Tải bản đầy đủ

Out of the air


OUTOFTHEAIR
BYINEZHAYNESIRWIN
NEWYORK
HARCOURT,BRACEANDCOMPANY1921
COPYRIGHT,I920,1921,BYMETROPOLITANPUBLICATIONS,INC.
COPYRIGHT,1921,BYHARCOURT,BRACEANDCOMPANY,INC.
THEOUINN&BODENCOMPANYRAHWAY,N.J.
TO
BILLYANDPHYLLIS
OUTOFTHEAIR


CHAPTERI
“…soI’llansweryourquestionsintheorderyouaskthem.No,Idon’twant
evertoflyagain.Mylastpay-hopwastwoSaturdaysagoandIgotmydischarge
papersyesterday.Godwilling,I’llneveragainrideanythingmoredangerous
thanavelocipede.I’mnowarespectableAmericancitizen,andforthefuture
I’mgoingtoconfinemylocomotiontothewell-knownearth.Getthat,Spink
Sparrel!Theearth!Infact…”DavidLindsaysuddenlylookedupfromhis
typewriting.Underhiswindow,WashingtonSquaresimmeredinthepremature

heatofanearlyJuneday.Buthedidnotevenglanceinthatdirection.Instead,
hiseyessoughtthedoorwayleadingfromthefrontroomtothebackofthe
apartment.Apparentlyhewasnotseekinginspiration;itwasasthoughhehad
beensuddenlyjerkedoutofhimself.Afteranabsentsecond,hiseyesanktothe
pageandthebriskclatterofhismachinebeganagain.
“…afterthewomanyourecommended,Mrs.Whatever-her-name-is,shoveled
offafewtonsofdust.It’sgreat!It’sthekeyhouseofNewYork,isn’tit?And
whenyoulookrightthroughtheArchstraightupFifthAvenue,youfeelas
thoughyouownedthewholetown.AndwhatanairallthischasteantiqueNew
Englandstuffgivesit!Who’deverthoughtyou’dturnoutyoubigrough-neck
youtobeacollectorofantiques?NotthatIhaven’tfallenmyselfforthesailor’s
chestandthebutterflytableandtheglasslamps.Iactuallysalaamtothat
sampler.AndthesefurnishingsseemespeciallyappropriatewhenIremember
thatJeffreyLewislivedhereonce.Youdon’tknowhowmuchthataddstothe
connotationofthisplace.”
AgainbutabsentlyLindsaylookedup.Andagain,ignoringWashingtonSquare,
whichofferedaneffectasofaformalgardentothelongpink-redpalaceonits
northsideplumytreetops,geometricalgrassareas,weavingpaths;elegantlittle
summer-houseshisgazewentwithaseekinglooktothedoorway.
“QuestionNo.2.Ihaven’tanyplansofmyownatpresentandIamquite
eligibletothethingyousuggest.Yousaythatnoonewantstoreadanything
aboutthewar.Idon’tblamethem.IwishIcouldfallasleepforamonthand
wakeupwithnorecollectionofit.Isupposeit’sthatstateofmindwhich
preventspeoplefromwritingtheirrecollectionsimmediately.Ofcoursewe’llall
dothatultimately,Isupposeevenpeoplewho,likemyself,aren’tprofessional
writers.Don’timaginethatI’mgoingonwiththewritinggame.Ihaven’tthe


divineafflatus.I’mjustlettingmyselfdriftalongwiththesetwojobsuntilIget
thatguerreoutofmysystem;canlookaroundtofindwhatIreallywanttodo.
I’mwillingtowritemyexperienceswithinareasonableinterval;butnotatonce.
Everythingisasvividinmymindofcourseasit’spossibletobe;butIdon’t
wanttohavetothinkofit.That’swhyyoursuggestioninregardtoLutetia
Murraystrikesmesofavorably.Ishouldreallyliketodothatbiography.I’min
themoodforsomethinggentleandpastoral.AndthenofcourseIhaveasenseof
proprietorshipinregardtoLutetia,notalonebecauseshewasmyliteraryfindor
thatitwasmythesisonherwhichgotmemyAinEnglish12.But,inaddition,I
developedasortofplatonic,long-distance,with-theeye-of-the-mind-onlycrush
onher.Andyet,Idon’tknow…”
AgainLindsay’seyescameupfromhispaper.Forthethirdtimeheignored


WashingtonSquareswarmingwithlumberinggreenbussesanddusky-haired
Italianbabies;puppies,perambulators,andpedestrians.Againhisglancewent
mechanicallytothedoorleadingtothebackoftheapartment.
“Youcertainlyhaveleftanatmosphereinthisjoint,Spink.SomehowIfeel
alwaysasifyouwereintheroom.Howitwouldbepossibleforsuchapopeyed,freckle-facedPiuteasyoutopackanastralbodyismorethanIcan
understand.It’sherethough—thatsenseofyourpresence.TheotherdayI
caughtmyselfsaying,‘Oh,Spink!’totheemptyair.ButtoreturntoLutetia,I
can’ttellyouhowtheprospecttempts.
Onceonapermissioninthespringof‘16,IfindsmyselfinLyons.Thereareto
begentleacrobaticdoingsinthebestGallicmannerintheParkonSunday.I
gallopsouttoseethesports.Oneplace,Icomesacrossseveralscoresofpoilus
ontheirpermissionssimilarsquattingonthegroundanddoingwhatdoyou
suppose?Pickingviolets.Yeppickingviolets.Isaystomyselfthen,Isays,
‘Thesefrogssurearequeerguys.’Butnow,Spink,Iunderstand.Idon’twantto
doanythingmorestrenuousmyselfthanpickingviolets,unlessit’ssellingbaby
blankets,orholdingyarnforoldladies.PerhapsbyanenormouseffortImight
summontheenergytorunatea-room.”
Lindsaystoppedhistypewritingagain.ThistimehestaredfixedlyatWashington
Square.Hiseyesfollowedapink-smocked,bob-hairedmaidenhurryingacross
thePark;butapparentlyshedidnotregister.Heturnedabruptlywitha“Hello,
oldtop,whatdoyouwant?”


Thedoorway,beingempty,madenoanswer.
Havingapparentlyforgottenhisremarktheinstantitwasdropped,Lindsaywent
onwriting.
“IadmitI’mthinkingoverthatproposition.‘Amongmythingsinstoragehere,I
haveallLutetia’sworks,includingthoseunsuccessfulandveryrarepomesof
hers;eventhatbloomingthesisIwrote.Thethesiswould,ofcourse,readrotten
now,butitmightprovidedatathatwouldsaveresearch.Whendoyouproposeto
bringoutthisnewedition,andhowdoyouaccountforthatrecentdemandfor
her?Ofcourseitestablishesmeassomeswellprophet.Ialwayssaidshe’dbob
upagain,youknow.Thenitlookedasthoughshewasasdeadasthedodo.It
isn’ttheworkalonethatappealstome;it’sdoingitinLutetia’sowntown,which
isapparentlytheexactkindofdeadlittleburgI’mlookingforQuinanog,isn’tit?
Cometothinkofit,Spink,myfavoriteoccupationatthismomentwouldbe
makingdaisy-chainsoroak-wreaths.I’llthinkit…”
Hejumpedspasmodically;jerkedhisheadabout;glancedoverhisshoulderat
thedoorway
“WhatI’dreallyliketodo,isthebiographyofLutetiaforaboutonemonth;then
foraboutthreemonthsmyexperiencesatthewarwhich,Iunderstand,aretobe
putawayinthemanuscriptsafeofthepublishingfirmofDunbar,Cabotand
Elsinghamtobepublishedwhenthedemandforwarstuffbeginsagain.That,I
reckon,iswhatIshoulddoifI’mgoingtodoitatall.Writeitwhileit’sfreshas
I’mnotaprofessional.ButIcan’tatthismomentsayyes,andIcan’tsayno.I’d
liketostayalittlelongerinNewYork.I’dliketorenewacquaintancewiththe
oldburg.Icanaffordtothrashroundabit,youknow,ifIlike.There’sten
thousanddollarsthatmyuncleleftme,inthebankwaitingme.Whenthat’s
spent,ofcourseI’llhavetogotowork.
“YouaskmeformyimpressionsofAmericaasareturnedsky-warrior.Ofcourse
I’veonlybeenhereaweekandIhaven’ttalkedwithsoverymanypeopleyet.
Buteverybodyisremarkablyomniscient.Ican’ttellthemanythingaboutthelate
war.Sometimestheyaskmeaquestion,buttheyneverlistentomyanswer.No,
Ilistentothem.Andthey’reveryinforming,believeme.Mostofthemthinkthat
thecavalrywonthewarandthatwewentoverthetoptothesoundoffifeand
drum.Formyself…”


Againhejumped;turnedhishead;staredintothedoorway.Afteraninstantof
apparentexpectancy,hesighed.Hearoseand,withan‘elaboratesaunter,moved
overtothemirrorhangingabovethemantel;lookedathisreflectionwiththeair
ofonelongingtoseesomethinghuman.Themirrorwasold;narrowanddim;
goldframed.Agaylittlepictureofaship,bellyingtofullsail,filledthespace
abovethelooking-glass.Theface,whichcontemplatedhimwiththesame
unseeingcarelessnesswithwhichhecontemplatedit,wasthefaceoftwentyfive
handsome;dark.Itwaslongandlean.Thecontinuousflyingoftwoyearshad
dyeditadeepwine-red;hadbronzedandburnishedit.Andapparentlythe
experiencesthatwentwiththatflyinghadcooledandhardenedit.Itwasnow
butasmoothlyhandsomemaskwhichblankedallexpressionofliisemotions.
Evenashiseyefixeditselfonhisownreflectedeye,hisheadjerkedsideways
again;hestaredexpectantlyattheopendoorway.Afteranintervalinwhich
nothingappeared,hesaunteredthroughthatdoor;andwithalmostaneffectof
premeditatedcarelessnessthroughthetwolittlerooms,whichsouselesslyfill
thecentralspaceofmanyNewYorkhouses,tothebigsunnybedroomatthe
back.
Thewindowslookedoutonapaintableseriesofbackyards:onasketchable
huddleofold,stained,leaningwoodenhouses.Attheoppositewindow,a
purple-haired,violet-eyedforeigngirlinafadedyellowblousewasmaking
artificialnasturtiums;flame-coloredvelvetpetals,likeadriftofburningsnow,
heapedthetableinfrontofher.Ablackcatsunneditselfonthewindowledge.
Onadistantroof,aboywithalongpolewasherdingaflockofpigeons.They
madeglitteringswirlsofmotionandquickV-wheelings,thatflashedthegrayof
theirwingslikebladesandthewhiteoftheirbreastslikeglass.Theirsudden
turnsfilledtheairwithmirrors.Lindsaywatchedtheirflightwiththecriticalair
ofarival.Suddenlyheturnedasthoughsomeonehadcalledhim;glanced
inquiringlybackatthedoorway…
When,afewminuteslater,hesaunteredintotheRochambeau,immaculateinthe
oldgraysuithehadputoffwhenhedonnedtheFrenchuniformfouryears
before,hewasthepinkofsummercoolnessandthequintessenceofmilitary
calm.Thelittle,low-ceilingedseriesofrooms,justbelowthelevelofthestreet,
werecrowded;filledwithsmoke,talk,andlaughter.Lindsayatlengthfounda
table,lookedabouthim,discoveredhimselftobeamongstrangers.Heordereda
cocktail,swearingatthepricetothesympatheticFrenchwaiter,whomade
excitedresponseinFrenchandassistedhimtoorderanelaboratedinner.


Lindsayproppedhispaperagainsthiswater-glass;concentratedonitasone
preparedforlonelyeating.Withthelittle-necks,however,camediversion.From
behindthewaiter’scrookedarmappearedthesatinydarkheadofagirl.Lindsay
leapedtohisfeet,heldouthishand.
“GoodLord,Gratia!Whereintheworlddidyoucomefrom!”
Thegirlputbothherprettyhandsout.“Icanshakehandswithyou,David,now
thatyou’reincivics.Idon’tlikethatgreenandyellowribboninyourbuttonhole
though.I’mapacifist,youknow,andI’vegottotellyouwhereIstandbeforewe
cantalk.”
“Allright,”Lindsayacceptedcheerfully.“You’readarnprettypacifist,Gratia.
Ofcourseyoudon’tknowwhatyou’retalkingabout.Butaslongasyoutalk
aboutanything,I’lllisten.”
Gratiahadcutherhairshort,butshehadintroducedastyleofhair-dressingnew
eventoGreenwichVillage.Shecombeditssleekabundancestraightbacktoher
neckandleftit.There,followingitsowndevices,itturnedupinthemost
delightfulcurls.Herlargedarkeyesweresetinaskinofpaleamberandinthe
midstofapiquantassortmentoffeatures.Shehadaway,justbeforespeaking,of
liftinghersleekheadhighonthetopofherslimneck.Andthenshewaslikea
beautifulyoungsealemergingfromthewater.
“Oh,I’mperfectlyserious!”theprettypacifistasserted.“YouknowIneverhave
believedinwar.Dorasaysyou’vecomebacklovingtheFrench.Howyoucan
admireapeoplewho”Afterawhileshepausedtotakebreathandthen,withthe
characteristicliftofherhead,“BelgianstheCongoAlgecirasMoroccoAndas
forEnglandIrelandIndiaEgypt“Theglib,conventionalpatterdrippedreadily
fromhersoftlips.
Lindsaylistened,apparentlyentranced.“Gratia,you’retooprettyforanyuse!”
heassertedindulgentlyafterthenextpauseinwhichshedoveunderthewater
andreappearedsleekhairedasever.“I’mnotgoingtoarguewithyou.I’mgoing
totellyouonethingthatwillbeashocktoyou,though.TheFrenchdon’tlike
wareither.Andthereasonisnowprepareyourselftheyknowmoreaboutthe
horrorsofwarinoneminutethanyouwillinathousandyears.Whatareyou
doingwithyourself,thesedays,Gratia?”
“Oh,runningashop;makingsmocks,workingonbatiks,painting,writingvers


libre”Gratiaadmitted.
“Imean,whatdoyoudowithyourleisure?”Lindsaydemanded,afterprolonged
meditation.
Gratiaignoredthispersiflage.“I’mthinkingoftakinguppsycho-analysis,”she
confided.“Itinterestsmeenormously.IthinkIoughttodoratherwellwithit.”
“Ioffermyselfasyourfirstvictim.Why,you’llmakemillions!Everymanin
NewYorkwillwanttobepsyched.What’sthenews,Gratia?I’mdyingfor
gossip.”
Gratiadidherbesttofeedthisappetite.Decliningdinner,shesippedthetallcool
greendrinkwhichLindsayorderedforher.Shepouredoutafloodoftalk;butall
thetimehereyeswereflittingfromtabletotable.Andoftensheinterruptedher
commentsontheabsentwithremarksaboutthepresent.
Yes,AussiewaskilledinItaly,flying.WillArdenwaswoundedintheArgonne.
GeorgeJenningsdiedofthefluinParis—seethatbigblondeoverthere,Dave?
She’stheVillagedressmakernow—DarkDaleisinRussia—can’tgetout.Putty
DoanewastakenprisonerbytheGermansat—Oh,seethatgangofup-towners
aren’ttheysnippyandpatronizingandsilly?ButMollyFearingisourbestwar
sensation.Youknowwhatatinyfrightenedmouseofathingshewas.Shewent
intothe‘Y.’ShewasinthetrenchesthedayoftheArmisticetalkedwith
Germans;notprisoners,youunderstandbuttheretreatingGermans.Herletters
arewonderful.She’scrazyaboutitoverthere.Iwouldn’tbesurprisedifshe
nevercameback—Oh,Dave,don’tlooknow;butassoonasyoucan—getthat
tallredheadedgirlinthecorner,MarieMaroo.Shedoesthemostmarvelous
drawingsyoueversaw.ShebelongstothatnewVortexSchool.AndthenJoe—
Oh,there’sErnestinePhillipsandherfather.Youwanttomeetherfather.He’sa
riot.Octogenarian,too!He’sjustcomefromsomeremotehamletinVermont.
Ernestine’sshowinghimaproperlyexpurgatededitionoftheVillage.Hi,
Ernestine!He’saCivilWarveteran.Ernest’scrazytoseeyou,Dave!”
Themiddleaged,ratherrough-featuredwomanstandinginthedoorwayturnedat
Gratia’scall.Hermovementrevealedtheheadandshouldersofatall,gaunt,
veryoldman,alittlerough-featuredlikehisdaughter;white-hairedandwhitemustached.ShehurriedatoncetoLindsay’stable.
“Oh,Dave!”ShetookbothLindsay’shands.“Iamgladtoseeyou!HowIhave


worriedaboutyou!Myfather,Dave.Father,thisisDavidLindsay,theyoung
aviatorIwastellingyouabout,whohadsuchextraordinaryexperiencesin
France.YouremembertheoneImean,father.Heservedfortwoyearswiththe
FrenchArmybeforewedeclaredwar.”
Mr.Phillipsextendedalongarmwhichdangledalonghand.“Pleasedtomeet
you,sir!You’rethefirstflierI’vehadachancetotalkwith.Iexpectfolksmake
lifeaperfectmiserytoyoubutifyoudon’tmindansweringquestions—”
“Shoot!”Lindsaypermittedserenely.“I’mnearlyburstingwithsuppressed
information.Howareyou,Ernestine?”
“Prettyfrazzledliketherestofus,”Ernestineanswered.Ernestinehadonefine
feature;apairoflargedarksereneeyes.Nowtheyflamedwithatroubledfire.
“Thewardidallkindsofthingstomypsychology,ofcourse.IsupposeIamthe
mostdespisedwomanintheVillageatthismomentbecauseIdon’tseemtobe
eitheramilitaristorapacifist.Idon’tbelieveinwar,butIdon’tseehowwe
couldhavekeptoutofit;orhowFrancecouldhavepreventedit.”
“Ernestine!”Lindsaysaidwarmly.“Ijustloveyou.Contrarytothegenerally
acceptedopinionofthepacifists,Francedidnotdeliberatelybringthiswaron
herself.Nordidshekeepitupfouryearsforherprivateamusement.Shehasn’t
enjoyedoneminuteofit.Idon’texpectGratiatobelieveme,butperhapsyou
will.Thesefouryearsofdeath,destruction,anddevastationhaven’tentertained
Franceaparticle.”
“Well,ofcourse—”Ernestinewasbeginning,“butwhat’stheuse?”Hereyes
metLindsay’sinaperplexed,comprehendingstare.Lindsayshookhishandsome
headgayly.“Nousewhatever,”hesaid.“I’mrapidlygrowingtaciturn.”
“WhatIwouldliketoaskyou,”Mr.Phillipsbrokein,“doeswarseemsucha
prettythingtoyou,youngman,afteryou’veseenalittleofit?Irememberin‘65
mostofuscamebackthinkingthatShermanhadn’tusedstrongenough
language.”
“Mr.Phillips,”Lindsayanswered,“ifthere’severanotherwar,itwilltakefifteen
thousanddollarstosendmeapostcardtellingmeaboutit.”
Thetalkdriftedawayfromthewar:turnedtoprohibition;camebacktoitagain.
LindsayansweredMr.Phillips’squestionswithenthusiasticthoroughness.They


pertainedmainlytohistrainingatPauandAvord,butLindsayvolunteereda
detailedcomparisonoftheAmericanmilitarymethodwiththeFrench.“I’ll
alwaysbegladthough,”heconcluded,“thatIhadthatexperiencewiththe
FrenchArmy.Andofcoursewhenourtroopsgotover,Iwasallreadytofly.”
“ThentheFrenchuniformissocharming,”Gratiaputin,consciouslysarcastic.
LindsayslappedherslimwristindulgentlyandcontinuedtoanswerMr.
Phillips’squestions.Ernestinelistened,thelookoftroublegrowinginherserene
eyes.Gratialistened,divingunderwaterafterhershockedexclamationsand
reappearingglistening.
“Oh,there’sMattyPackington!”Gratiabrokein.“Youhaven’tmetMattyyet,
Dave.Hi,Matty!YoumustknowMatty.She’sasketch.She’soneofthose
peoplewhosaythethingsotherpeopleonlydarethink.Youwon’tbelieveher.”
Sherattledoneofherstaccatoexplanations;“societygirl—firstaslummingtour
throughtheVillage—perfectlycrazyaboutit—studioinMcDougalAlley—yep
—womanbecominguniformRolls-Roycesalutes—”
MattyPackingtonapproachedthetablewithacomposedflutter.Thetwomen
arose.Gratiametherhalfway;performedtheintroductions.Inaminutethe
conversationwasoutofeverybody’shandsandinMissPackington’s.AsGratia
prophesied,Lindsayfounditdifficulttobelieveher.Shestartedatan
extraordinarySpeedandshemaintaineditwithoutbreak.
“Oh,Mr.Lindsay,aren’tyouheartbrokennowthatitisallover?Youmusttell
meallaboutyourexperiencessometime.Itmusthavebeentoothrillingfor
words.Butdon’tyouthinkdon’tyouthinktheystoppedthewartoosoon?IfI
wereFochIwouldn’thavebeensatisfieduntilI’doccupiedallGermany,
devastatedjustasmuchterritoryasthosebeastsdevastatedinFrance,and
executedallthosemonsterswhocutofftheBelgianbabies’hands.Don’tyou
thinkso?”
Lindsaycontemplatedtheladywhoputthisinterestingquestiontohim.Shewas
fairandfairy-like;alittle,light-shotgoldenblonde;allslimlinesandopalescent
colors.Herhairflutteredlikewhirledlightfromunderherpiquantlycocked
militarycap.Thestressofheremotionaddedfortheinstanttothebignessand
bluenessofhereyes.
“Well,formyself,”heremarkedfinally,“Icandowithalittlepeaceforawhile.


Andthentocarryoutyourwishes,MissPackington,Fochwouldhavehadto
sacrificeaquarterofamillionmoreAlliedsoldiers.ButIsometimesthinkthe
menatthefrontwereabitthoughtlessoftheentertainmentofthecivilians.
Somehowwedidgetitintoourheadsthatweoughttoclosethiswarupassoon
aspossible.Anothertimeperhapswe’dknowbetter.”
MissPackingtonreceivedthischaracteristically;thatistosay,shedidnot
receiveitatall.ForbythetimeLindsayhadbegunhislastsentence,shehad
embarkedonamonologuedirectedthistimetoGratia.Thetalkflewbackand
forth,grewgeneral;grewconcrete;grewabstract;grewpersonal.Itbubbledup
intomonologuesfromGratiaandMatty.Itthinneddowntoquestionsfrom
ErnestineandMr.Phillips.Drinkscame;werefollowedbyotherdrinks.All
aboutthem,tablesemptiedandfilled,uniformspredominating;andalltothe
accompanimentofchatter;gaymirth;driftingsmoke-filmsandrefilledglasses.
LatecomersstoppedtoshakehandswithLindsay,tojointhepartyforadrink;to
smokeacigarette;floatedawaytootherparties.Butthenucleusoftheirparty
remainedthesame.
Davidansweredwithpatienceallquestions,stoppedpatientlyhalfwaythrough
hisownanswertoreplytootherquestions.Ataboutmidnightheroseabruptly.
Hehadjustbroughttotheendacarefulandsuccinctstatementinwhichhe
declaredthathehadseennoBelgianchildrenwiththeirhandscutoff;no
crucifiedCanadians.
“Folks,”headdressedthecompanygenially,“I’mgoingtoadmittoyouI’m
tired.”Inwardlyheadded,“Iwon’tindicatewhichonesofyoumakemethe
mosttired;butalmostallofyougivemeanawfulpain.”Headdedaloud,“It’s
thehayformethisinstant—Good-night!”
Backoncemoreinhisrooms,hedidnotlightup.Insteadhesatatthewindow
andgazedout.Straightahead,twolinesofgoldenbeadscurvinguptheAvenue
seemedtoconnecttheArchwiththedistanthorizon.Thedeepazureofthesky
wasfaintlypowderedwithstars.Butforitsoccasionallights,ofapurplishsilver,
theSquarewouldhavebeenameremysteryoftrees.Butthoselightsseemedto
anchorwhatwashalfvisiontoearth.Andtheythrewinterlacedleafshadowson
theceilingaboveLindsay’shead.Itwasasthoughhesatinsomeghostlybower.
LookingfixedlythroughtheArch,hisfacegrewsomber.Suddenlyhejerked
aboutandstaredthroughthedoorwaywhichledintothebackrooms.


Nothingappeared
Afterawhilehelightedonegasjetafteraninstant’shesitation—another…
Inthemiddleofthenight,Lindsaysuddenlyfoundhimselfsittingupright.His
mouthwaswideopen,parched;hiseyeswerewideopen,staring…Achilly
pricklingtingledalonghisscalp…Butthestrangestphenomenonwashisheart,
which,thoughswelledtoanincrediblebulk,nimblyleaped,heavilypounded…
Lindsayrecognizedthemotionwhichinundatedhimtobefear;overpowering,
shameless,abjectfear.Butofwhat?Intheinstantinwhichhegavewaytoselfanalysis,memorysuppliedhimwithavagueimpression.Somethinghadcometo
hisbedand,leaningover,hadstaredintohisface
Thatsomethingwasnothuman.
Lindsayfoughtforcontrol.Byaninitialfeatofcourage,hisfumblingfingers
lightedacandlewhichstoodonthetinySheratontableathisbedside.Ona
secondimpulse,butonlyafteranintervalinwhichconsciouslybutdesperately
hegraspedathisvanishingmanhood,heleapedoutofbed;lightedthegas.Then
carryingthelightedcandle,hewentfromonetoanotherofthefourroomsofthe
apartment.Ineachroomhelightedeverygasjetuntiltheplaceblazed.He
searcheditthoroughly:darkcornersanddarkerclosets;jettystrataofshadow
undercouches.
Hewasalone.
Afterawhilehewentbacktobed.Buthiscouragewasnotequaltodarkness
again.Thoughultimatelyhefellasleep,thegasblazedallnight.
Lindsayawokeratherjadedthenextmorning.Hewanderedfromroomtoroom
submittingtooneslashofhisrazoratthismirrorandtoanotheratthat.
Atoneperiodofthisprocess,“RumnightmareIhadlastnight!”heremarked
casuallytotheunresponsiveair.
Hecookedhisownbreakfast;piledupthedishesandsettledhimselftohis
correspondenceagain.“Thisletterisgettingtobeabook,Spink,”hebegan.
“ButIfeeleverymomentasthoughIwantedtoaddmore.Isleptonyour
propositionlastnight,butIdon’tfeelanyneareradecision.Quinanogand


Lutetiatemptme;butthensodoesNewYork.Bytheway,haveyouanypictures
ofLutetia?IhadoneinmyroomsatHolworthy.Mustbekickingaroundamong
mythings.Icutitoutoftheannualcatalogueofyourbook-house.Photographas
Iremember.Shewassomepip.I’dlike—”
Hestartedsuddenly,turnedhisheadtowardthedoorwayleadingtotheback
rooms.Thedoorwaywasempty.Lindsayarosefromhischair,saunteredina
leisurelymannerthroughtherooms.Heinvestigatedclosetsagain.“Damnit
all!”hemuttered.
Heresumedhisletter.“You’rerightaboutwritingmyexperiencesnow.Ihada
longfootlesstalkwithsomeboobslastnight,anditwascurioushowthings
camebackundertheirquestions.Ihadquiteforgottenthemtemporarily,andof
courseIshallforgetthemforkeepsifIdon’tbegintoputthemdown.Ihavea
fewscatterednoteshereandthere.Imeant,ofcourse,tokeepadiary,but
believeme,amanengagedinawaristoobusyforthepursuitofletters.Butjust
assoonasImakeupmymind—”
Anotherinterval.AbsentlyLindsayaddressedanenvelope.SpinneyK.Sparrel,
Esq.,ParkStreet,Boston;attackedthelistofotherlong-neglected
correspondents.Suddenlyhisheadjerkedupward;pivotedagain.Afteran
instant’sobservationoftheemptydoorway,hepulledhisfaceforward;resumed
hiswork.Pageafterpageslidontotherollerofhismachine,submittedtothe
tattooofitslittleletteredteeth,emergedneatlyinscribed.Suddenlyheleapedto
hisfeet;swungabout.
Thedoorwaywasempty.
“Whoareyou?”heinterrogatedtheemptyair,“andwhatdoyouwant?Ifyou
cantellme,speakandI’lldoanythinginmypowertohelpyou.Butifyoucan’t
tellme,forGod’ssakegoaway!”
Thatnightithappenedagain.Therecamethesamesuddenstart,stricken,
panting,perspiring,outofdeepsleep;thesamefranticsearchoftheapartment
withallthelightsburning;thesamelate,brokendrowse;thesamejaded
awakening.
Asbefore,hesethimselfdoggedlytowork.And,asbefore,somewhereinthe
middleofthemorning,hewheeledaboutswiftlyinhischairtoglarethroughthe
opendoorway.“IwonderifI’mgoingnutty!”heexclaimedaloud.


Threedayswentby.Lindsay’snightsweresobrokenthathetooklongnapsin
theafternoon.Hisdayshadturnedintoperiodsofidlerevery.ThelettertoSpink
Sparrelwasstillunfinished.Heworkedspasmodicallyathistypewriter:buthe
completednothing.ThethirdnighthestartedtowardtheRochambeauwiththe
intentionofgettingaroom.ButhalfwayacrossthePark,hestoppedandretraced
hissteps.“Ican’tletyoubeatme!”hemutteredaudibly,afterhearrivedinthe
emptyapartment.
Itdidnotbeathimthatnight;forhestayedintheapartmentuntildawnbroke.
Butfrommidnighton,helaywitheverylightintheplacegoing.Atsunrise,he
dressedandwentoutforawalk.Andthemomentthesoundsofeverydaylife
begantohumanizetheneighborhood,hereturned;satdowntohismachine.
“Spink,olddear,mymindismadeup.Iaccept!I’lldoLutetiaforyou;and,by
God,I’lldoherwell!I’mstartingforBostontomorrownightonthemidnight.
I’llcallattheofficeaboutnoonandwe’llgotoluncheontogether.I’lldigout
mythesisandbooksfromstorage,andifyou’llgetallyourdopeanddata
together,Icangorighttoit.I’mgoingtoQuinanogtomorrowafternoon.Ineed
achange.Everybodyheremakesmetired.Thepacifistsmakemewildandthe
militaristsmakemewilder.Civiliansisnutswhenitcomestoawar.Theonly
personIcantalkaboutitwithissomebodywho’sbeenthere.Andanybody
who’sbeentherehasthegoodsensenottowanttotalkaboutit.Idon’tever
wanttohearofthatwaragain.Personally,I,DavidLindsay,meaningme,want
toswinginahammockonapleasant,cool,vine-hungpiazza;readLutetiaat
intervalsandwritesomelittlepiecessubsequent.Yours,David.”


CHAPTERII
SUSANNAHAVERdraggedherselfoutofhersleeplessnightandstartedtoget
up.Buthalfwaythroughherfirstrisingmotion,somethingseemedtoleaveher
toleaveherspiritratherthanherbody.Shecollapsedinadroop-shouldered
huddleontothebed.Herredhairhadcomeoutofitsthickbraids;itstreamed
forwardoverherwhiteface;streakedhernightgownwithglowingstrands.She
pusheditoutofhereyesandsatforalongintervalwithherfaceinherhands.
Finallysheroseandwenttothedresser.Haggardlyshestaredintotheglassat
herreflection,andhaggardlyherreflectionstaredbackather.“Idon’twonder
youlookdifferent,GloriousSusie,”sheaddressedherselfwordlessly,“because
youaredifferent.Iwonderifyoucaneverwashawaythatexperience—”
Shepouredwaterintothebasinuntilitalmostbrimmed;anddroppedherface
intoit.Afterherspongebath,shecontemplatedherselfagainintheglass.Some
colorhadcreptintothepearlywhitenessofhercheek.Herdark-fringedeyes
seemedalittlelessshadow-encircled.Sheturnedtheirturquoiseglancetothe
pictureofawomanaminiaturepaintedonivorywhichhungbesidethedresser.
“GloriousLutie,”sheapostrophizedit,“youdon’tknowhowIwishyouwere
here.Youdon’tknowhowmuchIneedyounow.Ineedyousomuch,Glorious
Lutie—I’mfrightened!”
Theminiature,aftertheimpersonalmannerofpictures,madenoresponsetothis
callforhelp.Susannahsigheddeeply.Andforamomentshestoodafigure
almosttragic,hereyesdarkeningasshelookedintospace,heryoungmouth
settingitssoftscarletintohardlines.Inanothermomentshepulledherselfoutof
thisdazeandcontinuedherdressing.
Anhourandahalflater,when,coolandlitheinherbluelinensuit,sheentered
theuptownskyscraperwhichhousedtheCarbonadoMiningCompany,her
spiritstookasuddenleap.Afterall,herewashelp.Itwasnotthehelpshemost
desiredandneeded—theconfidenceandadviceofanotherwoman—butatleast
shewouldgetinstantsympathy,ultimateunderstanding.
Anyone,howeverdepressedhismood,musthavefelthisspiritsriseashe
steppedintotheAdmolianBuilding.Itwassonewthatitsterracottawalls
without,itswhite-enameledtilingwithin,seemedalwaystohavebeenfreshly


scrubbedanddusted.Itwassohighthat,withafirstacrobaticimpulse,itleaped
twentystoriesaboveground;andwithasecond,soaredintoatowerwhich
touchedtheclouds.Thathadnotexhausteditsstrength.Itduginbelowground,
andtherespreadoutintorooms,eternallyelectriclighted.Fromtheeleventh
storyup,itswidewindowssurveyedeverypurlieuofManhattan.Itsspacious
elevatorsseemedmagicallytodefygravitation.Atouchstartedtheirswiftflight
heavenward;atouchstartedtheirsoftdropearthward.Everyfloorhousedoffices
wherefortuneswerebeingmadeandlostatanyrate,changinghands.Therewas
anelementofbuoyancyintheair,anatmosphereofsuccess.Peoplemovedmore
quickly,talkedmorebriskly,fromthemomenttheyenteredtheAdmolian
Building,Asalways,itraisedthespiritsofSusannahAyer.Thesetlook
vanishedfromhereyes;someoftheirnormalbrilliancyflowedbackintothem.
HermouthrelaxedWhentheelevatorcametoapaddedhaltattheeighteenth
floor,shehadbecomealmostherselfagain.
Shestoppedbeforethefirstinaseriesofoffices.Black-printedlettersonthe
groundglassofthedoorread:
CarbonadoMiningCompany
Private.
EnterNo.47
AnaccommodatinghandpointedinthedirectionofNo.47.Susannahunlocked
thedoorandwithalittlesigh,asofrelief,steppedin.
Otherofficesstretchedalongthelineofthecorridor,bearingtheinscriptions,
respectively,“No.48,H.WithingtonWarner,PresidentandGeneralManager;
No.49,JosephByan,Vice-President;No.50,MichaelO’Hearn,Secretaryand
Treasurer.”Ultimately,Susannah’sowndoorwouldflaunttheproudmotto,“No.
51,SusannahAyer,ManagerWomen’sDepartment.”
Susanahthreadedtheinnercorridortoherownoffice.Shehungupherhatand
jacket;openedhermail;ranthroughit.Thensheliftedthecoverfromher
typewriterandbeganmechanicallytobrushandoilit.Hermindwasnotonher
work;ithadnotbeenontheletters.Itkeptspeedingbacktolastnight.Shedid
notwanttothinkoflastnightagainatleastnotuntilshemust.Shepulledher
thoughtsintohercontrol;madethemflowbackoverthepastmonths.Andas
theyspedinthosepleasantchannels,involuntarilyhermoodwentwiththem.


Hadanygirleverbeensofortunate,shewondered.Sheputittoherselfinsimple
declaratives—
Hereshewas,allaloneinNewYorkandinNewYorkforthefirsttime,settled
interestinglyandpleasantlysettled.Eightmonthsbefore,shehadsteppedoutof
businesscollegewithoutahundreddollarsintheworld;hercoursein
stenography,typewriting,andsecretarialworkhadtakenthelastofherinherited
funds.Withoutkithorkin,shewasaworking-woman,now,onherown
responsibility.Twomonthsofapprenticeship,onestenographeramongfifty,in
thegreatofficesoftheMaxwellMills,andBarryJoyce,almostthesole
remainingfriendwhorememberedthepastgloriesofherfamily,hadadvisedher
totryNewYork.
“Susannah,”hesaid,“nowisthetimetostrikenowwhilethemenareawayand
whilethegirlsarestillonwarjobs.Getyourselfentrenchedbeforetheycome
back.You’vethemakingsofawonderfulofficehelper.”
Susannah,withaglorioussenseofadventureonceshewasstarted,tookhis
adviceandmovedtoNewYork.Foraweek,sheansweredadvertisements,
visitedoffices;andshefoundthatBartywasright.Shehadtherefusalofhalfa
dozenjobs.FromthemsheselectedtheofferoftheCarbonadoMiningCompany
partlybecauseshelikedMr.Warner,andpartlybecauseitseemedtoofferthe
bestfuture.Mr.Warnersaidtoherintheirfirstinterview:
“Wearelookingforacleverwomanwhomwecanspeciallytraininthemethods
ofoursomewhatpeculiarbusiness.Ifyouqualify,weshalladvanceyoutoa
superiorposition.”
That“superiorposition”hadfallenintoherhandlikearipepeach.Withina
week,Mr,Warnerhadcalledherintotheprivateofficeforalongbusinesstalk.
“MissAyer,”hesaid,“youseemtobemakinggood.Iamgoingtotellyou
franklythatifyoucontinuetomeetourrequirements,weshallcontinueto
advanceyouandpayyouaccordingly.Yousee,ourbusiness—”Mr.Warner’s
voicealwaysswelledalittlewhenhesaid“ourbusiness”—“ourbusiness
involvesagreatdealofletter-writingtowomeninvestorsandsomepersonal
interviews.NowwebelievebothMr.ByanandIthatwomeninvestingmoney
liketodealwithoneoftheirownsex.Wehavebeenlookingforjusttheright
woman.Acandidateforthepositionmusthavetact,understanding,and


clearnessofwrittenexpression.Wehavebeentryingtofindsuchawoman;and
frankly,thesearchhasbeendifficult.Youknowhowwarwork—quiterightly,of
course—hasmonopolizedtheablewomenofthecountry.Wehavetriedouthalf
adozengirls;butthelesssaidaboutthemthebetter.Fortwoweekswewilllet
youtryyourhandatcorrespondencewithwomeninvestors.Ifyourworkis
satisfactory,itmeansapermanentjobattwiceyourpresentsalary.”
Herworkhadpleasedthem!Ithadpleasedtheminstantly.Butoh,howshehad
workedtopleasethemandtocontinuetoplease!Everylettershesentout—and
afterexplainingtheCarbonadoCompanyanditsattractions,Mr.Warnerlether
composealltheletterstowomen—wasastudyincondensedandgraceful
expression.AttheendofthefortnightMr.Warnerengagedherpermanently.He
wentevenfurther.Hesaid:
“MissAyer,we’regoingtomakeyoumanagerofourwomen’sdepartment;and
we’regoingtoputyournamewithoursontheletterheadofthenewoffice
stationery.”Whenthedaycamethatshefirstsignedherself“SusannahAyer,
ManagerWomen’sDepartment,”shefeltasthoughallthefairytalessheever
readhadcometrue.
Susannah,asshewasassuredagainandagain,continuedtogivesatisfaction.No
wonder;forshelikedherjob.Theworkinterestedhersomuchthatshealways
longedtogettotheofficeinthemorning,almosthatedtoleaveitatnight.Itwas
apleasantoffice,brightandspacious.Everythingwasnew,eventothecapacious
wastebasket.Herbig,shinymahoganydeskstoodclosetothewindow.And
fromthatwindowshesurveyedthecolorful,brick-and-stoneWestSideof
Manhattan,theHudson,andthecity-spotted,town-dottedstretchesbeyond.The
cloudshungclose;sometimestheirwhiteandsilverargosiesseemedtobesiege
her.Once,shealmostthoughtthenewmoonwouldbouncethroughherwindow.
Snownoiselessly,windstumultuously,assailedher;butshesatasimperviousas
thoughinanenchantedtower.Graydaysmadeonlyasuavermagic,
thunderstormsamadderenchantment,abouthereyrie.
Thehumansurroundingswerejustaspleasant.ThoughtheCarbonadoCompany
workedonlywithselectedclients,thoughtheytransactedmostoftheirbusiness
bymail,thereweremanyvisitorssomecustomers;others,apparently,merely
friendsofMr.Warner,Mr.Byan,andMr.O’Hearnwhodroppedinofafternoons
tochatawhile.Pleasant,jollymenmostofthese.Snatchesoftheirtalk,usually
enigmatic,floatedtoheracrossthetopsofthepartitions;itgavetheofficean


excitingatmosphereofsomethingdoing.AndthenithappenedthatSusannah’s
wayoflifehadbroughtherintocontactwithbutfewmen—everythingwasso
manny.
ShestoodalittleinaweofH.WithingtonWarner,presidentandgeneral
manager.Mr.Warnerwasmiddleagedandiron-gray.Thatlastadjectiveperfectly
describedhimiron-gray.Everythingabouthimwasgray;hisstraight,thickhair;
hisclear,incisiveeyes;evenhiscolorlessskin.Andhispersonalityhadaquality
ofiron.Therewasabouthimafascinatingelementofduality.Sometimeshe
seemedtoSusannahalittlelikeaclergyman.Andsometimeshemadeherthink
ofanactor.Thishistrionicaspect,shedecided,wasduetohishair,abitlong;to
hisfeatures,floridlyclassic;tohismanner,frequentlycourtly;tohisvoice,
occasionallyoratorical.This,however,showedonlyinhislightermoments.
Muchofthetime,ofcourse,hewasmerelybriskandbusinesslike.Whateverhis
tone,itcarriedyoualong.ToSusannah,hewasalwayscharming.
IfshestoodalittleinaweofH.WithingtonWarner,shemadeupbyfeelingon
termsoftheutmostequalitywithMichaelO’Hearn,secretaryandtreasurerof
theCarbonadoMiningCompany.Mr.O’Hearn—theotherscalledhim“Mike”—
wasalittleIrishman.Hehadashortstumpyfigureandashortstumpyface.
Moreover,helookedasthoughsomeonehaddeliveredhimadentingblowinthe
middleofhisprofile.Fromthisindentationjuttedinonedirectionhislong,
protuberant,roundedforehead;peakedinanotherhisupturnednose.Therestof
himwassandyhairandsandycomplexion,andanagreeablepairoflong-lashed
Irisheyes.Hewasthewitoftheoffice,keepingeveryoneinconstantgood
temper.SusannahfeltveryfriendlytowardMr.O’Hearn.Thiswasstrange,
becauseherarelyspoketoher.Butsomehow,forallthat,hehadthegiftof
seemingfriendly.SusannahtrustedhimasshetrustedMr.Warner,thoughina
differentway.
InregardtoJosephByan,thethirdmemberofthecombination,Susannahhad
herunformulatedreservations.PerhapsitwasbecauseByanreallyinterestedher
morethantheothertwo.Byanwaslittleandslender;perfectlyformedandrather
fine-featured;swiftasacatinhisdartingmovements.Inhisblueeyesshonea
lookofvaguepathosandonhislipsfloated—Susannahdecidedthatthiswasthe
onlywaytoexpressit—avague,arathersweetsmile.Susannah’sjobhadnotat
firstbroughtherasmuchintocontactwithMr.ByanaswithMr.Warner.His
work,shelearned,laymostlyoutsideoftheoffice.Butonce,duringherthird
week,hehadcomeintoherofficeanddictatedaletter;hadlingered,whenhe


hadfinishedwiththebusinessinhand,foralittletalk.Theconversation,in
somecuriousturn,veeredtothesubjectoffirearms.Hewasspeakingofthe
variouspatternsofrevolvers.Hestoodbeforeher,aslim,perfectlyproportioned
figurewhoseclothes,ofanalmostfemininenicetyandcut,seemedtofollow
everylineofthebodybeneath.Suddenly,oneofhisslighthandsmadeaswift
gesture.Thereappearedfromwhere,shecouldnotguessalittle,ugly-looking
blackrevolver.Withit,heillustratedhispoint.Since,hehadneverpassed
throughtheofficewithoutSusannah’sglanceplayingoverhimlikeaflame.
Nowherealongthesmoothlinesofhisfigurecouldshecatchthebulgeofthat
littletoyofdeath.Despitehissuavegentleness,therewasabelievablequality
aboutByan;hispersonalitycarriedconviction,justasdidthatoftheothers.
Susannahtrustedhim,too;butagaininadifferentway.
OntheverydaywhenMr.Byanshowedhertherevolver,shewaspassingthe
opendoorofMr.Warner’soffice;andsheheardthefull,roundvoiceofthe
Chiefsaying:
“Remember,Joe,rulenumberone:noclientsoremploy—”Byanhastilyclosed
thedooronthetailofthatsentence.Sometimesshewonderedhowitended.
Acoginthemachine,Susannahhadneverfullyunderstoodthebusiness.That
wasnotreallynecessary;Mr.Warnerhimselfkeptherinformedonwhatshe
neededtoknow.Heexplainedinthebeginningthegloriousopportunityfor
investors.Fromtimetotime,headdednewdetails,asforexampletheglowing
reportsoftheirchiefengineerortheirspecialexpert.Susannahknewthatthey
werepayingthreepercentdividendsamonthandinApriltherewasaspecial
dividendoftwopercent.Besides,theywereabouttobreakintoa“mother
lode”—thereportsoftheirexpertsprovedthatandwhenthathappened,noone
couldtelljusthowhighthedividendsmightbe.True,thesedividendpayments
wereoftenmadealittleirregularly.OneofthethingswhichSusannahdidnot
understand,didnottrytounderstand,waswhyacertainlistofpreferred
stockholderswasnowandthengivenanextradividend;norwhyattimesMr.
Warnerwouldtransferanamefromonelisttoanother.
“I’mthinkingofsavingmymoneyandinvestingmyselfinCarbonadostock!”
saidSusannahtoMr.Warneroneday.
“Don’t,”saidMr.Warner;andthenwithatouchofhisclericalmanner:“We
prefertokeepourofficeforceandourinvestorsentirelyseparatefactorsforthe


present.Wearetryingtoavoidthereproachoflettingourpeopleinonthe
groundfloor.Whenourshipcomesin—whenweopenthemotherlode—you
shallbetakencareof!”
So,forsixmonths,everythingwentperfectly.Susannahhadabsorbedherself
completelyinherjob.Thiswasaneasythingtodowhenthebusinesswasso
fascinating.Shehadgoneforfivemonthsatthispacewhensherealizedthatshe
hadnottakentheleisuretomakefriends.Exceptthethreepartnersmere
shadowstoherandthepeopleatherboarding-housealsomereshadowstoher
sheknewonlyEloise.NotthatthefriendshipofEloisewasathingtopassover
lightly.Eloisewasahostinherself.
TheyhadmetattheDorothyDorr,asemi-charitablehomeforyoungbusiness
women,atwhichSusannahstayedduringherfirstweekinNewYork.Eloise
wasanheiress,ofthatspeciesknowntothenewspapersasa“societygirl.”
Pretty,piquant,gay,extravagant,shedabbledinpicturesquecharities,andthe
DorothyDorrwasherpet.Sometimesinthesummer,whensheranuptotown,
sheevenlodgedthere.Bynaturalaffinity,shehadpickedSusannahoutofthe
crowd.
BythetimeSusannahwasestablishedinhernewjobandhadmovedtoa
boarding-house,theyhadbecomefriends.ButthefriendshipofEloisecouldnot
beverysatisfactory.Shewastoobusy;and,indeed,toooftenoutoftown.From
hersocialfastnesses,shemadesudden,dashingforaysonSusannah;tookherto
luncheon,dinner,orthetheater;thenshewouldretreattoupperFifthAvenue,
andSusannahwouldnotseeherforafortnightoramonth.
Then,thatterrible,perplexingyesterday.Ifshecouldonlyexpungeyesterday
fromherlife—oratleastfromhermemory!
Ofcourse,therewereeventsleadinguptoyesterday.Chiefamongthemwasthe
appearanceintheoffice,someweeksbefore,ofMr.OziasCowler,fromIowa.
Mr.Cowler,Susannahgatheredfromthemanneroftheoffice,wasacustomerof
importance.Hewasmiddleaged.No,whymincematters—hewasanoldman
wholookedmiddleaged.Hewasold,becausehishairhadgonequitewhite,and
hisfacehadfallenintoareasbrokenbywrinkles.Butheappearedtothefirst
glancemiddleaged,becausetheskinofthoseareaswasruddyandwarm;
becausehiseyeswereasclearandblueasinyouth.Helooked—well,Susannah
decidedthathelookedfatherly.Hewasquietinhisstepandquietinhismanner.


Thoughheappearedtoherinthelightofacustomerratherthanthatofan
acquaintance,Susannahwasinclinedtolikehim,asshelikedeveryoneand
everythingabouttheCarbonadooffices.
SusannahgatheredintimethatMr.Cowlerhadagreatdealofmoney,andthat
hehadcometoNewYorktoinvestit.OfcoursetheCarbonadoMining
Company—andthisincludedSusannahherself—sawthebestofreasonswhyit
shouldbeinvestedwiththem.Butevidently,hewasahard,cautiouscustomer.
Hecameagainandagain.HesatclosetedforlongintervalswithMr.Warner.
SometimesMr.Byancameintotheseconferences.Mr.Cowlerwasalwaysgoing
toluncheonwiththeoneandtodinnerwiththeother.Heevenwenttoabaseball
gamewithMr.O’Hearn.But,althoughhevisitedtheofficemoreandmore
frequently,shegatheredthattheinvestmentwasnotforthcoming.Susannah
knewhowfrequentlyhewascomingbecause,inspiteofthelittle,admonitory
blackhandontheground-glassdoor,healwaysentered,notbythereception
room,butbyheroffice.Usually,heprecededhislongtalkwithMr.Warnerbya
littlechatwithher.Evidently,hehadnotyetcaughtthequickgaitofNewYork
business;forasheleftagainthroughSusannah’sofficehewouldstopfora
longertalk.Onceortwice,Susannahhadtoexcuseherselfinordertogoonwith
herwork.ShehadbeenalittleafraidthatMr.Warnerwouldcommentonthese
delaysinofficeroutine.But,althoughMr.Warneronceortwiceglancedintoher
officeduringtheseintervals,heneverinterfered.
Thencameyesterday.Earlyinthemorning,Mr.Warnersaid:“MissAyer,I
wonderifyoucandoafavorforus?”Hewenton,withoutwaitingfor
Susannah’sanswer:“Cowler—youknowwhatahelplesspersonheis—wantsto
gotodinnerandthetheatertonight.Ithappensthatnoneofuscanaccompany
him.We’veallmadethekindofengagementwhichcan’tbebroken—business.
Hefeelsalittleself-conscious.Youknow,hismoneycametohimlate,andhe
hasneverbeentoabigcitybefore.Isuspectheisafraidtoenterafashionable
restaurantalone.HewantstogotoSherry’sandtothetheaterafterward—”Mr.
Warnerpausedtosmilegenially.“He’ssomethingofahick,youknow,and
especiallyinregardtothisSherryandmidnightcabaretstuff.”Mr.Warnerrarely
usedslang;andwhenhedid,hissmileseemedtoputitintoquotationmarks.
“Truetotype,hehasboughtticketsinthefrontrow.Aftertheshow,hewantsto
gotooneofthemidnightcabarets.Wouldyoubewillingtosteerhimthroughall
this?TheshowisLet’sBeatIt.”
Susannahexpressedherselfasdelighted;andindeedshewas.Toherselfshe


admittedthatMr.Cowlerwasnomoreofa“hick”inregardtoBroadway,
Sherry’s,andmidnightcabaretsthansheherself.Butaboutadmittingthis,she
hadalltheself-consciousnessofthenewlyarrivedNewYorker.
“Thatisverygoodofyou,MissAyer,”saidMr.Warner,appearingmuch
relieved.“Youmaygohomethisafternoonanhourearlier.”AgainMr.Warner
passedfromhisincisive,grayhuedsobrietytoanexpansivegeniality.“Iknow
thatinthesecircumstances,ladiesliketotaketimeovertheirtoilettes.”He
smiledatSusannah,asmilemoreexpansivethananyshehadeverseenonhis
face;itshowedtothebackmolarshishandsome,white,regularteeth.
Mr.Cowlercalledforherinataxicabatsevenand…
SheheardMr.Warner’sdooropenandshut.Footstepssoundedinthecorridor
thatwasMr.O’Hearn’svoice.Sheglancedatherwrist-watch.Half-pastnine.
Thepartnershadarrivedearlythismorning,ofallmornings.Theywerenight
birds,allthree,seldomappearingbeforehalf-pastten,andoftenworkinginthe
officelateaftershehadgone.Susannahstoppedmid-sentencealetterwhichshe
wastappingouttoawidowinIowa,rose,movedtowardthedoor.Atthe
threshold,shestopped,adeepblushsuffusingherface.Soshepausedfora
moment,irresolute.Whenfinallyshestarteddownthecorridor,Mr.Warner
emergedfromthedoorofhisownoffice,metherfacetoface.Andashiseyes
restedonhers,shewaspuzzledbytheexpressiononhissmoothcountenance.
Wasitanxiety?Hisexpressionseemedtoquestionherthenitflowedintohis
cordialsmile.
Susannahwasfirsttospeak:
“Good-morning,Mr.Warner.MayIseeyoualoneforamoment?”
“Certainly!”Withhisbestcourtlinessofmanner,hebowedherintohisprivate
office.“Won’tyouhaveaseat?”
Susannahsatdown.
“It’saboutaboutMr.Cowlerandlastnight.”Shepaused.
“Oh,”askedMr.Warner,carelessly,casually,“didyouhaveapleasantevening?”
“It’saboutthatIwantedtotalkwithyou,”Susannahfaltered.Suddenly,her


embarrassmentbroke,andshebecameperfectlycomposed.“Mr.Warner,I
disliketotellyouallthis,becauseIknowhowitwillshockyoutohearit.But
youwillunderstandthatIhavenochoiceinthematter.Itisveryhardtospeak
of,andIdon’tknowexactlyhowtoexpressit,but,Mr.Warner,Mr.Cowler
insultedmegrosslylastevening…sogrosslythatIleftthetablewherewewere
eatingafterthetheaterand…and…well,perhapsyoucanguessmystateof
mindwhenItellyouthatIwasactuallyafraidtotakeataxi.Ofcourse,Isee
nowhowfoolishthatwas.ButI…Iranallthewayhome.”Foraninstant,Mr.
Warner’sfine,incisivegenialitydidnotchange.Thensuddenlyitbrokeintoa
lookofsympatheticunderstanding.“Iamsorry,MissAyer,”hedeclaredgravely,
“Iamindeedsorry.”Hisclergyman.aspectwasforthemomentintheascendent.
Hemighthavebeentalkingfromthepulpit.Hisvoicetookitsoratoricaltone.“It
seemsincrediblethatmenshoulddosuchthingsincredible.Butonemust,I
suppose,makeallowances.Aruraltypealoneinagreatcityandsurroundedby
alltheintoxicatingaspectsofthatcity.Itundoubtedlyunbalancedhim.
Moreover,MissAyer,Imaysaywithoutflatterythatyouaremorethan
attractive.Andthen,heisunaccustomedtodrinking—”
“Oh,hehadnotdrunkanythingtospeakof,”Susannahinterrupted.“Alittle
claretatdinner.Hehadorderedchampagne,butthis…thisepisodeoccurred
beforeitcame.”
“Incredible!”againmurmuredMr.Warner.
“Inexplicable!”headded.Hepausedforamoment.“Youwishmetoseethathe
apologizes?”
“Idon’taskthat.IamonlytellingyousothatyoumayunderstandwhyIcan
neverspeaktohimagain.ForofcourseIdon’twanttoseehimaslongasIlive.
Ithoughtperhaps…thatifhecomeshereagain…youmightmanagesothathe
doesn’tenterthroughmyoffice.”
“Wecanprobablymanagethat,”Mr.Warneragreedurbanely.“Ofcoursewecan
managethat.Heis,yousee,aprospectiveclient,andaveryprofitableone.We
mustcontinuetodobusinesswithhimasusual.”
“Oh,ofcourse!”gaspedSusannah.“Pleasedon’tthinkI’mtryingtointerfere
withyourbusiness.Iunderstandperfectly.ItisonlythatI—butofcourseyou
understand.Idon’twanttoseehimagain.”Sherose.Herlithefigurecameupto


thelastinchofitsheight;theattitudegavehertheeffectofacolumn.Herhead
waslikeaglowingalabasterlampsetatthetopofthatcolumn.Allthetrouble
hadfadedoutofherface.Theset,scarletlinesinhermouthhadmeltedtotheir
normalscarletcurves.Thelighthadcomebacl^inabrilliantfloodtoher
turquoiseeyes.Inthisuprushofspirit,herredhairseemedeventobristleandto
glisten.Shesparkledvisibly.“Andnow,IguessI’llgetbacktowork,”shesaid.
“Oh,bytheway,Ifoundinmymailthismorningaletteraddressed,nottothe
women’sdepartment,buttothefirm.Iopenedit,butofcoursebyaccident.”
Mr.Warnerdrewtheletterfromitsenvelope,begancasuallyrunningthroughit.
Theconversationseemednowtobeended;Susannahmovedtowardthedoor.
Fromhisperusaloftheletter,Mr.Warnerstabbedatherbackwithonequick,
alarmedglance,and:
“Oh,MissAyer,don’tgoyet,”hesaid.Histonewasalittletenseandsharp.But
hecontinuedtoperusetheletter.Ashefinishedthelastpage,helookedup.
Again,histoneseemedpeculiar;andhehesitatedbeforehespoke.
“Er—didyoumakeoutthesignatureonthis?”heasked.
“No—itpuzzledme,”repliedSusannah.
“Sitdownagain,please,”saidMr.Warner.Nowhismannerhadthataccentof
suavity,thatvelvetyactorquality,whichusuallyhereservedsolelyforwomen
clients.“I’mawfullysorry,butI’mafraidIshallhavetoaskyoutoseeMr.
Cowleragain.”
“Mr.Warner,I…Isimplycouldnotdothat.Icanneverspeaktohimagain.You
don’tknow…Youcan’tguess…Why,Icouldscarcelytellmyownmother…if
Ihadone…”
“Itseemsquiteshockingtoyou,ofcourse,and—Waitamoment“Mr.Warner
roseandwalkedtowardthedoorleadingtoByan’soffice.Butheseemed
suddenlytochangehismind.“Iknowexactlyhowyoumustfeel,”hesaid,
returning.“Believeme,mydearyounglady,Ienterperfectlyintoyouremotions.
Shockedsusceptibilities!Woundedpride!Allperfectlynatural,evenexemplary.
But,MissAyer,thisisastrangeworld.Andinsomeaspectsavery
unsatisfactoryone.Wehavetoputupwithmanythingswedon’tlike.I,for
instance.YoucouldnotguessthemanydisagreeableexperiencestowhichI
submitdaily.Ihatethemasmuchasanyone,butbusinesscompelsmetoendure


Tài liệu bạn tìm kiếm đã sẵn sàng tải về

Tải bản đầy đủ ngay

×