Manhattan Transfer/Chapter 18

V. The Burthen of Nineveh

Seeping in red twilight out of the Gulf Stream fog, throbbing brassthroat that howls through the stiff-fingered streets, prying open glazed eyes of skyscrapers, splashing red lead on the girder ed thighs of the five bridges, teasing caterwauling tug boats into heat under the toppling smoketrees of the harbor.

Spring puckering our mouths, spring giving us gooseflesh grows gigantic out of the droning of sirens, crashes with enormous scaring din through the halted traffic, between attentive frozen tiptoe blocks.

MR. DENSCH with the collar of his woolly ulster up round his ears and a big English cap pulled down far over his eyes, walked nervously back and forth on the damp boat deck of the Volendam. He looked out through a drizzly rain at the gray wharf houses and the waterfront buildings etched against a sky of inconceivable bitterness. A ruined man, a ruined man, he kept whispering to himself. At last the ship's whistle boomed out for the third time. Mr. Densch, his fingers in his ears, stood screened by a lifeboat watching the rift of dirty water between the ship's side and the wharf widen, widen. The deck trembled under his feet as the screws bit into the current. Gray like a photograph the buildings of Manhattan began sliding by. Below decks the band was playing O Titin-e Titin-e. Red ferryboats, carferries, tugs, sandscows, lumberschooners, tramp steamers drifted between him and the steaming towering city that gathered itself into a pyramid and began to sink mistily into the browngreen water of the bay.

Mr. Densch went below to his stateroom. Mrs. Densch in a cloche hat hung with a yellow veil was crying quietly with her head on a basket of fruit. "Dont Serena," he said huskily. "Dont. . . . We like Marienbad. . . . We need a rest. Our position isnt so hopeless. I'll go and send Blackhead a radio. . . . After all it's his stubbornness and rashness that brought the firm to . . . to this. That man thinks he's a king on earth. . . . This'll . . . this'll get under his skin. If curses can kill I'll be a dead man tomorrow." To his surprise he found the gray drawn lines of his face cracking into a smile. Mrs. Densch lifted her head and opened her mouth to speak to him, but the tears got the better of her. He looked at himself in the glass, squared his shoulders and adjusted his cap. "Well Serena," he said with a trace of jauntiness in his voice, "this is the end of my business career. . . . I'll go send that radio."

Mother's face swoops down and kisses him; his hands clutch her dress, and she has gone leaving him in the dark, leaving a frail lingering fragrance in the dark that makes him cry. Little Martin lies tossing within the iron bars of his crib. Outside dark, and beyond walls and outside again the horrible great dark of grownup people, rumbling, jiggling, creeping in chunks through the windows, putting fingers through the crack in the door. From outside above the roar of wheels comes a strangling wail clutching his throat. Pyramids of dark piled above him fall crumpling on top of him. He yells, gagging between yells. Nounou walks towards the crib along a saving gangplank of light "Dont you be scared . . . that aint nothin." Her black face grins at him, her black hand straightens the covers. "Just a fire engine passin. . . . You wouldn't be sceered of a fire engine."

Ellen leaned back in the taxi and closed her eyes for a second. Not even the bath and the halfhour's nap had washed out the fagging memory of the office, the smell of it, the chirruping of typewriters, the endlessly repeated phrases, faces, typewritten sheets. She felt very tired; she must have rings under her eyes. The taxi had stopped. There was a red light in the traffic tower ahead. Fifth Avenue was jammed to the curbs with taxis, limousines, motorbusses. She was late; she had left her watch at home. The minutes hung about her neck leaden as hours. She sat up on the edge of the seat, her fists so tightly clenched that she could feel through her gloves her sharp nails digging into the palms of her hands. At last the taxi jerked forward, there was a gust of exhausts and whir of motors, the clot of traffic began moving up Murray Hill. At a corner she caught sight of a clock. Quarter of eight. The traffic stopped again, the brakes of the taxi shrieked, she was thrown forward on the seat. She leaned back with her eyes closed, the blood throbbing in her temples. All her nerves were sharp steel jangled wires cutting into her. "What does it matter?" she kept asking herself. "He'll wait. I'm in no hurry to see him. Let's see, how many blocks? . . . Less than twenty, eighteen." It must have been to keep from going crazy people invented numbers. The multiplication table better than Coué as a cure for jangled nerves. Probably that's what old Peter Stuyvesant thought, or whoever laid the city out in numbers. She was smiling to herself. The taxi had started moving again.

George Baldwin was walking back and forth in the lobby of the hotel, taking short puffs of a cigarette. Now and then he glanced at the clock. His whole body was screwed up taut like a high violinstring. He was hungry and full up with things he wanted to say; he hated waiting for people. When she walked in, cool and silky and smiling, he wanted to go up to her and hit her in the face.

"George do you realize that it's only because numbers are so cold and emotionless that we're not all crazy?" she said giving him a little pat on the arm.

"Fortyfive minutes waiting is enough to drive anybody crazy, that's all I know."

"I must explain it. It's a system. I thought it all up coming up in the taxi. . . . You go in and order anything you like. I'm going to the ladies' room a minute. . . . And please have me a Martini, I'm dead tonight, just dead."

"You poor little thing, of course I will. . . . And dont be long please."

His knees were weak under him, he felt like melting ice as he went into the gilt ponderously ornamented diningroom. Good lord Baldwin you're acting like a hobbledehoy of seventeen . . . after all these years too. Never get anywhere that way. . . . "Well Joseph what are you going to give us to eat tonight? I'm hungry. . . . But first you can get Fred to make the best Martini cocktail he ever made in his life."

"Tres bien monsieur," said the longnosed Roumanian waiter and handed him the menu with a flourish. Ellen stayed a long time looking in the mirror, dabbing a little superfluous powder off her face, trying to make up her mind. She kept winding up a hypothetical dollself and setting it in various positions. Tiny gestures ensued, acted out on various model stages. Suddenly she turned away from the mirror with a shrug of her toowhite shoulders and hurried to the diningroom.

"Oh George I'm starved, simply starved."

"So am I" he said in a crackling voice. "And Elaine I've got news for you," he went on hurriedly as if he were afraid she'd interrupt him.

"Cecily has consented to a divorce. We're going to rush it through quietly in Paris this summer. Now what I want to know is, will you . . .?"

She leaned over and patted his hand that grasped the edge of the table. "George lets eat our dinner first. . . . We've got to be sensible. God knows we've messed things up enough in the past both of us. . . . Let's drink to the crime wave." The smooth infinitesimal foam of the cocktail was soothing in her tongue and throat, glowed gradually warmly through her. She looked at him laughing with sparkling eyes. He drank his at a gulp.

"By gad Elaine." he said flaming up helplessly, "you're the most wonderful thing in the world."

Through dinner she felt a gradual icy coldness stealing through her like novocaine. She had made up her mind. It seemed as if she had set the photograph of herself in her own place, forever frozen into a single gesture. An invisible silk band of bitterness was tightening round her throat, strangling. Beyond the plates, the ivory pink lamp, the broken pieces of bread, his face above the blank shirtfront jerked and nodded; the flush grew on his cheeks; his nose caught the light now on one side, now on the other, his taut lips moved eloquently over his yellow teeth. Ellen felt herself sitting with her ankles crossed, rigid as a porcelain figure under her clothes, everything about her seemed to be growing hard and enameled, the air bluestreaked with cigarettesmoke, was turning to glass. His wooden face of a marionette waggled senselessly in front of her. She shuddered and hunched up her shoulders.

"What's the matter, Elaine?" he burst out. She lied:

"Nothing George. . . . Somebody walked over my grave I guess."

"Couldnt I get you a wrap or something?"

She shook her head.

"Well what about it?" he said as they got up from the table.

'What?" she asked smiling. "After Paris?"

"I guess I can stand it if you can George," she said quietly.

He was waiting for her, standing at the open door of a taxi. She saw him poised spry against the darkness in a tan felt hat and a light tan overcoat, smiling like some celebrity in the rotogravure section of a Sunday paper. Mechanically she squeezed the hand that helped her into the cab.

"Elaine," he said shakily, "life's going to mean something to me now. . . . God if you knew how empty life had been for so many years. I've been like a tin mechanical toy, all hollow inside."

"Let's not talk about mechanical toys," she said in a strangled voice.

"No let's talk about our happiness," he shouted.

Inexorably his lips closed on to hers. Beyond the shaking glass window of the taxi, like someone drowning, she saw out of a corner of an eye whirling faces, streetlights, zooming nickleglinting wheels.

The old man in the checked cap sits on the brownstone stoop with his face in his hands. With the glare of Broadway in their backs there is a continual flickering of people past him towards the theaters down the street. The old man is sobbing through his fingers in a sour reek of gin. Once in a while he raises his head and shouts hoarsely, "I cant, dont you see I cant?" The voice is inhuman like the splitting of a plank. Footsteps quicken. Middleaged people look the other way. Two girls giggle shrilly as they look at him. Streeturchins nudging each other peer in and out through the dark crowd. "Bum Hootch." "He'll get his when the cop on the block comes by." "Prohibition liquor." The old man lifts his wet face out of his hands, staring out of sightless bloodyrimmed eyes. People back off, step on the feet of the people behind them. Like splintering wood the voice comes out of him. "Don't you see I cant . . .? I cant . . . I cant."

When Alice Sheffield dropped into the stream of women going through the doors of Lord & Taylor's and felt the close smell of stuffs in her nostrils something went click in her head. First she went to the glovecounter. The girl was very young and had long curved black lashes and a pretty smile; they talked of permanent waves while Alice tried on gray kids, white kids with a little fringe like a gauntlet. Before she tried it on, the girl deftly powdered the inside of each glove out of a longnecked wooden shaker. Alice ordered six pairs.

"Yes. Mrs. Roy Sheffield. . . . Yes I have a charge account, here's my card. . . . I'll be having quite a lot of things sent." And to herself she said all the while: Ridiculous how I've been going round in rags all winter. . . . When the bill comes Roy'11 have to find some way of paying it that's all. Time he stopped mooning round anyway. I've paid enough bills for him in my time, God knows." Then she started looking at fleshcolored silk stockings. She left the store her head still in a whirl of long vistas of counters in a violet electric haze, of braided embroidery and tassles and nasturtiumtinted silks; she had ordered two summer dresses and an evening wrap.

At Maillard's she met a tall blond Englishman with a coneshaped head and pointed wisps of towcolored mustaches under his long nose.

"Oh Buck I'm having the grandest time. I've been going berserk in Lord & Taylor's. Do you know that it must be a year and a half since I've bought any clothes?"

"Poor old thing," he said as he motioned her to a table. "Tell me about it."

She let herself flop into a chair suddenly whimpering, "Oh Buck I'm so tired of it all. . . . I dont know how much longer I can stand it."

"Well you cant blame me. . . . You know what I want you to do. . . ."

"Well suppose I did?"

"It'd be topping, we'd hit it off like anything. . . . But you must have a bit of beef tea or something. You need picking up." She giggled. "You old dear that's just what I do need."

"Well how about making tracks for Calgary? I know a fellow there who'll give me a job I think."

"Oh let's go right away. I dont care about clothes or anything. . . . Roy can send those things back to Lord & Taylor's. . . . Got any money Buck?"

A flush started on his cheekbones and spread over his temples to his flat irregular ears. "I confess, Al darling, that I havent a penny. I can pay for lunch."

"Oh hell I'll cash a check; the account's in both our names."

"They'll cash it for me at the Biltmore, they know me there. When we get to Canada everything will be quite all right I can assure you. In His Majesty's Dominion, the name of Buckminster has rather more weight than in the U.S."

"Oh I know darling, it's nothing but money in New York."

When they were walking up Fifth Avenue she hooked her arm in his suddenly. "O Buck I have the most horrible thing to tell you. It made me deathly ill. . . . You know what I told you about the awful smell we had in the apartment we thought was rats? This morning I met the woman who lives on the ground floor. . . . O it makes me sick to think of it. Her face was green as that bus. . . . It seems they've been having the plumbing examined by an inspector. . . . They arrested the woman upstairs. O it's too disgusting. I cant tell you about it. . . . I'll never go back there. I'd die if I did. . . . There wasnt a drop of water in the house all day yesterday."

"What was the matter?"

"It's too horrible."

"Tell it to popper."

"Buck they wont know you when you get back home to Orpen Manor."

"But what was it?"

"There was a woman upstairs who did illegal operations, abortions. . . . That was what stopped up the plumbing."

"Good God."

"Somehow that's the last straw. . . . And Roy sitting limp over his damn paper in the middle of that stench with that horrible adenoid expression on his face."

"Poor little girl."

"But Buck I couldn't cash a check for more than two hundred. . . . It'll be an overdraft as it is. Will that get us to Calgary?"

"Not very comfortably. . . . There's a man I know in Montreal who'll give me a job writing society notes. . . . Beastly thing to do, but I can use an assumed name. Then we can trot along from there when we get a little more spondulix as you call it. . . . How about cashing that check now?"

She stood waiting for him beside the information desk while he went to get the tickets. She felt alone and tiny in the middle of the great white vault of the station. All her life with Roy was going by her like a movie reeled off backwards, faster and faster. Buck came back looking happy and masterful, his hands full of greenbacks and railway tickets. "No train till seven ten Al," he said. "Suppose you go to the Palace and leave me a seat at the boxoffice. . . . I'll run up and fetch my kit. Wont take a sec. . . . Here's a fiver." And he had gone, and she was walking alone across Fortythird Street on a hot May afternoon. For some reason she began to cry. People stared at her; she couldnt help it. She walked on doggedly with the tears streaming down her face.

"Earthquake insurance, that's what they calls it! A whole lot of good it'll do 'em when the anger of the Lord smokes out the city like you would a hornet's nest and he picks it up and shakes it like a cat shakes a rat. . . . Earthquake insurance!"

Joe and Skinny wished that the man with whiskers like a bottlecleaner who stood over their campfire mumbling and shouting would go away. They didn't know whether he was talking to them or to himself. They pretended he wasnt there and went on nervously preparing to grill a piece of ham on a gridiron made of an old umbrellaframe. Below them beyond a sulphurgreen lace of budding trees was the Hudson going silver with evening and the white palisade of apartment-houses of upper Manhattan.

"Dont say nutten," whispered Joe, making a swift cranking motion in the region of his ear. "He's nuts."

Skinny had gooseflesh down the back, he felt his lips getting cold, he wanted to run.

"That ham?" Suddenly the man addressed them in a purring benevolent voice.

"Yessir," said Joe shakily after a pause.

"Dont you know that the Lord God forbad his chillun to eat the flesh of swine?" His voice went to its singsong mumbling and shouting. "Gabriel, Brother Gabriel . . . is it all right for these kids to eat ham? . . . Sure. The angel Gabriel, he's a good frien o mine see, he said it's all right this once if you dont do it no more. . . . Look out brother you'll burn it." Skinny had got to his feet. "Sit down brother. I wont hurt you. I understand kids. We like kids me an the Lord God. . . . Scared of me cause I'm a tramp aint you? Well lemme tell you somethin, dont you never be afraid of a tramp. Tramps wont hurt ye, they're good people. The Lord God was a tramp when he lived on earth. My buddy the angel Gabriel says he's been a tramp many a time. . . . Look I got some fried chicken an old colored woman gave me. . . . O Lordy me!" groaning he sat down on a rock beside the two boys.

"We was goin to play injuns, but now I guess we'll play tramps," said Joe warming up a little. The tramp brought a newspaper package out of the formless pocket of his weathergreened coat and began unwrapping it carefully. A good smell began to come from the sizzling ham. Skinny sat down again, still keeping as far away as he could without missing anything. The tramp divided up his chicken and they began to eat together.

"Gabriel old scout will you just look at that?" The tramp started his singsong shouting that made the boys feel scared again. It was beginning to get dark. The tramp was shouting with his mouth full pointing with a drumstick towards the flickering checkerboard of lights going on up Riverside Drive. "Juss set here a minute an look at her Gabriel. . . . Look at the old bitch if you'll pardon the expression. Earthquake insurance, gosh they need it dont they? Do you know how long God took to destroy the tower of Babel, folks? Seven minutes. Do you know how long the Lord God took to destroy Babylon and Nineveh? Seven minutes. There's more wickedness in one block in New York City than there was in a square mile in Nineveh, and how long do you think the Lord God of Sabboath will take to destroy New York City an Brooklyn an the Bronx? Seven seconds. Seven seconds. . . . Say kiddo what's your name?" He dropped into his low purring voice and made a pass at Joe with his drumstick.

"Joseph Cameron Parker. . . . We live in Union."

"An what's yours?"

"Antonio Camerone . . . de guys call me Skinny. Dis guy's my cousin. His folks dey changed deir name to Parker, see?"

"Changing your name wont do no good . . . they got all the aliases down in the judgment book. . . . And verily I say unto you the Lord's day is at hand. . . . It was only yesterday that Gabriel says to me 'Well Jonah, shall we let her rip?' an I says to him, 'Gabriel ole scout think of the women and children an the little babies that dont know no better. If you shake it down with an earthquake an fire an brimstone from heaven they'll all be killed same as the rich people an sinners,' and he says to me, 'All right Jonah old horse, have it your own way. . . . We wont foreclose on em for a week or two.' . . . But it's terrible to think of, folks, the fire an brimstone an the earthquake an the tidal wave an the tall buildins crashing together."

Joe suddenly slapped Skinny on the back. "You're it," he said and ran off. Skinny followed him stumbling along the narrow path among the bushes. He caught up to him on the asphalt. "Jez, that guy's nuts," he called.

"Shut up cant ye?" snapped Joe. He was peering back through the bushes. They could still see the thin smoke of their little fire against the sky. The tramp was out of sight. They could just hear his voice calling, "Gabriel, Gabriel." They ran on breathless towards the regularly spaced safe arclights and the street.

Jimmy Herf stepped out from in front of the truck; the mudguard just grazed the skirt of his raincoat. He stood a moment behind an L stanchion while the icicle thawed out of his spine. The door of a limousine suddenly opened in front of him and he heard a familiar voice that he couldnt place.

"Jump in Meester 'Erf. . . . Can I take you somewhere?" As he stepped in mechanically he noticed that he was stepping into a Rolls-Royce.

The stout red faced man in a derby hat was Congo. "Sit down Meester 'Erf. . . . Very pleas' to see you. Where were you going?"

"I wasnt going anywhere in particular." "Come up to the house, I want to show you someting. Ow are you today?"

"Oh fine; no I mean I'm in a rotten mess, but it's all the same."

"Tomorrow maybe I go to jail . . . six mont' . . . but maybe not." Congo laughed in his throat and straightened carefully his artificial leg.

"So they've nailed you at last, Congo?"

"Conspiracy. . . . But no more Congo Jake, Meester 'Erf. Call me Armand. I'm married now; Armand Duval, Park Avenue."

"How about the Marquis des Coulommiers?"

"That's just for the trade."

"So things look pretty good do they?"

Congo nodded. "If I go to Atlanta which I 'ope not, in six mont' I come out of jail a millionaire. . . . Meester 'Erf if you need money, juss say the word. . . . I lend you tousand dollars. In five years even you pay it back. I know you."

"Thanks, it's not exactly money I need, that's the hell of it."

"How's your wife? . . . She's so beautiful."

"We're getting a divorce. . . . She served the papers on me this morning. . . . That's all I was waiting in this goddam town for."

Congo bit his lips. Then he tapped Jimmy gently on the knee with his forefinger. "In a minute we'll get to the 'ouse. . . . I give you one very good drink." . . . Yes wait," Congo shouted to the chauffeur as he walked with a stately limp, leaning on a goldknobbed cane, into the streaky marble hallway of the apartmenthouse. As they went up in the elevator he said, "Maybe you stay to dinner." "I'm afraid I cant tonight, Con . . . Armand."

"I have one very good cook. . . . When I first come to New York maybe twenty years ago, there was a feller on the boat. . . . This is the door, see A. D., Armand Duval. Him and me ran away togedder an always he say to me, 'Armand you never make a success, too lazy, run after the leetle girls too much. . . . Now he's my cook . . . first class chef, cordon bleu, eh? Life is one funny ting, Meester 'Erf."

"Gee this is fine," said Jimmy Herf leaning back in a highbacked Spanish chair in the blackwalnut library with a glass of old Bourbon in his hand. "Congo . . . I mean Armand, if I'd been God and had to decide who in this city should make a million dollars and who shouldnt I swear you're the man I should have picked."

"Maybe by and by the misses come in. Very pretty I show you." He made curly motions with his fingers round his head. "Very much blond hair." Suddenly he frowned. "But Meester 'Erf, if dere is anyting any time I can do for you, money or like dat. you let me know eh? It's ten years now you and me very good frien. . . . One more drink?"

On his third glass of Bourbon Herf began to talk. Congo sat listening with his heavy lips a little open, occasionally nodding his head. "The difference between you and me is that you're going up in the social scale, Armand, and I'm going down. . . . When you were a messboy on a steamboat I was a horrid little chalkyfaced kid living at the Ritz. My mother and father did all this Vermont marble blackwalnut grand Babylonian stuff . . . there's nothing more for me to do about it. . . . Women are like rats, you know, they leave a sinking ship. She's going to marry this man Baldwin who's just been appointed District Attorney. They're said to be grooming him for mayor on a fusion reform ticket. . . . The delusion of power, that's what's biting him. Women fall for it like hell. If I thought it'd be any good to me I swear I've got the energy to sit up and make a million dollars. But I get no organic sensation out of that stuff any more. I've got to have something new, different. . . . Your sons'll be like that Congo. . . . If I'd had a decent education and started soon enough I might have been a great scientist. If I'd been a little more highly sexed I might have been an artist or gone in for religion. . . . But here I am by Jesus Christ almost thirty years old and very anxious to live. . . . If I were sufficiently romantic I suppose I'd have killed myself long ago just to make people talk about me. I havent even got the conviction to make a successful drunkard."

"Looks like," said Congo filling the little glasses again with a slow smile, "Meester 'Erf you tink too much."

"Of course I do Congo, of course I do, but what the hell am I going to do about it?"

"Well when you need a little money remember Armand Duval. . . . Want a chaser?"

Herf shook his head. "I've got to chase myself. . . . So long Armand."

In the colonnaded marble hall he ran into Nevada Jones. She was wearing orchids. "Hullo Nevada, what are you doing in this palace of sin?"

"I live here, what do you think? . . . I married a friend of yours the other day, Armand Duval. Want to come up and see him?"

"Just been. . . . He's a good scout."

"He sure is."

"What did you do with little Tony Hunter?"

She came close to him and spoke in a low voice. "Just forget about me and him will you? . . . Gawd the boy's breath'd knock you down. . . . Tony's one of God's mistakes, I'm through with him. . . . Found him chewing the edges of the rug rolling on the floor of the dressing room one day because he was afraid he was going to be unfaithful to me with an acrobat. . . . I told him he'd better go and be it and we busted up right there. . . . But honest I'm out for connubial bliss this time, right on the level, so for God's sake dont let anybody spring anything about Tony or about Baldwin either on Armand . . . though he knows he wasnt hitching up to any plaster virgin. . . . Why dont you come up and eat with us?"

"I cant. Good luck Nevada." The whisky warm in his stomach, tingling in his fingers, Jimmy Herf stepped out into seven o'clock Park Avenue, whirring with taxicabs, streaked with smells of gasoline and restaurants and twilight.

It was the first evening James Merivale had gone to the Metropolitan Club since he had been put up for it; he had been afraid, that like carrying a cane, it was a little old for him. He sat in a deep leather chair by a window smoking a thirty-five cent cigar with the Wall Street Journal on his knee and a copy of the Cosmopolitan leaning against his right thigh and, with his eyes on the night flawed with lights like a crystal, he abandoned himself to reverie: Economic Depression. . . . Ten million dollars. . . . After the war slump. Some smash I'll tell the world, blackhead & densch fail for $10,000,000. . . . Densch left the country some days ago. . . . Blackhead incommunicado in his home at Great Neck. One of the oldest and most respected import and export firms in New York, $10,000,000. O it's always fair weather When good fellows get together. That's the thing about banking. Even in a deficit there's money to be handled, collateral. These commercial propositions always entail a margin of risk. We get 'em coming or else we get 'em going, eh Merivale? That's what old Perkins said when Cunningham mixed him that Jack Rose. . . . With a stein on the tabul And a good song ri-i-inging clear. Good connection that feller. Maisie knew what she was doing after all. . . . A man in a position like that's always likely to be blackmailed. A fool not to prosecute. . . . Girl's crazy he said, married to another man of the same name. . . . Ought to be in a sanitarium, a case like that. God I'd have dusted his hide for him. Circumstances exonerated him completely, even mother admitted that. O Sinbad was in had in Tokio and Rome . . . . that's what Jerry used to sing. Poor old Jerry never had the feeling of being in good right in on the ground floor of the Metropolitan Club. . . . Comes of poor stock. Take Jimmy now . . . hasnt even that excuse, an out and out failure, a misfit from way back. . . . Guess old man Herf was pretty wild, a yachtsman. Used to hear mother say Aunt Lily had to put up with a whole lot. Still he might have made something of himself with all his advantages . . . dreamer, wanderlust . . . Greenwich Village stuff. And dad did every bit as much for him as he did for me. . . . And this divorce now. Adultery . . . with a prostitute like as not. Probably had syphilis or something. Ten Million Dollar Failure.

Failure. Success.

Ten Million Dollar Success. . . . Ten Years of Successful Banking. . . . At the dinner of the American Bankers Association last night James Merivale, president of the Bank & Trust Company, spoke in answer to the toast 'Ten Years of Progressive Banking.' . . . Reminds me gentlemen of the old darky who was very fond of chicken. . . . But if you will allow me a few serious words on this festive occasion (flashlight photograph) there is a warning note I should like to sound . . . feel it my duty as an American citizen, as president of a great institution of nationwide, international in the better sense, nay, universal contacts and loyalties (flashlight photograph). . . . At last making himself heard above the thunderous applause James Merivale, his stately steelgray head shaking with emotion, continued his speech. . . . Gentlemen you do me too much honor. . . . Let me only add that in all trials and tribulations, becalmed amid the dark waters of scorn or spurning the swift rapids of popular estimation, amid the still small hours of the night, and in the roar of millions at noonday, my staff, my bread of life, my inspiration has been my triune loyalty to my wife, my mother, and my flag.

The long ash from his cigar had broken and fallen on his knees. James Merivale got to his feet and gravely brushed the light ash off his trousers. Then he settled down again and with an intent frown began to read the article on Foreign Exchange in the Wall Street Journal.

They sit up on two stools in the lunchwaggon,

"Say kid how the hell did you come to sign up on that old scow?"

"Wasnt anything else going out east."

"Well you sure have dished your gravy this time kid, cap'n 's a dopehead, first officer's the damnedest crook out o Sing Sing, crew's a lot o bohunks, the ole tub aint worth the salvage of her. . . . What was your last job?"

"Night clerk in a hotel."

"Listen to that cookey . . . Jesus Kerist Amighty look at a guy who'll give up a good job clerkin in a swell hotel in Noo York City to sign on as messboy on Davy Jones' own steam yacht. . . . A fine seacook you're goin to make." The younger man is flushing. "How about that Hamburgher?" he shouts at the counterman.

After they have eaten, while they are finishing their coffee, he turns to his friend and asks in a low voice, "Say Rooney was you ever overseas . . . in the war?"

"I made Saint Nazaire a couple o times. Why?"

"I dunno. . . . It kinder gave me the itch. . . . I was two years in it. Things aint been the same. I used to think all I wanted was to get a good job an marry an settle down, an now I dont give a damn. . . . I can keep a job for six months or so an then I get the almighty itch, see? So I thought I ought to see the orient a bit. . . ."

"Never you mind," says Rooney shaking his head. "You're goin to see it, dont you worry about that."

"What's the damage?" the young man asks the counterman.

"They must a caught you young."

"I was sixteen when I enlisted." He picks up his change and follows Rooney's broad shambling back into the street. At the end of the street, beyond trucks and the roofs of warehouses, he can see masts and the smoke of steamers and white steam rising into the sunlight.

"Pull down the shade," comes the man's voice from the bed.

"I cant, it's busted. . . . Oh hell, here's the whole business down." Anna almost bursts out crying when the roll hits her in the face, "You fix it," she says going towards the bed.

"What do I care, they cant see in," says the man catching hold of her laughing.

"It's just those lights," she moans, wearily letting herself go limp in his arms.

It is a small room the shape of a shoebox with an iron bed in the corner of the wall opposite the window. A roar of streets rises to it rattling up a V shaped recess in the building. On the ceiling she can see the changing glow of electric signs along Broadway, white, red, green, then a jumble like a bubble bursting, and again white, red, green.

"Oh Dick I wish you'd fix that shade, those lights give me the willies."

"The lights are all right Anna, it's like bein in a theater. . . . It's the Gay White Way, like they used to say."

"That stuff's all right for you out of town fellers, but it gives me the willies."

"So you're workin for Madame Soubrine now are you Anna?"

"You mean I'm scabbin. . . . I know it. The old woman trew me out an it was get a job or croak. . . ."

"A nice girl like you Anna could always find a boyfriend."

"God you buyers are a dirty lot. . . . You think that because I'll go with you, I'd go wid anybody. . . . Well I wouldnt, do you get that?"

"I didnt mean that Anna. . . . Gee you're awful quick tonight."

"I guess it's my nerves. . . . This strike an the old woman trowin me out an scabbin up at Soubrine's . . . it'd get anybody's goat. They can all go to hell for all I care. Why wont they leave you alone? I never did nothin to hurt anybody in my life. All I want is for em to leave me alone an let me get my pay an have a good time now and then. . . . God Dick it's terrible. . . . I dont dare go out on the street for fear of meetin some of the girls of my old local."

"Hell Anna, things aint so bad, honest I'd take you West with me if it wasnt for my wife."

Anna's voice goes on in an even whimper, "An now 'cause I take a shine to you and want to give you a good time you call me a goddam whore."

"I didnt say no such thing. I didnt even think it. All I thought was that you was a dead game sport and not a kewpie above the ears like most of 'em. . . . Look if it'll make ye feel better I'll try an fix that shade."

Lying on her side she watches his heavy body move against the milky light of the window. At last his teeth chattering he comes back to her. "I cant fix the goddam thing. . . . Kerist it's cold."

"Never mind Dick, come on to bed. . . . It must be late.' I got to be up there at eight."

He pulls his watch from under the pillow. "It's half after two. . . . Hello kitten."

On the ceiling she can see reflected the changing glare of the electric signs, white, red, green, then a jumble like a bubble bursting, then again white, green, red.

"An he didn't even invite me to the wedding. . . . Honestly Florence I could have forgiven him if he'd invited me to the wedding," she said to the colored maid when she brought in the coffee. It was a Sunday morning. She was sitting up in bed with the papers spread over her lap. She was looking at a photograph in a rotogravure section labeled Mr. and Mrs. Jack Cunningham Hop Off for the First Lap of Their Honeymoon on his Sensational Seaplane Albatross VII. "He looks handsome dont he?"

"He su' is miss. . . . But wasn't there anything you could do to stop 'em, miss?"

"Not a thing. . . . You see he said he'd have me committed to an asylum if I tried. . . . He knows perfectly well a Yucatan divorce isn't legal."

Florence sighed.

"Menfolks su' do dirt to us poor girls."

"Oh this wont last long. You can see by her face she's a nasty selfish spoiled little girl. . . . And I'm his real wife before God and man. Lord knows I tried to warn her. Whom God has joined let no man put asunder . . . that's in the Bible isnt it? . . . Florence this coffee is simply terrible this morning. I cant drink it. You go right out and make me some fresh."

Frowning and hunching her shoulders Florence went out the door with the tray.

Mrs. Cunningham heaved a deep sigh and settled herself among the pillows. Outside churchbells were ringing. "Oh Jack you darling I love you just the same," she said to the picture. Then she kissed it. "Listen, deary the churchbells sounded like that the day we ran away from the High School Prom and got married in Milwaukee. . . . It was a lovely Sunday morning." Then she stared in the face of the second Mrs. Cunningham. "Oh you," she said and poked her finger through it.

When she got to her feet she found that the courtroom was very slowly sickeningly going round and round; the white fishfaced judge with noseglasses, faces, cops, uniformed attendants, gray windows, yellow desks, all going round and round in the sickening close smell, her lawyer with his white hawk nose, wiping his bald head, frowning, going round and round until she thought she would throw up. She couldn't hear a word that was said, she kept blinking to get the blur out of her ears. She could feel Dutch behind her hunched up with his head in his hands. She didnt dare look back. Then after hours everything was sharp and clear, very far away. The judge was shouting at her, from the small end of a funnel his colorless lips moving in and out like the mouth of a fish.

". . . And now as a man and a citizen of this great city I want to say a few words to the defendants. Briefly this sort of thing has got to stop. The unalienable rights of human life and property the great men who founded this republic laid down in the constitootion have got to be reinstated. It is the dooty of every man in office and out of office to combat this wave of lawlessness by every means in his power. Therefore in spite of what those sentimental newspaper writers who corrupt the public mind and put into the head of weaklings and misfits of your sort the idea that you can buck the law of God and man, and private property, that you can wrench by force from peaceful citizens what they have earned by hard work and brains . . . and get away with it; in spite of what these journalistic hacks and quacks would call extentuating circumstances I am going to impose on you two highwaymen the maximum severity of the law. It is high time an example was made. . . ."

The judge took a drink of water. Francie could see the little beads of sweat standing out from the pores of his nose.

"It is high time an example was made," the judge shouted. "Not that I dont feel as a tender and loving father the misfortunes, the lack of education and ideels, the lack of a loving home and tender care of a mother that has led this young woman into a life of immorality and misery, led away by the temptations of cruel and voracious men and the excitement and wickedness of what has been too well named, the jazz age. Yet at the moment when these thoughts are about to temper with mercy the stern anger of the law, the importunate recollection rises of other young girls, perhaps hundreds of them at this moment in this great city about to fall into the clutches of a brutal and unscrupulous tempter like this man Robertson . . . for him and his ilk there is no punishment sufficiently severe . . . and I remember that mercy misplaced is often cruelty in the long run. All we can do is shed a tear for erring womanhood and breathe a prayer for the innocent babe that this unfortunate girl has brought into the world as the fruit of her shame. . . ."

Francie felt a cold tingling that began at her fingertips and ran up her arms into the blurred whirling nausea of her body. "Twenty years," she could hear the whisper round the court, they all seemed licking their lips whispering softly "Twenty years." "I guess I'm going to faint," she said to herself as if to a friend. Everything went crashing black.

Propped with five pillows in the middle of his wide colonial mahogany bed with pineapples on the posts Phineas P. Blackhead his face purple as his silk dressing gown sat up and cursed. The big mahogany-finished bedroom hung with Javanese print cloth instead of wallpaper was empty except for a Hindu servant in a white jacket and turban who stood at the foot of the bed, with his hands at his sides, now and then bowing his head at a louder gust of cursing and saying "Yes, Sahib, yes, Sahib."

"By the living almighty Jingo you goddam yellow Babu bring me that whiskey, or I'll get up and break every bone in your body, do you hear, Jesus God cant I be obeyed in my own house? When I say whiskey I mean rye not orange juice. Damnation. Here take it!" He picked up a cutglass pitcher off the nighttable and slung it at the Hindu. Then he sank back on the pillows, saliva bubbling on his lips, choking for breath.

Silently the Hindu mopped up the thick Beluchistan rug and slunk out of the room with a pile of broken glass in his hand. Blackhead was breathing more easily, his eyes sank into their deep sockets and were lost in the folds of sagged green lids.

He seemed asleep when Gladys came in wearing a raincoat with a wet umbrella in her hand. She tiptoed to the window and stood looking out at the gray rainy street and the old tomblike brownstone houses opposite. For a splinter of a second she was a little girl come in her nightgown to have Sunday morning breakfast with daddy in his big bed.

He woke up with a start, looked about him with bloodshot eyes, the heavy muscles of his jowl tightening under the ghastly purplish skin.

"Well Gladys where's that rye whiskey I ordered?"

"Oh daddy you know what Dr. Thorn said."

"He said it'd kill me if I took another drink. . . . Well I'm not dead yet am I? He's a damned ass."

"Oh but you must take care of yourself and not get all excited." She kissed him and put a cool slim hand on his forehead.

"Havent I got reason to get excited? If I had my hands on that dirty lilylivered bastard's neck. . . . We'd have pulled through if he hadnt lost his nerve. Serve me right for taking such a yellow sop into partnership. . . . Twentyfive, thirty years of work all gone to hell in ten minutes. . . . For twentyfive years my word's been as good as a banknote. Best thing for me to do's to follow the firm to Tophet, to hell with me. And by the living Jingo you, my own flesh, tell me not to drink. . . . God almighty. Hay Bob . . . Bob. . . . Where's that goddam officeboy gone? Hay come here one of you sons of bitches, what do you think I pay you for?"

A nurse put her head in the door.

"Get out of here," shouted Blackhead, "none of your starched virgins around me." He threw the pillow from under his head. The nurse disappeared. The pillow hit one of the posts and bounced back on the bed. Gladys began to cry.

"Oh daddy I cant stand it . . . and everybody always respected you so. . . . Do try to control yourself, daddy dear."

"And why should I for Christ's sake . . .? Show's over, why dont you laugh? Curtain's down. It's all a joke, a smutty joke."

He began to laugh deliriously, then he was choking, fighting for breath with clenched fists again. At length he said in a broken voice, "Don't you see that it's only the whiskey that was keeping me going? Go away and leave me Gladys and send that damned Hindu to me. I've always liked you better than anything in the world. . . . You know that. Quick tell him to bring me what I ordered."

Gladys went out crying. Outside her husband was pacing up and down the hall. "It's those damned reporters . . . I dont know what to tell 'em. They say the creditors want to prosecute."

"Mrs. Gaston," interrupted the nurse, "I'm afraid you'll have to get male nurses. . . . Really I cant do anything with him. . . ." On the lower floor a telephone was ringing, ringing.

When the Hindu brought the bottle of whiskey Blackhead filled a highball glass and took a deep gulp of it.

"Ah that makes you feel better, by the living Jingo it does. Achmet you're a good fellow. . . . Well I guess we'll have to face the music and sell out. . . . Thank God Gladys is settled. I'll sell out every goddam thing I've got. I wish that precious son-in-law wasnt such a simp. Always my luck to be surrounded by a lot of capons. . . . By gad I'd just as soon go to jail if it'll do em any good; why not? it's all in a lifetime. And afterwards when I come out I'll get a job as a bargeman or watchman on a wharf. I'd like that. Why not take it easy after tearing things up all my life, eh Achmet?"

"Yes Sahib," said the Hindu with a bow.

Blackhead mimicked him, "Yes Sahib. . . . You always say yes, Achmet, isn't that funny?" He began to laugh with a choked rattling laugh. "I guess that's the easiest way." He laughed and laughed, then suddenly he couldnt laugh any more. A perking spasm went through all his limbs. He twisted his mouth in an effort to speak. For a second his eyes looked about the room, the eyes of a little child that has been hurt before it begins to cry, until he fell back limp, his open mouth biting at his shoulder. Achmet looked at him coolly for a long time then he went up to him and spat in his face. Immediately he took a handkerchief out of the pocket of his linen jacket and wiped the spittle off the taut ivory skin. Then he closed the mouth and propped the body among the pillows and walked softly out of the room. In the hall Gladys sat in a big chair reading a magazine. "Sahib much better, he sleep a little bit maybe."

"Oh Achmet I'm so glad," she said and looked back to her magazine.

Ellen got off the bus at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fiftythird Street. Rosy twilight was gushing out of the brilliant west, glittered in brass and nickel, on buttons, in people's eyes. All the windows on the east side of the avenue were aflame. As she stood with set teeth on the curb waiting to cross, a frail tendril of fragrance brushed her face. A skinny lad with towhair stringy under a foreignlooking cap was offering her arbutus in a basket. She bought a bunch and pressed her nose in it. May woods melted like sugar against her palate.

The whistle blew, gears ground as cars started to pour out of the side streets, the crossing thronged with people. Ellen felt the lad brush against her as he crossed at her side. She shrank away. Through the smell of the arbutus she caught for a second the unwashed smell of his body, the smell of immigrants, of Ellis Island, of crowded tenements. Under all the nickelplated, goldplated streets enameled with May, uneasily she could feel the huddling smell, spreading in dark slow crouching masses like corruption oozing from broken sewers, like a mob. She walked briskly down the cross-street. She went in a door beside a small immaculately polished brass plate.

Madame Soubrine

She forgot everything in the catlike smile of Madame Soubrine herself, a stout blackhaired perhaps Russian woman who came out to her from behind a curtain with outstretched arms, while other customers waiting on sofas in a sort of Empress Josephine parlor, looked on enviously.

"My dear Mrs. Herf, where have you been? We've had your dress for a week," she exclaimed in too perfect English. "Ah my dear, you wait . . . it's magnificent. . . . And how is Mr. Harrpiscourt?"

"I've been very busy. . . . You see I'm giving up my job."

Madame Soubrine nodded and blinked knowingly and led the way through the tapestry curtains into the back of the shop.

"Ah ça se voit. . . . II ne faut pas trravailler, on peut voir dejà des toutes petites rrides. Mais ils dispareaitront. Forgive me, dear." The thick arm round her waist squeezed her. Ellen edged off a little. . . . "Vous la femme la plus belle de New Yorrk. . . . Angelica Mrs. Herf's evening dress," she shouted in a shrill grating voice like a guineahen's.

A hollowcheeked washedout blond girl came in with the dress on a hanger. Ellen slipped off her gray tailored walkingsuit. Madame Soubrine circled round her, purring.

"Angelica look at those shoulders, the color of the hair. . . . Ah c'est le rêve," edging a little too near like a cat that wants its back rubbed. The dress was pale green with a slash of scarlet and dark blue.

"This is the last time I have a dress like this, I'm sick of always wearing blue and green. . . ." Madame Soubrine, her mouth full of pins, was at her feet, fussing with the hem.

"Perfect Greek simplicity, wellgirdled like Diana. . . . Spiritual with Spring . . . the ultimate restraint of an Annette Kellermann, holding up the lamp of liberty, the wise virgin," she was muttering through her pins.

She's right, Ellen was thinking, I am getting a hard look. She was looking at herself in the tall pierglass. Then my figure'll go, the menopause haunting beauty parlors, packed in boncilla, having your face raised.

"Regardez-moi ça, cherrie;" said the dressmaker getting to her feet and taking the pins out of her mouth "C'est le chef-dœuvre de la maison Soubrine."

Ellen suddenly felt hot, tangled in some prickly web, a horrible stuffiness of dyed silks and crêpes and muslins was making her head ache; she was anxious to be out on the street again.

"I smell smoke, there's something the matter," the blond girl suddenly cried out. "Sh-sh-sh," hissed Madame Soubrine. They both disappeared through a mirrorcovered door. Under a skylight in the back room of Soubrine's Anna Cohen sits sewing the trimming on a dress with swift tiny stitches. On the table in front of her a great pile of tulle rises full of light like beaten white of egg. Charley my boy. Oh CImrley my boy, she hums, stitching the future with swift tiny stitches. If Elmer wants to marry me we might as well; poor Elmer, he's a nice boy but so dreamy. Funny he'd fall for a girl like me. He'll grow out of it, or maybe in the Revolution, he'll be a great man. . . . Have to cut out parties when I'm Elmer's wife. But maybe we can save up money and open a little store on Avenue A in a good location, make better money there than uptown. La Parisienne, Modes.

I bet I could do as good as that old bitch. If you was your own boss there wouldn't be this fightin about strikers and scabs. . . . Equal Opportunity for All. Elmer says that's all applesauce. No hope for the workers but in the Revolution. Oh I'm juss wild about Harree, And Harry's juss wild about me. . . . Elmer in a telephone central in a dinnercoat, with eartabs, tall as Valentino, strong as Doug. The Revolution is declared. The Red Guard is marching up Fifth Avenue. Anna in golden curls with a little kitten under her arm leans with him out of the tallest window. White tumbler pigeons flutter against the city below them. Fifth Avenue bleeding red flags, glittering with marching bands, hoarse voices singing Die Rote Fahne in Yiddish; far away, from the Woolworth a banner shakes into the wind. 'Look Elmer darhng' elmer duskin for mayor. And they're dancing the Charleston in all the officebuildings. . . . Thump. Thump. That Charleston dance. . . . Thump. Thump. . . . Perhaps I do love him. Elmer take me. Elmer, loving as Valentino, crushing me to him with Dougstrong arms, hot as flame, Elmer.

Through the dream she is stitching white fingers beckon. The white tulle shines too bright. Red hands clutch suddenly out of the tulle, she cant fight off the red tulle all round her biting into her, coiled about her head. The skylight's blackened with swirling smoke. The room's full of smoke and screaming. Anna is on her feet whirling round fighting with her hands the burning tulle all round her.

Ellen stands looking at herself in the pierglass in the fitting room. The smell of singed fabrics gets stronger. After walking to and fro nervously a little while she goes through the glass door, down a passage hung with dresses, ducks under a cloud of smoke, and sees through streaming eyes the big workroom, screaming girls huddling behind Madame Soubrine, who is pointing a chemical extinguisher at charred piles of goods about a table. They are picking something moaning out of the charred goods. Out of the corner of her eye she sees an arm in shreds, a seared black red face, a horrible naked head.

"Oh Mrs. Herf, please tell them in front it's nothing, absolutely nothing. . . . I'll be there at once," Madame Soubrine shrieks breathlessly at her. Ellen runs with closed eyes through the smokefilled corridor into the clean air of the fitting room, then, when her eyes have stopped running, she goes through the curtains to the agitated women in the waiting room.

"Madame Soubrine asked me to tell everybody it was nothing, absolutely nothing. Just a little blaze in a pile of rubbish. . . . She put it out herself with an extinguisher."

"Nothing, absolutely nothing," the women say one to another settling back onto the Empress Josephine sofas.

Ellen goes out to the street. The fireengines are arriving. Policemen are beating back the crowds. She wants to go away but she cant, she's waiting for something. At last she hears it tinkling down the street. As the fireengines go clanging away, the ambulance drives up. Attendants carry in the folded stretcher. Ellen can hardly breathe. She stands beside the ambulance behind a broad blue policeman. She tries to puzzle out why she is so moved; it is as if some part of her were going to be wrapped in bandages, carried away on a stretcher. Too soon it comes out, between the routine faces, the dark uniforms of the attendants.

"Was she terribly burned?" somehow she manages to ask under the policeman's arm.

"She wont die . . . but it's tough on a girl." Ellen elbows her way through the crowd and hurries towards Fifth Avenue. It's almost dark. Lights swim brightly in night clear blue like the deep sea.

Why should I be so excited? she keeps asking herself. Just somebody's bad luck, the sort of thing that happens every day. The moaning turmoil and the clanging of the fireengines wont seem to fade away inside her. She stands irresolutely on a corner while cars, faces, flicker clatteringly past her. A young man in a new straw hat is looking at her out of the corners of his eyes, trying to pick her up. She stares him blankly in the face. He has on a red, green, and blue striped necktie. She walks past him fast, crosses to the other side of the avenue, and turns uptown. Seven thirty. She's got to meet some one somewhere, she cant think where. There's a horrible tired blankness inside her. O dear what shall I do? she whimpers to herself. At the next corner she hails a taxi. "Go to the Algonquin please."

She remembers it all now, at eight o'clock she's going to have dinner with Judge Shammeyer and his wife. Ought to have gone home to dress. George'll be mad when he sees me come breezing in like this. Likes to show me off all dressed up like a Christmas tree, like an Effenbee walking talking doll, damn him.

She sits back in the corner of the taxi with her eyes closed. Relax, she must let herself relax more. Ridiculous to go round always keyed up so that everything is like chalk shrieking on a blackboard. Suppose I'd been horribly burned, like that girl, disfigured for life. Probably she can get a lot of money out of old Soubrine, the beginning of a career. Suppose I'd gone with that young man with the ugly necktie who tried to pick me up. . . . Kidding over a banana split in a soda fountain, riding uptown and then down again on the bus, with his knee pressing my knee and his arm round my waist, a little heavy petting in a doorway. . . . There are lives to be lived if only you didn't care. Care for what, for what; the opinion of mankind, money, success, hotel lobbies, health, umbrellas, Uneeda biscuits . . .? It's like a busted mechanical toy the way my mind goes brrr all the time. I hope they havent ordered dinner. I'll make them go somewhere else if they havent. She opens her vanity case and begins to powder her nose.

When the taxi stops and the tall doorman opens the door, she steps out with dancing pointed girlish steps, pays, and turns, her cheeks a little flushed, her eyes sparkling with the glinting seablue night of deep streets, into the revolving doors.

As she goes through the shining soundless revolving doors, that spin before her gloved hand touches the glass, there shoots through her a sudden pang of something forgotten. Gloves, purse, vanity case, handkerchief, I have them all. Didn't have an umbrella. What did I forget in the taxicab? But already she is advancing smiling towards two gray men in black with white shirtfronts getting to their feet, smiling, holding out their hands.

Bob Hildebrand in dressing gown and pyjamas walked up and down in front of the long windows smoking a pipe. Through the sliding doors into the front came a sound of glasses tinkling and shuffling feet and laughing and Running Wild grating hazily out of a blunt needle on the phonograph.

"Why dont you park here for the night?" Hildebrand was saying in his deep serious voice, "Those people'll fade out gradually. . . . We can put you up on the couch."

"No thanks," said Jimmy. "They'll start talking psychoanalysis in a minute and they'll be here till dawn."

"But you'd much better take a morning train."

"I'm not going to take any kind of a train."

"Say Herf did you read about the man in Philadelphia who was killed because he wore his straw hat on the fourteenth of May?"

"By God if I was starting a new religion he'd be made a saint."

"Didnt you read about it? It was funny as a crutch. . . . This man had the temerity to defend his straw hat. Somebody had busted it and he started to fight, and in the middle of it one of these streetcorner heroes came up behind him and brained him with a piece of lead pipe. They picked him up with a cracked skull and he died in the hospital."

"Bob what was his name?"

"I didnt notice."

"Talk about the Unknown Soldier. . . . That's a real hero for you; the golden legend of the man who would wear a straw hat out of season."

A head was stuck between the double doors. A flushfaced man with his hair over his eyes looked in. "Cant I bring you fellers a shot of gin. . . . Whose funeral is being celebrated anyway?"

"I'm going to bed, no gin for me," said Hildebrand grouchily.

"It's the funeral of Saint Aloysius of Philadelphia, virgin and martyr, the man who would wear a straw hat out of season," said Herf. "I might sniff a little gin. I've got to run in a minute. . . . So long Bob."

"So long you mysterious traveler. . . . Let us have your address, do you hear?"

The long front room was full of ginbottles, gingerale bottles, ashtrays crowded with halfsmoked cigarettes, couples dancing, people sprawled on sofas. Endlessly the phonograph played Lady . . . lady be good. A glass of gin was pushed into Herf's hand. A girl came up to him.

"We've been talking about you. . . . Did you know you were a man of mystery?"

"Jimmy," came a shrill drunken voice, "you're suspected of being the bobhaired bandit."

"Why dont you take up a career of crime, Jimmy?" said the girl putting her arm round his waist. "I'll come to your trial, honest I will."

"How do you know I'm not?"

"You see," said Frances Hildebrand, who was bringing a bowl of cracked ice in from the kitchenette, "there is something mysterious going on."

Herf took the hand of the girl beside him and made her dance with him. She kept stumbling over his feet. He danced her round until he was opposite to the halldoor; he opened the door and foxtrotted her out into the hall. Mechanically she put up her mouth to be kissed. He kissed her quickly and reached for his hat. "Good night," he said. The girl started to cry.

Out in the street he took a deep breath. He felt happy, much more happy than Greenwich Village kisses. He was reaching for his watch when he remembered he had pawned it.

The golden legend of the man who would wear a straw hat out of season. Jimmy Herf is walking west along Twenty-third Street, laughing to himself. Give me liberty, said Patrick Henry, putting on his straw hat on the first of May, or give me death. And he got it. There are no trollycars, occasionally a milkwagon clatters by, the heartbroken brick houses of Chelsea are dark. . . . A taxi passes trailing a confused noise of singing. At the corner of Ninth Avenue he notices two eyes like holes in a trianglewhite of paper, a woman in a raincoat beckons to him from a doorway. Further on two English sailors are arguing in drunken cockney. The air becomes milky with fog as he nears the river. He can hear the great soft distant lowing of steamboats.

He sits a long time waiting for a ferry in the seedy ruddylighted waiting room. He sits smoking happily. He cant seem to remember anything, there is no future but the foggy river and the ferry looming big with its lights in a row like a darky's smile. He stands with his hat off at the rail and feels the riverwind in his hair. Perhaps he's gone crazy, perhaps this is amnesia, some disease with a long Greek name, perhaps they'll find him picking dewberries in the Hoboken Tube. He laughs aloud so that the old man who came to open the gates gave him a sudden sidelong look. Cookoo, bats in the belfry, that's what he's saying to himself. Maybe he's right. By gum if I were a painter, maybe they'll let me paint in the nuthouse, I'd do Saint Aloysius of Philadelphia with a straw hat on his head instead of a halo and in his hand the lead pipe, instrument of his martyrdom, and a little me praying at his feet. The only passenger on the ferry, he roams round as if he owned it. My temporary yacht. By Jove these are the doldrums of the night all right, he mutters. He keeps trying to explain his gayety to himself. It's not that I'm drunk. I may be crazy, but I dont think so. . . .

Before the ferry leaves a horse and wagon comes aboard, a brokendown springwagon loaded with flowers, driven by a little brown man with high cheekbones. Jimmy Herf walks round it; behind the drooping horse with haunches like a hatrack the little warped wagon is unexpectedly merry, stacked with pots of scarlet and pink geraniums, carnations, alyssum, forced roses, blue lobelia. A rich smell of maytime earth comes from it, of wet flowerpots and greenhouses. The driver sits hunched with his hat over his eyes. Jimmy has an impulse to ask him where he is going with all those flowers, but he stifles it and walks to the front of the ferry.

Out of the empty dark fog of the river, the ferryslip yawns all of a sudden, a black mouth with a throat of light. Herf hurries through cavernous gloom and out to a fog-blurred street. Then he is walking up an incline. There are tracks below him and the slow clatter of a freight, the hiss of an engine. At the top of a hill he stops to look back. He can see nothing but fog spaced with a file of blurred arclights. Then he walks on, taking pleasure in breathing, in the beat of his blood, in the tread of his feet on the pavement, between rows of otherworldly frame houses. Gradually the fog thins, a morning pearliness is seeping in from somewhere.

Sunrise finds him walking along a cement road between dumping grounds full of smoking rubbishpiles. The sun shines redly through the mist on rusty donkeyengines, skeleton trucks, wishbones of Fords, shapeless masses of corroding metal. Jimmy walks fast to get out of the smell. He is hungry; his shoes are beginning to raise blisters on his big toes. At a cross-road where the warning light still winks and winks, is a gasoline station, opposite it the Lightning Bug lunchwagon. Carefully he spends his last quarter on breakfast. That leaves him three cents for good luck, or bad for that matter. A huge furniture truck, shiny and yellow, has drawn up outside.

"Say will you give me a lift?" he asks the redhaired man at the wheel.

"How fur ye goin?"

"I dunno. . . . Pretty far."

the end