I am not subtle enough to build my house. No man
is subtle enough to build his house.
It perhaps cannot be built. Bruce got off his cot
and went outside again into the rain. There was a
dim light now burning in a room upstairs in the Grey
house. It might be someone was ill. How absurd!
When you are building, why not build ? When you are
singing a song, sing it. How much better to say to
oneself that Aline did not sleep. For me the lie, the
golden lie ! To-morrow or the day after I shall awake,
shall be compelled to awake.
Did Aline know? Did she secretly share in the
excitement that was so shaking Bruce, making his
fingers fumble as he worked in the garden during
the day, making it so difficult for him to raise his eyes
and look at her when there was any chance she might
be looking at him? “Well, well, take it easy. Don’t
worry. You haven’t done anything yet,” he told him-
self. After all, the whole thing, his applying for the
place in the garden, the being near her, was but an
adventure, one of the adventures of life, the sort of
adventure perhaps he had secretly been seeking when
he left Chicago. A series of adventures — ^little glow-
ing moments, flashes in darkness, and then utter dark-
ness and death. He had been told that some of the
bright-colored insects that already on warm days in-
vaded the garden lived but for a day. No good dying,
however, before your moment came, killing the mo-
ment by too much thinking.
It was a fresh adventure each day when she came
into the garden to direct his work. Now there was
some use for the gowns she had bought in Paris dur-
ing the month after Fred had left. If they were
unfitted for morning wear in a garden, did it mat-
ter? She did not put them on until after Fred left
in the morning. There were two servants in the house,
but they were both negresses. Negro women have
an instinctive understanding. They say nothing, being
wise in woman-lore. What they can get they take.
That is understood.
Fred left at eight, driving sometimes, sometimes
walking away down the hill. He did not speak to
Bruce or look at him. There was no doubt he dis-
liked the idea of the young white man working in the
garden. His dislike of the idea was in his shoulders,
in the lines of his back, as he walked away. It gave
Bruce a kind of half-ugly satisfaction. Why? The
man, her husband, he had told himself, did not matter,
did not exist — at least not in the world of his fancy.
The adventure lay in her coming out of the house,
being near him sometimes for an hour or two in the
morning and for another hour or two in the afternoon.
He shared in her plans for the garden, did things care-
fully as she directed. She spoke and he heard her
voice. When he thought her back was turned, or
when, as happened sometimes on warm mornings, she
sat on a bench, some distance away, and pretended
to read a book, he stole furtive glances. How good
that her husband could buy her expensive and simple
gowns, well-made shoes. The fact of the big wheel
company going on down the river, of Sponge Martin
varnishing automobile wheels, began to have a point.
He had himself worked in the factory for some
months, and had varnished a certain number of wheels.
Some pennies of the profits from his own labor had
perhaps gone into buying things for her to wear, a
bit of lace about the wrists, a quarter-yard of the
cloth that made the dress she wore. Good to look at
her and smile at one's own thoughts, play with one's
own thoughts. One might as well take things as they
are. He, himself, could never be a successful manu-
facturer. As for her being Fred Grey’s wife. If a
painter has painted a canvas and has hung it, does it
remain his canvas? If a man has written a poem, does
it remain his poem? What absurdity! As for Fred
Grey — he should have been glad. If he loved her, how
good to think another loved also. You are doing
well, Mr. Grey. Do 'tend up to your affairs. Make
money. Buy her many beautiful things. I do not
know how to do it. If the shoe were on the other foot.
Well, you see, it isn't. It couldn't be. Why think
The situation the better really that Aline did not
belong to Bruce, that she belonged to another. If
she belonged to him he would have to go into the
house with her, sit down with her at table, see too
much of her. The worst was that she would see too
much of him. She would find out about him. That
was hardly the point of his adventure. Now, as mat-
ters stood, she could, if the fancy came to her, think
of him as he thought of her, and he would do nothing
to disturb her thoughts. “Life is better,” Bruce whis-
pered to himself, “now that men and women have
become civilized enough not to want to see too much
of each other. Marriage is a relic of barbarism. It
is the civilized man who clothes himself and his
women, develops his decorative sense in the process.
Once men did not even clothe the bodies of themselves
or their women. Stinking hides drying on the floor
of a cave. Later they learned to clothe not only the
body but all the details of life. Sewerage came into
vogue, ladies of the court of the early French kingsr—
the Medici ladies, too — must have smelled abominably
before they learned to douse themselves with scents.”
Nowdays houses were built that allowed somewhat
for separate existence, individual existence within the
walls of the house. Better if men built their houses
even more judiciously, separated themselves more and
Let lovers creep in. Yourself become a lover creep-
ing, creeping. What makes you think you are too
ugly to be a lover ? What the world wanted was more
lovers and fewer husbands and wives. Bruce did not
think much concerning the soundness of his thoughts.
Would you question the soundness of Cezanne’s
thoughts as he stood before the canvas? Would you
question the soundness of Keats’ thoughts as he sang?
Much better that Aline, his lady, belonged to Fred
Grey — a, manufacturer of the town of Old Harbor in
Indiana. Why have factories in towns like Old Har-
bor if no Alines are to result? Are we to remain
In another mood Bruce might well wonder how
much Fred Grey knew, how much he was capable of
knowing. Can anything happen in the world without
all concerned knowing?
They would try, however, to suppress their own
knowledge. How natural and human to do so. In
war or in peace we do not kill the man we hate. We
try to kill the thing we hate in ourselves.
F red grey walked down the path to the gate
in the morning. Sometimes he turned and looked
at Bruce. The two men had not as vet spoken to each
No man likes the thought of another man, a white
man, rather good to look upon, alone all day with his
wife in a garden — no one else about but two negro
women. Negro women have no moral sense. They
will do anything. They like it maybe, don’t pretend
not to like it. That’s what makes the whites so angry
about them when they think about it. Such cattle!
If we can’t have good serious men in this country what
are we coming to?
One afternoon in May, Bruce had been down into
the town to buy some needed garden-tools, and he was
walking back up the hill and there was Fred Grey
walking just ahead of him. Fred was younger than
himself but was some two or three inches shorter.
Now that he sat all day at a desk in the factory office
and lived well, Fred was inclined to grow fat. He had
developed a paunch and his cheeks had grown puffy.
He thought it would be a good thing, for a time any-
way, to walk back and forth to his work. If Old
Harbor only had a golf-course. Someone ought to
promote one. The trouble was that there were not
enough people of his class in town to support a country
The two men were climbing up the hill and Fred was
aware of Bruce’s presence behind him. How unfortu-
nate! If he had been behind, with Bruce in front, he
could have regulated his own pace and could have spent
the time as he walked along sizing the man up. After
having glanced back and seen Bruce he did not turn
again. Had Bruce known that he had turned his head
to look? It was a question, one of those annoying
little questions that can so get on a man’s nerves.
When Bruce had come to work in the Greys’ garden
Fred had at once recognized him as the man who had
worked in the factory beside Sponge Martin, and had
asked Aline about him, but she had replied by merely
shaking her head. “Really, I know nothing about him,
but he works very well,’’ she had said. How could you
go back of that? You couldn’t. To imply, to suggest
anything. Impossible I A man can’t be a barbarian like
If Aline hadn’t loved him why had she married him?
If he had married a poor girl then he might have
grounds for suspicion, but Aline’s father was a good
sound man and had a big law-practice in Chicago. A
lady is a lady. That’s one advantage of marrying a
lady. You don’t have to be always asking yourself
When you are walking up a hill before a man who is
your gardener what is the best thing to do? In the
time of Fred’s grandfather and even in his father’s
time all men in Indiana small towns were pretty much
alike. Anyway they thought they were pretty much
alike, but times had changed.
The street up which Fred was climbing was one of
the most exclusive in Old Harbor. Doctors and law-
yers, a bank cashier, the best people in town lived up
there now. Fred had rather got the jump on them
because the house at the very top of the hill had be-
longed to his family for three generations. Three
generations in an Indiana town, particularly if you have
money, means something.
That gardener Aline had hired was always about
with Sponge Martin when he worked down at the fac-
tory; and of Sponge, Fred had a memory. When he
was a boy, he went down to Sponge’s carriage-paint-
ing shop with his father and there was a row. A good
thing, Fred thought, that times had changed. I’d fire
that Sponge, only The trouble was that Sponge
had lived in the town since he was a boy. Everyone
knew him and everyone liked him. You don’t want to
get a town down on you if you have to live there. And
then, too, Sponge was a good workman, no doubt of
that. The foreman said he could do more work than
any other man in his department and do it with one
hand tied behind him. A man had to realize his obli-
gations. Just because you own or control a factory you
can’t treat men as you please. There is an obligation
implied in the control of capital. You’ve got to realize
If Fred waited for Bruce, walked up the hill be-
side him, past the houses scattered along the hill, what
then? What would the two men talk about? “I don’t
like the looks of him much,” Fred told himself. He
There was a certain tone a factory-owner like him-
self simply had to take toward the men who worked for
him. When you are in the army it’s different, of
Had Fred been driving his car that evening it would
have been easy enough to stop and offer the gardener
a lift. That’s something different. It puts things on
a different basis. If you are driving a good car you
stop and say, “Jump in.” It’s nice. It’s democratic
and at the same time you are all right. Well, you see,
you own the car, after all. You shift the gears, step
on the gas. There is something to talk about. There
isn’t any question of whether or not one man puffs a bit
more than the other, climbing a hill. No one puffs.
You speak about the car, growl about it a little. “Yes,
it’s a good enough car, but the upkeep is too much.
Sometimes I think I will sell it and buy a Ford.” You
praise the Ford, speak of Henry Ford as a great man.
“He’s the kind of man we ought to have as President.
What we need is a good careful business administra-
tion.” You speak of Henry Ford without any tinge
of jealousy, show you are a broad-minded man. “That
peace-ship idea he had was kinda nutty, don’t you think ?
Yes, but he has sure wiped that all out since.”
But afoot! On your own legs I A man ought to
cut out smoking so much. Fred had done too much
sitting at a desk since he had got out of the army.
Sometimes he read articles in the magazines or news-
papers. Such and such a great business man was careful
[ 240 ]
about his diet. In the evening before going to bed he
drank a glass of milk and ate a cracker. In the morning
he got up early and took a brisk walk. Head clear for
business. Damn! You get a good car and then you
walk, to improve your wind, to keep in shape. Aline
was right not to care much for driving about in the
evening in the car. She liked to work in her garden.
Aline had a good figure. Fred was proud of his wife.
A fine little woman.
Fred had a story about life in the army he liked to
tell sometimes to Harcourt or to some traveling man —
“You can’t tell how men will turn out when they are
put to the test. In the army we had big men and little
men. You would think, now wouldn’t you, that the
big men would stand the grind the best? Well, you
would be fooled. We had a fellow in our company,
only weighed a hundred and eighteen. At home he had
been a drug-clerk or something like that. He hardly
ate enough to keep a sparrow alive, always seemed about
to die, but he was a fooler. Gee, he was tough. He
lasted and lasted.”
“Better walk a little faster, avoid an embarrassing
situation” — Fred thought. He increased his pace, not
too much. He didn’t want the fellow behind him to
know he was trying to avoid him. The fool might
think he was afraid of something.
Thoughts going on. Fred didn’t like such thoughts.
Why in hell hadn’t Aline been satisfied with the negro
Well, a man couldn’t say to his wife — “I don’t like
the looks of things here. I don’t like the idea of a
young white man alone with you all day in the garden.”
A man might imply — ^what — ^well, physical danger. If
he did she would laugh.
To say too much would imply Well, something
like an equality between himself and Bruce. That sort
of thing was all right in the army. You had to do it
there. But in civil life To say anything would
be to say too much, to imply too much.
Better to walk faster. Show him that although a
man sits all day at a desk, keeping things going for just
such laboring-men as himself, keeping their wages com-
ing in, people’s children fed, all that sort of thing, that
in spite of everything a man’s legs and wind are all
Fred had got to the Greys’ front gate but a few steps
ahead of Bruce, and had immediately gone into the
house without looking back. The walk had been a sort
of revelation to Bruce. This business of building him-
self up, in his own mind, as a man asking nothing —
nothing but the privilege of loving.
There had been a rather nasty inclination to taunt
her husband, make him feel uncomfortable. The foot-
steps of the gardener had constantly drawn nearer and
nearer. A sharp click-click, of heavy shoes at first
on a cement sidewalk and then on a brick pavement.
Bruce’s wind was good. He did not mind climbing.
Well, he had seen Fred look around. He knew what
was going on in Fred’s mind.
Fred — listening to the footsteps — ‘T wish some of
the men who work for me at the factory would show
that much life. I’ll bet when he worked at the factory
he never hurried to his job.”
Bruce — with a smile on his lips — a rather mean feel-
ing of satisfaction within.
“He is afraid. Then he knows. He knows but is
afraid to know.”
As they neared the top of the hill Fred had an in-
clination to run, but checked it. There was an attempt
at dignity. The man’s back told Bruce what he wanted
to know. He remembered the man Smedley who had
been such a delight to Sponge.
“We men are pleasant things. There is so much
good-will in us.”
He had got almost to the place where he could by a
special effort step on Fred’s heels.
Inside something singing — a challenge. “I could if
I wanted to. I could if I wanted to.”
S HE had got him near her and he seemed to her
dumb, afraid to speak for himself. How bold
one can be in fancy and how very difficult it is to be
bold in fact. Having him there, in the garden at work,
where she could see him every day, made her realize, as
she had never before realized, the maleness of the male,
at least of the American male. A Frenchman would
have been another problem. She was infinitely relieved
that he was not a Frenchman. What strange things
males were, really. When she was not in the garden she
could, by going upstairs into her own room, sit and look
at him. He was trying so earnestly to be a gardener,
making such a bungle of it for the most part.
And what thoughts must be going on in his head. If
Fred and Bruce but knew how, as she sat by the win-
dow upstairs, she sometimes laughed at both of them,
they might both be angry and flee the place for good.
When Fred left in the morning at eight she ran quickly
upstairs to watch him go. He walked down the path to
the front gate with an attempt at dignity, as though to
say, “I know nothing of what is going on here, in fact
I am sure nothing is going on. It is beneath my dignity
to suppose there is anything going on. To allow there
was anything going on would be too much of a come-
down. You see how it is. Watch my back as I walk
along. You see, don’t you, how unperturbed I am?
Fm Fred Grey, am I not ? As for these upstarts !”
All right for a woman to play but she must not play
too long. The males have her there.
Aline was no longer young, but her body as yet re-
tained its rather finely-drawn elasticity. Within her
body she could still walk in her garden, feeling it — ^her
body — as one might feel a perfectly-made gown. When
you get a bit older you adopt men’s notions of life, of
morality. Loveliness of person is perhaps something
like the throat of a singer. You are bom with it. You
have it or you haven’t. If you are a man and your
woman is not lovely it is your business to throw about
her person the aroma of loveliness. She will be very
thankful to you for that. It may be what the imagina-
tion is for. That at least, to the mind of the woman,
is what the male fancy is for. Of what other use is it
— to her ?
It is only when you are young that you, being a
woman, may be a woman. It is only when you are
young that you, being male, can be a poet. Hurry.
When you have crossed the line you cannot turn back.
Doubts will creep in. You will become moral and
stern. Then you must begin thinking of life after
death, get for yourself, if you can, a spiritual lover.
Negroes singing —
An’ the Lord said . . .
Negroes singing had sometimes a way of getting at
the ultimate truth of things. Two negro women sang
in the kitchen of the house as Aline sat by the window
upstairs watching her husband go down the path, watch-
ing the man Bruce digging in the garden. Bruce
stopped digging and looked at Fred. He had a certain
advantage. He looked at Fred’s back. Fred did not
dare turn to look at him. There was something Fred
had to hang onto. He was gripping something, with his
fingers, hanging onto what? Himself, of course.
Everything had become a little tense in the house and
in the garden on the hill. How much native cruelty in
women ! The two negro women in the house sang, did
their work, looked and listened. Aline was herself,
as yet, quite cool. She had committed herself to noth-
Sitting by the window upstairs or walking in the
garden one did not need to look at the man working
there, one did not have to think of another man gone
down a hill to a factory.
One could look at trees, plants growing.
There was a simple natural cruel thing called nature.
One could think of that, feel a part of that. One plant
sprang quickly up, choking another that grew beneath
it. A tree having got a better start than another
threw its shadow do\vn, choking the sunlight out
from a smaller tree. Its roots spread more rapidly
through the ground sucking up the life-giving mois-
ture. A tree was a tree. One did not question it.
Could a woman be just a woman, for a time? She
had to be that to be a woman at all.
Bruce was going about the garden plucking out
of the ground the weaker plants. Already he had
learned that much of gardening. It did not take one
long to learn.
For Aline, a feeling of life surging through her, dur-
ing the spring da)rs. Now she was herself, the woman
given her chance, perhaps the one chance she would
“The world is so full of cant, isn’t it, dear? Yes,
but it is better to seem to subscribe.’’
A flashing moment for the woman to be the woman,
for the poet to be the poet. Once she. Aline, had felt
something, one evening in Paris — ^but another woman.
Rose Frank, had got the better of her.
She had tried feebly — ^being in fancy a Rose Frank,
being an Esther Walker.
From her window above, and sometimes as she sat in
the garden holding a book, she looked searchingly at
Bruce. What nonsense books are !
“Well, my dear, we have to have something to carry
us over the dull times. Yes, but so much of life is dull,
isn’t it, dear?’’
When Aline sat in the garden looking at Bruce he
did not dare yet raise his eyes to look at her. When
he did the test might come.
She felt quite sure.
What she told herself was that he was one who could,
at moments, become blind, let go all holds, drop back
into nature from which he came, be the man to her
woman, for the moment at least.
After that had happened ?
She would wait and see what next, after that had
happened. To usk the question in advance would be
to become a man, and that she was not ready to do
Aline, smiling. There was a thing Fred could not
do but she did not as yet hate him for his inability.
That kind of hatred might come later, if nothing
happened now, if she let her chance go.
Always from the first Fred had wanted a nice, firm
little wall built about him. He wanted to be safe
behind the wall, feel safe. A man within the walls
of a house, safe, a woman’s hand holding his hand,
warmly — awaiting him. All others shut out by the
walls of the house. Was it any wonder men had been
so busy building walls, strengthening the walls, fight-
ing, killing each other, building systems of philosophy,
building systems of morality?
“But, my dear, they meet with no competition behind
the walls. Do you blame them ? It is their one chance,
you see. We women do the same thing when we get
some man safe. It is all very well having no competi-
tion when you are sure of yourself, but how long can
a woman remain sure? Do be reasonable, my dear.
It is only being reasonable that we can live with men
So few women get lovers, really. Nowadays few
men or women believe in love at all. Look at the books
they write, the pictures they paint, the music they make.
Civilization is perhaps nothing but a process of finding
out what you cannot have. What you cannot have
you make fun of. You belittle it if you can. You
make it unpleasant to others too. Throw mud at it,
jeer at it — wanting it, God knows how badly, all the
time of course.
There is a thing men do not accept. They — ^the men
are too crude. There is too much childishness in them.
They are proud, exacting, sure of themselves and their
own little systems.
All about is life but they have put themselves above
What they do not dare accept is the fact, the mystery,
Flesh is flesh, a tree is a tree, grass is grass. The
flesh of women is the flesh of trees, of flowers, of
Bruce in the garden, his fingers touching the young
trees, the young plants, was touching with his fingers
also Aline’s flesh. Her flesh grew warm. There was
a whirling, singing thing within.
On many days she did no thinking at all. She
walked in the garden, sat on a bench holding a book
What things books are, painting, sculpture, poems.
Men write, carve, paint. It is a way of dodging the
issue. .They do so like to think no issue exists. Look,
look at me. I am the center of life, the creator — when
I have ceased to exist, nothing exists.
Well, isn’t that true, for me at least?
A line walked in her garden, watching Bruce.
^It might have been more obvious to him that she
would not have gone so far, had she not been ready,
at the right moment, to go further.
She meant really to try his boldness.
There are moments when boldness is the most im-
portant attribute in life.
Days and weeks passed.
The two negro women in the house watched and
waited. Often they looked at each other and giggled.
The air on the hilltop was filled with laughter — dark
“Oh, Lord ! Oh, Lord ! Oh, Lord !” one of them cried
to the other. She laughed — a high-pitched negro laugh.
Fred Grey knew, but was afraid to know. The two
men would both have been shocked had they known
how shrewd and bold Aline — the innocent, quiet-look-
ing one — ^had become, but they would never know.
The two negro women perhaps knew but that did not
matter. Negro women know how to be quiet, when
whites are concerned.
A LINE lay in her bed. It was late in the afternoon
vTa of a day in early June. It had happened, and
Bruce had gone, where. Aline did not know. A half-
hour before, he had gone down the stairs and out of the
house. She had heard him moving along the gravel
It was a warm, fragrant day and a gentle breeze blew
across the hill and in at a window.
If Bruce were wise now he would simply disappear.
Could a man have that much wisdom? Aline smiled
at the thought.
Of one thing Aline was quite sure, and when the
thought came to her it was like a cool hand passed
lightly over hot fevered flesh.
Now she would have a child, a son perhaps. That
was the next step — the next event. One cannot be
so deeply stirred without something happening, but
what would she do when it did happen? Would she
go quietly along, letting Fred think it was his child?
Why not? The event would make Fred so proud,
so happy. There was no doubt that, since she had
married him. Aline had often been rather irritated
and bored by Fred, by his childishness, his obtuseness.
But now? Well, he had thought the factory mattered,
that his own war-record mattered, that the position of
the Grey family in the community mattered most of all ;
and these things had mattered, to him, to Aline too,
in a way, in quite a secondary way she knew now.
But why deny him what he so wanted in life, what he
at least thought he wanted? The Greys of Old
Harbor, Indiana. They had already gone on for three
generations, and that was a long time in America, in
Indiana. First a shrewd horse-trading Grey, a little
coarse, chewing tobacco, liking to bet on horse-races,
a true democrat, hail-fellow-well-met, putting cash
away all the time. Then the banker Grey, still shrewd,
but become cautious — friend to the governor of the
state, a contributor to Republican campaign funds,
once talked of mildly as a candidate for the United
States Senate. He might have got it if he hadn’t
happened to be a banker. It isn’t very good policy to
put a banker on the ticket in a doubtful year. The
two older Greys, and then Fred — not so bold, not so
shrewd. There was little doubt Fred was, in his
way, the best of the three. He wanted consciousness
of quality, sought consciousness of quality.
A fourth Grey who wasn’t a Grey at all. Her Grey.
She might name him Dudley Grey — or Bruce Grey.
Would she be bold enough to do that ? It would per-
haps be taking too many chances.
As for Bruce — well, she had selected him — ^not con-
sciously. Things had happened. She had been so
much bolder than she had planned. Really she had
only intended playing with him, exerting her power
over him. One can grow very tired and bored wait-
ing — ^waiting in a garden on a hill in Indiana.
As she lay on the bed in her own room in the Grey
house, at the top of the hill, Aline could, by turning
her head on the pillow, see along the skyline, above
the hedge that surrounded the garden, the upper part
of the figure of anyone moving along the only street
on the hilltop. Mrs. Willmott came out of her house
and went along the street. And so she also had stayed
at home on that day when all the others on the hilltop
had gone down into the town. Mrs. Willmott had hay
fever in the summer. In another week or two she
would be going away to northern Michigan. Was
she now coming to call on Aline, or was she going on
down the hillside to some other house for an afternoon's
call? If she came to the Grey house Aline had but to
lie quietly, pretending she was asleep. If Mrs. Will-
mott but knew of the events in the Grey house on that
afternoon! What joy for her, joy akin to the joy
thousands of people get from some story spread across
the front page of a newspaper. Aline trembled a
little. She had taken such chances, run such risks.
There was in her something of the satisfaction men
feel after a battle during which they have escaped
uninjured. Her thoughts were a little vulgar-human.
She wanted to gloat over Mrs. Willmott, who was
walking down the hill to call upon a neighbor, but whose
husband would later pick her up so that she would not
have to climb back to her own house. When you have
hay fever you must be careful. If Mrs. Willmott only
knew. She 4hiew nothing. There was no reason why
anyone should ever know now.
The day had begun by Fred’s getting into his soldier’s
uniform. The town of Old Harbor, following the
example of Paris, London, New York, thousands of
smaller towns and cities, was to express its sorrow
for the dead of the World War by dedicating a statue
in a small park at the river’s edge, down near Fred’s
factory. In Paris, the President of France, members
of the Chamber of Deputies, great generals, the Tiger
of France himself. Well, the Tiger won’t ever have
to argue with Prexy Wilson again, will he? He and
Lloyd George can rest now, take their ease at home.
In spite of the fact that France is the center of Western
civilization, a statue will be unveiled that would give
an artist the jimjams. In London, the King, the Prince
of Wales, the Dolly Sisters — no — no.
In Old Harbor, the Mayor, members of the City
Council, the Governor of the State, coming to deliver
an address, prominent citizens riding in automobiles.
Fred, the richest man in town walking in the ranks
with the common soldiers. He had wanted Aline
to be there, but she had just assumed that she would
stay at home, and it had been difficult for him to pro-
test. Although many of the men, with whom he would
march shoulder to shoulder — ^privates like himself —
were workmen in his factory, Fred felt rather fine
about the whole matter. This was something different
than walking up a hillside with a gardener, a workman
— really a servant. One becomes impersonal. You
march and you are a part of something bigger than
any man, you are a part of your country, of its power
and might. No man can claim equality with you be-
cause you have marched with him into battle, because
[ 260 ]
you have marched with him in a parade commemorat-
ing battles. There are certain things common to all
men — ^birth and death, for example. You do not claim
equality with a man because you and he were both
bom of women, because, when your time comes, you
will both die.
In his uniform Fred had looked absurdly boyish.
Really, if you are going to do things like that you
should not grow a little round paunch, your cheeks
should not grow fat.
Fred had driven up the hill at noon to put on the
uniform. There was a band playing downtown some-
where, and the quick march-music, blown that way
by the wind, came distinctly up the hill and into the
house and garden.
Everyone on the march, the world on the march.
Fred had such a brisk, businesslike air. He wanted
to say “come on down. Aline,” but didn’t. When he
went down the path to the car the gardener Bruce was
not in sight. Really it was nonsense his not having
managed to get a commission when he went into the
war, but what was done was done. 'There would be
men of much lower station in the town’s life who
would be wearing swords and tailor-made uniforms.
When Fred had gone Aline had stayed for two or
three hours in her room upstairs. The two negro
women were also going. Presently they went down
along the path to the gate. For them it was a gala
occasion. They had put on gayly-colored dresses.
There was a tall black woman and an older woman
with a rich brown skin and a great broad back. They
went down to the gate together, prancing a little, Aline
thought. When they got down into the town where
the men were marching and the bands were playing
they would prance more. Nigger women prancing for
nigger men. “Come on, baby !“
“Were you in the war?” “Yes, sah. Government
war, labor battalion, American Army. Dat’s me,
Aline had intended nothing, had made no plans.
She sat in her room pretending to read a book.
Howells’ “The Rise of Silas Lapham.”
The pages danced. Down below in the town the
band played. Men were marching. There was no
war now. The dead cannot arise and march. Only
those who survive can march.
Something whispered inside her. Had she really
intended? Why, after all, had she wanted the man
Bruce near her? Is every woman at bottom, first of
all, a wanton ? What nonsense !
She put the book aside and got another. Really !
Lying on the bed she held the book in her hand.
Lying thus on the bed and looking out through a win-
dow she could see only the sky and the top of trees. A
bird flew across the sky and lit in one of the branches
of a near-by tree. The bird looked directly at her.
Was it laughing at her? She had been so wise, had
thought herself superior to her husband Fred, to the
man Bruce too. As for the man Bruce, what did she
know of him?
She got another book and opened it at random.
I will not say “it matters but little,’' for on the contrary
to know the answer were of supreme importance to us.
But, in the meantime, and until we shall learn whether
it be the flower that endeavors to maintain and perfect
the life that nature has placed within it, or whether it
be nature that puts forth an eifort to maintain and
improve the degree of existence the flower has assumed,
or finally whether it be chance that ultimately governs
chance, a multitude of semblance invite us to believe
that something equal to our loftiest thoughts issues at
times from a common source.
Thoughts ! “Issues at times from a common
source.” What did the man of the book mean? Of
what was he writing? Men writing books! You do
or you don’t! What is it you want?
“My dear, books do so fill in the times between.”
Aline arose and went down into the garden carrying
the book in her hand.
Perhaps the man Bruce had gone with the others
down into the town. Well, that was hardly likely.
He had said nothing about it. Bruce was not one
of the sort who go into wars unless forced in. He was
what he was, a man wandering about, seeking some-
thing. Such men separate themselves too much from
common men and then feel lonely. They are always
going about searching — waiting — for what?
Bruce was in the garden at work. He had that day
put on a new blue uniform, such as workmen wear,
and now he stood with a garden-hose in his hand water-
ing the plants. The blue of working-men’s uniforms
is rather lovely. The rough cloth feels firm and
good under the hand. He also looked strangely like
a boy, pretending to be a workman. Fred pretending
he was a common man, a private in the ranks of life.
A strange world of pretense. Keep it up. Keep
“Keep afloat. Keep afloat.”
If you let down for a moment ?
Aline sat on a bench beneath a tree that grew on one
of the terraces of the garden and Bruce stood holding
the garden-hose on a lower terrace. He did not look
at her. She did not look at him. Really !
What did she know of him ?
Suppose she were to give him the ultimate challenge ?
But how do you do that ?
How absurd to be pretending that you are reading
a book. The band, down in the town, that had been
silent for a time, began to play again. How long since
Fred had gone? How long since the two negro
women had gone? Did the two negro women, as they
walked down the path — prancing — did they know that
while they were gone — on that day
Aline’s hands were trembling now. She arose from
the bench. When she raised her eyes Bruce was look-
ing directly at her. She went a little white.
The challenge was to come from him then? She
hadn’t known that. The thought made her a little
dizzy. Now that the test had come he did not locdc
afraid and she was horribly frightened.
Of him? Well, no. Of herself, perhaps.
She went with trembling legs along the path toward
the house and could hear his footsteps on the gravel
walk behind. The footsteps sounded firm and sure.
That day when Fred had walked up the hill, pursued by
the same footsteps She had had a sense of that,
looking from her window upstairs in the house, and had
been ashamed for Fred. Now she was ashamed for
When she had got to the door of the house and had
stepped inside, her hand reached out as though to close
the door behind herself. If she did that he would not
of course persist. He would come to the door, and
when it closed he would turn and walk away. She
would see no more of him.
Her hand reached twice for the door-knob but could
not find it. She turned and walked across the room
towards the stairs that led up into her own room.
He had not hesitated at the door. What was to
happen now would happen.
There was nothing to be done about it. She was
glad of that.
A LINE was lying on her bed upstairs in the Grey
house. Her eyes were like the eyes of a sleepy
cat. No good thinking now of what had happened.
She had wanted to have it happen, had brought it
about. It was evident Mrs. Willmott was not coming
to call on her. Perhaps she had been asleep. The
sky was very clear and blue, but already the tone was
deepening. Soon it would be evening, the negro
women come home, Fred come home. . . . One would
have to face Fred. About the negro women it did
not matter. They would think as their natures led
them to think, feel as their natures led them to feel.
You can’t ever tell what a negro woman thinks or
feels. They are like children looking at you with
their strangely soft innocent eyes. White eyes, white
teeth in a brown face — laughter. It is a laughter that
does not hurt too much.
Mrs. Willmott gone, out of sight. No more bad
thoughts. Peace to the body, to the spirit too.
How very gentle and strong he was ! At least she
had made no mistake. Would he go away now?
The thought frightened Aline. She did not want
to think of it. Better to think of Fred.
Another thought came. In reality she loved her
husband, Fred. Wom€;n have more than one way of
loving. If he came to her now, perplexed, upset
More than likely he would come feeling happy. If
Bruce had disappeared from the place for good, that
would make him happy too.
How comfortable the bed felt. What made her so
sure she would have a child now? She pictured her
husband Fred holding the child in his arms and the
thought pleased her. Afterwards she would have
other children. There was no reason why Fred
should be left in the position in which she had placed
him. If she had to lead the rest of her life living
with Fred, bearing children by him, life would not
be bad. She had been a child and now she was a
woman. Things changed in nature. That writer, the
man who wrote the book she was trying to read when
she went into the garden. The thing had not been too
well said. A dry mind, thinking things out dryly.
“A multitude of semblance invite us to believe that
something equal to our loftiest thoughts issues at
times from a common source.”
There was a sound below-stairs. The two negro
women had come home from having seen the parade
and the ceremony for the unveiling of the statue. How
good that Fred had not been killed in the war ! At any
moment now he might be coming home, he might
come directly upstairs to his room, the next one to her
own, he might come to her.
She did not move and presently she heard his foot-
steps on the stairs. Memories of Bruce’s footsteps,
going away. Fred’s footsteps coming, coming to her
perhaps. She did not mind. If he came she would
be rather glad.
He did come, pushing the door open rather timidly,
and when her eyes invited he came to sit on the edge of
“Well,” he said.
He spoke of the necessity of her preparing (or
dinner and then of the parade. It had all gone very
well. He had not felt self-conscious. Although he
did not say so she understood that he had been pleased
with his own figure marching along with the working-
men, a common man for the day. Nothing had
happened to disturb his sense of the figure such a one
as himself should cut in the life of his town. Now
perhaps, also, he would no longer be disturbed by the
presence of Bruce, but that he did not as yet know.
One is a child and then one becomes a woman, a
mother, perhaps. That may be one’s real function.
Aline, with her eyes, invited Fred, and he leaned over
and kissed her. Her lips were warm. A thrill ran
through his body. What had happened? What a day
it had been for him! If he got Aline, really got herl
There was something he had always wanted from her,
some recognition of his own manhood.
If he got that — fully, deeply, as he had never
quite. . . .
He toc4c her into his arms, held her hard against
Downstairs the negro women were preparing the
evening meal. Something had happened downtown
during the parade that had amused one of them and
she told the other.
A high-pitched negro laugh rang through the house.
L ate in the evening of an early fall day Fred
was walking up the Old Harbor hill, having
just made a contract for a national advertising cam-
paign on Grey Automobile Wheels in the magazines.
In a few weeks now it would begin. American people
did read advertising. There wasn’t any doubt of it.
One time Kipling wrote to the editor of an American
magazine. The editor had sent him a copy of the
magazine without the advertising. “But I want to see
the advertising. It’s the most interesting thing in the
magazine,’’ Kipling said.
In a few weeks now the name of the Grey Wheel
Company spread over the pages of all the national
magazines. People out in California, in Iowa, in New
York City, up in little New England towns, reading
about Grey Wheels. “Grey Wheels .are Go-Getters,”
“Road Samsons,” “Road Gulls.” What was wanted
was just the right catch-line, something to stop the
eye of the reader, make him think of Grey Wheels,
want Grey Wheels. The advertising men from Chicago
hadn’t got just the right line yet, but they would do it
all right. Advertising men were pretty smart. Some
of the advertising writers got fifteen, twenty, even forty
or fifty thousand dollars a year. They wrote down
advertising catch-lines. I tell you what, this is a
country. All Fred had to do was to “pass” on what
the advertising men wrote. They made designs, wrote
out the advertisements. All he had to do was to sit
in his office and look them over. Then his brain
decided what was good and what wasn’t. Young
fellows who were studying art made the designs.
Sometimes they got well-known painters, fellows like
Tom Burnside over in Paris. When American busi-
ness men started after a thing they got it.
Nowdays Fred kept his car in a garage down in
town. If he wanted to ride home, after an evening
at the office, he just phoned and a man came for him.
This, however, was a good night to walk. A man
had to keep himself in condition. As he passed up
through the business streets of Old Harbor, one of
the big men from the Chicago Advertising Agency
walking with him. (They had sent down their best
men. The Grey Wheel matter was important to them.)
As he walked along Fred looked up and down the
business streets of his town. Already he had helped
more than any other man to wake the little river town
half a city and now he would do a lot more. Look
what happened to Akron after they started making
tires there, look what happened to Detroit because of
Ford and a few others. As the Chicago man had
pointed out, every car that ran had to have four wheels.
If Ford can do that, why can’t you? All Ford did
was to see his opportunity and take it. Wasn’t that
just the test of a good American — come right down
Fred left the advertising man at his hotel. There
were really four advertising men but the other three
were writers. They walked by themselves, behind
Fred and their boss. “Of course bigger men, like
you and me, have really to give them their ideas. It
takes a cool head to know what to do and when to do
it and to avoid mistakes. A writer is always a little
nutty at bottom,” the advertising man said to Fred,
When they got to the hotel door, Fred, however,
stopped and waited for the others. He shook hands all
round. If a man at the head of a big enterprise gets
chesty, begins to think too well of himself
Fred walked on up the hill alone. The night was
fine and he was in no hurry. When you climbed like
that and when your breath began to come with difficulty
you stopped and stood for a while, looking, back down
into the town. Away down there was the factory.
Then the Ohio River, flowing on and on. When you
got a big thing started it did not stop. There are
fortunes in this country that can’t be hurt. Suppose
a few bad years come and you lose two or three hundred
thousand. What of it? You sit tight and wait.
Your chance will come. The country is too big and
rich for depression to last very long. What happens
is that the little fellows get weeded out. The thing to
do is to be one of the big fellows, to dominate in your
own field. Already many of the things the Chicago
man had said to Fred had become a part of his own
thinking. In the past he had been Fred Grey, of the
Grey Wheel Company, of Old Harbor, Indiana, but
now he was to become something national.
How fine that night was! At a street corner where
there was a light he looked at his watch. Eleven
o’clock. He passed on into a darker space between
lights. By looking straight ahead up the hill he could
see the blue-black sky sprinkled with brilliant stars.
When he turned to look back, and although he could not
see it, he had a consciousness of the great river down
there, the river on the banks of which he had always
lived. It would be something now if he could make
the river alive again as it was in his grandfather’s
time. Barges steaming up to the docks of the Grey
Wheel Company. Men shouting, clouds of gray
smoke from factory chimneys rolling down the river
Fred felt oddly like a happy bridegroom and a happy
bridegroom likes the night.
Nights in the army — Fred, a private marching along
a road in France. You get an odd feeling of being
little, insignificant, when you are fool enough to go
in for being a private in the army. Still there was
that day in the spring when he marched through the
Old Harbor streets, wearing his private’s uniform.
How the people had cheered! Too bad Aline hadn’t
heard it. He had sure made a hit with the town that
day. Someone had told him, “If you ever want to be
mayor or to go to Congress or to the United States
Senate even ’’
In France, going along the roads in the darkness —
the men being placed for an advance on the enemy —
intense nights, awaiting death. A fellow had to admit
to himself that it would have made some difference to
the town of Old Harbor if he had been killed in one
of the battles he had been in.
Other nights, after an advance — the horrible job
done at last. A lot of fools who never were in a
battle were always prancing to get in. A shame they
weren't given a chance to see what it was like — the
The nights after battles, intense nights, too. You
lay down on the ground maybe, trying to relax, every
nerve jumping. Lord, if a man only had a lot of real
booze now ! What about, say, two quarts of good old
Kentucky Bourbon Whisky. They don't make any-
thing better than Bourbon, do you think? A fellow
can drink a lot of it and it won't hurt him afterwards.
You ought to see some of the old fellows in our town^
Been drinking the stuff since they were boys and some
of them live to be almost a hundred.
After a battle, and in spite of the throbbing nerves
and the weariness, intense joy. I'm alive ! I'm alive !
Othefs are dead now or torn to pieces and lying back
somewhere in a hospital waiting to die, but I'm alive.
Fred walking up the Old Harbor hill thinking. He
walked a block or two and then stopped and stood
by a tree and looked back at the town. There were
a good many vacant lots still on the hillside. Once
he stood for a long time by a fence built around a
vacant lot. In the houses along the climbing streets
nearly all the people had gone to bed.
In France, after a battle, the men used to stand look-
ing at each other. ‘‘My buddy got his. I got to find
me a new buddy now."
“Hello, and so you’re still alive?”
One thought mostly of oneself. “My arms are still
here, my hands, my eyes, my legs. My body is still
whole. I’d like to be with a woman now.” Sitting
on the ground was good. It was good to feel the
ground, under the nether cheeks.
Fred remembered a night of stars, sitting by a road-
side in France with another man he had never seen
before. The man was evidently a Jew, a large man
with curly hair and a big nose. How Fred knew the
man was a Jew he couldn’t have said. You can almost
always tell. Odd notion, eh, a Jew going to war and
fighting for his country? I guess they made him go.
What would have happened had he protested? “But
I’m a Jew. I haven’t any country.” Doesn’t the
Bible say the Jew is to be the man without a country,
something of that sort? Swell chance! When Fred
was a boy in Old Harbor there was but one family of
Jews. The man owned a cheap little store down by
the river and the sons used to go to the public school.
Once Fred joined several other boys who were ragging
one of the Jewish boys. They followed him along a
street shouting, “Christ-killer ! Christ-killer I”
Odd how a fellow felt after a battle. Fred had been
seated by a roadside in France saying over and over
to himself the malicious words, “Christ-killer, Christ-
killer.” Not saying them aloud, because they would
hurt the strange man sitting beside him. Rather fun
to fancy hurting a man like that, any man, thinking
thoughts that bum and sting like bullets, without saying
The Jew, a quiet sensitive-looking man, sat beside
a road in France with Fred after a battle in which a
great many men had been killed. The dead men did
not matter. What mattered was that you were alive.
It was just such another night as the one on which he
walked up the hill in Old Harbor. The young stranger
in France looked at him and smiled, a hurt smile. He
put up a hand toward the blue-black sky sprinkled with
stars. ‘T’d like to reach up and get a handful. I'd
like to eat 'em, they look so good," he had said. When
he said it an intense passion drifted across his face.
His fingers were gripped. It was as though he wanted
to tear the stars out of the sky, to eat them, or throw
them away in disgust,
A LREADY Fred thought of himself as the father
j \ of children. He went along thinking. Since he
had got out of the war he had done well. If the
advertising plans did not all work out it would not break
him. A fellow had to take chances. Aline was to
have a child and now that she had started in that direc-
tion she might have several. You don’t want to raise
one child alone. He — or she — ought to have someone
to play with. Each child ought to have his own start
in life. They might not all be money-makers. You
can’t tell whether or not a child will be gifted.
There was the house on the hill, toward which he
was going slowly up-hill. He imagined the garden
about the house filled with the laughter of children,
little white-clad figures running among the flower-beds
— swings hung from the lower branches of the larger
trees. He would build a children’s playhouse at the
back of the garden.
No need now to think, as a fellow was going home,
what he was to say to his wife when he got there.
Since Aline had been expecting her child, how she
She had, in fact, been a changed woman ever since
that afternoon in the summer when Fred marched
in the parade. He had come home on that afternoon
and had found her just awakened from sleep, and what
a real awakening ! Women are very strange. No man
ever finds out much about them. A woman may be
one thing in the morning and then in the afternoon
she may lie down to take a nap and awaken something
quite different, something infinitely better, finer and
sweeter — or something worse. That’s what makes
marriage such an uncertain, really such a risky thing.
On that evening in the summer after Fred was in
the parade he and Aline did not come downstairs to
dinner until nearly eight o’clock and the dinner had to
be prepared a second time, but what did they care?
If Aline had seen the parade and the part Fred took
in it her new attitude might have been more under-
He had told her all about it, but that wasn’t until
after he felt the change in her. How tender she was !
Again she was as she had been that night in Paris when
he asked her to marry him. Then, to be sure, he had
just got out of the war and had been upset by hearing
a woman talk, the horrors of the war had come back
on him with a rush and had temporarily unmanned
him, but later, on that other evening, nothing like that
had happened at all. His part in the parade had been
very successful. He had expected to feel a little self-
conscious, out of place, marching as a private with a
lot of laboring-men and clerks from stores, but every-
one had treated him as though he were a general lead-
ing the parade. It was only when he came along that
the cheers really broke forth. The richest man in town
marching afoot, as a common private. He had sure
made himself strong in the town.
And then he had come home and Aline was as he
had never seen her since their marriage. Such
tenderness ! It was as though he had been ill or hurt
or something of that sort.
Talk, a stream of talk from his lips. It was as
though he, Fred Grey, had at last, after long waiting,
got himself a wife. She was so tender and thoughtful,
like a mother.
And then — two months later — when she told him she
was to have a child.
When he and Aline were first married, that after-
noon in the hotel room in Paris, when he was packing
to hurry home and someone went out of the room
and left them alone together. Later in Old Harbor,
in the evenings when he came home from the factory.
She did not want to go out to the neighbors or for a
ride in the car, and what was to be done? In the
evening after dinner he looked at her and she looked
at him. What was to be said? There was nothing
to talk about. Often the minutes passed with infinite
slowness. In desperation he read a newspaper and she
went out to walk about in the garden in the darkness.
Almost every evening he went to sleep in his chair.
How could they talk? There wasn’t anything special
to be said.
Now Fred could go home and tell Aline everything.
He told her about his plans for advertising, took
advertisements home to show her, told her of little
things that happened during the day. “We got three
big orders from Detroit. We have got a new press
down in the shop. It’s half as big as a house. Let me
tell you about how it works. Have you a pencil? I’ll
make a drawing for you.” Often when Fred went up
the hill now he thought of nothing but things to tell her.
He even told her stories picked up from salesmen —
if they weren’t too raw. When they were too raw
he changed them. It was fun being alive and having
such a woman for a wife.
She listened, smiled, seemed never to weary of his
talk. There was something in the very air of the
house nowadays. Well, it was tenderness. Often she
came and put her arms about him.
Fred walked up the hill thinking. Flashes of happi-
ness came, followed by occasional little flashes of anger.
It was queer about the feeling of anger. It always
concerned the man who had been first an employee
in his factory and then the Greys’ gardener, and who
had suddenly disappeared. Why did the fellow keep
coming back into his mind? He had disappeared at
just the time when the change had come to Aline, had
walked off without giving notice, without even waiting
to get his wages. Such fellows were like that, fly-by-
nights, unreliable, no good. A negro, an old man,
worked in the garden now. That was better. Every-
thing was better now at the Grey house.
It was walking up the hill that had made Fred think
of that fellow. He could not help remembering an-
other evening when he had walked up the hill with
Bruce at his heels. Naturally a man who works out
of doors, does common labor, has better wind than a
man who works indoors.
I’d like to know though, what would happen if
there weren’t other kinds of men too? Fred re-
membered, with satisfaction, what the Chicago adver-
tising man had said. The men who wrote advertise-
ments, who wrote for newspapers, all that sort of
fellows were really working-men, of a sort, and when
it came right down to the scratch, could they be
depended on? They could not. They hadn’t judg-
ment, that was the reason. No ship would ever get
an)rwhere without a pilot. It would just flounder and
drift around and after a while sink. Society was made
like that. Certain men had always to keep their hands
on the wheel, and Fred was one of that sort. From
the beginning he had been intended to be that sort.
F red did not want to think of Bruce. To do
so always made him a little uncomfortable.
Why? There are people like that, who get into the
mind and won’t get out. They work their way in
where they aren’t wanted. You are going along,
attending to your own affairs, and there they are.
Sometimes you meet a man who crosses you in some
way and then disappears. You have made up your
mind to forget him, but you don’t.
Fred was in his office down at the factory, dictating
letters perhaps, or he was taking a turn through the
shop. Suddenly everything stopped. You know how
it is. On certain days everything is like that.
Everything in nature seems to stop and stand still. On
such days men speak with subdued voices, go more
quietly about their affairs. All reality seems to drop
away, and there is something, a kind of mystic connec-
tion with a world outside the real world in which you
move. On such days the figures of half- forgotten
people troop back. There are men you want more
than anything else in the world to forget and you
Fred was in his office down at the factory, and some-
one came to the door. There was a knock on the
door. He jumped. Why was he always thinking,
when something of that sort happened, that it was
Bruce come back? What had he to do with the man
or the man with him? Had there been a challenge
issued and as yet unmet? The devil! When you
begin thinking such thoughts there is no telling where
you will end. Better let all such thoughts alone.
Bruce went away, disappeared, on the very day when
the change came in Aline. That was the day when
Fred was in the parade and when the two servants
went down to see the parade. All afternoon Aline
and Bruce had been alone together on the hill. Later
when Fred got home the man was gone and after
that Fred never saw him again. He had asked Aline
about it several times but she had seemed annoyed,
hadn’t wanted to talk of the matter. “I don’t know
where he is,” she had said. That was all. If a man
were to let himself go he might think. After all.
Aline had met Fred through the fact of his having
been a soldier. It was odd she hadn’t wanted to see
the parade. If a man let his fancy go he might think.
Fred had begun to get angry, walking up the hill
in the darkness. Down at the shop, he was always,
nowdays, seeing the old workman. Sponge Martin, and
whenever he saw him he thought of Bruce. “I’d like
to fire the old scoundrel,” he thought. Once the man
had been downright impudent to Fred’s father. Why
did Fred keep him around? Well, he’s a good work-
man. For a man to think that, just because he owns
a factory, he is master, is foolishness. Fred tried to
say over to himself certain things, certain little pat
phrases he was always repeating aloud in the presence
of other men, phrases about the obligations of wealth.
Suppose he faced the real truth, that he did not dare
dismiss the old workman. Sponge Martin, that he had
not dared dismiss Bruce when he worked on the hill
in the garden, that he did not dare inquire too closely
into the fact of Bruce’s sudden disappearance.
What Fred did was to fight down within himself all
doubts, all questions. If a man started on that road
where would he end ? He might end by beginning to
doubt the parentage of his own unborn child.
The thought was maddening. “What’s the matter
with me?’’ Fred asked himself sharply. He had got
almost to the top of the hill. Aline was there, asleep
now, no doubt. He tried to think of the plans for
advertising Grey wheels in the magazines. Every-
thing was coming Fred’s way. His wife loved him,
the factory was successful, he was a big man in his
town. Now there was something to work for. Aline
would have a son and another and another. He threw
back his shoulders, and, as he walked, slowly and had
not got out of breath, he walked for some distance
with head erect and shoulders thrown back, as a soldier
Fred had got almost to the top of the hill when he
stopped again. A large tree grew near the hilltop
and he stood leaning against it. What a night !
Joy, gladness in life, in the possibilities of life, all
mixed up in the mind with strange fears. It was like
being in the war again, something like the nights be-
fore a battle. Hopes and fears fighting within. I
don’t believe it’s going to happen. I won’t believe it’s
going to happen.
If Fred ever got the chance to wipe things out for
good. The war to end war, to get peace at last.
F red went across a little stretch of dirt road at
the top of the hill and reached his own gate.
His footsteps made no sound in the dust of the road.
Inside the Grey garden Bruce Dudley and Aline sat
talking. Bruce Dudley had come back to the Greys'
house at eight that evening, expecting that Fred would
be there. He had become somewhat desperate. Was
Aline his woman or did she belong to Fred ? He would
see Aline, find out if he could. He would go boldly
back to the house, march up to the door — ^himself not
a servant now. In any event, he would see Aline
again. There would be a moment of looking into each
other’s eyes. If it had been with her as with him,
during the weeks since he had seen her, then the fat
would be in the fire, something would be decided.
After all, men are men and women are women — a life
is a life. Is a whole life to be spent hungering because
someone will be hurt ? And there was Aline. Perhaps
she had only wanted Bruce for the moment, a matter
of the flesh only, a woman bored with life reaching
out for a little momentary excitement, and then, per-
haps, it might be that she felt as he did. Flesh of your
flesh, bone of your bone. Our thoughts running to-
gether in the silence of nights. Something like that.
Bruce had wandered for weeks, having thoughts — ^tak-
ing a job now and then, thinking, thinking, thinking —
of Aline. Disturbing thoughts came. “I have no
money. She would have to live with me as Sponge’s old
woman lives with Sponge.” He remembered something
that had existed between Sponge and his old woman, an
old salty knowledge of each other. A man and woman
on a sawdust pile under a summer moon. Fish-lines
out. The soft night, the river flowing silently in the
darkness, youth past, old age coming, two unmoral,
unchristian people, lying on a sawdust pile and enjojnng
the moment, enjoying each other, being part of the
night, of the sky sprinkled with stars, of the earth.
Many men and women lie together all their lives, each
hungering away from the other. Bruce had done
just that with Bernice, and then he had cut out. To
stay would have been to betray, day after day, both
himself and Bernice. Was Aline doing just that with
her husband and did she know? Would she be glad,
as he had been glad, for the opportunity to bring it to
an end? Would her heart jump with gladness when
she saw him again? He had thought he would know
when he had come again to the door of her house.
A ND so Bruce had come that evening and had found
jr\ Aline shocked, frightened and infinitely glad.
She took him into the house, touched his coat-sleeve
with her fingers, laughed, cried a little, told him of the
child, his child that would be born after a few months.
In the kitchen of the house the two negro women
looked at each other and laughed. When a negro
woman wants to go live with another man she does.
Negro men and women “takes up” with each other.
Often they stay “took up” all the rest of their lives.
White women furnish negro women with endless hours
Aline and Bruce went out into the garden. As
they stood there in the darkness, saying nothing, the
two negro women — it was their evening off — ^went
down the path laughing. What were they laughing
about? Aline and Bruce went back into the house.
A feverish excitement had hold of them. Aline
laughed and cried, “I thought it did not matter enough
to you. I thought it was only a momentary thing with
you.” They talked little. That Aline would go with
Bruce was, in some queer silent way, taken for granted.
Bruce took a deep breath and then accepted the fact.
“Oh, Lord, I’ll have to work now. I’ll have to be
definite.” Every thought Bruce had been having had
also gone through Aline’s head. After Bruce had been
with her for a half-hour, Aline went into the house
and hurriedly packed two bags, which she brought out
of the house and left in the garden. In her mind, in
Bruce’s mind, there was, all evening, the one figure —
Fred. They were but waiting for him — for his com-
ing. What would happen then ? They did not discuss
the matter. What would happen would happen. They
tried to make tentative plans — 3 . life of some kind
together. “I would be a fool if I said I did not need
money. I need it terribly, but what is to be done?
I need you more,” Aline said. To her it seemed that
at last she also was to become something definite. “I
have really just been another Esther, living here with
Fred. The test came once for Esther and she did
not dare take it. She became what she is,” Aline
thought. She did not dare think of Fred, of what
she had done to him, what she was about to do. She
would wait until he came up the hill to the house.
Fred had reached the gate leading into the garden
before he heard the voices, a woman’s voice, Aline’s
voice, and then the voice of a man. He had been hav-
ing such unquiet thoughts as he came up the hill, that
already he was a little distraught. All evening, and
in spite of the sense of triumph and well-being he had
got from his talk with the Chicago advertising men,
there had been something threatening him. For him
then the night was to be a beginning and an end. A
man gets himself placed in life, all is settled, every-
thing is going well, unpleasant things of the past are
forgotten, the future is rosy — ^and then What a
man wants is to be let alone. If life would only flow
straight on, like a river.
I am building me a house, slowly,
A house in which I may live.
It is evening and my house is in ruins,
Weeds and vines have grown in the broken walls.
Fred stepped silently inside his own garden and
stopped by the tree where, on another evening, Aline
had stood silently looking at Bruce. That was the
first time Bruce had come up the hill.
Had Bruce come again? He had. Without being
able, as yet, to see anything in the darkness, Fred knew.
He knew all, everything. Deep down within himself
he had known from the very beginning. An appalling
thought came. Since that day in France when he had
married Aline, he had been waiting for something
terrible to happen to him, and now it was about to
happen. When he had asked Aline to marry him, that
night in Paris, he sat with her behind the cathedral
of Notre Dame. Angels, white, pure women, walking
off the cathedral roof into the sky. They had just
come from that other woman, the hysterical one, the
woman who had cursed herself for her pretense, for her
own cheating in life. And all the time Fred had
wanted women to cheat, had wanted his wife Aline
to cheat, if that were necessary. It isn't what you do
that counts. You do what you can. What counts is
what you seem to do, what others think you do — come
right down to it. ‘T am trying to be a civilized man.
Help me, woman ! We men are what we are, what we
must be. White, pure women, walking off a cathedral
roof into the sky. Help us to believe in that. We
later-day men are not the men of antiquity. We can-
not accept Venus. Leave us the Virgin. We must
have something or perish.’^
Since he had married Aline, Fred had been waiting
for a certain hour to come, dreading its coming, putting
the thoughts of its coming away from him. Now it
had come. Suppose at any time during the last year —
Aline had asked him a question — ^'Do you love me?’'
Suppose he had been compelled to ask Aline that ques-
tion. What a fearful question! What does it mean?
What is love? At bottom Fred was modest. His
belief in himself, in his own power to awaken love,
was weak and wavering. He was an American man.
For him woman meant at once too much and too little.
Now he shook with fear. Now all of the vague fears
he had kept concealed within himself since that day
in Paris, when he had managed to fly away from Paris
leaving Aline behind, were to become realities. There
was no doubt in his mind as to who was with Aline.
The man and the woman were sitting on a bench some-
where near him. He could hear their voices very
distinctly. They were waiting for his coming to tell
him something, something terrible.
On that other day, when he went down the hill to the
parade, and the servants also went. ... A change had
come over Aline after that day and he had been fool
enough to think it was because she had begun to love
and admire him — ^her husband. ‘T have been a fool, a
fool.” Fred’s thoughts were making him ill. On the
day when he had gone down to the parade, when the
whole town had proclaimed him the chief man of the
town, Aline had stayed at home. On that day she had
been busy getting what she wanted, what she had always
wanted — a lover. For a moment Fred faced every-
thing, the possibility of losing Aline, what it would
mean to him. What a disgrace, a Grey of Old Harbor
— ^his wife, running away with a common laborer — men
turning to look at him on the street, down at the
office — Harcourt — ^afraid to speak of the matter, afraid
not to speak of it.
Women looking at him, too. Women being more
bold, expressing sympathy.
Fred stood leaning against a tree. In a moment
now something would take control of his body. Would
it be anger or fear? How did he know that the
horrible things he was now engaged in telling himself
were true? Well, he did know. He knew every-
thing. Aline had never loved him, he had been unable
to awaken love in her. Why? Hadn’t he been bold
enough? He would be bold. Perhaps it was not yet
He became furiously angry. What trickery! No
doubt the man Bruce he had thought well gone out
of his life, had never left Old Harbor at all. On the
very day when he was down in the town at the parade,
when he was doing his duty as a citizen and a soldier,
while they were becoming lovers, a scheme had been
concocted. The man would get out of sight, stay
out of sight, and then, when Fred was busy with his
affairs, when he was down at the factory making money
for her, the fellow would come creeping around. All
during the weeks when he had been so happy and proud,
thinking he had won Aline for himself, she had only
changed her demeanor towards him because, in secret,
she was meeting this other man, her lover. The very
child whose promised coming had so filled him with
pride was then not his child. All of the servants in his
house were negroes. Such people ! A negro had no
sense of pride, no morality. “You can’t trust a
nigger.” It might well be that Aline was keeping the
man Bruce. Women in Europe did that sort of thing.
They married some man, a hard-working, respectable
citizen like himself, who wore himself out, became old
before his time, making money for his woman, buying
her fine clothes, a fine house in which to live, and then ?
What did she do ? She kept another man hidden away,
a younger, stronger, handsomer man — a lover.
Had not Fred found Aline in France ? Well, she was
an American girl. He had found her in France, at a
place, in the presence of such people. . . . He remem-
bered vividly the evening in Rose Frank’s apartment in
Paris, the woman talking — such talk — ^the tension in
the air of the room — the men and women sitting about
— the women smoking cigarettes — ^words from a
woman’s lips — such words. That other woman — an
American also — had been at a place, at a performance
of some sort called the “Quat’z Arts Ball.” What was
that? A place evidently where ugly sensuality had cut
And Fred had thought — ^Aline
In one moment Fred felt coldly, furiously angry,
and in the next moment he felt so weak that he thought
he could not continue to stand upright on his legs.
A sharp hurtful memory came. On another eve-
ning, but a few weeks earlier, Fred and Aline had been
seated in the garden. The night was very dark and
he was happy. He had been talking to Aline of some-
thing — ^telling her, no doubt, of his plans for the
factory — ^and for a long time she sat as though not
And then she had told him something. “I am going
to have a child,” she had said, coolly, quietly, like that.
Aline could be maddening sometimes.
At such a time, when the woman you have married
tells you such a thing — the first child. . . .
The thing is to take her into your arms, hold her
tenderly. She should have cried a little, been both
afraid and glad. A few tears would have been the
most natural thing in the world.
And Aline had told him in such a cool quiet way that
for the moment he had been unable to say anything.
He just sat staring at her. The garden was dark and
her face was but a white oval in the darkness. She
was like a stone woman. And then, at that moment,
while he was looking at her and while that queer feeling
of being unable to speak had hold of him, a man had
come into the garden.
Both Aline and Fred had jumped to their feet. For
a moment they stood together thus, startled, afraid —
of what? Were they both thinking the same thing?
Fred now knew they were. They were both thinking
Bruce had come. That was it. Fred stood trembling.
Aline stood trembling. Nothing happened. A man
from one of the hotels down in the town had gone out
for an evening’s walk, and having lost his way had wan-
dered into the garden. He stood for a moment with
Fred and Aline, talking of the town and of the beauty
of the garden and the night. Both had time to recover.
When the man had gone the time for saying something
tender to Aline had passed. The announcement of the
coming birth of a son had passed like a remark about
Fred thought, trying to fight down his own thoughts.
... It might be — after all, the thoughts he was
now having might be all wrong. It might well be that,
on that other evening when he had been afraid, he had
been afraid of nothing, of shadows. On a bench near
him somewhere in the garden, the man and woman were
still talking. A few low words and then a long silence.
There was a sense of waiting — for him no doubt, for
his coming. In Fred a flood of thoughts, terrors — ^the
lust to kill strangely mingled with the desire to flee,
He began yielding to temptation. If Aline had her
lover come to her thus boldly she was, not too afraid
of being found out. One had to be very careful. The
thing was not to find her out. She had meant to defy
him. If he went boldly towards the two people and
found what he was so afraid he would find, then all
would have to come out at once. He would be com-
pelled to demand an explanation.
He fancied himself demanding an explanation — the
effort to keep his voice steady. It came — from Aline's
lips. ‘T have been waiting only to be sure. The child
you thought was to be your child is not your child. On
the day you went down into town to parade before
others I found my lover. He is here with me now.’'
If something of the sort happened then what would
Fred do? What did a man do under such circum-
stances? Well, he killed the man. But that settled
nothing. You were in a bad mess and only got into
a worse. The thing to do was to avoid a scene. It
might all be a mistake. Fred was now more afraid of
Aline than of Bruce.
He began creeping softly along a gravel path lined
with rose-bushes. By bending forward and going very
carefully it might be possible to reach the house unseen,
unheard. What would he do then ?
He would creep upstairs to his own room. Aline
had been foolish, perhaps, but she could not be a com-
plete fool. He had money, position, could provide
her with everything she wanted — her life was secure —
safe. If she had been a little reckless she would soon
get over it. When Fred had almost reached the house
a plan came into his mind but he did not dare go back
along the path. However, when the man who was
now with Aline had gone away, he would creep out of
the house again and come in noisily. She would think
he knew nothing. He would in fact know nothing
definite. Being engaged with the man. Aline had for-
gotten the passage of time. She could never have
intended being so bold, being found out.
If she were discovered, if she knew he knew, there
would have to be an explanation, a scandal — ^the Greys
of Old Harbor — Fred Grey’s wife — ^Aline, perhaps,
marching off with another man — the man a common
man, a mere factory worker, a gardener.
Fred became suddenly very magnanimous. Aline was
but a foolish child. To drive her into a corner might
ruin her life. In the end his time would come.
And now he was furiously angry at Bruce. “I’ll
get him!’’ In the library of the house, in a drawer,
there was a loaded revolver. Once, when he was in
the army he had shot a man. “I’ll wait. My time
Pride now swept through Fred and he stood up
straight in the path. He would not creep to the door
of his own house like a thief. Standing erect now, he
took two or three steps, going, however, toward the
house and not toward the place from which came the
voices. In spite of his boldness he put his feet down
very carefully on the gravel of the path. It would
be very comforting, indeed, if he could console himself
with the feeling of boldness and yet not be found out.
I T was, however, of no avail. Fred’s foot struck
a round stone and he stumbled and was compelled
to take a quick step to avoid falling. Aline’ s voice
called. “Fred,” she said, and then there was a silence,
a very pregnant silence, as Fred stood trembling in the
path. The man and woman got up from the bench
and came toward him and a sick lost feeling took posses-
sion of him. He had been right. The man with Aline
was the gardener, Bruce. When they had come to
him the three stood for some moments in silence. Was
it wrath or fear that had so taken possession of Fred?
Bruce had nothing to say. The matter to be settled
was between Aline and her husband. If Fred were
suddenly to do something violent — shoot, for example —
he would, of necessity, then become a direct participant
in the scene. He was an actor standing aside while
two other actors did their parts. Well, it was fear
had hold of Fred. He was terribly afraid, not of the
man Bruce, but of the woman Aline.
He had almost reached the house when he had been
discovered, but Aline and Bruce, having come toward
him along an upper terrace, now stood between him
and the house. Fred felt as he had felt as a soldier
when about to go into battle.
There was the same feeling of desolation, of being
utterly alone in some strangely empty place. When
you are about to go into a battle you suddenly lose all
connection with life. You are concerned with death.
Death is all about you and the past is a fading shadow.
There is no future. You are not loved. You love no
one. The sky is over your head, the ground is still
under your feet, there are comrades marching beside
you, near the road along which you advance with some
hundreds of other men — all like yourself, empty
machines — like things — trees are growing, but the sky,
the ground, the trees have nothing to do with you.
Your comrades have nothing to do with you now.
You are a disconnected thing floating in space, about
to be killed, about to try to escape being killed and to
kill others. Fred knew well the feeling he now had ; and
that he should have it again, after the war had come
to an end, after these months of peaceful living with
Aline, in his own garden, at the door of his own house,
filled him with an old horror. In a battle you are not
afraid. Being brave or cowardly has nothing to do
with the matter. You are there. Bullets will fly
about you. You will be hit or you will escape.
Now Aline did not belong to Fred. She had be-
come the enemy. In a moment she would begin to say
words. Words were bullets. They hit you or missed
and you escaped. Although for weeks Fred had been
fighting against the belief that something had happened
between Aline and Bruce, he need make that fight no
longer. Now he was to know the truth. Now, as in
a battle, he would be hit or he would escape. Well, he
had been in battles before. He had been lucky, had
escaped whole out of battles. Aline standing there be-
fore him, the house dimly seen over her shoulder, the
sky overhead, the ground under his feet, none of these
things now belonged to him. He remembered some-
thing — the young stranger beside the roadway in
France, the young Jew who had wanted to pluck the
stars out of the sky and eat them. Fred knew what
the young man had meant. He had meant that he
wanted to be a part of things again, that he wanted
things to be a part of himself.
A LINE was talking. The words came slowly, pain-
XA fully from her lips. He could not see her lips.
Her face was a white oval in the darkness. She was
like a stone woman standing there before him. She
had found she loved another man and he had come for
her. When she and Fred were in France she had been
but a girl, she had known nothing. She had thought
of marriage as just marriage — ^two people living to-
gether. Although she had done a quite unforgivable
thing to Fred, nothing of the kind had been intended.
Even after she had found her man and after they had
been lovers she had thought, she had tried. . . . Well,
she had thought she could still go on loving Fred,
living with him. It took time for a woman to grow
up just as it did for a man. We know so little of
ourselves. She had gone along telling herself lies but
now the man she loved had come back and she could
not go on lying to him or to Fred. To go on living
with Fred would be a lie. Not to go with her lover
would be a lie.
“The child I am expecting is not your child, Fred.”
Fred said nothing. What was to be said? When
you are in a battle the bullets hit you or you escape,
you live, you are glad of life. There was a heavy
silence. Seconds passed slowly, painfully. A battle
had put her arms about Fred’s neck and she might
have kissed him, but he drew a little back, his body
rigid, and the man and woman passed him as he stood
so. He was letting her go. He had done nothing.
It was evident preparations had already been made.
The man Bruce was carrying two heavy bags. Did
they have a car waiting somewhere? Where were
they going? They had reached the gate and were
passing out of the garden and into the road when he
cried out again. “Don’t do it! You can’t! Don’t
do it!’’ he cried.
A LINE and Bruce had gone. For better or worse
a new life had begun for them. Having experi-
mented with life and love they had been caught. Now
for them a new chapter would begin. They would be
compelled to face new problems, a new kind of life.
Having tried life with one woman and failed, Bruce
would have to try again. Aline would have to try
again. What curious experimental hours ahead for
them, Bruce being a laborer perhaps. Aline without
money to spend freely, without luxuries. Was what
they had done worth the price? At any rate they had
done it, they had taken a step from which they could
not draw back.
As always happens with a man and woman, Bruce
was a little afraid — ^half afraid and half tender — and
Aline’s mind took a practical turn. After all, she
was an only child. Her father would be furious for
a time, but in the end he would have to knuckle under.
The child, when it came, would stir the male senti-
mentality of both Fred and her father. Bernice,
Bruce’s wife, might be harder to handle. Still — a
little money. There was no chance her ever getting
him again. There would be a new marriage, after a
She kept touching Bruce’s arm, and because of Fred,
back there in the darkness, alone now, she wept softly.
Odd that he, wanting her so much and now that he had
got her, began almost at once thinking of something
else. He had wanted to find the right woman, a woman
he could really marry, but that was only half of it.
He wanted to find the right kind of work too.
Aline’s going away from Fred was inevitable, as had
been his leaving Bernice. It was her problem but he
still had a problem of his own.
When they had gone through the gate, out of the
garden and into the road, Fred stood stiff and rigid
for a moment and then ran down to watch them go.
His body still seemed frozen with fear and horror.
Of what? Of everything sweeping down on him at
once, without warning. Well, something within had
been trying to warn him. “To hell with that!” That
Chicago man he had just left at the door of the
hotel downtown, his words. “There are certain men
who can get into so strong a position they can’t be
touched. Nothing can happen to them.” He had
meant money of course. “Nothing can happen. Noth-
ing can happen.” The words rang in Fred’s ears. How
he hated the Chicago man. In a moment now, Aline,
who was walking beside her lover along the short stretch
of road at the top of the hill, would turn back. Fred
and Aline would begin a new life together. It would
happen so. It would have to happen so. His mind
leaped back to money. If Aline went away with Bruce
she would not have any money. Ha !
Bruce and Aline did not go down along one of the
two roads into the town, but took a little-used path that
led abruptly down the hillside to the river-road below.
It was the path Bruce had been in the habit of taking
when, on Sundays, he went down to dine with Sponge
Martin and his wife. The path was steep and over-
grown with weeds and bushes. Bruce went ahead,
carrying the two bags, and Aline followed, without
looking back. She was crying, but Fred did not know.
First her body disappeared, then her shoulders and
finally her head. She seemed sinking into the ground,
going down into darkness that way. Perhaps she had
not dared look back. If she had turned she might
have lost courage. Lot’s wife — the pillar of salt. Fred
wanted to shout at the top of his voice — “Look, Aline I
Look !’’ He said nothing.
The path taken was one used only by laborers and
servants who worked in the houses on the hill. It
dropped abruptly down to the old road that followed
the river and Fred remembered that when he was a
boy he used to climb down that way with other boys.
Sponge Martin lived down there in the old brick house
that had once been a part of the stable of an inn when
the road was the only one leading into the little river
“It is all a lie. She will come back. She knows that
if she is not here in the morning there will be talk.
She won’t dare. In a moment now she will come back
up the hill. I will take her back but in the future life
in our house will be somewhat different. I will be boss
here. I will tell her what she can do and what she
can’t do. No more foolishness now.”
The two people had completely disappeared. How
very quiet the night ! Fred moved heavily toward the
house and went inside. He pressed a button and the
lower part of the house was lighted. How strange his
house seemed, the room in which he stood. There was
the large chair in which, in the evening, he habitually
sat reading the evening paper while Aline walked out-
side in the garden. In his youth Fred had played base-
ball and he had never lost interest in the sport. In
the evenings during the summer he always looked to
see how the various league teams were getting along.
Would the Giants win the pennant again ? Quite auto-
matically he picked up the evening paper and then threw
Fred sat in the chair, his head in his hands, but
quickly got up. He remembered that, in a drawer in a
little room on the ground floor of the house, a room
called the library, there was a loaded revolver, and he
went and got it, and, standing in the lighted room, held
it in his hands. He looked at it dumbly. The minutes
passed. The house seemed unbearable to him and he
went out again into the garden and sat on the bench
where he had been seated with Aline that time when she
told him of the expected coming of the child — ^the child
that was not his child.
^^One who has been a soldier, a man who is really a
man, a man who deserves the respect of his fellow
men, does not sit calmly by and let another man go aw^y
with his woman.”
Fred said the words over to himself as though speak-
ing to a child, telling the child what should be done.
Then he went into the house again. Well, he was a
man of action, a doer. Now was the time to do some-
thing. Now he had begun to grow angry, but did not
know definitely whether he was angry at Bruce, Aline
or himself. By something like a conscious effort he
directed his anger toward Bruce. He was the man.
Fred tried to centralize his feelings. His anger would
not gather itself together. He was angry at the Chi-
cago advertising man he had been with an hour before,
at the servants in his house, at the man Sponge Mar-
tin, who had been Bruce Dudley’s friend. “I’ll not go
into that advertising scheme at all,’’ he declared to him-
self. For a moment he wished that one of the negro
servants in his house would come into the room. He
would raise the revolver and fire. Someone would be
killed. His manhood would have asserted itself.
Negroes are such people ! “They have no moral sense.”
For just a moment he was tempted to press the muzzle
of the revolver to his own head and fire, and then that
temptation passed quickly away.
G oing softly and silently out of the house and
leaving the lights burning Fred went hurriedly
along the path to the garden gate and out into the road.
Now he had decided to find the man Bruce and kill
him. His hand gripped the handle of the revolver and
he ran along the road and began to climb hurriedly
down the steep path to the lower road. Occasionally
he fell. The path was very steep and uncertain. How
had Aline and Bruce managed to get down? They
might be somewhere below. He would shoot Bruce
and then Aline would come back. All would be as it
was before Bruce had appeared and brought ruin to
himself and Aline. If Fred, when he became owner
of the Grey Wheel Plant, had only fired that old scoun-
drel, Sponge Martin.
He still clung to the notion that at any moment he
might come upon Aline making her way painfully up
the path. Occasionally he stopped to listen. When he
had got down to the lower road, he stood for some
minutes. Near him there was a place where the current
ran in close to the shore and a part of the old river-
road had been eaten away. Someone had tried, by
dumping wagon-loads of rubbish, the branches of trees,
a few tree-trunks, to stop the river’s hungry gnawing
at the land. What a silly notion — that a river like the
Ohio could be turned aside from its purpose so easily.
Someone might, however, be concealed in the pile of
brush. Fred went toward it. The river made a soft
rushing sound at just that place. Away off somewhere,
up or down river, there was the faint sound of a
steamer’s whistle. It was like someone coughing in a
dark house at night.
Fred had determined to kill Bruce. That would be
the thing now, wouldn’t it ? After it was done, no more
words need be said. There need be no more terrible
words from Aline’s lips. “The child I am expecting is
not your child.’’ What an idea! “She can’t — she can’t
be such a fool.”
He began to run along the river-road toward the
town. There was a thought in his mind. It might be
that Bruce and Aline had gone to Sponge Martin’s
house and that he would find them there. There was
some kind of conspiracy. The man, Sponge Martin,
had always hated the Greys. When Fred was a boy, in
Sponge Martin’s shop. Well, insults had been hurled
at Fred’s father. “If you try it I’ll beat you up. This
is my shop. I won’t be hurried into doing bum work
by you or anyone else.” A man like that, a little work-
man in a town where Fred’s father was the principal
Fred kept stumbling as he ran but held the handle of
the revolver tightly. When he had got to the Martin
house and found it dark he went boldly up and began
pounding on the door with the handle of the revolver
Silence. Fred grew furious again, and when he had
got into the road fired the revolver, not, however, at
the house, but at the silent dark river. What a notion.
After the shot all was still. The sound of the shot
had aroused no one. The river flowed on in the dark-
ness. He waited. In the distance somewhere there
was a shout.
He began walking back along the road and now he
had grown weak and tired. He wanted to sleep. Well,
Aline had been like a mother to him. When he was
discouraged or upset she was someone to talk to. Lately
she had been more and more like a mother. Could a
mother so desert a child? He again became sure that
Aline would come back. When he had got back to the
place where the path went up the side of the hill she
would be waiting. It might be true she loved the other
man but there could be more than one kind of love. Let
that go. He wanted peace now. Perhaps she got some-
thing from him that Fred could not give, but, after
all, she had only gone away for a time. The man was
just getting out of the country. He had two bags when
he went away. Aline had but gone down the hillside
path to bid him good-bye. The lovers’ parting, eh? A
woman who is married has her duties to perform. All
old-fashioned women were like that. Aline was not a
new woman. She came from good people. Her father
was a man to be respected.
Fred had become almost cheerful again, but when
he got to the brush-pile at the foot of the path and found
»io one there he again gave way to grief. Sitting down
on the log in the darkness he let the revolver fall to
the ground at his feet and put his face in his hands.
He sat for a long time, crying as a child might have
T he night continued very dark and silent. Fred
had got up the steep hill and into his own house.
Going upstairs and into his room he undressed quite
automatically, in the darkness. Then he got into bed.
In the bed he lay exhausted. The minutes passed. In
the distance he heard footsteps, then voices.
Were they coming back now, Aline and her man, did
they want to torture him some more?
If she came back now! She would see who was
master in the Grey house.
If she did not come, there would have to be some
sort of explanations.
He would say she had gone to Chicago.
“She has gone to Chicago. She has gone to
Chicago.” He whispered the words aloud.
The voices in the road before the house belonged to
the two negro women. They had come up from their
evening down in town bringing two negro men with
“She has gone to Chicago. She has gone to
After all, people would have to stop asking questions
after a time. In Old Harbor, Fred Grey was a strong
man. He would go right ahead with his advertising
plans, get stronger and stronger.
That Bruce ! Shoes twenty to thirty dollars a pair.
Fred wanted to laugh. He tried but couldn't. Those
absurd words kept ringing in his ears. “She has gone
to Chicago.” He could hear himself saying it to Har-
court and others — smiling while he said it.
A brave man. What one does is to smile.
When one gets out of anything there is a sense of
relief. In war, in a battle, when one is wounded — a,
sense of relief. Now Fred would not have to play a
part any more, be a man to some woman’s woman. That
would be up to Bruce.
In war, when you are wounded, a strange feeling of
relief. “That’s done. Now get well.”
“She has gone to Chicago.” That Bruce! Shoes
twenty to thirty dollars a pair. A workman, a gar-
dener. Ho, ho !
Why couldn’t Fred laugh? He kept trying but
failed. In the road before the house one of the negro
women now laughed. There was a shuffling sound.
The older negro woman tried to quiet the younger,
blacker woman, but she kept laughing the high shrill
laughter of the negress. “I knowed it, I knowed it, all
the time I knowed it,” she cried, and the high shrill
laughter ran through the garden and into the room
where Fred sat upright and rigid in bed.