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No mans land


NOMAN’SLAND
ARomance


BYLOUISJOSEPHVANCE
NEWYORK
DODD,MEADANDCOMPANY1910
COPYRIGHT,1910,BYLOUISJOSEPHVANCE
EnteredatStationersHall,London,England
Allrightsreserved,includingthoseoftranslationintoforeignlanguages,
includingScandinavian.
ToWINCHELLSMITH
Thereisaworldoutsidetheoneyouknow
Towhichforcuriousness‘Ellcan’tcompare;
Itistheplacewherewilfulmissingsgo…
THEWILFULMISSING:Kipling
Therewasneithermoonnorstarsnaethingbutaflaughto’firenowandthen,to
keeptheroadby.
AnoldtaleinBLACKWOOD’S



I
AGENTLEMANwho,leavinghisofficesonlowerBroadwayatrifleafterfour,
presentlyensconcedhimselfinacornerseatofaSubwayexpressandopened
beforehimadampafternoonpaper(withaneyeforthemarketreports)was
surprised,whenthetraincrashedheavilyintotheFourteenthStreetstation,to
findhimselfafootandmakingforthedoor:thisalthoughhisintentionhadbeen
toalightatGrandCentral.Thusitmaybe,thattricksterinusall,whichweare
accustomedvaguelytodenominatethesubconsciousmind,directsouractionsto
anendpredestined.
Surprised,hehesitated;andforthatwasrewardedbyhavinghisheelstroddenby
thepassengerbehind.Thisdecidedhim,absurdlyenough,andhewentonand
out,solacinghimselfwithamutteredsomething,hardlydefinite,aboutastroll
benefitinghim.So,transferringtoalocaltrain,healightedatTwentythirdStreet,
climbedthestairsandproceededbrisklywest,buffetedbyarowdywind.
StrikingdiagonallyacrossMadisonSquarePark,pastthedrearilyjetting
fountainandbetweenarraysofemptybenchesscarcelybeggarly(sincethatclass
haddesertedthemforwarmerloungingplaces)heturnednorthwardonFifth
Avenue,threadingtheearlyeveningthrongswithaspringofimpatienceinhis
stridetodistancecasualcompetition;andreceiveduponamindstill
impressionable,forallthatithadamplefoodformeditationandnursedaprivate
grievance,avarietyofpleasurablesuggestions.
Dusk,theearlyvioletduskoflateNovember,broodedoverthecity,blurringits
harshcontours,subduingitstooblatantyouth,lendinganillusionresemblingthe
dimenchantmentofantiquity.Inthewestacloudlesssunsethadfadedtoan
afterglowofamethystwhich,shadinginsensiblyintomauve,towardthezenith
blendedwiththedeeppurpleoftheshroudedeast.Againstthislucentcurtain
bulkedmonstrouswallswithabrokenskyline,nowlow,nowlofty,dottedhere
andthereonhighwithglitteringwindows,belowrenderedbrilliantbyadadoof
illuminatedplate-glassshieldingcovetablewares,thewholecutatregular
intervalsbythegulliesofcrosstownstreets.Northwardwerestrungparallellines
ofopalescentarc-lamps,swellingoverthegenerousriseofMurrayHillliketwin
chainsofluminouspearlsuponawoman’sbosom.Betweenthemfluentstreams
ofconveyancesmovedsedatelyinoppositedirections,theirdecorumrudely
mitigatedbystridenthornsofmotorschafingunderdisciplineofmounted


membersoftheTrafficSquadsoldierlyfiguresstatuesqueensilhouetteagainst
thetintedglow.Onthesidewalksacompositecivilisationparadedatleisure:a
concourselargelyfeminine.Thewayfarerwasconsciousofalluringglimpsesof


sleekprofilessoftlylighted,ofeyeswhosemysterywasenhancedby‘dusky
shadows:thathebreathedanatmosphereofeaseandluxurywithwhichhewas
onfamiliartermsandwhichhefound,subjectively,pleasant,comfortingwitha
reassuranceofthestabilityofthesocialorder.Atanotherperiodoftheday,he
wasaware,thethoroughfarewouldhavetoldaverydifferenttale:nowasat
noneother,wealthusurpeditsfreedom,dominatedit,mildlyarrogant.Thevery
air,briskandkeenwithfrost,wasnonethelesssensuouslyimpregnatedwith
thissofteningandtemperinginfluence.
Discoveringthisfacthecaughthimselfupsmartlyandlengthenedastridethat
hadunconsciouslyslackened,steelinghismoodwiththecoddlingofhis
discontent.
NearTwenty-ninthStreethecheckedsharplyandstoodbrieflydebating
somethingsuggestedbysightofashop-windowwellknowntohim:
“Itmightsavetime:onemayaswellbesure…”
Turning,hedescendedapairofstonestepsandcrossedaflaggedareatoadoor
setatonesideofawindowdressedwithaconfusionofodd,enticingthings:a
displaythattemptedtheeyewiththecoloursoftherainbowfaintingunder
weightofyearsanddust.Abelltinkledoverheadasheopenedandshutthedoor,
lettinghimselfintoadeepandnarrowroomcrowdedwithaheterogenous
assemblageofobjectsthatglimmeredwithweirdsplendourinasemi-gloom
madevisiblebyhalfadozenelectricbulbsgenerouslyspaced.Intherear,
beyondapartitioningscreen,shoneawarmerlight.
Forthemomenthesawnoone.Advancingafewpaceshehalted,waiting.
Intheairhungthescentofsandalwoodconfusedwithothersaromatic.Onthe
rightaprocessionofshow-casesranthelengthoftheroom;ontheleft,cabinets.
Hehadbewilderingglimpsesofoldmirrorssetindullgilt,oldpaintingsburning
lustrousintarnishedframes,asquatBuddhatranquilinobscuredesuetude,
teakwoodstandsandtablessetforthwithantiqueporcelainsandcrystals,lustre
ware,figurines,fans,swordsandknivesofhalfahundredcountries,candelabra
ofbrassandsilver,ararecasketofcarvencinnabarlikemouldedflame,faded


tapestries,curiousvestments,garmentsfromtheEastconceivedinexquisite
schemesofcolour,Japaneseprintsdimwithage,acasecrowdedwithbowlsand
traysofunsetgems,othersamazinglyfilledwithjewelrythatspannedthe
historyofthecivilisationsjadeandjasper,diamonds,malachite,turquoises,
rubies,agates,chrysophrase,sardonyx,opalsanendlesscataloguesetingold,
silver,brass,copper,steelandiron:arabbleoftreasures,huddledtogetherwith
suchapparentlackofsystemthatthebrainwasconfoundedtocontemplatethe
possibilityofbeingcalledupontoselectanysinglearticlefromthatabounding
host.
Frombehindthescreen,atthebackoftheshop,theproprietorappeared,soft
stepping,smilingtogreetagoodcustomerof‘discerningtaste.Thelatterwent
tomeethimwithapleasantairofliking.
“Good-evening,Mr.Miller—”
“Good-evening,Mr.Coast.SomethingIcanshowyouthisevening?”
“Thetelephone,ifyouplease.”Coastlaughedalittleandwasanswered
cheerfully.
“Certainly.Thisway.”
Hewasconductedbehindthescreen,where,beneathastronglight,anassistant
atajeweller’sbenchsatlaboriouslyoccupiedwithsometaskofdelicateartifice.
HelookedupasCoastentered,withagreetingcordiallyreturned.Coastwent
directlytothetelephone,awallinstrument,unhookedthereceiveranddetaileda
numbertoCentral.Theproprietordisappearedintoanadjoiningroom.An
instantlaterCoastspokeagain.
“Thatyou,Soames?…ThisisMr.Coast.IsMissKatherineathome?….Then
willyoufindout,please.Askherifshehastimetoseemeforafewmoments
beforedinner….Verywell.”
Therewasalengtheningpause,duringwhichtheantique-dealersilently
returned,hisgenialeyealternatingbetweenCoastandacrystaldecanterhehad
fetched.
“Yes,Central,waiting.”Coastputhishandoverthetransmitterandwaggeda
reprovinghead.”Goingtotrytopoisonme,Miller?”


“Justadropofoldbrandy,Mr.Coastveryold,frommyhomeinFrance.”
Coastnodded,recalledtothetelephone.“Hello,Soames….Verywell.TellherI
called,please…,.No!nomessage,thankyou.Good-bye.”
Ashehungupthereceiver,awarningtintinnabulationsoundedatthefrontdoor.
Miller,busywithglasses,lookedtohisassistant.“Seewhothatis,Charley,”he
said.Theassistantslippedfromhisseat,switchedonmorelightinthefrontof
theshop,andvanishedroundthescreen.
Ashedidso,Coastheardtherumbleofaman’svoice,followedbyawoman’s
ringinglaugh,athoughttooloud.
Millerwasofferinghimaglass.Hebowed,tookitandheldittohislipsfora
momentwithouttasting,inhalingthemellowbouquetoftheliquor.
“Thatisgood,”hesaid,andsippedcritically.
“Theverybest,Mr.Coast.There’slittlelikeitoutofFrance.”
“I’mgladIthoughtofimposingonyourgoodnature.”
“Why,soamI.Myfriendsarealwayswelcome….[Yourhealth,Mr.Coast.”
“Andyours,Mr.Miller.”
Theydrankceremoniously.Coastputdownanemptyglass.“That,”hedeclared
fromthebottomofacongratulatedheart,“wasdelicious.”
“Anotherdrop?”
“No.Absolutelynot.Itwouldinspiremetotrytobuyouttheshop.”
Millershookhishead.“Iwouldn’twanttosellyouanythingnow,”hesaidwith
simplegravity.“Ishouldrobmyself.”
Coastsurprisedthetwinkleinhiseyeandjoinedthelaugh.“ThenIshanttempt
you.”Heofferedhishand.“Goodnight,andthankyou.”
“Goodnight,Mr.Coast.”


Onhiswayout,Coasthadanindifferentglanceforthecustomersatashow-case
nearthewindow.Thewomanstoodwithherbackturned,chatteringvolublyto
theassistantinindifferentFrench:asmall,slightfigurewitharmsuplifted,
holdingachainofgoldandimperialjadetothelight.Besideherthemanloomed
solidly,hisheavyproportionsexaggeratedbyafur-linedcoat,hisattentivepose
owningatraceofproprietaryinterest.AsCoastdrewnearhelookedupand
facedabout,strippingoffaglove.
“Why,h’ar’ye,Coast!”
Toneandmannerproclaimedtheunexpectedencounterofoldfriends.Perforce
Coasttookhishand,pausing,thendroppedit,withagrave“Goodevening,
Blackstock.”Hisdistasteforthemanaffectedhimintensely,buthetriedto
concealitbeneathaforcedbanality:“EarlyChristmasshopping,eh?—”
“Notexactly.”Blackstockslurredexplanations.“I’vejustbeentryingtogetyou
onthetelephone.”
Coast’seyebrowsunderlinedhissurprise.“Yes?”
“Yes.ThoughtyoumightcareforahandatBridgetonight:justafewofusatmy
rooms:VanTuyl,Truax,Dundas,yourselfandme.We’llcutinandout.What
d’yesay?”
Coast’sacceptancefollowedaninstant’sconsideration.Hadtheinvitationbeen
extendedhimatanytimebeforenoonofthatsameday,hisrefusalwouldhave
beenpromptifqualifiedbyaninventedengagement.Now,however,afterwhat
thedayhadrumouredoftheman,hewasinclinedtograspanopportunityto
studyhim,toseeasmuchofhimaspossiblelittleashecaredtoseeanythingof
him.
“Whato’clock?”
“Oh,betweennineandtenanytime.YouknowwhereIhangout?We’llcount
onyou.”Blackstockbeamed,hiseyesshiningbehindthicklenses:tosnare
GarrettCoastwasasignalconquest.An.additionaltraceofaffableeffusiveness
oiledhisalwaysslightlyoverpoweringmanner.Thendoubtmoderatedit,andhe
hadanirresoluteeyeforhiscompanion.
Shehadturnedawayfromthecase,withareassuredattitudeimperativeofan


introduction.Coastreceivedanimpressionofaverylargeandelaboratelysimple
hatbeneathwhichagreatdealofhair,unquestionablynostrangertohenna,
framedafacewhosedeadwhitepalloreffectivelyemphasisedafullscarlet
curveoflipsandlargeeyeslikepoolsofvioletink,thatlookedhimupanddown
quiteopenly.HebowedtoBlackstock’sconstrainedwordsofpresentation.
“MissFanchermyfriend,Mr.Coast.”
Shenodded,givinghimasmallhandwhosepressurewasathoughttoofrank.
“I’veheardaboutyou,”shesaid,noddingemphatically.“Gladtoknowyou.”
“AndI’veenjoyedyourdancingmanytimes,fromthefarsideofthefootlights,”
hetoldherpleasantly.
“Niceofyoutosaythat.I’mwithTheRathskellerGirlhow,youknow.Have
youseenit?—”
“I’mpromisingmyselfthepleasure.”
“Well,whenyoucome,justletmeknow.”
“Ishantforget,”Coastassuredhervaguely.“ButnowImustrunalong.Miss
FancherBlackstockgood-night.”
Heescapedtoopenairwithasensationofreliefandperturbationoddly
commingled.Insteadofsoothing,thebrandywarmedhisgrievanceuntilit
turnedwrithinginhisbosomandstunghimlikeanadder.Sothatwastheman!
Hepressedforwardmorerapidly,butnowinanintrospectivemood,obliviousof
allthatsorecentlyhadgratifiedhim.
AtFortiethStreethepulleduponthesoutherncorner,overacrossfromthedull
greycolonnadeofthenewPublicLibrary,awaitingabreakinthestreamof
traffic.
Hehadtopossesshimselfinpatienceorriskhisneck;carriages,cabs,coupes,
carsofeverydescriptionfromlimousinetorunabout,sweptpastwithneither
hastenorcessation,lampsallbrightinthewintrydarkness.Thewestwasnow
altogetherconqueredsaveforanarrowstripoffadingemeraldabovetheJersey
horizon,hardlytobediscernedattheendofthedarkling,lamp-trimmedcanon
runningwestwards.Therewasasprinklingofcoldhighstarsinthedeep,dark


vaultabove.Womennestledglowingfacesintotheirfurs;menmovedwith
animation,theirbreathpuffingwhite.Amultitudeofsteel-shodhoofsbeata
vivacioustempoontheasphalt,makingmusicabovethesonoroushummingof
motors.
Coastbuttonedhistop-coatoverhischestandheldhisheadhigh,drinkingdeep
ofthewine-sapintheair.
Apolicemanpresentlymadeawayfor‘him,holdingbackthepressofvehicles
topermitastringoftheircounterpartstobreakthrough.Coaststeppeddown
fromthecurbandinanotherminutewouldhavebeenacross,butstoppedin
mid-stridetohearhimselfnamedinavoiceunforgettable,tohiminexpressibly
sweet.
Startled,hehaltedbeneaththenosesofapairofhandsomehorseschampingin
taut-reinedrestraint,andglancedatrandomrightandleft.Thenasagainhewas
called“Garrett!GarrettCoast!”outofthecornerofaneyehedetectedthe
uplifted,salutanttwofingersofthedriverofatown-carathaltintheouterline
ofnorth-boundtraffic.Inthewindowofthecarawhiteglovefluttered,
mothlike.
Besidethedoor,withahandonthelatch,hespokethroughtheloweredwindow.
“MayIbegalift,Katherine?”
“Indeedyoumay.Didn’tIcallyou,Garrett?”
“Goodofyou.Iamfortunate.I’vebeenwantingtoseeyou—”
Hegotinandshutthedooratthemomentwhen,bygraceoftheomnipotent
policeman,motionbecameagainpermissible.Therackingmotorquietedinto
purring:thecarslippedforward,gainingmomentum.Others,aswarm,swirled
roundandpastlikenoisyfireflies.Heignoredthemall,blessinghishappy
chance.KatherineThaxterinhercornerhadasmileforhim,dimlytobe
detectedthroughthegloomwhereinherfaceglimmeredlikesomewanflowerof
thenight,beautiful,fragrant,mysterious.
“Wherewereyougoing,Garrett?”
“Oh…”Heemergedfromreveriewithalittlestartatthesoundofhervoice.“No


placeinparticular.IbelieveIhadsomehazynotionoftheclubwhenyouhailed
me.Andyou?Home,ofcourse.”
“Yes.I’vebeenshopping.”
“Tired?”
“Notvery…CuriousIshouldhavebeenthinkingofyoujustwhenthecar
stopped.”
“Idon’tagree:itwastelepathy.”
“Oh,that’soverworked,Garrett.Can’tacommonplacecoincidencebeexplained
anyotherwaynowadays?”
“Perhaps:butnotthistime.I’vebeenthinkingaboutyouallday.SomeimpulseI
don’tknowwhatmovedmetowalkuptownfromTwentythirdStreetanddelays
insignificantinthemselvesbroughtmetothatcornerjustintime.Thatisn’t
coincidence:it’s“Hesoughttheword.
“Whatdoyouthink?”
“Predestinationanothernameforluck.”
“You’reingenious.”
“Grateful,rather.”
Shelaughed,agentlelaughthatfadedinasigh,andafteramomentof
anticipativesilence,almostapprehensive,feltobligedtoask:“Whatwereyou
thinkingaboutme,Garrett?”
“Muchtheusualthing,I’mafraid:—”
“Oh,Garrett!”Hervoicewasruefulthoughshelaughed.“Again?”
“I’mapersistentbeggar,youknow,Katherine.…Butotherwise,also:I
happenedtohearyournamementionedto-day…gossip…anidlerumour…”
Hefelthereyesuponhim,seriouslysweetandquestioning,andfrowned
slightly,wishinghehadheldhistongue,thoughawarethathecouldnothave,


caringthewayhedid.
“Whynottellme?I’mwaiting,Garrett.”
“Well….”Itwasdifficult:animpertinence;incredible,besides.Butnowthathe
hadcommittedhimself,hestiffenedaresolveandplunged.“Itwassaidthatyour
engagementtothismanBlackstockwouldbeannouncedbeforelong.”
Thatoutbluntly,hecaughtalongbreathand,dividedbetweenfearandfaith,sat
watchingher.Thepassingstreetlightstouchedherfaceandfigurestrangelywith
fitfulwheelingrays,swiftlyabruptedbutmoreorlesscontinuous,affordinghim
broken,unsatisfactoryglimpsesofher,asifthroughthemediumofa
cinematographrunningatlowspeed.Hecouldsee,however,thatshewassitting
straightandrigid,nolongerrelaxedatease,nolongersmiling,butratherwitha
facesetawayfromhim,itspureyoungprofilegleaminginthehalf-lightlike
ivoryagainstthedark.
Thesecondsofhersilencespunforhimanhourofanguish.
“Katherine…”
Sheturned.“Yes?”
“Haveyounothingtosay?”heaskedinvoluntarily,andatonceregrettedit.
“Whatdoyouwishmetosay?”Hertonewasdull,asifshespokemechanically,
withaminddetached.
“Eitheraffirmordeny.Youowemethat,atleast.”
“DoI?”Sheseemedsurprised.“Butwhat,”shepursued,rousing,“does‘this
manBlackstock‘—”
;“ButIcananddo,Garrett.”
Therewassimplicityinthat,almostconfessional.Hisfearsassailedhimmore
imperiously.


“Thenit’strue?Don’ttellmethat!—”
“WhatdoesMr.Blackstocksay?”
“Ihaven’tinterviewedhim,ofcourse.Itseemedtooabsurd—”
“Why?”
Theonlyretorthehadatcommandwaspitifullyinadequate:“BecauseIlove
you.”
“IsthatanyreasonwhyMr.Blackstockshouldnot?”
“Therearereasonswhyyoushouldn’tletyournamebecoupledwithhis.”
“Andtheyare?”
Sheputitcrisply.Hisheartsank,foreseeingdefeat.Heveeredatatangent,
evasive.;‘Youhaven’tansweredme.Isthereanytruthinthisrumour?”
“Notyet.”
“Youmeanitmay“betruelater?”
“It’spossible,”sheaffirmedquietly.‘“Mr,Blackstockhasaskedmetomarry
him;hehasn’tasyethadmyanswer.”
“Katherine!…Youcan’treallycareforhim?”
“I’mtryingtobesure,Garrett,beforeItellhimsooryou.”
“Butbutyoumustn’t!…Thething’simpossible….You—”
“You’lltellmewhy?”
Hercomposurewassobering.Hegothimselfmoreinhand:shewasnottobe
movedbystorming,heknew.Reason,logic,anappealtoherintelligence:she
wouldrequiretheseofhim.Yetwhen?puttoithecouldnotbringhimselftotell
whatheknewofthemanbyhearsay,ifverycredibly.Personaldefects,lackof
breeding,andthelikewereallunstableobjections….Intheendthebesthe
coulddo,sincesomesortofananswerwasessential,wastoframeahalting,


inconclusive:“He’snotthesort….”
Shemisinterpretedhisconfusion.“Iknowwhatyou’rethinking:thathe’snota
spokeinourparticularsocialwheel;anoutsider.MustIcondemnhimforthat?
Aretherenorightmen,Garrett,butyourselfandothersofour‘set‘?…Iknow
hehashislacks;Ifancyyou’dcallhimcrude,ifyouwerecandidwithme.But
menofhisgenius,hisupbringing…NotthatIconcedeanycrudityinhim;it’s
hardlythat:hemerelylackssomethingdifficulttonameit;notcultivation,not
sensibility,but,I’dsay,friends.”
“Hehasmany….”
Soshecaredenoughtofightforhim!Therewasbitterness,surpassingthe
bitternessofaloes,inthatdiscovery.
“Imeantherightkind,yourselfforinstance;friendstobringhimout.He’s
quick,adaptable,ofagoodfamilyifnotawealthyone.”
Coastfellbackupontheonementionableobjectionofwhichhehadcertain
knowledge.“He’sgotavillainoustemper.”
“Friendswouldteachhimtocontrolit.Andthereareexcusesforthat:hissight
hiseyesareinabadway.Heinjuredthemseriously,somehow,inhiswork
somethingaboutthespark,Ibelieve.”
”Thosewirelessexperimentsofhis?”
“Yes.He’sgoingtodogreatthings,Garrett.”
“Lateinthefield.”
“Heleadsitto-day;theyalllooktohim.Hisinventions,discoveries,
improvements,willmakewirelessaseverydayathingasthetelephone….I
don’tmeanhecouldn’twinwithoutfriends:he’sstrongenough…”
“Menhavelittleuseforhim,Katherine.”
“Womenhave.”
Coaststrangledtemptation….“Hehasmagnetism.”


“Thatandstrength,ambition,enthusiasm.He’sworthbeingafriendto.Iwant
youtoknowhimbetter,tolikehim,Garrett.”
Afteralittlehemanagedtosay:“I’lltry,ifyouwish.”
“Idowish.Please,Garrett.”
“ThenI’mtounderstandyouseriouslycontemplatemarryinghim?”
Her“Yes!”wasabsolute.
“Don’tyousee”hehatedhimselfforthis“he’safteryourmoney,Katherine?—”
“Garrett,thatisunworthyofyou.”
Hesaidnothing,doggedlytakingwhatcomforthemightfromtheknowledge
thathewasright.Howevercontemptibleofhim(itseemedsoeventohimself)
hehadowedthiswomanofhislovethathardlydischargedduty,ofwarningher.
Now…therewasthedeucetopay!Heknewhehadaccomplishednothing
throughhisclumsinesssavetoimpelhertowardtheman;hehadrousedherto
fightforBlackstock:thatwasall.Givehernowtheopportunityandshe’dthrow
herselfinhisarms.Hemumbledthewordinfatuationandfounditsour.
Knittinghisfingerstogether,hestaredbleaklyoutoveralandscapeofnaked
treescastinggaunt,fantasticstencillingsonfootwaysthatshonealividdead
whiteintheelectricglare,with,bywayofbackground,lightsglintingfeeblyon
astill,blacksheetofwater.Graduallyhecomprehendedthatinthecourseof
theirconversationthecarhadleftFifthAvenueatthePlazaandwascrossing
CentralParktotheSeventy-secondStreetentrance.
“We’renearthegate,”hesaidabruptly.“Ifyou’lldropmethere,please—”
“Certainly.TellPatrick.”
Coastgropedforthespeakingtubeandcommunicatedwiththedriver.Whenhe
satbackhewasconsciousofthewoman’ssofteningregard.
“You’renotangry,Katherine?”
“No,Garrett;butI’mvery,verysorry.”


“IfI’veseemedpresumptuous--”
“Tome,Garrett?Canyourememberthetimewhenwewerenotfriends?”
“No….Iwantyoutounderstandthatitwasn’taltogetherbecauseIwantyou
myselfneedyou,becauseIloveyouasyouknowhavelovedyouforyears….It
wasjealousyofyourhappiness.IsaidnothingthatIdidn’tbelieve.”
“Iknow.Butyouwerearemistaken.You’llcometounderstand.”
“Idon’twantyoutomakeamistake.Wait,Katherine,waitalittlebefore
deciding.I’msureofyourheart:itwon’tmisguideyou.”
“Ibelievenot.Iknowmyheartandmind.”
“Youknowmine,”hesaidgently,andnomore.
Thatstabbedher;shewinced,wonderingwhy.ButthepersonalityofDouglas
Blackstockstoodforthsolargely,limnedinsuchvividcolouring,inthe
foregroundofherconsciousness,thattherewasleftlittleroom,evenforold
friendssuchasGarrettCoast.
Herimaginationkindlingtothethoughtoftheman,sheexperiencedthatstrange,
disturbingflutterof‘herheart,thatsenseofbreathlessness,whichshehad
learnedtorecogniseasthesignalofhispresencenearher.Evennowitwasasif,
becauseherminddweltuponhim,hewerebesideher,andGarrettnomorethan
thepaleshadeof.akindlymemory.
Sheownedalittleinsight,wasofcoursestronglyswayedbyintuition,could
readmenandwomentosomedegree;butdespiteheryouthandnaivefaithin
herstrengthofcharacter,heringenuousbeliefthatalreadyshehadlivedfull
measure,DouglasBlackstockoverwhelmedher,leftherthoughtlessandwithout
will.Personifyingaforceoutsideherunderstandingandexperience,herousedin
herthewomantowhomhermindandheartmustbendsubservient.Ifshe
struggledagainstsurrender,itwasonlyinstinctively,buthalf-sincerely,with
somethingofthattremulousjoy,knowntowomen,inbeingovercomeby
strengthsoabsolutethatitscornsallstrategy.
Capitulatingtothesweetperilofdreamingofhimwhocouldsomoveher,she
wassensibleofafeelingofreliefwhenthecarpulledupbyacurbnearthepark


entrance.
Afoot,Coastlingeredatthedoor,keeneyessearchinghersalmostplaintively.
“I’lldropinforteato-morrow,ifyouaskme,Katherine.”
“Haveyoueverneededaninvitation,Garrett?”
“ThenI’llcome.”
Givinghimherglovedhandthroughthewindow,sheleanedforward.Hehad
waitedforthat;nowforthefirsttimehesawherclearlyasherfacecaught!the
light.Hispulsequickenedifhisheartsank.Hislookwaslongandtender,
comprehending;receivingit,shecolouredfaintlyanddroppedhereyesthatthey
mightnotbetraythesecretofherthoughts.
Shewithdrewherhand.
“Goodnight,Garrett.”
“Goodnight,Katherine.”
Henoddedtothedriverandthecarsweptaway.
Longafterithadshotoutofsight,hestoodstaring.Thendiscoveringhimself
bareheaded,hatandstickinhand,anobjectofamusedregard,withacurtlaugh
ofconfusionandawakenedself-consciousness,heturnedbackthroughthepark.


II
RESIGNINGwithlittlereluctancehisplaceatthecard-tabletoDundas,whose
turnitwastocutin,CoastlightedacigaretteandwanderedroundthediningroomofBlackstock’sapartment,idlyinspectingthehalf-dozenhunting-prints
thatadornedthegreenburlapwalls.Indexingtheirowner’staste,they
harmonisedwiththebrass-boundmahoganywine-cellarcontainingwhisky
exclusively,thedepartment-storeDhagestan,theheavyandlaboriouslysimple
furniture.Coast’scomment(priggish,hetoldhimselfseverely,insincereeffort
tobejust)wasterse:Missionfurniturewillout.
Wearying,aswearyofhimselfandhiscaptioushumourasofthewasted
evening,heglancedsurreptitiouslyathiswatch.Thehourwashardupononein
themorning,butasyetnoonebetrayedwillingnesstostop.IncourtesyCoast
couldnotbethefirst.Hestifledayawnandwedgedhimselfintothewindowseat.Theairwasbetterthere,notsoclosenoryetsodeeplystainedwiththe
fumesofsmokeandalcoholwhichthedraughtfromthewindow,openafew
inchesatthetop,seemedpowerlesstomodify.Languidandbeginningtobe
consciousofaslightheadache,helethisthoughtsstrayintocolourlessvacuity,
restinghisvisiononavistaoftumbledgreyroofsandastripofriverbeyond,
wheretheHudsonglimmeredliketarnishedsilverinthelightofawaningmoon.
Behindhimthegamedraggedinterminably.Below,ataxihummedthroughthe
street,barkingasthmatically.NowheheardthedroneandwindyroarofanL
train;later,themuffledrumbleoftheSubway.Somewhereapianowastinkling,
mechanicallydefiantofmunicipalordinancesdesignedtosecureforhonestfolk
asoundnight’ssleep….
Unspeakablybored,Coastgotupandwenttothebuffet,wherehepouredavery
littleScotchintoatallglass,drowningitwithicychargedwater.Hehadrefused
todrinkuptothatmoment,andwasthirsty,butashesatsippingandwatching
theplayers,VanTuyl’sunnaturalpallor,moisthairandfixedsmileaffectedhim
withafaintdisgust,andheputtheglassaside,nothalf-emptied.Hisbrows
knittedinhisconcernfortheman,whohadbeendrinkingheavilyandwould
pursuethatmadnessuntilsatiatedorsodden:noinfluencethatCoastknewof
wouldrestrainhim;hewasasunmanageableasawildhorse,andasspirited.
Slender,graceful,highlordofDevil-may-Care,VanTuylsoberwasinimitable,


morelovedthanfearedinspiteof,perhapsbecauseof,thewithewieldedlikea
whip-lash.Excessesfannedthatbrilliancytoaburningfrenzy;atsuchtimeshe
knewnofriends,andthosewhoknewhimavoidedhim;hiswits,submerged,
frothedwithasatirichumourthatetchedasindeliblyasanacidwhenhedidnot
layonwithabludgeonofvituperation….AdangerousfoiltoBlackstock,Coast
thought,comparingthem,wonderingthattheyweresomuchtogether.
Contrastingthemhethought:fireandtow,rapierandbroadsword!
Blackstockwasthebroadswordofthatcomparison,heavyandcumbersomeif
capable.Coastnotedhowsolidlyhesatinhisplace,withwhataneffectof
immovabledetermination:alargelyconstructedfigure,abovetheaveragestature
ofman,atfirstglancealmostponderous,butwithacertainalertswayingofhis
bodyfromthehipsupward,atensedirectnessofactionwhenhesnappedhis
cardsuponthetable,thatsuggestedperfectphysicalconditionandcontrol.
Concentration,collaborationofthementalwiththephysicaltothedesiredend,
inflexiblewillcommandingsuccessasbybruteforce:thesewerethekeynotesof
hischaracter,Coastthoughtepitomisinghisimpressionsinthephrase,the
absoluteegoist.Withoutefforthedominatedtheothers,VanTuylalways
excepted;thesheerweightofBlackstock’spersonalityforcedthemintothe
background.LittleDundas,withhisdeferentialsmile,delicatelypinkfaceand
permanentlyroundedshoulders,seemedtheveriestshadowofaman:
Blackstock’sshadowhehadapparentlyconstitutedhimself.Truax,roundofface
andblandlypractical,ifunquestionablyindependent,wasonlylessdwarfedby
hishost.
“Agoodbridger”Blackstockinthecurrentslang:givinghimselfwhollytothe
game,playingtowin,“wolfingthetricks,”VanTuyltoldhim.
Thecommentbroughtadarkishsmiletotheman’sface.
“Whatd’youwantmetodowith‘em?”hegrowledsemi-humorously,flippinga
cardfromhishandandasswiftlymakinghisplayfromdummy.
“Makeyouapresentof‘em?…Playtothat,now;comethroughwiththattenspot.”Hechuckledashegatheredinthetrickandledthefinalcardfrom
dummy.“That’llteachyoutodoublemyoriginalmake,Iguess…Gameand
rubber,Dunny:sixwithoutdoubledandalittleslam.Gotthatdown?”
“Yes,”repliedDundas,grinningfeeblyashejotteddownthescore.


“Toughluck,partner,”TruaxobservedtoVanTuyl.“Youcouldn’thelpdoubling
onyourhand,ofcourse,andequallyofcourseIhadtobechicaneinhearts.”
“Brains,rather,”observedVanTuylblandly,shuffling.
Blackstockinterposedhastily.“Thatfourth-bestspadeofyourscertainlydidlead
himuptoslaughter.”HereachedoverandtookupthedeckatTruax’selbow,
spreadingthecardswithadexteroussweepofhisstrong,bluntfingers.“New
game.Cut,youfellows.”
“Theinvitationtempts;buttherearesomeskinstoothick…”VanTuylpursued.
Truaxpushedbackhischair,noddingcheerfullytoCoast.Butforaheightened
tintofcolourheshowednotraceofbeingawareofVanTuyl’sinsolence.“Cut
in,Garrett;it’syourturn….Unless,”headded,“you-allwanttoquit.It’spretty
late.IthinkI’lldrop,forone.”
“Drop,”saidVanTuylsweetly,“andbedamned.”
“Whatdoyoumeanbythat?”Truax,onhisfeet,turneduponhistormentorwith
animperceptibletremorinhisvoice.
“PrudenceisthebetterpartofBridge,”VanTuylexplainedcarefully.“He’sa
prudentmanwhobecomesconsciousofchilledextremitieswhenaheadofthe
game.”
Crimsonwithresentment,Truaxhesitated,theretortonthetipofhistongueonly
withheldbecauseofCoast’sappealingandsympatheticlook.Thenwithaliftof
hisplumpshouldersheturnedaway,noddingtohishost,DundasandCoast.
“Goodnight,”hesaidbrusquely,andsobetrayedtheefforthisself-controlcost
him.“You-allcansendyourchequesifIamanythingahead.”
“We’lltrynottoforget,thanks.”AsatiricsmileonVanTuyl’sthinlipswinged
theParthiandart.
Truaxdidnotreply,butlefttheroomabruptly,Blackstockaccompanyinghimto
thedoor.InhisabsenceCoastcutinasVanTuyl’spartnerandtookthechair
Truaxhadjustvacated.


“Deal?”beinquired.
“Yours,”Dundastoldhim.
“And,”VanTuylinterjectedasCoasttookupthecards,“letustrustyou’vemore
Bridgesensethanthatprofessionaldummy.”Henoddedtoindicatethedeparted
Truax.“Icarefullytoldhim,earlyintheevening,thatwhenIdoubledIwanted
nothishighestheart,buttheHighestcardofhisweakestsuit.Doyouthinkyou
canrememberthat?”
“Yes,”saidCoastshortly,annoyedbytheother’soffensivemanner.
“Isincerelytrustso.Ididn’tcomeheretoberookedbyeverybody,by
incompetentpartnersincluded.”
Coastquietlyputdownthecardswithoutcompletingthedeal.“Aren’tyou
sprainingsomethinginyourattemptstobeinsolent,Van?”heinquiredas
Blackstockreappeared.“IthappensI’vebeenyourpartnerthiseveningmore
frequentlythananybodyelse.”
“Precisely.”
“AndyouthinkyourselfjustifiedinsuggestingthatI’veplayedagainstyou?”
VanTuyl’sdarkeyesmethissteadilyinasardonicstare.“I’mtheheaviestloser
here,”hesaid.“You’veplayedlikearawamateureverytimeyou’veplayedwith
me.Interpretthattoyourliking.”
“Ishall.”Coastgotup,whitetothelips.“Itspellsgood-nighttome.”
Blackstockstruckinwithaheavynoteofinsinceresuavity.“Oh,comenow!It’s
earlyyet.Vandoesn’tknowwhathe’ssaying—”
It’wasVanTuyl’sturntorise;heaccomplishedtheactionwithsurprising
dignityifwithaslightunsteadiness.“SincewhendidIappointabounderlike
youtoreadmymeaning?”heaskedcrisply.
Blackstockhesitated,swayingalittleashistemperstrainedattheleash.“I’ll
takethatfromyouinyourpresentcondition,VanTuyl,”hesaidslowly.


Inhisnervousanxietytoavertthequarrel,littleDundasblunderedand
precipitatedit“Oh,saynow!”hepiped.“We’reallgoodfriends.Don’tlet’s
slangoneanother.Comeon,VanTuyllet’shaveadrinkandmakeup.”
AtthesuggestionVanTuyl’sweathervanehumourveered.“Allright,”he
assented:“thatlistenslikesense.”Heturnedtothebuffet,Dundaswithhim.
“Goodnight,Blackstock.”Coastofferedhishand.“I’moffnow.”
“Why…good-night.”Blackstock’smouthsmiled,buthisspeechwas
mechanicalandhiseyes,slightlyprominentandmagnifiedbythicklenses,met
Coast’swithanopaquelooksingularlysuggestingacast.“I’msorryourparty
hastobreakupsoearly—”
“Lookhere!”VanTuylswungroundwithaglasshalf-fullofrawScotchinhis
hand.“Aren’tyougoingtojoinus?”
“Thankyou,no,”saidCoastdrily.
“No,”saidBlackstock.“And,”headded,“ifIwereyou,Van,I’dchopthatdrink.
Itwon’tdoyouaworldofgood.”
“Oh?”VanTuylsmiledacidly.“Don’tyouknowIreservetheprivilegeofacting
asmyownwet-nurse?—”
“Iadvisedyouasafriend,butI’mwillingtopushthetrespassandtellyou
somethingyouevidentlydon’tknow,VanTuyl:drinkmakesyouugly.”
Coast,lingeringinanxiety,detectedsuddenlythegleamofdrink-insanityinVan
Tuyl’seyes.Alarmed,hemovedtoplacehimselfbetweenthemen,andintheact
receivedfullinthefacewhathadbeenintendedforBlackstockthecontentsof
VanTuyl’sglass.
Half-blindedandchoking,hesteppedback,gropingforhishandkerchief.The
alcoholburnedhiseyeslikeliquidfireandthefumesofitinhisthroatand
nostrilsalmoststrangledhimforamoment,preventinghisclearunderstanding
ofwhatwastakingplace.DimlyheheardVanTuylravinginhiscuriouslyclear
andincisiveaccents,heardhimstigmatiseBlackstockcard-sharpand
blackguard.MorevaguelyheheardhimnameKatherineThaxter;inwhat
connectionhedidnotknow.Ontheheelsofthatsomethingbarkedhideously;


Dundasscreamedlikearat;VanTuylsaid,“OGod!”thickly.
Dazedwithhorror,Coastmanagedtoclearhisvision.
Blackstockhadmovedtotheothersideoftheroom,wherehestoodbyasmall
table,thedrawerofwhichhehadevidentlyjerkedopentheinstantbeforehe
fired.Hisfeetwerewellapartandheleanedalittleforward,hislargehead
lowereduponitsheavyneck.Hislipswerecompressedtothelossoftheir
sensualfulness,hiseyesblazedbeneathknotted,intentbrows.Onehandwas
clenchedbyhisside;theotherheldanautomaticpistolfrom,whosemuzzlea
faintvapourliftedinthestillhotair.
InacornerlittleDundaswashuddledwithafaceofparchment,mouthgaping,
eyesa-stare.
BothmenwerewatchingVanTuyl.
Coastsawthetall,gracefulfigureswaylikeapendulumgatheringmomentum.
Anexpressionofstrainedsurprisecloudedtheman’sface.Helurchedastep
forwardandcaughthimselfwithahandonthecard-table,andsoheldsteadyfor
aninstantwhilehisblankgaze,falling,comprehendedtheneatblackpuncture
withitswideningstainuponthebosomofhisshirt.
“God…”hesaidagaininavoiceofpitifulinquiry.
Thenhefell,draggingthetableoverwithhim.
Onthesoundofthat,Blackstockmovedforthefirsttime.Hedrewhimselfup,
relaxed,anddroppedtheweaponuponthetablebesidehim.Hisglance
encounteredCoast’s,waveredandturnedaway.Hemoistenedhislipsnervously.
Coast,withalittlecry,droppedtohiskneesbesideVanTuyl.Alreadytheman’s
eyeswereglazing,themovementsofthehandthattoreathisbreastwere
becomingfeeblyconvulsive.WhileCoastwatchedheshudderedanddied.
“Well?”Blackstock’svoiceboomedinhisearsastheman’shandgrippedhis
shoulder.Coastshookoffthegraspandrose.
“You’vedoneforhim,”hesaid,wonderingatthesteadinessofhisownvoice.


Blackstockshookhishead,blinking,likeamanwakingfromevildreams.
“Why…?”hesaidhuskily.
Heturnedawayasiftolosesightofthefigurehuddledathisfeet.
Dundasinhiscornerwhimpered.Blackstockswungtohimwithanoath.“Shut
up,damnyou!
D’youwant“Heclickedhisstrongwhiteteeth,jumpingasthebellofthehousetelephoneinterrupted.Thenhewentheavilytotheinstrumentintheshort
hallwaythatledtotheentrancetotheapartment.Coastheardhimjerkdownthe
receiver.
“Well?”hedemandedsavagely.
[*]
“Yes.Anaccident.”
[I..‘.]
“Oneofmyguests.Yes,badly.You’dbettercallupPoliceHeadquartersandtell
themtosendanambulance.”
“Anddon’tletanybodyuphereuntiltheycome.Understand?”
Hehungupthereceiverwithabangandtrampedbackintothedining-room.
“Thatdamn’hallboy!…Theyheardtheracketintheflatbelowandcalledhim
up….Ihavemadeaprettymessofthings!—”
Hewenttothebuffet,carefullyavoidingthebody,andpouredhimselfastiff
drink,whichheswallowedatagulp.
“Here!”hesaidroughly.“Eitherofyouwantabracer?”
Coastdidnotreply.Dundascamefearfullyforthfromhiscornerandseizeda
decanter,chatteringitsrimagainstaglass.
Blackstockstroderestlesslybacktotheotherendoftheroomandthrewhimself,
adeadweight,intoachair,facingthewall.InthesilencethatfollowedCoast


couldhearhisdeepandregularrespirations,unhurried,unchecked.Aftera
moment,however,heswunground,dughiselbowsintohiskneesandburiedhis
faceinhishands.
“GoodGod!”hesaid.“WhydidIdothat?—”
Dundascoughednervouslyandmovedtowardthedoor.Blackstocklookedup
withthefaceofathundercloud.
“Whereyougoing?”
Dundasstammeredanincoherentexcuse.
“Well,youstopwhereyouare.Getbacktothatwindow-seatandtrytokeep
yourmiserableteethstill,can’tyou?D’youthinkI’mgoingtoletyoudesertme
now,afterallI’vedoneforyou,youungratefulrat?—”
WithoutaprotestDundassidledfearfullybetweenhimandwhathadbeenVan
Tuyl,andreturnedtothewindow-seat.Blackstock’sgloweringgazefellupon
Coast.Asourgrimacetwistedhismouth.
“You’renotabadfellow,Coast,”hesaid“tostickbyme…”
Exertinghimself,Coasttriedtomasterhisaversionandcontemptforthemanas
wellashisblindhorrorofthecrime.
“Whatareyougoingtodo?”
“Do?”Blackstockjumpedupandbegantopacetoandfro.“WhatthehellcanI
dobutgivemyselfup?—”
“Youmeanthat?”
ThequestionwasinvoluntaryonCoast’spart,wrungfromhimbysurprise,so
difficulthefoundittocredittheman’ssincerity.
“Ofcourse,”Blackstockexplainedsimply:“it’stoolatenowtomakeagetaway….Ifithadn’tbeenforthatracket….They’dcopmebeforeIcouldgetout
oftown.”Hepaused,questioningCoastwithhisintentstare.“Youwouldn’tlet
meoff,wouldyou?You’dtellthepolice,ofcourse?—”


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