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Title: Erik Dorn
Author: Hecht, Ben, 1894-1964
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Erik Dorn" ***

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ERIK DORN

by

BEN HECHT



G. P. Putnam's Sons
New York and London
The Knickerbocker Press
1921

Copyright, 1921
by
Ben Hecht

Printed in the United States of America



To

MARIE



CONTENTS

  PAGE

  PART I

  SLEEP                                                         1


  PART II

  DREAM                                                        75


  PART III

  WINGS                                                       173


  PART IV

  ADVENTURE                                                   277


  PART V

  SILENCE                                                     369



ERIK DORN



PART I

SLEEP



CHAPTER I


An old man sat in the shadows of the summer night. From a veranda chair
he looked at the stars. He wore a white beard, and his eyes, grown small
with age, watered continually as if he were weeping. Half-hidden under
his beard his emaciated lips kept the monotonous grimace of a smile on
his face.

He sat in the dark, a patient, trembling figure waiting for bedtime. His
feet, though he rested them all day, grew heavy at night. Of late this
weariness had increased. It reached like a caress into his mind.
Thoughts no longer formed themselves in the silences of his hours.
Instead, a gentle sleep, dreamless and dark, came upon him and left him
sitting with his little eyes, open and moist, fastened without sight
upon familiar objects.

As he sat, the withered body of this old man seemed to grow always more
motionless, except for his hands. Resting on his thighs, his twig-like
hands remained forever awake, their thin contorted fingers crawling
vaguely about like the legs of 8 long-impaled spiders.

The sound of a piano from the room behind him dropped into the old man's
sleep, and he found himself once more looking out of his eyes and
occupying his clothes. His attitude remained unchanged except for a
quickened movement of his fingers. Life returned to him as gently as it
had left. The stars were still high over his head and the night, cool
and murmuring, waited for him.

He lowered his eyes toward the street beyond the lawn. People were
straying by, seeming to drift under the dark trees. He could not see
them distinctly, but he stared at their flowing outlines and at moments
was rewarded by a glimpse of a face--a featureless little glint of white
in the shadows: dark shadows moving within a motionless darkness with
little dying candle-flame faces. "Men and women," he thought, "men and
women, mixed up in the night ... mixed up."

As he stared, thoughts as dim and fluid as the people in the street
moved in his head. But he remembered things best not in words. His
memories were little warmths that dropped into his heart. His cold thin
fingers continued their fluttering. "Mixed up, mixed up," said the
night. "Dark," said the shadows. And the years spoke their memories. "We
have been; we are no more." Memories that had lost the bloom of words.
The emaciated lips of the old man held a smile beneath the white beard.

This was Isaac Dorn, still alive after eighty years.

The music from the house ended and a woman's voice called through an
open window.

"I'm afraid it's chilly outside, father."

He offered no answer. Then he heard Erik, his son, speak in an amused
voice.

"Leave the old man be. He's making love to the stars."

"I'll get him a blanket," said Erik's wife. "I can't bear to think of
him catching cold."

Isaac Dorn arose from his chair, shaking his head. He did not fancy
being covered with a blanket and feeling Anna's kindly hands tucking its
edges around his feet. They were too kindly, too solicitous. Their
little pats and caressings presumed too much. One grew sad under their
ministrations and murmured to oneself, "Poor child, poor child." Better
a half-hour under the cold, amused eyes of his son, Erik. There was
something between Erik and him, something like an unspoken argument. To
Anna he was a pathetic little old man to be nursed, coddled, defended
against chills and indigestions, "poor child, poor child." But Erik
looked at him with cold, amused eyes that offered no quarter to age and
asked for nothing. Good Erik, who asked for nothing, whose eyes smiled
because they were too polite to sneer. Erik knew about the stars and the
mixed-up things, the dim things old senses could feel in the night
though he chose to laugh at them.

But one thing Erik didn't know, and the old man, turning from his chair,
grew sad. What was that? What? His thought mumbled a question. Sitting
motionless in a corner of the room he could smile at Erik and his smile
under the white beard seemed to give an answer to the mumble--an answer
that irritated his son. The answer said, "Wait, wait! it is too early
for you to say you have lived." What a son, what a son! whose eyes made
fun of his father's white hair.

The old man moved slowly as if his infirmities were no more than
meditations, and entered the house.



CHAPTER II


The crowds moving through the streets gave Erik Dorn a picture. It was
morning. Above the heads of the people the great spatula-topped
buildings spread a zigzag of windows, a scribble of rooftops against the
sky. A din as monotonous as a silence tumbled through the streets--an
unvarying noise of which the towering rectangles of buildings tilted
like great reeds out of a narrow bowl, seemed an audible part.

The city alive with signs, smoke, posters, windows; falling, rising,
flinging its chimneys and its streets against the sun, wound itself up
into crowds and burst with an endless bang under the far-away sky.

Moving toward his office Erik Dorn watched the swarming of men and women
of which he was a part. Faces like a flight of paper scraps scattered
about him. Bodies poured suddenly across his eyes as if emptied out of
funnels. The ornamental entrances of buildings pumped figures in and
out. Vague and blurred like the play of gusty rain, the crowds darkened
the pavements.

Dorn saluted the spectacle with smiling eyes. As always, in the aimless
din and multiplicity of streets he felt himself most securely at home.
The smear of gestures, the elastic distortion of crowds winding and
unwinding under the tumult of windows, gave him the feeling of a
geometrical emptiness of life.

Here before him the meanings of faces vanished. The greedy little
purposes of men and women tangled themselves into a generality. It was
thus Dorn was most pleased to look upon the world, to observe it as one
observes a pattern--involved but precise. Life as a whole lay in the
streets--a little human procession that came toiling out of a yesterday
into an interminable to-morrow. It presented itself to him as a
picture--legs moving against the walls of buildings, diagonals of
bodies, syncopating face lines.

Things that made pictures for his eyes alone diverted Dorn. Beyond this
capacity for diversion he remained untouched. He walked smiling into
crowds, oblivious of the lesser destinations of faces, pleased to dream
of his life and the life of others as a movement of legs, a bobbing of
heads.

His appreciation of crowds was typical. In the same manner he held an
appreciation of all things in life and art which filled him with the
emotion of symmetry. He had given himself freely to his tastes. A creed
had resulted. Rhythm that was intricate pleased him more than the
metronomic. In art, the latter was predominant. In life, the former. Out
of these decisions he achieved almost a complete indifference to
literature and especially toward painting. No drawn picture stirred him
to the extent that did the tapestry of a city street. No music aroused
the elation in him that did the curious beat upon his eyes of window
rows, of vari-shaped building walls whose oblongs and squares translated
themselves in his thought into a species of unmelodious but perfect
sound.

The preoccupation with form had developed in him as complement of his
nature. The nature of Erik Dorn was a shallows. Life did not live in
him. He saw it as something eternally outside. To himself he seemed at
times a perfect translation of his country and his day.

"I'm like men will all be years later," he said to his wife, "when their
emotions are finally absorbed by the ingenious surfaces they've
surrounded themselves with, and life lies forever buried behind the
inventions of engineers, scientists, and business men."

Normal outwardly, a shrewd editor and journalist, functioning daily in
his home and work as a cleverly conventional figure, Dorn had lived
since boyhood in an unchanging vacuum. He had in his early youth become
aware of himself. As a young man he had waited half consciously for
something to happen to him. He thought of this something as a species of
contact that would suddenly overtake him. He would step into the street
and find himself a citizen absorbed by responsibilities, ideas,
sympathies, prejudices. But the thing had never happened. At thirty he
had explained to himself, "I am complete. This business of being empty
is all there is to life. Intelligence is a faculty which enables man to
peer through the muddle of ideas and arrive at a nowhere."

Private introspection had become a bore to him. What was the use of
thinking if there was nothing to think about? And there was nothing. His
violences of temper, his emotions, definite and at times compelling, had
always seemed to him as words--pretences to which he loaned himself for
diversion. He was aware that neither ideas nor prejudices--the residues
of emotion--existed in his mind. His thinking, he knew, had been a
shuffle of words which he followed to fantastic and inconsistent
conclusions that left him always without convictions for the morrow.

There was a picture in the street for him on this summer morning. He was
a part of it. Yet between himself and the rest of the picture he felt no
contact.

Into this emptiness of spirit, life had poured its excitements as into a
thing bottomless as a mirror. He gave it back an image of words. He was
proud of his words. They were his experiences and sophistications. Out
of them he achieved his keenest diversion. They were the excuse for his
walking, his wearing a hat and embarking daily for his work, returning
daily to his home. They enabled him to amuse himself with complexities
of thought as one improvising difficult finger exercises on the piano.

At times it seemed to Dorn that he was even incapable of thinking, that
he possessed a plastic vocabulary endowed with a life of its own. He
often contemplated with astonishment his own verbal brilliancies, which
his friends appeared to accept as irrefutable truths of the moment.
Carried away in the heat of some intricate debate he would pause
internally, as his voice continued without interruption, and exclaim to
himself, "What in hell am I talking about?" And a momentary awe would
overcome him--the awe of listening to himself give utterance to
fantastic ideas that he knew had no existence in him--a cynical magician
watching a white rabbit he had never seen before crawl naïvely out of
his own sleeve. Thus his phrases assembled themselves on his tongue and
pirouetted of their own energy about his listeners.

Smiling, garrulous, and impenetrable--garrulous even in his silences, he
daily entered his office and proceeded skillfully about his work. He
was, as always, delighted with himself. He felt himself a man ideally
fitted to enjoy the little spectacle of life his day offered. Emotion in
others invariably roused in him a sense of the ludicrous. His eyes
seemed to travel through the griefs and torments of his fellows and to
fasten helplessly upon their causes. And here lay the ludicrous--the
clownish little mainspring of tragedy and drama. He moved through his
day with a vivid understanding of its excitements. There was no mystery.
One had only to look and see and words fitted themselves. A pattern
twisted itself into precisions--precisions of men loving, hating,
questing. The understanding swayed him between pity and contempt and
left the balance of an amused smile in his eyes.

Intimacy with Erik Dorn had meant different things to different people,
but all had derived from his friendship a fascinated feeling of loss.
His wife, closest to him, had after seven years found herself drained,
hollowed out as by some tenaciously devouring insect. Her mind had
emptied itself of its normal furniture. Erik had eaten the ideas out of
it. Under the continual impact of his irony her faiths and
understandings had slowly deserted her. Her thought had become a shadow
cast by his emptiness. Things were no longer good, no longer bad. People
had become somehow non-existent for her since she could no longer think
of them as symbols incarnate of ideas that she liked or ideas that she
disliked. Thus emptied of its natural furniture, her mind had borrowed
from her heart and become filled, wholly occupied with the emotion of
her love for Erik Dorn. More than lover and husband, he was an
obsession. He had replaced a world for her.

It was of his wife that Dorn was thinking when he arrived this summer
morning at his desk in the editorial room. He had remembered suddenly
that the day was the anniversary of their marriage. Time had passed
rapidly. Seven years! Like seven yesterdays. He seemed able to remember
them in their entirety with a single thought, as one can remember a
column of figures without recalling either their meaning or their sum.



CHAPTER III


The employees of the editorial room--a loft-like chamber crazily crowded
with desks, tables, cabinets, benches, files, typewriters; lighted by a
smoke-darkened sun and the dim glow of electric bulbs--were already
launched upon the nervous routine of their day. An excited jargon filled
the place which, with the air of physical disorder as if the workers
were haphazardly improvising their activities,--gave the room a vivid
though seemingly impermanent life.

On the benches against a peeling wall sleepy-faced boys with precocious
eyes kept up a lazy hair-pulling, surreptitious wrestling bout. They
rose indifferently in response to furiously repeated bellows for their
assistance--a business of carrying typewritten bits of paper between
desks a few feet apart; or of sauntering with eleventh-hour orders to
the perspiring men in the composing room.

In the forward part of the shop a cluster of men stood about the desk of
an editor who in a disinterested voice sat issuing assignments for the
day, forecasting to his innumerable assistants the amount of space
needed for succeeding editions, the possible development in the local
scandals. His eye unconsciously watched the clock over his head, his
ear divided itself between a half-dozen conversations and a tireless
telephone. With his hands he kept fumbling an assortment of clippings,
memoranda, and copy.

Oldish young men and youngish old men gravitated about him, their faces
curiously identical. These were the irresponsible-eyed, casual-mannered
individuals, seemingly neither at work nor at play, who were to visit
the courts, the police, the wrecks, the criminals, conventions,
politicians, reformers, lovers, and haters, and bring back the news of
the city's day. A common almost racial sophistication stamped their
expression. They pawed over telephone books, argued with indifferent,
emotionless profanity among themselves on items of amazing import;
pounded nonchalantly upon typewriters, lolled with their feet upon
desks, their noses buried in the humorous columns of the morning
newspapers.

"Make-up" men and their assistants, everlastingly irritable as if the
victims of pernicious conspiracies, badgered for information that seemed
inevitably non-existent. They desired to know in what mysterious manner
one could get ten columns of type into a page that held only seven and
whether anyone thought the paper could go to press at half-past ten when
the bulk of the copy for the edition arrived in the composing room at
twenty minutes of eleven.

Proof-readers emerged from the bowels of somewhere waving smeared bits
of printed paper and triumphantly demanded explanation of ambiguous
passages.

Re-write men "helloed" indignantly into telephones, repeating with
sudden listlessness the pregnant details of the news pouring in; and
scribbling it down on sheets of paper ... "dead Grant park bullet
unknown 26 yrs silk stockings refinement mystery."

Idlers lounged and discussed loudly against the dusty windows hung with
torn grimy shades.

Copy-readers, concentrated under green eye-shades, sat isolated in a
tiny world of sharpened pencils, paste pots, shears, and emitted sudden
embittered oaths.

Editors from other departments, naïvely excited over items of vast
indifference to their nervous listeners, came and went.

An occasional printer, face and forearms smeared with ink, sauntered in
as if on a vacation, uttering some technical announcement and
precipitating a brief panic.

Toward the center of the room, seated at desks jammed against one
another in defiance of all convenience, telegraph editors, their hands
fumbling cables and despatches from twenty ends of the earth, bellowed
items of interest into the air--assassinations in China, probes,
quizzes, scandals, accusations in far-away places. They varied their
bellows with occasional shrieks of mysterious significance--usually a
misplaced paste pot, a borrowed shears, a vanished copy-boy.

These folk and a sprinkling of apparently unemployed and undisturbed
strangers spread themselves through the shop. Outside the opened windows
in the rear of the room, the elevated trains stuffed with men and women
roared into a station and squealed out again. In the streets below, the
traffic raised an ear-splitting medley of sound which nobody heard.

Against this eternal and internal disorder, a strange pottering,
apparently formless and without beginning or end, was guiding the latest
confusions and intrigues of the human tangle into perfunctory groups of
words called stories. A curious ritual--the scene, spreading through the
four floors of the grimy building with a thousand men and women
shrieking, hammering, cursing, writing, squeezing and juggling the
monotonous convulsions of life into a scribble of words. Out of the
cacophonies of the place issued, sausage fashion, a half-million papers
daily, holding up from hour to hour to the city the blurred mirrors of
the newspaper columns alive with the almost humorous images of an
unending calamity.

"The press," Erik Dorn once remarked, "is a blind old cat yowling on a
treadmill."

It was a quarter to nine when Dorn arrived at his desk. He seated
himself with a complete unconsciousness of the scene. A litter of
correspondence, propaganda, telegrams, and contributions from Constant
Reader lay stuffed into the corners and pigeonholes of his desk. He sat
for a moment thinking of his wife. Call her up ... spend the evening
downtown ... some unusual evidence of affection ... the vaudeville
wouldn't be bad.

The thought left him and his eyes fastened themselves upon a sheaf of
proofs.... Watch out for libel ... look for hunches ... scribble
suggestion for changes ... peer for items of information that might be
expanded humorously or pathetically into Human Interest yarns.... These
were functions he discharged mechanically. A perfect affinity toward his
work characterized his attitude. Yet behind the automatic efficiency of
his thought lay an ironical appreciation of his tasks. The sterile
little chronicles of life still moist from the ink-roller were like
smeared windows upon the grimacings of the world. Through these windows
Dorn saw with a clarity that flattered him.

A tawdry pantomime was life, a pouring of blood, a grappling with
shadows, a digging of graves. "Empty, empty," his intelligence whispered
in its depths, "a make-believe of lusts. What else? Nothing, nothing.
Laws, ambitions, conventions--froth in an empty glass. Tragedies,
comedies--all a swarm of nothings. Dreams in the hearts of men--thin
fever outlines to which they clung in hope. Nothing ... nothing...." His
intelligence continued a murmur as he read--a murmur unconscious of
itself yet coming from the depths of him. Equally unconscious was the
amusement he felt, and that flew a fugitive smile in his eyes.

The perfunctory hysterics of the stories of crime, graft, scandal, with
their garbled sentences and wooden phrases; the delicious sagacities of
the editorial pages like the mumbling of some adenoidal moron in a gulf
of high winds; headlines saying a pompous "amen" to asininity and a
hopeful "My God!" to confusion--these caressed him, and brought the
thought to him, "if there is anything worthy the absurdity of life it's
a newspaper--gibbering, whining, strutting, sprawled in attitudes of
worship before the nine-and-ninety lies of the moment--a caricature of
absurdity itself."

His efficiency aloof from such moralizing moved like a separate
consciousness through the day, as it had for the sixteen years of his
service. His rise in his profession had been comparatively rapid. Thirty
had found him enshrined as an editor. At thirty-four he had acquired the
successful air which distinguishes men who have come to the end of their
rope. He had become an editor and a fixture. The office observed an
intent, gray-eyed man, straight nosed, firm lipped, correctly shaved
down to the triangular trim of his mustache, his dark hair evenly
parted--a normal-seeming, kindly individual who wore his linen and his
features with a certain politely exotic air--the air of an identity.

The day's vacuous items in his life passed quickly, its frantic routine
ebbing into a lull toward mid-afternoon. Returning from a final uproar
in the composing room, Dorn looked good-humoredly about him. He was
ready to go home. Arguments, reprimands, entreaties were over for a
space. He walked leisurely down the length of the shop, pleased as
always by its atmosphere. It was something like the streets, this
newspaper shop, broken up, a bit intricate, haphazard.

A young man named Cross was painstakingly writing poetry on a
typewriter. Another named Gardner was busy on a letter. "My dearest...."
Dorn read over his shoulder as he passed. Promising young men, both,
whose collars would grow slightly soiled as they advanced in their
profession. He remembered one of his early observations: "There are two
kinds of newspapermen--those who try to write poetry and those who try
to drink themselves to death. Fortunately for the world, only one of
them succeeds."

In a corner a young woman, dressed with a certain ease, sat partially
absorbed in a book and partially in a half-devoured apple. "The Brothers
Karamasov," Dorn read as he sauntered by. He thought "an emancipated
creature who prides herself on being able to drink cocktails without
losing caste. She'll marry the first drunken newspaperman who forgets
himself in her presence and spend the rest of her life trying to induce
him to go into the advertising business."

Turning down the room he passed the desk of Crowley, the telegraph
editor. A face flabby and red with ancient drinking raised itself from a
book and a voice spoke,

"Old Egan gets more of a fool every day." Old Egan was the make-up man.
Dorn smiled. "The damned idiot crowded the Nancy story off page one in
the Home. Best story of the day." Crowley ended with a vaguely conceived
oath.

Dorn glimpsed the title of the book on his desk, _L'Oblat_. Crowley had
been educated for the priesthood but emerged from the seminary with a
heightened joy of life in his veins. A riotous twenty years in night
saloons and bawdy houses had left him a kindly, choleric, and respected
newspaper figure. Dorn caught his eye and wondered over his sensitive
infatuation of exotic writing. In the pages of Huysmans, De Gourmont,
Flaubert, Gautier, Symons, and Pater he seemed to have found a subtle
incense for his deadened nerves. Inside the flabby, coarsened body with
its red face munching out monosyllables, lived a recluse. "Too much
living has driven him from life," Dorn thought, "and killed his lusts.
So he sits and reads books--the last debauchery: strange, twisted
phrases like idols, like totem poles, like Polynesian masks. He sits
contemplating them as he once sat drunkenly watching the obscenities of
black, white, and yellow bodied women. Thus, the mania for the rouge of
life, for the grimace that lies beyond satiety, passes in him from
bestiality to asceticism and esthetics. Yesterday a bacchanal of flesh,
to-day a bacchanal of words ... the posturings of courtezans and the
posturings of ornate phrases become the same." He heard Crowley
repeating, "Damned idiot, Egan! No sense of human values. Crowded the
best story of the day off page one." ... Some day he'd have a long talk
with Crowley. But the man was so carefully hidden behind perfunctories
it was hard to get at him. He resented intrusion.

Dorn passed on and looked around for Warren--a humorous and didactic
creature who had with considerable effort destroyed his Boston accent
and escaped the fact that he had once earned his living as professor of
sociology in an eastern university. Dorn caught a memory of him sitting
in a congenial saloon before a stein and pouring forth hoarsely oracular
comments upon the activities of men known and unknown. The man had a
gift for caricature--Rabelaisean exaggerations. Dorn was suddenly glad
he had gone for the day. The office oppressed him and the people in it
were too familiar. He walked to his desk thinking of the South Seas and
new faces.

"I tell you what," a voice drawled behind him, "Nietzsche has it on the
whole lot of them." Cochran, the head of the copy desk, was talking--a
shriveled little man with a bald face and shoe-button eyes. "You've got
to admit people are more dishonest in their virtues than in their vices.
Of course, there's a lot of stuff he pulls that's impractical."

Dorn shrugged his shoulders, smiled and lifted his hat out of a locker.
He remembered again to telephone his wife, but instead moved out of the
office. A refreshing warmth in the street pleased his senses and he
turned toward the lake. Walk down Michigan avenue, take a taxi
home--what else was there to do? Nothing, unless talk. But to whom? He
thought of his father. A tenacious old man. Probably hang on forever.
God, the man had been married three times. If it wasn't for his damned
infirmities he'd probably marry again. Looking for something. What was
it the old man had kept looking for? As if there was in existence a
concrete gift to be drawn from life. A blithering, water-eyed optimist
to the end, he'd die with a prayer of thankfulness and gratitude.

Thus innocuously abstract, moving in the doldrum which sometimes
surrounded him after his day's work, he turned into the boulevard along
the lake. The day grew abruptly fresher here. An arc of blue sky rising
from the east flung a great curve over the building tops. Dorn paused
before the window of a Japanese art shop and stared at a bulbous wooden
god stoically contemplating his navel.

During his walks through the streets he sometimes met people he knew.
This time a young woman appeared at the window beside him. He recognized
her with elation. His thought gave him an index of her ... Rachel
Laskin, curious girl ... makes me talk well ... appreciative ... unusual
eyes.



CHAPTER IV


They walked together down the avenue. Dorn felt a return of interest in
himself. Introspection bored him. His insincerity made self thought
meaningless. Listeners, however, revived him. As they walked he caught
occasional glimpses of his companion--vivid eyes, dark lips, a cool,
shadow-tinted face that belonged under exotic trees; a morose little
girl insanely sensitive and with a dream inside her. She admired him; or
at least she admired his words, which amounted to the same thing. Once
before she had said, "You are different." As usual he held his cynicism
in abeyance before flattery. People who thought him different pleased
him. It gave them a certain intellectual status in his eyes.

His thought, as he talked, busied itself with images of her. She gave
him a sense of dark waters hidden from the moon--a tenuous fugitive
figure in the pretty clamor of the bright street.

"You remind me," he was saying, "of a nymph among dowagers and
frightened to death. There's really nothing to be frightened of, unless
you prefer fear to other more tangible emotions."

She nodded her head. He recalled that the gesture had puzzled him at
first. It gave an eager assent to his words that surprised him. It
pretended that she had understood something he had not said, something
that lay beneath his words. Dorn pointed at the women moving by them.

"Poems in shoe craft, tragedies in ankles and melodramas in legs," he
announced. "Look at their clothes! Priestly caricatures of their sex.
You're still drawing?"

"Yes. But you don't like my drawing."

"I saw one of your pictures--an abominable thing--in some needlework
magazine. A woman with a spindly nose, picking flowers."

He glanced at her and caught an eager smile in her eyes. She was someone
to whom he could talk at random. This pleased him; or perhaps it was the
sense of flattery that pleased him. He wondered if she was intelligent.
They had met several times, usually by accident. He had found himself
able to talk at length to her and had come away feeling an intimacy
between them.

"Look at the windows," he continued. "Corsets, stockings, lingerie. Shop
windows remind me of neighbors' bathrooms before breakfast. There's
something odiously impersonal about them. See, all the way down the
street--silks, garments, ruffles, laces. A saturnalia of masks. It's the
only art we've developed in America--over-dressing. Clothes are
peculiarly American--a sort of underhanded female revenge against the
degenerate puritanism of the nation. I've seen them even at revival
meetings clothed in the seven tailored sins and denouncing the devil
with their bustles. Only they don't wear bustles any more. But what's an
anachronism between friends? Why don't you paint pictures of real
Americans?--men hunting for bargains in chastity and triumphantly
marrying a waistline. If that means anything."

He paused, and wondered vaguely what he was talking about. Vivid eyes
and dark lips, a face that belonged elsewhere. He was feeding its
poignancy words. And she admired him. Why? He was saying nothing. There
was a sexlessness about her that inspired vulgarity.

"You remind me of poetry," she answered without looking at him. "I
always can listen to you without thinking, but just understanding. I've
remembered nearly everything you've said to me. I don't know why. But
they always come back when I'm alone, and they always seem unfinished."

Her words jarred. She was too naïve to coquette. Yet it was difficult to
believe this. But she was an unusual creature, modestly asleep. A
fugitive aloofness. Yes, what she said must be true. There was nothing
unreasonable about its being true. She made an impression upon him. He
undoubtedly did upon her. He would have preferred her applause, however,
somewhat less blatant. But she was a child--an uncanny child who cooed
frankly when interested.

"I can imagine the millennium of virtue in America," he went on. "A
crowd of painted women; faces green and lavender, moving like a
procession of bizarre automatons and chanting in Chinese, 'We are pure.
We are chaste and pure.' A parade of psychopathic barbarians dressed in
bells, metals, animal skins, astrologer hats and Scandinavian ornaments.
A combination of Burmese dancer and Babylonian priest. I ask for nothing
more."

He laughed. He had half consciously tried to give words to an image the
girl had stirred in him. She interrupted,

"That's me."

He looked at her face in a momentary surprise.

"I hate people, too," she said. "I would like to be like one of those
women."

"Or else a huntress riding on a black river in the moon. I was trying to
draw a picture of you. And perhaps of myself. You have a faculty of ...
of ... Funny, things I say are usually only reflections of the people I
talk to. You don't mind being a psychopathic barbarian?"

"No," she laughed quietly, "because I understand what you mean."

"I don't mean anything."

"I know. You talk because you have nothing to say. And I like to listen
to you because I understand."

This was somewhat less jarring, though still a bit crude. Her admiration
would be more pleasant were it more difficult to discover. He became
silent and aware of the street. There had been no street for several
minutes--merely vivid eyes and dark lips. Now there were
people--familiar unknowns to be found always in streets, their faces
withholding something, like unfinished sentences. He had lost interest
and felt piqued. His loss of interest in his talk was perhaps merely a
reflection of her own.

"I remember hearing you were a socialist. That's hard to believe."

There was no relation between them now. He would have to work it up
again.

"No, my parents are. I'm not."

"Russians?"

"Yes. Jews."

"I'm curious about your ideals."

"I haven't any."

"Not even art?"

"No."

"A wingless little eagle on a barren tree," he smiled. "I advise you to
complicate life with ideals. The more the better. They are more
serviceable than a conscience, in which I presume you're likewise
lacking, because you don't have to use them. A conscience is an
immediate annoyance, whereas ideals are charming procrastinations. They
excuse the inanity of the present. Good Lord, what do you think about
all day without ideals to guide you?"

Dorn looked at her and felt again delight with himself. It was because
her interest had returned. Her eyes were flatteries. He desired to be
amusing, to cover the eager child face beside him with a caress of
words.

"I don't think," she answered. "Do people ever think? I always imagine
that people have ideas that they look at and that the ideas never move
around."

"Yes," he agreed, "moving ideas around is what you might call thinking.
And people don't do that. They think only of destinations and for
purposes of forgetting something--drugging themselves to uncomfortable
facts. I fancy, however, I'm wrong. It's only after telling a number of
lies that one gets an idea of what might be true. Thus it occurs to me
now that I can't conceive of an intelligent person thinking in silence.
Intelligence is a faculty which enables people to boast. And it's
difficult boasting in silence. And inasmuch as it's necessary to be
intelligent to think, why, that sort of settles it. Ergo, people never
think. Do you mind my chatter?"

"Please ..."

A perfect applause this time. Her sincerity appealed to him as an
exquisite mannerism. She said "Please" as if she were breathless.

"You're an entertaining listener," he smiled. "And very clever. Because
it's ordinarily rather difficult to flatter me. I'm immensely delighted
with your silence, whereas ..." Dorn stumbled. He felt his speech was
degenerating into a compliment.

"Because you tell me things I've known," the girl spoke.

"Yet I tell you nothing."

He stared for an instant at the people in the street. "Nothing" was a
word his thought tripped on. He was used to mumbling it to himself as he
walked alone in streets. And at his desk it often came to him and
repeated itself. Now his thought murmured, "Nothing, nothing," and a
sadness drew itself into his heart. He laughed with a sense of treating
himself to a theatricalism.

"We haven't talked about God," he announced.

"God is one of my beliefs."

She was an idiot for frowning.

"I dislike to think of man as the product of evolution. It throws an
onus on the whole of nature. Whereas with a God to blame the thing is
simple."

She nodded, which was doubly idiotic, inasmuch as there was nothing to
nod to. He went on:

"Life is too short for brevities--for details. I save time by thinking,
if you can call it thinking, _en masse_--in generalities. For instance,
I think of people frequently but always as a species. I wonder about
them. My wonder is concerned chiefly with the manner in which they
adjust themselves to the vision of their futility. Do they shriek aloud
with horror in lonely bedrooms? There's a question there. How do people
who are important to themselves reconcile themselves to their
unimportance to others? And how are they able to forget their
imbecility?"

They were walking idly as if dreamily intent upon the spectacle of the
avenue. The nervous unrest that came to Dorn in streets and fermented
words in his thought seemed to have deserted him. Assured of the
admiration of his companion, he felt a quiet as if his energies had been
turned off and he were coasting. He recognized several faces and saluted
them as if overcome with a desire to relate a jest.

"Notice the men and women together," he resumed easily, almost
unconscious of talking. "Observing married couples is a post-graduate
course in pessimism. There's a pair arm in arm. Corpses grown together.
There's no intimacy like that of cadavers. Yet at this and all other
moments they're unaware of death. They move by us without thought,
emotion, or words in them."

"They look very proud," she interrupted.

"It's the set expression of vacuity. Just as skeletons always seem
mysteriously elate. Their pride is an absence of everything else--a sort
of rigid finery they put on in lieu of a shroud. Never mind staring
after them, please. They are Mr. and Mrs. Jalonick who live across the
street from my home. I dislike staring even after truths. Listen, I have
something more to say about them if you'll not look so serious. Your
emotions are obviously infantile. I can give you a picture of marriage:
two little husks bowing metronomically in a vacuum and anointing each
other with pompous adjectives. Draw them a little flattened in the rear
from sitting down too much and you'll have a masterpiece. It's amusing
to remember that Mr. and Mrs. Jalonick were once in love with each
other!" Dorn laughed good-naturedly. "Fancy them on a June night ten
years ago before their eyes had become cotton, holding hands and trying
to give a meaning to the moon. Are you tired?"

"No, please. Let's walk, if you haven't anything else to do."

"Nothing." It was the seventh anniversary of his marriage. An annoying
thought. "You're an antidote for inertia. I marvel, as always, at my
garrulity. Women usually inspire me with a desire to talk. I suppose
it's a defensive instinct. Talk confuses women and renders them
helpless. But that isn't it. I talk to women because they make the best
sounding-boards. Do you object to being reduced to an acoustic? Yes, sex
is a sort of irritant to the vocabulary. It's amusing to converse
profoundly with a pretty woman whose sole contributions to any dialogue
are a bit of silk hose and an oscillation of the breasts."

"You make me forget I'm a woman and agree with you."

"Because you're another kind of woman. The reflector. Or acoustic. I
prefer them. I sometimes feel that I live only in mirrors and that my
thoughts exist only as they enter the heads of others. As now, I speak
out of a most complete emptiness of emotion or idea; and my words seem
to take body in your silence--and actually give me a character."

"I always think of you as someone hiding from himself," she answered.
Dorn smiled. They were old friends--a union between them.

"There's no place of concealment in me," he said after a pause. He had
been thinking of something else. "But perhaps I hide in others. After
talking like this I come away with a sort of echo of what I've said. As
if someone had told me things that almost impressed me. I talk so damned
much I'm unaware of ever having heard anybody else but myself express an
opinion. And I swear I've never had an opinion in my life." He became
silent and resumed, in a lighter voice, "Look at that man with whiskers.
He's a notorious Don Juan. Whiskers undoubtedly lend mystery to a man.
It's a marvel women haven't cultivated them--instead of corsets. But
tell me why you've disdained art as an ideal. You're curious. It's a
confessional I should think would appeal to you. I'm almost interested
in you, you see. Another hour with you and you would flatter me into a
state of silence."

Dorn paused, somewhat startled. Her dark lips parted, her eyes glowing
toward the end of the street, the girl was walking in a radiant
abstraction. She appeared to be listening to him without hearing what he
said. Dorn contemplated her confusedly. He frowned at the thought of
having bored her, and an impulse to step abruptly from her side and
leave became a part of his anger. He hesitated in his walking and her
fingers, timorous and unconscious of themselves, reached for his arm. He
wondered with a deeper confusion what she was dreaming about. Her hand
as it lay on his forearm gave him a sense of companionship which his
words sought clumsily to understand.

"I was saying something about art when you fell asleep," he smiled.

Rachel threw back her head as if she were shaking a dream out of her
eyes.

"I wasn't asleep," she denied. They moved on in the increasing crowd.

"Men and women," Dorn muttered. "The street's full of men and women
going somewhere."

"Except us," the girl cried. Her eyes, alight, were thrusting against
the cold, amused smile of his face. He would be late. Anna would be
waiting. An anniversary. Anniversaries were somehow important. They
revived interest in events which had died. But it was nice to drift in a
crowd beside a girl who admired him. What did he think of her? Nothing
... nothing. She seemed to warm him into a deeper sleep. It was a relief
to be admired for one's silence. Admired, not loved. Love was a bore.
Anna loved him, bored him. Her love was an applause that did not wait
for him to perform--an unreasonable ovation.

He looked at the girl again. She was walking beside him, vivid eyes,
dark lips--almost unaware of him, as if he had become a part of the
dream that lived within her.



CHAPTER V


When she was a child she used to see a face in the dark as she was
falling asleep. It was crude and misshapen, and leered at her, filling
her heart with fear. Later, people had become like that to her.

When she was eighteen Rachel came to Chicago and studied art at an art
school. She learned nothing and forgot nothing. She read books in
English and in Russian--James, Conrad, Brusov, Tolstoi. Her reading
failed to remove her repugnance to the touch of life. Instead, it lured
her further from realities. She did not like to meet people or to hear
them talk. At twenty she was able to earn her living by drawing posters
for a commercial art firm and making occasional illustrations for
magazines designed for female consumption.

As she matured, the repugnance to life that lay like a disease in her
nerves, developed dangerously. She would sit in her room in the evening
staring out of the window at the darkened city and thinking of people.
There was an endless swathing of people, buildings, faces, words, that
wound itself tightly about her. She would cover her face suddenly and
whisper, "Oh, I must go away. I must."

She hurried through dragging days as if she were running away. But there
were things she could not escape. Men smiled at her and established
themselves as friends. Women were easy to get rid of. One had only to be
frank and women vanished. But this same frankness, she found, had an
opposite effect upon men. Insults likewise served only to interest men.
They would become gradually more and more acquainted with her until it
became impossible to talk to them. Then she would have to ignore them,
turning quickly away when they addressed her and saying, "Good-bye, I
must go."

At times she grew ashamed of her sensitiveness. She would sit alone in
her room surrounded by a whimpering little silence. A melancholy would
darken her heart. It wasn't because she was afraid of people. It was
something else. She would try to think of it and would find herself
whispering suddenly, "Oh, I must go away. I must."

To men, Rachel's beauty seemed always a doubtful quality. Her appeal
itself was doubtful. The Indian symmetry of her face lay as behind a
luminous shadow--an ill-mannered, nervous face that was likely to lure
strangers and irritate familiars. In the streets and restaurants people
looked at her with interest. But people who spoke to her often lost
their interest. There was a silence about her like a night mist. She
seemed in this silence preoccupied with something that did not concern
them. Men found the recollection of her more pleasing than her presence.
Something they remembered of her seemed always to be missing when they
encountered her again. Lonely evening fields and weary peasants moving
toward the distant lights of their homes spoke from her eyes. An exotic
memory of simple things--of earth, sky, and sea--lay in her sudden
gestures. A sense of these things men carried away with them. But when
they came to talk to her they grew conscious only of the fact that she
irritated them. These who persisted in their friendship grew to regard
her solicitously and misunderstand their emotions toward her.

It was evening when Rachel came to her room after her walk with Erik
Dorn. The long stroll had given her an aversion toward work. She glanced
at several unfinished posters and moved to a chair near a window.

A glow of excitement brightened the dusk of her face. Her eyes, usually
asleep in distances, had become alive. They gave themselves to the
night.

Beyond the scratch of houses and the slant of home lights she watched
the darkness lift against the sky. The city had dwindled into a huddle
of streets. Noise had become silence. The great crowds were packed away
in little rooms. Sitting before the window, unconscious of herself, she
laughed softly. Her black hair felt tight and heavy. She shook her head
till its loose coils dropped across her cheeks. She had felt confused
when she entered the room, as if she had grown strange to herself.

"Who am I?" she whispered suddenly. She raised her hand and stared at
it. Something intimate had left her. She remembered herself as in a
dream. There had been another Rachel who used to sit in this chair
looking out of the window. A memory came of people and days. But it was
not her memory, because her mind felt free of the nausea it used to
bring.

She stood up quickly and turned on a light. Her dexterous hands twisted
her hair back into loose coils on her head. Strange, she did not know
herself. That was because things seemed different. Here was her room,
littered with books and canvasses and clothes, and the bed in which she
slept, half hidden by the alcove curtains. But they were different. She
began to hum a song. A tune had come back to her that men sang in Little
Russia trudging home from the wheat fields. That was long ago when the
world was a bad dream that frightened her at night. Now there was no
world outside, but a darkness without faces or streets--a darkness with
a deep meaning. It was something to be breathed in and felt.

She opened the window and stood wondering. She was lonely. Loneliness
caressed her heart and drew dim fingers across her thought. She could
never remember having been lonely before. But now there was a
difference. She smiled. Of course, it was Erik Dorn. He had pleased
her. The things he had said returned to her mind. They seemed very
important, as if she had said them herself. She would go out and walk
again--fast. It was pleasant to be lonely. Her throat shivered as she
breathed. Bewildered in the lighted room she laughed and her lips said
aloud, "I don't know. I don't know!"

     *     *     *     *     *     *

Among the men who had established themselves as friends of Rachel was a
young attorney named George Hazlitt. He had gone to school with her in a
small Wisconsin town. A year ago he had discovered her again in Chicago.
The discovery had excited him. He was a young man with proprietary
instincts. He had at once devoted them to Rachel. After several months
he had begun to dream about her. They were correct and estimable dreams
reflecting credit upon the correct and estimable stock from which he
came.

He fell to courting Rachel tenaciously, torn between a certainty that
she was insane and a conviction that a home, a husband's love, and the
paraphernalia of what he termed clean, healthy living would restore her
to sanity. Their meetings had been affairs of violence. In her presence
he always felt a rage against what he called her neurasthenia--a word he
frequently used in drawing up bills for divorce. He regarded
neurasthenia not as a disease to be condoned like the mumps, but as a
deliberate failing--particularly in Rachel. The neurasthenia of the
defendants he pursued in courts annoyed him only slightly. In Rachel it
outraged him. It was his habit to inform her that her sufferings were
nothing more than affectations and that her moods were shams and that
the whole was a part and parcel of neurasthenia.

This unhappy desire of his to browbeat her into a state which he defined
as normal, Rachel had accepted in numb helplessness. She had given up
commanding him to leave her alone. His presence frequently became a
nausea. Her enfevered senses had come to perceive in the conventionally
clothed and spoken figure of the young attorney, a concentration of the
repugnant things before which she cowered. During his courtship he had
grown familiar to her as a penalty and his visits had become climaxes of
loathsomeness.

But a stability of purpose peculiar to unsensitive and egoistic young
men kept Hazlitt to his quest. His steady rise in his profession, the
growing respect of his fellows for his name, fired him with a sense of
success. Rachel had become the victim of this sense. Of all the men she
knew Hazlitt grew to be the most unnecessary. But his persistence seemed
to increase with her aversion for him. In a sort of mental self-defense
against the nervous disgust he brought her, she forced herself to think
of him and even to argue with him. By thinking of him she was able to
keep the memory of him an impersonal one, and to convert him from an
emotionally unbearable influence into an intellectually insufferable
type. A conversion by which Hazlitt profited, for she tolerated him more
easily as a result of her ruse. She thought of him. His youth was fast
entrenching itself in platitudes and acquiring the vigor and directness
that come as a reward of conformity. Life was nothing to wonder at or
feel. Life shaped itself into definite images and inelastic values
before him. To these images and values he conformed, not submissively,
but with a militant enthusiasm. On summer mornings he saw himself as a
knight of virtue advancing clear-eyed upon a bedeviled world. When he
was among his own kind he summed up the bedevilments in the word "bunk."
The politer word, to be used chivalrously, was "neurasthenia." The
victims of these bedevilments were "nuts." A dreadful species like
herself, given to wrong hair cuts, insanities, outrages upon decency and
above all, common sense.

Hazlitt's attraction to Rachel in the face of her neurasthenia did not
confuse him. Confusion was a quality foreign to Hazlitt. He courted her
as a lover and proselyter. His proselyting consisted of vigorous
denunciations of the things which contributed to the neurasthenia of his
beloved. He declaimed his notions in round, rosy-cheeked sentences.
There was about Hazlitt's wooing of Rachel the pathos which might
distinguish the love affair of a Baptist angel and the hamadryad
daughter of a Babayaga.

Yet, though in her presence he denounced her art, taste, sufferings,
books, friends, affectations, away from her she came to him--beautiful
eyed and fragile--bringing a fear and a longing into his heart. Dreaming
of her over a pipe in his home at night, he saw her as something
bewilderingly clean, different--vividly different from other women, with
a difference that choked and saddened him. There was a virginity about
her that extended beyond her body. This and her fragility haunted him.
His youth had caught the vision of the night mist of her, the lonely
fields of her eyes, the shadow dreams toward whose solitudes she seemed
to be flying. Beside Rachel all other women were to him somehow coarse
and ungainly fibered, and somehow unvirginal.

Out of his dream of her arose his desire to have her as his own,
to come home and find her waiting, to have her known as Mrs.
George Hazlitt. The thought of the Rachel he knew--mysterious, fugitive,
neurasthenic--established normally across a breakfast table, smiling a
normal good-bye at him with her arms normally about his neck, was a
contrast that sharpened his desire. It offered a transformation that
would be a victory not only for his love but for the shining, militant
platitudes behind which Rachel had correctly pointed out to herself, he
lived.

     *     *     *     *     *     *

Bewildered in the lighted room, Rachel turned suddenly to the door.
Someone was knocking--loud. She hurried eagerly forward, wondering at
an unfinished thought ... "perhaps it is...." Hazlitt, smiling with
steady, solicitous eyes confronted her.

"I've been knocking for five minutes," he announced. "I heard you or I'd
have gone away."

Rachel nodded. Of course, it would be Hazlitt. He was always appearing
when least expected. But it would be nice to talk to someone. She
smiled. This was surprising and she shook her head as if she were
carrying on a conversation with herself. George Hazlitt was always
unbearable. But that was a memory. It no longer applied.

"I'm glad you came," she greeted him. "I was lonely."

Hazlitt looked at her in surprise. Visiting Rachel was a matter that
required an extreme of determination. He had come prepared as usual for
the sullen, uncomfortable hour she offered.

"I was going out," she continued, "but I won't now. If you'll sit down
I'll do some work. You won't mind."

She looked at him eagerly as if to tell him he must forget she had
always hated him and that she was different now. At least for the
moment. He understood nothing and remained staring at her. His manner
proclaimed frankly that he was bewildered.

"Yes, certainly," he answered at length, and sat down. She hurried
about, securing her paints and setting up one of the unfinished
posters. Drawing a deep breath Hazlitt lighted a pipe and watched her.
She was beautiful. He admitted it with less belligerency than usual. He
sat thinking, "what the deuce has happened to her. She said she was glad
to see me." He was afraid to start an inquiry. She had never before
smiled at him, let alone voiced pleasure over his presence. It was a
mistake of some sort but he would enjoy it for awhile. But perhaps it
was the beginning of something.

Hazlitt sighed. He smoked, waited, and struggled to avoid the thoughts
that crowded upon him.

"That's rather nice," he said. He would follow her mood, whatever it
was. Rachel's eyes laughed toward him.

"I hope it doesn't bore you. If you hadn't come I would never have
thought of working."

The thing was unbelievable. Yet he contemplated it serenely. He would
talk to her soon and find out what was the matter. There was undoubtedly
something the matter. His eyes stared at her furtively as she returned
to her work. "There's something the matter," his thought cautioned him.
Rachel resumed her talking. A naïveté and freshness were in her voice.
She was letting her tongue speak for her and laughing at the sound of
the curious remarks it made.

"Do you think that women are becoming barbarians? The way they mess up
their hair and go in for savage colors! Sometimes I get to feeling that
they will end up as--as psychopathic barbarians. With astrologer hats."

She regarded Hazlitt carelessly. Hazlitt, with fidgets in his thought,
smiled. His eyes lost their solicitous air. They began to search
shrewdly for some reason. The spectacle of a coquettish Rachel was
beyond him, even as the sound of her laugh was an amazing music to his
senses. But his shrewdness evaporated. It occurred to him that women
were peculiar. Particularly Rachel. A direct and vigorous Hazlitt
concluded that Rachel had succumbed to his superior guidance. There was
nothing else to explain her tolerance. He called it tolerance, for he
was still wary and her eyes shining eagerly, hungrily at him might be no
more than a new kind of neurasthenia. He let her talk on without
interruption. She would like to paint streets, houses, lights in the
dark, city things. Blowing puffs of smoke carelessly toward the ceiling
he answered finally, "If you didn't have to support yourself, perhaps
you could." A fear whirled in his heart with the sentence. He had never
asked her outright to marry him. The thought that he had almost asked
her, now made him feel dizzy.

"There! I guess that can rest now."

Rachel put aside her painting. She sat down near him. Her eyes narrowed
and she listened with a sleepy smile as he began carefully to recite to
her incidents that had happened during his day. But he became silent.
She didn't mind that. She desired to sit as she was, her emotion a
dream that escaped her thought. Hazlitt fumbled with his pipe. It was
out. He dropped it into a pocket. His shrewdness and his weariness had
left him. He felt almost that he was alone.

"You're wonderful," he whispered; and he grew frightened of his voice.
Rachel saw his face light with an unusual expression. He would be kind
now and let her smile.

"I'm glad you came," she sighed. "I don't know why. I feel different
to-night."

She had a habit of short, begrudging sentences delivered in a quick
monotone--a habit of speech against which Hazlitt had often raged. But
now her words--flurried, breathless, begrudging as always--stirred him.
They could be believed. She was a child that way. She spoke quickly
thoughts that were uppermost in her mind.

"I never thought I could be glad to see you. But I am."

Hazlitt felt suddenly weak. Her face before him was something in a
dream. It was turned away and he could watch her breathing. Bewilderedly
he remembered a thousand Rachels, different from this one, who was glad
he had come. But the beauty of her burned away uncomfortable memories.
She was the Rachel of his loneliness. Out of George Hazlitt vanished the
vigor and directness of a young man who knows his own soul. There came a
vision--a thing uncertain and awesome, and he sat humbled before it.

He reached her hand and closed his fingers over it. An awe squeezed at
his throat. Her hand lay without protest within his. He had never
touched her before. She had been a symbol and a dream. Now he felt the
marvel of the fact that she was a woman. Her hand, warm and alive,
astonished him with the news.

Rachel, during his speechlessness, looked at him unbelievingly. The grip
of his fingers was bringing an ache into her heart. It was sad. The
night and the room were sad. She could feel sadness opening little
wounds in her breasts. And before she had been happy. She heard him
whispering, "I can't talk to you. I can't. Oh, you are beautiful!"

His eyes made her think he was suffering. Then he was sad, too. She
stood up because his hand drew her. Why did he want her to stand up? His
body touched her and she heard him gasp. Her heart seemed adrift. She
was unreal. There was another Rachel somewhere else. He was saying, but
he was not talking to her, "Oh, Rachel, I love you. I love you, Rachel!"

Still she waited unbelievingly, the ache in her dragging at her senses.
She had fallen asleep and was dreaming something that was sad. But his
face was suddenly too close. His eyes were too near and bright. They
awakened her.

"Let me go, quick."

His hands clung. For an instant she failed to understand his resistance.
He was saying jerkily, "No ... no!"

She twisted out of his arms and stood breathless, as if she were
choking. Hazlitt looked at her, a bit pensively. His heart lost in a
dream and a rapture could only grimace a child's protest out of his
stare. He hadn't kissed her. But that would come soon. Not everything at
once. He must not be a brute. He smiled. His good-natured face glowed as
if in a light. Then he heard her talking,

"Go away. At once. I never want to see you again. I'll die if I see you
again."

Her hands were in her hair.

"Go away. Please.... Oh, God, I can't stand you. You--horrify me!"

The panic in Rachel's voice seemed to dull his ears to her words. He saw
her for a vivid moment against the opened window and then he found
himself alone, looking into a night that was haunted with an image of
her. He remembered her going, but it seemed to him he still saw her
against the window, his eyes bringing to him a vision of her face as she
had looked.

He had grown white. In the memory of her face, as in an impossible
mirror, he saw a loathsome image of himself. Her eyes had blazed with
it. He sickened and his thought grew faint. Then the night came before
him and the echo of the words Rachel had spoken beat in his head. He
walked with his hat politely in his hand out of the door.

On the stairs his eyes grew weak and warm. Tears rushed from them. He
stumbled and clutched at the banister. She had led him on. She had
looked at him with love. Love ... but he had dreamed that. What was it,
then? Her eyes burning toward him had told him he was loathsome. There
was something wrong with him. He wept. He put his hat on mechanically.
He dried his eyes. There was something wrong.

On her bed Rachel lay mumbling to herself, mumbling as if the words were
a pain to her ears. "Erik Dorn ... Erik Dorn."



CHAPTER VI


The world in which Erik Dorn lived was compounded of many surfaces. Of
them Anna, his wife, was the most familiar. It was a familiarity of
absorption. Weeks of intimacy passed between them, of lover-like
attentiveness during which Dorn remained unconscious of her existence.
Her unending talk of her love for him--words and murmurs that seemed an
inexhaustible overflow of her heart--passed through his mind as a part
of his own thought. Hers was a more definite contribution to the
emptiness of the life through which he moved.

Yet in his unconsciousness of her there lived a shadowy affection. On
occasions in which they had been separated there had always awakened in
him an uneasiness. In his nights alone he lay sleepless, oppressed, a
nostalgia for her presence growing in him. With his eyes opened at the
darkness of a strange room he experienced then an incompleteness as if
he himself were not enough. The emptiness in which he was living became
suddenly real. He would feel a despair. Words unlike the sophisticated
patter of his usual thought would come to him.... "What is there ... I
would like something ... what?..." A sense of life as an unpeopled
vastness would frighten him vaguely. Night sounds ... strange,
shadow-hidden walls. They made him uneasy. Memories then; puzzling,
mixed-up pictures that had lost their outlines. Things that had left no
impression on his thought--sterile little incidents through which he had
moved with automatic gestures--returned like sad little outcasts
pleading with him. Faces he could not remember and that were yet
familiar peered at him in his sleeplessness with poignant eyes that
frightened.

There would come to him the memory of the time he had been a boy and had
lain like this in his mother's home, startled with fears that sat like
insanities in his throat. The memory of his being a boy seemed to
restore him to the fears long forgotten. Words would come ... "I was a
boy ..." and he would lie thinking of how people grew old; of how he had
grown old without seeming to change, and yet changing--as if he had been
gently vanishing from himself and even now was moving slowly away. He
was like a house from which issued a dim procession of guests never
pausing for farewells. He had been a boy, a youth, a man ... each
containing days and thoughts. And they moved slowly away from
him--completed figures fully dressed. Slowly, without farewells, with
faces intensely familiar yet no longer known. Thus he would continue to
vanish from himself, remaining unchanged but diminishing, until there
were no more guests to forsake and he stood alone waiting a last
farewell--a curious, unimaginable good-bye to himself. Nothing ...
nothing. A long wait for a good-bye. And then nothing again. Already he
was half shadow--half a procession of Erik Dorns walking away from him
and growing dimmer.

In the dark of the strange room, his eyes staring and fearful, he would
reach suddenly for Anna, embracing her almost as if she were beside him.
Her smile that forever shone upon him like the light of lilies and
candles from a sad, quiet altar; her words that forever flowed like a
dream from her heart, the warmth of her body that she offered him as if
it no longer existed for herself--to these his loneliness sought vainly
to carry him. And he would find himself tormented by a desire for her,
lying with her name on his lips and her image alone alive in the empty
dread of his thought.

United again in their home, he lapsed into the unconsciousness of her,
sometimes vaguely startled by the tears he felt on her cheeks as they
lay together at night. Out of this unconsciousness he made continual
love to her, giving her back her endearments and caresses. Of this he
never tired. His kisses unaware of her, his tendernesses without meaning
to him, he yet felt in her presence the shadow of a desire. The love
that filled his wife seemed to animate his phrases with an amorous
diction that echoed her own. He would hold her in his arms, bestowing
kisses upon her, and watch as in wonder of some mysterious make-believe,
the radiance that his meaningless gestures brought to her.

There were times, however, when Dorn became aware of his wife, when she
thrust herself before him as a far-away-eyed and beautiful-faced
stranger. He had frequently followed her in the street, watching her
body sway as she walked, observing with quickening surprise her trim,
lyre-like shoes, her silken ankles, the agile sensualism of her
litheness under a stranger's dress. He had noticed that she had coils of
red hair with bronze and gold lights slipping over it, that her face
tilted itself with a hint of determination and her eyes walked proudly
over the heads of the crowd. He watched other men glimpse her and turn
for an instant to follow with their stares the promise of her body and
lighted face. Dorn, walking out of her sight, got a confused sense of
her as if she were speaking to the street, "I am a beautiful woman. In
my head are thoughts. I am a stranger to you. You do not know what my
body looks like or what dreams live in me. I have destinations and
emotions that are mysterious to you. I am somebody different from
yourselves."

On top of this sense of her had come each time a sudden vivid
picture--Anna in their bedroom attaching her garters to the tops of her
stockings; Anna tautening her body as she slipped out of her nightgown
... or a picture of her pressing his head against her breasts and
whispering passionately, "Erik, I adore you." The strangeness then would
leave her and again she was something he had absorbed. When he looked
for her she had vanished in the scribble of the crowd and he walked with
the same curious unconsciousness of her existence as of his own.

There were times too in their home when Anna became a reality before his
eyes--an external that startled him. This was such a time now. Rachel
had come to visit them. She sat silent, fugitive-bodied amid overfed,
perspiring-eyed guests. And he stood looking at Anna and listening to
her.

He wondered why he looked at Anna and not at Rachel. But his wife in
black velvet and silken pumps, like a well-limned character out of some
work of stately fiction, held his attention. He desired to talk to her
as if she were a stranger. She sat without surprise at his unusual
verbal animation in her behalf, listening to his banter with an intent,
almost preoccupied smile in her eyes. While he talked, asking her
questions and pressing for answers, he thought. "She's not paying any
attention to my words, but to me. Her love is like a robe about her,
covering her completely." Yet she seemed strange. Behind this love lived
a person capable of thinking and reasoning. Dorn, as sometimes happened,
grew curious about her thoughts. He increased his efforts to rivet her
attention, as if he were trying to coax a secret out of her. The
easiest way to arouse her was to say things that frightened her, to make
remarks that might give her the feeling he had some underlying idea in
his head hostile to their happiness.

The company of faces in the room emitted laughter, uttered words of
shocked contradiction, pressed themselves eagerly forward upon his
phrases. A red-faced man whose vacuity startled from behind a pair of
owlish glasses exclaimed, "That's all wrong, Dorn. Women don't want war.
Your wife would rather cut off her arm than see you go to war. And mine,
too."

The wife of the red-faced man giggled. A younger, unmarried woman posed
carelessly on the black piano bench in an effort to exaggerate the
charms of her body, spoke with a deliberate sigh.

"No, I don't agree with you, Mr. Harlan. Women are capable of
sacrifice."

She thrust forward a lavender-stockinged leg and contemplated it with a
far-away sacrificial light in her eyes. The red-faced one observed her
with sudden owlish seriousness. His argument seemed routed.

"Of course that's true," he agreed. Mr. Harlan came of a race whose
revolutionary notions expired apologetically before the first platitude
to cross their path. "We must always bear in mind that women are capable
of sacrifice; that women ..." The lavender stocking was withdrawing
itself and Mr. Harlan stammered like an orator witnessing a sudden
exodus of his audience, "that women are really capable of remarkable
things," he concluded.

Dorn was an uncommonly clever fellow, but a bit radical. He'd like to
think of something to say to him just to show him there was another side
to it. Not that he gave a damn. Some other time would do. The red face
turned with a great attentiveness toward the hoarsely oracular Mr.
Warren, his eyes dropping a furtive curtsy in the direction of the
vanished stocking.

"I never agree with Dorn," Warren was remarking, "for fear of
displeasing him."

He gazed belligerently at Anna whose eyes were attracting attention. She
was watching her husband in a manner unbecoming a hostess. A middle-aged
youth toying politely with the blue sash of a girl in a white dress--he
had recently concluded a tense examination of the two antique rings on
her fingers--saw an occasion for laughter and embraced it. The girl
glanced somewhat timidly toward Anna and addressed her softly, as if
desiring to engage in some conversation beyond the superficial
excitement of the moment.

"I'm just mad about blue sashes," she whispered. "I think the sash is
coming back, don't you?"

Anna nodded her head. Erik had resumed his talk, his eyes still on her.

"Women are two things--theory and fact," he was saying. "The theory of
them demands war. If we get into this squabble you'll find them
cheering the loudest and waving the most flags. War is something that
kills men; therefore, it is piquantly desirable to their subconscious
hate of our sex." He smiled openly at Anna. "It's also something that
plays up the valor and superiority of man and therefore offers a
vindication for her submission to him."

"Oh," the lavender stocking was indignantly in evidence, "how awful!"

Dorn waited until the young woman had shifted her hips into a more
protesting outline.

"I agree," the red face chimed in. "It's nonsense. Dorn's full of clever
nonsense. I quite agree with you, Miss Dillingham." Miss Dillingham was
the lavender stocking. The wife of the red face fidgeted, politely
ominous. She announced pertly:

"I agree with what Mr. Dorn says." Which announcement her husband
properly translated into a warning and a threat of future conversation
on the theme, "You never pay any attention to me when there's anybody
else around."

Dorn continued, "And it gives them a sense of generalities. Women live
crowded between the narrow horizons of sex. They don't share in life.
It's very sad, isn't it, Miss Williams?" Miss Williams removed her sash
gently from the hands of the elderly youth and pouted. She was always
indignant when men addressed her seriously. It gave her an
uncomfortable feeling that they were making fun of her.

"Oh, I don't know," she answered. The elderly youth nodded his head
enthusiastically and whispered close to her ear, "Exactly."

"The things that are an entirety to women," pursued Dorn, "milk bottles,
butcher bills, babies, cleaning days, hello and good-bye kisses, are
merely gestures to their husbands. So in a war they find themselves able
to share what is known as the larger horizon of the male. One way is
through sacrifice. They sacrifice their sons, lovers, husbands, uncles,
and fathers with a high, firm spirit, announcing to the press that they
are only sorry their supply of relatives is limited. The sacrificing
brings them in contact with the world in which their males live. That's
the theory of it."

Anna's smile continued to deny itself to his words. It said to him,
"What does it matter what you say? I love you." And yet there was a
thought behind it holding itself aloof.

"But the fact of woman is always denying her theory," he added. "That's
what makes her confusing. The fact of her weeps at departures, shell
shocks, amputations; grows timid and organizes pacifist societies. It's
a case of sex instinct versus the personal complex."

The elderly young man straightened in his chair, removing his eyes from
Miss Williams with the air of one returning to masculine worldliness.

"I don't know about that," he said. "It's all very well to talk about
such things flippantly. But when the time comes, we must admit ..."

"That talk is foolish," interrupted Warren. He looked at Rachel and
laughed. "As a matter of fact, if anybody else but Dorn said it, I'd
believe it. But I never believe Dorn. Do you, Miss Laskin?"

Rachel answered, "Yes."

Dorn, piqued by the continual silence of his wife, felt a sudden
discomfiture at the sound of Rachel's voice. Was Anna aware he was
talking to her so as to avoid talking to Rachel? Perhaps. But Rachel's
presence was diluted by the company. He caught a glimpse of her dark
eyes opened towards him, and for a moment felt his words disintegrate.
He continued hurriedly:

"War, in a way, is a noble business, in that it reduces us to a
biological sanity--much the same as does Miss Dillingham's lavender
stocking!"

The company swallowed this with an abrupt stiffening of necks. Isaac
Dorn, who had been airing himself on the veranda, relieved a tension by
appearing in the doorway and moving quietly toward an unoccupied chair.
Anna reached her hand to the old man's and held it kindly. Miss
Dillingham, surveying the stretch of hose which had been honored in her
host's conversation, raised her eyes and replied quietly:

"Mr. Dorn is too clever to be really insulting."

The red-faced one clung to a sense of outrage. His cheeks had grown
slightly distended, and with the grimace of indignant virtue bristling
on his face, he turned the expression toward his wife for approval. She
nodded her head and tightened the thin line of her lips.

"I only meant," laughed Dorn, "that it reduces us to the sort of sanity
that wipes out the absurd, artificial notions of morality that keep
cluttering up the thought of the race. War reminds us that civilization
and murder are compatible. Lavender stockings, speaking in generalities,
are reminders that good and evil walk on equally comely legs."

Mr. Harlan, having registered indignation, now struggled vainly against
the preenings of his wit, and finally succumbed.

"In these days you can't tell Judy O'Grady and the Colonel's lady apart
by their stockings, eh?" He hammered his point home with a laugh. Warren
winked at Rachel as if to inform her of the mixed company they were in,
and Mrs. Harlan endeavored to put an end to the isolated merriment of
her husband with a "John, you're impossible!" The elderly youth,
conscious of himself as the escort of a young virgin, lowered his eyes
modestly to her ankles. Dorn, watching his wife's smile deepen, nodded
his head at her. He knew her momentary thought. She labored under the
pleasing conviction that his risqué remarks were invariably inspired by
memories of her.

"Barring, of course, the unembattled stay-at-homes," he continued. "The
sanity of battlefields is in direct ratio to the insanity of the
non-combatants. You can see it already in the press. We who stay at
home endeavor to excuse the crime of war by attaching ludicrous ideals
and purposes to its result. Thus every war is to its non-combatants a
holy war. And we get a swivel-chair collection of nincompoops raving
weirdly, as the casualty lists pour in, of humanity and democracy. It
hasn't come yet, but it will."

"Then you don't believe in war?" said the red face, emerging
triumphantly upon respectable ground.

"As a phenomenon inspired by ideals or resulting in anything more
satisfactory than a wholesale loss of life, war is always a joke," Dorn
answered. He wondered whether Rachel was considering him a pompous ass.
"I have a whole-hearted respect for it, however, as a biological
excitement."

The blue sash winced primly at the word biological, and appealed to her
escort to protect her somehow from the indecencies of life. The elderly
youth answered her appeal with a tightening of his features.

"War isn't biological," he retorted in her behalf.

Dorn, wearying of his talk, waited for some one of the company to
relieve him of the burden. But the elderly youth had subsided, and
fulfilling his functions as host--a business of diverting visitors from
the fact that there was no reason for their presence in his home--Dorn
was forced to continue:

"I can conceive of no better or saner way to die than crawling around
in the mud, shrieking like a savage, and assisting blindly in the
depopulation of an enemy. But unless a man is forced to fight, I can
conceive of nothing more horrible than war. Don't you think that, Anna?"

"You know what I think, Erik," she answered. "I hate it."

He was startled by a sudden similarity between Rachel and Anna. She too
was looking at him with the indignant aloofness of his wife--with a rapt
attention seemingly beyond the sound of his words. He caught the two
women turn and smile to each other with an understanding that left him a
stranger to both. He thought quickly, "Anna is the only one in the room
intelligent enough for Rachel to understand." He felt a momentary pride
in his wife, and wondered.

As the conversation, playing with the theme of war, spread itself in
spasmodic blurs about the room, bursting in little crescendoes of
conviction, pronouncements, suddenly serious and inviolable truths, Dorn
found himself listening excitedly. An unusual energy pumped notions into
his thought. But it was impossible to give vent to ideas before this
collection of comedians. He desired to look at Rachel, but kept his eyes
away. If they were alone, he could talk. He permitted himself the luxury
of an explosive silence.

He sat for a time thinking. "Curious! She knows I have things to say to
her. They are unimportant but I can say them to no one else. She knows
I avoid looking at her. There must be something--an attraction. She's a
fool. I don't know. I should have put an end to our walks long ago."

His vocabulary, marshaling itself under a surprising force, charged with
a rush through his thought. Sentences unrelated, bizarre combinations of
words--a kaleidoscopic procession of astounding ideas--art, life, war,
streets, people--he knew what they were all about. An illumination like
a verbal ecstacy spread itself through him. Under it he continued to
think as if with a separate set of words, "I don't know. She isn't
beautiful. A stupid, nervous little girl. But it hasn't anything to do
with her. It's something in me."

He stood up, his eyes unsmiling, and surveyed the animated faces as from
a distance. Paper faces and paper eyes--fluttering masks suspended
politely above fabrics that lounged in chairs. They were unreal--too
unreal even to talk to. Beyond these figures in the room and the noises
they made, lay something that was not unreal. It pulled at the sleep in
him. He stood as if arrested by his own silence. The night outside the
window came into his eyes, covering the words in his brain and leaving
him alone.

He heard Anna speaking.

"What are you thinking about, Erik?"

Her eyes seemed to him laden with forebodings. Yet she was smiling.
There was something that made her afraid. He turned toward Rachel and
found her standing as if in imitation of himself, her face lifted toward
the window, the taut line of her neck an attitude that brought him the
image of a white bird's wing soaring. He felt himself unable to speak,
as if a hand had been laid threateningly on his throat. Rachel was
indiscreet to stand that way, to look that way. There was no mistaking.
His thought, shaking itself free of words ... "In love with me. In love
with me!" He paused. A bewildering sense of infidelity. But he had done
nothing--only walk with her a few afternoons. And talk. "A stupid,
nervous little girl." It was some sort of game, not serious necessarily.
He stepped abstractedly toward his wife, aware that the conversation had
flattened.

"I wasn't thinking," he answered, searching guiltily for an epigram.
"Won't you play?"

Anna stood up and brought her eyes to a level with his own. Again the
light of foreboding, of unrevealed shadows flashed at him out of her
smile. She understood something not clear in his own head; nor in hers.
He grasped her hand as she passed and with a dolorous grimace of his
heart felt it unresponsive in his fingers.

Anna was playing from a piano score of _Parsifal_. The music dropped a
curtain. Dorn became conscious of himself in an overheated room
surrounded by a group of awed and saccharine faces. Rachel was smiling
at him with a meaning that he seemed to have forgotten. He stared back,
pleasantly aware that a familiar sneer had returned to his eyes. In a
corner his father sat watching Anna and he noticed that the old man's
watery eyes turned in, as if gazing at images in his own thought. His
father's smile, as always, touched Dorn with an irritation, and he
hurried from it.

The others were more amusing. The spectacle of the faces wilting into
maudlin abstractions under the caress of the music brought a grin to
him. The sounds had drugged the polite little masks and left them poised
morosely in a sleepy dream. The lavender stocking crept tenderly into
evidence. The owlish glasses focused with noncommittal stoicism in its
direction. The blue sash looked worried and the raised eyebrows of the
elderly youth asked unhappy questions. Music made people sad and caused
sighs to trickle from their ludicrously inanimate features. Melting
hearts under lacquered skins, dissolving little whimpers under
perfunctory attitudes.

He remembered his own mood of a few moments ago, and explained to
himself. Something had given him a dream. The night shining through the
window, the curve of Rachel's neck. Rachel ... Rachel ... He grew
suddenly sick with the refrain of her name. It said itself longingly in
his thought as if there was a meaning beyond it.

The playing had stopped. The listeners appeared to be lingering
dejectedly among its echoes. Rachel slipped quickly to her feet, her
arms thrust back as if she were poised for running. She passed abruptly
across the room. Her behavior startled him. The faces looked at her
curiously. She was running away.

Anna followed her quietly into the vestibule and the company burst into
an incongruous babble. Dorn listened to their voices, again firm and
self-sufficient, chattering formalities. He watched Rachel adjusting her
hat with over-eager gestures. Her eyes were avoiding him. She seemed
breathless, her head squirming under the necessity of having to remain
for another moment before the eyes of the people in the room.

"I must go," she said suddenly. Her hand extended itself to Anna. A
frightened smile widened her mouth. Dorn felt her eyes center excitedly
on him. A confused desire to speak kept him silent. He stood up and
entered the hall to play his little part as host. But Rachel was gone.
The door had closed behind her and he stared at the panels, feeling that
the house had emptied itself. Things were normal again. Anna was
speaking to her guests, smoothly garrulous. They were putting on hats
and saying good-bye. They would have to hurry to escape the rain. He
assisted with wraps, his eyes furtively watching the door as if he
expected to see it open again, with Rachel returning.

"I've really had a wonderful time," the lavender stocking was shrilling.
He became solicitous and followed her to the door, walking with her
down the housesteps. A moist summer night, promising rain.

But the street was empty of Rachel, and he returned.



CHAPTER VII


They were in their bedroom undressing. Outside, the night rustled with
an approaching storm. On the closed windows the rain began a rattle of
water. A wind filled the darkness.

"What makes you act so strangely to-night, Erik?"

She looked at him as she stood uncovering herself. She desired to speak
with a disarming casualness. Instead, her words came with a sound of
tears in them. He was always strange--always going away from her until
she had to close her eyes and love in the dark without trying to see
him. Now he might go to war and be killed. Something would happen.
"Something ... something ..." kept murmuring itself in her thought.

"I love to hear you play to a crowd," he answered good-humoredly.

"Why?" She could not get the languor out of her voice.

"When people listen to music it always reminds me we are descended from
fish. God, what dolts! Minds like soft-bodied sea growths. I can
actually see them sometimes."

"You always dislike my friends."

She would argue with him, and in his anger his strangeness would go
away.

"Your friends?" He seemed pleased at the chance of growing angry. "Allow
me to point out to you that the assemblage to-night had the distinction
of being my friends. I discovered the collection. I brought them to the
house first."

"They think you're wonderful." She would get him angry that way.

"A virtue, I admit. But it doesn't excuse their other stupidities."

They seemed to have nothing to argue about. Anna loosened her hair. The
sight of it rolling in glistening bronzes and reds from her head
invariably gave her a desire to cover Erik's face in it. With his face
buried in the disordered masses of her hair she would feel an exquisite
fullness of love.

"You don't think Rachel stupid, do you?"

Dorn felt a relief at the sound of her name. His thought was full of
her, but he had been afraid to talk.

"Miss Laskin," he replied, concealing his eagerness for the topic with a
drawl, "is partially insane."

"Yes, you like insane people, though. I can always tell when you like
people. You never pay any attention to them then, but sort of come
hanging around me--as if you were apologizing to yourself for liking
them, and doing penance. Or you call them names."

"Miss Laskin," Dorn answered, delighted to protract the conversation,
"is a vivid sort of imbecile suffering from vacuous complexities. An
hour alone in a room with her would drive even a philosopher to madness.
She's one of the kind of people given to inappropriate silences. She
reminds me of an emotion undergoing a major operation. Good Lord, Anna,
don't tell me you're jealous of her?"

It was immaterial whether he denounced or upheld Rachel. To talk of her
even with indignation was a delight.

Thunder rolled, and he became silent. Anna turned her nakedness to him.
Her eyes, grown dark, beheld a yearning and a sorrow.

"Don't talk about people," she whispered. "I'm glad you hate them--all
of them."

Her nudity always surprised Dorn. Her body seemed always to have grown
more beautiful and impersonal. A shout of rain sounded in the night and
a chill wind burst with a clatter in the darkness. He thought of Rachel
as he darkened the room. There came to him a picture of her walking in
the rain with her head raised and laughing.

Anna lay for a moment, awed by the suddenness of the storm. She turned
quickly, her arms reaching hungrily about her husband.

"I love you," she whispered. "Oh, I love you so much. My own, my
dearest!"

She felt his lips touch hers, and closed her eyes.

"Tell me...."

Dorn murmured back to her, "I adore you."

A little laugh came, and tears reached her cheeks.

"You're so wonderful," she whispered. "Think of it! It's been the same
since the first night. You love me--just as you did."

She paused questioningly--an old question to which he gave an old
answer.

"I love you more."

"I know it. I can feel it. You won't ever get tired of loving me?"

"Never--never as long as I live."

"Oh, you make me so happy!"

A sigh almost like a moan came from her heart.

"Oh, I'm a fool. I get frightened sometimes--when I hear you talk.
Something takes you away. You mustn't ever go away. Promise me. Listen,
Erik." She dropped into a panic. "Promise me you won't go to war."

He laughed.

"That was only talk," he whispered. "You should know my talk by this
time."

"I'll never know you."

"Please, Anna, don't. You hurt me when you say that."

"And when you were silent," she went on softly, "I felt--I felt
something had happened. Erik, darling Erik. Oh, you're my whole life!"

"I adore you, sweetest," he murmured.

"I don't live except in you, Erik. And, oh, I'm a fool. Such a fool!"

"You're wonderful," he interrupted. He was making responses in an old
ritual.

"No, I'm not. I'll make you tired of me. Tell me, please. Tell me you
love me. I feel you've never told me it."

"I love you more than everything else in life. More than everything."

"Oh, do you, Erik?"

She pressed herself closer to him, and he felt her body like the heat of
a flame avidly caress him.

"I don't want you any different, though," she whispered. "When I see
other men I get horrified to think that you might become like them--if
you didn't love me. Dead, creepy things. Oh, men are horrible. Talk to
me, Erik."

"I can't. I love you. What else is there to say?" His voice trembled and
her mouth pressed upon his.

"I don't deserve such happiness," she said. Tears from her eyes fell
like warm wax on his shoulder. Her hands were fumbling distractedly over
him.

"Erik," she gasped, "my Erik! I worship you."

The storm pounded through the night, leaping and bellowing in a halloo
of sounds. Dorn tightened his arms mechanically about her warm flesh.
His lips were murmuring tensely, dramatically, "I love you. I love you."
And a sadness made a little warmth in his heart. He was alone in the
night. His arms and words were engaged in an old make-believe. But this
time he felt himself further away. There was no meaning....

He tried vainly to think of Anna, but an emptiness crowded even her name
out of his mind. His hands were returning her caresses, mimicking the
eager distraction of her own. His mind, removed as if belonging
elsewhere, was thinking aimless little words.

There was a storm outside. Lightning.... The war was taking up too much
space in the paper. Crowding out important local news. The Germans would
probably get to Paris soon and put an end to it.... Why did Rachel run
away? Should he ask her? Sometime. When he saw her. Ask her. Ask her....
His thought drifted into a blank. Then it said ... "The thing is
meaningless. Meaningless. Houses, faces, streets. Nothing, nothing.
There's nothing...."

His wife lay silent, quivering with an ecstasy. Her arms were hungrily
choking him. Dorn closed his eyes as if to hide himself. His lips still
murmured in a monotone, vague as the voice of a stranger in his
ears--responses in an old ritual--"I love you, I love you! Oh, I love
you so much!..."



PART II

DREAM



CHAPTER I


In the evening when women stand washing dishes in the kitchens of the
city, men light their tobacco and open newspapers. Later, the women
gather up the crumpled sheets and read.

The streets of the city spell easy words--poor, rich--neither.

Here in one part live the grimy-faced workers, their sagging, shapeless
women and their litters of children. Their windows open upon broken
little streets and bubbling alleys. Idiot-faced wooden houses sprawl
over one another with their rumps in the mud. The years hammer
away--digesting the paint from houses. The years grind away, yet life
persists. Beneath the grinding of the years, life gropes, shrieks,
sweats. And in the evening men light their tobacco and open newspapers.

Around a corner the boxes commence. One, two, three, four, and on into
thousands stand houses made of stone, and their regimental masonry is
like the ticking of a clock. Unvarying windows, doors identical--a
stereotype of roofs and chimneys--these hold the homes of the crowds.
Here the vague faces of the streets, the hurrying, enigmatic figures
pumping in and out of offices and stores gather to sleep and breed. In
the evening the crowds drift into boxes. The multiple destinations
dwindle suddenly into a monotone. The confusions of the city's traffic;
the winding and unwinding herds that made a picture for the eyes of Erik
Dorn, individualize into little human solitudes. The stone houses stand
ticking away the years, and within them men and women tick. Doors open
and shut, lights go on and off, day and night drop a tick-tock across
miles of roofs. And in the hour of the washing of dishes men kindle
their tobacco and read the newspapers.

Slowly, timidly, the city moves away from the little stone boxes.
Automobiles and trees appear. Here begin the ornaments. Marble, bronze,
carved and painted brick--a filigree and a scrollwork--put forth claims.
The lords of the city stand girthed in ornaments. Knight and satrap have
changed somewhat. Moat and battlement grimace but faintly from behind
their ornaments. The tick-tock sounds through the carouse. Sleek, suave
men and languorous, desirable women sit amid elaborations, sleep and
breed in ornamental beds. Power wears new masks. Leadership has improved
its table manners, its plumbing, and its God.

Beautiful clocks, massive with griffiens and gargoyles, nymphs and
scrollwork--they shelter heroes. But heroes have changed. Destiny no
longer passes in the night--a masked horseman riding a lonely road.
Instead, an old watchmaker winds up clocks, sleek men and desirable
women. In the inner offices of the city the new heroes sit through the
day, watchmakers themselves, winding and unwinding the immemorial crowds
with new devices. But in the evening they too return to their ornamental
boxes, and under Pompeian lamps, amid Renaissance tapestries, open
newspapers.

Alley box and manor, the tick-tock of the city has them all. Paved
streets and window-pitted walls beat out a monotone. Lust and dream turn
sterile eyes to the night. The great multiple tick-tock of the city
waits another hour to pass.

Wait, it reads a newspaper. On the west side of the city a man named
Joseph Pryzalski has murdered a woman he loved, beating her head in with
an ax, and subsequently cut his own throat with a razor. At the inquest
there will be exhibited a note scribbled on a piece of wrapping-paper
still redolent with herring ... "God in heaven, forgive me! She is dead.
It is better. Oh, God, now my turn!" Deplorable incident.

In the next column the exploits of three young men armed with guns.
Entering a bank, the three young men shot and killed Henry J. Sloane,
cashier; held half a dozen other names at bay, loaded their pockets with
money, and escaped in a black automobile. The police are, fortunately,
combing the city for the three young men and the black automobile. Thank
God for the police moving cautiously through the streets with a large,
a magnificent comb that will soon pick the three young men, their three
guns, and their symbolical black automobile out of the city.

Next, the daily report of excitements in Europe. The Austrian army has
been annihilated. A part of the German army, seemingly the most
important part, has also been annihilated. Day by day the armies of the
Allies continue to devour, obliterate, grind into dust the armies of the
Kaiser. Bulletin--black type demanding quick eye--twenty thousand
unsuspecting Prussians walking across a bridge on the Meuse were blown
up and completely annihilated. This occurred on a Monday. In the teeth
of these persistent and vigorous annihilations, the Huns still continue
their atrocities. Shame! In Liége, on a Tuesday, the blood-dripping Huns
added another horror to their list of revolting crimes. Three citizens
of Liége were executed. They died like heroes. There are other items on
this general subject, including a message from the Pope.

Alongside the war, as if in a next room, a woman has shot her lover on
learning he was a married man. "Beauty Slays Soul-Mate; Shoots Self."
... Annihilation on a smaller but more interesting scale, this.

A street-car has crashed into a brewery wagon and at the bottom of the
column a taxi has run over a golden-haired little girl at play.

But why has Raymond S. Cotton, wealthy clubman and financier and
prominent in north-shore society circles, disappeared? Society circles
are agog. Sometimes society circles are merely disturbed. But they are
always active. Society circles are always running around waving
lorgnettes and exclaiming, "Dear me, and what do you think of this? I am
all agog." The police are combing the city for a woman in black last
seen with the prominent Mr. Cotton in a notorious café. But a man is to
be hanged in the County Jail. "The doomed man ate a hearty breakfast of
ham and eggs and seemed in good spirits." Fancy that!

"Flames Destroy Warehouse, Two Firemen Hurt." This, in small apologetic
type like a footnote on a timetable. Inconsiderate firemen who take up
important space on a crowded day!

Apology ceases. Here is something that requires no apology. It is
extremely important. Wilbur Jennings, prominent architect, has defied
the world and departed for a Love Bungalow in Minnesota with another
man's wife. A picture of Wilbur in flowing bow tie and set jaws defying
the world. Also of his inamorata in a ball gown, eyes lowered to a rose
drooping from her hand. Various wives and chubby-faced children, and the
inamorata's Siberian hound, "Jasper." What he said. What she said. What
they said. Opinions of three ministers, roused on the telephone by
inquiring reporters. The three divines are unanimous. But Wilbur's tie
remains defiant.

Arm in arm with Wilbur, his tie and his troubles, his epigrams and his
Love Bungalow, sits an epidemic of clairvoyants. There is an epidemic
of clairvoyants in the city. Five widows have been swindled. The police
are combing the city for ... a prominent professor of sociology on the
faculty of the local university interrupts. The prominent professor has
been captured in a leading Loop hotel whither he had gone to divert
himself with a suitcase, a handbook on sex hygiene, and an admiring
co-ed.

This, waiting for an hour to pass, the city reads. Crimes, scandals,
horrors, holocausts, burglaries, arsons, murders, deceptions. The city
reads with a vague, dull skepticism. Who are these people of the
newspaper columns? Lusting scoundrels, bandits, heroes, wild lovers,
madmen? Not in the streets or the houses that tick-tock through the
night.... Somewhere else. A troupe of mummers wandering unseen behind
the great clock face of the city--an always unknown troupe of rascally
mummers for whom the police are continually combing and setting large
dragnets.

In the evening men light their tobacco and read the little wooden
phrases of the press that squeal and mumble the sagas of the
lawbreakers. Women come from the washing of dishes and eating of food
and pick up the crumpled pages.... A scavenger digging for the disgusts
and abnormalities of life, is the press. A yellow journal of lies,
idiocies, filth. Ignoring the wholesome, splendid things of life--the
fine, edifying beat of the tick-tock. Yet they read, glancing dully at
headlines, devouring monotonously the luridness beneath headlines. They
read with an irritation and a vague wonder. Tick, say the streets, and
tock, say the houses; and within them men and women tick. To work and
home again. Home again and to work. New shoes grow old. New seasons
vanish. Years grind. Life sinks slowly away with a tick-tock on its
lips.

Yet each evening comes the ragged twopenny minstrel--a blear-eyed,
croaking minstrel, and the good folk give him ear. No pretty words in
rhythms from his tongue. No mystic cadences quaver in his voice. Yet he
comes squealing out his song of an endless "Extra! All about the
mysteries and the torments of life. All about the raptures, lusts, and
adventures that the day has spilled. Read 'em and weep! Read 'em and
laugh! Here's the latest, hot off the presses, from dreamers and
lawbreakers. Extra!"

Thus the city sits, baffled by itself, looking out upon a tick-tock of
windows and reading with a wonder in its thought, "Who are these
people?..."



CHAPTER II


At ten o'clock the courts of the city crowd up. The important gentlemen
who devote themselves to sending people to jail and to preventing them
from being sent to jail, appear with fat books under their arms and
brief-cases in their hands. They have slept well and eaten well and have
arrived at their tasks with clear heads containing arguments. These are
arguments vastly more important than poems that writers make or
histories that dreamers invent. For they are arrangements of words which
function in the absence of God. God is not exactly absent, to be sure,
since the memory of Him lingers in the hearts of men. But it is a vague
memory and at times unreliable. It would appear that He was on earth
only for a short interval and failed to make any decided impression.

Therefore, at ten o'clock, the courts crowd up and the important
gentlemen bristling with substitute arrangements of words, address
themselves to the daily business of demonstrating whether people have
done right or wrong, and proving, or disproving also, how extensive are
the sins which have been committed. Arrangements of words palaver with
arrangements of words. There ensues a vast shuffling of words, a drone
and a gurgle of syllables. The Case of the State of Illinois Versus Man.
Order in the Court Room. "No talking, please...." "If it Please Your
Honor, the Issue involved in this case is identical with the Issue as
explicitly set forth in the Case of Matthews Versus Matthews, Illinois
Sixth, Chapter Eight, Page ninety two, in which in the Third Paragraph
the Supreme Court decided." The Court Instructs the Jury, "You are to be
Guided by the Law as given You in these instructions and by the Facts as
admitted in Evidence of the Case; the court Instructs the jury they are
the judges of the law as well as of the fact but the Court further
instructs the Jury before You decide for Yourselves that the Law is
Otherwise than as given you by the Court, you are to exercise great Care
and Caution in arriving at your decision...." "Gentlemen, have you
arrived at your verdict?" "We have." "Let the clerk be handed the
verdict." "We the Jury find the Defendant...."

Thus the tick-tock of the great city grown stern and audible, grown
verbose and insistent, speaks aloud in the courts. And here huddled on
benches are the little troupes of mummers who have committed crimes. The
mysterious sprinkling of marionettes not wound up by the watchmaker.
Names that solidify for a moment into the ink headlines. Lusts, dreams,
greeds, and manias sitting sad-faced and dolorous-eyed listening to a
drone and a gurgle of words. Alas! The evil-doers and the doers of good
bear a fatuous resemblance to each other. God Himself might well be
confused by this curious fact. But fortunately there are arrangements of
words capable of adjusting themselves to confusion, capable of
tick-tocking in the midst of disorder. Tick, say the words and tock say
the juries. Tick-tock, the cell door and the scaffold drop. Streets and
windows, paintings of the Virgin Mary, beds of the fifty-cent
prostitutes, cannon at Verdun and police whistles on crossings; the Pope
in Rome, the President in Washington, the man hunting the alleys for a
handout, the languorous women breeding in ornamental beds--all say a
tick-tock. Behind the arrangements of words, confusion strikes a posture
of guilt, strikes a posture of innocence. God Himself were a dolt to
interfere. For if the song of the angels is somehow other than the
tick-tock of men, the song of the angels is a music for heaven and the
tick-tock of men is a restful drone in which the city hides the
mysteries non-essential to the progress and pattern of its streets.



CHAPTER III


In and out of the crowded courtrooms of the city George Hazlitt pursued
his career. Buried in the babble of words, his voice sounded from day to
day with a firm, self-conscious vigor. To the thousand and one droners
about him, the law was a remunerative game in which one matched
platitude with bromide, legal precedent of the State of Illinois with
legal precedent of the State of Indiana; in which right and wrong were a
shuffle of words and the wages of sin dependent upon the depth of a
counselor's wits.

There was in Hazlitt, however, a puritanical fervor which withstood the
lure of expediency. He entered the courts not to juggle with words,
fence for loopholes out of which to drag dubious acquittals for his
clients. His profession was a part of his nature. He saw it as a battle
ground on which, under the babbling and droning, good and evil stood at
unending grips. Good always triumphing. Evil always going to jail
despite habeas corpuses, writs, and duces tecums.

To question the nobility of the Hazlitt soul would be a sidestepping.
There were among his friends, men of dubious integrity with elastic
scruples and pliable consciences. But skepticism thrust in vain at the
Hazlitt armor. In him had been authentically born the mania for
conformity. He was a prosecutor by birth. Against that which did not
conform, against all that squirmed for some expression beyond the
tick-tock of life, he was a force--an apostle with a sword. Men
pretending virtues as relentless as his own were often inclined to eye
him askance. Virtue breeds skepticism among the virtuous. But there was
a difference about Hazlitt.

The basis of his philosophy was twofold. It embraced a rage against
dreamers and a rage against lawbreakers. Lawbreakers were men and women
who sacrificed the welfare and safety of the many for the sating of
their individual greeds and lusts. He viewed the activities of
lawbreakers with a sense of personal outrage. He, Hazlitt, was a part of
society--a conscious unit of a state of mind, which state of mind was
carefully written out in text-book editorials, and on tablets handed
down by God from a mountaintop. Men who robbed, cheated, beat their
wives, deserted their families, seduced women, shirked responsibilities,
were enemies on his own threshold. They must be punished, mentally, by
him; physically by the society to which he belonged.

The punishing of evil-doers did more than eliminate them from his
threshold. It vindicated his own virtue. Virtue increases in direct
proportion with its ability to distinguish evil. The denunciation of
evil-doers was the boasting of George Hazlitt, "I am not one of them."
The more vigorous the denunciation, the more vigorous the boast. The
hanging of a man for the crime of murder was a reward paid to George
Hazlitt for his abstinence from bloodshed. The jailing of a seducer
offered a tangible recompense for the self-denial which he, as a
non-seducer, practiced.

Apart from the satisfactions his virtue derived in establishing its
superiority by assisting spiritually in the punishment of the
unvirtuous, his rage against lawbreakers found itself equally on his
devotion to law. He perceived in the orderly streets, in the miles of
houses, in the smoothly functioning commerce and government of his day,
a triumph of man over his baser selves. The baser selves of man were
instincts that yearned for disorder. Of this triumph Hazlitt felt
himself a part.

Disorder he thought not only illegal, but debasing. The same virtue
which prevented him from promenading in his pajamas in the boulevard
stirred with a feeling of outrage against the confusion attending a
street-car strike. His intelligence, clinging like some militant
parasite to the stability of life, resented all agitations, material or
spiritual, all violators who violated the equilibrium to which he was
fastened.

Against dreamers his rage was even deeper and more a part of his fiber.
In the tick-tock of life Hazlitt saw a perfection--an evolution out of
centuries of mania and disorder. The tick-tock was a perfection whose
basic principle was a respect for others. This respect evolved out of
man's fear of man and insuring a mutual protection against his predatory
habits, was to Hazlitt a religion. He denied himself pleasures and
convenient expressions for his impulses in order to spare others
displeasure and inconvenience. And his nature demanded a similar
sacrifice of his fellows--as a reward and a symbol of his own
correctness. Such explanation of his conduct as, it is easier to follow
the desires of others than to give expression to the desires of one's
self, would have been, to Hazlitt, spiritual and legal sacrilege.

In dreamers, the rising young attorney sensed a poorly concealed effort
to evade this primal responsibility toward him and the society of which
he was an inseparable part. Men who walked with their heads in the
clouds were certain to step on one's feet. Dreamers were scoundrels or
lunatics who sought to justify their unfitness for society by ridiculing
it as unworthy and by phantasizing over new values and standards which
would be more amiable to their weaknesses. There were political dreamers
and dreamers in morals and art. Hazlitt bunched them together, branded
them with an identical rage, and spat them out in one word, "nuts."

Dreamers challenged his sense of superiority by hinting at soul states
and social states superior to those he already occupied. Dreamers
disturbed him. For this he perhaps hated them most. Their phantasies
sometimes lifted him into moments of disorder, moments of doubt as
revolting to his spirit as were sores revolting to his skin. Then also,
dreamers had their champions--men and women who applauded their lunatic
writings and cheered their lunatic theories.

The punishment of lawbreakers vindicated his own virtue. But his rage
against dreamers was such that their punishing offered him no sense of
satisfactory vindication. His railing and ridicule against creatures who
yearned, grimaced--neurasthenics, in short--left him with no fine
feeling of the victorious sufficiency of himself. Thus to conceal
himself from doubts always threatening an appearance, it was necessary
for him to assume a viciousness of attitude not entirely sincere. So he
read with unction political speeches and art reviews denouncing the
phantasts of his day, and from them he borrowed elaborate invective. Yet
his invective seemed like a vague defense of himself who should need no
defense and thus again doubt raised a dim triumph in his heart.

"Yes, I'm a reactionary," he would say. "I'm for the good old things of
life. Things that mean something." And even this definition of faith
would leave him unsatisfied.

The paradox of George Hazlitt lay in the fact that he was himself a
dreamer. Champions of order and champions of disorder share somewhat in
a similarity of imaginative impulses.

Six months had passed since Hazlitt had wept on the stairs as he left
Rachel's room. Dry-eyed now and clear-headed, he sat one winter
afternoon against his chosen background--the swarm and clutter of a law
court. His brief-cases were packed. His law books had been bundled back
to his office.

He was waiting beside a vivid-faced young woman who sat twisting a
tear-damp handkerchief in her hands. The jury that had listened for
three weeks to the tale of the young woman's murder of a hospital
interne who had seduced and subsequently refused to marry her, had
sauntered out of the jury-box to determine now whether the young woman
should be hanged, imprisoned, or liberated. The excitements attending
the trial had brought a reaction to Hazlitt. He seemed suddenly to have
lost interest in the business of his defense of the wronged young woman.
This despite that he had for three weeks maintained a high pitch of rage
against the scoundrel who had violated his client and subsequently
driven her insane by even more abominable cruelties.

Hazlitt's concluding remarks to the jury on the subject of dishonored
womanhood and the merciless bestiality of certain male types had been
more than a legal oration. He had expressed himself in it and had spent
two full days lost in admiration of the echoes of his bombast.... "Men
who follow the vile dictates of their lower natures, who sow the
whirlwind and expect to reap the roses thereby; cynical, soulless men
who take a woman as one takes a glove, to wear, admire, and discard;
depraved men who prowl like demons at the heels of virtue, fawning their
ways into the pure heart of innocence and glutting their beastly hungers
upon the finest fruits of life--the beauty and sacrifice of a maiden's
first love--are such creatures men or fiends, gentlemen of the jury?"
And then ... "spurned, taunted by the sneers of one of these vipers, her
pleadings answered with laughter and blows of a fist, the soul of
Pauline Pollard grew suddenly dark. Where had been sanity, innocence,
and love, now came insanity. Her girl's mind--like sweet bells jangled
out of tune--brought no longer the high message of reason into her
heart. We sitting here in this sunny courtroom, gentlemen, can think and
reason. But Pauline Pollard, struggling in the embrace of a leering
savage, listening to his fiendish mockeries of her virtue--the virtue he
had stolen from her--ah! the soul and brain of Pauline Pollard vanished
in a darkness. The law is the law, gentlemen. There is no one respects
it more than I. If this girl killed a man coldly and with reason
functioning in her mind, she is guilty. Hang her, gentlemen of the jury!
But, gentlemen, the law under which we live, you and I and all of us,
also says, and says wisely, that a mind not responsible for its acts, a
soul whose balance has been destroyed by the shrieking voices of mania,
shall not be held guilty...."

The jury that had listened with ill-concealed envy to the recital of the
amorous interne's promiscuous exploits, listened to Hazlitt and
experienced suddenly a fine rage against the deceased. Out of the young
attorney's florid utterings a question fired itself into the minds of
the jurors. The deceased had done what they all desired to do, but dared
not. This grinning, unscrupulous fiend of a hospital interne had
blithely taken what he desired and blithely discarded what he did not
desire. The twelve good men and true bethought them of their wives whom
they did not desire and yet kept. And of the young women and the things
of flesh and spirit they desired with every life-beat in them and yet
did not take. Was this terrible denial which, for reasons beyond their
incomplete brains, they imposed upon themselves, a meaningless,
profitless business? The bland interne was dead and unfortunately beyond
their punishment. Yet the fact that he had lived at all called for a
protest--some definitely framed expression which would throw a halo
about their own submission to women they did not desire, and their own
denial to women they did desire. The law, whose arrangements of words
are omniscient, provided such a halo.

Dr. Hamel, the interne under discussion, was dead and buried, and
therefore, properly speaking, not on trial. Nor yet was Pauline Pollard
on trial. The persons on trial were twelve good men and true who were
being called upon to decide, somewhat dramatically, whether they were
right in living in a manner persistently repugnant to them; whether
somebody else could get away with something which they themselves, not
daring to attempt, bitterly identified as sin.

In thirty minutes the still outraged jury was to file in and utter its
dignified protest. Pauline Pollard would again be free. And twelve men
would return to their homes with a high sense of having meted out
justice, not to Pauline or her amorous interne, but to themselves.

Enticing speculation, the yes or no of these twelve men, three days ago.
But now Hazlitt sat with an odd indifference in his thought. The crowd
waiting avidly for the dramatic moment of the verdict; living
vicariously the suspense of the defendant--depressed him. The newspaper
reporters buzzing around, forming themselves into relays between the
press table and the door, further depressed him. He felt himself
somewhere else, and the scene was a reality which intruded.

There was a dream in Hazlitt which sometimes turned itself on like a
light and revealed the emptiness of life without Rachel, the emptiness
of courtrooms, verdicts, crowds. Yes, even the emptiness of the struggle
between good and evil. He sat thinking of her now, contrasting the
virginal figure of her with the coarseness of the thing in which he had
been engaged. There was something about her ... something ... something.
And the old refrain of his dream like a haunting popular ballad, started
again here in the crowded courtroom.

He remembered the eyes of Rachel, the quick gestures of her full-grown
hands that moved always as in sudden afterthoughts. Virginal was the
word that came most often to his thought. Not the virginity that spells
a piquant preface to sensualism. She would always be virginal, even
after they were married. In his arms she would remain virginal, because
there was something in her, something beyond flesh. His heart choked at
the memory of it, and his face saddened. Something he could not see or
place in a circle of words, that did not exist for his eyes or his
thought, and yet that he must follow. Even after he had won her there
would be this thing he could not see; that trailed a dream song in his
heart and kept him groping toward the far lips of the singer. Yes, they
would marry. She had refused to see him twice since the night he had
wept on the stair, leaving her. But the memories of that night had
adjusted themselves. He had seen love in the eyes of Rachel as he held
her hand. She had laughed love to him, given him for an instant the
vision of beauty-lighted places waiting for him. The rest had been ...
neurasthenia. Thus he had forgotten her words and his tears and the
vivid moment when he had seen himself reflected in her eyes as a horror.
He had tried twice to see her. He would continue trying, and some day
she would again open the door to him, laughing, whispering ... "I'm so
lonely. I'm glad you've come." In the meantime he would continue sending
her letters. Once each week he had been writing her, saying he loved
her. No answers had come. But this, curiously, did not anger him. He
wrote not so much to Rachel as to a dream of her. She remained intact in
her silence ... as he knew her ... an aloof, virginal being whose
presence in the world was its own song.

There was a commotion. Hazlitt looked about him and saw strange faces
light up, strange eyes gleam out of the electric-glowing dusk. Snow was
falling outside. Pauline's hand gripped his forearm. Her fingers burned.
Raps of a gavel for silence. The judge spoke. A sad-faced man, with a
heavy mustache combating his words, stood up in the jury-box and spoke.
In a vast silence a clerk beside the judge's bench cleared his voice,
moistened his lips, and spoke.

So he had won another case. Pauline was free. Snow outside and rows of
lighted windows. She was overwrought. Let her weep for a spell. Snow
outside. Three weeks and one day. Everybody seemed happy with the
verdict. People were good at heart. A triumph for decency cheered them.
People were not revengeful at heart, only decent. Congratulations ...
"Thank you, thank you! No, Miss Pollard has nothing to say now. She is
too overcome. To-morrow...." The persistent press! What did they expect
her to say? Absurd the way they kept interviewing her. The snow would
probably tie up traffic. Eat downtown....

"If you're ready, Miss Pollard."

"Oh, I must thank the jurors."

Handshakes. Twelve good men with relaxed faces. "There, there, little
woman. Start over. We only did our duty and what was right by you."

Everybody stretched his legs. Mrs. Hamel was sobbing. Well, she was his
mother. It would only have satisfied her lower instincts of vengeance to
have jailed Pauline.

"All right, Miss Pollard." He took her arm. Curious, what a difference
the verdict had made in her. She was a woman like any other woman
now.... His overcoat might do for another season.... Pretty girl. Hard
to get used to the idea she wasn't a defendant.

"This way, Miss Pollard".... Take her to a cab and send her home. If
she'd ever get started. What satisfaction did women find in kissing and
hugging each other? "Thank God, Pauline. Oh, I'm so glad".... Girl
friends. Well, she'd be back among them in a few days, and in a month or
so the thing would be over.

At last! Hazlitt blinked. The whirl of snow and crowds emptying out of
buildings gave him a sense for an instant of having stepped into a
strange world. The sharp cold restored his wandering energies and a
realization of his victory in the courtroom brought him a belated glow.
He was young, on an upgrade, able to command success.

Hazlitt felt a sudden lusty kinship toward the swarm of bodies
unwinding itself through the snowfall. A contact with other ... a
pleasant, comforting contact. What more was life, anyway? A warmth in
the heart that came from the knowledge of work well and honestly done.
Look the world squarely in the eyes and say, "You have no secrets and I
have no secrets. We're friends."

"Shall we go to your office, Mr. Hazlitt?"

Why there? Hazlitt smiled at the young woman. She was free. He patted
the gloved hand on his arm and was surprised to see her eyes grow alive
with tears.

"I would like to talk to you--now that it's over. I feel lost. Really."
She returned his smile as one determined to be brave, though lost.

The snow hid the buildings and left their window lights drifting. Faces
passing smiled as if saying, "Hello, we're all together in the same snow
with no secrets from each other.... All friends".... Hazlitt walked with
the girl through the streets. The traffic and the crowds were intimate
friends and he spoke to them by patting Pauline's hand. An
all's-well-with-the-world pat.

"Eighth floor, please...."

The elevator jiggled to a stop and they stepped into the corridor.
Scrawny-faced women were crawling patiently down the floor. They slopped
wet brushes before them, wrung mops out over pails, and crawled an inch
farther down the floor. Hazlitt smiled. This, too, was a part of
life--keeping the floors of the building scrubbed. He won law cases.
Old women scrubbed floors. It fitted into an orderly pattern with a
great meaning to its order. He paused for a moment to admire the
cleanliness of the washed surface. Homage to the work of others--of old
women on their knees scrubbing floors.

"Well, it's all over, Miss Pollard."

She was sitting beside the desk where she had sat the first time they
had discussed her defense. Hazlitt, unloading his brief-case, looked at
her. Uncommonly pretty. Trusting eyes. What a rotten fellow, the
interne!

"I don't know why I wanted to come here." Pauline's eyes stared sadly
about the room. "I'm free, but ..." She covered her face and wept.

"Now, now, Miss Pollard!"

"Oh, it's still awful."

"You'll forget soon."

"I'll go away. Somewhere. Alone." A louder sob.

"Please don't cry."

Hazlitt watched her tenderly. The weeping increased. A lonesomeness and
a vagueness were in the girl's heart. The tick-tock of the city had a
foreign sound. She was a stranger in its streets. There had been
something else, and now it was gone. A wilderness, a tension, the
familiar face of Frankie Hamel telling her to go to hell one night and
stop bothering him with her damned wailing ... and Frankie dying at her
feet whispering, "What the devil, Pauline?" Then the trial. Hot and
cold hours. A roomful of silent, open-mouthed faces listening to her
weep, watching her squirm with proper shame and anguish as she told her
story to the jurors ... the details of the abortion. "And then I
couldn't stand it. I don't remember what happened. Oh, I loved him! I
don't remember. He cursed me. He called me a ... Oh, God, names. Awful
names! I told him I was going to kill myself. I couldn't live, disgraced
... without his love. I'd bought a gun to kill myself. And he laughed. I
don't remember after that; except that somehow he was ... he was dead.
And I wasn't...."

These things were gone. The trial was over and done. Now there was
nothing left but the city with its street-cars and offices.

"Oh, everything's so changed," she murmured. Hazlitt stood behind her
chair, hand on her shoulder. Poor child! The law could not free her from
the remorse for her crime and mistake. Lawlessness carried its own
punishment. Virtue its own rewards, sin its own torments.

"You'll forget," he answered softly. The law sometimes punished. But
after all this was the real punishment ... beyond the power of the law
to mete out. Punishment of sin. Conscience. Poor child! Inexorable fruit
of evil. Despair, remorse....

"You must forget. You're young. You can begin over. Please don't cry."

Thus Hazlitt comforted her who was weeping not with remorse for what had
been, but that it had gone. No word consciousness stirred her grief. An
unintelligible sorrow, it swelled in her heart and filled her with
helplessness. Life had gone from her. She was mourning for it. Mourning
for a murderess and a sinner who had gone, abandoned her and left her a
naked, uninteresting Pauline Pollard again--a nobody surrounded by
nobodies. And once it had been different. Lighted faces listening to her
in a room. Frankie whispering, "What the devil, Pauline?"

A fresh burst of tears brought Hazlitt in front of her. Gently he moved
her hands from her face.

"You mustn't," he began over again.

"Oh, I won't ever be able to...."

"Yes you will, little girl."

"No, no!"

She was standing. Snow outside. Rows of lighted windows drifting.
Thoughts slipped out of his head. Traffic probably tied up.

"Please don't cry."

She dropped her head against his shoulder and wept anew. It was nice to
have somebody asking her not to cry. It made it easier and more
purposeful to weep.

Hazlitt sighed. Tears ... tears ... the live odor of hair. Arms that
felt soft. She was mumbling close to him, "I can't help it. Please
forgive me."

"Yes, yes! There, there!" Of course he would forgive her. Forgiveness
made him glow. But as he spoke his voice depressed him. What should he
do? Could he help her? What was life, anyway? Snow outside and rows of
lighted windows drifting. Her body close, warm, and saddening. The
firmness of his nerves dissolved. He had his sorrow too ... Rachel. Far
away. Drifting like the snow outside. Rachel ... the odor of hair
brought her back. Should he cry? Her knees had touched him once like
this. She had held her arm about his shoulder once, like this. But, oh,
so different!... The girl seemed to come closer to him.

He had been holding a stranger politely. Now the stranger relaxed. Soft,
warm, familiar body. He grew frightened. Somehow the clinging of the
girl's body, the murmur of her tears, brought a sorrow into his heart. I
am not Rachel, but I am like her.... What made him think that? Yes, she
was like her, warm, soft, and woman. Like her--like her. Why had they
kissed? And her hands clasping nervously at his shoulders? She was not
in love? Not Rachel. But she wanted something. And he too. Something
that was a dream song. Here were the lips of the singer, eager, reaching
to his own. Pressing, asking more. How had this happened? Should he
speak? But what? Nothing to say. Had he forgotten Rachel? Remembering
Rachel? Who was this? The questions blurred. Rachel, sang his heart. For
a moment he embraced the warm shadow of a dream. And then a woman was
offering herself to him. No dream now. Her thighs riveted themselves
against him. Under her clothes her body seemed to be moving, coming to
him.

Hazlitt grew dizzy. He had been consoling her. No more. Now what? He
threw his strength into his embrace. Their bodies moved together.

"Oh ..." A moan as if she were still weeping. Her lips parted in
desperate surrender. Her kiss took the breath out of him.

"Dearest!" His voice carried him out of her arms. He knew suddenly that
but for the word and the familiar sound of his voice he would have
possessed her. But the word rang an alarm in his ears. Fright, nausea,
relaxed muscles. A wiliness in his thought.... "Do you feel better now?"

She failed to hear. Her fingers still clutched.

"There ... there, don't cry!" He felt cold. His hands on her arms
pressed them gently away, his fingers patting them with a fatherly
diapason. George Hazlitt, attorney-at-law.

"Better now, Pauline?" An error to have called her Pauline. Look bad in
the record. Committed him to "Pauline."

"Oh, George!"

The thought of Rachel listened in amazement ... George ... Pauline.
Dearest! He must be careful. She had grown numb against him. A numb
woman sewed to his lapels. He lowered her as if she were lifeless and he
fearful of disturbing her. She looked harmless in a chair. Was it
possible to talk now? Not yet. Take her hand; careful not to squeeze it.
Pat it as he'd done in the street. An all's-well-with-the-world pat.

Somebody rattled the doorknob. Hazlitt started eagerly. Relief. But,
good God, no lights in the office. The cleaners would come in and think
things. Her hair in disorder and her face smeared with weeping would
make them think things. An oath disentangled itself from his confusion.
The door opened. Two scrawny-faced women with mops and brooms....

"It's all right. Go ahead. We're just leaving. Are you ready, Miss
Pollard?"

The Miss Pollard was a masterpiece. But did it deceive the mops and
brooms? Damn them! They walked arm in arm down the corridor.

"I think the elevators have stopped. Wouldn't it be a joke if we had to
walk down?"

She refused to answer. Witness remains silent. Why couldn't she be
interested in jokes?... the woman of it. Nothing had happened. She had
nothing to think about. Why not jokes? He frowned at the grilling of the
elevator door. An elevator bobbed up.

In the street, "I'll get a cab, Miss Pollard." Take a firm stand and not
call her Pauline again. But she was silent. Nothing had happened. He
grew frightened. She was trying to bulldoze him by pretending. Bundle
her into a cab and get rid of her.

Suddenly, as if he'd been thinking it out when he hadn't, "You must
forgive me for--that. I didn't mean to, please."

Anything rather than her silence. Even an apology. Nothing had happened,
but he would apologize anyway to be on the safe side. She looked at him
and said, "Oh!"

"Please, Miss Pollard, you make me feel like a cur."

A chauffeur leaned forward from his seat and thrust open the cab door.
Pauline entered without hesitation. She might have the decency to
hesitate when he was apologizing for nothing. Hazlitt stuck his head in
after her. The thing was ludicrously unfinished and he was making an ass
of himself. She should have hesitated.

"Tell your mother I hope she'll be better soon."

"Where to, mister?"

He gave an address and added, "Just a minute, please."

Hazlitt reëntered the cab with his head. The thing was still unfinished.
Wishing good health to her mother made it worse--as if he were trying to
cover up something. He must be frank. Drag everything into the open and
show he wasn't afraid. But she was weeping again. He paused in
consternation. Her hand reached toward him. A voice, vibrant and soft
with tears, whispered in the gloom of the cab. A love voice. "Good-by,
George!"

He watched the tail light dart through the traffic and then began his
defense. Gentleman of the jury ... jury ... he had done nothing. It was
she who had suggested the office. A low, vulgar ruse to trap him. The
evidence was plain on that point. Overruled. But he had attempted only
to console her. Irrelevant and immaterial to the facts at issue in the
case. But she had flung her arms around him. Not he! Never he! The woman
was mad. Yes, a mad woman. Dangerous. She had done the same to the
interne. Overruled. Overruled. What? Frank Hamel, gentleman of the jury,
glutting his beastly hungers on the finest fruit of life--the innocence
and sacrifice of a maiden's first love. No, not Hamel. Hazlitt. Are such
creatures men or fiends? What was he thinking about Oh, yes, the
interne. Dead, buried ... we, the jury, find the defendant not
guilty.... But the dead interne was saying something.

For moments George Hazlitt looked out upon a new world--a miserable
world--vast, blurred, upside down. People were moving in it. Dead
internes. They passed with faces intent upon their own solitudes.
Buildings were in it. They burst a skyrocket of windows into the night.
There was snow. It fell twisting itself out of the darkness. Familiar
faces, buildings, snow. Theater façades making a jangle of light through
the storm. Entrances, exits, cars clanging, figures hurrying, signs
sputtering confusion in the snow. All familiar, all a part of the great
tick-tock of the city.

Hazlitt stopped and stared at the familiar night of the streets. A gleam
and a flurry were sweeping his eyes. Snow. But faces and buildings and
lights were a part of it. They swarmed and danced about him, sending a
shout to his heart. "We're upside down ... we're upside down ... heels
in air.... She made love to the interne as she did to you ... and the
fiend is dead. Lies ... lies ... but who gives a damn?"

The horn of a motor screeched. A woman and a man pattered by on a run,
leaving a trail of laughter. From afar came the sound of voices--of
street evangels singing hymns on a corner. The soul of George Hazlitt
grew sick. Night hands fastened themselves about his throat. Upside down
... heels in air. The things he had said to the jury were lies. Lies and
disorder. Right and wrong. God in heaven, what were they, if not right
and wrong?

The thing came to Hazlitt without words, with a gleam and a flurry as of
snow. He stood blind--a little snow-covered figure shivering and lost in
a lighted, crowded street. All because a woman, warm and clinging, had
kissed him on the mouth and moved her body. But once she had kissed
another man thus--on the mouth, with her body moving, and therein lay a
new world--a world of flying-haired Mænads and growling satyrs that
lived behind the tick-tock of windows. Standing in the snowstorm an
insane notion took possession of Hazlitt. It had to do with Evil. Order
was an accident. Men and women were evil. The tick-tock was a pretense.

The notion passed. Doubt needs thought to feed upon, and Hazlitt gave it
none. Or he would have ended as Hazlitt and become someone else. He
walked again with a silence in his head. Another block, and life had
again focused itself into tableaux. The moment of doubt had shaken him
as if rough hands had reached from an alley and clutched wildly at his
throat. But it had gone, and the memory of it too was gone. Hands that
had nobody behind them; emotion that came without the stabilizing
outline of words. So the world stood again on its feet. Tick-tock, said
the world to George Hazlitt; and his brain gave an answer, "Tick-tock!"

For the paradox of Hazlitt was not that he was a thinker, but a dreamer.
His puritanism had put an end to his brain. Like his fellows for whose
respect and admiration he worked, he had bartered his intelligence for a
thing he proudly called Americanism, and thought for him had become a
placid agitation of platitudes. But he could still dream. His emotions
avenged his stupidity. Walking in the street--he felt a desire to
walk--he shut himself in. It seemed to him now that his love had become
a part of the snow and the far-away dark of the sky. Rachel ... Rachel,
his thought called as if summoning something back.

It came to him slowly--the image of the virginal one--doubly sweet and
beautiful now that he was unclean. How had it happened? She had been
weeping; he comforting her. Two strangers, they had sat in his office.
One a murderess weeping for her sins; the other a kindly hearted,
clean-minded attorney consoling her, pointing to her the way of hope.
And then like two animals they had stood sucking at each other's breath.
God, what could he do? Nothing. He was unclean. He recalled with a dread
the thought that had come to him in the embrace ... was she Rachel? Yes,
she had been Rachel and he had lowered his dream to her lips, as if in
the lust of a strange woman's kiss there lay the image of Rachel, the
virginal mystery of Rachel. If he had been man enough not to drag the
memory of Rachel into it, it would be easy now. But he would look
squarely at the facts, anyway. That must be his punishment and his
penance. Yes, say it ... it was with his love for Rachel he had embraced
and almost possessed the body of a stranger.

Hazlitt quickened his walking. He was confronted with the intricate
business of forgiving himself. He felt shame, but shame was something
that could be walked off. Faster ... with an amorous mumble soothing him
and the hurt. After all, was it so important? Yes ... no. Forgive
himself, but not too quickly. He walked.... Words made circles in his
head--abject and sorrowful circles about the dream of the virginal one.

A man with a curious smile stopped in front of him to light a pipe.
Hazlitt paused and looked at the street. He would take a car. His legs
were tired. The wind and snow put out the match of the man who was
lighting a pipe. Hazlitt looked at him. What was he smiling about? We're
all in the snow ... all without secrets in the snow. Hail fellows of the
street ... Curious, he should feel sad for a man who was smiling on a
street corner. Tiredness. The man was cursing the snow good-humoredly.
Suddenly the pipe was lighted and the man seemed to have forgotten it.
His eyes gleamed for an instant across Hazlitt's face, and with an
abrupt nod of recognition the man passed on. Walking swiftly, bent
forward, vanishing behind a flurry of snow.

Hazlitt peered down the track for his car. He wondered how the man knew
him. It pleased his vanity to be recognized by people he couldn't place.
It showed he was somebody. Yes, George Hazlitt, attorney-at-law. He
recalled ... they had met once in an office. A newspaperman--editor or
something. Probably looking for news. Hazlitt was glad he had been
recognized. The man would think of him as he walked on in the snow--of
his victory in the courtroom and his future. That was part of life, to
be thought of and envied by others.

Beside him a newsboy raised a shout ... "Extra! Pauline Pollard
acquitted!..." People would read about it in their homes. His name.
Wonder who he was. A voice across the street answered, "Extra! Germans
bombard Paris!..." The damned Huns! Why didn't America put an end to
their dirty business by rushing in?

He stepped into the warm street-car and sat staring moodily out
of the window. He was a part of life, but there was something
beyond--a--mystery. "Extra!..." He should have bought a paper. There was
the newspaper fellow again, still walking swiftly, bent forward, staring
into the snow.... Oh, yes, Erik Dorn. He had met him once.... The car
passed on.



CHAPTER IV


Erik Dorn laughed as he walked swiftly through the snow in the street.
It seemed to him he had been laughing incessantly for a week, and that
he would continue to laugh forever. His thought played delightedly with
his emotions ... a precocious child with new fantastic toys. He was in
love. A laughable business!

Five months of uncertainty had preceded the laugh. An irritated,
inexplicable moodiness as if the shadow of a disease had come into his
blood. On top of this moodiness a violence of temper, a stewing,
cursing, fuming about. A five months' quarrel with his wife....

His love-making had been somewhat curious. Walks with Rachel--a
whirligig of streets, faces, words. A dance and a flash of words, as if
he were exploding into phrases. As if his vocabulary desired to empty
itself before Rachel. His garrulity amazed him. Everything had to be
talked about. There was a desperate need for talk. And when there was
nothing to talk about for the moment, his words abhorring idleness, fell
to inventing emotions--a complete set of emotions for himself and for
Rachel. These were discussed, explained, and forgotten.

Finally the strange talk that had ended a week ago--a last desperate
concealment of emotion and desire in a burst of glittering phrases.
Phrases that whirled like the exotic decorations about the wild body of
a dancer, becoming a dance in themselves, deriving a movement and a
meaning beyond themselves. Then the end of concealment. An exhausted
vocabulary sighed, collapsed. A frantic discarding of ornaments and the
nude body of the dancer stood posturing naïvely, timidly. Therewith an
end to mystery. The thing was known.

It had happened during one of their walks. Leaden clouds over day-dark
pavements. Warehouses, railroad tracks, factories--a street toiling
through a dismantled world. Their hands together, they paused and
remained staring as if at a third person. He had reached out rather
impersonally and taken her hand. The contact had shocked him into
silence. It was difficult to breathe.

"Rachel, do you love me?"

She nodded her head and pressed his hand against her cheek. They walked
on in silence. This brought an end to talk. Talk concealed. There was
nothing more to conceal. His vocabulary sighed as if admitting defeat
and uselessness. At a corner grown noisy with wagons and trucks Rachel
stopped. Her eyes opened to him. He looked at her and said, as if he had
fallen asleep "I too am in love." He laughed dreamily. "Yes, I've been
since the beginning. Curious!"

She might laugh at him. It was evident he had avoided making love to her
during the five months in fear of that. The only reason he hadn't
embraced, kissed, and protested affection five months ago was the
possibility that she would laugh--and perhaps go away.

Even now, despite the absence of laughter, a part of the fear he had
still lingered. He was no longer Erik Dorn, man of words and mirror of
nothings. He had said he loved her. Avoiding, of course, the direct
remark. But he had indicated it rather definitely. It would undoubtedly
lessen him to her, make him human. She had admired him because he was
different. Now he was like everybody else saying an "I love you" to a
woman. Perhaps he should unsay it. Again, a dreamy laugh. But it made
him happy. A drifting, childish happiness. He looked at her. Her eyes
struck him as marvelously large and bright. Yet in a curious way he
seemed unaware of her. No excitement came to him. Decidedly there was
something unsensual about his love--if it was love. It might be
something else. It is difficult for an extremely married man to
distinguish offhand. He desired nothing more than to stand still and
close his eyes and permit himself to shine. Vague words traced his
emotions. A fullness. A completion. An end of nothing. Thrills in his
fingers. Remarkable disturbance of the diaphragm. To be likened to the
languorous effects of some almost stimulating drug.

In a great calm he slowly forgot himself, his words, and Rachel.
Standing thus he heard her murmur something and felt his hand once more
against her cheek. A pretty gesture. Then she was walking down the dark
street, running from him. She had said good-bye. He awoke and cursed. A
bewildering sensation of being still at her side as if he had gone out
of himself and were following her. He remained thus watching the figure
of Rachel until it disappeared and the street grew suddenly cold and
empty. A strange scene mocked him. Strange smoke, strange warehouses,
strange railroad tracks. Cupid awaking in a cinder patch.

He walked on, still bewildered. Nothing had happened to him. Instead,
something had happened to the streets. The city had suffered an
amputation. There was something incomplete about its streets and crowds.
His eye felt annoyed by it. He was not thinking of Rachel. He felt as if
she had suddenly ceased to exist and left behind her an unexistence. It
was this emptiness outside that for the moment annoyed and then
frightened him. An emptiness that had something to give him now. His
senses reached eagerly toward the figures of people and buildings and
received nothing. What did he want of them? They were a pattern,
intricate and precise, with nothing to give. Yet he wanted. Good God, he
wanted something out of the streets of the city. Then he remembered, as
if recalling some algebraic formula, "I'm in love." His laughter had
started at that moment.

At home it continued in him. Anna had gone to visit relatives in
Wisconsin. He spent an hour writing her a long amorous letter. He was in
love with Rachel, but a new notion had planted itself in him. Whatever
happened, Anna must not be made unhappy. Love was not a reality. Anna
and her happiness were the realities that must be carefully considered.
This thing that had popped into life in the cinder patch was a
mood--comparable to the mood of a thirsty man taking his first sip of
water.

" ... the memory of you comes before me," he scribbled to his wife, "and
I feel sad. I am incomplete without you. Dear one, I love you. The
streets seem empty and the hours drag...."

In writing to his wife he seemed to recover a sense of virtue. He smiled
as he sealed the envelope. "It must be an old instinct," he thought.
"People are kindest to those they deceive. Thus good and evil balance."

His father, sitting before a grate fire, desired to talk. He would talk
to him in circles that would irritate the old man and make his eyes
water more.

"People don't live," he began. "To live is to have a dream behind the
hours. To have the world offering something."

"Yes, my son. Something ..."

"Then the people outside one take on meaningful outlines. There comes a
contact. One is a part of something--of a force that moves the stars,
eh?"

The old man nodded, and mumbled in his beard. Dorn felt a warmth toward
his father. His stupidity delighted him. He would be able henceforth to
talk to the old man and say, "I love Rachel," and the old man would
think he was coining phrases for a profitless amusement. It would be the
same with Anna. He would be able to make love to Anna differently
hereafter. A rather cynical idea. He laughed and beamed at Isaac Dorn.
Did it matter much whom one kissed as long as one had a desire for
kissing? In fact, his desire for Rachel seemed at an end, now that he
had mentioned it to her. A handclasp, a silence trembling with emotion,
a sudden light in the heart--properly speaking, this was all there was
to love. The rest was undoubtedly a make-believe. As he walked out to
post the letter he tried to recall the emotions or ideas that had
inspired him to marry Anna. There had undoubtedly been something of the
sort then. But it had left no memory. Their honeymoon, of which she was
always speaking, even after seven years, with a mist in her eyes--good
Lord, had there been a honeymoon?

He spent the next afternoon with Rachel. A silence of familiarity had
fallen upon them. There was a totality in silence. Walking through the
streets beside her, Dorn mused, "Undoubtedly the thing is over. It
begins even to bore a bit." He noted curiously that he was unconscious
of the streets. No tracing their pictures with phrases. They were
streets, and that was an end of it. They belonged where they were.

His eyes dropped to his companion. A face with moonlight grown upon it.
Beautiful, yes. Sometime he would tell her. Pour it out in words. There
was a paradox about the situation. He was obviously somewhat bored. Yet
to leave her, to put an end to their strolling through the strange
moments, would hurt. Had he ever lived before? Banal question. "No, I've
never lived before. Living is somewhat of a bore, a beautiful bore."

When they parted she stood looking at him as one transfixed.

"Erik!"

She made his name mean something--a world, a heaven. For an instant his
laughter ended and a sadness engulfed him. Then once more he was alone
and laughing. Rachel was walking away, something rather ridiculously
normal about her step. Yes, he would laugh forever. Lord, what a jest!
Like water coming out of a stone. Laugh at the crowds and buildings that
desired to annoy him by sweeping toward him the memory of Rachel saying
"Erik!" He diverted himself, as he hurried to his home, by staring into
people's eyes and saying, "This one has a dream. That one hasn't. This
one loves. The streets hurt him. That one is dead. The streets bury
him."

On the third day the bombardment of Paris interfered with his plans. He
remained too late in the office to walk with Rachel. As he sauntered
about the shop, assisting and directing at the extras and replates, he
vaguely forgot her. Word had come from the chief to hold the paper open
until nine o'clock. If Paris failed to fall by nine everybody could go
home and spend the rest of the night wrangling with his wife or looking
at a movie. If it fell by nine there would be a final extra.

"I hope the damned town falls five minutes after nine," growled Warren,
"if it's got to fall. Let it fall for the morning papers. What the hell
are they for, anyway? I've got a rotten headache."

Dorn told him to run along. "I'll handle the copy, if there is any. A
history of Paris out of the almanac will answer the purpose, I guess."

Warren folded his newspapers and left. Dorn sat scribbling possible
headlines for the next re-plate: "Germans Bombard Paris ..." and then a
bank in smaller type: "French Capital Silent. Communication Cut Off." He
paused and added with a sudden elation, "Civilization on Its Knees."

The hum and suspense of the night-watch pleased him. He liked the idea
of sitting in a noisy place waiting to flash the news of the fall of
Paris to the city. And the next day the four afternoon papers would
carry a small box on the front page announcing to the public that, as
usual, each of them had been first on the street with the important
announcement. The fall of Paris! His thought mused. Babylon Falls....
Civilization on Its Knees. The City Wall of Jericho Collapses. Carthage
Reduced to Ashes. Rome Sacked by Huns. Yes, there had been magnificent
headlines in the past. Now a new headline--Paris. There would be a
sudden flurry; boys running between desks; Crowley trying to shout and
achieving a frightful whisper; a smeared printer announcing some ghastly
mistake in the composing room; and Paris would be down--fallen. Nothing
left to do except grin at the idea of the morning papers cursing their
luck. He sat, vaguely hoping there might be tidal waves, earthquakes,
cataclysms. On this night his energies seemed to demand more work than
the mere fall of Paris would occasion. "Might as well do the thing up
brown and put an end to the world--all in one extra," he smiled.

A messenger boy brought a telegram. He opened it and read,

"I am going away. RACHEL."

All a part of the night's work. Killing off Paris. Answering telegrams
to vanishing sweethearts. He stuffed the message into his pocket. On
second thought he tore it up. Anna was coming home the next day. "Wife
Finds Tell-tale Telegram...." Another headline.

"Wait a minute, boy."

The messenger lounged into an editor's chair. Dorn scribbled on a
telegraph blank:

"Wait till Friday. I must see you once more. I will call for you at
seven o'clock Thursday. We have never been together in the night. ERIK."

The messenger boy and the telegram disappeared. Still the laughter
persisted. There was a jest in the world. Paris seemed a part of it.
Everything belonged to it.

"I wonder what the writers of Paris are saying," Crowley inquired.

"Enjoying themselves, as usual," Dorn answered. "I'll tell you a secret.
We live in a mad and inspiring world."

There was no final headline that night. Wednesday brought problems of
conduct. It was obvious that Rachel was going away because of Anna. Her
departure was a fact which presented itself with no finality. It
resembled an insincere thought of suicide. Rachel, having gone, would
still remain. The emotional prospects of the farewell closed his thought
to the future. He spent Wednesday waiting for a seven o'clock on
Thursday. An hour had detached itself from hours that went before and
that followed. At home in the evening he endeavored to avoid his wife.
His letters to her during her visit in Wisconsin had brought her back
violently joyous. She desired love-making. He listened to her pour out
ardent phrases and wondered why he felt no sense of betrayal toward her.
"Conscience," he thought, "seems to be a vastly over-advertised
commodity." He sat beside Anna, caressing her hand, smiling back into
her passion-filled eyes, and gently checking an impulse in him to
confide to her that he was in love with Rachel. It would be pleasant to
tell her that, provided she would nod her head understandingly, smile,
and stroke his hair; and answer something like, "You mean Rachel is in
love with you. Well, I can't blame her. I'm horribly jealous, but it
doesn't matter." An incongruous sanity warned him to avoid confessions,
so he contented himself by rolling the situation over on his tongue,
tasting the jealousy of his wife, the drama of the dénouement, and
remaining peacefully smiling in his leather chair.

Thursday arrived. The afternoon dragged. He sat at his desk wondering
whether he was sorrowful or not. The thought of meeting Rachel elated
him. The thought that she was leaving and that he would not see her
again seemed a vague thing. He put it out of his mind with ease and
devoted himself to dreaming what he would say, the manner in which he
would bid farewell.

Walking now swiftly in the street toward Rachel's home his thought still
played with his emotions. It was this that partially caused his
laughter. Also, now that he was going to see her, there was again the
sense of fullness. An unthinking calm, complete and vibrant, wrapped him
in an embrace. The fullness and the calm brought laughter. His thought
amused him with the words, "There's a flaming absurdity about
everything."

He delighted in dressing his emotions in absurd phrases, in words that
grimaced behind the rouge of tawdry ballads. Thinking of Rachel and
feeling the sudden lift of sadness and bewilderment in his blood, he
murmured aloud: "You never know you have a heart till it begins to
break." The words amused him. There were other song titles that seemed
to fit. He tried them all. "I don't know why I love you, but I do-o-o."
Delightful diversion--airing the mystic desires of his soul in the
tattered words of the cabaret yodelers. "Just a smile, a sigh, a
kiss...." A sort of revenge, as if his vocabulary with its intricate
verbal sophistications were avenging itself upon interloping emotions.
And, too, because of a vague shame which inspired him to taunt his
surrender; to combat it with an irony such as lay in the ridiculous
phrases. This irony gave him a sense of being still outside his emotions
and not a submissive part of them. "I am still Erik Dorn, master of my
fate and captain of my soul," he smiled. But perhaps it was most of all
the reaction of a verbal vanity. His love was not yet pumping rhapsodies
into his thought. Instead, the words that came seemed to him somehow
banal and commonplace. "I love you. I want to be with you all the time.
When we are together things grow strange and desirable." Amorous
mediocrities! So he edited them into a further banality and thus
concealed his inability to give lofty utterance to his emotions by
amusing himself with deliberately cheapened insincerities. "Saving my
linguistic face," he thought suddenly, and laughed again.

Rachel was sad. They left her home in silence.

"We'll go toward the park," he announced. It irritated him to utter
matter-of-fact directions. Why when he had had nothing to talk about had
he been able to talk? And now when there was something, there seemed
little to say? Words were obviously the delicate fruit of insincerity.
Silence, the dark flower of emotion.

"I must go away." Rachel slipped her arm into his. He stared at her. She
seemed more sorrowful than tears. This annoyed. It was ungrateful for
her to look like weeping. But she was going from him. He tried to think
of her and himself after they had parted, and succeeded only in
remembering she was at his side. So he laughed quietly.

"Yes, to-morrow the guillotine falls," he answered. "To-night we dance
in each other's arms. Immemorial tableau. Laughter, love, and song
against the perfect background--death. Let's not cheat ourselves by
being sad. To-morrow will be time enough."

He realized he was collapsing into a pluck-ye-the-roses-while-ye-may
strain, and stopped, irritated. There was something he should talk to
her about--the causes of her departure. Plans. Their future. Was there a
future? Undoubtedly something would have to be arranged. But his mind
eluded responsibilities.

"I'm happy," he whispered. "I talk like a fool because I feel like one.
Heedless. Irresponsible. You've given me something and I can only look
at it almost without thought."

"It seems so strange that you should love me," she answered. "Because
I've loved you always and never dreamed of you loving." She had become
melting, as if her sadness were dissolving into caresses. "Let's just
walk and I'll remember we're together and be happy, too."

Thoughts vanished from him. He released her hand and they walked in
silence with their arms together. A sleep descended. Their faces,
tranquil and lighted by the snow, offered solitudes to each other.

It was now snowing heavily. A thick white lattice raised itself from the
streets against the darkness. The little black hectagonals of night
danced between its spaces. Long white curtains painted themselves on the
shadows of the city. The lovers walked unaware of the street. The snow
crowded gently about them, moving patiently like a white and silent
dream over their heads. Phantom houses stared after them. Slanting
rooftops spread wings of silver in the night and drifted toward the
moon. The half-closed leaden eyes of windows watched from another world.

The snow grew heavier, winding itself about the yellow lights of street
lamps and crawling with sudden life through the blur of window rays.
Beneath, the pavements opened like white and narrow fans in a far-away
hand. Black figures leaning forward emerged for an instant from behind
the falling snow and disappeared again.

Still the lovers moved without words--two black figures themselves, arms
together, leaning forward, staring with burning hearts and tranquil
faces out of a dream, as if they did not exist, had never existed; as if
in the snow and night they had become an unreality, walking deeper into
mists--yet never quite vanishing but growing only more unreal. Snow and
two lovers walking together with the world like a dream over their
heads, with life lingering in their eyes like a delicately absent-minded
guest--the thought drifted like a memory through their hearts.

Then slowly consciousness of themselves returned, bringing with it no
relief of words. Their hearts seemed to have grown weak with tears, and
in their minds existed nothing but the dark vagueness of despair--the
despair of things that die with their eyes open and questing. Faces
drifting like circles of light in the storm. At the end of the street a
park. Here they would vanish from each other. The snow would continue
falling gently, patiently, upon an empty world.

The cold of Rachel's fingers pressed upon his hand. Her face turned
itself to him. A moment of happiness halted them both as if they had
been embraced. A wonder--the why and where of her leaving. But an
indifference deprived him of words.

"This is all of life," he muttered. Rachel staring at him nodded her
head in echo. They were standing motionless as if they had forgotten how
to live. Beyond this there were no gestures to make, nowhere to go. They
had come to a horizon--an end. Here was ecstasy. What else? Nothing.
Everything, here. Sky and night and snow had fallen about their heads in
an ending. They stood as if clinging to themselves. Dorn heard a soft
laugh from her.

"I thought I had died," Rachel was murmuring. He nodded his head in
echo.

A lighted window lost in the snow drew their eyes. People sat in a
room--warm, stiff figures. The lovers stood smiling toward it. Words,
soft and mocking, formed themselves in Dorn. A pain was pulling his
heart away. The ecstasy that had raised him beyond his emotions seemed
suddenly to have cast him into the fury of them. He would say mocking
things--absurd phrases to which he might cling. Or else he must weep
because of the pain in him. "Two waifs adrift in a storm, peering into a
bakery window at the cookies." That was the key. A laugh at the dolorous
asininity of life. "Face to face with the Roman Pop U Lace. We who are
about to die salute you." Laugh, a phrase of laughter or he would stand
blubbering like an imbecile.

He struggled for the theatric gesture and found himself shivering at
Rachel's side, his arm clinging about her shoulders. Lord, what a jest!
After the moment they had lived through, to stand round-eyed and
blubbering before the gingerbread vision of joys behind a lighted
window. The whine of a barrel-organ. The sentimental whimpering of a
street-corner _Miserere_. And he must weep because of it--he who had
stood with his head thrust through the sky. His thought, like an
indignant monitor, collapsed with scoldings. Let it come, then! With a
sigh he gave himself to tears, and they stood together weeping.

The little lighted room seemed an enchantment floating in the scurry of
the storm. It reached with warm fingers into their hearts, whispering a
broken barrel-organ lullaby to them. Life shone upon them out of the
lighted window and behind it the world of rocking-chairs and fireplaces,
wall pictures and table lamps, lay like a haven smiling a good-by to
them. Their hearts become tombs, closed slowly and forever upon a
vision.

"The world will be a black sky and the memory of you like a shining star
that I watch endlessly." He listened to his words. They brought a dim
gladness. His phrases had finally capitulated to his love. He could talk
now without the artifice of banality to hide behind. Talk, say the
unsayable, bring his love in misty word lines before his eyes; look and
forget a moment.

Rachel's voice at his side said, "I love you so. Oh, I love you so!"

Yes, he could talk now. His heart wagged a tongue. The pain in him had
found words. The mystic desires and torments--words, words.

"We'll remember, years later, and be grateful we didn't bury our love
behind lighted windows, but left it to wander forever and remain forever
alive. Rachel, my dear one."

"I love you so!" she wept.

More words ... "it would have been always the same. We've lived one
moment and in all of life there's nothing more than what we've had.
Lovers who grow old together live only in their yesterdays. And their
yesterdays are only a moment--till the time comes when their yesterdays
die. Then they become little, half-dead people, who wait in lighted
rooms, empty handed, fumbling greedily with trifles...."

"I love you!" She made a refrain for him. "I don't know the things you
do. I only love you."

"Rachel ..." He had no belief in what he was saying. The things he knew?
What? Nothing but pain and torment. Yet his heart went on wagging out
words: "All life is a parting--a continual and monotonous parting. And
most hideous of all, a parting with dead things. A saying good-by to
things that no longer exist. We part with living things, and so keep
them, somehow. Your face makes life for the moment familiar. Visions
bloom like sad flowers in my heart. Your body against mine brings a
torment even into my words. Oh, your weeping's the sound of my own
heart dying. Rachel, you are more wonderful than life. I love you! I
feel as if I must die when you go away. Crowds, streets, buildings--all
empty outlines. Empty before you came, emptier when you have gone."

He paused. His thought whispered: "I'll remember things I say. I mustn't
say too much. I'm sad. Oh, God, what a mess!"

They walked into the park. A sudden matter-of-factness came into Dorn's
mind. He had sung something from his heart. Yet he remembered with
astonishment it had been a wary song. He had not asked her to stay. Had
he asked her she would have remained. Curious, how he acquiesced in her
going. A sense of drama seemed to demand it. When he had received her
message the night in the office he had agreed at once. Why? Because he
was not in love? This too, a make-believe, more colored, more persuasive
than the others? Wrong. Something else. Anna. Anna was sending her away.
The figure of Anna loomed behind their ecstasies. It stood nodding its
head sorrowfully at a good-by in the snow.

They were deep in the park. Trees made still gestures about them. The
ivory silhouettes of trees haunted the distance. A spectral summer
painted itself upon the barren lilac bushes. Beneath, the lawn slopes
raised moon faces to the night. Deep in the storm the ghost of a bronze
fountain emerged and remained staring at the scene.

It was cold. The wind had died and the snow hung without motion, like a
cloud of ribbons in the air. The white park gleamed as if under the
swinging light of blue and silver lanterns. The night, lost in a dream
wandered away among strange sculptures. In the distance a curtain of
porphyry and bisque drew its shadow across the moon.

Rachel pointed suddenly with her finger.

"Look!" she whispered. She remained as if in terror, pointing.

Three figures were converging toward them--black figures out of the
distant snow. Figures of men, without faces, like three bundles of
clothes, they came toiling across the unbroken white of the park, an air
of intense destinations about them. Above the desolate field of white
the three figures seemed suddenly to loom into heroic sizes. They reared
to a height and zigzagged across a nowhere.

"See, see!" Rachel cried. She was still pointing. Her voice rang
brokenly. "They're coming for me, Erik. Erik, don't you see? People
wandering toward me. Horrible strangers. Oh, I know, I know!" She
laughed. "My grandmother was a gypsy and she's telling my fortune in the
snow. Things that will jump out of space and come at me, after you're
gone."

The three men, puffing with exertion, converged upon the walk and passed
on with a morose stare at the lovers. Dorn sighed, relieved. He had
caught a strange foreboding sense out of the tableau of the white field
and the three converging black figures.... If he loved her why was he
letting her go? If he loved her....

He walked on suddenly wearied, saddened, uncertain. It was no more than
a dream that had touched his senses, a breath of a dream that lingered
for a moment upon his mirror. It would pass, as all things pass. And he
would fall back into the pattern of streets and faces, watching as
before the emptiness of life make geometrical figures of itself. Yes, it
was better to have her go--simpler. Perhaps a desire would remain, a
breath, a moonlit memory of her loveliness to mumble over now and then,
like a line of poetry always unwritten. Let her go. Beautiful ...
wonderful.... These were words. Was he even sad? She was--what? Another
woman.

In the shadow of a snow-covered wall he paused. The snow had ended.

"Come closer," he whispered. She remained silent as he removed her
overcoat. He dropped it in the snow and threw his own beside it.

"We'll be warm for a minute against each other."

She was a flower in his arms. She seemed to vanish and become mist.
Slowly he became aware of her touch, of her arms holding him and her
lips. She was saying:

"I am yours--always--everywhere. I will be a shrine to you. And whenever
you want me I will come crawling on my knees to you."

Dying, dying! She was dying. Another moment and the mist of her would be
gone. "Rachel.... Rachel. I love you. I send you away. Oh, God, why do I
send you away?"

She was out of his arms. Undressed, naked, emptied, he stood unknown to
himself. No words. Her kiss alone lived on his lips. She was looking at
him with burning wild eyes. Expression seemed to have left her. There
was something else in her face.

"I must look at you. To remember, to remember!" she gasped. "Oh, to
remember you! I have never looked at you. I have never seen you. It's a
dream. Who is Erik Dorn? Who am I? Oh, let me look at you...."

The eyes of Rachel grew marvelously bright. Burned ... burned.

Dorn stared into an empty park. Gone! Her coat still in the snow. His
own beside it. He stood smiling, confused. His lips made an apology. He
walked off. Oh, yes, their coats together in the snow. A symbol. He
stumbled and a sudden terror engulfed him. "Her face," he mumbled, "like
a mirror of stars." He felt himself sicken. What had her eyes said? Eyes
that burned and devoured him and vanished. "Rachel," he wept, "forever!"
He wondered why he spoke.

The park, white, gleaming, desolate, gave him back her face. Out of the
empty night, her face. In the trees it drifted, haunting him. The print
of a face was upon the world. He went stumbling toward it in the snow.
He covered his eyes with his hands as he walked.

"Her face," he mumbled, "her face was beautiful...."



CHAPTER V


In a dining-room of the city known as the Blue Inn, Anna Dorn sat
waiting for her husband. Opposite her a laughing-eyed man was talking.
She listened without intelligence. He was part of old memories--crowded
rooms in which lights had been turned off. They had danced together in
their youth. She had worn his fraternity pin and walked with him one
night under a moon and kissed him, saying: "I will always love you. The
other boys are different. You are so nice and kind, Eddie." And Eddie
had gone away east to continue a complacent quest for erudition in a
university. Almost forgotten days and places when there had been no Erik
Dorn, and when one debated which pumps to wear to the dance. Erik had
blotted them out. A whimsical, moody young Mr. Dorn, laughing and
carousing about the city and singling her out one night at a party....
"We must get out of here or we'll choke to death. Come, we'll go down to
the lake and laugh at the stars. They're the only laughable things in
the world."

She looked sadly at the man whose kindly voice sought to rally her out
of a gloom. Before the laughing stars there had been another day--other
stars, another Anna. All part of another world. Eddie Meredith and
another world sat dimly apparent across the white linen of the table.
Anecdotes of old friends they had shared, forgotten names and incidents
reached through the shadows of her thought and stirred an alien memory.
He hadn't changed. Ten years--and he was still Eddie Meredith, with eyes
that looked for simple pleasures and seemed to find them. He had always
found something to laugh about. Not the way Erik laughed. Erik's laugh
was something that had never ceased to hurt. Strange that Eddie's voice
had never grown tired of laughing during the ten years.

The ache in her heart lightened and she listened with almost a
smile--the ghost of another Anna smiling. It was the other Anna who had
walked through youth with a joyous indifference to life, to everything
but youth. Buried now deep under years, Eddie warmed it back. Eddie sat
talking to the ghost that had been Anna Winthrop and that could not
answer him.

He was a poor talker. She was too used to Erik. Simple, threadbare
phrases, yet she had once thought him brilliant. Perhaps he was--a
different kind of brilliance. She noted how his words seemed stimulated
with an enthusiasm beyond their sense. Trifles assumed an importance.
For moments she felt herself looking at the joyousness of an old friend
and forgetting. Then as always through the day and night.... "Erik,
Erik," murmured itself in her mind ... "he doesn't love me. Erik, dear
Erik!" Over and over, weaving itself into all she said and saw.
Sometimes it started a panic in her. She would feel herself grow dark,
wild. Often it seemed to bring death. Things would become vague and she
would move through the hours unaware of them.

The joyousness of Eddie drifted away. She remained smiling
blankly at him. His words slipped past her ear. Inside, she was
wandering--disheveled thoughts were wandering through a darkness. At
night she lay beside him as he slept, with her eyes wide open and her
lips praying, "Dear Jesus, sweet brother Jesus, give Erik back to me!"
... Or she would crawl out of bed and walk into a deserted room to weep.
Here she could mumble his name till the anguish of her tears choked her.
As the cold streets grew gray she would hurry to bathe her face, even
rouging her cheeks, and return to their bed to wait for Erik to awake,
that she might caress him, warm something back in him with her kisses,
and perhaps hear him whisper her name as he used to do. But he drew
himself away, his eyes sometimes filling with tears. "It's nothing,
Anna, nothing. Please don't ask. I don't know what it is. My head or
something. I feel black inside...." And he would hurry to work, not
waiting for her to join him at breakfast.

Then there had been nights when he held her in his arms thinking she was
asleep, and she felt his tears dropping over her face--tears of
silence. She would lie trembling with a wild joy, yet not daring to open
her eyes or speak, knowing he would move away. These moments, feigning
sleep and listening to Erik weeping softly against her cheek, had been
her only happiness in the four black months since the change had come to
him. He still loved her. Yes.... Oh, God, it was something else. Perhaps
madness. She would drift to sleep as his weeping ceased, long after it
ceased, and half dreams would come to her of nursing him through
terrible darknesses, of warming him with her life, of magically driving
away the things that were tormenting him out of his mind--great black
things. Through the day she hungered for his return from work, that she
might look at him again, even though the sight of him, dark and aloof,
tore at her heart till she grew faint.

She had never thought of questioning him calmly. There had been no
suspicion of "someone else." That was a thing beyond even the wildest
disorder of her imaginings. It was only that Erik was restless, perhaps
tired of his home, of her too much loving and longing to go
somewhere--away. Her awe of his brain, of his strange, always
impenetrable character, adjusted itself to the change in him. There were
mysterious things in Erik--things she couldn't hope to understand. Now
these unknown things had grown too big in him. He was different from
other men, not to be questioned as one might question other men. So she
must wander about blindly, carefully, and drive things away.

She came out of her sorrow reveries and smiled. Eddie was still talking.
The music of a violin, harp, and piano was playing with a rollicking
wistfulness through the clatter and laughter of the café. Eddie was
saying, "There, that's better. That makes you look like Anna. You were
looking like somebody else."

His jolly eyes had a keenness. She must dissemble better. Erik would
come in a moment and Eddie must never think....

"I've heard about your husband, the lucky dog!" Eddie beamed at her
impudently. "Think," he exploded, "of meeting you accidentally after ten
years. Wow! Ten years! They say themselves quickly, don't they? By the
way, there's a curious fellow coming to meet me here. I'll drag him in.
If your Erik don't like it I'll sit on him till he does. His name's
Tesla--Emil Tesla. Bomb-thrower or something. I don't know exactly. He's
helped me with my collection. Oh, I forgot. You don't know about that. I
keep thinking that you know me. You see nothing has changed in me. I'm
still the same Eddie--richer, balder, foolisher, perhaps. It seems you
ought to know all about the ten years without being told. But I'll tell
you. I'm an art collector on the sly. Pictures--horrible things that
don't look like anything. I don't know why I collect them, honestly.
Pictures mean nothing to me. Never did. Particularly the kind I pick
up. But it's a habit that keeps me cheerful. Better than collecting
stamps. Cubist, futurist, expressionist. Ever see the damn things? I
gobble them up. I guess because they're cheap. Here he is--the young
fellow with the soft face."

Meredith rose and jubilantly waved a napkin. A stocky man in loose
clothes nodded at him and approached.

"Not Mrs. Erik Dorn," he repeated. Anna nodded. The sound of her
husband's name on others' lips always elated her, even now. She lost for
a moment the aversion she felt at the touch of Tesla's hand. It seemed
boneless.... They would all eat together. Anna was an old school friend.
Years ago, ah! many years.

Tesla fastened a repugnantly appreciative eye upon her, as if he were
becoming privy to an exclusive secret. She frowned inwardly. An ugly man
with something bubbly about him.

"I was telling Mrs. Dorn you were a bomb-thrower or something," Meredith
announced. His good spirits frisked about the table like a troupe of
frolicsome puppies.

"Only an apprentice," Tesla's soft voice--a voice like his
hands--answered. "But why talk of such things in the presence of a
beautiful lady." He bowed his head at her. She thought, "An unbearable
man, completely out of place. How in the world could Eddie...."

The music had changed. Muted cornets, banjos and saxophones were
wailing out a tom-tom adagio. People were rising from tables and moving
toward a dancing space. Eddie stood beside her bowing with elaborate
stiffness.

"My next dance, Miss Winthrop."

Anna looked up blankly.

"Good Lord, have you forgotten your own name? Come on. You know Dorn,
don't you, Emil? Well, throw a fork at him when he shows up. Come, we
haven't danced together for ten years. The last time was...."

"The last time was the senior prom," Anna interrupted quickly. "You see
I haven't forgotten." She stood mechanically.

As they walked between tables and diners, he said, "I sure feel like a
boy again seeing you."

"I'm afraid I've almost forgotten how to dance, Eddie. My husband
doesn't dance much."

"Here we are! Like old days, eh? Remember Jimmie Goodland, my deadly
rival for your hand?"

They were dancing.

"Well, he's married. Three kids."

"And how many children have you, Eddie?"

"Me?" He laughed. "Have I forgotten to tell you that? Well, I'm still at
large, untrammeled, free. There've been women, but not _the_ woman."

His voice put on a pleasing facetiousness.

"Mustn't mind an old friend getting sentimental. But after you they had
to measure up to something--and didn't."

Since the night Erik had singled her out at the party no man had spoken
to her that way. She listened slightly amazed. It confused her. His
eyes, as they danced, were jolly and polite. But they watched her too
keenly. Erik might misunderstand. Her love somehow resented being looked
at and spoken to like that. She hurried back to their first topic.

"What became of Millie Pugh, Eddie?"

"Married. A Spaniard or something. Two kids and an automobile. Saw them
in Brazil somewhere."

"And Arthur Stearns?"

"Fatter than an alderman. Runs a gas works or something in Detroit.
Married. One kid."

Anna laughed. "You sound like an almanac of dooms."

"Well, all married but me--little Eddie, the boy bachelor, faithful unto
death to the memories of his childhood. Do you remember the night we ran
Mazurine's out of ice-cream?"

This was another world, another Anna. She closed her eyes dreamily to
the movement of the dance and music--delicious drugs.

"Faster," she whispered.

They broke into quicker steps. "Erik.... Erik.... my own. Love me again.
Come back to me...." Still in her thought, but fainter, deeper down.
Not words but a sigh that moved to the rhythm of the music.

"And how may children have you?"

She answered without emotion, as if she were talking with a distant part
of herself. "There was a little boy. He died as a baby. We haven't any."

Deep, kindly eyes looking at her as they danced. "I'm so sorry, Anna."

She whispered again, "Faster!" A shadow over his face. She must be
careful of his eyes--eyes that laughed, but keen, almost as keen as
Erik's. "My Erik ... my own...." It was all a dream, a nightmare of her
own inventing. Nothing had happened. Imaginings. Erik loved her. Why
else should he weep and kiss her when he thought her asleep? He loved
her, he loved her!

Her face grew bright. Faster. Always to dance and dream of Erik. She
must tell Eddie....

"Erik is wonderful. I'm dying to have you meet him. Oh, Eddie, he's
wonderful!"

Now she could laugh and enjoy herself. Something had emptied out of her
breasts--cold iron, warm lead. She was lighter, easy to bend and glide
to the music. Everything was easy. Her face lighted by something deeper
than a smile, she danced in silence. Eddie was far away--ten years away.
His eyes that were smiling at her were no eyes at all. They were part of
the music and movement that caressed her with the sweetness of life, of
being loved by Erik....

Tesla watched his friend lead the red-haired lady away to dance. For a
while there lingered about him the air of unctious submission that had
revolted Anna. Then it vanished. His face as he sat alone seemed to
tighten. The flabbiness of his eyes became something else. Diners at
other tables caught glimpses of him while they ate. A commanding figure,
rugged, youthful-faced. Features that made definite lines, compelling
lines, in the blur of other features. A man of certainties, yet with
something weak about him. His eyes were like a child's. They did not
quite belong in his face. There, eyes should have gleamed, stared with
intensities. Instead, eyes purred--abstract, tender eyes; the kind that
attracted women sometimes because they were almost like a women's eyes
dreaming of lovers.

"Hello, Tesla!"

Again the fawning lights, smiles, bowings. This was Dorn--a Somebody.
Somebodies always changed Tesla. There was a thing in him that smirked
before Somebodies, as if he were a timorous puppy wagging its tail and
leaping about on flabby legs.

"Mrs. Dorn is sitting here with a friend. They're dancing. We're all at
this table, Mr. Dorn."

Dorn caught the eager innuendo of his voice. He knew Tesla vaguely as a
radical, an author of pamphlets. Tesla continued to talk, a sycophantic
purr in his words.... The war was financed by international bankers.
Didn't he think so? America was being drawn in by Wall Street--to make
the loans to the Allies stand up. But something was going to happen. The
eyes of the workers were opening slowly all over the world. In Russia
already a beginning of realities. Ah, think of the millions dying for
nothing, advancing or improving nothing by their death. Soldiers,
heroes, workingmen, all blind acrobats in another man's circus. But
something was happening. Revolution. This grewsome horseplay in Europe's
front yard would start it. And then--watch out!

The voice of Emil Tesla, eager, fawning, had yet another quality in it.
It promised, as if it could not do justice to the things it was saying
and must be careful, soft, polite. Dorn felt the man and his power. Not
a puppy on flabby legs but a brute mastiff with a wild bay that must
come out in little whines, because the music was playing, because he was
talking to Somebody. A man physically beaten by life, his body scraping,
bowing; his words mumbling confusedly in the presence of other words.
Yet a powerful man with a tremendous urge that might some day hurl him
against the stars. He had something....

To Tesla's sentences Dorn dropped a yes or no. Tesla needed no replies.
He purred on eagerly before his listener, seeming to whine for his
appreciation and good will, yet unconscious of him. A waiter brought
wine. Dorn stared at the topaz tint in his glass. His eyes had changed.
They no longer smiled. A heaviness gleamed from them. The thing in his
heart would not go. Heavy hands turning him over and over, as if life
were tearing him, crowds and streets pulling at him. There had been no
rest since Rachel had gone.

He sat almost oblivious of Tesla. In the back of his brain the city
tumbled--an elephantine grimace, a wilderness of angles, a swarm of
gestures that beat at his thought. But before his eyes there were no
longer the precise patterns of another day. He was no longer outside. He
had been sucked into something, the something that he had been used to
refer to condescendingly as life. People sitting in a room like this had
been furniture that amused him. Now they were alive, repulsive, with a
meaning to them that sickened him. Streets had once been stone and
gesture. Now they, too, were meanings that sickened. A sanity in which
he alone was insane, surrounded him; a completion in which he alone
seemed incomplete. Men and women together--tired faces, lighted
faces--all with destinations that satisfied them. And he wandering,
knocked from place to place by heavy hands, pushed through crowds,
dropped into chairs. Time itself a torment into which he kept thrusting
himself deeper.

The change in Erik Dorn had come to him with a cynicism of its own. It
laughed with its own laughter. A mind foreign to him spoke to him
through the day.... "You would smile at life, Erik; well, here it is.
Easy for a sleeper to smile. But smile now. Life is a surface, eh?
shifting about into designs for the delectation of your eyes. Watch it
shifting then. Darkness and emptiness in a can-can. Watch the tumbling
streets that have no meanings. No meanings? Yet there's a torment in
them that can hoist you up by your placid little heels and swing you
round ... round, and send you flying. A witch's flight with the scream
of stars whistling through it. Flight that has no ending and no
direction ... no face of Rachel at its ending. Burning eyes, devouring
eyes ... face like a mirror of stars. There's a face in the world and
you go after it, heels in air, tongue frozen, breathing always an
emptiness that chokes. Easy for sleepers to dawdle with words and say
carelessly life is this, life is that. What the hell's the difference
what life is? It means nothing to me. People and their posturings mean
nothing. But what about now? A contact, a tying up with posturings, and
the streets and crowds tearing you into gestures not your own...."

Aloud he would say, "My love for her has given me a soul and I've become
a fool along with other fools."

He did not think of Rachel in words. There were moments of dream when he
made plans--a fantastic amorous rigmarole of Rachel and himself walking
together over the heads of the world; child dreams that substituted
themselves for the realities he demanded. But these were infrequent. He
was learning to avoid them as one avoids a drug that soothes and then
doubles the hunger of the nerves.

As now in the café, listening to Tesla, watching with dark eyes the
scene, there was a turning of heavy hands in him to which he must not
give thought. Watch the café, listen to Tesla, talk, eat and spit out a
disgust for the things of which he was a part--things from which he
demanded Rachel and a surcease to the pain in him. And that only stifled
with the emptiness of her.

Out of the wretchedness of garbled emotions that had become the whole of
Erik Dorn, his vocabulary arose with a facile paint brush and painted
upon his thought. His phrases wandered about looking for subjects as if
he must taunt himself with details that forever brought him loathing.

Before he had seen pictures complete, rhythmic pictures of streets and
crowds, pleasantly blurred and in motion. Now he saw them as if life was
in a state of continual pause--an arrested cinematograph; grotesquely
detailed and with the meaning of motion out of it. A picture waiting
something to set it moving. This something he could not give it.
Helplessly his words continued to trace themselves over the outlines of
scenes about him, as if trying to stir them into a life.

This scene consciousness had become almost a mania in the four months.
But in the mechanical, phraseological movement of his thought he was
able to hide himself. Thus he listened to Tesla and looked at the café.
The inn was filled with people--elaborately dressed women and shiningly
groomed men--grouped about white-linened, silver-laden tables; an
ornamental grimacing little multitude come to the café as to some grave
rite, moving to the tables with an unctious nonchalance. Women dressed
in effulgent silks, their flesh gleaming among the spaces of exotic
plumage, gleaming through the flares of luxurious satin distortions. A
company that gestured, grimaced with the charm of lustful marionettes.
Flesh reduced to secrecy. Lust, dream in hiding. From the secret world
they inhabited, moist bodies beckoned with a luscious, perverse denial
of artifice.

The picture of it shot into his eyes, arousing a hate in his thought. He
heard Tesla ... "life has changed with the industrialization of society.
It is no longer a question of who shall run the court. The court is an
atrophied institution, a circus surviving in the backyard of history.
It's a question of who shall run the factory. Democracy is a thing that
touches only politicians. The factory touches people. Democracy cleared
the way but it's not a way in itself. It's still the court idea of
government. Steam, gas, and electricity made the French revolution
obsolete even before it was ended. This war ... good God, Dorn, blood
pouring over toys we've outgrown!..."

Still fawning voiced, but with a bay underneath. Dorn listened and
remained elsewhere--among a turning of heavy hands. Yet he thought of
Tesla, "He makes an impression on me. I'll remember his words. A man of
power, rooted in visions." He replied suddenly, "I'm convinced the weak
will rule some day, if that's what you're driving at. The race can
survive only as long as its weakest survive. Christianity started it.
Socialism will carry it a step further. The fight against the
individual. What else is any institutionalism? A struggle to circumvent
the biological destiny of man, which is the same as the biological
destiny of fish--extinction. That's what we're primarily engaged in. The
race must protect its weak, so it invents laws to curb the instincts and
power of its strong. And we obey the laws--a matter of adjusting
ourselves ludicrously to our weaknesses and endowing these adjustments
with high names. Bolshevism will be the law of to-morrow and wear even a
higher name than Christianity. Yesterday it was, 'only the poor shall
inherit heaven, only crippled brains and weaker visions shall see God.'
To-morrow the slogan will have been brought down to earth. Yes, they'll
run the factories--your masses. There's the strength in them of
logic--a logic opposed to evolution. They'll run the factories as they
now run heaven--an Institution nicely accommodated to their fears and
weaknesses."

Dorn paused. He was not thinking. People said things. An automatic box
of phrases in him released answers. Tesla was replying, not so
fawningly, the bay beneath his soft words mastering his sycophantic
tones. Let him talk. He had something to talk about. He saw something.
There was a new tableau in Tesla's brain. Let him keep murmuring things
about it--suavely, unctuously letting off steam.

Like a man returning drearily to his game of solitaire, Dorn fastened
his eyes again upon the scene. Looking at things would keep him from
thinking. To think was to cry out. He had learned this. His eyes, dark
and heavy, fastened themselves upon the walls of the inn lost in
shadows, painted with nymphs and satyrs sprawling over tapestried
landscapes. He devoured their details, his heart searching in them for
the mystery of Rachel and finding only a deeper emptiness--insistently
naked bodies of nymphs lying like newly bathed housemaids amid stiff
park sceneries. Miracles of photographic lechery. Would people about him
look like that naked? Thank God they were dressed! An ankle in silk was
better than a thigh in sunlight. An old saw ... beauty lay in the
imagination. Women removed their beauty with their clothes. The nymphs
on the wall reminded one chiefly that they were careful to scrub their
legs all the way up.

He sighed and watched the eyes of diners look at the walls. Her face--a
mirror of stars. What else was there but her face? Other faces, of
course. A revulsion of other strange faces. Men studying the naked
figures on the walls with profound but aloof interest, eyeing the women
near them shrewdly as they turned away. Women with serious,
unconcentrated eyes upon the paintings, turning tenderly towards their
escorts. He would die of looking at faces that were not hers. A
love-sick schoolboy. God, what an ass! Tesla was becoming an
insufferable bore. What in God's name did he have to do with masses
raising their skinny arms from a smoking field and crying aloud,
"Bread!" Tesla had a lot to do with it. The skinny arms, the smoking
field, and the balloon with the word "bread" in it were Tesla's soul.
But his soul was different--heavy hands turning.

Dorn drank wine from his glass. Anna, dancing with a plump, laughing
stranger, flitted through the distance. A deeper turning over of iron in
his heart at the glimpse of her. The scene no longer could divert him.
The thought of Anna dropped like a curtain upon a picture. What could he
do? What? At night he grew sick lying beside her. It wasn't conscience.
There was nothing wrong about loving someone else. But there was an
uncanniness about it. Lying beside a woman who didn't know what was in
his mind. He would lie thinking, "Oh, Rachel, I love Rachel," repeating
almost idiotic love words for Rachel in his mind. And Anna would smile
patiently at him, unaware. That was the most intolerable thing. The fact
she didn't know. And also the fact that he must remain inarticulate. He
must sit with his heart choking him and his head in a blaze, and keep
stuffing words back down his throat. Through the day he tormented
himself with the thought, "I must tell her. I can't keep this thing up
any longer." But when he saw her it was impossible to tell her. A single
phrase would end it. He held the phrase on his lips--as if it were a
knife balanced over Anna's heart. "I love Rachel." That would end it.
But it was impossible. He couldn't say it. Why? He sat, trying to get a
glimpse of her dancing again and tried to avoid answering himself. It
was something he mustn't answer. He must get away from his damned
thought. His eyes fastened themselves upon the fountain in the center of
the room. It was Anna that tormented him, not Rachel. Anna ... Anna....
The tension broke. He was looking at the fountain surmounted by a marble
nude crouched in a posture of surprise; probably disturbed by her
nudity. It was necessary for nudity to be disturbed by itself. Did
virgins eyeing themselves in mirrors blush with shame? Unquestionably.
The nude peered into the water of a large tiled basin. A gush of water
over her managed to veil her unsuccessfully in an endless spray. Water
filled the air with an odorless spice.

" ... the first blow will come out of Russia, Dorn. The Russians have
not been side-tracked into the phantasms of democracy. They still think
straight. Civilization hasn't crippled them with phrases. They are still
what you would call biological. And dreams live in them. Yes, I know
what you'll say ... heavy dreams. But here in America there are no
dreams--yet. Nothing but paper. Paper thoughts. Paper morals. Everything
paper. Russia will send out fire to burn up this paper. Destroy it.
Leave nothing behind--not even ashes."

True enough. Why answer it? But what difference did it make if paper
burned? Was man after all a creature consecrated to institutions, doomed
to expend himself upon institutions? A hundred million nervous systems,
each capable of ecstasies and torments, devoting themselves to the
business of political brick-laying. Always yowling about new bricks.
Politics--a deformity of the imagination; a game of tiddledy-winks
played with guns and souls.

He breathed with relief. Abstractions were a drug. But his thinking
ended. Blue electric lights cast an amorous glow--an artificial
moonlight--upon tables surrounding the fountain. Beneath the cobalt
water of the basin, colored fish gliding like a weaving procession of
little fat Mandarins. The remainder of the room also blue from shaded
lights. That was why they dubbed it the Blue Inn. Blue lights made the
Blue Inn. The air was heavy with the uncoiling lavender tinsel of
tobacco smoke. A luxurious suppression as about some priapic altar ...
artificial shadows, painted lights, forlorn fountain ripplings.

"Oh, Erik, I've been dancing. This is Mr. Meredith. I once told you
about him. The music is simply wonderful here."

Tesla, flabby-eyed and almost maliciously polite, as if he would expose
the innate absurdity of politeness, tipped over a water glass in his
floppings. Anna, still alive with the joyousness that had come to her,
seated herself beside her husband. Her hand rested eagerly on his arm.
He must love her ... must. Must. It had been only a nightmare she'd
invented. Oh, God, did anything matter as long as they loved each other?

"Tired, dearest?"

He looked at her and tried to lighten his eyes.

"Yes, a little. The damned war."

"I'm so sorry."

She mustn't ask him to dance. He was tired. She would coddle him. He was
only a baby--tired, sleepy, sad. She must ask no questions. Only love.
Before her love the darkness of his face would clear away as before
sunshine.

"I'm so happy, Erik darling!"

Her fingers quivered on his arm. He looked at her and smiled out of
misty eyes. Of all the unbearable things in an unbearable world her
happiness was the most unbearable. She nodded, as if she understood. Her
pretense of understanding was a ghastly business. But Anna smiled. Poor
Erik, he was only a boy. If only they were alone! If Eddie and Tesla and
the whole world would go away and leave her with him, to kiss his eyes
and stroke his hair. Sleep, baby, sleep.... What a crazy, wild thing,
thinking that Erik no longer loved her. No longer loved her! Dear God,
she was only a part of him. He must love her.... Must!

The talk kept on--words bubbling from Tesla, Eddie frisking with
laughter.

"You must dance with me, Erik. It's been so long since we danced."
There--she shouldn't have asked. She didn't mean to. Her eyes
apologized. When he answered, "No, I'm tired," there was wine from a
glass that warmed the little coldness his words dropped into her.

Listening to her, answering with words he tried to soften and make
alive, Dorn tried to occupy himself with the details of the scene again.
Could he keep on living as two persons--one of them turning over and
over in a fire that consumed him--and the other making phrases,
gestures, as if there were no fire consuming him? If he kept his eyes
working, perhaps. He hated Anna. But that was because he couldn't bear
the thought of her suffering. He hated her because he must be kind to
her.

Meredith was ordering the dinner. Dorn stared out over the room.

Anna was watching him with her senses. Why didn't he speak to her as
Eddie did? Perhaps he was going mad. His eyes suffered. He looked at
things and seemed to hurt himself with looking. She kept her voice
vibrant with a hope of joyousness. "I mustn't give in to the nightmare.
It's only imagining...."

"Erik, dearest, do eat something. Let me order for you."

Talk, talk! Dorn listened. Anna was saying, "Eddie thinks as you do
about the war, Erik. Isn't that odd?" Yes, that anybody should be able
to think as he did. He was a God. A super-God. If only she hated him. A
moment of hate in her eyes would be heaven.

"A plain case of accepting an evil and making the best of it," laughed
Meredith. "If we go in all I ask is for God's sake let's keep our eyes
open and not slobber around."

Soft remonstrances from Tesla with polite references to Wall Street.
Food on platters. An air of slight excitement with Anna directing the
talk and serving. What made her so vivacious? The sight of an old
friend, Meredith? Meredith ... oh, yes, school days, long ago. A wild
hope unfolded itself in Dorn. He looked at the man anew. Fantastic
notion. But throw them together, day and night. Cafés, dancing, music,
propinquity. He was her type--kindly, unselfish, prosperously elate
over life. He'd help her on with her wraps and be polite over doorways.
Perhaps. He turned to his wife and laughed softly. A way out. Give her
to the man. Give her away. End her love for him--her damned, torturing
love that made him turn over inside and weep at night when she was
asleep; that hounded him like an unclean memory. It was only her love
that made him unclean. He looked at her with his eyes lighted.

"Dancing makes a difference, doesn't it, dear? I'd dance myself, only my
legs are tired."

He smiled as he spoke with the unctuousness of a villain administering
poison in a bouquet of roses. But a way to get rid of her love. He
didn't mind her, but the thing in her. That was the whole of it. Why
hide from it? God, if he could only kill it he'd be free. Otherwise he'd
never be free. Even if he went away there'd be the thought of her
love.... Anna's face bloomed with joy at his words.

"We'll come here another night when you're not tired, honey."

"Yes," he answered, "make a party of it. How about that, Mr. Meredith?"

"Surest thing."

They forgot Tesla.

"Oh, Erik!" She embraced his arm with both her hands. Under the table
she pressed her thigh trembling against him.

The music from the platform had changed. Cornets, banjos, saxophones,
again. The boom and jerk of voices arose as if in greeting. Foreheads
of diners glistening with a fine sweat. Sweat on the backs of women's
necks, on their chins, under their raised arms; gleaming on the cool
intervals of breasts, white and bulbous breasts peeping out of a secret
world.

"If I may, Anna...."

Eddie was taking her away. The plot was working. Dorn's heart warmed
toward the man. A rescuer, a savior. He nodded his head at his wife. He
must make it look as if he were sorry it wasn't he going to dance with
her; smile with proper wistfulness; shake his head sadly.

Anna, suddenly beside herself, laughed, and, leaning over touched his
hair quickly with her lips. Damned idiot, he'd overdone it! No. Perhaps
she was guilty. Apologizing for impulses away from him toward Meredith?
He sat hoping feverishly, caressing a diagnosis as if he could establish
it by repeating it over and over.

Tesla again, this time on art. Art of the proletaire. Damn the
proletaire and Tesla both! He had a plot working out. Would their hands
touch, linger, sigh against each other? Of course. They were human--at
least their hands were. And then, dances every night. What a miserable
banal plot! Another day-dream. Forget. Beyond Tesla's soft voice ... an
opening and shutting of mouths swollen in delicious discomforts. Look at
them. Identify mouths. Tell himself the angles they made. People ...
people ... a wriggling of bodies in a growing satiety of tepid lusts.

"True art, Dorn, is something beyond decoration. Dreams made real. But
the right kind of dreams--things that touch people. The other art was
for sick men. That is--men sickened of life. The new art will be for
healthy men, men reaching out of everything about them. And we must give
them bread, soup, and art."

Yes, that might as well be true as anything else. Anything was truth.
Anything and everything. Here he was in a scene that had no relation to
him. Yet he wasn't detached.

"Speaking of art, Dorn, we've found a new artist, a wonder. She's going
to do some things for _The Cry_. I got her interested. I must tell
Meredith about her. Maybe you know her--Rachel Laskin. One of her things
is coming out in the next issue. I'll send you a copy."

Coolly, amazedly, Dorn thought, "What preposterous thing makes it
possible for this man to talk of Rachel as if she were a reality ...
like the people in the café? To him she's like the people in the café.
He knows her like the people in the café."

He answered carelessly, "Oh, yes; Miss Laskin. I remember her well. That
reminds me: you don't happen to have her address? I've got some things
she left at the office we can't use."

Tesla dug an address out of a soiled stack of papers. His pockets seemed
alive with soiled papers. Rachel's address was a piece of soiled paper
like any other piece of soiled paper. Mumbling silently, Dorn sighed.
Just in time. Anna again, and Meredith. He looked at them, recalling his
plot. Were they in love? Tesla--the blundering idiot--"I was telling
Dorn of a new artist I've found, Eddie. Rachel Laskin, a sort of Blake
and Beardsley and something else. Thin lines, screechy things. You'll
like them."

"Oh, yes, I always like them," Meredith smiled.

And Anna, "Oh, I know Rachel Laskin well. We're old friends. She's a
charming, wonderful girl. I liked her so much. Where is she?"

"In New York."

"I'll have to look at her work," Meredith added. "That's me. Always
looking at other people's work and saying, fine, great, and never
knowing a thing about it. Ye true art collector, eh, Emil?"

Anna went on, "Erik was amused with her. She is rather odd, you know,
and sort of wearing on the nerves. But you can't help liking her."

An amazing description of a face of stars. Dorn smiled.

Tesla said, "I only saw her once. A nervous girl, and she seemed upset."

More from Anna: "I hope she'll come back to Chicago. She was such fun. I
really miss her...."

All mad. Babbling of Rachel. Dorn stared cautiously about him. The
torment in him became a secret swollen beyond its proper dimensions.
They would look at him now and understand that he was not Erik Dorn, but
somebody else huddled up, burning and flopping around inside. Love was a
virulent form of idiocy. It meant nothing to people outside. Everything
inside. Anna talking about Rachel started a panic in him. She was
playing with memories of Rachel. Do you remember this? and that? As if
he, of course, had forgotten her. Yes, there was an "of course" about
it. A gruesome "of course." Gruesome--an excellent word. It meant Anna
petting and laughing over a knife that was to plunge itself into her
heart. When? Soon ... soon. He had an address copied from a soiled piece
of paper.

They bundled out of the café. Waiters, wraps. Eddie helped with the
wraps. Alien streets, dark waiting buildings, lights, and then
good-nights. The moments whirled mysteriously away. What did the moments
matter? He was going to Rachel. Ah! When had he decided that? He didn't
remember reaching any decision in the matter.

They entered a cab alone. The cab rolled away over snow-packed streets.
But he couldn't leave Anna. Yes he could. Why not? No. Impossible. A
faint thought like a storm packed into a nutshell.... "I will."

"You were wonderful to-night, Erik. When I see you with other men I just
thank God for you."

That was the intolerable thing--his wonderfulness, his damned
wonderfulness. It existed in her. He couldn't leave it behind.

Her hand lay warm in his.

"Kiss me, dearest!"

He kissed her and laughed. He was happy, then? Oh, yes, he was going to
Rachel. Simple. Four months of misery, making a weeping idiot out of
himself. And now, a decision had been reached. His head on her shoulder,
she wanted it so, she was whispering caresses to him. This was Anna. But
it would soon be Rachel. What difference did such things make? One
woman, another woman....

"You're like Jimmie was."

Happy tears filled her eyes, to be noted and remembered now that he was
going to Rachel. Jimmie was a baby who had died--his baby. Offspring was
a more humorous word. To be noted and remembered. What a dream!

"I'm so happy, Erik. Everything seems wonderful again when you smile and
laugh like this. Your cheeks make such a nice little curve and your head
on my shoulder, where it belongs ... for always and ever...."

Let her sing. He could stand it. What did it matter? But would she die
when he left. He would have to say something outright. God, what a thing
to say outright. Kill not only her but the wonderful selves of him that
lived in her. That didn't mean anything. Anyway, it was rather silly to
waste time thinking.... To-night, after the ride ... going to Rachel.
He had her address. He would walk up, ring the bell. She would answer
and her face would look in surprise at him.

"My Erik, my own sweet little one!"

Dreaming of Jimmie, of him and Jimmie together.... "I don't ever want to
move. I want us to keep on riding like this forever and ever...."

Quite exquisite tragedy. A bit crude. But reality was always rather
crude. Crude or not, what was more exquisite than happiness laughing
with an unseen knife moving toward its heart? At least he was an
appreciative audience. With his head on her shoulder. Why not? Life
demanded that one be an audience sometimes ... sit back and listen to
the fates whispering. What a ride! Dark waiting houses moving by. Seven
years together, growing closer and more subtly together--yet not
together at all. Anyway, he was sick of living that way. Even without
Rachel ... a mess. Night lies. Passion lies. A dirty business. No, not
that. She was beautiful. Anna, not Rachel. He was the unclean one.

"Are you happy, beloved?"

"Yes."

Lord, what an answer to give her. A prayer! Insufferably exquisite gods
of drama--she was praying. Tears rushing from her eyes.

"Sweet Jesus ... sweet brother Jesus ... thanks for everything. Oh, I've
been so unfaithful. Not to believe. Thanks for my wonderful Erik."

He must kill her, swiftly, before she could know that prayers were vain.
Easier to kill her body than to listen to this. How, though? With his
hands about her throat. Murder was an old business. It would be mercy to
her. But he was too much a coward. A cowardly audience listening to
words ... far away from him.

"Beloved ... darling. Oh, it's so good to have you back again."

"Don't talk." He put his arm tightly around her, his fingers fumbling at
her bare neck. But that was only a pretense, a bit of insipid
melodrama--his fingers. He was an actor frightened by his part.

The taxi driver was demanding $4.50--an outrage.

"That's too much, Erik."

But he paid. Should he tell him to wait? He would need him in a few
minutes. No, too cold-blooded to tell him to wait. And anyway, Anna was
listening. He was still an audience. He would jump on the stage and
begin acting later. Soon.

"Keep the change."

"Thanks, sir."

An insane world ... a polite and jovial taxi-cab driver carrying
lunatics about the streets.

"Oh, dear, look! Father's sitting up." She was disappointed. "And I
wanted to kiss and hug you before we went upstairs."

Dorn unlocked the door of his house. He still had a house and could
unlock its door without its meaning anything. To-morrow he would have no
house. That was the difference between to-day and to-morrow. The old man
would be there. That would make it easier. He shivered. "I'm going to do
something then".... This was alarming.

Anna's arms were around him before he could remove his coat. She clung,
laughing, kissing. Let her.... "The doomed man ate a hearty breakfast of
ham and eggs and seemed in good spirits." Reporters, with a sense of the
dramatic, usually wrote it that way. Ham and eggs were a symbol. Should
he mull around for extenuating epigrams--a fervid rigmarole on the
mysteries and ethics of life? Or strike swift, short?... "Death was
instantaneous. The drop fell at 10:08 A.M. sharp." Always sharp. Damn
his reporters!

"Anna ..."

She bloomed at the sound of her name.

"I want to talk, Anna."

"No, let's not talk. I'm so happy.... Aren't you up rather late,
father?"

Thank God she was getting nervous. One can't kill a smile.

"Anna, come to me."

An old phrase of their love-making. He hadn't meant to use it. But
phrases that have been used for seven years get so they say themselves.
She moved quickly toward him. His father--smiling beyond her shoulder.
Now for the slaughter....

"Do you love me enough to make me happy, Anna?"

"I would give my life for you."

He was deplorably calm--too calm. His eyes were looking at books on
shelves, at chairs, at pictures on the walls, as if everything was of an
identical importance.

"I know, but that isn't it."

"What then, Erik?"

He couldn't say it. Particularly with his father smiling--an irritating
old man who would never die. Should he fall at her feet and whimper? He
couldn't. Her face was his, her eyes his. It wasn't leaving Anna.
Himself, though. Yes, he was confronting himself. Seven years of selves.
All wonderful. Everything he had said and done for seven years lived in
Anna. So he must kill seven years of himself with a phrase. No. Yet he
was talking on. It soothed him, untightened the agony in him.

"Listen, Anna. I can't tell you, but I must. My words circle away from
me. They run away from what I want to tell you. Anna ... I must go
away--leave you."

Tears in his eyes, over his face. His voice, warm, blurring with tears.
He choked, paused.

"Erik...."

A white sound. Something bursting.

"If I stay, I'll go mad."

"No ... no ... Erik ..."

Still white sounds, only whiter. Blank sounds, caused by speechlessness.
Sounds of speechlessness.

"I may come back, if you'll take me back sometime...."

A man was always an imbecile. Imbecility is a trademark. But there were
no sounds now. His eyes tried to turn away from her. A face had ceased
to live and give forth sounds. He remained looking at it. A cold,
emptied face, like a picture frame with a picture recently torn out of
it.

"Anna, for God's sake, hate me. Hate me. Loathe me the rest of
your life. I've lied and lied to you--nothing but lies.... No,
that's not true. But now it is. Think of me as vile when I go
away.... Otherwise..."

Tears blubbered out of him.

... "otherwise I'll die thinking of you. Don't look at me that way. Yell
at me.... You've known it. I can't help it.... It's something. I can't
help it."

Behind this voice he thought: "It's not me alone. Nights of love ...
kisses ... Jimmie ... seven years.... Little things. Oh, God, little
things. We're all leaving her--pulling ourselves out of her."

"Where are you going, my son?"

Could he lie now? Yes, anything that made it easier.

"Nowhere. Anywhere. I must go. Otherwise I'll choke to death. Take care
of her. There's money. All hers. I'll write later about it. Anna ...
don't please."

The thing was a botch. Wrong, all wrong. But that didn't matter. His
coat and hat mattered more than phrases. Looking for a coat and hat when
he should be winding up the scene properly. These were preposterous
banalities that distinguished life, unedited, from melodrama. Where was
his hat? His hat ... hat ... Life, Fate, Tragedy had mislaid his
insufferable hat. Ah ... on the floor.

She was standing staring at him. Would she die on her feet? Quick,
before the shriek. It was coming ... a madness that would frighten him
forever if he heard it. What a scoundrel he was! Why deny it? But in a
few years he would be dead and no longer a scoundrel, and all this so
much forgotten dust.

"Write to us, my son. And come back soon."

He closed the door softly behind him and started to walk. But his legs
ran. It had been easy ... easy. He stumbled, sprawled upon the iced
pavement, bruising his face. He picked himself up unaware that he had
stopped running. Night, houses, streets, what matter? In a few
years--dust. But he had left in time. That was the important thing.
Another minute and he would have heard her. A terrible unheard sound.
He had left it behind. He had left her unfinished. Why was he running?
Oh, yes--Anna.

He paused and held his eyes from staring back at his house. His eyes
would pull him back to the door. Little things--oh, the little things
made hurts. He must turn a corner. Light does not travel around corners.

Gone. The house was gone with all its little things. One jerk and he had
ripped away....

He walked slowly. A coldness suddenly fell into him. Rachel. He had
forgotten about Rachel. Never a thought for Rachel. Disloyal. Where
was she--the mirror of stars? Nowhere. He didn't love her. Was he
insane? He loved Anna, not Rachel. He must go back. The thing was
lopsided--pretense. He'd been pretending he was in love with Rachel.
Love ... schoolboy business. Mirror of stars! Something scribbled on a
valentine. That was love. Rachel. No.... There was another face. Cold,
emptied--a circle of deaths. Anna's face. But he must remember Rachel
because he was going to Rachel--remember something about her. Say her
name over and over. But that wasn't Rachel. That was a word like ...
like pocketbook. Something about her....

Ah! yes. Her coat lying in the snow. He sighed with a determined effort
at sadness ... her little coat in the snow!



PART III

WINGS



CHAPTER I


"Boom, boom," said the city of New York, "we have gone to war!"

And all the other cities, big and little, said a boom-boom of their own.
A mighty nation had gone to war.

A time of singing. Songs on the lips of crowds. Lights in their eyes.
High-pitched, garbled words, brass bands, flags, speeches.... Mine eyes
have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord but we don't want the
Bacon, All we Want is a Piece of the Rhine(d).... A brass monkey playing
"Nearer, My God, to Thee" on a red banjo.... _Allons, les enfants_ ...
_le jour de gloire est arrivé!_ You tell 'em, kid! Store fronts,
cabarets, hotel lobbies, sign-boards, office buildings all become
shining citadels of righteousness beleaguered by the powers of darkness.
Newspaper headlines exploding like firecrackers on the corners. A
bonfire of faces in the streets. A bonfire of flags above the streets.

Boom, boom!... societies for the relief of martyred Belgium. Societies
for Rolling Cigarettes, Bandages, Exterminating Hun Spies, Exterminating
Yellow Dogs and Slackers.... Wah, don't let anybody be a slacker! A
slacker is a dirty dog who does what I wanna do but am afraid to do.
Who lies down. Who won't stand up on his hind legs and cheer when he's
supposed to.... Societies for Knitting Sweaters, Giving Bazaars,
Spotting Hun Propaganda. A bonfire of committees, communes, Jabberwocks,
clubs, Green Walruses, False Whiskers, Snickersnees, War Boards, and
Eagles Shrieking from their Mountain Heights with an obligato by the
Avon Comedy Four--I'm a Jazz Baby....

A mighty nation had gone to war. Humpty Dumpty and the March Hare
wheeled out the Home Guards. Said the Débutante to her Soldier Boy in
the moonlight, "To Hell with the chaperone, War is War...." Somebody
lost Eighty Hundred Billion Dollars trying to build aeroplanes out of
Flypaper and a new kind of Cement. And the Press, slapping Fright Wig
No. 7 on its bald head, announced to the Four Winds, " ... once more
glory, common cause, sacrifice, welded peoples of America, invincible
host, lay common blood, altar liberty, sacred principle, government of
the people by the people for the people perish earth" ... And the
Pulpits obliged with an "O God who art in Heaven girthed in shining
armor before Thee Thy cause Liberty Humanity Democracy Thy blessing
inspire light of sacrifice brave women and hero men give us strength O
Lord not falter see way of Righteousness stern hearts bear great burden
Thou has given us carry on till powers of darkness routed virtue again
triumphant. Thy will done on earth as it is in Heaven...."

And the soldiers entraining for the cantonments--clerks and salesmen,
rail-splitters and window-washers with the curve of youth on their
faces--the soldiers said, "Whasamatter with Uncle Sam? Rah ... Wow ...
Good-bye ... We'll treat 'em rough ... ashes to ashes and dust to dust
if the Camels don't get you the Fatimas must...." And in the cantonments
the soldiers said, " ... this lousy son of a badwoman of a shavetail
can't put nothin' over on me ... say ... oh, I hate to get up in the
morning, oh, how I long to remain in bed...." And in France the soldiers
sang " ... there are smiles that make you happy there are smiles that
make you sad.... The Knights of Columbus are all right but the Y. M. C.
A. is a son of a badwoman of a grafting mess...."

"Yanks Land in France ... Yanks in Big Battle ... Yanks Sink Submarines"
... bang banged the headlines. Don't eat meat on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Help the Red Cross buy Doughnuts for the Salvation Army and keep an eye
on Your Austrian Janitor.... Elephants, tom-cats, and chorus-girls; a
hallelujah with a red putty nose, Seventy-six Thousand Press Agents
Walking on their Hands, Jabberwocks, Horned Toads, and Prima Donnas ...
here comes the Liberty Loan Drive ...

A mighty nation had gone to war. Boom! Boom!

And in a moon-lighted room overlooking a fanfare of roofs, Erik Dorn
whispered one night to Rachel,

"You have given me wings!"



CHAPTER II


Time to get up. An oblong of sunlight squeezing through beneath the
drawn blind and slapping itself boldly on the gloomy carpet ... "shame
on all sleepy heads. Here's another day...."

Rachel smiled as she opened her eyes. She lay quietly, smiling. It was
as it was yesterday--as the day before. One opened one's eyes and life
came quickly back with a "Hello, here I am--where you left me." So one
lay, fearful to move, like a cup of wine that is too full and mustn't be
joggled with even a kick at the bed sheets.

One lay and smiled. Thoughts and stockings side by side somewhere on the
floor. Put on stockings in a minute. Put on thoughts in a minute. Dress
oneself up in phrases, hats, skyscrapers, and become somebody.

Rachel's eyes livened slowly. Pleasant to be nobody--a bodyless,
meaningless smile awake in the morning. Opened eyes on a pillow. A deep,
deep sigh on a pillow. An oblong of sunshine on the floor. A happy bed.
A happy ceiling. A happy door. Nothing else. Nobody else.

But a hat, a blue straw hat with a jauntily curved brim, sat on a
candlestick and winked. Which reminded one that one was alive. After
all, one was somebody. Time to get up. All the king's horses and all the
king's men demanded of one to arise and get dressed and go out and be
somebody. Rachel kicked at the sheets. Protest against the Decrees of
Destiny. " ... those are my feet kicking. Hello, here I am."

There was a note on the pillow adjacent. It read: "At eight o'clock
to-night I'll return. Please don't get run over in the streets. ERIK."

Well, why not kiss the note, embrace the pillow and sigh? Why try to be
anything but an idiot?... "Yes, Mr. Erik Dorn, I will be very careful
and not let myself get run over in the streets."

Rachel's head fell on the adjacent pillow and she lay whispering, "I
love you," until the sound of her voice caused her to laugh.... Time to
get up. Dear me! She closed her eyes and rolled herself out of bed....
"Ouch!..." She sat up on the floor, legs extended, and stared at a shoe.
Alas! a shoe is a crestfallen memory. A crestfallen yesterday lurks in
old shoes. Shoes are always crestfallen. Even the shoes of lovers
waiting under the bed weep and snivel all night. But why sit naked on
the floor, stark, idiotically naked on the floor with legs thrust out
like a surprised illustration in _La Vie Parisienne_ and toes curling
philosophically toward a shoe?... "I'll do as I please. Very well."

Sanity demanded clothes. But a sudden memory started her to her feet.
She stood up lightly and hurried toward the large oval mirror.... "Your
breasts are white birds dreaming under the stars. Your body is like the
Queens of China parading through the moon...."

She looked at herself in the mirror. Yes. But why not the Emperors of
Afghanistan Walking on Their Hands? Thus ... "my Body is like the
Presidents of the United States Riding Horseback...."

She placed her hands on her slim hips and tautened her figure. When Erik
was away all one could do was play with the things he had said. Was she
as beautiful as he thought? A joyousness flowed through her. The mirror
gave her back a memory of Erik. She was a memory of Erik.

When she looked at herself in the mirror she saw only something that
lived in the admiring eyes of Erik. Beautiful legs, beautiful body and
"eyes like the courts of Solomon at night, like circles of incense." ...
All were memories of Erik.

She whispered softly to the figure in the mirror, "Erik knows your eyes.
They are the beckoning hands of dreams." Thus Erik spoke of them. "I
mustn't laugh at myself. I am more beautiful than anything or anybody in
the whole world. There is nobody as beautiful as the woman Erik Dorn
loves."

If she were only in a forest now where she could run, jump in the air,
scream at birds, and end by hurling herself into dim, cool water.
Instead, an absurd business of fastening her silk slip.

She seated herself on the bed, her stockings hanging from her hand, and
fell again to listening to Erik. His word made an endless echo in her
head.... "Perins a droll species. A sort of indomitable ass. Refuses to
succumb to his intelligence. If you think he's in love with your Mary
you're a downright imbecile. The man adjusts his passions to his phrases
as neatly as a pretty woman pulling on her stockings...." She didn't
like Erik to refer to pretty women pulling on their stockings. What an
idiot! If Erik wanted to he could go out and help all the pretty women
in New York pull on their stockings. As if that had anything to do with
their love. Somebody else's stockings! A scornful exclamation point. Now
her skirt, waist, shoes, and hat, and she was somebody.

Somebody walking out of a house, in a street, looking, smiling, swinging
along. The beautiful one, the desired one out for a promenade,
embarrassed somehow by the fact that she was alive, that people looked
at her and street-cars made frowning overtures to her. This was not her
world. Yet she must move around in it as if she were a fatuous part of
its grimacings and artifices. Shop windows that snickered into her eyes
... "shoes $8 to-day. Hats, $10.50.... Traveling-cases only $19...." She
must be polite and recognize its existence by composing her features,
wearing a hat, saying "pardon me" when she trod on anyone's feet or
bumped an elbow into a stomach. A stranger's world--gentlemen in straw
hats; gentlemen in proud uniforms marching off to war; a fretwork of
gentlemen, signs, windows, hats, and automobiles and a lot of other
things, all continually tangling themselves up in front of her nose. A
city pouring itself out of the morning sky and landing with a splash and
a leap of windows around her feet. Thus the beautiful one, out for a
promenade and moving excitedly through a superfluous world.

She plunged into a perilous traffic knot and emerged unscathed. But that
was wasting time. Time--another superfluous element, a tick-tock for the
little wingless ones to crawl by. Then she remembered--a moon-lighted
room ... "you have given me wings!" Her thought traced itself excitedly
about the memory. This had happened. That had been said. Yesterday,
to-day and to-morrow--all the same. Memories mixing with dreams. Wings!
Yes, wings that beat, beat on the air and left one moving behind a blue
dress, under a jaunty hat like all other jaunty hats. But something else
moved elsewhere. There were two worlds for her. But not for Erik. One
world for Erik. Where would his wings take him? Beyond life there was
still life. A wall of life that never came to an end or a top. That was
the one world for Erik. Hurl himself against it, higher, higher. Soar
till the superfluous ones became little dots on a ribbon of streets.

Tears came into her eyes. The strange world drifted away--a flutter of
faces. A silence seemed to descend upon the streets as if their roaring
were not a noise but the opened mouth of a dumb man. Erik had come to
her. Arm in arm, smiling tears at him she walked through the spinning
crowd in a path hidden from all snickering windows and revolving faces.
A dream walk. These were her wings.

Consciousness returned. She rubbed her eyes with the knuckles of her
hands and laughed softly. She must not excite herself with hysterical
worries. Wondering about Erik. There had been days when she had moved
like a corpse through the streets, a corpse always finding new and
further deaths. Death days with her heart tearing at empty hours, with
time like a disease in her veins. Days before he had come. Now all life
was in her. Why invent new causes of grief? She must talk sane words to
herself. But the sane words bowed a polite adieu and putting on their
hats walked away and sat down behind the snickering windows.... Other
words arrived quickly, breathlessly.... There was something in his eyes
that frightened, something that did not rest with her but seemed to
reach on further. In the midst of their ecstasies his eyes, burning,
unsatisfied, making her suddenly chill with fear, would whisper to her,
"There is something more." In each other's arms it was she who came to
an ending, not he. His kisses, his "I love you," were the clawing of
fingers high up on the wall. For her they were the obliteration, the
ending beyond life.

The street unraveled itself about her with a bang of crowds and a whirl
of flags, a zigzag of eyes like innumerable little tongues licking at
the air. The tension of her thought relaxed. She remembered that when he
walked in streets he was always making pictures. She thought of his
words.... "It's a part of me that love hasn't changed, except to
increase. A pestiferous sanity keeps demanding of me that I translate
incoherent things into words. The city keeps handing itself to me like a
blank piece of paper to write on. And I scribble away."

She would do as he did, scribble words over faces and buildings as she
walked. The city was a ... a swarm of humanity. Swarm of humanity. My
God, had she lost the power of thought? Imagine telling Erik, "A crowd
of people I saw to-day reminded me of a swarm of humanity." There was no
sanity in her demanding words. Because there was no incoherence outside.
Things weren't incoherent but non-existent. The city was no mystery.
There was nothing to translate. It was an alien, superfluous world. That
was the difference between them. To Erik it was not alien or
superfluous. Even in their ecstasies there was still a world for him,
like some mocking rival laughing at him, saying, "You can embrace
Rachel. But what can you do to me? See if you can embrace me and swallow
me with a kiss...."

That's why he stayed away till eight o'clock, moving among men, writing,
talking, doing work on the magazine. But there was nothing for her to
do. She inhabited a world named Erik Dorn, a perfect world in which
there was no room even for thought.

Erik had written her a note from the office once ... "my heart is a
dancing star above the graves of your absence...." But that was almost a
lie because it was true only for one moment. Things occupied him that
could not occupy her.

Another block. Four more blocks. Noisy aliveness of streets that meant
nothing. She thought, "People look at me and envy me because I'm in a
hurry as if I had somewhere important to go. People envy everybody who
is in a hurry to get somewhere. Because for them there are no
destinations--only halting places for their drifting. Perhaps I should
go home and paint something so as to have it to show him when he comes;
or sit down somewhere and think up words to give him. I won't be able to
talk to-night. I must just be ... without thinking ... of anything but
him. Why doesn't he sometimes mention Anna? Is he afraid it might offend
me to remind me of Anna? Would it? No. Many people live in the world.
Another woman lived in Erik Dorn and he was unaware of her as the sky
is unaware of me. And she died. But she isn't dead. Only her world died.
Her sky fell down...."

Tears came to Rachel's eyes. Her hands clenched.... "Anna, Anna, forgive
me! I'm so happy. You must understand...."

She felt a revulsion. She had thought something weak, silly. "Who is
Anna that I must apologize to her? A woman. A woman Erik never loved. Do
I ask apologies of her for having lived with him--kissed him?"

There was a luncheon appointment with Mary James. Mary would bring a
man. Perrin, maybe. Mary always brought a man. Without a man, Mary was
incomplete. With a man she was even more incomplete. Mary insisted on
lunching. Rachel hurried toward the rendezvous. She thought, "People can
make me do anything now. Mary or anybody else. I was able once to walk
over them. Now they lead me around. Because nothing matters. And people
don't sicken me with their faces and talk. They're like noises in
another room that one hears, sometimes sees, but never listens to or
looks at. They ask questions. And you sit in a secret world beyond them
with your hat and dress, properly attentive."

Here was the hotel for the rendezvous. Mary out of breath,

"Rachel! Hello! Wait a minute. Whee! What do you think you're doing?
Pulling off a track meet or something? Been tryin' to catch up to you
for an hour."

Rachel looked at her. She was a golden-haired monkey full of words.

"Charlie's at the Red Cat." A man. "We're going to lunch there. What in
God's name's the matter with you?" A pause in the thick of the crowd.
"Heavens, Rachel, are you well? I mean...."

Rachel laughed. If you laughed people thought you were making answers.

They arrived at the Red Cat. Small red circular tables. Black walls. A
painstaking non-conformity about the decoration. A sprinkling of diners
saying, "We eat, but not amid normal surroundings. We are emancipated
from normal surroundings. It is extremely important that we eat off
little red circular tables instead of big brown square tables in order
to conform with our mission, which is that of non-conformity."

Mary led the way to a table occupied by a tall, broad-shouldered youth
with a crooked nose and humorously indignant eyes. He resembled a
football player who has gone into the advertising business and remained
a football player. Mary referred to him with a possessive "Charlie."

Charlie said, "Why do you always pick out these joints to eat in, Mary?
Been sittin' here for ten minutes scared to death one of these females
would begin crawlin' around on the walls. There's a waiter here with
long hair and two teeth missin' that I'm goin' to bust in the nose if
he doesn't stop."

"Stop what, Charlie?'

"Oh, lookin' at me...."

The luncheon progressed. Olives, watery soup, delicate sandwiches....

An air of breathlessness about Rachel seemed to discommode her friends.
Charlie, piqued at her inattentiveness, essayed a volubility foreign to
his words. He was not so "nice a young man" as Hazlitt. But he boasted
among friends that girls had had a chance with him. They could stay
decent if they insisted but he let them understand it wouldn't do them
any good so far as marrying them was concerned because he wasn't out for
matrimony. There was too much to see.

Mary interspersed her eating with quotations from advanced literature,
omitting the quotation marks. A slim, shining-haired girl--men adored
her hair--pretty-faced, silken-ankled, Mary had a mission in life. It
was the utilizing of vivacious arguments on art, God, morals, economics,
as exciting preliminaries for hand-holding and kissing with eyes closed,
lips murmuring, "Ah, what is life?" Technically a virgin, but devoted
exclusively to the satisfying of her sex--a satisfying that did not
demand the completion of intercourse but the stimulus of its suggestion,
Mary utilized the arts among which she dabbled as a bed for artificial
immoralities. In this bed she had managed for several years to remain an
adroitly chaste courtesan. Her pride was almost concentrated in her
chastity. She guarded it with a precocious skill, parading it through
conversation, hinting slyly of it when its existence seemed for the
moment to have become unimportant. Her chastity, in fact, had become
under skillful management the most immoral thing about her. She had
learned the trick of exciting men with her virginity.

The thing had become for her an unconscious business. After several
years of it she evolved into a flushed, nervous victim of her own
technique. She managed, however, to preserve her self-esteem by looking
upon the perversion of her normal sexual instincts into a species of
verbal nymphomania as an indication of a superior soul state. Radical
books excited her mind as ordinarily her body might have been excited by
radical caresses. Amateur theatricals, publicity work for charitable
organizations, an allowance from her home in Des Moines, provided her
with a practical background.

Charlie was her latest catch. Later he would hold her hand, slip an arm
around her, press her breasts gently and with a proper unconsciousness
of what he was doing, and she would let him kiss her ... while music
played somewhere ... preferably on a pier. Then she would murmur as he
paused, out of breath, "Ah, what is life, Charlie?" And if instead of
playing the game decently Charlie abandoned pretense and made an
adventurous sortie, there would ensue the usual dénouement ... "Charlie
... Oh, how could you? I'm ... I'm so disappointed. I thought you were
different and that love to you meant something deeper and finer
than--just that." And she would stand before him, her body alive with a
sexual ardor that seemed to find its satisfaction in the discomfiture of
the man, in his apologetic stammers, in her own virtuous words; and
reach its climax in the contrite embrace which usually followed and the
words, "Forgive me, dearest. I didn't mean.... Oh, will you marry me?"

These were things in store for Charlie. But he must listen first. There
were essential preliminaries--a routine of the chase. Her trimly shod
foot crawled carefully against his ankle. There were really two types of
men. Men who blushed when you touched their ankle under the table, and
men who pretended not to blush. Charlie blushed with a soup-spoon at his
lips. He glanced nervously at Rachel but she seemed breathlessly asleep
with her eyes open--a paradoxical condition which baffled Charlie and
caused him to withdraw disdainfully from further consideration of her.

Rachel, eating without hunger, was remembering an actress in vaudeville
making a preliminary curtain announcement to her "Moments from Great
Plays" ... "Lady Godiva accordingly rode na-aked through the streets of
Coventry, but, howevah, retained her vuhtue...."

"Oh, but Charlie, you're not listening," explained Mary. "I was saying
that chastity in woman is something man has insisted upon in order to
show his capacity for waste. He likes the world to know that all his
possessions are new and that he can command the purchase of new things
because it shows his capacity for waste by which his standard of
respectability is gauged in the eyes of his fellows...."

Charlie lent an ear to the garbled veblenisms and gave it up. The
mutterings and verbal excitements of women in general were mysteries
beyond Charlie's desire to comprehend. They had, for Charlie, nothing to
do with the case. It was pleasing, though, to have her talk of chastity.
Chastity had a connection with the case. It was closely related to
unchastity. He nodded his head vaguely and focused his attention on
questing for the foot under the table that had withdrawn itself. The
long-haired waiter with the missing teeth was an annoyance. He turned
and glowered at him.

"Don't you think so, Rachel?" Mary pursued.

A monkey chattering. Another monkey kicking at her toes under the table.
A room full of monkeys and all the monkeys looking at her, talking to
her, kicking her foot, inspired by the curious hallucination that she
was a part of their monkey world. Rachel laughed and eyes turned to her.
People were always startled by laughter that sounded so sudden. There
must be preliminaries to laughter so as to get the atmosphere prepared
for it.

"Rachel, I'm talking to you, if you please."

Mary, puckering her forehead very importantly, was informing her that
Mary existed and was demanding proof of the fact. That was the secret of
people. They didn't really exist to themselves until somebody recognized
them and proved they were alive--by answering their questions. People
lived only when somebody talked to them--anybody. The rest of the time
they went along with nothing inside them except stomachs that grew
hungry.

She answered Mary, "Oh, there are lots of things you don't know." And
laughed, this time careful of not sounding too sudden. She meant there
was something that lived behind hours, there was a dream world in which
the words and faces of people were ridiculously non-existent. But Mary
was a literal-minded monkey and thought she was referring to quotations
from books superior to the ones she used.

"Oh, is that so?" said Mary.

Charlie, also literal-minded and still after the foot, echoed Rachel,
"You bet your life it is."

"And I suppose you know all about them, Miss Laskin." Very sarcastic. An
inflection that had made her a conversational terror in the Des Moines
High School.

Mary was always conscious of not having read enough and of therefore
being secretly inferior to more omnivorous readers. She did not think
Rachel read much, but Rachel was different. Rachel was an artist and
had ideas. Mary respected artists and was always sarcastic toward them.
It usually made them talk a lot--particularly male artists--and thus
enabled her to find out what their ideas were and use them as her own.
Nevertheless, despite her most careful parrotings the artists always
managed to have other ideas always different from the ones she stole
from them. Fearing some devastating rejoinder from Rachel--Rachel was
the kind of person who could blurt out things that landed on you like a
ton of bricks--she sought to fortify Charlie's opinion of her by
replacing her foot against his ankle.

"Well, what are they, Rachel?"

What were the things Mary knew nothing about? A large order. Rachel's
tongue began to wag in her mind. Stand up and make a speech. Fling her
arms about. High-sailing words. Absurd! A laugh would answer. Laughs
always answered. Rachel laughed. She would suffocate among such people,
exasperating strangers with inquisitive faces and nervous feet.

At the conclusion of the luncheon Charlie had reached a new stage in his
amorous maneuverings. He had paid no further attention to Rachel,
although vividly conscious of her. But Mary offered definite horizons. A
bird in the hand. There was something exciting about Mary not to be
encountered in the Junos and Aphrodites of his cabaret quests. Mary
appeared virtuous--and yet promised otherwise. She used frank
words--lust, chastity, virginity, sexuality. Charlie quivered. The
words sticking out of long, twisted sentences, detached themselves and
came to him like furtively indecent caresses. Mary promised. So he
agreed to go with her to the Players' Studio where she was rehearsing in
some kind of nut show.

"You must come too, Rachel. Frank Brander has done some gorgeous
settings for the next bill."

Long hours before eight o'clock.

"I've got some important things on at the office," Charlie hesitated.

"Yes, I'll go," Rachel answered. This, mysteriously, seemed to decide
Charlie. He would go too.

In the buzzing little auditorium of the Players' Studio, Charlie
endeavored to further his quest. But the atmosphere seemed,
paradoxically enough, a handicap. A free-and-easy atmosphere with men
and women in odd-looking rigs sauntering about. The place was as immoral
as a honky-tonk. Charlie stared at the young women in smocks and bobbed
hair, smoking cigarettes, sitting with their legs showing. They should
have been prostitutes but they weren't. Or maybe they were, only he
wasn't used to that kind. Too damn gabby. Mary had jumped up on the
small stage and was talking with a group of young men and women. He
moved to follow, but hesitated. He didn't have the hang of this kind of
thing. The sick-looking youths loitering around, casually embracing the
gals and rubbing their arms, seemed to know the lingo. Charlie sat down
in disgust and yielded himself to a feeling of stiffly superior virtue.

In a corner Rachel listened to Frank Brander.

"We've got quite a promising outfit here, Miss Laskin. Why don't you
come around and help with the drops or something? The more the merrier.
We're putting on a thing by Chekov next week and a strong thing by
Elvenah Jack. Lives down the street. Know her? Oh, it isn't much." He
smiled good-naturedly at the miniature theater. "But it's fun. I'll show
you around."

Rachel submitted. Brander was a friend of Emil Tesla. He drew things for
_The Cry_. He had a wide mouth and ugly eyes that took things for
granted--that took her for granted. She was a woman and therefore
interested in talking to a man. He held her arm too much and kept saying
in her thought, "We've got to pretend we're decent, but we're not. We're
a man and woman." But what did that matter? Long hours before eight
o'clock.

On the stage Brander became a personality. A group of nondescript faces
deferred to him. A woman with stringy hair and an elocutionist's mouth,
grew dramatic as he passed. They paused before Mary. Brander had stopped
abruptly in his talk. He turned toward Mary and stared at her until she
began to grow pink. Rachel wondered. Mary wanted to run away, but
couldn't. Brander finally said shortly, "Hello, you!" His eyes blazed
for an instant and then grew angry.

"Come on, Miss Laskin." He jerked her and she followed. In the wings
half hidden from the group that crowded the tiny stage Brander said, "Do
you know that girl?"

Rachel nodded.

"She's no good," he grinned. "I like women one thing or the other. She's
both. And no good. I got her number."

Rachel noticed that he had moved his hand up on her arm and was gently
pressing the flesh under her shoulder. He kept saying to her now in her
thought, "I've got a man's body and you've got a woman's body. There's
that difference between us. Why hide it?" His voice became soft and he
said aloud, "Don't you like men to be one kind or the other? And not
both?"

Rachel looked at him blankly. She must pretend she didn't know what he
was talking about. Otherwise she would begin to talk. He was a man to
whom one talked because he demanded it. His face, ugly and boyish,
seemed to have rid itself of many expressions and retained a certainty.
The certainty said, "I'm a man looking for women."

Brander laughed.

"Oh, you're one of the other kind," he said. "Beg pardon. No harm done.
Let's go out front."

Out front in the half-lighted auditorium Brander suddenly left her. She
saw him a few minutes later standing close to a nervous-voiced woman who
was saying, "Oh, dear! Dear me! I'll never get this part. I won't! I
just know it!"

Brander was toying idly with a chain that hung about the woman's neck.
He was looking at her intently. Mary approached, bearing Charlie along.
She began whispering to Rachel, "That man's a beast. I hate him. He
thinks he's an artist, but he's a beast. You'll find out if you're not
careful."

Rachel asked, "Who?"

"Brander," Mary answered.

Charlie interrupted, indignation rumbling in his voice,

"A bunch of freaks, all of them. I don't see why a decent girl wants to
hang around in a dump like this."

He was more grieved than indignant. A woman with dark hair and long
gypsy earrings had suddenly laughed at him when he sat down beside her.
Mary patted his arm.

"I know, Charlie. But you don't understand. My turn in a few minutes,
Rachel. We'll wait here till the Chekov thing comes on. Do you know
Felixson? He's got a wonderful thing for the bill after this. A
religious play. Awfully strong. That's him with the bushy hair. You must
know him."

Charlie grunted.

"You don't mean you act in this damn joint?"

"Oh, I'm just helping out for next week. It's lots of fun, Charlie."

Rachel stood up suddenly from the uncomfortable bench seat.

"I must go," she murmured. "I'm sorry."

Turning quickly she walked out of the place. Behind her Charlie laughed.
"A wild little thing."

Mary with her body pressed closely against him combated an influence
that seemed at work upon Charlie.

"She's changed a great deal, poor girl," said Mary.

"What is she?"

"An artist. She says wonderful things sometimes. Awfully strong things
and just hates people."

"A nut," agreed Charlie.

"Oh, she's sort of strange. Puts on a lot, of course." Mary felt
uncomfortable. Rachel had managed to leave behind a feeling of the
unimportance of everybody but Rachel. She was leaning against Charlie
for vindication. His body, trembling at the contact, provided it; but
his words annoyed her.

"Well, she's different from the gang in here--I'll say that for her."

"Oh, let's forget her," Mary whispered. "I don't like this place.
Really, I ..." She hesitated and thought, "Rachel thinks she's
mysterious and enigmatic and everything, but she's an awful fool. She
can't put it over on me." Yet she sat, despite the vindication of
Charlie's amorous embarrassment, and wondered, parrot fashion, "Ah, what
is life?"

Outside Rachel was walking again. The memory of her meeting with Mary,
of Brander's ugly appealing face that whispered frankly of his sex, was
dead in her. Little toy people playing at games. Erik hated them. Erik
said ... well, it was something too indecent to repeat. She couldn't get
used to Erik's indecent comparisons. But they were like that--the toy
people in the little toy village. She didn't hate them the way Erik did.
Some of them were just playing. But there were others. Why think of
them? Walk, walk. Just be. A perfect circle.... "There's nothing to do.
I don't want anything. To-night he'll talk to me. And I'll make real
answers." Why did she want to be kissed? Kisses were for people like
Mary. "Oh, he'll kiss me and I'll become alive."

It was late afternoon. Still, long hours before eight o'clock. It
pleased Erik when she told him how empty the day had been. But she
mustn't harp too much on that. It would sound as if she were making
demands on him. No demands. He was free. They weren't married. A crowd
was solidifying in 10th Street. She walked slowly, watching the people
gathering at the corner. The office of _The Cry_ was there. She
remembered this and hurried forward.

Something was happening. An excitement was jerking people out of their
silences. Blank, silent faces around her suddenly opened and dropped
masks. Bodies drifting carelessly up and down the street broke into
runnings.

Around the corner people were shouting, pressed into a ball of wild
faces and waving arms. It was in front of the office of _The Cry_ that
something was happening.

"Kill the dirty rascal! Make the son-of-a----kiss the flag!"

Words screeched out of a bay of sound.

"Kill him! Kill the son-of-a---- String him up!"

On the edge of the ball that was growing larger and seeming about to
burst into some wild activity, Rachel stood tip-toed. She could see two
burly-looking men dragging a bloody figure out of a doorway. Blood
dropped from him, leaving stains on the top step. The two men were
twisting his wrists as if they wanted them to come off. Yet they didn't
act as if they were twisting anybody's wrists off. They seemed to be
just waiting.

It was Tesla between them. His face was cut. One of his arms hung limp.
Blood began to spurt from his wrists and drop from his fingers as if he
were writing something on the top step in a foolish way. At the sight of
him the noises increased. The ball of faces grew angrier. Policemen
swung sticks. They yelled, "Back, there! Everybody back!" Runners were
coming from all directions as if the city had suddenly found a place to
go and was pouring itself into 10th Street.

"Hey ... hey ... they've got him!"

Nobody asked who, but came running with a shout.

The street broke over Rachel. Tesla vanished. Roaring in her ears, faces
tumbling, lifting in a wildness about her. A make-believe of horror. Her
thought gasped, "Where am I? What is this?" Her feet were carrying her
into the boiling center of a vat of bodies. Then she saw Tesla again,
standing above them. A blood-smeared man with a broken arm, his head
raised. But he was somebody else.

Caught in the pack she became far away, seeing things move as with an
almost lifeless deliberateness. Tesla's face was the center. His swollen
eyes were trying to open. His paralyzed mouth was trying to form itself
back into a mouth. A mist covered him as if the raging street and the
many voices focused into a film and hid him. Behind this film he was
doing something slowly. Then he became vivid. He was shouting,

"Comrades ... workers ..."

A roar from the street concealed him and his voice. But the vividness of
him lingered and emerged again.

"Comrades!"

A fist struck against his mouth. His head wabbled. Another fist struck
against his eye. The two men holding his wrists were striking into his
uncovered face with their fists. A gleeful, joyous sound went up. Rachel
stared at the wabbling head of Tesla. The street laughed. Fists hammered
at an uncovered face. People were coming on a run to see. A bell
clanged. Beside her a man shrieked, "Make him kiss the flag, the dirty
anarchist!"

Things slowed again. A film was over the scene. Tesla was being dragged
down the steps. His head kept falling back as if he wanted to go to
sleep. Then something happened. A laugh, high like a scream, lit the
air. It made her cold. The men dragging Tesla down the steps paused, and
their fists moving with a leisureliness struck into his face, making no
sound and not doing anything. It was Tesla who had laughed. The fists
kept moving through a film. But he laughed again--a high laugh like a
scream that lit the air with mystery.

When the pack began to sift and sweep her into strange directions she
felt that Tesla was still laughing, though she could no longer hear him.
The street became shapeless. Something had ended. A bell clanged away.
People were again walking. They had dull faces and were quiet. She
caught a glimpse of the step on which Tesla had stood behind a mist and
cried, "Comrades!" She remembered often having stood on the step herself
in coming to the office of _The Cry_. This made her sicken. It was her
wrists that had been twisted, her uncovered face that had been struck
by fists.

The emotion left her as a hand tugged eagerly at her arm. It pulled her
up on the crowded curbing.

"Good God, Rachel, what are you doing here?"

She looked up and saw Hazlitt in uniform. He kept pulling her. Why
should Hazlitt be pulling her out of a crowd in 10th Street? She tried
to jerk away. She must run from Hazlitt before he began talking. He
would make her scream.

Turning to him with a quiet in her voice she said carefully:

"Please let me go. You hurt my arm."

But his hand remained. His eyes, shining and indignant, prodded at
her.... The street was quiet. Nothing had happened. Unconscious
buildings, unconscious traffic, faces wrapped in solitudes--these were
in the streets again. She turned and looked with amazement at her
companion. People do not fall out of the sky and seize you by the arm.
There was something stark about Hazlitt pulling her out of the street
mob and holding her arm. He was an amputation. You pulled yourself out
of a filth of faces and sprawled suddenly into a quiet, cheerful street
holding an arm in your hand, as if it had come loose from the pack. It
seemed part of some arrangement--Tesla, the pack, Hazlitt's arm. Her
amazement died. Hazlitt was saying:

"I knew you'd be in that mob. I thought when I saw them haul that dirty
beggar out ..."

He halted, pained by a memory. Rachel nodded. The curious sense of
having been Tesla came again to her. He had laughed in a way that
reminded her of herself. She would laugh like that if they struck at her
face. Her eyes turned frightenedly toward Hazlitt. What was he going to
do? Arrest her? He was in uniform. But why should he arrest her? His
eyes had the fixed light of somebody performing a duty. He was arresting
her, and Erik would come home and not find her. Her lithe body became
possessed of an astounding strength. With a vicious grimace she tore
herself from his grip and confronted him, her eyes on fire.

"Please, Rachel. Come with me till I can talk. You must ..."

A white-faced Hazlitt, with suffering eyes. Then he was not arresting
her. The street bobbed along indifferently.

"I'm going away in an hour. You'll maybe never see me again. But I can't
go away till I've talked to you. Please."

It didn't matter then. She would be home in time. And it was easier to
obey the desperate whine of his voice then run into the crowd. He would
chase after her, whining louder and louder. They entered a hotel lobby.
Hazlitt picked out a secluded corner as if arranging for some rite. He
was going to do something. Rachel walked after him, annoyed,
indifferent. What did it matter? This was George Hazlitt--a name that
meant nothing and yet could talk to her.

Sitting opposite her the name began, "Now you must promise me you won't
get up and run away till I'm through--no matter what I say."

She promised with a nod. She must be polite. Being polite was part of
the idiotic penalties attached to adventuring outside her real world, in
unreal superfluous streets. What had made Tesla laugh? His laugh had not
been unreal. Almost as if it were a part of her. Blood dropping from his
fingers. A bleeding man.

"I'm leaving for France, Rachel. I couldn't go away without seeing you.
I've spent a week trying to find you and this morning they told me to
inquire at _The Cry_."

Was he apologizing for Tesla? She remembered the faces that had swept by
in 10th Street. His had been one of them. Hazlitt had twisted Tesla's
wrists and struck into his uncovered face.

Rachel slipped to her feet and stared about her. A hand caught at her
arm and pulled her into the chair.

"You promised. You can't leave till you hear me."

She sank back.

"Give me five minutes. I'm unworthy of them. But I've found you and must
talk now. I can't go across without telling you."

She looked up. Tears almost in his eyes. His voice grown low. He seemed
to be whispering something that didn't belong to the sanity of the hotel
lobby and the two large potted palms in the corner.

"I'm unclean. I've been looking for you to ask you to forgive me."

Hazlitt's hands crept over his knees.

"Oh, God, you must listen and forgive me."

This was a mad monkey uttering noises too unintelligible for even an
attentive hat, dress, and pair of shoes to make anything of.

"Rachel, I love you. I don't know how to say it. There's something I've
got to say. Because ... otherwise I can't love you. I can't love you
with the thing unsaid."

He looked bewilderedly about him and gulped, his face red, his eyes
tortured.

"It's about a woman."

"Perhaps," she thought, "he's going to boast. No, he's going to cry.
What does he want?"

The sound of his voice made her ill. If he were going to make love why
didn't he start instead of gulping and covering his face and choking
with tears in a hotel lobby as if he were an actor?

"I was drawn into it. I couldn't help it. One afternoon in my office
after the trial. Then she kept after me. The thought of you has been
like knives in me. I've loved you all through it and hated myself for
thinking of you, dragging you into it. I dragged the thought of you down
with me. But she wouldn't let me go. God, I could kill her now. I broke
away after weeks. She got somebody else. I've been living in hell ever
since--on account of you. I'm unclean and can't love you any more. If it
hadn't been for my going across I'd not have come to you. But the war's
given me my chance. I can't explain it. I went in to--to wipe it out.
But I had to find you and tell you. I didn't want to think of dying and
having insulted you and not ..."

He stopped, overcome. Rachel was nodding her head. She must make an
answer to this. It was a riddle asking an answer.

"For God's sake, Rachel, don't look like that. Oh, you're so clean and
pure. I can't tell you. You're like a star shining and me in the mud.
You've always hated me. But it's different now. I'm going to France to
die. I don't want to live. If you forgive me it'll be easier. That's why
I had to talk, Rachel, forgive me. And then it won't matter what
happens."

She let him take her hand. It was an easy way to make an answer. A
desire to giggle had to be overruled. The words he had spoken became
absurd little manikins of words, bowing at each other, striking idiotic
postures before her. But he had done something and for some astounding
reason wanted her to forgive him for what he had done. He was a fool. An
impossible fool. He sat and looked like a fool. Not even a man.

Hazlitt raised her hand to his face. Tears fell on it. Rachel felt them
crawling warmly over her fingers. They were too intimate.

"You make me feel almost clean again. Your hand's like something clean
and pure. If I come back...."

He stared at her in desperation. He seemed suddenly to have forgotten
his intention to die in France. He recalled Pauline. Was he sorry? No.
It was over. Not his fault. All this to Rachel was a ruse. Clever way to
get her sympathy. Not quite. But he felt better.

He became incomprehensible to Rachel. The things he had said--his
weeping, gulping--all part of an incomprehensible business. She nodded
her head and looked serious. It was something that had to do with a
far-away world.

"Good-bye. Remember, I love you. And I'll come through clean because of
you...."

She held out her hand and said, "Good-bye."

But he didn't go. Now he was completely a fool. Now there was something
so completely foolish about him that she must laugh. The light in his
face detained her laughter.

"You forgive me ... for ..."

She nodded her head again. It seemed to produce a magical effect--this
nodding of her head up and down. His eyes brightened and he appeared to
grow taller.

"Then if I die, I'll go to heaven."

She winced at this. An unbearable stupidity. But Hazlitt stood looking
at her for an instant quite serious, as if he had said something noble.
He saluted her, his hand to his cap, his heels together, and went away.

The memory lingered. Hazlitt had always been incomprehensible. His
stupidity was easy enough to understand. But something under it was a
mess. Now he was a fool. Stiff and idiotic and making her feel ashamed
as if she were sorry for him.... Tesla came back and stood on a step
dropping blood from his fingers. Brander came back and whispered with
his ugly face. Hazlitt, Tesla, Brander--three men that jumped out at her
from the superfluous streets. Like the three men in the park walking
horribly across the white park in the night.... An idiot, a bleeding
man, and an ugly face. But they had passed her and gone. They were
things seen outside a window.

Her eyes looking at a clock said to her, "Two hours more. Oh, in two
hours, in two hours!"

She sat motionless until the clock said, "One hour more, one more hour!"

Then she stood up and walked slowly out of the hotel. Things had changed
since she had left the streets. The strange world full of Marys,
Hazlitts, and Teslas had added further superfluities. A band of music.
Soldiers marching. Buildings waving flags and crying, "Boom, boom! we
have gone to war!..."

She came to her home. A red-brick house like other red-brick houses. But
her home. What a fool she had been to leave it. It would have been
easier waiting here. She walked into the two familiar rooms filled with
the memory of Erik--two rooms that embraced her. Her hat fell on the
bed. She would have to eat. Downstairs in the dining-room. Other
boarders to look at. But Erik would have eaten when he came. He
preferred eating alone.

Rachel took her place at one of the smaller tables and dabbled through a
series of uninteresting dishes. An admiring waitress rebuked her ...
"Dearie, you ain't eating hardly anything."

She smiled at the waitress and watched her later bringing dishes to a
purple-faced fat man at an adjoining table. The fat man was futilely
endeavoring to tell secrets to the waitress by contorting his features
and screwing up his eyes. He reminded Rachel of Brander, only Brander
told secrets without trying. She finished and hurried out. She would be
hungry later, but it didn't matter. Erik would be there then.

In the hallway Mrs. McGuire called, "Oh, Mrs. Dorn!"

Being called Mrs. Dorn always frightened her and made her dizzy. She
paused. Some day Mrs. McGuire would look at her shrewdly and say,
"You're not Mrs. Dorn. I called you Mrs. Dorn but I know better. Don't
think you're fooling anybody. Mrs. Dorn, indeed!"

But Mrs. McGuire held out her hand.

"A letter for your husband. Do you want to sit in the parlor, Mrs. Dorn?
You know I want all my boarders to make themselves entirely at home."

"Thank you," said Rachel. "You're so nice. But I have some work to do
upstairs."

Escaping Mrs. McGuire was one of the difficult things of the day. A
buxom, round-faced woman in black with friendly eyes, Mrs. McGuire had a
son in the army and a sainted husband dead and buried, and a childish
faith in the friendliness and interest of people. Rachel hurried up the
stairs. In her room she looked at the letter. For Erik. Readdressed
twice. From Chicago. She stood holding it. It said to her, "I am from
Anna. I am from Anna. Words of Anna. I am the wife of Erik Dorn."

Anna was a reality. Long ago Anna had been a reality. A background
against which the dream of Erik Dorn raised itself. She remembered
sitting close to Anna and smiling at her the first time she had visited
Erik's home. Why had she gone? If only she had never seen Anna! Her
tired, sad eyes that smiled at Erik. Rachel's fingers tightened over the
envelope. She laughed nervously and tore the letter. He was hers. Anna
couldn't write to him.

A pain came into her heart as the paper separated itself into bits in
her fingers. She felt herself tearing something that was alive. It was
cruel to tear the letter. But it would save Erik pain. ... To read
Anna's words, to hear her cries, see her sad tired eyes staring in
anguish out of the writing--that would hurt Erik.

She dropped the bits into the waste-paper basket and stood wide-eyed
over them. She had dared. As if he had belonged to her. What would he
say? But he wouldn't know. Unless Mrs. McGuire said, "There was a letter
for you, Mr. Dorn." Why hadn't she read the letter before tearing it up?
Perhaps it was important, saying Anna had died. When Anna died Erik
would marry her. She would have children and live in a house of her own.
Mrs. Rachel Dorn, people would call her. This was a dream.... Mrs.
Rachel Dorn. He would laugh if he knew; or worse, be angry. But ... "Oh,
God, I want him. Like that. Complete." Anna had had him like that. The
other thing. Not respectability. But the possession of little things.

She would have to tell him about the letter. She couldn't lie to him,
even silently. The clock on the dresser, ticking as it had always
ticked, said, "In a half-hour ... a half-hour more."

She sprang from the bed and stood listening.

Someone was coming down the hall. Strange hours fell from her. Now Erik
was coming. Now life commenced. The empty circle of the day was over.

Her body grew wild as if she must leap out of herself. Her eyes hung
devouringly upon the blank door--a door opening and Erik standing,
smiling at her. It was still a dream. It would never become real. She
would always feel frightened. Though he came home a hundred thousand
times she would always wait like now for the door to open with a fear
and a dream in her heart. But why did he knock?

She opened the door with a feverish jerk. Not Erik. A messenger-boy
blinking surprised eyes.

"Mrs. Dorn?"

"Yes."

"Sign here, second line."

A blank door again. The message read:

"I'll be home late. Don't worry. ERIK."



CHAPTER III


Warren Lockwood was a man who wrote novels. He had lived in the Middle
West until he was thirty-five and begun his writing at his desk in a
real-estate office of which he had been until then a somewhat bored half
owner.

During the months Erik Dorn had been working on the staff of "the _New
Opinion_--an Organ of Liberal Thought," he had encountered Lockwood
frequently--a dark-haired, rugged-faced man with a drawling,
high-pitched masculine voice. Dorn liked him. He talked in the manner of
a man carefully focusing objects into range. Lockwood was aware he had
gotten under the skin of things. He talked that way.

The change from the newspaper to the magazine continued, after several
months, to irritate Dorn. The leisureliness of his new work aggravated.
There was an intruding sterility about it. The _New Opinion_ was a
weekly. From week to week it offered a growing clientèle finalities.
There were finalities on the war, finalities on the social unrest;
finalities on art, life, religion, the past, present, and future. A
cock-sure magazine, gently, tolerantly elbowing aside the mysteries of
existence and holding up between carefully manicured thumb and
forefinger the Gist of the Thing. The Irrefutable Truth. The Perfect
Deduction.

There were a number of intelligent men engaged in the work of writing
and editing the periodical. They seemed all to have graduated from an
identical strata. Dorn, becoming acquainted with them, found them
intolerable. They appealed to him as a group of carefully tailored
Abstractions bombinating mellifluously in a void. The precision of logic
was in them. The precision of even tempers. The precision of aloof eyes
fastened upon finalities. Theoretical radicals. Theoretical
conservatives. Theoretical philosophers. Any appellation preceded by the
adjective theoretical fitted them snugly. Of contact with the
hurdy-gurdy of existence which he as a journalist felt under the ideas
of the day, there was none. Life in the minds of the intellectual staff
of the _New Opinion_ smoothed itself out into intellectual paragraphs.
And from week to week these paragraphs made their bow to the public.
Mannerly admonitions, courteous disapprovals. A style borrowed from the
memory of the professor informing a backward class in economics what the
exact date of the signing of the Magna Charta really was.

Lockwood was the exception. He wrote occasional fictional sketches for
the magazine. Dorn had been attracted to him at first because of the
curious intonations of his voice. He had not read the man's
novels--there were four of them dealing with the Middle West--but in the
repressed sing-song of his voice Dorn had sensed an unusual character.

"He's a good writer, an artist," he thought, hearing him talking to
Edwards, one of the editors. "He talks like a lover arguing patiently
and gently with his own thoughts."

After that they had walked and eaten together. The idea of Warren
Lockwood being a lover grew upon Dorn. Of little things, of things
seemingly unimportant and impersonal, the novelist talked as he would
have liked to talk to Rachel--with a slow simplicity that caressed his
subjects and said, "These are little things but we must be careful in
handling them, for they're a part of life." And life was important.
People were tremendously existent. Dorn, listening to the novelist,
would watch his eyes that seemed to be always adventuring among secrets.

Once he thought, "A sort of mother love is in him. He keeps trying to
say something that's never in his words. His thoughts are like a lover's
fingers stroking a girl's hair. That's because he's found himself. He
feels strong and lets his strength come out in gentleness. He's found
himself and is trying to shape secrets into words."

In comparing Lockwood with the others on the staff of the magazine he
explained, "There's the difference between a man and an intellect.
Warren's a man. The others are a group of schoolboys reducing life to
lessons."

There grew up in Dorn a curious envy of the novelist. He would think of
him frequently when alone, "The fellow's content to write. I'm not. He's
found his way of saying what's in him, getting rid of his energies and
love. I haven't. He feels toward the world as I do toward Rachel. An
overpowering reality and mystery are always before him; but it gives him
a mental perspective. What does Rachel give me? Desires, ambitions--a
sort of laughing madness that I can't translate into anything but
kisses. I'm cleverer than I was before. I talk and write better. There's
a certain wildness about things as if I were living in a storm. Yes, I
have wings, but there's no place to fly with them. Except into her arms.
There must be something else."

And he would rush through the day, outwardly a man of inexhaustible
energies, stamping himself upon the consciousness of people as a
brilliant, dominating personality. Edwards, with whom he discussed
matter for editorials and articles, had grown to regard him with awe.

"I've never felt genius so keenly before," Edwards explained him to
Lockwood. "The man seems burning up. Did you read his thing on Russia
and Kerensky? Lord, it was absolutely prophetic."

Lockwood shook his head.

"Dorn's too damn clever," he drawled. "Things come too easily to him.
He's got an eye but--I can't put my finger on it. You see a fella's got
to have something inside him. The things Erik says cleverly and
prophetically don't mean anything much, because they don't mean anything
to him. He makes 'em up as he goes along."

Edwards disagreed. He was a younger man than Lockwood, with an
impressionable erudition. Like his co-workers he had been somewhat
stampeded by Dorn's imitative faculties, faculties which enabled the
former journalist to bombinate twice as loud in a void three times as
great as any of his colleagues.

"Well, I've met a lot of writing men since I came East," he said. "And
Dorn's the best of them. He's more than a man of promise. He's opened
up. Look what he's done in the new number. Absolutely revolutionized the
liberal thought of the country. You've got to admit that. He's a man
incapable of fanaticism."

"That's just it," smiled Lockwood. "You've hit it. You've put your
finger on it. He's the kind of man who knows too damn much and don't
believe anything."

The friendship between Lockwood and Dorn matured quickly. The two men,
profoundly dissimilar in their natures, found themselves launched upon a
growing intimacy. To Lockwood, heavy spoken, delicate sensed, naïve
despite the shrewdness of his forty-five years, Erik Dorn appealed as
some exotic mechanical contrivance might for a day fascinate and
bewilder the intelligence of a rustic. And the other, in the midst of
magnificent bombinations that amazed his friend, thought, "If I only
had this man's simplicity. If on top of my ability to unravel mysteries
into words I could feel these mysteries as he does, I might do
something."

At other times, carried away by the strength of his own nature, he would
find himself looking down upon Lockwood. "I'm alive. He's static. I live
above him. There's nothing beyond me. I can't feel the things out of
which he makes his novels, because I'm beyond them."

He would think then of Lockwood as an eagle of a rustic painstakingly
hoeing a field. On such days the disquiet would vanish from Dorn's
thought. He would feel himself propelled through the hours as if by some
irresistible wind of which he had become a part. To live was enough. To
live was to give expression to the clamoring forces in him. To sweep
over Edwards, hurl himself through crowds, pulverize Warren, bang out
astounding fictions on the typewriter, watch the faces of acquaintances
light up with admiration as he spoke--this sufficed. The world
galvanized itself about him. He could do anything. He could give vision
to people, create new life around him. This consciousness sufficed. Then
to rush home from a triumphant day, a glorious contempt for his fellows
lingering like wine in his head--and find Rachel--an eagle waiting in a
nest.

Joy, then, become a mania. Desires feeding upon themselves, devouring
his body and his senses and hurling him into an exhausted sleep as if
death alone could climax the madness of his spirit--these Dorn knew in
the days of his strength.

But the days of disquiet came, confronting him like skeletons in the
midst of his feastings upon life. The ecstasy he felt seemed suddenly to
turn itself inward and demand of him new destinations. On such days he
had fallen into the habit of going upon swift walks through the less
crowded streets of the city. During his walking he would mutter, "What
can I do? What? Nothing. Not a thing." As if secret voices were debating
his destiny.

Restless, vicious spoken, venting his strainings in a skyrocket burst of
phrases upon the inanity and stupidity of his fellow creatures for which
he seemed to possess an almost uncanny vision, he fled through these
days like the victim of some spiritual satyriasis. No longer a wind at
his heels riding him into easy heights, he found himself weighted down
with his love, and strangely inanimate.

The direction in which he was moving loomed sterilely before him. His
love itself seemed a feverishly sterile thing. His work upon the
magazine, his incessant exchange of intolerant adjectives with admiring
strangers--these became absurdly petty gestures, absurdly insufficient.
There was something else to do. As he had longed for Rachel in the black
days before their coming together, he longed now for this something
else. Without name or outline, it haunted him. Another face of stars,
but this time beyond his power to understand. Yet it demanded him, as
Rachel had demanded him, and towards it he turned in his days of
disquiet, inanimate and bewildered.

"I must find something to do," he explained to himself, "that will give
me direction. People must have a monomania as a track for their living,
or else there is no living."

Then, as was his custom, he would begin an unraveling of the notion.

"Men with energies in them wed themselves quickly to some consuming
project, even if it's nothing more than the developing of a fish market.
Rachel isn't a destination. She's a force that fills me with violence
and I have no direction in which to live to use this violence. I don't
know what to do with myself. So I'm compelled to live in the violence
itself. In a storm. A kind of Walkyrie on a broomstick. But, good God,
what else is there? Sit and scribble words about fictitious characters.
Bleat out rhapsodies. Art is something I can spit out in conversation.
If I do anything it's got to be something too difficult for me to do. My
damned cleverness puts me beyond artists who find a destination for
their energies in the struggle to achieve the thing with which I begin.
If not art, then what? War, politics, finance. All surfaces meaning
nothing. If I did them all there'd still be something I hadn't done. I
want something that's not in life. Life's too damned insufficient. I
want something out of it."

Rachel had thought at first that his fits of brooding restlessness came
from a memory of Anna. But phrases he had blurted cut half-consciously
had given her a sense of their causes. The thought of Anna had died in
him. Neither consciousness of her suffering nor memory of the years they
had lived together had yet awakened in him. He had been moving since the
night he had walked out of his home and there had been no looking back.

Undergoing a seeming expansion of his powers, Erik Dorn had become a
startling, fascinating figure in the new world he had entered. The
flattery of men almost as clever as himself, the respect, appreciation
of political, literary, and vaguely social circles, of stolid men and
eccentric acquaintances, were continually visited upon him. He was a
personality, a figure to enliven dinner parties, throw a glamour and a
fever into the enervated routine of sets, cliques, and circles.

He had made occasional journeyings alone and sometimes with Rachel into
the homes of chance acquaintances, and had put in fitful appearances at
the various excitements pursued by the city's more radical
intelligentsia--little-theater premiers, private assemblings of shrewd,
bored men and women, precious concerts, electric discussions of
political unrest. From all such adventurings he came away with a sense
of distaste. Friendships, always foreign to his nature, had become now
almost an impossibility. He felt himself a procession of adjectives
exploding in the ears of strangers.

With Warren Lockwood alone he had been able to achieve a contact. In
the presence of the novelist there was a complement of himself both in
the days of his disquiet and strength. Together they took to frequenting
odd parts of the city, visiting lonely cafés and calling upon strangers
known to the novelist. The man's virile gentleness soothed him. He was
never tired of watching the turns of his naïveté, delighting as much in
his friend's unsophisticated appreciation of the arts as in the vivid
simplicity of his understanding of people and events.

He had finished a stormy conference with the directors of the magazine
on the subject of a new editorial policy toward Russia--new editorial
policies toward Russia had become almost the sole preoccupation of the
_New Opinion_--when Lockwood arrived at the office, resplendent in the
atrocities of a new green hat and lavender necktie.

"There's a fella over on the east side you ought to meet," Lockwood
explained. "I was going over there and thought you'd like to come
along."

He leaned over, seriously confidential.

"If you can lay off a while in this business of revolutionizing the
liberal thought of the whole country, Erik, I'll tell you something.
Between you and me, this man we're going to see is the greatest artist
in America. I know."

Lockwood waved his hand casually as if dismissing once and for all an
avalanche of contradictions. Dorn hesitated. It was one of his days of
disquiet; and he had left a note with Rachel saying he would be home at
eight. It was now six.

"If you've got a date," went on Lockwood, "call it off. Lord, man, you
can't afford missing the greatest artist in the world."

Dorn frowned. He might telephone. But that would mean explanations and
the pleading sound of a voice saying, "Of course, Erik." He would send a
message, and scribbled it on a telegraph blank:

"I'll be home late. Don't worry.

"ERIK."

"We'll make a night of it," he laughed.

Lockwood looked at him, shrewdly affectionate.

"What you need," he spoke, "is a good drink and some fat street woman to
shake you out of it. You look kind of tied up."

"I am," grinned Dorn. "Wound up and ready to bust."

Lockwood nodded his head slowly.

"Uh-huh," he said, as if turning the matter over carefully in his
thought. "Why don't you buy a new hat like I do when I get feeling sort
of upside down? Buying a new hat or tie straightens a man out. Come on!"
He laughed suddenly. "This artist's name is Tony. He's an old
man--seventy years old."

They entered the street, Lockwood watching his companion with dark,
fixed eyes as if he were slowly arriving at some impersonal diagnosis.

"A lot of fools," he announced abruptly, waving his hand at the crowds.
"They don't know that something important's happening in Russia." He
pronounced it Rooshia. Dorn saw his eyes kindle with a kindliness as he
denounced the rabble about them.

"What do you figure is happening in Rooshia?" he inquired of the
novelist.

"I don't figure," smiled Lockwood. "I feel it. Something important that
these newspaper Neds around this town haven't got any conception of.
It's what old Carl calls the rising of the proletaire." He chuckled.
"Old Carl's sure gone daft on this proletaire thing." His face abruptly
hardened, the rugged features becoming set, the swart eyes paying a
far-away homage. "But old Carl's a great poet--the greatest in America.
God, but that old boy can write!"

Dorn nodded. In the presence of the novelist the unrest that had held
him by the throat through the day seemed to ebb. There was companionship
in the figure beside him. They walked in silence for several blocks. The
day was growing dark quickly and despite the crowds in the streets,
there seemed an inactivity in the air--the wait of a storm.

Into a ramshackle building on the corner of a vivaciously ugly street
Lockwood led his friend in quest of the greatest artist. An old man in a
skull cap, woolen shirt, baggy trousers and carpet slippers appeared in
a darkened doorway. With his long white beard he stood bent and
rheumatic before them, making a question mark in the gloom of the hall.

"Hello, Tony," Lockwood greeted him. "I've brought a friend of mine
along to look at your works."

The old man extended thin fingers and nodded his head. Dorn entered a
large room that reminded him of a tombstone factory. Figures in clay,
some broken and cracked, cluttered up its floor and walls. In a corner
partly hidden behind topsy-turvy busts and more figures was a cot with a
blanket over it. Dorn after several minutes of silence, looked
inquiringly at his friend. The works of art, despite an obvious vigor of
execution, were openly banal.

"He's got some more in the basement," announced Lockwood with an air of
triumph. "And there's some stuck away with the family upstairs. The
whole street here's full of his works."

The old man nodded.

"He doesn't talk much English," went on Lockwood. "But I'll tell you
about him. I got the story from him. He's the greatest artist in the
world."

As Dorn moved politely from figure to figure, the old man like a museum
monitor at his heels, Lockwood went on explaining in a caressing
sing-song:

"This old boy came to New York when he was in his twenties. And he's
been living here ever since and making statues. He's working right now
on a statue of some general. Been working for fifty years without
stopping, and there's nobody in this town ever heard of him or come near
him. Get this picture of this old boy, Erik, buried in this hole for
fifty years making statues. Working away day after day without anybody
coming near him. I brought a sculptor friend of mine who kept squinting
at some of the things the old boy did when he first came over and
saying, 'By God, this fella was an artist at one time.' Get the picture
of this smart-aleck sculptor friend of mine saying this old boy was an
artist."

The eyes of Warren Lockwood grew hard and seemed to challenge. He
extended his arm and waved his hand gently in a further challenge.

"The fools in this town let this old boy stay buried," he whispered,
"but he fooled them. He kept right on making statues and giving them
away to the folks that live around here and hiding them in the basement
when there wasn't anybody to take them."

Lockwood grasped the arm of his friend excitedly and his voice became
high-pitched.

"Don't you get this old man?" he argued. "Don't you get the figure of
him as an artist? Lord, man, he's the greatest artist in the world, I
tell you!"

Dorn nodded his head, amused and disturbed by the novelist's excitement.
The old sculptor was standing in the shadow of the figures piled on top
of each other against the wall. He wore the air of a man just awakened
and struggling politely to grasp his surroundings.

"A sort of altruistic carpenter," thought Dorn. "That's what Warren
calls an artist. Works diligently for nothing."

The respect and awe in the eyes of his friend halted him.

"Yes, I get him," he added aloud. "Living with a dream for fifty years."

Lockwood snorted and then with a quiet laugh answered: "No, that isn't
it. You're not an artist yourself so you can't quite get the sense of
it." He seemed petulent and defeated.

They left the old man's studio without further talk. It had started to
rain. Large spaced drops plumbed a gleaming hypotenuse between the
rooftops and the streets. They paused before a basement restaurant.

"It looks dirty," said Lockwood, "but let's go in."

Here they ordered dinner. During their eating the noise of thunder
sounded and the splash of the storm drifted in through the dusty
basement windows. A thick-wristed, red-fingered waitress slopped back
and forth between their table and an odorous kitchen door. Lockwood kept
his eyes fastened steadily upon the nervous features of his friend. He
thought as the silence increased between them: "This man's got something
the matter with him."

Gradually an uneasiness came over the novelist, his sensitive nerves
responding to the disquiet in the smiling eyes opposite.

"You're kind of crazy," he leaned forward and whispered as if confiding
an ominous, impersonal secret. "You've got the eyes of a man kind of
crazy, Erik."

He sat back in his chair, his hands holding the edge of the table, his
chin tucked down, as if he were ruminating, narrow-eyed, upon some
involved business proposition.

"I get you now," he added slowly. "I'll put you in a book--a crazy man
who kept fooling himself by imitating sane people."

Dorn nodded.

"Insanity would be a relief," he answered. "Come on."

He stood up quickly and looked down at his friend.

"Let's keep going. I've got something in me I want to get rid of."

In the doorway the friends halted. The grave, melodious shout of the
rain filled the night. The streets had become dark, attenuated pools.
The rain falling illuminated the hidden faces of the buildings and
silvered the air with whirling lines.

As they stood facing the downpour Dorn thought, "Rachel's waiting for
me. Why don't I go to her? But I'd only make her sad. Better let it get
out of me in the rain."

Holding his friend's arm he stood staring at the storm over the city.
Through the sparkle and fume of the rain-colored night the lights of
café signs burned like golden-lettered banners flung stiffly into the
downpour. About the lights floated patches of yellow mist through which
the rain swarmed in flurries of gleaming moths. There were lights of
doors and windows beneath the burning signs. The remainder of the street
was lost in a wilderness of rain that bubbled and raced over the
pavements in an endless detonation.

He spoke with a sudden softness: "I didn't get your artist, Warren, but
you don't get this storm. It's noise and water to you."

The novelist answered with a sagacious nod.

"There's something alive in a night like this," Dorn went on, "something
that isn't a part of life."

He pulled his friend out of the doorway. They walked swiftly, their
shoes spurting water and the rain dripping from their clothes. Dorn felt
an untightening. His eyes hailed the scene as if in greeting of a
friend. He became aware of its detail. He smiled, remembering the way in
which he had been used to hide his longing for Rachel in the desperate
consciousness of scenes about him. Now it was something else he was
hiding. Beneath his feet he watched the silver-tipped pool of the
pavement. Gleaming in its depths swam reflections of burning lamps, like
the yellow script of another and wraith-like world staring up at him out
of a nowhere. The rest was darkness and billowy stripes of water. People
had vanished. Later a sound of thunder crawled out of the sky. A vein
of lightning opened the night. Against its blue pallor the street and
its buildings etched themselves.

"Stiff, unreal, like a stage scene," murmured Dorn. "Another world."

The rain flung itself for an instant in great ghostly sheets out of the
lighted spaces. He caught a glimpse in the distance of a hunched, moving
figure like some tiny wanderer through tortuous fields. Then darkness
resumed, seizing the street. A wind entered the night outlining itself
in the wild undulations of the rain reaching for the pavements.

Dorn forgot his companion, as they pressed on. Disheveled rain ghosts
crowded around him. The fever that had burned in him during the day
seemed to have become a part of the storm. The leap and hollow blaze of
the lightnings gave him a companionship. His eyes stared into the
inanimate bursts of pale violet outlines in the dark. His breath drank
in the spice of water-laden winds. The stumble of thunder, the lash and
churn of rain were companions. The something else that haunted him was
in the storm. He turned to Lockwood, who seemed to be lagging, and
shouted in his ear:

"Great, eh? Altar fires and the racket of unknown gods."

Lockwood, his face filmed with water, grunted indignantly:

"Let's get out of this."

The night was growing wilder. Dorn's eyes bored into the vapors and
steam of the rain.

"We're in a good street," he cried again. "A nigger street."

A blinding gust of light brought them to a halt. Thunder burst a horror
of sound through its dead glare. Dorn stiffened and stared as in a dream
at a face floating behind the glass of a door. A woman's face contorted
into a stark grimace of rapture. Its teeth stood out white and
skull-like against the red of an open mouth.

Silence and darkness seized the street. Rain poured. The sound of a
laugh like some miniature echo of the tumult that had torn the night
drifted to them. Lockwood had started for the door.

"Come on," he called, "this is crazy."

Dorn followed him. The streaming door opened as they approached and two
figures darted out. They were gone in an instant and in pursuit of them
rushed a rollicking lurch of sound. Dorn caught again the shrill
staccato of the laugh, and the door closed behind them.

Dancing bodies were spinning among the tables. Shouting, swinging noises
and a bray of music spurted unintelligibly against the ears of the
newcomers. A chlorinated mist, acrid to the eye, and burning to the
nose, crawled about the room. Dorn, followed by Lockwood, groped his way
through the confusion toward a small vacant table against a wall. From
here they watched in silence.

A can-can was in progress. The dancers, black and white faces glued
together, arms twined about each other's bodies, tumbled through the
smoke. Waiters balancing black trays laden with colored glasses sifted
through the scene. At the tables men and women with faces out of focus
sat drinking and shouting. Niggers, prostitutes, louts. The slant of red
mouths opened laughters. Hands and throats drifted in violent fragments
through the mist. The reek of wine and steaming clothes, the sting of
perspiring perfumes and the odors of women's bodies fumed over the
tumble of heads. Against the scene a jazz band flung a whine and a
stumble of tinny sounds. Nigger musicians with silver instruments glued
to their lips sat on a platform at the far end of the room. They danced
in their chairs as they played, swinging their instruments in crazy
circles. A broken, lurching music came from them, a nasal melody that
moaned among the laughters.

Dorn's fingers lay gripped about the arm of his friend. His senses
caught the rhythm of the scene. His eyes stared at the dancing figures,
blond heads riveted against black satin cheeks; bodies gesturing their
lusts to the quick whine and stumble of the music; eyes opening like
mouths.

"God, what an orgie!" he whispered. "Look at the thing. It's insane. A
nigger hammering a scarlet phallus against a cymbal moon."

His words vanished in the din and Lockwood remained with eyes drawn in
and hard. When he turned to his friend he found him excitedly pounding
his fist on the table and bawling for a waiter. A man, seemingly asleep
amid confusions, appeared and took his order.

"There's a woman in here I've got to find," Dorn shouted.

"You're crazy, man."

"I saw her," he persisted, talking close to his friend's ear. "I saw her
face in the door. You wait here."

Lockwood seized his arm and tried to hold him, but he jerked away and
was lost in a pattern of dancing bodies. Lockwood watching him
disappear, frowned. He felt a sudden uncertainty toward his friend, a
fear as if he had launched himself into a dark night with a murderer for
a companion.

"He's crazy," he thought. "I ought to get him out of here before
anything happens."

He sat fumbling nervously with the stem of a wine-glass. Outside, the
rain chattered in the darkness and the alto of the wind came in long
organ notes into the din of the café. He caught sight of Dorn pulling an
unholy-looking woman through the pack of the room.

"Here she is--our lady of pain!"

Dorn thrust the creature viciously into a seat beside Lockwood. She
dropped with a scream of laughter. The music of the nigger orchestra had
stopped and an emptiness flooded the place. Dorn bellowed for another
glass. Lockwood looked slowly at the creature beside him. She was
watching Dorn. In the swarthy depths of her eyes moved threads of
scarlet. Beneath their lashes her skin was darkened as if by bruises. An
odd sultry light glowed over the discolorations. Her mouth had shut and
her cheeks were without curves, following the triangular corpse-like
lines of her skull. Her lips, like bits of vermilion paper, stared as
from an idol's face. She was regarding Dorn with a smile.

He had grown erratic in his gestures. His eyes seemed incapable of
focusing themselves. They darted about the room, running away from him.
The woman's smile persisted and he turned his glance abruptly at her.
The red flesh of her opened mouth and throat confronted him as another
of her screaming laughs burst. The laugh ended and her gleaming eyes
swimming in a gelatinous mist held him.

"A reptilian sorcery," he whispered to Lockwood, and smiled. "The face
of a malignant Pierrette. A diabolic clown. Look at it. I saw it in the
lightning outside. She wears a mask. Do you get her?" He paused
mockingly. Lockwood shifted away from the woman. Erik was drunk. Or
crazy. But the woman, thank God, had eyes only for him. She remained, as
he talked, with her sulphurous eyes unwaveringly upon his face.

"She's not a woman," he went on in a purring voice. "She's a lust. No
brain. No heart. A stark unhuman piece of flesh with a shark's hunger
inside it."

He leaned forward and took one of her hands as Lockwood whispered,

"Christ, man, let's get out of here."

The woman's fingers, dry and quivering, scratched against Dorn's palm.
He felt them as a hot breath in his blood.

"What's the matter, Warren?" he laughed, emptying a wine-glass. "I like
this gal. She suits me. A devourer of men. Look at her!"

He laughed and glared at his friend. Lockwood closed his eyes nervously.

"I've got a headache in this damned place," he muttered.

"Wait a minute." Dorn seized his arm. "I want to talk. I feel gabby. My
lady friend doesn't understand words." The sulphurous eyes glowed
caresses over him. "You remember the thing in Rabelais about
women--insatiable, devouring, hungering in their satieties. The prowling
animal. Well, here it is. Alive. Not in print. She's alive with
something deeper than life. Wheels of flesh grinding her blood into a
hunger for ecstasies. She's a mate for me. Come on, little one."

He sprang from the table, pulling the woman after him.

"Wait here, Warren," he called, moving toward the door. It opened,
letting in a shout and sweep of rain, and they were gone.

"A crazy man," muttered the novelist, and remained fumbling with the
stem of his glass.

Outside Dorn held the body of the woman against him as they hurried
through the storm. Her flesh, like the touch of a third person, struck
through his wet clothes.

"Where we going?" he yelled at her.

She thrust out an arm.

"Up here."

They came breathless up a flight of stairs into a reeking room lighted
by a gas jet.

     *     *     *     *     *     *

In the café, Lockwood waited till the music started again. Then he rose
and, slapping his soggy hat on his head, walked out of the place. The
rain, sweeping steadily against the earth, held him prisoner in the
doorway. He stood muttering to himself of his friend and his craziness.
Gone wild! Crazy wild with a mad woman in the rain. Long ago he might
have done it himself. Yes, he knew the why of it. The rain fuming before
him made him sleepy. He leaned against the place and waited. The storm
faded slowly into a quiet patter. Starting for the pavement, Lockwood
paused. A hatless figure had jumped out of a doorway across the street
and was running toward him.

"It's Erik," he muttered, and hurried to meet him.

Dorn, laughing, his clothes torn and his face smeared with blood under
his eye, drew near. He took his friend's arm and walked him swiftly
away. At the corner Dorn stopped and regarded the novelist.

"I've had a look at hell," he whispered, and with a laugh hurried off
alone. Lockwood watched him moving swiftly down the street, and yawned.



CHAPTER IV


It was near midnight. Rachel's eyes, brightened with tears, watched her
lover bathing his face.

"It seemed so long," she murmured, "till you came."

"That damned Warren Lockwood led me astray," he smiled. He dried his
face and came toward her. She dropped to the floor beside him as he sat
down and pressed her cheeks against his knees. His hands moved tenderly
through her loosened hair.

"You told me to be careful about getting run over," she smiled sadly,
"and you go out and get all cut up in a brawl. Oh, Erik,
please--something might have happened."

"Nothing happened, dearest."

She asked no further questions but remained with her face against his
knees. This was Rachel whose hair he was stroking. Dorn smiled at the
thought. After a silence she resumed, her voice softened with emotion:

"Erik, I've been lying to you--about my love. It's different than I said
it was. I've said always what you've wanted me to say. You've always
wanted me to be something else than a woman--something like a dream.
But I can't. I love you as--as Anna loved you. Oh, I want to be with you
forever and have children. I'm nothing else. You are. I can't be like
you. For me there's only love for you and nothing beyond."

"Dear one," he answered, "there's nothing else for me."

"Now you're telling me lies," she wept. "There is something I can't give
you; and that you must go looking for somewhere else."

"No, Rachel. I love you."

"As you loved Anna--once."

"Don't! I never loved Anna--or anyone. Or anything."

"I can't help it, Erik. Forgive me, please. I love you so. Don't you see
how I love you. I keep trying to be something besides myself and to give
other names to the things I feel. But they're only sentimental things.
My dreams are only sentimental dreams--of your kissing me, holding me,
being my husband. Oh, go way from me, Erik, before I make you hate me!
You thought I was different. And I did too. I _was_ different. But
you've changed me. Women are all the same when they love. Differences go
away."

She looked up at him with tear-running eyes.

"Different than other people! But now I'm the same. I love you as any
other woman would. Only perhaps a little more. With my whole soul and
life."

"Foolish to talk," he whispered back to her. "Words only scratch at
things. I love you as if I had never seen you or kissed you."

"But I'm not a dream, Erik. Oh, it sounds silly. But I want you."

He raised her and held her lithe body close to him. The feeling that he
was unreal, that Rachel was unreal, rested in his thought. There was a
mist about things that clung to them, that clung about the joyousness in
his heart.

"There's nothing else," he whispered. "Love is enough. It burns up
everything else and leaves a mist."

His arms tightened.

"Erik dear, I'm afraid."

His kiss brought a peace over her face. She had waited for it. She
looked up and laughed.

"You love me? Yes, Erik loves me. Loves me. I know."

She watched his eyes as he spoke. The eyes of God. They remained open to
her. She began to tremble and her naked arms moved blindly toward his
shoulders.

"This is my world," she whispered. "I know, Erik. I know everything. You
are too big for love to hold. The sun doesn't fill the whole world.
There are always dark places. I know. Don't hide from me, lover."

She smiled and closed her eyes as her lips reached toward him.

The eyes of Erik Dorn remained open and staring out of the window. There
was still rain in the night.



CHAPTER V


Erik Dorn to Rachel, September, 1918:

" ... and to-night I remember you are beautiful, and I desire you. My
arms are empty and there is nothing for my eyes to look at. Are you
still afraid. Look, more than a year has gone and nothing has changed.
You are the far-away one, the dream figure, and my heart comes on wings
to you.... I write with difficulty. What language is there to talk to
you? How does one converse with a dream? Idiot phrases rant across the
paper like little fat actors flourishing tin swords. I've come to
distrust words. There are too many of them. Yet I keep fermenting with
words. Interlopers. Busybody strangers. I can't think ... because of
them.... Alas! if I could keep my vocabulary out of our love we would
both be better off. Foolish chatter. I thought when I sat down to write
to you that the sadness of your absence would overcome me. Instead, I am
amused. Vaguely joyous. And at the thought of you I have an impulse to
laugh. You are like that. A day like a thousand years has passed.
Dead-born hours that did not end. Chill, empty streets and the memory of
you like a solitude in which I sat mumbling to phantoms. And now in the
darkness my heart sickens with desire for you and the night sharpens
its claws upon my heart. Yet there is laughter. Words laugh in my head.
The torment I feel is somehow a part of joyousness. The claws of the
night bring somehow a caress. Even to weep for you is like some dark
happiness whose lips are too fragile to smile. Dear one, the dream of
you still lives--an old friend now, a familiar star that I watch
endlessly. You see there are even no new words. For once before I told
you that. It was night--snowing. We walked together. I remember you
always as vanishing and leaving the light of your face burning before my
eyes. I shall always love you. Why are you afraid? Why do you write
vague doubts into your letters? I will be with you soon. You are a
world, and the rest of life is a mist that surrounds you.... I have
nothing to write. I discover this as I sit staring at the paper. I
remember that a year has passed, that many years remain to pass. Dear
one, I know only that I love you, and words are strangers between us."

     *     *     *     *     *     *

Rachel to Erik, September end, 1918:

" ... when I went away you were unhappy and restless. Now that I have
gone you are again happy and calm. Oh, you're so cruel! Your love is so
cruel to me. I sit here all day, a foolishly humble exile, waiting for
you. I keep watching the sea and sometimes I try to feel pain. When your
letter comes I spend the day reading it.... I am beautiful and you
desire me. Oh, to think me beautiful and to desire me, suffices. You do
not come where I am. Nothing has changed, you write with a joyous
cruelty. In your lonely nights your dream of me still brings you
torments and I am a star that you watch endlessly. I laugh too, but out
of bitterness. Because what you write is no longer true and we both have
known it for long. I am no longer a dream or a star, but a woman who
loves you. Yes, nothing has changed, except me. And you remedy that by
sending me away. When you send me away I too become unchanged in your
thought. I am again like I was on the night we parted in the white park
and you can love me--a memory of me--that remains like a star....

"But here I am in this lonely little sea village. There is no dream for
me. I am empty without you and I lie at night and weep till my heart
breaks, wondering when you will come. It were better if I were dead. I
whisper to myself, 'you must not write him to come to you, because he is
too busy loving you. He weeps before the ghost of you. He sits beside an
old dream. You must not interrupt him. Oh, my lover, do you find me so
much less than the dream of me, that you must send me away in order to
love me? My doubts? Are they doubts? We have grown apart in the year. On
the night it snowed and I went away from you you said, 'people bury
their love behind lighted windows....' Dearest, dearest, of what do I
complain? Of your ecstasies and torments of which I am not a part, but a
cause? Forgive me. I adore you. I am so lonely and such a nobody without
you. And I want you to write to me that you long for me, to be with me,
to caress me and talk to me. And instead you send phrases analyzing your
joyousness. Oh, things have changed. I am no longer Rachel, but a woman.
I feel so little and helpless when I think of you. Strangers can talk to
you and look at you but I must sit here in exile while you entertain
yourself with memories of me. You are cruel, dear one, and I have become
too cowardly not to mind. This is because I have found happiness--all
the happiness I desire--and hold it tremblingly. And you have not found
happiness but are still in flight toward your far-away one, your dream
figure. I cannot write more. I worship you and my heart is full of
tears. I will sit humbly and look at the sea until you come."

     *     *     *     *     *     *

Rachel to Frank Brander, September:

" ... I answer your letter only because I am afraid you would
misunderstand my silence. I send your letter back because I cannot throw
it away. It would make the sea unclean. As you point out, I am the
mistress of Erik Dorn and he may some day grow tired of me, at which
time you are prepared to be my friend and protect me from the world. I
will put your application on file, Mr. Brander, if there is a part of my
mind filthy enough to remember it."

     *     *     *     *     *     *

Rachel to Emil Tesla:

" ... I was glad to hear from you. But please do not write any more. I
am too happy to read your letters. I never want to draw pictures for
_The Cry_ again. I hope you will be freed soon. I can think of nothing
to write to you."

     *     *     *     *     *     *

Erik Dorn to Rachel, November, 1918:

"DEAREST ONE!

"Beneath my window the gentle Jabberwock has twined colored tissue-paper
about his ears and gone mad. He shrieks, he whistles, he blows a horn.
The war, beloved, appears to have ended this noon and the Jabberwock is
endeavoring to disgorge four and a half years in a single shriek. 'The
war,' says the Jabberwock, in his own way, 'is over. It was a rotten
war, nasty and hateful, as all wars are rotten and hateful, and
everything I've said and done hinting at the contrary has been a lie and
I'm so full of lies I must shriek.'

"Anybody but a Jabberwock, dear one, would have died of apoplexy hours
ago. But the Jabberwock is immortal. Alas! there is something of pathos
in the spectacle. Our gentle friend with tissue-paper around his ears
prostrates himself before another illusion--peace. Says the shriek of
the Jabberwock beneath my window, 'The Hun is destroyed. The menace to
humanity is laid low. The powers of darkness are dispelled by the breath
of God and the machine-guns of our brave soldats. The war that is to end
war is over. Hail, blessed peace!'

"Why do I write such arid absurdities to you? But I feel an impulse to
scribble wordly words, to stand in a silk hat beside the statue of
Liberty and gaze out upon the Atlantic with a Carlylian pensiveness.
Idle political tears flow from my brain. For it is obvious that the war
the Jabberwock has so nobly waged has been a waste of steel and powder.
Standing now on his eight million graves with the tissue-paper of
Victory twined about his ears, the Jabberwock is a somewhat ghastly,
humorous figure. He has, alas! shot the wrong man. To-morrow there will
be an inquest in Paris and the Jabberwock will rub his eyes and discover
that the corpse, God forgive him, is that of a brother and friend and
that the Powers of Darkness threatening humanity are advancing upon him
... out of Moscow. I muse ... yes, it was a good war. War is never
pathetic, never wholly a waste. Maturity no less than childhood must
have its circuses. But the Jabberwock ... Ah! the Jabberwock ... the
soul of man celebrating the immortal triumph of righteousness ... the
good Don Quixote has valiantly slain another windmill and your Sancho
Panza shakes his head in wistful amusement.

"I did not send you this letter yesterday and many things have happened
since I wrote it. I will see you in a few days. It has been decided that
I go to Germany for the magazine. Edwards insists. So do the directors,
trusting gentlemen. I will stop at Washington and try to get two
passports and then come on to you, and we will wait together until the
passports are issued. Another week of imbecile political maneuverings in
behalf of the passports and I will again be your lover,

                                                     "ERIK."



CHAPTER VI


"We've been separated almost three months," he thought, looking out of
the train window. "I'll see her soon."

There were four men in the smoking-compartment. They were discussing the
end of the war. Dorn listened inattentively. He was remembering another
ride to Rachel. Looking out of a train window as now. Whirling through
space. A locomotive whistle wailing in the prairies at night like the
sound of winds against his heart.

The memories of the ride drifted through his mind. He saw himself again
with the tumult of another day sweeping toward Rachel. What had he felt
then? Whatever it was, it was gone. For he felt nothing now but a
sadness. He had telegraphed. She would be waiting, her face alight, her
hands trembling. He had started from Washington elatedly enough. But now
in the smoking-compartment where the men were discussing the end of the
war he felt no elation. He was thinking, "It'll be difficult when we see
each other." He became aware that he was actually shrinking from the
meeting. The voices of the men about him began to annoy and he returned
to his seat in the train.

Early evening. Another two hours and the train would stop to let him
off. Dear, dear Rachel! He had wept tormented by a loneliness for her.
Now he was coming to her with sadness. There had been another ride when
he had come to her in a halloo of storms. Things change.

The porter brushed him and removed his grips to the platform. The far
lights of a village sprinkled themselves feebly in the darkness. This
was where Rachel was waiting.

Dorn stepped from the train. It became another world, lighted and human.
He looked about the dingy little station. Rachel was walking toward him.

"She looks strange and out of place," he thought.

They embraced. Her kisses covering his lips delighted him unexpectedly.
He found himself walking close to her in the night and feeling happy.
They entered a darkened wooden house and Rachel led the way upstairs.

"I can't talk, Erik."

She held his hand against her cheek.

"No, don't kiss me. Let me look at you. Sit over here. I must look at
you."

She laughed softly, but her eyes, unsmiling, stared at him. He remained
silent. The sadness that had fallen upon him in the train returned now
like a hurt in his heart. He had expected it to vanish at the sight of
her. But her kisses had only hidden it. She came to his side after a
pause and whispered gently,

"Perhaps it would have been better if you hadn't come, dearest. I've
become almost used to being alone."

He embraced her and for the moment the sadness was hidden again.
Rachel's hands crept avidly to his face, holding his cheeks with hot
fingers.

"Erik, oh, Erik, do you love me? I'm not afraid to hear. Tell me."

"Yes, dear one. You are everything."

"What makes you cry?"

He kissed her lips.

"I don't know," he whispered. "Only it's been so long."

"Oh, you are so sad."

Her voice had grown thin. Her eyes, dry, burning, haunted the dark room.
She removed herself from his arms and stood with her hand in her hair.
She looked at the dark sea that mirrored the night outside the window.
Turning to him after a pause she murmured:

"I had forgotten Erik Dorn was here."

A sudden stride, the gesture of another Rachel, and she had thrown
herself on the bed.

"Oh, God!" she sobbed. "I knew, I knew!"

Dorn, kneeling on the floor, pulled her head toward him. He whispered
her name. Why was he sad, frightened? A thought was murmuring in him,
"You must love her."

"Rachel, I love you. Please. Your tears. Dearest, what has happened?
Tell me."

"Don't ask that." Her tears came anew. "But you come to me sad, as if I
were no longer Rachel to you."

The thought kept murmuring, "You must love her...."

"Beautiful one," he said softly, "you're weeping because something has
happened to you."

The thought murmured, "because something has happened to you, not her."

"No, no, Erik!"

"Then why? If you loved me you would be happy."

Absurd sentences. They would deceive no one.

A belated emotion overcame him. Now he was happy. His arms grew strong
about her. He would say nothing, but lie beside her kissing her until
the tears ended. This was happiness. He watched her lips begin to smile
faintly. Her face touched him as if she had sighed. She whispered after
a long silence, "Oh, I thought you had changed."

He laughed and pulled her to her feet. His head thrown back, his eyes
amused and warm, he asked, "Do I seem changed now?"

He waited while she regarded him. Why was he nervous? Must he answer the
question too?

"No," she said, "you are the same."

Her face shining before him. Her head quickly lifted.

"I was a fool. Look, Erik, I am happy--happier than anybody on earth."

She dropped to her knees, kissing his hand.

"I am so happy, I kneel...."

They stood together in the window and laughed.

"There's a wonderful old woman here. We've talked a great deal, about
everything, and you. You don't mind? To-morrow we'll lie all day on the
shore. Oh, Erik. Erik!"

"We'll never be alone again, Rachel."

"Never!" she echoed.



CHAPTER VII


A calm had fallen upon Erik Dorn, an unconsciousness of self. He
sprawled through the sunny days, staring at the sea with Rachel or
walking alone to the fishing-boats at the other end of the village, or
sitting with Mama Turpin, the old woman in whose cottage they lived.
With Mama Turpin he held interminable talks that rambled on through the
night at times. Religion was Mama Turpin's favored topic. Her round body
in a rocking-chair, her seamed, vigorous face raised toward the sky, the
old woman would fall into a dream and talk quietly of her God. She would
begin, her voice coming out of the dark reminding Dorn of a girl.

"Yes, I have always known this here one thing. Everybody must have a
religion. Because there's something in everybody that's way beyond their
selves to understand. And there's nobody to give it to excepting God.
Some God, anyways...."

Rachel, sitting in the shadows, would listen with her eyes upon Erik.
The fear that he had brought her was growing in her heart, making her
thought heavy and her gestures slow. She would listen, almost asleep, to
his words.

" ... Yes, Mama Turpin, religion comes to all people. But not for long.
We all get a flame in us at some time and it burns until it burns itself
out, and then we sit and forget to wonder about things...."

Talk perhaps for her to understand. But why should he hint when words
outright were easier? Rachel carried questions in her heart.

Among the fishermen Dorn listened sometimes to stories of great catches
and storms. He was usually silent watching them empty their nets on the
shore and remove the catch into basins and pails. The men accepted his
interest in their work with a pleased indifference.

Rachel sometimes walked with him or stretched beside him on the sand.
But he felt an uneasiness in her presence. Her eyes questioned him
silently and seemed to answer their own questions.

Since the evening of his coming there had been no scenes. He was
grateful for this. But the eyes of Rachel sometimes haunted him at night
as she lay asleep beside him. What spoke in her eyes? He felt calm when
alone, at peace with himself. But at night while she slept he would
become sleepless and a sadness would enter him. Thoughts he did not seem
to be thinking would move through his head. "Things pass. Years pass.
The sea and the stars remain the same. But men and women change. Life
eats into men and women--eats things away from them...."

In his sadness there would come to him a memory of Anna. Thoughts of
Anna and Rachel would mingle themselves.... Anna had once lain beside
him like this. He remembered now. Her body was different from
Rachel's--softer, warmer ... a woman named Anna had lived with him. Now
a woman named Rachel. And to-morrow, what? There were yesterdays. These
were not sad. Things already dead were not so sad. But things that are
to die....

His heart would grow weak, seeming to dissolve. Something unspoken in
the night. Tears in his heart. Calm in his thought. He would figure it
out sometime. His words were alert little busy-bodies. They could follow
things into difficult crevices. But was there anything to figure out? He
was growing old and a to-morrow was haunting him. Some day he would
close his eyes slowly and in the slow closing of his eyes the world
would end. Erik Dorn would have ended. Was there such a thing as ending?
Yes, things were always ending. Now he was different than the night he
had lain beside Rachel and whispered, "You have given me wings." But
how? He felt the same. Change came like that. Leaving one the same. He
would write things from Europe that would startle. He could write....
But, something unspoken in the night. He must say it to himself.... "You
must love her...." Then that was it. He no longer loved her.

He lay listening to her breathing. An end to his love. Preposterous
notion! How, since the thought of parting from her wrenched at his
heart? "If I went away from Rachel I would die." Unquestionably
sincere.... "I'd die." Not, of course, die. But feel death. Yet, there
was something changed. But a man doesn't remain an ecstatic lover. There
comes a time. Well, he loved her like this--quietly, happily, and if he
went away from her he would feel an end had come to his life. The other
love had been words flying in his head. Nice to have felt as he had. But
life--practical, material rush of hours. Words had flown in his head
once. He smiled. "Wings, what are they?" He remembered having spoken and
thought a great deal about wings. Now the idea seemed somewhat absurd.
They were not a part of life. Inventions. An invention. A phrase to
explain an unusual state of physical and mental excitement.... Sleep
intruded and the sadness melted out of him. As he closed his eyes his
hand reached dreamily for Rachel and lay upon her shoulder.

A week of silence followed. Dorn talked. Politics, economics, the coming
peace treaty. Rachel listened and made replies. Yet their words seemed
only the part of a silence between them. A letter from Washington
interrupted them. A passport was being issued for Erik Dorn, but the
bureau was not issuing passports for women and would have to deny Mrs.
Rachel Dorn ... "enclosed please find $1 deposit made for Mrs. Dorn at
this office."

"Well, that ends it," he laughed. "Perhaps I shouldn't have lied about
your being Mrs. Dorn. God is a jealous God and punishes liars."

"You must go on," Rachel said. "Perhaps I'll get one later."

"No, we'll both wait. I couldn't go without you."

Rachel regarded him tenderly. They were sitting on Mama Turpin's porch.

"Yes, you will," she said.

He shook his head, pleased at the opportunity for sacrifice. He hoped as
he smiled that Rachel would plead with him to go alone. In her pleading
she would point out all the things he was giving up by not going. She
might even say, "You must go, Erik. You can't sacrifice your career."

Then he could shrug his shoulders, remain silent for a moment as if
weighing his career beside his love for her, and smile suddenly and say,
gently, "No. It's ended. Please, it's ended and forgotten." A laugh, a
bit too casual, would leave the thing on the proper plane. Later there
would be times when he could grow thoughtful and abstract and Rachel,
looking at him, would know that he had sacrificed--his career.

On Mama Turpin's porch Dorn's thoughts rambled in silence. Rachel had
said nothing. He looked at her and grew confused before the straightness
of her eyes, as if she knew the tawdry little plot moving through his
mind. Then an irritation ... why didn't she plead? Did she think it was
nothing to give up his plans? Was it anything? No. He endeavored to
evade his own questioning, but his thoughts mocked him with answers....
"I'm playing a game with her. I want her to feel sorry and grateful for
my not going and to feel that I've made a sacrifice for her. Because I
could cherish it against her ... later. Have something I could pretend
to be sad about. It would give me an excuse to scold her.... Merely by
looking at her I could remind her that she is indebted to me for a
sacrifice. Make-believe sacrifice gives one the unconsciousness of
virtue without any of its discomforts. I'm irritated because she refuses
to play her part in the farce and so makes me seem cheap. She knows I'm
lying but she can't figure out how or what about. So she looks at me and
says to herself, 'Erik has changed. He's different.' She means that I've
become an actor and able to offer her cheap things. But she doesn't know
that in words."

As he sat thinking, an understanding of himself played beneath his
thoughts. He was irritated with her. The passport business was something
he could hang his irritation on. It offered an opportunity to make the
petulant, indefinable aversion he sometimes felt toward her into a
noble, self-laudatory emotion.

He stood up abruptly. Make amends by being truthful and putting an end
to the theatrics.... "Listen, Rachel, it's foolish for us to take this
seriously. I don't give a damn about going, and I never did. It would
bore me. It means nothing to me, and it's no sacrifice or even
inconvenience. Please, I mean it. Put it out of your head."

He leaned over and took her hands.

"I love you...."

Despite himself there was a note of sacrifice. He frowned. His "I love
you" had startled him. He had said it as one pats a woman reassuringly
on the shoulder. More, as one turns the other cheek in a forgiving
Christian spirit. He was not an actor. He had become naturally cheap.

Rachel smiled wanly at him and kissed his hands. He noticed that she
looked thin about the face and that her eyes seemed ill with too much
weeping. He wondered when it was she wept. When she was alone, of
course. For a moment the thought of her flung across the bed and weeping
stirred him sensually. Then ... what made her cry so much? Good God,
what did she want of him? He was giving up.... Again he frowned. "I've
become a cad," he thought. "I can't think honestly any more. Thoughts
act themselves in my head. I've gotten to thinking lies and thinking
them naturally without trying to lie...."

"I'm going for a walk," he announced, and went off toward the shore
where the fishing-boats were drifting in becalmed.

Mama Turpin came out on the porch. Rachel smiled at the old woman.

"It's peaceful here, Mama Turpin."

"Yes, honey. My work's all done for the day now."

"Nothing ever changes here," Rachel murmured. "The sea is just the same
as when I came. I think I'll be leaving soon, Mama Turpin. Mr. Dorn will
stay on for a little while. I have some work I must get back to."

She paused and shaded her eyes from the setting sun.

"It's been wonderful down here. I'll never forget it. Perhaps some day
I'll come back to visit again."

She arose and sighed.

"What's the matter, honey?" the old woman asked, watching her.

Rachel waited till her lips could smile again. Then she said:

"Oh, I hate to leave it here. But I have so much work to do."

She entered the house swiftly. In her room she lay on the bed, her face
in the pillow as if she were waiting for tears. But none came. She lay
in silence until it grew dark and she heard Erik outside asking Mama
Turpin where she was.



CHAPTER VIII


It was dawn when they awoke. Rachel opened her eyes first. A lassitude
filled her. She remained quiet for moments and then sat up and stared at
Erik. His face was flushed and he was sleeping lightly, his eyes almost
open.

"Erik," she whispered. When he looked at her she leaned over and kissed
him.

"Last night was wonderful," she murmured.

He smiled sleepily.

"I want to lie in your arms for just a minute. And then we'll get up,
Erik."

Her head sank against his shoulder and she remained with her eyes
closed. He murmured her name. Over Rachel's face a curious light spread
itself. She sat up and turned her eyes to him.

"My dear one, my lover!"

Dorn regarded her with a sudden confusion. Her eyes and voice were
confusing. Women were strange. Her eyes were large, burning, devouring
... "I will be a shrine to you always. Let me look at you. I have never
looked at you...." Why was he remembering that? He felt himself grow
frightened. Her eyes were saying something that must not be said. His
arms reached out. Crush her to him. Hold her tightly. Sing his love to
her....

She had slipped from the bed and was standing on the floor, shaking her
head at him. Her face seemed blank. Dorn sat up and blinked ludicrously.
She had jumped out of his arms. He laughed. Coquetting. But her eyes had
been strange....

"Listen, Erik, do you mind if I spend the morning alone? I have some
letters to write and things. Then I'll meet you on the beach and we'll
go swimming and lie on the sand together. Will you?"

He nodded cheerfully and swung himself out of bed. His calm had
returned. The memories of the curiously abandoned, shameless Rachel of
the night lingered for a moment questioningly and then left him.

They ate breakfast together and Dorn strode off alone. He felt surprised
at himself. He had forgotten all about his trip to Europe.

"The sun and the rest here are doing me good," he thought. "I'm getting
normal. But a little stupidity won't hurt."

The morning slipped away and he returned to the beach from a walk
through the village. It was early afternoon and the sands were deserted.
The sea lay like a great Easter egg under the hot sun, a vast and
inanimate daub of glittering blue, green, and gold. He seated himself on
the burning sand and stared at it. Years could pass this way and he
could sit dreaming lifeless words, the sea like a painted beetle's back,
the sea like a shell of water resting on a stenciled horizon. A wind was
dying among the clouds. It had blown them into large shapeless virgins.
Puffy white solitudes over his head. He looked down and saw Rachel
coming toward him. She was carrying a woolen blanket over her arms.

She approached and appeared excited. Her face flushed.

"Shall we go in?"

He nodded. Her voice disturbed him. He would have preferred her calm,
gentle. Particularly after last night. She unloosened her clothes
quickly and hurried nude toward the water. Dorn, after an uneasy survey
of the empty beach, watched her. In the glare of the sun and sand her
body seemed insistently unfamiliar. He would have preferred her
familiar. He joined her and they pushed into the water together. Her
excited manner depressed him.

"Let's swim," he called.

A blue, singing moment under the water and they were up, swimming slowly
into the unbroken sheet of the sea. Rachel came nearer to him, the water
sparkling from her moving arms.

"Do you like it, Erik?"

He laughed in answer. Her head was turned toward him and he could see
her dark eyes smiling against the water.

"Wouldn't it be nice," she said softly, "to swim out together like
lovers in a poem? Out and out! And never come back!"

Her voice, slipping across the water, became unfamiliar. They continued
moving.

"Yes," he answered at length, smiling back at her. "It would be easy.
And I'm willing."

They swam in silence. He began to wonder. Were they going out and out
and never coming back? Perhaps they were doing that. One might become
involved in a suicide like that. He closed his eyes and his head moved
through the coldness of the water. What matter? What was there to come
back to? All hours were the same. He might wait until a thousand more
had dragged themselves to an ending. Or swim out and out. When he grew
tired he would kiss her and say, "It is easier to make our own endings
than to wait for them." The sun would be shining and her eyes would sing
to him for an instant over the water.

"We'd better turn now, Erik."

"No," he smiled. "We're lovers in a poem."

She came nearer.

"Come, we must go back, Erik."

"No."

He answered firmly. It pleased him to say "no." He felt a superiority.
He could say "no" and then she would plead with him and perhaps finally
persuade him.

"Not now, Erik. Some other time, maybe...."

"But it would be a proper ending," he argued. "What else is there? You
are unhappy. And perhaps I am too. Come, it will be easy."

For a moment a fright came into him. She was not pleading. She was
silent and looking at him as they drifted. What if she should remain
silent? "I don't want to die," he thought, "but does it matter?" He
wondered at himself. He had spoken of dying. Sincerely? No. But if she
remained silent they would keep swimming until there was nothing left to
do but die. Then he was sincere? No. He would drown as a sort of casual
argument. Good God! Her silence was asking his life. What matter? He
cared neither to live nor to die. He looked at her with an amused smile
in his eyes. His heart had begun to beat violently.

A sudden relief. She had turned and was swimming toward the shore. He
hesitated. Absurd to turn back too hurriedly. He waited till she looked
behind her to see if he were coming. Her looking back was a vindication.
She had believed then that he might go on, out and out.... He could
follow her to the shore now....

The swim had exhausted them. Rachel threw herself on the sand, Dorn
covering her with the blanket. They lay together, the whiteness and the
blaze of the sky tearing at their eyes. Her hair had spread itself like
a black fan under her head.

The oven heat of the day dried the burn of the sun into a chalked and
hammering glare--an unremitting roar of light that seemed to beat the
world into a metallic sleep. The sea had stiffened itself into a dead
flame. Molten, staring sweeps of color burst upon their eyes with a
massive intimacy. The etched horizon, the stagnant gleaming arch of the
water, and the acetylene burn of the sand gave the scene the appearance
of a monstrous lithograph.

The figures of the lovers lay without life. Rachel had turned her head
from the glare. Through veiling fingers Dorn remained staring at the
veneer of isolation about them. Waves of heat crept like ghost fires
across the nakedness of the scene. He thought of the sun as a pilgrim
walking over the barren floor of an empty cathedral. Over him the
motionless smoke-bellied clouds hung gleaming in the dead fanfare of the
sky. He thought of them as swollen white blooms stamped upon a board. As
the moments slipped, he became conscious that Rachel was talking. Her
voice made a tiny noise in the grave torpitude of the day.

"It's like listening to singing, Erik. What are you thinking of?"

"Nothing. I like the way the heat tightens my skin and pinches."

"Do you remember," she asked softly, "once you said beauty is an
external emotion?"

He answered drowsily, "Did I? I'm tired, dearest. Let's nap awhile."

"No. I want to hear you talk just a little."

He pressed his face into his arm, drawing his clothes carelessly over
him for protection.

"I can't think of anything to say, Rachel, except that I'm content. The
sun brings a luxurious pain into one's blood...."

"Yes, a luxurious pain," she repeated quietly. "Please let's talk."

"Too damn hot."

"I always expect you to say things. As if you knew things I didn't,
Erik. I've always thought of you as knowing everything."

"Ordinarily I do," he mumbled.

"Wonderful Erik...."

Flattery was annoying. There were times for being wonderful and times
for grunting at the sand.

"My vocabulary," he mumbled again, "has curled up its toes and gone to
sleep."

His eyes grew heavy.

Drowsily, "I'm an old man and need my sleep."

He felt Rachel's hand reaching gently for his head.

A cool gloom squatted on the sand about him when he opened his eyes. The
scene was a stranger. The sea and sand, dark strangers. His body felt
stiffened and his skin hurt. He sat up and stared about with parched
eyes.

The sun had gone down. A hollow light lingered in the sky, an echo of
light. He turned toward the blanket beside him. Rachel was gone. She had
left the blanket in a little heap, unfolded. Why hadn't she wakened him?
She must be on the beach somewhere, waiting.

In the distance he saw the shapeless figures of the fishermen moving
from their grounded boats. Staring about at the deserted scene he felt
unaccountably sad. It would have been pleasant to have wakened and found
Rachel sitting beside him.

A sheet of paper was pinned on the blanket. He noticed it as he slipped
painfully into his shirt. He continued to dress himself, his eyes
regarding the bit of paper. His heart had grown heavy at the sight of
it.

When he was dressed he folded the blanket carefully and removed the
note. A pallor in his thought. Something had happened. He had fallen
asleep under a glaring sun. Rachel stretched beside him. Now the glare
of the sun was gone and the sea and the sand were vaguely unreal, dark,
and unfriendly. The little blanket was empty.

He sat wondering why he didn't read the note. But he was reading it. He
knew what it said. It said Rachel had gone and would never come back. A
very tragic business.... "You do not love me any more as you did. You
have changed. And if I stayed it would mean that in a little while
longer you would forget all about me. Now perhaps you will remember."

Quite true. He had taught her such paradoxes. He would remember. That
was logical ... "to remember how you loved me makes it impossible to
remain with you. Oh, I die when I look at you and see nothing in your
eyes. It is too much pain. I am going away.... Dearest, I have known for
a long time."

His eyes skipped part of the words. Unimportant words. Why read any
further? The thing was over, ended. Rachel gone. More words on the other
side of the paper. His eyes skimmed ... "you have been God to me. I am
not afraid. Oh, I am strong. Good-bye."

Still more words. A postscript. Women always wrote postscripts--the
gesture of femininity immortalized by Lot's wife. Never mind the
postscript. Tear the paper into bits. It offended his fingers. Walk over
to the water's edge and scatter it on the sea.

He had lain too long in the sun. Probably burn like hell to-night. "Here
goes Rachel into the sea." Soft music and a falling curtain.

He read from one of the scraps.... "Erik, you will be grateful
later...." Let the sea take that. And the "good-bye, my dear one...." A
patch of white on the darkened water, too tiny to follow. Would she be
waiting when he came back to the room? No, the room would be empty. A
comb and brush and tray of hairpins would be missing from the
dressing-table.

A smile played over Dorn's face. His movements had grown abstract as if
he were intensely preoccupied with his thoughts. Yet there were no
thoughts. He walked for moments lazily along the water's edge kicking at
the sand, his eyes following the last of the paper bits still afloat.
They vanished and he sighed with relief.... "It's all a make-believe.
The sea, Rachel, the war. Things don't mean anything. Last night there
was someone to kiss. To-night, no one. But where's the difference.
Nothing ... nothing.... Will I cave in or keep on smiling? Probably cave
in. One must be polite to one's emotions. The sea says she's gone," his
thought rambled, "dark empty waters say she's gone. Rachel's gone. Well,
what of it? Like losing a hat. Does anything matter much? An ending.
Leave the theater. Draw a new breath. Remember vaguely what the actors
said or what they should have said. All the same. What was in the
postscript? Not fair to throw it away without reading it. Should have
read carefully. Took her hours to pick the right words. Night ... night.
It'll be night soon."

His words left him and he walked faster. He began to run. She would be
waiting in their room. On the bed ... crying ... "I couldn't leave you,
Erik. Oh, I couldn't." And later they would laugh about it.

Mama Turpin was on the porch. He slowed his run. To rush breathless past
the old woman would make a bad impression, if nothing had happened.

"Good evening, Mr. Dorn."

Of course she was upstairs. Or would Mama Turpin say good-evening?

"Hello," he called back casually, and walked on, his legs jumping ahead
of him.

The room was empty. More than empty, for the comb and brush and tray of
hairpins were missing. His eyes had swept the dressing-table as he came
in. They were gone.

There would be another note. Why didn't she leave it some place where he
could find it at a glance, instead of making him hunt around? Hunt
around. Under the bed. On the chairs. No note. Good God, she was insane!
Going away--why should she go away?... "we'll have a long talk about it
and straighten it out, of course, but ..." The insanity of the thing
remained. Gone!

He stopped and felt his head aching. The sun ... "you won't find me if
you look for me. Please don't try. One good-bye is easier and better
than two. Erik, Erik, something has died for always...."

Then he had read it. That had been in the postscript. He had given it a
glance, not intending to follow the words. Unimportant words.

"Died for always," he mumbled suddenly.

... His head pressed against the pillow in the dark room, he began to
weep. The odor of her hair was still in the pillow. Yes, the dream had
died. And she had run from its corpse, leaving behind the faint odor of
her hair on a pillow. How, died? Better to have her gone.... Tears
burned in his eyes. He repeated aloud, "better...."

An agony was twisting itself about his heart. His face moved as if he
were in pain. With his fists he began to beat the bed. It had gone away.
It had come and smiled at him for a moment, lifted him for a moment, and
then gone away as if it had never been. But it would come back. He
would weep and pound on the bed with his fists and bring it back. The
face of stars, eyes burning, devouring, eyes kindling his soul into
ecstasies.

"Rachel!" he cried aloud.

Silence. His tears had ended. He lay motionless on the bed, his body
suddenly weak, his thought tired. Someone had shouted a name in his
ears. A dead man had shouted the name of Rachel. It was the cry of an
Erik Dorn who was dead. He'd heard it in the dark room. An old, already
forgotten Erik Dorn who had laughed in a halloo of storms, heels up,
head down. Madness and a dream. Wings and a face of stars. They had
vanished with an old and almost forgotten Erik Dorn who had called their
name out of a grave. So things whirled away.

He arose and stood looking out of the window. Night had come ... "dark
rendezvous of sorrows. Silent Madonna of the spaces...." He whispered to
see if there were still phrases in him. His lips smiled against the
window. Phrases ... words ... and the rest was a make-believe once more.
A pattern precise and meaningless. His little flight over. Now it was
time to walk again.

Anna had stood one night staring at him. He remembered. Oh, yes, he'd
run away quickly for fear he might hear her shriek. And then, Rachel.
But these things were passed. It was time to walk. Did he still love
her? Yes. It would have been easier to walk with her--calmly, placidly,
their hands sometimes touching. Forgetting other days and other kisses
together. But he would not lie to himself. An end to that now. Love made
a liar of a man. At the beginning and at the end--lies. The ache now was
one of memory, not of loss. The pain was one of death. Dead things hurt
inside him. Afterward his heart would carry them about unknowingly. The
dead things would end their hurt. But now, leaden heavy, they kept
slipping deeper into him as if seeking graves that did not yet exist.

Standing before the window, Dorn's smile grew cold.

"A make-believe," he whispered, "but not quite the same as it was
before. A loneliness and an emptiness. Ruins in which once there was
feasting. And now, nothing ... nothing...."



PART IV

ADVENTURE



CHAPTER I


Long days. Short days. Outside the window was an ant-hill street. And an
ant-hill of days. In the stores they were already selling calendars for
the next year. Outside the window was a flat roof. By looking at the
flat roof you remembered that Mary James was married. Unexpectedly. You
came out of the ant-hill street, climbed the stairs, and sat down and
looked at the flat roof. Long days, short days turned themselves over on
the flat roof, and turned themselves over in your heart.

Occasionally an event. Events were things that differed from putting on
your shoes or buying butter in the grocery store. There was an event
now. It challenged the importance of the flat roof. Hazlitt was sitting
in the room and talking. Rachel listened.

An eloquent event. But words jumbled into sound. Loud sounds. Soft
sounds. They made her sleepy, as rain pattering on a window made her
sleepy, or snow sinking out of the sky. There were sleepy words in her
mind that had nothing to do with the event. Then the event came and
mingled itself, mixed itself into the words ... "no sorrow. No remorse.
The dead are dead. Oh, most extremely dead! So I'll sit by my sad
little window and listen to this unbearable creature make love. The
idiot'll go 'way in an hour and I'll be able to draw. Funny, my thoughts
keep moving on, despite everything. Like John Brown's soul, or
something. Words get to be separate, like the snickers of dead people.
You think as one adds figures. Thoughts add, and draw pictures the same
way. A line here. A line there. And you have a face. Curve a line up and
the face laughs. Curve it down and the face weeps. You lie dead. Always
dead. You lie dead in the street. The day tears your heart out. The
night tears your eyes out. And when somebody passes, even a banana
peddler, your eyes jump back, your heart jumps back, and you look up and
snicker and say, 'It's all right. I'm just lying here for fun. I'm dead
for fun.... He still loves me. I must answer him.'"

She spoke aloud:

"No, George, I hear you. But I don't love you. I can't say it more
plainly, can I?"

Her thoughts resumed. "Dear me. He talks almost as well as Erik. Lord,
he thinks I'm a virgin. His pure and unfaltering star. Well, well! Why
am I amused? Is life amusing, after all? Am I really happy? Alas! my
heart is broken. I must not forget my heart is broken. You forget
sometimes and begin snickering and somebody rings the bell and hands you
a telegram reading, 'Your heart is broken.' Rachel of the broken heart!
It was all very beautiful. This talk of his somehow brings it back ...
Oh, God. That was a line curved down. What eloquence! There, now, I must
speak. I'll have to tell him again."

Aloud she went on, "You're mistaken in me, George."

A flurry of silent words halted her.... "Ye gods, what a speech; she is
not all his fancy painted him. Indeed! Not mistaken. His heart tells
him. Poor boy! Poor little clowns who pay attention to what their hearts
say! I mustn't be rude."

She interrupted him, "If you'll listen to me, George ..."

Then, "What'll I say? If only he inspired something by his eloquence--a
phrase, at least. But my heart snickers at him. Ah! the dead are
wonderfully dead. I'll tell him I'm not a virgin. That'll be surprising
news. But how? Like a medical report? The woman was found not to be a
virgin. The thing seems to hinge on that. Why in God's name does he keep
virgining?"

"No, George," she answered aloud, "I'm sorry. I don't believe in
love...." Listen to her! "You see, I've been in love myself. Indeed I
have. That's why you find me changed."

He protested and her words followed silently. "My laughing makes him
angry. But I must laugh. Love is something to laugh over, isn't it? Oh,
God, why doesn't he go 'way?" The flat roof vanished. There was a rising
event in the room and the flat roof bowed good-bye and walked away.

"Yes, I was in love for quite a while with a man," she answered him.
"And I'm in love with him yet--in a way. But we've parted. He had to go
to Europe." Nevertheless he still thought she was a virgin. He'd started
another virgining speech. There would have to be a medical report. "We
lived together for over a year. We weren't married, of course, because
he had a wife. You see, you're terribly mistaken." He must be impressed
by her calm. "Because what I really am is a vampire. I lured a man from
his wife, lived with him, and cast him aside."

The event jumped to its feet. No room to talk for a moment, so her
thought resumed, "I'm lying. He thinks I'm lying. I should have
confessed in tears. With a few 'Oh, Gods.' Amusing! Amusing! That was
Erik's favorite word. I'm beginning to understand it now. But there's
nothing to be amused about ... in itself an amusing circumstance ... but
you look at the banana peddler and snicker. Will he hit me? Oh, very
red-faced. Speechless. I'd better talk. If he hit me.... He'll start in
a minute...."

"Yes, you know him, George," she cried suddenly. "And if you doubt me
you can ask a lot of people. Ask Tesla or Mary James or Brander or New
York." She'd make him believe. God, what an idiot! She'd claw his eyes
out with words. Throw roofs on him. But it was a good thing Erik was in
Europe, or he'd be killed.

"Yes. I've told you in order to get rid of you. I'd rather be rid of
you than keep my good name in your estimation. So now, run along and do
your yelling outside. I'm sick of you."

She paused on a high gesture.... "He's going to hit me. Strike a woman.
War has brutalized him. Dear me!" But he asked a question ominously and
she answered,

"Erik Dorn. Yes. Erik Dorn."

This made it worse. It was bad enough without a name. But a name made it
realler. And very ominous. She moved toward a chair.

"I'll sit still and then he won't hit me. If I'm calm, serene like a nun
facing the wrath of God. This is melodrama. He can squeeze my shoulders
all he wants. What good will it do him? If I giggled now he'd kill me.
Sorry? Oh, so I must be sorry. Because I've offended him. Dear God, what
a mess!"

She twisted out of his grasp and cried.

"No, I'm not sorry. You fool! I'm glad I was his woman. I'll always be
glad, as long as I live. Leave me alone. You're a fool. I've always
thought of you as a fool. You make me want to laugh now. You're a clown.
I'll give myself to men. But not to you. I gave myself to Erik Dorn
because I love him. If he wants me again I'll come to him not as a
lover, because he doesn't love me any more--but as a prostitute. Now do
you know me? Well, I want you to. So you'll go way and never bother me
again...."

That was a good speech. She stood dramatically silent as hands seized
her shoulder again. "He hurts me. Why this? Oh, my shoulder! Does he
want to? Oh, God, this is me! He'll let me go in a minute if I don't
move. Very still. Silent ... I don't want him to cry. Can't he see it's
amusing? If he'd only look at me and wink, I'd kiss him. No, he's a
fool. I'll not say anything more. Let him cry! His life is ruined. Dear
me, I have ruined his life. His love. I was his dream. Through the war
... rose of no-man's land. Amusing, amusing! He looks different.
Contempt. He has contempt for me. And horror. Oh, get out, get out, you
fool! You sniveling nincompoop, get out! I want to draw pictures, and
forget. Console him ... for what? I don't know, I don't know. He's
going. Thank God! Oh, I don't know anything. Poor man, he should know
better than to have dreams. Dreams are for devils, not for men or women.
Dreams ... dreams ... I don't know ... I'll draw a picture. But I don't
want to. He'll never come back. I'm sad again. The flat roof says
something. Is it Erik? Dear Erik! Poor Erik! I love you. But I'll begin
crying. Pretty tears, amusing tears. Erik mine, dead for always. But
it's not as bad as it was. Another month, year, ten years. Oh, it chokes
me. I can't help it. Your eyes are the beckoning hands of dream. Whose
eyes? Mine ... mine.... Mine ... I know. I know. I must keep on dying,
keep on dying. But I'm not afraid. Look, I can laugh! Amusing that I
can laugh ... Oh, God ... God...."

Beside her window looking out on the ant-hill street Rachel covered her
face with her hands. When she removed them she caught a glimpse of the
figure of Hazlitt walking as if it were a blind man in zig-zags down the
pavement.



CHAPTER II


The thing that had been buried in Emil Tesla and that used to rumble
under his fawning words, had come to life one day with two men twisting
his wrists and hammering at his uncovered face. He had laughed.

The two men came into his office to seize him. When he started to
protest they walked up to him slowly as if to shake hands. Instead, they
began beating him. For a moment he wondered why the two men hated him so
violently. He stood looking into their faces and thinking, "They're like
me."

The visitors, however, saw no resemblance. They twisted his arm till it
broke. Then they kept on battering at him with their fists till he fell
to the floor. While he lay on the floor they kicked him, and his muscles
grew paralyzed.

He never remembered the walk downstairs. But in the open he saw a crowd
of faces drifting excitedly beneath him. This was a scene he remembered
later.

It was while looking at the faces that he had grown strong. He laughed
because it occurred to him at the moment he was unconquerable. Later, in
prison, he often thought, "I have only my life to lose. I'm not afraid
of that. When they hit me they were hitting at an idea. But they could
only hit me. They couldn't touch the idea. I'll remember when I come
out--they can only hit me. If they end by shooting me they'll not touch
the idea even then. That's something beyond their fists and guns. I'll
remember I'm only a shadow."

A year passed and Tesla came out. He returned to the office of _The
Cry_. His friends noticed a change. He had grown quiet. He no longer
bubbled with words. His eyes looked straight at people who spoke to him.
His manner whispered, "I'm nothing--a shadow thrown by an idea. I don't
argue, and I'm not afraid. I'm part of masses of people all over the
world and cannot be destroyed."

The new Tesla became a leader. Among the radicals whose intellects were
groping noisily with the idea of a new justice he often inspired a fear.
His smile disquieted them and their arguments. His smile said, "Here,
what's the use of arguing? There is no argument. It isn't words we must
give the revolution, but lives. I'm ready. Here's mine."

When he looked at men and women who vociferated in the councils of
radical pamphleteers, workers, organizers, theorists, new party
politicians, Tesla thought, "That one's afraid. He's only a logician.
His mind has led him into revolution. If he changed his mind he would
become a conservative.... There's one that isn't afraid. He's like me.
His mind helps him. But no matter what his mind told him he would
always be in the revolution. Something in him drives him...."

For the rabble of artists and near-artists drifting by the scores into
radical centers, Tesla held a respectful dislike.

"He's in revolt because he must find something different than other
people," he thought of most of them. "The revolution to him means only
himself. It's something he can use to make himself felt more by people.
And also he's a revolutionist because of the contrariness in him that
artists usually have. Especially artists who, when they can't create new
things, make themselves think they're creating new things by destroying
old things."

Of himself Tesla thought, "I'll fight and not mind if I'm killed.
Because people will still be left alive, and so the idea of which I'm a
part will continue to live."

In the days before his going to prison Tesla had felt the need of
writing and talking his revolution. This was because of an impatience
and intolerance toward the enemy. Now that was gone. The enemy had
become a blatant, trivial thing. The things it said and did were
unimportant. He read with amusement the rabid denunciations of the
radicals in the press of the day. The grotesque hate hymns against the
new Russia, the garbled shriekings and pompous anathemas that fell
hourly upon the heads of all suspects, inspired no argument in him.

Tesla's days were busy with organization. He had almost ceased his
activities as pamphleteer, although still editor of _The Cry_. With a
group of men, silent as himself, he worked at the radicalization of the
factories and labor unions. Each day men left Tesla to seek employment
in shops throughout the country, in mines and mills. Their duties were
simple. Tesla measured them carefully before sending them on.... This
one could be relied upon to work intelligently, to talk to workingmen at
their benches and during noon hours without antagonizing, or, worse,
frightening them. Another was dubious. His eyes were too bright. He
would be discovered and arrested by the company. But he might do some
good. The arrest of a radical always did some good to the cause. Where
would Christianity have been without the incompetent agitators who
blundered into the clutches of the Roman law and the amphitheater?

Aloud he would say, "Work carefully. Remember that the revolution is for
all; that the workers, no matter what they say to you, are comrades.
Remember that strikes are better than fights. The time hasn't come yet
for fighting. What we must do is put into the hearts of the workers the
knowledge that there is nothing in common between them and their bosses.
The workers are the producers. They work and make no money. The bosses
are the exploiters. They don't work and make all the money. If you get
the workers to thinking this they'll want more money themselves and
declare strikes. By strikes we can paralyze industry and give the
workers consciousness of their power. This is only a step; but the first
and most important step. Make strikes. Make dissatisfaction. But don't
argue about fighting and revolution."

Over and over Tesla repeated his instructions through the days. He spoke
simply. Men listened to him and nodded without questioning. They saw
that his eyes were unafraid and that if he was sending them upon
dangerous missions, he would some day reserve a greater mission for
himself. Tesla had become a leader since he had laughed on the step
overlooking the pack of faces.



CHAPTER III


At his desk in _The Cry_ office Tesla was preparing the April issue of
the magazine for the printer. It was night. A garrulous political poet
named Myers was revising proofs at a smaller desk. Brander and a tall,
thin woman stood talking quietly to each other in a gloomy corner of the
office. Rachel, who had returned to the place after a hurried supper
with Tesla, waited listlessly. He had promised to finish up in a
half-hour, but there was more work than he had figured.

"We're reprinting a part of the article on the White Terror in Germany
that Erik Dorn has in the _New Opinion_," Tesla said. Rachel nodded her
head. Later Tesla asked her, "This Dorn, what is he? His writing is
amusing, sometimes violent, but always empty. He doesn't like life much,
eh?"

"I don't know," said Rachel.

"Yes," Tesla smiled. "He hates us all--reds and whites, radicals and
bourgeoisie. Yet he can write in a big way. But he isn't a big man. He
has no faith. I remember him once in Chicago. He hasn't changed."

Rachel's eyes remained steadily upon the socialist as he cleared his
desk. He stood up finally and came to where she was sitting.

"It's necessary to have something besides self," he said softly. "I was
born in a room that smelled bad. Perhaps that's why the world smells bad
to me now. I still live there. It's good to live where there are smells.
Our radicals sit too much in hotel lobbies that other people keep clean
for them."

Brander thrust his large figure between them, the tall, thin woman
moving vaguely about the room.

"Sometimes I think you're a fake, Emil," he said. "You're too good to be
true."

He grinned at Rachel.

"By the way," he went on, looking at her, "I brought something to show
you." His hands dug a paper out of his coat pocket. "You see, I've
preserved our correspondence."

He held out a letter. Rachel's eyes darkened.

"Oh, there's no hurry," Brander laughed. "So long as you keep the
application on file, you know."

Tesla, listening blankly, interrupted:

"It's late. We should go home. I'll go home with you, Rachel, and talk."

The thin woman, watching Brander anxiously, approached and seized his
arm.

"All right," the artist whispered. "We'll go now."

Rachel felt a relief as Brander passed out of the door with the woman.

"He disturbs you," Tesla commented. She nodded her head. Words seemed
to have abandoned her. There was almost a necessity for silence. They
walked out, leaving Myers still at his desk.

In the deserted streets Rachel walked beside Tesla. She felt tired.
"He's never tired," she thought, her eyes glancing at the stocky figure.
He wasn't talking as he said he would.

The night felt sad and cold. A dead March night. If not for Emil, what?
"Perhaps I'll kill myself. There's nothing now. I'm always alone. No
to-morrows."

In the evenings she came to the office to meet Emil for supper because
there was nothing else to do. Emil seemed like an old man, always
preoccupied, his eyes always burning with preoccupations. After supper
he usually walked home with her, talking to her of poor people. There
seemed no hatred in him, no argument. Poor people in broken houses.
Christ came and gave them a God. Now the revolution would come with
flaming embittered eyes but wearing a gentle smile for the poor people
in broken houses, and give them rest and happiness.

But to-night he was silent. When they had walked several blocks he began
to talk without looking at her.

"Come with me," he asked. "I live alone in a little house. We can be
happy there. You have nobody."

Rachel repeated "Nobody."

She looked at him but his eyes avoided her.

"My mother died long ago," he went on. "She was an old woman. She used
to live in this house where I live. We were always poor. I had brothers
and sisters. They've all gone somewhere. Things happened to them. I have
only my work now. Nobody else. But I'm alone too much. Since we have
seen each other I have been thinking of you. Brander has told me
something but that doesn't matter. I would like to marry you."

He paused and seemed to grow bewildered.

"Excuse me," he mumbled. Rachel took his hand and held it as they
walked. Tears in her whispered "Nobody ... nobody." The homely face of
Tesla was looking at her and saying something with its silence: "I am
not for you as Erik was. But that is gone. Dead for always...."

He was kind. It would be easy to live with him. But not married. A chill
drifted through her. It didn't matter what she did. Life had ended one
afternoon months ago. She remembered the sun shining on the sand, the
burning sea, and Erik asleep. The memory said "I am the last picture of
life."

It would be easy with Tesla. He loved elsewhere ... a wild gentle
thing--people. Poor people in broken houses. He would give her only
kindness and companionship. And if he would let her cry to-night and
make believe she was a child crying....

They had taken a different direction. This was the neighborhood where
Tesla lived. Rachel looked about her in fear. She remembered the
district. Now she was coming to live here in these streets where people
begin to give forth an odor.

As she walked beside Tesla his silence became dark like the scene
itself. She had always thought of him as somewhat strange. Now she
understood why he had seemed strange to her. Because he carried an
underworld in his heart. In his nose there was always the odor of the
streets from which he had sprung, and in his mind there was always the
picture of them. Other things did not fool him.

"Is it far?" she asked.

He looked at her, smiling.

"No," he said. "Do you want to go?"

She pressed his hand. It would be better. But her heart hurt. That was
foolish. Emil was somebody different. Not like a man, but an old man--or
an old background. There would be things to think about--Revolution.
Before, revolution was people arguing and being dragged to jail.
Sometimes people fighting. But it was something else--a thing hidden and
spreading--and here in the dark street about them where Emil lived.

Emil seemed to vanish into a background. She walked and thought of the
streets in which Emil lived. Here in the daytime the rows of sagging
little houses were like teeth in an old man's mouth. From them arose
exhalations of stagnant wood, decaying stairways; of bodies from which
the sweats of lust and work were never washed. Soft bubbling alleys
under a stiff sun. The stench like a grime leadened the air. Something
to think about in places like this. Revolution crawling up and down soft
alleys ... something in the mud waiting to be hatched.

In this street lived men and women whose hungers were not complicated by
trifles. In this way they were, as they moved thick-faced and unsmiling,
different from the people who lived in other streets and who had
civilized their odors and made ethics of their hungers. The people who
lived here walked as if they were being pushed in and out of the sagging
houses. Shrieking children appeared during the daytime and sprawled
about. They rolled over one another, their faces contorted with a
miniature senility. They urinated in gutters, threw stones at one
another in the soft alleys, ran after each other, cursing and gesturing
with idiot violence. They brought an awkward fever into the street.
Oblivious of them and the débris about them, barrel-shaped women
strutted behind their protuberant bellies, great flapping shoes over the
pavements. They moved as if unaccustomed to walking in streets.

When it grew dark the men coming home from the factories began to crowd
the street. They walked in silence, a broken string of shuffling figures
like letters against the red of the sky. Their knees bent, their jaws
shoved forward, their heads wagged from side to side. They vanished
into the sagging houses, and the night came ... an unwavering gloom
picked with little yellow glows from windows. The houses lay like
bundles of carefully piled rags in the darkness. The shrieking of the
children died, and with it the pale fever of the day passed out of the
air. There were left only the odors.

There were odors now, coming to them as they walked. Invisible banners
of decay floating upon the night. Stench of fat kitchens, of soft
bubbling alleys, of gleaming refuse. Indefinable evaporations from the
dark bundles of houses wherein people had packed themselves away. They
came like a rust into her nose.

She was moving into a new world. Drunken men appeared and lurched into
the darkness with cursings and mutterings. Sometimes they sang. The
smoke of the factory chimneys was now invisible, but the chimneys, like
rows of minarets, made darker streaks in the gloom. And in the distance
blast furnaces gutted the night with pink and orange flares. Figures of
girls not yet shaped like barrels came into the street and stood for
long moments in the shadows. Rachel watched them as she passed. They
moved away into the depths of the soft alleys and vanished. It was late
night. The exhalations of alleys and houses increased as if some great
disintegration was stewing in the night. A new world....

Rachel's fingers reached for Tesla's hand. She felt surprised. There was
no thought of Erik. This about her was a world untouched by the shadow
Erik had left behind. So she could live here easily. And Emil was not a
man like Erik. Erik, who stood alone, stark, untouched by life. Emil was
a background. It would be easy. Her fingers, tightly laced in his, grew
cold. Erik would come back. "Come back," murmured her thought. "Oh, if
he should come back! No, I mustn't fool myself. It's over. And I can
either live or die. I'll live a little while. Why? Because I still love
him. Erik mine!"

But it didn't sadden her to walk up the dark steps of Tesla's house.
"Erik, good-bye!" Not even that mattered. Erik was gone. That was all
something else. Not gone. Oh, God, no! Only Erik had died. She still
lived with a dead name in her heart. But here were odors--strange
people.

     *     *     *     *     *     *

It was barely furnished but clean inside. Later Rachel sat, her head in
Tesla's arms, and wept. She was not sad. Her thought faltered, reaching
for words, but drifting away. This is what had become of her--nothing
else but this.

Tesla looked quietly at her and kept murmuring, "Little girl, the world
is big. There are other things than self. Must you cry? Cry, then. I
know what sadness is."

His hands moved gently through her loosened hair and he smiled
sorrowfully.

"Dear child," he whispered, "you can always cry in my arms and I will
understand. It is the way the world sometimes cries in my heart. I
understand.... Yes ... yes...."



CHAPTER IV


A kaleidoscope of cities. A new garrulity. Words like busy little brooms
sweeping up after a war. A world of foreigners. Europe was running about
with empty pockets and a cracked head. England had had a nose-bleed,
France a temporary castration, and the president of the United States
was walking around in Paris in an immaculate frock-coat and a high silk
hat. The President was closeted in a peace conference mumbling
valorously amid lifted eyebrows, amused shoulder shruggings, ironic
sighings. A long-faced virgin trapped in a bawdy house and calling in
valiant tones for a glass of lemonade.

Erik Dorn drifted through a haze of weeks. This was London. This, Paris.
This, Rotterdam. And this, after a long, cold ride standing up in a
windowless coach, Berlin. But all curiously alike. People in all of them
who said, "We are strangers to you."

There was nothing to see. No impressions to receive. More cities, more
people, more words and a detachment. The detachment was Europe. In his
own country there was no detachment. He was a part of crowds,
newspapers, buildings. Here he was outside. Familiar things looked
strange. The eyes busied themselves trying to forget things before
them, scurrying after details and worried by an unrelation in
architecture, faces, gestures.

It was mid-December when he sat in a hotel room in Berlin one night and
ate blue-colored fish, boiled potatoes, and black, soggy bread. He had
been wandering for days through snow-covered streets. Now there was
shooting in the streets.

"Germany is starving," said an acquaintance. "Our children are dying off
by the thousands, thanks to the inhuman blockade."

But despite even the shooting in the streets Dorn noticed the Germans
had lost interest in the war. The idea of the war had collapsed. In
England and France the idea was still vaguely alive. People kept it
alive by discussing it. But even there it had become something
unnatural.

One thing there was in common. Only a few people seemed to have been
killed. London was jammed. Even though the newspapers summed it up now
and then with "a generation has been killed." Paris, too, was jammed.
And Berlin now, jammed also. The war had been fought by people who were
dead. And the people who were alive were living away its memory.

In Berlin a week, and he thought, "A circus has pulled down its tent,
carted off its gaudy wagons, its naphtha lights, and its boxes of
sawdust. And a new show is staking out the lot."

The new show was coming to Berlin. Fences and building walls were
plastered with its lithographs ... "The Spirit of Bolshevism Marches
... Beware the Wrecker of Mankind...." Posters of gorillas chewing on
bloody knives, of fiends with stringy hair setting the torch to
orphanages and other nobly drawn edifices labeled "Kultur, Civilization,
Humanitat...." The spielers were already on the job. Machine-guns barked
in the snow-covered streets. A man named Noske was a _Bluthund_. A man
named Liebknecht was a _Schweinhund_.

In his hotel room Dorn, eating blue-colored fish, spoke to an
acquaintance--an erudite young German who wore a monocle, whose eyes
twinkled with an odd humor, and who under the influence of a bottle of
Sekt was vociferating passionately in behalf of a thing he called _Welt_
Revolution.

"I don't understand it yet, von Stinnes," Dorn smiled. "I will later. So
far I've managed to do nothing more than enjoy myself. Profundity is
diverting in New York, but a bore in Berlin. There's too much of it.
Good God, man, there are times when I feel that even the buildings of
the city are wrapped in thought."

Von Stinnes gestured with an almost English awkwardness. His English
contained a slight French accent. His words, amused, careless, carried
decision. He spoke knowingly, notwithstanding the Sekt and the smile
with which he seemed to be belying his remarks. Thus, the Majority
Socialists were traitors. Scheidemann had sold the revolution for a kiss
from Graf Rantzau. The masses.... "Ah, m'sieur, they are arming. There
will be an overthrow." And then, Ludendorff had framed the
revolution--actually manufactured it. All the old officers were back.
Noske was allowing them to reorganize the military. The thing was a
farce. Social Democracy had failed. The country was already in flames.
There would be things happening. "You wait and see. Yes, the
Spartikusten will do something ..."

Dorn nodded appreciatively. He felt instinctively that he had stumbled
upon a man of value and service. But he listened carelessly. As yet the
scene was more absorbing than its details. The local politik boiling
beneath the collapse of the empire had not yet struck his imagination.
There were large lines to look at first, and absorb.

Snow in unfamiliar streets, night soldier patrols firing at shadows,
eager-eyed women in the hotel lobbies, marines carousing in the Kaiser's
Schloss--a nation in collapse. Teutonia on her rump, helmet tilted over
an eye, hair down, comely and unmilitary legs thrust out, showing her
drawers and laughing. Yes, the Germans were laughing. Where was there
gayety like the Palais de Danse, the Fox Trot Klubs, Pauligs; gayety
like the drunken soldiers patrolling Wilhelmstrasse where a paunchy
harness-maker sat in Bismarck's chair?

Gayety with a rumble and a darkness underneath. But such things were
only wilder accents to laughter. If the detachment would leave him, if
he could familiarize himself, he could lay hands on something; dance
away in a macabré mardi-gras.

Two bottles of Sekt had been emptied. A polite Ober responded with a
third. Von Stinnes grew eloquent.

"Not before March, Mr. Dorn. It will come only then. This that you hear
now, pouf! Hungry men looking for crumbs with hand-grenades. The
revolution is only picking its teeth. But wait. It will overturn, when
it comes. And even if it does not overturn, if it fails, it will not
end, but pause. You hear it whispering now in the streets. Hungry men
with hand-grenades. Ah, m'sieur, if you wish we will work together. I am
a man of many acquaintances. I am von Stinnes, Baron von Stinnes of a
very old, a very dissolute, a very worthless family. I am the last von
Stinnes. The dear God Himself glows at the thought. I will work for you
as secretary. How much do you offer for a scion of the nobility?"

"Three hundred marks."

"A month?"

"No, weekly," laughed Dorn, "and you buy half the liquor."

Von Stinnes bowed.

"An insult, Mr. Dorn. But I overlook it. One becomes adept in the matter
of overlooking insults. You will need me. I am known everywhere. I was
with Liebknecht in the Schloss when he slept in the Kaiser's bed. Ho! it
was a symbol for you to see him crawl between the sheets. Alas! he
slept but poorly, with the marines standing guard and frowning at the
bed as if it were capable of something. For me, I would have preferred
beds with more pleasant associations. And when Bode tried to be dictator
in his father's chamber in the Reichstag--yes," von Stinnes closed his
eyes and laughed softly, "he seized the Reichstag with a company of
marines. And he sat for two days and two nights signing warrants,
confiscation orders. Until a soldier brought him a document issued by
Eichorn the mysterious policeman who was dictating from the Stadt House.
And poor Bode signed it. He was sleepy. He could not read with sleep. It
was his own death warrant. It was I who saved him by taking him to the
house of Milly. He slept four days with Milly, in itself a feat."

Von Stinnes swallowed another glass of wine. His eyes seemed to belie
his unsteady, careless voice. His eyes remained intent and mocking upon
Dorn.

"You have come a few weeks too late. There were scenes, dear God, to
make one laugh. In the Schloss. Yes, we bombarded the Schloss--but after
we had captured it. The Liebknecht ordered. Everything was done in
symbols. Therefore the symbol of the bombardment of the Schloss. So we
rushed out one night and opened fire, and when we had knocked off the
balcony and peeled the plaster from the walls, we rushed in again and
sang the _Marseillaise_. What wine, m'sieur! Ho, you have come a few
weeks too late. But there will be other comedies. And I will be of
service. I belong to three officers' clubs. One of them is respectable.
Women are admitted. The other two ... women are barred. And look...." He
slapped a wallet on the table and extracted a red card, "'member of the
Communist Partei--Karl Stinnes,'" he read. "Listen, there are 75,000
rifles in Alexander Platz, waiting for the day."

"Where did you learn your English, von Stinnes?"

"Oxford. Italian in Padua. French, m'sieur, in Paris. During the war."
The baron laughed. "Ah, _pendant la guerre, m'sieur, en Paris_."

"And now," Dorn mused, "you are a Spartikust."

The baron was on his feet, a wine glass raised in his hand.

"_Es lebe die Welt Revolution_," he cried, "_es lebe das Rate
Republik!_"

"What did you do in Paris, von Stinnes?"

"Pigeons, my friend. I played with pigeons and with vital statistics and
made love to little French girls whose sweethearts were dying in the
trenches. And in London. But I talk too much. Yes, my tongue slips, you
say. But I am lonely and talk is easy.... I drink your health ...
_hein!_ it was a day when we met...."

Dorn raised his glass.

"To the confusion of the seven deadly virtues!" he laughed.

"I drink," the baron cried. "We will make a tour. We will amuse
ourselves. I see that you understand Germany. Because you understand
there is something bigger than Germany; that the world is the head of a
pin spinning round in a glass of wine. I have been with the other
correspondents. Pigs and donkeys. The souls of shopkeepers under the
vests."

The baron seated himself carefully and pretended an abrupt seriousness.

"I have made up my mind to die behind the red barricades. Perhaps in
March. Perhaps later. Another glass, m'sieur. Thanks. I shall die
fighting for the overthrow of the tyranny of the bourgeoisie ... Noske
and his _parvenu_ Huns. Ho! Dorn, we will amuse ourselves in a crazy
world, eh, what? The tyranny of the bourgeoisie!"

The baron laughed as he rolled over the phrase.

"There will be great deal to enjoy," Dorn smiled. The wine was making
him silent.

"Yes, to enjoy. To laugh," the baron interrupted. "I cannot explain now.
But you seem to understand. Or am I drunk? _Ein galgen gelachter, nicht
wahr?_ I will take quarters at the hotel. I know the management well. I
saved the place from being looted in the November excitement. Have you
seen the Kaiser Salle? His Majesty dined there once. A witless popinjay.
Liebknecht is a man. Flames in his heart. But a poor orator. He will be
killed. They must kill him. A little Jew, Haase, has brains. You will
meet him. And the Dadaists--they know how to laugh. The cult of the
absurd. Perhaps the next emperor of Germany will be a Dada. An Ober
Dada--who knows? Once the world learns to laugh we may expect radical
changes. And in München I know a dancer, Mizzi. Dear God, what legs! You
must come there to see legs. Faces in the Rhineland. Ankles in Vienna.
But legs, dear God, in München! It is the Spanish influence. Let us
drink to Mizzi...."

The wine was vanishing. The baron paused out of breath and sighed. His
face that seemed to grow firmer and more ascetic as he drank, took on a
far-away shrewdness as if new ideas had surprised it.

"I've felt many things," Dorn spoke, "but thought nothing yet. So far
Europe has remained strange. I am in a theater watching a pantomime. I
have entered in the middle of the second act and the plot is a bit
hidden. But we will have to find some serious work to do. I must meet
politicians, leaders; listen to laments and prophecies...."

"All in time, all in time," the baron interrupted. "Am I not your
secretary? Well, then, trust me. You will talk to-morrow with Ebert. We
begin thus at the bottom. Of all men in Germany who know nothing, he
knows least. Thursday, Scheidemann. Treachery requires some shrewdness.
The man is not quite an imbecile. If your Roosevelt were a Socialist he
would be a Scheidemann. Daumig, Pasadowsky, Erzburger--rely upon me,
m'sieur. And Ludendorff. Ah, there we have real work. If Ludendorff will
talk now. He is supposed to be in Berlin. I will find him and arrange
for you. And so on. You will meet all the great minds, all the big
stomachs. I will take you to Radek who is hiding with a price on his
head. And Dr. Talheimer on the Rote Fahne, if they do not arrest him too
soon. Bernstorff is in the hotel. A man with too much brains. Yes, an
intelligent bungler. He will die some day with a sad smile, forgiving
his enemies. And if we need women, mention your choice. Mine runs to the
married woman of title. A small title is to be preferred. It is a slight
insurance against disease. Others prefer the gamins. There is not enough
difference to quarrel about. Or do you want a little red in your amours?
A _sans culotte_ from Ehrfurst or Spandau? In Essen you will find
Belgian women. They will love for nothing. For that matter, a bottle of
wine and a bar of chocolate and you can have anyone. There is no virtue
left, thank God. And yet, for variety, I sometimes think there should be
a little. Ah, yes, yes! I miss the virgins of my youth. Another bottle,
eh? Where's the button? What do you think of German plumbing? It is our
Kultur. We are proud of our plumbing. It was the ideal for which we
fought. To introduce our plumbing throughout Europe--make a German
bathroom of the world."

A sound of heavier firing in the streets interrupted. The two sat
listening, the baron's face alive with an odd humor.

"_Es lebe die Welt Revolution_," he whispered. "Do you hear it? Only a
murmur. But it starts all over Germany again. Workingmen with guns. You
will see them later. I among them. Stay in Europe, my friend, and see
the ghost of Marat rising from a German bathtub."

"Who are shooting?" Dorn asked.

"Shadows," the baron laughed. "The government wishes to impress the good
burgher that there is danger. So the government orders the soldiers to
shoot at midnight. The good burgher wakes and trembles. _Mein Gott, das
Bolshevismus treibt! Gott sei dank für den Regierung._ ... So the good
burgher gives enthusiastic assent to the increase in the military
budget. Dear God, did he not hear shooting at midnight? But they play
with more than ghosts. Noske's politik will end in another color.
To-night there are only shadows to shoot at. To-morrow ... remember what
I tell you...."

The telephone rang and Dorn answered. A voice in English:

"The gentlemen will have to put out the lights. The Spartikusten are
coming."

"Thank you...."

"What did he say?"

"We must put out the lights."

The baron laughed.

"It is nonsense. Come, your hat. We will go have a look."

They hurried down to the lobby. An iron door had been drawn across the
entrance of the hotel. In the lobby the shooting seemed a bombardment of
the building. A group of American and English correspondents were
lounging in the heavy divans, drinking gin and talking to a trio of
elaborately gowned women. The talk was in French.

"Hello, Dorn," one of the Englishmen called. Dorn approached the table,
von Stinnes following, and whispering, "I will request the porter to
open the gate."

"Baron von Stinnes, Mr. Reading."

The Englishman shook hands and smiled.

"I know the baron, Dorn. Rather old friends, what? Have a drink, damn
it!"

"Later, if you please," von Stinnes bowed stiffly. Reading beckoned Dorn
aside with an air of secrecy. Walking him to another part of the lobby
he began whispering:

"I'd let that blighter alone if I were you, Dorn. I'm just telling you
because you're rather new to these bloody swine."

Dorn nodded.

"I see," he said, and walked back to von Stinnes. Reading resumed his
place with the party.

"Perhaps it was a timely warning," the baron murmured as Dorn drew near
him. The gate had been opened and the two emerged. "I make a guess at
what Reading told you," the baron pursued.

"It is immaterial," Dorn answered. "I engage you not for your honesty
and many virtues, but because you're amusing...."

"Thus you relieve my conscience," von Stinnes sighed.

The wide avenue was deserted. Moonlight lay on the new-fallen snow. A
line of soldiers wheeled suddenly out of the Brandenburger Tor and came
marching quickly toward the walkers.

"_Weiter gehen, weiter gehen_," a voice from the troop called. Two
detached themselves from the ranks and approached rapidly.

"_Ausweise...._"

Von Stinnes glared through his monocle and answered in German, "What is
the matter with you? Are you crazy? I am Baron von Stinnes. My friend is
a member of the American Commission."

Dorn extracted a bit of stamped paper--his special credentials from the
German Foreign Office. The soldier glanced at it without troubling to
read....

"_Sehr gut, mein Herrschaften_," he mumbled. Dorn caught a glimpse of
his face. Its importance had vanished. The line of soldiers marched on.
When they had turned a corner the sound of firing suddenly resumed.

"Shadows again," chuckled von Stinnes.

Snow-covered streets, moonlight, waiting buildings, cold and
shadows--here was reality. The thing under the gay tumult of the cafés.
Under the baron's laughter. They were passing a stretch of empty shop
windows.

"It's cold," Dorn muttered. The baron looked at him with a smile.

"It is cold everywhere in Germany," he said quietly. "Men's hearts are
cold with hunger and fear. Brains are confused. Stomachs empty. The top
has been knocked off. The soldiers in the streets are the sad little
remains of a dead Germany. The new Germany lies cold and hungry in a
workingman's bed. Life will come out of the masses. And I am always on
the side of life. Not so? The old is dead. We drink wine to the new."

The sound of dance music drifted out of a café.

"Shall we stop?" the baron hesitated.

Dorn shook his head.

"Enough cafés. The streets are better. Dark windows."

They walked in silence through the snow, the baron humming a Vienna
waltz as the blurred echoes of machine-gun fire rose in the night around
them.

... Hours later Dorn lay sleepless in his bed. The smoke of wine was
slipping out of his thought.

"I'm alone," he murmured to himself. An emotionless regret came to him.

"There are still years to live." He wrapped himself closer in the
silk-covered quilts. "But how? Does it matter? I have loved, and that
is over. Rachel is ended. Haven't thought of her for weeks. And now, I
am like I was, only older and alone; yet not sad. So people adjust
themselves to decay. Senses that could have understood and wept at
sorrow die, along with the things whose death causes sorrow. Ergo, there
is no sorrow. Wings gone, tears gone, everything gone. Empty again, yet
content. I want nothing.... No desires...."

His brain was mumbling sleepily as the cold wind from the opened window
swept pleasantly through the room.

"Women to divert me. Wine to make me glad. And a companion--the baron.
Droll tragedian! And scenes for my eyes. Yes, yes.... They keep shooting
outside. Still shooting after five years. Shooting each other. The world
speaks a strange language. What imbecility! Yet life is in the masses.
It'll come out, perhaps. From Russia. Russians--a pack of idealists ...
a pack of illiterate Wilsons with whiskers. I'm like the baron. I admire
revolution. Why? Because it diverts."

He closed his eyes for moments. Still no sleep, and his thought resumed,
"Rachel, I once loved you. I can say it now without hurt. Empty memories
now--like drawings in outline. And some day even the outlines will leave
me."

A curious ache came into his heart. "Ah, she still touches me--still a
little. Poor dear one! What a farce! A glorious farce! The nights when
she whispered. Her face, I remember, yes, a little. Ghosts! Your eyes
are the beckoning hands of dream. That was the best sentence.... The
rest were good too--sometimes."

He smiled sleepily on his pillow ... "still shooting. It will be amusing
here. Some day when we're old, Rachel and I will see each other again.
Old eyes questioning old eyes. Old eyes saying, 'So much has died. Only
a little more remains to die.' Sleep ... I must sleep now. To-morrow,
work, work! And forget. But nothing to forget. It forgets itself. It
says good-bye. A sun gone down. What is it old Carl wrote?... 'The past
is a bucket of ashes, a sun gone down ... to-morrow is another
day....'"



CHAPTER V


The detachment vanished. Streets familiarized themselves.

"_Ich steh auf den Standpunkt_," said the politicians; and the racket of
machine-guns offered an obligato.

The new garrulity that had seemed strange to Dorn lost its strangeness.
It became the victrola phrases of a bewildered diplomacy. But the
diplomacy was not confined to frock-coats. It buzzed, snarled up and
down the factory districts, in and out of the boulevard cafés and the
squat resident sectors.

The German waiting for the knife of Versailles to fall was vomiting a
vocabulary of fear, hope, threat, despair. Under cover of a confused
Social Democracy the German army was slowly reorganizing itself.

It was three months after his arrival in Berlin that Dorn wrote his
curious sketch of the German situation. The three months had witnessed a
change in him. He had become a workman--industrious, inquisitive,
determined. Under the guidance of von Stinnes he had managed to
penetrate the heart of German _politik_. Tours through the provinces,
daily interviews with celebrities, statesmen, leaders of the scores of
political factions; adventures under the surface of the victrola phrases
pouring from the government buildings and the anti-government buildings,
had occupied even his introspections. Seemingly the empire had turned
itself into a debating society. Life had become a class in economics.

Three months of work. Unfocused talents drawn into simultaneous
activity. And Dorn arose one morning to find himself an outstanding
figure in the turmoil of comment and commentators about him. Von Stinnes
had wheedled his history out of him for publication in Berlin. Its
appearance was greeted with a journalistic shout in the capitol.
Radicals and conservatives alike pounced upon it. Haase, leader of the
Independent Socialists, declaimed it almost in full before the National
Assembly in Weimar.

Dorn had put into it a passionate sense of the irony and futility of his
day. Its clarity arrested the obfuscated intellect of a nation groping,
whining, and blustering under the shadow of the knife of Versailles.

The writing of it had rid him for the time of Rachel, of Anna, of the
years of befuddling emptiness that had marked his attitudes toward the
surfaces of thought about him. The emotionless disillusion of his nature
had finally produced an adventure for him--the adventure of mental
fecundity.

He had gone to Weimar to write. Here the new government of Germany had
assembled. Delegates, celebrities, frock-coats, strange hair formations;
messiah and magician had come to extricate the nation from its unhappy
place on the European guillotine. The narrow streets stuttered with
argument.... Von Stinnes and a girl named Mathilde Dohmann accompanied
him to the town. The Baron, bored for the moment with his labors, had
immersed his volatile self in a diligent pursuit of Mathilde. He had
discovered her among communist councils in Berlin and naïvely attached
her as a part of Dorn's secretarial retinue.

"She will be of service," he announced.

Dorn, preoccupied with the scheme of his history, paid little attention
to her. Arrived in Weimar he became entirely active, viewing with
amusement the Baron's sophisticated assault upon the ardent-voiced,
red-haired political spitfire whom he called Matty. Alone in an old
tavern room, he gave himself to the arrangements of words clamoring for
utterance in his thought. Old words. Old ideas. Notions dormant since
years ago. Phrases, ironies remembered out of conversations themselves
forgotten. The book was finished towards the middle of March--a history
of the post-war Germany; with a biography between the lines of Erik
Dorn. Von Stinnes had forthwith produced two German scholars who, under
his direction, accomplished the translation with astonishing speed.
Excerpts from the thin red-and black-covered volume found their way
overnight into the press of the nation. Periodicals seized upon the
extended brochure as a _Dokument_. In pamphlet form the gist of it
started upon the rounds of Europe. The garrulity of the day had been
given for the moment a new direction.

     *     *     *     *     *     *

"We will go to Munich. There will be a revolution in Munich. I have news
from secret sources."

Baron von Stinnes, lounging wearily in front of a chess-board, spoke and
raised a cup of mocha to his lips. Dorn, picking his way through a
German novel, looked up gloomily and nodded.

"Anywhere," he agreed. "Munich, Moscow, Peking."

In a corner of the room Mathilde was curled on the luxurious hotel divan
watching through half-closed eyes the figures of the men. The Baron
turned toward her and frowned. In return her face, almost asleep, became
vivid with a sneer. The Baron's love-making had gone astray.

"Matty is going to try to carry a million marks into Munich for the
Communists," he announced.

The girl stared von Stinnes into silence.

"How do you know that?" she asked slowly.

He lowered his cup and with a show of polite deliberation removed his
monocle and wiped it with a silk handkerchief.

"I know many things," he smiled. "The money comes from Dr. Kasnilov and
will be brought to Dr. Max Levine in Munich, and the good Max will buy a
garrison of Landwehr with it and establish the soviet republic of
Bavaria."

"You know Levine?"

"Very well," smiled the Baron.

Mathilde sat up. Her voice acquired a vicious dullness.

"You will not interfere with me, von Stinnes."

"I, Matty?" The Baron laughed and resumed his mocha. "I am heart and
soul with Levine. If Dorn cannot go I will have to go alone. It is
necessary I be in Munich when the Soviets are called out."

"You will not interfere with me, von Stinnes," the girl repeated, "or I
will kill you."

"You have my permission, Fräulein. The logical time for my death is long
past."

Mathilde's sharp young face had grown alive with excitement. She sat
with her eyes unwaveringly upon the Baron as if her thought were groping
desperately beneath the smiling weariness of the man.

"Mr. Dorn," she spoke, "von Stinnes is a traitor."

Dorn smiled.

"If one million marks will cause a revolution, I'll take them to Munich
myself," he answered. "I'm sick of Berlin. I need a revolution to divert
me."

"I fear I am in the way," von Stinnes interrupted. He arose with
formality. "Mathilde would like to unburden herself to you, Dorn. I am,
she will inform you, a secret agent of Colonel Nickolai, and Colonel
Nickolai is the head of the anti-bolshevist pro-royalist propaganda in
Prussia." He paused and smiled. "I will meet you in the lobby when you
come down."

He walked toward the door, halting before the excited face of the girl.

"Ah, Matty, Matty," he murmured, "you will not in your zeal forget that
I love you?"

He bowed whimsically and passed out. Dorn laid aside his book and
approached the divan. In the week since their return from Weimar he had
become interested in the moody, dynamic young creature. The fact that
she had resisted the expert persuasions of the Baron--a subject on which
the nobleman had discoursed piquantly on their ride to Berlin--had
appealed to him.

"Karl is a good fellow," he said, seating himself next to her. "And if
it happens he is employed by Noske and Nickolai it doesn't alter my
opinion of him."

"He is a scoundrel," she answered quietly.

"That is impossible," Dorn smiled. "He is merely a man without
convictions and therefore free to follow his impulses and his employers.
I thank God for von Stinnes. He has made Europe possible. A revolution
alone could rival him in my affections."

The girl remained silent, and Dorn watched her face. He might embrace
her and make love. It would perhaps flatter, please her. She fancied him
a man of astounding genius. She had practically memorized his book.
Thus, one had only to smile humorlessly, permit one's eyes to grow
enigmatic, and think of a proper epigram. He recalled for an instant the
two women who had succumbed to his technique since he had left America.
They blurred in his memory and became offensive. Yet Matty had been of
service and perhaps her moodiness was caused by a suppressed affection.
As an amorous prospect she was not without interest. As a reality,
however, she would obviously become a bore. In any case there was
nothing to hinder polite investigation, mark time with kisses until von
Stinnes brought on his promised revolution. He thought carefully.
Pessimism was the proper note. Dramatize with an epigram the emptiness
of life. His forte--emptiness. Not love but a hunger to live.

"Matty, I regret sadly that you are not a prostitute."

Startling!

"It would save me the trouble of having to fall in love with you, dear
child."

She smiled, a sudden amusement in her eyes.

"You too, Mr. Dorn. I had thought different of you."

"As a creature beyond the petty agitations, eh?"

"As a man."

"It is possible for a Man, despite a capital M, to love."

"Yes, love. It is possible for him only to love. And you do not."

"Much worse. I am sad."

"Why?"

"Perhaps because it is the only emotion that comes without effort."

"So you would fall in love with me to forget that I bore you."

"A broader ambition than that. To forget that living bores me,
Mathilde."

"There is someone else you love, Mr. Dorn."

"There was." He smiled humorlessly. "Do you mind if I talk of love? I
need a conversational antidote."

"And if you talk of love you may be spared the trouble of having to make
love," she laughed quietly. "But I would rather talk of von Stinnes. I
am worried."

"You are young," Dorn interrupted, "and full of political error. I am
beginning to believe von Stinnes. The most terrible result of the war
has been the political mania it has given to women."

Mathilde settled back on the divan and stared with mocking pensiveness
at her shoes. Dorn, speaking as if he desired to smile, continued:

"Do you know that when one has loved a woman one grows sad after it is
ended, remembering not the woman, but one's self? The memory of her
becomes a mirror that gives you back the image of something that has
died--a shadow of youth and joy that still bears your name. It is the
same with old songs, old perfumes. All mirrors. So I walk through life
now smiling into mirrors that give back not myself, but someone
else--another Dorn."

He arose and looked down at her.

"Does that interest you?"

"I understand you."

"There are many ways of making love. Sorrowful phrases are the most
entertaining, perhaps."

"You make me think you have loved too much."

"Yes, it would be difficult to kiss you. I would become sad with memory
of other kisses. Because you are young--as I was then."

"Was it long ago?"

"Things that end are always long ago."

"Then it was only yesterday."

"Yes, yesterday," he laughed, pleased with the ironic sound of his
voice. "And what is longer ago than yesterday?"

She had risen and stood before him, an almost boyish figure with her
fists clenched.

"I have something else I am in love with," she whispered. "I am in love
with----"

"The wonderful revolution, I know."

"Yes."

"And some day in the future you, too, will look into a mirror and see
not yourself but a glowing-faced girl that was in love with what was
once called the revolution."

"But if things end it is only because we are too weak to hold them
forever. So while we are strong we must hold them twice as eagerly."

"Sad. All most deplorably sad, Mathilde. Hands shuffle us into new
combinations, when we would prefer the old. Thus you, too, will some day
listen to the cry that rises from all endings."

"You are designing. You wish to make me sad, Mr. Dorn. And succeed."

"Only that I may contemplate the futility of your love and smile. As I
cannot quite smile at my own. We do not smile easily at corpses."

His hands covered her fingers gently.

"I will give myself to you, if you wish," she whispered.

"And I prefer you like this," he smiled. "If you will come close to me
and lay your head against me." He looked down at her as she obeyed.
"There is an odor to your hair. And your cheek is soft. These things are
similar things. You are almost like a phantom."

"Of her."

"No. She is forgotten. It's something else. A phantom of something that
once lived in me, and died. It comes back and stares at me sometimes out
of the eyes of strange women, out of the sounds of music. Now, out of
your hair."

"And you do not want me, Erik?"

"I want you. But I prefer to amuse myself by fancying that you are
unattainable."

"I've liked you, Erik. The rest does not matter to me. I grew old
during the war, and careless. My father and two brothers died. And
another man."

"So we both need diversion."

"Yes."

"Diversion," he murmured, "the little drug. But what is there to drugs?
No, come; we are lovers now."

"We will go to Munich together."

"Yes."

"And will you carry the money for Levine? They would never search you
and they might recognize and search me. And besides, von Stinnes would
not dare interfere if it was you, even if he is a spy, because he likes
you too well."

Her voice had become eager and vibrant. Dorn smiled ruefully, the faint
mist of a sigh in his thought. The girl had worked adroitly. Of course,
he was someone to carry the money to the Munich radicals.

"It is just an ordinary-looking package. The station will be under a
guard and all the roads coming in, too. They are expecting the
revolution and ..." She paused and grew red. Dorn's eyes were looking at
her banteringly. "You are thinking I have tricked you," she cried, "and
that it was only to use you as a ... as a carrier that I ... Well,
perhaps it is true. I do not know myself. I told you you could have me.
Yes, I give myself to you now ... now.... Do you hear?"

She laughed with bitterness.

"I have never given myself before. I would rather you smiled and were
kind. But if you wish to laugh ... and call it a bargain ... it does not
matter."

She had stepped away from him and stood with kindled eyes, waiting.

"One can be chivalrous in the absence of all other impulses, Mathilde.
And all other impulses have expired in me. So I will take the package.
We will start to-morrow early. And as for the rest ... I will spare you
the tedium of martyrdom."

He moved toward the door. "Come, we'll go downstairs. Von Stinnes will
be getting impatient."

Mathilde came to him swiftly. He caught a glimpse of her face lighted,
and her arms circled his neck. She was looking at him without words. A
coldness dropped into his heart. There had been three of them
before--he, Mathilde, and a phantom. Now there were only Mathilde and
himself.

"She was not tricking," he thought, and felt pleased. "At least not
consciously."

Her arms fell from him and she stared frightenedly.

"Forgive me, Erik. I thought you loved me. And I would have liked to
make you happy...."

He nodded and opened the door.



CHAPTER VI


They sat in the compartment of the train crawling into Munich. The Baron
drooped with sleep. Dorn stared wearily out of the window. Springtime. A
beginning of green in the fields and over the roll of hills. Formal
sunlight upon factories with an empty holiday frown in their windows.

"I hear shooting," he smiled at Mathilde. "We're probably in time."

The girl nodded. Despite the sleepless night sitting upright in the
compartment, her eyes were fresh and alive. The desultory crack of a
rifle drifting out of the town as if to greet them brought an impatience
into her manner. The train was moving slowly.

"Yes, we're in time," she murmured. "See, the white guards are still in
possession."

A group of soldiers with white sleeve-bands over the gray-green of their
uniforms passed in an empty street.

"There will be white guards at the station, too," she went on. "The
attack will come to-night. It must."

She looked intently at von Stinnes who, opening his eyes suddenly,
whispered, "Ah, Mathilde ... there was once another München...."

An uproar in the station. A scurry of guards and soldiers. White
sleeve-bands. Machine-guns behind heaped bags of sand. A halloo of
orders across the arc of the spacious shed. Passengers pouring out of
the newly arrived train, smiling, weeping, staring indifferently.

The officer desired the passengers to line themselves up against the
train. A suggestive order, and confusion. Whispers in the crowd....
"Personally, I prefer the guillotine.... No, no, madame. There is no
danger. These are good boys. Soldiers of the government. You can tell by
the sleeve-bands. White. Merely baggage inspection."

Dorn waited his turn. A group of soldiers approached slowly, delving
into pockets for weapons, peering into opened pieces of baggage. Babble,
expostulation, eager politeness of innocent travelers, and outside the
long crack of rifles, an occasional rip of a machine-gun. The group of
soldiers paused before him.

"I am an American," he spoke in English, "with the American commission."

The announcement produced its usual effect. Bows, salutes, smiles. He
pulled out his passport and foreign-office credentials. An officer
stepped forward and glanced at them.

"Very good," in courteous English, "you will pardon for the delay. We
are having a little trouble here."

He indicated the city with a nod of his head and smiled wryly. In German
he continued sharply, "Gottlieb, Neuman, you will escort this gentleman
and his friends to whatever place they wish to go. Take my car at post
10."

Two soldiers saluted. The officer bowed with a smile. The travelers
moved off with their escort toward the street. Mathilde kept her eyes on
von Stinnes as they entered a gray automobile.

"Von Stinnes and I will sit in the back," she whispered to Dorn.

The Baron nodded.

"Careful of your Leugger," he whispered, "the soldiers will see it. You
can shoot me just as easily if you keep it hidden. I have frequently
fired through my pocket."

In a hotel room a half-hour later, Mathilde, grown jubilant as a child,
was clapping her hands and laughing.

"It was too simple!" she cried.

Dorn drew a small suitcase from under the bed and opened it.

"Here it is," he laughed. He removed an oblong package. His eyes sought
von Stinnes, standing near the window leisurely smoking a cigarette.

"You will find Levine in the Gambrinus Keller," von Stinnes spoke
without turning around. "I advise you to go at once, Matty, before the
streets crowd up."

He wheeled and held an envelope toward the girl.

"Take this. It will make it easier for you to get in. They are very
careful right now. It's a letter of credentials from Dr. Kasnilov."

Mathilde opened the envelope mechanically, her eyes seeking the thought
under the Baron's smile.

"Thanks," she spoke in German. "I will go now. I will see you after. At
dinner to-night. Here."

She walked quickly from the room, the oblong package under her arm.



CHAPTER VII


The thing hiding in the alleys and shops of the world--the dark, furtive
hungers that Russia was thawing into life, emerged on a bright April day
in the streets of Munich. Working men with guns. A sweep of
spike-haired, deep-eyed troglodytes from the underworld of labor.
Factories, shops, and alleys vomited them forth. Farm hovels and
stinking bundles of houses sent them singing and roaring down the
forbidden avenues, past the forbidden sanctuaries of satrap and burgher.

From behind curtained windows the upper world looked on with amazement
and disgust. A topsy-turvy April morning. A Spring day gone mad. Here
were the masses celebrated in pamphlet and soap-box oration. An ungodly
spectacle, an overturning. Grinning earth faces, roaring earth voices
come swaggering into the hallowed precincts of civilization. Workingmen
with guns marching to take possession of the world. An old tableau
decked with new phrases--the underfed barbarian at the gate of the
grainary.

The singing and the roaring continued through the morning.

"_Es lebe die Welt Revolution!_ _Es lebe das Rate Republik!_ _Hoch!_
_die soviet von Bayern_ ... _Hoch!_ _Hoch!_"

From the twisting, blackened streets, "_Hoch!_" Men and women squeezing
aimlessly around corners. Closely packed drifts of bobbing heads. A
crack of rifles dropping punctuations into the scene. "_Hoch!_ _Hoch!_"
from faces clustered darkly about the grimacing, inaudible orators in
the squares.

Red flags, red placards like a swarm of confetti on the walls and in the
air. A holiday war.... The morning hours marched away.

With noon, a silence gradually darkened the scene. A silence of
shuffling feet and murmuring tongues. The revolution had sung its songs.
An end of songs and cheerings. Drifting, silent masses. An ominous,
enigmatic sweep of faces. Red placards under foot in cubist designs down
the streets.

The afternoon waned, the hundred thousands closed in. Darkness was
coming and the pack was welding itself together. Rifles were beginning.
Machine-guns were beginning. Holiday was over. Quieter streets. The
orators become audible. Still faces, raised and listening. The orators
had news to give.... One of the garrisons had gone over to the soviets.
Two garrisons had vanished. Treachery. A long murmur ... treachery. The
armies of General Hoffmann were marching upon Munich ... twenty
kilometers from Munich. They would arrive in the night. ... "We will
show them, comrades, whether the revolution has teeth to bite as well as
a song to sing."

A growl was running through the twilight.... _Es lebe das Rate
Republik!_ A fierce whisper of voices. Workingmen looking to their guns,
massing about the government buildings. A new war minister in the
uniform of a marine, speaking from a balcony. Workingmen with guns,
listening. Women drifting back to the hovels and stinking bundles of
houses. In the cafés, satraps and burghers eating amid a suppressed
clamor of whispers, plans. The foolishness was almost over. The armies
of General Hoffmann were coming ... Twenty kilometers out.... Arrive at
night. The corps students themselves would saber the swine out of the
city....

Night. Darkened streets. Tattered patrols hurrying through mysteriously
emptied highways, shouting, "Indoors! Inside, everybody!" Suddenly from
a distance the bay of artillery. Workingmen with guns were storming the
cannon of the artillery regiment outside the city. A haphazard
cross-fire of rifles began to spit from darkened windows ... an upper
world showing its teeth behind parlor barricades.

In the shadows of the massive government buildings an army was forming.
No ranks, no officers. Easy to drift through the sunny streets singing
the _Marseillaise_ and the International ... to mooch along through the
forbidden avenues dreaming in the daylight of a new world ... with red
flags proclaiming the new masters of earth. Hundred thousands, then. But
now, how many? Too dark to see, to count. An army, perhaps. Perhaps a
handful....

Feverish salutes in the shadows.... "_Gruss Gott, genosse!_"

Was it alive? Did the revolution live? What was happening in the empty
streets? Who was shooting? And the armies of Hoffmann? _Gruss Gott,
genosse._ Under Rupprecht the armies had lain four years in the
trenches. Great armies, swinging along like a single man, that had once
battered their way almost into Paris against the English, against the
French.

"_Gruss Gott, genosse._ _Hoffmann kommt_ ... _Ja wohl, Gruss Gott!_"

Now twenty kilometers away and coming down the highroad against
Munich--against the drifting little clusters of lonely men whispering in
the shadows--the great armies of the Kaiser, an iron monster clicking
down the road toward Munich. Would there be artillery to meet them?
_Gruss Gott, genosse, wer shusst dort?_ No, they had only guns, old guns
that might not shoot. Old knives at their belts.... Darkness and
rifle-spattered silences. Where was the revolution? The shadows
whispered, "_Gruss Gott...._"

The shadows began to stir. A voice was talking in the night. High up
from a window. Egelhofer, the communist. No, Levine. Who? A light in
the window.... Egelhofer, thin-faced, tall, black-haired. Egelhofer, the
new war minister. 'Shh! what was he saying?... "_Vorwaerts, der
Banhoff...._"

Yes, the armies of Hoffmann had come. The shadows stirred wildly.
Forward ... _es lebe die Welt Revolution!_ This time a battle-cry,
hoarse, shaking. Men were running. Workingmen with guns, guns that would
shoot ... _"Der Banhoff ... der Banhoff...."_

The shadows were emptying themselves. A pack was running. Two abreast,
three abreast, in broken strings of men. Groups, solitary figures,
hatless, bellowing. The revolution was moving. The empty streets filled.
An army? A handful? Let God show in the morning. Workingmen with guns
were running through the night. Munich was shaking.... "_Der Banhoff,
genosse, vorwaerts!_"

The revolution was emptying itself into the great square fronting the
station. Little lights twinkling outside the ancient weinstubes began to
explode. There must be darkness. Pop!... pop!... a rattle of glass. A
blaze of shooting. The railroad station was firing now.

"_Es lebe das Rate Republik!_" from the darkness in the streets. A sweep
of figures across the open square. Arms twisting, leaping in sudden
glares of flame. The revolution hurled itself with a long cry upon the
barricades of thundering lead.

In the single lighted window of the government buildings a face still
spoke ... _"Ich bin Egelhofer, ihr Krieg's minister ... Ich komm...."_

Waving a rifle over his head, the war minister rushed from the building.
A marine from Kiel. A new pack loosened itself from the shadows. A war
minister was leading.

Moving swiftly through the streets, Dorn hurried to the seat of the new
government--the Wittelbacher Palais. Von Stinnes was waiting there. He
had been delayed in joining the Baron by the sudden upheaval about the
hotel.

The wave had passed. Almost safe now to skirt the scene of battle and
make a try for the Palais. As he darted out of the darkened hotel
entrance, the thing seemed for a moment under his nose. An oppressive
intimacy of tumult.

"They're at the station," he thought. "I'll have to hurry in case they
fall back."

He ran quickly in an opposite direction followed by the leap of firing.
Several blocks, and he paused. Here was safety. The revolution a good
half-mile off. He walked slowly, recovering breath. The street was
lighted. Shop windows blinked out upon the pavements. A few stragglers
walked like himself, intent upon destinations made serious by the near
sound of firing. An interesting evening, thus far. A stout, red-faced
man with a heavily ornamented vest followed the figure of a woman. Dorn
smiled. Biology versus politics.... "Excuse me, pretty one, you look
lonely...." A charwoman. Black, sagging clothes. Dorn passed and heard
her exclaim, "Who, me? You ask me to go with you? Dear God, he asks me!
I am an honest workingwoman. Run along with you!" The woman, walking
swiftly, drew alongside. She was chuckling and muttering to herself, a
curious pride in her voice, "He asked me, dear God--me!"

The abrupt sound of rifle-fire around the corner startled her. Dorn
halted. The woman turned toward him, puzzled.

"They are shooting a whole lot to-night," she spoke in German.

"Quite a lot," he answered.

She looked back at the red-faced man who had remained where she had left
him.

"What do you think of that dunce?" she whispered, and hurried on.

Dorn followed leisurely in the direction of the Palais.



CHAPTER VIII


A rabble of dictators, ministerial fledglings, freshly sprouted
governors, organizers, departmental heads, scurried through the dimly
lighted corridors of the old Palais. Dorn, with the aid of a handful of
communist credentials that seemed to flow endlessly from the pockets of
the Baron, passed the Palais guard--a hundred silent men squatting
behind a hastily erected barricade of sandbags.

Within he stumbled upon von Stinnes. The Baron drew him into a large
empty chamber.

"We must be careful," he whispered. His voice buzzed with an elation.
"Already two ministries have fallen. There is talk now of Levine. He's
of the extreme left. I thought you would like to see it. It has its
amusing side." He laughed softly. "I was with the men in the streets for
a while. There was something there, Dorn. Life, yes ... yes ... It was
amazing. But here it is different. What is it the correspondents say?
'All is confusion, there is nothing to report.' ... Yes, confusion.
There are at present three poets, one lunatic, an epileptic, four
workingmen and a scientist from Vienna, and two school teachers. They
are the Council of Ten. Look, there is _Muhsam,_ the one with the red
vandyke. A poet. He used to recite rhymes in the Cafe Stephanie."

The red vandyke peered into the room. "Stinnes, you are wanted," he
called. "I have my portfolio. I am the new minister to Russia. I leave
for Moscow to-morrow."

"Congratulations!" the Baron answered.

A tall, contemplative man with a scraggly gray beard--an angular
Christ-like figure--appeared. He spoke. "What are you doing here,
Muhsam? There is work inside."

"And you!" angrily.

"I must think. We must grow calm." He passed on, thinking.

"Landerdauer," smiled the Baron, "the Whitman translator."

"Yes," the vandyke answered, "we have appointed him minister of
education. What news from the station, Stinnes?"

"It is taken."

Dorn followed the Baron about the corridors, his ears bewildered by the
screechings from unexpected chambers of debate. He listened, amused, to
the volatile von Stinnes.

"They are trying for a coalition. Nikish is at the top. A former
schoolmaster. The communists under Levine won't come in. The workingmen
are out overthrowing the world, and the great thinkers sit in conference
hitting one another over the head with slapsticks. Life, Dorn, is a
droll business, and revolution a charming comedy, _nicht wahr?_ But it
will grow serious soon. Munich will be cut off. Food will vanish. Aha!
wait a minute...."

He darted after a swaggering figure. Dorn watched. The baron appeared to
be commanding and entreating. The figure finally, with a surly shake of
his head, hurried off. The Baron returned.

"That was Levine," he said. "He won't come in unless Egelhofer is
ratified as war minister. Egelhofer is a communist. Wait a minute. I
will tell them to make Egelhofer minister. I will make a speech. We must
have the Egelhofer."

He vanished again. Dorn, standing against a window, watched frantic men
scurry down the corridor bellowing commands at one another....

"Yesterday they were garrulous little fools buzzing around café tables,"
he thought. "To-night they boom. Rodinesque. And yet comic. Yes,
comedians. But no more than the troupe of white-collared comedians in
Wilhelmstrasse or Washington. The workers were different. There was
something in the streets. Men in flame. But here are little matches."

He caught sight of Mathilde and called her name. She came and stood
beside him. Her body was trembling.

"Did you spend the money?" he asked softly.

"Yes, but they will buy the garrisons back again. They have more funds
than we. Oh, we need more."

"Who will buy them back?"

"The bourgeoise. They have more money than we. And without the garrisons
we are lost."

She wrung her hands. Dorn struggled to become properly serious.

"There, it may come out very fine," he murmured. "Anyway, von Stinnes is
making a speech. It should help."

"Stinnes...."

"Yes, trying to bring Egelhofer in as war minister. He talked with
Levine...."

"I don't understand," she answered. "He is doing something I don't
understand, because he is a traitor."

She became silent and moved closer to Dorn.

"Oh, Erik," she sighed, "I must cry. I am tired."

He embraced her as she began to weep. Von Stinnes emerged, red-faced and
elated.

"It is settled," he announced. "Hello! what's wrong with Matty?"

"Tired," Dorn answered.

"We will go to the hotel."

They started down the corridor. A group of soldiers emerged from a
chamber, blocking their way.

"Baron von Stinnes," one of them called. The Baron saluted.

"You are under arrest by order of the Council of Ten."

Von Stinnes bowed.

"Go to the hotel with Matty, Dorn. I will be on soon."

To the soldiers he added, "Very well, comrades. Take me to comrade
Levine."

"We have orders...."

"To Levine, I tell you," he interrupted angrily. "Are you fools?"

He removed a document quickly from his coat pocket and thrust it under
the soldiers' eyes.

"From Levine," he whispered fiercely. "Now where is Levine?"

The soldiers led the way toward the interior of the Palais.

     *     *     *     *     *     *

Outside, Dorn supported the drooping figure of the girl. Runners passed
them crying out, "It is over! We have taken the station!"

They arrived at the hotel. The lobby was thronged with people. A
chocolate salesman from Switzerland was orating: "They have erected a
guillotine in Marien Platz. They are shooting down and beheading
everybody who wears a white collar."

The hotel proprietor quieted the crowd.

"Nonsense!" he cried. "Ridiculous nonsense! We are safe. They are all
good Bavarians and will hurt nobody."

Dorn led Mathilde to his room. She threw herself on the bed.

"So tired!" she whispered.

"But happy," he added. "Your beloved masses have triumphed."

"Don't. I'm sick of talking...."

"Too much excitement," he smiled.

They became silent. Dorn, watching her carelessly in the dimly lighted
room, began to think.... "Disillusionment already. The dream has died in
her. A child's brain overstuffed with slogans, it begins now to ache and
grow confused. Tyranny, injustice, seem far away and vague. The
revolution in the streets has blown the revolution out of her heart.
There will be many like that to-morrow. The over-idealized idealists
will empty first. The revolution was a dream. The reality of it will eat
up the dream. Justice to the dreamer is a vision of new stars. To the
workingman--another loaf of bread."

"Of what are you thinking, Erik?"

"Of nothing ... and its many variants," he answered.

"We've won," she sighed. "Oh, what a day!"

He noted the listlessness in her voice.

"Yes," he said, "another sham has had heroic birth. Out of workingmen
with guns there will rise some day a new society which will be different
than the old, only as to-morrow is different than to-day. The rivers,
Mathilde, flow to the sea and life flows to death. And there is nothing
else of consequence for intelligence to record."

"You talk like a German of the last century," she smiled. "Oh, you're a
strange man!"

This pleased him. He thought of words, a ramble of words--but a knock at
the door. Von Stinnes entered. He was carrying a basket.

"Food," he announced cheerfully. "With food in our stomachs the world
will seem more coherent for a while."

He busied himself arranging plates of sandwiches on a small table.

"Mathilde asleep?"

He walked to the bed and leaned over her. The girl's eyes were closed.

"Poor child, poor child!" the Baron whispered. He caressed her head
gently. "We will not wake her up. But eat and leave her food. Do you
mind if we go out for a while? It is still early and it will be hard to
sleep to-night. I know a café where we can sit quietly and drink wine,
perhaps with cookies."

Their eating finished, Dorn accompanied his friend into the street.

"It seems as if nothing had happened," he said, as they walked through
the spring night. "People are asleep as usual, and there is an odor of
summer in the dark."

Von Stinnes silently directed their way. After a half-hour's walk he
paused in front of an ancient-looking building.

"We are in Schwabbing now," he said, "the rendezvous of the Welt
Anschauers. I think this place is still open."

He led the way through a narrow court and entered a large,
dimly-lighted room. Blank white walls stared at them. Von Stinnes picked
out a table in a corner and ordered two flasks of wine from a stout
woman with a large wooden ring of keys at her black waist.

They drank in silence. Dorn observed an unusual air about his friend. He
thought of Mathilde's suspicions, and smiled. Yet there was something
inexplicable about von Stinnes. There had been from the first.

"Inexplicable because he is ... nothing," Dorn thought. "A chevalier of
excitements, a Don Quixote of disillusion...."

"You are thinking of me," the baron smiled over his wine-glass, "as I am
thinking of you. Here's to our unimportant healths, Erik."

Dorn swallowed more wine. To be called Erik by his friend pleased him.
He looked inquiringly at the humorous eyes of the man, and spoke:

"You are cut after my pattern."

The Baron nodded.

"Only I have had more opportunities to exercise the pattern," he
replied. "For the pattern, dear friend, is scoundrelism. And I, God
bless me ..." He paused and gestured as if in a hopelessness of words.

"There is quality as well as quantity in scoundrelism," Dorn suggested.
He was thinking without emotion of Anna.

"I have decided to remain in Munich," von Stinnes spoke, "and that
means that I will die here."

"The day's melodrama has gone to your head," Dorn laughed.

"No. There are people in Munich who know me quite well--too well. And
among their virtues they number a desire for my death. In Berlin it is
otherwise. Then too, this business of to-day can't last. It is already
topheavy with thinkers, and will eventually evaporate in a dozen
executions. It may come back, though. I cannot forget the workingmen who
stormed the Banhoff."

He paused and drank.

"Yes, I have decided to stay and play awhile. There will be a few weeks
more. One will find extravagant diversions in Munich during the next few
weeks. I am already Egelhofer's right-hand man. I will organize the
Soviet army, assist in the conduct of the government, try to buy coal
from Rathenau in Berlin, make speeches, compose earth-shaking
proclamations, and end up smoking a cigarette in front of a Noske
firing-squad.... Do not interrupt. I feel it is a program I owe to
humanity. And in addition, I am growing weary of myself."

Dorn shook his head.

"Romantics, friend. I do not argue against them."

"I wonder," von Stinnes continued, "if you realize I am a scoundrel. I
have thought at times that you did, because of the way you smile when I
talk."

"Scoundrels are creatures I do not like. And I like you. Ergo, you are
not a scoundrel, von Stinnes."

The Baron laughed.

"A convenient philosophy, Erik. Well, I was in the German intelligence
and worked in Paris during the second year of the war. Prepare yourself
for a confession. My secrets bore me. And a little cocotte of a countess
betrayed me. It is a virtue French women have. They are not to be
trusted, and love to them is something which may be improved by the
execution of a lover. But there was no execution. To save my skin I
entered the French intelligence--without, of course, resigning from the
German. Thus I was of excellent service to the largest number. To the
French I was invaluable. German positions, plans, maneuvers, at my
finger tips.... And to the Germans, unaware of my new and lucrative
connection, I was also invaluable. Again positions, plans, maneuvers. I
was transferred to Italy by the French and ... But it's a complicated
narrative. I haven't it straight in my own mind yet. Do you know, I wake
up at night sometimes with the rather naïve idea that I, von Stinnes,
who prefer Turkish cigarettes to women, even brunettes ... But I
stammer. It is difficult to be amusing, always. I think sometimes at
night that I was personally responsible for at least half the
casualties of the war."

"Megalomania," said Dorn without changing his smile.

"Yes, obviously. You hit it. A distorted conscience image. Ah, the
bombardments I have perfected. The hills of men I have blown up.
Frenchmen, Germans, Italians. Yes, a word from me ... I pointed the
cannon straighter.... But disregarding the boast ... you will admit my
superiority as a scoundrel."

"It is immaterial," Dorn answered. "If you betrayed the French, you made
amends by betraying the Germans, and vice versa. As for the Italians ...
I have never been in Italy."

Von Stinnes laughed.

"You do not believe me, eh?"

"You are lying only in what you do not say," Dorn laughed.

"Yes, exactly. I will go on, if it amuses you."

"It is better conversation than usual."

"I am now with the English," von Stinnes continued. "They play a curious
game outside Versailles, the English. They have entrusted me with a most
delicate mission." He paused and drained his glass. "It is quite
dramatic. I tell it to you because I am drunk and weary of secrets. Five
years of secrets ... until I am almost timorous of thinking even to
myself ... for fear I will betray something to myself. But--it is droll.
The million marks you so gallantly carried in for Matty, they were
mine, Erik." He laughed. "I gave them to Dr. Kasnilov, and a very
mysterious Englishman gave them to me...."

"Gifts of a million are somewhat phenomenal," Dorn murmured.

"I stole only a hundred thousand," von Stinnes went on, "which, of
course, everyone expected."

"But why the English, Karl?"

"A little plan to separate Bavaria from Prussia, and help break up
Middle Europe. You know feeling between the two provinces is intense.
There was almost a mutiny in the second war year. And anything to help
it along. To-morrow, Franz Lipp the new foreign minister of the Soviets
will telegraph to Berlin recalling the Bavarian ambassador; there _is_
one, you know--a figurehead. And the good Franz will announce to the
world that Bavaria has declared its independence of Prussia. This will
be a politic move for the Soviets as well as England. For the
bourgeoisie in Bavaria dislike Prussia as much as the communists dislike
her. But I bore you with intrigue. We have had our little revolution for
which you must allow me to accept an honest share of credit.... Let us
have another flask."

"An interesting story," Dorn agreed.

"You still smile, Erik?"

"More than ever."

"Ah, then truly, we are of the same pattern."

Von Stinnes stared at him sadly.

"You are my first companion in five years," he added.

"As you are mine," Dorn answered. "Here ... to the success of all your
villainies and our friendship."

"Which is not one of them," the Baron murmured. "You believe me?"

"Of course."

"Ah! it is almost a sensation to be believed ... for speaking the truth.
I feel as if I have committed some exotic sin. Yes, confession is good
for the soul."

"Shall we go back to the hotel?"

The Baron leaned forward and grasped Dorn's hand feverishly.

"I do not wish to joke any more," he whispered. "I have told you the
truth. And you still smile at me. You are a curious man. I have for long
sat like an exile surrounded by my villainies and smiling alone at the
world. But it is impossible to live alone, to become someone whom nobody
knows, whom trusting people mistake for someone else. I have wanted to
be known as I am ... but have been afraid. Ah! I am very drunk ... for
you seem still amused."

Dorn squeezed his hand.

"Yes, you are my first friend," he said. The Baron followed him to his
feet. They were silent on the way to the hotel. Von Stinnes walked with
his arm linked in Dorn's. Before the latter's room he halted.

"Good night, sweet prince," he mumbled drowsily, "and may angels guard
thy sleep."

Alone, he moved unsteadily down the hall.

Mathilde was gone. Moving about the room, Dorn found a note left for
him. He read:


"A man was here asking for you. An American officer. I met him in the
lobby and mentioned there was an American here and he asked your name.
When I told him he seemed to be excited. He said his name is Captain
Hazlitt and he is in the courier service on his way from Paris to
Vienna. I do not like him. Please be careful.

                                                "MATHILDE DOHMANN."



CHAPTER IX


In the days that followed Dorn sought to interest himself in the details
of the situation. The thing buzzed and gyrated about him, tiring his
thought with its innumerable surfaces. Revolution. A new state. New
flags and new slogans.

"I can't admire it," he explained to Mathilde at the end of the first
week, "because its grotesqueries makes me laugh. And I cannot laugh at
it because its intensity saddens me. To observe the business sanely is
to come to as many conclusions as there are words."

Mathilde had recovered some of her enthusiasm. But the mania that had
illuminated her thought was gone. She spoke and worked eagerly through
the days, moving from department to department, helping to establish
some of the innumerable stenographic archives the endless stream of
soviet pronouncements and orders were beginning to require. But at night
her listlessness returned.

"There is doubt in you too," Dorn smiled at her. "I am sorry for that.
It has been the same with so many others. They have, alas! become
reasonable. And to become reasonable ... Well, revolution does not
thrive on reason. It needs something more active. You, Mathilde, were a
revolutionist in Berlin. Now you are a stenographer. Alas! one collapses
under a load of dream and finds one's self in an uninteresting Utopia,
if that means anything. Epigrams lie around the street corners of Munich
waiting new text-books."

They were walking idly toward the café von Stinnes had appointed as a
rendezvous. It was late and the dark streets were deserted. The shops
had been closed all week. The Revolution was struggling in poorly
ventilated council-rooms with problems of economics. Beyond the
persistent rumors that the city, cut off from the fields, would starve
in another two days and that the legendary armies of Hoffmann were
within a stone's throw of the Hofbrau House, there was little
excitement. "My employers," von Stinnes had explained on the fourth day,
"are waiting to see if the Soviet can stand against the Noske armies
from Prussia. The armies will arrive in a few weeks. If the Soviet can
defeat them and thus establish its authentic independence, my employers
in Versailles will then finance the Bavarian bourgeoisie and assist in
the overthrow of the Communists. On the one condition, of course, that
the bourgeoisie maintain Bavaria as an independent nation. And this the
bourgeoisie are not at all averse to doing. It sounds preposterous,
doesn't it? You smile. But all intrigue is preposterous, even when most
successful."

"I quite believe," Dorn had answered. "I've long been convinced that
intrigue is nothing more than the fantastic imbecilities unimaginative
men palm off on one another for cleverness."

Now, walking with Mathilde, Dorn felt an inclination to rid himself of
the week's political preoccupation. Mathilde was beginning to have a
sentimental influence upon him.

"Perhaps if she loved me something would come back," he thought. "Anyway
it would be nice to feel a woman in love with me again."

An innocuous sadness sat comfortably in his heart. Later he would
embrace her. Kiss ... watch her undress. Things that would mean
nothing.... But they might help waste time, and perhaps give him another
glimpse of ... He paused in his thought and felt a dizziness enter his
silence. Words spun. "The face of stars," he murmured under his breath,
and laughed as Mathilde looked inquiringly up at him.

The café was deserted. Von Stinnes, alone in a booth, called "Hello" to
them as they entered.

"We have the place almost to ourselves," he said. "There are some people
in the other room."

He looked affectionately at the two as they sat down, and added, "How
goes the courtship?"

"Gravely and with cautious cynicism," Dorn answered. "We find it
difficult to overcome our sanities."

He smiled at the girl and covered her hand with his. Her eyes regarded
him luminously. They sat eating their late meal, von Stinnes chatting of
the latest developments.... A mob of communist workingmen had attacked
the poet Muhsam while he was unburdening himself of proletarian oratory
in the Schiller Square.

"They chased him for two blocks into the Palais," the Baron smiled, "and
he lost his hat. And perhaps his portfolio. They are beginning to
distrust the poets. They want something besides revolutionary iambics
now. Muhsam, however, is content. He received a postal card this
afternoon with a skull and cross-bones drawn on it informing him he
would be assassinated Friday at 3 P.M. It was signed by 'The Society for
the Abolition of Monstrosities.' He is having it done into an
expressionist placard and it will undoubtedly restore his standing with
the Council of Ten. Franz Lipp, the foreign minister, you know, has
ordered all the telephones taken out of the foreign office building.
It's an old failing of his--a phobia against telephones. They send him
into fits when they ring. He has incidentally offered to sign a separate
peace with the Entente. A crafty move, but premature. And the burghers
have been ordered under pain of death to surrender all firearms within
twenty-four hours."

The talk ran on. Mathilde, feigning sleep, placed her head on Dorn's
shoulder.

"You play with the little one," whispered von Stinnes. "She is in love."

Dorn placed his arm around her and smiled at her half-opened eyes.

A man, walking unsteadily across the empty café, stopped in front of the
booth.

"I've been looking for you," he said. "You don't remember me, eh?"

Dorn looked up. An American uniform. An excited face.

"My name's Hazlitt. Come out here."

Von Stinnes leveled his monocle witheringly upon the interloper and
murmured an aside, "He's drunk...."

Dorn stood up.

"Yes, I remember you now," he said. The man's tone had oppressed him.
"What do you want?"

He detached himself from Mathilde and stepped into the room. Hazlitt
stared at him.

"I owe you something," he spoke slowly. "Come out here."

Watching the man as he approached, Dorn became aware of a rage in
himself. His muscles had tightened and a nervousness was shaking in his
words. The man was a stranger, yet there was an uncomfortable intimacy
in his eyes.

Hazlitt stood breathing heavily. This was Erik Dorn--the man who had had
Rachel. Wine swept a flame through his thought. God! this was the man.
She was gone, but this was the man. Shoot him down like a dog! Shoot him
down! Kill the grin of him. He'd pay. He'd killed something. Shoot him
down! There was a gun under his coat--army revolver. Better than
shooting Germans. This was the man.

"You're going to pay for it," he spoke. "Go on, say something."

Dorn's rage hesitated. A mistake. What the devil was up?

"Oh, you've forgotten her," Hazlitt whispered. Shoot him! Voices inside
demanded wildly that he shoot. Not talk, but kill.

"Rachel," he cried suddenly. His eyes stopped seeing.

Dorn jumped for the gun that had appeared and caught his arm in time.
Rachel--then this was something about Rachel? Hazlitt ... Rachel. What?
A fight over Rachel? Rachel gone, dead for always. Get the gun away,
though....

They were stumbling across the room, twisting and locked together. He
saw von Stinnes rise, stand undecided. Mathilde's face, like something
shooting by outside a car window. And a strong man trying to kill him
... for Rachel. A Galahad for Rachel.

His thought faded into a rage. A curse as the man grabbed at his throat.
The gun was still in the air. His wrist was beginning to ache from
struggling with the thing. This was part of the idiocy of things. But he
must look out. Perhaps only a moment more to live. The man was weeping.
Mumbling ... "you made a fool out of her ... You dirty...."

As they continued their stumbling and clutching, a fury entered Dorn.
He became aware of eyes blazing against him--drunken, furious eyes that
were weeping. With a violent lunge he twisted the gun out of the man's
hand. There was an instant of silence and the man came hurling against
him.

Dorn fired. Down ... "my head ..." He lay still. The body of Hazlitt
sprawled over him. For a moment the two men remained embraced on the
floor. Then the body of Hazlitt rolled slowly from on top. It fell on
its back--a dead face covered with blood staring emptily at the ceiling.

Dorn, with the edge of an iron table foot embedded in his head, lay
breathing unevenly, his eyes closed.



CHAPTER X


The blinds were drawn. Cheering drifted in through the open window.
Mathilde sat in a chair. She was watching him.

"Hello!" he murmured. "What's up?"

"Erik ..."

She fell to her knees beside the bed and began to weep. He lay quietly
listening to her. Bandages around his head. A lunatic with a gun. Yes.
Rachel. The man had been in love with Rachel. Pains like noises in his
ears.

"You mustn't talk...."

"I'm all right. Where's von Stinnes?"

"'Shh...."

He smiled feebly. She was holding his hand, still weeping. A memory
returned vividly. A man with blazing eyes. He had lost his temper. But
there had been something more than that. Two imbeciles fighting over a
thing that had died for both of them. Clowns at each other's throat. A
background unfolded itself. Against it he lay watching the two men. Here
was something like a quaint old print with a title, "Fate...."

"Bumped my head," he murmured. But another thought persisted. It moved
through the pain in his skull, unable to straighten itself into lines
of words. It was something about fighting for Rachel. He would ask
questions.

"What happened, Mathilde? Where'd he go?"

"You mean the man? 'Shh.... Don't talk now."

"Come, don't be silly."

The thinness of his voice surprised him.

"What became of the fool?"

"He's dead."

"Dead?"

"Yes, you shot him. Now be quiet."

"Good God, so I did. I remember. When he jumped at me."

A sinking feeling almost drifted him away. He felt as if he had become
hungry. The man was dead.... "I killed him. Well ... what of it?"

He opened his eyes and looked at the room. It was day--afternoon,
perhaps.

"The doctor says you'll be all right in a few days. But you must be
quiet...."

"Von Stinnes," he murmured. "There'll be trouble. Call him, will you?"

Mathilde turned away. Now the pain was less. He could hear cheering
outside. A demonstration. Workingmen marching under new flags.

"Von Stinnes is under arrest, Erik."

"What for? A new government?" What a crazy business.

"No. Don't talk, please. Later...."

He was too weak to sit up.

"Things will have to be straightened out," he muttered. "The fool was an
American officer. There'll be trouble."

"No, don't worry. Von Stinnes has fixed things."

His eyes grew heavy and closed. Sleep ... and let things, fixed or
unfixed, go to the devil.

When he awoke again the room was lighted. Mathilde, standing by the
window, turned as he stirred.

"Are you awake?"

"Yes, and hungry."

She brought a tray to his bed. He raised himself carefully, his head
unbearably heavy. Mathilde watched him with wide eyes as he sipped some
broth.

"What did they arrest the Baron for?" he asked.

She waited till he had finished, and cleared the bed, sitting down on
the edge. Her face lowered toward him till her lips touched and kissed
him.

"For murder," she whispered. Another kiss. "Now you must be quiet and
I'll tell you. He gave himself up when the police came. We carried you
out first. And then I left him."

"But," Dorn looked bewilderedly into the eyes of the girl.

"It was easier for him than for you. They would take you away for trial
to America. But he will be tried here. And he will come out all right.
Don't worry. We thought your skull was fractured, but the doctor says
it was only a hard blow."

She lowered her head beside him on the pillow and whispered, "I love
you! Poor Erik! He is defenseless--with a broken head."

"You are kind," he answered; "von Stinnes, too. But we must set matters
right...."

"No, no, be still!"

He grew silent. It was night again. In the morning he would be strong
enough to get up. A misty calm, the pain almost gone, veins throbbing
and a little split in his thought ... but no more.

"I will sleep by you," Mathilde spoke. She stood up and removed her
waist and shoes. He watched her with interest. Another woman curiously
like Anna, like Rachel--like the two creatures in Paris. Shoulders
suddenly bare. Possessive, unashamed gestures.... She lay down beside
him with a sigh.

"Poor Erik! I take advantage of a broken head."

"No," he smiled.

They lay motionless, her head touching his shoulder timidly.

"I could live with you forever and be happy," she whispered.

"We will see about forever--when it comes."

"Do you like me--perhaps--now?"

He would have preferred her silent. Silence at least was an effortless
lie. To make love was preposterous. How many times had he said, "I love
you?" Too many. But she was young and it would sound pretty in her ears.

"Mathilde, dear one."

Her arm trembled across his body.

It was difficult, but he would say it.... "Yes, in an odd sort of way,
Mathilde, I love you...."

"Ah! you are only being polite--because I have fed you broth."

"No. As much as I can love anything...."

"Later, Erik. 'Shh! Sleep if you can. Oh, I am shameless."

She had moved against him. He thought with a smile, "What an original
way of nursing a broken head!"

Later, tired with a renewed effort to straighten out words about the
fool and Rachel and himself, he closed his eyes. Mathilde was still
awake.

"I'll see von Stinnes in the morning," he murmured drowsily. "Von
Stinnes ... a gallant friend...."

... Someone knocking on the door aroused him. Dawn was in the room.

"Matty," he called. She slept. He found himself able to rise and his
legs carried him unsteadily to the door. A tall marine, outside.

"Herr Erik Dorn?"

Dorn nodded dizzily.

The man went on in German. "I come from Stinnes. I have a letter for
you."

He took the letter from his hand and moved hurriedly to a chair.

"Thanks," vaguely. The marine saluted and walked off. Mathilde had
awakened.

"What are you doing?"

She slipped out of bed and hurried to him.

"A letter," he answered. He allowed her to help him back to his pillow.
Reclining again, his dizziness grew less.

"I'll read it for you," she said.

"No. Von Stinnes...."

"It may be important."

"I'll be able to read in a moment."

She shook her head and slipped the envelope from his weakening fingers.

"I know about von Stinnes. Don't be afraid. May I?"

He nodded and she began to read:


"DEAR ERIK DORN:

"I write this at night, and to-morrow I will be ended. You must not
misunderstand what I do. It is a business long delayed. But I have made
a full confession in writing for the Entente commission--ten closely
written pages. A masterpiece, if I have to boast myself. And in order to
avoid the anti-climax which your sense of honor would undoubtedly
precipitate, I will put a period to it in an hour. A trigger pulled, and
the nobility of my sad country loses another of its shining lights. I am
overawed by the quaint justice of life. I end a career of villainy with
a final lie. It would really be impossible for me to die telling a
truth. The devil himself would appear and protest. But with a lie on my
lips, it is easy. Indeed, somehow, natural. But I pose--a male Magdalene
in tears. Do not misunderstand--too much. You are my friend, and I would
like to live a while longer that we might amuse ourselves together. You
have been an education. I find myself even now on this auspicious
midnight writing with your words. But I mistrust you, friend. You would
deny me this delicate martyrdom if I lived. For you are at bottom
lamentably honorable. So now, as you read this, I am dead (a sentence
out of Marie Corelli) and the situation is beyond adjustment. Please
accept my service as gracefully as it is rendered. The confession, as I
said, is a masterpiece. It would please my vanity if sometime you could
read it. For in this, my last lie, I have extended myself. Dear friend,
there is a certain awe which I cannot overcome--for the drama, or
comedy, finishes too perfectly. You once called me a Don Quixote of
disillusion. And now, perhaps, I will inspire a few new phrases. Let
them be poignant, but above all graceful. I would have for my epitaph
your smile and the whimsical irony of your comment. Better this than the
hand-rubbing grunt of the firing-squad returning to barracks after its
labors. Alas! that I will not be near you to hear it. But perhaps there
will come to me as I submit myself to the opening tortures of hell, an
echo of your words. And this will bring me a smile with which to cheat
the devil. I bequeathe to you my silver cigarette-case. You are my
brother and I say good-bye to you.

                                     "KARL VON STINNES."

"No postscript?" Dorn asked softly.

Mathilde shook her head. There was silence.

"Will you find out about him, please?" he whispered.

The girl dressed herself quickly and left the room without speaking.
Alone, Dorn lay with the letter in his hand.

He spoke aloud after minutes, as if addressing someone invisible.

"I have no phrases, dear friend. Let my tears be an epigram."



PART V

SILENCE



CHAPTER I


The sea swarmed under the night. A moon road floated on the long dark
swells. From the deck of the throbbing ship Dorn looked steadily toward
the circle of moving water. In the salon, the ship's orchestra was
playing. A rollicking sound of music drifted away into the dark monotone
of the sea.

A romantic mood. A chair on an upper deck. Stars and a moon road over
the sea. Better to sit mumbling to himself than join in the chatter of
the cabin. The gayly lighted salon alive with laughter, music, and
voices touched his ears--a tiny music-box tinkling valiantly through the
dark sweep of endless yesterdays, endless to-morrows that sighed out of
the hidden water. The night was an old yesterday, the sea an old
to-morrow.

A sadness in his heart that kept him from smiling, a strange comedy of
words in his thought, a harlequin with the night sitting on his lap.
There were things to remember. There were memories. Unnecessary to
think. Words formed themselves into phrases. Phrases made dim pictures
as if the past was struggling fitfully to remain somehow alive.... His
good-bye to Mathilde. And long, stupid weeks in Berlin. The girl had
been absurd. Absurd, an impulsive little shrew. With demands. Four
months of Mathilde. Unsuspected variants of boredom. Clothed in her
unrelenting love like an Indian in full war dress. Yet to part with her
had made him sad.

The sea rolled mystically away from his eyes.

"An old pattern," his thought murmured, "holding eternities. And the
little music keeps tinkling downstairs. A butterfly of sound in the
night. Like a miniature of all living. Ah, I'm growing sentimental.
Sitting holding hands with the sea. She was sad when I left her. What of
it? Von Stinnes. Dear friend! No sadness there. He was right. New
phrases, graceful emotions. What an artist! But Warren couldn't write
the story. It has to be played by a hurdy-gurdy on a guillotine."

He let his words wander gropingly over the water until a silence entered
him. Thus life wandered away. The sea beat time to the passing of ships,
changing ships. But always the same beat. It was the constancy of the
stars that saddened him. September stars. The stars were yesterdays.
Yes, unchanging spaces, unchanging yesterdays, and a ship's orchestra
dropping little valses into the dark sea. He opened a silver
cigarette-case--an heirloom with a crest on it. Von Stinnes again.
Curious how he remembered him--a memory neither sad nor merry--but final
like the sea. A phantom of word and incident that bowed with an
enchanting irony out of an April day. The other, the fool with the
gun.... Good God, he was a murderer! He smiled. Von Stinnes, a
melancholy Pierrot doffing his hat with a gallant snicker to the moon.
Hazlitt, a pantaloon. Yet tragic. Yes, there was something in the café
that night--two men hurling themselves drunkenly against the taunting
emptiness of life. The rage had come because he had remembered Rachel. A
sudden mysterious remembering. A remembering that she was gone. It had
torn for a moment at his heart, shouted in his ears and driven him mad.

Something had taken Rachel out of him. Time had eaten her image out of
him. He had remembered this in the café. But why had he fired at the
stranger? Because the man's eyes blazed. Because he had become for an
instant an intolerable comrade.

"We fought each other for what someone else had done to us," Dorn
murmured. "Not Rachel but someone that couldn't be touched. Absurd!"
Hazlitt slipped like a shadow out of his mind--an unanswered question.

The throbbing ship with its tinkling orchestra, its laughing, chattering
faces, was carrying him home over a dark sea. At night he sat alone
watching the circle of water. Four vanished nights. Four more nights. He
sighed. The sadness that lay in his heart desired to talk to him. He
struggled to change his thinking. Ideas that were new to him arose at
night on the ship.

"Not now," he whispered. He was postponing something. But the night and
the rolling sea were swallowing his resistance. Words that would tell
him the pain in his heart waited for him.... "Anna. Dear God, Anna! It's
that. But why Anna now? It was easy before."

Words of Anna waited for him. He stared into the dark.

"I want her. I must go back to her. Anna, forgive me!"

A murmur that the darkness might understand. The long rolling sea
listened automatically. Weak fool! Yet he felt better. He could think
now without hiding from words that waited.

His heart wept in silence. The unbidden ones came.... Anna--standing
looking at him. A despair, a death in her face. Something tearing itself
out of her. What pain! But no sound. An agony deeper than sound in her
eyes. He trembled at the memory. The crucified happy one....

Dear God, would he always have to remember now? Other pictures were
gone. They had drifted away leaving little phrases dragging in his
thought. Now Anna had found him. Not a phantom, but the thing as he had
left it, without a detail gone. The gesture of her agony intact. His
thought shifted vainly away. He knew she was standing as he had left
her--horribly inanimate--and he must go back. He would hold her in his
arms, kiss her lips, kneel before her weeping for forgiveness. Ah! he
would be kind. At night he would sit holding her head in his arms,
stroking her hair; whispering, "Forget ... forget! A year or two of
madness--gone forever. But years now waiting for us. New years.
Everything is gone but us. That brought me back. Mists blew away. Dear
Anna, I love you."

He was making love to Anna, his wife. A droll finale. Tears came in his
eyes. There lay happiness. She would move again. The rigid figure that
he had left behind and that was waiting rigidly, would smile again. He
plunged desperately into the dream of words to be. The music from the
salon had ended. Better, silence. Nothing to remind one of the fugitive
tinkle of life. A dark, interminable sea, a moon road, a sigh of rolling
water and a ship throbbing in the night.

"Dear Anna, I love you." And she would smile, her white face and eyes
that were constant as the stars. Constant, eternal. Love that was no
mystery but a caress of sea nights. Forgive him. And her sorrow would
heal under his fingers. It would end all right. The two years--the
halloo of strange sterile things--buried under the smile of her eyes ...
deep, sorrowful, beautiful. Words to be. "Anna we will grow old
together, holding to each other and smiling; lovers whom the years make
always younger." Words that were to heal the strange sadness that had
come to him and start a dead figure into life.

He stood up and walked to the rail, staring into the churn of water
underneath.

"It's slow," he murmured. "Four more days."

Anna's love would hide the world from him. But a fear loosened his
heart. The smell of sea whirled in his veins.

"Perhaps," he thought dreamily, "perhaps there will be nothing. She will
say no."

He hesitated, straightened with a sigh.

"A wife deserter, a seducer, a murderer. I mustn't expect too much, eh,
von Stinnes?"

He smiled at the night. The sound of the Baron's name seemed to bring a
strength into him. He walked toward his berth, his head unnecessarily
high, smoking at his cigarette and humming a tune remembered from the
Munich cafés.



CHAPTER II


There were people in New York who came to Erik Dorn and said: "Tell us
about Europe. And Germany. Is it really true that...." As if there were
some inner revelation--a few precious phrases of undistilled truth that
the correspondent of the _New Opinion_ had seen fit to withhold from his
communications.

The skyscrapers were intact. Windows shot into the air. Streets bubbled
with people. A useless sky clung tenaciously to its position above the
roof-gardens. The scene was amiable. Dorn spent a day congratulating
himself upon the genius of his homeland. He felt a pride in the
unbearable confusion of architecture and traffic.

But in the nine months of his absence there had been a change; or at
least a change seemed to have occurred. Perhaps he had brought the
change with him. It was evident that the Niagara of news pouring out of
Europe into the press and periodicals of the day had inundated the
provincialism of his countrymen. People were floundering about in a daze
of facts--groping ludicrously through labyrinths of information.

It had been easy during the war. Democracy-Autocracy; a tableau to look
at. Thought had been unnecessary. In fact, the popular intelligence had
legislated against it. The tableau was enough--a sublimated symbol of
the little papier-maché rigmarole of their daily lives, the immemorial
spectacle of Good and Evil at death grips, limelighted for a moment by
the cannon in France. The unreason and imbecility of the mob crowned
themselves. Thought became _lèse majesté_.

Dorn returned to find the tableau had suffered an explosion. It had for
some mysterious reason glibly identified as reaction burst into
fragments and vanished in a skyrocket chaos. Shantung, Poland, little
nations, pogroms, plebiscites, Ireland, steel strikes, red armies,
Fourteen Points, The Truth About This, The Real Story of That, the
League of Nations, the riots in Berlin, in Dublin, Milan, Paris, London,
Chicago; secret treaties, pacts, betrayals, Kolchak--an incomprehensible
muddle of newspaper headlines shrieked from morning to morning and said
nothing. The distracted mob become privy for the moment to the vast
biological disorder eternally existent under its nose, snorted, yelped,
and shook indignant sawdust out of its ears.

In vain the editorial Jabberwocks came galloping daily down the slopes
of Sinai bearing new tablets written in fire. The original and only
genuine tableau was gone. The starry heavens which concealed the Deity
Himself had become a junkpile full of its fragments.

"In the temporary collapse of the banalities that conceal the world
from their eyes," thought Dorn, "they're trying to figure out what's
really what around them--and making a rather humorous mess of it."

He went about for several days dining with friends, conferring with
Edwards and the directors of the _New Opinion_, and slowly shaping his
"experiences abroad" into phonograph records that played themselves
automatically under the needles of questions.

At night, he amused himself with reading the radical and conservative
periodicals, his own magazine among them.

"The thing isn't confined to the bloated capitalists alone," he laughed
one afternoon while sitting with Warren Lockwood in the latter's rooms.
"The radicals are up a tree and the conservatives down a cellar. What do
you make of it, Warren?"

"I haven't paid much attention to it," the novelist smiled. "I've been
busy on a book. What's all this stuff about Germany, anyway? I read some
things of yours but I can't figure it out."

Dorn exploded with another laugh.

"You're all a pack of simpletons and bounders, still moist behind the
ears, Warren. The whole lot of you. I've been in New York three days and
I've begun to feel that there isn't a remotely intelligent human animal
in the place. I'm going to retreat inland. In Chicago, at least, people
know enough to keep their mouths shut. I'll tell you what the trouble
is in a nutshell. People want things straight again. They want black and
white so's they can all mass on the white side and make faces at the
evil-doers who prefer the black. They don't want facts, diagnosis,
theories, interpretations, reports. They want somebody to stand up and
announce in a loud, clear voice, 'Tweedledum is wrong. Tweedledee is
right, everything else to the contrary is Poppycock.' Thus they'd be
able to put an end to their own thinking and bury themselves in their
own little alleys and be happy again. You know as well as I, it makes
them miserable to think. Restless, irritable, indignant. It's like
having bites--the more they're scratched the worse they itch. It's the
war, of course. The war has been a failure. The race has caught itself
red-handed in a lie. Now everybody is running around trying to confess
to everybody else that what he said in the past was a lie and that the
real truth is as follows. And there's where the trouble begins. There
ain't no such animal."

"I see," said Lockwood, smiling.

"Yes, you do," Dorn grinned. "You don't see anything. The trouble is ...
oh, well, the trouble is as I said that the human race is out in the
open where it can get a good look at itself. The war raised a
curtain...."

"What about the radicals, though? They seem to be saying something
definite?"

"Yes, shooting one another down by the thousands in Berlin--as they will
some day in New York. Yes, the radicals are definite enough.... The
revolution rumbling away in Germany isn't a standup fight between
Capital and Labor. It's Radical _versus_ Radical. Just as the war was
Imperialist _versus_ Imperialist. One of the outstanding lessons of the
last decade is the fact that the world's natural enemies haven't yet had
a chance at each other, being too busy murdering among themselves. It's
coming, though. Another tableau. All this hysteria and uncertainty will
gradually simmer down into another right-and-wrong issue--with life
boiling away as always under a black and white surface."

"Do you think we're going to go red here?" Lockwood asked pensively.

"It'll take a little time," Dorn went on. He had become used to reciting
his answers in the manner of a schoolmaster. "But it's bound to happen.
Bolshevism is a logical evolution of democracy--another step downward in
the descent of the individual. Until the arrival of Lenine and Trotzky
on the field, there's no question but what American Democracy was the
most atrocious insult leveled at the intelligence of the race by its
inferiors. Bolshevism goes us one better, however. And just as soon as
our lowest types, meaning the majority of our politicians, thinkers, and
writers, get to realizing that bolshevism isn't a Red Terror with a bomb
in one hand and a dagger in the other, but a state of society surpassing
even their own in points of weakness and abnormal silliness, they'll
start arresting everybody who isn't a bolshevist. Capital will put up a
fight, but capital is already doomed in this country. It isn't respected
for its strength, vision, and creative powers. It is tolerated to-day
for no other reason than that it has cornered the platitude market. I'm
telling you, Warren, that when we get it drummed into our heads that
bolshevism isn't strong and powerful, but weaker, more prohibitive, more
sentimental, more politically inefficient, and generally worse than our
own government, we'll have a dictator of the proletaire in Washington
within a week."

Lockwood sighed unhappily and lighted a pipe.

"If you were talking about men and women maybe I could join you," he
answered. "But I got a hunch you're just another one of those newspaper
Neds. The woods are full of smart alecks like you and they make me kind
of tired, because I never can figure out what they're talking about. And
I'll be damned if they know themselves. They think in big hunks and keep
a lot of words floating in the air.... What old Carl calls 'Blaa ...
blaa....'"

The two friends sat regarding each other critically. Dorn nodded after a
pause.

"You're right," he smiled. "I'm part of the blaa-blaa. I heard them
blaa-blaa with guns in Munich one night. And up in the Baltic. You're
right. Anything one says about absurdity becomes absurd itself. And
talking about the human race in chunks is necessarily talking absurdly.
Tell me about that fellow Tesla."

"They deported him to Rooshia," Lockwood answered. "There was quite a
romance about the girl. That was your girl, wasn't it?"

"Yes, Rachel. She wouldn't tag along, eh?"

"No. I suppose they wouldn't let her. I don't know. There was a lot of
stuff in the newspapers."

The novelist seemed to hesitate on the brink of further information. His
friend smiled understandingly.

"It doesn't matter, Warren. Go ahead. Shoot."

"Cured, eh?"

"No--dead."

Lockwood nodded sagely, his mouth half open as if his words were staring
at Dorn.

"Well, there isn't much I know. I met a little girl the other day--Mary
James; know her?"

"Yes."

"She was quite excited. She told me something about an artist that used
to hang around Tesla. It seems that he kidnapped her and carted her to
Chicago. This James girl was all upset."

An interruption in the person of Edwards the editor occurred. The talk
lapsed once more into world problems with Lockwood listening,
skeptically open-mouthed.

Late in the evening Edwards suddenly declared, "You're making a big
mistake leaving New York, Erik. You've got a market now. Your stuff
went big."

"I'm through," Dorn answered. He arose and took his hat. "I'm leaving
for Chicago to-morrow."

He paused, smiling at Lockwood.

"I'm going home."

The novelist nodded sagely and murmured, "Uh-huh. Well, good-night."

Making his way slowly through the night crowds and electrophobia of
lower Manhattan, Dorn felt peacefully out of place. His thought had
become: "I want to get back to where I was." In the midst of the
mechanical carnival of Broadway he caught a memory of himself walking to
work with a stream of faces--of a sardonic Erik Dorn to whom the street
was a pattern; to whom the mysteries tugging at heels that scratched the
pavements were the amusing variants of nothing.



CHAPTER III


"Eddy."

"Yes, dear."

"I have some news for you."

The round, smiling face of Eddy Meredith that refused to change with
age, beamed at Anna.

"Erik's back."

The beam hesitated.

"He wrote. He's coming to see me."

"Anna...."

"Yes, dear, I know. It sort of frightens me, too. But," she laughed
quietly, "there is nothing to be frightened about. He didn't give any
address or I would have written him telling him."

"He must know you're divorced," Meredith spoke nervously.

"I don't know if he does, Eddy."

She reached her hand out and placed it over his, her eyes glancing at
the figure of Isaac Dorn. He was asleep in a chair.

"Please, dearest, don't worry," she whispered.

"It'll be hard for you."

Meredith's face acquired an abnormal expression.

"Maybe you'll feel different." He sighed, and Anna shook her head.
"When's he coming?"

"To-morrow night."

"Did he say anything in the letter?"

She stood up and went to a desk.

"Here it is." A smile touched her lips. "He always wrote curious
letters. Words and words when there was nothing to say. And a single
phrase when there was something." She read from a sheet of paper--"'Dear
Anna, I am coming home. Erik.'"

In the corner Isaac Dorn opened his watery eyes and stared at the
ceiling.

"Are you awake, father?"

"Yes, Anna."

"Did I tell you I'd heard from Erik?"

The old man mumbled in his beard.

"He'll be out to-morrow night," she said, smiling at him. He nodded his
head, stared at her, and seemed to doze off again.

"Father is failing," Anna whispered. Meredith had arisen. His face had
grown blank. He walked toward the hall, saying, "I'll go now."

Anna came quickly to him. Her hands reached his shoulders and she stood
regarding him intently.

"There's nothing any more, dear. It all ended long ago. Perhaps I'll be
sad when I see him. But sad only for him."

Meredith smiled and spoke with an effort at lightness.

"Remember, I don't hold you to anything. I want you only to be happy. In
your own way. Not in my way. And if it will mean happiness for you to
... for you to go back, why ..." He shrugged his shoulders and continued
to smile with hurt eyes.

"Eddy...." Her face came close to his. He hesitated until her arms
closed tightly around him. He felt her warm lips cling and open.

"You've never kissed like that before, Anna." There was almost a fear in
his voice.

"Because I never knew I wanted you," she whispered, "till now--till this
minute; till you said about my going back."

Her face was alive with emotion. A laugh, and she was in his arms again.
They stood embraced, murmuring tenderly to each other.

Later in her bedroom Anna undressed slowly. Her thoughts seemed to be
quarreling with her emotions, her emotions with her thoughts. This was
Erik's room--ancient torture chamber. Something still clinging to its
walls and furniture. Ah, nights of agony still in the air she breathed.
Her words formed themselves quietly. They came to peer into her
heart--polite visitors standing on tiptoe before a closed cell that hid
something.

"Is there anything?" she murmured. "No. I'm different."

She thought of the day she had come out of a grave and resumed living.
It had seemed as if she must learn to walk again, to breathe, to
discover anew the meanings of words. At first--listless, uncertain. Then
new steps, new meanings. Her mind moved back through the year. She had
wept only once--on the night of the divorce. But that was as one weeps
at an old grave, even a stranger's grave. The rest had been Eddy.

"I've changed. And I've been happier in many ways."

She was talking to herself. Why? "I'm a different Anna." But why think
of it? It was settled.

She lay in the bed and her eyes opened at the darkness. Here was where
she had lain when she had died. Each night, new deaths. Here the lonely
darkness that had once choked her, torn at her eyes and made her scream
aloud with pain. Things on the other side of a grave. Memories become
alien. Things of long ago, when the whisper of the dark came like an
insanity into her brain. "Erik gone! Erik gone! Gone!" A word that beat
at her until she died--to awake in the morning and stumble once more
through a day.

Now she regarded the dark quietly. Black. It had no shape. It lay
everywhere about her. But it did not burn nor choke. A peaceful,
harmless dark that could only whisper as if it were asking something.
What was it asking? Long arms of night reaching out for something. But
there was nothing to give, even if she wanted to. Not even tears.
Nothing to give, even though it whispered for alms. Whispered, "Erik ...
Erik!" But there was no little memory. No big memory. Dead. Torn out of
her. So the dark whispered to a dead thing in her that did not stir. A
smile like a tired little gesture passed over her. "Poor Erik, poor
Erik!" she murmured. "He must be thinking things that are no more."

She grew chill for an instant.... The memory of agonies, of the screams
her love had uttered as it died.

"Poor Erik!"

She buried her cool cheek restlessly in the pillow.



CHAPTER IV


Everything the same as it had been. As if he had stepped out of the
office for a walk around the block and come back. But a sameness that
had lost its familiarity. Old furniture, old faces, intensely a part of
his consciousness, yet grown strange. It was like forgetting suddenly
the name of a life-long friend.

His entrance created a stir of excitement. He had spent the preceding
two days arranging with the chief for his return. Barring the
Nietzschean who had functioned in his absence, none had expected him.

He pushed open the swinging door with an old gesture, and walked to his
desk. Here he sat fumbling casually with proofs and the contents of
pigeonholes. An old routine saying, "Pick me up." Familiar trifles
rebuked him. The staff sauntered up one by one to greet him. Crowley,
Mortinson, Sweeney.

"Well, glad to see you back. We've sure missed you around here."

Handshakes, smiles, embarrassed questions. A few strange faces to be
resented and ignored. A strange locker arrangement in a corner to be
frowned at. But the rest of it familiar, poignant--a world where he
belonged, but that somehow did not seem to fit as snugly as once.
Handshakes in the hall. A faint cheer in the composing-room as he
sauntered for the first time to the stone. Slaps on the back. Busy men
pausing to look at him with suddenly lighted faces. "Well, Mr. Dorn,
greetings! How are ye? You're looking fine...."

His world. It was the same, only now he was conscious of it. Before he
had sat in its midst unaware of more than a detail here, a gesture
there. Now he seemed to be looking down from an airplane--a strange
bird's-eye view of things un-strange.

He returned to his desk. The scene again reached out to embrace him.
Familiar colored walls, familiar chatter and flurry of the afternoon
edition going to press. He felt its embrace and yet remained outside it.
There were things in him now that could never be a part of the
unchanging old shop.

During a lull in the forenoon he leaned back in his chair and stared
into the pigeonholes. Memories like the unfocused images of a dream one
remembers in the morning jumbled in his thought. The scene around him
made things he recalled seem unreal. And the things he recalled made the
scene around him seem unreal. He tried to divert himself by remembering
definitely.... "We lay in a moon-lighted room and I whispered to her:
'You have given me wings.' I held a gun and pulled the trigger as he
jumped at me.... Then von Stinnes took the blame.... There's a
restaurant in Kurfursten Damm where Mathilde and I.... What a night in
Munich!... at the Banhoff. What do I remember most? Let me see.... Yes
... there was a note pinned on the blanket saying she was gone and I ...
But there's something else. What? Let me see...."

He tried to evoke clearer pictures. But the sentences that passed
through his mind seemed sterile, impotent. The past, set in motion by
his effort, evaded him. Its details blurred like the spokes of a swiftly
turning wheel. He smiled.

"A sinner's darkest punishment is forgetting his sins," he murmured to
himself. He thought of the evening before him. "Better not think of
that. Read proofs." He had deferred his meeting with Anna until he
should be able to come to her from his desk in the office.

As the day passed an impatience seized him. The unfinished event brought
a fear with it.... "I must put it out of my mind until to-night." But it
remained and grew.

In the afternoon he sat for an hour talking to Crowley and Mortinson. He
listened to them chuckle at his anecdotes. Their faces beaming with
affectionate interest seemed nevertheless to say, "All this is
interesting, but not very important. Not as important as sitting in the
office here and sending the paper to press day after day."

The words he was uttering bored him. He had heard them too often. Yet he
kept on talking, trying to bury his impatience and fear in the sound of
his voice. His anecdotes were no longer memories. They seemed to have
become complete in themselves, related to nothing that had ever
happened. He wondered as he talked if he were lying. These things he was
saying were somehow improvisations--committed to memory. He kept on
talking, eagerly, amusingly.

The afternoon passed. A walk through familiar streets and it was time
for dinner.

"I'm not hungry. I'll eat, though."

Yes, the evening ahead was important--very important. That accounted for
the tedium of the day. But it would be dark soon. There would be a
to-morrow. There had been other important evenings. It was not necessary
to get too nervous. He had writhed before in the embrace of interminable
hours, hours that seemed never to arrive. Then suddenly they came,
looming, swelling into existence like oncoming locomotives that opened
with a sudden rush from little discs into great roaring shapes. And once
arrived they had seemed to be present forever. But suddenly the roaring
shapes were little discs again. Hours died as people died--with an
abrupt obliteration. Yet each new moment, like each new face, became
again interminable. Time was an endlessness whose vanishing left its
illusion unchanged.

But now it was night.

"At the end of this block is a house. Two doors more. I have no key.
Ring the bell. God, but I'm an idiot. She'll answer the door herself.
What'll I say? That's her step. Hello? No. Walk in. Naturally."

He stopped breathing. The door opened. His legs were made of whalebone.
But there was a new odor in the hallway.... And something new here in
her face. He stood looking at the woman with whom he had lived for seven
years and when he said her name it sounded like that of a stranger. His
features had a habit of smiling. An old habit of narrowing one of his
eyes and turning up the right corner of his lips. He stood unconscious
of his expression, his smile a mask that had slapped itself
automatically over his face.

But they must talk. No, she had him at a disadvantage. Her silence could
say everything for her. His silence could say nothing. He reached
forward and took her hands.

"Anna...."

She was different. A rigidness gone. When he had left her she was
standing, stiffened. Now her hands were limp. Her face too, limp. Her
eyes that looked at him seemed blind.

"I've come back, as you see."

That was banal. One did not talk like that to a crucified one. Her hands
slipped away and she preceded him into the room. He looked to see his
father, but forgot to ask a question about him. Anna was standing
straight, looking straight at him. Not as if he were there, but as if
she were alone with something.

"You must let me talk first, Erik."

Willingly. It was difficult to breathe and talk at the same time. He sat
down as she moved into a chair opposite.

Something was happening but he couldn't tell yet. She was changed. Older
or younger, hard to tell. But changed. It was confusing to look at
someone and look at a different image of her. The different image was in
his mind. When she talked he could tell.

"Did you know that I had gotten a divorce, Erik?"

That was it, then. She wasn't his wife any more. A sort of hocus-pocus
... now you are my wife, now you aren't my wife.

"No, Anna."

"Four months ago."

"I was in Germany...." Mathilde, von Stinnes, _es lebe die Welt
Revolution_, made a circle in his head.

"Yes, I know. I'm sorry you didn't find out."

It was impossible. Something impossible was happening. Of course, he had
known it would happen. But he had fooled himself. A clever thing to do.
He was talking like a little boy reciting a piece from a platform.

"I've come back to you because everything but you has died. I begin with
the end of what I have to say. I came back from Europe ... because I
wanted you...."

She interrupted. "I wrote you a letter when I found out about her. I
sent it to New York."

"I never got it."

"I'm sorry."

Quite a formal procedure thus far. A letter had miscarried. One could
blame the mails for that. And a divorce. Yes, that was formal too ...
"whereas the complainant further alleges ..." He felt that his legs were
trembling. If he spoke again his voice would be unsteady. He did not
want that. But someone had to speak. Not she. She could be silent.

"Anna"--let his voice shake. Perhaps it would help matters. "You've
changed...."

"Yes, Erik...."

"I haven't much right to ask for anything else...."

Why in God's name could he think clearly and yet only talk like a
blithering fool? He would pause and gather his wits. But then he would
start making a speech ... four-score and seven years ago our
forefathers....

"I'm sorry you came, Erik...."

This couldn't be Anna. He closed his mouth and stared. A dream full of
noises, voices, Anna saying:

"We mustn't waste time regretting or worrying each other about
things.... It's much too late now."

He wanted to say. "It is impossible that you do not love me because you
once loved me, because we once lay in each other's arms ... seven
years." But there was no Anna to say that to. Instead, a stranger-woman.
An impulse carried him away. He was kneeling beside her, burying his
face in her lap. It didn't matter. There was no one to see. Perhaps her
hand would move gently over his hair. No, she was sitting straight.
Still alone with something. She was saying:

"I'm sorry. Please, Erik, don't."

"I love you."

"No. No! Please, let's talk...."

He raised his face. It was easier now that he was crying. He wouldn't
have to be grammatical ... or finish sentences.

"I understand, Erik. I was afraid of this. For you. But you mustn't.
'Shh! it's all over."

"No, Anna. It can't be. You are still Anna."

"Yes. But different."

He stood up.

"Really, Erik," she was shaking her head and smiling without expression,
"everything is over. I would rather have written it to you. I could have
made it plain. But I didn't know where to reach you."

He let her talk on and stood staring. Her face was limp. There was
nothing there. He was looking at a corpse. Not of her, but somehow of
himself. There in her eyes he lay dead--an obliteration. He had come
back to a part of him that had died. It was buried where one couldn't
see, somewhere behind her eyes.

"I have nothing more to say, Erik. But you must understand what I have
said. Because it means everything."

He listened, staring now at the room, remembering. They had lived
together once in this room. There was something beautiful about the
room. A face that held itself like a lighted lamp to his eyes. "Erik,
Erik, I love you. Oh, I love you so. I would die without you. Erik, my
own!" The walls and books and chairs murmured with echoes. The familiar
slanting books on their shelves. The large leather chairs under the
light. He must weep. The little things that were familiar--mirrors in
which he saw images and words ... a white body with copper hair fallen
across its ivory; white arms clinging passionately to him; a voice,
rapturous, pleading. He must weep because he had come back to a world
that had died, that looked at him whispering with dead lips, "Erik, my
beloved. Oh, I'm so happy ... so happy when you kiss me ... my
dearest...."

He closed his eyes as tears burned out of them. Anna in a blur. Still
talking quietly. Embarrassed by his weeping. He was offering her his
silence and his tears. He had never stood like this before a woman. But
it was something other than a woman--an ending. As if one came upon a
figure dead in a room and looked at it and said without surprise, "It is
I."

"So you see, Erik, it's all over. I can't tell you how. It took a long
time, but it seemed sudden. I don't know what to say to you, but it will
be better to leave nothing unsaid. I'm trying to think of everything.
I'm going to be married next month. Remember, I'm not the Anna you knew.
She isn't getting married again. I'm somebody totally different. I feel
different. Even when I walk. You never knew me. I can remember our years
together clearly. But it seems like a story that was once told me. Do
you understand, Erik? I am not bitter or sad, and I have no blame for
you. You are more than forgiven...."

No words occurred to him. Somewhere behind the smooth face of her he
fancied lived a woman whose arms were about his neck and whose lips were
hungering for him.

"It's all very clear to me, Erik. I've thought of it often. You made me
a part of yourself and when you deserted me, you took that with you, and
left me as I am; as I was born...."

"Will you play something on the piano for me, Anna?"

"No, Erik."

He seated himself slowly and remained with his head down. There was
nothing to think.

"I'll go in a few minutes," he muttered.

Anna, standing straight, watched him as if she were curious. He felt her
eyes trying to acquaint themselves with him, and failing. He was growing
angry. Better leave before he spoke again. Anger was in him. It was she
who had been the unfaithful one. He could smile at that. He stood up
then, and smiled. This was a part of life, to be felt and appreciated. A
handshake, a smile that von Stinnes would have applauded, and he would
have lived another hour.

"On the boat I made love to you," he said softly, "and I am not unhappy.
It is only--my turn to weep a bit."

He regarded her calmly. Yes, if he wanted to ... there was something
waiting.... Even though she thought it dead. If he wanted to, there was
a grave to open, slowly, with tears and old phrases.

She let him approach her. He felt her body grow rigid as he placed his
arms around her. His lips touched her cold cheek.

"It was to make sure that you were dead," he whispered.

She nodded.

... Another hour ended. He had returned. Now he was going away again and
the hour was a disc whirling away, already lost among other discs.

The street was chilly. He walked swiftly. His thoughts were assembling
themselves. Words that had lain under the tears in the room thawed out.

"She will marry Meredith and the old man will come to live with me. I
should have gone upstairs and said hello. But he was probably asleep.
I'll take my books and furniture. She won't need them with Meredith.
Get an apartment somewhere. How old am I? About forty. Not quite.
Changed completely. Curious, I didn't want her after she'd talked about
it. I suppose because I didn't really come for her--for somebody else.
Conrad in quest of his youth. Lost youth. How'd that damn book end?
Well, what of it, what of it? Things die without saddening one. Yet one
becomes sad. A make-believe. That's right. No matter what happens you
keep right on thinking and breathing as if it were all outside. Yes,
that's it--outside; a poignant comedy outside that talks to one. Death
is the only thing that has reality. We must not take the rest too
seriously. If I get too bored I can remember that I killed a man and
develop a stricken conscience. Poppycock!... The old man'll be a
nuisance. But he's quiet, thank God! Well, well ... I'm too civilized. I
suppose I made an ass of myself. No.... A few tears more or less...."

His thought paused. He walked, looking at things--curbings, houses,
street trees, lights in windows. He resumed, after blocks:

"Good God, what a thing happened to her! To change like that. An
awfulness about it. Death in life. Have I changed? No. I'm the same. But
that's a lie. I was in love once ... a face like a mirror of stars. The
phrase grows humorous with repetition. It doesn't mean anything. What
did it mean? Like trying to remember a toothache ... which tooth ached.
But it only lasted ... let's see. Rachel, Rachel.... Nothing. It was
gone a week after I came to her. The rest was--a restlessness ...
wanting something. Not having it. Well, it doesn't matter now."

In his hotel room he undressed without turning on the lights. He felt
nervous, vaguely afraid of himself.

"I might commit suicide. Rather stupid, though. I'll die soon enough.
Maybe a few more things left to see and feel and forget. Who knows? I'll
have to look up some of the ladies."

He crawled into bed and grew promptly sleepless.

"If I'm honest I'll be able to amuse myself. If not ... oh, Lord, what a
mess! No. Why is it? Life runs away like that--hits you in the eye and
runs away."

He closed his eyes and sighed. Like himself, the world was full of
people who lived on. Things ended for them and nobody could tell the
difference, not even themselves. Being happy--what the devil was that?
Happiness--unhappiness--you slept as soundly and ate as heartily.

"I'm a little tired to-night." An excuse for something. He was afraid.
He reached over to the small table near the bed and secured a cigarette.
Lighting it, he lay on his back, blowing smoke carefully into the dark
and watching the tobacco glow under his nose.

"Damn good thing I'm not an author. End up as a cross between
Maeterlinck and Laura Jean. One could write a volume on a cigarette
glowing in the dark."

He puffed until the tobacco was almost ended. He placed the
still-kindled stub on the table and sighed:

"Yes, that's me. Life has had its lips to me blowing smoke and fire out
of me. And now a table top on which to glow reminiscently for a moment.
And cool into ashes. Apologies to Laura Jean, Marie Corelli--and God."



CHAPTER V


Rachel, removing her heavy coat, walked briskly to the grate fire
burning in the rear of the studio. She stood looking into the flames and
rubbing the cold out of her hands.

"Well, I kept the appointment, Frank."

Brander, the artist, sprawled on a cushion-littered couch, sat up
slowly. His heavy eyes regarded her.

"We had quite a talk. You know his wife has remarried."

"That so?" Rachel laughed.

"Mr. Dorn sends you his regards."

"That'll be enough."

"I must say he's much cleverer than you, Frank."

"What did you talk about? Soul stuff, eh?"

"Oh, not entirely."

She came over to the couch and patted his cheeks.

"My hands--feel how cold they are."

"Never mind your hands. What did our good friend have to say for
himself?"

"Oh, talk." Her dark eyes glanced enigmatically from his stare.

Brander swore. "I want to know, d'you hear?"

"Dear me! Soulmate bares all." She laughed and walked with a sensual
swing down the long room.

Brander, without stirring, repeated, "Yes, everything."

Rachel's face sobered.

"Why, there's nothing Frank--of interest."

"Hell, I've caught you crying over him."

"Well, what of that? A woman's tears, you know, a woman's tears, don't
mean anything."

"They don't, eh?"

"No." The sight of him hunched amid the cushions seemed to appeal to her
humor. A large, strong monkey face against blue, green, and yellow
pillow faces. She laughed.

"Well, I'll tell you something. There's going to be no soul stuff in
this. You're mine. And if you start any flapdoodle hand-holding with our
good friend, I'll knock your heads together into a pulp."

He raised his large shoulders and glowered majestically. Rachel, paused
beside a canvas, regarded him with half-closed eyes and smiling lips.

"He sent his kindest wishes to you."

Brander left his seat and strode toward her.

"That's enough."

"And asked us to call. And if we couldn't come together, I might call
alone," she spoke quickly. Her eyes were mocking. An oath from Brander
seemed to amuse her.

"You're in love with him," he muttered, his fingers tightening about
her wrist. "Come, out with it! I want to know."

"Yes." Rachel's eyes grew taunting. "He is the knight in shining armor,
fairy prince, and the man in the moon."

"Never mind laughing. I want to know."

"Well, listen then." Her voice grew vibrant as if a laugh were talking.
"His eyes are the beckoning hands of dream. Poor Frank doesn't know what
that means."

Brander swung her toward the couch. She fell amid the cushions with a
laugh. He stood looking at her and then walked slowly.

"Don't touch me. Don't you dare!"

A grin crossed the artist's face.

"I know you and your kind," he answered, "mooney girls. Mooney-headed
girls. I've had 'em before."

"Keep away...."

Her face as he bent over her glowed with a sudden terror.

"Mooney girls," repeated Brander.

His hands reached her shoulders and held her carelessly as she squirmed.

"You're hurting me."

"I'll hurt you more. Talk out now. Are you in love with that loon?"

"Yes."

"More than me?"

"Yes."

Brander's face reddened. His hand struck her chin. Rachel shut her eyes
to hold back tears.

"Are you still?"

"Yes. Always." Her teeth clenched. "Go on, hit me, if you want to. I
love him. Love him always. Every minute. As I did. Do you hear? I love
him."

She opened her eyes and shivered. He was going to kill her. He tore at
her clothes, beating her with his fists until her head rattled on her
neck.

"I'll fix your love for him," Brander whispered. The pain of his blows
and shakings were making her dizzy.

"Frank ... dear, please...."

"Do you love him?"

"Yes."

She tried to bury her head in her arms, but he untwisted her gesture.
His hands, striking and clawing at her, made her scream. A mist--he had
seized her.

"Frank! Frank!"

"Do you love him now?"

She opened her eyes and stared wildly into Brander's face. It grinned at
her. Her arms clutched his body.

"No, no!" she cried, her mouth gasping. "Don't talk. Don't ask
questions. Love ..." she laughed aloud eagerly, brazenly. Her thin arms
tightened fiercely about him. "I love this."



CHAPTER VI


Isaac Dorn was sitting in a chair beside the gas-log fire in his son's
apartment. His thin fingers lay motionless on his knees. His head had
fallen forward.

It was early evening when his son entered the room. Dorn paused and
looked at the silent figure in the chair. The old man raised his head as
if he had been spoken to and muttered. "Eh?"

He saw his son and smiled. He would like to talk to him. It was lonely
all day in the house. And things were beginning to fade from his eyes.
It was hard even to see if Erik was smiling. Yes, his face was happy.
That was good. People should look as Erik did--amused. Wait ... wait
long enough and it all blurred and faded gently away.

"What made you so late, Erik?" he asked. Now his son was laughing. That
was a good sign.

"A lot of work at the office. The Russians are at it again. And I met an
old friend this afternoon. A dear old friend. Old friends make one
sentimental and garrulous. So we talked."

He noticed the old man's eyes close but continued addressing him.

"We discussed problems in mathematics. How many yesterdays make a
to-morrow. That gas-log smells to high heaven."

He leaned over and turned out the odorous flames. He noticed now that
the old man had dozed off again. But his talk went on. It had become a
habit to keep on talking to his father who dozed under his words. "She's
going to drop around and visit us. And we will perform a gentle autopsy.
Stir a little cloud of dust out of the bucket of ashes, eh? And perhaps
we will come to life for a moment. Who knows? At least, we shall weep.
And that is something. To be able to weep. To know enough to weep. Her
name is Rachel."

He paused and walked toward the window.

"Rachel," he repeated, his eyes no longer on the old man. "Her name is
unchanged...."

He opened von Stinnes's silver case and removed a cigarette. He stood
gazing at the snow on roofs, on window ledges, on pavements. Crystalline
geometries. Houses that made little puzzle pictures against the stagnant
curve of the darkening sky. A zigzag of leaden-eyed windows, and windows
ringed with yellow light peering like cat eyes into the winter dusk. The
darkness slowly ended the scene. Night covered the snow. The city opened
its tiny yellow eyes.

A street of houses before him. A cigarette under his nose. An old man
asleep. Outside the window the snow-covered buildings stood in the dark
like a skeleton world, like patterns in black and white.





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