Book 1, Chapter I.
IN 1913, when Anthony Patch was twenty-five, two years were already gone since irony, the Holy Ghost of this later day, had, theoretically at least, descended upon him. Irony was the final polish of the shoe, the ultimate dab of the clothes-brush, a sort of intellectual There!yet at the brink of this story he has as yet gone no further than the conscious stage. As you first see him he wonders frequently whether he is not without honor and slightly mad, a shameful and obscene thinness glistening on the surface of the world like oil on a clean pond, these occasions being varied, of course, with those in which he thinks himself rather an exceptional young man, thoroughly sophisticated, well adjusted to his en?vironment, and somewhat more significant than any one else he knows.
This was his healthy state and it made him cheerful, pleasant, and very attractive to intelligent men and to all women. In this state he considered that he would one day accomplish some quiet subtle thing that the elect would deem worthy and, passing on, would join the dimmer stars in a nebulous, indeterminate heaven half-way between death and immortality. Until the time came for this effort he would be Anthony Patchnot a portrait of a man but a distinct and dynamic personality, opinionated, contemptuous, functioning from within outwarda man who was aware that there could be no honor and yet had honor, who knew the sophistry of courage and yet was brave.
A Worthy Man And His Gifted Son.
Anthony drew as much consciousness of social security from being the grandson of Adam J. Patch as he would have had from tracing his line over the sea to the cru?saders. This is inevitable; Virginians and Bostonians to the contrary notwithstanding, an aristocracy founded sheerly on money postulates wealth in the particular.
Now Adam J. Patch, more familiarly known as Cross Patch, left his fathers farm in Tarrytown early in sixty-one to join a New York cavalry regiment. He came home from the war a major, charged into Wall Street, and amid much fuss, fume, applause, and ill will he gathered to himself some seventy-five million dollars.
This occupied his energies until he was fifty-seven years old. It was then that he determined, after a severe attack of sclerosis, to consecrate the remainder of his life to the moral regeneration of the world. He be?came a reformer among reformers. Emulating the mag?nificent efforts of Anthony Comstock, after whom his grandson was named, he levelled a varied assortment of uppercuts and bodyblows at liquor, literature, vice, art, patent medicines, and Sunday theatres. His mind, under the influence of that insidious mildew which even?tually forms on all but the few, gave itself up furiously to every indignation of the age. From an armchair in the office of his Tarrytown estate he directed against the enormous hypothetical enemy, unrighteousness, a cam?paign which went on through fifteen years, during which he displayed himself a rabid monomaniac, an unqualified nuisance, and an intolerable bore. The year in which this story opens found him wearying; his campaign had grown desultory; 1861 was creeping up slowly on 1895; his thoughts ran a great deal on the Civil War, somewhat on his dead wife and son, almost infinitesimally on his grandson Anthony.
Early in his career Adam Patch had married an anaemic lady of thirty, Alicia Withers, who brought him one hundred thousand dollars and an impeccable entre into the banking circles of New York. Immediately and rather spunkily she had borne him a son and, as if completely devitalized by the magnificence of this performance, she had thenceforth effaced herself within the shadowy dimensions of the nursery. The boy, Adam Ulysses Patch, became an inveterate joiner of clubs, connoisseur of good form, and driver of tandemsat the astonishing age of twenty-six he began his memoirs under the title New York Society as I Have Seen It. On the rumor of its conception this work was eagerly bid for among publishers, but as it proved after his death to be immoderately verbose and over-poweringly dull, it never obtained even a private printing.
This Fifth Avenue Chesterfield married at twenty-two. His wife was Henrietta Lebrune, the Boston Society Contralto, and the single child of the union was, at the request of his grandfather, christened An?thony Comstock Patch. When he went to Harvard, the Comstock dropped out of his name to a nether hell of oblivion and was never heard of thereafter.
Young Anthony had one picture of his father and mother togetherso often had it faced his eyes in child?hood that it had acquired the impersonality of furni?ture, but every one who came into his bedroom regarded it with interest. It showed a dandy of the nineties, spare and handsome, standing beside a tall dark lady with a muff and the suggestion of a bustle. Between them was a little boy with long brown curls, dressed in a velvet Lord Fauntleroy suit. This was Anthony at five, the year of his mothers death.
His memories of the Boston Society Contralto were nebulous and musical. She was a lady who sang, sang, sang, in the music room of their house on Washington Squaresometimes with guests scattered all about her, the men with their arms folded, balanced breathlessly on the edges of sofas, the women with their hands in their laps, occasionally making little whispers to the men and always clapping very briskly and uttering cooing cries after each songand often she sang to Anthony alone, in Italian or French or in a strange and terrible dialect which she imagined to be the speech of the Southern negro.
His recollections of the gallant Ulysses, the first man in Amer?ica to roll the lapels of his coat, were much more vivid. After Henrietta Lebrune Patch had joined another choir, as her wid?ower huskily remarked from time to time, father and son lived up at grampas in Tarrytown, and Ulysses came daily to Anthonys nursery and expelled pleasant, thick-smelling words for sometimes as much as an hour. He was continually promising Anthony hunting trips and fishing trips and excursions to Atlantic City, oh, some time soon now; but none of them ever mate?rialized. One trip they did take; when Anthony was eleven they went abroad, to England and Switzerland, and there in the best hotel in Lucerne his father died with much sweating and grunting and crying aloud for air. In a panic of despair and terror Anthony was brought back to America, wedded to a vague melancholy that was to stay beside him through the rest of his life.
Past and Person of the Hero.
At eleven he had a horror of death. Within six impressionable years his parents had died and his grandmother had faded off almost imperceptibly, until, for the first time since her marriage, her person held for one day an unquestioned supremacy over her own drawing room. So to Anthony life was a struggle against death, that waited at every corner. It was as a concession to his hypochondrical imagination that he formed the habit of reading in bedit soothed him. He read until he was tired and often fell asleep with the lights still on.
His favorite diversion until he was fourteen was his stamp col?lection; enormous, as nearly exhaustive as a boys could behis grandfather considered fatuously that it was teaching him geog?raphy. So Anthony kept up a correspondence with a half dozen Stamp and Coin companies and it was rare that the mail failed to bring him new stamp-books or packages of glittering approval sheetsthere was a mysterious fascination in transferring his ac?quisitions interminably from one book to another. His stamps were his greatest happiness and he bestowed impatient frowns on any one who interrupted him at play with them; they devoured his allowance every month, and he lay awake at night musing untiringly on their variety and many-colored splendor.
At sixteen he had lived almost entirely within himself, an in?articulate boy, thoroughly un-American, and politely bewildered by his contemporaries. The two preceding years had been spent in Europe with a private tutor, who persuaded him that Harvard was the thing; it would open doors, it would be a tremendous tonic, it would give him innumerable self-sacrificing and devoted friends. So he went to Harvardthere was no other logical thing to be done with him.
Oblivious to the social system, he lived for a while alone and unsought in a high room in Beck Halla slim dark boy of me?dium height with a shy sensitive mouth. His allowance was more than liberal. He laid the foundations for a library by purchasing from a wandering bibliophile first editions of Swinburne, Mere?dith, and Hardy, and a yellowed illegible autograph letter of Keatss, finding later that he had been amazingly overchurged. He became an exquisite dandy, amassed a rather pathetic collection of silk pajamas, brocaded dressing-gowns, and neckties too flam?boyant to wear; in this secret finery he would parade before a mirror in his room or lie stretched in satin along his window-seat looking down on the yard and realizing dimly this clamor, breath?less and immediate, in which it seemed he was never to have a part.
Curiously enough he found in senior year that he had acquired a position in his class. He learned that he was looked upon as a rather romantic figure, a scholar, a recluse, a tower of erudition. This amused him but secretly pleased himhe began going out, at first a little and then a great deal. He made the Pudding. He drankquietly and in the proper tradition. It was said of him that had he not come to college so young he might have done extremely well. In 1909, when he graduated, he was only twenty years old.
Then abroad againto Rome this time, where he dallied with architecture and painting in turn, took up the violin, and wrote some ghastly Italian sonnets, supposedly the ruminations of a thirteenth-century monk on the joys of the contemplative life. It became established among his Harvard intimates that he was in Rome, and those of them who were abroad that year looked him up and discovered with him, on many moonlight excursions, much in the city that was older than the Renaissance or indeed than the republic. Maury Noble, from Philadelphia, for instance, remained two months, and together they realized the peculiar charm of Latin women and had a delightful sense of being very young and free in a civilization that was very old and free. Not a few acquaintances of his grandfathers called on him, and had he so desired he might have been persona grata with the diplomatic setindeed, he found that his inclinations tended more and more toward conviviality, but that long adolescent aloofness and con?sequent shyness still dictated to his conduct.
He returned to America in 1912 because of one of his grand?fathers sudden illnesses, and after an excessively tiresome talk with the perpetually convalescent old man he decided to put off until his grandfathers death the idea of living permanently abroad. After a prolonged search he took an apartment on Fifty-second Street and to all appearances settled down.
In 1913 Anthony Patchs adjustment of himself to the universe was in process of consummation. Physically, he had improved since his undergraduate dayshe was still too thin but his shoul?ders had widened and his brunette face had lost the frightened look of his freshman year. He was secretly orderly and in person spick and spanhis friends declared that they had never seen his hair rumpled. His nose was too sharp; his mouth was one of those unfortunate mirrors of mood inclined to droop perceptibly in mo?ments of unhappiness, but his blue eyes were charming, whether alert with intelligence or half closed in an expression of melan?choly humor.
One of those men devoid of the symmetry of feature essential to the Aryan ideal, he was yet, here and there, considered handsomemoreover, he was very clean, in appearance and in reality, with that especial cleanness borrowed from beauty.
The Reproachless Apartment.
Fifth and Sixth Avenues, it seemed to Anthony, were the uprights of a gigantic ladder stretching from Washington Square to Central Park. Coming up-town on top of a bus toward Fifty-second Street invariably gave him the sensation of hoisting himself hand by hand on a series of treacherous rungs, and when the bus jolted to a stop at his own rung he found something akin to relief as he descended the reckless metal steps to the sidewalk.
After that, he had but to walk down Fifty-second Street half a block, pass a stodgy family of brownstone housesand then in a jiffy he was under the high ceil?ings of his great front room. This was entirely satis?factory. Here, after all, life began. Here he slept, breakfasted, read, and entertained.
The house itself was of murky material, built in the late nineties; in response to the steadily growing need of small apartments each floor had been thoroughly re?modelled and rented individually. Of the four apart?ments Anthonys, on the second floor, was the most desirable.
The front room had fine high ceilings and three large windows that loomed down pleasantly upon Fifty-second Street. In its appointments it escaped by a safe margin being of any particular period; it escaped stiffness, stuffiness, bareness, and decadence. It smelt neither of smoke nor of incenseit was tall and faintly blue. There was a deep lounge of the softest brown leather with somnolence drifting about it like a haze. There was a high screen of Chinese lacquer chiefly con?cerned with geometrical fishermen and huntsmen in black and gold; this made a corner alcove for a volumi?nous chair guarded by an orange-colored standing lamp. Deep in the fireplace a quartered shield was burned to a murky black.
Passing through the dining-room, which, as Anthony took only breakfast at home, was merely a magnificent potentiality, and down a comparatively long hall, one came to the heart and core of the apartmentAnthonys bedroom and bath.
Both of them were immense. Under the ceilings of the former even the great canopied bed seemed of only average size. On the floor an exotic rug of crimson velvet was soft as fleece on his bare feet. His bathroom, in contrast to the rather portentous character of his bedroom, was gay, bright, extremely habitable and even faintly facetious. Framed around the walls were photographs of four celebrated thespian beauties of the day: Julia Sanderson as The Sunshine Girl, Ina Claire as The Quaker Girl, Billie Burke as The Mind-the-Paint Girl, and Hazel Dawn as The Pink Lady, Between Billie Burke and Hazel Dawn hung a print representing a great stretch of snow presided over by a cold and formidable sunthis, claimed Anthony, symbolized the cold shower.
The bathtub, equipped with an ingenious book-holder, was low and large. Beside it a wall wardrobe bulged with sufficient line for three men and with a generation of neckties. There was no skimpy glorified towel of a carpetinstead, a rich rug, like the one in his bedroom a miracle of softness, that seemed almost to massage the wet foot emerging from the tub
All in all a room to conjure withit was easy to see that Anthony dressed there, arranged his immaculate hair there, in fact did everything but sleep and eat there. It was his pride, this bathroom. He felt that if he had a love he would have hung her picture just facing the tub so that, lost in the soothing steamings of the hot water, he might lie and look up at her and muse warmly and sensuously on her beauty.
Nor Does He Spin.
The apartment was kept clean by an English servant with the singularly, almost theatrically, appropriate name of Bounds, whose technic was marred only by the fact that he wore a soft collar. Had he been en?tirely Anthonys Bounds this defect would have been summarily remedied, but he was also the Bounds of two other gentlemen in the neighborhood. From eight until eleven in the morning he was entirely Anthonys. He arrived with the mail and cooked breakfast. At nine-thirty he pulled the edge of Anthonys blanket and spoke a few terse wordsAnthony never remembered clearly what they were and rather suspected they were deprecative; then he served breakfast on a card-table in the front room, made the bed and, after asking with some hostility if there was anything else, withdrew.
In the morning, at least once a week, Anthony went to see his broker. His income was slightly under seven thousand a year, the interest on money inherited from his mother. His grandfather, who had never allowed his own son to graduate from a very liberal allowance, judged that this sum was sufficient for young An?thonys needs. Every Christmas he sent him a five-hundred-dollar bond, which Anthony usually sold, if possible, as he was always a little, not very, hard up.
The visits to his broker varied from semi-social chats to discussions of the safety of eight per cent invest?ments, and Anthony always enjoyed them. The big trust company building seemed to link him definitely to the great fortunes whose solidarity he respected and to assure him that he was adequately chaperoned by the hierarchy of finance. From these hurried men he derived the same sense of safety that he had in contem?plating his grandfathers moneyeven more, for the latter appeared, vaguely, a demand loan made by the world to Adam Patchs own moral righteousness, while this money down-town seemed rather to have been grasped and held by sheer indomitable strengths and tremendous feats of will; in addition, it seemed more definitely and explicitlymoney.
Closely as Anthony trod on the heels of his income, he considered it to be enough. Some golden day, of course, he would have many millions; meanwhile he possessed a raison detre in the theoretical creation of essays on the popes of the Renaissance. This flashes back lo the conversation with his grandfather immediately upon his return from Rome.
He had hoped to find his grandfather dead, but had learned by telephoning from the pier that Adam Patch was comparatively well againthe next day he had concealed his disappointment and gone out to Tarrytown. Five miles from the station his taxicab entered an elaborately groomed drive that threaded a veritable maze of walls and wire fences guarding the estatethis, said the public, was because it was definitely known that if the Socialists had their way, one of the first men theyd assassinate would be old Cross Patch.
Anthony was late and the venerable philanthropist was awaiting him in a glass-walled sun parlor, where he was glancing through the morning papers for the second time. His secretary, Edward Shuttleworthwho before his regeneration had been gambler, saloon?keeper, and general reprobateushered Anthony into the room, exhibiting his redeemer and benefactor as though he were displaying a treasure of immense value.
They shook hands gravely. Im awfully glad to hear youre belter, Anthony said.
The senior Patch, with an air of having seen his grandson only last week, pulled out his watch.
Train late? he asked mildly.
It had irritated him to wait for Anthony. He was under the delusion not only that in his youth he had handled his practical affairs with the utmost scrupu?lousness, even to keeping every engagement on the dot, but also that this was the direct and primary cause of his success.
Its been late a good deal this month, he remarked with a shade of meek accusation in his voiceand then after a long sigh, Sit down.
Anthony surveyed his grandfather with that tacit amazement which always attended the sight. That this feeble, unintelligent old man was possessed of such power that, yellow journals to the contrary, the men in the republic whose souls he could not have bought di?rectly or indirectly would scarcely have populated White Plains, seemed as impossible to believe as that he had once been a pink-and-white baby.
The span of his seventy-five years had acted as a magic bellowsthe first quarter-century had blown him full with life, and the last had sucked it all back. It had sucked in the checks and the chest and the girth of arm and leg. It had tyrannously demanded his teeth, one by one, suspended his small eyes in dark-bluish sacks, tweeked out his hairs, changed him from gray to white in some places, from pink to yellow in otherscallously transposing his colors like a child trying over a paintbox. Then through his body and his soul it had attacked his brain. It had sent him night-sweats and tears and unfounded dreads. It had split his intense normality into credulity and suspicion. Out of the coarse material of his enthusiasm it had cut dozens of meek but petulant obsessions; his energy was shrunk to the bad temper of a spoiled child, and for his will to power was substituted a fatuous puerile desire for a land of harps and canticles on earth.
The amenities having been gingerly touched upon, Anthony felt that he was expected to outline his intentionsand simultaneously a glimmer in the old mans eye warned him against broaching, for the present, his desire to live abroad. He wished that Shuttleworth would have tact enough to leave the roomhe detested Shuttleworthbut the secretary had settled blandly in a rocker and was dividing between the two Patches the glances of his faded eyes.
Now that youre here you ought to do something, said his grandfather softly, accomplish something.
Anthony waited for him to speak of leaving some?thing done when you pass on. Then he made a sug?gestion:
I thoughtit seemed to me that perhaps Im best qualified to write
Adam Patch winced, visualizing a family poet with long hair and three mistresses.
history. finished Anthony.
History? History of what? The Civil War? The Revolution?
Whyno, sir. A history of the Middle Ages. Si?multaneously an idea was born for a history of the Re?naissance popes, written from some novel angle. Still, he was glad he had said Middle Ages.
Middle Ages? Why not your own country? Some?thing you know about?
Well, you see Ive lived so much abroad
Why you should write about the Middle Ages, I dont know. Dark Ages, we used to call em. Nobody knows what happened, and nobody cares, except that theyre over now. He continued for some minutes on the uselessness of such information, touching, naturally, on the Spanish Inquisition and the corruption of the monasteries. Then:
Do you think youll be able to do any work in New Yorkor do you really intend to work at all? This last with soft, almost imperceptible, cynicism.
Why, yes, I do, sir.
Whenll you be done?
Well, therell be an outline, you seeand a lot of preliminary reading.
I should think youd have done enough of that al?ready.
The conversation worked itself jerkily toward a rather abrupt conclusion, when Anthony rose, looked at his watch, and remarked that he had an engagement with his broker that afternoon. He had intended to stay a few days with his grandfather, but he was tired and ir?ritated from a rough crossing, and quite unwilling to stand a subtle and sanctimonious browbeating. He would come out again in a few days, he said.
Nevertheless, it was due to this encounter that work had come into his life as a permanent idea. During the year that had passed since then, he had made sev?eral lists of authorities, he had even experimented with chapter titles and the division of his work into periods, but not one line of actual writing existed at present, or seemed likely ever to exist. He did nothingand con?trary to the most accredited copy-book logic, he man?aged to divert himself with more than average content.
It was October in 1913, midway in a week of pleasant days, with the sunshine loitering in the cross-streets and the atmosphere so languid as to seem weighted with ghostly falling leaves. It was pleasant to sit lazily by the open window finishing a chapter of Erewhon. It was pleasant to yawn about five, toss the book on a table, and saunter humming along the hall to his bath.
To you beautiful lady,
he was singing as he turned on the tap.
To you beautiful laady
My heart cries
He raised his voice to compete with the flood of water pouring into the tub, and as he looked at the pic?ture of Hazel Dawn upon the wall he put an imaginary violin to his shoulder and softly caressed it with a phantom bow. Through his closed lips he made a humming noise, which he vaguely imagined resembled the sound of a violin. After a moment his hands ceased their gyrations and wandered to his shirt, which he began to unfasten. Stripped, and adopting an ath?letic posture like the tiger-skin man in the advertise?ment, he regarded himself with some satisfaction in the mirror, breaking off to dabble a tentative foot in the tub. Readjusting a faucet and indulging in a few pre?liminary grunts, he slid in.
Once accustomed to the temperature of the water he relaxed into a state of drowsy content. When he finished his bath he would dress leisurely and walk down Fifth Avenue to the Ritz, where he had an appointment for dinner with his two most frequent companions, Dick Caramel and Maury Noble. Afterward he and Maury were going to the theatreCaramel would probably trot home and work on his book, which ought to be finished pretty soon.
Anthony was glad he wasnt going to work on his book. The notion of sitting down and conjuring up, not only words in which to clothe thoughts but thoughts worthy of being clothedthe whole thing was absurdly beyond his desires.
Emerging from his bath he polished himself with the meticulous attention of a bootblack. Then he wan?dered into the bedroom, and whistling the while a weird, uncertain melody, strolled here and there but?toning, adjusting, and enjoying the warmth of the thick carpet on his feet.
He lit a cigarette, tossed the match out the open top of the window, then paused in his tracks with the ciga?rette two inches from his mouthwhich fell faintly ajar. His eyes were focussed upon a spot of brilliant color on the roof of a house farther down the alley.
It was a girl in a red neglige, silk surely, drying her hair by the still hot sun of late afternoon. His whistle died upon the stiff air of the room; he walked cau?tiously another step nearer the window with a sudden impression that she was beautiful. Sitting on the stone parapet beside her was a cushion the same color as her garment and she was leaning both arms upon it as she looked down into the sunny areaway, where Anthony could hear children playing.
He watched her for several minutes. Something was stirred in him, something not accounted for by the warm smell of the afternoon or the triumphant vivid?ness of red. He felt persistently that the girl was beautifulthen of a sudden he understood: it was her distance, not a rare and precious distance of soul but still distance, if only in terrestrial yards. The autumn air was between them, and the roofs and the blurred voices. Yet for a not altogether explained second, pos?ing perversely in time, his emotion had been nearer to adoration than in the deepest kiss he had ever known.
He finished his dressing, found a black bow tie and adjusted it carefully by the three-sided mirror in the bathroom. Then yielding to an impulse he walked quickly into the bedroom and again looked out the window The woman was standing up now; she had tossed her hair back and he had a full view of her. She was fat, full thirty-five, utterly undistin?guished. Making a clicking noise with his mouth he returned to the bathroom and reparted his hair.
To you beautiful lady,
he sang lightly,
I raise my eyes
Then with a last soothing brush that left an irides?cent surface of sheer gloss he left his bathroom and his apartment and walked down Fifth Avenue to the Ritz-Carlton.
At seven Anthony and his friend Maury Noble are sitting at a corner table on the cool roof. Maury Noble is like nothing so much as a large slender and imposing cat. His eyes are narrow and full of inces?sant, protruded blinks. His hair is smooth and flat, as though it has been licked by a possibleand, if so, Herculean-mother-cat. During Anthonys time at Harvard he had been considered the most unique fig?ure in his class, the most brilliant, the most originalsmart, quiet and among the saved.
This is the man whom Anthony considers his best friend. This is the only man of all his acquaintance whom he admires and, to a bigger extent than he likes to admit to himself, envies.
They are glad to see each other nowtheir eyes are full of kindness as each feels the full effect of novelty after a short separation. They are drawing a relax?ation from each others presence, a new serenity; Maury Noble behind that line and absurdly catlike face is all but purring. And Anthony, nervous as a will-o-the-wisp, restlesshe is at rest now.
They are engaged in one of those easy short-speech conversations that only men under thirty or men under great stress indulge in.
ANTHONY: Seven oclock. Wheres the Caramel? (Impatiently.) I wish hed finish that interminable novel. Ive spent more time hungry
MAURY: Hes got a new name for it. The Demon Lovernot bad, eh?
ANTHONY: (Interested) The Demon Lover? Oh woman wailingNonot a bit bad! Not bad at alldyou think?
MAURY: Rather good. What time did you say?
MAURY: (His eyes narrowingnot unpleasantly, but to express a faint disapproval) Drove me crazy the other day.
MAURY: That habit of taking notes.
ANTHONY: Me, too. Seems Id said something night before that he considered material but hed forgotten itso he had at me. Hed say Cant you try to con?centrate? And Id say You bore me to tears. How do I remember?
(MAURY laughs noiselessly, by a sort of bland and appreciative widening of his features.)
MAURY: Dick doesnt necessarily see more than any one else. He merely can put down a larger proportion of what he sees.
ANTHONY: That rather impressive talent
MAURY: Oh, yes. Impressive!
ANTHONY: And energyambitious, well-directed energy. Hes so entertaininghes so tremendously stimulating and exciting. Often theres something breathless in being with him.
MAURY: Oh. yes.
(Silence, and then:)
ANTHONY: (With his thin, somewhat uncertain face at its most convinced) But not indomitable energy. Some day, bit by bit, itll blow away, and his rather im?pressive talent with it, and leave only a wisp of a man, fretful and egotistic and garrulous.
MAURY: (With laughter) Here we sit vowing to each other that little Dick sees less deeply into things than we do. And Ill bet he feels a measure of superiority on his sidecreative mind over merely critical mind and all that.
ANTHONY: Oh, yes. But hes wrong. Hes inclined to fall for a million silly enthusiasms. If it wasnt that hes absorbed in realism and therefore has to adopt the garments of the cynic hed behed be credulous as a college religious leader. Hes an idealist. Oh, yes. He thinks hes not, because hes rejected Christianity. Remember him in college? Just swallow every writer whole, one after another, ideas, technic, and characters, Chesterton, Shaw, Wells, each one as easily as the last.
MAURY: (Still considering his own last observation) I remember.
ANTHONY: Its true. Natural born fetishworshipper. Take art
MAURY: Lets order. Hell be
ANTHONY: Sure. Lets order. I told him
MAURY: Here he comes. Lookhes going to bump that waiter. (He lifts his finger as a signallifts it as though it were a soft and friendly claw.) Here yare, Caramel.
A NEW VOICE: (Fiercely) Hello, Maury. Hello, An?thony Comstock Patch. How is old Adams grand?son? Debutantes still after you, eh?
In person RICHARD CARAMEL is short and fairhe is to be bald at thirty-five. He has yellow?ish eyesone of them startlingly clear, the other opaque as a muddy pooland a bulging brow like a funny-paper baby. He bulges in other placeshis paunch bulges, prophetically, his words have an air of bulging from his mouth, even his dinner coat pockets bulge, as though from contamination, with a dog-eared collection of time-tables, programmes, and mis?cellaneous scrapson these he takes his notes with great screwings up of his unmatched yel?low eyes and motions of silence with his dis?engaged left hand.
When he reaches the table he shakes hands with ANTHONY and MAURY. He is one of those men who invariably shake hands, even with people whom they have seen an hour before.
ANTHONY: Hello, Caramel. Glad youre here. We needed a comic relief.
MAURY: Youre late. Been racing the postman down the block? Weve been clawing over your character.
DlCK: (Fixing ANTHONY eagerly with the bright eye) Whatd you say? Tell me and Ill write it down. Cut three thousand words out of Part One this afternoon.
MAURY: Noble aesthete. And I poured alcohol into my stomach.
DICK: I dont doubt it. I bet you two have been sit?ting here for an hour talking about liquor.
ANTHONY: We never pass out, my beardless boy.
MAURY: We never go home with ladies we meet when were lit.
ANTHONY: All in all our parties are characterized by a certain haughty distinction.
DlCK: The particularly silly sort who boast about being tanks! Trou?ble is youre both in the eighteenth century. School of the Old En?glish Squire. Drink quietly until you roll under the table. Never have a good time. Oh, no, that isnt done at all.
ANTHONY This from Chapter Six, Ill bet.
DlCK: Going to the theatre?
MAURY: Yes. We intend to spend the evening doing some deep think?ing over of lifes problems. The thing is tersely called The Woman. I presume that she will pay.
ANTHONY: My God! Is that what it is? Lets go to the Follies again.
MAURY: Im tired of it. Ive seen it three times. (To DlCK.) The first time, we went out after Act One and found a most amazing bar. When we came back we entered the wrong theatre.
ANTHONY: Had a protracted dispute with a scared young couple we thought were in our seals.
DlCK: (As though talking to himself) I thinkthat when Ive done another novel and a play, and maybe a book of short stories, I?ll do a musical comedy.
MAURY: I knowwith intellectual lyrics that no one will listen to. And all the critics will groan and grunt about Dear old Pinafore. And I shall go on shining as a brilliantly meaningless figure in a mean?ingless world.
DlCK: (Pompously) Art isnt meaningless.
MAURY: It is in itself. It isnt in that it tries to make life less so.
ANTHONY: In other words, Dick, youre playing before a grand stand peopled with ghosts.
MAURY: Give a good show anyhow.
ANTHONY: (To MAURY) On the contrary, Id feel that it being a mean?ingless world, why write? The very attempt to give it purpose is purposeless.
DICK: Well, even admitting all that, be a decent pragmatist and grant a poor man the instinct to live. Would you want every one to accept that sophistic rot?
ANTHONY: Yeah, I suppose so.
MAURY: No, sir! I believe that every one in America but a selected thou?sand should be compelled to accept a very rigid system of moralsRoman Catholicism, for instance. I dont complain of conventional morality. I complain rather of the mediocre heretics who seize upon the findings of sophistication and adopt the pose of a moral freedom to which they are by no means entitled by their intelligence
(Here the soup arrives and what MAURY might have gone on to say is lost for all time.)
Afterward they visited a ticket speculator and, at a price, obtained seats for a new musical comedy called High Jinks. In the foyer of the the?atre they waited a few moments to see the first-night crowd come in. There were opera cloaks stitched of myriad, many-colored silks and furs. there were jewels dripping from arms and throats and ear-tips of white and rose; there were innumerable broad shimmers down the mid?dles of innumerable silk hats; there were shoes of gold and bronze and red and shining black; there were the high-piled, tight-packed coiffures of many women and the slick, watered hair of well-kept menmost of all there was the ebbing, flowing, chattering, chuckling, foaming, slow-rolling wave effect of this cheerful sea of people as to-night it poured its glittering torrent into the artificial lake of laughter. . . .
After the play they partedMaury was going to a dance at Sherrys. Anthony homeward and to bed.
He found his way slowly over the jostled evening mass of Times Square, which the chariot race and its thousand satellites made rarely beautiful and bright and intimate with carnival. Faces swirled about him, a kaleidoscope of girls, ugly, ugly as sintoo fat, too lean, yet floating upon this autumn air as upon their own warm and passionate breaths poured out into the night. Here, fur all their vulgarity, he thought, they were faintly and subtly mysterious. He inhaled carefully, swallowing into his lungs perfume and the not unpleasant scent of many cigarettes. He caught the glance of a dark young beauty sitting alone in a closed taxicab. Her eyes in the half-light suggested night and violets, and for a moment he stirred again to that half-forgotten remoteness of the afternoon.
Two young Jewish men passed him, talking in loud voices and craning their necks here and there in fatuous supercilious glances. They were dressed in suits of the exaggerated tightness then semi-fashionable; their turn-over collars were notched at the Adams apple: they wore gray spats and carried gray gloves on their cane handles.
Passed a bewildered old lady borne along like a basket of eggs between two men who exclaimed to her of the wonders of Times Squareexplained them so quickly that the old lady, trying to be impartially interested, waved her head here and there like a piece of wind-worried old orange-peel. Anthony heard a snatch of their con?versation:
Theres the Astor, mama!
Look! See the chariot race sign
There?s where we were to-day. No, there!
You should worry and grow thin like a dime. He recognized the current witticism of the year as it issued stridently from one of the pairs at his elbow.
And I says to him. I says
The soft rush of taxis by him, and laughter, laughter hoarse as a crows, incessant and loud, with the rumble of the subways under?neathand over all, the revolutions of light, the growings and recedings of lightlight dividing like pearlsforming and reforming in glittering bars and circles and monstrous grotesque figures cut amazingly on the sky.
He turned thankfully down the hush that blew like a dark wind out of a cross-street, passed a bakery-restaurant in whose windows a dozen roast chickens turned over and over on an automatic spit. From the door came a smell that was hot, doughy, and pink. A drugstore next, exhaling medicines, spilt soda water and a pleasant undertone from the cosmetic counter, then a Chinese laundry, still open, steamy and stifling, smelling folded and vaguely yellow. All these depressed him; reaching Sixth Avenue he stopped at a comer cigar store and emerged feeling betterthe cigar store was cheerful, humanity in a navy blue mist, buying a luxury
Once in his apartment he smoked a last cigarette, sitting in the dark by his open front window. For the first time in over a year he found himself thoroughly enjoying New York. There was a rare pun?gency in it certainly, a quality almost Southern. A lonesome town, though. He who had grown up alone had lately learned to avoid solitude. During the past several months he had been careful, when he had no engagement for the evening, to hurry to one of his clubs and find some one. Oh, there was a loneliness here
His cigarette, its smoke bordering the thin folds of curtain with rum of faint white spray, glowed on until the clock in St. Annes down the street struck one with a querulous fashionable beauty The elevated, half a quiet block away, sounded a rumble of drumsand should he lean from his window he would see the train, like an angry eagle, breasting the dark curve at the corner. He was reminded of a fantastic romance he had lately read in which cities had been bombed from aerial trains, and for a moment he fancied that Washington Square had declared war on Central Park and that this was a north-bound menace loaded with battle and sudden death. But as it passed the illusion faded: it dimin?ished to the faintest of drumsthen to a far-away droning eagle.
There were the bells and the continued low blur of auto horns from Fifth Avenue, but his own street was silent and he was sate in here from all the threat of life, for there was his door and the long hall and his guardian bedroomsafe, safe! The arc-light shining into his window seemed for this hour like the moon, only brighter and more beautiful than the moon.
A Flash-Back In Paradise.
Beauty, who was born anew every hundred years, sat in a sort of outdoor waiting room through which blew gusts of white wind and occasionaly a breathless hurried star. The stars winked at her intimately as they went by and the winds made a soft incessant flurey in her hair. She was incomprehensible, for, in her, soul and spirit were onethe beauty of her body was the essence of her soul. She was that unity sought for philosophers through many centures. In this outdoor waiting room of winds and stars she had been sitting for a hundred years, at peace in the contemplation of herself.
It became known to her, at length, that she was to be born again. Signing, she began a long conversation with a voice that was in white wind, a conversation that took many hours and of which I can give only a fragment here.
BEAUTY: (Her lips scarcely stirring, her eyes turned, as always, inward upon herself) Whither shall I journey now?
THE VOICE: To a new countrya land you have never seen before.
BEAUTY: (Petulantly) I loathe breakmg into these new civilizations. How long a slay this time?
THE VOICE: Fifteen years.
BEAUTY: And whats the name of the place?
THE VOICE: lt is the most opulent, most gorgeous land on eartha land whose wisest are but little wiser than its dullest, a land where the rulers have minds like little children and the law-givers believe m Santa Claus; where ugly women control strong men
BEAUTY: (In astonishment) What?
THE VOICE: (Wery much depressed) Yes, it is truly a melancholy specta?cle. Women with receding chins and shapeless noses go about in broad daylight saying Do this! and Do that! and all the men, even those of great wealth, obey implicitly their women to whom they refer sonorously either as Mrs. So-and-so or as the wife.
BEAUTY: But this can?t be true! I can understand, of course, their obe?dience to women of charmbut to fat women? to bony women? to women with scrawny cheeks?
THE VOICE: Even so.
BEAUTY: What of me? What chance shall I have?
THE VOICE: It will be harder going, if I may borrow a phrase.
BEAUTY: (After a dissatisfied pause) Why not the old lands, the land of grapes and soft-tongued men or the land of ships and seas?
THE VOICE: Its expected that theyll be very busy shortly.
THE VOICE: Your life on earth will be, as always, the interval between two significances in a mundane mirror.
BEAUTY: What will I be? Tell me?
THE VOICE: At first it was thought that you would go this time as an actress in the motion-pictures but, after all, its not advisable. You will be disguised during your fifteen years as what is called a susciety gurl.
BEAUTY: Whats that?
(There is a new sound in the wind which must for our purposes be interpreted as THE VOICE scratching its head.)
THE VOICE (at length): Its a sort of bogus aristocrat.
BEAUTY: Bogus? What is bogus?
THE VOICE : That, too, you will discover in this land. You will find much that is bogus. Also, you will do much that is bogus.
BEAUTY (placidly): It all sounds so vulgar.
THE VOICE : Not half as vulgar as it is. You will be known during your fifteen years as a ragtime kid, a flapper, a jazz-baby, and a baby vamp. You will dance new dances neither more nor less gracefully than you danced the old ones.
BEAUTY (in a whisper): Will I be paid?
THE VOICE : Yes, as usualin love.
BEAUTY (With a faint laugh which disturbs only momentarily the immobility of her lips): And will I like being called a jazz-baby?
THE VOICE (soberly): You will love it .
(The dialogue ends here, with BEAUTY still sitting quietly, the stars pausing in an ecstasy of appreciation, the wind, white and gusty, blowing through her hair.
All this took place seven years before ANTHONY sat by the front windows of his apartment and listened to the chimes of St Annes.)