"The thing isn't confined to the bloated capitalists alone," he laughed one afternoon while sitting with Warren Lockwood in the latter's rooms. "The radicals are up a tree and the conservatives down a cellar. What do you make of it, Warren?"
"I haven't paid much attention to it," the novelist smiled. "I've been busy on a book. What's all this stuff about Germany, anyway? I read some things of yours but I can't figure it out."
Dorn exploded with another laugh.
"You're all a pack of simpletons and bounders, still moist behind the ears, Warren. The whole lot of you. I've been in New York three days and I've begun to feel that there isn't a remotely intelligent human animal in the place. I'm going to retreat inland. In Chicago, at least, people know enough to keep their mouths shut. I'll tell you what the trouble is in a nutshell. People want things straight again. They want black and white so's they can all mass on the white side and make faces at the evil-doers who prefer the black. They don't want facts, diagnosis, theories, interpretations, reports. They want somebody to stand up and announce in a loud, clear voice, 'Tweedledum is wrong. Tweedledee is right, everything else to the contrary is Poppycock.' Thus they'd be able to put an end to their own thinking and bury themselves in their own little alleys and be happy again. You know as well as I, it makes them miserable to think. Restless, irritable, indignant. It's like having bites—the more they're scratched the worse they itch. It's the war, of course. The war has been a failure. The race has caught itself red-handed in a lie. Now everybody is running around trying to confess to everybody else that what he said in the past was a lie and that the real truth is as follows. And there's where the trouble begins. There ain't no such animal."
"I see," said Lockwood, smiling.
"Yes, you do," Dorn grinned. "You don't see anything. The trouble is ... oh, well, the trouble is as I said that the human race is out in the open where it can get a good look at itself. The war raised a curtain...."
"What about the radicals, though? They seem to be saying something definite?"
"Yes, shooting one another down by the thousands in Berlin—as they will some day in New York. Yes, the radicals are definite enough.... The revolution rumbling away in Germany isn't a standup fight between Capital and Labor. It's Radical versus Radical. Just as the war was Imperialist versus Imperialist. One of the outstanding lessons of the last decade is the fact that the world's natural enemies haven't yet had a chance at each other, being too busy murdering among themselves. It's coming, though. Another tableau. All this hysteria and uncertainty will gradually simmer down into another right-and-wrong issue—with life boiling away as always under a black and white surface."
"Do you think we're going to go red here?" Lockwood asked pensively.
"It'll take a little time," Dorn went on. He had become used to reciting his answers in the manner of a schoolmaster. "But it's bound to happen. Bolshevism is a logical evolution of democracy—another step downward in the descent of the individual. Until the arrival of Lenine and Trotzky on the field, there's no question but what American Democracy was the most atrocious insult leveled at the intelligence of the race by its inferiors. Bolshevism goes us one better, however. And just as soon as our lowest types, meaning the majority of our politicians, thinkers, and writers, get to realizing that bolshevism isn't a Red Terror with a bomb in one hand and a dagger in the other, but a state of society surpassing even their own in points of weakness and abnormal silliness, they'll start arresting everybody who isn't a bolshevist. Capital will put up a fight, but capital is already doomed in this country. It isn't respected for its strength, vision, and creative powers. It is tolerated to-day for no other reason than that it has cornered the platitude market. I'm telling you, Warren, that when we get it drummed into our heads that bolshevism isn't strong and powerful, but weaker, more prohibitive, more sentimental, more politically inefficient, and generally worse than our own government, we'll have a dictator of the proletaire in Washington within a week."
Lockwood sighed unhappily and lighted a pipe.
"If you were talking about men and women maybe I could join you," he answered. "But I got a hunch you're just another one of those newspaper Neds. The woods are full of smart alecks like you and they make me kind of tired, because I never can figure out what they're talking about. And I'll be damned if they know themselves. They think in big hunks and keep a lot of words floating in the air.... What old Carl calls 'Blaa ... blaa....'"
The two friends sat regarding each other critically. Dorn nodded after a pause.
"You're right," he smiled. "I'm part of the blaa-blaa. I heard them blaa-blaa with guns in Munich one night. And up in the Baltic. You're right. Anything one says about absurdity becomes absurd itself. And talking about the human race in chunks is necessarily talking absurdly. Tell me about that fellow Tesla."
"They deported him to Rooshia," Lockwood answered. "There was quite a romance about the girl. That was your girl, wasn't it?"
"Yes, Rachel. She wouldn't tag along, eh?"
"No. I suppose they wouldn't let her. I don't know. There was a lot of stuff in the newspapers."
The novelist seemed to hesitate on the brink of further information. His friend smiled understandingly.
"It doesn't matter, Warren. Go ahead. Shoot."
Lockwood nodded sagely, his mouth half open as if his words were staring at Dorn.
"Well, there isn't much I know. I met a little girl the other day—Mary James; know her?"
"She was quite excited. She told me something about an artist that used to hang around Tesla. It seems that he kidnapped her and carted her to Chicago. This James girl was all upset."
An interruption in the person of Edwards the editor occurred. The talk lapsed once more into world problems with Lockwood listening, skeptically open-mouthed.
Late in the evening Edwards suddenly declared, "You're making a big mistake leaving New York, Erik. You've got a market now. Your stuff went big."
"I'm through," Dorn answered. He arose and took his hat. "I'm leaving for Chicago to-morrow."
He paused, smiling at Lockwood.
"I'm going home."
The novelist nodded sagely and murmured, "Uh-huh. Well, good-night."
Making his way slowly through the night crowds and electrophobia of lower Manhattan, Dorn felt peacefully out of place. His thought had become: "I want to get back to where I was." In the midst of the mechanical carnival of Broadway he caught a memory of himself walking to work with a stream of faces—of a sardonic Erik Dorn to whom the street was a pattern; to whom the mysteries tugging at heels that scratched the pavements were the amusing variants of nothing.
"I have some news for you."
The round, smiling face of Eddy Meredith that refused to change with age, beamed at Anna.
The beam hesitated.
"He wrote. He's coming to see me."
"Yes, dear, I know. It sort of frightens me, too. But," she laughed quietly, "there is nothing to be frightened about. He didn't give any address or I would have written him telling him."
"He must know you're divorced," Meredith spoke nervously.
"I don't know if he does, Eddy."
She reached her hand out and placed it over his, her eyes glancing at the figure of Isaac Dorn. He was asleep in a chair.
"Please, dearest, don't worry," she whispered.
"It'll be hard for you."
Meredith's face acquired an abnormal expression.
"Maybe you'll feel different." He sighed, and Anna shook her head. "When's he coming?"
"Did he say anything in the letter?"
She stood up and went to a desk.
"Here it is." A smile touched her lips. "He always wrote curious letters. Words and words when there was nothing to say. And a single phrase when there was something." She read from a sheet of paper—"'Dear Anna, I am coming home. Erik.'"
In the corner Isaac Dorn opened his watery eyes and stared at the ceiling.
"Are you awake, father?"
"Did I tell you I'd heard from Erik?"
The old man mumbled in his beard.
"He'll be out to-morrow night," she said, smiling at him. He nodded his head, stared at her, and seemed to doze off again.
"Father is failing," Anna whispered. Meredith had arisen. His face had grown blank. He walked toward the hall, saying, "I'll go now."
Anna came quickly to him. Her hands reached his shoulders and she stood regarding him intently.
"There's nothing any more, dear. It all ended long ago. Perhaps I'll be sad when I see him. But sad only for him."
Meredith smiled and spoke with an effort at lightness.
"Remember, I don't hold you to anything. I want you only to be happy. In your own way. Not in my way. And if it will mean happiness for you to ... for you to go back, why ..." He shrugged his shoulders and continued to smile with hurt eyes.
"Eddy...." Her face came close to his. He hesitated until her arms closed tightly around him. He felt her warm lips cling and open.
"You've never kissed like that before, Anna." There was almost a fear in his voice.
"Because I never knew I wanted you," she whispered, "till now—till this minute; till you said about my going back."
Her face was alive with emotion. A laugh, and she was in his arms again. They stood embraced, murmuring tenderly to each other.
Later in her bedroom Anna undressed slowly. Her thoughts seemed to be quarreling with her emotions, her emotions with her thoughts. This was Erik's room—ancient torture chamber. Something still clinging to its walls and furniture. Ah, nights of agony still in the air she breathed. Her words formed themselves quietly. They came to peer into her heart—polite visitors standing on tiptoe before a closed cell that hid something.
"Is there anything?" she murmured. "No. I'm different."
She thought of the day she had come out of a grave and resumed living. It had seemed as if she must learn to walk again, to breathe, to discover anew the meanings of words. At first—listless, uncertain. Then new steps, new meanings. Her mind moved back through the year. She had wept only once—on the night of the divorce. But that was as one weeps at an old grave, even a stranger's grave. The rest had been Eddy.
"I've changed. And I've been happier in many ways."
She was talking to herself. Why? "I'm a different Anna." But why think of it? It was settled.
She lay in the bed and her eyes opened at the darkness. Here was where she had lain when she had died. Each night, new deaths. Here the lonely darkness that had once choked her, torn at her eyes and made her scream aloud with pain. Things on the other side of a grave. Memories become alien. Things of long ago, when the whisper of the dark came like an insanity into her brain. "Erik gone! Erik gone! Gone!" A word that beat at her until she died—to awake in the morning and stumble once more through a day.
Now she regarded the dark quietly. Black. It had no shape. It lay everywhere about her. But it did not burn nor choke. A peaceful, harmless dark that could only whisper as if it were asking something. What was it asking? Long arms of night reaching out for something. But there was nothing to give, even if she wanted to. Not even tears. Nothing to give, even though it whispered for alms. Whispered, "Erik ... Erik!" But there was no little memory. No big memory. Dead. Torn out of her. So the dark whispered to a dead thing in her that did not stir. A smile like a tired little gesture passed over her. "Poor Erik, poor Erik!" she murmured. "He must be thinking things that are no more."
She grew chill for an instant.... The memory of agonies, of the screams her love had uttered as it died.
She buried her cool cheek restlessly in the pillow.
Everything the same as it had been. As if he had stepped out of the office for a walk around the block and come back. But a sameness that had lost its familiarity. Old furniture, old faces, intensely a part of his consciousness, yet grown strange. It was like forgetting suddenly the name of a life-long friend.
His entrance created a stir of excitement. He had spent the preceding two days arranging with the chief for his return. Barring the Nietzschean who had functioned in his absence, none had expected him.
He pushed open the swinging door with an old gesture, and walked to his desk. Here he sat fumbling casually with proofs and the contents of pigeonholes. An old routine saying, "Pick me up." Familiar trifles rebuked him. The staff sauntered up one by one to greet him. Crowley, Mortinson, Sweeney.
"Well, glad to see you back. We've sure missed you around here."
Handshakes, smiles, embarrassed questions. A few strange faces to be resented and ignored. A strange locker arrangement in a corner to be frowned at. But the rest of it familiar, poignant—a world where he belonged, but that somehow did not seem to fit as snugly as once. Handshakes in the hall. A faint cheer in the composing-room as he sauntered for the first time to the stone. Slaps on the back. Busy men pausing to look at him with suddenly lighted faces. "Well, Mr. Dorn, greetings! How are ye? You're looking fine...."
His world. It was the same, only now he was conscious of it. Before he had sat in its midst unaware of more than a detail here, a gesture there. Now he seemed to be looking down from an airplane—a strange bird's-eye view of things un-strange.
He returned to his desk. The scene again reached out to embrace him. Familiar colored walls, familiar chatter and flurry of the afternoon edition going to press. He felt its embrace and yet remained outside it. There were things in him now that could never be a part of the unchanging old shop.
During a lull in the forenoon he leaned back in his chair and stared into the pigeonholes. Memories like the unfocused images of a dream one remembers in the morning jumbled in his thought. The scene around him made things he recalled seem unreal. And the things he recalled made the scene around him seem unreal. He tried to divert himself by remembering definitely.... "We lay in a moon-lighted room and I whispered to her: 'You have given me wings.' I held a gun and pulled the trigger as he jumped at me.... Then von Stinnes took the blame.... There's a restaurant in Kurfursten Damm where Mathilde and I.... What a night in Munich!... at the Banhoff. What do I remember most? Let me see.... Yes ... there was a note pinned on the blanket saying she was gone and I ... But there's something else. What? Let me see...."
He tried to evoke clearer pictures. But the sentences that passed through his mind seemed sterile, impotent. The past, set in motion by his effort, evaded him. Its details blurred like the spokes of a swiftly turning wheel. He smiled.
"A sinner's darkest punishment is forgetting his sins," he murmured to himself. He thought of the evening before him. "Better not think of that. Read proofs." He had deferred his meeting with Anna until he should be able to come to her from his desk in the office.
As the day passed an impatience seized him. The unfinished event brought a fear with it.... "I must put it out of my mind until to-night." But it remained and grew.
In the afternoon he sat for an hour talking to Crowley and Mortinson. He listened to them chuckle at his anecdotes. Their faces beaming with affectionate interest seemed nevertheless to say, "All this is interesting, but not very important. Not as important as sitting in the office here and sending the paper to press day after day."
The words he was uttering bored him. He had heard them too often. Yet he kept on talking, trying to bury his impatience and fear in the sound of his voice. His anecdotes were no longer memories. They seemed to have become complete in themselves, related to nothing that had ever happened. He wondered as he talked if he were lying. These things he was saying were somehow improvisations—committed to memory. He kept on talking, eagerly, amusingly.
The afternoon passed. A walk through familiar streets and it was time for dinner.
"I'm not hungry. I'll eat, though."
Yes, the evening ahead was important—very important. That accounted for the tedium of the day. But it would be dark soon. There would be a to-morrow. There had been other important evenings. It was not necessary to get too nervous. He had writhed before in the embrace of interminable hours, hours that seemed never to arrive. Then suddenly they came, looming, swelling into existence like oncoming locomotives that opened with a sudden rush from little discs into great roaring shapes. And once arrived they had seemed to be present forever. But suddenly the roaring shapes were little discs again. Hours died as people died—with an abrupt obliteration. Yet each new moment, like each new face, became again interminable. Time was an endlessness whose vanishing left its illusion unchanged.
But now it was night.
"At the end of this block is a house. Two doors more. I have no key. Ring the bell. God, but I'm an idiot. She'll answer the door herself. What'll I say? That's her step. Hello? No. Walk in. Naturally."
He stopped breathing. The door opened. His legs were made of whalebone. But there was a new odor in the hallway.... And something new here in her face. He stood looking at the woman with whom he had lived for seven years and when he said her name it sounded like that of a stranger. His features had a habit of smiling. An old habit of narrowing one of his eyes and turning up the right corner of his lips. He stood unconscious of his expression, his smile a mask that had slapped itself automatically over his face.
But they must talk. No, she had him at a disadvantage. Her silence could say everything for her. His silence could say nothing. He reached forward and took her hands.
She was different. A rigidness gone. When he had left her she was standing, stiffened. Now her hands were limp. Her face too, limp. Her eyes that looked at him seemed blind.
"I've come back, as you see."
That was banal. One did not talk like that to a crucified one. Her hands slipped away and she preceded him into the room. He looked to see his father, but forgot to ask a question about him. Anna was standing straight, looking straight at him. Not as if he were there, but as if she were alone with something.
"You must let me talk first, Erik."
Willingly. It was difficult to breathe and talk at the same time. He sat down as she moved into a chair opposite.
Something was happening but he couldn't tell yet. She was changed. Older or younger, hard to tell. But changed. It was confusing to look at someone and look at a different image of her. The different image was in his mind. When she talked he could tell.
"Did you know that I had gotten a divorce, Erik?"
That was it, then. She wasn't his wife any more. A sort of hocus-pocus ... now you are my wife, now you aren't my wife.
"Four months ago."
"I was in Germany...." Mathilde, von Stinnes, es lebe die Welt Revolution, made a circle in his head.
"Yes, I know. I'm sorry you didn't find out."
It was impossible. Something impossible was happening. Of course, he had known it would happen. But he had fooled himself. A clever thing to do. He was talking like a little boy reciting a piece from a platform.
"I've come back to you because everything but you has died. I begin with the end of what I have to say. I came back from Europe ... because I wanted you...."
She interrupted. "I wrote you a letter when I found out about her. I sent it to New York."
"I never got it."
Quite a formal procedure thus far. A letter had miscarried. One could blame the mails for that. And a divorce. Yes, that was formal too ... "whereas the complainant further alleges ..." He felt that his legs were trembling. If he spoke again his voice would be unsteady. He did not want that. But someone had to speak. Not she. She could be silent.
"Anna"—let his voice shake. Perhaps it would help matters. "You've changed...."
"I haven't much right to ask for anything else...."
Why in God's name could he think clearly and yet only talk like a blithering fool? He would pause and gather his wits. But then he would start making a speech ... four-score and seven years ago our forefathers....
"I'm sorry you came, Erik...."
This couldn't be Anna. He closed his mouth and stared. A dream full of noises, voices, Anna saying:
"We mustn't waste time regretting or worrying each other about things.... It's much too late now."
He wanted to say. "It is impossible that you do not love me because you once loved me, because we once lay in each other's arms ... seven years." But there was no Anna to say that to. Instead, a stranger-woman. An impulse carried him away. He was kneeling beside her, burying his face in her lap. It didn't matter. There was no one to see. Perhaps her hand would move gently over his hair. No, she was sitting straight. Still alone with something. She was saying:
"I'm sorry. Please, Erik, don't."
"I love you."
"No. No! Please, let's talk...."
He raised his face. It was easier now that he was crying. He wouldn't have to be grammatical ... or finish sentences.
"I understand, Erik. I was afraid of this. For you. But you mustn't. 'Shh! it's all over."
"No, Anna. It can't be. You are still Anna."
"Yes. But different."
He stood up.
"Really, Erik," she was shaking her head and smiling without expression, "everything is over. I would rather have written it to you. I could have made it plain. But I didn't know where to reach you."
He let her talk on and stood staring. Her face was limp. There was nothing there. He was looking at a corpse. Not of her, but somehow of himself. There in her eyes he lay dead—an obliteration. He had come back to a part of him that had died. It was buried where one couldn't see, somewhere behind her eyes.
"I have nothing more to say, Erik. But you must understand what I have said. Because it means everything."
He listened, staring now at the room, remembering. They had lived together once in this room. There was something beautiful about the room. A face that held itself like a lighted lamp to his eyes. "Erik, Erik, I love you. Oh, I love you so. I would die without you. Erik, my own!" The walls and books and chairs murmured with echoes. The familiar slanting books on their shelves. The large leather chairs under the light. He must weep. The little things that were familiar—mirrors in which he saw images and words ... a white body with copper hair fallen across its ivory; white arms clinging passionately to him; a voice, rapturous, pleading. He must weep because he had come back to a world that had died, that looked at him whispering with dead lips, "Erik, my beloved. Oh, I'm so happy ... so happy when you kiss me ... my dearest...."
He closed his eyes as tears burned out of them. Anna in a blur. Still talking quietly. Embarrassed by his weeping. He was offering her his silence and his tears. He had never stood like this before a woman. But it was something other than a woman—an ending. As if one came upon a figure dead in a room and looked at it and said without surprise, "It is I."
"So you see, Erik, it's all over. I can't tell you how. It took a long time, but it seemed sudden. I don't know what to say to you, but it will be better to leave nothing unsaid. I'm trying to think of everything. I'm going to be married next month. Remember, I'm not the Anna you knew. She isn't getting married again. I'm somebody totally different. I feel different. Even when I walk. You never knew me. I can remember our years together clearly. But it seems like a story that was once told me. Do you understand, Erik? I am not bitter or sad, and I have no blame for you. You are more than forgiven...."
No words occurred to him. Somewhere behind the smooth face of her he fancied lived a woman whose arms were about his neck and whose lips were hungering for him.
"It's all very clear to me, Erik. I've thought of it often. You made me a part of yourself and when you deserted me, you took that with you, and left me as I am; as I was born...."
"Will you play something on the piano for me, Anna?"
He seated himself slowly and remained with his head down. There was nothing to think.
"I'll go in a few minutes," he muttered.
Anna, standing straight, watched him as if she were curious. He felt her eyes trying to acquaint themselves with him, and failing. He was growing angry. Better leave before he spoke again. Anger was in him. It was she who had been the unfaithful one. He could smile at that. He stood up then, and smiled. This was a part of life, to be felt and appreciated. A handshake, a smile that von Stinnes would have applauded, and he would have lived another hour.
"On the boat I made love to you," he said softly, "and I am not unhappy. It is only—my turn to weep a bit."
He regarded her calmly. Yes, if he wanted to ... there was something waiting.... Even though she thought it dead. If he wanted to, there was a grave to open, slowly, with tears and old phrases.
She let him approach her. He felt her body grow rigid as he placed his arms around her. His lips touched her cold cheek.
"It was to make sure that you were dead," he whispered.
... Another hour ended. He had returned. Now he was going away again and the hour was a disc whirling away, already lost among other discs.
The street was chilly. He walked swiftly. His thoughts were assembling themselves. Words that had lain under the tears in the room thawed out.
"She will marry Meredith and the old man will come to live with me. I should have gone upstairs and said hello. But he was probably asleep. I'll take my books and furniture. She won't need them with Meredith. Get an apartment somewhere. How old am I? About forty. Not quite. Changed completely. Curious, I didn't want her after she'd talked about it. I suppose because I didn't really come for her—for somebody else. Conrad in quest of his youth. Lost youth. How'd that damn book end? Well, what of it, what of it? Things die without saddening one. Yet one becomes sad. A make-believe. That's right. No matter what happens you keep right on thinking and breathing as if it were all outside. Yes, that's it—outside; a poignant comedy outside that talks to one. Death is the only thing that has reality. We must not take the rest too seriously. If I get too bored I can remember that I killed a man and develop a stricken conscience. Poppycock!... The old man'll be a nuisance. But he's quiet, thank God! Well, well ... I'm too civilized. I suppose I made an ass of myself. No.... A few tears more or less...."
His thought paused. He walked, looking at things—curbings, houses, street trees, lights in windows. He resumed, after blocks:
"Good God, what a thing happened to her! To change like that. An awfulness about it. Death in life. Have I changed? No. I'm the same. But that's a lie. I was in love once ... a face like a mirror of stars. The phrase grows humorous with repetition. It doesn't mean anything. What did it mean? Like trying to remember a toothache ... which tooth ached. But it only lasted ... let's see. Rachel, Rachel.... Nothing. It was gone a week after I came to her. The rest was—a restlessness ... wanting something. Not having it. Well, it doesn't matter now."
In his hotel room he undressed without turning on the lights. He felt nervous, vaguely afraid of himself.
"I might commit suicide. Rather stupid, though. I'll die soon enough. Maybe a few more things left to see and feel and forget. Who knows? I'll have to look up some of the ladies."
He crawled into bed and grew promptly sleepless.
"If I'm honest I'll be able to amuse myself. If not ... oh, Lord, what a mess! No. Why is it? Life runs away like that—hits you in the eye and runs away."
He closed his eyes and sighed. Like himself, the world was full of people who lived on. Things ended for them and nobody could tell the difference, not even themselves. Being happy—what the devil was that? Happiness—unhappiness—you slept as soundly and ate as heartily.
"I'm a little tired to-night." An excuse for something. He was afraid. He reached over to the small table near the bed and secured a cigarette. Lighting it, he lay on his back, blowing smoke carefully into the dark and watching the tobacco glow under his nose.
"Damn good thing I'm not an author. End up as a cross between Maeterlinck and Laura Jean. One could write a volume on a cigarette glowing in the dark."
He puffed until the tobacco was almost ended. He placed the still-kindled stub on the table and sighed:
"Yes, that's me. Life has had its lips to me blowing smoke and fire out of me. And now a table top on which to glow reminiscently for a moment. And cool into ashes. Apologies to Laura Jean, Marie Corelli—and God."
Rachel, removing her heavy coat, walked briskly to the grate fire burning in the rear of the studio. She stood looking into the flames and rubbing the cold out of her hands.
"Well, I kept the appointment, Frank."
Brander, the artist, sprawled on a cushion-littered couch, sat up slowly. His heavy eyes regarded her.
"We had quite a talk. You know his wife has remarried."
"That so?" Rachel laughed.
"Mr. Dorn sends you his regards."
"That'll be enough."
"I must say he's much cleverer than you, Frank."
"What did you talk about? Soul stuff, eh?"
"Oh, not entirely."
She came over to the couch and patted his cheeks.
"My hands—feel how cold they are."
"Never mind your hands. What did our good friend have to say for himself?"
"Oh, talk." Her dark eyes glanced enigmatically from his stare.
Brander swore. "I want to know, d'you hear?"
"Dear me! Soulmate bares all." She laughed and walked with a sensual swing down the long room.
Brander, without stirring, repeated, "Yes, everything."
Rachel's face sobered.
"Why, there's nothing Frank—of interest."
"Hell, I've caught you crying over him."
"Well, what of that? A woman's tears, you know, a woman's tears, don't mean anything."
"They don't, eh?"
"No." The sight of him hunched amid the cushions seemed to appeal to her humor. A large, strong monkey face against blue, green, and yellow pillow faces. She laughed.
"Well, I'll tell you something. There's going to be no soul stuff in this. You're mine. And if you start any flapdoodle hand-holding with our good friend, I'll knock your heads together into a pulp."
He raised his large shoulders and glowered majestically. Rachel, paused beside a canvas, regarded him with half-closed eyes and smiling lips.
"He sent his kindest wishes to you."
Brander left his seat and strode toward her.
"And asked us to call. And if we couldn't come together, I might call alone," she spoke quickly. Her eyes were mocking. An oath from Brander seemed to amuse her.
"You're in love with him," he muttered, his fingers tightening about her wrist. "Come, out with it! I want to know."
"Yes." Rachel's eyes grew taunting. "He is the knight in shining armor, fairy prince, and the man in the moon."
"Never mind laughing. I want to know."
"Well, listen then." Her voice grew vibrant as if a laugh were talking. "His eyes are the beckoning hands of dream. Poor Frank doesn't know what that means."
Brander swung her toward the couch. She fell amid the cushions with a laugh. He stood looking at her and then walked slowly.
"Don't touch me. Don't you dare!"
A grin crossed the artist's face.
"I know you and your kind," he answered, "mooney girls. Mooney-headed girls. I've had 'em before."
Her face as he bent over her glowed with a sudden terror.
"Mooney girls," repeated Brander.
His hands reached her shoulders and held her carelessly as she squirmed.
"You're hurting me."
"I'll hurt you more. Talk out now. Are you in love with that loon?"
"More than me?"
Brander's face reddened. His hand struck her chin. Rachel shut her eyes to hold back tears.
"Are you still?"
"Yes. Always." Her teeth clenched. "Go on, hit me, if you want to. I love him. Love him always. Every minute. As I did. Do you hear? I love him."
She opened her eyes and shivered. He was going to kill her. He tore at her clothes, beating her with his fists until her head rattled on her neck.
"I'll fix your love for him," Brander whispered. The pain of his blows and shakings were making her dizzy.
"Frank ... dear, please...."
"Do you love him?"
She tried to bury her head in her arms, but he untwisted her gesture. His hands, striking and clawing at her, made her scream. A mist—he had seized her.
"Do you love him now?"
She opened her eyes and stared wildly into Brander's face. It grinned at her. Her arms clutched his body.
"No, no!" she cried, her mouth gasping. "Don't talk. Don't ask questions. Love ..." she laughed aloud eagerly, brazenly. Her thin arms tightened fiercely about him. "I love this."
Isaac Dorn was sitting in a chair beside the gas-log fire in his son's apartment. His thin fingers lay motionless on his knees. His head had fallen forward.
It was early evening when his son entered the room. Dorn paused and looked at the silent figure in the chair. The old man raised his head as if he had been spoken to and muttered. "Eh?"
He saw his son and smiled. He would like to talk to him. It was lonely all day in the house. And things were beginning to fade from his eyes. It was hard even to see if Erik was smiling. Yes, his face was happy. That was good. People should look as Erik did—amused. Wait ... wait long enough and it all blurred and faded gently away.
"What made you so late, Erik?" he asked. Now his son was laughing. That was a good sign.
"A lot of work at the office. The Russians are at it again. And I met an old friend this afternoon. A dear old friend. Old friends make one sentimental and garrulous. So we talked."
He noticed the old man's eyes close but continued addressing him.
"We discussed problems in mathematics. How many yesterdays make a to-morrow. That gas-log smells to high heaven."
He leaned over and turned out the odorous flames. He noticed now that the old man had dozed off again. But his talk went on. It had become a habit to keep on talking to his father who dozed under his words. "She's going to drop around and visit us. And we will perform a gentle autopsy. Stir a little cloud of dust out of the bucket of ashes, eh? And perhaps we will come to life for a moment. Who knows? At least, we shall weep. And that is something. To be able to weep. To know enough to weep. Her name is Rachel."
He paused and walked toward the window.
"Rachel," he repeated, his eyes no longer on the old man. "Her name is unchanged...."
He opened von Stinnes's silver case and removed a cigarette. He stood gazing at the snow on roofs, on window ledges, on pavements. Crystalline geometries. Houses that made little puzzle pictures against the stagnant curve of the darkening sky. A zigzag of leaden-eyed windows, and windows ringed with yellow light peering like cat eyes into the winter dusk. The darkness slowly ended the scene. Night covered the snow. The city opened its tiny yellow eyes.
A street of houses before him. A cigarette under his nose. An old man asleep. Outside the window the snow-covered buildings stood in the dark like a skeleton world, like patterns in black and white.