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Aurele 6. Roy
2OO-I9 36th Avenue
Bayside, Queens New York
BY F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
THIS SIDE OP PARADISE
THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
TALES OF THE
JAZZ AGE '/
F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
COPYRIGHT, 1920. BY THE VANITY FAIR PUB. CO., INC.
COPYRIGHT, 1920. 3821, BY THE METROPOLITAN PUBLICATIONS, INC
COPYRIGHT, i20, BY THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
COPYRIGHT. 1920. BY THE CURTIS PUBLISHING CO.
COPYRIGHT, 1920. 1921. BY THE SMART SET CO.
Printed in the United States of America
Published September, 1922
TO MY MOTHER
A TABLE OF CONTENTS
MY LAST FLAPPERS
THE JELLY-BEAN Page 3
This is a Southern story, with the scene laid in the small city
of Tarleton, Georgia. I have a profound affection for Tarleton,
but somehow whenever I write a story about it I receive letters
from all over the South denouncing me in no uncertain terms.
" The Jelly-Bean," published in "The Metropolitan," drew
its full share of these admonitory notes.
It was written under strange circumstances shortly after my
first novel was published, and, moreover, it was the first story in
which I had a collaborator. For, finding that I was unable to
manage the crap-shooting episode, I turned it over to my wife,
who, as a Southern girl, was presumably an expert on the tech-
nique and terminology of that great sectional pastime.
THE CAMEL'S BACK Page 27
I suppose that of all the stories I have ever written this one
cost me the least travail and perhaps gave me the most amuse-
ment. As to the labor involved, it was written during one day
in the city of New Orleans, with the express purpose of buying
a platinum and diamond wrist watch which cost six hundred
dollars. I began it at seven in the morning and finished it at
two o'clock the same night. It was published in the "Saturday
Evening Post" in 1920, and later included in the O. Henry
Memorial Collection for the same year. I like it least of all
the stories in this volume.
My amusement was derived from the fact that the camel part
of the story is literally true ; in fact, I have a standing engage-
ment with the gentleman involved to attend . he next fancy-dress
party to which we are mutually invited, attireJ as the latter part
of the camel this as a sort of atonement for being his historian.
viii A TABLE OF CONTENTS
This somewhat unpleasant tale, published as a novelette in
the "Smart Set" in July, 1920, relates a series of events which
took place in the spring of the previous year. Each of the three
events made a great impression upon me. In life they were
unrelated, except by the general hysteria of that spring which
inaugurated the Age of Jazz, but in my story I have tried, un-
successfully I fear, to weave them into a pattern a pattern
which would give the effect of those months in New York as they
appeared to at least one member of what was then the younger
PORCELAIN AND PINK Page 126
"And do you write for any other magazines?" inquired the
"Oh, yes," I assured her. "I've had some stories and plays
in the 'Smart Set,' for instance "
The young lady shivered.
" The ' Smart Set '/"she exclaimed. " How can you ? Why,
they publish stuff about girls in blue bathtubs, and silly things
And I had the magnificent joy of telling her that she was re-
ferring to "Porcelain and Pink," which had appeared ther*,
several months before.
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ . Page 141
These next stories are written in what, were I of imposing
stature, I should call my "second manner." "The Diamond
as Big as the Ritz," which appeared last summer in the "Smart
Set," was designed utterly for my own amusement. I was in
that familiar mood characterized by a perfect craving for luxury,
and the story began as an attempt to feed that craving on im-
One well-known critic has been pleased to like this extrava-
ganza better than anything I have written. Personally I prefer
" The Of Shore Pirate." But, to tamper slightly with Lincoln :
If you like this sort of thing, this, possibly, is the sort of thing
A TABLE OF CONTENTS ix
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN
BUTTON Page 192
This story was inspired by a remark of Mark Twain's to the
effect that it was a pity iliat the best part of life came at the
beginning and the worst part at the end. By trying the ex-
periment upon only one man in a perfectly normal world I
have scarcely given his idea a fair trial. Several weeks after
completing it, I discovered an almost identical plot in Samuel
Butter's " Note-books."
The story was published in "Collier's" last summer and
provoked this startling letter from an anonymous admirer in
I have read the story Benjamin Button in Colliers and I
wish to say that as a short story writer you would make a good
lunatic I have seen many peices of cheese in my life but of all
the peices of cheese I have ever seen you are the biggest peice.
I hate to waste a peice of stationary on you but I will."
TARQUIN OF CHEAPSIDE Page 225
Written almost six years ago, this story is a product of under-
graduate days at Princeton. Considerably revised, it was pub-
lished in the l i Smart Set " in 1921. At the time of its conception
I had but one idea to be a poet and the fact that I was in-
terested in the ring of every phrase, that I dreaded the obvious
in prose if not in plot, shows throughout. Probably the peculiar
affection I feel for it depends more upon its age than upon any
RUSSET WITCH! Page 234
When this was written! had just completed the first draft of my
second novel, and a natural reaction made me revel in a story
wherein none of the characters need be taken seriously. And I'm
afraid that I was somewhat carried away by the feeling that there
was no ordered scheme to which I must conform. After due con-
sideration, however, I have decided to let it stand as it is, although
the reader may find himself somewhat puzzled at the time ele-
ment. I had best say that however the years may have dealt with
Merlin Grainger, I myself was thinking always in the present.
It was published in the "Metropolitan"
A TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE LEES OF HAPPINESS Page 275
Of this story I can say that it came to me in an irresistible
form, crying to be written. It will be accused perhaps of being
a mere piece of sentimentality, but, as I saw it, it was a great
deal more. If, therefore, it lacks the ring of sincerity, or even
of tragedy, the fault rests not with the theme but with my han-
dling of it.
It appeared in the "Chicago Tribune," and later obtained,
I believe, the quadruple gold laurel leaf or some such encomium
from one of the anthologists who at present swarm among us.
The gentleman I refer to runs as a rule to stark melodramas
with a volcano or the ghost of John Paul Jones in the role of
Nemesis, melodramas carefully disguised by early paragraphs
in Jamesian manner which hint dark and subtle complexities
to follow. On this order :
" The case of Shaw McPhee, curiously enough, had no bear-
ing on the almost incredible attitude of Martin Sulo. This is
parenthetical and, to at least three observers, whose names for
the present I must conceal, it seems improbable, etc., etc., etc.,"
until the poor rat of fiction is at last forced out into the open
and the melodrama begins.
MR. ICKY Page 302
This has the distinction of being the only magazine piece
ever written in a New York hotel. The business was done in
a bedroom in the Knickerbocker, and shortly afterward that
memorable hostelry closed its doors forever.
When a fitting period of mourning had elapsed it was pub-
lished in the "Smart Set."
JEMINA Page 311
Written, like " Tarquin of Cheapside," while I was at Prince-
ton, this sketch was published years later in "Vanity Fair."
For its technique I must apologize to Mr. Stephen Leacock.
I have laughed over it a great deal, especially when I first
wrote it, but I can laugh over it no longer. Still, as other people
A TABLE OF CONTENTS xi
tell me it is amusing, I include it here. It seems to me worth
preserving a few years at least until the ennui of changing
fashions suppresses me, my books, and it together.
With due apologies for this impossible Table of Contents, I
tender these tales of the Jazz Age into the hands of those who
read as they run and run as they read.
MY LAST FLAPPERS
JIM POWELL was a Jelly-bean. Much as I desire to
make him an appealing character, I feel that it would
be unscrupulous to deceive you on that point. He was
a bred-in-the-bone, dyed-in-the-wool, ninety-nine three-
quarters per cent Jelly-bean and he grew lazily all during
Jelly-bean season, which is every season, down in the
land of the Jelly-beans well below the Mason-Dixon line.
Now if you call a Memphis man a Jelly-bean he will
quite possibly pull a long sinewy rope from his hip
pocket and hang you to a convenient telegraph-pole.
If you call a New Orleans man a Jelly-bean he will prob-
ably grin and ask you who is taking your girl to the
Mardi Gras ball. The particular Jelly-bean patch
which produced the protagonist of this history lies
somewhere between the two a little city of forty thou-
sand that has dozed sleepily for forty thousand years in
southern Georgia, occasionally stirring in its slumbers
and muttering something about a war that took place
sometime, somewhere, and that everyone else has for-
gotten long ago.
Jim was a Jelly-bean. I write that again because it
has such a pleasant sound rather like the beginning of
a fairy story as if Jim were nice. It somehow gives
me a picture of him with a round, appetizing face and
all sorts of leaves and vegetables growing out of his cap.
But Jim was long and thin and bent at the waist from
stooping over pool-tables, and he was what might have
been known in the indiscriminating North as a corner
loafer. " Jelly-bean" is the name throughout the un-
dissolved Confederacy for one who spends his life con-
4 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
jugating the verb to idle in the first person singular I
am idling, I have idled, I will idle.
Jim was born in a white house on a green corner. It
had four weather-beaten pillars in front and a great
amount of lattice-work in the rear that made a cheerful
criss-cross background for a flowery sun-drenched lawn.
Originally the dwellers in the white house had owned
the ground next door and next door to that and next
door to that, but this had been so long ago that even
Jim's father scarcely remembered it. He had, in fact,
thought it a matter of so little moment that when he
was dying from a pistol wound got in a brawl he neglected
even to tell little Jim, who was five years old and miser-
ably frightened. The white house became a boarding-
house run by a tight-lipped lady from Macon, whom
Jim called Aunt Mamie and detested with all his soul.
He became fifteen, went to high school, wore his hair
in black snarls, and was afraid of girls. He hated his
home where four women and one old man prolonged
an interminable chatter from summer to summer about
what lots the Powell place had originally included and
what sort of flowers would be out next. Sometimes
the parents of little girls in town, remembering Jim's
mother and fancying a resemblance in the dark eyes
and hair, invited him to parties, but parties made
him shy and he much preferred sitting on a dis-
connected axle in Tilly's Garage, rolling the bones or
exploring his mouth endlessly with a long straw. For
pocket money, he picked up odd jobs, and it was due to
this that he stopped going to parties. At his third
party little Marjorie Haight had whispered indiscreetly
and within hearing distance that he was a boy who
brought the groceries sometimes. So instead of the
two-step and polka, Jim had learned to throw any
number he desired on the dice and had listened to spicy
THE JELLY-BEAN 5
tales of all the shootings that had occurred in the sur-
rounding country during the past fifty years.
He became eighteen. The war broke out and he
enlisted as a gob and polished brass in the Charleston
Navy-yard for a year. Then, by way of variety, he
went North and polished brass in the Brooklyn Navy-
yard for a year.
When the war was over he came home. He was
twenty-one, his trousers were too short and too tight.
His buttoned shoes were long and narrow. His tie was
an alarming conspiracy of purple and pink marvellously
scrolled, and over it were two blue eyes faded Like a
piece of very good old cloth long exposed to the sun.
In the twilight of one April evening when a soft
gray had drifted down along the cottonfields and over
the sultry town, he was a vague figure leaning against
a board fence, whistling and gazing at the moon's rim
above the lights of Jackson Street. His mind was work-
ing persistently on a problem that had held his attention
for an hour. The Jelly-bean had been invited to a
Back in the days when all the boys had detested all
the girls, Clark Darrow and Jim had sat side by side in
school. But, while Jim's social aspirations had died
in the oily air of the garage, Clark had alternately fallen
in and out of love, gone to college, taken to drink, given
it up, and, in short, become one of the best beaux of the
town. Nevertheless Clark and Jim had retained a friend-
ship that, though casual, was perfectly definite. That
afternoon Clark's ancient Ford had slowed up beside
Jim, who was on the sidewalk and, out of a clear sky,
Clark had invited him to a party at the country club.
The impulse that made him do this was no stranger
than the impulse which made Jim accept. The latter
was probably an unconscious ennui, a half -frightened
6 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
sense of adventure. And now Jim was soberly think-
ing it over.
He began to sing, drumming his long foot idly on a
stone block in the sidewalk till it wobbled up and down
in time to the low throaty tune:
"One mile from Home in Jelly-bean town,
Lives Jeanne, the Jetty-bean Queen.
She loves her dice and treats 'em nice ;
No dice would treat her mean"
He broke off and agitated the sidewalk to a bumpy
"Daggone!" he muttered, half aloud.
They would all be there the old crowd, the crowd
to which, by right of the white house, sold long
since, and the portrait of the officer in gray over the
mantel, Jim should have belonged. But that crowd
had grown up together into a tight little set as gradu-
ally as the girls' dresses had lengthened inch by inch,
as definitely as the boys' trousers had dropped suddenly
to their ankles. And to that society of first names and
dead puppy-loves Jim was an outsider a running mate
of poor whites. Most of the men knew him, con-
descendingly; he tipped his hat to three or four girls.
That was all.
When the dusk had thickened into a blue setting for
the moon, he walked through the hot, pleasantly
pungent town to Jackson Street. The stores were closing
and the last shoppers were drifting homeward, as if borne
on the dreamy revolution of a slow merry-go-round. A
street-fair farther down made a brilliant alley of vari-
colored booths and contributed a blend of music to the
night an oriental dance on a calliope, a melancholy
bugle in front of a freak show, a cheerful rendition of
"Back Home in Tennessee" on a hand-organ.
THE JELLY-BEAN 7
The Jelly-bean stopped in a store and bought a collar.
Then he sauntered along toward Soda Sam's, where he
found the usual three or four cars of a summer evening
parked in front and the little darkies running back and
forth with sundaes and lemonades.
It was a voice at his elbow Joe Ewing sitting in
an automobile with Marylyn Wade. Nancy Lamar and
a strange man were in the back seat.
The Jelly-bean tipped his hat quickly.
"Hi, Ben ' then, after an almost imperceptible
pause "How y' all?"
^as/ing, he ambled on toward the garage where he
had a room up-stairs. His "How y' all " had been said to
Nancy Lamar, to whom he had not spoken in fifteen years.
Nancy had a mouth like a remembered kiss and
shadowy eyes and blue-black hair inherited from her
mother who had been born in Budapest. Jim passed
her often in the street, walking small-boy fashion with
her hands in her pockets and he knew that with her
inseparable Sally Carrol Hopper she had left a trail of
broken hearts from Atlanta to New Orleans.
For a few fleeting moments Jim wished he could
dance. Then he laughed and as he reached his door
began to sing softly to himself:
"Her Jelly Roll can twist your soul,
Her eyes are big and brown,
She's the Queen of the Queens of the Jelly-beans
My Jeanne of Jelly-bean Town"
At nine-thirty Jim and Clark met in front of Soda
Sam's and started for the Country Club in Clark's
8 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Jim," asked Clark casually, as they rattled through
the jasmine-scented night, "how do you keep alive ?"
The Jelly-bean paused, considered.
"Well," he said finally, "I got a room over Tilly's
garage. I help him some with the cars in the afternoon
an' he gives it to me free. Sometimes I drive one of
his taxies and pick up a little thataway. I get fed up
doin' that regular though."
"Well, when there's a lot of work I help him by the
day Saturdays usually and then there's one main
source of revenue I don't generally mention. Maybe
you don't recollect I'm about the champion crap-shooter
of this town. They make me shoot from a cup now
because once I get the feel of a pair of dice they just roll
Clark grinned appreciatively.
"I never could learn to set J em so's they'd do what I
wanted. Wish you'd shoot with Nancy Lamar some
day and take all her money away from her. She will roll
'em with the boys and she loses more than her daddy can
afford to give her. I happen to know she sold a good
ring last month to pay a debt."
The Jelly-bean was non-committal.
"The white house on Elm Street still belong to you ?"
Jim shook his head.
"Sold. Got a pretty good price, seein' it wasn't
in a good part of town no more. Lawyer told me to
put it into Liberty bonds. But Aunt Mamie got so she
didn't have no sense, so it takes all the interest to keep
her up at Great Farms Sanitarium.
"I got an old uncle up-state an' I reckin I kin go up
there if ever I get sure enough pore. Nice farm, but
not enough niggers around to work it. He's asked me
THE JELLY-BEAN 9
to come up and help him, but I don't guess I'd take
much to it. Too doggone lonesome ' He broke off
suddenly. "Clark, I want to tell you I'm much obliged
to you for askin' me out, but I'd be a lot happier if you'd
just stop the car right here an 7 let me walk back into
"Shucks!" Clark grunted. "Do you good to step
out. You don't have to dance just get out there on
the floor and shake."
"Hold on," exclaimed Jim uneasily, "Don't you go
leadin' me up to any girls and leavin' me there so I'll
have to dance with 'em."
"'Cause," continued Jim desperately, "without you
swear you won't do that I'm agoin' to get out right
here an' my good legs goin' carry me back to Jackson
They agreed after some argument that Jim, unmo-
lested by females, was to view the spectacle from a
secluded settee in the corner where Clark would join
him whenever he wasn't dancing.
So ten o'clock found the Jelly-bean with his legs
crossed and his arms conservatively folded, trying to
look casually at home and politely uninterested in the
dancers. At heart he was torn between overwhelming
self-consciousness and an intense curiosity as to all
that went on around him. He saw the girls emerge
one by one from the dressing-room, stretching and plum-
ing themselves like bright birds, smiling over their
powdered shoulders at the chaperones, casting a quick
glance around to take in the room and, simultaneously,
the room's reaction to their entrance and then, again
like birds, alighting and nestling in the sober arms of
their waiting escorts. Sally Carrol Hopper, blonde and
lazy-eyed, appeared clad in her favorite pink and bunk-
io TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
ing like an awakened rose. Marjorie Haight, Marylyn
Wade, Harriet Gary, all the girls he had seen loitering
down Jackson Street by noon, now, curled and bril-
liantined and delicately tinted for the overhead lights,
were miraculously strange Dresden figures of pink and
blue and red and gold, fresh from the shop and not yet
He had been there half an hour, totally uncheered
by Clark's jovial visits which were each one accom-
panied by a " Hello, old boy, how you making out?"
and a slap at his knee. A dozen males had spoken to
him or stopped for a moment beside him, but he knew
that they were each one surprised at finding him there
and fancied that one or two were even slightly resent-
ful. But at half past ten his embarrassment suddenly
left him and a pull of breathless interest took him com-
pletely out of himself Nancy Lamar had come out of
She was dressed in yellow organdie, a costume of a
hundred cool corners, with three tiers of ruffles and a
big bow in back until she shed black and yellow around
her in a sort of phosphorescent lustre. The Jelly-bean's
eyes opened wide and a lump arose in his throat. For
a minute she stood beside the door until her partner
hurried up. Jim recognized him as the stranger who
had been with her in Joe Ewing's car that afternoon.
He saw her set her arms akimbo and say something in
a low voice, and laugh. The man laughed too and Jim
experienced the quick pang of a weird new kind of pain.
Some ray had passed between the pair, a shaft of
beauty from that sun that had warmed him a moment
since. The Jelly-bean felt suddenly like a weed in a
A minute later Clark approached him, bright-eyed
THE JELLY-BEAN n
"Hi, old man," he cried with some lack of originality.
"How you making out?"
Jim replied that he was making out as well as could
"You come along with me," commanded Clark.
"I've got something that'll put an edge on the eve-
Jim followed him awkwardly across the floor and up
the stairs to the locker-room where Clark produced a
flask of nameless yellow liquid.
"Good old corn."
Ginger ale arrived on a tray. Such potent nectar
as "good old corn" needed some disguise beyond seltzer.
"Say, boy," exclaimed Clark breathlessly, "doesn't
Nancy Lamar look beautiful?"
"Mighty beautiful," he agreed.
"She's all dolled up to a fare-you-well to-night,"
continued Clark. "Notice that fellow she's with ?"
"Big fella? White pants?"
"Yeah. Well, that's Ogden Merritt from Savannah.
Old man Merritt makes the Merritt safety razors.
This fella's crazy about her. Been chasing after her
"She's a wild baby," continued Clark, "but I like
her. So does everybody. But she sure does do crazy
stunts. She usually gets out alive, but she's got scars
all over her reputation from one thing or another she's
"That so?" Jim passed over his glass. "That's
"Not so bad. Oh, she's a wild one. Shoots craps,
say, boy! And she do like her high-balls. Promised
I'd give her one later on."
"She in love with this Merritt ?"
12 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Damned if I know. Seems like all the best girls
around here marry fellas and go off somewhere."
He poured himself one more drink and carefully
corked the bottle.
" Listen, Jim, I got to go dance and I'd be much
obliged if you just stick this corn right on your hip as
long as you're not dancing. If a man notices I've had
a drink he'll come up and ask me and before I know it
it's all gone and somebody else is having my good time."
So Nancy Lamar was going to marry. This toast of
a town was to become the private property of an indi-
vidual in white trousers and all because white trousers'
father had made a better razor than his neighbor. As
they descended the stairs Jim found the idea inex-
plicably depressing. For the first time in his life
he felt a vague and romantic yearning. A picture of
her began to form in his imagination Nancy walking
boy like and debonnaire along the street, taking an
orange as tithe from a worshipful fruit-dealer, charg-
ing a dope on a mythical account at Soda Sam's, as-
sembling a convoy of beaux and then driving off in trium-
phal state for an afternoon of splashing and singing.
The Jelly-bean walked out on the porch to a deserted
corner, dark between the moon on the lawn and the
single lighted door of the ballroom. There he found a
chair and, lighting a cigarette, drifted into the thought-
less reverie that was his usual mood. Yet now it was a
reverie made sensuous by the night and by the hot smell
of damp powder puffs, tucked in the fronts of low dresses
and distilling a thousand rich scents to float out through
the open door. The music itself, blurred by a loud
trombone, became hot and shadowy, a languorous over-
tone to the scraping of many shoes and slippers.
Suddenly the square of yellow light that fell through
the door was obscured by a dark figure. A girl had
THE JELLY-BEAN 13
come out of the dressing-room and was standing on the
porch not more than ten feet away. Jim heard a low-
breathed "doggone" and then she turned and saw him.
It was Nancy Lamar.
Jim rose to his feet.
"Hello " she paused, hesitated and then approached.
"Oh, it's Jim Powell."
He bowed slightly, tried to think of a casual remark.
"Do you suppose," she began quickly, "I mean do
you know anything about gum ?"
"I've got gum on my shoe. Some utter ass left his
or her gum on the floor and of course I stepped in it."
Jim blushed, inappropriately.
"Do you know how to get it off?" she demanded
petulantly. "I've tried a knife. I've tried every damn
thing in the dressing-room. I've tried soap and water
and even perfume and I've ruined my powder-puff try-
ing to make it stick to that."
Jim considered the question in some agitation.
"Why I think maybe gasolene "
The words had scarcely left his lips when she grasped
his hand and pulled him at a run off the low veranda,
over a flower bed and at a gallop toward a group of
cars parked in the moonlight by the first hole of the
"Turn on the gasolene," she commanded breathlessly.
"For the gum of course. I've got to get it off. I
can't dance with gum on."
Obediently Jim turned to the cars and began inspect-
ing them with a view to obtaining the desired solvent.
Had she demanded a cylinder he would have done his
best to wrench one out.
14 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Here," he said after a moment's search. " Here's
one that's easy. Got a handkerchief ?"
"It's up-stairs wet. I used it for the soap and water."
Jim laboriously explored his pockets.
"Don't believe I got one either."
"Doggone it! Well, we can turn it on and let it
run on the ground."
He turned the spout; a dripping began.
He turned it on fuller. The dripping became a flow
and formed an oily pool that glistened brightly, reflect-
ing a dozen tremulous moons on its quivering bosom.
"Ah," she sighed contentedly, "let it all out. The
only thing to do is to wade in it."
In desperation he turned on the tap full and the pool
suddenly widened sending tiny rivers and trickles in
"That's fine. That's something like."
Raising her skirts she stepped gracefully in.
"I know this'll take it off," she murmured.
"There's lots more cars."
She stepped daintily out of the gasolene and began
scraping her slippers, side and bottom, on the running-
board of the automobile. The Jelly-bean contained him-
self no longer. He bent double with explosive laugh-
ter and after a second she joined in.
"You're here with Clark Darrow, aren't you?" she
asked as they walked back toward the veranda.
"You know where he is now?"
"Out dancin', I reckin."
"The deuce. He promised me a highball."
"Well," said Jim, "I guess that'll be all right. I got
his bottle right here in my pocket."
THE JELLY-BEAN 15
She smiled at him radiantly.
"I guess maybe you'll need ginger ale though/'
"Not me. Just the bottle."
She laughed scornfully.
"Try me. I can drink anything any man can. Let's
She perched herself on the side of a table and he
dropped into one of the wicker chairs beside her.
Taking out the cork she held the flask to her lips and
took a long drink. He watched her fascinated.
She shook her head breathlessly.
"No, but I like the way it makes me feel. I think
most people are that way."
"My daddy liked it too well. It got him."
"American men," said Nancy gravely, "don't know
how to drink."
"What ? " Jim was startled.
"In fact," she went on carelessly, "they don't know
how to do anything very well. The one thing I regret
in my life is that I wasn't born in England."
"Yes. It's the one regret of my life that I wasn't."
"Do you like it over there."
"Yes. Immensely. I've never been there in person,
but I've met a lot of Englishmen who were over here in
the army, Oxford and Cambridge men you know,
that's like Sewanee and University of Georgia are here
and of course I've read a lot of English novels."
Jim was interested, amazed.
"D' you ever hear of Lady Diana Manners?" she
16 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
No, Jim had not.
"Well, she's what I'd like to be. Dark, you know,
like me, and wild as sin. She's the girl who rode her
horse up the steps of some cathedral or church or some-
thing and all the novelists made their heroines do it
Jim nodded politely. He was out of his depths.
"Pass the bottle," suggested Nancy. "I'm going to
take another little one. A little drink wouldn't hurt a
"You see," she continued, again breathless after a
draught. " People over there have style. Nobody has
style here. I mean the boys here aren't really worth
dressing up for or doing sensational things for. Don't
you know ?"
"I suppose so I mean I suppose not," murmured
"And I'd like to do 'em an' all. I'm really the only
girl in town that has style."
She stretched out her arms and yawned pleasantly.
"Sure is," agreed Jim.
"Like to have boat," she suggested dreamily. "Like
to sail out on a silver lake, say the Thames, for instance.
Have champagne and caviare sandwiches along. Have
about eight people. And one of the men would jump
overboard to amuse the party and get drowned like a
man did with Lady Diana Manners once."
"Did he do it to please her?"
"Didn't mean drown himself to please her. He just
meant to jump overboard and make everybody laugh."
"I reckin they just died laughin' when he drowned."
"Oh, I suppose they laughed a little," she admitted.
"I imagine she did, anyway. She's pretty hard, I
guess like I am."
THE JELLY-BEAN 17
"Like nails." She yawned again and added, "Give
me a little more from that bottle."
Jim hesitated but she held out her hand defiantly.
"Don't treat me like a girl," she warned him. "I'm
not like any girl you ever saw." She considered. "Still,
perhaps you're right. You got you got old head on
-A young shoulders."
She jumped to her feet and moved toward the door.
The Jelly-bean rose also.
"Good-bye," she said politely, "good-bye. Thanks,
Then she stepped inside and left him wide-eyed upon
At twelve o'clock a procession of cloaks issued single
file from the women's dressing-room and, each one pair-
ing with a coated beau like dancers meeting in a cotil-
lion figure, drifted through the door with sleepy happy
laughter through the door into the dark where autos
backed and snorted and parties called to one another
and gathered around the water-cooler.
Jim, sitting in his corner, rose to look for Clark.
They had met at eleven; then Clark had gone in to
dance. So, seeking him, Jim wandered into the soft-
drink stand that had once been a bar. The room was
deserted except for a sleepy negro dozing behind the
counter and two boys lazily fingering a pair of dice at
one of the tables. Jim was about to leave when he saw
Clark coming in. At the same moment Clark looked up.
"Hi, Jim ! " he commanded. " C' mon over and help us
with this bottle. I guess there's not much left, but
there's one all around."
Nancy, the man from Savannah, Marylyn Wade, and
i8 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Joe Ewing were lolling and laughing in the doorway.
Nancy caught Jim's eye and winked at him humorously.
They drifted over to a table and arranging themselves
around it waited for the waiter to bring ginger ale.
Jim, faintly ill at ease, turned his eyes on Nancy, who
had drifted into a nickel crap game with the two boys
at the next table.
" Bring them over here," suggested Clark.
Joe looked around.
"We don't want to draw a crowd. It's against club
"Nobody's around," insisted Clark, "except Mr. Tay-
lor. He's walking up and down like a wild-man trying
to find out who let all the gasolene out of his car."
There was a general laugh.
"I bet a million Nancy got something on her shoe
again. You can't park when she's around."
"O Nancy, Mr. Taylor's looking for you!"
Nancy's cheeks were glowing with excitement over
the game. "I haven't seen his silly little flivver in
Jim felt a sudden silence. He turned and saw an
individual of uncertain age standing in the doorway.
Clark's voice punctuated the embarrassment.
"Won't you join us, Mr. Taylor?"
Mr. Taylor spread his unwelcome presence over a
chair. "Have to, I guess. I'm waiting till they dig
me up some gasolene. Somebody got funny with my
His eyes narrowed and he looked quickly from one
to the other. Jim wondered what he had heard from
the doorway tried to remember what had been said.
"I'm right to-night," Nancy sang out, "and my four
bits is in the ring."
THE JELLY-BEAN 19
" Faded!" snapped Taylor suddenly.
"Why, Mr. Taylor, I didn't know you shot craps!"
Nancy was overjoyed to find that he had seated himself
and instantly covered her bet. They had openly dis-
liked each other since the night she had definitely dis-
couraged a series of rather pointed advances.
"All right, babies, do it for your mamma. Just one
little seven." Nancy was cooing to the dice. She
rattled them with a brave underhand flourish, and
rolled them out on the table.
"Ah-h! I suspected it. And now again with the
Five passes to her credit found Taylor a bad
loser. She was making it personal, and after each suc-
cess Jim watched triumph flutter across her face. She
was doubling with each throw such luck could scarcely
"Better go easy," he cautioned her timidly.
"Ah, but watch this one," she whispered. It was
eight on the dice and she called her number.
"Little Ada, this time we're going South."
Ada from Decatur rolled over the table. Nancy
was flushed and half-hysterical, but her luck was hold-
ing. She drove the pot up and up, refusing to drag.
Taylor was drumming with his fingers on the table, but
he was in to stay.
Then Nancy tried for a ten and lost the dice. Tay-
lor seized them avidly. He shot in silence, and in the
hush of excitement the clatter of one pass after another
on the table was the only sound.
Now Nancy had the dice again, but her luck had
broken. An hour passed. Back and forth it went.
Taylor had been at it again and again and again.
They were even at last Nancy lost her ultimate five
20 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Will you take my check," she said quickly, "for
fifty, and we'll shoot it all?" Her voice was a little
unsteady and her hand shook as she reached to the
Clark exchanged an uncertain but alarmed glance
with Joe Ewing. Taylor shot again. He had Nancy's
"How 'bout another?" she said wildly. "Jes' any
bank'll do money everywhere as a matter of fact."
Jim understood tBe "good old corn" he had given
her the "good old corn" she had taken since. He
wished he dared interfere a girl of that age and posi-
tion would hardly have two bank accounts. When the
clock struck two he contained himself no longer.
"May I can't you let me roll 'em for you ?" he sug-
gested, his low, lazy voice a little strained.
Suddenly sleepy and listless, Nancy flung the dice
down before him.
"All right old boy! As Lady Diana Manners says,
'Shoot 'em, Jelly-bean' My luck's gone."
"Mr. Taylor," said Jim, carelessly, "we'll shoot for
one of those there checks against the cash."
Half an hour later Nancy swayed forward and clapped
him on the back.
"Stole my luck, you did." She was nodding her head
Jim swept up the last check and putting it with the
others tore them into confetti and scattered them on
the floor. Someone started singing, and Nancy kicking
her chair backward rose to her feet.
"Ladies and gentlemen," she announced. "Ladies
that's you Marylyn. I want to tell the world that
Mr. Jim Powell, who is a well-known Jelly-bean of this
city, is an exception to a great rule 'lucky in dice
unlucky in love.' He's lucky in dice, and as matter
THE JELLY-BEAN 21
fact I I love him. Ladies and gentlemen, Nancy La-
mar, famous dark-haired beauty often featured in the
Herald as one th' most popular members of younger set
as other girls are often featured in this particular case.
Wish to announce wish to announce, anyway, Gentle-
men She tipped suddenly. Clark caught her and
restored her balance.
"My error," she laughed, "she stoops to stoops to
anyways We'll drink to Jelly-bean . . . Mr. Jim
Powell, King of the Jelly-beans."
And a few minutes later as Jim waited hat in hand
for Clark in the darkness of that same corner of the
porch where she had come searching for gasolene, she
appeared suddenly beside him.
"Jelly-bean," she said, "are you here, Jelly-bean?
I think ' and her slight unsteadiness seemed part
of an enchanted dream "I think you deserve one of my
sweetest kisses for that, Jelly-bean."
For an instant her arms were around his neck her
lips were pressed to his.
"I'm a wild part of the world, Jelly-bean, but you did
me a good turn."
Then she was gone, down the porch, over the cricket-
loud lawn. Jim saw Merritt come out the front door
and say something to her angrily saw her laugh and,
turning away, walk with averted eyes to his car.
Marylyn and Joe followed, singing a drowsy song about
a Jazz baby.
Clark came out and joined Jim on the steps. "All
pretty lit, I guess," he yawned. "Merritt's in a mean
mood. He's certainly off Nancy."
Over east along the golf course a faint rug of gray
spread itself across the feet of the night. The party in
the car began to chant a chorus as the engine warmed up.
"Good-night everybody," called Clark.
22 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
There was a pause, and then a soft, happy voice
The car drove off to a burst of singing. A rooster on
a farm across the way took up a solitary mournful crow,
and behind them a last negro waiter turned out the
porch light. Jim and Clark strolled over toward the
Ford, their shoes crunching raucously on the gravel
"Oh boy!" sighed Clark softly, "how you can set
It was still too dark for him to see the flush on Jim's
thin cheeks or to know that it was a flush of unfamiliar
Over Tilly's garage a bleak room echoed all day to
the rumble and snorting down-stairs and the singing of
the negro washers as they turned the hose on the cars
outside. It was a cheerless square of a room, punctuated
with a bed and a battered table on which lay half a
dozen books Joe Miller's " Slow Train thru Arkansas,"
"Lucille," in an old edition very much annotated in an
old-fashioned hand; "The Eyes of the World, " by Harold
Bell Wright, and an ancient prayer-book of the Church
of England with the name Alice Powell and the date 1831
written on the fly-leaf.
The East, gray when the Jelly-bean entered the garage,
became a rich and vivid blue as he turned on his soli-
tary electric light. He snapped it out again, and going
to the window rested his elbows on the sill and stared
into the deepening morning. With the awakening of his
THE JELLY-BEAN 23
emotions, his first perception was a sense of futility, a dull
ache at the utter grayness of his life. A wall had sprung
up suddenly around him hedging him in, a wall as definite
and tangible as the white wall of his bare room. And
with his perception of this wall all that had been the
romance of his existence, the casualness, the light-
hearted improvidence, the miraculous open-handedness
of life faded out. The Jelly-bean strolling up Jackson
Street humming a lazy song, known at every shop and
street stand, cropful of easy greeting and local wit,
sad sometimes for only the sake of sadness and the
flight of time that Jelly-bean was suddenly vanished.
The very name was a reproach, a triviality. With a
flood of insight he knew that Merritt must despise him,
that even Nancy's kiss in the dawn would have awak-
ened not jealousy but only a contempt for Nancy's so
lowering herself. And on his part the Jelly-bean had
used for her a dingy subterfuge learned from the garage.
He had been her moral laundry; the stains were his.
As the gray became blue, brightened and filled the
room, he crossed to his bed and threw himself down on
it, gripping the edges fiercely.
"I love her," he cried aloud, "God I"
As he said this something gave way within him like
a lump melting in his throat. The air cleared and be-
came radiant with dawn, and turning over on his face
he began to sob dully into the pillow.
In the sunshine of three o'clock Clark Darrow chug-
ging painfully along Jackson Street was hailed by the
Jelly-bean, who stood on the curb with his fingers in
his vest pockets.
"Hi!" called Clark, bringing his Ford to an aston-
ishii.g stop alongside. " Just get up ?"
Th:> Jelly-bean shook his head.
24 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Never did go to bed. Felt sorta restless, so I took a
long walk this morning out in the country. Just got
into town this minute."
"Should think you would feel restless. I been feel-
ing thataway all day
"I'm thinkin' of leavin' town," continued the Jelly-
bean, absorbed by his own thoughts. "Been thinkin'
of goin' up on the farm, and takin' a little that work off
Uncle Dun. Reckin I been bummin' too long."
Clark was silent and the Jelly-bean continued:
"I reckin maybe after Aunt Mamie dies I could sink
that money of mine in the farm and make somethin'
out of it. All my people originally came from that
part up there. Had a big place."
Clark looked at him curiously.
"That's funny," he said. " This this sort of affected
me the same way."
The Jelly-bean hesitated.
"I don't know," he began slowly, "somethin' about
about that girl last night talkin' about a lady named
Diana Manners an English lady, sorta got me think-
in* !" He drew himself up and looked oddly at Clark,
"I had a family once," he said defiantly.
"And I'm the last of 7 em," continued the Jelly-bean,
his voice rising slightly, "and I ain't worth shucks.
Name they call me by means jelly weak and wobbly
like. People who weren't nothin' when my folks was
a lot turn up their noses when they pass me on the
Again Clark was silent.
"So I'm through. I'm goin' to-day. And when I
come back to this town it's going to be like a gentle-
THE JELLY-BEAN 25
Clark took out his handkerchief and wiped his damp
"Reckon you're not the only one it shook up," he
admitted gloomily. "All this thing of girls going round
like they do is going to stop right quick. Too bad,
too, but everybody'll have to see it thataway."
"Do you mean," demanded Jim in surprise, "that
all that's leaked out?"
"Leaked out? How on earth could they keep it
secret. It'll be announced in the papers to-night.
Doctor Lamar's got to save his name somehow."
Jim put his hands on the sides of the car and tightened
his long fingers on the metal.
"Do you mean Taylor investigated those checks?"
It was Clark's turn to be surprised.
"Haven't you heard what happened ?"
Jim's startled eyes were answer enough.
"Why," announced Clark dramatically, "those four
got another bottle of corn, got tight and decided to shock
the town so Nancy and that fella Merritt were married
in Rockville at seven o'clock this morning."
A tiny indentation appeared in the metal under the
"Sure enough. Nancy sobered up and rushed back
into town, crying and frightened to death claimed
it'd all been a mistake. First Doctor Lamar went
wild and was going to kill Merritt, but finally they got
it patched up some way, and Nancy and Merritt went to
Savannah on the two-thirty train."
Jim closed his eyes and with an effort overcame a
"It's too bad," said Clark philosophically. "I don't
mean the wedding reckon that's all right, though I
don't guess Nancy cared a darn about him. But it's
26 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
a crime for a nice girl like that to hurt her family that
The Jelly-bean let go the car and turned away. Again
something was going on inside him, some inexplicable
but almost chemical change.
" Where you going?'' asked Clark.
The Jelly-bean turned and looked dully back over
" Got to go," he muttered. "Been up too long; feekV
The street was hot at three and hotter still at four,
the April dust seeming to enmesh the sun and give it
forth again as a world-old joke forever played on an
eternity of afternoons. But at half past four a first
layer of quiet fell and the shades lengthened under the
awnings and heavy foliaged trees. In this heat nothing
mattered. All life was weather, a waiting through the
hot where events had no significance for the cool that
was soft and caressing like a woman's hand on a tired
forehead. Down in Georgia there is a feeling perhaps
inarticulate that this is the greatest wisdom of the
South so after a while the Jelly-bean turned into a pool-
hall on Jackson Street where he was sure to find a con-
genial crowd who would make all the old jokes the
ones he knew.
THE CAMEL'S BACK
THE glazed eye of the tired reader resting for a second
on the above title will presume it to be merely meta-
phorical. Stories about the cup and the lip and the
bad penny and the new broom rarely have anything to
do with cups or lips or pennies or brooms. This story
is the exception. It has to do with a material, visible and
large-as-life camel's back.
Starting from the neck we shall work toward the tail.
I want you to meet Mr. Perry Parkhurst, twenty-eight,
lawyer, native of Toledo. Perry has nice teeth, a Har-
vard diploma, parts his hair in the middle. You have
met him before in Cleveland, Portland, St. Paul, Indi-
anapolis, Kansas City, and so forth. Baker Brothers,
New York, pause on their semi-annual trip through the
West to clothe him; Montmorency & Co. dispatch a
young man post-haste every three months to see that he
has the correct number of little punctures on his shoes.
He has a domestic roadster now, will have a French
roadster if he lives long enough, and doubtless a Chinese
tank if it comes into fashion. He looks like the ad-
vertisement of the young man rubbing his sunset-
colored chest with liniment and goes East every other
year to his class reunion.
I want you to meet his Love. Her name is Betty Me-
dill, and she would take well in the movies. Her father
gives her three hundred a month to dress on, and she has
tawny eyes and hair and feather fans of live colors. I
shall also introduce her father, Cyrus Medill. Though
he is 10 all appearances flesh and blood, he is, strange to
say, commonly known in Toledo as the Aluminum Man.
28 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
But when he sits in his club window with two or three
Iron Men, and the White Pine Man, and the Brass Man,
they look very much as you and I do, only more so, if
you know what I mean.
Now during the Christmas holidays of 1919 there took
place in Toledo, counting only the people with the ital-
icized the, forty-one dinner parties, sixteen dances, six
luncheons, male and female, twelve teas, four stag din-
ners, two weddings, and thirteen bridge parties. It
was the cumulative effect of all this that moved Perry
Parkhurst on the twenty-ninth day of December to a
This Medill girl would marry him and she wouldn't
marry him. She was having such a good time that she
hated to take such a definite step. Meanwhile, their
secret engagement had got so long that it seemed as if
any day it might break off of its own weight. A little
man named Warburton, who knew it all, persuaded
Perry to superman her, to get a marriage license and go
up to the Medill house and tell her she'd have to marry
him at once or call it off forever. So he presented him-
self, his heart, his license, and his ultimatum, and within
five minutes they were in the midst of a violent quarrel,
a burst of sporadic open fighting such as occurs near the
end of all long wars and engagements. It brought about
one of those ghastly lapses in which two people who are
in love pull up sharp, look at each other coolly and think
it's all been a mistake. Afterward they usually kiss
wholesomely and assure the other person it was all their
fault. Say it all was my fault ! Say it was ! I want to
hear you say it !
But while reconciliation was trembling in the air,
while each was, in a measure, stalling it off, so that they
might the more voluptuously and sentimentally enjoy
it when it came, they were permanently interrupted by
THE CAMEL'S BACK 29
a twenty-minute phone call for Betty from a garrulous
aunt. At the end of eighteen minutes Perry Parkhurst,
urged on by pride and suspicion and injured dignity,
put on his long fur coat, picked up his light brown soft
hat, and stalked out the door.
"It's all over," he muttered brokenly as he tried to
jam his car into first. "It's all over if I have to choke
you for an hour, damn you!" This last to the car,
which had been standing some time and was quite cold.
He drove downtown that is, he got into a snow rut
that led him downtown. He sat slouched down very
low in his seat, much too dispirited to care where he
In front of the Clarendon Hotel he was hailed from
the sidewalk by a bad man named Baily, who had big
teeth and lived at the hotel and had never been in
"Perry," said the bad man softly when the roadster
drew up beside him at the curb, "I've got six quarts of
the doggonedest still champagne you ever tasted. A
third of it's yours, Perry, if you'll come up-stairs and help
Martin Macy and me drink it."
"Baily," said Perry tensely, "I'll drink your cham-
pagne. I'll drink every drop of it. I don't care if it
" Shut up, you nut ! " said the bad man gently. " They
don't put wood alcohol in champagne. This is the stuff
that proves the world is more than six thousand years
old. It's so ancient that the cork is petrified. You
have to pull it with a stone drill."
"Take me up-stairs," said Perry moodily. "If that
cork sees my heart it'll fall out from pure mortifica-
The room up-stairs was full of those innocent hotel
pictures of little girls eating apples and sitting in swings
3 o TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
and talking to dogs. The other decorations were neck-
ties and a pink man reading a pink paper devoted to
ladies in pink tights.
"When you have to go into the highways and by-
ways " said the pink man, looking reproachfully at
Baily and Perry.
" Hello, Martin Macy," said Perry shortly, "where's
this stone-age champagne?"
" What's the rush? This isn't an operation, under-
stand. This is a party."
Perry sat down dully and looked disapprovingly at
all the neckties.
Baily leisurely opened the door of a wardrobe and
brought out six handsome bottles.
"Take off that darn fur coat!" said Martin Macy to
Perry. "Or maybe you'd like to have us open all the
" Give me champagne," said Perry.
"Going to the Townsends' circus ball to-night?"
"Why not go?"
"Oh, I'm sick of parties," exclaimed Perry. "I'm
sick of 'em. I've been to so many that I'm sick of
"Maybe you're going to the Howard Tates' party?"
"No, I tell you; I'm sick of 'em."
"Well," said Macy consolingly, "the Tates' is just for
college kids anyways."
"I tell you
"I thought you'd be going to one of ? em anyways. I
see by the papers you haven't missed a one this Christ-
"Hm," grunted Perry morosely.
THE CAMEL'S BACK 31
He would never go to any more parties. Classical
phrases played in his mind that side of his life was
closed, closed. Now when a man says "closed, closed"
like that, you can be pretty sure that some woman has
double-closed him, so to speak. Perry was also think-
ing that other classical thought, about how cowardly
suicide is. A noble thought that one warm and in-
spiring. Think of all the fine men we should lose if
suicide were not so cowardly !
An hour later was six o'clock, and Perry had lost all
resemblance to the young man in the liniment adver-
tisement. He looked like a rough draft for a riotous
cartoon. They were singing an impromptu song of
Batty 's improvisation:
"One Lump Perry, the parlor snake,
Famous through the city for the way he drinks his tea ;
Plays with it, toys with it,
Makes no noise with it,
Balanced on a napkin on his well-trained knee "
"Trouble is," said Perry, who had just banged his
hair with Baily's comb and was tying an orange tie
round it to get the effect of Julius Caesar, "that you
fellas can't sing worth a damn. Soon's I leave th' air
and start singin' tenor you start singin' tenor too."
"'M a natural tenor," said Macy gravely. "Voice
lacks cultivation, tha's all. Gotta natural voice, m'aunt
used say. Naturally good singer."
"Singers, singers, all good singers," remarked Baily,
who was at the telephone. "No, not the cabaret; I
want night egg. I mean some dog-gone clerk 'at's got
food food ! I want "
"Julius Caesar," announced Perry, turning round from
the mirror. "Man of iron will and stern 'termination."
"Shut up!" yelled Baily. "Say, iss Mr. Baily.
32 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Sen' up enormous supper. Use y'own judgment. Right
He connected the receiver and the hook with some
difficulty, and then with his lips closed and an expres-
sion of solemn intensity in his eyes went to the lower
drawer of his dresser and pulled it open.
"Lookit!" he commanded. In his hands he held a
truncated garment of pink gingham.
"Pants," he exclaimed gravely. "Lookit !"
This was a pink blouse, a red tie, and a Buster Brown
"Lookit!" he repeated. "Costume for the Town-
sends' circus ball. I'm liT boy carries water for the
Perry was impressed in spite of himself.
"I'm going to be Julius Caesar," he announced after
a moment of concentration.
"Thought you weren't going!" said Macy.
"Me ? Sure, I'm goin'. Never miss a party. Good
for the nerves like celery."
"Caesar!" scoffed Baily. "Can't be Caesar! He is
not about a circus. Caesar's Shakespeare. Go as a
Perry shook his head.
Light dawned on Baily.
"That's right. Good idea."
Perry looked round the room searchingly.
"You lend me a bathrobe and this tie," he said finally.
"Sure, tha's all I need. Caesar was a savage. They
can't kick if I come as Caesar, if he was a savage."
THE CAMEL'S BACK 33
"No," said Baily, shaking his head slowly. "Get a
costume over at a costumer's. Over at Nolak's."
After a puzzling five minutes at the phone a small,
weary voice managed to convince Perry that it was Mr.
Nolak speaking, and that they would remain open until
eight because of the Townsends' ball. Thus assured,
Perry ate a great amount of filet mignon and drank his
third of the last bottle of champagne. At eight-fifteen
the man in the tall hat who stands in front of the Clar-
endon found him trying to start his roadster.
"Froze up," said Perry wisely. "The cold froze it.
The cold air."
"Yes. Cold air froze it."
"Can't start it?"
"Nope. Let it stand here till summer. One those
hot ole August days'll thaw it out awright."
"Coin' let it stand?"
"Sure. Let 'er stand. Take a hot thief to steal it.
The man in the tall hat summoned a taxi.
"Where to, mister?"
"Go to Nolak's costume fella."
Mrs. Nolak was short and ineffectual looking, and on
the cessation of the world war had belonged for a while
to one of the new nationalities. Owing to unsettled
European conditions she had never since been quite
sure what she was. The shop in which she and her
husband performed their daily stint was dim and ghostly,
and peopled with suits of armor and Chinese mandarins,
34 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
and enormous papier-mache birds suspended from the
ceiling. In a vague background many rows of masks
glared eyelessly at the visitor, and there were glass
cases full of crowns and scepters, and jewels and enor-
mous stomachers, and paints, and crape hair, and wigs of
When Perry ambled into the shop Mrs. Nolak was
folding up the last troubles of a strenuous day, so she
thought, in a drawer full of pink silk stockings.
"Something for you?" she queried pessimistically.
"Want costume of Julius Hur, the charioteer."
Mrs. Nolak was sorry, but every stitch of charioteer
had been rented long ago. Was it for the Town sends'
circus ball ?
"Sorry," she said, "but I don't think there's anything
left that's really circus."
This was an obstacle.
"Hm," said Perry. An idea struck him suddenly.
"If you've got a piece of canvas I could go's a tent."
"Sorry, but we haven't anything like that. A hard-
ware store is where you'd have to go to. We have some
very nice Confederate soldiers."
"No. No soldiers."
"And I have a very handsome king."
He shook his head.
"Several of the gentlemen," she continued hopefully,
"are wearing stovepipe hats and swallow-tail coats and
going as ringmasters but we're all out of tall hats. I
can let you have some crape hair for a mustache."
"Want somep'n 'stinctive."
"Something let's see. Well, we have a lion's head,
and a goose, and a camel
"Camel?" The idea seized Perry's imagination,
gripped it fiercely.
THE CAMEL'S BACK 35
"Yes, but it needs two people."
"Camel. That's the idea. Lemme see it."
The camel was produced from his resting place on a
top shelf. At first glance he appeared to consist en-
tirely of a very gaunt, cadaverous head and a sizable
hump, but on being spread out he was found to possess
a dark brown, unwholesome-looking body made of thick,
"You see it takes two people," explained Mrs. Nolak,
holding the camel in frank admiration. "If you have
a friend he could be part of it. You see there's sorta
pants for two people. One pair is for the fella in front,
and the other pair for the fella in back. The fella in
front does the lookin' out through these here eyes, an'
the fella in back he's just gotta stoop over an' folia the
front fella round."
"Put it on," commanded Perry.
Obediently Mrs. Nolak put her tabby-cat face inside
the camel's head and turned it from side to side fero-
Perry was fascinated.
"What noise does a camel make?"
"What?" asked Mrs. Nolak as her face emerged,
somewhat smudgy. "Oh, what noise? Why, he sorta
"Lemme see it in a mirror."
Before a wide mirror Perry tried on the head and
turned from side to side appraisingly. In the dim light
the effect was distinctly pleasing. The camel's face
was a study in pessimism, decorated with numerous
abrasions, and it must be admitted that his coat was in
that state of general negligence peculiar to camels in
fact, he needed to be cleaned and pressed but distinc-
tive he certainly was. He was majestic. He would
have attracted attention in any gathering, if only by his
36 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
melancholy cast of feature and the look of hunger lurking
round his shadowy eyes.
"You see you have to have two people," said Mrs.
Perry tentatively gathered up the body and legs and
wrapped them about him, tying the hind legs as a girdle
round his waist. The effect on the whole was bad. It
was even irreverent like one of those mediaeval pictures
of a monk changed into a beast by the ministrations of
Satan. At the very best the ensemble resembled a
humpbacked cow sitting on her haunches among blankets.
" Don't look like anything at all," objected Perry
"No," said Mrs. Nolak; "you see you got to have
A solution flashed upon Perry.
"You got a date to-night?"
"Oh, I couldn't possibly-
"Oh, come on," said Perry encouragingly. "Sure
you can ! Here ! Be good sport, and climb into these
With difficulty he located them, and extended their
yawning depths ingratiatingly. But Mrs. Nolak seemed
loath. She backed perversely away.
"Oh, no '
"C'm on ! You can be the front if you want to. Or
we'll flip a coin."
"Oh, no "
"Make it worth your while."
Mrs. Nolak set her lips firmly together.
"Now you just stop!" she said with no coyness im-
plied. "None of the gentlemen ever acted up this
way before. My husband
"You got a husband?" demanded Perry. "Where
THE CAMEL'S BACK 37
"Wha's telephone number?"
After considerable parley he obtained the telephone
number pertaining to the Nolak penates and got into
communication with that small, weary voice he had
heard once before that day. But Mr. Nolak, though
taken off his guard and somewhat confused by Perry's
brilliant flow of logic, stuck staunchly to his point. He
refused firmly, but with dignity, to help out Mr. Park-
hurst in the capacity of back part of a camel.
Having rung off, or rather having been rung off on,
Perry sat down on a three-legged stool to think it over.
He named over to himself those friends on whom he
might call, and then his mind paused as Betty Medill's
name hazily and sorrowfully occurred to him. He had
a sentimental thought. He would ask her. Their love
affair was over, but she could not refuse this last re-
quest. Surely it was not much to ask to help him
keep up his end of social obligation for one short night.
And if she insisted, she could be the front part of the
camel and he would go as the back. His magnanimity
pleased him. His mind even turned to rosy-colored
dreams of a tender reconciliation inside the camel
there hidden away from all the world. . . .
"Now you'd better decide right off."
The bourgeois voice of Mrs. Nolak broke in upon his
mellow fancies and roused him to action. He went to
the phone and called up the Medill house. Miss Betty
was out; had gone out to dinner.
Then, when all seemed lost, the camel's back wandered
curiously into the store. He was a dilapidated indi-
vidual with a cold in his head and a general trend about
him of downwardness. His cap was pulled down low
on his head, and his chin was pulled down low on his
chest, his coat hung down to his shoes, he looked run-
38 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
down, down at the heels, and Salvation Army to the
contrary down and out. He said that he was the
taxicab-driver that the gentleman had hired at the
Clarendon Hotel. He had been instructed to wait
outside, but he had waited some time, and a suspicion
had grown upon him that the gentleman had gone out
the back way with purpose to defraud him gentlemen
sometimes did so he had come in. He sank down
onto the three-legged stool.
"Wanta go to a party?" demanded Perry sternly.
"I gotta work/' answered the taxi-driver lugubriously.
"I gotta keep my job."
"It's a very good party."
"'S a very good job."
"Come on !" urged Perry. "Be a good fella. See-
it's pretty !" He held the camel up and the taxi-driver
looked at it cynically.
Perry searched feverishly among the folds of the cloth.
"See!" he cried enthusiastically, holding up a selec-
tion of folds. "This is your part. You don't even
have to talk. All you have to do is to walk and sit
down occasionally. You do all the sitting down.
Think of it. I'm on my feet all the time and you can
sit down some of the tune. The only time / can sit
down is when we're lying down, and you can sit down
when oh, any time. See ? "
"What's 'at thing?" demanded the individual dubi-
ously. "A shroud?"
"Not at all," said Perry indignantly. "It's a camel."
Then Perry mentioned a sum of money, and the con-
versation left the land of grunts and assumed a practical
tinge. Perry and the taxi-driver tried on the camel in
front of the mirror.
THE CAMEL'S BACK 39
"You can't see it," explained Perry, peering anxiously
out through the eyeholes, "but honestly, ole man, you
look sim'ly great ! Honestly !"
A grunt from the hump acknowledged this somewhat
"Honestly, you look great!" repeated Perry enthusi-
astically. "Move round a little."
The hind legs moved forward, giving the effect of
a huge cat-camel hunching his back preparatory to a
"No; move sideways."
The earners hips went neatly out of joint; a hula
dancer would have writhed in envy.
"Good, isn't it?" demanded Perry, turning to Mrs.
Nolak for approval.
"It looks lovely," agreed Mrs. Nolak.
"We'll take it," said Perry.
The bundle was stowed under Perry's arm and they
left the shop.
"Go to the party!" he commanded as he took his
seat in the back.
"Where'bouts is it?"
This presented a new problem. Perry tried to re-
member, but the names of all those who had given
parties during the holidays danced confusedly before
his eyes. He could ask Mrs. Nolak, but on looking
out the window he saw that the shop was dark. Mrs.
Nolak had already faded out, a little black smudge far
down the snowy street.
"Drive uptown," directed Perry with fine confidence.
"If you see a party, stop. Otherwise I'll tell you when
we get there."
He fell into a hazy daydream and his thoughts wan-
40 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
dered again to Betty he imagined vaguely that they
had had a disagreement because she refused to go to the
party as the back part of the camel. He was just
slipping off into a chilly doze when he was wakened by
the taxi-driver opening the door and shaking him by the
"Here we are, maybe."
Perry looked out sleepily. A striped awning led from
the curb up to a spreading gray stone house, from
which issued the low d rummy whine of expensive
jazz. He recognized the Howard Tate house.
"Sure," he said emphatically; " 'at's it! Tate's
party to-night. Sure, everybody's goin'."
"Say," said the individual anxiously after another
look at the awning, "you sure these people ain't gonna
romp on me for comin' here ?"
Perry drew himself up with dignity.
" 'F anybody says anything to you, just tell 'em you're
part of my costume."
The visualization of himself as a thing rather than a
person seemed to reassure the individual.
"All right," he said reluctantly.
Perry stepped out under the shelter of the awning
and began unrolling the camel.
"Let's go," he commanded.
Several minutes later a melancholy, hungry-looking
camel, emitting clouds of smoke from his mouth and
from the tip of his noble hump, might have been seen
crossing the threshhold of the Howard Tate residence,
passing a startled footman without so much as a snort,
and heading directly for the main stairs that led up to
the ballroom. The beast walked with a peculiar gait
which varied between an uncertain lockstep and a
stampede but can best be described by the word
THE CAMEL'S BACK 41
" halting." The camel had a halting gait and as he
walked he alternately elongated and contracted like a
The Howard Tates are, as every one who lives in To-
ledo knows, the most formidable people in town. Mrs.
Howard Tate was a Chicago Todd before she became a
Toledo Tate, and the family generally affect that con-
scious simplicity which has begun to be the earmark of
American aristocracy. The Tates have reached the
stage where they talk about pigs and farms and look at
you icy-eyed if you are not amused. They have begun
to prefer retainers rather than friends as dinner guests,
spend a lot of money in a quiet way, and, having lost
all sense of competition, are in process of growing quite
The dance this evening was for little Millicent
Tate, and though all ages were represented, the dan-
cers were mostly from school and college the youn-
ger married crowd was at the Townsends' circus ball
up at the Tallyho Club. Mrs. Tate was standing
just inside the ballroom, following Millicent round
with her eyes, and beaming whenever she caught her
eye. Beside her were two middle-aged sycophants,
who were saying what a perfectly exquisite child Milli-
cent was. It was at this moment that Mrs. Tate was
grasped firmly by the skirt and her youngest daughter,
Emily, aged eleven, hurled herself with an "Oof!" into
her mother's arms.
"Why, Emily, what's the trouble?"
"Mamma," said Emily, wild-eyed but voluble,
"there's something out on the stairs."
42 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"There's a thing out on the stairs, mamma. I think
it's a big dog, mamma, but it doesn't look like a dog."
"What do you mean, Emily ?"
The sycophants waved their heads sympatheti-
"Mamma, it looks like a like a camel."
Mrs. Tate laughed.
"You saw a mean old shadow, dear, that's all."
" No, I didn't. No, it was some kind of thing, mamma
big. I was going down-stairs to see if there were any
more people, and this dog or something, he was coming
up-stairs. Kinda funny, mamma, like he was lame.
And then he saw me and gave a sort of growl, and then
he slipped at the top of the landing, and I ran."
Mrs. Tate's laugh faded.
"The child must have seen something," she said.
The sycophants agreed that the child must have seen
something and suddenly all three women took an in-
stinctive step away from the door as the sounds of
muffled steps were audible just outside.
And then three startled gasps rang out as a dark
brown form rounded the corner, and they saw what
was apparently a huge beast looking down at them
"Oof!" cried Mrs. Tate.
"O-o-oh!" cried the ladies in a chorus.
The camel suddenly humped his back, and the gasps
turned to shrieks.
"What is it?"
The dancing stopped, but the dancers hurrying
over got quite a different impression of the invader;
in fact, the young people immediately suspected that
THE CAMEL'S BACK 43
it was a stunt, a hired entertainer come to amuse
the party. The boys in long trousers looked at it
rather disdainfully, and sauntered over with their
hands in their pockets, feeling that their intelligence
was being insulted. But the girls uttered little shouts
" It's a camel!"
"Well, if he isn't the funniest!"
The camel stood there uncertainly, swaying slightly
from side to side, and seeming to take in the room in a
careful, appraising glance; then as if he had come to an
abrupt decision he turned and ambled swiftly out the
Mr. Howard Tate had just come out of the library on
the lower floor, and was standing chatting with a young
man in the hall. Suddenly they heard the noise of
shouting up-stairs, and almost immediately a succession
of bumping sounds, followed by the precipitous appear-
ance at the foot of the stairway of a large brown beast
that seemed to be going somewhere in a great hurry.
"Now what the devil!" said Mr. Tate, starting.
The beast picked itself up not without dignity and,
affecting an air of extreme nonchalance, as if he had
just remembered an important engagement, started at
a mixed gait toward the front door. In fact, his front
legs began casually to run.
"See here now," said Mr. Tate sternly. "Here!
Grab it, Butterfield ! Grab it ! "
The young man enveloped the rear of the camel
in a pair of compelling arms, and, realizing that
further locomotion was impossible, the front end sub-
mitted to capture and stood resignedly in a state of
some agitation. By this time a flood of young people
was pouring down-stairs, and Mr. Tate, suspecting
44 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
everything from an ingenious burglar to an escaped
lunatic, gave crisp directions to the young man:
"Hold him ! Lead him in here; we'll soon see."
The camel consented to be led into the library, and Mr.
Tate, after locking the door, took a revolver from a table
drawer and instructed the young man to take the thing's
head off. Then he gasped and returned the revolver
to its hiding-place.
"Well, Perry Parkhurst!" he exclaimed in amaze-
" Got the wrong party, Mr. Tate," said Perry sheep-
ishly. "Hope I didn't scare you."
"Well you gave us a thrill, Perry." Realization
dawned on him. "You're bound for the Townsends'
"That's the general idea."
"Let me introduce Mr. Butterfield, Mr. Parkhurst."
Then turning to Perry: "Butterfield is staying with us
for a few days."
"I got a little mixed up," mumbled Perry. "I'm
"Perfectly all right; most natural mistake in the
world. I've got a clown rig and I'm going down
there myself after a while." He turned to Butter-
field. "Better change your mind and come down with
The young man demurred. He was going to bed.
"Have a drink, Perry?" suggested Mr. Tate.
"Thanks, I will."
"And, say," continued Tate quickly, "I'd forgotten all
about your friend here." He indicated the rear part
of the camel. " I didn't mean to seem discourteous. Is
it any one I know ? Bring him out."
"It's not a friend," explained Perry hurriedly. "I
just rented him."
THE CAMEL'S BACK 45
"Does he drink?"
"Do you?" demanded Perry, twisting himself tor-
There was a faint sound of assent.
"Sure he does!" said Mr. Tate heartily. "A really
efficient camel ought to be able to drink enough so it'd
last him three days."
"Tell you," said Perry anxiously, "he isn't exactly
dressed up enough to come out. If you give me the
bottle I can hand it back to him and he can take his
From under the cloth was audible the enthusiastic
smacking sound inspired by this suggestion. When a
butler had appeared with bottles, glasses, and siphon
one of the bottles was handed back; thereafter the si-
lent partner could be heard imbibing long potations at
Thus passed a benign hour. At ten o'clock Mr. Tate
decided that they'd better be starting. He donned his
clown's costume; Perry replaced the camel's head, and
side by side they traversed on foot the single block be-
tween the Tate house and the Tallyho Club.
The circus ball was in full swing. A great tent fly
had been put up inside the ballroom and round the walls
had been built rows of booths representing the various
attractions of a circus side show, but these were now
vacated and over the floor swarmed a shouting, laughing
medley of youth and color clowns, bearded ladies,
acrobats, bareback riders, ringmasters, tattooed men,
and charioteers. The Townsends had determined to
assure their party of success, so a great quantity of
liquor had been surreptitiously brought over from
their house and was now flowing freely. A green
ribbon ran along the wall completely round the ball-
room, with pointing arrows alongside and signs which
46 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
instructed the uninitiated to " Follow the green line!"
The green line led down to the bar, where waited
pure punch and wicked punch and plain dark-green
On the wall above the bar was another arrow, red
and very wavy, and under it the slogan: "Now follow
But even amid the luxury of costume and high spirits
represented there, the entrance of the camel created
something of a stir, and Perry was immediately sur-
rounded by a curious, laughing crowd attempting to
penetrate the identity of this beast that stood by the
wide doorway eying the dancers with his hungry, melan-
And then Perry saw Betty standing in front of a
booth, talking to a comic policeman. She was dressed
in the costume of an Egyptian snake-charmer: her
tawny hair was braided and drawn through brass
rings, the effect crowned with a glittering Oriental tiara.
Her fair face was stained to a warm olive glow and on
her arms and the half moon of her back writhed
painted serpents with single eyes of venomous green.
Her feet were in sandals and her skirt was slit to the
knees, so that when she walked one caught a glimpse
of other slim serpents painted just above her bare an-
kles. Wound about her neck was a glittering cobra.
Altogether a charming costume one that caused the
more nervous among the older women to shrink away
from her when she passed, and the more troublesome
ones to make great talk about "shouldn't be allowed"
and "perfectly disgraceful."
But Perry, peering through the uncertain eyes of
the camel, saw only her face, radiant, animated, and
glowing with excitement, and her arms and shoulders,
whose mobile, expressive gestures made her always the
outstanding figure in any group. He was fascinated
THE CAMEL'S BACK 47
and his fascination exercised a sobering effect on him.
With a growing clarity the events of the day came back
rage rose within him, and with a half-formed inten-
tion of taking her away from the crowd he started toward
her or rather he elongated slightly, for he had neglected
to issue the preparatory command necessary to locomo-
But at this point fickle Kismet, who for a day had
played with him bitterly and sardonically, decided to
reward him in full for the amusement he had afforded
her. Kismet turned the tawny eyes of the snake-
charmer to the camel. Kismet led her to lean toward
the man beside her and say, "Who's that? That
"Darned if I know."
But a little man named Warburton, who knew it all,
found it necessary to hazard an opinion:
"It came in with Mr. Tate. I think part of it's
probably Warren Butterfield, the architect from New
York, who's visiting the Tates."
Something stirred in Betty Medill that age-old in-
terest of the provincial girl in the visiting man.
"Oh," she said casually after a slight pause.
At the end of the next dance Betty and her partner
finished up within a few feet of the camel. With
the informal audacity that was the key-note of the
evening she reached out and gently rubbed the camel's
"Hello, old camel."
The camel stirred uneasily.
"You 'fraid of me?" said Betty, lifting her eyebrows
in reproof. "Don't be. You see I'm a snake-charmer,
but I'm pretty good at camels too."
The camel bowed very low and some one made the
obvious remark about beauty and the beast.
Mrs. Townsend approached the group.
48 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Well,Mr.Butterfield,"she said helpfully, " I wouldn't
have recognized you."
Perry bowed again and smiled gleefully behind his
"And who is this with you ?" she inquired.
"Oh," said Perry, his voice muffled by the thick cloth
and quite unrecogni/aMe, "he isn't a fellow, Mrs.
Townsend. He's just part of my costume."
Mrs. Townsend laughed and moved away. Perry
turned again to Betty.
"So," he thought, "this is how much she cares!
On the very day of our final rupture she starts a flirta-
tion with another man an absolute stranger."
On an impulse he gave her a soft nudge with his
shoulder and waved his head suggestively toward the
hall, making it clear that he desired her to leave her
partner and accompany him.
"By-by, Rus," she called to her partner. "This old
camel's got me. Where we going, Prince of Beasts ?"
The noble animal made no rejoinder, but stalked
gravely along in the direction of a secluded nook on the
There she seated herself, and the camel, after some
seconds of confusion which included gruff orders and
sounds of a heated dispute going on in his interior,
placed himself beside her his hind legs stretching out
uncomfortably across two steps.
"Well, old egg," said Betty cheerfully, "how do you
like our happy party?"
The old egg indicated that he liked it by rolling his
head ecstatically and executing a gleeful kick with his
"This is the first time that I ever had a t6te-a-tete
with a man's valet 'round" she pointed to the hind
legs "or whatever that is."
THE CAMEL'S BACK 49
"Oh," mumbled Perry, "he's deaf and blind."
"I should think you'd feel rather handicapped you
can't very well toddle, even if you want to."
The camel hung his head lugubriously.
"I wish you'd say something," continued Betty
sweetly. "Say you like me, camel. Say you think
I'm beautiful. Say you'd like to belong to a pretty
The camel would.
"Will you dance with me, camel?"
The camel would try.
Betty devoted half an hour to the camel. She de-
voted at least half an hour to all visiting men. It was
usually sufficient. When she approached a new man
the current debutantes were accustomed to scatter
right and left like a close column deploying before a
machine-gun. And so to Perry Parkhurst was awarded
the unique privilege of seeing his love as others saw her.
He was flirted with violently !
This paradise of frail foundation was broken into by
the sounds of a general ingress to the ballroom; the
cotillion was beginning. Betty and the camel joined
the crowd, her brown hand resting lightly on his
shoulder, defiantly symbolizing her complete adoption
When they entered the couples were already seating
themselves at tables round the walls, and Mrs. Town-
send, resplendent as a super bareback rider with
rather too rotund calves, was standing in the centre
with the ringmaster in charge of arrangements. At
a signal to the band every one rose and began to
50 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
" Isn't it just slick!" sighed Betty. "Do you think
you can possibly dance ? "
Perry nodded enthusiastically. He felt suddenly
exuberant. After all, he was here incognito talking to
his love he could wink patronizingly at the world.
So Perry danced the cotillion. I say danced, but that
is stretching the word far beyond the wildest dreams of
the jazziest terpsichorean. He suffered his partner to
put her hands on his helpless shoulders and pull him
here and there over the floor while he hung his huge
head docilely over her shoulder and made futile dummy
motions with his feet. His hind legs danced in a manner
all their own, chiefly by hopping first on one foot and
then on the other. Never being sure whether dancing
was going on or not, the hind legs played safe by going
through a series of steps whenever the music started
playing. So the spectacle was frequently presented of
the front part of the camel standing at ease and the rear
keeping up a constant energetic motion calculated to
rouse a sympathetic perspiration in any soft-hearted
He was frequently favored. He danced first with a
tall lady covered with straw who announced jovially
that she was a bale of hay and coyly begged him not to
"I'd like to; you're so sweet," said the camel gal-
Each tune the ringmaster shouted his call of "Men
up ! " he lumbered ferociously for Betty with the card-
board wienerwurst or the photograph of the bearded
lady or whatever the favor chanced to be. Sometimes
he reached her first, but usually his rushes were unsuc-
cessful and resulted in intense interior arguments.
"For Heaven's sake," Perry would snarl fiercely be-
tween his clenched teeth, "get a little pep! I could
THE CAMEL'S BACK 51
have gotten her that time if you'd picked your feet
"Well, gimme a little warnin' !"
"I did, darn you."
"I can't see a dog-gone thing in here."
"All you have to do is follow me. It's just like drag-
ging a load of sand round to walk with you."
"Maybe you wanta try back here."
"You shut up! If these people found you in this
room they'd give you the worst beating you ever had.
They'd take your taxi license away from you !"
Perry surprised himself by the ease with which he
made this monstrous threat, but it seemed to have a
soporific influence on his companion, for he gave out an
"aw gwan" and subsided into abashed silence.
The ringmaster mounted to the top of the piano and
waved his hand for silence.
"Prizes ! " he cried. " Gather round ! "
Self-consciously the circle swayed forward. The
rather pretty girl who had mustered the nerve to come
as a bearded lady trembled with excitement, thinking
to be rewarded for an evening's hideousness. The man
who had spent the afternoon having tattoo marks painted
on him skulked on the edge of the crowd, blushing furi-
ously when any one told him he was sure to get it.
"Lady and gent performers of this circus," announced
the ringmaster jovially, "I am sure we will all agree
that a good time has been had by all. We will now be-
stow honor where honor is due by bestowing the prizes.
Mrs. Townsend has asked me to bestow the prizes.
Now, fellow performers, the first prize is for that lady
who has displayed this evening the most striking, be-
coming" at this point the bearded lady sighed re-
signedly "and original costume." Here the bale of
52 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
hay pricked up her ears. "Now I am sure that the
decision which has been agreed upon will be unanimous
with all here present. The first prize goes to Miss Betty
Medill, the charming Egyptian snake-charmer."
There was a burst of applause, chiefly masculine,
and Miss Betty Medill, blushing beautifully through her
olive paint, was passed up to receive her award. With
a tender glance the ringmaster handed down to her a
huge bouquet of orchids.
"And now," he continued, looking round him, "the
other prize is for that man who has the most amusing
and original costume. This prize goes without dispute
to a guest in our midst, a gentleman who is visiting here
but whose stay we all hope will be long and merry in
short, to the noble camel who has entertained us all by
his hungry look and his brilliant dancing throughout
He ceased and there was a violent clapping and yea-
ing, for it was a popular choice. The prize, a large box
of cigars, was put aside for the camel, as he was ana-
tomically unable to accept it in person.
"And now," continued the ringmaster, "we will
wind up the cotillion with the marriage of Mirth to
"Form for the grand wedding march, the beautiful
snake-charmer and the noble camel in front ! "
Betty skipped forward cheerily and wound an olive
arm round the camel's neck. Behind them formed the
procession of little boys, little girls, country jakes, fat
ladies, thin men, sword-swallowers, wild men of Borneo,
and armless wonders, many of them well in their cups,
all of them excited and happy and dazzled by the flow
of light and color round them, and by the familiar faces,
strangely iinfamiliar under bizarre wigs and barbaric
paint. The voluptuous chords of the wedding march
THE CAMEL'S BACK 53
done in blasphemous syncopation issued in a delirious
blend from the trombones and saxophones and the
" Aren't you glad, camel?" demanded Betty sweetly
as they stepped off. " Aren't you glad we're going to
be married and you're going to belong to the nice snake-
charmer ever afterward?"
The camel's front legs pranced, expressing excessive
"Minister! Minister! Where's the minister?" cried
voices out of the revel. "Who's going to be the clergy-
The head of Jumbo, obese negro, waiter at the Tally-
ho Club for many years, appeared rashly through a half-
opened pantry door.
" Get old Jumbo. He's the fella ! "
' ' Come on, Jumbo. How 'bout marrying us a couple ? "
Jumbo was seized by four comedians, stripped of his
apron, and escorted to a raised dais at the head of the
ball. There his collar was removed and replaced back
side forward with ecclesiastical effect. The parade sep-
arated into two lines, leaving an aisle for the bride and
"Lawdy, man," roared Jumbo, "Ah got ole Bible V
ev'ythin', sho miff."
He produced a battered Bible from an interior pocket.
" Yea ! Jumbo's got a Bible ! "
"Razor, too, I'll bet!"
Together the snake-charmer and the camel ascended
the cheering aisle and stopped in front of Jumbo.
"Where's yo license, camel?"
A man near by prodded Perry.
"Give him a piece of paper. Anything'll do."
54 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Perry fumbled confusedly in his pocket, found a
folded paper, and pushed it out through the camel's
mouth. Holding it upside down Jumbo pretended to
scan it earnestly.
"Dis yeah's a special camel's license/' he said. "Get
you ring ready, camel."
Inside the camel Perry turned round and addressed
his worse half.
"Gimme a ring, for Heaven's sake!"
"I ain't got none," protested a weary voice.
"You have. I saw it."
"I ain't goin* to take it offen my hand."
"If you don't I'll kill you."
There was a gasp and Perry felt a huge affair of
rhinestone and brass inserted into his hand.
Again he was nudged from the outside.
"I do!" cried Perry quickly.
He heard Betty's responses given in a debonair tone,
and even in this burlesque the sound thrilled him.
Then he had pushed the rhinestone through a tear
in the earners coat and was slipping it on her finger,
muttering ancient and historic words after Jumbo.
He didn't want any one to know about this ever. His
one idea was to slip away without having to disclose
his identity, for Mr. Tate had so far kept his secret
well. A dignified young man, Perry and this might
injure his infant law practice.
"Embrace the bride!"
"Unmask, camel, and kiss her!"
Instinctively his heart beat high as Betty turned to
him laughingly and began to stroke the card-board
muzzle. He felt his self-control giving way, he
longed to surround her with his arms and declare his
identity and kiss those lips that smiled only a foot
THE CAMEL'S BACK 55
away when suddenly the laughter and applause round
them died off and a curious hush fell over the hall.
Perry and Betty looked up in surprise. Jumbo had
given vent to a huge " Hello!" in such a startled
voice that all eyes were bent on him.
"Hello!" he said again. He had turned round the
camel's marriage license, which he had been holding up-
side down, produced spectacles, and was studying it
"Why," he exclaimed, and in the pervading silence
his words were heard plainly by every one in the room,
"this yeah's a sho-nuff marriage permit."
"Say it again, Jumbo!"
"Sure you can read?"
Jumbo waved them to silence and Perry's blood
burned to fire in his veins as he realized the break he
"Yassuh!" repeated Jumbo. "This yeah's a sho-
nuff license, and the pa' ties concerned one of 'em is dis
yeah young lady, Miz Betty Medill, and th' other's
Mistah Perry Pa'khurst."
There was a general gasp, and a low rumble broke out
as all eyes fell on the camel. Betty shrank away
from him quickly, her tawny eyes giving out sparks
"Is you Mistah Pa'khurst, you camel?"
Perry made no answer. The crowd pressed up closer
and stared at him. He stood frozen rigid with embar-
rassment, his cardboard face still hungry and sardonic
as he regarded the ominous Jumbo.
"Y'all bettah speak up!" said Jumbo slowly,
"this yeah's a mighty serious mattah. Outside mah
duties at this club ah happens to be a sho-nuff minister
56 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
in the Firs' Cullud Baptis' Church. It done look to me
as though y'all is gone an' got married."
The scene that followed will go down forever in the
annals of the Tailyho Club. Stout matrons fainted, one
hundred per cent Americans swore, wild-eyed debutantes
babbled in lightning groups instantly formed and in-
stantly dissolved, and a great buzz of chatter, virulent yet
oddly subdued, hummed through the chaotic ballroom.
Feverish youths swore they would kill Perry or Jumbo
or themselves or some one, and the Baptis' preacheh
was besieged by a tempestuous covey of clamorous
amateur lawyers, asking questions, making threats, de-
manding precedents, ordering the bonds annulled, and
especially trying to ferret out any hint of prearrange-
ment in what had occurred.
In the corner Mrs. Townsend was crying softly on
the shoulder of Mr. Howard Tate, who was trying
vainly to comfort her; they were exchanging "all my
fault's" volubly and voluminously. Outside on a snow-
r covered walk Mr. Cyrus Medill, the Aluminum Man,
was being paced slowly up and down between two
brawny charioteers, giving vent now to a string of
unrepeatables, now to wild pleadings that they'd just
let him get at Jumbo. He was facetiously attired for
the evening as a wild man of Borneo, and the most
exacting stage-manager would have acknowledged any
improvement in casting the part to be quite impos-
Meanwhile the two principals held the real centre of
the stage. Betty Medill or was it Betty Parkhurst ?
storming furiously, was surrounded by the plainer girls
the prettier ones were too busy talking about her to
THE CAMEL'S BACK 57
pay much attention to her and over on the other side
of the hall stood the camel, still intact except for his
headpiece, which dangled pathetically on his chest.
Perry was earnestly engaged in making protestations of
his innocence to a ring of angry, puzzled men. Every
few minutes, just as he had apparently proved his case,
some one would mention the marriage certificate, and
the inquisition would begin again.
A girl named Marion Cloud, considered the second
best belle of Toledo, changed the gist of the situation
by a remark she made to Betty.
"Well/' she said maliciously, "it'll all blow over,
dear. The courts will annul it without question."
Betty's angry tears dried miraculously in her eyes,
her lips shut tight together, and she looked stonily at
Marion. Then she rose and, scattering her sympathizers
right and left, walked directly across the room to Perry,
who stared at her in terror. Again silence crept down
upon the room.
"Will you have the decency to grant me five minutes'
conversation or wasn't that included in your plans?"
He nodded, his mouth unable to form words.
Indicating coldly that he was to follow her she walked
out into the hall with her chin uptilted and headed for
the privacy of one of the little card-rooms.
Perry started after her, but was brought to a jerky
halt by the failure of his hind legs to function.
"You stay here!" he commanded savagely.
"I can't," whined a voice from the hump, "unless
you get out first and let me get out."
Perry hesitated, but unable any longer to tolerate
the eyes of the curious crowd he muttered a command
and the camel moved carefully from the room on its
Betty was waiting for him.
58 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Well," she began furiously, "you see what you've
done! You and that crazy license! I told you you
shouldn't have gotten it ! "
"My dear girl, I "
"Don't say 'dear girl' to me! Save that for your
real wife if you ever get one after this disgraceful per-
formance. And don't try to pretend it wasn't all ar-
ranged. You know you gave that colored waiter money !
You know you did ! Do you mean to say you didn't
try to marry me ? "
"No of course "
"Yes, you'd better admit it! You tried it, and now
what are you going to do ? Do you know my father's
nearly crazy? It'll serve you right if he tries to kill
you. He'll take his gun and put some cold steel in you.
Even if this wed this thing can be annulled it'll hang
over me all the rest of my life !"
Perry could not resist quoting softly: "'Oh, camel,
wouldn't you like to belong to the pretty snake-charmer
for all your-
"Shut up!" cried Betty.
There was a pause.
"Betty," said Perry finally, "there's only one thing
to do that will really get us out clear. That's for you
to marry me."
"Yes. Really it's the only "
"You shut up! I wouldn't marry you if if
"I know. If I were the last man on earth. But if
you care anything about your reputation "
"Reputation!" she cried. "You're a nice one to
think about my reputation now. Why didn't you think
about my reputation before you hired that horrible
Jumbo to to
Perry tossed up his hands hopelessly.
THE CAilEL'S BACK 59
"Very well. I'll do anything you want. Lord knows
I renounce all claims ! "
"But," said a new voice, "I don't."
Perry and Betty started, and she put her hand to her
"For Heaven's sake, what was that?"
"It's me," said the camel's back.
In a minute Perry had whipped off the camel's skin,
and a lax, limp object, his clothes hanging on him
damply, his hand clenched tightly on an almost empty
bottle, stood defiantly before them.
"Oh," cried Betty, "you brought that object in here
to frighten me ! You told me he was deaf that awful
person ! "
The camel's back sat down on a chair with a sigh of
"Don't talk 'at way about me, lady. I ain't no per-
son. I'm your husband."
The cry was wrung simultaneously from Betty and
"Why, sure. I'm as much your husband as that gink
is. The smoke didn't marry you to the camel's front.
He married you to the whole camel. Why, that's my
ring you got on your finger!"
With a little yelp she snatched the ring from her finger
and flung it passionately at the floor.
"What's all this?" demanded Perry dazedly.
" Jes' that you better fix me an' fix me right. If you
don't I'm a-gonna have the same claim you got to bein'
married to her ! "
"That's bigamy," said Perry, turning gravely to
Then came the supreme moment of Perry's evening,
the ultimate chance on which he risked his fortunes. He
60 TALES OF THF JAZZ AGE
rose and looked first at Betty, where she sat weakly,
aghast at this new complication, and then at the indi-
vidual who swayed from side to side on his chair, un-
"Very well," said Perry slowly to the individual,
"you can have her. Betty, I'm going to prove to you
that as far as I'm concerned our^ marriage was entirely
accidental. I'm going to renounce utterly my rights to
have you as my wife, and give you to to the man
whose ring you wear your lawful husband."
There was a pause and four horror-stricken eyes
were turned on him.
"Good-by, Betty," he said brokenly. "Don't for-
get me in your new-found happiness. I'm going to
leave for the Far West on the morning train. Think of
me kindly, Betty."
With a last glance at them he turned and his head
rested on his chest as his hand touched the door-knob.
"Good-by," he repeated. He turned the door-knob.
But at this sound the snakes and silk and tawny hair
precipitated themselves violently toward him.
"Oh, Perry, don't leave me! Perry, Perry, take me
Her tears flowed damply on his neck. Calmly he
folded his arms about her.
"I don't care," she cried. "I love you and if you can
wake up a minister at this hour and have it done over
again I'll go West with you."
Over her shoulder the front part of the camel looked
at the back part of the camel and they exchanged a
particularly subtle, esoteric sort of wink that only true
camels can understand.
THERE had been a war fought and won and the great
city of the conquering people was crossed with trium-
phal arches and vivid with thrown flowers of white,
red, and rose. All through the long spring days the re-
turning soldiers marched up the chief highway behind
the strump of drums and the joyous, resonant wind of
the brasses, while merchants and clerks left their bick-
erings and figurings and, crowding to the windows,
turned their white-bunched faces gravely upon the pass-
Never had there been such splendor in the great city,
for the victorious war had brought plenty in its train,
and the merchants had flocked thither from the South
and West with their households to taste of all the lus-
cious feasts and witness the lavish entertainments pre-
pared and to buy for their women furs against the next
winter and bags of golden mesh and varicolored slip-
pers of silk and silver and rose satin and cloth of gold.
So gaily and noisily were the peace and prosperity
impending hymned by the scribes and poets of the con-
quering people that more and more spenders had gath-
ered from the provinces to drink the wine of excitement,
and faster and faster did the merchants dispose of their
trinkets and slippers until they sent up a mighty cry
for more trinkets and more slippers in order that they
might give in barter what was demanded of them.
Some even of them flung up their hands helplessly,
"Alas 1 1 have no more slippers ! and alas ! I have no
62 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
more trinkets ! May Heaven help me, for I know not
what I shall do!"
But no one listened to their great outcry, for the
throngs were far too busy day by day, the foot-soldiers
trod jauntily the highway and all exulted because the
young men returning were pure and brave, sound of
tooth and pink of cheek, and the young women of the
land were virgins and comely both of face and of figure.
So during all this time there were many adventures
that happened in the great city, and, of these, several
or perhaps one are here set down.
At nine o'clock on the morning of the first of May,
1919, a young man spoke to the room clerk at the Bilt-
more Hotel, asking if Mr. Philip Dean were registered
there, and if so, could he be connected with Mr. Dean's
rooms. The inquirer was dressed in a well-cut, shabby
suit. He was small, slender, and darkly handsome;
his eyes were framed above with unusually long eye-
lashes and below with the blue semicircle of ill health,
this latter effect heightened by an unnatural glow which
colored his face like a low, incessant fever.
Mr. Dean was staying there. The young man was
directed to a telephone at the side.
After a second his connection was made; a sleepy
voice hello'd from somewhere above.
"Mr. Dean?" this very eagerly "it's Gordon,
Phil. It's Gordon Sterrett. I'm down-stairs. I heard
you were in New York and I had a hunch you'd be here."
The sleepy voice became gradually enthusiastic. Well,
how was Gordy, old boy ! Well, he certainly was sur-
prised and tickled ! Would Gordy come right up, for
Pete's sake !
MAY DAY 63
A few minutes later Philip Dean, dressed in blue silk
pajamas, opened his door and the two young men greeted
each other with a half-embarrassed exuberance. They
were both about twenty-four, Yale graduates of the year
before the war; but there the resemblance stopped
abruptly. Dean was blond, ruddy, and rugged under his
thin pajamas. Everything about him radiated fitness
and bodily comfort. He smiled frequently, showing
large and prominent teeth.
"I was going to look you up," he cried enthusiasti-
cally. "I'm taking a couple of weeks off. If you'll sit
down a sec I'll be right with you. Going to take a
As he vanished into the bathroom his visitor's dark
eyes roved nervously around the room, resting for a
moment on a great English travelling bag in the corner
and on a family of thick silk shirts littered on the chairs
amid impressive neckties and soft woollen socks.
Gordon rose and, picking up one of the shirts, gave it
a minute examination. It was of very heavy silk, yel-
low, with a pale blue stripe and there were nearly a
dozen of them. He stared involuntarily at his own
shirt-cuffs they were ragged and linty at the edges and
soiled to a faint gray. Dropping the silk shirt, he held
his coat-sleeves down and worked the frayed shirt-cuffs
up till they were out of sight. Then he went to the
mirror and looked at himself with listless, unhappy
interest. His tie, of former glory, was faded and thumb-
creased it served no longer to hide the jagged button-
holes of his collar. He thought, quite without amuse-
ment, that only three years before he had received a
scattering vote in the senior elections at college for being
the best-dressed man in his class.
Dean emerged from the bathroom polishing his body.
"Saw an old friend of yours last night/' he remarked.
64 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Passed her in the lobby and couldn't think of her name
to save my neck. That girl you brought up to New
Haven senior year."
" Edith Bradin ? That whom you mean ? "
"'At's the one. Damn good looking. She's still
sort of a pretty doll you know what I mean : as if you
touched her she'd srn
He surveyed his shining self complacently in the
mirror, smiled faintly, exposing a section of teeth.
"She must be twenty-three anyway," he continued.
"Twenty- two last month," said Gordon absently.
"What? Oh, last month. Well, I imagine she's
down for the Gamma Psi dance. Did you know we're
having a Yale Gamma Psi dance to-night at Delmoni-
co's? You better come up, Gordy. Half of New
Haven'll probably be there. I can get you an invita-
Draping himself reluctantly in fresh underwear, Dean
lit a cigarette and sat down by the open window, in-
specting his calves and knees under the morning sun-
shine which poured into the room.
"Sit down, Gordy," he suggested, "and tell me all
about what you've been doing and what you're doing
now and everything."
Gordon collapsed unexpectedly upon the bed; lay
there inert and spiritless. His mouth, which habitually
dropped a little open when his face was in repose, be-
came suddenly helpless and pathetic.
"What's the matter ?" asked Dean quickly.
"What's the matter?"
"Every God damn thing in the world," he said miser-
ably. "I've absolutely gone to pieces, Phil. I'm all
MAY DAY 65
"I'm all in." His voice was shaking.
Dean scrutinized him more closely with appraising
"You certainly look all shot."
"I am. I've made a hell of a mess of everything."
He paused. "I'd better start at the beginning or will
it bore you?"
"Not at all; go on." There was, however, a hesitant
note in Dean's voice. This trip East had been planned
for a holiday to find Gordon Sterrett in trouble exas-
perated him a little.
"Go on," he repeated, and then added half under his
breath, "Get it over with."
"Well," began Gordon unsteadily, "I got back from
France in February, went home to Harrisburg for a
month, and then came down to New York to get a job.
I got one with an export company. They fired me
" I'm coming to that, Phil. I want to tell you frankly.
You're about the only man I can turn to in a matter like
this. You won't mind if I just tell you frankly, will
Dean stiffened a bit more. The pats he was bestow-
ing on his knees grew perfunctory. He felt vaguely that
he was being unfairly saddled with responsibility; he
was not even sure he wanted to be told. Though
never surprised at finding Gordon Sterrett in mild
difficulty, there was something in this present misery
that repelled him and hardened him, even though it
excited his curiosity.
"It's a girl."
"Hm." Dean resolved that nothing was going to
66 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
spoil his trip. If Gordon was going to be depressing,
then he'd have to see less of Gordon.
"Her name is Jewel Hudson," went on the distressed
voice from the bed. "She used to be 'pure,' I guess,
up to about a year ago. Lived here in New York
poor family. Her people are dead now and she lives
with an old aunt. You see it was just about the time
I met her that everybody began to come back from
France in droves and all I did was to welcome the
newly arrived and go on parties with 'em. That's the
way it started, Phil, just from being glad to see every-
body and having them glad to see me."
"You ought to've had more sense."
"I know," Gordon paused, and then continued list-
lessly. "I'm on my own now, you know, and Phil, I
can't stand being poor. Then came this darn girl.
She sort of fell in love with me for a while and, though I
never intended to get so involved, I'd always seem to
run into her somewhere. You can imagine the sort
of work I was doing for those exporting people of
course, I always intended to draw; do illustrating for
magazines; there's a pile of money in it."
"Why didn't you? You've got to buckle down if
you want to make good," suggested Dean with cold
"I tried, a little, but my stuff's crude. I've got tal-
ent, Phil; I can draw but I just don't know how. I
ought to go to art school and I can't afford it. Well,
things came to a crisis about a week ago. Just as I
was down to about my last dollar this girl began bother-
ing me. She wants some money; claims she can make
trouble for me if she doesn't get it."
"I'm afraid she can. That's one reason I lost my
job she kept calling up the office all the time, and that
MAY DAY 67
was sort of the last straw down there. She's got a
letter all written to send to my family. Oh, she's got
me, all right. I've got to have some money for her."
There was an awkward pause. Gordon lay very still,
his hands clenched by his side.
"I'm all in," he continued, his voice trembling. "I'm
half crazy, Phil. If I hadn't known you were coming
East, I think I'd have killed myself. I want you to
lend me three hundred dollars."
Dean's hands, which had been patting his bare ankles,
were suddenly quiet and the curious uncertainty play-
ing between the two became taut and strained.
After a second Gordon continued:
"I've bled the family until I'm ashamed to ask for
Still Dean made no answer.
"Jewel says she's got to have two hundred dollars."
"Tell her where she can go."
"Yes, that sounds easy, but she's got a couple of
drunken letters I wrote her. Unfortunately she's not
at all the flabby sort of person you'd expect."
Dean made an expression of distaste.
"I can't stand that sort of woman. You ought to
have kept away."
"I know," admitted Gordon wearily.
"You've got to look at things as they are. If you
haven't got money you've got to work and stay away
"That's easy for you to say," began Gordon, his eyes
narrowing. "You've got all the money in the world."
"I most certainly have not. My family keep darn
close tab on what I spend. Just because I have a little
leeway I have to be extra careful not to abuse it."
He raised the blind and let in a further flood of sun-
68 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"I'm no prig, Lord knows," he went on deliberately.
"I like pleasure and I like a lot of it on a vacation
like this, but you're you're in awful shape. I never
heard you talk just this way before. You seem to be
sort of bankrupt morally as well as financially."
" Don't they usually go together?"
Dean shook his head impatiently.
"There's a regular aura about you that I don't under-
stand. It's a sort of evil."
"It's an air of worry and poverty and sleepless
nights," said Gordon, rather defiantly.
"I don't know."
" Oh, I admit I'm depressing. I depress myself. But,
my God, Phil, a week's rest and a new suit and some
ready money and I'd be like like I was. Phil, I can
draw like a streak, and you know it. But half the time
I haven't had the money to buy decent drawing ma-
terials and I can't draw when I'm tired and discour-
aged and all in. With a little ready money I can take
a few weeks off and get started."
"How do I know you wouldn't use it on some other
woman ? "
"Why rub it in ?" said Gordon quietly.
"I'm not rubbing it in. I hate to see you this way."
"Will you lend me the money, Phil ?"
"I can't decide right off. That's a lot of money and
it'll be darn inconvenient for me."
"It'll be hell for me if you can't I know I'm whining,
and it's all my own fault but that doesn't change it."
"When could you pay it back ?"
This was encouraging. Gordon considered. It was
probably wisest to be frank.
"Of course, I could promise to send it back next
month, but I'd better say three months. Just as
soon as I start to sell drawings."
MAY DAY 69
"How do 1 know you'll sell any drawings ?"
A new hardness in Dean's voice sent a faint chill of
doubt over Gordon. Was it possible that he wouldn't
get the money ?
"I supposed you had a little confidence in me."
"I did have but when I see you like this I begin to
"Do you suppose if I wasn't at the end of my rope
I'd come to you like this ? Do you think I'm enjoying
it?" He broke off and bit his lip, feeling that he had
better subdue the rising anger in his voice. After all,
he was the suppliant.
"You seem to manage it pretty easily," said Dean
angrily. "You put me in the position where, if I don't
lend it to you, I'm a sucker oh, yes, you do. And let
me tell you it's no easy thing for me to get hold of three
hundred dollars. My income isn't so big but that a
slice like that won't play the deuce with it."
He left his chair and began to dress, choosing his
clothes carefully. Gordon stretched out his arms and
clenched the edges of the bed, fighting back a de-
sire to cry out. His head was splitting and whirring,
his mouth was dry and bitter and he could feel the fever
in his blood resolving itself into innumerable regular
counts like a slow dripping from a roof.
Dean tied his tie precisely, brushed his eyebrows, and
removed a piece of tobacco from his teeth with solemnity.
Next he filled his cigarette case, tossed the empty box
thoughtfully into the waste basket, and settled the case
in his vest pocket.
"Had breakfast?" he demanded.
"No; I don't eat it any more."
"Well, we'll go out and have some. We'll decide
about that money later. I'm sick of the subject. I
came East to have a good time.
70 TALES OF THE JAZZ
"Let's go over to the Yale Club," he continued
moodily, and then added with an implied reproof:
"You've given up your job. You've got nothing else
"I'd have a lot to do if I had a little money," said
"Oh, for Heaven's sake drop the subject for a while \
No point in glooming on my whole trip. Here, here's
He took a five-dollar bill from his wallet and tossed
it over to Gordon, who folded it carefully and put it
in his pocket. There was an added spot of color in
his cheeks, an added glow that was not fever. For
an instant before they turned to go out their eyes met
and in that instant each found something that made
him lower his own glance quickly. For in that instant
they quite suddenly and definitely hated each other.
Fifth Avenue and Forty-fourth Street swarmed with
the noon crowd. The wealthy, happy sun glittered in
transient gold through the thick windows of the smart
shops, lighting upon mesh bags and purses and strings
of pearls in gray velvet cases; upon gaudy feather fans of
many colors; upon the laces and silks of expensive
dresses; upon the bad paintings and the fine period
furniture in the elaborate show rooms of interior deco-
Working-girls, in pairs and groups and swarms,
loitered by these windows, choosing their future boudoirs
from some resplendent display which included even a
man's silk pajamas laid domestically across the bed.
They stood in front of the jewelry stores and picked
MAY DAY 71
out their engagement rings, and their wedding rings
and their platinum wrist watches, and then drifted on
to inspect the feather fans and opera cloaks; meanwhile
digesting the sandwiches and sundaes they had eaten
All through the crowd were men in uniform, sailors
from the great fleet anchored in the Hudson, soldiers
with divisional insignia from Massachusetts to Cali-
fornia, wanting fearfully to be noticed, and finding the
great city thoroughly fed up with soldiers unless they
were nicely massed into pretty formations and uncom-
fortable under the weight of a pack and rifle.
Through this medley Dean and Gordon wandered;
the former interested, made alert by the display of hu-
manity at its frothiest and gaudiest; the latter reminded
of how often he had been one of the crowd, tired, cas-
ually fed, overworked, and dissipated. To Dean the
struggle was significant, young, cheerful; to Gordon it
was dismal, meaningless, endless.
In the Yale Club they met a group of their former
classmates who greeted the visiting Dean vociferously.
Sitting in a semicircle of lounges and great chairs, they
had a highball all around.
Gordon found the conversation tiresome and intermin-
able. They lunched together en masse, warmed with
liquor as the afternoon began. They were all going to
the Gamma Psi dance that night it promised to be the
best party since the war.
"Edith Bradin's coming," said some one to Gordon.
" Didn't she used to be an old flame of yours? Aren't
you both from Harrisburg ? "
"Yes." He tried to change the subject. "I see her
brother occasionally. He's sort of a socialistic nut.
Runs a paper or something here in New York."
72 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Not like his gay sister, eh?" continued his eager
informant. "Well, she's coining to-night with a junior
named Peter Himmel."
Gordon was to meet Jewel Hudson at eight o'clock
he had promised to have some money for her. Several
times he glanced nervously at his wrist watch. At four,
to his relief, Dean rose and announced that he was going
over to Rivers Brothers to buy some collars and ties.
But as they left the Club another of the party joined
them, to Gordon's great dismay. Dean was in a jovial
mood now, happy, expectant of the evening's party,
faintly hilarious. Over in Rivers' he chose a dozen
neckties, selecting each one after long consultations with
the other man. Did he think narrow ties were com-
ing back ? And wasn't it a shame that Rivers couldn't
get any more Welsh Margotson collars? There never
was a collar like the "Covington."
Gordon was in something of a panic. He wanted
the money immediately. And he was now inspired
also with a vague idea of attending the Gamma Psi
dance. He wanted to see Edith Edith whom he hadn't
met since one romantic night at the Harrisburg Country
Club just before he went to France. The affair had died,
drowned in the turmoil of the war and quite forgotten
in the arabesque of these three months, but a picture
of her, poignant, debonnaire, immersed in her own in-
consequential chatter, recurred to him unexpectedly
and brought a hundred memories with it. It was
Edith's face that he had cherished through college with
a sort of detached yet affectionate admiration. He
had loved to draw her around his room had been a
dozen sketches of her playing golf, swimming he
could draw her pert, arresting profile with his eyes shut.
They left Rivers' at five- thirty and paused for a mo-
ment on the sidewalk.
MAY DAY 73
"Well," said Dean genially, "I'm all set now. Think
I'll go back to the hotel and get a shave, haircut, and
"Good enough," said the other man, "I think I'll
Gordon wondered if he was to be beaten after all.
With difficulty he restrained himself from turning to
the man and snarling out, "Go on away, damn you!"
In despair he suspected that perhaps Dean had spoken
to him, was keeping him along in order to avoid a dis-
pute about the money.
They went into the Biltmore a Biltmore alive with
girls mostly from the West and South, the stellar debu-
tantes of many cities gathered for the dance of a famous
fraternity of a famous university. But to Gordon
they were faces in a dream. He gathered together his
forces for a last appeal, was about to come out with he
knew not what, when Dean suddenly excused him-
self to the other man and taking Gordon's arm led him
"Gordy," he said quickly, "Fve thought the whole
thing over carefully and I've decided that I can't lend
you that money. I'd like to oblige you, but I don't
feel I ought to it'd put a crimp hi me for a month."
Gordon, watching him dully, wondered why he had
never before noticed how much those upper teeth pro-
"I'm mighty sorry, Gordon," continued Dean,
"but that's the way it is."
He took out his wallet and deliberately counted out
seventy-five dollars in bills.
"Here," he said, holding them out, "here's seventy-
five; that makes eighty all together. That's all the
actual cash I have with me, besides what I'll actually
spend on the trip."
74 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Gordon raised his clenched hand automatically,
opened it as though it were a tongs he was holding,
and clenched it again on the money.
"I'll see you at the dance," continued Dean. "I've
got to get along to the barber shop."
"So-long," said Gordon in a strained and husky
Dean began to smile, but seemed to change his mind.
He nodded briskly and disappeared.
But Gordon stood there, his handsome face awry
with distress, the roll of bills clenched tightly in his
hand. Then, blinded by sudden tears, he stumbled
clumsily down the Biltmore steps.
About nine o'clock of the same night two human
beings came out of a cheap restaurant in Sixth Avenue.
They were ugly, ill-nourished, devoid of all except the
very lowest form of intelligence, and without even that
animal exuberance that in itself brings color into life;
they were lately vermin-ridden, cold, and hungry in a
dirty town of a strange land; they were poor, friendless;
tossed as driftwood from their births, they would be
tossed as driftwood to their deaths. They were dressed
in the uniform of the United States Army, and on the
shoulder of each was the insignia of a drafted division
from New Jersey, landed three days before.
The taller of the two was named Carrol Key, a name
hinting that in his veins, however thinly diluted by
generations of degeneration, ran blood of some poten-
tiality. But one could stare endlessly at the long, chin-
less face, the dull, watery eyes, and high cheek-bones,
without finding a suggestion of either ancestral worth
or native resourcefulness.
MAY DAY 75
His companion was swart and bandy-legged, with
rat-eyes and a much-broken hooked nose. His defiant
air was obviously a pretense, a weapon of protection
borrowed from that world of snarl and snap, of physi-
cal bluff and physical menace, in which he had always
lived. His name was Gus Rose.
Leaving the cafe they sauntered down Sixth Avenue,
wielding toothpicks with great gusto and complete de-
"Where to?" asked Rose, in a tone which implied
that he would not be surprised if Key suggested the
South Sea Islands.
"What you say we see if we can getta holda some
liquor?" Prohibition was not yet. The ginger in the
suggestion was caused by the law forbidding the selling
of liquor to soldiers.
Rose agreed enthusiastically.
"I got an idea," continued Key, after a moment's
thought, "I got a brother somewhere."
"In New York?"
"Yeah. He's an old fella." He meant that he was
an elder brother. "He's a waiter in a hash joint."
"Maybe he can get us some."
"I'll say he can!"
"B'lieve me, I'm goin' to get this dam uniform off
me to-morra. Never get me in it again, neither. I'm
goin' to get me some regular clothes."
"Say, maybe I'm not."
As their combined finances were something less than
five dollars, this intention can be taken largely as a
pleasant game of words, harmless and consoling. It
seemed to please both of them, however, for they rein-
forced it with chuckling and mention of personages
high in biblical circles, adding such further emphasis
as "Oh, boy!" "You know!" and "I'll say so!" re-
peated many times over.
76 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
The eiitire mental pabulum of these two men con-
sisted of an offended nasal comment extended through
the years upon the institution army, business, or poor-
house which kept them alive, and toward their im-
mediate superior in that institution. Until that very
morning the institution had been the "government"
and the immediate superior had been the- "Tap'n"-
from these two they had glided out and were now in the
vaguely uncomfortable state before they should adopt
their next bondage. They were uncertain, resentful,
and somewhat ill at ease. This they hid by pretending
an elaborate relief at being out of the army, and by
assuring each other that military discipline should never
again rule their stubborn, liberty-loving wills. Yet,
as a matter of fact, they would have felt more at home
in a prison than in this new-found and unquestionable
Suddenly Key increased his gait. Rose, looking up
and following his glance, discovered a crowd that was
collecting fifty yards down the street. Key chuckled
and began to run in the direction of the crowd; Rose
thereupon also chuckled and his short bandy legs
twinkled beside the long, awkward strides of his com-
Reaching the outskirts of the crowd they immediately
became an indistinguishable part of it. It was com-
posed of ragged civilians somewhat the worse for liquor,
and of soldiers representing many divisions and many
stages of sobriety, all clustered around a gesticulating
little Jew with long black whiskers, who was waving his
arms and delivering an excited but succinct harangue.
Key and Rose, having wedged themselves into the
approximate parquet, scrutinized him with acute suspi-
cion, as his words penetrated their common conscious-
MAY DAY 77
" What have you got outa the war ?" he was crying
fiercely. "Look arounja, look arounja! Are you rich ?
Have you got a lot of money offered you ? no; you're
lucky if you're alive and got both your legs; you're
lucky if you came back an' find your wife ain't gone
off with some other fella that had the money to buy
himself out of the war! That's when you're lucky!
Who got anything out of it except J. P. Morgan an'
At this point the little Jew's oration was interrupted
by the hostile impact of a fist upon the point of his
bearded chin and he toppled backward to a sprawl on
"God damn Bolsheviki!" cried the big soldier-
blacksmith who had delivered the blow. There was a
rumble of approval, the crowd closed in nearer.
The Jew staggered to his feet, and immediately went
down again before a half-dozen reaching-in fists. This
tune he stayed down, breathing heavily, blood oozing
from his lip where it was cut within and without.
There was a riot of voices, and in a minute Rose and
Key found themselves flowing with the jumbled crowd
down Sixth Avenue under the leadership of a thin civil-
ian in a slouch hat and the brawny soldier who had sum-
marily ended the oration. The crowd had marvellously
swollen to formidable proportions and a stream of more
non-committal citizens followed it along the sidewalks
lending their moral support by intermittent' huzzas.
" Where we goin'?" yelled Key to the man nearest
His neighbor pointed up to the leader in the slouch
"That guy knows where there's a lot of 'em ! We're
goin' to show 'em!"
"We're goin' to show 'em!" whispered Key delight-
78 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
edly to Rose, who repeated the phrase rapturously to
a man on the other side.
Down Sixth Avenue swept the procession, joined here
and there by soldiers and marines, and now and then by
civilians, who came up with the inevitable cry that
they were just out of the army themselves, as if present-
ing it as a card of admission to a newly formed Sporting
and Amusement Club.
Then the procession swerved down a cross street and
headed for Fifth Avenue and the word filtered here and
there that they were bound for a Red meeting at Tolli-
" Where is it?"
The question went up the line and a moment later
the answer floated back. Tolliver Hall was down on
Tenth Street. There was a bunch of other sojers who
was goin' to break it up and was down there now !
But Tenth Street had a faraway sound and at the
word a general groan went up and a score of the pro-
cession dropped out. Among these were Rose and Key,
who slowed down to a saunter and let the more enthusi-
astic sweep on by.
"I'd rather get some liquor," said Key as they halted
and made their way to the sidewalk amid cries of " Shell
hole!" and " Quitters!"
"Does your brother work around here ?" asked Rose,
assuming the air of one passing from the superficial to
"He oughta," replied Key. "I ain't seen him for
a coupla years. I been out to Pennsylvania since.
Maybe he don't work at night anyhow. It's right along
here. He can get us some o'right if he ain't gone."
They found the place after a few minutes' patrol of
the street a shoddy tablecloth restaurant between Fifth
Avenue and Broadway. Here Key went inside to inquire
MAY DAY 79
for his brother George, while Rose waited on the side-
"He ain't here no more," said Key emerging. "He's
a waiter up to Delmonico's."
Rose nodded wisely, as if he'd expected as much. One
should not be surprised at a capable man changing jobs
occasionally. He knew a waiter once there ensued a
long conversation as they walked as to whether waiters
made more in actual wages than in tips it was decided
that it depended on the social tone of the joint wherein
the waiter labored. After having given each other
vivid pictures of millionaires dining at Delmonico's
and throwing away fifty-dollar bills after their first
quart of champagne, both men thought privately of
becoming waiters. In fact, Key's narrow brow was sev
creting a resolution to ask his brother to get him a
"A waiter can t drink up all the champagne those
fellas leave in bottles," suggested Rose with some relish,
and then added as an afterthought, "Oh, boy!"
By the time they reached Delmonico's it was half
past ten, and they were surprised to see a stream of taxis
driving up to the door one after the other and emitting
marvelous, hatless young ladies, each one attended by a
stiff young gentleman in evening clothes.
"It's a party," said Rose with some awe. "Maybe
we better not go in. He'll be busy."
"No, he won't. He'll be o'right."
After some hesitation they entered what appeared to
them to be the least elaborate door and, indecision
falling upon them immediately, stationed themselves
nervously in an inconspicuous corner of the small din-
ing-room in which they found themselves. They took
off their caps and held them in their hands. A cloud
of gloom fell upon them and both started when a
80 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
door at one end of the room crashed open, emitting a
comet-like waiter who streaked across the floor and
vanished through another door on the other side.
There had been three of these lightning passages be-
fore the seekers mustered the acumen to hail a waiter.
He turned, looked at them suspiciously, and then ap-
proached with soft, catlike steps, as if prepared at any
moment to turn and flee.
"Say," began Key, "say, do you know my brother?
He's a waiter here."
"His name is Key," annotated Rose.
Yes, the waiter knew Key. He was up-stairs, he
thought. There was a big dance going on in the main
ballroom. He'd tell him.
Ten minutes later George Key appeared and greeted
his brother with the utmost suspicion; his first and
most natural thought being that he was going to be
asked for money.
George was tall and weak chinned, but there his re-
semblance to his brother ceased. The waiter's eyes
were not dull, they were alert and twinkling, and his
manner was suave, in-door, and faintly superior. They
exchanged formalities. George was married and had
three children. He seemed fairly interested, but not
impressed by the news that Carrol had been abroad in
the army. This disappointed Carrol.
" George," said the younger brother, these ameni-
ties having been disposed of, "we want to get some
booze, and they won't sell us none. Can you get
"Sure. Maybe I can. It may be half aa hour,
"All right," agreed Carrol, "we'll wait."
At this Rose started to sit down in a convenient chair,
but was hailed to his feet by the indignant George.
MAY DAY 81
"Hey! Watch out, you! Can't sit down here!
This room's all set. for a twelve o'clock banquet."
"I ain't goin' to hurt it," said Rose resentfully.
"I been through the delouser."
" Never mind," said George sternly, "if the head
waiter seen me here talkin' he'd romp all over me."
The mention of the head waiter was full explanation
to the other two; they fingered their overseas caps ner-
vously and waited for a suggestion.
"I tell you," said George, after a pause, "I got a
place you can wait; you just come here with me."
They followed him out the far door, through a de-
serted pantry and up a pair of dark winding stairs,
emerging finally into a small room chiefly furnished by
piles of pails and stacks of scrubbing brushes, and il-
luminated by a single dim electric light. There he left
them, after soliciting two dollars and agreeing to re-
turn in half an hour with a quart of whiskey.
" George is makin' money, I bet," said Key gloomily
as he seated himself on an inverted pail. "I bet he's
making fifty dollars a week."
Rose nodded his head and spat.
"I bet he is, too."
" What'd he say the dance was of ?"
"A lot of college fellas. Yale College."
They both nodded solemnly at each other.
"Wonder where that crowda sojers is now?"
"I don't know. I know that's too damn long to walk
"Me too. You don't catch me walkin' that far."
Ten minutes later restlessness seized them.
"I'm goin' to see what's out here," said Rose, stepping
cautiously toward the other door.
It was a swinging door of green baize and he pushed
it open a cautious inch.
82 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
For answer Rose drew in his breath sharply.
"Doggone! Here's some liquor I'll say!"
Key joined Rose at the door, and looked eagerly.
'Til tell the world that's liquor," he said, after a mo-
ment of concentrated gazing.
It was a room about twice as large as the one they
were in and in it was prepared a radiant feast of spirits.
There were long walls of alternating bottles set along
two white covered tables; whiskey, gin, brandy, French
and Italian vermouths, and orange juice, not to mention
an array of syphons and two great empty punch bowls.
The room was as yet uninhabited.
"It's for this dance they're just starting," whispered
Key; "hear the violins playin'? Say, boy, I wouldn't
mind havin' a dance."
They closed the door softly and exchanged a glance of
mutual comprehension. There was no need of feeling
each other out.
"I'd like to get my hands on a coupla those bottles,"
said Rose emphatically.
"Do you suppose we'd get seen ?"
"Maybe we better wait till they start drinkin' 'em.
They got 'em all laid out now, and they know how many
of them there are."
They debated this point for several minutes. Rose
was all for getting his hands on a bottle now and tuck-
ing it under his coat before any one came into the room.
Key, however, advocated caution. He was afraid he
might get his brother in trouble. If they waited till
some of the bottles were opened it'd be all right to take
MAY DAY 83
one, and everybody 'd think it was one of the college
While they were still engaged in argument George
Key hurried through the room and, barely grunting at
them, disappeared by way of the green baize door. A
minute later they heard several corks pop, and then the
sound of cracking ice and splashing liquid. George was
mixing the punch.
The soldiers exchanged delighted grins.
"Oh, boy!" whispered Rose.
"Just keep low, boys," he said quickly. "I'll have
your stuff for you in five minutes."
He disappeared through the door by which he had come.
As soon as his footsteps receded down the stairs, Rose,
after a cautious look, darted into the room of delights
and reappeared with a bottle in his hand.
"Here's what I say," he said, as they sat radiantly
digesting their first drink. " We'll wait till he comes up,
and we'll ask him if we can't just stay here and drink
what he brings us see. We'll tell him we haven't got
any place to drink it see. Then we can sneak in
there whenever there ain't nobody in that there room
and tuck a bottle under our coats. We'll have enough
to last us a coupla days see ? "
"Sure," agreed Rose enthusiastically. "Oh, boy!
And if we want to we can sell it to sojers any time we
They were silent for a moment thinking rosily of
this idea. Then Key reached up and unhooked the
collar of his O. D. coat.
"It's hot in here, ain't it ?"
Rose agreed earnestly.
"Hot as hell."
84 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
She was still quite angry when she came out of the
dressing-room and crossed the intervening parlor of po-
liteness that opened onto the hall angry not so much
at the actual happening which was, after all, the merest
commonplace of her social existence, but because it
had occurred on this particular night. She had no
quarrel with herself. She had acted with that correct
mixture of dignity and reticent pity which she al-
ys employed. She had succinctly and deftly snubbed
It had happened when their taxi was leaving the Bilt-
more hadn't gone half a block. He had lifted his right
arm awkwardly she was on his right side and at-
tempted to settle it snugly around the crimson fur-
trimmed opera cloak she wore. This in itself had been
a mistake. It was inevitably more graceful for a young
man attempting to embrace a young lady of whose
acquiescence he was not certain, to first put his far arm
around her. It avoided that awkward movement of
raising the near arm.
His second fa ux pas was unconscious. She had spent
the afternoon at the hairdresser's; the idea of any ca-
lamity overtaking her hair was extremely repugnant
yet as Peter made his unfortunate attempt the point of
his elbow had just faintly brushed it. That was his
second faux pas. Two were quite enough.
He had begun to murmur. At the first murmur she
had decided that he was nothing but a college boy-
Edith was twenty-two, and anyhow, this dance, first
of its kind since the war, was reminding her, with the
accelerating rhythm of its associations, of something
else of another dance and another man, a man for
whom her feelings had been little more than a sad-eyed,
MAY DAY 85
adolescent mooniness. Edith Bradin was falling in
love with her recollection of Gordon Sterrett.
So she came out of the dressing-room at Delmonico's
and stood for a second in the doorway looking over the
shoulders of a black dress in front of her at the groups
of Yale men who flitted like dignified black moths
around the head of the stairs. From the room she had
left drifted out the heavy fragrance left by the passage
to and fro of many scented young beauties rich per-
fumes and the fragile memory-laden dust of fragrant
powders. This odor drifting out acquired the tang of
cigarette smoke in the hall, and then settled sensuously
down the stairs and permeated the ballroom where the
Gamma Psi dance was to be held. It was an odor she
knew well, exciting, stimulating, restlessly sweet the
odor of a fashionable dance.
She thought of her own appearance. Her bare arms
and shoulders were powdered to a creamy white. She
knew they looked very soft and would gleam like milk
against the black backs that were to silhouette them to-
night. The hairdressing had been a success; her red-
dish mass of hair was piled and crushed and creased to
an arrogant marvel of mobile curves. Her lips were
finely made of deep carmine; the irises of her eyes were
delicate, breakable blue, like china eyes. She was a
complete, infinitely delicate, quite perfect thing of
beauty, flowing in an even line from a complex coiffure
to two small slim feet.
She thought of what she would say to-night at this
revel, faintly prestiged already by the sounds of high and
low laughter and slippered footsteps, and movements of
couples up and down the stairs. She would talk the
language she had talked for many years her line made
up of the current expressions, bits of journalese and col-
lege slang strung together into an intrinsic whole, care-
86 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
less, faintly provocative, delicately sentimental. She
smiled faintly as she heard a girl sitting on the stairs
near her say: "You don't know the half of it, dearie!"
And as she smiled her anger melted for a moment,
and closing her eyes she drew in a deep breath of plea-
sure. She dropped her arms to her side until they were
faintly touching the sleek sheath that covered and sug-
gested her figure. She had never felt her own softness
so much nor so enjoyed the whiteness of her own arms.
"I smell sweet," she said to herself simply, and then
came another thought "I'm made for love."
She liked the sound of this and thought it again; then
in inevitable succession came her new-born riot of dreams
about Gordon. The twist of her imagination which, two
months before, had disclosed to her her unguessed
desire to see him again, seemed now to have been leading
up to this dance, this hour.
For all her sleek beauty, Edith was a grave, slow-
thinking girl. There was a streak in her of that same
desire to ponder, of that adolescent idealism that had
turned her brother socialist and pacifist. Henry Bradin
had left Cornell, where he had been an instructor in
economics, and had come to New York to pour the latest
cures for incurable evils into the columns of a radical
Edith, less fatuously, would have been content to cure
Gordon Sterrett. There was a quality of weakness in
Gordon that she wanted to take care of; there was a
helplessness in him that she wanted to protect. And
she wanted someone she had known a long while, some-
one who had loved her a long while. She was a little
tired; she wanted to get married. Out of a pile of let-
ters, half a dozen pictures and as many memories, and
this weariness, she had decided that next time she saw
Gordon their relations were going to be changed. She
MAY DAY 87
would say something that would change them. There
was this evening. This was her evening. All evenings
were her evenings.
Then her thoughts were interrupted by a solemn
undergraduate with a hurt look and an air of strained
formality who presented himself before her and bowed
unusually low. It was the man she had come with,
Peter Himmel. He was tall and humorous, with horned-
rimmed glasses and an air of attractive whimsicality.
She suddenly rather disliked him probably because he
had not succeeded in kissing her.
"Well," she began, "are you still furious at me?"
"Not at all."
She stepped forward and took his arm.
"I'm sorry," she said softly. "I don't know why I
snapped out that way. I'm in a bum humor to-night
for some strange reason. I'm sorry."
"S'all right," he mumbled, "don't mention it."
He felt disagreeably embarrassed. Was she rubbing
in the fact of his late failure ?
"It was a mistake," she continued, on the same con-
sciously gentle key. "We'll both forget it." For this
he hated her.
A few minutes later they drifted out on the floor while
the dozen swaying, sighing members of the specially
hired jazz orchestra informed the crowded ballroom
that "if a saxophone and me are left alone why then two
is com-pan-ee ! "
A man with a mustache cut in.
"Hello," he began reprovingly. "You don't remem-
"I can't just think of your name," she said lightly
"and I know you so well."
"I met you up at His voice trailed disconso-
lately off as a man with very fair hair cut in. Edith
88 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
murmured a conventional " Thanks, loads cut in later,"
to the inconnu.
The very fair man insisted on shaking hands enthusi-
astically. She placed him as one of the numerous Jims
of her acquaintance last name a mystery. She re-
membered even that he had a peculiar rhythm in danc-
ing and found as they started that she was ri^ht.
"Going to be here longr" he breathed confidentially.
She leaned back and looked up at him.
"Couple of weeks."
"Where are you?"
"Bfltmore. Call me up some day."
"I mean it," he assured her. "I will. We'll go to
"So do I Do."
A dark man cut in with intense formality.
"You don't remember me, do you ?" he said gravely.
"I should say I do. Your name's Harlan."
"Well, I knew there were two syllables anyway.
You're the boy that played the ukulele so well up at
Howard Marshall's house party.
"I played but not
A man with prominent teeth cut in. Edith inhaled
a slight cloud of whiskey. She liked men to have had
something to drink; they were so much more cheerful,
and appreciative and complimentary much easier to
"My name's Dean, Philip Dean," he said cheer-
fully. "You don't remember me, I know, but you used
to come up to New Haven with a fellow I roomed with
senior year, Gordon Sterrett."
Edith looked up quickly.
"Yes, I went up with him twice to the Pump and
Slipper and the Junior prom."
MAY DAY 89
"You've seen him, of course," said Dean carelessly.
"He's here to-night. I saw him just a minute ago."
Edith started. Yet she had felt quite sure he would
"Why, no, I haven't-
A fat man with red hair cut in.
"Hello, Edith," he began.
"Why hdlo there-
She slipped, stumbled lightly.
"I'm sorry, dear," she murmured mechanically.
She had seen Gordon Gordon very white and list-
less, leaning against the side of a doorway, smoking and
looking into the ballroom. Edith could see that his
face was thin and wan that the hand he raised to
his lips with a cigarette was trembling. They were
dancing quite close to him now.
" They invite so darn many extra fellas that you
the short man was saying.
"Hello, Gordon," called Edith over her partner's
shoulder. Her heart was pounding wildly.
His large dark eyes were fixed on her. He took a
step in her direction. Her partner turned her away
she heard his voice bleating
" but half the stags get lit and leave before long,
Then a low tone at her side.
"May I, please?"
She was dancing suddenly with Gordon; one of his
arms was around her; she felt it tighten spasmodically;
felt his hand on her back with the fingers spread. Her
hand holding the little lace handkerchief was crushed
"Why Gordon," she began breathlessly.
She slipped again was tossed forward by her recov-
90 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
ery until her face touched the black cloth of his dinner
coat. She loved him she knew she loved him then
for a minute there was silence while a strange feeling
of uneasiness crept over her. Something was wrong.
Of a sudden her heart wrenched, and turned over as
she realized what it was. He was pitiful and wretched,
a little drunk, and miserably tired.
"Oh " she cried involuntarily.
His eyes looked down at her. She saw suddenly that
they were blood-streaked and rolling uncontrollably.
"Gordon," she murmured, "we'll sit down; I want to
They were nearly in mid-floor, but she had seen two
men start toward her from opposite sides of the room,
so she halted, seized Gordon's limp hand and led him
bumping through the crowd, her mouth tight shut, her
face a little pale under her rouge, her eyes trembling
She found a place high up on the soft-carpeted stairs,
and he sat down heavily beside her.
"Well," he began, staring at her unsteadily, "I cer-
tainly am glad to see you, Edith."
She looked at him without answering. The effect of
this on her was immeasurable. For years she had seen
men in various stages of intoxication, from uncles all
the way down to chauffeurs, and her feelings had varied
from amusement to disgust, but here for the first tune
she was seized with a new feeling an unutterable
"Gordon," she said accusingly and almost crying,
"you look like the devil."
He nodded. "I've had trouble, Edith."
"All sorts of trouble. Don't you say anything to the
family, but I'm all gone to pieces. I'm a mese, Edith."
MAY DAY 91
His lower lip was sagging. He seemed scarcely to see
" Can't you can't you," she hesitated, "can't you
tell me about it, Gordon? You know I'm always in-
terested in you."
She bit her lip she had intended to say something
stronger, but found at the end that she couldn't bring
Gordon shook his head dully. "I can't tell you.
You're a good woman. I can't tell a good woman the
"Rot," she said, defiantly. "I think it's a perfect
insult to call any one a good woman in that way. It's a
slam. You've been drinking, Gordon."
"Thanks." He inclined his head gravely. "Thanks
for the information."
"Why do you drink?"
"Because I'm so damn miserable."
"Do you think drinking's going to make it any better ? "
"What you doing trying to reform me?"
"No; I'm trying to help you, Gordon. Can't you
tell me about it?"
"I'm in an awful mess. Best thing you can do is to
pretend not to know me."
"I'm sorry I cut in on you its unfair to you. You're
pure woman and all that sort of thing. Here, I'll get
some one else to dance with you."
He rose clumsily to his feet, but she reached up and
pulled him down beside her on the stairs.
"Here, Gordon. You're ridiculous. You're hurting
me. You're acting Like a like a crazy man
"I admit it. I'm a little crazy. Something's wrong
with me, Edith. There's something left me. It
9 2 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
" It does, tell me."
"Just that. I was always queer little bit different
from other boys. All right in college, but now it's all
wrong. Things have been snapping inside me for four
months like little hooks on a dress, and it's about to
come off when a few more hooks go. I'm very gradu-
ally going loony."
He turned his eyes full on her and began to laugh,
and she shrank away from him.
"What is the matter?"
"Just me," he repeated. "I'm going loony. This
whole place is like a dream to me this Delmonico's
As he talked she saw he had changed utterly. He
wasn't at all light and gay and careless a great leth-
argy and discouragement had come over him. Re-
vulsion seized her, followed by a faint, surprising bore-
dom. His voice seemed to come out of a great void.
"Edith," he said, "I used to think I was clever,
talented, an artist. Now I know I'm nothing.
Can't draw, Edith. Don't know why I'm telling you
She nodded absently.
"I can't draw, I can't do anything. I'm poor as a
church mouse." He laughed, bitterly and rather too
loud. "I've become a damn beggar, a leech on my
friends. I'm a failure. I'm poor as hell."
Her distaste was growing. She barely -podded this
time, waiting for her first possible cue to rise.
Suddenly Gordon's eyes filled with tears.
"Edith," he said, turning to her with what was evi-
dently a strong effort at self-control, "I can't tell you
what it means to me to know there's one person left
who's interested in me."
He reached out and patted her hand, and involun-
tarily she drew it away.
MAY DAY 93
"It's mighty fine of you," he repeated.
"Well," she said slowly, looking him in the eye,
"any one's always glad to see an old friend but I'm
sorry to see you like this, Gordon."
There was a pause while they looked at each other,
and the momentary eagerness in his eyes wavered. She
rose and stood looking at him, her face quite expression-
"Shall we dance?" she suggested, coolly.
Love is fragile she was thinking but perhaps the
pieces are saved, the things that hovered on lips, that
might have been said. The new love words, the tender-
nesses learned, are treasured up for the next lover.
Peter Himmel, escort to the lovely Edith, was unac-
customed to being snubbed; having been snubbed, he
was hurt and embarrassed, and ashamed of himself. For
a matter of two months he had been on special de-
livery terms with Edith Bradin, and knowing that the
one excuse and explanation of the special delivery letter
is its value in sentimental correspondence, he had be-
lieved himself quite sure of his ground. He searched
in vain for any reason why she should have taken this
attitude in the matter of a simple kiss.
Therefore when he was cut in on by the man with the
mustache he went out into the hall and, making up a
sentence, said it over to himself several times. Con-
siderably deleted, this was it:
"Well, if any girl ever led a man on and then jolted
him, she did and she has no kick coming if I go out and
get beautifully boiled."
So he walked through the supper room into a small
room adjoining it, which he had located earlier in the
94 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
evening. It was a room in which there were several
large bowls of punch flanked by many bottles. He
took a seat beside the table which held the bottles.
At the second highball, boredom, disgust, the monot-
ony of time, the turbidity of events, sank into a vague
background before which glittering cobwebs formed.
Things became reconciled to themselves, things lay
quietly on their shelves; the troubles of the day ar-
ranged themselves in trim formation and at his curt
wish of dismissal, marched off and disappeared. And
with the departure of worry came brilliant, permeating
symbolism. Edith became a flighty, negligible girl,
not to be worried over; rather to be laughed at. She
fitted like a figure of his own dream into the surface
world forming about him. He himself became in a
measure symbolic, a type of the continent bacchanal,
the brilliant dreamer at play.
Then the symbolic mood faded and as he sipped his
third highball his imagination yielded to the warm glow
and he lapsed into a state similar to floating on his
back in pleasant water. It was at this point that he
noticed that a green baize door near him was open
about two inches, and that through the aperture a pair
of eyes were watching him intently.
"Hm," murmured Peter calmly.
The green door closed and then opened again a
bare half inch this time.
" Peek-a-boo," murmured Peter.
The door remained stationary and then he became
aware of a series of tense intermittent whispers.
"What's he doin'?"
"He's sittin' lookin'."
"He better beat it off. We gotta get another liT
MAY DAY 95
Peter listened while the words filtered into his con-
"Now this," he thought, "is most remarkable."
He was excited. He was jubilant. He felt that he
had stumbled upon a mystery. Affecting an elaborate
carelessness he arose and walked around the table
then, turning quickly, pulled open the green door, pre-
cipitating Private Rose into the room.
"How do you do?" he said.
Private Rose set one foot slightly in front of the other,
poised for fight, flight, or compromise.
"How do you do?" repeated Peter politely.
"Can I offer you a drink ?"
Private Rose looked at him searchingly, suspecting
"O'right," he said finally.
Peter indicated a chair.
"I got a friend," said Rose, "I got a friend in there."
He pointed to the green door.
"By all means let's have him in."
Peter crossed over, opened the door and welcomed in
Private Key, very suspicious and uncertain and guilty.
Chairs were found and the three took their seats around
the punch bowl. Peter gave them each a highball and
offered them a cigarette from his case. They accepted
both with some diffidence.
"Now," continued Peter easily, "may I ask why you
gentlemen prefer to lounge away your leisure hours in a
room which is chiefly furnished, as far as I can see, with
scrubbing brushes. And when the human race has pro-
gressed to the stage where seventeen thousand chairs
are manufactured on every day except Sunday ' he
96 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
paused. Rose and Key regarded him vacantly. "Will
you tell me," went on Peter, "why you choose to rest
yourselves on articles intended for the transportation
of water from one place to another ?"
At this point Rose contributed a grunt to the con-
"And lastly/' finished Peter, "will you tell me why,
when you are in a building beautifully hung with enor-
mous candelabra, you prefer to spend these evening
hours under one anemic electric light :
Rose looked at Key; Key looked at Rose. They
laughed; they laughed uproariously; they found it was
impossible to look at each other without laughing.
But they were not laughing with this man they were
laughing at him. To them a man who talked after this
fashion was either raving drunk or raving crazy.
"You are Yale men, I presume," said Peter, finishing
his highball and preparing another.
They laughed again.
" So ? I thought perhaps you might be members of
that lowly section of the university known as the Shef-
field Scientific School."
"Hm. Well, that's too bad. No doubt you are
Harvard men, anxious to preserve your incognito in
this this paradise of violet blue, as the newspapers
"Na-ah," said Key scornfully, "we was just waitin'
"Ah," exclaimed Peter, rising and filling their glasses,
"very interestin'. Had a date with a scrublady, eh ?"
They both denied this indignantly.
"It's all right," Peter reassured them, "don't apolo-
gize. A scrublady's as good as any lady in the world.
MAY DAY 97
Kipling says 'Any lady and Judy O'Grady under the
" Sure," said Key, winking broadly at Rose.
"My case, for instance," continued Peter, finishing
his glass. "I got a girl up here that's spoiled. Spoildest
darn girl I ever saw. Refused to kiss me; no reason
whatsoever. Led me on deliberately to think sure I
want to kiss you and then plunk! Threw me over!
What's the younger generation comin' to ? "
"Say tha's hard luck," said Key "that's awful hard
"Oh, boy! "said Rose.
"Have another?" said Peter.
"We got in a sort of fight for a while," said Key after
a pause, "but it was too far away."
"A fight? tha's stuff!" said Peter, seating himself
unsteadily. "Fight 'em all! I was in the army."
"This was with a Bolshevik fella."
"Tha's stuff!" exclaimed Peter, enthusiastic.
"That's what I say! Kill the Bolshevik! Extermi-
"We're Americuns," said Rose, implying a sturdy,
"Sure," said Peter. "Greatest race in the world!
We're all Americuns ! Have another."
They had another.
At one o'clock a special orchestra, special even in a
day of special orchestras, arrived at Delmonico's, and
its members, seating themselves arrogantly around the
piano, took up the burden of providing music for the
Gamma Psi Fraternity. They were headed by a famous
flute-player, distinguished throughout New York for
his feat of standing on his head and shimmying with
98 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
his shoulders while he played the latest jazz on his
flute. During his performance the lights were extin-
guished except for the spotlight on the flute-player and
another roving beam that threw flickering shadows and
changing kaleidoscopic colors over the massed dancers.
Edith had danced herself into that tired, dreamy
state habitual only with debutantes, a state equivalent
to the glow of a noble soul after several long highballs.
Her mind floated vaguely on the bosom of her music;
IUT partners changed with the unreality of phantoms
under the colorful shifting dusk, and to her present
coma it seemed as if days had passed since the dance
began. She had talked on many fragmentary subjects
with many men. She had been kissed once and made
love to six times. Earlier in the evening different under-
graduates had danced with her, but now, like all the
more popular girls there, she had her own entourage
that is, half a dozen gallants had singled her out or
were alternating her charms with those of some other
chosen beauty; they cut in on her in regular, inevitable
Several times she had seen Gordon he had been sit-
ting a long time on the stairway with his palm to his
head, his dull eyes fixed at an infinite speck on the floor
before him, very depressed, he looked, and quite drunk
but Edith each time had averted her glance hurriedly.
All that seemed long ago; her mind was passive now,
her senses were lulled to trance-like sleep; only her feet
danced and her voice talked on in hazy sentimental
But Edith was not nearly so tired as to be incapable
of moral indignation when Peter Himmel cut in on her,
sublimely and happily drunk. She gasped and looked
up at him.
"Why, Peter I"
MAY DAY 99
"I'm a liT stewed, Edith."
"Why, Peter, you're a peach, you are! Don't you
think it's a bum way of doing when you're with me ?"
Then she smiled unwillingly, for he was looking at
her with owlish sentimentality varied with a silly spas-
"Darlin' Edith," he began earnestly, "you know I
love you, don't you ?"
"You tell it well."
"I love you and I merely wanted you to kiss me,"
he added sadly.
His embarrassment, his shame, were both gone. She
was a mos' beautiful girl in whole worl'. Mos' beauti-
ful eyes, like stars above. He wanted to 'pologize
firs', for presuming try to kiss her; second, for drinking
but he'd been so discouraged 'cause he had thought
she was mad at him
The red-fat man cut in, and looking up at Edith
"Did you bring any one?" she asked.
No. The red-fat man was a stag.
"Well, would you mind would it be an awful bother
for you to to take me home to-night?" (this extreme
diffidence was a charming affectation on Edith's part-
she knew that the red-fat man would immediately dis-
solve into a paroxysm of delight).
"Bother? Why, good Lord, I'd be darn glad to!
You know I'd be darn glad to."
"Thanks loads! You're awfully sweet."
She glanced at her wrist-watch. It was half-past one.
And, as she said "half-past one" to herself, it floated
vaguely into her mind that her brother had told her at
luncheon that he worked in the office of his newspaper
until after one-thirty every evening.
Edith turned suddenly to her current partner.
ioo TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"What street is Delmonico's on, anyway?"
"Street? Oh, why Fifth Avenue, of course."
"I mean, what cross street?"
"Why let's see it's on Forty-fourth Street."
This verified what she had thought. Henry's office
must be across the street and just around the corner,
and it occurred to her immediately that she might slip
over for a moment and surprise him, float in on him, a
shimmering marvel in her new crimson opera cloak and
"cheer him up." It was exactly the sort of thing Edith
revelled in doing an unconventional, jaunty thing.
The idea reached out and gripped at her imagination-
after an instant's hesitation she had decided.
"My hair is just about to tumble entirely down,"
she said pleasantly to her partner; "would you mind
if I go and fix it?"
"Not at all."
"You're a peach."
A few minutes later, wrapped in her crimson opera
cloak, she flitted down a side-stairs, her cheeks glowing
with excitement at her little adventure. She ran by a
couple who stood at the door a weak-chinned waiter
and an over-rouged young lady, in hot dispute and
opening the outer door stepped into the warm May
The over-rouged young lady followed her with a brief,
bitter glance then turned again to the weak-chinned
waiter and took up her argument.
"You better go up and tell him I'm here," she said
defiantly, "or I'll go up myself."
"No, you don't!" said George sternly.
The girl smiled sardonically.
"Oh, I don't, don't I ? Well, let me tell you I know
MAY DAY 101
more college fellas and more of 'em know me, and are
glad to take me out on a party, than you ever saw in
your whole life."
" Maybe so," she interrupted. "Oh, it's all right for
any of 'em like that one that just ran out God knows
where she went it's all right for them that are asked
here to come or go as they like but when I want to see
a friend they have some cheap, ham-slinging, bring-me-
a-doughnut waiter to stand here and keep me out."
"See here," said the elder Key indignantly, "I can't
lose my job. Maybe this fella you're talkin' about
doesn't want to see you."
"Oh, he wants to see me all right."
"Anyways, how could I find him in all that crowd ?"
"Oh, he'll be there," she asserted confidently. "You
just ask anybody for Gordon Sterrett and they'll point
him out to you. They all know each other, those fellas."
She produced a mesh bag, and taking out a dollar
bill handed it to George.
"Here," she said, "here's a bribe. You find him and
give him my message. You tell him if he isn't here in
five minutes I'm coming up."
George shook his head pessimistically, considered
the question for a moment, wavered violently, and then
In less than the allotted time Gordon came down-stairs.
He was drunker than he had been earlier in the evening
and in a different way. The liquor seemed to have
hardened on him like a crust. He was heavy and lurch-
ing almost incoherent when he talked.
"'Lo, Jewel," he said thickly. "Came right away.
Jewel, I couldn't get that money. Tried my best."
"Money nothing !" she snapped. "You haven't been
near me for ten days. What's the matter ?"
102 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
He shook his head slowly.
"Been very low, Jewel. Been sick."
"Why didn't you tell me if you were sick. I don't
care about the money that bad. I didn't start bother-
ing you about it at all until you began neglecting me."
Again he shook his head.
"Haven't been neglecting you. Not at all."
"Haven't! You haven't been near me for three
weeks, unless you been so drunk you didn't know what
you were doing."
"Been sick, Jewel," he repeated, turning his eyes
upon her wearily.
"You're well enough to come and play with your
society friends here all right. You told me you'd meet
me for dinner, and you said you'd have some money for
me. You didn't even bother to ring me up."
"I couldn't get any money."
"Haven't I just been saying that doesn't matter?
I wanted to see you, Gordon, but you seem to prefer
your somebody else."
He denied this bitterly.
"Then get your hat and come along," she suggested.
Gordon hesitated and she came suddenly close to
him and slipped her arms around his neck.
"Come on with me, Gordon," she said in a half whis-
per. "We'll go over to Devineries' and have a drink,
and then we can go up to my apartment."
"I can't, Jewel
"You can," she said intensely.
"I'm sick as a dog!"
"Well, then, you oughtn't to stay here and dance."
With a glance around him in which relief and despair
were mingled, Gordon hesitated; then she suddenly
pulled him to her and kissed him with soft, pulpy lips.
"All right," he said heavily. "I'll get my hat.
MAY DAY 103
When Edith came out into the clear blue of the May
night she found the Avenue deserted. The windows of
the big shops were dark; over their doors were drawn
great iron masks until they were only shadowy tombs of
the late day's splendor. Glancing down toward Forty-
second Street she saw a commingled blur of lights from
the all-night restaurants. Over on Sixth Avenue the
elevated, a flare of fire, roared across the street between
the glimmering parallels of light at the station and
streaked along into the crisp dark. But at Forty-
fourth Street it was very quiet.
Pulling her cloak close about her Edith darted across
the Avenue. She started nervously as a solitary man
passed her and said in a hoarse whisper "Where bound,
kiddo ?" She was reminded of a night in her childhood
when she had walked around the block in her pajamas
and a dog had howled at her from a mystery-big back
In a minute she had reached her destination, a two-
story, comparatively old building on Forty-fourth, in
the upper window of which she thankfully detected a
wisp of light. It was bright enough outside for her to
make out the sign beside the window the New York
Trumpet. She stepped inside a dark hall and after a
second saw the stairs in the corner.
Then she was in a long, low room furnished with many
desks and hung on all sides with file copies of news-
papers. There were only two occupants. They were
sitting at different ends of the room, each wearing a
green eye-shade and writing by a solitary desk light.
For a moment she stood uncertainly in the doorway,
and then both men turned around simultaneously and
she recognized her brother.
104 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Why, Edith!" He rose quickly and approached
her in surprise, removing his eye-shade. He was tall,
lean, and dark, with black, piercing eyes under very thick
glasses. They were far-away eyes that seemed always
fixed just over the head of the person to whom he was
He put his hands on her arms and kissed her cheek.
"What is it?" he repeated in some alarm.
"I was at a dance across at Delmonico's, Henry,"
she said excitedly, "and I couldn't resist tearing over
to see you."
"I'm glad you did." His alertness gave way quickly
to a habitual vagueness. "You oughtn't to be out
alone at night though, ought you ? "
The man at the other end of the room had been look-
ing at them curiously, but at Henry's beckoning gesture
he approached. He was loosely fat with little twin-
kling eyes, and, having removed his collar and tie, he gave
the impression of a Middle- Western farmer on a Sunday
"This is my sister," said Henry. "She dropped in to
"How do you do?" said the fat man, smiling. "My
name's Bartholomew, Miss Bradin. I know your
brother has forgotten it long ago."
Edith laughed politely.
"Well," he continued, "not exactly gorgeous quarters
we have here, are they ? "
Edith looked around the room.
"They seem very nice," she replied. "Where do you
keep the bombs ? "
"The bombs?" repeated Bartholomew, laughing.
"That's pretty good the bombs. Did you hear her,
Henry ? She wants to know where we keep the bombs.
Say, that's pretty good."
Edith swung herself onto a vacant desk and sat
MAY DAY 105
dangling her feet over the edge. Her brother took a
seat beside her.
"Well," he asked, absent-mindedly, "how do you
like New York this trip ?"
"Not bad. I'll be over at the Biltmore with the Hoy ts
until Sunday. Can't you come to luncheon to-morrow ? "
He thought a moment.
"I'm especially busy," he objected, "and I hate wo-
men in groups."
"All right," she agreed, unruffled. "Let's you and
me have luncheon together."
"I'll call for you at twelve."
Bartholomew was obviously anxious to return to his
desk, but apparently considered that it would be rude
to leave without some parting pleasantry.
"Well" he began awkwardly.
They both turned to him.
"Well, we we had an exciting time earlier in the
The two men exchanged glances.
"You should have come earlier," continued Bar-
tholomew, somewhat encouraged. "We had a regular
"Did you really?"
"A serenade," said Henry. "A lot of soldiers
gathered down there in the street and began to yell
at the sign."
"Why? "she demanded.
"Just a crowd," said Henry, abstractedly. "All
crowds have to howl. They didn't have anybody with
much initiative in the lead, or they'd probably have
forced their way in here and smashed things up."
"Yes," said Bartholomew, turning again to Edith,
"you should have been here."
He seemed to consider this a sufficient cue for with-
106 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
drawal, for he turned abruptly and went back to his
"Are the soldiers all set against the Socialists?" de-
manded Edith of her brother. "I mean do they at-
tack you violently and all that ? "
Henry replaced his eye-shade and yawned.
"The human race has come a long way," he said
casually, "but most of us are throw-backs; the soldiers
don't know what they want, or what they hate, or what
they like. They're used to acting in large bodies, and
they seem to have to make demonstrations. So it hap-
pens to be against us. There've been riots all over the
city to-night. It's May Day, you see."
"Was the disturbance here pretty serious?"
"Not a bit," he said scornfully. "About twenty-
five of them stopped in the street about nine o'clock,
and began to bellow at the moon."
"Oh" She changed the subject. "You're glad
to see me, Henry ? "
"You don't seem to be."
"I suppose you think I'm a a waster. Sort of the
World's Worst Butterfly."
"Not at all. Have a good time while you're young.
Why ? Do I seem like the priggish and earnest youth ? "
"No She paused, " but somehow I began
thinking how absolutely different the party I'm on is
from from all your purposes. It seems sort of of
incongruous, doesn't it ? me being at a party like that,
and you over here working for a thing that'll make
that sort of party impossible ever any more, if your
"I don't think of it that way. You're young, and
MAY DAY 107
you're acting just as you were brought up to act. Go
ahead have a good time ? "
Her feet, which had been idly swinging, stopped and
her voice dropped a note.
"I wish you'd you'd come back to Harrisburg and
have a good time. Do you feel sure that you're on the
"You're wearing beautiful stockings," he interrupted.
"What on earth are they?"
"They're embroidered," she replied, glancing down.
"Aren't they cunning?" She raised her skirts and
uncovered slim, silk-sheathed calves. "Or do you dis-
approve of silk stockings ? "
He seemed slightly exasperated, bent his dark eyes
on her piercingly.
"Are you trying to make me out as criticizing you in
any way, Edith ?"
"Not at all-
She paused. Bartholomew had uttered a grunt. She
turned and saw that he had left his desk and was stand-
ing at the window.
"What is it?" demanded Henry.
"People," said Bartholomew, and then after an instant:
"Whole jam of them. They're coming from Sixth Avenue."
The fat man pressed his nose to the pane.
"Soldiers, by God!" he said emphatically. "I had
an idea they'd come back."
Edith jumped to her feet, and running over joined
Bartho; rew at the window.
"The e s a lot of them !" she cried excitedly. "Come
here, Henry ! "
Henry readjusted his shade, but kept his seat.
"Hadn't we better turn out the lights?" suggested
io8 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"No. They'll go away in a minute."
"They're not," said Edith, peering from the window.
"They're not even thinking of going away. There's
more of them coming. Look there's a whole crowd
turning the corner of Sixth Avenue."
By the yellow glow and blue shadows of the street
lamp she could see that the sidewalk was crowded with
men. They were mostly in uniform, some sober, some
enthusiastically drunk, and over the whole swept an
incoherent clamor and shouting.
Henry rose, and going to the window exposed himself
as a long silhouette against the office lights. Imme-
diately the shouting became a steady yell, and a rattling
fusillade of small missiles, corners of tobacco plugs,
cigarette-boxes, and even pennies beat against the win-
dow. The sounds of the racket now began floating up
the stairs as the folding doors revolved.
"They're coming up!" cried Bartholomew.
Edith turned anxiously to Henry.
"They're coming up, Henry."
From down-stairs in the lower hall their cries were
now quite audible.
"God damn Socialists!"
" Pro-Germans ! Boche-lovers ! "
" Second floor, front ! Come on ! "
"We'll get the sons-
The next five minutes passed in a dream. Edith was
conscious that the clamor burst suddenly upon the three
of them like a cloud of rain, that there was a ^hunder
of many feet on the stairs, that Henry had b9]Wd her
arm and drawn her back toward the rear of the office.
Then the door opened and an overflow of men were
forced into the room not the leaders, but simply those
who happened to be in front.
MAY DAY 109
"Up late, ain't you?"
"You an' your girl. Damn you!"
She noticed that two very drunken soldiers had been
forced to the front, where they wobbled fatuously one
of them was short and dark, the other was tall and
weak of chin.
Henry stepped forward and raised his hand.
"Friends! "he said.
The clamor faded into a momentary stillness, punc-
tuated with mutterings.
"Friends!" he repeated, his far-away eyes fixed over
the heads of the crowd, "you're injuring no one but
yourselves by breaking in here to-night. Do we look
like rich men ? Do we look like Germans ? I ask you
in all fairness "
"I'll say you do!"
"Say, who's your lady friend, buddy?"
A man in civilian clothes, who had been pawing over
a table, suddenly held up a newspaper.
" Here it is ! " he shouted. "They wanted the Germans
to win the war ! "
A new overflow from the stairs was shouldered in and
of a sudden the room was full of men all closing around
the pale little group at the back. Edith saw that the
tall soldier with the weak chin was still in front. The
short dark one had disappeared.
She edged slightly backward, stood close to the open
window, through which came a clear breath of cool
Then the room was a riot. She realized that the sol-
diers were surging forward, glimpsed the fat man swing-
ing a chair over his head instantly the lights went out>
no TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
and she felt the push of warm bodies under rough cloth,
and her ears were full of shouting and trampling and
A figure flashed by her out of nowhere, tottered, was
edged sideways, and of a sudden disappeared helplessly
out through the open window with a frightened, frag-
mentary cry that died staccato on the bosom of the
clamor. By the faint light streaming from the build-
ing backing on the area Edith had a quick impression
that it had been the tall soldier with the weak chin.
Anger rose astonishingly in her. She swung her
arms wildly, edged blindly toward the thickest of the
scuffling. She heard grunts, curses, the muffled impact
"Henry!" she called frantically, "Henry!"
Then, it was minutes later, she felt suddenly that
there were other figures in the room. She heard a
voice, deep, bullying, authoritative; she saw yellow
rays of light sweeping here and there in the fracas.
The cries became more scattered. The scuffling in-
creased and then stopped.
Suddenly the lights were on and the room was full
of policemen, clubbing left and right. The deep voice
"Here now ! Here now ! Here now !"
"Quiet down and get out ! Here now !"
The room seemed to empty like a wash-bowl. A
policeman fast-grappled in the corner released his hold
on his soldier antagonist and started him with a shove
toward the door. The deep voice continued. Edith per-
ceived now that it came from a bull-necked police cap-
tain standing near the door.
"Here now ! This is no way ! One of your own sojers
got shoved out of the back window an' killed hisself ! "
MAY DAY in
"Henry!" called Edith, "Henry!"
She beat wildly with her fists on the back of the man
in front of her; she brushed between two others; fought,
shrieked, and beat her way to a very pale figure sitting
on the floor dose to a desk.
"Henry," she cried passionately, "what's the mat-
ter? What's the matter? Did they hurt you ?"
His eyes were shut. He groaned and then looking up
"They broke my leg. My God, the fools !"
"Here now !" called the police captain. "Here now !
Here now ! "
"Childs', Fifty-ninth Street," at eight o'clock of any
morning differs from its sisters by less than the width
of their marble tables or the degree of polish on the fry-
ing-pans. You will see there a crowd of poor people
with sleep in the corners of their eyes, trying to look
straight before them at their food so as not to see the
other poor people. But Childs', Fifty-ninth, four hours
earlier is quite unlike any Childs' restaurant from Port-
land, Oregon, to Portland, Maine. Within its pale but
sanitary walls one finds a noisy medley of chorus girls,
college boys, debutantes, rakes, filles de joie a not un-
representative mixture of the gayest of Broadway, and
even of Fifth Avenue.
In the early morning of May the second it was un-
usually full. Over the marble-topped tables were bent
the excited faces of flappers whose fathers owned in-
dividual villages. They were eating buckwheat cakes
and scrambled eggs with relish and gusto, an accomplish-
ment that it would have been utterly impossible for
them to repeat in the same place four hours later.
Almost the entire crowd were from the Gamma Psi
ii2 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
dance at Delmonico's except for several chorus girls
from a midnight revue who sat at a side table and wished
they'd taken off a little more make-up after the show.
Here and there a drab, mouse-like figure, despen
out of place, watched the butterflies with a weary,
puzzled curiosity. But the drab figure was the excep-
tion. This was the morning after May Day, and c
bration was still in the air.
Gus Rose, sober but a little dazed, must be classed
as one of the drab figures. How he had got him.- elf from
Forty-fourth Street to Fifty-ninth Street after the riot
was only a hazy half-memory. He had seen the body
of Carrol Key put in an ambulance and driven off, and
then he had started up town with two or three soldi
Somewhere between Forty-fourth Street and Fifty-
ninth Street the other soldiers had met some women
and disappeared. Rose had wandered to Columbus
Circle and chosen the gleaming lights of Childs' to
minister to his craving for coffee and doughnuts. He
walked in and sat down.
All around him floated airy, inconsequential chatter
and high-pitched laughter. At first he failed to under-
stand, but after a puzzled five minutes he realized that
this was the aftermath of some gay party. Here and
there a restless, hilarious young man wandered frater-
nally and familiarly between the tables, shaking hands
indiscriminately and pausing occasionally for a face-
tious chat, while excited waiters, bearing cakes and eggs
aloft, swore at him silently, and bumped him out of the
way. To Rose, seated at the most inconspicuous and
least crowded table, the whole scene was a colorful cir-
cus of beauty and riotous pleasure.
He became gradually aware, after a few moments,
that the couple seated diagonally across from him, with
their backs to the crowd, were not the least interesting
MAY DAY 113
pair in the room. The man was drunk. He wore a
dinner coat with a dishevelled tie and shirt swollen by
spillings of water and wine. His eyes, dim and blood-
shot, roved unnaturally from side to side. His breath
came short between his lips.
"He's been on a spree!" thought Rose.
The woman was almost if not quite sober. She was
pretty, with dark eyes and feverish high color, and she
kept her active eyes fixed on her companion with the
alertness of a hawk. From time to time she would lean
and whisper intently to him, and he would answer by
inclining his head heavily or by a particularly ghoulish
and repellent wink.
Rose scrutinized them dumbly for some minutes,
until the woman gave him a quick, resentful look; then
he shifted his gaze to two of the most conspicuously
hilarious of the promenaders who were on a protracted
circuit of the tables. To his surprise he recognized in
one of them the young man by whom he had been so
ludicrously entertained at Delmonico's. This started
him thinking of Key with a vague sentimentality, not
unmixed with awe. Key was dead. He had fallen
thirty-five feet and split his skull like a cracked cocoa-
"He was a darn good guy," thought Rose mourn-
fully. "He was a darn good guy, o'right. That was
awful hard luck about him."
The two promenaders approached and started down
between Rose's table and the next, addressing friends
and strangers alike with jovial familiarity. Suddenly
Rose saw the fair-haired one with the prominent teeth
stop, look unsteadily at the man and girl opposite, and
then begin to move his head disapprovingly from side
The man with the blood-shot eyes looked up.
ii 4 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Gordy," said the promenader with the prominent
"Hello," said the man with the stained shirt thickly.
Prominent Teeth shook his finger pessimistically at
the pair, giving the woman a glance of aloof condemna-
"What'd I tell you Gordy?"
Gordon stirred in his seat
"Go to hell! "he said.
Dean continued to stand there shaking his finger.
The woman began to get angry.
"You go way!" she cried fiercely. "You're drunk,
that's what you are ! "
"So's he," suggested Dean, staying the motion of his
finger and pointing it at Gordon.
Peter Himmel ambled up, owlish now and oratorically
"Here now," he began as if called upon to deal with
some petty dispute between children. "Wha's all
"You take your friend away," said Jewel tartly.
"He's bothering us."
"You heard me!" she said shrilly. "I said to take
your drunken friend away."
Her rising voice rang out above the clatter of the res-
taurant and a waiter came hurrying up.
"You gotta be more quiet!"
"That feUa's drunk," she cried. "He's insulting
"Ah-ha, Gordy," persisted the accused. "What'd I
tell you." He turned to the waiter. "Gordy an' I
friends. Been tryin' help him, haven't I, Gordy ? "
Gordy looked up.
"Help me? Hell, no!"
MAY DAY 115
Jewel rose suddenly, and seizing Gordon's arm assisted
him to his feet.
"Come on, Gordy !" she said, leaning toward him and
speaking in a half whisper. "Let's us get out of here.
This fella's got a mean drunk on."
Gordon allowed himself to be urged to his feet and
started toward the door. Jewel turned for a second and
addressed the provoker of their flight.
"I know all about you!" she said fiercely. "Nice
friend, you are, I'll say. He told me about you."
Then she seized Gordon's arm, and together they
made their way through the curious crowd, paid their
check, and went out.
"You'll have to sit down," said the waiter to Peter
after they had gone.
"What's 'at? Sit down?"
"Yes or get out."
Peter turned to Dean.
"Come on," he suggested. "Let's beat up this
They advanced toward him, their faces grown stern.
The waiter retreated.
Peter suddenly reached over to a plate on the table
beside him and picking up a handful of hash tossed it
into the air. It descended as a languid parabola in
snowflake effect on the heads of those near by.
"Hey! Ease up!"
"Put him out!"
"Sit down, Peter!"
"Cut out that stuff!"
Peter laughed and bowed.
"Thank you for your kind applause, ladies and gents.
If some one will lend me some more hash and a tall hat
we will go on with the act."
n6 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
The bouncer bustled up.
" You've gotta get out!" he said to Peter.
"He's my friend !" put in Dean indignantly.
A crowd of waiters were gathering. "Put him out !"
"Better go, Peter."
There was a short struggle and the two were edged
and pushed toward the door.
1 ot a hat and a coat here!" cried Peter.
"Well, go get 'em and be spry about it!"
The bouncer released his hold on Peter, who, adopt-
ing a ludicrous air of extreme cunning, rushed im-
mediately around to the other table, where he burst
into derisive laughter and thumbed his nose at the exas-
'Think I just better wait a 1'iP longer," he announced.
The chase began. Four waiters were sent around one
way and four another. Dean caught hold of two of
them by the coat, and another struggle took place be-
fore the pursuit of Peter could be resumed; he was
finally pinioned after overturning a sugar-bowl and sev-
eral cups of coffee. A fresh argument ensued at the
cashier's desk, where Peter attempted to buy another
dish of hash to take with him and throw at policemen.
But the commotion upon his exit proper was dwarfed
by another phenomenon which drew admiring glances
and a prolonged involuntary "Oh-h-h!" from every
person in the restaurant.
The great plate-glass front had turned to a deep
creamy blue, the color of a Maxfield Parrish moonlight
a blue that seemed to press close upon the pane as if to
crowd its way into the restaurant. Dawn had come up
in Columbus Circle, magical, breathless dawn, silhou-
etting the great statue of the immortal Christopher, and
mingling in a curious and uncanny manner with the
fading yellow electric light inside.
MAY DAY 117
Mr. In and Mr. Out are not listed by the census-taker.
You will search for them in vain through the social
register or the births, marriages, and deaths, or the
grocer's credit list. Oblivion has swallowed them
and the testimony that they ever existed at all is vague
and shadowy, and inadmissible in a court of law. Yet
I have it upon the best authority that for a brief
space Mr. In and Mr. Out lived, breathed, answered
to their names and radiated vivid personalities of their
During the brief span of their lives they walked in
their native garments down the great highway of a great
nation; were laughed at, sworn at, chased, and fled from.
Then they passed and were heard of no more.
They were already taking form dimly, when a taxi-
cab with the top open breezed down Broadway in the
faintest glimmer of May dawn. In this car sat the souls
of Mr. In and Mr. Out discussing with amazement the
blue light that had so precipitately colored the sky be-
hind the statue of Christopher Columbus, discussing
with bewilderment the old, gray faces of the early risers
which skimmed palely along the street like blown bits of
paper on a gray lake. They were agreed on all things,
from the absurdity of the bouncer hi Childs' to the ab-
surdity of the business of life. They were dizzy with
the extreme maudlin happiness that the morning had
awakened in their glowing souls. Indeed, so fresh and
vigorous was their pleasure in living that they felt it
should be expressed by loud cries.
"Ye-ow-ow!" hooted Peter, making a megaphone
with his hands and Dean joined in with a call that,
though equally significant and symbolic, derived its
resonance from its very inarticulateness.
"Yo-ho! Yea! Yoho! Yo-buba!"
n8 TALES OF THE JAZZ A(,J
Fifty-third Street was a bus with a dark, bobbed-hair
beauty atop; Fifty-second was a street cleaner who
dodged, escaped, and sent up a yell of, "Look where
you're aimin'l" in a pained and grieved voice. At
Fiftieth Street a group of men on a very white sidewalk
in front of a very white building turned to stare after
them, and shouted:
"Some party, b<
At Forty-ninth Stied IVter turned to Dean. "Beau-
tiful morning," he said gravely, squinting up his owlish
"Go get some bi hey?"
Dean agreed with additions.
"Breakfast and liquor."
"Breakfast and liquor," repeated Peter, and they
looked at each other, nodding. "That's logical."
Then they both burst into loud laughter.
" Breakfast and liquor ! Oh, gosh ! "
"No such thin^." announced Peter.
"Don't serve it? Xe'mind. We force 'em serve it.
Bring pressure bear."
"Bring logic bear."
The taxi cut suddenly off Broadway, sailed along a
cross street, and stopped in front of a heavy tomb-like
building in Fifth Avenue.
The taxi-driver informed them that this was Del-
This was somewhat puzzling. They were forced to
devote several minutes to intense concentration, for if
such an order had been given there must have been a
reason for it.
"Somep'm 'bouta coat," suggested the taxi-man.
That was it. Peter's overcoat and hat. He had left
MAY DAY 119
them at Delmonico's. Having decided this, they dis-
embarked from the taxi and strolled toward the entrance
arm in arm.
"Hey!" said the taxi-driver.
"You better pay me."
They shook their heads in shocked negation.
"Later, not now we give orders, you wait."
The taxi-driver objected; he wanted his money now.
With the scornful condescension of men exercising tre-
mendous self-control they paid him.
Inside Peter groped in vain through a dim, deserted
check-room in search of his coat and derby.
"Gone, I guess. Somebody stole it."
"Some Sheff student."
"Never mind," said Dean, nobly. "I'll leave mine
here too then we'll both be dressed the same."
He removed his overcoat and hat and was hanging
them up when his roving glance was caught and held
magnetically by two large squares of cardboard tacked
to the two coat-room doors. The one on the left-hand
door bore the word "In" in big black letters, and the
one on the right-hand door flaunted the equally emphatic
"Look !" he exclaimed happily
Peter's eyes followed his pointing finger.
"Look at the signs. Let's take 'em."
"Probably pair very rare an' valuable signs. Prob-
ably come in handy."
Peter removed the left-hand sign from the door and
endeavored to conceal it about his person. The sign
being of considerable proportions, this was a matter of
120 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
some difficulty. An idea flung itself at him, and with an
air of dignified mystery he turned his back. After
an instant he wheeled dramatically around, and stretch-
ing out his arms displayed himself to the admiring Dean.
He had inserted the sign in his vest, completely cover-
ing his shirt front. In effect, the word "In" had been
painted upon his shirt in large black letters.
" Yoho !" cheered Dean. "Mister In."
He inserted his own sign in like manner.
"Mister Out!" he announced triumphantly. "Mr.
In meet Mr. Out."
They advanced and shook hands. Again laughter over-
came them and they rocked in a shaken spasm of mirth.
"We probably get a flock of breakfast."
"We'll go go to the Commodore."
Arm in arm they sallied out the door, and turning
east in Forty-fourth Street set out for the Commodore.
As they came out a short dark soldier, very pale and
tired, who had been wandering listlessly along the side-
walk, turned to look at them.
He started over as though to address them, but as
they immediately bent on him glances of withering un-
recognition, he waited until they had started unsteadily
down the street, and then followed at about forty paces,
chuckling to himself and saying "Oh, boy!" over and
over under his breath, in delighted, anticipatory tones.
Mr. In and Mr. Out were meanwhile exchanging plea-
santries concerning their future plans.
"We want liquor; we want breakfast. Neither with-
out the other. One and indivisible,"
"We want both 'em!"
It was quite light now, and passers-by began to bend
curious eyes on the pair. Obviously they were engaged
in a discussion, which afforded each of them intense
MAY DAY 121
amusement, for occasionally a fit of laughter would
seize upon them so violently that, still with their arms
interlocked, they would bend nearly double.
Reaching the Commodore, they exchanged a few
spicy epigrams with the sleepy-eyed doorman, navigated
the revolving door with some difficulty, and then made
their way through a thinly populated but startled lobby
to the dining-room, where a puzzled waiter showed them
an obscure table in a corner. They studied the bill of
fare helplessly, telling over the items to each other in
" Don't see any liquor here," said Peter reproachfully.
The waiter became audible but unintelligible.
"Repeat," continued Peter, with patient tolerance,
"that there seems to be unexplained and quite distaste-
ful lack of liquor upon bill of fare."
"Here !" said Dean confidently, "let me handle him."
He turned to the waiter "Bring us bring us ' he
scanned the bill of fare anxiously. "Bring us a quart
of champagne and a a probably ham sandwich."
The waiter looked doubtful.
"Bring it!" roared Mr. In and Mr. Out in chorus.
The waiter coughed and disappeared. There was a
short wait during which they were subjected without
their knowledge to a careful scrutiny by the head-
waiter. Then the champagne arrived, and at the sight
of it Mr. In and Mr. Out became jubilant.
"Imagine their objecting to us having champagne for
breakfast jus' imagine."
They both concentrated upon the vision of such an
awesome possibility, but the feat was too much for them.
It was impossible for their joint imaginations to conjure
up a world where any one might object to any one else
having champagne for breakfast. The waiter drew the
cork with an enormous pop and their glasses imme-
diately foamed with pale yellow froth.
122 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Here's health, Mr. In."
" Here's same to you, Mr. Out."
The waiter withdrew; the minutes passed; the cham-
pagne became low in the bottle.
"It's it's mortifying," said Dean suddenly.
"The idea their objecting us having champagne
"Mortifying ? " Peter considered. " Yes, tha's word
Again they collapsed into laughter, howled, swayed,
rocked back and forth in their chairs, repeating the
word "mortifying" over and over to each other each
repetition seeming to make it only more brilliantly ab-
After a few more gorgeous minutes they decided on
another quart. Their anxious waiter consulted his im-
mediate superior, and this discreet person gave implicit
instructions that no more champagne should be served.
Their check was brought.
Five minutes later, arm in arm, they left the Commo-
dore and made their way through a curious, staring
crowd along Forty-second Street, and up Vanderbilt
Avenue to the Biltmore. There, with sudden cunning,
they rose to the occasion and traversed the lobby,
walking fast and standing unnaturally erect.
Once in the dining-room they repeated their perform-
ance. They were torn between intermittent convulsive
laughter and sudden spasmodic discussions of politics,
college, and the sunny state of their dispositions. Their
watches told them that it was now nine o'clock, and a
dim idea was born in them that they were on a memora-
ble party, something that they would remember always.
They lingered over the second bottle. Either of them
had only to mention the word "mortifying" to send
MAY DAY 123
them both into riotous gasps. The dining-room was
whirring and shifting now; a curious lightness permeated
and rarefied the heavy air.
They paid their check and walked out into the lobby.
It was at this moment that the exterior doors revolved
for the thousandth time that morning, and admitted
into the lobby a very pale young beauty with dark cir-
cles under her eyes, attired in a much-rumpled evening
dress. She was accompanied by a plain stout man,
obviously not an appropriate escort.
At the top of the stairs this couple encountered Mr.
In and Mr. Out.
"Edith," began Mr. In, stepping toward her hilari-
ously and making a sweeping bow, " darling, good morn-
The stout man glanced questioningly at Edith, as if
merely asking her permission to throw this man sum-
marily out of the way.
"'Scuse familiarity," added Peter, as an afterthought.
" Edith, good-morning."
He seized Dean's elbow and impelled him into the
"Meet Mr. In, Edith, my bes' frien'. Inseparable.
Mr. In and Mr. Out."
Mr. Out advanced and bowed ; in fact, he advanced so
far and bowed so low that he tipped slightly forward
and only kept his balance by placing a hand lightly on
"I'm Mr. Out, Edith," he mumbled pleasantly, " S'mis-
" 'Smisterinanout," said Peter proudly.
But Edith stared straight by them, her eyes fixed on
some infinite speck in the gallery above her. She
nodded slightly to the stout man, who advanced bull-
like and with a sturdy brisk gesture pushed Mr. In and
i2 4 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Mr. Out to either side. Through this alley he and Edith
But ten paces farther on Edith stopped again stopped
and pointed to a short, dark soldier who was eying the
crowd in general, and the tableau of Mr. In and Mr. Out
in particular, with a sort of puzzled, spell-bound awe.
"There," cried Edith. "See there !"
Her voice rose, became somewhat shrill. Her point-
ing ringer shook slightly.
"There's the soldier who broke my brother's leg."
There were a dozen exclamations ; a man in a cutaway
coat left his place near the desk and advanced alertly;
the stout person made a sort of lightning-like spring
toward the short, dark soldier, and then the lobby closed
around the little group and blotted them from the
sight of Mr. In and Mr. Out.
But to Mr. In and Mr. Out this event was merely a
particolored iridescent segment of a whirring, spinning
They heard loud voices; they saw the stout man
spring; the picture suddenly blurred.
Then they were in an elevator bound skyward.
"What floor, please?" said the elevator man.
"Any floor," said Mr. In.
"Top floor," said Mr. Out.
"This is the top floor," said the elevator man.
"Have another floor put on," said Mr. Out.
"Higher," said Mr. In.
"Heaven," said Mr. Out.
In a bedroom of a small hotel just off Sixth Avenue
Gordon Sterrett awoke with a pain in the back of his
head and a sick throbbing in all his veins. He looked at
MAY DAY 125
the dusky gray shadows in the corners of the room and at
a raw place on a large leather chair in the corner where
it had long been in use. He saw clothes, dishevelled,
rumpled clothes on the floor and he smelt stale cigarette
smoke and stale liquor. The windows were tight shut.
Outside the bright sunlight had thrown a dust-filled beam
across the sill a beam broken by the head of the wide
wooden bed in which he had slept. He lay very quiet
comatose, drugged, his eyes wide, his mind clicking
wildly like an unoiled machine.
It must have been thirty seconds after he perceived
the sunbeam with the dust on it and the rip on the large
leather chair that he had the sense of life close beside
him, and it was another thirty seconds after that be-
fore that he realized that he was irrevocably married to
He went out half an hour later and bought a revolver
at a sporting goods store. Then he took a taxi to the
room where he had been living on East Twenty-seventh
Street, and, leaning across the table that held his drawing
materials, fired a cartridge into his head just behind the
PORCELAIN AND PINK
A room in the down-stairs of a summer cottage. High
around the wall runs an art frieze of a fisherman with
a pile of nets at his feet and a ship on a crimson ocean,
a fisherman with a pile of nets at his feet and a ship
on a crimson ocean, a fisherman with a pile of nets
at his feet and so on. In one place on the frieze there
is an overlapping here we have half a fisherman
with half a pile of nets at his foot, crowded damply
against half a ship on half a crimson ocean. The
frieze is not in the plot, but frankly it fascinates me.
I could continue indefinitely, but I am distracted by
one of the two objects in the room a blue porcelain
bath-tub. It has character, this bath-tub. It is not
one of the new racing bodies, but is small with a high
tonneau and looks as if it were going to jump ; dis-
couraged, however, by the shortness of its legs, it has
submitted to its environment and to its coat of sky-blue
paint. But it grumpily refuses to allow any patron
completely to stretch his legs which brings us neatly
to the second object in the room :
It is a girl clearly an appendage to the bath-tub, only her
head and throat beautiful girls have throats instead
of necks and a suggestion of shoulder appearing
above the side. For the first ten minutes of the play
the audience is engrossed in wondering if she really
is playing the game fairly and hasn't any clothes on
or whether it is being cheated and she is dressed.
The girl's name is JULIE MAR vis. From the proud way
she sits up in the bath-tub we deduce that she is not
very tall and that she carries herself well. When
PORCELAIN AND PINK 127
she smiles, her upper lip rolls a little and reminds you
of an Easter Bunny. She is within whispering dis-
tance of twenty years old.
One thing more above and to the right of the bath-tub is a
window. It is narrow and has a wide sill ; it lets in
much sunshine, but effectually prevents any one who
looks in from seeing the bath-tub. You begin to sus-
pect the plot?
We open, conventionally enough, with a song, but, as the
startled gasp of the audience quite drowns out the
first half, we will give only the last of it :
JULIE: (In an airy sophrano-enthusiastico)
When Caesar did the Chicago
He was a graceful child,
Those sacred chickens
Just raised the dickens
The Vestal Virgins went wild.
Whenever the Nervii got nervy
He gave them an awful razz
They shook in their shoes
With the Consular blues
The Imperial Roman Jazz
(During the wild applause that follows JULIE mod-
estly moves her arms and makes waves on the
surface of the water at least we suppose she
does. Then the door on the left opens and Lois
MARVIS enters, dressed but carrying garments
and towels. Lois is a year older than JULIE
and is nearly her double in face and voice, but in
her clothes and expression are the marks of the
conservative. Yes, you've guessed it. Mistaken
identity is the old, rusty pivot upon which the
128 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Lois: (Starting) Oh, 'scuse me. I didn't know you
JULIE: Oh, hello. I'm giving a little concert-
Lois : (Interrupting) Why didn't you lock the door ?
JULIE: Didn't I?
Lois: Of course you didn't. Do you think I just
walked through it ?
JULIE: I thought you picked the lock, dearest.
Lois: You're so careless.
JULIE: No. I'm happy as a garbage-man's dog and
I'm giving a little concert.
Lois : (Severely) Grow up !
JULIE : (Waving a pink arm around the room) The walls
reflect the sound, you see. That's why there's something
very beautiful about singing in a bath-tub. It gives an
effect of surpassing loveliness. Can I render you a
Lois: I wish you'd hurry out of the tub.
JULIE: (Shaking her head thoughtfully) Can't be hur-
ried. This is my kingdom at present, Godliness.
Lois: Why the mellow name?
JULIE: Because you're next to Cleanliness. Don't
throw anything please!
Lois: How long will you be ?
JULIE: (After some consideration) Not less than fif-
teen nor more than twenty-five minutes.
Lois: As a favor to me will you make it ten ?
JULIE : (Reminiscing) Oh, Godliness, do you remember
a day in the chill of last January when one Julie, famous
for her Easter-rabbit smile, was going out and there
was scarcely any hot water and young Julie had just
filled the tub for her own little self when the wicked
sister came and did bathe herself therein, forcing the
young Julie to perform her ablutions with cold cream
which is expensive and a darn lot of trouble ?
PORCELAIN AND PINK 129
Lois : (Impatiently) Then you won't hurry ?
JULIE : Why should I ?
Lois: I've got a date.
JULIE : Here at the house ?
Lois : None of your business.
(JULIE shrugs the visible tips of her shoulders and
stirs the water into ripples.)
JULIE: So be it.
Lois : Oh, for Heaven's sake, yes ! I have a date here
at the house in a way.
JULIE : In a way ?
Lois: He isn't coming in. He's calling for me and
JULIE: (Raising her eyebrows) Oh, the plot clears.
It's that literary Mr. Calkins. I thought you prom-
ised mother you wouldn't invite him in.
Lois: (Desperately) She's so idiotic. She detests him
because he's just got a divorce. Of course she's had
more experience than I have, but
JULIE: (Wisely) Don't let her kid you! Experience
is the biggest gold brick in the world. All older people
have it for sale.
Lois: I like him. We talk literature.
JULIE: Oh, so that's why I've noticed all these weighty
books around the house lately.
Lois: He lends them to me.
JULIE: Well, you've got to play his game. When in
Rome do as the Romans would like to do. But I'm
through with books. I'm all educated.
Lois: You're very inconsistent last summer you
read every day.
JULIE: If I were consistent I'd still be living on warm
milk out of a bottle.
Lois: Yes, and probably my bottle. But I like Mr.
i 3 o TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
JULIE: I never met him.
Lois : Well, will you hurry up ?
JULIE: Yes. (After a pause) I wait till the water
gets tepid and then I let in more hot.
Lois : (Sarcastically) How interesting !
JULIE: 'Member when we used to play "soapo" ?
Lois: Yes and ten years old. I'm really quite sur-
prised that you don't play it still.
JULIE: I do. I'm going to in a minute.
Lois: Silly game.
JULIE: (Warmly) No, it isn't. It's good for the
nerves. I'll bet you've forgotten how to play it.
Lois: (Defiantly) No, I haven't. You you get the
tub all full of soapsuds and then you get up on the edge
and slide down.
JULIE: (Shaking her head scornfully) Huh! That's
only part of it. You've got to slide down without touch-
ing your hands or feet
Lois: (Impatiently) Oh, Lord! What do I care? I
wish we'd either stop coming here in the summer or
else get a house with two bath-tubs.
JULIE: You can buy yourself a little tin one, or use
Lois: Oh, shut up!
JULIE: (Irrelevantly) Leave the towel.
JULIE: Leave the towel when you go.
Lois : This towel ?
JULIE: (Sweetly) Yes, I forgot my towel.
Lois: (Looking around for the first time] Why, you
idiot ! You haven't even a kimono.
JULIE: (Also looking around) Why, so I haven't.
Lois: (Suspicion growing on her) How did you get
JULIE: (Laughing) I guess I I guess I whisked here.
PORCELAIN AND PINK 131
You know a white form whisking down the stairs
Lois: (Scandalized] Why, you little wretch. Haven't
you any pride or self-respect ?
JULIE: Lots of both. I think that proves it. Hooked
very well. I really am rather cute in my natural state.
Lois: Well, you
JULIE: (Thinking aloud) I wish people didn't wear any
clothes. I guess I ought to have been a pagan or a na-
tive or something.
Lois: You're a
JULIE : I dreamt last night that one Sunday in church
a small boy brought in a magnet that attracted cloth.
He attracted the clothes right off of everybody; put
them in an awful state; people were crying and shriek-
ing and carrying on as if they'd just discovered their
skins for the first time. Only / didn't care. So I just
laughed. I had to pass the collection plate because no-
body else would.
Lois: (Who has turned a deaf ear to this speech) Do
you mean to tell me that if I hadn't come you'd have
run back to your room un unclothed ?
JULIE: Au naturel is so much nicer.
Lois : Suppose there had been some one in the living-
JULIE: There never has been yet.
Lois: Yet ! Good grief ! How long
JULIE: Besides, I usually have a towel.
Lois: (Completely overcome) Golly! You ought to
be spanked. I hope you get caught. I hope there's a
dozen ministers in the living-room when you come out
and their wives and their daughters.
JULIE: There wouldn't be room for them in the living-
room, answered Clean Kate of the Laundry District.
132 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Lois: All right. You've made your own bath-tub;
you can lie in it.
(Lois starts determinedly for the door.)
JULEE: (In alarm) Hey! Hey! I don't care about
the k'mono, but I want the towel. I can't dry myself
on a piece of soap and a wet wash-rag.
Lois: (Obstinately) I won't humor such a creature.
You'll have to dry yourself the best way you can. You
can roll on the floor like the animals do that don't wear
JULIE: (Complacent again) All right. Get out!
Lois: (Haughtily) Huh!
(JULIE turns on the cold water and with her finger
directs a parabolic stream at Lois. Lois retires
quickly, slamming the door after her. JULIE
laughs and turns off the water)
When the Arrow-collar man
Meets the D'jer-kiss girl
On the smokeless Sante F6
Her Pebeco smile
Her Lucile style
De dum da-de-dum one day
(She changes to a whistle and leans forward to
turn on the taps, but is startled by three loud
banging noises in the pipes. Silence for a mo-
ment then she puts her mouth down near the
spigot as if it were a telephone)
JULIE: Hello! (No answer) Are you a plumber?
(No answer) Are you the water department ? (One
loud, hollow bang) What do you want ? (No answer)
I believe you're a ghost. Are you ? (No answer)
Well, then, stop banging. (She reaches out and turns
on the warm tap. No water flows. Again she puts her
PORCELAIN AND PINK 133
mouth down close to the spigot) If you're the plumber
that's a mean trick. Turn it on for a fellow. (Two
loud, hollow bangs) Don't argue! I want water-
(A young man's head appears in the window a
head decorated with a slim mustache and sympa-
thetic eyes. These last stare, and though they
can see nothing but many fishermen with nets
and much crimson ocean, they decide him to
THE YOUNG MAN: Some one fainted ?
JULIE: (Starting up, all ears immediately) Jumping
THE YOUNG MAN: (Helpfully) Water's no good for
JULIE : Fits ! Who said anything about fits !
THE YOUNG MAN: You said something about a cat
JULIE: (Decidedly) I did not!
THE YOUNG MAN: Well, we can talk it over later.
Are you ready to go out ? Or do you still feel that if
you go with me just now everybody will gossip ?
JULIE: (Smiling) Gossip! Would they? It'd be
more than gossip it'd be a regular scandal.
THE YOUNG MAN: Here, you're going it a little strong.
Your family might be somewhat disgruntled but to
the pure all things are suggestive. No one else would
even give it a thought, except a few old women. Come
JULIE: You don't know what you ask.
THE YOUNG MAN: Do you imagine we'd have a
crowd following us ?
JULIE: A crowd? There'd be a special, all-steel,
buffet train leaving New York hourly.
THE YOUNG MAN: Say, are you house-cleaning?
134 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
THE YOUNG MAN: I see all the pictures are off the
JULIE: Why, we never have pictures in this room.
THE YOUNG MAN: Odd. I never heard of a room
without pictures or tapestry or panelling or something.
JULIE: There's not even any furniture in here.
THE YOUNG MAN: What a strange house!
JULIE: It depends on the angle you see it from.
THE YOUNG MAN: (Sentimentally) It's so nice talking
to you like this when you're merely a voice. I'm
rather glad I can't see you.
JULIE: (Gratefully) So am I.
THE YOUNG MAN: What color are you wearing ?
JULIE : (After a critical survey of her shoulders) Why, I
guess it's a sort of pinkish white.
THE YOUNG MAN: Is it becoming to you ?
JULIE: Very. It's it's old. I've had it for a long
THE YOUNG MAN: I thought you hated old
JULIE: I do but this was a birthday present and I
sort of have to wear it.
THE YOUNG MAN: Pinkish white. Well, I'll bet it's
divine. Is it in style ?
JULIE: Quite. It's very simple, standard model.
THE YOUNG MAN: What a voice you have ! How it
echoes! Sometimes I shut my eyes and seem to see
you in a far desert island calling for me. And I plunge
toward you through the surf, hearing you call as you
stand there, water stretching on both sides of you
( The soap slips from the side of tlie tub and splashes
in. The young man blinks)
THE YOUNG MAN: What was that ? Did I dream it ?
JULIE: Yes. You're you're very poetic, aren't you?
PORCELAIN AND PINK 135
THE YOUNG MAN: (Dreamily) No. I do prose. I
do verse only when I am stirred.
JULIE: (Murmuring) Stirred by a spoon
THE YOUNG MAN: I have always loved poetry. I
can remember to this day the first poem I ever learned
by heart. It was "Evangeline."
JULIE: That's a fib.
THE YOUNG MAN: Did I say "Evangeline" ? I
meant "The Skeleton in Armor. "
JULIE: I'm a low-brow. But I can remember my first
poem. It had one verse:
Parker and Davis
Sittin' on a fence
Tryne to make a dollar
Outa fif-teen cents.
THE YOUNG MAN: (Eagerly) Are you growing fond of
JULIE: If it's not too ancient or complicated or de-
pressing. Same way with people. I usually like 'em
if they're not too ancient or complicated or depressing.
THE YOUNG MAN: Of course I've read enormously.
You told me last night that you were very fond of Walter
JULIE: (Considering) Scott? Let's see. Yes, I've
read "Ivanhoe" and "The Last of the Mohicans."
THE YOUNG MAN: That's by Cooper.
JULLE: (Angrily) "Ivanhoe" is? You're crazy! I
guess I know. I read it.
THE YOUNG MAN: "The Last of the Mohicans" is
JULIE: What do I care! I like O. Henry. I don't
see how he ever wrote those stories. Most of them he
wrote in prison. "The Ballad of Reading Gaol " he
made up in prison.
136 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
THE YOUNG MAN: (Biting his lip) Literature litera-
ture ! How much it has meant to me !
JULIE: Well, as Gaby Deslys said to Mr. Bergson,
with my looks and your brains there's nothing we couldn't
THE YOUNG MAN: (Laughing) You certainly are hard
to keep up with. One day you're awfully pleasant and
the next you're in a mood. If I didn't understand your
temperament so well
JULIE: (Impatiently) Oh, you're one of these amateur
character-readers, are you ? Size people up in five min-
utes and then look wise whenever they're mentioned. I
hate that sort of thing.
THE YOUNG MAN: I don't boast of sizing you up.
You're most mysterious, I'll admit.
JULIE : There's only two mysterious people in history.
THE YOUNG MAN: Who are they?
JULIE: The Man with the Iron Mask and the fella
who says "ug uh-glug uh-glug uh-glug" when the line
THE YOUNG MAN: You are mysterious. I love you.
You're beautiful, intelligent, and virtuous, and that's
the rarest known combination.
JULIE: You're a historian. Tell me if there are any
bath-tubs in history. I think they've been frightfully
THE YOUNG MAN: Bath-tubs! Let's see. Well, Aga-
memnon was stabbed in his bath-tub. And Charlotte
Corday stabbed Marat in his bath-tub.
JULIE: (Sighing) Way back there! Nothing new be-
sides the sun, is there ? Why only yesterday I picked
up a musical-comedy score that must have been at least
twenty years old; and there on the cover it said "The
Shimmies of Normandy," but shimmie was spelt the
old way, with a "C."
PORCELAIN AND PINK 137
THE YOUNG MAN: I loathe these modern dances.
Oh, Lois, I wish I could see you. Come to the window.
(There is a loud bang in the water -pipe and sud-
denly the flow starts from the open taps. Julie
turns them off quickly)
THE YOUNG MAN: (Puzzled) What on earth was
JULIE: (Ingeniously) I heard something, too.
THE YOUNG MAN: Sounded like running water.
JULIE: Didn't it? Strange like it. As a matter of
fact I was filling the gold-fish bowl.
THE YOUNG MAN: (Still puzzled) What was that bang-
ing noise ?
JULIE : One of the fish snapping his golden jaws.
THE YOUNG MAN: (With sudden resolution) Lois, I
love you. I am not a mundane man but I am a forg-
JULIE: (Interested at once) Oh, how fascinating.
THE YOUNG MAN: a forger ahead. Lois, I want
JULIE: (SkeptkoMy) Huh! What you really want is
for the world to come to attention and stand there till
you give "Rest!"
THE YOUNG MAN: Lois I Lois I
(He stops as Lois opens the door, comes in, and
bangs it behind her. She looks peevishly at
JULIE and then suddenly catches sight of the
young man in the window)
Lois: (In horror) Mr. Calkins!
THE YOUNG MAN: (Surprised) Why I thought you
said you were wearing pinkish white !
(After one despairing stare Lois shrieks, throws up
her hands in surrender, and sinks to the floor.)
THE YOUNG MAN: (In great alarm) Good Lord !
She's fainted ! I'll be right in.
138 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
(JULIE'S eyes light on the towel which has slipped
from Lois's inert hand.)
JULIE: In that case I'll be right out.
(She puts her hands on the side of the tub to lift her-
self out and a murmur, half gasp, half sigh,
ripples from the audience.
A Bdasco midnight comes quickly down and blots
out the stage.)
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ
JOHN T. UNGER came from a family that had been well
known in Hades a small town on the Mississippi River
for several generations. John's father had held the
amateur golf championship through many a heated con-
test; Mrs. Unger was known "from hot-box to hot-bed,"
as the local phrase went, for her political addresses; and
young John T. Unger, who had just turned sixteen, had
danced all the latest dances from New York before he
put on long trousers. And now, for a certain time, he
was to be away from home. That respect for a New
England education which is the bane of all provincial
places, which drains them yearly of their most promis-
ing young men, had seized upon his parents. Nothing
would suit them but that he should go to St. Midas'
School near Boston Hades was too small to hold their
darling and gifted son.
Now in Hades as you know if you ever have been
there the names of the more fashionable preparatory
schools and colleges mean very little. The inhabitants
have been so long out of the world that, though they
make a show of keeping up to date in dress and manners
and literature, they depend to a great extent on hear-
say, and a function that in Hades would be considered
elaborate would doubtless be hailed by a Chicago beef-
princess as "perhaps a little tacky."
John T. Unger was on the eve of departure. Mrs.
Unger, with maternal fatuity, packed his trunks full of
linen suits and electric fans, and Mr. Unger presented
his son with an asbestos pocket-book stuffed with money.
142 TALES OF THE JAZZ
"Remember, you are always welcome here," he said.
"You can be sure, boy, that we'll keep the home fires
"I know," answered John huskily.
"Don't forget who you are and where you come from,"
continued his father proudly, "and you can do nothing
to harm you. You are an Unger from Hades."
So the old man and the young shook hands and John
walked away with tears streaming from his eyes. Ten
minutes later he had passed outside the city limits, and
he stopped to glance back for the last time. Over the
gates the old-fashioned Victorian motto seemed strangely
attractive to him. His father had tried time and time
again to have it changed to something with a little more
push and verve about it, such as "Hades Your Op-
portunity," or else a plain "Welcome" sign set over a
hearty handshake pricked out in electric lights. The
old motto was a little depressing, Mr. Unger had thought
but now. . . .
So John took his look and then set his face resolutely
toward his destination. And, as he turned away, the
lights of Hades against the sky seemed full of a warm
and passionate beauty.
St. Midas' School is half an hour from Boston in a
Rolls-Pierce motor-car. The actual distance will never
be known, for no one, except John T. Unger, had ever
arrived there save in a Rolls-Pierce and probably no
one ever will again. St. Midas' is the most expensive
and the most exclusive boys' preparatory school in the
John's first two years there passed pleasantly. The
fathers of all the boys were money-kings and John spent
his summers visiting at fashionable resorts. While he
was very fond of all the boys he visited, their fathers
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 143
struck him as being much of a piece, and in his boyish
way he often wondered at their exceeding sameness.
When he told them where his home was they would
ask jovially, "Pretty hot down there ?" and John would
muster a faint smile and answer, "It certainly is." His
response would have been heartier had they not all made
this joke at best varying it with, "Is it hot enough
for you down there ? " which he hated just as much.
In the middle of his second year at school, a quiet,
handsome boy named Percy Washington had been put
in John's form. The newcomer was pleasant in his man-
ner and exceedingly well dressed even for St. Midas',
but for some reason he kept aloof from the other boys.
The only person with whom he was intimate was John
T. Unger, but even to John he was entirely uncommuni-
cative concerning his home or his family. That he was
wealthy went without saying, but beyond a few such
deductions John knew little of his friend, so it promised
rich confectionery for his curiosity when Percy invited
him to spend the summer at his home "in the West."
He accepted, without hesitation.
It was only when they were in the train that Percy
became, for the first time, rather communicative. One
day while they were eating lunch in the dining-car and
discussing the imperfect characters of several of the
boys at school, Percy suddenly changed his tone and
made an abrupt remark.
"My father," he said, "is by far the richest man in
"Oh," said John, politely. He could think of no an-
swer to make to this confidence. He considered "That's
very nice," but it sounded hollow and was on the point
of saying, "Really?" but refrained since it would seem
to question Percy's statement. And such an astound-
ing statement could scarcely be questioned.
144 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"By far the richest," repeated Percy.
"I was reading in the World Almanac," began John,
"that there was one man in America with an income of
over five million a year and four men with incomes of
over three million a year, and "
"Oh, they're nothing." Percy's mouth was a half-
moon of scorn. "Catch-penny capitalists, financial
small-fry, petty merchants and money-lenders. My
father could buy them out and not know he'd done it."
"But how does he "
"Why haven't they put down his income tax? Be-
cause he doesn't pay any. At least he pays a little one
but he doesn't pay any on his real income."
"He must be very rich," said John simply. "I'm
glad. I like very rich people.
"The richer a fella is, the better I like him." There
was a look of passionate frankness upon his dark face.
"I visited the Schnlitzer-Murphys last Easter. Vivian
Schnlitzer-Murphy had rubies as big as hen's eggs,
and sapphires that were like globes with lights inside
"I love jewels," agreed Percy enthusiastically. "Of
course I wouldn't want any one at school to know about
it, but I've got quite a collection myself. I used to
collect them instead of stamps."
"And diamonds," continued John eagerly. ''The
Schnlitzer-Murphys had diamonds as big as walnuts
"That's nothing." Percy had leaned forward and
dropped his voice to a low whisper. "That's nothing
at all. My father has a diamond bigger than the Ritz-
The Montana sunset lay between two mountains like
a gigantic bruise from which dark arteries spread them-
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 145
selves over a poisoned sky. An immense distance under
the sky crouched the village of Fish, minute, dismal, and
forgotten. There were twelve men, so it was said, in
the village of Fish, twelve sombre and inexplicable
souls who sucked a lean milk from the almost literally
bare rock upon which a mysterious populatory force
had begotten them. They had become a race apart,
these twelve men of Fish, like some species developed
by an early whim of nature, which on second thought
had abandoned them to struggle and extermination.
Out of the blue-black bruise in the distance crept a
long line of moving lights upon the desolation of the
land, and the twelve men of Fish gathered like ghosts
at the shanty depot to watch the passing of the seven
o'clock train, the Transcontinental Express from Chi-
cago. Six times or so a year the Transcontinental Ex-
press, through some inconceivable jurisdiction, stopped
at the village of Fish, and when this occurred a figure
or so would disembark, mount into a buggy that always
appeared from out of the dusk, and drive off toward
the bruised sunset. The observation of this pointless
and preposterous phenomenon had become a sort of
cult among the men of Fish. To observe, that was all;
there remained in them none of the vital quality of il-
lusion which would make them wonder or speculate,
else a religion might have grown up around these mys-
terious visitations. But the men of Fish were beyond
all religion the barest and most savage tenets of even
Christianity could gain no foothold on that barren rock
so there was no altar, no priest, no sacrifice; only
each night at seven the silent concourse by the shanty
depot, a congregation who lifted up a prayer of dim,
On this June night, the Great Brakeman, whom, had
they deified any one, they might well have chosen as
i 4 6 TALES O* THE JAZZ AGE
their celestial protagonist, had ordained that the seven
o'clock train should leave its human (or inhuman)
deposit at Fish. At two minutes after seven Percy
Washington and John T. Unger disembarked, hurried
past the spellbound, the agape, the fearsome eyes of
the twelve men of Fish, mounted into a buggy which
had obviously appeared from nowhere, and drove away.
After half an hour, when the twilight had coagulated
into dark, the silent negro who was driving the buggy
hailed an opaque body somewhere ahead of them in the
gloom. In response to his cry, it turned upon them a
luminous disk which regarded them like a malignant eye
out of the unfathomable night. As they came closer,
John saw that it was the tail-light of an immense auto-
mobile, larger and more magnificent than any he had
ever seen. Its body was of gleaming metal richer than
nickel and lighter than silver, and the hubs of the wheels
were studded with iridescent geometric figures of green
and yellow John did not dare to guess whether they
were glass or jewel.
Two negroes, dressed in glittering livery such as one
sees in pictures of royal processions in London, were
standing at attention beside the car and as the two young
men dismounted from the buggy they were greeted in
some language which the guest could not understand,
but which seemed to be an extreme form of the Southern
"Get in," said Percy to his friend, as their trunks
were tossed to the ebony roof of the limousine. " Sorry
we had to bring you this far in that buggy, but of course
it wouldn't do for the people on the train or those God-
forsaken fellas in Fish to see this automobile."
"Gosh! What a car!" This ejaculation was pro-
voked by its interior. John saw that the upholstery
consisted of a thousand minute and exquisite tapestries
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 147
of silk, woven with jewels and embroideries, and set
upon a background of cloth of gold. The two armchair
seats in which the boys luxuriated were covered with
stuff that resembled duvetyn, but seemed woven in num-
berless colors of the ends of ostrich feathers.
"What a car!" cried John again, in amazement.
"This thing?" Percy laughed. "Why, it's just an
old junk we use for a station wagon."
By this time they were gliding along through the dark-
ness toward the break between the two mountains.
"We'll be there in an hour and a half," said Percy,
looking at the clock. "I may as well tell you it's not
going to be like anything you ever saw before."
If the car was any indication of what John would
see, he was prepared to be astonished indeed. The sim-
ple piety prevalent in Hades has the earnest worship
of and respect for riches as the first article of its creed
had John felt otherwise than radiantly humble before
them, his parents would have turned away in horror
at the blashemy.
They had now reached and were entering the break
between the two mountains and almost immediately
the way became much rougher.
"If the moon shone down here, you'd see that we're
in a big gulch," said Percy, trying to peer out of the
window. He spoke a few words into the mouthpiece
and immediately the footman turned on a search-light
and swept the hillsides with an immense beam.
"Rocky, you see. An ordinary car would be knocked
to pieces in half an hour. In fact, it'd take a tank to
navigate it unless you knew the way. You notice we're
going uphill now."
They were obviously ascending, and within a few
minutes the car was crossing a high rise, where they
caught a glimpse of a pale moon newly risen in the dis-
148 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
tance. The car stopped suddenly and several figures
took shape out of the dark beside it these were negroes
also. Again the two young men were saluted in the
same dimly recognizable dialect; then the negroes set
to work and four immense cables dangling from over-
head were attached with hooks to the hubs of the great
jeweled wheels. At a resounding "Hey-yah!" John
felt the car being lifted slowly from the ground up and
up clear of the tallest rocks on both sides then higher,
until he could see a wavy, moonlit valley stretched out
before him in sharp contrast to the quagmire of rocks
that they had just left. Only on one side was there
still rock and then suddenly there was no rock beside
them or anywhere around.
It was apparent that they had surmounted some im-
mense knife-blade of stone, projecting perpendicularly
into the air. In a moment they were going down again,
and finally with a soft bump they were landed upon the
"The worst is over," said Percy, squinting out the
window. "It's only five miles from here, and our own
road tapestry brick all the way. This belongs to
us. This is where the United States ends, father says."
"Are we in Canada ?"
"We are not. We're in the middle of the Montana
Rockies. But you are now on the only five square miles
of land in the country that's never been surveyed."
"Why hasn't it ? Did they forget it ?"
"No," said Percy, grinning, "they tried to do it three
times. TTie first time my grandfather corrupted a whole
department of the State survey; the second time he had
the official maps of the United States tinkered with
that held them for fifteen years. The last time was
harder. My father fixed it so that their compasses were
in the strongest magnetic field ever artificially set up.
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 149
He had a whole set of surveying instruments made with
a slight defection that would allow for this territory not
to appear, and he substituted them for the ones that
were to be used. Then he had a river deflected and he
had what looked like a village built up on its banks so
that they'd see it, and think it was a town ten miles
farther up the valley. There's only one thing my father's
afraid of," he concluded, "only one thing in the world
that could be used to find us out."
Percy sank his voice to a whisper.
"Aeroplanes," he breathed. "We've got half a doz-
en anti-aircraft guns and we've arranged it so far but
there've been a few deaths and a great many prisoners.
Not that we mind that, you know, father and I, but it
upsets mother and the girls, and there's always the
chance that some time we won't be able to arrange it."
Shreds and tatters of chinchilla, courtesy clouds in the
green moon's heaven, were passing the green moon like
precious Eastern stuffs paraded for the inspection of some
Tartar Khan. It seemed to John that it was day, and
that he was looking at some lads sailing above him in the
air, showering down tracts and patent medicine circu-
lars, with their messages of hope for despairing, rock-
bound hamlets. It seemed to him that he could see
them look down out of the clouds and stare and stare
at whatever there was to stare at in this place whither
he was bound What then? Were they induced
to land by some insidious device there to be immured
far from patent medicines and from tracts until the judg-
ment day or, should they fail to fall into the trap,
did a quick puff of smoke and the sharp round of a split-
ting shell bring them drooping to earth and "upset"
Percy's mother and sisters. John shook his head and
the wraith of a hollow laugh issued silently from his
1 50 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
parted lips. What desperate transaction lay hidden
here ? What a moral expedient of a bizarre Croesus ?
What terrible and golden mystery ? . . .
The chinchilla clouds had drifted past now and out-
side the Montana night was bright as day. The tapes-
try brick of the road was smooth to the tread of the great
tires as they rounded a still, moonlit lake; they passed
into darkness for a moment, a pine grove, pungent and
cool, then they came out into a broad avenue of lawn
and John's exclamation of pleasure was simultaneous
with Percy 's taciturn "We're home."
Full in the light of the stars, an exquisite chateau
rose from the borders of the lake, climbed in marble
radiance half the height of an adjoining mountain, then
melted in grace, in perfect symmetry, in translucent
feminine languor, into the massed darkness of a forest
of pine. The many towers, the slender tracery of the
sloping parapets, the chiselled wonder of a thousand
yellow windows with their oblongs and hectagons and
triangles of golden light, the shattered softness of the
intersecting planes of star-shine and blue shade, all
trembled on John's spirit like a chord of music. On one
of the towers, the tallest, the blackest at its base, an
arrangement of exterior lights at the top made a sort
of floating fairyland and as John gazed up in warm
enchantment the faint acciaccare sound of violins
drifted down in a rococo harmony that was like nothing
he had ever heard before. Then in a moment the car
stopped before wide, high marble steps around which
the night air was fragrant with a host of flowers. At
the top of the steps two great doors swung silently
open and amber light flooded out upon the darkness,
silhouetting the figure of an exquisite lady with black,
high-piled hair, who held out her arms toward them.
"Mother," Percy was saying, "this is my friend, John
Unger, from Hades."
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 151
Afterward John remembered that first night as a daze
of many colors, of quick sensory impressions, of music
soft as a voice in love, and of the beauty of things, lights
and shadows, and motions and faces. There was a white-
haired man who stood drinking a many-hued cordial
from a crystal thimble set on a golden stem. There
was a girl with a flowery face, dressed like Titania with
braided sapphires in her hair. There was a room where
the solid, soft gold of the walls yielded to the pressure
of his hand, and a room that was like a platonic con-
ception of the ultimate prison ceiling, floor, and all,
it was lined with an unbroken mass of diamonds, dia-
monds of every size and shape, until, lit with tall violet
lamps in the corners, it dazzled the eyes with a white-
ness that could be compared only with itself, beyond
human wish or dream.
Through a maze of these rooms the two boys wan-
dred. Sometimes the floor under their feet would flame
in brilliant patterns from lighting below, patterns of
barbaric clashing colors, of pastel delicacy, of sheer white-
ness, or of subtle and intricate mosaic, surely from some
mosque on the Adriatic Sea. Sometimes beneath layers
of thick crystal he would see blue or green water swirl-
ing, inhabited by vivid fish and growths of rainbow
foliage. Then they would be treading on furs of
every texture and color or along corridors of palest
ivory, unbroken as though carved complete from the
gigantic tusks of dinosaurs extinct before the age of
man. . . .
Then a hazily remembered transition, and they were
at dinner where each plate was of two almost imper-
ceptible layers of solid diamond between which was
curiously worked a filigree of emerald design, a shaving
sliced from green air. Music, plangent and unobtrusive,
drifted down through far corridors his chair, feathered
and curved insidiously to his back, seemed to engulf
152 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
and overpower him as he drank his first glass of port.
He tried drowsily to answer a question that had been
asked him, but the honeyed luxury that clasped his body
added to the illusion of sleep jewels, fabrics, wines, and
metals blurred before his eyes into a sweet mist. . . .
"Yes," he replied with a polite effort, "it certainly is
hot enough for me down there."
He managed to add a ghostly laugh; then, without
movement, without resistance, he seemed to float off
and away, leaving an iced dessert that was pink as a
dream. ... He fell asleep.
When he awoke he knew that several hours had
passed. He was in a great quiet room with ebony walls
and a dull illumination that was too faint, too subtle,
to be called a light. His young host was standing over
"You fell asleep at dinner," Percy was saying. "I
nearly did, too it was such a treat to be comfortable
again after this year of school. Servants undressed and
bathed you while you were sleeping."
"Is this a bed or a cloud?" sighed John. "Percy,
Percy before you go, I want to apologize."
"For doubting you when you said you had a diamond
as big as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel."
"I thought you didn't believe me. It's that moun-
tain, you know."
"The mountain the chateau rests on. It's not very
big, for a mountain. But except about fifty feet of sod
and gravel on top it's solid diamond. One diamond,
one cubic mile without a flaw. Aren't you listening ?
But John T. Unger had again fallen asleep.
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 153
Morning. As he awoke he perceived drowsily that
the room had at the same moment become dense with
sunlight. The ebony panels of one wall had slid aside
on a sort of track, leaving his chamber half open to the
day. A large negro in a white uniform stood beside his
"Good-evening," muttered John, summoning his
brains from the wild places.
"Good-morning, sir. Are you ready for your bath,
sir? Oh, don't get up I'll put you in, if you'll just
unbutton your pajamas there. Thank you, sir."
John lay quietly as his pajamas were removed he
was amused and delighted; he expected to be lifted like
a child by this black Gargantua who was tending him,
but nothing of the sort happened; instead he felt the
bed tilt up slowly on its side he began to roll, startled
at first, in the direction of the wall, but when he reached
the wall its drapery gave way, and sliding two yards
farther down a fleecy incline he plumped gently into
water the same temperature as his body.
He looked about him. The runway or rollway on
which he had arrived had folded gently back into place.
He had been projected into another chamber and was
sitting in a sunken bath with his head just above the
level of the floor. All about him, Lining the walls of the
room and the sides and bottom of the bath itself, was a
blue aquarium, and gazing through the crystal surface
on which he sat, he could see fish swimming among
amber lights and even gliding without curiosity past
his outstretched toes, which were separated from them
only by the thickness of the crystal. From overhead,
sunlight came down through sea-green glass.
i 5 4 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"I suppose, sir, that you'd like hot rosewater and
soapsuds this morning, sir and perhaps cold salt water
The negro was standing beside him.
" Yes," agreed John, smiling inanely, "as you please."
Any idea of ordering this bath according to his own
meagre standards of living would have been priggish
and not a little wicked.
The negro pressed a button and a warm rain began to
fall, apparently from overhead, but really, so John dis-
covered after a moment, from a fountain arrangement
near by. The water turned to a pale rose color and jets
of liquid soap spurted into it from four miniature wal-
rus heads at the corners of the bath. In a moment a
dozen little paddle-wheels, fixed to the sides, had churned
the mixture into a radiant rainbow of pink foam which
enveloped him softly with its delicious lightness, and
burst in shining, rosy bubbles here and there about him.
"Shall I turn on the moving-picture machine, sir?"
suggested the negro deferentially. "There's a good one-
reel comedy in this machine to-day, or I can put in a
serious piece in a moment, if you prefer it."
"No, thanks," answered John, politely but firmly.
He was enjoying his bath too much to desire any dis-
traction. But distraction came. In a moment he was
listening intently to the sound of flutes from just out-
side, flutes dripping a melody that was like a waterfall,
cool and green as the room itself, accompanying a frothy
piccolo, in play more fragile than the lace of suds that
covered and charmed him.
After a cold salt-water bracer and a cold fresh finish,
he stepped out and into a fleecy robe, and upon a couch
covered with the same material he was rubbed with oil,
alcohol, and spice. Later he sat in a voluptuous chair
while he was shaved and his hair was trimmed.
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 155
"Mr. Percy is waiting in your sitting-room," said the
negro, when these operations were finished. "My name
is Gygsum, Mr. Unger, sir. I am to see to Mr. linger
John walked out into the brisk sunshine of his living-
room, where he found breakfast waiting for him and
Percy, gorgeous in white kid knickerbockers, smoking
in an easy chair.
This is a story of the Washington family as Percy
sketched it for John during breakfast.
The father of the present Mr. Washington had been
a Virginian, a direct descendant of George Washington,
and Lord Baltimore. At the close of the Civil War he
was a twenty-five-year-old Colonel with a played-out
plantation and about a thousand dollars in gold.
Fitz-Norman Culpepper Washington, for that was the
young Colonel's name, decided to present the Virginia
estate to his younger brother and go West. He selected
two dozen of the most faithful blacks, who, of course,
worshipped him, and bought twenty-five tickets to the
West, where he intended to take out land in their names
and start a sheep and cattle ranch.
When he had been in Montana for less than a month
and things were going very poorly indeed, he stumbled
on his great discovery. He had lost his way when riding
in the hills, and after a day without food he began to
grow hungry. As he was without his rifle, he was forced
to pursue a squirrel, and in the course of the pursuit he
noticed that it was carrying something shiny in its
mouth. Just before it vanished into its hole for Provi-
dence did not intend that this squirrel should alleviate
his hunger it dropped its burden. Sitting down to
consider the situation Fitz-Norman's eye was caught
156 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
by a gleam in the grass beside him. In ten seconds he
had completely lost his appetite and gained one hun-
dred thousand dollars. The squirrel, which had re-
fused with annoying persistence to become food, had
made him a present of a large and perfect diamond.
Late that night he found his way to camp and twelve
hours later all the males among his darkies were back
by the squirrel hole digging furiously at the side of the
mountain. He told them he had discovered a rhine-
stone mine, and, as only one or two of them had ever
seen even a small diamond before, they believed him,
without question. When the magnitude of his discovery
became apparent to him, he found himself in a quandary.
The mountain was a diamond it was literally nothing
else but solid diamond. He filled four saddle bags full
of glittering samples and started on horseback for St.
Paul. There he managed to dispose of half a dozen
small stones when he tried a larger one a storekeeper
fainted and Fitz-Norman was arrested as a public dis-
turber. He escaped from jail and caught the train for
New York, where he sold a few medium-sized diamonds
and received in exchange about two hundred thousand
dollars in gold. But he did not dare to produce any
exceptional gems in fact, he left New York just in
time. Tremendous excitement had been created in
jewelry circles, not so much by the size of his diamonds
as by their appearance in the city from mysterious
sources. Wild rumors became current that a diamond
mine had been discovered in the Catskills, on the Jersey
coast, on Long Island, beneath Washington Square.
Excursion trains, packed with men carrying picks and
shovels, began to leave New York hourly, bound for
various neighboring El Dorados. But by that time
young Fitz-Norman was on his way back to Montana.
By the end of a fortnight he had estimated that the
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 157
diamond in the mountain was approximately equal in
quantity to all the rest of the diamonds known to exist
in the world. There was no valuing it by any regular
computation, however, for it was one solid diamond
and if it were offered for sale not only would the bottom
fall out of the market, but also, if the value should vary
with its size in the usual arithmetical progression, there
would not be enough gold in the world to buy a tenth
part of it. And what could any one do with a diamond
that size ?
It was an amazing predicament. He was, in one
sense, the richest man that ever lived and yet was he
worth anything at all? If his secret should transpire
there was no telling to what measures the Government
might resort in order to prevent a panic, in gold as well
as in jewels. They might take over the claim immedi-
ately and institute a monopoly.
There was no alternative he must market his moun-
tain in secret. He sent South for his younger brother
and put him in charge of his colored following darkies
who had never realized that slavery was abolished. To
make sure of this, he read them a proclamation that he
had composed, which announced that General Forrest
had reorganized the shattered Southern armies and de-
feated the North in one pitched battle. The negroes
believed him implicitly. They passed a vote declaring
it a good thing and held revival services immediately.
Fitz-Norman himself set out for foreign parts with
one hundred thousand dollars and two trunks filled with
rough diamonds of all sizes. He sailed for Russia in a
Chinese junk and six months after his departure from
Montana he was in St. Petersburg. He took obscure
lodgings and called immediately upon the court jeweller,
announcing that he had a diamond for the Czar. He
remained in St. Petersburg for two weeks, in constant
i 5 8 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
danger of being murdered, living from lodging to lodg-
ing, and afraid to visit his trunks more than three or
four times during the whole fortnight.
On his promise to return in a year with larger and finer
stones, he was allowed to leave for India. Before he
left, however, the Court Treasurers had deposited to
his credit, in American banks, the sum of fifteen million
dollars under four different aliases.
He returned to America in 1868, having been gone a
little over two years. He had visited the capitals of
twenty- two countries and talked with five emperors,
eleven kings, three princes, a shah, a khan, and a sul-
tan. At that time Fitz-Norman estimated his own
wealth at one billion dollars. One fact worked consis-
tently against the disclosure of his secret. No one of
his larger diamonds remained in the public eye for a
week before being invested with a history of enough
fatalities, amours, revolutions, and wars to have occu-
pied it from the days of the first Babylonian Empire.
From 1870 until his death in 1900, the history of Fitz-
Norman Washington was a long epic in gold. There
were side issues, of course he evaded the surveys, he
married a Virginia lady, by whom he had a single son,
and he was compelled, due to a series of unfortunate
complications, to murder his brother, whose unfortunate
habit of drinking himself into an indiscreet stupor had
several times endangered their safety. But very few
other murders stained these happy years of progress
Just before he died he changed his policy, and with all
but a few million dollars of his outside wealth bought
up rare minerals in bulk, which he deposited in the safety
vaults of banks all over the world, marked as bric-a-brac.
His son, Braddock Tarleton Washington, followed this
policy on an even more tensive scale. The minerals
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 159
were converted into the rarest of all elements radium
so that the equivalent of a billion dollars in gold could
be placed in a receptacle no bigger than a cigar box.
When Fitz-Norman had been dead three years his
son, Braddock, decided that the business had gone far
enough. The amount of wealth that he and his father
had taken out of the mountain was beyond all exact
computation. He kept a note-book in cipher in which
he set down the approximate quantity of radium in
each of the thousand banks he patronized, and recorded
the alias under which it was held. Then he did a very
simple thing he sealed up the mine.
He sealed up the mine. What had been taken out of
it would support all the Washingtons yet to be born in
unparalleled luxury for generations. His one care must
be the protection of his secret, lest in the possible panic
attendant on its discovery he should be reduced with
all the property-holders in the world to utter poverty.
This was the family among whom John T. Unger was
staying. This was the story he heard in his silver-
walled living-room the morning after his arrival.
After breakfast, John found his way out the great
marble entrance, and looked curiously at the scene be-
fore him. The whole valley, from the diamond moun-
tain to the steep granite cliff five miles away, still gave
off a breath of golden haze which hovered idly above
the fine sweep of lawns and lakes and gardens. Here
and there clusters of elms made delicate groves of shade,
contrasting strangely with the tough masses of pine
forest that held the hills in a grip of dark-blue green.
Even as John looked he sa\\ three fawns in single file
patter out from one clump about a half mile away and
i6o TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
disappear with awkward gayety into the black-ribbed
half-light of another. John would not have been sur-
prised to see a goat-foot piping his way among the trees
or to catch a glimpse of pink nymph-skin and flying
yellow hair between the greenest of the green leaves.
In some such cool hope he descended the marble
steps, disturbing faintly the sleep of two silky Russian
wolfhounds at the bottom, and set off along a walk of
white and blue brick that seemed to lead in no par-
He was enjoying himself as much as he was able. It
is youth's felicity as well as its insufficiency that it can
never live in the present, but must always be measuring
up the day against its own radiantly imagined future-
flowers and gold, girls and stars, they are only prefigura-
tions and prophecies of that incomparable, unattaina-
ble young dream.
John rounded a soft corner where the massed rose-
bushes filled the air with heavy scent, and struck off
across a park toward a patch of moss under some trees.
He had never lain upon moss, and he wanted to see
whether it was really soft enough to justify the use of
its name as an adjective. Then he saw a girl coming
toward him over the grass. She was the most beau-
tiful person he had ever seen.
She was dressed in a white little gown that came just
below her knees, and a wreath of mignonettes clasped
with blue slices of sapphire bound up her hair. Her pink
bare feet scattered the dew before them as she came.
She was younger than John not more than sixteen.
"Hello," she cried softly, "I'm Kismine."
She was much more than that to John already. He
advanced toward her, scarcely moving as he drew near
lest he should tread on her bare toes.
"You haven't met me," said her soft voice. Her blue
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 161
eyes added, "Oh, but you've missed a great deal !" . . .
"You met my sister, Jasmine, last night. I was sick
with lettuce poisoning/ ' went on her soft voice, and her
eyes continued, "and when I'm sick I'm sweet and
when I'm well."
"You have made an enormous impression on me,"
said John's eyes, "and I'm not so slow myself" "How
do you do ?" said his voice. "I hope you're better this
morning." "You darling," added his eyes tremulously.
John observed that they had been walking along
the path. On her suggestion they sat down together
upon the moss, the softness of which he failed to deter-
He was critical about women. A single defect a
thick ankle, a hoarse voice, a glass eye was enough to
make him utterly indifferent. And here for the first
time in his life he was beside a girl who seemed to him
the incarnation of physical perfection.
"Are you from the East?" asked Kismine with
"No," answered John simply. "I'm from Hades."
Either she had never heard of Hades, or she could
think of no pleasant comment to make upon it, for she
did not discuss it further.
"I'm going East to school this fall," she said. "D'you
think I'll like it? I'm going to New York to Miss
Bulge's. It's very strict, but you see over the week-
ends I'm going to live at home with the family in our
New York house, because father heard that the girls
had to go walking two by two."
"Your father wants you to be proud," observed
"We are," she answered, her eyes shining with dig-
nity. "None of us has ever been punished. Father
said we never should be. Once when my sister Jasmine
1 62 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
was a little girl she pushed him down-stairs and he just
got up and limped away.
"Mother was well, a little startled," continued Kis-
mine, " when she heard that you were from from where
you are from, you know. She said that when she was
a young girl but then, you see, she's a Spaniard and
"Do you spend much time out here?" asked John,
to conceal the fact that he was somewhat hurt by this
remark. It seemed an unkind allusion to his provin-
"Percy and Jasmine and I are here every summer,
but next summer Jasmine is going to Newport. She's
coming out in London a year from this fall. She'll be
presented at court."
"Do you know," began John hesitantly, "you're
much more sophisticated than I thought you were when
I first saw you?"
"Oh, no, I'm not," she exclaimed hurriedly. "Oh,
I wouldn't think of being. I think that sophisticated
young people are terribly common, don't you ? I'm not
at all, really. If you say I am, I'm going to cry."
She was so distressed that her lip was trembling.
John was impelled to protest:
"I didn't mean that; I only said it to tease you."
"Because I wouldn't mind if I were" she persisted,
"but I'm not. I'm very innocent and girlish. I never
smoke, or drink, or read anything except poetry. I
know scarcely any mathematics or chemistry. I dress
very simply in fact, I scarcely dress at all. I think
sophisticated is the last thing you can say about me. I
believe that girls ought to enjoy their youths in a
"I do, too," said John heartily.
Kismine was cheerful again. She smiled at him, and
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 163
a still-born tear dripped from the corner of one blue
"I like you," she whispered, intimately. "Are you
going to spend all your time with Percy while you're
here, or will you be nice to me ? Just think I'm abso-
lutely fresh ground. I've never had a boy in love with
me in all my life. I've never been allowed even to see
boys alone except Percy. I came all the way out here
into this grove hoping to run into you, where the family
wouldn't be around."
Deeply flattered, John bowed from the hips as he had
been taught at dancing school in Hades.
"We'd better go now," said Kismine sweetly. "I
have to be with mother at eleven. You haven't asked
me to kiss you once. I thought boys always did that
John drew himself up proudly.
"Some of them do," he answered, "but not me.
Girls don't do that sort of thing in Hades."
Side by side they walked back toward the house.
John stood facing Mr. Braddock Washington in the
full sunlight. The elder man was about forty with a
proud, vacuous face, intelligent eyes, and a robust figure.
In the mornings he smelt of horses the best horses. He
carried a plain walking-stick of gray birch with a single
large opal for a grip. He and Percy were showing John
"The slaves' quarters are there." His walking-stick
indicated a cloister of marble on their left that ran in
graceful Gothic along the side of the mountain. "In
my youth I was distracted for a while from the business
of life by a period of absurd idealism. During that
i6 4 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
time they lived in luxury. For instance, I equipped
every one of their rooms with a tile bath."
"I suppose/' ventured John, with an ingratiating
laugh, "that they used the bathtubs to keep coal in.
Mr. Schnlitzer-Murphy told me that once he
"The opinions of Mr. Schnlitzer-Murphy are of little
importance, I should imagine," interrupted Braddock
Washington, coldly. "My slaves did not keep coal in
their bathtubs. They had orders to bathe every day,
and they did. If they hadn't I might have ordered a
sulphuric acid shampoo. I discontinued the baths for
quite another reason. Several of them caught cold and
died. * Water is not good for certain races except as a
John laughed, and then decided to nod his head in
sober agreement. Braddock Washington made him
"All these negroes are descendants of the ones my
father brought North with him. There are about two
hundred and fifty now. You notice that they've lived
so long apart from the world that their original dialect
has become an almost indistinguishable patois. We
bring a few of them up to speak English my secretary
and two or three of the house servants.
"This is the golf course," he continued, as they strolled
along the velvet winter grass. "It's all a green, you see
no fairway, no rough, no hazards."
He smiled pleasantly at John.
"Many men in the cage, father?" asked Percy sud-
Braddock Washington stumbled, and let forth an in-
"One less than there should be," he ejaculated darkly
and then added after a moment, "We've had diffi-
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 165
"Mother was telling me," exclaimed Percy, "that
"A ghastly error," said Braddock Washington angrily.
"But of course there's a good chance that we may have
got him. Perhaps he fell somewhere in the woods or
stumbled over a cliff. And then there's always the prob-
ability that if he did get away his story wouldn't be
believed. Nevertheless, I've had two dozen men look-
ing for him in different towns around here."
"And no luck?"
"Some. Fourteen of them reported to my agent
that they'd each killed a man answering to that descrip-
tion, but of course it was probably only the reward
they were after-
He broke off. They had come to a large cavity in
the earth about the circumference of a merry-go-round
and covered by a strong iron grating. Braddock Wash-
ington beckoned to John, and pointed his cane down
through the grating. John stepped to the edge and
gazed. Immediately his ears were assailed by a wild
clamor from below.
"Come on down to Hell !"
"Hello, kiddo, how's the air up there?"
" Hey ! Throw us a rope ! "
" Got an old doughnut, Buddy, or a couple of second-
"Say, fella, if you'll push down that guy you're
with, well show you a quick disappearance scene."
"Paste him one for me, will you ?"
It was too dark to see clearly into the pit below, but
John could tell from the coarse optimism and rugged
vitality of the remarks and voices that they proceeded
from middle-class Americans of the more spirited type.
Then Mr. Washington put out his cane and touched a
button in the grass, and the scene below sprang into light.
i66 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"These are some adventurous mariners who had the
misfortune to discover El Dorado," he remarked.
Below them there had appeared a large hollow in the
earth shaped like the interior of a bowl. The sides were
steep and apparently of polished glass, and on its slightly
concave surface stood about two dozen men clad in
the half costume, half uniform, of aviators. Their up-
turned faces, lit with wrath, with malice, with despair,
with cynical humor, were covered by long growths of
beard, but with the exception of a few who had pined
perceptibly away, they seemed to be a well-fed, healthy
Braddock Washington drew a garden chair to the
edge of the pit and sat down.
"Well, how are you, boys ?" he inquired genially.
A chorus of execration in which all joined except a
few too dispirited to cry out, rose up into the sunny
air, but Braddock Washington heard it with unruffled
composure. When its last echo had died away he spoke
"Have you thought up a way out of your difficulty ?"
From here and there among them a remark floated up.
"We decided to stay here for love!"
"Bring us up there and we'll find us a way!"
Braddock Washington waited until they were again
quiet. Then he said:
"I've told you the situation. I don't want you here.
I wish to heaven I'd never seen you. Your own curi-
osity got you here, and any time that you can think
of a way out which protects me and my interests I'll
be glad to consider it. But so long as you confine your
efforts to digging tunnels yes, I know about the new
one you've started you won't get very far. This
isn't as hard on you as you make it out, with all your
howling for the loved ones at home. If you were trie
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 167
type who worried much about the loved ones at home,
you'd never have taken up aviation."
A tall man moved apart from the others, and held up
his hand to call his captor's attention to what he was
about to say.
"Let me ask you a few questions!" he cried. "You
pretend to be a fair-minded man."
"How absurd. How could a man of my position be
fair-minded toward you ? You might as well speak of a
Spaniard being fair-minded toward a piece of steak."
At this harsh observation the faces of the two dozen
steaks fell, but the tall man continued :
"All right!" he cried. "We've argued this out be-
fore. You're not a humanitarian and you're not fair-
minded, but you're human at least you say you are
and you ought to be able to put yourself in our place
for long enough to think how how how
"How what?" demanded Washington, coldly.
" how unnecessary ' :
"Not to me."
"Well , how cruel "
"We've covered that. Cruelty doesn't exist where
self-preservation is involved. You've been soldiers; you
know that. Try another."
"Well, then, how stupid."
"There," admitted Washington, "I grant you that.
But try to think of an alternative. I've offered to have
all or any of you painlessly executed if you wish. I've
offered to have your wives, sweethearts, children, and
mothers kidnapped and brought out here. I'll enlarge
your place down there and feed and clothe you the rest
of your lives. If there was some method of producing
permanent amnesia I'd have all of you operated on and
released immediately, somewhere outside of my pre-
serves. But that's as far as my ideas go."
i68 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"How about trusting us not to peach on you ?" cried
"You don't proffer that suggestion seriously," said
Washington, with an expression of scorn. "I did take
out one man to teach my daughter Italian. Last week
he got away."
A wild yell of jubilation went up suddenly from two
dozen throats and a pandemonium of joy ensued. The
prisoners clog-danced and cheered and yodled and
wrestled with one another in a sudden uprush of animal
spirits. They even ran up the glass sides of the bowl as
far as they could, and slid back to the bottom upon the
natural cushions of their bodies. The tall man started
a song in which they all joined
"Oh, we'll hang the kaiser
On a sour apple tree "
Braddock Washington sat in inscrutable silence until
the song was over.
"You see," he remarked, when he could gain a modi-
cum of attention. "I bear you no ill-will. I like to
see you enjoying yourselves. That's why I didn't
tell you the whole story at once. The man what was
his name? Critchtichiello ? was shot by some of my
agents in fourteen different places."
Not guessing that the places referred to were cities,
the tumult of rejoicing subsided immediately.
"Nevertheless," cried Washington with a touch of
anger, "he tried to run away. Do you expect me to
take chances with any of you after an experience like
Again a series of ejaculations went up.
"Would your daughter like to learn Chinese ?"
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 169
"Hey, I can speak Italian ! My mother was a wop."
"Maybe she'd like t'learna speak N'Yawk!"
"If she's the little one with the big blue eyes I can
teach her a lot of things better than Italian."
"I know some Irish songs and I could hammer
Mr. Washington reached forward suddenly with his
cane and pushed the button in the grass so that the pic-
ture below went out instantly, and there remained only
that great dark mouth covered dismally with the black
teeth of the grating.
"Hey!" called a single voice from below, "you ain't
goin' away without givin' us your blessing ?"
But Mr. Washington, followed by the two boys, was
already strolling on toward the ninth hole of the golf
course, as though the pit and its contents were no more
than a hazard over which his facile iron had triumphed
July under the lee of the diamond mountain was a
month of blanket nights and of warm, glowing days.
John and Kismine were in love. He did not know that
the little gold football (inscribed with the legend Pro
deo et patria et St. Mida) which he had given her
rested on a platinum chain next to her bosom. But it
did. And she for her part was not aware that a large
sapphire which had dropped one day from her simple
coiffure was stowed away tenderly in John's jewel box.
Late one afternoon when the ruby and ermine music
room was quiet, they spent an hour there together. He
held her hand and she gave him such a look that he whis-
pered her name aloud. She bent toward him then
"Did you say 'Kismine' ?" she asked softly, "or "
TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
She had wanted to be sure. She thought she might
Neither of them had ever kissed before, but in the
course of an hour it seemed to make little difference.
The afternoon drifted away. That night when a last
breath of music drifted down from the highest tower,
they each lay awake, happily dreaming over the sepa-
rate minutes of the day. They had decided to be mar-
ried as soon as possible.
Every day Mr. Washington and the two young men
went hunting or fishing in the deep forests or played
golf around the somnolent course games which John
diplomatically allowed his host to win or swam in the
mountain coolness of the lake. John found Mr. Wash-
ington a somewhat exacting personality utterly un-
interested in any ideas or opinions except his own. Mrs.
Washington was aloof and reserved at all times. She
was apparently indifferent to her two daughters, and
entirely absorbed in her son Percy, with whom she held
interminable conversations in rapid Spanish at dinner.
Jasmine, the elder daughter, resembled Kismine in
appearance except that she was somewhat bow-legged,
and terminated in large hands and feet but was utterly
unlike her in temperament. Her favorite books had to
do with poor girls who kept house for widowed fathers.
John learned from Kismine that Jasmine had never
recovered from the shock and disappointment caused
her by the termination of the World War, just as she
was about to start for Europe as a canteen expert. She
had even pined away for a time, and Braddock Wash-
ington had taken steps to promote a new war in the
Balkans but she had seen a photograph of some
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 171
wounded Serbian soldiers and lost interest in the whole
proceedings. But Percy and Kismine seemed to have
inherited the arrogant attitude in all its harsh mag-
nificence from their father. A chaste and consistent
selfishness ran like a pattern through their every idea.
John was enchanted by the wonders of the chateau
and the valley. Braddock Washington, so Percy told
him, had caused to be kidnapped a landscape gardener,
an architect, a designer of state settings, and a French
decadent poet left over from the last century. He had
put his entire force of negroes at their disposal, guar-
anteed to supply them with any materials that the world
could offer, and left them to work out some ideas of
their own. But one by one they had shown their use-
lessness. The decadent poet had at once begun be-
wailing his separation from the boulevards in spring
he made some vague remarks about spices, apes, and
ivories, but said nothing that was of any practical value.
The stage designer on his part wanted to make the whole
valley a series of tricks and sensational effects a state
of things that the Washingtons would soon have grown
tired of. And as for the architect and the landscape
gardener, they thought only in terms of convention.
They must make this like this and that like that.
But they had, at least, solved the problem of what
was to be done with them they all went mad early
one morning after spending the night in a single room
trying to agree upon the location of a fountain, and were
now confined comfortably in an insane asylum at West-
"But," inquired John curiously, a who did plan all
your wonderful reception rooms and halls, and ap-
proaches and bathrooms ?"
"Well," answered Percy, "I blush to tell you, but it
was a moving-picture fella. He was the only man we
172 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
found who was used to playing with an unlimited
amount of money, though he did tuck his napkin in his
collar and couldn't read or write."
As August drew to a close John began to regret that he
must soon go back to school. He and Kismine had de-
cided to elope the following June.
"It would be nicer to be married here," Kismine con-
fessed, "but of course I could never get father's permis-
sion to marry you at all. Next to that I'd rather elope.
It's terrible for wealthy people to be married in America
at present they always have to send out bulletins to
the press saying that they're going to be married in
remnants, when what they mean is just a peck of old
second-hand pearls and some used lace worn once by
the Empress Eugenie."
"I know," agreed John fervently. "When I was
visiting the Schnlitzer-Murphys, the eldest daughter,
Gwendolyn, married a man whose father owns half of
West Virginia. She wrote home saying what a tough
struggle she was carrying on on his salary as a bank
clerk and then she ended up by saying that 'Thank
God, I have four good maids anyhow, and that helps
"It's absurd," commented Kismine. "Think of the
millions and millions of people in the world, laborers
and all, who get along with only two maids."
One afternoon late in August a chance remark of
Kismine's changed the face of the entire situation, and
threw John into a state of terror.
They were in their favorite grove, and between kisses
John was indulging in some romantic forebodings which
he fancied added poignancy to their relations.
"Sometimes I think we'll never marry," he said sadly.
"You're too wealthy, too magnificent. No one as rich
as you'are can be like other girls. I should marry the
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 173
daughter of some well-to-do wholesale hardware man
from Omaha or Sioux City, and be content with her half-
"I knew the daughter of a wholesale hardware man
once," remarked Kismine. "I don't think you'd have
been contented with her. She was a friend of my sis-
ter's. She visited here."
"Oh, then you've had other guests ?" exclaimed John
Kismine seemed to regret her words.
"Oh, yes," she said hurriedly, "we've had a few."
"But aren't you wasn't your father afraid they'd
"Oh, to some extent, to some extent," she answered.
"Let's talk about something pleasanter."
But John's curiosity was aroused.
"Something pleasanter!" he demanded. "What's
unpleasant about that ? Weren't they nice girls ?"
To his great surprise Kismine began to weep.
"Yes th that's the the whole t-trouble. I grew
qu-quite attached to some of them. So did Jasmine,
but she kept inv-viting them anyway. I couldn't
A dark suspicion was born in John's heart.
"Do you mean that they told, and your father had
them removed ?"
"Worse than that," she muttered brokenly. "Father
took no chances and Jasmine kept writing them to
come, and they had such a good time!"
She was overcome by a paroxysm of grief.
Stunned with the horror of this revelation, John sat
there open-mouthed, feeling the nerves of his body twitter
like so many sparrows perched upon his spinal column.
"Now, I've told you, and I shouldn't have," she said,
calming suddenly and drying her dark blue eyes.
174 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Do you mean to say that your father had them
murdered before they left ? "
"In August usually or early in September. It's
only natural for us to get all the pleasure out of them
that we can first."
"How abominable! How why, I must be going
crazy ! Did you really admit that
"I did," interrupted Kismine, shrugging her should-
ers. "We can't very well imprison them like those
aviators, where they'd be a continual reproach to us
every day. And it's always been made easier for Jas-
mine and me, because father had it done sooner than
we expected. In that way we avoided any farewell
"So you murdered them! Uh!" cried John.
"It was done very nicely. They were drugged while
they were asleep and their families were always told
that they died of scarlet fever in Butte."
"But I fail to understand why you kept on inviting
"I didn't," burst out Kismine. "I never invited one.
Jasmine did. And they always had a very good time.
She'd give them the nicest presents toward the last.
I shall probably have visitors too I'll harden up to it.
We can't let such an inevitable thing as death stand in
the way of enjoying life while we have it. Think how
lonesome it'd be out here if we never had any one. Why,
father and mother have sacrificed some of their best
friends just as we have."
"And so," cried John accusingly, "and so you were
letting me make love to you and pretending to return
it, and talking about marriage, all the time knowing
perfectly well that I'd never get out of here alive
"No," she protested passionately. "Not any more.
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 175
I did at first. You were here. I couldn't help that, and
I thought your last days might as well be pleasant for
both of us. But then I fell in love with you, and and
I'm honestly sorry you're going to going to be put
away though I'd rather you'd be put away than ever
kiss another girl."
"Oh, you would, would you ?" cried John ferociously.
"Much rather. Besides, I've always heard that a
girl can have more fun with a man whom she knows
she can never marry. Oh, why did I tell you ? I've
probably spoiled your whole good time now, and we
were really enjoying things when you didn't know it. I
knew it would make things sort of depressing for you."
"Oh, you did, did you ?" John's voice trembled with
anger. "I've heard about enough of this. If you
haven't any more pride and decency than to have an
affair with a fellow that you know isn't much better
than a corpse, I don't want to have any more to do with
"You're not a corpse!" she protested in horror.
"You're not a corpse! I won't have you saying that
I kissed a corpse ! "
"I said nothing of the sort!"
"You did ! You said I kissed a corpse !"
Their voices had risen, but upon a sudden interrup-
tion they both subsided into immediate silence. Foot-
steps were coming along the path in their direction,
and a moment later the rose bushes were parted display-
ing Braddock Washington, whose intelligent eyos set
in his good-looking vacuous face were peering in at them.
"Who kissed a corpse?" he demanded in obvious
"Nobody," answered Kismine quickly. "We were
176 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"What are you two doing here, anyhow ?" he de-
manded gruffly. "Kismine, you ought to be to be
reading or playing golf with your sister. Go read ! Go
play golf! Don't let me find you here when I come
Then he bowed at John and went up the path.
"See?" said Kismine crossly, when he was out of
hearing. "You've spoiled it all. We can never meet
any more. He won't let me meet you. He'd have you
poisoned if he thought we were in love."
"We're not, any more!" cried John fiercely, "so he
can set his mind at rest upon that. Moreover, don't
fool yourself that I'm going to stay around here. Inside
of six hours I'll be over those mountains, if I have to
gnaw a passage through them, and on my way East."
They had both got to their feet, and at this remark
Kismine came close and put her arm through his.
"I'm going, too."
"You must be crazy :
"Of course I'm going," she interrupted impatiently.
"You most certainly are not. You
"Very well," she said quietly, "we'll catch up with
father now and talk it over with him."
Defeated, John mustered a sickly smile.
"Very well, dearest," he agreed, with pale and uncon-
vincing affection, "we'll go together."
His love for her returned and settled placidly on his
heart. She was his she would go with him to share
his dangers. He put his arms about her and kissed her
fervently. After all she loved him; she had saved him,
Discussing the matter, they walked slowly back toward
the chateau. They decided that since Braddock Wash-
ington had seen them together they had best depart
the next night. Nevertheless, John's lips were unusu-
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 177
ally dry at dinner, and he nervously emptied a great
spoonful of peacock soup into his left lung. He had to
be carried into the turquoise and sable card-room and
pounded on the back by one of the under-butlers, which
Percy considered a great joke.
Long after midnight John's body gave a nervous jerk,
and he sat suddenly upright, staring into the veils of
somnolence that draped the room. Through the squares
of blue darkness that were his open windows, he had
heard a faint far-away sound that died upon a bed of
wind before identifying itself on his memory, clouded
with uneasy dreams. But the sharp noise that had suc-
ceeded it was nearer, was just outside the room the
click of a turned knob, a footstep, a whisper, he could
not tell; a hard lump gathered in the pit of his stomach,
and his whole body ached in the moment that he strained
agonizingly to hear. Then one of the veils seemed to
dissolve, and he saw a vague figure standing by the door,
a figure only faintly limned and blocked in upon the
darkness, mingled so with the folds of the drapery as
to seem distorted, like a reflection seen in a dirty pane
With a sudden movement of fright or resolution John
pressed the button by his bedside, and the next moment
he was sitting in the green sunken bath of the adjoining
room, waked into alertness by the shock of the cold
water which half filled it.
He sprang out, and, his wet pajamas scattering a
heavy trickle of water behind him, ran for the aqua-
marine door which he knew led out onto the ivory
landing of the second floor. The door opened noise-
lessly. A single crimson lamp burning in a great dome
178 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
above lit the magnificent sweep of the carved stair-
ways with a poignant beauty. For a moment John
hesitated, appalled by the silent splendor massed about
him, seeming to envelop in its gigantic folds and contours
the solitary drenched little figure shivering upon the
ivory landing. Then simultaneously two things hap-
pened. The door of his own sitting-room swung open,
precipitating three naked negroes into the hall and,
as John swayed in wild terror toward the stairway, an-
other door slid back in the wall on the other side of the
corridor, and John saw Braddock Washington standing
in the lighted lift, wearing a fur coat and a pair of riding
boots which reached to his knees and displayed, above,
the glow of his rose-colored pajamas.
On the instant the three negroes John had never
seen any of them before, and it flashed through his mind
that they must be the professional executioners paused
in their movement toward John, and turned expectantly
to the man in the lift, who burst out with an imperious
" Get in here ! All three of you ! Quick as hell ! "
Then, within the instant, the three negroes darted
into the cage, the oblong of light was blotted out as the
lift door slid shut, and John was again alone in the hall.
He slumped weakly down against an ivory stair.
It was apparent that something portentous had oc-
curred, something which, for the moment at least, had
postponed his own petty disaster. What was it ? Had
the negroes risen in revolt ? Had the aviators forced
aside the iron bars of the grating ? Or had the men of
Fish stumbled blindly through the hills and gazed with
bleak, joyless eyes upon the gaudy valley ? John did
not know. He heard a faint whir of air as the lift
whizzed up again, and then, a moment later, as it de-
scended. It was probable that Percy was hurrying to
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 179
his father's assistance, and it occurred to John that this
was his opportunity to join Kismine and plan an im-
mediate escape. He waited until the lift had been si-
lent for several minutes; shivering a little with the night
cool that whipped in through his wet pajamas, he re-
turned to his room and dressed himself quickly. Then
he mounted a long flight of stairs and turned down the
corridor carpeted with Russian sable which led to Kis-
The door of her sitting-room was open and the lamps
were lighted. Kismine, in an angora kimono, stood
near the window of the room in a listening attitude, and
as John entered noiselessly she turned toward him.
"Oh, it's you!" she whispered, crossing the room to
him, "Did you hear them ?"
"I heard your father's slaves in my "
' ' No, ' ' she interrup ted excitedly. ' ' Aeroplanes ! "
"Aeroplanes ? Perhaps that was the sound that woke
"There're at least a dozen. I saw one a few moments
ago dead against the moon. The guard back by the
cliff fired his rifle and that's what roused father. We're
going to open on them right away."
"Are they here on purpose ?"
"Yes it's that Italian who got away "
Simultaneously with her last word, a succession of
sharp cracks tumbled in through the open window.
Kismine uttered a little cry, took a penny with fumbling
fingers from a box on her dresser, and ran to one of the
electric lights. In an instant the entire chateau was in
darkness she had blown out the fuse.
" Come on ! " she cried to him. " We'll go up to the roof
garden, and watch it from there!"
Drawing a cape about her, she took his hand, and they
found their way out the door. It was only a step to
i8o TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
the tower lift, and as she pressed the button that shot
them upward he put his arms around her in the darkness
and kissed her mouth. Romance had come to John
Unger at last. A minute later they had stepped out
upon the star-white platform. Above, under the misty
moon, sliding in and out of the patches of cloud that
eddied below it, floated a dozen dark- winged bodies in
a constant circling course. From here and there in the
valley flashes of fire leaped toward them, followed by
sharp detonations. Kismine clapped her hands with
pleasure, which, a moment later, turned to dismay as
the aeroplanes at some prearranged signal, began to
release their bombs and the whole of the valley became
a panorama of deep reverberate sound and lurid light.
Before long the aim of the attackers became concen-
trated upon the points where the anti-aircraft guns
were situated, and one of them was almost immediately
reduced to a giant cinder to lie smouldering in a park
of rose bushes.
"Kismine," begged John, "you'll be glad when I tell
you that this attack came on the eve of my murder.
If I hadn't heard that guard shoot off his gun back by
the pass I should now be stone dead
" I can't hear you !" cried Kismine, intent on the scene
before her. "You'll have to talk louder !"
"I simply said," shouted John, "that we'd better get
out before they begin to shell the chateau ! "
Suddenly the whole portico of the negro quarters
cracked asunder, a geyser of flame shot up from under
the colonnades, and great fragments of jagged marble
were hurled as far as the borders of the lake.
"There go fifty thousand dollars' worth of slaves,"
cried Kismine, "at prewar prices. So few Americans
have any respect for property."
John renewed his efforts to compel her to leave. The
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 181
aim of the aeroplanes was becoming more precise minute
by minute, and only two of the anti-aircraft guns were
still retaliating. It was obvious that the garrison, en-
circled with fire, could not hold out much longer.
"Come on!" cried John, pulling Kismine's arm,
"we've got to go. Do you realize that those aviators
will kill you without question if they find you ?"
She consented reluctantly.
"Well have to wake Jasmine !" she said, as they hur-
ried toward the lift. Then she added in a sort of child-
ish delight: "We'll be poor, won't we? Like people in
books. And I'll be an orphan and utterly free. Free
and poor! What fun!" She stopped and raised her
lips to him in a delighted kiss.
"It's impossible to be both together," said John
grimly. "People have found that out. And I should
choose to be free as preferable of the two. As an extra
caution you'd better dump the contents of your jewel
box into your pockets."
Ten minutes later the two girls met John in the dark
corridor and they descended to the main floor of the
chateau. Passing for the last time through the mag-
nificence of the splendid halls, they stood for a moment
out on the terrace, watching the burning negro quarters
and the flaming embers of two planes which had fallen
on the other side of the lake. A solitary gun was still
keeping up a sturdy popping, and the attackers seemed
timorous about descending lower, but sent their thun-
derous fireworks in a circle around it, until any chance
shot might annihilate its Ethiopian crew.
John and the two sisters passed down the marble
steps, turned sharply to the left, and began to ascend
a narrow path that wound like a garter about the dia-
mond mountain. Kismine knew a heavily wooded spot
half-way up where they could lie concealed and yet be
182 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
able to observe the wild night in the valley finally to
make an escape, when it should be necessary, along a
secret path laid in a rocky gully.
It was three o'clock when they attained their destina-
tion. The obliging and phlegmatic Jasmine fell off to
sleep immediately, leaning against the trunk of a large
tree, while John and Kismine sat, his arm around her,
and watched the desperate ebb and flow of the dying
battle among the ruins of a vista that had been a garden
spot that morning. Shortly after four o'clock the last
remaining gun gave out a clanging sound and went out
of action in a swift tongue of red smoke. Though the
moon was down, they saw that the flying bodies were
circling closer to the earth. When the planes had made
certain that the beleaguered possessed no further re-
sources, they would land and the dark and glittering
reign of the Washingtons would be over.
With the cessation of the firing the valley grew quiet.
The embers of the two aeroplanes glowed like the eyes
of some monster crouching in the grass. The chateau
stood dark and silent, beautiful without light as it had
been beautiful in the sun, while the woody rattles of
Nemesis filled the air above with a growing and reced-
ing complaint. Then John perceived that Kismine,
like her sister, had fallen sound asleep.
It was long after four when he became aware of foot-
steps along the path they had lately followed, and he
waited in breathless silence until the persons to whom
they belonged had passed the vantage-point he occupied.
There was a faint stir in the air now that was not of
human origin, and the dew was cold; he knew that the
dawn would break soon. John waited until the steps
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 183
had gone a safe distance up the mountain and were in-
audible. Then he followed. About half-way to the
steep summit the trees fell away and a hard saddle of
rock spread itself over the diamond beneath. Just be-
fore he reached this point he slowed down his pace,
warned by an animal sense that there was life just ahead
of him. Coming to a high boulder, he lifted his head
gradually above its edge. His curiosity was rewarded;
this is what he saw:
Braddock Washington was standing there motionless,
silhouetted against the gray sky without sound or sign
of life. As the dawn came up out of the east, lending a
cold green color to the earth, it brought the solitary
figure into insignificant contrast with the new day.
While John watched, his host remained for a few mo-
ments absorbed in some inscrutable contemplation;
then he signalled to the two negroes who crouched at his
feet to lift the burden which lay between them. As
they struggled upright, the first yellow beam of the sun
struck through the innumerable prisms of an immense
and exquisitely chiselled diamond and a white radiance
was kindled that glowed upon the air like a fragment of
the morning star. The bearers staggered beneath its
weight for a moment then their rippling muscles caught
and hardened under the wet shine of the skins and the
three figures were again motionless in their defiant
impotency before the heavens.
After a while the white man lifted his head and slowly
raised his arms in a gesture of attention, as one who would
call a great crowd to hear but there was no crowd, only
the vast silence of the mountain and the sky, broken by
faint bird voices down among the trees. The figure on
the saddle of rock began to speak ponderously and with
an inextinguishable pride.
"You out there ' he cried in a trembling voice.
184 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"You there !" He paused, his arms still uplifted,
his head held attentively as though he were expecting
an answer. John strained his eyes to see whether
there might be men coming down the mountain, but the
mountain was bare of human life. There was only sky
and a mocking flute of wind along the tree-tops. Could
Washington be praying ? For a moment John wondered.
Then the illusion passed there was something in the
man's whole attitude antithetical to prayer.
"Oh, you above there!"
The voice was become strong and confident. This
was no forlorn supplication. If anything, there was in
it a quality of monstrous condescension.
Words, too quickly uttered to be understood, flowing
one into the other. . . . John listened breathlessly,
catching a phrase here and there, while the voice broke
off, resumed, broke off again now strong and argu-
mentative, now colored with a slow, puzzled impatience.
Then a conviction commenced to dawn on the single
listener, and as realization crept over him a spray of
quick blood rushed through his arteries. Braddock
Washington was offering a bribe to God !
That was it there was no doubt. The diamond in
the arms of his slaves was some advance sample, a prom-
ise of more to follow.
That, John perceived after a time, was the thread
running through his sentences. Prometheus Enriched
was calling to witness forgotten sacrifices, forgotten
rituals, prayers obsolete before the birth of Christ.
For a while his discourse took the form of reminding God
of this gift or that which Divinity had deigned to accept
from men great churches if he would rescue cities from
the plague, gifts of myrrh and gold, of human lives and
beautiful women and captive armies, of children and
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 185
queens, of beasts of the forest and field, sheep and goats,
harvests and cities, whole conquered lands that had been
offered up in lust or blood for His appeasal, buying a
meed's worth of alleviation from the Divine wrath
and now he, Braddock Washington, Emperor of Dia-
monds, king and priest of the age of gold, arbiter of
splendor and luxury, would offer up a treasure such as
princes before him had never dreamed of, offer it up
not in suppliance, but in pride.
He would give to God, he continued, getting down to
specifications, the greatest diamond in the world. This
diamond would be cut with many more thousand facets
than there were leaves on a tree, and yet the whole dia-
mond would be shaped with the perfection of a stone no
bigger than a fly. Many men would work upon it for
many years. It would be set in a great dome of beaten
gold, wonderfully carved and equipped with gates of
opal and crusted sapphire. In the middle would be hol-
lowed out a chapel presided over by an altar of irides-
cent, decomposing, ever-changing radium which would
burn out the eyes of any worshipper who lifted up his
head from prayer and on this altar there would be
slain for the amusement of the Divine Benefactor any
victim He should choose, even though it should be the
greatest and most powerful man alive.
In return he asked only a simple thing, a thing that for
God would be absurdly easy only that matters should
be as they were yesterday at this hour and that they
should so remain. So very simple ! Let but the heav-
ens open, swallowing these men and their aeroplanes
and then close again. Let him have his slaves once
more, restored to life and well.
There was no one else with whom he had ever needed
to treat or bargain.
He doubted only whether he had made his bribe big
186 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
enough. God had His price, of course. God was made
in man's image, so it had been said: He must have His
price. And the price would be rare no cathedral whose
building consumed many years, no pyramid constructed
by ten thousand workmen, would be like this cathedral,
He paused here. That was his proposition. Every-
thing would be up to specifications and there was noth-
ing vulgar in his assertion that it would be cheap at the
price. He implied that Providence could take it or
As he approached the end his sentences became
broken, became short and uncertain, and his body
seemed tense, seemed strained to catch the slightest
pressure or whisper of life in the spaces around him.
His hair had turned gradually white as he talked, and
now he lifted his head high to the heavens like a prophet
of old magnificently mad.
Then, as John stared in giddy fascination, it seemed
to him that a curious phenomenon took place somewhere
around him. It was as though the sky had darkened
for an instant, as though there had been a sudden mur-
mur in a gust of wind, a sound of far-away trumpets,
a sighing like the rustle of a great silken robe for a
time the whole of nature round about partook of this
darkness; the birds' song ceased; the trees were still,
and far over the mountain there was a mutter of dull,
That was all. The wind died along the tall grasses of
the valley. The dawn and the day resumed their place
in a time, and the risen sun sent hot waves of yellow
mist that made its path bright before it. The leaves
laughed in the sun, and their laughter shook the trees
until each bough was like a girl's school in fairyland.
God had refused to accept the bribe.
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 187
For another moment John watched the triumph of
the day. Then, turning, he saw a flutter of brown down
by the lake, then another flutter, then another, like
the dance of golden angels alighting from the clouds.
The aeroplanes had come to earth.
John slid off the boulder and ran down the side of
the mountain to the clump of trees, where the two girls
were awake and waiting for him. Kismine sprang to
her feet, the jewels in her pockets jingling, a question on
her parted lips, but instinct told John that there was no
time for words. They must get off the mountain with-
out losing a moment. He seized a hand of each, and
in silence they threaded the tree-trunks, washed with
light now and with the rising mist. Behind them from
the valley came no sound at all, except the complaint
of the peacocks far away and the pleasant undertone of
When they had gone about half a mile, they avoided
the park land and entered a narrow path that led over
the next rise of ground. At the highest point of this
they paused and turned around. Their eyes rested
upon the mountainside they had just left oppressed
by some dark sense of tragic impend ency.
Clear against the sky a broken, white-haired man was
slowly descending the steep slope, followed by two gi-
gantic and emotionless negroes, who carried a burden
between them which still flashed and glittered in the
sun. Half-way down two other figures joined them
John could see that they were Mrs. Washington and
her son, upon whose arm she leaned. The aviators had
clambered from their machines to the sweeping lawn in
front of the chateau, and with rifles in hand were start-
ing up the diamond mountain in skirmishing formation.
But the little group of five which had formed farther
np and was engrossing all the watchers' attention had
i88 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
stopped upon a ledge of rock. The negroes stooped
and pulled up what appeared to be a trap-door in the
side of the mountain. Into this they all disappeared,
the white-haired man first, then his wife and son, finally
the two negroes, the glittering tips of whose jeweled
head-dresses caught the sun for a moment before the
trap-door descended and engulfed them all.
Kismine clutched John's arm.
"Oh," she cried wildly, "where are they going?
What are they going to do ? "
"It must be some underground way of escape
A little scream from the two girls interrupted his
"Don't you see?" sobbed Kismine hysterically.
"The mountain is wired !"
Even as she spoke John put up his hands to shield
his sight. Before their eyes the whole surface of the
mountain had changed suddenly to a dazzling burning
yellow, which showed up through the jacket of turf as
light shows through a human hand. For a moment
the intolerable glow continued, and then like an extin-
guished filament it disappeared, revealing a black waste
from which blue smoke arose slowly, carrying off with
it what remained of vegetation and of human flesh. Of
the aviators there was left neither blood nor bone they
were consumed as completely as the five souls who had
Simultaneously, and with an immense concussion,
the chateau literally threw itself into the air, bursting
into flaming fragments as it rose, and then tumbling
back upon itself in a smoking pile that lay projecting
half into the water of the lake. There was no fire
what smoke there was drifted off mingling with the
sunshine, and for a few minutes longer a powdery dust
of marble drifted from the great featureless pile that
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 189
had once been the house of jewels. There was no more
sound and the three people were alone in the valley.
At sunset John and his two companions reached the
high cliff which had marked the boundaries of the Wash-
ingtons' dominion, and looking back found the valley tran-
quil and lovely in the dusk. They sat down to finish the
food which Jasmine had brought with her in a basket.
" There!" she said, as she spread the table-cloth and
put the sandwiches in a neat pile upon it. "Don't they
look tempting ? I always think that food tastes better
"With that remark/ 7 remarked Kismine, "Jasmine
enters the middle class."
"Now," said John eagerly, "turn out your pocket and
let's see what jewels you brought along. If you made
a good selection we three ought to live comfortably all
the rest of our lives."
Obediently Kismine put her hand in her pocket and
tossed two handfuls of glittering stones before him.
"Not so bad," cried John, enthusiastically. "They
aren't very big, but Hello!" His expression changed
as he held one of them up to the declining sun. "Why,
these aren't diamonds ! There's something the matter !"
"By golly!" exclaimed Kismine, with a startled look.
"What an idiot I am!"
"Why, these are rhinestones ! " cried John.
"I know." She broke into a laugh. "I opened the
wrong drawer. They belonged on the dress of a girl
who visited Jasmine. I got her to give them to me in
exchange for diamonds. I'd never seen anything but
precious stones before."
"And this is what you brought?"
TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"I'm afraid so." She fingered the brilliants wist-
fully. "I think I like these better. I'm a little tired
"Very well," said John gloomily. "We'll have to
live in Hades. And you will grow old telling incredu-
lous women that you got the wrong drawer. Un-
fortunately your father's bank-books were consumed
"Well, what's the matter with Hades ?"
"If I come home with a wife at my age my father is
just as liable as not to cut me off with a hot coal, as they
say down there."
Jasmine spoke up.
"I love washing," she said quietly. "I have always
washed my own handkerchiefs. I'll take in laundry
and support you both."
"Do they have washwomen in Hades?" asked Kis-
1 1 Of course, ' ' answered John. " It's just like anywhere
"I thought perhaps it was too hot to wear any
"Just try it!" he suggested. "They'll run you out
before you're half started."
"Will father be there ?" she asked.
John turned to her in astonishment.
"Your father is dead," he replied somberly. "Why
should he go to Hades ? You have it confused with
another place that was abolished long ago."
After supper they folded up the table-cloth and spread
their blankets for the night.
"What a dream it was," Kismine sighed, gazing up
at the stars. "How strange it seems to be here with one
dress and a penniless nance !
THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ 191
" Under the stars," she repeated. "I never noticed
the stars before. I always thought of them as great big
diamonds that belonged to some one. Now they frighten
me. They make me feel that it was all a dream, all my
"It was a dream," said John quietly. "Everybody's
youth is a dream, a form of chemical madness."
"How pleasant then to be insane!"
"So I'm told," said John gloomily. "I don't know
any longer. At any rate, let us love for a while, for a
year or so, you and me. That's a form of divine drunk-
enness that we can all try. There are only diamonds
in the whole world, diamonds and perhaps the shabby
gift of disillusion. Well, I have that last and I will
make the usual nothing of it." He shivered. "Turn
up your coat collar, little girl, the night's full of chill
and you'll get pneumonia. His was a great sin who
first invented consciousness. Let us lose it for a few
So wrapping himself in his blanket he fell off to sleep.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN
As long ago as 1860 it was the proper thing to be born
at home. At present, so I am told, the high gods of
medicine have decreed that the first cries of the young
shall be uttered upon the anesthetic air of a hospital,
preferably a fashionable one. So young Mr. and Mrs.
Roger Button were fifty years ahead of style when they
decided, one day in the summer of 1860, that their first
baby should be born in a hospital. Whether this
anachronism had any bearing upon the astonishing
history I am about to set down will never be known.
I shall tell you what occurred, and let you judge for
The Roger Buttons held an enviable position, both
social and financial, in ante-bellum Baltimore. They
were related to the This Family and the That Family,
which, as every Southerner knew, entitled them to mem-
bership in that enormous peerage which largely popu-
lated the Confederacy. This was their first experience
with the charming old custom of having babies Mr.
Button was naturally nervous. He hoped it would be
a boy so that he could be sent to Yale College in Con-
necticut, at which institution Mr. Button himself had
been known for four years by the somewhat obvious
nickname of "Cuff."
On the September morning consecrated to the enor-
mous event he arose nervously at six o'clock, dressed
himself, adjusted an impeccable stock, and hurried forth
through the streets of Baltimore to the hospital, to de-
THE CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON 193
termine whether the darkness of the night had borne in
new life upon its bosom.
When he was approximately a hundred yards from
the Maryland Private Hospital for Ladies and Gentle-
men he saw Doctor Keene, the family physician, de-
scending the front steps, rubbing his hands together
with a washing movement as all doctors are required
to do by the unwritten ethics of their profession.
Mr. Roger Button, the president of Roger Button &
Co., Wholesale Hardware, began to run toward Doctor
Keene with much less dignity than was expected from
a Southern gentleman of that picturesque period.
"Doctor Keene I" he called. "Oh, Doctor Keene !"
The doctor heard him, faced around, and stood wait-
ing, a curious expression settling on his harsh, medicinal
face as Mr. Button drew near.
"What happened?" demanded Mr. Button, as he
came up in a gasping rush. "What was it? How is
she? A boy? Who is it? What "
"Talk sense!" said Doctor Keene sharply. He ap-
peared somewhat irritated.
"Is the child born?" begged Mr. Button.
Doctor Keene frowned. "Why, yes, I suppose so
after a fashion." Again he threw a curious glance at
"Is my wife all right ?"
"Is it a boy or a girl ?"
"Here now!" cried Doctor Keene in a perfect pas-
sion of irritation, "I'll ask you to go and see for your-
self. Outrageous!" He snapped the last word out in
almost one syllable, then he turned away muttering:
"Do you imagine a case like this will help my profes-
sional reputation? One more would ruin me ruin
i 9 4 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"What's the matter?" demanded Mr. Button, ap-
"No, not triplets!" answered the doctor cuttingly.
"What's more, you can go and see for yourself. And
get another doctor. I brought you into the world, young
man, and I've been physician to your family for forty
years, but I'm through with you ! I don't want to see
you or any of your relatives ever again ! Good-by !"
Then he turned sharply, and without another word
climbed into his phaeton, which was waiting at the curb-
stone, and drove severely away.
Mr. Button stood there upon the sidewalk, stupefied
and trembling from head to foot. What horrible mis-
hap had occurred ? He had suddenly lost all desire to go
into the Maryland Private Hospital for Ladies and Gen-
tlemen it was with the greatest difficulty that, a mo-
ment later, he forced himself to mount the steps and
enter the front door.
A nurse was sitting behind a desk in the opaque
gloom of the hall. Swallowing his shame, Mr. Button
"Good-morning," she remarked, looking up at him
" Good-morning. I I am Mr. Button."
At this a look of utter terror spread itself over the
girl's face. She rose to her feet and seemed about to
fly from the hall, restraining herself only with the most
"I want to see my child," said Mr. Button.
The nurse gave a little scream. "Oh of course!"
she cried hysterically. "Up-stairs. Right up-stairs. Go
She pointed the direction, and Mr. Button, bathed in
a cool perspiration, turned falteringly, and began to
mount to the second floor. In the upper hall he ad-
THE CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON 195
dressed another nurse who approached him, basin in
hand. "I'm Mr. Button/' he managed to articulate.
" I want to see my
Clank! The basin clattered to the floor and rolled
in the direction of the stairs. Clank! Clank! It be-
gan a methodical descent as if sharing in the general
terror which this gentleman provoked.
"I want to see my child!" Mr. Button almost
shrieked. He was on the verge of collapse.
Clank ! The basin had reached the first floor. The
nurse regained control of herself, and threw Mr. Button
a look of hearty contempt.
"All right, Mr. Button," she agreed in a hushed voice.
"Very well! But if you knew what state it's put us all
in this morning! It's perfectly outrageous! The hos-
pital will never have the ghost of a reputation after
"Hurry!" he cried hoarsely. "I can't stand this!"
"Come this way, then, Mr. Button."
He dragged himself after her. At the end of a long
hall they reached a room from which proceeded a variety
of howls indeed, a room which, in later parlance, would
have been known as the "crying-room." They entered.
Ranged around the walls were half a dozen white-
enameled rolling cribs, each with a tag tied at the head.
"Well," gasped Mr. Button, "which is mine?"
"There!" said the nurse.
Mr. Button's eyes followed her pointing finger, and
this is what he saw. Wrapped in a voluminous white
blanket, and partially crammed into one of the cribs,
there sat an old man apparently about seventy years of
age. His sparse hair was almost white, and from his
chin dripped a long smoke-colored beard, which waved
absurdly back and forth, fanned by the breeze coming
in at the window. He looked up at Mr. Button with
dim, faded eyes in which lurked a puzzled question.
196 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Am I mad?" thundered Mr. Button, his terror re-
solving into rage. " Is this some ghastly hospital joke ? "
"It doesn't seem like a joke to us," replied the nurse
severely. "And I don't know whether you're mad or
not but that is most certainly your child."
The cool perspiration redoubled on Mr. Button's
forehead. He closed his eyes, and then, opening them,
looked again. There was no mistake he was gazing at
a man of threescore and ten a baby of threescore and
ten, a baby whose feet hung over the sides of the crib
in which it was reposing.
The old man looked placidly from one to the other
for a moment, and then suddenly spoke in a cracked and
ancient voice. "Are you my father?" he demanded.
Mr. Button and the nurse started violently.
"Because if you are," went on the old man queru-
lously, "I wish you'd get me out of this place or, at
least, get them to put a comfortable rocker in here."
"Where in God's name did you come from ? Who are
you?" burst out Mr. Button frantically.
"I can't tell you exactly who I am," replied the queru-
lous whine, "because I've only been born a few hours
but my last name is certainly Button."
"You lie ! You're an impostor !"
The old man turned wearily to the nurse. "Nice
way to welcome a new-born child," he complained in a
weak voice. "Tell him he's wrong, why don't you ?"
"You're wrong, Mr. Button," said the nurse severely.
"This is your child, and you'll have to make the best of
it. We're going to ask you to take him home with you
as soon as possible some time to-day."
"Home?" repeated Mr. Button incredulously.
"Yes, we can't have him here. We really can't,
you know ? "
"I'm right glad of it," whined the old man. "This is
THE CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON 197
a fine place to keep a youngster of quiet tastes. With
all this yelling and howling, I haven't been able to get a
wink of sleep. I asked for something to eat" here his
voice rose to a shrill note of protest "and they brought
me a bottle of milk!"
Mr. Button sank down upon a chair near his son and
concealed his face in his hands. "My heavens!" he
murmured, in an ecstasy of horror. "What will people
say? What must I do?"
"You'll have to take him home," insisted the nurse
A grotesque picture formed itself with dreadful
clarity before the eyes of the tortured man a picture of
himself walking through the crowded streets of the city
with this appalling apparition stalking by his side. "I
can't. I can't," he moaned.
People would stop to speak to him, and what was he
going to say? He would have to introduce this this
septuagenarian: "This is my son, born early this
morning." And then the old man would gather his
blanket around him and they would plod on, past the
bustling stores, the slave market for a dark instant
Mr. Button wished passionately that his son was black
past the luxurious houses of the residential district,
past the home for the aged. . . .
"Come! Pull yourself together," commanded the
"See here," the old man announced suddenly, "if
you think I'm going to walk home in this blanket, you're
entirely mis taken. V
"Babies always have blankets."
With a malicious crackle the old man held up a small
white swaddling garment. "Look!" he quavered.
"This is what they had ready for me."
"Babies always wear those," said the nurse primly.
198 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Well/ 1 said the old man, "this baby's not going to
wear anything in about two minutes. This blanket
itches. They might at least have given me a sheet."
1 1 Keep it on ! Keep it on ! ' ' said Mr. Button hurriedly.
He turned to the nurse. "What'll I do ?"
"Go down town and buy your son some clothes."
Mr. Button's son's voice followed him down into the
hall: "And a cane, father. I want to have a cane."
Mr. Button banged the outer door savagely. . . .
"Good-morning," Mr. Button said, nervously, to the
clerk in the Chesapeake Dry Goods Company. "I want
to buy some clothes for my child."
"How old is your child, sir?"
"About six hours," answered Mr. Button, without
"Babies' supply department in the rear."
"Why, I don't think I'm not sure that's what I
want. It's he's an unusually large-size child. Ec-
ceptionally ah large."
"They have the largest child's sizes."
"Where is the boys' department?" inquired Mr.
Button, shifting his ground desperately. He felt that
the clerk must surely scent his shameful secret.
"Well " He hesitated The notion of dressing his
son in men's clothes was repugnant to him. If, say,
he could only find a very large boy's suit, he might cut
off that long and awful beard, dye the white hair brown,
and thus manage to conceal the worst, and to retain
something of his own self-respect not to mention his
position in Baltimore society.
But a frantic inspection of the boys' department re-
THE CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON 199
vealed no suits to fit the new-born Button. He blamed
the store, of course in such cases it is the thing to blame
"How old did you say that boy of yours was?" de-
manded the clerk curiously.
" Oh, I beg your pardon. I thought you said six hours.
You'll find the youths' department in the next aisle."
Mr. Button turned miserably away. Then he stopped,
brightened, and pointed his finger toward a dressed
dummy in the window display. " There ! " he exclaimed.
"Ill take that suit, out there on the dummy."
The clerk stared. "Why," he protested, "that's not
a child's suit. At least it w, but it's for fancy dress.
You could wear it yourself ! "
"Wrap it up/' insisted his customer nervously.
"That's what I want."
The astonished clerk obeyed.
Back at the hospital Mr. Button entered the nursery
and almost threw the package at his son. "Here's your
clothes," he snapped out.
The old man untied the package and viewed the con-
tents with a quizzical eye.
"They look sort of funny to me," he complained.
"I don't want to be made a monkey of "
"You've made a monkey of me!" retorted Mr. But-
ton fiercely. "Never you mind how funny you look.
Put them on or I'll or I'll spank you." He swal-
lowed uneasily at the penultimate word, feeling never-
theless that it was the proper thing to say.
"All right, father" this with a grotesque simula-
tion of filial respect "you've lived longer; you know
best. Just as you say."
As before, the sound of the word "father" caused
Mr. Button to start violently.
200 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"I'm hurrying, father."
When his son was dressed Mr. Button regarded him
with depression. The costume consisted of dotted socks,
pink pants, and a belted blouse with a wide white collar.
Over the latter waved the long whitish beard, drooping
almost to the waist The effect was not good.
Mr. Button seized a hospital shears and with three
quick snaps amputated a large section of the beard 1 . But
even with this improvement the ensemble fell far short
of perfection. The remaining brush of scraggly hair,
the watery eyes, the ancient teeth, seemed oddly out of
tone with the gayety of the costume. Mr. Button,
however, was obdurate he held out his hand. "Come
along ! " he said sternly.
His son took the hand trustingly. "What are you
going to call me, dad ? " he quavered as they walked from
the nursery "just 'baby' for a while? till you think of
a better name ? "
Mr. Button grunted. "I don't know," he answered
harshly. "I think we'll call you Methuselah."
Even after the new addition to the Button family
had had his hair cut short and then dyed to a sparse un-
natural black, had had his face shaved so close that it
glistened, and had been attired in small-boy clothes made
to order by a flabbergasted tailor, it was impossible for
Mr. Button to ignore the fact that his son was a poor
excuse for a first family baby. Despite his aged stoop,
Benjamin Button for it was by this name they called
him instead of by the appropriate but invidious Methuse-
lah was five feet eight inches tall. His clothes did not
THE CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON 201
conceal this, nor did the clipping and dyeing of his
eyebrows disguise the fact that the eyes underneath
were faded and watery and tired. In fact, the baby-
nurse who had been engaged in advance left the house
after one look, in a state of considerable indignation.
But Mr. Button persisted in his unwavering purpose.
Benjamin was a baby, and a baby he should remain.
At first he declared that if Benjamin didn't like warm
milk he could go without food altogether, but he was
finally prevailed upon to allow his son bread and butter,
and even oatmeal by way of a compromise. One day
he brought home a rattle and, giving it to Benjamin,
insisted in no uncertain terms that he should "play
with it," whereupon the old man took it with a weary
expression and could be heard jingling it obediently at
intervals throughout the day.
There can be no doubt, though, that the rattle bored
him, and that he found other and more soothing amuse-
ments when he was left alone. For instance, Mr. But-
ton discovered one day that during the preceding week
he had smoked more cigars than ever before a phe-
nomenon which was explained a few days later when,
entering the nursery unexpectedly, he found the room
full of faint blue haze and Benjamin, with a guilty ex-
pression on his face, trying to conceal the butt of a dark
Havana. This, of course, called for a severe spanking,
but Mr. Button found that he could not bring himself
to administer it. He merely warned his son that he
would "stunt his growth."
Nevertheless he persisted in his attitude. He brought
home lead soldiers, he brought toy trains, he brought
large pleasant animals made of cotton, and, to perfect
the illusion which he was creating for himself at least
he passionately demanded of the clerk in the toy-store
whether "the paint would come off the pink duck if the
202 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
baby put it in his mouth." But, despite all his father's
efforts, Benjamin refused to be interested. He would
steal down the back stairs and return to the nursery
with a volume of the "Encyclopaedia Britannica," over
which he would pore through an afternoon, while his
cotton cows and his Noah's ark were left neglected on
the floor. Against such a stubbornness Mr. Button's
efforts were of little avail.
The sensation created in Baltimore was, at first,
prodigious. What the mishap would have cost the But-
tons and their kinsfolk socially cannot be determined,
for the outbreak of the Civil War drew the city's atten-
tion to other things. A few people who were unfailingly
polite racked their brains for compliments to give to the
parents and finally hit upon the ingenious device of
declaring that the baby resembled his grandfather, a
fact which, due to the standard state of decay common
to all men of seventy, could not be denied. Mr. and
Mrs. Roger Button were not pleased, and Benjamin's
grandfather was furiously insulted.
Benjamin, once he left the hospital, took life as he
found it. Several small boys were brought to see him,
and he spent a stiff-jointed afternoon trying to work up
an interest in tops and marbles he even managed, quite
accidentally, to break a kitchen window with a stone
from a sling shot, a feat which secretly delighted his
Thereafter Benjamin contrived to break something
every day, but he did these things only because they
were expected of him, and because he was by nature
When his grandfather's initial antagonism wore off,
Benjamin and that gentleman took enormous pleasure in
one another's company. They would sit for hours, these
two so far apart in age and experience, and, like old
THE CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON 203
cronies, discuss with tireless monotony the slow events
of the day. Benjamin felt more at ease in his grand-
father's presence than in his parents' they seemed al-
ways somewhat in awe of him and, despite the dicta-
torial authority they exercised over him, frequently
addressed him as "Mr."
He was as puzzled as any one else at the apparently
advanced age of his mind and body at birth. He read
up on it in the medical journal, but found that no such
case had been previously recorded. At his father's
urging he made an honest attempt to play with other
boys, and frequently he joined in the milder games
football shook him up too much, and he feared that in
case of a fracture his ancient bones would refuse to knit.
When he was five he was sent to kindergarten, where
he was initiated into the art of pasting green paper on
orange paper, of weaving colored maps and manufac-
turing eternal cardboard necklaces. He was inclined
to drowse off to sleep in the middle of these tasks, a habit
which both irritated and frightened his young teacher.
To his relief she complained to his parents, and he was
removed from the school. The Roger Buttons told
their friends that they felt he was too young.
By the time he was twelve years old his parents had
grown used to him. Indeed, so strong is the force of
custom that they no longer felt that he was different
from any other child except when some curious anomaly
reminded them of the fact. But one day a few weeks
after his twelfth birthday, while looking in the mirror,
Benjamin made, or thought he made, an astonishing dis-
covery. Did his eyes deceive him, or had his hair
turned in the dozen years of his life from white to iron-
gray under its concealing dye ? Was the network of
wrinkles on his face becoming less pronounced ? Was
his skin healthier and firmer, with even a touch of ruddy
204 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
winter color ? He could not tell. He knew that he no
longer stooped and that his physical condition had im-
proved since the early days of his life.
"Can it be ?" he thought to himself, or, rather,
scarcely dared to think.
He went to his father. "I am grown," he announced
determinedly. "I want to put on long trousers."
His father hesitated. "Well," he said finally, "I
don't know. Fourteen is the age for putting on long
trousers and you are only twelve."
"But you'll have to admit," protested Benjamin,
"that I'm big for my age."
His father looked at him with illusory speculation.
"Oh, I'm not so sure of that," he said. "I was as big
as you when I was twelve."
This was not true it was all part of Roger Button's
silent agreement with himself to believe in his son's
Finally a compromise was reached. Benjamin was to
continue to dye his hair. He was to make a better
attempt to play with boys of his own age. He was not
to wear his spectacles or carry a cane in the street. In
return for these concessions he was allowed his first
suit of long trousers. . . .
Of the life of Benjamin Button between his twelfth
and twenty-first year I intend to say little. Suffice to
record that they were years of normal ungrowth. When
Benjamin was eighteen he was erect as a man of fifty;
he had more hair and it was of a dark gray; his step
was firm, his voice had lost its cracked quaver and des-
cended to a healthy baritone. So his father sent him up
to Connecticut to take examinations for entrance to
THE CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON 205
Yale College. Benjamin passed his examination and be-
came a member of the freshman class.
On the third day following his matriculation he re-
ceived a notification from Mr. Hart, the college regis-
trar, to call at his office and arrange his schedule. Ben-
jamin, glancing in the mirror, decided that his hair needed
a new application of its brown dye, but an anxious in-
spection of his bureau drawer disclosed that the dye
bottle was not there. Then he remembered he had
emptied it the day before and thrown it away.
He was in a dilemma. He was due at the registrar's
in five minutes. There seemed to be no help for it he
must go as he was. He did.
" Good-morning," said the registrar politely. "You've
come to inquire about your son."
"Why, as a matter of fact, my name's Button " be-
gan Benjamin, but Mr. Hart cut him off.
"I'm very glad to meet you, Mr. Button. I'm ex-
pecting your son here any minute."
" That's me ! " burst out Benjamin. " I'm a freshman."
"I'm a freshman."
"Surely you're joking."
"Not at all."
The registrar frowned and glanced at a card before
him. "Why, I have Mr. Benjamin Button's age down
here as eighteen."
"That's my age," asserted Benjamin, flushing slightly.
The registrar eyed him wearily. "Now surely, Mr.
Button, you don't expect me to believe that."
Benjamin smiled wearily. "I am eighteen," he re-
The registrar pointed sternly to the door. " Get out,"
he said. " Get out of college and get out of town. You
are a dangerous lunatic."
206 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"I am eighteen."
Mr. Hart opened the door. "The idea ! " he shouted.
"A man of your age trying to enter here as a freshman.
Eighteen years old, are you ? Well, I'll give you eigh-
teen minutes to get out of town."
Benjamin Button walked with dignity from the room,
and half a dozen undergraduates, who were waiting in
the hall, followed him curiously with their eyes. When
he had gone a little way he turned around, faced the in-
furiated registrar, who was still standing in the doorway,
and repeated in a firm voice: "I am eighteen years old."
To a chorus of titters which went up from the group of
undergraduates, Benjamin walked away.
But he was not fated to escape so easily. On his
melancholy walk to the railroad station he found that
he was being followed by a group, then by a swarm,
and finally by a dense mass of undergraduates. The
word had gone around that a lunatic had passed the en-
trance examinations for Yale and attempted to palm
himself off as a youth of eighteen. A fever of excite-
ment permeated the college. Men ran hatless out of
classes, the football team abandoned its practice and
joined the mob, professors' wives with bonnets awry
and bustles out of position, ran shouting after the pro-
cession, from which proceeded a continual succession of
remarks aimed at the tender sensibilities of Benjamin
"He must be the Wandering Jew !"
"He ought to go to prep school at his age !"
"Look at the infant prodigy!"
"He thought this was the old men's home."
"Go up to Harvard!"
Benjamin increased his gait, and soon he was running.
He would show them ! He would go to Harvard, and
then they would regret these ill-considered taunts !
THE CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON 207
Safely on board the train for Baltimore, he put his
head from the window. " You'll regret this!" he
" Ha-ha !" the undergraduates laughed. "Ha-ha-
ha ! " It was the biggest mistake that Yale College had
In 1880 Benjamin Button was twenty years old, and
he signalized his birthday by going to work for his father
in Roger Button & Co., Wholesale Hardware. It was
in that same year that he began "going out socially"
that is, his father insisted on taking him to several
fashionable dances. Roger Button was now fifty, and
he and his son were more and more companionable in
fact, since Benjamin had ceased to dye his hair (which
was still grayish) they appeared about the same age,
and could have passed for brothers.
One night in August they got into the phaeton attired
in their full-dress suits and drove out to a dance at the
Shevlins' country house, situated just outside of Balti-
more. It was a gorgeous evening. A full moon drenched
the road to the lustreless color of platinum, and late-
blooming harvest flowers breathed into the motionless
air aromas that were like low, half-heard laughter. The
open country, carpeted for rods around with bright
wheat, was translucent as in the day. It was almost
impossible not to be affected by the sheer beauty of
the sky almost.
"There's a great future in the dry-goods business,"
Roger Button was saying. He was not a spiritual
man his esthetic sense was rudimentary.
"Old fellows like me can't learn new tricks," he ob-
served profoundly. "It's you youngsters with energy
and vitality that have the great future before you."
208 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Far up the road the lights of the Shevlins* country
house drifted into view, and presently there was a sigh-
ing sound that crept persistently toward them it
might have been the fine plaint of violins or the rustle
of the silver wheat under the moon.
They pulled up behind a handsome brougham whose
passengers were disembarking at the door. A lady got
out, then an elderly gentleman, then another young
lady, beautiful as sin. Benjamin started; an almost
chemical change seemed to dissolve and recompose the
very elements of his body. A rigor passed over him,
blood rose into his cheeks, his forehead, and there was a
steady thumping in his ears. It was first love.
The girl was slender and frail, with hah* that was ashen
under the moon and honey-colored under the sputtering
gas-lamps of the porch. Over her shoulders was thrown
a Spanish mantilla of softest yellow, butterflied in black;
her feet were glittering buttons at the hem of her bustled
Roger Button leaned over to his son. "That," he
said, "is young Hildegarde Moncrief, the daughter of
Benjamin nodded coldly. "Pretty little thing," he
said indifferently. But when the negro boy had led
the buggy away, he added: "Dad, you might introduce
me to her."
They approached a group of which Miss Moncrief
was the centre. Reared in the old tradition, she courte-
sied low before Benjamin. Yes, he might have a dance.
He thanked her and walked away staggered away.
The interval until the time for his turn should arrive
dragged itself out interminably. He stood close to the
wall, silent, inscrutable, watching with murderous eyes
the young bloods of Baltimore as they eddied around
Hildegarde Moncrief, passionate admiration in their
THE CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON 205
faces. How obnoxious they seemed to Benjamin; how
intolerably rosy ! Their curling brown whiskers aroused
in him a feeling equivalent to indigestion.
But when his own time came, and he drifted with her
out upon the changing floor to the music of the latest
waltz from Paris, his jealousies and anxieties melted
from him like a mantle of snow. Blind with enchant-
ment, he felt that life was just beginning.
"You and your brother got here just as we did, didn't
you?" asked Hildegarde, looking up at him with eyes
that were like bright blue enamel.
Benjamin hesitated. If she took him for his father's
brother, would it be best to enlighten her ? He remem-
bered his experience at Yale, so he decided against it.
It would be rude to contradict a lady; it would be crimi-
nal to mar this exquisite occasion with the grotesque
story of his origin. Later, perhaps. So he nodded,
smiled, listened, was happy.
"I like men of your age," Hildegarde told him.
"Young boys are so idiotic. They tell me how much
champagne they drink at college, and how much money
they lose playing cards. Men of your age know how to
Benjamin felt himself on the verge of a proposal
with an effort he choked back the impulse.
"You're just the romantic age," she continued
"fifty. Twenty-five is too worldly-wise; thirty is apt to
be pale from overwork; forty is the age of long stories
that take a whole cigar to tell; sixty is oh, sixty is too
near seventy; but fifty is the mellow age. I love fifty."
Fifty seemed to Benjamin a glorious age. He longed
passionately to be fifty.
"I've always said," went on Hildegarde, "that I'd
rather marry a man of fifty and be taken care of than
marry a man of thirty and take care of him."
210 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
For Benjamin the rest of the evening was bathed in a
honey-colored mist. Hildegarde gave him two more
dances, and they discovered that they were marvellously
in accord on all the questions of the day. She was to
go driving with him on the following Sunday, and then
they would discuss all these questions further.
Going home in the phaeton just before the crack of
dawn, when the first bees were humming and the fading
moon glimmered in the cool dew, Benjamin knew vaguely
that his father was discussing wholesale hardware.
". . . . And what do you think should merit our
biggest attention after hammers and nails?" the elder
Button was saying.
"Love," replied Benjamin absent-mindedly.
"Lugs ?" exclaimed Roger Button. "Why, I've just
covered the question of lugs."
Benjamin regarded him with dazed eyes just as the
eastern sky was suddenly cracked with light, and an
oriole yawned piercingly in the quickening trees. . . .
When, six months later, the engagement of Miss
Hildegarde Moncrief to Mr. Benjamin Button was made
known (I say "made known," for General Moncrief de-
clared he would rather fall upon his sword than announce
it), the excitement in Baltimore society reached a fever-
ish pitch. The almost forgotten story of Benjamin's
birth was remembered and sent out upon the winds of
scandal in picaresque and incredible forms. It was said
that Benjamin was really the father of Roger Button,
that he was his brother who had been in prison for forty
years, that he was John Wilkes Booth in disguise and,
finally, that he had two small conical horns sprouting
from his head.
THE CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON 211
The Sunday supplements of the New York papers
played up the case with fascinating sketches which
showed the head of Benjamin Button attached to a fish,
to a snake, and, finally, to a body of solid brass. He be-
came known, journalistically, as the Mystery Man of
Maryland. But the true story, as is usually the case,
had a very small circulation.
However, every one agreed with General Moncrief
that it was "criminal" for a lovely girl who could have
married any beau in Baltimore to throw herself into the
arms of a man who was assuredly fifty. In vain Mr.
Roger Button published his son's birth certificate in
large type in the Baltimore Blaze. No one believed it.
You had only to look at Benjamin and see.
On the part of the two people most concerned there
was no wavering. So many of the stories about her
fiance were false that Hildegarde refused stubbornly to
believe even the true one. In vain General Moncrief
pointed out to her the high mortality among men of
fifty or, at least, among men who looked fifty; in vain
he told her of the instability of the wholesale hardware
business. Hildegarde had chosen to marry for mellow-
ness and marry she did. . . .
In one particular, at least, the friends of Hildegarde
Moncrief were mistaken. The wholesale hardware busi-
ness prospered amazingly. In the fifteen years between
Benjamin Button's marriage in 1880 and his father's re-
tirement in 1895, the family fortune was doubled and
this was due largely to the younger member of the firm.
Needless to say, Baltimore eventually received the
couple to its bosom. Even old General Moncrief be-
came reconciled to his son-in-law when Benjamin gave
212 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
him the money to bring out his "History of the Civil
War" in twenty volumes, which had been refused byi
nine prominent publishers.
In Benjamin himself fifteen years had wrought many
changes. It seemed to him that the blood flowed with
new vigor through his veins. It began to be a pleasure
to rise in the morning, to walk with an active step along
the busy, sunny street, to work untiringly with his ship-
ments of hammers and his cargoes of nails. It was in
1890 that he executed his famous business coup: he
brought up the suggestion that all nails used in nailing
up the boxes in which nails are shipped are the property of
the shippee, a proposal which became a statute, was ap-
proved by Chief Justice Fossile, and saved Roger Button
and Company, Wholesale Hardware, more than six hun-
dred nails every year.
In addition, Benjamin discovered that he was becom-
ing more and more attracted by the gay side of life. It
was typical of his growing enthusiasm for pleasure that
he was the first man in the city of Baltimore to own and
run an automobile. Meeting him on the street, his con-
temporaries would stare enviously at the picture he made
of health and vitality.
"He seems to grow younger every year," they would
remark. And if old Roger Button, now sixty-five years
old, had failed at first to give a proper welcome to his
son he atoned at last by bestowing on him what
amounted to adulation.
And here we come to an unpleasant subject which it
will be well to pass over as quickly as possible. There
was only one thing that worried Benjamin Button: his
wife had ceased to attract him.
At that time Hildegarde was a woman of thirty-five,
with a son, Roscoe, fourteen years old. In the early
days of their marriage Benjamin had worshipped her.
THE CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON 213
But, as the years passed, her honey-colored hair became
an unexciting brown, the blue enamel of her eyes assumed
the aspect of cheap crockery moreover, and most of
all, she had become too settled in her ways, too placid,
too content, too anemic in her excitements, and too
sober in her taste. As a bride it had been she who had
"dragged" Benjamin to dances and dinners now con-
ditions were reversed. She went out socially with him,
but without enthusiasm, devoured already by that
eternal inertia which comes to live with each of us one
day and stays with us to the end.
Benjamin's discontent waxed stronger. At the out-
break of the Spanish-American War in 1898 his home had
"for him so little charm that he decided to join the army.
With his business influence he obtained a commission as
captain, and proved so adaptable to the work that he
was made a major, and finally a lieutenant-colonel just
in time to participate in the celebrated charge up San
Juan Hill. He was slightly wounded, and received a
Benjamin had become so attached to the activity and
excitement of army life that he regretted to give it up,
but his business required attention, so he resigned his
commission and came home. He was met at the station
by a brass band and escorted to his house.
Hildegarde, waving a large silk flag, greeted him on
the porch, and even as he kissed her he felt with a sink-
ing of the heart that these three years had taken their
toll. She was a woman of forty now, with a faint
skirmish line of gray hairs in her head. The sight de-
Up in his room he saw his reflection in the familiar
214 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
mirror he went closer and examined his own face
with anxiety, comparing it after a moment with a photo-
graph of himself in uniform taken just before the war.
"Good Lord!" he said aloud. The process was con-
tinuing. There was no doubt of it he looked now like
a man of thirty. Instead of being delighted, he was un-
easy he was growing younger. He had hitherto hoped
that once he reached a bodily age equivalent to his age
in years, the grotesque phenomenon which had marked
his birth would cease to function. He shuddered. His
destiny seemed to him awful, incredible.
When he came down-stairs Hildegarde was waiting
for him. She appeared annoyed, and he wondered if
she had at last discovered that there was something
amiss. It was with an effort to relieve the tension be-
tween them that he broached the matter at dinner in
what he considered a delicate way.
"Well," he remarked lightly, "everybody says I
look younger than ever."
Hildegarde regarded him with scorn. She sniffed.
"Do you think it's anything to boast about ?"
"I'm not boasting," he asserted uncomfortably.
She sniffed again. "The idea," she said, and after a
moment: "I should think you'd have enough pride to
"How can I?" he demanded.
"I'm not going to argue with you," she retorted.
"But there's a right way of doing things and a wrong
way. If you've made up your mind to be different
from everybody else, I don't suppose I can stop you,
but I really don't think it's very considerate."
"But, Hildegarde, I can't help it."
"You can too. You're simply stubborn. You think
you don't want to be like any one else. You always have
been that way, and you always will be. But just think
THE CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON 215
how it would be if every one else looked at things as
you do what would the world be like ? "
As this was an inane and unanswerable argument
Benjamin made no reply, and from that time on a chasm
began to widen between them. He wondered what pos-
sible fascination she had ever exercised over him.
To add to the breach, he found, as the new century
gathered headway, that his thirst for gayety grew
stronger. Never a party of any kind in the city of
Baltimore but he was there, dancing with the prettiest
of the young married women, chatting with the most
popular of the debutantes, and finding their company
charming, while his wife, a dowager of evil omen, sat
among the chaperons, now in haughty disapproval, and
now following him with solemn, puzzled, and reproach-
"Look!" people would remark. "What a pity! A
young fellow that age tied to a woman of forty-five. He
must be twenty years younger than his wife." They had
forgotten as people inevitably forget that back in
1880 their mammas and papas had also remarked about
this same ill-matched pair.
Benjamin's growing unhappiness at home was com-
pensated for by his many new interests. He took up
golf and made a great success of it. He went in for
dancing: in 1906 he was an expert at "The Boston," and
in 1908 he was considered proficient at the "Maxixe,"
while in 1909 his "Castle Walk" was the envy of every
young man in town.
His social activities, of course, interfered to some ex-
tent with his business, but then he had worked hard at
wholesale hardware for twenty-five years and felt that
he could soon hand it on to his son, Roscoe, who had
recently graduated from Harvard.
He and his son were, in fact, often mistaken for each
2i6 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
other. This pleased Benjamin he soon forgot the in-
sidious fear which had come over him on his return
from the Spanish-American War, and grew to take a
naive pleasure in his appearance. There was only one
fly in the delicious ointment he hated to appear in
public with his wife. Hildegarde was almost fifty,
and the sight of her made him feel absurd. . . .
One September day in 1910 a few years after Roger
Button & Co., Wholesale Hardware, had been handed
over to young Roscoe Button a man, apparently about
twenty years old, entered himself as a freshman at
Harvard University in Cambridge. He did not make
the mistake of announcing that he would never see
fifty again nor did he mention the fact that his son had
been graduated from the same institution ten years be-
He was admitted, and almost immediately attained a
prominent position in the class, partly because he seemed
a little older than the other freshmen, whose average
age was about eighteen.
But his success was largely due to the fact that in the
football game with Yale he played so brilliantly, with so
much dash and with such a cold, remorseless anger that
he scored seven touchdowns and fourteen field goals for
Harvard, and caused one entire eleven of Yale men to
be carried singly from the field, unconscious. He was
the most celebrated man in college.
Strange to say, in his third or junior year he was
scarcely able to "make" the team. The coaches said
that he had lost weight, and it seemed to the more ob-
servant among them that he was not quite as tall as
before. He made no touchdowns indeed, he was re-
THE CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON 217
tained on the team chiefly in hope that his enormous
reputation would bring terror and disorganization to
the Yale team.
In his senior year he did not make the team at all. He
had grown so slight and frail that one day he was taken
by some sophomores for a freshman, an incident which
humiliated him terribly. He became known as some-
thing of a prodigy a senior who was surely no more
than sixteen and he was often shocked at the worldli-
ness of some of his classmates. His studies seemed
harder to him he felt that they were too advanced. He
had heard his classmates speak of St. Midas', the famous
preparatory school, at which so many of them had pre-
pared for college, and he determined after his gradua-
tion to enter himself at St. Midas', where the sheltered
life among boys his own size would be more congenial
Upon his graduation in 1914 he went home to Balti-
more with his Harvard diploma in his pocket. Hilde-
garde was now residing in Italy, so Benjamin went to
live with his son, Roscoe. But though he was welcomed
in a general way, there was obviously no heartiness in
Roscoe's feeling toward him there was even percepti-
ble a tendency on his son's part to think that Benjamin,
as he moped about the house in adolescent mooniness,
was somewhat in the way. Roscie was married now and
prominent in Baltimore life, and he wanted no scandal
to creep out in connection with his family.
Benjamin, no longer persona grata with the debu-
tantes and younger college set, found himself left much
alone, except for the companionship of three or four
fifteen-year-old boys in the neighborhood. His idea of
going to St. Midas' school recurred to him.
"Say," he said to Roscoe one day, "I've told you over
and over that I want to go to prep school."
218 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Well, go, then/ 7 replied Roscoe shortly. The mat-
ter was distasteful to him, and he wished to avoid a
"I can't go alone," said Benjamin helplessly. "You'll
have to enter me and take me up there."
"I haven't got time," declared Roscoe abruptly. His
eyes narrowed and he looked uneasily at his father.
"As a matter of fact," he added, "you'd better not go
on with this business much longer. You better pull up
short. You better you better" he paused and his
face crimsoned as he sought for words "you better
turn right around and start back the other way. This
has gone too far to be a joke. It isn't funny any longer.
You you behave yourself!"
Benjamin looked at him, on the verge of tears.
"And another thing," continued Roscoe, "when visi-
tors are in the house I want you to call me ' Uncle ' not
'Roscoe/ but l Uncle/ do you understand? It looks
absurd for a boy of fifteen to call me by my first name.
Perhaps you'd better call me ' Uncle' ail the time, so
you'll get used to it."
With a harsh look at his father,^ Roscoe turned
away. . . .
At the termination of this interview, Benjamin wan-
dered dismally up-stairs and stared at himself in the
mirror. He had not shaved for three months, but he
could find nothing on his face but a faint white down
with which it seemed unnecessary to meddle. When he
had first come home from Harvard, Roscoe had ap-
proached him with the proposition that he should wear
eye-glasses and imitation whiskers glued to his cheeks,
and it had seemed for a moment that the farce of his
early years was to be repeated. But whiskers had
THE CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON 219
itched and made him ashamed. He wept and Roscoe
had reluctantly relented.
Benjamin opened a book of boys' stories, "The Boy
Scouts in Bimini Bay," and began to read. But he
found himself thinking persistently about the war.
America had joined the Allied cause during the preced-
ing month, and Benjamin wanted to enlist, but, alas,
sixteen was the minimum age, and he did not look that
old. His true age, which was fifty-seven, would have
disqualified him, anyway.
There was a knock at his door, and the butler ap-
peared with a letter bearing a large official legend in
the corner and addressed to Mr. Benjamin Button.
Benjamin tore it open eagerly, and read the enclosure
with delight. It informed him that many reserve officers
who had served in the Spanish-American War were
being called back into service with a higher rank, and it
enclosed his commission as brigadier-general in the United
States army with orders to report immediately.
Benjamin jumped to his feet fairly quivering with
enthusiasm. This was what he had wanted. He seized
his cap and ten minutes later he had entered a large
tailoring establishment on Charles Street, and asked in
his uncertain treble to be measured for a uniform.
"Want to play soldier, sonny?" demanded a clerk,
Benjamin flushed. "Say! Never mind what I
want!" he retorted angrily. "My name's Button and
I live on Mt. Vernon Place, so you know I'm good for
"Well," admitted the clerk, hesitantly, "if you're
not, I guess your daddy is, all right."
Benjamin was measured, and a week later his uniform
was completed. He had difficulty in obtaining the
proper general's insignia because the dealer kept in-
220 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
sisting to Benjamin that a nice Y. W. C. A. badge
would look just as well and be much more fun to play
Saying nothing to Roscoe, he left the house one night
and proceeded by train to Camp Mosby, in South Caro-
lina, where he was to command an infantry brigade.
On a sultry April day he approached the entrance to
the camp, paid off the taxicab which had brought him
from the station, and turned to the sentry on guard.
" Get some one to handle my luggage ! " he said briskly.
The sentry eyed him reproachfully. "Say," he re-
marked, "where you goin' with the general's duds,
Benjamin, veteran of the Spanish-American War,
whirled upon him with fire in his eye, but with, alas,
a changing treble voice.
"Come to attention !" he tried to thunder; he paused
for breath then suddenly he saw the sentry snap his
heels together and bring his rifle to the present. Ben-
jamin concealed a smile of gratification, but when he
glanced around his smile faded. It was not he who had
inspired obedience, but an imposing artillery colonel who
was approaching on horseback.
"Colonel!" called Benjamin shrilly.
The colonel came up, drew rein, and looked coolly
down at him with a twinkle in his eyes. "Whose little
boy are you ?" he demanded kindly.
"I'll soon darn well show you whose little boy I
am!" retorted Benjamin in a ferocious voice. "Get
down off that horse!"
The colonel roared with Daughter.
"You want him, eh, general ?"
"Here!" cried Benjamin desperately. "Read this."
And he thrust his commission toward the colonel.
The colonel read it, his eyes popping from their sockets.
THE CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON 221
"Where'd you get this?" he demanded, slipping the
document into his own pocket.
"I got it from the Government, as you'll soon find
"You come along with me," said the colonel with a
peculiar look. "We'll go up to headquarters and talk
this over. Come along."
The colonel turned and began walking his horse in
the direction of headquarters. There was nothing for
Benjamin to do but follow with as much dignity as pos-
sible meanwhile promising himself a stern revenge.
But this revenge did not materialize. Two days
later, however, his son Roscoe materialized from Balti-
more, hot and cross from a hasty trip, and escorted the
weeping general, sans uniform, back to his home.
In 1920 Roscoe Button's first child was born. Dur-
ing the attendant festivities, however, no one thought
it "the thing" to mention that the little grubby boy,
apparently about ten years of age who played around
the house with lead soldiers and a miniature circus, was
the new baby's own grandfather.
No one disliked the little boy whose fresh, cheerful
face was crossed with just a hint of sadness, but to Roscoe
Button his presence was a source of torment. In the
idiom of his generation Roscoe did not consider the
matter "efficient." It seemed to him that his father,
in refusing to look sixty, had not behaved like a "red-
blooded he-man" this was Roscoe's favorite expres-
sion but in a curious and perverse manner. Indeed,
to think about the matter for as much 'as a half an hour
drove him to the edge of insanity. Roscoe believed that
"live wires" should keep young, but carrying it out on
222 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
such a scale was was was inefficient. And there
Five years later Roscoe's little boy had grown old
enough to play childish games with little Benjamin
under the supervision of the same nurse. Roscoe took
them both to kindergarten on the same day and Ben-
jamin found that playing with little strips of colored
paper, making mats and chains and curious and beauti-
ful designs, was the most fascinating game in the world.
Once he was bad and had to stand in the corner then
he cried but for the most part there were gay hours in
the cheerful room, with the sunlight coming in the win-
dows and Miss Bailey's kind hand resting for a mo-
ment now and then in his tousled hair.
Roscoe's son moved up into the first grade after a
year, but Benjamin stayed on in the kindergarten. He
was very happy. Sometimes when other tots talked
about what they would do when they grew up a shadow
would cross his little face as if in a dim, childish way he
realized that those were things in which he was never to
The days flowed on in monotonous content. He went
back a third year to the kindergarten, but he was too
little now to understand what the bright shining strips
of paper were for. He cried because the other boys
were bigger than he and he was afraid of them. The
teacher talked to him, but though he tried to understand
he could not understand at all.
He was taken from the kindergarten. His nurse,
Nana, in her starched gingham dress, became the centre
of his tiny world. On bright days they walked in the
park; Nana would point at a great gray monster and
say "elephant," and Benjamin would say it after her,
and when he was being undressed for bed that night he
would say it over and over aloud to her: "Elyphant,
THE CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON 223
elyphant, elyphant." Sometimes Nana let him jump
on the bed, which was fun, because if you sat down ex-
actly right it would bounce you up on your feet again,
and if you said "Ah" for a long time while you jumped
you got a very pleasing broken vocal effect.
He loved to take a big cane from the hatrack and go
around hitting chairs and tables with it and saying:
"Fight, fight, fight." When there were people there
the old ladies would cluck at him, which interested him,
and the young ladies would try to kiss him, which he
submitted to with mild boredom. And when the long
day was done at five o'clock he would go up-stairs with
Nana and be fed oatmeal and nice soft mushy foods with
There were no troublesome memories in his childish
sleep; no token came to him of his brave days at col-
lege, of the glittering years when he flustered the hearts
of many girls. There were only the white, safe walls
of his crib and Nana and a man who came to see him
sometimes, and a great big orange ball that Nana pointed
at just before his twilight bed hour and called "sun."
When the sun went his eyes were sleepy there were no
dreams, no dreams to haunt him.
The past the wild charge at the head of his men up
San Juan Hill; the first years of his marriage when he
worked late into the summer dusk down in the busy
city for young Hildegarde whom he loved; the days be-
fore that when he sat smoking far into the night in the
gloomy old Button house on Monroe Street with his
grandfather all these had faded like unsubstantial
dreams from his mind as though they had never been.
He did not remember. He did not remember clearly
whether the milk was warm or cool at his last feeding or
how the days passed there was only his crib and Nana's
familiar presence. And then he remembered nothing.
224 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
When he was hungry he cried that was all. Through
the noons and nights he breathed and over him there
were soft mumblings and murmurings that he scarcely
heard, and faintly differentiated smells, and light and
Then it was all dark, and his white crib and the dim
faces that moved above him, and the warm sweet aroma
of the milk, faded out altogether from his mind.
TARQUIN OF CHEAPSIDE
RUNNING footsteps light, soft-soled shoes made of
curious leathery cloth brought from Ceylon setting the
pace ; thick flowing boots, two pairs, dark blue and gilt,
reflecting the moonlight in blunt gleams and splotches,
following a stone's throw behind.
Soft Shoes flashes through a patch of moonlight, then
darts into a blind labyrinth of alleys and becomes only
an intermittent scuffle ahead somewhere in the enfold-
ing darkness. In go Flowing Boots, with short swords
lurching and long plumes awry, rinding a breath to curse
God and the black lanes of London.
Soft Shoes leaps a shadowy gate and crackles through
a hedgerow. Flowing Boots leap the gate and crackles
through the hedgerow and there, startlingly, is the
watch ahead two murderous pikemen of ferocious cast
of mouth acquired in Holland and the Spanish marches.
But there is no cry for help. The pursued does not fall
panting at the feet of the watch, clutching a purse;
neither do the pursuers raise a hue and cry. Soft Shoes
goes by in a rush of swift air. The watch curse and
hesitate, glance after the fugitive, and then spread their
pikes grimly across the road and wait for Flowing Boots.
Darkness, like a great hand, cuts off the even flow of the
The hand moves off the moon whose pale caress finds
again the eaves and lintels, and the watch, wounded and
tumbled in the dust. Up the street one of Flowing
Boots leaves a black trail of spots until he binds himseli,
clumsily as he runs, with fine lace caught from his
226 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
It was no affair for the watch: Satan was at large to-
night and Satan seemed to be he who appeared dimly
in front, heel over gate, knee over fence. Moreover,
the adversary was obviously travelling near home or at
least in that section of London consecrated to his coarser
whims, for the street narrowed like a road in a picture
and the houses bent over further and further, cooping
in natural ambushes suitable for murder and its histrionic
sister, sudden death.
Down long and sinuous lanes twisted the hunted
and the harriers, always in and out of the moon in a
perpetual queen's move over a checker-board of glints
and patches. Ahead, the quarry, minus his leather
jerkin now and half blinded by drips of sweat, had
taken to scanning his ground desperately on both sides.
As a result he suddenly slowed short, and retracing his
steps a bit scooted up an alley so dark that it seemed that
here sun and moon had been in eclipse since the last
glacier slipped roaring over the earth. Two hundred
yards down he stopped and crammed himself into a
niche in the wall where he huddled and panted silently,
a grotesque god without bulk or outline in the gloom.
Flowing Boots, two pairs, drew near, came up, went
by, halted twenty yards beyond him, and spoke in deep-
lunged, scanty whispers:
"I was attune to that scuffle; it stopped."
"Within twenty paces."
"Stay together now and we'll cut him up."
The voice faded into a low crunch of a boot, nor did
Soft Shoes wait to hear more he sprang in three leaps
across the alley, where he bounded up, flapped for a
moment on the top of the wall like a huge bird, and dis-
appeared, gulped down by the hungry night at a mouth-
TARQUIN OF CHEAPSIDE 227
"He read at wine, he read in bed,
He read aloud, had he the breath,
His every thought was with the dead,
And so he read himself to death"
Any visitor to the old James the First graveyard near
Peat's Hill may spell out this bit of doggerel, undoubt-
edly one of the worst recorded of an Elizabethan, on the
tomb of Wessel Caxter.
This death of his, says the antiquary, occurred when
he was thirty-seven, but as this story is concerned with
the night of a certain chase through darkness, we find
him still alive, still reading. His eyes were somewhat
dim, his stomach somewhat obvious he was a mis-
built man and indolent oh, Heavens ! But an era is an
era, and in the reign of Elizabeth, by the grace of Luther,
Queen of England, no man could help but catch the
spirit of enthusiasm. Every loft in Cheapside pub-
lished its Magnum Folium (or magazine) of the new
blank verse; the Cheapside Players would produce any-
thing on sight as long as it "got away from those reac-
tionary miracle plays," and the English Bible had run
through seven "very large" printings in as many
So Wessel Caxter (who in his youth had gone to sea)
was now a reader of all on which he could lay his hands
he read manuscripts in holy friendship; he dined rotten
poets; he loitered about the shops where the Magna
Folia were printed, and he listened tolerantly while the
young playwrights wrangled and bickered among them-
selves, and behind each other's backs made bitter and
malicious charges of plagiarism or anything else they
could think of.
228 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
To-night he had a book, a piece of work which, though
inordinately versed, contained, he thought, some rather
excellent political satire. "The Faerie Queene" by Ed-
mund Spenser lay before him under the tremulous
candle-light. He had ploughed through a canto; he was
THE LEGEND OF BRITOMARTIS OR OF CHASTITY
// falls me here to write of Chastity.
The fayrest vertue, far above the rest. . . .
A sudden rush of feet on the stairs, a rusty swing-open
of the thin door, and a man thrust himself into the
room, a man without a jerkin, panting, sobbing, on the
verge of collapse.
"Wessel," words choked him, "stick me away some-
where, love of Our Lady ! "
Caxter rose, carefully closing his book, and bolted
the door in some concern.
"I'm pursued," cried out Soft Shoes. "I vow there's
two short-witted blades trying to make me into mince-
meat and near succeeding. They saw me hop the back
"It would need," said Wessel, looking at him curiously,
"several battalions armed with blunderbusses, and two
or three Armadas, to keep you reasonably secure from
the revenges of the world."
Soft Shoes smiled with satisfaction. His sobbing
gasps were giving way to quick, precise breathing; his
hunted air had faded to a faintly perturbed irony.
"I feel little surprise," continued Wessel.
"They were two such dreary apes."
"Making a total of three."
"Only two unless you stick me away. Man, man,
come alive; they'll be on the stairs in a spark's age."
TARQUIN OF CHEAPSIDE 229
Wessel took a dismantled pike-staff from the corner,
and raising it to the high ceiling, dislodged a rough trap-
door opening into a garret above.
"There's no ladder."
He moved a bench under the trap, upon which Soft
Shoes mounted, crouched, hesitated, crouched again,
and then leaped amazingly upward. He caught at the
edge of the aperture and swung back and forth for a
moment, shifting his hold; finally doubled up and disap-
peared into the darkness above. There was a scurry,
a migration of rats, as the trap-door was replaced; . . .
Wessel returned to his reading-table, opened to the
Legend of Britomartis or of Chastity and waited.
Almost a minute later there was a scramble on the
stairs and an intolerable hammering at the door. Wessel
sighed and, picking up his candle, rose.
"Open the door!"
An aching blow frightened the frail wood, splintered
it around the edge. Wessel opened it a scarce three
inches, and held the candle high. His was to play the
timorous, the super-respectable citizen, disgracefully
"One small hour of the night for rest. Is that too
much to ask from every brawler and "
"Quiet, gossip! Have you seen a perspiring fellow ?"
The shadows of two gallants fell in immense waver-
ing outlines over the narrow stairs; by the light Wessel
scrutinized them closely. Gentlemen, they were, hast-
ily but richly dressed one of them wounded severely
in the hand, both radiating a sort of furious horror.
Waving aside Wessel's ready miscomprehension, they
pushed by him into the room and with their swords
230 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
went through the business of poking carefully into all
suspected dark spots in the room, further extending
their search to Wessel's bedchamber.
"Is he hid here?" demanded the wounded man
"Is who here?"
"Any man but you/'
"Only two others that I know of."
For a second Wessel feared that he had been too
damned funny, for the gallants made as though to prick
"I heard a man on the stairs," he said hastily, "full
five minutes ago, it was. He most certainly failed to
He went on to explain his absorption in " The Faerie
Queene " but, for the moment at least, his visitors, like
the great saints, were anaesthetic to culture.
"What's been done?" inquired Wessel.
"Violence!" said the man with the wounded hand.
Wessel noticed that his eyes were quite wild. " My own
sister. Oh, Christ in heaven, give us this man ! "
"Who is the man?"
"God's word! We know not even that. What's
that trap up there ?" he added suddenly.
"It's nailed down. It's not been used for years."
He thought of the pole in the corner and quailed in his
belly, but the utter despair of the two men dulled their
"It would take a ladder for any one not a tumbler,"
said the wounded man listlessly.
His companion broke into hysterical laughter.
"A tumbler. Oh, a tumbler. Oh
Wessel stared at them in wonder.
TARQUIN OF CHEAPSIDE 231
"That appeals to my most tragic humor," cried the
man, "that no one oh, no one could get up there but
The gallant with the wounded hand snapped his
good fingers impatiently.
"We must go next door and then on "
Helplessly they went as two walking under a dark
and storm-swept sky.
Wessel closed and bolted the door and stood a mo-
ment by it, frowning in pity.
A low-breathed " Ha ! " made him look up. Soft Shoes
had already raised the trap and was looking down into
the room, his rather elfish face squeezed into a grimace,
half of distaste, half of sardonic amusement.
"They take off their heads with their helmets," he
remarked in a whisper, " but as for you and me, Wessel,
we are two cunning men."
"Now you be cursed," cried Wessel vehemently. "I
knew you for a dog, but when I hear even the half of a
tale like this, I know you for such a dirty cur that I am
minded to club your skull."
Soft Shoes stared at him, blinking.
"At all events," he replied finally, "I find dignity im-
possible in this position."
With this he let his body through the trap, hung for
an instant, and dropped the seven feet to the floor.
"There was a rat considered my ear with the air of a
gourmet," he continued, dusting his hands on his
breeches. "I told him in the rat's peculiar idiom that
I was deadly poison, so he took himself off."
"Let's hear of this night's lechery!" insisted Wessel
Soft Shoes touched his thumb to his nose and wiggled
the fingers derisively at Wessel.
232 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Street gamin!" muttered Wessel.
"Have you any paper?" demanded Soft Shoes irrele-
vantly, and then rudely added, "or can you write?"
"Why should I give you paper ?"
"You wanted to hear of the night's entertainment.
So you shall, an you give me pen, ink, a sheaf of paper,
and a room to myself."
"Get out! "he said finally.
"As you will. Yet you have missed a most intrigu-
Wessel wavered he was soft as taffy, that man
gave in. Soft Shoes went into the adjoining room with
the begrudged writing materials and precisely closed the
door. Wessel grunted and returned to " The Faerie
Queene "; so silence came once more upon the house.
Three o'clock went into four. The room paled, the
dark outside was shot through with damp and chill,
and Wessel, cupping his brain in his hands, bent low over
his table, tracing through the pattern of knights and
fairies and the harrowing distresses of many girls.
There were dragons chortling along the narrow street
outside; when the sleepy armorer's boy began his work
at half-past five the heavy clink and chank of plate and
linked mail swelled to the echo of a marching cavalcade.
A fog shut down at the first flare of dawn, and the room
was grayish yellow at six when Wessel tiptoed to his
cupboard bedchamber and pulled open the door. His
guest turned on him a face pale as parchment in which
two distraught eyes burned like great red letters. He
had drawn a chair close to Wessel's prie-dieu which he
was using as a desk; and on it was an amazing stack of
TARQUIN OF CHEAPSIDE 233
closely written pages. With a long sigh Wessel with-
drew and returned to his siren, calling himself fool for
not claiming his bed here at dawn.
The clump of boots outside, the croaking of old bel-
dames from attic to attic, the dull murmur of morning,
unnerved him, and, dozing, he slumped in his chair, his
brain, overladen with sound and color, working intoler-
ably over the imagery that stacked it. In this restless
dream of his he was one of a thousand groaning bodies
crushed near the sun, a helpless bridge for the strong-
eyed Apollo. The dream tore at him, scraped along
his mind like a ragged knife. When a hot hand touched
his shoulder, he awoke with what was nearly a scream
to find the fog thick in the room and his guest, a gray
ghost of misty stuff, beside him with a pile of paper in
"It should be a most intriguing tale, I believe, though
it requires some going over. May I ask you to lock it
away, and in God's name let me sleep ? "
He waited for no answer, but thrust the pile at Wessel,
and literally poured himself like stuff from a suddenly
inverted bottle upon a couch in the corner; slept, with
his breathing regular, but his brow wrinkled in a curious
and somewhat uncanny manner.
Wessel yawned sleepily and, glancing at the scrawled,
uncertain first page, he began reading aloud very softly:
The Rape of Lucrece
"From the besieged Ardea all in post,
Borne by the trustless wings of false desire,
Lust-breathing Tarquin leaves the Roman host "
" O RUSSET WITCH ! "
MERLIN GRAINGER was employed by the Moonlight
Quill Bookshop, which you may have visited, just
around the corner from the Ritz-Carlton on Forty-
seventh Street. The Moonlight Quill is, or rather was,
a very romantic little store, considered radical and ad-
mitted dark. It was spotted interiorly with red and
orange posters of breathless exotic intent, and lit no less
by the shiny reflecting bindings of special editions than
by the great squat lamp of crimson satin that, lighted
through all the day, swung overhead. It was truly a
mellow bookshop. The words "Moonlight Quill" were
worked over the door in a sort of serpentine embroidery.
The windows seemed always full of something that had
passed the literary censors with little to spare; volumes
with covers of deep orange which offer their titles on
little white paper squares. And over all there was the
smell of the musk, which the clever, inscrutable Mr.
Moonlight Quill ordered to be sprinkled about the smell
half of a curiosity shop in Dickens' London and half of
a coffee-house on the warm shores of the Bosphorus.
From nine until five-thirty Merlin Grainger asked
bored old ladies in black and young men with dark cir-
cles under their eyes if they "cared for this fellow" or
were interested in first editions. Did they buy novels
with Arabs on the cover, or books which gave Shake-
speare's newest sonnets as dictated psychically to Miss
Sutton of South Dakota? he sniffed. As a matter of
fact, his own taste ran to these latter, but as an employee
at the Moonlight Quill he assumed for the working day
the attitude of a disillusioned connoisseur.
After he had crawled over the window display to pull
"0 RUSSET WITCH!" 235
down the front shade at five-thirty every afternoon, and
said good-bye to the mysterious Mr. Moonlight Quill
and the lady clerk, Miss McCracken, and the lady
stenographer, Miss Masters, he went home to the girl,
Caroline. He did not eat supper with Caroline. It
is unbelievable that Caroline would have considered
eating off his bureau with the collar buttons dangerously
near the cottage cheese, and the ends of Merlin's necktie
just missing his glass of milk he had never asked her
to eat with him. He ate alone. He went into Braeg-
dort's delicatessen on Sixth Avenue and bought a box
of crackers, a tube of anchovy paste, and some oranges,
or else a little jar of sausages and some potato salad and
a bottled soft drink, and with these in a brown package
he went to his room at Fifty-something West Fifty-
eighth Street and ate his supper and saw Caroline.
Caroline was a very young and gay person who lived
with some older lady and was possibly nineteen. She
was like a ghost in that she never existed until evening.
She sprang into life when the lights went on in her apart-
ment at about six, and she disappeared, at the latest,
about midnight. Her apartment was a nice one, in a
nice building with a white stone front, opposite the south
side of Central Park. The back of her apartment faced
the single window of the single room occupied by the
single Mr. Grainger.
He called her Caroline because there was a picture
that looked like her on the jacket of a book of that name
down at the Moonlight Quill.
Now, Merlin Grainger was a thin young man of
twenty-five, with dark hair and no mustache or beard
or anything like that, but Caroline was dazzling and
light, with a shimmering morass of russet waves to take
the place of hair, and the sort of features that remind you
of kisses the sort of features you thought belonged to
236 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
your first love, but know, when you come across an old
picture, didn't. She dressed in pink or blue usually,
but of late she had sometimes put on a slender black
gown that was evidently her especial pride, for whenever
she wore it she would stand regarding a certain place
on the wall, which Merlin thought must be a mirror.
She sat usually in the profile chair near the window, but
sometimes honored the chaise longue by the lamp, and
often she leaned 'way back and smoked a cigarette with
posturings of her arms and hands that Merlin considered
At another time she had come to the window and stood
in it magnificently, and looked out because the moon had
lost its way and was dripping the strangest and most
transforming brilliance into the areaway between, turn-
ing the motif of ash-cans and clothes-lines into a vivid
impressionism of silver casks and gigantic gossamer
cobwebs. Merlin was sitting in plain sight, eating cot-
tage cheese with sugar and milk on it; and so quickly
did he reach out for the window cord that he tipped the
cottage cheese into his lap with his free hand and the
milk was cold and the sugar made spots on his trousers,
and he was sure that she had seen him after all.
Sometimes there were callers men in dinner coats,
who stood and bowed, hat in hand and coat on arm, as
they talked to Caroline; then bowed some more and
followed her out of the light, obviously bound for a play
or for a dance. Other young men came and sat and
smoked cigarettes, and seemed trying to tell Caroline
something she sitting either in the profile chair and
watching them with eager intentness or else in the
chaise longue by the lamp, looking very lovely and youth-
fully inscrutable indeed.
Merlin enjoyed these calls. Of some of the men he
approved. Others won only his grudging toleration,
"0 RUSSET WITCH!" 237
one or two he loathed especially the most frequent
caller, a man with black hair and a black goatee and a
pitch-dark soul, who seemed to Merlin vaguely familiar,
but whom he was never quite able to recognize.
Now, Merlin's whole life was not " bound up with this
romance he had constructed"; it was not "the happiest
hour of his day." He never arrived in time to rescue
Caroline from "clutches"; nor did he even marry her.
A much stranger thing happened than any of these, and
it is this strange thing that will presently be set down
here. It began one October afternoon when she walked
briskly into the mellow interior of the Moonlight Quill.
It was a dark afternoon, threatening rain and the end
of the world, and done in that particularly gloomy gray
in which only New York afternoons indulge. A breeze
was crying down the streets, whisking along battered
newspapers and pieces of things, and little lights were
pricking out all the windows it was so desolate that
one was sorry for the tops of sky-scrapers lost up there in
the dark green and gray heaven, and felt that now surely
the farce was to close, and presently all the buildings
would collapse like card houses, and pile up in a dusty,
sardonic heap upon all the millions who presumed to
wind in and out of them.
At least these were the sort of musings that lay heavily
upon the soul of Merlin Grainger, as he stood by the win-
dow putting a dozen books back in a row, after a cyclonic
visit by a lady with ermine trimmings. He looked out
of the window full of the most distressing thoughts of
the early novels of H. G. Wells, of the book of Genesis,
of how Thomas Edison had said that in thirty years
there would be no dwelling-houses upon the island, but
only a vast and turbulent bazaar; and then he set the
last book right side up, turned and Caroline walked
coolly into the shop.
238 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
She was dressed in a jaunty but conventional walking
costume he remembered this when he thought about
it later. Her skirt was plaid, pleated like a concertina;
her jacket was a soft but brisk tan; her shoes and spats
were brown and her hat, small and trim, completed her
like the top of a very expensive and beautifully filled
Merlin, breathless and startled, advanced nervously
"Good-afternoon" he said, and then stopped why,
he did not know, except that it came to him that some-
thing very portentous in his life was about to occur,
and that it would need no furbishing but silence, and the
proper amount of expectant attention. And in that
minute before the thing began to happen he had the
sense of a breathless second hanging suspended in time:
he saw through the glass partition that bounded off the
little office the malevolent conical head of his employer,
Mr. Moonlight Quill, bent over his correspondence.
He saw Miss McCracken and Miss Masters as two
patches of hair drooping over piles of paper; he saw the
crimson lamp overhead, and noticed with a touch of
pleasure how really pleasant and romantic it made the
Then the thing happened, or rather it began to hap-
pen. Caroline picked up a volume of poems lying loose
upon a pile, fingered it absently with her slender white
hand, and suddenly, with an easy gesture, tossed it up-
ward toward the ceiling, where it disappeared in the
crimson lamp and lodged there, seen through the il-
luminated silk as a dark, bulging rectangle. This
pleased her she broke into young, contagious laughter,
in which Merlin found himself presently joining.
"It stayed up!" she cried merrily. "It stayed up,
didn't it?" To both of them this seemed the height of
"O RUSSET WITCH!" 239
brilliant absurdity. Their laughter mingled, filled the
bookshop, and Merlin was glad to find that her voice
was rich and full of sorcery.
"Try another," he found himself suggesting "try a
At this her laughter increased, and she had to rest her
hands upon the stack to steady herself.
"Try another," she managed to articulate between
spasms of mirth. "Oh, golly, try another!"
"Yes, try two. Oh, I'll choke if I don't stop laugh-
ing. Here it goes."
Suiting her action to the word, she picked up a red
book and sent it in a gentle hyperbola toward the
ceiling, where it sank into the lamp beside the first. It
was a few minutes before either of them could do more
than rock back and forth in helpless glee; but then by
mutual agreement they took up the sport anew, this
time in unison. Merlin seized a large, specially bound
French classic and whirled it upward. Applauding his
own accuracy, he took a best-seller in one hand and a
book on barnacles in the other, and waited breathlessly
while she made her shot. Then the business waxed fast
and furious sometimes they alternated, and, watching,
he found how supple she was in every movement;
sometimes one of them made shot after shot, picking up
the nearest book, sending it off, merely taking time to
follow it with a glance before reaching for another.
Within three minutes they had cleared a little place on
the table, and the lamp of crimson satin was so bulging
with books that it was near breaking.
"Silly game, basket-ball," she cried scornfully as a
book left her hand. ' ' High-school girls play it in hideous
"Idiotic," he agreed.
240 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
She paused in the act of tossing a book, and replaced
it suddenly in its position on the table.
"I think we've got room to sit down now," she said
They had; they had cleared an ample space for two.
With a faint touch of nervousness Merlin glanced toward
Mr. Moonlight Quill's glass partition, but the three
heads were still bent earnestly over their work, and it
was evident that they had not seen what had gone on
in the shop. So when Caroline put her hands on the
table and hoisted herself up Merlin calmly imitated
her, and they sat side by side looking very earnestly at
"I had to see you," she began, with a rather pathetic
expression in her brown eyes.
"It was that last time," she continued, her voice
trembling a little, though she tried to keep it steady.
"I was frightened. I don't like you to eat off the dresser.
I'm so afraid you'll you'll swallow a collar button."
"I did once almost," he confessed reluctantly, "but
it's not so easy, you know. I mean you can swallow
the flat part easy enough or else the other part that
is, separately but for a whole collar button you'd
have to have a specially made throat." He was aston-
ishing himself by the debonnaire appropriateness of his
remarks. Words seemed for the first time in his life
to run at him shrieking to be used, gathering themselves
into carefully arranged squads and platoons, and being
presented to him by punctilious adjutants of para-
"That's what scared me," she said. "I knew you
had to have a specially made throat and I knew, at
least I felt sure, that you didn't have one."
He nodded frankly.
"O RUSSET WITCH!" 241
"I haven't. It costs money to have one more
money unfortunately than I possess."
He felt no shame in saying this rather a delight in
making the admission he knew that nothing he could
say or do would be beyond her comprehension; least
of all his poverty, and the practical impossibility of ever
extricating himself from it.
Caroline looked down at her wrist watch, and with a
little cry slid from the table to her feet.
" It's after five," she cried. " I didn't realize. I have
to be at the Ritz at five-thirty. Let's hurry and get
this done. I've got a bet on it."
With one accord they set to work. Caroline began
the matter by seizing a book on insects and sending it
whizzing, and finally crashing through the glass parti-
tion that housed Mr. Moonlight Quill. The proprietor
glanced up with a wild look, brushed a few pieces of
glass from his desk, and went on with his letters. Miss
McCracken gave no sign of having heard only Miss
Masters started and gave a little frightened scream be-
fore she bent to her task again.
But to Merlin and Caroline it didn't matter. In a
perfect orgy of energy they were hurling book after book
in all directions, until sometimes three or four were in
the air at once, smashing against shelves, cracking the
glass of pictures on the walls, falling in bruised and torn
heaps upon the floor. It was fortunate that no custom-
ers happened to come in, for it is certain they would never
have come in again the noise was too tremendous, a
noise of smashing and ripping and tearing, mixed now
and then with the tinkling of glass, the quick breathing
of the two throwers, and the intermittent outbursts of
laughter to which both of them periodically surrendered.
At five- thirty Caroline tossed a last book at the lamp,
and so gave the final impetus to the load it carried. The
242 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
weakened silk tore and dropped its cargo in one vast
splattering of white and color to the already littered
floor. Then with a sigh of relief she turned to Merlin
and held out her hand.
"Good-by," she said simply.
"Are you going?" He knew she was. His question
was simply a lingering wile to detain her and extract
for another moment that dazzling essence of light he
drew from her presence, to continue his enormous satis-
faction in her features, which- were like kisses and, he
thought, like the features of a girl he had known back in
1910. For a minute he pressed the softness of her hand
then she smiled and withdrew it and, before he could
spring to open the door, she had done it herself and was
gone out into the turbid and ominous twilight that
brooded narrowly over Forty-seventh Street.
I would like to tell you how Merlin, having seen how
beauty regards the wisdom of the years, walked into the
little partition of Mr. Moonlight Quill and gave up his
job then and there; thence issuing out into the street a
much finer and nobler and increasingly ironic man. But
the truth is much more commonplace. Merlin Grainger
stood up and surveyed the wreck of the bookshop, the
ruined volumes, the torn silk remnants of the once beau-
tiful crimson lamp, the crystalline sprinkling of broken
glass which lay in iridescent dust over the whole interior
and then he went to a corner where a broom was kept
and began cleaning up and rearranging and, as far as he
was able, restoring the shop to its former condition. He
found that, though some few of the books were unin-
jured, most of them had suffered in varying extents.
The backs were off some, the pages were torn from others,
still others were just slightly cracked in the front, which,
as all careless book returners know, makes a book un-
salable, and therefore second-hand.
"O RUSSET WITCH!" 243
Nevertheless by six o'clock he had done much to re-
pair the damage. He had returned the books to their
original places, swept the floor, and put new lights in
the sockets overhead. The red shade itself was ruined
beyond redemption, and Merlin thought in some trepi-
dation that the money to replace it might have to come
out of his salary. At six, therefore, having done the
best he could, he crawled over the front window display
to pull down the blind. As he was treading delicately
back, he saw Mr. Moonlight Quill rise from his desk,
put on his overcoat and hat, and emerge into the shop.
He nodded mysteriously at Merlin and went toward the
door. With his hand on the knob he paused, turned
around, and in a voice curiously compounded of ferocity
and uncertainty, he said :
"If that girl comes in here again, you tell her to be-
With that he opened the door, drowning Merlin's
meek "Yessir" in its creak, and went out.
Merlin stood there for a moment, deciding wisely
not to worry about what was for the present only a
possible futurity, and then he went into the back of the
shop and invited Miss Masters to have supper with him
at Pulpat's French Restaurant, where one could still
obtain red wine at dinner, despite the Great Federal
Government. Miss Masters accepted.
"Wine makes me feel all tingly," she said.
Merlin laughed inwardly as he compared her to Caro-
line, or rather as he didn't compare her. There was no
Mr. Moonlight Quill, mysterious, exotic, and oriental
in temperament was, nevertheless, a man of decision.
And it was with decision that he approached the problem
244 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
of his wrecked shop. Unless he should make an outlay
equal to the original cost of his entire stock a step
which for certain private reasons he did not wish to take
it would be impossible for him to continue in business
with the Moonlight Quill as before. There was but one
thing to do. He promptly turned his establishment
from an up-to-the-minute book-store into a second-hand
bookshop. The damaged books were marked down from
twenty-five to fifty per cent, the name over the door
whose serpentine embroidery had once shone so inso-
lently bright, was allowed to grow dim and take on the
indescribably vague color of old paint, and, having a
strong penchant for ceremonial, the proprietor even
went so far as to buy two skull-caps of shoddy red felt,
one for himself and one for his clerk, Merlin Grainger.
Moreover, he let his goatee grow until it resembled the
tail-feathers of an ancient sparrow and substituted for
a once dapper business suit a reverence-inspiring affair
of shiny alpaca.
In fact, within a year after Caroline's catastrophic
visit to the bookshop the only thing in it that preserved
any semblance of being up to date was Miss Masters.
Miss McCracken had followed in the footsteps of Mr.
Moonlight Quill and become an intolerable dowd.
For Merlin too, from a feeling compounded of loyalty
and listlessness, had let his exterior take on the semblance
of a deserted garden. He accepted the red felt skull-
cap as a symbol of his decay. Always a young man
known as a "pusher," he had been, since the day of his
graduation from the manual training department of a
New York High School, an inveterate brusher of clothes,
hair, teeth, and even eyebrows, and had learned the
value of laying all his clean socks toe upon toe and heel
upon heel in a certain drawer of his bureau, which would
be known as the sock drawer.
"0 RUSSET WITCH!" 245
These things, he felt, had won him his place in the
greatest splendor of the Moonlight Quill. It was due to
them that he was not still making " chests useful for
keeping things," as he was taught with breathless prac-
ticality in High School, and selling them to whoever
had use of such chests possibly undertakers. Never-
theless when the progressive Moonlight Quill became
the retrogressive Moonlight Quill he preferred to sink
with it, and so took to letting his suits gather undis-
turbed the wispy burdens of the air and to throwing his
socks indiscriminately into the shirt drawer, the under-
wear drawer, and even into no drawer at all. It was not
uncommon in his new carelessness to let many of his
clean clothes go directly back to the laundry without
having ever been worn, a common eccentricity of im-
poverished bachelors. And this in the face of his favorite
magazines, which at that time were fairly staggering
with articles by successful authors against the fright-
ful impudence of the condemned poor, such as the buy-
ing of wearable shirts and nice cuts of meat, and the
fact that they preferred good investments in personal
jewelry to respectable ones in four per cent saving-
It was indeed a strange state of affairs and a sorry
one for many worthy and God-fearing men. For the
first time in the history of the Republic almost any negro
north of Georgia could change a one-dollar bill. But
as at that time the cent was rapidly approaching the
purchasing power of the Chinese ubu and was only a
thing you got back occasionally after paying for a soft
drink, and could use merely in getting your correct
weight, this was perhaps not so strange a phenomenon
as it at first seems. It was too curious a state of things,
however, for Merlin Grainger to take the step that he
did take the hazardous, almost involuntary step of
246 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
proposing to Miss Masters. Stranger still that she
It was at Pulpat's on Saturday night and over a $1.75
bottle of water diluted with mn ordinaire that the pro-
"Wine makes me feel all tingly, doesn't it you?"
chattered Miss Masters gaily.
"Yes," answered Merlin absently; and then, after a
long and pregnant pause: "Miss Masters Olive I
want to say something to you if you'll listen to me."
The tingliness of Miss Masters (who knew what was
coming) increased until it seemed that she would shortly
be electrocuted by her own nervous reactions. But her
"Yes, Merlin," came without a sign or flicker of interior
disturbance. Merlin swallowed a stray bit of air that
he found in his mouth.
"I have no fortune," he said with the manner of
making an announcement. "I have no fortune at all."
Their eyes met, locked, became wistful, and dreamy
"Olive," he told her, "I love you."
"I love you too, Merlin," she answered simply.
"Shall we have another bottle of wine?"
"Yes," he cried, his heart beating at a great rate.
"Do you mean "
"To drink to our engagement," she interrupted
bravely. " May it be a short one !"
"No!" he almost shouted, bringing his fist fiercely
down upon the table. "May it last forever!"
"I mean oh, I see what you mean. You're right.
May it be a short one." He laughed and added,^"My
After the wine arrived they discussed the matter
"O RUSSET WITCH!" 247
"We'll have to take a small apartment at first," he
said, "and I believe, yes, by golly, I know there's a
small one in the house where I live, a big room and a
sort of a dressing-room-kitchenette and the use of a
bath on the same floor."
She clapped her hands happily, and he thought how
pretty she was really, that is^the upper part of her face
from the bridge of the nose down she was somewhat out
of true. She continued enthusiastically:
"And as soon as we can afford it we'll take a real swell
apartment, with an elevator and a telephone girl."
"And after that a place in the country and a car."
"I can't imagine nothing more fun. Can you ?"
Merlin fell silent a moment. He was thinking that
he would have to give up his room, the fourth floor rear.
Yet it mattered very little now. During the past year and
a half in fact, from the very date of Caroline's visit to
the Moonlight Quill he had never seen her. For a week
after that visit her lights had failed to go on darkness
brooded out into the areaway, seemed to grope blindly
in at his expectant, uncurtained window. Then the
lights had appeared at last, and instead of Caroline and
her callers they showed a stodgy family a little man
with a bristly mustache and a full-bosomed woman
who spent her evenings patting her hips and rearrang-
ing bric-a-brac. After two days of them Merlin had
callously pulled down his shade.
No, Merlin could think of nothing more fun than rising
in the world with Olive. There would be a cottage in
a suburb, a cottage painted blue, just one class below
the sort of cottages that are of white stucco with a
green roof. In the grass around the cottage would be
rusty trowels and a broken green bench and a baby-
carriage with a wicker body that sagged to the left.
And around the grass and the baby-carriage and the
248 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
cottage itself, around his whole world there would be
the arms of Olive, a little stouter, the arms of her neo-
Olivian period, when, as she walked, her cheeks would
tremble up and down ever so slightly from too much
face-massaging. He could hear her voice now, two
spoons' length away:
"I knew you were going to say this to-night, Merlin.
I could see "
She could see. Ah suddenly he wondered how much
she could see. Could she see that the girl who had come
in with a party of three men and sat down at the next
table was Caroline? Ah, could she see that? Could
she see that the men brought with them liquor far more
potent than Pulpat's red ink condensed threefold . . . ?
Merlin stared breathlessly, half-hearing through an
auditory ether Olive's low, soft monologue, as like a per-
sistent honey-bee she sucked sweetness from her mem-
orable hour. Merlin was listening to the clinking of
ice and the fine laughter of all four at some pleasantry
and that laughter of Caroline's that he knew so well
stirred him, lifted him, called his heart imperiously
over to her table, whither it obediently went. He could
see her quite plainly, and he fancied that in the last year
and a half she had changed, if ever so slightly. Was
it the light or were her cheeks a little thinner and her
eyes less fresh, if more liquid, than of old? Yet the
shadows were still purple in her russet hair; her mouth
hinted yet of kisses, as did the profile that came some-
times between his eyes and a row of books, when it was
twilight in the bookshop where the crimson lamp pre-
sided no more.
And she had been drinking. The threefold flush in
her cheeks was compounded of youth and wine and fine
cosmetic that he could tell. She was making great
amusement for the young man on her left and the portly
"0 RUSSET WITCH!" 249
person on her right, and even for the old fellow opposite
her, for the latter from time to time uttered the shocked
and mildly reproachful cackles of another generation.
Merlin caught the words of a song she was intermittently
"Just snap your fingers at care,
Don't cross the bridge 'til you're there "
The portly person filled her glass with chill amber.
A waiter after several trips about the table, and many
helpless glances at Caroline, who was maintaining a
cheerful, futile questionnaire as to the succulence of this
dish or that, managed to obtain the semblance of an
order and hurried away. . . .
Olive was speaking to Merlin
"When, then?" she asked, her voice faintly shaded
with disappointment. He realized that he had just
answered no to some question she had asked him.
"Don't you care?"
A rather pathetic poignancy in her question brought
his eyes back to her.
"As soon as possible, dear," he replied with sur-
prising tenderness. "In two months in June."
" So soon ? " Her delightful excitement quite took her
"Oh, yes, I think we'd better say June. No use
Olive began to pretend that two months was reaDy
too short a time for her to make preparations. Wasn't
he a bad boy! Wasn't he impatient, though! Well,
she'd show him he mustn't be too quick with her. In-
deed he was so sudden she didn't exactly know whether
she ought to marry him at all.
250" TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"June," he repeated sternly.
Olive sighed and smiled and drank her coffee, her
little finger lifted high above the others in true refined
fashion. A stray thought came to Merlin that he would
like to buy five rings and throw at it.
"By gosh!" he exclaimed aloud. Soon he would be
putting rings on one of her fingers.
His eyes swung sharply to the right. The party of
four had become so riotous that the head-waiter had
approached and spoken to them. Caroline was arguing
with this head-waiter in a raised voice, a voice so clear
and young that it seemed as though the whole restaurant
would listen the whole restaurant except Olive Masters,
self-absorbed in her new secret.
"How do you do ? " Caroline was saying. "Probably
the handsomest head-waiter in captivity. Too much
noise ? Very unfortunate. Something'll have to be
done about it. Gerald" she addressed the man on her
right "the head-waiter says there's too much noise.
Appeals to us to have it stopped. What'll I say ?"
"Sh!" remonstrated Gerald, with laughter. "Sh!"
and Merlin heard him add in an undertone: "All the
bourgeoisie will be aroused. This is where the floor-
walkers learn French."
Caroline sat up straight in sudden alertness.
"Where's a floorwalker?" she cried. "Show me a
floorwalker." This seemed to amuse the party, for they
all, including Caroline; burst into renewed laughter.
The head-waiter, after a last conscientious but despair-
ing admonition, became Gallic with his shoulders and
retired into the background.
Pulpat's, as every one knows, has the unvarying re-
spectability of the table d'h6te. It is not a gay place
in the conventional sense. One comes, drinks the red
wine, talks perhaps a little more and a little louder than
"0 RUSSET WITCH!" 251
usual under the low, smoky ceilings, and then goes home.
It closes up at nine-thirty, tight as a drum; the police-
man is paid off and given an extra bottle of wine for the
missis, the coat-room girl hands her tips to the collec-
tor, and then darkness crushes the little round tables
out of sight and life. But excitement was prepared for
Pulpat's this evening excitement of no mean variety.
A girl with russet, purple-shadowed hair mounted to
her table-top and began to dance thereon.
' ' Sacre nom de Dieu ! Come down off there ! " cried the
head- waiter. "Stop that music!"
But the musicians were already playing so loud that
they could pretend not to hear his order; having once
been young, they played louder and gayer than ever, and
Caroline danced with grace and vivacity, her pink,
filmy dress swirling about her, her agile arms playing in
supple, tenuous gestures along the smoky air.
A group of Frenchmen at a table near by broke into
cries of applause, in which other parties joined in a
moment the room was full of clapping and shouting;
half the diners were on their feet, crowding up, and on
the outskirts the hastily summoned proprietor was
giving indistinct vocal evidences of his desire to put an
end to this thing as quickly as possible.
1 . . . Merlin!" cried Olive, awake, aroused at
last; " she's such a wicked girl! Let's get out now!"
The fascinated Merlin protested feebly that the check
was not paid.
"It's all right. Lay five dollars on the table. I
despise that girl. I can't bear to look at her." She was
on her feet now, tugging at Merlin's arm.
Helplessly, listlessly, and then with what amounted
to downright unwillingness, Merlin rose, followed Olive
dumbly as she picked her way through the delirious
clamor, now approaching its height and threatening to
252 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
become a wild and memorable riot. Submissively he
took his coat and stumbled up half a dozen steps into
the moist April air outside, his ears still ringing with the
sound of light feet on the table and of laughter all about
and over the little world of the cafe. In silence they
walked along toward Fifth Avenue and a bus.
It was not until next day that she told him about the
wedding how she had moved the date forward: it was
much better that they should be married on the first of
And married they were, in a somewhat stuffy manner,
under the chandelier of the flat where Olive lived with
her mother. After marriage came elation, and then,
gradually, the growth of weariness. Responsibility de-
scended upon Merlin, the responsibility of making his
thirty dollars a week and her twenty suffice to keep
them respectably fat and to hide with decent garments
the evidence that they were.
It was decided after several weeks of disastrous and
well-nigh humiliating experiments with restaurants that
they would join the great army of the delicatessen-fed,
so he took up his old way of life again, in that he stopped
every evening at Braegdort's delicatessen and bought po-
tatoes in salad, ham in slices, and sometimes even stuffed
tomatoes in bursts of extravagance.
Then he would trudge homeward, enter the dark hall-
way, and climb three rickety flights of stairs covered
by an ancient carpet of long obliterated design. The
hall had an ancient smell of the vegetables of 1880, of
the furniture polish in vogue when "Adam-and-Eve"
Bryan ran against William McKinley, of portieres an
ounce heavier with dust, from worn-out shoes and lint
from dresses turned long since into patch-work quilts.
"O RUSSET WITCH!" 253
This smell would pursue him up the stairs, revivified
and made poignant at each landing by the aura of con-
temporary cooking, then, as he began the next flight,
diminishing into the odor of the dead routine of dead
Eventually would occur the door of his room, which
slipped open with indecent willingness and closed with
almost a sniff upon his "Hello, dear! Got a treat for
Olive, who always rode home on the bus to "get a
morsel of air," would be making the bed and hanging up
things. At his call she would come up to him and give
him a quick kiss with wide-open eyes, while he held her
upright like a ladder, his hands on her two arms, as
though she were a thing without equilibrium, and would,
once he relinquished hold, fall stiffly backward to the
floor. This is the kiss that comes in with the second
year of marriage, succeeding the bridegroom kiss (which
is rather stagey at best, say those who know about such
things, and apt to be copied from passionate movies).
Then came supper, and after that they went out for a
walk, up two blocks and through Central Park, or some-
times to a moving picture, which taught them patiently
that they were the sort of people for whom life was or-
dered, and that something very grand and brave and
beautiful would soon happen to them if they were docile
and obedient to their rightful superiors and kept away
Such was their day for three years. Then change
came into their lives: Olive had a baby, and as a result
Merlin had a new influx of material resources. In the
third week of Olive's confinement, after an hour of ner-
vous rehearsing, he went into the office of Mr. Moon-
light Quill and demanded an enormous increase in
254 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"I've been here ten years," he said; "since I was
nineteen. I've always tried to do my best in the in-
terests of the business."
Mr. Moonlight Quill said that he would think it over.
Next morning he announced, to Merlin's great delight,
that he was going to put into effect a project long pre-
meditated he was going to retire from active work in
the bookshop, confining himself to periodic visits and
leaving Merlin as manager with a salary of fifty dollars
a week and a one-tenth interest in the business. When
the old man finished, Merlin's cheeks were glowing and
his eyes full of tears. He seized his employer's hand and
shook it violently, saying over and over again:
"It's very nice of you, sir. It's very white of you.
It's very, very nice of you."
So after ten years of faithful work in the store he had
won out at last. Looking back, he saw his own progress
toward this hill of elation no longer as a sometimes
sordid and always gray decade of worry and failing en-
thusiasm and failing dreams, years when the moonlight
had grown duller in the areaway and the youth had
faded out of Olive's face, but as a glorious and trium-
phant climb over obstacles which he had determinedly
surmounted by unconquerable will-power. The opti-
mistic self-delusion that had kept him from misery was
seen now in the golden garments of stern resolution.
Half a dozen times he had taken steps to leave the Moon-
light Quill and soar upward, but through sheer faint-
heartedness he had stayed on. Strangely enough he
now thought that those were times when he had exerted
tremendous persistence and had "determined" to fight
it out where he was.
At any rate, let us not for this moment begrudge
Merlin his new and magnificent view of himself. He
had arrived. At thirty he had reached a post of im-
"0 RUSSET WITCH!" 255
portance. He left the shop that evening fairly radiant,
invested every penny in his pocket in the most tremen-
dous feast that Braegdort's delicatessen offered, and
staggered homeward with the great news and four gi-
gantic paper bags. The fact that Olive was too sick to
eat, that he made himself faintly but unmistakably ill
by a struggle with four stuffed tomatoes, and that most
of the food deteriorated rapidly in an iceless ice-box all
next day did not mar the occasion. For the first time
since the week of his marriage Merlin Grainger lived
under a sky of unclouded tranquillity.
The baby boy was christened Arthur, and life became
dignified, significant, and, at length, centered. Merlin
and Olive resigned themselves to a somewhat secondary
place in their own cosmos; but what they lost in per-
sonality they regained in a sort of primordial pride.
The country house did not come, but a month in an
Asbury Park boarding-house each summer filled the
gap; and during Merlin's two weeks' holiday this excur-
sion assumed the air of a really merry jaunt especially
when, with the baby asleep in a wide room opening tech-
nically on the sea, Merlin strolled with Olive along the
thronged board-walk puffing at his cigar and trying to
look like twenty thousand a year.
With some alarm at the slowing up of the days and
the accelerating of the years, Merlin became thirty-one,
thirty-two then almost with a rush arrived at that
age which, with all its washing and panning, can only
muster a bare handful of the precious stuff of youth: he
became thirty-five. And one day on Fifth Avenue he
It was Sunday, a radiant, flowerful Easter morning
and the avenue was a pageant of lilies and cutaways
and happy April-colored bonnets. Twelve o'clock: the
great churches were letting out their people St. Simon's,
256 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
St. Hilda's, the Church of the Epistles, opened their
doors like wide mouths until the people pouring forth
surely resembled happy laughter as they met and
strolled and chattered, or else waved white bouquets at
In front of the Church of the Epistles stood its twelve
vestrymen, carrying out the time-honored custom of
giving away Easter eggs full of face-powder to the
church-going debutantes of the year. Around them
delightedly danced the two thousand miraculously
groomed children of the very rich, correctly cute and
curled, shining like sparkling little jewels upon their
mothers' fingers. Speaks the sentimentalist for the
children of the poor ? Ah, but the children of the rich,
laundered, sweet-smelling, complexioned of the country,
and, above all, with soft, in-door voices.
Little Arthur was five, child of the middle class. Un-
distinguished, unnoticed, with a nose that forever
marred what Grecian yearnings his features might have
had, he held tightly to his mother's warm, sticky hand,
and, with Merlin on his other side, moved upon the
home-coming throng. At Fifty-third Street, where
there were two churches, the congestion was at its thick-
est, its richest. Their progress was of necessity retarded
to such an extent that even little Arthur had not the
slightest difficulty in keeping up. Then it was that
Merlin perceived an open landaulet of deepest crimson,
with handsome nickel trimmings, glide slowly up to
the curb and come to a stop. In it sat Caroline.
She was dressed in black, a tight-fitting gown trimmed
with lavender, flowered at the waist with a corsage of
orchids. Merlin started and then gazed at her fear-
fully. For the first time in the eight years since his
marriage he was encountering the girl again. But a girl
no longer. Her figure was slim as ever or perhaps
"0 RUSSET WITCH !" 257
not quite, for a certain boyish swagger, a sort of in-
solent adolescence, had gone the way of the first bloom-
ing of her cheeks. But she was beautiful; dignity was
there now, and the charming lines of a fortuitous nine-
and- twenty; and she sat in the car with such perfect
appropriateness and self-possession that it made him
breathless to watch her.
Suddenly she smiled the smile of old, bright as that
very Easter and its flowers, mellower than ever yet
somehow with not quite the radiance and infinite prom-
ise of that first smile back there in the bookshop nine
years before. It was a steelier smile, disillusioned
But it was soft enough and smile enough to make a
pair of young men in cutaway coats hurry over, to pull
their high hats off their wetted, iridescent hair; to bring
them, flustered and bowing, to the edge of her landaulet,
where her lavender gloves gently touched their gray
ones. And these two were presently joined by another,
and then two more, until there was a rapidly swelling
crowd around the landaulet. Merlin would hear a
young man beside him say to his perhaps well-favored
" If you'll just pardon me a moment, there's some one
I have to speak to. Walk right ahead. I'll catch up."
Within three minutes every inch of the landaulet,
front, back, and side, was occupied by a man a man
trying to construct a sentence clever enough to find its
way to Caroline through the stream of conversation.
Luckily for Merlin a portion of little Arthur's clothing
had chosen the opportunity to threaten a collapse, and
Olive had hurriedly rushed him over against a building
for some extemporaneous repair work, so Merlin was
able to watch, unhindered, the salon in the street.
The crowd swelled. A row formed in back of the first,
258 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
two more behind that. In the midst, an orchid rising
from a black bouquet, sat Caroline enthroned in her
obliterated car, nodding and crying salutations and
smiling with such true happiness that, of a sudden, a
new relay of gentlemen had left their wives and consorts
and were striding toward her.
The crowd, now phalanx deep, began to be augmented
by the merely curious; men of all ages who could not
possibly have known Caroline jostled over and melted
into the circle of ever-increasing diameter, until the lady
in lavender was the centre of a vast impromptu audi-
All about her were faces clean-shaven, bewhiskered,
old, young, ageless, and now, here and there, a woman.
The mass was rapidly spreading to the opposite curb,
and, as St. Anthony's around the corner let out its
box-holders, it overflowed to the sidewalk and crushed
up against the iron picket-fence of a millionaire across
the street. The motors speeding along the avenue were
compelled to stop, and in a jiffy were piled three, five,
and six deep at the edge of the crowd ; auto-busses, top-
heavy turtles of traffic, plunged into the jam, their
passengers crowding to the edges of the roofs in wild
excitement and peering down into the centre of the
mass, which presently could hardly be seen from the
The crush had become terrific. No fashionable audi-
ence at a Yale-Princeton football game, no damp mob
at a world's series, could be compared with the panoply
that talked, stared, laughed, and honked about the
lady in black and lavender. It was stupendous; it was
terrible. A quarter mile down the block a half-frantic
policeman called his precinct; on the same corner a
frightened civilian crashed in the glass of a fire-alarm
and sent in a wild paean for all the fire-engines of the
"O RUSSET WITCH!" 259
city; up in an apartment high in one of the tall buildings
a hysterical old maid telephoned in turn for the prohibi-
tion enforcement agent, the special deputies on Bolshev-
ism, and the maternity ward of Bellevue Hospital.
The noise increased. The first fire-engine arrived,
filling the Sunday air with smoke, clanging and crying
a brazen, metallic message down the high, resounding
walls. In the notion that some terrible calamity had
overtaken the city, two excited deacons ordered special
services immediately and set tolling the great bells of St.
Hilda's and St. Anthony's, presently joined by the jeal-
ous gongs of St. Simon's and the Church of the Epistles.
Even far off in the Hudson and the East River the sounds
of the commotion were heard, and the ferry-boats and
tugs and ocean liners set up sirens and whistles that
sailed in melancholy cadence, now varied, now reiterated,
across the whole diagonal width of the city from River-
side Drive to the gray water-fronts of the lower East
Side. . . .
In the centre of her landaulet sat the lady in black
and lavender, chatting pleasantly first with one, then
with another of that fortunate few in cutaways who had
found their way to speaking distance in the first rush.
After a while she glanced around her and beside her
with a look of growing annoyance.
She yawned and asked the man nearest her if he
couldn't run in somewhere and get her a glass of water.
The man apologized in some embarrassment. He could
not have moved hand or foot. He could not have
scratched his own ear. . . .
As the first blast of the river sirens keened along the
air, Olive fastened the last safety-pin in little Arthur's
rompers and looked up. Merlin saw her start, stiffen
slowly like hardening stucco, and then give a little gasp
of surprise and disapproval.
260 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"That woman," she cried suddenly. "Oh !"
She flashed a glance at Merlin that mingled reproach
and pain, and without another word gathered up little
Arthur with one hand, grasped her husband by the
other, and darted amazingly in a winding, bumping can-
ter through the crowd. Somehow people gave way be-
fore her; somehow she managed to retain her grasp on
her son and husband; somehow she managed to emerge
two blocks up, battered and dishevelled, into an open
space, and, without slowing up her pace, darted down a
side-street. Then at last, when uproar had died away
into a dim and distant clamor, did she come to a walk
and set little Arthur upon his feet.
"And on Sunday, too ! Hasn't she disgraced herself
enough?" This was her only comment. She said it
to Arthur, as she seemed to address her remarks to Arthur
throughout the remainder of the day. For some cu-
rious and esoteric reason she had never once looked at
her husband during the entire retreat
The years between thirty-five and sixty-five revolve
before the passive mind as one unexplained, confusing
merry-go-round. True, they are a merry-go-round of
ill-gaited and wind-broken horses, painted first in pastel
colors, then in dull grays and browns, but perplexing
and intolerably dizzy the thing is, as never were the
merry-go-rounds of childhood or adolescence, as never,
surely, were the certain-coursed, dynamic roller-coasters
of youth. For most men and women these thirty years
are taken up with a gradual withdrawal from life, a re-
treat first from a front with many shelters, those myriad
amusements and curiosities of youth, to a line with less,
when we peel down our ambitions to one ambition, our
"0 RUSSET WITCH!" 261
recreations to one recreation, our friends to a few to
whom we are anaesthetic; ending up at last in a soli-
tary, desolate strong point that is not strong, where the
shells now whistle abominably, now are but half-heard
as, by turns frightened and tired, we sit waiting for
At forty, then, Merlin was no different from himself
at thirty-five; a larger paunch, a gray twinkling near
his ears, a more certain lack of vivacity in his walk.
His forty-five differed from his forty by a like margin,
unless one mention a slight deafness in his left ear.
But at fifty-five the process had become a chemical
change of immense rapidity. Yearly he was more and
more an "old man" to his family senile almost, so far
as his wife was concerned. He was by this time com-
plete owner of the bookshop. The mysterious Mr.
Moonlight Quill, dead some five years and not survived
by his wife, had deeded the whole stock and store to
him, and there he still spent his days, conversant now
by name with almost all that man has recorded for three
thousand years, a human catalogue, an authority upon
tooling and binding, upon folios and first editions, an
accurate inventory of a thousand authors whom he could
never have understood and had certainly never read.
At sixty-five he distinctly doddered. He had assumed
the melancholy habits of the aged so often portrayed
by the second old man in standard Victorian comedies.
He consumed vast warehouses of time searching for mis-
laid spectacles. He "nagged" his wife and was nagged
in turn. He told the same jokes three or four times a
year at the family table, and gave his son weird, impossi-
ble directions as to his conduct in life. Mentally and
materially he was so entirely different from the Merlin
Grainger of twenty-five that it seemed incongruous that
he should bear the same name.
262 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
He worked still in the bookshop with the assistance
of a youth, whom, of course, he considered very idle,
indeed, and a new young woman, Miss Gaffney. Miss
McCracken, ancient and un venerable as himself, still
kept the accounts. Young Arthur was gone into Wall
Street to sell bonds, as all the young men seemed to be
doing in that day. This, of course, was as it should be.
Let old Merlin get what magic he could from his books
the place of young King Arthur was in the counting-
One afternoon at four when he had slipped noiselessly
up to the front of the store on his soft-soled slippers,
led by a newly formed habit, of which, to be fair, he
was rather ashamed, of spying upon the young man
clerk, he looked casually out of the front window, strain-
ing his faded eyesight to reach the street. A limousine,
large, portentous, impressive, had drawn to the curb, and
the chauffeur, after dismounting and holding some sort
of conversation with persons in the interior of the car,
turned about and advanced in a bewildered fashion
toward the entrance of the Moonlight Quill. He opened
the door, shuffled in, and, glancing uncertainly at the old
man in the skull-cap, addressed him in a thick, murky
voice, as though his words came through a fog.
"Do you do you sell additions?"
"The arithmetic books are in the back of the store."
The chauffeur took off his cap and scratched a close-
cropped, fuzzy head.
"Oh,naw. This I want's a detecatif story." He jerked
a thumb back toward the limousine. "She seen it in
the paper. Firs' addition."
Merlin's interest quickened. Here was possibly a
"Oh, editions. Yes, we've advertised some firsts,
"O RUSSET WITCH!" 263
but detective stories, I don't believe What was the
"I forget. About a crime."
"About a crime. I have well, I have "The Crimes
of the Borgias' full morocco, London 1769, beauti-
"Naw," interrupted the chauffeur, "this was one fella
did this crime. She seen you had it for sale in the
paper." He rejected several possible titles with the air
"'Silver Bones/" he announced suddenly out of a
"What ?" demanded Merlin, suspecting that the stiff-
ness of his sinews were being commented on.
"Silver Bones. That was the guy that done the
"Silver Bones. Indian, maybe."
Merlin stroked his grizzly cheeks.
"Gees, Mister," went on the prospective purchaser,
"if you wanna save me an awful bawlin' out jes' try an*
think. The old lady goes wile if everything don't run
But Merlin's musings on the subject of Silver Bones
were as futile as his obliging search through the shelves,
and five minutes later a very dejected charioteer wound
his way back to his mistress. Through the glass Merlin
could see the visible symbols of a tremendous uproar
going on in the interior of the limousine. The chauffeur
made wild, appealing gestures of his innocence, evidently,
to no avail, for when he turned around and climbed
back into the driver's seat his expression was not a little
Then the door of the limousine opened and gave forth
a pale and slender young man of about twenty, dressed
264 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
in the attenuation of fashion and carrying a wisp of a
cane. He entered the shop, walked past Merlin, and
proceeded to take out a cigarette and light it. Merlin
"Anything I can do for you, sir ?"
"Old boy," said the youth coolly, "there are seveereal
things. You can first let me smoke my ciggy in here out
of sight of that old lady in the limousine, who happens
to be my grandmother. Her knowledge as to whether
I smoke it or not before my majority happens to be a
matter of five thousand dollars to me. The second thing
is that you should look up your first edition of the
'Crime of Sylvester Bonnard' that you advertised in
last Sunday's Times. My grandmother there happens
to want to take it off your hands."
Detecatif story ! Crime of somebody ! Silver Bones !
All was explained. With a faint deprecatory chuckle,
as if to say that he would have enjoyed this had life
put him in the habit of enjoying anything, Merlin dod-
dered away to the back of his shop where his treasures
were kept, to get this latest investment which he had
picked up rather cheaply at the sale of a big collection.
When he returned with it the young man was drawing
on his cigarette and blowing out quantities of smoke
with immense satisfaction.
"My God !" he said. "She keeps me so close to her
the entire day running idiotic errands that this happens
to be my first puff in six hours. What's the world com-
ing to, I ask you, when a feeble old lady in the milk-toast
era can dictate to a man as to his personal vices? I
happen to be unwilling to be so dictated to. Let's see
Merlin passed it to him tenderly and the young man,
after opening it with a carelessness that gave a mo-
mentary jump to the book-dealer's heart, ran through
the pages with his thumb.
"O RUSSET WITCH !" 265
"No illustrations, eh?" he commented. "Well, old
boy, what's it worth? Speak up! We're willing to
give you a fair price, though why I don't know."
"One hundred dollars," said Merlin with a frown.
The young man gave a startled whistle.
"Whew! Come on. You're not dealing with some-
body from the cornbelt. I happen to be a city-bred
man and my grandmother happens to be a city-bred
woman, though I'll admit it'd take a special tax appro-
priation to keep her in repair. We'll give you twenty-
five dollars, and let me tell you that's liberal. We've
got books in our attic, up in our attic with my old play-
things, that were written before the old boy that wrote
this was born."
Merlin stiffened, expressing a rigid and meticulous
"Did your grandmother give you twenty-five dollars
to buy this with?"
"She did not. She gave me fifty, but she expects
change. I know that old lady."
"You tell her," said Merlin with dignity, "that she
has missed a very great bargain."
" Give you forty," urged the young man. " Come on
now be reasonable and don't try to hold us up
Merlin had wheeled around with the precious volume
under his arm and was about to return it to its special
drawer in his office when there was a sudden interrup-
tion. With unheard-of magnificence the front door
burst rather than swung open, and admitted into the
dark interior a regal apparition in black silk and fur
which bore rapidly down upon him. The cigarette
leaped from the fingers of the urban young man and he
gave breath to an inadvertent "Damn!" but it was
upon Merlin that the entrance seemed to have the most
remarkable and incongruous effect so strong an effect
that the greatest treasure of his shop slipped from his
2 66 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
hand and joined the cigarette on the floor. Before him
She was an old woman, an old woman remarkably
preserved, unusually handsome, unusually erect, but
still an old woman. Her hair was a soft, beautiful
white, elaborately dressed and jewelled; her face, faintly
rouged la grande dame, showed webs of wrinkles at
the edges of her eyes and two deeper lines in the form of
stanchions connected her nose with the corners of her
mouth. Her eyes were dim, ill natured, and querulous.
But it was Caroline without a doubt: Caroline's fea-
tures though in decay; Caroline's figure, if brittle and
stiff in movement; Caroline's manner, unmistakably
compounded of a delightful insolence and an enviable
self assurance; and, most of all, Caroline's voice, broken
and shaky, yet with a ring in it that still could and did
make chauffeurs want to drive laundry wagons and
cause cigarettes to fall from the fingers of urban grand-
She stood and sniffed. Her eyes found the cigarette
upon the floor.
"What's that?" she cried. The words were not a
question they were an entire litany of suspicion, accu-
sation, confirmation, and decision. She tarried over
them scarcely an instant. "Stand up !" she said to her
grandson, "stand up and blow that nicotine out of your
The young man looked at her in trepidation.
"Blow!" she commanded.
He pursed his lips feebly and blew into the air.
"Blow 1" she repeated, more peremptorily than before.
He blew again, helplessly, ridiculously.
"Do you realize," she went on briskly, "that you've
forfeited five thousand dollars in five minutes ?"
Merlin momentarily expected the young man to fall
"O RUSSET WITCH!" 267
pleading upon his knees, but such is the nobility of hu-
man nature that he remained standing even blew
again into the air, partly from nervousness, partly, no
doubt, with some vague hope of reingratiating him-
"Young ass!" cried Caroline. "Once more, just
once more and you leave college and go to work."
This threat had such an overwhelming effect upon
the young man that he took on an even paler pallor than
was natural to him. But Caroline was not through.
"Do you think I don't know what you and your
brothers, yes, and your asinine father too, think of me ?
Well, I do. You think I'm senile. You think I'm
soft. I'm not!" She struck herself with her fist as
though to prove that she was a mass of muscle and
sinew. "And I'll have more brains left when you've
got me laid out in the drawing-room some sunny day
than you and the rest of them were born with."
"But Grandmother "
"Be quiet. You, a thin little stick of a boy, who if it
weren't for my money might have risen to be a journey-
man barber out in the Bronx Let me see your hands.
Ugh ! The hands of a barber you presume to be smart
with me, who once had three counts and a bona-fide duke,
not to mention half a dozen papal titles pursue me from
the city of Rome to the city of New York." She paused,
took breath. " Stand up ! Blow ! "
The young man obediently blew. Simultaneously
the door opened and an excited gentleman of middle age
who wore a coat and hat trimmed with fur, and seemed,
moreover, to be trimmed with the same sort of fur him-
self on upper lip and chin, rushed into the store and up
"Found you at last," he cried. "Been looking for
you ail over town. Tried your house on the 'phone and
268 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
your secretary told me he thought you'd gone to a book-
shop called the Moonlight
Caroline turned to him irritably.
"Do I employ you for your reminiscences?" she
snapped. "Are you my tutor or my broker ?"
"Your broker," confessed the fur-trimmed man, taken
somewhat aback. "I beg your pardon. I came about
that phonograph stock. I can sell for a hundred and
"Then do it."
"Very well. I thought I'd better "
"Go sell it. I'm talking to my grandson."
"Very well. I "
"Good-by, Madame." The fur-trimmed man made
a slight bow and hurried in some confusion from the
"As for you," said Caroline, turning to her grandson,
"you stay just where you are and be quiet."
She turned to Merlin and included his entire length
in a not unfriendly survey. Then she smiled and he
found himself smiling too. In an instant they had both
broken into a cracked but none the less spontaneous
chuckle. She seized his arm and hurried him to the
other side of the store. There they stopped, faced each
other, and gave vent to another long fit of senile glee.
"It's the only way," she gasped in a sort of triumphant
malignity. "The only thing that keeps old folks like
me happy is the sense that they can make other people
step around. To be old and rich and have poor de-
scendants is almost as much fun as to be young and
beautiful and have ugly sisters."
"Oh, yes," chuckled Merlin. "I know. I envy you."
She nodded, blinking.
"The last time I was in here, forty years ago," she
"O RUSSET WITCH!" 269
said, "you were a young man very anxious to kick up
"I was," he confessed.
"My visit must have meant a good deal to you."
"You have all along," he exclaimed. "I thought I
used to think at first that you were a real person
human, I mean."
"Many men have thought me inhuman."
"But now," continued Merlin excitedly, "I under-
stand. Understanding is allowed to us old people
after nothing much matters. I see now that on a cer-
tain night when you danced upon a table-top you were
nothing but my romantic yearning for a beautiful and
Her old eyes were far away, her voice no more than
the echo of a forgotten dream.
"How I danced that night! I remember."
"You were making an attempt at me. Olive's arms
were closing about me and you warned me to be free and
keep my measure of youth and irresponsibility. But
it seemed like an effect gotten up at the last moment.
It came too late."
"You are very old," she said inscrutably. "I did not
"Also I have not forgotten what you did to me when
I was thirty-five. You shook me with that traffic tie-up.
It was a magnificent effort. The beauty and power you
radiated ! You became personified even to my wife, and
she feared you. For weeks I wanted to slip out of the
house at dark and forget the stuffiness of life with music
and cocktails and a girl to make me young. But then
I no longer knew how."
"And now you are so very old."
With a sort of awe she moved back and away from him.
270 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Yes, leave me!" he cried. "You are old also; the
spirit withers with the skin. Have you come here only
to tell me something I had best forget: that to be old
and poor is perhaps more wretched than to be old and
rich; to remind me that my son hurls my gray failure in
my face ? "
"Give me my book," she commanded harshly. "Be
quick, old man!"
Merlin looked at her once more and then patiently
obeyed. He picked up the book and handed it to her,
shaking his head when she offered him a bill.
"Why go through the farce of paying me? Once
you made me wreck these very premises."
"I did," she said in anger, "and I'm glad. Perhaps
there had been enough done to ruin me."
She gave him a glance, half disdain, half ill-concealed
uneasiness, and with a brisk word to her urban grandson
moved toward the door.
Then she was gone out of his shop) out of his life.
The door clicked. With a sigh he turned and walked
brokenly back toward the glass partition that enclosed
the yellowed accounts of many years as well as the mel-
lowed, wrinkled Miss McCracken.
Merlin regarded her parched, cobwebbed face with
an odd sort of pity. She, at any rate, had had less from
life than he. No rebellious, romantic spirit cropping out
unbidden had, in its memorable moments, given her life
a zest and a glory.
Then Miss McCracken looked up and spoke to him:
"Still a spunky old piece, isn't she?"
"Old Alicia Dare. Mrs. Thomas Allerdyce she is
now, of course; has been these thirty years."
"What ? I don't understand you." Merlin sat down
suddenly in his swivel chair; his eyes were wide.
"0 RUSSET WITCH!" 271
"Why, surely, Mr. Grainger, you can't tell me that
you've forgotten her, when for ten years she was the
most notorious character in New York. Why, one time
when she was the corespondent in the Throckmorton
divorce case she attracted so much attention on Fifth
Avenue that there was a traffic tie-up. Didn't you read
about it in the papers."
"I never used to read the papers." His ancient brain
"Well, you can't have forgotten the time she came in
here and ruined the business. Let me tell you I came
near asking Mr. Moonlight Quill for my salary, and
"Do you mean that that you saw her ?"
"Saw her! How could I help it with the racket
that went on. Heaven knows Mr. Moonlight Quill
didn't like it either, but of course he didn't say anything.
He was daffy about her and she could twist him around
her little finger. The second he opposed one of her whims
she'd threaten to tell his wife on him. Served him right.
The idea of that man falling for a pretty adventuress !
Of course he was never rich enough for her, even though
the shop paid well in those days."
"But when I saw her," stammered Merlin, "that is,
when I thought I saw her, she lived with her mother."
"Mother, trash!" said Miss McCracken indignantly.
"She had a woman there she called 'Aunty' who was no
more related to her than I am. Oh, she was a bad one
but clever. Right after the Throckmorton divorce
case she married Thomas AHerdyce, and made herself
secure for life."
" Who was she ? " cried Merlin. " For God's sake what
was she a witch?"
"Why, she was Alicia Dare, the dancer, of course.
In those days you couldn't pick up a paper without find-
ing her picture."
272 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Merlin sat very quiet, his brain suddenly fatigued
and stilled. He was an old man now indeed, so old that
it was impossible for him to dream of ever having been
young, so old that the glamour was gone out of the world,
passing not into the faces of children and into the per-
sistent comforts of warmth and life, but passing out of
the range of sight and feeling. He was never to smile
again or to sit in a long reverie when spring evenings
wafted the cries of children in at his window until grad-
ually they became the friends of his boyhood out there,
urging him to come and play before the last dark came
down. He was too old now even for memories.
That night he sat at supper with his wife and son, who
had used him for their blind purposes. Olive said:
' ' Don't sit there like a death's-head. Say something."
"Let him sit quiet," growled Arthur. "If you en-
courage him he'll tell us a story we've heard a hundred
Merlin went up-stairs very quietly at nine o'clock.
When he was in his room and had closed the door tight
he stood by it for a moment, his thin limbs trembling.
He knew now that he had always been a fool.
"O Russet Witch!"
But it was too late. He had angered Providence by
resisting too many temptations. There was nothing
left but heaven, where he would meet only those who,
like him, had wasted earth.
THE LEES OF HAPPINESS
IF you should look through the files of old magazines
for the first years of the present century you would find,
sandwiched in between the stories of Richard Harding
Davis and Frank Norris and others long since dead,
the work of one Jeffrey Curtain: a novel or two, and per-
haps three or four dozen short stories. You could, if
you were interested, follow them along until, say, 1908,
when they suddenly disappeared.
When you had read them all you would have been
quite sure that here were no masterpieces here were
passably amusing stories, a bit out of date now, but
doubtless the sort that would then have whiled away a
dreary half hour in a dental office. The man who did
them was of good intelligence, talented, glib, probably
young. In the samples of his work you found there
would have been nothing to stir you to more than a faint
interest in the whims of life no deep interior laughs,
no sense of futility or hint of tragedy.
After reading them you would yawn and put the num-
ber back in the files, and perhaps, if you were in some
library reading-room, you would decide that by way of
variety you would look at a newspaper of the period
and see whether the Japs had taken Port Arthur. But
if by any chance the newspaper you had chosen was the
right one and had crackled open at the theatrical page,
your eyes would have been arrested and held, and for at
least a minute you would have forgotten Port Arthur
as quickly as you forgot Chateau Thierry. For you
would, by this fortunate chance, be looking at the por-
trait of an exquisite woman.
276 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Those were the days of "Florodora" and of sextets, of
pinched-in waists and blown-out sleeves, of almost
bustles and absolute ballet skirts, but here, without
doubt, disguised as she might be by the unaccustomed
stiffness and old fashion of her costume, was a butterfly
of butterflies. Here was the gayety of the period the
soft wine of eyes, the songs that flurried hearts, the toasts
and the bouquets, the dances and the dinners. Here
was a Venus of the hansom cab, the Gibson girl in her
glorious prime. Here was . . .
. . . here was, you find by looking at the name be-
neath, one Roxanne Milbank, who had been chorus girl
and understudy in "The Daisy Chain," but who, by
reason of an excellent performance when the star was
indisposed, had gained a leading part.
You would look again and wonder. Why you had
never heard of her. Why did her name not linger in
popular songs and vaudeville jokes and cigar bands, and
the memory of that gay old uncle of yours along with
Lillian Russell and Stella Mayhew and Anna Held?
Roxanne Milbank whither had she gone ? What dark
trap-door had opened suddenly and swallowed her up ?
Her name was certainly not in last Sunday's supplement
on that list of actresses married to English noblemen.
No doubt she was dead poor beautiful young lady
and quite forgotten.
I am hoping too much. I am having you stumble on
Jeffrey Curtain's stories and Roxanne Milbank's pic-
ture. It would be incredible that you should find a
newspaper item six months later, a single item two inches
by four, which informed the public of the marriage, very
quietly, of Miss Roxanne Milbank, who had been on tour
with "The Daisy Chain," to Mr. Jeffrey Curtain, the
popular author. "Mrs. Curtain," it added dispas-
sionately, "will retire from the stage."
THE LEES OF HAPPINESS 277
It was a marriage of love. He was sufficiently spoiled
to be charming; she was ingenuous enough to be ir-
resistible. Like two floating logs they met in a head-on
rush, caught, and sped along together. Yet had Jeffrey
Curtain kept at scrivening for twoscore years he could
not have put a quirk into one of his stories weirder than
the quirk that came into his own life. Had Roxanne
Milbank played three dozen parts and filled five thou-
sand houses she could never have had a r61e with more
happiness and more despair than were in the fate pre-
pared for Roxanne Curtain.
For a year they lived in hotels, travelled to California,
to Alaska, to Florida, to Mexico, loved and quarrelled
gently, and gloried in the golden triflings of his wit with
her beauty they were young and gravely passionate;
they demanded everything and then yielded everything
again hi ecstasies of unselfishness and pride. She loved
the swift tones of his voice and his frantic, unfounded
jealousy. He loved her dark radiance, the white irises
of her eyes, the warm, lustrous enthusiasm of her smile.
"Don't you like her?" he would demand rather ex-
citedly and shyly. " Isn't she wonderful ? Did you ever
"Yes," they would answer, grinning. "She's a won-
der. You're lucky."
The year passed. They tired of hotels. They bought
an old house and twenty acres near the town of Mar-
lowe, half an hour from Chicago; bought a little car,
and moved out riotously with a pioneering hallucination
that would have confounded Balboa.
"Your room will be here!" they cried in turn.
"And my room here !"
"And the nursery here when we have children."
"And we'll build a sleeping porch oh, next year."
278 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
They moved out in April. In July Jeffrey's closest
friend, Harry Cromwell, came to spend a week they
met him at the end of the long lawn and hurried him
proudly to the house.
Harry was married also. His wife had had a baby
some six months before and was still recuperating at her
mothers in New York. Roxanne had gathered from
Jeffrey that Harry's wife was not as attractive as Harry
Jeffrey had met her once and considered her "shal-
low." But Harry had been married nearly two years
and was apparently happy, so Jeffrey guessed that she
was probably all right . . .
"I'm making biscuits," chattered Roxanne gravely.
"Can your wife make biscuits? The cook is showing
me how. I think every woman should know how to
make biscuits. It sounds so utterly disarming. A
woman who can make biscuits can surely do no
"You'll have to come out here and live," said Jeffrey.
"Get a place out in the country like us, for you and
"You don't know Kitty. She hates the country. She's
got to have her theatres and vaudevilles."
"Bring her out," repeated Jeffrey. "We'll have a
colony. There's an awfully nice crowd here already.
Bring her out ! "
They were at the porch steps now and Roxanne made
a brisk gesture toward a dilapidated structure on the
"The garage," she announced. "It will also be Jef-
frey's writing-room within the month. Meanwhile din-
ner is at seven. Meanwhile to that I will mix a cocktail."
The two men ascended to the second floor that is,
they ascended half-way, for at the first landing Jeffrey
dropped his guest's suitcase and in a cross between a
query and a cry exclaimed:
THE LEES OF HAPPINESS 279
"For God's sake, Harry, how do you like her?"
"We will go up-stairs," answered his guest, ''and we
will shut the door."
Half an hour later as they were sitting together in the
library Roxanne reissued from the kitchen, bearing be-
fore her a pan of biscuits. Jeffrey and Harry rose.
"They're beautiful, dear," said the husband, intensely.
"Exquisite," murmured Harry.
"Taste one. I couldn't bear to touch them before
you'd seen them all and I can't bear to take them back
until I find what they taste like."
"Like manna, darling."
Simultaneously the two men raised the biscuits to
their lips, nibbled tentatively. Simultaneously they
tried to change the subject. But Roxanne, undeceived,
set down the pan and seized a biscuit. After a second
her comment rang out with lugubrious finality:
"Why, I didn't notice
"Oh, I'm useless," she cried laughing. " Turn me out,
Jeffrey I'm a parasite; I'm no good "
Jeffrey put his arm around her.
"Darling, I'll eat your biscuits."
"They're beautiful, anyway," insisted Roxanne.
"They're they're decorative," suggested Harry.
Jeffrey took him up wildly.
"That's the word. They're decorative; they're mas-
terpieces. We'll use them."
He rushed to the kitchen and returned with a hammer
and a handful of nails.
"We'll use them, by golly, Roxanne! We'll make a
frieze out of them."
2 8o TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Don't!" wailed Roxanne. "Our beautiful house." i
"Never mind. We're going to have the library re-
papered in October. Don't you remember ?"
Bang! The first biscuit was impaled to the wall,
where it quivered for a moment like a live thing.
Bang! . . .
When Roxanne returned with a second round of cock-
tails the biscuits were in a perpendicular row, twelve of
them, like a collection of primitive spear-heads.
"Roxanne," exclaimed Jeffrey, "you're an artist!
Cook? nonsense! You shall illustrate my books!"
During dinner the twilight faltered into dusk, and later
it was a starry dark outside, filled and permeated with
the frail gorgeousness of Roxanne's white dress and her
tremulous, low laugh.
Such a little girl she is, thought Harry. Not as old
He compared the two. Kitty nervous without be-
ing sensitive, temperamental without temperament,
a woman who seemed to flit and never light and Rox-
anne, who was as young as spring night, and summed up
in her own adolescent laughter.
A good match for Jeffrey, he thought again. Two
very young people, the sort who'll stay very young until
they suddenly find themselves old.
Harry thought these things between his constant
thoughts about Kitty. He was depressed about Kitty.
It seemed to him that she was well enough to come back
to Chicago and bring his little son. He was thinking
vaguely of Kitty when he said good-night to his friend's
wife and his friend at the foot of the stairs.
"You're our first real house guest," called Roxanne
after him. "Aren't you thrilled and proud ?"
When he was out of sight around the stair corner she
THE LEES OF HAPPINESS 281
turned to Jeffrey, who was standing beside her resting
his hand on the end of the banister.
"Are you tired, my dearest ?"
Jeffrey rubbed the centre of his forehead with his fingers.
"A little. How did you know ?"
"Oh, how could I help knowing about you ?"
"It's a headache," he said moodily. "Splitting. I'll
take some aspirin."
She reached over and snapped out the light, and with
his arm tight about her waist they walked up the stairs
Harry's week passed. They drove about the dream-
ing lanes or idled in cheerful inanity upon lake or lawn.
In the evening Roxanne, sitting inside, played to them
while the ashes whitened on the glowing ends of their
cigars. Then came a telegram from Kitty saying that
she wanted Harry to come East and get her, so Rox-
anne and Jeffrey were left alone in that privacy of which
they never seemed to tire.
"Alone" thrilled them again. They wandered about
the house, each feeling intimately the presence of the
other; they sat on the same side of the table like honey-
mooners; they were intensely absorbed, intensely happy.
The town of Marlowe, though a comparatively old
settlement, had only recently acquired a "society."
Five or six years before, alarmed at the smoky swelling
of Chicago, two or three young married couples, "bun-
galow people, "had moved out; their friends had followed.
The Jeffrey Curtains found an already formed "set" pre-
pared to welcome them; a country club, ballroom, and
golf links yawned for them, and there were bridge parties,
and poker parties, and parties where they drank beer,
and parties where they drank nothing at all.
282 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
It was at a poker party that they found themselves a
week after Harry's departure. There were two tables,
and a good proportion of the young wives were smoking
and shouting their bets, and being very daringly mannish
for those days.
Roxanne had left the game early and taken to per-
ambulation; she wandered into the pantry and found
herself some grape juice beer gave her a headache
and then passed from table to table, looking over shoul-
ders at the hands, keeping an eye on Jeffrey and being
pleasantly unexcited and content. Jeffrey, with intense
concentration, was raising a pile of chips of all colors,
and Roxanne knew by the deepened wrinkle between his
eyes that he was interested. She liked to see him in-
terested in small things.
She crossed over quietly and sat down on the arm of
She sat there five minutes, listening to the sharp inter-
mittent comments of the men and the chatter of the
women, which rose from the table like soft smoke and
yet scarcely hearing either. Then quite innocently she
reached out her hand, intending to place it on Jeffrey's
shoulder as it touched him he started of a sudden,
gave a short grunt, and, sweeping back his arm furious-
ly,, caught her a glancing blow on her elbow.
There was a general gasp. Roxanne regained her
balance, gave a little cry, and rose quickly to her feet.
It had been the greatest shock of her life. This, from
Jeffrey, the heart of kindness, of consideration this
instinctively brutal gesture.
The gasp became a silence. A dozen eyes were turned
on Jeffrey, who Jooked up as though seeing Roxanne for
the first time. An expression of bewilderment settled
on his face.
"Why Roxanne " he said haltingly.
THE LEES OF HAPPINESS 283
Into a dozen minds entered a quick suspicion, a rumor
of scandal. Could it be that behind the scenes with
this couple, apparently so in love, lurked some curious
antipathy? Why else this, streak of fire across such a
cloudless heaven ?
" Jeffrey!" Roxanne's voice was pleading startled
and horrified, she yet knew that it was a mistake. Not
once did it occur to her to blame him or to resent it.
Her word was a trembling supplication "Tell me,
Jeffrey," it said, "tell Roxanne, your own Roxanne."
"Why, Roxanne " began Jeffrey again. The be-
wildered look changed to pain. He was clearly as
startled as she. "I didn't intend that," he went on;
"you startled me. You I felt as if some one were at-
tacking me. I how why, how idiotic ! "
"Jeffrey!" Again the word was a prayer, incense
offered up to a high God through this new and unfathom-
They were both on their feet, they were saying good-
by, faltering, apologizing, explaining. There was no
attempt to pass it off easily. That way lay sacrilege.
Jeffrey had not been feeling well, they said. He had
become nervous. Back of both their minds was the
unexplained horror of that blow the marvel that there
had been for an instant something between them his
anger and her fear and now to both a sorrow, mo-
mentary, no doubt, but to be bridged at once, at once,
while there was yet time. Was that swift water lashing
under their feet the fierce glint of some uncharted
Out in their car under the harvest moon he talked
brokenly. It was just incomprehensible to him, he
said. He had been thinking of the poker game ab-
sorbed and the touch on his shoulder had seemed like
an attack. An attack! He clung to that word, flung
284 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
it up as a shield. He had hated what touched him.
With the impact of his hand it had gone, that nervous-
ness. That was all he knew.
Both their eyes filled with tears and they whispered
love there under the broad night as the serene streets of
Marlowe sped by. Later, when they went to bed, they
were quite calm. Jeffrey was to take a week off all
work was simply to loll, and sleep, and go on long
walks until this nervousness left him. When they had
decided this safety settled down upon Roxanne. The
pillows underhead became soft and friendly; the bed on
which they lay seemed wide, and white, and sturdy be-
neath the radiance that streamed in at the window.
Five days later, in the first cool of late afternoon,
Jeffrey picked up an oak chair and sent it crashing
through his own front window. Then he lay down on
the couch like a child, weeping piteously and begging
to die. A blood clot the size of a marble had broken
in his brain.
There is a sort of waking nightmare that sets in some-
times when one has missed a sleep or two, a feeling that
comes with extreme fatigue and a new sun, that the
quality of the life around has changed. It is a fully
articulate conviction that somehow the existence one
is then leading is a branch shoot of life and is related
to life only as a moving picture or a mirror that the
people, and streets, and houses are only projections
from a very dim and chaotic past. It was in such a
state that Roxanne found herself during the first months
of Jeffrey's illness. She slept only when she was ut-
terly exhausted; she awoke under a cloud. The long,
sober-voiced consultations, the faint aura of medicine
THE LEES OF HAPPINESS 285
in the halls, the sudden tiptoeing in a house that had
echoed to many cheerful footsteps, and, most of all,
Jeffrey's white face amid the pillows of the bed they
had shared these things subdued her and made her in-
delibly older. The doctors held out hope, but that was
all. A long rest, they said, and quiet. So responsibil-
ity came to Roxanne. It was she who paid the bills,
pored over his bank-book, corresponded with his pub-
lishers. She was in the kitchen constantly. She learned
from the nurse how to prepare his meals and after the
first month took complete charge of the sick-room.
She had had to let the nurse go for reasons of economy.
One of the two colored girls left at the same time.
Roxanne was realizing that they had been living from
short story to short story.
The most frequent visitor was Harry Cromwell. He
had been shocked and depressed by the news, and though
his wife was now living with him in Chicago he found
time to come out several times a month. Roxanne found
his sympathy welcome there was some quality of suf-
fering in the man, some inherent pitifulness that made
her comfortable when he was near. Roxanne's nature
had suddenly deepened. She felt sometimes that with
Jeffrey she was losing her children also, those children
that now most of all she needed and should have had.
It was six months after Jeffrey's collapse and when the
nightmare had faded, leaving not the old world but a
new one, grayer and colder, that she went to see Harry's
wife. Finding herself in Chicago with an extra hour
before train tune, she decided out of courtesy to call.
As she stepped inside the door she had an immediate
impression that the apartment was very like some
place she had seen before and almost instantly she
remembered a round-the-corner bakery of her child-
hood, a bakery full of rows and rows of pink frosted
286 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
cakes a stuffy pink, pink as a food, pink triumphant,
vulgar, and odious.
And this apartment was like that. It was pink. It
smelled pink !
Mrs. Cromwell, attired in a wrapper of pink and black,
opened the door. Her hair was yellow, heightened,
Roxanne imagined, by a dash of peroxide in the rinsing
water every week. Her eyes were a thin waxen blue
she was pretty and too consciously graceful. Her
cordiality was strident and intimate, hostility melted
so quickly to hospitality that it seemed they were both
merely in the face and voice never touching nor
touched by the deep core of egotism beneath.
But to Roxanne these things were secondary; her
eyes were caught and held in uncanny fascination by
the wrapper. It was vilely unclean. From its lowest
hem up four inches it was sheerly dirty with the blue
dust of the floor; for the next three inches it was gray
then it shaded off into its natural color, which was
pink. It was dirty at the sleeves, too, and at the col-
lar and when the woman turned to lead the way into
the parlor, Roxanne was sure that her neck was dirty.
A one-sided rattle of conversation began. Mrs.
Cromwell became explicit about her likes and dislikes,
her head, her stomach, her teeth, her apartment avoid-
ing with a sort of insolent meticulousness any inclusion
of Roxanne with life, as if presuming that Roxanne,
having been dealt a blow, wished life to be carefully
Roxanne smiled. That kimono! That neck I
After five minutes a little boy toddled into the par-
lor a dirty little boy clad in dirty pink rompers. His
face was smudgy Roxanne wanted to take him into
her lap and wipe his nose; other parts in the vicinity of
his head needed attention, his tiny shoes were kicked
out at the toes. Unspeakable !
THE LEES OF HAPPINESS 287
"What a darling little boy!" exclaimed Roxanne,
smiling radiantly. "Come here to me."
Mrs. Cromwell looked coldly at her son.
" He will get dirty. Look at that face ! " She held her
head on one side and regarded it critically.
"Isn't he a darling?" repeated Roxanne.
"Look at his rompers," frowned Mrs. Cromwell.
"He needs a change, don't you, George?"
George stared at her curiously. To his mind the word
rompers connotated a garment extraneously smeared,
as this one.
"I tried to make him look respectable this morning,"
complained Mrs. Cromwell as one whose patience had
been sorely tried, "and I found he didn't have any
more rompers so rather than have him go round with-
out any I put him back in those and his face "
"How many pairs has he?" Roxanne's voice was
pleasantly curious. "How many feather fans have
you ?" she might have asked.
"Oh, " Mrs. Cromwell considered, wrinkling her
pretty brow. "Five, I think. Plenty, I know."
"You can get them for fifty cents a pair."
Mrs. Cromwell's eyes showed surprise and the faint-
est superiority. The price of rompers !
" Can you really ? I had no idea. He ought to have
plenty, but I haven't had a minute all week to send the
laundry out." Then, dismissing the subject as irrele-
vant "I must show you some things "
They rose and Roxanne followed her past an open
bathroom door whose garment-littered floor showed in-
deed that the laundry hadn't been sent out for some
time, into another room that was, so to speak, the
quintessence of pinkness. This was Mrs. Cromwell's
Here the hostess opened a closet door and displayed
before Roxanne's eyes an amazing collection of lingerie.
288 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
There were dozens of filmy marvels of lace and silk, all
clean, unruffled, seemingly not yet touched. On hangers
beside them were three new evening dresses.
"I have some beautiful things," said Mrs. Cromwell,
"but not much of a chance to wear them. Harry doesn't
care about going out." Spite crept into her voice.
"He's perfectly content to let me play nursemaid and
housekeeper all day and loving wife in the evening."
Roxanne smiled again.
"You've got some beautiful clothes here."
"Yes, I have. Let me show you
"Beautiful," repeated Roxanne, interrupting, "but
I'll have to run if I'm going to catch my train."
She felt that her hands were trembling. She wanted
to put them on this woman and shake her shake her.
She wanted her locked up somewhere and set to scrub-
"Beautiful," she repeated, "and I just came in for a
"Well, I'm sorry Harry isn't here."
They moved toward the door.
" and, oh," said Roxanne with an effort yet her
voice was still gentle and her lips were smiling "I
think it's Argile's where you can get those rompers.
It was not until she had reached the station and bought
her ticket to Marlowe that Roxanne realized it was the
first five minutes in six months that her mind had been
A week later Harry appeared at Marlowe, arrived
unexpectedly at five o'clock, and coming up the walk
sank into a porch chair in a state of exhaustion. Rox-
anne herself had had a busy day and was worn out. The
THE LEES OF HAPPINESS 289
doctors were coming at five-thirty, bringing a celebrated
nerve specialist from New York. She was excited and
thoroughly depressed, but Harry's eyes made her sit
down beside him.
"What's the matter?"
"Nothing, Roxanne," he denied. "I came to see
how Jeff was doing. Don't you bother about me."
"Harry," insisted Roxanne, "there's something the
"Nothing," he repeated. "How's Jeff ?"
Anxiety darkened her face.
"He's a little worse, Harry. Doctor Jewett has
come on from New York. They thought he could tell
me something definite. He's going to try and find
whether this paralysis has anything to do with the origi-
nal blood dot."
"Oh, I'm sorry," he said jerkily. "I didn't know
you expected a consultation. I wouldn't have come. I
thought I'd just rock on your porch for an hour "
"Sit down," she commanded.
"Sit down, Harry, dear boy." Her kindness flooded
out now enveloped him. "I know there's something
the matter. You're white as a sheet. I'm going to
get you a cool bottle of beer."
All at once he collapsed into his chair and covered his
face with his hands.
"I can't make her happy," he said slowly. "I've tried
and I've tried. This morning we had some words about
breakfast I'd been getting my breakfast down town
and well, just after I went to the office she left the
house, went East to her mother's with George and a
suitcase full of lace underwear."
2QO TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"And I don't know "
There was a crunch on the gravel, a car turning into
the drive. Roxanne uttered a little cry.
"It's Doctor Jewett."
"Oh, I'll "
"You'll wait, won't you?" she interrupted abstract-
edly. He saw that his problem had already died on the
troubled surface of her mind.
There was an embarrassing minute of vague, elided
introductions and then Harry followed the party inside
and watched them disappear up the stairs. He went
into the library and sat down on the big sofa.
For an hour he watched the sun creep up the pat-
terned folds of the chintz curtains. In the deep quiet
a trapped wasp buzzing on the inside of the window
pane assumed the proportions of a clamor. From time
to time another buzzing drifted down from up-stairs,
resembling several more larger wasps caught on larger
window-panes. He heard low footfalls, the clink of
bottles, the clamor of pouring water.
What had he and Roxanne done that life should deal
these crashing blows to them ? Up-stairs there was
taking place a living inquest on the soul of his friend;
he was sitting here in a quiet room listening to the plaint
of a wasp, just as when he was a boy he had been com-
pelled by a strict aunt to sit hour-long on a chair and
atone for some misbehavior. But who had put him
here? What ferocious aunt had leaned out of the sky
to make him atone for what ?
About Kitty he felt a great hopelessness. She was
too expensive that was the irremediable difficulty.
Suddenly he hated her. He wanted to throw her down
and kick at her to tell her she was a cheat and a leech
that she was dirty. Moreover, she must give him his
THE LEES OF HAPPINESS 291
He rose and began pacing up and down the room.
Simultaneously he heard some one begin walking along
the hallway up-stairs in exact time with him. He found
himself wondering if they would walk in time until the
person reached the end of the hall.
Kitty had gone to her mother. God help her, what
a mother to go to! He tried to imagine the meeting:
the abused wife collapsing upon the mother's breast.
He could not. That Kitty was capable of any deep
grief was unbelievable. He had gradually grown to
think of her as something unapproachable and callous.
She would get a divorce, of course, and eventually she
would marry again. He began to consider this. Whom
would she marry? He laughed bitterly, stopped; a
picture flashed before him of Kitty's arms around
some man whose face he could not see, of Kitty's lips
pressed close to other lips in what was surely passion.
" God ! " he cried aloud. " God ! God ! God ! "
Then the pictures came thick and fast. The Kitty
of this morning faded; the soiled kimono rolled up and
disappeared; the pouts, and rages, and tears all were
washed away. Again she was Kitty Carr Kitty Carr
with yellow hair and great baby eyes. Ah, she had
loved him, she had loved him.
After a while he perceived that something was amiss
with him, something that had nothing to do with Kitty
or Jeff, something of a different genre. Amazingly it
burst on him at last; he was hungry. Simple enough!
He would go into the kitchen in a moment and ask the
colored cook for a sandwich. After that he must go
back to the city.
He paused at the wall, jerked at something round,
and, fingering it absently, put it to his mouth and tasted
it as a baby tastes a bright toy. His teeth closed on it
292 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
She'd left that damn kimono, that dirty pink kimono.
She might have had the decency to take it with her, he
thought. It would hang in the house like the corpse
of their sick alliance. He would try to throw it away,
but he would never be able to bring himself to move it.
It would be like Kitty, soft and pliable, withal imper-
vious. You couldn't move Kitty; you couldn't reach
Kitty. There was nothing there to reach. He under-
stood that perfectly he had understood it all along.
He reached to the wall for another biscuit and with an
effort pulled it out, nail and all. He carefully removed
the nail from the centre, wondering idly if he had eaten
the nail with the first biscuit. Preposterous ! He would
have remembered it was a huge nail. He felt his
stomach. He must be very hungry. He considered
remembered yesterday he had had no dinner. It was
the girl's day out and Kitty had lain in her room eating
chocolate drops. She had said she felt "smothery" and
couldn't bear having him near her. He had given George
a bath and put him to bed, and then lain down on the
couch intending to rest a minute before getting his own
dinner. There he had fallen asleep and awakened about
eleven, to find that there was nothing in the ice-box
except a spoonful of potato salad. This he had eaten,
together with some chocolate drops that he found on
Kitty's bureau. This morning he had breakfasted hur-
riedly down town before going to the office. But at
noon, beginning to worry about Kitty, he had decided
to go home and take her out to lunch. After that there
had been the note on his pillow. The pile of lingerie
in the closet was gone and she had left instructions for
sending her trunk.
He had never been so hungry, he thought.
At five o'clock, when the visiting nurse tiptoed down-
stairs, he was sitting on the sofa staring at the carpet.
THE LEES OF HAPPINESS 293
"Oh, Mrs. Curtain won't be able to see you at dinner.
She's not well. She told me to tell you that the cook
will fix you something and that there's a spare bedroom."
"She's sick, you say?"
"She's lying down in her room. The consultation
is just over."
"Did they did they decide anything?"
"Yes," said the nurse softly. "Doctor Jewett says
there's no hope. Mr. Curtain may live indefinitely,
but he'll never see again or move again or think. He'll
For the first tune the nurse noted that beside the writ-
ing-desk where she remembered that she had seen a line
of a dozen curious round objects she had vaguely imag-
ined to be some exotic form of decoration, there was now
only one. Where the others had been, there was now
a series of little nail-holes.
Harry followed her glance dazedly and then rose to
"I don't believe I'll stay. I believe there's a train."
She nodded. Harry picked up his hat.
" Good-by," she said pleasantly.
"Good-by," he answered, as though talking to him-
self and, evidently moved by some involuntary necessity,
he paused on his way to the door and she saw him pluck
the last object from the wall and drop it into his pocket.
Then he opened the screen door and, descending the
porch steps, passed out of her sight.
After a while the coat of clean white paint on the
Jeffrey Curtain house made a definite compromise with
294 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
the suns of many Julys and showed its good faith by
turning gray. It scaled huge peelings of very brittle
old paint leaned over backward like aged men practising
grotesque gymnastics and finally dropped to a moldy
death in the overgrown grass beneath. The paint on
the front pillars became streaky; the white ball was
knocked off the left-hand door-post; the green blinds
darkened, then lost all pretense of color.
It began to be a house that was avoided by the tender-
minded some church bought a lot diagonally opposite
for a graveyard, and this, combined with "the place
where Mrs Curtain stays with that living corpse," was
enough to throw a ghostly aura over that quarter of the
road. Not that she was left alone. Men and women
came to see her, met her down town, where she went to
do her marketing, brought her home in their cars and
came in for a moment to talk and to rest, in the glamour
that still played in her smile. But men who did not
know her no longer followed her with admiring glances
in the street; a diaphanous veil had come down over her
beauty, destroying its vividness, yet bringing neither
wrinkles nor fat.
She acquired a character in the village a group of
little stories were told of her: how when the country was
frozen over one winter so that no wagons nor automo-
biles could travel, she taught herself to skate so that she
could make quick time to the grocer and druggist, and
not leave Jeffrey alone for long. It was said that every
night since his paralysis she slept in a small bed beside
his bed, holding his hand.
Jeffrey Curtain was spoken of as though he were
already dead. As the years dropped by those who had
known him died or moved away there were but half
a dozen of the old crowd who had drunk cocktails to-
gether, called each other's wives by their first names,
THE LEES OF HAPPINESS 295
and thought that Jeff was about the wittiest and most
talented fellow that Marlowe had ever known. Now, to
the casual visitor, he was merely the reason that Mrs.
Curtain excused herself sometimes and hurried up-stairs;
he was a groan or a sharp cry borne to the silent parlor
on the heavy air of a Sunday afternoon.
He could not move; he was stone blind, dumb, and
totally unconscious. All day he lay in his bed, except
for a shift to his wheel-chair every morning while she
straightened the room. His paralysis was creeping
slowly toward his heart. At first for the first year
Roxanne had received the faintest answering pres-
sure sometimes when she held his hand then it had
gone, ceased one evening and never come back, and
through two nights Roxanne lay wide-eyed, staring into
the dark and wondering what had gone, what fraction
of his soul had taken flight, what last grain of compre-
hension those shattered broken nerves still carried to
After that hope died. Had it not been for her un-
ceasing care the last spark would have gone long before.
Every morning she shaved and bathed him, shifted him
with her own hands from bed to chair and back to bed.
She was in his room constantly, bearing medicine,
straightening a pillow, talking to him almost as one talks
to a nearly human dog, without hope of response or
appreciation, but with the dim persuasion of habit, a
prayer when faith has gone.
Not a few people, one celebrated nerve specialist
among them, gave her a plain impression that it was
futile to exercise so much care, that if Jeffrey had been
conscious he would have wished to die, that if his spirit
were hovering in some wider air it would agree to no
such sacrifice from her, it would fret only for the prison
of its body to give it full release.
296 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"But you see," she replied, shaking her head gently,
"when I married Jeffrey it was until I ceased to love
"But," was protested, in effect, "you can't love that."
"I can love what it once was. What else is there for
me to do?"
The specialist shrugged his shoulders and went away
to say that Mrs. Curtain was a remarkable woman and
just about as sweet as an angel but, he added, it was
a terrible pity.
"There must be some man, or a dozen, just crazy
to take care of her. . . ."
Casually there were. Here and there some one be-
gan in hope and ended in reverence. There was no
love in the woman except, strangely enough, for life,
for the people in the world, from the tramp to whom
she gave food she could ill afford to the butcher who sold
her a cheap cut of steak across the meaty board. The
other phase was sealed up somewhere in that expression-
less mummy who lay with his face turned ever toward
the light as mechanically as a compass needle and
waited dumbly for the last wave to wash over his
After eleven years he died in the middle of a May
night, when the scent of the syringa hung upon the win-
dow-sill and a breeze wafted in the shrillings of the frogs
and cicadas outside. Roxanne awoke at two, and real-
ized with a start she was alone in the house at last.
After that she sat on her weather-beaten porch through
many afternoons, gazing down across the fields that
undulated in a slow descent to the white and green town.
She was wondering what she would do with her life.
THE LEES OF HAPPINESS 297
She was thirty-six handsome, strong, and free. The
years had eaten up Jeffrey's insurance; she had reluc-
tantly parted with the acres to right and left of her,
and had even placed a small mortgage on the house.
With her husband's death had come a great physical
restlessness. She missed having to care for him in the
morning, she missed her rush to town, and the brief
and therefore accentuated neighborly meetings in the
butcher's and grocer's; she missed the cooking for two,
the preparation of delicate liquid food for him. One day,
consumed with energy, she went out and spaded up the
whole garden, a thing that had not been done for years.
And she was alone at night in the room that had seen
the glory of her marriage and then the pain. To meet
Jeff again she went back in spirit to that wonderful year,
that intense, passionate absorption and companionship,
rather than looked forward to a problematical meeting
hereafter; she awoke often to lie and wish for that pres-
ence beside her inanimate yet breathing still Jeff.
One afternoon six months after his death she was
sitting on the porch, in a black dress which took away
the faintest suggestion of plumpness from her figure.
It was Indian summer golden brown all about her;
a hush broken by the sighing of leaves; westward a
four o'clock sun dripping streaks of red and yellow over
a flaming sky. Most of the birds had gone only a
sparrow that had built itself a nest on the cornice of a
pillar kept up an intermittent cheeping varied by oc-
casional fluttering sallies overhead. Roxanne moved
her chair to where she could watch him and her mind
idled drowsily on the bosom of the afternoon.
Harry Cromwell was coming out from Chicago to
dinner. Since his divorce over eight years before he
had been a frequent visitor. They had kept up what
amounted to a tradition between them: when he ar-
298 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
rived they would go to look at Jeff; Harry would sit
down on the edge of the bed and in a hearty voice ask:
"Well, Jeff, old man, how do you feel to-day?"
Roxanne, standing beside, would look intently at
Jeff, dreaming that some shadowy recognition of this
former friend had passed across that broken mind but
the head, pale, carven, would only move slowly in its
sole gesture toward the light as if something behind the
blind eyes were groping for another light long since gone
These visits stretched over eight years at Easter,
Christmas, Thanksgiving, and on many a Sunday
Harry had arrived, paid his call on Jeff, and then talked
for a long while with Roxanne on the porch. He was
devoted to her. He made no pretense of hiding, no
attempt to deepen, this relation. She was his best
friend as the mass of flesh on the bed there had been his
best friend. She was peace, she was rest; she was the
past. Of his own tragedy she alone knew.
He had been at the funeral, but since then the com-
pany for which he worked had shifted him to the East
and only a business trip had brought him to the vicinity
of Chicago. Roxanne had written him to come when he
could after a night in the city he had caught a train
They shook hands and he helped her move two rockers
" How's George?"
"He's fine, Roxanne. Seems to like school."
"Of course it was the only thing to do, to send him."
"You miss him horribly, Harry?"
"Yes I do miss him. He's a funny boy
He talked a lot about George. Roxanne was inter-
ested. Harry must bring him out on his next vacation.
THE LEES OF HAPPINESS 299
She had only seen him once in her life a child in dirty
She left him with the newspaper while she prepared
dinner she had four chops to-night and some late vege-
tables from her own garden. She put it all on and then
called him, and sitting down together they continued
their talk about George.
"If I had a child" she would say.
Afterward, Harry having given her what slender ad-
vice he could about investments, they walked through
the garden, pausing here and there to recognize what
had once been a cement bench or where the tennis court
had lain . . .
"Do you remember
Then they were off on a flood of reminiscences: the
day they had taken all the snap-shots and Jeff had been
photographed astride the calf; and the sketch Harry
had made of Jeff and Roxanne, lying sprawled in the
grass, their heads almost touching. There was to have
been a covered lattice connecting the barn-studio with
the house, so that Jeff could get there on wet days
the lattice had been started, but nothing remained ex-
cept a broken triangular piece that still adhered to the
house and resembled a battered chicken coop.
"And those mint juleps!"
"And Jeff's note-book ! Do you remember how we'd
laugh, Harry , when we'd get it out of his pocket and
read aloud a page of material. And how frantic he
used to get?"
"Wild ! He was such a kid about his writing."
They were both silent a moment, and then Harry
"We were to have a place out here, too. Do you
remember? We were to buy the adjoining twenty
acres. And the parties we were going to have ! "
300 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Again there was a pause, broken this time by a low
question from Roxanne.
"Do you ever hear of her, Harry ?"
"Why yes," he admitted placidly. "She's in Se-
attle. She's married again to a man named Horton, a
sort of lumber king. He's a great deal older than she
is, I believe."
"And she's behaving?"
"Yes that is, I've heard so. She has everything,
you see. Nothing much to do except dress up for this
fellow at dinner-time."
Without effort he changed the subject.
"Are you going to keep the house?"
"I think so," she said, nodding. "I've lived here so
long, Harry, it'd seem terrible to move. I thought of
trained nursing, but of course that'd mean leaving.
I've about decided to be a boarding-house lady."
"Live in one?"
"No. Keep one. Is there such an anomaly as a
boarding-house lady ? Anyway I'd have a negress and
keep about eight people in the summer and two or three,
if I can get them, in the winter. Of course I'll have to
have the house repainted and gone over inside."
"Roxanne, why naturally you know best what you
can do, but it does seem a shock, Roxanne. You came
here as a bride."
"Perhaps," she said, "that's why I don't mind re-
maining here as a boarding-house lady."
"I remember a certain batch of biscuits."
"Oh, those biscuits," she cried. "Still, from all I
heard about the way you devoured them, they couldn't
have been so bad. I was so low that day, yet somehow
I laughed when the nurse told me about those biscuits."
THE LEES OF HAPPINESS 301
"I noticed that the twelve nail-holes are still in the
library wall where Jeff drove them."
It was getting very dark now, a crispness settled in
the air; a little gust of wind sent down a last spray of
leaves. Roxanne shivered slightly.
"We'd better go in."
He looked at his watch.
"It's late. I've got to be leaving. I go East to-
They lingered for a moment just below the stoop,
watching a moon that seemed full of snow float out of the
distance where the lake lay. Summer was gone and now
Indian summer. The grass was cold and there was no
mist and no dew. After he left she would go in and
light the gas and close the shutters, and he would go
down the path and on to the village. To these two
life had come quickly and gone, leaving not bitterness,
but pity; not disillusion, but only pain. There was
already enough moonlight when they shook hands for
each to see the gathered kindness in the other's eyes.
THE QUINTESSENCE OF QUAINTNESS IN
The Scene is the Exterior of a Cottage in West Issacshire
on a desperately Arcadian afternoon in August.
MR. ICKY, quaintly dressed in the cnttume of an Eliza-
bethan peasant, is pottering and doddering among the
pots and dods. He is an old man, well past the prime
of life, no longer young. From the fact that there is
a burr in his speech and that he has absent-mindedly
put on his coat wrongside out, we surmise that he is
either above or below the ordinary superficialities of
Near him on the grass lies PETER, a little boy. PETER, of
course, has his chin on his palm like the pictures of
the young Sir Walter Raleigh. He has a complete
set of features, including serious, sombre, even fu-
nereal, gray eyes and radiates that alluring air of
never having eaten food. This air can best be radiated
during the afterglow of a beef dinner. He is looking at
MR. ICKY, fascinated.
Silence. . . . The song of birds.
PETER : Often at night I sit at my window and regard
the stars. Sometimes I think they're my stars. . . .
(Gravely) I think I shall be a star some day. . . .
MR. ICKY: (Whimsically) Yes, yes . . . yes. . . .
PETER: I know them all: Venus, Mars, Neptune,
MR. ICKY 303
MR. ICKY: I don't take no stock in astronomy. . . .
I've been thinking o' Lunnon, laddie. And calling to
mind my daughter, who has gone for to be a type-
writer. . . . (He sighs)
PETER: I liked Ulsa, Mr. Icky; she was so plump, so
round, so buxom.
MR. ICKY: Not worth the paper she was padded with,
laddie. (He stumbles over a pile of pots and dods.)
PETER: How is your asthma, Mr. Icky?
MR. ICKY: Worse, thank God ! . . . (Gloomily.) I'm
a hundred years old. . . . I'm getting brittle.
PETER: I suppose life has been pretty tame since you
gave up petty arson.
MR. ICKY: Yes . . . yes. . . . You see, Peter, lad-
die, when I was fifty I reformed once in prison.
PETER: You went wrong again ?
MR. ICKY: Worse than that. The week before my
term expired they insisted on transferring to me the
glands of a healthy young prisoner they were executing.
PETER: And it renovated you ?
MR. ICKY: Renovated me ! It put the Old Nick back
into me ! This young criminal was evidently a subur-
ban burglar and a kleptomaniac. What was a little
playful arson in comparison !
PETER: (Awed) How ghastly! Science is the bunk.
MR. ICKY: (Sighing) I got him pretty well subdued
now. 'Tisn't every one who has to tire out two sets
o' glands in his lifetime. I wouldn't take another set
for all the animal spirits in an orphan asylum.
PETER: (Considering) I shouldn't think you'd object
to a nice quiet old clergyman's set.
MR. ICKY: Clergymen haven't got glands they have
(There is a low, sonorous honking off stage to indi-
cate that a large motor-car has stopped in the
304 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
immediate vicinity. Then a young man hand-
somely attired in a dress-suit and a patent-
leather silk hat comes onto the stage. He is
very mundane. His contrast to the spirituality
of the other two is observable as far back as the
first row of the balcony. This is RODNEY
DIVINE: I am looking for Ulsa Icky.
(MR. ICKY rises and stands tremulously between
MR. ICKY: My daughter is in Lunnon,
DIVINE: She has left London. She is coming here.
I have followed her.
(He reaches into the little mother-of-pearl satchel
that hangs at his side for cigarettes. He selects
one and scratching a match touches it to the cigar-
ette. The cigarette instantly lights.)
DIVINE: I shall wait.
(He waits. Several hours pass. There is no sound
except an occasional cackle or hiss from the dods
as they quarrel among themselves. Several songs
can be introduced here or some card tricks by
DIVINE or a tumbling act, as desired.)
DIVINE: It's very quiet here.
MR. ICKY: Yes, very quiet. . . .
(Suddenly a loudly dressed girl appears; she is
very worldly. It is ULSA ICKY. On her is one
of those shapeless faces peculiar to early Italian
ULSA: (In a coarse, worldly voice) Feyther! Here I
am ! Ulsa did what ?
MR. ICKY: (Tremulously) Ulsa, little Ulsa.
(They embrace each other's torsos.)
MR. ICKY: (Hopefully) You've come back to help
with the ploughing.
MR. ICKY 305
ULSA: (Sullenly) No, feyther; ploughing's such a
beyther. I'd reyther not.
(Though her accent is broad, the content of her
speech is sweet and clean.)
DIVINE: (Conciliatingly) See here, Ulsa. Let's come
to an understanding.
(He advances toward her with the graceful, even
stride that made him captain of the striding team
ULSA: You still say it would be Jack ?
MR. ICKY: What does she mean ?
DIVINE: (Kindly) My dear, of course, it would be
Jack. It couldn't be Frank.
MR. ICKY: Frank who?
ULSA: It would be Frank !
(Some risque joke can be introduced here.)
MR. ICKY: (Whimsically) No good fighting ... no
good fighting. . . .
DIVINE: (Reaching out to stroke her arm with the
powerful movement that made him stroke of the crew at
Oxford) You'd better marry me.
ULSA: (Scornfully) Why, they wouldn't let me in
through the servants' entrance of your house.
DIVINE: (Angrily) They wouldn't! Never fear you
shall come in through the mistress' entrance.
DIVINE : (In confusion) I beg your pardon. You know
what I mean ?
MR. ICKY: (Aching with whimsey) You want to marry
my little Ulsa ? . . .
DIVINE : I do.
MR. ICKY: Your record is clean.
DIVINE: Excellent. I have the best constitution in
ULSA: And the worst by-laws.
3 o6 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
DIVINE: At Eton I was a member at Pop; at Rugby
I belonged to Near-beer. As a younger son I was
destined for the police force
MR. ICKY: Skip that. . . . Have you money? . . .
DIVINE: Wads of it. I should expect Ulsa to go
down town in sections every morning in two Rolls-
Royces. I have also a kiddy-car and a converted tank.
I have seats at the opera
ULSA: (Sullenly) I can't sleep except in a box. And
I've heard that you were cashiered from your club.
MR. ICKY: A cashier? . . .
DIVINE: (Hanging his head) I was cashiered.
ULSA: What for?
DIVINE: (Almost inaudibly) I hid the polo balls one
day for a joke.
MR. ICKY: Is your mind in good shape ?
DIVINE : (Gloomily) Fair. After all what is brilliance ?
Merely the tact to sow when no one is looking and reap
when every one is.
MR. ICKY: Be careful. ... I will not marry my
daughter to an epigram. . . .
DIVINE: (More gloomily) I assure you I'm a mere
platitude. I often descend to the level of an innate
ULSA: (Dully) None of what you're saying matters.
I can't marry a man who thinks it would be Jack. Why
DIVINE: (Interrupting) Nonsense!
ULSA: (Emphatically) You're a fool!
MR, ICKY: Tut tut! . . . One should not judge . . .
Charity, my girl. What was it Nero said? a With
malice toward none, with charity toward all
PETER: That wasn't Nero. That was John Drink-
MR. ICKY: Come! Who is this Frank? Who is
this Jack ?
MR. ICKY 307
DIVINE: (Morosely) Gotch.
DIVINE: We were arguing that if they were deadly
enemies and locked in a room together which one would
come out alive. Now I claimed that Jack Dempsey
would take one
ULSA: (Angrily) Rot! He wouldn't have a
DIVINE: (Quickly) You win.
ULSA: Then I love you again.
MR. ICKY: So I'm going to lose my little daugh-
ter. . . .
ULSA: You've still got a houseful of children.
(CHARLES, ULSA'S brother, coming out of the cot-
tage. He is dressed as if to go to sea ; a coil of
rope is slung about his shoulder and an anchor is
hanging from his neck.)
CHARLES: (Not seeing them) I'm going to sea! I'm
going to sea !
(His voice is triumphant.)
MR. ICKY: (Sadly) You went to seed long ago.
CHARLES: I've been reading "Conrad."
PETER: (Dreamily) " Conrad," ah! "Two Years
Before the Mast," by Henry James.
PETER: Walter Pater's version of "Robinson Crusoe."
CHARLES: (To his feyther) I can't stay here and rot
with you. I want to live my life. I want to hunt eels.
MR. ICKY: I will be here . . . when you come
back. . . .
CHARLES : (Contemptuously) Why, the worms are lick-
ing their chops already when they hear your name.
(// will be noticed that some of the characters have
not spoken for some time. It will improve the
technique if they can be rendering a spirited
MR. ICKY: (Mournfully) These vales, these hills,
3 o8 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
these McConnick harvesters they mean nothing to
my children. I understand.
CHARLES: (More gently) Then you'll think of me
kindly, feyther. To understand is to forgive.
MR. ICKY: No ... no. ... We never forgive those
we can understand. . . . We can only forgive those
who wound us for no reason at all. . . .
CHARLES: (Impatiently) I'm so beastly sick of your
human nature line. And, anyway, I hate the hours
(Several dozen more of MR. ICKY'S children trip
out of the house, trip over the grass, and trip
over the pots and dods. They are muttering " We
are going away" and "We are leaving you.")
MR. ICKY: (His heart breaking) They're all deserting
Me. I've been too kind. Spare the rod and spoil the
fun. Oh, for the glands of a Bismarck.
(There is a honking outside probably DIVINE'S
chauffeur growing impatient for his master.)
MR. ICKY: (In misery) They do not love the soil!
They have been faithless to the Great Potato Tradition !
(He picks up a handful of soil passionately and rubs it
n his bald head. Hair sprouts.) Oh, Wordsworth,
Wordsworth, how true you spoke !
"No motion has she now, no force;
She does not hear or feel ;
RolVd round on earth's diurnal course
In some one's Oldsmobile."
(They all groan and shouting "Life" and "Jazz"
move slowly toward the wings.)
CHARLES: Back to the soil, yes ! I've been trying to
turn my back to the soil for ten years !
ANOTHER CHILD: The farmers may be the backbone
f the country, but who wants to be a backbone ?
MR. ICKY 309
ANOTHER CHILD : I care not who hoes the lettuce of my
country if I can eat the salad !
ALL: Life! Psychic Research! Jazz!
MR. ICKY: (Struggling with himself) I must be quaint.
That's all there is. It's not life that counts, it's the
quaintness you bring to it. ...
ALL: We're going to slide down the Riviera. We've
got tickets for Piccadilly Circus. Life ! Jazz !
MR. ICKY: Wait. Let me read to you from the Bible.
Let me open it at random. One always finds something
that bears on the situation.
(He finds a Bible lying in one of the dods and open-
ing it at random begins to read.)
"Anab and Istemo and Anim, Goson and Olon and
Gilo, eleven cities and their villages. Arab, and Ruma,
and Esaau "
CHARLES: (Cruelly) Buy ten more rings and try
MR. ICKY: (Trying again) "How beautiful art thou
my love, how beautiful art thou ! Thy eyes are dove's
eyes, besides what is hid within. Thy hair is as flocks
of goats which come up from Mount Galaad " Hm !
Rather a coarse passage. . . .
(His children laugh at him rudely, shouting "Jazz!"
and "All life is primarily suggestive/")
MR. ICKY: (Despondently) It won't work to-day.
(Hopefully) Maybe it's damp. (He feels it) Yes, it's
damp. . . . There was water in the dod. ... It
ALL: It's damp! It won't work! Jazz!
ONE OF THE CHILDREN: Come, we must catch the
(Any other cue may be inserted here.)
MR. ICKY: Good-by. . . .
(They all go out. MR. ICKY is left alone. He
3 io TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
sighs and walking over to the cottage steps, lies
down, and closes his eyes.
Twilight has come down and the stage is flooded
with such light as never was on land or sea.
There is no sound except a sheep-herder's wife
in the distance playing an aria from Beethoven's
Tenth Symphony, on a mouth-organ. The great
white and gray moths swoop down and light on
the old man until he is completely covered by them.
But he does not stir.
The curtain goes up and down several times to de-
note the lapse of several minutes. A good comedy
effect can be obtained by having MR. ICKY cling
to the curtain and go up and down with it. Fire-
flies or fairies on wires can also be introduced at
Then PETER appears, a look of almost imbecile
sweetness on his face. In his hand he clutches
something and from time to time glances at it in
a transport of ecstasy. After a struggle with
himself he lays it on the old man's body and then
The moths chatter among themselves and then scurry
away in sudden fright. And as night deepens
there still sparkles there, small, white and round,
breathing a subtle perfume to the West Issac-
shire breeze, PETER'S gift of love a moth-ball.
(The play can end at this point or can go on indefi-
JEMINA, THE MOUNTAIN GIRL
This don't pretend to be ''Literature." This is just a tale
for red-blooded folks who want a story and not just a lot of " psy-
chological" stuff or "analysis." Boy, you'll love it! Read it
here, see it in the movies, play it on the phonograph, run it
through the sewing-machine.
A WILD THING
It was night in the mountains of Kentucky. Wild
hills rose on all sides. Swift mountain streams flowed
rapidly up and down the mountains.
Jemina Tantrum was down at the stream, brewing
whiskey at the family still.
She was a typical mountain girl.
Her feet were bare. Her hands, large and powerful,
hung down below her knees. Her face showed the
ravages of work. Although but sixteen, she had for
over a dozen years been supporting her aged pappy
and mappy by brewing mountain whiskey.
From time to time she would pause in her task, and,
filling a dipper full of the pure, invigorating liquid, would
drain it off then pursue her work with renewed vigor.
She would place the rye in the vat, thresh it out with
her feet and, in twenty minutes, the completed product
would be turned out.
A sudden cry made her pause in the act of draining a
dipper and look up.
" Hello," said a voice. It came from a man clad in
hunting boots reaching to his neck, who had emerged
from the wood.
"Hi, thar," she answered sullenly.
3i2 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
"Can you tell me the way to the Tantrums' cabin ?"
"Are you uns from the settlements down thar ?"
She pointed her hand down to the bottom of the hill,
where Louisville lay. She had never been there; but
once, before she was born, her great-grandfather, old
Gore Tantrum, had gone into the settlements in the com-
pany of two marshals, and had never come back. So
the Tantrums, from generation to generation, had learned
to dread civilization.
The man was amused. He laughed a light tinkling
laugh, the laugh of a Philadelphian. Something in the
ring of it thrilled her. She drank off another dipper of
"Where is Mr. Tantrum, little girl?" he asked, not
She raised her foot and pointed her big toe toward
"Thar in the cabing behind those thar pines. Old
Tantrum air my old man."
The man from the settlements thanked her and strode
off. He was fairly vibrant with youth and personality.
As he walked along he whistled and sang and turned
handsprings and flapjacks, breathing in the fresh, cool
air of the mountains.
The air around the still was like wine.
Jemina Tantrum watched him entranced. No one
like him had ever come into her life before.
She sat down on the grass and counted her toes. She
counted eleven. She had learned arithmetic in the
A MOUNTAIN FEUD
Ten years before a lady from the settlements had
opened a school on the mountain. Jemina had no
JEMINA, THE MOUNTAIN GIRL 313
money, but she had paid her way in whiskey, bringing a
pailful to school every morning and leaving it on Miss
Lafarge's desk. Miss Lafarge had died of delirium tre-
mens after a year's teaching, and so Jemina's education
Across the still stream still another still was standing,
It was that of the Doldrums. The Doldrums and the
Tantrums never exchanged calls.
They hated each other.
Fifty years before old Jem Doldrum and old Jem Tan-
trum had quarrelled in the Tantrum cabin over a game
of slapjack. Jem Doldrum had thrown the king of
hearts in Jem Tantrum's face, and old Tantrum, en-
raged, had felled the old Doldrum with the nine of dia-
monds. Other Doldrums and Tantrums had joined in
and the little cabin was soon filled with flying cards.
Harstrum Doldrum, one of the younger Doldrums, lay
stretched on the floor writhing in agony, the ace of hearts
crammed down his throat. Jem Tantrum, standing in
the doorway, ran through suit after suit, his face alight
with fiendish hatred. Old Mappy Tantrum stood on
the table wetting down the Doldrums with hot whiskey.
Old Heck Doldrum, having finally run out of trumps,
was backed out of the cabin, striking left and right with
his tobacco pouch, and gathering around him the rest of
his clan. Then they mounted their steers and galloped
That night old man Doldrum and his sons, vowing
vengeance, had returned, put a ticktock on the Tan-
trum window, stuck a pin in the doorbell, and beaten a
A week later the Tantrums had put Cod Liver Oil
in the Doldrums' still, and so, from year to year, the
feud had continued, first one family being entirely
wiped out, then the other.
314 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
THE BIRTH OF LOVE
Every day little Jemina worked the still on her side of
the stream, and Boscoe Doldrum worked the still on his
Sometimes, with automatic inherited hatred, the
feudists would throw whiskey at each other, and Jemina
would come home smelling like a French table d'h6te.
But now Jemina was too thoughtful to look across
How wonderful the stranger had been and how oddly
he was dressed! In her innocent way she had never
believed that there were any civilized settlements at
all, and she had put the belief in them down to the
credulity of the mountain people.
She turned to go up to the cabin, and, as she turned
something struck her in the neck. It was a sponge,
thrown by Boscoe Doldrum a sponge soaked in whis-
key from his still on the other side of the stream.
"Hi, thar, Boscoe Doldrum," she shouted in her deep
" Yo ! Jemina Tantrum . Gosh ding yoM ' ' he returned .
She continued her way to the cabin.
The stranger was talking to her father. Gold had
been discovered on the Tantrum land, and the stranger,
Edgar Edison, was trying to buy the land for a song.
He was considering what song to offer.
She sat upon her hands and watched him.
He was wonderful. When he talked his lips moved.
She sat upon the stove and watched him.
Suddenly there came a blood-curdling scream. The
Tantrums rushed to the windows.
It was the Doldrums.
They had hitched their steers to trees and concealed
JEMINA, THE MOUNTAIN GIRL 315
themselves behind the bushes and flowers, and soon a
perfect rattle of stones and bricks beat against the win-
dows, bending them inward.
''Father! father!" shrieked Jemina.
Her father took down his slingshot from his slingshot
rack on the wall and ran his hand lovingly over the elas-
tic band. He stepped to a loophole. Old Mappy Tan-
trum stepped to the coalhole.
A MOUNTAIN BATTLE
The stranger was aroused at last. Furious to get at
the Doldrums, he tried to escape from the house by crawl-
ing up the chimney. Then he thought there might be
a door under the bed, but Jemina told him there was not.
He hunted for doors under the beds and sofas, but each
time Jemina pulled him out and told him there were no
doors there. Furious with anger, he beat upon the
door and hollered at the Doldrums. They did not
answer him, but kept up their fusillade of bricks and
stones against the window. Old Pappy Tantrum knew
that as soon as they were able to effect an aperture they
would pour in and the fight would be over.
Then old Heck Doldrum, foaming at the mouth and
expectorating on the ground, left and right, led the
The terrific slingshots of Pappy Tantrum had not
been without their effect. A master shot had disabled
one Doldrum, and another Doldrum, shot almost inces-
santly through the abdomen, fought feebly on.
Nearer and nearer they approached the house.
"We must fly." shouted the stranger to Jemina. "I
will sacrifice myself and bear you away."
"No," shouted Pappy Tantrum, his face begrimed.
"You stay here and fit on. I will bar Jemina away. I
will bar Mappy away. I will bar myself away."
3 i 6 TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
The man from the settlements, pale and trembling
with anger, turned to Ham Tantrum, who stood at the
door throwing loophole after loophole at the advancing
"Will you cover the retreat ?"
But Ham said that he too had Tantrums to bear
away, but that he would leave himself here to help the
stranger cover the retreat, if he could think of a way of
Soon smoke began to filter through the floor and ceil-
ing. Shem Doldrum had come up and touched a match
to old Japhet Tantrum's breath as he leaned from a
loophole, and the alcoholic flames shot up on all sides.
The whiskey in the bathtub caught fire. The walls
began to fall in.
Jemina and the man from the settlements looked at
"Jemina," he whispered.
"Stranger," she answered.
"We will die together," he said. "If we had lived I
would have taken you to the city and married you.
With your ability to hold liquor, your social success
would have been assured."
She caressed him idly for a moment, counting her toes
softly to herself. The smoke grew thicker. Her left
leg was on fire.
She was a human alcohol lamp.
Their lips met in one long kiss and then a wall fell on
them and blotted them out.
When the Doldrums burst through the ring of flame,
they found them dead where they had fallen, their
arms about each other.
JEMINA, THE MOUNTAIN GIRL 317
Old Jem Doldrum was moved.
He took off his hat.
He filled it with whiskey and drank it off.
"They air dead," he said slowly, "they hankered
after each other. The fit is over now. We must not
So they threw them together into the stream and the
two splashes they made were as one.
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