The last light fades and drifts across the land—the low, long land, the sunny land of spires; the ghosts of evening tune again their lyres and wander singing in a plaintive band down the long corridors of trees; pale fires echo the night from tower top to tower: Oh, sleep that dreams, and dream that never tires, press from the petals of the lotus flower something of this to keep, the essence of an hour.
No more to wait the twilight of the moon in this sequestered vale of star and spire, for one eternal morning of desire passes to time and earthy afternoon. Here, Heraclitus, did you find in fire and shifting things the prophecy you hurled down the dead years; this midnight my desire will see, shadowed among the embers, furled in flame, the splendor and the sadness of the world.
May, 1917-February, 1919
A letter dated January, 1918, written by Monsignor Darcy to Amory, who is a second lieutenant in the 171st Infantry, Port of Embarkation, Camp Mills, Long Island.
MY DEAR BOY:
All you need tell me of yourself is that you still are; for the rest I merely search back in a restive memory, a thermometer that records only fevers, and match you with what I was at your age. But men will chatter and you and I will still shout our futilities to each other across the stage until the last silly curtain falls plump! upon our bobbing heads. But you are starting the spluttering magic-lantern show of life with much the same array of slides as I had, so I need to write you if only to shriek the colossal stupidity of people....
This is the end of one thing: for better or worse you will never again be quite the Amory Blaine that I knew, never again will we meet as we have met, because your generation is growing hard, much harder than mine ever grew, nourished as they were on the stuff of the nineties.
Amory, lately I reread Aeschylus and there in the divine irony of the "Agamemnon" I find the only answer to this bitter age—all the world tumbled about our ears, and the closest parallel ages back in that hopeless resignation. There are times when I think of the men out there as Roman legionaries, miles from their corrupt city, stemming back the hordes... hordes a little more menacing, after all, than the corrupt city... another blind blow at the race, furies that we passed with ovations years ago, over whose corpses we bleated triumphantly all through the Victorian era....
And afterward an out-and-out materialistic world—and the Catholic Church. I wonder where you'll fit in. Of one thing I'm sure—Celtic you'll live and Celtic you'll die; so if you don't use heaven as a continual referendum for your ideas you'll find earth a continual recall to your ambitions.
Amory, I've discovered suddenly that I'm an old man. Like all old men, I've had dreams sometimes and I'm going to tell you of them. I've enjoyed imagining that you were my son, that perhaps when I was young I went into a state of coma and begat you, and when I came to, had no recollection of it... it's the paternal instinct, Amory—celibacy goes deeper than the flesh....
Sometimes I think that the explanation of our deep resemblance is some common ancestor, and I find that the only blood that the Darcys and the O'Haras have in common is that of the O'Donahues... Stephen was his name, I think....
When the lightning strikes one of us it strikes both: you had hardly arrived at the port of embarkation when I got my papers to start for Rome, and I am waiting every moment to be told where to take ship. Even before you get this letter I shall be on the ocean; then will come your turn. You went to war as a gentleman should, just as you went to school and college, because it was the thing to do. It's better to leave the blustering and tremulo-heroism to the middle classes; they do it so much better.
Do you remember that week-end last March when you brought Burne Holiday from Princeton to see me? What a magnificent boy he is! It gave me a frightful shock afterward when you wrote that he thought me splendid; how could he be so deceived? Splendid is the one thing that neither you nor I are. We are many other things—we're extraordinary, we're clever, we could be said, I suppose, to be brilliant. We can attract people, we can make atmosphere, we can almost lose our Celtic souls in Celtic subtleties, we can almost always have our own way; but splendid—rather not!
I am going to Rome with a wonderful dossier and letters of introduction that cover every capital in Europe, and there will be "no small stir" when I get there. How I wish you were with me! This sounds like a rather cynical paragraph, not at all the sort of thing that a middle-aged clergyman should write to a youth about to depart for the war; the only excuse is that the middle-aged clergyman is talking to himself. There are deep things in us and you know what they are as well as I do. We have great faith, though yours at present is uncrystallized; we have a terrible honesty that all our sophistry cannot destroy and, above all, a childlike simplicity that keeps us from ever being really malicious.
I have written a keen for you which follows. I am sorry your cheeks are not up to the description I have written of them, but you will smoke and read all night—
At any rate here it is:
A Lament for a Foster Son, and He going to the War Against the King of Foreign.
"Ochone He is gone from me the son of my mind And he in his golden youth like Angus Oge Angus of the bright birds And his mind strong and subtle like the mind of Cuchulin on Muirtheme.
Awirra sthrue His brow is as white as the milk of the cows of Maeve And his cheeks like the cherries of the tree And it bending down to Mary and she feeding the Son of God.
Aveelia Vrone His hair is like the golden collar of the Kings at Tara And his eyes like the four gray seas of Erin. And they swept with the mists of rain.
Mavrone go Gudyo He to be in the joyful and red battle Amongst the chieftains and they doing great deeds of valor His life to go from him It is the chords of my own soul would be loosed.
A Vich Deelish My heart is in the heart of my son And my life is in his life surely A man can be twice young In the life of his sons only.
Jia du Vaha Alanav May the Son of God be above him and beneath him, before him and behind him May the King of the elements cast a mist over the eyes of the King of Foreign, May the Queen of the Graces lead him by the hand the way he can go through the midst of his enemies and they not seeing him
May Patrick of the Gael and Collumb of the Churches and the five thousand Saints of Erin be better than a shield to him And he got into the fight. Och Ochone."
Amory—Amory—I feel, somehow, that this is all; one or both of us is not going to last out this war.... I've been trying to tell you how much this reincarnation of myself in you has meant in the last few years... curiously alike we are... curiously unlike. Good-by, dear boy, and God be with you. THAYER DARCY.
EMBARKING AT NIGHT
Amory moved forward on the deck until he found a stool under an electric light. He searched in his pocket for note-book and pencil and then began to write, slowly, laboriously:
"We leave to-night... Silent, we filled the still, deserted street, A column of dim gray, And ghosts rose startled at the muffled beat Along the moonless way; The shadowy shipyards echoed to the feet That turned from night and day.
And so we linger on the windless decks, See on the spectre shore Shades of a thousand days, poor gray-ribbed wrecks... Oh, shall we then deplore Those futile years! See how the sea is white! The clouds have broken and the heavens burn To hollow highways, paved with gravelled light The churning of the waves about the stern Rises to one voluminous nocturne, ... We leave to-night."
A letter from Amory, headed "Brest, March 11th, 1919," to Lieutenant T. P. D'Invilliers, Camp Gordon, Ga.
We meet in Manhattan on the 30th of this very mo.; we then proceed to take a very sporty apartment, you and I and Alec, who is at me elbow as I write. I don't know what I'm going to do but I have a vague dream of going into politics. Why is it that the pick of the young Englishmen from Oxford and Cambridge go into politics and in the U. S. A. we leave it to the muckers?—raised in the ward, educated in the assembly and sent to Congress, fat-paunched bundles of corruption, devoid of "both ideas and ideals" as the debaters used to say. Even forty years ago we had good men in politics, but we, we are brought up to pile up a million and "show what we are made of." Sometimes I wish I'd been an Englishman; American life is so damned dumb and stupid and healthy.
Since poor Beatrice died I'll probably have a little money, but very darn little. I can forgive mother almost everything except the fact that in a sudden burst of religiosity toward the end, she left half of what remained to be spent in stained-glass windows and seminary endowments. Mr. Barton, my lawyer, writes me that my thousands are mostly in street railways and that the said Street R.R. s are losing money because of the five-cent fares. Imagine a salary list that gives $350 a month to a man that can't read and write!—yet I believe in it, even though I've seen what was once a sizable fortune melt away between speculation, extravagance, the democratic administration, and the income tax—modern, that's me all over, Mabel.
At any rate we'll have really knock-out rooms—you can get a job on some fashion magazine, and Alec can go into the Zinc Company or whatever it is that his people own—he's looking over my shoulder and he says it's a brass company, but I don't think it matters much, do you? There's probably as much corruption in zinc-made money as brass-made money. As for the well-known Amory, he would write immortal literature if he were sure enough about anything to risk telling any one else about it. There is no more dangerous gift to posterity than a few cleverly turned platitudes.
Tom, why don't you become a Catholic? Of course to be a good one you'd have to give up those violent intrigues you used to tell me about, but you'd write better poetry if you were linked up to tall golden candlesticks and long, even chants, and even if the American priests are rather burgeois, as Beatrice used to say, still you need only go to the sporty churches, and I'll introduce you to Monsignor Darcy who really is a wonder.
Kerry's death was a blow, so was Jesse's to a certain extent. And I have a great curiosity to know what queer corner of the world has swallowed Burne. Do you suppose he's in prison under some false name? I confess that the war instead of making me orthodox, which is the correct reaction, has made me a passionate agnostic. The Catholic Church has had its wings clipped so often lately that its part was timidly negligible, and they haven't any good writers any more. I'm sick of Chesterton.
I've only discovered one soldier who passed through the much-advertised spiritual crisis, like this fellow, Donald Hankey, and the one I knew was already studying for the ministry, so he was ripe for it. I honestly think that's all pretty much rot, though it seemed to give sentimental comfort to those at home; and may make fathers and mothers appreciate their children. This crisis-inspired religion is rather valueless and fleeting at best. I think four men have discovered Paris to one that discovered God.
But us—you and me and Alec—oh, we'll get a Jap butler and dress for dinner and have wine on the table and lead a contemplative, emotionless life until we decide to use machine-guns with the property owners—or throw bombs with the Bolshevik God! Tom, I hope something happens. I'm restless as the devil and have a horror of getting fat or falling in love and growing domestic.
The place at Lake Geneva is now for rent but when I land I'm going West to see Mr. Barton and get some details. Write me care of the Blackstone, Chicago.
S'ever, dear Boswell,
BOOK TWO—The Education of a Personage
CHAPTER 1. The Debutante
The time is February. The place is a large, dainty bedroom in the Connage house on Sixty-eighth Street, New York. A girl's room: pink walls and curtains and a pink bedspread on a cream-colored bed. Pink and cream are the motifs of the room, but the only article of furniture in full view is a luxurious dressing-table with a glass top and a three-sided mirror. On the walls there is an expensive print of "Cherry Ripe," a few polite dogs by Landseer, and the "King of the Black Isles," by Maxfield Parrish.
Great disorder consisting of the following items: (1) seven or eight empty cardboard boxes, with tissue-paper tongues hanging panting from their mouths; (2) an assortment of street dresses mingled with their sisters of the evening, all upon the table, all evidently new; (3) a roll of tulle, which has lost its dignity and wound itself tortuously around everything in sight, and (4) upon the two small chairs, a collection of lingerie that beggars description. One would enjoy seeing the bill called forth by the finery displayed and one is possessed by a desire to see the princess for whose benefit—Look! There's some one! Disappointment! This is only a maid hunting for something—she lifts a heap from a chair—Not there; another heap, the dressing-table, the chiffonier drawers. She brings to light several beautiful chemises and an amazing pajama but this does not satisfy her—she goes out.
An indistinguishable mumble from the next room.
Now, we are getting warm. This is Alec's mother, Mrs. Connage, ample, dignified, rouged to the dowager point and quite worn out. Her lips move significantly as she looks for IT. Her search is less thorough than the maid's but there is a touch of fury in it, that quite makes up for its sketchiness. She stumbles on the tulle and her "damn" is quite audible. She retires, empty-handed.
More chatter outside and a girl's voice, a very spoiled voice, says: "Of all the stupid people—"
After a pause a third seeker enters, not she of the spoiled voice, but a younger edition. This is Cecelia Connage, sixteen, pretty, shrewd, and constitutionally good-humored. She is dressed for the evening in a gown the obvious simplicity of which probably bores her. She goes to the nearest pile, selects a small pink garment and holds it up appraisingly.
ROSALIND: (Outside) Yes!
CECELIA: Very snappy?
CECELIA: I've got it!
(She sees herself in the mirror of the dressing-table and commences to shimmy enthusiastically.)
ROSALIND: (Outside) What are you doing—trying it on?
(CECELIA ceases and goes out carrying the garment at the right shoulder.
From the other door, enters ALEC CONNAGE. He looks around quickly and in a huge voice shouts: Mama! There is a chorus of protest from next door and encouraged he starts toward it, but is repelled by another chorus.)
ALEC: So that's where you all are! Amory Blaine is here.
CECELIA: (Quickly) Take him down-stairs.
ALEC: Oh, he is down-stairs.
MRS. CONNAGE: Well, you can show him where his room is. Tell him I'm sorry that I can't meet him now.
ALEC: He's heard a lot about you all. I wish you'd hurry. Father's telling him all about the war and he's restless. He's sort of temperamental.
(This last suffices to draw CECELIA into the room.)
CECELIA: (Seating herself high upon lingerie) How do you mean—temperamental? You used to say that about him in letters.
ALEC: Oh, he writes stuff.
CECELIA: Does he play the piano?
ALEC: Don't think so.
CECELIA: (Speculatively) Drink?
ALEC: Yes—nothing queer about him.
ALEC: Good Lord—ask him, he used to have a lot, and he's got some income now.
(MRS. CONNAGE appears.)
MRS. CONNAGE: Alec, of course we're glad to have any friend of yours—
ALEC: You certainly ought to meet Amory.
MRS. CONNAGE: Of course, I want to. But I think it's so childish of you to leave a perfectly good home to go and live with two other boys in some impossible apartment. I hope it isn't in order that you can all drink as much as you want. (She pauses.) He'll be a little neglected to-night. This is Rosalind's week, you see. When a girl comes out, she needs all the attention.
ROSALIND: (Outside) Well, then, prove it by coming here and hooking me.
(MRS. CONNAGE goes.)
ALEC: Rosalind hasn't changed a bit.
CECELIA: (In a lower tone) She's awfully spoiled.
ALEC: She'll meet her match to-night.
CECELIA: Who—Mr. Amory Blaine?
CECELIA: Well, Rosalind has still to meet the man she can't outdistance. Honestly, Alec, she treats men terribly. She abuses them and cuts them and breaks dates with them and yawns in their faces—and they come back for more.
ALEC: They love it.
CECELIA: They hate it. She's a—she's a sort of vampire, I think—and she can make girls do what she wants usually—only she hates girls.
ALEC: Personality runs in our family.
CECELIA: (Resignedly) I guess it ran out before it got to me.
ALEC: Does Rosalind behave herself?
CECELIA: Not particularly well. Oh, she's average—smokes sometimes, drinks punch, frequently kissed—Oh, yes—common knowledge—one of the effects of the war, you know.
(Emerges MRS. CONNAGE.)
MRS. CONNAGE: Rosalind's almost finished so I can go down and meet your friend.
(ALEC and his mother go out.)
ROSALIND: (Outside) Oh, mother—
CECELIA: Mother's gone down.
(And now ROSALIND enters. ROSALIND is—utterly ROSALIND. She is one of those girls who need never make the slightest effort to have men fall in love with them. Two types of men seldom do: dull men are usually afraid of her cleverness and intellectual men are usually afraid of her beauty. All others are hers by natural prerogative.
If ROSALIND could be spoiled the process would have been complete by this time, and as a matter of fact, her disposition is not all it should be; she wants what she wants when she wants it and she is prone to make every one around her pretty miserable when she doesn't get it—but in the true sense she is not spoiled. Her fresh enthusiasm, her will to grow and learn, her endless faith in the inexhaustibility of romance, her courage and fundamental honesty—these things are not spoiled.
There are long periods when she cordially loathes her whole family. She is quite unprincipled; her philosophy is carpe diem for herself and laissez faire for others. She loves shocking stories: she has that coarse streak that usually goes with natures that are both fine and big. She wants people to like her, but if they do not it never worries her or changes her. She is by no means a model character.
The education of all beautiful women is the knowledge of men. ROSALIND had been disappointed in man after man as individuals, but she had great faith in man as a sex. Women she detested. They represented qualities that she felt and despised in herself—incipient meanness, conceit, cowardice, and petty dishonesty. She once told a roomful of her mother's friends that the only excuse for women was the necessity for a disturbing element among men. She danced exceptionally well, drew cleverly but hastily, and had a startling facility with words, which she used only in love-letters.
But all criticism of ROSALIND ends in her beauty. There was that shade of glorious yellow hair, the desire to imitate which supports the dye industry. There was the eternal kissable mouth, small, slightly sensual, and utterly disturbing. There were gray eyes and an unimpeachable skin with two spots of vanishing color. She was slender and athletic, without underdevelopment, and it was a delight to watch her move about a room, walk along a street, swing a golf club, or turn a "cartwheel."
A last qualification—her vivid, instant personality escaped that conscious, theatrical quality that AMORY had found in ISABELLE. MONSIGNOR DARCY would have been quite up a tree whether to call her a personality or a personage. She was perhaps the delicious, inexpressible, once-in-a-century blend.
On the night of her debut she is, for all her strange, stray wisdom, quite like a happy little girl. Her mother's maid has just done her hair, but she has decided impatiently that she can do a better job herself. She is too nervous just now to stay in one place. To that we owe her presence in this littered room. She is going to speak. ISABELLE'S alto tones had been like a violin, but if you could hear ROSALIND, you would say her voice was musical as a waterfall.)
ROSALIND: Honestly, there are only two costumes in the world that I really enjoy being in—(Combing her hair at the dressing-table.) One's a hoop skirt with pantaloons; the other's a one-piece bathing-suit. I'm quite charming in both of them.
CECELIA: Glad you're coming out?
ROSALIND: Yes; aren't you?
CECELIA: (Cynically) You're glad so you can get married and live on Long Island with the fast younger married set. You want life to be a chain of flirtation with a man for every link.
ROSALIND: Want it to be one! You mean I've found it one.
ROSALIND: Cecelia, darling, you don't know what a trial it is to be—like me. I've got to keep my face like steel in the street to keep men from winking at me. If I laugh hard from a front row in the theatre, the comedian plays to me for the rest of the evening. If I drop my voice, my eyes, my handkerchief at a dance, my partner calls me up on the 'phone every day for a week.
CECELIA: It must be an awful strain.
ROSALIND: The unfortunate part is that the only men who interest me at all are the totally ineligible ones. Now—if I were poor I'd go on the stage.
CECELIA: Yes, you might as well get paid for the amount of acting you do.
ROSALIND: Sometimes when I've felt particularly radiant I've thought, why should this be wasted on one man?
CECELIA: Often when you're particularly sulky, I've wondered why it should all be wasted on just one family. (Getting up.) I think I'll go down and meet Mr. Amory Blaine. I like temperamental men.
ROSALIND: There aren't any. Men don't know how to be really angry or really happy—and the ones that do, go to pieces.
CECELIA: Well, I'm glad I don't have all your worries. I'm engaged.
ROSALIND: (With a scornful smile) Engaged? Why, you little lunatic! If mother heard you talking like that she'd send you off to boarding-school, where you belong.
CECELIA: You won't tell her, though, because I know things I could tell—and you're too selfish!
ROSALIND: (A little annoyed) Run along, little girl! Who are you engaged to, the iceman? the man that keeps the candy-store?
CECELIA: Cheap wit—good-by, darling, I'll see you later.
ROSALIND: Oh, be sure and do that—you're such a help.
(Exit CECELIA. ROSALIND finished her hair and rises, humming. She goes up to the mirror and starts to dance in front of it on the soft carpet. She watches not her feet, but her eyes—never casually but always intently, even when she smiles. The door suddenly opens and then slams behind AMORY, very cool and handsome as usual. He melts into instant confusion.)
HE: Oh, I'm sorry. I thought—
SHE: (Smiling radiantly) Oh, you're Amory Blaine, aren't you?
HE: (Regarding her closely) And you're Rosalind?
SHE: I'm going to call you Amory—oh, come in—it's all right—mother'll be right in—(under her breath) unfortunately.
HE: (Gazing around) This is sort of a new wrinkle for me.
SHE: This is No Man's Land.
HE: This is where you—you—(pause)
SHE: Yes—all those things. (She crosses to the bureau.) See, here's my rouge—eye pencils.
HE: I didn't know you were that way.
SHE: What did you expect?
HE: I thought you'd be sort of—sort of—sexless, you know, swim and play golf.
SHE: Oh, I do—but not in business hours.
SHE: Six to two—strictly.
HE: I'd like to have some stock in the corporation.
SHE: Oh, it's not a corporation—it's just "Rosalind, Unlimited." Fifty-one shares, name, good-will, and everything goes at $25,000 a year.
HE: (Disapprovingly) Sort of a chilly proposition.
SHE: Well, Amory, you don't mind—do you? When I meet a man that doesn't bore me to death after two weeks, perhaps it'll be different.
HE: Odd, you have the same point of view on men that I have on women.
SHE: I'm not really feminine, you know—in my mind.
HE: (Interested) Go on.
SHE: No, you—you go on—you've made me talk about myself. That's against the rules.
SHE: My own rules—but you—Oh, Amory, I hear you're brilliant. The family expects so much of you.
HE: How encouraging!
SHE: Alec said you'd taught him to think. Did you? I didn't believe any one could.
HE: No. I'm really quite dull.
(He evidently doesn't intend this to be taken seriously.)
HE: I'm—I'm religious—I'm literary. I've—I've even written poems.
SHE: Vers libre—splendid! (She declaims.)
"The trees are green, The birds are singing in the trees, The girl sips her poison The bird flies away the girl dies."
HE: (Laughing) No, not that kind.
SHE: (Suddenly) I like you.
SHE: Modest too—
HE: I'm afraid of you. I'm always afraid of a girl—until I've kissed her.
SHE: (Emphatically) My dear boy, the war is over.
HE: So I'll always be afraid of you.
SHE: (Rather sadly) I suppose you will.
(A slight hesitation on both their parts.)
HE: (After due consideration) Listen. This is a frightful thing to ask.
SHE: (Knowing what's coming) After five minutes.
HE: But will you—kiss me? Or are you afraid?
SHE: I'm never afraid—but your reasons are so poor.
HE: Rosalind, I really want to kiss you.
SHE: So do I.
(They kiss—definitely and thoroughly.)
HE: (After a breathless second) Well, is your curiosity satisfied?
SHE: Is yours?
HE: No, it's only aroused.
(He looks it.)
SHE: (Dreamily) I've kissed dozens of men. I suppose I'll kiss dozens more.
HE: (Abstractedly) Yes, I suppose you could—like that.
SHE: Most people like the way I kiss.
HE: (Remembering himself) Good Lord, yes. Kiss me once more, Rosalind.
SHE: No—my curiosity is generally satisfied at one.
HE: (Discouraged) Is that a rule?
SHE: I make rules to fit the cases.
HE: You and I are somewhat alike—except that I'm years older in experience.
SHE: How old are you?
HE: Almost twenty-three. You?
HE: I suppose you're the product of a fashionable school.
SHE: No—I'm fairly raw material. I was expelled from Spence—I've forgotten why.
HE: What's your general trend?
SHE: Oh, I'm bright, quite selfish, emotional when aroused, fond of admiration—
HE: (Suddenly) I don't want to fall in love with you—
SHE: (Raising her eyebrows) Nobody asked you to.
HE: (Continuing coldly) But I probably will. I love your mouth.
SHE: Hush! Please don't fall in love with my mouth—hair, eyes, shoulders, slippers—but not my mouth. Everybody falls in love with my mouth.
HE: It's quite beautiful.
SHE: It's too small.
HE: No it isn't—let's see.
(He kisses her again with the same thoroughness.)
SHE: (Rather moved) Say something sweet.
HE: (Frightened) Lord help me.
SHE: (Drawing away) Well, don't—if it's so hard.
HE: Shall we pretend? So soon?
SHE: We haven't the same standards of time as other people.
HE: Already it's—other people.
SHE: Let's pretend.
HE: No—I can't—it's sentiment.
SHE: You're not sentimental?
HE: No, I'm romantic—a sentimental person thinks things will last—a romantic person hopes against hope that they won't. Sentiment is emotional.
SHE: And you're not? (With her eyes half-closed.) You probably flatter yourself that that's a superior attitude.
HE: Well—Rosalind, Rosalind, don't argue—kiss me again.
SHE: (Quite chilly now) No—I have no desire to kiss you.
HE: (Openly taken aback) You wanted to kiss me a minute ago.
SHE: This is now.
HE: I'd better go.
SHE: I suppose so.
(He goes toward the door.)
SHE: (Laughing) Score—Home Team: One hundred—Opponents: Zero.
(He starts back.)
SHE: (Quickly) Rain—no game.
(He goes out.)
(She goes quietly to the chiffonier, takes out a cigarette-case and hides it in the side drawer of a desk. Her mother enters, note-book in hand.)
MRS. CONNAGE: Good—I've been wanting to speak to you alone before we go down-stairs.
ROSALIND: Heavens! you frighten me!
MRS. CONNAGE: Rosalind, you've been a very expensive proposition.
ROSALIND: (Resignedly) Yes.
MRS. CONNAGE: And you know your father hasn't what he once had.
ROSALIND: (Making a wry face) Oh, please don't talk about money.
MRS. CONNAGE: You can't do anything without it. This is our last year in this house—and unless things change Cecelia won't have the advantages you've had.
ROSALIND: (Impatiently) Well—what is it?
MRS. CONNAGE: So I ask you to please mind me in several things I've put down in my note-book. The first one is: don't disappear with young men. There may be a time when it's valuable, but at present I want you on the dance-floor where I can find you. There are certain men I want to have you meet and I don't like finding you in some corner of the conservatory exchanging silliness with any one—or listening to it.
ROSALIND: (Sarcastically) Yes, listening to it is better.
MRS. CONNAGE: And don't waste a lot of time with the college set—little boys nineteen and twenty years old. I don't mind a prom or a football game, but staying away from advantageous parties to eat in little cafes down-town with Tom, Dick, and Harry—
ROSALIND: (Offering her code, which is, in its way, quite as high as her mother's) Mother, it's done—you can't run everything now the way you did in the early nineties.
MRS. CONNAGE: (Paying no attention) There are several bachelor friends of your father's that I want you to meet to-night—youngish men.
ROSALIND: (Nodding wisely) About forty-five?
MRS. CONNAGE: (Sharply) Why not?
ROSALIND: Oh, quite all right—they know life and are so adorably tired looking (shakes her head)—but they will dance.
MRS. CONNAGE: I haven't met Mr. Blaine—but I don't think you'll care for him. He doesn't sound like a money-maker.
ROSALIND: Mother, I never think about money.
MRS. CONNAGE: You never keep it long enough to think about it.
ROSALIND: (Sighs) Yes, I suppose some day I'll marry a ton of it—out of sheer boredom.
MRS. CONNAGE: (Referring to note-book) I had a wire from Hartford. Dawson Ryder is coming up. Now there's a young man I like, and he's floating in money. It seems to me that since you seem tired of Howard Gillespie you might give Mr. Ryder some encouragement. This is the third time he's been up in a month.
ROSALIND: How did you know I was tired of Howard Gillespie?
MRS. CONNAGE: The poor boy looks so miserable every time he comes.
ROSALIND: That was one of those romantic, pre-battle affairs. They're all wrong.
MRS. CONNAGE: (Her say said) At any rate, make us proud of you to-night.
ROSALIND: Don't you think I'm beautiful?
MRS. CONNAGE: You know you are.
(From down-stairs is heard the moan of a violin being tuned, the roll of a drum. MRS. CONNAGE turns quickly to her daughter.)
MRS. CONNAGE: Come!
ROSALIND: One minute!
(Her mother leaves. ROSALIND goes to the glass where she gazes at herself with great satisfaction. She kisses her hand and touches her mirrored mouth with it. Then she turns out the lights and leaves the room. Silence for a moment. A few chords from the piano, the discreet patter of faint drums, the rustle of new silk, all blend on the staircase outside and drift in through the partly opened door. Bundled figures pass in the lighted hall. The laughter heard below becomes doubled and multiplied. Then some one comes in, closes the door, and switches on the lights. It is CECELIA. She goes to the chiffonier, looks in the drawers, hesitates—then to the desk whence she takes the cigarette-case and extracts one. She lights it and then, puffing and blowing, walks toward the mirror.)
CECELIA: (In tremendously sophisticated accents) Oh, yes, coming out is such a farce nowadays, you know. One really plays around so much before one is seventeen, that it's positively anticlimax. (Shaking hands with a visionary middle-aged nobleman.) Yes, your grace—I b'lieve I've heard my sister speak of you. Have a puff—they're very good. They're—they're Coronas. You don't smoke? What a pity! The king doesn't allow it, I suppose. Yes, I'll dance.
(So she dances around the room to a tune from down-stairs, her arms outstretched to an imaginary partner, the cigarette waving in her hand.)
SEVERAL HOURS LATER
The corner of a den down-stairs, filled by a very comfortable leather lounge. A small light is on each side above, and in the middle, over the couch hangs a painting of a very old, very dignified gentleman, period 1860. Outside the music is heard in a fox-trot.
ROSALIND is seated on the lounge and on her left is HOWARD GILLESPIE, a vapid youth of about twenty-four. He is obviously very unhappy, and she is quite bored.
GILLESPIE: (Feebly) What do you mean I've changed. I feel the same toward you.
ROSALIND: But you don't look the same to me.
GILLESPIE: Three weeks ago you used to say that you liked me because I was so blase, so indifferent—I still am.
ROSALIND: But not about me. I used to like you because you had brown eyes and thin legs.
GILLESPIE: (Helplessly) They're still thin and brown. You're a vampire, that's all.
ROSALIND: The only thing I know about vamping is what's on the piano score. What confuses men is that I'm perfectly natural. I used to think you were never jealous. Now you follow me with your eyes wherever I go.
GILLESPIE: I love you.
ROSALIND: (Coldly) I know it.
GILLESPIE: And you haven't kissed me for two weeks. I had an idea that after a girl was kissed she was—was—won.
ROSALIND: Those days are over. I have to be won all over again every time you see me.
GILLESPIE: Are you serious?
ROSALIND: About as usual. There used to be two kinds of kisses: First when girls were kissed and deserted; second, when they were engaged. Now there's a third kind, where the man is kissed and deserted. If Mr. Jones of the nineties bragged he'd kissed a girl, every one knew he was through with her. If Mr. Jones of 1919 brags the same every one knows it's because he can't kiss her any more. Given a decent start any girl can beat a man nowadays.
GILLESPIE: Then why do you play with men?
ROSALIND: (Leaning forward confidentially) For that first moment, when he's interested. There is a moment—Oh, just before the first kiss, a whispered word—something that makes it worth while.
GILLESPIE: And then?
ROSALIND: Then after that you make him talk about himself. Pretty soon he thinks of nothing but being alone with you—he sulks, he won't fight, he doesn't want to play—Victory!
(Enter DAWSON RYDER, twenty-six, handsome, wealthy, faithful to his own, a bore perhaps, but steady and sure of success.)
RYDER: I believe this is my dance, Rosalind.
ROSALIND: Well, Dawson, so you recognize me. Now I know I haven't got too much paint on. Mr. Ryder, this is Mr. Gillespie.
(They shake hands and GILLESPIE leaves, tremendously downcast.)
RYDER: Your party is certainly a success.
ROSALIND: Is it—I haven't seen it lately. I'm weary—Do you mind sitting out a minute?
RYDER: Mind—I'm delighted. You know I loathe this "rushing" idea. See a girl yesterday, to-day, to-morrow.
ROSALIND: I wonder if you know you love me.
RYDER: (Startled) What—Oh—you know you're remarkable!
ROSALIND: Because you know I'm an awful proposition. Any one who marries me will have his hands full. I'm mean—mighty mean.
RYDER: Oh, I wouldn't say that.
ROSALIND: Oh, yes, I am—especially to the people nearest to me. (She rises.) Come, let's go. I've changed my mind and I want to dance. Mother is probably having a fit.
(Exeunt. Enter ALEC and CECELIA.)
CECELIA: Just my luck to get my own brother for an intermission.
ALEC: (Gloomily) I'll go if you want me to.
CECELIA: Good heavens, no—with whom would I begin the next dance? (Sighs.) There's no color in a dance since the French officers went back.
ALEC: (Thoughtfully) I don't want Amory to fall in love with Rosalind.
CECELIA: Why, I had an idea that that was just what you did want.
ALEC: I did, but since seeing these girls—I don't know. I'm awfully attached to Amory. He's sensitive and I don't want him to break his heart over somebody who doesn't care about him.
CECELIA: He's very good looking.
ALEC: (Still thoughtfully) She won't marry him, but a girl doesn't have to marry a man to break his heart.
CECELIA: What does it? I wish I knew the secret.
ALEC: Why, you cold-blooded little kitty. It's lucky for some that the Lord gave you a pug nose.
(Enter MRS. CONNAGE.)
MRS. CONNAGE: Where on earth is Rosalind?
ALEC: (Brilliantly) Of course you've come to the best people to find out. She'd naturally be with us.
MRS. CONNAGE: Her father has marshalled eight bachelor millionaires to meet her.
ALEC: You might form a squad and march through the halls.
MRS. CONNAGE: I'm perfectly serious—for all I know she may be at the Cocoanut Grove with some football player on the night of her debut. You look left and I'll—
ALEC: (Flippantly) Hadn't you better send the butler through the cellar?
MRS. CONNAGE: (Perfectly serious) Oh, you don't think she'd be there?
CECELIA: He's only joking, mother.
ALEC: Mother had a picture of her tapping a keg of beer with some high hurdler.
MRS. CONNAGE: Let's look right away.
(They go out. ROSALIND comes in with GILLESPIE.)
GILLESPIE: Rosalind—Once more I ask you. Don't you care a blessed thing about me?
(AMORY walks in briskly.)
AMORY: My dance.
ROSALIND: Mr. Gillespie, this is Mr. Blaine.
GILLESPIE: I've met Mr. Blaine. From Lake Geneva, aren't you?
GILLESPIE: (Desperately) I've been there. It's in the—the Middle West, isn't it?
AMORY: (Spicily) Approximately. But I always felt that I'd rather be provincial hot-tamale than soup without seasoning.
AMORY: Oh, no offense.
(GILLESPIE bows and leaves.)
ROSALIND: He's too much people.
AMORY: I was in love with a people once.
AMORY: Oh, yes—her name was Isabelle—nothing at all to her except what I read into her.
ROSALIND: What happened?
AMORY: Finally I convinced her that she was smarter than I was—then she threw me over. Said I was critical and impractical, you know.
ROSALIND: What do you mean impractical?
AMORY: Oh—drive a car, but can't change a tire.
ROSALIND: What are you going to do?
AMORY: Can't say—run for President, write—
ROSALIND: Greenwich Village?
AMORY: Good heavens, no—I said write—not drink.
ROSALIND: I like business men. Clever men are usually so homely.
AMORY: I feel as if I'd known you for ages.
ROSALIND: Oh, are you going to commence the "pyramid" story?
AMORY: No—I was going to make it French. I was Louis XIV and you were one of my—my—(Changing his tone.) Suppose—we fell in love.
ROSALIND: I've suggested pretending.
AMORY: If we did it would be very big.
AMORY: Because selfish people are in a way terribly capable of great loves.
ROSALIND: (Turning her lips up) Pretend.
(Very deliberately they kiss.)
AMORY: I can't say sweet things. But you are beautiful.
ROSALIND: Not that.
AMORY: What then?
ROSALIND: (Sadly) Oh, nothing—only I want sentiment, real sentiment—and I never find it.
AMORY: I never find anything else in the world—and I loathe it.
ROSALIND: It's so hard to find a male to gratify one's artistic taste.
(Some one has opened a door and the music of a waltz surges into the room. ROSALIND rises.)
ROSALIND: Listen! they're playing "Kiss Me Again."
(He looks at her.)
AMORY: (Softly—the battle lost) I love you.
ROSALIND: I love you—now.
AMORY: Oh, God, what have I done?
ROSALIND: Nothing. Oh, don't talk. Kiss me again.
AMORY: I don't know why or how, but I love you—from the moment I saw you.
ROSALIND: Me too—I—I—oh, to-night's to-night.
(Her brother strolls in, starts and then in a loud voice says: "Oh, excuse me," and goes.)
ROSALIND: (Her lips scarcely stirring) Don't let me go—I don't care who knows what I do.
AMORY: Say it!
ROSALIND: I love you—now. (They part.) Oh—I am very youthful, thank God—and rather beautiful, thank God—and happy, thank God, thank God—(She pauses and then, in an odd burst of prophecy, adds) Poor Amory!
(He kisses her again.)
Within two weeks Amory and Rosalind were deeply and passionately in love. The critical qualities which had spoiled for each of them a dozen romances were dulled by the great wave of emotion that washed over them.
"It may be an insane love-affair," she told her anxious mother, "but it's not inane."
The wave swept Amory into an advertising agency early in March, where he alternated between astonishing bursts of rather exceptional work and wild dreams of becoming suddenly rich and touring Italy with Rosalind.
They were together constantly, for lunch, for dinner, and nearly every evening—always in a sort of breathless hush, as if they feared that any minute the spell would break and drop them out of this paradise of rose and flame. But the spell became a trance, seemed to increase from day to day; they began to talk of marrying in July—in June. All life was transmitted into terms of their love, all experience, all desires, all ambitions, were nullified—their senses of humor crawled into corners to sleep; their former love-affairs seemed faintly laughable and scarcely regretted juvenalia.
For the second time in his life Amory had had a complete bouleversement and was hurrying into line with his generation.
A LITTLE INTERLUDE
Amory wandered slowly up the avenue and thought of the night as inevitably his—the pageantry and carnival of rich dusk and dim streets ... it seemed that he had closed the book of fading harmonies at last and stepped into the sensuous vibrant walks of life. Everywhere these countless lights, this promise of a night of streets and singing—he moved in a half-dream through the crowd as if expecting to meet Rosalind hurrying toward him with eager feet from every corner.... How the unforgettable faces of dusk would blend to her, the myriad footsteps, a thousand overtures, would blend to her footsteps; and there would be more drunkenness than wine in the softness of her eyes on his. Even his dreams now were faint violins drifting like summer sounds upon the summer air.
The room was in darkness except for the faint glow of Tom's cigarette where he lounged by the open window. As the door shut behind him, Amory stood a moment with his back against it.
"Hello, Benvenuto Blaine. How went the advertising business to-day?"
Amory sprawled on a couch.
"I loathed it as usual!" The momentary vision of the bustling agency was displaced quickly by another picture.
"My God! She's wonderful!"
"I can't tell you," repeated Amory, "just how wonderful she is. I don't want you to know. I don't want any one to know."
Another sigh came from the window—quite a resigned sigh.
"She's life and hope and happiness, my whole world now."
He felt the quiver of a tear on his eyelid.
"Oh, Golly, Tom!"
"Sit like we do," she whispered.
He sat in the big chair and held out his arms so that she could nestle inside them.
"I knew you'd come to-night," she said softly, "like summer, just when I needed you most... darling... darling..."
His lips moved lazily over her face.
"You taste so good," he sighed.
"How do you mean, lover?"
"Oh, just sweet, just sweet..." he held her closer.
"Amory," she whispered, "when you're ready for me I'll marry you."
"We won't have much at first."
"Don't!" she cried. "It hurts when you reproach yourself for what you can't give me. I've got your precious self—and that's enough for me."
"You know, don't you? Oh, you know."
"Yes, but I want to hear you say it."
"I love you, Amory, with all my heart."
"Always, will you?"
"All my life—Oh, Amory—"
"I want to belong to you. I want your people to be my people. I want to have your babies."
"But I haven't any people."
"Don't laugh at me, Amory. Just kiss me."
"I'll do what you want," he said.
"No, I'll do what you want. We're you—not me. Oh, you're so much a part, so much all of me..."
He closed his eyes.
"I'm so happy that I'm frightened. Wouldn't it be awful if this was—was the high point?..."
She looked at him dreamily.
"Beauty and love pass, I know.... Oh, there's sadness, too. I suppose all great happiness is a little sad. Beauty means the scent of roses and then the death of roses—"
"Beauty means the agony of sacrifice and the end of agony...."
"And, Amory, we're beautiful, I know. I'm sure God loves us—"
"He loves you. You're his most precious possession."
"I'm not his, I'm yours. Amory, I belong to you. For the first time I regret all the other kisses; now I know how much a kiss can mean."
Then they would smoke and he would tell her about his day at the office—and where they might live. Sometimes, when he was particularly loquacious, she went to sleep in his arms, but he loved that Rosalind—all Rosalinds—as he had never in the world loved any one else. Intangibly fleeting, unrememberable hours.
One day Amory and Howard Gillespie meeting by accident down-town took lunch together, and Amory heard a story that delighted him. Gillespie after several cocktails was in a talkative mood; he began by telling Amory that he was sure Rosalind was slightly eccentric.
He had gone with her on a swimming party up in Westchester County, and some one mentioned that Annette Kellerman had been there one day on a visit and had dived from the top of a rickety, thirty-foot summer-house. Immediately Rosalind insisted that Howard should climb up with her to see what it looked like.
A minute later, as he sat and dangled his feet on the edge, a form shot by him; Rosalind, her arms spread in a beautiful swan dive, had sailed through the air into the clear water.
"Of course I had to go, after that—and I nearly killed myself. I thought I was pretty good to even try it. Nobody else in the party tried it. Well, afterward Rosalind had the nerve to ask me why I stooped over when I dove. 'It didn't make it any easier,' she said, 'it just took all the courage out of it.' I ask you, what can a man do with a girl like that? Unnecessary, I call it."
Gillespie failed to understand why Amory was smiling delightedly all through lunch. He thought perhaps he was one of these hollow optimists.
FIVE WEEKS LATER
Again the library of the Connage house. ROSALIND is alone, sitting on the lounge staring very moodily and unhappily at nothing. She has changed perceptibly—she is a trifle thinner for one thing; the light in her eyes is not so bright; she looks easily a year older.
Her mother comes in, muffled in an opera-cloak. She takes in ROSALIND with a nervous glance.
MRS. CONNAGE: Who is coming to-night?
(ROSALIND fails to hear her, at least takes no notice.)
MRS. CONNAGE: Alec is coming up to take me to this Barrie play, "Et tu, Brutus." (She perceives that she is talking to herself.) Rosalind! I asked you who is coming to-night?
ROSALIND: (Starting) Oh—what—oh—Amory—
MRS. CONNAGE: (Sarcastically) You have so many admirers lately that I couldn't imagine which one. (ROSALIND doesn't answer.) Dawson Ryder is more patient than I thought he'd be. You haven't given him an evening this week.
ROSALIND: (With a very weary expression that is quite new to her face.) Mother—please—
MRS. CONNAGE: Oh, I won't interfere. You've already wasted over two months on a theoretical genius who hasn't a penny to his name, but go ahead, waste your life on him. I won't interfere.
ROSALIND: (As if repeating a tiresome lesson) You know he has a little income—and you know he's earning thirty-five dollars a week in advertising—
MRS. CONNAGE: And it wouldn't buy your clothes. (She pauses but ROSALIND makes no reply.) I have your best interests at heart when I tell you not to take a step you'll spend your days regretting. It's not as if your father could help you. Things have been hard for him lately and he's an old man. You'd be dependent absolutely on a dreamer, a nice, well-born boy, but a dreamer—merely clever. (She implies that this quality in itself is rather vicious.)
ROSALIND: For heaven's sake, mother—
(A maid appears, announces Mr. Blaine who follows immediately. AMORY'S friends have been telling him for ten days that he "looks like the wrath of God," and he does. As a matter of fact he has not been able to eat a mouthful in the last thirty-six hours.)
AMORY: Good evening, Mrs. Connage.
MRS. CONNAGE: (Not unkindly) Good evening, Amory.
(AMORY and ROSALIND exchange glances—and ALEC comes in. ALEC'S attitude throughout has been neutral. He believes in his heart that the marriage would make AMORY mediocre and ROSALIND miserable, but he feels a great sympathy for both of them.)
ALEC: Hi, Amory!
AMORY: Hi, Alec! Tom said he'd meet you at the theatre.
ALEC: Yeah, just saw him. How's the advertising to-day? Write some brilliant copy?
AMORY: Oh, it's about the same. I got a raise—(Every one looks at him rather eagerly)—of two dollars a week. (General collapse.)
MRS. CONNAGE: Come, Alec, I hear the car.
(A good night, rather chilly in sections. After MRS. CONNAGE and ALEC go out there is a pause. ROSALIND still stares moodily at the fireplace. AMORY goes to her and puts his arm around her.)
AMORY: Darling girl.
(They kiss. Another pause and then she seizes his hand, covers it with kisses and holds it to her breast.)
ROSALIND: (Sadly) I love your hands, more than anything. I see them often when you're away from me—so tired; I know every line of them. Dear hands!
(Their eyes meet for a second and then she begins to cry—a tearless sobbing.)
ROSALIND: Oh, we're so darned pitiful!
ROSALIND: Oh, I want to die!
AMORY: Rosalind, another night of this and I'll go to pieces. You've been this way four days now. You've got to be more encouraging or I can't work or eat or sleep. (He looks around helplessly as if searching for new words to clothe an old, shopworn phrase.) We'll have to make a start. I like having to make a start together. (His forced hopefulness fades as he sees her unresponsive.) What's the matter? (He gets up suddenly and starts to pace the floor.) It's Dawson Ryder, that's what it is. He's been working on your nerves. You've been with him every afternoon for a week. People come and tell me they've seen you together, and I have to smile and nod and pretend it hasn't the slightest significance for me. And you won't tell me anything as it develops.
ROSALIND: Amory, if you don't sit down I'll scream.
AMORY: (Sitting down suddenly beside her) Oh, Lord.
ROSALIND: (Taking his hand gently) You know I love you, don't you?
ROSALIND: You know I'll always love you—
AMORY: Don't talk that way; you frighten me. It sounds as if we weren't going to have each other. (She cries a little and rising from the couch goes to the armchair.) I've felt all afternoon that things were worse. I nearly went wild down at the office—couldn't write a line. Tell me everything.
ROSALIND: There's nothing to tell, I say. I'm just nervous.
AMORY: Rosalind, you're playing with the idea of marrying Dawson Ryder.
ROSALIND: (After a pause) He's been asking me to all day.
AMORY: Well, he's got his nerve!
ROSALIND: (After another pause) I like him.
AMORY: Don't say that. It hurts me.
ROSALIND: Don't be a silly idiot. You know you're the only man I've ever loved, ever will love.
AMORY: (Quickly) Rosalind, let's get married—next week.
ROSALIND: We can't.
AMORY: Why not?
ROSALIND: Oh, we can't. I'd be your squaw—in some horrible place.
AMORY: We'll have two hundred and seventy-five dollars a month all told.
ROSALIND: Darling, I don't even do my own hair, usually.
AMORY: I'll do it for you.
ROSALIND: (Between a laugh and a sob) Thanks.
AMORY: Rosalind, you can't be thinking of marrying some one else. Tell me! You leave me in the dark. I can help you fight it out if you'll only tell me.
ROSALIND: It's just—us. We're pitiful, that's all. The very qualities I love you for are the ones that will always make you a failure.
AMORY: (Grimly) Go on.
ROSALIND: Oh—it is Dawson Ryder. He's so reliable, I almost feel that he'd be a—a background.
AMORY: You don't love him.
ROSALIND: I know, but I respect him, and he's a good man and a strong one.
AMORY: (Grudgingly) Yes—he's that.
ROSALIND: Well—here's one little thing. There was a little poor boy we met in Rye Tuesday afternoon—and, oh, Dawson took him on his lap and talked to him and promised him an Indian suit—and next day he remembered and bought it—and, oh, it was so sweet and I couldn't help thinking he'd be so nice to—to our children—take care of them—and I wouldn't have to worry.
AMORY: (In despair) Rosalind! Rosalind!
ROSALIND: (With a faint roguishness) Don't look so consciously suffering.
AMORY: What power we have of hurting each other!
ROSALIND: (Commencing to sob again) It's been so perfect—you and I. So like a dream that I'd longed for and never thought I'd find. The first real unselfishness I've ever felt in my life. And I can't see it fade out in a colorless atmosphere!
AMORY: It won't—it won't!
ROSALIND: I'd rather keep it as a beautiful memory—tucked away in my heart.
AMORY: Yes, women can do that—but not men. I'd remember always, not the beauty of it while it lasted, but just the bitterness, the long bitterness.
AMORY: All the years never to see you, never to kiss you, just a gate shut and barred—you don't dare be my wife.
ROSALIND: No—no—I'm taking the hardest course, the strongest course. Marrying you would be a failure and I never fail—if you don't stop walking up and down I'll scream!
(Again he sinks despairingly onto the lounge.)
AMORY: Come over here and kiss me.
AMORY: Don't you want to kiss me?
ROSALIND: To-night I want you to love me calmly and coolly.
AMORY: The beginning of the end.
ROSALIND: (With a burst of insight) Amory, you're young. I'm young. People excuse us now for our poses and vanities, for treating people like Sancho and yet getting away with it. They excuse us now. But you've got a lot of knocks coming to you—
AMORY: And you're afraid to take them with me.
ROSALIND: No, not that. There was a poem I read somewhere—you'll say Ella Wheeler Wilcox and laugh—but listen:
"For this is wisdom—to love and live, To take what fate or the gods may give, To ask no question, to make no prayer, To kiss the lips and caress the hair, Speed passion's ebb as we greet its flow, To have and to hold, and, in time—let go."
AMORY: But we haven't had.
ROSALIND: Amory, I'm yours—you know it. There have been times in the last month I'd have been completely yours if you'd said so. But I can't marry you and ruin both our lives.
AMORY: We've got to take our chance for happiness.
ROSALIND: Dawson says I'd learn to love him.
(AMORY with his head sunk in his hands does not move. The life seems suddenly gone out of him.)
ROSALIND: Lover! Lover! I can't do with you, and I can't imagine life without you.
AMORY: Rosalind, we're on each other's nerves. It's just that we're both high-strung, and this week—
(His voice is curiously old. She crosses to him and taking his face in her hands, kisses him.)
ROSALIND: I can't, Amory. I can't be shut away from the trees and flowers, cooped up in a little flat, waiting for you. You'd hate me in a narrow atmosphere. I'd make you hate me.
(Again she is blinded by sudden uncontrolled tears.)
ROSALIND: Oh, darling, go—Don't make it harder! I can't stand it—
AMORY: (His face drawn, his voice strained) Do you know what you're saying? Do you mean forever?
(There is a difference somehow in the quality of their suffering.)
ROSALIND: Can't you see—
AMORY: I'm afraid I can't if you love me. You're afraid of taking two years' knocks with me.
ROSALIND: I wouldn't be the Rosalind you love.
AMORY: (A little hysterically) I can't give you up! I can't, that's all! I've got to have you!
ROSALIND: (A hard note in her voice) You're being a baby now.
AMORY: (Wildly) I don't care! You're spoiling our lives!
ROSALIND: I'm doing the wise thing, the only thing.
AMORY: Are you going to marry Dawson Ryder?
ROSALIND: Oh, don't ask me. You know I'm old in some ways—in others—well, I'm just a little girl. I like sunshine and pretty things and cheerfulness—and I dread responsibility. I don't want to think about pots and kitchens and brooms. I want to worry whether my legs will get slick and brown when I swim in the summer.
AMORY: And you love me.
ROSALIND: That's just why it has to end. Drifting hurts too much. We can't have any more scenes like this.
(She draws his ring from her finger and hands it to him. Their eyes blind again with tears.)
AMORY: (His lips against her wet cheek) Don't! Keep it, please—oh, don't break my heart!
(She presses the ring softly into his hand.)
ROSALIND: (Brokenly) You'd better go.
(She looks at him once more, with infinite longing, infinite sadness.)
ROSALIND: Don't ever forget me, Amory—
(He goes to the door, fumbles for the knob, finds it—she sees him throw back his head—and he is gone. Gone—she half starts from the lounge and then sinks forward on her face into the pillows.)
ROSALIND: Oh, God, I want to die! (After a moment she rises and with her eyes closed feels her way to the door. Then she turns and looks once more at the room. Here they had sat and dreamed: that tray she had so often filled with matches for him; that shade that they had discreetly lowered one long Sunday afternoon. Misty-eyed she stands and remembers; she speaks aloud.) Oh, Amory, what have I done to you?
(And deep under the aching sadness that will pass in time, Rosalind feels that she has lost something, she knows not what, she knows not why.)
CHAPTER 2. Experiments in Convalescence
The Knickerbocker Bar, beamed upon by Maxfield Parrish's jovial, colorful "Old King Cole," was well crowded. Amory stopped in the entrance and looked at his wrist-watch; he wanted particularly to know the time, for something in his mind that catalogued and classified liked to chip things off cleanly. Later it would satisfy him in a vague way to be able to think "that thing ended at exactly twenty minutes after eight on Thursday, June 10, 1919." This was allowing for the walk from her house—a walk concerning which he had afterward not the faintest recollection.
He was in rather grotesque condition: two days of worry and nervousness, of sleepless nights, of untouched meals, culminating in the emotional crisis and Rosalind's abrupt decision—the strain of it had drugged the foreground of his mind into a merciful coma. As he fumbled clumsily with the olives at the free-lunch table, a man approached and spoke to him, and the olives dropped from his nervous hands.
It was some one he had known at Princeton; he had no idea of the name.
"Hello, old boy—" he heard himself saying.
"Name's Jim Wilson—you've forgotten."
"Sure, you bet, Jim. I remember."
"Going to reunion?"
"You know!" Simultaneously he realized that he was not going to reunion.
Amory nodded, his eyes staring oddly. Stepping back to let some one pass, he knocked the dish of olives to a crash on the floor.
"Too bad," he muttered. "Have a drink?"
Wilson, ponderously diplomatic, reached over and slapped him on the back.
"You've had plenty, old boy."
Amory eyed him dumbly until Wilson grew embarrassed under the scrutiny.
"Plenty, hell!" said Amory finally. "I haven't had a drink to-day."
Wilson looked incredulous.
"Have a drink or not?" cried Amory rudely.
Together they sought the bar.
"I'll just take a Bronx."
Wilson had another; Amory had several more. They decided to sit down. At ten o'clock Wilson was displaced by Carling, class of '15. Amory, his head spinning gorgeously, layer upon layer of soft satisfaction setting over the bruised spots of his spirit, was discoursing volubly on the war.
"'S a mental was'e," he insisted with owl-like wisdom. "Two years my life spent inalleshual vacuity. Los' idealism, got be physcal anmal," he shook his fist expressively at Old King Cole, "got be Prussian 'bout ev'thing, women 'specially. Use' be straight 'bout women college. Now don'givadam." He expressed his lack of principle by sweeping a seltzer bottle with a broad gesture to noisy extinction on the floor, but this did not interrupt his speech. "Seek pleasure where find it for to-morrow die. 'At's philos'phy for me now on."
Carling yawned, but Amory, waxing brilliant, continued:
"Use' wonder 'bout things—people satisfied compromise, fif'y-fif'y att'tude on life. Now don' wonder, don' wonder—" He became so emphatic in impressing on Carling the fact that he didn't wonder that he lost the thread of his discourse and concluded by announcing to the bar at large that he was a "physcal anmal."
"What are you celebrating, Amory?"
Amory leaned forward confidentially.
"Cel'brating blowmylife. Great moment blow my life. Can't tell you 'bout it—"
He heard Carling addressing a remark to the bartender:
"Give him a bromo-seltzer."
Amory shook his head indignantly.
"None that stuff!"
"But listen, Amory, you're making yourself sick. You're white as a ghost."
Amory considered the question. He tried to look at himself in the mirror but even by squinting up one eye could only see as far as the row of bottles behind the bar.
"Like som'n solid. We go get some—some salad."
He settled his coat with an attempt at nonchalance, but letting go of the bar was too much for him, and he slumped against a chair.
"We'll go over to Shanley's," suggested Carling, offering an elbow.
With this assistance Amory managed to get his legs in motion enough to propel him across Forty-second Street.
Shanley's was very dim. He was conscious that he was talking in a loud voice, very succinctly and convincingly, he thought, about a desire to crush people under his heel. He consumed three club sandwiches, devouring each as though it were no larger than a chocolate-drop. Then Rosalind began popping into his mind again, and he found his lips forming her name over and over. Next he was sleepy, and he had a hazy, listless sense of people in dress suits, probably waiters, gathering around the table....
... He was in a room and Carling was saying something about a knot in his shoe-lace.
"Nemmine," he managed to articulate drowsily. "Sleep in 'em...."
He awoke laughing and his eyes lazily roamed his surroundings, evidently a bedroom and bath in a good hotel. His head was whirring and picture after picture was forming and blurring and melting before his eyes, but beyond the desire to laugh he had no entirely conscious reaction. He reached for the 'phone beside his bed.
"Hello—what hotel is this—?
"Knickerbocker? All right, send up two rye high-balls—"
He lay for a moment and wondered idly whether they'd send up a bottle or just two of those little glass containers. Then, with an effort, he struggled out of bed and ambled into the bathroom.
When he emerged, rubbing himself lazily with a towel, he found the bar boy with the drinks and had a sudden desire to kid him. On reflection he decided that this would be undignified, so he waved him away.
As the new alcohol tumbled into his stomach and warmed him, the isolated pictures began slowly to form a cinema reel of the day before. Again he saw Rosalind curled weeping among the pillows, again he felt her tears against his cheek. Her words began ringing in his ears: "Don't ever forget me, Amory—don't ever forget me—"
"Hell!" he faltered aloud, and then he choked and collapsed on the bed in a shaken spasm of grief. After a minute he opened his eyes and regarded the ceiling.
"Damned fool!" he exclaimed in disgust, and with a voluminous sigh rose and approached the bottle. After another glass he gave way loosely to the luxury of tears. Purposely he called up into his mind little incidents of the vanished spring, phrased to himself emotions that would make him react even more strongly to sorrow.
"We were so happy," he intoned dramatically, "so very happy." Then he gave way again and knelt beside the bed, his head half-buried in the pillow.
"My own girl—my own—Oh—"
He clinched his teeth so that the tears streamed in a flood from his eyes.
"Oh... my baby girl, all I had, all I wanted!... Oh, my girl, come back, come back! I need you... need you... we're so pitiful ... just misery we brought each other.... She'll be shut away from me.... I can't see her; I can't be her friend. It's got to be that way—it's got to be—"
And then again:
"We've been so happy, so very happy...."
He rose to his feet and threw himself on the bed in an ecstasy of sentiment, and then lay exhausted while he realized slowly that he had been very drunk the night before, and that his head was spinning again wildly. He laughed, rose, and crossed again to Lethe....
At noon he ran into a crowd in the Biltmore bar, and the riot began again. He had a vague recollection afterward of discussing French poetry with a British officer who was introduced to him as "Captain Corn, of his Majesty's Foot," and he remembered attempting to recite "Clair de Lune" at luncheon; then he slept in a big, soft chair until almost five o'clock when another crowd found and woke him; there followed an alcoholic dressing of several temperaments for the ordeal of dinner. They selected theatre tickets at Tyson's for a play that had a four-drink programme—a play with two monotonous voices, with turbid, gloomy scenes, and lighting effects that were hard to follow when his eyes behaved so amazingly. He imagined afterward that it must have been "The Jest."...
... Then the Cocoanut Grove, where Amory slept again on a little balcony outside. Out in Shanley's, Yonkers, he became almost logical, and by a careful control of the number of high-balls he drank, grew quite lucid and garrulous. He found that the party consisted of five men, two of whom he knew slightly; he became righteous about paying his share of the expense and insisted in a loud voice on arranging everything then and there to the amusement of the tables around him....
Some one mentioned that a famous cabaret star was at the next table, so Amory rose and, approaching gallantly, introduced himself... this involved him in an argument, first with her escort and then with the headwaiter—Amory's attitude being a lofty and exaggerated courtesy... he consented, after being confronted with irrefutable logic, to being led back to his own table.
"Decided to commit suicide," he announced suddenly.
"When? Next year?"
"Now. To-morrow morning. Going to take a room at the Commodore, get into a hot bath and open a vein."
"He's getting morbid!"
"You need another rye, old boy!"
"We'll all talk it over to-morrow."
But Amory was not to be dissuaded, from argument at least.
"Did you ever get that way?" he demanded confidentially fortaccio.
"My chronic state."
This provoked discussion. One man said that he got so depressed sometimes that he seriously considered it. Another agreed that there was nothing to live for. "Captain Corn," who had somehow rejoined the party, said that in his opinion it was when one's health was bad that one felt that way most. Amory's suggestion was that they should each order a Bronx, mix broken glass in it, and drink it off. To his relief no one applauded the idea, so having finished his high-ball, he balanced his chin in his hand and his elbow on the table—a most delicate, scarcely noticeable sleeping position, he assured himself—and went into a deep stupor....
He was awakened by a woman clinging to him, a pretty woman, with brown, disarranged hair and dark blue eyes.
"Take me home!" she cried.
"Hello!" said Amory, blinking.
"I like you," she announced tenderly.
"I like you too."
He noticed that there was a noisy man in the background and that one of his party was arguing with him.
"Fella I was with's a damn fool," confided the blue-eyed woman. "I hate him. I want to go home with you."
"You drunk?" queried Amory with intense wisdom.
She nodded coyly.
"Go home with him," he advised gravely. "He brought you."
At this point the noisy man in the background broke away from his detainers and approached.
"Say!" he said fiercely. "I brought this girl out here and you're butting in!"
Amory regarded him coldly, while the girl clung to him closer.
"You let go that girl!" cried the noisy man.
Amory tried to make his eyes threatening.
"You go to hell!" he directed finally, and turned his attention to the girl.
"Love first sight," he suggested.
"I love you," she breathed and nestled close to him. She did have beautiful eyes.
Some one leaned over and spoke in Amory's ear.
"That's just Margaret Diamond. She's drunk and this fellow here brought her. Better let her go."
"Let him take care of her, then!" shouted Amory furiously. "I'm no W. Y. C. A. worker, am I?—am I?"
"Let her go!"
"It's her hanging on, damn it! Let her hang!"
The crowd around the table thickened. For an instant a brawl threatened, but a sleek waiter bent back Margaret Diamond's fingers until she released her hold on Amory, whereupon she slapped the waiter furiously in the face and flung her arms about her raging original escort.
"Oh, Lord!" cried Amory.
"Come on, the taxis are getting scarce!"
"C'mon, Amory. Your romance is over."
"You don't know how true you spoke. No idea. 'At's the whole trouble."
AMORY ON THE LABOR QUESTION
Two mornings later he knocked at the president's door at Bascome and Barlow's advertising agency.
Amory entered unsteadily.
"'Morning, Mr. Barlow."
Mr. Barlow brought his glasses to the inspection and set his mouth slightly ajar that he might better listen.
"Well, Mr. Blaine. We haven't seen you for several days."
"No," said Amory. "I'm quitting."
"I don't like it here."
"I'm sorry. I thought our relations had been quite—ah—pleasant. You seemed to be a hard worker—a little inclined perhaps to write fancy copy—"
"I just got tired of it," interrupted Amory rudely. "It didn't matter a damn to me whether Harebell's flour was any better than any one else's. In fact, I never ate any of it. So I got tired of telling people about it—oh, I know I've been drinking—"
Mr. Barlow's face steeled by several ingots of expression.
"You asked for a position—"
Amory waved him to silence.
"And I think I was rottenly underpaid. Thirty-five dollars a week—less than a good carpenter."
"You had just started. You'd never worked before," said Mr. Barlow coolly.
"But it took about ten thousand dollars to educate me where I could write your darned stuff for you. Anyway, as far as length of service goes, you've got stenographers here you've paid fifteen a week for five years."
"I'm not going to argue with you, sir," said Mr. Barlow rising.
"Neither am I. I just wanted to tell you I'm quitting."
They stood for a moment looking at each other impassively and then Amory turned and left the office.
A LITTLE LULL
Four days after that he returned at last to the apartment. Tom was engaged on a book review for The New Democracy on the staff of which he was employed. They regarded each other for a moment in silence.
"Good Lord, Amory, where'd you get the black eye—and the jaw?"
"That's a mere nothing."
He peeled off his coat and bared his shoulders.
Tom emitted a low whistle.
"What hit you?"
Amory laughed again.
"Oh, a lot of people. I got beaten up. Fact." He slowly replaced his shirt. "It was bound to come sooner or later and I wouldn't have missed it for anything."
"Who was it?"
"Well, there were some waiters and a couple of sailors and a few stray pedestrians, I guess. It's the strangest feeling. You ought to get beaten up just for the experience of it. You fall down after a while and everybody sort of slashes in at you before you hit the ground—then they kick you."
Tom lighted a cigarette.
"I spent a day chasing you all over town, Amory. But you always kept a little ahead of me. I'd say you've been on some party."
Amory tumbled into a chair and asked for a cigarette.
"You sober now?" asked Tom quizzically.
"Pretty sober. Why?"
"Well, Alec has left. His family had been after him to go home and live, so he—"
A spasm of pain shook Amory.
"Yes, it is too bad. We'll have to get some one else if we're going to stay here. The rent's going up."
"Sure. Get anybody. I'll leave it to you, Tom."
Amory walked into his bedroom. The first thing that met his glance was a photograph of Rosalind that he had intended to have framed, propped up against a mirror on his dresser. He looked at it unmoved. After the vivid mental pictures of her that were his portion at present, the portrait was curiously unreal. He went back into the study.
"Got a cardboard box?"
"No," answered Tom, puzzled. "Why should I have? Oh, yes—there may be one in Alec's room."
Eventually Amory found what he was looking for and, returning to his dresser, opened a drawer full of letters, notes, part of a chain, two little handkerchiefs, and some snap-shots. As he transferred them carefully to the box his mind wandered to some place in a book where the hero, after preserving for a year a cake of his lost love's soap, finally washed his hands with it. He laughed and began to hum "After you've gone" ... ceased abruptly...
The string broke twice, and then he managed to secure it, dropped the package into the bottom of his trunk, and having slammed the lid returned to the study.
"Going out?" Tom's voice held an undertone of anxiety.
"Couldn't say, old keed."
"Let's have dinner together."
"Sorry. I told Sukey Brett I'd eat with him."
Amory crossed the street and had a high-ball; then he walked to Washington Square and found a top seat on a bus. He disembarked at Forty-third Street and strolled to the Biltmore bar.
"What'll you have?"
The advent of prohibition with the "thirsty-first" put a sudden stop to the submerging of Amory's sorrows, and when he awoke one morning to find that the old bar-to-bar days were over, he had neither remorse for the past three weeks nor regret that their repetition was impossible. He had taken the most violent, if the weakest, method to shield himself from the stabs of memory, and while it was not a course he would have prescribed for others, he found in the end that it had done its business: he was over the first flush of pain.
Don't misunderstand! Amory had loved Rosalind as he would never love another living person. She had taken the first flush of his youth and brought from his unplumbed depths tenderness that had surprised him, gentleness and unselfishness that he had never given to another creature. He had later love-affairs, but of a different sort: in those he went back to that, perhaps, more typical frame of mind, in which the girl became the mirror of a mood in him. Rosalind had drawn out what was more than passionate admiration; he had a deep, undying affection for Rosalind.
But there had been, near the end, so much dramatic tragedy, culminating in the arabesque nightmare of his three weeks' spree, that he was emotionally worn out. The people and surroundings that he remembered as being cool or delicately artificial, seemed to promise him a refuge. He wrote a cynical story which featured his father's funeral and despatched it to a magazine, receiving in return a check for sixty dollars and a request for more of the same tone. This tickled his vanity, but inspired him to no further effort.
He read enormously. He was puzzled and depressed by "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man"; intensely interested by "Joan and Peter" and "The Undying Fire," and rather surprised by his discovery through a critic named Mencken of several excellent American novels: "Vandover and the Brute," "The Damnation of Theron Ware," and "Jennie Gerhardt." Mackenzie, Chesterton, Galsworthy, Bennett, had sunk in his appreciation from sagacious, life-saturated geniuses to merely diverting contemporaries. Shaw's aloof clarity and brilliant consistency and the gloriously intoxicated efforts of H. G. Wells to fit the key of romantic symmetry into the elusive lock of truth, alone won his rapt attention.
He wanted to see Monsignor Darcy, to whom he had written when he landed, but he had not heard from him; besides he knew that a visit to Monsignor would entail the story of Rosalind, and the thought of repeating it turned him cold with horror.
In his search for cool people he remembered Mrs. Lawrence, a very intelligent, very dignified lady, a convert to the church, and a great devotee of Monsignor's.
He called her on the 'phone one day. Yes, she remembered him perfectly; no, Monsignor wasn't in town, was in Boston she thought; he'd promised to come to dinner when he returned. Couldn't Amory take luncheon with her?
"I thought I'd better catch up, Mrs. Lawrence," he said rather ambiguously when he arrived.
"Monsignor was here just last week," said Mrs. Lawrence regretfully. "He was very anxious to see you, but he'd left your address at home."
"Did he think I'd plunged into Bolshevism?" asked Amory, interested.
"Oh, he's having a frightful time."
"About the Irish Republic. He thinks it lacks dignity."
"He went to Boston when the Irish President arrived and he was greatly distressed because the receiving committee, when they rode in an automobile, would put their arms around the President."
"I don't blame him."
"Well, what impressed you more than anything while you were in the army? You look a great deal older."
"That's from another, more disastrous battle," he answered, smiling in spite of himself. "But the army—let me see—well, I discovered that physical courage depends to a great extent on the physical shape a man is in. I found that I was as brave as the next man—it used to worry me before."
"Well, the idea that men can stand anything if they get used to it, and the fact that I got a high mark in the psychological examination."
Mrs. Lawrence laughed. Amory was finding it a great relief to be in this cool house on Riverside Drive, away from more condensed New York and the sense of people expelling great quantities of breath into a little space. Mrs. Lawrence reminded him vaguely of Beatrice, not in temperament, but in her perfect grace and dignity. The house, its furnishings, the manner in which dinner was served, were in immense contrast to what he had met in the great places on Long Island, where the servants were so obtrusive that they had positively to be bumped out of the way, or even in the houses of more conservative "Union Club" families. He wondered if this air of symmetrical restraint, this grace, which he felt was continental, was distilled through Mrs. Lawrence's New England ancestry or acquired in long residence in Italy and Spain.
Two glasses of sauterne at luncheon loosened his tongue, and he talked, with what he felt was something of his old charm, of religion and literature and the menacing phenomena of the social order. Mrs. Lawrence was ostensibly pleased with him, and her interest was especially in his mind; he wanted people to like his mind again—after a while it might be such a nice place in which to live.
"Monsignor Darcy still thinks that you're his reincarnation, that your faith will eventually clarify."
"Perhaps," he assented. "I'm rather pagan at present. It's just that religion doesn't seem to have the slightest bearing on life at my age."
When he left her house he walked down Riverside Drive with a feeling of satisfaction. It was amusing to discuss again such subjects as this young poet, Stephen Vincent Benet, or the Irish Republic. Between the rancid accusations of Edward Carson and Justice Cohalan he had completely tired of the Irish question; yet there had been a time when his own Celtic traits were pillars of his personal philosophy.
There seemed suddenly to be much left in life, if only this revival of old interests did not mean that he was backing away from it again—backing away from life itself.
"I'm tres old and tres bored, Tom," said Amory one day, stretching himself at ease in the comfortable window-seat. He always felt most natural in a recumbent position.
"You used to be entertaining before you started to write," he continued. "Now you save any idea that you think would do to print."
Existence had settled back to an ambitionless normality. They had decided that with economy they could still afford the apartment, which Tom, with the domesticity of an elderly cat, had grown fond of. The old English hunting prints on the wall were Tom's, and the large tapestry by courtesy, a relic of decadent days in college, and the great profusion of orphaned candlesticks and the carved Louis XV chair in which no one could sit more than a minute without acute spinal disorders—Tom claimed that this was because one was sitting in the lap of Montespan's wraith—at any rate, it was Tom's furniture that decided them to stay.
They went out very little: to an occasional play, or to dinner at the Ritz or the Princeton Club. With prohibition the great rendezvous had received their death wounds; no longer could one wander to the Biltmore bar at twelve or five and find congenial spirits, and both Tom and Amory had outgrown the passion for dancing with mid-Western or New Jersey debbies at the Club-de-Vingt (surnamed the "Club de Gink") or the Plaza Rose Room—besides even that required several cocktails "to come down to the intellectual level of the women present," as Amory had once put it to a horrified matron.
Amory had lately received several alarming letters from Mr. Barton—the Lake Geneva house was too large to be easily rented; the best rent obtainable at present would serve this year to little more than pay for the taxes and necessary improvements; in fact, the lawyer suggested that the whole property was simply a white elephant on Amory's hands. Nevertheless, even though it might not yield a cent for the next three years, Amory decided with a vague sentimentality that for the present, at any rate, he would not sell the house.
This particular day on which he announced his ennui to Tom had been quite typical. He had risen at noon, lunched with Mrs. Lawrence, and then ridden abstractedly homeward atop one of his beloved buses.
"Why shouldn't you be bored," yawned Tom. "Isn't that the conventional frame of mind for the young man of your age and condition?"
"Yes," said Amory speculatively, "but I'm more than bored; I am restless."
"Love and war did for you."
"Well," Amory considered, "I'm not sure that the war itself had any great effect on either you or me—but it certainly ruined the old backgrounds, sort of killed individualism out of our generation."
Tom looked up in surprise.
"Yes it did," insisted Amory. "I'm not sure it didn't kill it out of the whole world. Oh, Lord, what a pleasure it used to be to dream I might be a really great dictator or writer or religious or political leader—and now even a Leonardo da Vinci or Lorenzo de Medici couldn't be a real old-fashioned bolt in the world. Life is too huge and complex. The world is so overgrown that it can't lift its own fingers, and I was planning to be such an important finger—"
"I don't agree with you," Tom interrupted. "There never were men placed in such egotistic positions since—oh, since the French Revolution."
Amory disagreed violently.
"You're mistaking this period when every nut is an individualist for a period of individualism. Wilson has only been powerful when he has represented; he's had to compromise over and over again. Just as soon as Trotsky and Lenin take a definite, consistent stand they'll become merely two-minute figures like Kerensky. Even Foch hasn't half the significance of Stonewall Jackson. War used to be the most individualistic pursuit of man, and yet the popular heroes of the war had neither authority nor responsibility: Guynemer and Sergeant York. How could a schoolboy make a hero of Pershing? A big man has no time really to do anything but just sit and be big."
"Then you don't think there will be any more permanent world heroes?"
"Yes—in history—not in life. Carlyle would have difficulty getting material for a new chapter on 'The Hero as a Big Man.'"
"Go on. I'm a good listener to-day."
"People try so hard to believe in leaders now, pitifully hard. But we no sooner get a popular reformer or politician or soldier or writer or philosopher—a Roosevelt, a Tolstoi, a Wood, a Shaw, a Nietzsche, than the cross-currents of criticism wash him away. My Lord, no man can stand prominence these days. It's the surest path to obscurity. People get sick of hearing the same name over and over."
"Then you blame it on the press?"
"Absolutely. Look at you; you're on The New Democracy, considered the most brilliant weekly in the country, read by the men who do things and all that. What's your business? Why, to be as clever, as interesting, and as brilliantly cynical as possible about every man, doctrine, book, or policy that is assigned you to deal with. The more strong lights, the more spiritual scandal you can throw on the matter, the more money they pay you, the more the people buy the issue. You, Tom d'Invilliers, a blighted Shelley, changing, shifting, clever, unscrupulous, represent the critical consciousness of the race—Oh, don't protest, I know the stuff. I used to write book reviews in college; I considered it rare sport to refer to the latest honest, conscientious effort to propound a theory or a remedy as a 'welcome addition to our light summer reading.' Come on now, admit it."
Tom laughed, and Amory continued triumphantly.
"We want to believe. Young students try to believe in older authors, constituents try to believe in their Congressmen, countries try to believe in their statesmen, but they can't. Too many voices, too much scattered, illogical, ill-considered criticism. It's worse in the case of newspapers. Any rich, unprogressive old party with that particularly grasping, acquisitive form of mentality known as financial genius can own a paper that is the intellectual meat and drink of thousands of tired, hurried men, men too involved in the business of modern living to swallow anything but predigested food. For two cents the voter buys his politics, prejudices, and philosophy. A year later there is a new political ring or a change in the paper's ownership, consequence: more confusion, more contradiction, a sudden inrush of new ideas, their tempering, their distillation, the reaction against them—"
He paused only to get his breath.
"And that is why I have sworn not to put pen to paper until my ideas either clarify or depart entirely; I have quite enough sins on my soul without putting dangerous, shallow epigrams into people's heads; I might cause a poor, inoffensive capitalist to have a vulgar liaison with a bomb, or get some innocent little Bolshevik tangled up with a machine-gun bullet—"