III. Revolving Doors
Glowworm trains shuttle in the gloaming through the foggy looms of spiderweb bridges, elevators soar and drop in their shafts, harbor lights wink.
Like sap at the first frost at five o'clock men and women begin to drain gradually out of the tall buildings downtown, grayfaced throngs flood subways and tubes, vanish underground.
All night the great buildings stand quiet and empty, their million windows dark. Drooling light the ferries chew tracks across the lacquered harbor. At midnight the fourfunneled express steamers slide into the dark out of their glary berths. Bankers blearyeyed from secret conferences hear the hooting of the tugs as they are let out of side doors by lightningbug watchmen; they settle grunting into the back seats of limousines, and are whisked uptown into the Forties, clinking streets of ginwhite whiskey-yellow ciderfizzling lights.
SHE sat at the dressingable coiling her hair. He stood over her with the lavender suspenders hanging from his dress trousers prodding the diamond studs into his shirt with stumpy fingers.
"Jake I wish we were out of it," she whined through the hairpins in her mouth.
"Out of what Rosie?"
"The Prudence Promotion Company. . . . Honest I'm worried."
"Why everything's goin swell. We've got to bluff out Nichols that's all."
"Suppose he prosecutes?"
"Oh he wont. He'd lose a lot of money by it. He'd much better come in with us. . . . I can pay him in cash in a week anyways. If we can keep him thinkin we got money we'll have him eatin out of our hands. Didn't he say he'd be at the El Fey tonight?"
Rosie had just put a rhinestone comb into the coil of her black hair. She nodded and got to her feet. She was a plump broadhipped woman with big black eyes and high-arched eyebrows. She wore a corset trimmed with yellow lace and a pink silk chemise.
"Put on everythin you've got Rosie. I want yez all dressed up like a Christmas tree. We're goin to the El Fey an stare Nichols down tonight. Then tomorrer I'll go round and put the proposition up to him. . . . Lets have a little snifter anyways . . ." He went to the phone. "Send up some cracked ice and a couple of bottles of White Rock to four o four. Silverman's the name. Make it snappy."
"Jake let's make a getaway," Rosie cried suddenly. She stood in the closet door with a dress over her arm. "I cant stand all this worry. . . . It's killin me. Let's you an me beat it to Paris or Havana or somewheres and start out fresh."
"Then we would be up the creek. You can be extradited for grand larceny. Jez you wouldnt have me goin round with dark glasses and false whiskers all my life."
Rosie laughed. "No I guess you wouldnt look so good in a fake zit. . . . Oh I wish we were really married at least."
"Dont make no difference between us Rosie. Then they'd be after me for bigamy too. That'd be pretty."
Rosie shuddered at the bellboy's knock. Jake Silverman put the tray with its clinking bowl of ice on the bureau and fetched a square whiskeybottle out of the wardrobe.
"Dont pour out any for me. I havent got the heart for it."
"Kid you've got to pull yourself together. Put on the glad rags an we'll go to a show. Hell I been in lots o tighter holes than this." With his highball in his hand he went to the phone. "I want the newsstand. . . . Hello cutie. . . . Sure I'm an old friend of yours. . . . Sure you know me. . . . Look could you get me two seats for the Follies. . . . That's the idear. . . . No I cant sit back of the eighth row. . . . That's a good little girl. . . . An you'll call me in ten minutes will you dearie?"
"Say Jake is there really any borax in that lake?"
"Sure there is. Aint we got the affidavit of four experts?"
"Sure. I was just kinder wonderin. . . . Say Jake if this ever gets wound up will you promise me not to go in for any more wildcat schemes?"
"Sure; I wont need to. . . . My you're a redhot mommer in that dress."
"Do you like it?"
"You look like Brazil . . . I dunno . . . kinder tropical."
"That's the secret of my dangerous charm."
The phone rang jingling sharp. They jumped to their feet. She pressed the side of her hand against her lips.
"Two in the fourth row. That's fine. . . . We'll be right down an get em . . . Jez Rosie you cant go on being jumpy like; you're gettin me all shot too. Pull yerself together why cant you?"
"Let's go out an eat Jake. I havent had anything but buttermilk all day. I guess I'll stop tryin to reduce. This worryin'll make me thin enough."
"You got to quit it Rosie. . . . It's gettin my nerve."
They stopped at the flowerstall in the lobby. "I want a gardenia" he said. He puffed his chest out and smiled his curlylipped smile as the girl fixed it in the buttonhole of his dinnercoat. "What'll you have dear?" he turned grandiloquently to Rosie. She puckered her mouth. "I dont just know what'll go with my dress."
"While you're deciding I'll go get the theater tickets." With his overcoat open and turned back to show the white puffedout shirtfront and his cuffs shot out over his thick hands he strutted over to the newsstand. Out of the corner of her eye while the ends of the red roses were being wrapped in silver paper Rosie could see him leaning across the magazines talking babytalk to the blond girl. He came back brighteyed with a roll of bills in his hand. She pinned the roses on her fur coat, put her arm in his and together they went through the revolving doors into the cold glistening electric night. "Taxi," he yapped.
The diningroom smelled of toast and coffee and the New York Times. The Merivales were breakfasting to electric light. Sleet beat against the windows. "Well Paramount's fallen off five points more," said James from behind the paper,
"Oh James I think its horrid to be such a tease," whined Maisie who was drinking her coffee in little henlike sips, "And anyway," said Mrs. Merivale, "Jack's not with Paramount any more. He's doing publicity for the Famous Players."
"He's coming east in two weeks. He says he hopes to be here for the first of the year."
"Did you get another wire Maisie?"
Maisie nodded. "Do you know James, Jack never will write a letter. He always telegraphs," said Mrs. Merivale through the paper at her son. "He certainly keeps the house choked up with flowers," growled James from behind the paper.
"All by telegraph," said Mrs. Merivale triumphantly.
James put down his paper. "Well I hope he's as good a fellow as he seems to be."
"Oh James you're horrid about Jack. . . . I think it's mean." She got to her feet and went through the curtains into the parlor.
"Well if he's going to be my brother-in-law, I think I ought to have a say in picking him," he grumbled.
Mrs. Merivale went after her, "Come back and finish your breakfast Maisie, he's just a terrible tease."
"I wont have him talk that way about Jack."
"But Maisie I think Jack's a dear boy." She put her arm round her daughter and led her back to the table. "He's so simple and I know he has good impulses. . . . I'm sure he's going to make you very happy." Maisie sat down again pouting under the pink bow of her boudoir cap. "Mother may I have another cup of coffee?"
"Deary you know you oughtnt to drink two cups. Dr. Fernald said that was what was making you so nervous."
"Just a little bit mother very weak. I want to finish this muffin and I simply cant eat it without something to wash it down, and you know you dont want me to lose any more weight." James pushed back his chair and went out with the Times under his arm. "It's half past eight James," said Mrs. Merivale. "He's likely to take an hour when he gets in there with that paper."
"Well," said Maisie peevishly. "I think I'll go back to bed. I think it's silly the way we all get up to breakfast. There's something so vulgar about it mother. Nobody does it any more. At the Perkinses' it comes up to you in bed on a tray."
"But James has to be at the bank at nine."
"That's no reason why we should drag ourselves out of bed. That's how people get their faces all full of wrinkles."
"But we wouldn't see James until dinnertime, and I like to get up early. The morning's the loveliest part of the day." Maisie yawned desperately.
James appeared in the doorway to the hall running a brush round his hat.
"What did you do with the paper James?"
"Oh I left it in there."
"I'll get it, never mind. . . . My dear you've got your stickpin in crooked. I'll fix it. . . . There." Mrs. Merivale put her hands on his shoulders and looked in her son's face. He wore a dark gray suit with a faint green stripe in it, an olive green knitted necktie with a small gold nugget stickpin, olive green woolen socks with black clockmarks and dark red Oxford shoes, their laces neatly tied with doubleknots that never came undone. "James arent you carrying your cane?" He had an olive green woolen muffler round his neck and was slipping into his dark brown winter overcoat. "I notice the younger men down there dont carry them, mother . . . People might think it was a little . . . I dont know . . ."
"But Mr. Perkins carries a cane with a gold parrothead."
"Yes but he's one of the vicepresidents, he can do what he likes. . . . But I've got to run." James Merivale hastily kissed his mother and sister. He put on his gloves going down in the elevator. Ducking his head into the sleety wind he walked quickly east along Seventysecond. At the subway entrance he bought a Tribune and hustled down the steps to the jammed soursmelling platform.
Chicago! Chicago! came in bursts out of the shut phonograph. Tony Hunter, slim in a black closecut suit, was dancing with a girl who kept putting her mass of curly ashblond hair on his shoulder. They were alone in the hotel sitting room.
"Sweetness you're a lovely dancer," she cooed snuggling closer.
"Think so Nevada?"
"Um-hum . . . Sweetness have you noticed something about me?"
"What's that Nevada?"
"Havent you noticed something about my eyes?"
"They're the loveliest little eyes in the world."
"Yes but there's something about them."
"You mean that one of them's green and the other one brown."
"Oh it noticed the tweet lil ting." She tilted her mouth up at him. He kissed it. The record came to an end. They both ran over to stop it. "That wasnt much of a kiss, Tony," said Nevada Jones tossing her curls out of her eyes. They put on Shuffle Along.
"Say Tony," she said when they had started dancing again. "What did the psychoanalyst say when you went to see him yesterday?"
"Oh nothing much, we just talked," said Tony with a sigh. "He said it was all imaginary. He suggested I get to know some girls better. He's all right. He doesn't know what he's talking about though. He cant do anything."
"I bet you I could."
They stopped dancing and looked at each other with the blood burning in their faces.
"Knowing you Nevada," he said in a doleful tone "has meant more to me . . . You're so decent to me. Everybody's always been so nasty."
"Aint he solemn though?" She walked over thoughtfully and stopped the phonograph.
"Some joke on George I'll say."
"I feel horribly about it. He's been so decent. . . . And after all I could never have afforded to go to Dr. Baumgardt at all."
"It's his own fault. He's a damn fool. . . . If he thinks he can buy me with a little hotel accommodation and theater tickets he's got another think coming. But honestly Tony you must keep on with that doctor. He did wonders with Glenn Gaston. . . . He thought he was that way until he was thirtyfive years old and the latest thing I hear he's married an had a pair of twins. . . . Now give me a real kiss sweetest. Thataboy. Let's dance some more. Gee you're a beautiful dancer. Kids like you always are. I dont know why it is. . . ."
The phone cut into the room suddenly with a glittering sawtooth ring. "Hello. . . . Yes this is Miss Jones. . . . Why of course George I'm waiting for you. . . ." She put up the receiver. "Great snakes, Tony beat it. I'll call you later. Dont go down in the elevator you'll meet him coming up." Tony Hunter melted out the door. Nevada put Baby . . . Babee Deevine on the phonograph and strode nervously about the room, straightening chairs, patting her tight short curls into place.
"Oh George I thought you werent comin. . . . How do you do Mr. McNiel? I dunno why I'm all jumpy today. I thought you were never comin. Let's get some lunch up. I'm that hungry."
George Baldwin put his derby hat and stick on a table in the corner. "What'll you have Gus?" he said. "Sure I always take a lamb chop an a baked potato."
"I'm just taking crackers and milk, my stomach's a little out of order. . . . Nevada see if you cant frisk up a highball for Mr. McNiel."
"Well I could do with a highball George."
"George order me half a broiled chicken lobster and some alligator pear salad," screeched Nevada from the bathroom where she was cracking ice.
"She's the greatest girl for lobster," said Baldwin laughing as he went to the phone.
She came back from the bathroom with two highballs on a tray; she had put a scarlet and parrotgreen batik scarf round her neck. "Just you an me's drinkin Mr. McNiel. . . . George is on the water wagon. Doctor's orders."
"Nevada what do you say we go to a musical show this afternoon? There's a lot of business I want to get off my mind."
"I just love matinees. Do you mind if we take Tony Hunter. He called up he was lonesome and wanted to come round this afternoon. He's not workin this week."
"All right. . . . Nevada will you excuse us if we talk business for just a second over here by the window. We'll forget it by the time lunch comes."
"All righty I'll change my dress."
"Sit down here Gus."
They sat silent a moment looking out of the window at the red girder cage of the building under construction next door. "Well Gus," said Baldwin suddenly harshly, "I'm in the race."
"Good for you George, we need men like you."
"I'm going to run on a Reform ticket."
"The hell you are?"
"I wanted to tell you Gus rather than have you hear it by a roundabout way."
"Who's goin to elect you?"
"Oh I've got my backing. . . . I'll have a good press."
"Press hell. . . . We've got the voters. . . . But Goddam it if it hadn't been for me your name never would have come up for district attorney at all."
"I know you've always been a good friend of mine and I hope you'll continue to be."
"I never went back on a guy yet, but Jez, George, it's give and take in this world."
"Well," broke in Nevada advancing towards them with little dancesteps, wearing a flamingo pink silk dress, "havent you boys argued enough yet?"
"We're through," growled Gus. ". . . Say Miss Nevada, how did you get that name?"
"I was born in Reno. . . . My mother'd gone there to get a divorce. . . . Gosh she was sore. . . . Certainly put my foot in it that time."
Anna Cohen stands behind the counter under the sign The Best Sandwich in New York. Her feet ache in her pointed shoes with runover heels.
"Well I guess they'll begin soon or else we're in for a slack day," says the sodashaker beside her. He's a raw-faced man with a sharp adamsapple. "It allus comes all of a rush like."
"Yeh, looks like they all got the same idear at the same time." They stand looking out through the glass partition at the endless files of people jostling in and out of the subway. All at once she slips away from the counter and back into the stuffy kitchenette where a stout elderly woman is tidying up the stove. There is a mirror hanging on a nail in the corner. Anna fetches a powderbox from the pocket of her coat on the rack and starts powdering her nose. She stands a second with the tiny puff poised looking at her broad face with the bangs across the forehead and the straight black bobbed hair. A homely lookin kike, she says to herself bitterly. She is slipping back to her place at the counter when she runs into the manager, a little fat Italian with a greasy bald head. "Cant you do nutten but primp an look in de glass all day? . . . Veree good you're fired."
She stares at his face sleek like an olive. "Kin I stay out my day?" she stammers. He nods. "Getta move on; this aint no beauty parlor." She hustles back to her place at the counter. The stools are all full. Girls, officeboys, grayfaced bookkeepers. "Chicken sandwich and a cup o caufee." "Cream cheese and olive sandwich and a glass of buttermilk."
"Egg sandwich, coffee and doughnuts." "Cup of bouillon." "Chicken broth." "Chocolate icecream soda." People eat hurriedly without looking at each other, with their eyes on their plates, in their cups. Behind the people sitting on stools those waiting nudge nearer. Some eat standing up. Some turn their backs on the counter and eat looking out through the glass partition and the sign hcnuL eniL neerG at the jostling crowds filing in and out the subway through the drabgreen gloom.
"Well Joey tell me all about it," said Gus McNiel puffing a great cloud of smoke out of his cigar and leaning back in his swivel chair. "What are you guys up to over there in Flatbush?"
O'Keefe cleared his throat and shuffled his feet. "Well sir we got an agitation committee."
"I should say you had. . . . That aint no reason for raidin the Garment Workers' ball is it?"
"I didn't have nothin to do with that. . . . The bunch got sore at all these pacifists and reds."
"That stuff was all right a year ago, but public sentiment's changin. I tell you Joe the people of this country are pretty well fed up with war heroes."
"We got a livewire organization over there."
"I know you have Joe. I know you have. Trust you for that. . . . I'd put the soft pedal on the bonus stuff though. . . . The State of New York's done its duty by the ex-service man."
"That's true enough."
"A national bonus means taxes to the average business man and nothing else. . . . Nobody wants no more taxes."
"Still I think the boys have got it comin to em."
"We've all of us got a whole lot comin to us we dont never get. . . . For crissake dont quote me on this. . . . Joey fetch yourself a cigar from that box over there. Frien o mine sent em up from Havana by a naval officer."
"Go ahead take four or five."
"Jez thank you."
"Say Joey how'll you boys line up on the mayoralty election?"
"That depends on the general attitude towards the needs of the ex-service man."
"Look here Joey you're a smart feller . . ."
"Oh they'll line up all right. I kin talk em around."
"How many guys have you got over there?"
"The Sheamus O'Rielly Post's got three hundred members an new ones signin up every day. . . . We're gettin em from all over. We're goin to have a Christmas dance an some fights in the Armory if we can get hold of any pugs."
Gus McNiel threw back his head on his bullneck and laughed. "Thataboy!"
"But honest the bonus is the only way we kin keep the boys together."
"Suppose I come over and talk to em some night."
"That'd be all right, but they're dead sot against anybody who aint got a war record."
McNiel flushed. "Come back feeling kinder smart, dont ye, you guys from overseas?" He laughed. "That wont last more'n a year or two. . . . I seen em come back from the Spanish American War, remember that Joe."
An officeboy came in an laid a card on the desk. "A lady to see you Mr. McNiel."
"All right show her in. . . . It's that old bitch from the school board. . . . All right Joe, drop in again next week. . . . I'll keep you in mind, you and your army."
Dougan was waiting in the outer office. He sidled up mysteriously. "Well Joe, how's things?"
"Pretty good," said Joe puffing out his chest. "Gus tells me Tammany'll be right behind us in our drive for the bonus . . . planning a nation wide campaign. He gave me some cigars a friend o his brought up by airplane from Havana. . . . Have one?" With their cigars tilting up out of the corners of their mouths they walked briskly cockily across City Hall square. Opposite the old City Hall there was a scaffolding. Joe pointed at it with his cigar. "That there's the new statue of Civic Virtue the mayor's havin set up."
The steam of cooking wrenched at his knotted stomach as he passed Child's. Dawn was sifting fine gray dust over the black ironcast city. Dutch Robertson despondently crossed Union Square, remembering Francie's warm bed, the spicy smell of her hair. He pushed his hands deep in his empty pockets. Not a red, and Francie couldn't give him anything. He walked east past the hotel on Fifteenth. A colored man was sweeping off the steps. Dutch looked at him enviously; he's got a job. Milk wagons jingled by. On Stuyvesant Square a milkman brushed past him with a bottle in each hand. Dutch stuck out his jaw and talked tough. "Give us a swig o milk will yez?" The milkman was a frail pinkfaced youngster. His blue eyes wilted. "Sure go round behind the wagon, there's an open bottle under the seat. Dont let nobody see you drink it." He drank it in deep gulps, sweet and soothing to his parched throat. Jez I ddin't need to talk rough like that. He waited until the boy came back. "Thankye buddy, that was mighty white."
He walked into the chilly park and sat down on a bench. There was hoarfrost on the asphalt. He picked up a torn piece of pink evening newspaper. $500,000 Holdup. Bank Messenger Robbed in Wall Street Rush Hour.
In the busiest part of the noon hour two men held up Adolphus St. John, a bank messenger for the Guarantee Trust Company, and snatched from his hands a satchel containing a half a million dollars in bills . . .
Dutch felt his heart pounding as he read the column. He was cold all over. He got to his feet and began thrashing his arms about.
Congo stumped through the turnstile at the end of the L line. Jimmy Herf followed him looking from one side to the other. Outside it was dark, a blizzard wind whistled about their ears. A single Ford sedan was waiting outside the station.
"How you like, Meester 'Erf?"
"Fine Congo. Is that water?"
"That Sheepshead Bay."
They walked along the road, dodging an occasional blue-steel glint of a puddle. The arclights had a look of shrunken grapes swaying in the wind. To the right and left were flickering patches of houses in the distance. They stopped at a long building propped on piles over the water. Pool; Jimmy barely made out the letters on an unlighted window. The door opened as they reached it. "Hello Mike," said Congo. "This is Meester 'Erf, a frien' o mine." The door closed behind them. Inside it was black as an oven. A calloused hand grabbed Jimmy's hand in the dark.
"Glad to meet you," said a voice.
"Say how did you find my hand?"
"Oh I kin see in the dark." The voice laughed throatily.
By that time Congo had opened the inner door. Light streamed through picking out billiard tables, a long bar at the end, racks of cues. "This is Mike Cardinale," said Congo. Jimmy found himself standing beside a tall sallow shylooking man with bunchy black hair growing low on his forehead. In the inner room were shelves full of chinaware and a round table covered by a piece of mustardcolored oilcloth. "Eh la patronne," shouted Congo. A fat Frenchwoman with red applecheeks came out through the further door; behind her came a chiff of sizzling butter and garlic. "This is frien o mine. . . . Now maybe we eat," shouted Congo. "She my wife," said Cardinale proudly. "Very deaf. . . . Have to talk loud." He turned and closed the door to the large hall carefully and bolted it. "No see lights from road," he said. "In summer," said Mrs. Cardinale, "sometime we give a hundred meals a day, or a hundred an fifty maybe."
"Havent you got a little peekmeup?" said Congo. He let himself down with a grunt into a chair.
Cardinale set a fat fiasco of wine on the table and some glasses. They tasted it smacking their lips. "Bettern Dago Red, eh Meester 'Erf?"
"It sure is. Tastes like real Chianti."
Mrs. Cardinale set six plates with a stained fork, knife, and spoon in each and then put a steaming tureen of soup in the middle of the table.
"Pronto pasta," she shrieked in a guineahen voice.
"Thisa Anetta," said Cardinale as a pinkcheeked blackhaired girl with long lashes curving back from bright black eyes ran into the room followed by a heavily tanned young man in khaki overalls with curly sunbleached hair. They all sat down at once and began to eat the peppery thick vegetable chowder, leaning far over their plates.
When Congo had finished his soup he looked up. "Mike did you see lights?" Cardinale nodded. "Sure ting . . . be here any time." While they were eating a dish of fried eggs and garlic, frizzled veal cutlets with fried potatoes and broccoli, Herf began to hear in the distance the pop pop pop of a motorboat. Congo got up from the table with a motion to them to be quiet and looked out the window, cautiously lifting a corner of the shade, "That him," he said as he stumped back to the table. "We eat good here, eh Meester Erf?"
The young-man got to his feet wiping his mouth on his forearm. "Got a nickel Congo," he said doing a double shuffle with his sneakered feet. "Here go Johnny." The girl followed him out into the dark outer room. In a moment a mechanical piano started tinkling out a waltz. Through the door Jimmy could see them dancing in and out of the oblong of light. The chugging of the motorboat drew nearer. Congo went out, then Cardinale and his wife, until Jimmy was left alone sipping a glass of wine among the debris of the dinner. He felt excited and puzzled and a little drunk. Already he began to construct the story in his mind. From the road came the grind of gears of a truck, then of another. The motorboat engine choked, backfired and stopped. There was the creak of a boat against the piles, a swash of waves and silence. The mechanical piano had stopped. Jimmy sat sipping his wine. He could smell the rankness of salt marshes seeping into the house. Under him there was a little lapping sound of the water against the piles. Another motorboat was beginning to sputter in the far distance.
"Got a nickel?" asked Congo breaking into the room suddenly. "Make music. . . . Very funny night tonight. Maybe you and Annette keep piano goin. I didnt see McGee about landin. . . . Maybe somebody come. Must be veree quick." Jimmy got to his feet and started fishing in his pockets. By the piano he found Annette. "Wont you dance?" She nodded. The piano played Innocent Eyes. They danced distractedly. Outside were voices and footsteps. "Please," she said all at once and they stopped dancing. The second motorboat had come very near; the motor coughed and rattled still. "Please stay here," she said and slipped away from him.
Jimmy Herf walked up and down uneasily puffing on a cigarette. He was making up the story in his mind. . . . In a lonely abandoned dancehall on Sheepshead Bay . . . lovely blooming Italian girl . . . shrill whistle in the dark. . . . I ought to get out and see what's going on. He groped for the front door. It was locked. He walked over to the piano and put another nickel in. Then he lit a fresh cigarette and started walking up and down again. Always the way . . . a parasite on the drama of life, reporter looks at everything through a peephole. Never mixes in. The piano was playing Yes We Have No Bananas. "Oh hell!" he kept muttering and ground his teeth and walked up and down.
Outside the tramp of steps broke into a scuffle, voices snarled. There was a splintering of wood and the crash of breaking bottles. Jimmy looked out through the window of the diningroom. He could see the shadows of men struggling and slugging on the boatlanding. He rushed into the kitchen, where he bumped into Congo sweaty and staggering into the house leaning on a heavy cane.
"Goddam . . . dey break my leg," he shouted.
"Good God." Jimmy helped him groaning into the diningroom.
"Cost me feefty dollars to have it mended last time I busted it."
"You mean your cork leg?"
"Sure what you tink?"
"Is it prohibition agents?"
"Prohibition agents nutten, goddam hijackers. . . . Go put a neeckel in the piano." Beautiful Girl of My Dreams, the piano responded gayly.
When Jimmy got back to him, Congo was sitting in a chair nursing his stump with his two hands. On the table lay the cork and aluminum limb splintered and dented. "Regardez moi ça . . . c'est foutu . . . completement foutu." As he spoke Cardinale came in. He had a deep gash over his eyes from which a trickle of blood ran down his cheek on his coat and shirt. His wife followed him rolling back her eyes; she had a basin and a sponge with which she kept making ineffectual dabs at his forehead. He pushed her away. "I crowned one of em good wid a piece o pipe. I think he fell in de water. God I hope he drownded," Johnny came in holding his head high. Annette had her arm round his waist. He had a black eye and one of the sleeves of his shirt hung in shreds. "Gee it was like in the movies," said Annette, giggling hysterically. "Wasnt he grand, mommer, wasn't he grand?"
"Jez it's lucky they didn't start shootin; one of em had a gun."
"Scared to I guess."
"Trucks are off."
"Just one case got busted up. . . . God there was five of them."
"Gee didnt he mix it up with em?" screamed Annette.
"Oh shut up," growled Cardinale. He had dropped into a chair and his wife was sponging off his face. "Did you get a good look at the boat?" asked Congo.
"Too goddam dark," said Johnny. "Fellers talked like they came from Joisey. . . . First ting I knowed one of em comes up to me and sez I'm a revenue officer an I pokes him one before he has time to pull a gun an overboard he goes. Jez they were yeller. That guy George on the boat near brained one of em wid an oar. Then they got back in their old teakettle an beat it."
"But how they know how we make landin?" stuttered Congo his face purple.
"Some guy blabbed maybe," said Cardinale. "If I find out who it is, by God I'll . . ." he made a popping noise with his lips.
"You see Meester 'Erf," said Congo in his suave voice again, "it was all champagne for the holidays. . . . Very valuable cargo eh?" Annette, her cheeks very red sat still looking at Johnny with parted lips and toobright eyes. Herf found himself blushing as he looked at her.
He got to his feet. "Well I must be getting back to the big city. Thank's for the feed and the melodrama, Congo."
"You find station all right?"
"Goodnight Meester 'Erf, maybe you buy case of champagne for Christmas, genuine Mumms."
"Too darn broke Congo."
"Then maybe you sell to your friends an I give you commission."
"All right I'll see what I can do."
"I'll phone you tomorrow to tell price."
"That's a fine idea. Good night."
Joggling home in the empty train through empty Brooklyn suburbs Jimmy tried to think of the bootlegging story he'd write for the Sunday Magazine Section. The girl's pink cheeks and toobright eyes kept intervening, blurring the orderly arrangement of his thoughts. He sank gradually into dreamier and dreamier reverie. Before the kid was born Ellie sometimes had toobright eyes like that. The time on the hill when she had suddenly wilted in his arms and been sick and he had left her among the munching, calmly staring cows on the grassy slope and gone to a shepherd's hut and brought back milk in a wooden ladle, and slowly as the mountains hunched up with evening the color had come back into her cheeks and she had looked at him that way and said with a dry little laugh: It's the little Herf inside me. God why cant I stop mooning over things that are past And when the baby was coming and Ellie was in the American Hospital at Neuilly, himself wandering distractedly through the fair, going into the Flea Circus, riding on merrygorounds and the steam swing, buying toys, candy, taking chances on dolls in a crazy blur, stumbling back to the hospital with a big plaster pig under his arm. Funny these fits of refuge in the past. Suppose she had died; I thought she would. The past would have been complete all round, framed, worn round your neck like a cameo, set up in type, molded on plates for the Magazine Section, like the first of James Herf's articles on The Bootlegging Ring. Burning slugs of thought kept dropping into place spelled out by a clanking linotype.
At midnight he was walking across Fourteenth. He didnt want to go home to bed although the rasping cold wind tore at his neck and chin with sharp ice claws. He walked west across Seventh and Eighth Avenues, found the name Roy Sheffield beside a bell in a dimly lit hall. As soon as he pressed the bell the catch on the door began to click. He ran up the stairs. Roy had his big curly head with its glass gray gollywog eyes stuck out the door.
"Hello Jimmy; come on in; we're all lit up like churches."
"I've just seen a fight between bootleggers and hijackers."
"Down at Sheepshead Bay."
"Here's Jimmy Herf, he's just been fighting prohibition agents," shouted Roy to his wife. Alice had dark chestnut dollhair and an uptilted peaches and cream dollface. She ran up to Jimmy and kissed him on the chin. "Oh Jimmy do tell us all about it. . . . We're so horribly bored."
"Hello," cried Jimmy; he had just made out Frances and Bob Hildebrand on the couch at the dim end of the room. They lifted their glasses to him. Jimmy was pushed into an armchair, had a glass of gin and ginger ale put in his hand. "Now what's all this about a fight? You'd better tell us because were certainly not going to buy the Sunday Tribune to find out," Bob Hildebrand said in a deep rum' bling voice.
Jimmy took a long drink. "I went out with a man I know who's shiek of all the French and Italian bootleggers. He's a fine man. He's got a cork leg. He set me up to a swell feed and real Italian wine out in a deserted poolroom on the shores of Sheepshead Bay. . . ."
"By the way," asked Roy, "where's Helena."
"Dent interrupt Roy," said Alice. "This is good . . . and besides you should never ask a man where his wife is."
"Then there was a lot of flashing of signal lights and stuff and a motorboat loaded down with Mumm's extra dry champagne for Park Avenue Christmases came in and the hijackers arrived on a speedboat. . . . It probably was a hydroplane it came so fast . . ."
"My this is exciting," cooed Alice. ". . . Roy why dont you take up bootlegging?"
"Worst fight I ever saw outside of the movies, six or seven on a side all slugging each other on a little narrow landing the size of this room, people crowning each other with oars and joints of lead pipe."
"Was anybody hurt?"
"Everybody was. . . . I think two of the hijackers were drowned. At any rate they beat a retreat leaving us lapping up the spilled champagne."
"But it must have been terrible," cried the Hildebrands.
"What did you do Jimmy?" asked Alice breathless.
"Oh I hopped around keeping out of harm's way. I didnt know who was on which side and it was dark and wet and confusing everywhere. . . . I finally did drag my bootlegger friend out of the fray when he got his leg broken . . . his wooden leg."
Everybody let out a shout. Roy filled Jimmy's glass up with gin again.
"Oh Jimmy," cooed Alice, "you lead the most thrilling life."
James Merivale was going over a freshly decoded cable, tapping the words with a pencil as he read them. Tasmanian Manganese Products instructs us to open credit. . . . The phone on his desk began to buzz.
"James this is your mother. Come right up; something terrible has happened."
"But I dont know if I can get away. . . ."
She had already cut off. Merivale felt himself turning pale. "Let me speak to Mr. Aspinwall please. . . . Mr. Aspinwall this is Merivale. . . . My mother's been taken suddenly ill. I'm afraid it may be a stroke. I'd like to run up there for an hour. I'll be back in time to get a cable off on that Tasmanian matter."
"All right. . . . I'm very sorry Merivale."
He grabbed his hat and coat, forgetting his muffler, and streaked out of the bank and along the street to the subway. He burst into the apartment breathless, snapping his fingers from nervousness. Mrs. Merivale grayfaced met him in the hall.
"My dear I thought you'd been taken ill."
"It's not that . . . it's about Maisie."
"She hasnt met with an accid. . .?"
"Come in here," interrupted Mrs. Merivale. In the parlor sat a little roundfaced woman in a round mink hat and a long mink coat. "My dear this girl says she's Mrs. Jack Cunningham and she's got a marriage certificate to prove it."
"Good Heavens, is that true?"
The girl nodded in a melancholy way.
"And the invitations are out. Since his last wire Maisie's been ordering her trousseau."
The girl unfolded a large certificate ornamented with pansies and cupids and handed it to James.
"It might be forged."
"It's not forged," said the girl sweetly.
"John. C. Cunningham, 21 . . . Jessie Lincoln, 18," he read aloud. . . . "I'll smash his face for that, the blackguard. That's certainly his signature, I've seen it at the bank. . . . The blackguard."
"Now James, don't be hasty."
"I thought it would be better this way than after the ceremony," put in the girl in her little sugar voice. "I wouldnt have Jack commit bigamy for anything in the world."
"The poor darling is prostrated in her room."
Merivale's face was crimson. The sweat itched under his collar. "Now dearest" Mrs. Merivale kept saying, "you must promise me not to do anything rash."
"Yes Maisie's reputation must be protected at all costs."
"My dear I think the best thing to do is to get him up here and confront him with this . . . with this . . . lady. . . . Would you agree to that Mrs. Cunningham?"
"Oh dear. . . . Yes I suppose so."
"Wait a minute," shouted Merivale and strode down the hall to the telephone. "Rector 12305. . . . Hello. I want to speak to Mr. Jack Cunningham please. . . . Hello. Is this Mr. Cunningham's office? Mr. James Merivale speaking. . . . Out of town. . . . And when will he be back? . . . Hum," He strode back along the hall. "The damn scoundrel's out of town."
"All the years I've known him," said the little lady in the round hat, "that has always been where he was."
Outside the broad office windows the night is gray and foggy. Here and there a few lights make up dim horizontals and perpendiculars of asterisks. Phineas Blackhead sits at his desk tipping far back in the small leather armchair. In his hand protecting his fingers by a large silk handkerchief, he holds a glass of hot water and bicarbonate of soda. Densch bald and round as a billiardball sits in the deep armchair playing with his tortoiseshell spectacles. Everything is quiet except for an occasional rattling and snapping of the steampipes.
"Densch you must forgive me. . . . You know I rarely permit myself an observation concerning other people's business," Blackhead is saying slowly between sips; then suddenly he sits up in his chair. "It's a damn fool proposition, Densch, by God it is . . . by the Living Jingo it's ridiculous."
"I dont like dirtying my hands any more than you do. . . . Baldwin's a good fellow, I think we're safe in backing him a little."
"What the hell's an import and export firm got to do in politics? If any of those guys wants a handout let him come up here and get it. Our business is the price of beans . . . and its goddam low. If any of you puling lawyers could restore the balance of the exchanges I'd be willing to do anything in the world. . . . They're crooks every last goddam one of em . . . by the Living Jingo they're crooks." His face flushes purple, he sits upright in his chair banging with his fist on the corner of the desk. "Now you're getting me all excited. . . . Bad for my stomach, bad for my heart." Phineas Blackhead belches portentously and takes a great gulp out of the glass of bicarbonate of soda. Then he leans back in his chair again letting his heavy lids half cover his eyes.
"Well old man," says Mr. Densch in a tired voice, "it may have been a bad thing to do, but I've promised to support the reform candidate. That's a purely private matter in no way involving the firm."
"Like hell it dont. . . . How about McNiel and his gang? . . . They've always treated us all right and all we've ever done for em's a couple of cases of Scotch and a few cigars now and then. . . . Now we have these reformers throw the whole city government into a turmoil. . . . By the Living Jingo . . ."
Densch gets to his feet. "My dear Blackhead I consider it my duty as a citizen to help in cleaning up the filthy conditions of bribery, corruption and intrigue that exist in the city government . . . I consider it my duty as a citizen . . ." He starts walking to the door, his round belly stuck proudly out in front of him.
"Well allow me to say Densch that I think its a damn fool proposition," Blackhead shouts after him. When his partner has gone he lies back a second with his eyes closed. His face takes on the mottled color of ashes, his big fleshy frame is shrinking like a deflating balloon. At length he gets to his feet with a groan. Then he takes his hat and coat and walks out of the office with a slow heavy step. The hall is empty and dimly lit. He has to wait a long while for the elevator. The thought of holdup men sneaking through the empty building suddenly makes him catch his breath. He is afraid to look behind him, like a child in the dark. At last the elevator shoots up.
"Wilmer," he says to the night watchman who runs it, "there ought to be more light in these halls at night. . . . During this crime wave I should think you ought to keep the building brightly lit."
"Yassir maybe you're right sir . . . but there cant nobody get in unless I sees em first."
"You might be overpowered by a gang Wilmer."
"I'd like to see em try it."
"I guess you are right . . . mere question of nerve."
Cynthia is sitting in the Packard reading a book. "Well dear did you think I was never coming."
"I almost finished my book, dad."
"All right Butler . . . up town as fast as you can. We're late for dinner."
As the limousine whirs up Lafayette Street, Blackhead turns to his daughter. "If you ever hear a man talking about his duty as a citizen, by the Living Jingo dont trust him. . . . He's up to some kind of monkey business nine times out of ten. You dont know what a relief it is to me that you and Joe are comfortably settled in life."
"What's the matter dad? Did you have a hard day at the office?" "There are no markets, there isnt a market in the goddam world that isnt shot to blazes. . . . I tell you Cynthia it's nip and tuck. There's no telling what might happen. . . . Look, before I forget it could you be at the bank uptown at twelve tomorrow? . . . I'm sending Hudgins up with certain securities, personal you understand, I want to put in your safe deposit box."
"But it's jammed full already dad."
"That box at the Astor Trust is in your name isnt it?"
"Jointly in mine and Joe's."
"Well you take a new box at the Fifth Avenue Bank in your own name. . . . I'll have the stuff get there at noon sharp. . . . And remember what I tell you Cynthia, if you ever hear a business associate talking about civic virtue, look lively."
They are crossing Fourteenth. Father and daughter look out through the glass at the windbitten faces of people waiting to cross the street.
Jimmy Herf yawned and scraped back his chair. The nickel glints of the typewriter hurt his eyes. The tips of his fingers were sore. He pushed open the sliding doors a little and peeped into the cold bedroom. He could barely make out Ellie asleep in the bed in the alcove. At the far end of the room was the baby's crib. There was a faint milkish sour smell of babyclothes. He pushed the doors to again and began to undress. If we only had more space, he was muttering; we live cramped in our squirrelcage. . . . He pulled the dusty cashmere off the couch and yanked his pyjamas out from under the pillow. Space space cleanness quiet; the words were gesticulating in his mind as if he were addressing a vast auditorium.
He turned out the light, opened a crack of the window and dropped wooden with sleep into bed. Immediately he was writing a letter on a linotype. Now I lay me down to sleep . . . mother of the great white twilight. The arm of the linotype was a woman's hand in a long white glove. Through the clanking from behind amber foots Ellie's voice Dont, dont, dont, you're hurting me so. . . . Mr. Herf, says a man in overalls, you're hurting the machine and we wont be able to get out the bullgod edition thank dog. The linotype was a gulping mouth with nickelbright rows of teeth, gulped, crunched. He woke up sitting up in bed. He was cold, his teeth were chattering. He pulled the covers about him and settled to sleep again. The next time he woke up it was daylight. He was warm and happy. Snowflakes were dancing, hesitating, spinning, outside the tall window.
"Hello Jimps," said Ellie coming towards him with a tray.
"Why have I died and gone to heaven or something?"
"No it's Sunday morning. . . . I thought you needed a little luxury. . . . I made some corn muffins."
"Oh you're marvelous Ellie. . . . Wait a minute I must jump up and wash my teeth." He came back with his face washed, wearing his bathrobe. Her mouth winced under his kiss. "And it's only eleven o'clock. I've gained an hour on my day off. . . . Wont you have some coffee too?"
'In a minute. . . . Look here Jimps I've got something I want to talk about. Look dont you think we ought to get another place now that you're working nights again all the time?"
"You mean move?"
"No. I was thinking if you could get another room to sleep in somewhere round, then nobody'd ever disturb you in the morning."
"But Ellie we'd never see each other. . . . We hardly ever see each other as it is."
"It's terrible . . . but what can we do when our office-hours are so different?"
Martin's crying came in a gust from the other room. Jimmy sat on the edge of the bed with the empty coffeecup on his knees looking at his bare feet. "Just as you like," he said dully. An impulse to grab her hands to crush her to him until he hurt her went up through him like a rocket and died. She picked up the coffeethings and swished away. His lips knew her lips, his arms knew the twining of her arms, he knew the deep woods of her hair, he loved her. He sat for a long time looking at his feet, lanky reddish feet with swollen blue veins, shoebound toes twisted by stairs and pavements. On each little toe there was a corn. He found his eyes filling with pitying tears. The baby had stopped crying. Jimmy went into the bathroom and started the water running in the tub.
"It was that other feller you had Anna. He got you to thinkin you didnt give a damn. . . . He made you a fatalist."
"Somebody who thinks there's no use strugglin, somebody who dont believe in human progress."
"Do you think Bouy was like that?""He was a scab anyway None o these Southerners are classconscious. . . . Didn't he make you stop payin your union dues?"
"I was sick o workin a sewin machine."
"But you could be a handworker, do fancy work and make good money. You're not one o that kind, you're one of us. . . . I'll get you back in good standin an you kin get a good job again. . . . God I'd never have let you work in a dancehall the way he did. Anna it hurt me terrible to see a Jewish girl goin round with a feller like that."
"Well he's gone an I aint got no job."
"Fellers like that are the greatest enemies of the workers. . . . They dont think of nobody but themselves."
They are walking slowly up Second Avenue through a foggy evening. He is a rustyhaired thinfaced young Jew with sunken cheeks and livid pale skin. He has the bandy legs of a garment worker. Anna's shoes are too small for her. She has deep rings under her eyes. The fog is full of strolling groups talking Yiddish, overaccented East Side English, Russian. Warm rifts of light from delicatessen stores and softdrink stands mark off the glistening pavement.
"If I didn't feel so tired all the time," mutters Anna.
"Let's stop here an have a drink. . . . You take a glass o buttermilk Anna, make ye feel good."
"I aint got the taste for it Elmer. I'll take a chocolate soda."
"That'll juss make ye feel sick, but go ahead if you wanter." She sat on the slender nickelbound stool. He stood beside her. She let herself lean back a little against him. "The trouble with the workers is" . . . He was talking in a low impersonal voice. "The trouble with the workers is we dont know nothin, we dont know how to eat, we dont know how to live, we dont know how to protect our rights. . . . Jez Anna I want to make you think of things like that. Cant you see we're in the middle of a battle just like in the war?" With the long sticky spoon Anna was fishing bits of icecream out of the thick foamy liquid in her glass.
George Baldwin looked at himself in the mirror as he washed his hands in the Httle washroom behind his office. His hair that still grew densely down to a point on his forehead was almost white. There was a deep line at each corner of his mouth and across his chin. Under his bright gimleteyes the skin was sagging and granulated. When he had wiped his hands slowly and meticulously he took a little box of strychnine pills from the upper pocket of his vest, swallowed one, and feeling the anticipated stimulus tingle through him went back into his office. A longnecked officeboy was fidgeting beside his desk with a card in his hand.
"A lady wants to speak to you sir."
"Has she an appointment? Ask Miss Ranke. . . . Wait a minute. Show the lady right through into this office."
The card read Nellie Linihan McNiel. She was expensively dressed with a lot of lace in the opening of her big fur coat. Round her neck she had a lorgnette on an amethyst chain.
"Gus asked me to come to see you," she said as he motioned her into a chair beside the desk.
"What can I do for you?" His heart for some reason was pounding hard.
She looked at him a moment through her lorgnette. "George you stand it better than Gus does."
"Oh all this. . . . I'm trying to get Gus to go away with me for a rest abroad . . . Marianbad or something like that . . . but he says he's in too deep to pull up his stakes."
"I guess that's true of all of us," said Baldwin with a cold smile.
They were silent a minute, then Nellie McNiel got to her feet. "Look here George, Gus is awfully cut up about this. . . . You know he likes to stand by his friends and have his friends stand by him."
"Nobody can say that I havent stood by him. . . . It's simply this, I'm not a politician, and as, probably foolishly, I've allowed myself to be nominated for office, I have to run on a nonpartisan basis."
"George that's only half the story and you know it."
"Tell him that I've always been and always shall be a good friend of his. . . . He knows that perfectly well. In this particular campaign I have pledged myself to oppose certain elements with which Gus has let himself get involved."
"You're a fine talker George Baldwin and you always were."
Baldwin flushed. They stood stiff side by side at the office door. His hand lay still on the doorknob as if paralyzed. From the outer offices came the sound of typewriters and voices. From outside came the long continuous tapping of riveters at work on a new building.
"I hope your family's all well," he said at length with an effort.
"Oh yes they are all well thanks . . . Goodby." She had gone.
Baldwin stood for a moment looking out of the window at the gray blackwindowed building opposite. Silly to let things agitate him so. Need of relaxation. He got his hat and coat from their hook behind the washroom door and went out.
"Jonas," he said to a man with a round bald head shaped like a cantaloupe who sat poring over papers in the highceilinged library that was the central hall of the lawoffice, "bring everything up that's on my desk. . . . I'll go over it uptown tonight."
"All right sir."
When he got out on Broadway he felt like a small boy playing hooky. It was a sparkling winter afternoon with hurrying rifts of sun and cloud. He jumped into a taxi. Going uptown he lay back in the seat dozing. At Forty-second Street he woke up. Everything was a confusion of bright intersecting planes of color, faces, legs, shop windows, trolleycars, automobiles. He sat up with his gloved hands on his knees, fizzling with excitement. Outside of Nevada's apartmenthouse he paid the taxi. The driver was a negro and showed an ivory mouthful of teeth when he got a fifty-cent tip. Neither elevator was there so Baldwin ran lightly up the stairs, half wondering at himself. He knocked on Nevada's door. No answer. He knocked again. She opened it cautiously. He could see her curly towhead. He brushed into the room before she could stop him. All she had on was a kimono over a pink chemise.
"My God," she said, "I thought you were the waiter."
He grabbed her and kissed her. "I dont know why but I feel like a threeyear old."
"You look like you was crazy with the heat. . . . I dont like you to come over without telephoning, you know that."
"You dont mind just this once I forgot."
Baldwin caught sight of something on the settee; he found himself staring at a pair of darkblue trousers neatly folded.
"I was feeling awfully fagged down at the office Nevada. I thought I'd come up to talk to you to cheer myself up a bit."
"I was just practicing some dancing with the phonograph."
"Yes very interesting. . . ." He began to walk springily up and down. "Now look here Nevada. . . . We've got to have a talk. I dont care who it is you've got in your bedroom." She looked suddenly in his face and sat down on the settee beside the trousers. "In fact I've known for some time that you and Tony Hunter were carrying on." She compressed her lips and crossed her legs. "In fact all this stuff and nonsense about his having to go to a psychoanalyst at twentyfive dollars an hour amused me enormously. . . . But just this minute I've decided I had enough. Quite enough."
"George you're crazy," she stammered and then suddenly she began to giggle.
"I tell you what I'll do," went on Baldwin in a clear legal voice, "I'll send you a check for five hundred, because you're a nice girl and I like you. The apartment's paid till the first of the month. Does that suit you? And please never communicate with me in any way."
She was rolling on the settee giggling helplessly beside the neatly folded pair of darkblue trousers. Baldwin waved his hat and gloves at her and left closing the door very gently behind him. Good riddance, he said to himself as he closed the door carefully behind him.
Down in the street again he began to walk briskly uptown. He felt excited and talkative. He wondered who he could go to see. Telling over the names of his friends made him depressed. He began to feel lonely, deserted. He wanted to be talking to a woman, making her sorry for the barrenness of his life. He went into a cigarstore and began looking through the phonebook. There was a faint flutter in him when he found the H's. At last he found the name Herf, Helena Oglethorpe.
Nevada Jones sat a long while on the settee giggling hysterically. At length Tony Hunter came in in his shirt and drawers with his bow necktie perfectly tied.
"Has he gone?"
"Gone? sure he's gone, gone for good," she shrieked. "He saw your damn pants."
He let himself drop on a chair. "O God if I'm not the unluckiest fellow in the world."
"Why?" she sat spluttering with laughter with the tears running down her face.
"Nothing goes right. That means it's all off about the matinees."
"It's back to three a day for little Nevada. . . . I dont give a damn. . . . I never did like bein a kept woman."
"But you're not thinking of my career. . . . Women are so selfish. If you hadn't led me on. . . ."
"Shut up you little fool. Dont you think I dont know all about you?" She got to her feet with the kimono pulled tight about her.
"God all I needed was a chance to show what I could do, and now I'll never get it," Tony was groaning.
"Sure you will if you do what I tell you. I set out to make a man of you kiddo and I'm goin to do it. . . . We'll get up an act. Old Hirshbein'll give us a chance, he used to be kinder smitten. . . . Come on now, I'll punch you in the jaw if you dont. Let's start thinkin up. . . . We'll come in with a dance number see . . . then you'll pretend to want to pick me up. . . . I'll be waitin for a streetcar . . . see . . . and you'll say Hello Girlie an I'll call Officer."
"Is that all right for length sir," asked the fitter busily making marks on the trousers with a piece of chalk.
James Merivale looked down at the fitter's little greenish wizened bald head and at the brown trousers flowing amply about his feet. "A little shorter. . . . I think it looks a little old to have trousers too long."
"Why hello Merivale I didn't know you bought your clothes at Brooks' too. Gee I'm glad to see you."
Merivale's blood stood still. He found himself looking straight in the blue alcoholic eyes of Jack Cunningham. He bit his lip and tried to stare at him coldly without speaking.
"God Almighty, do you know what we've done?" cried out Cunningham. "We've bought the same suit of clothes. . . . I tell you it's identically the same."
Merivale was looking in bewilderment from Cunningham's brown trousers to his own, the same color, the same tiny stripe of red and faint mottling of green.
"Good God man two future brothersinlaw cant wear the same suit. People'll think it's a uniform. . . . It's ridiculous."
"Well what are we going to do about it?" Merivale found himself saying in a grumbling tone.
"We have to toss up and see who gets it that's all. . . . Will you lend me a quarter please?" Cunningham turned to his salesman. "All right. . . . One toss, you yell."
"Heads," said Merivale mechanically.
"The brown suit is yours. . . . Now I've got to choose another . . . God I'm glad we met when we did. Look," he shouted out through the curtains of the booth, "why dont you have dinner with me tonight at the Salmagundi Club? . . . I'm going to be dining with the only man in the world who's crazier about hydroplanes than I am. . . . It's old man Perkins, you know him, he's one of the vicepresidents of your bank. . . . And look when you see Maisie tell her I'm coming up to see her tomorrow. An extraordinary series of events has kept me from communicating with her . . . a most unfortunate series of events that took all my time up to this moment. . . . We'll talk about it later."
Merivale cleared his throat. "Very well," he said dryly.
"All right sir," said the fitter giving Merivale a last tap on the buttocks. He went back into the booth to dress.
"All right old thing," shouted Cunningham, "I've got to go pick out another suit . . . I'll expect you at seven. I'll have a Jack Rose waiting for you."
Merivale's hands were trembling as he fastened his belt. Perkins, Jack Cunningham, the damn blackguard, hydroplanes. Jack Cunningham Salmagundi Perkins. He went to a phone booth in a corner of the store and called up his mother. "Hello Mother, I'm afraid I wont be up to dinner. . . . I'm dining with Randolph Perkins at the Salmagundi Club. . . . Yes it is very pleasant. . . . Oh well he and I have always been fairly good friends. . . . Oh yes it's essential to stand in with the men higher up. And I've seen Jack Cunningham. I put it up to him straight from the shoulder man to man and he was very much embarrassed. He promised a full explanation within twentyfour hours. . . . No I kept my temper very well. I felt I owed it to Maisie. I tell you I think the man's a blackguard but until there's proof. . . . Well good night dear, in case I'm late. Oh no please dont wait up. Tell Maisie not to worry I'll be able to give her the fullest details. Good night mother."
They sat at a small table in the back of a dimly lighted tearoom. The shade on the lamp cut off the upper parts of their faces. Ellen had on a dress of bright peacock blue and a small blue hat with a piece of green in it. Ruth Prynne's face had a sagging tired look under the street makeup.
"Elaine, you've just got to come," she was saying in a whiny voice, "Cassie'll be there and Oglethorpe and all the old gang. . . . After all now that you're making such a success of editorial work it's no reason for completely abandoning your old friends is it? You dont know how much we talk and wonder about you."
"No but Ruth it's just that I'm getting to hate large parties. I guess I must be getting old. All right I'll come for a little while."
Ruth put down the sandwich she was nibbling at and reached for Ellen's hand and patted it. "That's the little trouper. . . . Of course I knew you were coming all along."
"But Ruth you never told me what happened to that traveling repertory company last summer. . . ."
"O my God," burst out Ruth. "That was terrible. Of course it was a scream, a perfect scream. Well the first thing that happened was that Isabel Clyde's husband Ralph Nolton who was managing the company was a dipsomaniac . . . and then the lovely Isabel wouldn't let anybody on the stage who didn't act like a dummy for fear the rubes wouldnt know who the star was. . . . Oh I cant tell about it any more. . . . It isnt funny to me any more, it's just horrible. . . . Oh Elaine I'm so discouraged. My dear I'm getting old." She suddenly burst out crying.
"Oh Ruth please dont," said Ellen in a little rasping voice. She laughed. "After all we're none of us getting any younger are we?"
"Dear you dont understand . . . You never will understand."
They sat a long while without saying anything, scraps of lowvoiced conversation came to them from other corners of the dim tearoom. The palehaired waitress brought them two orders of fruit salad.
"My it must be getting late," said Ruth eventually.
"It's only half past eight. . . . We dont want to get to this party too soon."
"By the way . . . how's Jimmy Herf. I havent seen him for ages."
"Jimps is fine. . . . He's terribly sick of newspaper work. I do wish he could get something he really enjoyed doing."
"He'll always be a restless sort of person. Oh Elaine I was so happy when I heard about your being married. . . . I acted like a damn fool. I cried and cried. . . . And now with Martin and everything you must be terribly happy."
"Oh we get along all right. . . . Martin's picking up, New York seems to agree with him. He was so quiet and fat for a long while we were terribly afraid we'd produced an imbecile. Do you know Ruth I don't think I'd ever have another baby. . . . I was so horribly afraid he'd turn out deformed or something. . . . It makes me sick to think of it."
"Oh but it must be wonderful though."
They rang a bell under a small brass placque that read: Hester Voorhees Interpretation of the Dance. They went up three flights of creaky freshvarnished stairs. At the door open into a room full of people they met Cassandra Wilkins in a Greek tunic with a wreath of satin rosebuds round her head and a gilt wooden panpipe in her hand.
"Oh you darlings," she cried and threw her arms round them both at once. "Hester said you wouldnt come but I just knew you would. . . . Come wight in and take off your things, we're beginning with a few classic wythms." They followed her through a long candlelit incensesmelling room full of men and women in dangly costumes.
"But my dear you didn't tell us it was going to be a costume party."
"Oh yes cant you see evewything's Gweek, absolutely Gweek. . . . Here's Hester. . . . Here they are darling. . . . Hester you know Wuth . . . and this is Elaine Oglethorpe."
"I call myself Mrs. Herf now, Cassie."
"Oh I beg your pardon, it's so hard to keep twack. . . . They're just in time. . . . Hester's going to dance an owiental dance called Wythms from the Awabian Nights. . . . Oh it's too beautiful."
When Ellen came out of the bedroom where she had left her wraps a tall figure in Egyptian headdress with crooked rusty eyebrows accosted her. "Allow me to salute Helena Herf, distinguished editress of Manners, the journal that brings the Ritz to the humblest fireside . . . isnt that true?"
"Jojo you're a horrible tease. . . . I'm awfully glad to see you."
"Let's go and sit in a corner and talk, oh only woman I have ever loved. . ."
"Yes do let's . . . I dont like it here much."
"And my dear, have you heard about Tony Hunter's being straightened out by a psychoanalyst and now he's all sublimated and has gone on the vaudeville stage with a woman named California Jones."
"You'd better watch out Jojo."
They sat down on a couch in a recess between the dormer windows. Out of the corner of her eye she could see a girl dancing in green silk veils. The phonograph was playing the Cesar Frank symphony.
"We mustnt miss Cassie's daunce. The poor girl would be dreadfully offended."
"Jojo tell me about yourself, how have you been?"
He shook his head and made a broad gesture with his draped arm. "Ah let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the deaths of kings."
"Oh Jojo I'm sick of this sort of thing. . . . It's all so silly and dowdy. . . . I wish I hadnt let them make me take my hat off."
"That was so that I should look upon the forbidden forests of your hair."
"Oh Jojo do be sensible."
"How's your husband, Elaine or rathah Helenah?"
"Oh he's all right."
"You dont sound terribly enthusiastic."
"Martin's fine though. He's got black hair and brown eyes and his cheeks are getting to be pink. Really he's awfully cute."
"My deah, spare me this exhibition of maternal bliss. . . . You'll be telling me next you walked in a baby parade."
She laughed. "Jojo it's lots of fun to see you again,"
"I havent finished my catechism yet deah. . . . I saw you in the oval diningroom the other day with a very distinguished looking man with sharp features and gray hair."
"That must have been George Baldwin. Why you knew him in the old days."
"Of course of course. How he has changed. A much more interesting looking man than he used to be I must say. . . . A very strange place for the wife of a bolshevik pacifist and I. W. W. agitator to be seen taking lunch, I must say.
"Jimps isnt exactly that. I kind of wish he were. . . ." She wrinkled up her nose. "I'm a little fed up too with all that sort of thing."
"I suspected it my dear." Cassia was flitting selfconsciously by.
"Oh do come and help me. . . . Jojo's teasing me terribly."
"Well I'll twy to sit down just for a second, I'm going to dance next. . . . Mr. Oglethorpe's going to wead his twanslation of the songs of Bilitis for me to dance to."
Ellen looked from one to the other; Oglethorpe crooked his eyebrows and nodded.
Then Ellen sat alone for a long while looking at the dancing and the chittering crowded room through a dim haze of boredom.
The record on the phonograph was Turkish. Hester Voorhees, a skinny woman with a mop of hennaed hair cut short at the level of her ears, came out holding a pot of drawling incense out in front of her preceded by two young men who unrolled a carpet as she came. She wore silk bloomers and a clinking metal girdle and brassieres. Everybody was clapping and saying, "How wonderful, how marvelous," when from another room came three tearing shrieks of a woman. Everybody jumped to his feet. A stout man in a derby hat appeared in the doorway. "All right little goils, right through into the back room. Men stay here."
"Who are you anyway?"
"Never mind who I am, you do as I say." The man's face was red as a beet under the derby hat.
"It's a detective." "It's outrageous. Let him show his badge."
"It's a holdup."
"It's a raid."
The room had filled suddenly with detectives. They stood in front of the windows. A man in a checked cap with a face knobbed like a squash stood in front of the fireplace. They were pushing the women roughly into the back room. The men were herded in a little group near the door; detectives were taking their names. Ellen still sat on the couch. ". . . complaint phoned to headquarters," she heard somebody say. Then she noticed that there was a phone on the little table beside the couch where she sat. She picked it up and whispered softly for a number.
"Hello is this the district attorney's office? . . . I want to speak to Mr. Baldwin please. . . . George. . . . It's lucky I knew where you were. Is the district attorney there? That's fine . . . no you tell him about it. There has been a horrible mistake. I'm at Hester Voorhees'; you know she has a dancing studio. She was presenting some dances to some friends and through some mistake the police are raiding the place . . ."
The man in the derby was standing over her. "All right phoning wont do no good. . . . Go 'long in the other room."
"I've got the district attorney's office on the wire. You speak to him. . . . Hello is this Mr. Winthrop? . . . Yes O . . . How do you do? Will you please speak to this man?"
She handed the telephone to the detective and walked out into the center of the room. My I wish I hadnt taken my hat off, she was thinking.
From the other room came a sound of sobbing and Hester Voorhees' stagy voice shrieking, "It's a horrible mistake. . . . I wont be insulted like this."
The detective put down the telephone. He came over to Ellen. "I want to apologize miss. . . . We acted on insufficient information. I'll withdraw my men immediately."
"You'd better apologize to Mrs. Voorhees. . . . It's her studio."
"Well ladies and gents," the detective began in a loud cheerful voice, "we've made a little mistake and we're very sorry. . . . Accidents will happen . . ."
Ellen slipped into the side room to get her hat and coat. She stood some time before the mirror powdering her nose. When she went out into the studio again everybody was talking at once. Men and women stood round with sheets and bathrobes draped over their scanty dancingclothes. The detectives had melted away as suddenly as they came. Oglethorpe was talking in loud impassioned tones in the middle of a group of young men.
"The scoundrels to attack women," he was shouting, red in the face, waving his headdress in one hand. "Fortunately I was able to control myself or I might have committed an act that I should have regretted to my dying day. . . . It was only with the greatest selfcontrol. . ."
Ellen managed to slip out, ran down the stairs and out into drizzly streets. She hailed a taxi and went home. When she had got her things off she called up George Baldwin at his house. "Hello George, I'm terribly sorry I had to trouble you and Mr. Winthrop. Well if you hadnt happened to say at lunch you'd be there all the evening they probably would be just piling us out of the black maria at the Jefferson Market Court. . . . Of course it was funny. I'll tell you about it sometime, but I'm so sick of all that stuff. . . . Oh just everything like that aesthetic dancing and literature and radicalism and psychoanalysis. . . . Just an overdose I guess. . . . Yes I guess that's it George . . . I guess I'm growing up."
The night was one great chunk of black grinding cold. The smell of the presses still in his nose, the chirrup of typewriters still in his ears, Jimmy Herf stood in City Hall Square with his hands in his pockets watching ragged men with caps and earsflaps pulled down over faces and necks the color of raw steak shovel snow. Old and young their faces were the same color, their clothes were the same color. A razor wind cut his ears and made his forehead ache between the eyes.
"Hello Herf, think you'll take the job?" said a milkfaced young man who came up to him breezily and pointed to the pile of snow. "Why not, Dan. I dont know why it wouldnt be better than spending all your life rooting into other people's affairs until you're nothing but a goddam traveling dictograph."
"It'd be a fine job in summer all right. . . . Taking the West Side?"
"I'm going to walk up. . . . I've got the heebyjeebies tonight."
"Jez man you'll freeze to death."
"I dont care if I do. . . . You get so you dont have any private life, you're just an automatic writing machine."
"Well I wish I could get rid of a little of my private life. . . . Well goodnight. I hope you find some private life Jimmy."
Laughing, Jimmy Herf turned his back on the snowshovelers and started walking up Broadway, leaning into the wind with his chin buried in his coatcollar. At Houston Street he looked at his watch. Five o'clock. Gosh he was late today. Wouldnt be a place in the world where he could get a drink. He whimpered to himself at the thought of the icy blocks he still had to walk before he could get to his room. Now and then he stopped to pat some life into his numb ears. At last he got back to his room, lit the gasstove and hung over it tingling. His room was a small square bleak room on the south side of Washington Square. Its only furnishings were a bed, a chair, a table piled with books, and the gasstove. When he had begun to be a little less cold he reached under the bed for a basketcovered bottle of rum. He put some water to heat in a tin cup on the gasstove and began drinking hot rum and water. Inside him all sorts of unnamed agonies were breaking loose. He felt like the man in the fairy story with an iron band round his heart. The iron band was breaking.
He had finished the rum. Occasionally the room would start going round him solemnly and methodically. Suddenly he said aloud: "I've got to talk to her . . . I've got to talk to her." He shoved his hat down on his head and pulled on his coat. Outside the cold was balmy. Six milkwagons in a row passed jingling.
On West Twelfth two black cats were chasing each other. Everywhere was full of their crazy yowling. He felt that something would snap in his head, that he himself would scuttle off suddenly down the frozen street eerily caterwauling.
He stood shivering in the dark passage, ringing the bell marked Herf again and again. Then he knocked as loud as he could. Ellen came to the door in a green wrapper.
"What's the matter Jimps? Havent you got a key?" Her face was soft with sleep; there was a happy cozy suave smell of sleep about her. He talked through clenched teeth breathlessly.
"Ellie I've got to talk to you."
"Are you lit, Jimps?"
"Well I know what I'm saying."
"I'm terribly sleepy."
He followed her into her bedroom. She kicked off her slippers and got back into bed, sat up looking at him with sleepweighted eyes.
"Dont talk too loud on account of Martin."
"Ellie I dont know why it's always so difficult for me to speak out about anything. . . . I always have to get drunk to speak out. . . . Look here do you like me any more?"
"You know I'm awfully fond of you and always shall be."
"I mean love, you know what I mean, whatever it is . . ." he broke in harshly.
"I guess I dont love anybody for long unless they're dead. . . . I'm a terrible sort of person. It's no use talking about it."
"I knew it. You knew I knew it. O God things are pretty rotten for me Ellie."
She sat with her knees hunched up and her hands clasped round them looking at him with wide eyes. "Are you really so crazy about me Jimps?"
"Look here lets get a divorce and be done with it."
"Dont be in such a hurry, Jimps. . . . And there's Martin. What about him?"
"I can scrape up enough money for him occasionally, poor little kid."
"I make more than you do, Jimps. . . . You shouldnt do that yet."
"I know. I know. Dont I know it?"
They sat looking at each other without speaking. Their eyes burned from looking at each other. Suddenly Jimmy wanted terribly to be asleep, not to remember anything, to let his head sink into blackness, as into his mother's lap when he was a kid.
"Well I'm going home." He gave a little dry laugh. "We didn't think it'd all go pop like this, did we?"
"Goodnight Jimps," she whined in the middle of a yawn.
"But things dont end. . . . If only I weren' so terribly sleepy. . . . Will you put out the light?"
He groped his way in the dark to the door. Outside the arctic morning was growing gray with dawn. He hurried back to his room. He wanted to get into bed and be asleep before it was light.
A long low room with long tables down the middle piled with silk and crêpe fabrics, brown, salmonpink, emeraldgreen. A smell of snipped thread and dress materials. All down the tables bowed heads auburn, blond, black, brown of girls sewing. Errandboys pushing rolling stands of hung dresses up and down the aisles. A bell rings and the room breaks out with noise and talk shrill as a birdhouse.
Anna gets up and stretches out her arms. "My I've got a head," she says to the girl next her.
"Up last night?"
"Ought to quit it dearie, it'll spoil your looks. A girl cant burn the candle at both ends like a feller can." The other girl is thin and blond and has a crooked nose. She puts her arm round Anna's waist. "My I wish I could put on a little of your weight."
"I wish you could," says Anna. "Dont matter what I eat it turns to fat."
"Still you aint too fat. . . . You're juss plump so's they like to squeeze ye. You try wearing boyishform like I told an you'll look fine."
"My boyfriend says he likes a girl to have shape."
On the stairs they push their way through a group of girls listening to a little girl with red hair who talks fast, opening her mouth wide and rolling her eyes. ". . . She lived just on the next block at 2230 Cameron Avenue an she'd been to the Hippodrome with some girlfriends and when they got home it was late an they let her go home alone, up Cameron Avenue, see? An the next morning when her folks began looking for her they found her behind a Spearmint sign in a back lot."
"Was she dead?"
"Sure she was. . . . A negro had done somethin terrible to her and then he'd strangled her. . . . I felt terrible. I used to go to school with her. An there aint a girl on Cameron Avenue been out after dark they're so scared."
"Sure I saw all about it in the paper last night. Imagine livin right on the next block."
'Did you see me touch that hump back?" cried Rosie as he settled down beside her in the taxi. "In the lobby of the theater?" He pulled at the trousers that were tight over his knees. "That's goin to give us luck Jake. I never seen a hump back to fail. . . . if you touch him on the hump . . . Ou it makes me sick how fast these taxis go." They were thrown forward by the taxi's sudden stop. "My God we almost ran over a boy." Jake Silverman patted her knee. "Poor ikle kid, was it all worked up?" As they drove up to the hotel she shivered and buried her face in her coatcollar. When they went to the desk to get the key, the clerk said to Silverman, "There's a gentleman waiting to see you sir." A thickset man came up to him taking a cigar out of his mouth. "Will you step this way a minute please Mr. Silverman." Rosie thought she was going to faint. She stood perfectly stilly frozen, with her cheeks deep in the fur collar of her coat.
They sat in two deep armchairs and whispered with their heads together. Step by step, she got nearer, listening. "Warrant . . . Department of Justice . . . using the mails to defraud . . ." She couldnt hear what Jake said in between. He kept nodding his head as if agreeing. Then suddenly he spoke out smoothly, smiling.
"Well I've heard your side Mr. Rogers. . . . Here's mine. If you arrest me now I shall be ruined and a great many people who have put their money in this enterprise will be ruined. . . . In a week I can liquidate the whole concern with a profit. . . . Mr. Rogers I am a man who has been deeply wronged through foolishness in misplacing confidence in others."
"I cant help that. . . . My duty is to execute the warrant. . . . I'm afraid I'll have to search your room. . . . You see we have several little items . . ." The man flicked the ash off his cigar and began to read in a monotonous voice. "Jacob Silverman, alias Edward Faversham, Simeon J. Arbuthnot, Jack Hinkley, J. J. Gold. . . . Oh we've got a pretty little list. . . . We've done some very pretty work on your case, if I do say it what shouldnt."
They got to their feet. The man with the cigar jerked his head at a lean man in a cap who sat reading a paper on the opposite side of the lobby.
Silverman walked over to the desk. "I'm called away on business," he said to the clerk. "Will you please have my bill prepared? Mrs. Silverman will keep the room for a few days."
Rosie couldnt speak. She followed the three men into the elevator. "Sorry to have to do this maam," said the lean detective pulling at the visor of his cap. Silverman opened the room door for them and closed it carefully behind him.
"Thank you for your consideration, gentlemen. . . . My wife thanks you." Rosie sat in a straight chair in the corner of the room. She was biting her tongue hard, harder to try to keep her lips from twitching.
"We realize Mr. Silverman that this is not quite the ordinary criminal case."
"Wont you have a drink gentlemen?"
They shook their heads. The thickset man was lighting a fresh cigar.
"Allright Mike," he said to the lean man. "Go through the drawers and closet."
"Is that regular?"
"If this was regular we'd have the handcuffs on you and be running the lady here as an accessory."
Rosie sat with her icy hands clasped between her knees swaying her body from side to side. Her eyes were closed. While the detectives were rummaging in the closet, Silverman took the opportunity to put his hand on her shoulder. She opened her eyes. "The minute the goddam dicks take me out phone Schatz and tell him everything. Get hold of him if you have to wake up everybody in New York." He spoke low and fast, his lips barely moving.
Almost immediately he was gone, followed by the two detectives with a satchel full of letters. His kiss was still wet on her lips. She looked dazedly round the empty deathly quiet room. She noticed some writing on the lavender blotter on the desk. It was his handwriting, very scrawly: Hock everything and beat it; you are a good kid. Tears began running down her cheeks. She sat a long while with her head dropped on the desk kissing the penciled words on the blotter.