Manhattan Transfer/Chapter 7

Manhattan Transfer by John Roderigo Dos Passos
II: Longlegged Jack of the Isthmus

II. Longlegged Jack of the Isthmus

Noon on Union Square. Selling out. Must vacate. WE HAVE MADE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE. Kneeling on the dusty asphalt little boys shine shoes lowshoes tans buttonshoes oxfords. The sun shines like a dandelion on the toe of each new-shined shoe. Right this way buddy, mister miss maam at the back of the store our new line of fancy tweeds highest value lowest price . . . Gents, misses, ladies, cutrate . . . WE HAVE MADE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE. Must vacate.

Noon sunlight spirals dimly into the chopsuey joint. Muted music spirals Hindustan. He eats fooyong, she eats chowmein. They dance with their mouths full, slim blue jumper squeezed to black slick suit, peroxide curls against black slick hair.

Down Fourteenth Street, Glory Glory comes the Army, striding lasses. Glory Glory four abreast, the rotund shining, navy blue. Salvation Army band.

Highest value, lowest price. Must vacate. WE HAVE MADE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE. Must vacate.

From Liverpool, British steamer Raleigh, Captain Kettlewell; 933 bales, 881 boxes, 10 baskets, 8 packages fabrics: 57 boxes, 89 bales, 18 baskets cotton thread: 156 bales felt: 4 bales asbestos: 100 sacks spools. . . .

JOE HARLAND stopped typing and looked up at the ceiling. The tips of his fingers were sore. The office smelled stalely of paste and manifests and men in shirt-sleeves. Through the open window he could see a piece of the dun wall of an airshaft and a man with a green eyeshade staring vacantly out of a window. The towheaded officeboy set a note on the corner of his desk: Mr. Pollock will see you at 5:10. A hard lump caught in his throat; he's going to fire me. His fingers started tapping again:

From Glasgow, Dutch steamer Delft, Captain Tromp; 200 bales, 123 boxes, 14 kegs. . . .

Joe Harland roamed about the Battery till he found an empty seat on a bench, then he let himself flop into it. The sun was drowning in tumultuous saffron steam behind Jersey. Well that's over. He sat a long while staring at the sunset like at a picture in a dentist's waiting room. Great whorls of smoke from a passing tug curled up black and scarlet against it. He sat staring at the sunset, waiting. That's eighteen dollars and fifty cents I had before, less six dollars for the room, one dollar and eighty-four cents for laundry, and four dollars and fifty cents I owe Charley, makes seven dollars and eighty-four cents, eleven dollars and eighty four cents, twelve dollars and thirty-four cents from eighteen dollars and fifty cents leaves me six dollars and sixteen cents, three days to find another job if I go without drinks. O God wont my luck ever turn; used to have good enough luck in the old days. His knees were trembling, there was a sick burning in the pit of his stomach.

A fine mess you've made of your life Joseph Harland. Forty-five and no friends and not a cent to bless yourself with.

The sail of a catboat was a crimson triangle when it luffed a few feet from the concrete walk. A young man and a young girl ducked together as the slender boom swung across. They both were bronzed with the sun and had yellow weather bleached hair. Joe Harland gnawed his lip to keep back the tears as the catboat shrank into the ruddy murk of the bay. By God I need a drink.

"Aint it a croime? Aint it a croime?" The man in the seat to the left of him began to say over and over again. Joe Harland turned his head; the man had a red puckered face and silver hair. He held the dramatic section of the paper taut between two grimy flippers. "Them young actresses all dressed naked like that. . . . Why cant they let you alone." "Dont you like to see their pictures in the papers?"

"Why cant they let you alone I say. . . . If you aint got no work and you aint got no money, what's the good of em I say?"

"Well lots of people like to see their pictures in the paper. Used to myself in the old days."

"Used to be work in the old days. . . . You aint got no job now?" he growled savagely. Joe Harland shook his head.

"Well what the hell? They ought to leave you alone oughtn't they? Wont be no jobs till snow shoveling begins."

"What'll you do till then?"

The old man didnt answer. He bent over the paper again screwing up his eyes and muttering. "All dressed naked, it's a croime I'm teliin yez."

Joe Harland got to his feet and walked away.

It was almost dark; his knees were stiff from sitting still so long. As he walked wearily he could feel his potbelly cramped by his tight belt. Poor old warhorse you need a couple of drinks to think about things. A mottled beery smell came out through swinging doors. Inside the barkeep's face was like a russet apple on a snug mahogany shelf.

"Gimme a shot of rye." The whiskey stung his throat hot and fragrant. Makes a man of me that does. Without drinking the chaser he walked over to the free lunch and ate a ham sandwich and an olive. "Let's have another rye Charley. That's the stuff to make a man of you. I been laying off it too much, that's what's the matter with me. You wouldnt think it to look at me now, would you friend, but they used to call me the Wizard of Wall Street which is only another illustration of the peculiar predominance of luck in human affairs. . . . Yes sir with pleasure. Well, here's health and long life and to hell with the jinx. . . . Hah makes a man of you . . . Well I suppose there's not one of you gentlemen here who hasnt at some time or other taken a plunger, and how many of you hasnt come back sadder and wiser. Another illustration of the peculiar predominance of luck in human affairs. But not so with me; gentlemen for ten years I played the market, for ten years I didn't have a ticker ribbon out of my hand day or night, and in ten years I only took a cropper three times, till the last time. Gentlemen I'm going to tell you a secret. I'm going to tell you a very important secret. . . . Charley give these very good friends of mine another round, my treat, and have a nip yourself. . . . My, that tickles her in the right place. . . . Gentlemen just another illustration of the peculiar predominance of luck in human affairs. Gentlemen the secret of my luck . . . this is exact I assure you; you can verify it yourselves in newspaper articles, magazines, speeches, lectures delivered in those days; a man, and a dirty blackguard he turned out to be eventually, even wrote a detective story about me called the Secret of Success, which you can find in the New York Public Library if you care to look the matter up. . . . The secret of my success was . . . and when you hear it you'll laugh among yourselves and say Joe Harland's drunk, Joe Harland's an old fool. . . . Yes you will. . . . For ten years I'm telling you I traded on margins, I bought outright, I covered on stocks I'd never even heard the name of and every time I cleaned up. I piled up money. I had four banks in the palm of my hand. I began eating my way into sugar and gutta percha, but in that I was before my time. . . . But you're getting nervous to know my secret, you think you could use it. . . . Well you couldnt. . . . It was a blue silk crocheted necktie that my mother made for me when I was a little boy. . . . Dont you laugh, God damn you. . . . No I'm not starting anything. Just another illustration of the peculiar predominance of luck. The day I chipped in with another fellow to spread a thousand dollars over some Louisville and Nashville on margin I wore that necktie. Soared twentyfive points in twentyfive minutes. That was the beginning. Then gradually I began to notice that the times I didnt wear that necktie were the times I lost money. It got so old and ragged I tried carrying it in my pocket. Didnt do any good. I had to wear it, do you understand? . . . The rest is the old old story gentlemen. . . . There was a girl, God damn her and I loved her. I wanted to show her that there was nothing in the world I wouldnt do for her so I gave it to her. I pretended it was a joke and laughed it off, ha ha ha. She said, Why it's no good, it's all worn out, and she threw it in the fire. . . . Only another illustration. . . . Friend you wouldn't set me up to another drink would you? I find myself unexpectedly out of funds this afternoon. . . . I thank you sir. . . . Ah that puts ginger in you again."

In the crammed subway car the messenger boy was pressed up against the back of a tall blond woman who smelled of Mary Garden. Elbows, packages, shoulders, buttocks, jiggled closer with every lurch of the screeching express. His sweaty Western Union cap was knocked onto the side of his head. If I could have a dame like dat, a dame like dat'd be wort havin de train stalled, de lights go out, de train wrecked. I could have her if I had de noive an de jack. As the train slowed up she fell against him, he closed his eyes, didnt breathe, his nose was mashed against her neck. The train stopped. He was carried in a rush of people out the door.

Dizzy he staggered up into the air and the blinking blocks of lights. Upper Broadway was full of people. Sailors lounged in twos and threes at the corner of Ninetysixth. He ate a ham and a leberwurst sandwich in a delicatessen store. The woman behind the counter had buttercolored hair like the girl in the subway but she was fatter and older. Still chewing the crust of the last sandwich he went up in the elevator to the Japanese Garden. He sat thinking a while with the flicker of the screen in his eyes. Jeze dey'll tink it funny to see a messengerboy up here in dis suit. I better get de hell outa here. I'll go deliver my telegrams.

He tightened his belt as he walked down the stairs. Then he slouched up Broadway to 105th Street and east towards Columbus Avenue, noting doors, fire escapes, windows, cornices, carefully as he went. Dis is de joint. The only lights were on the second floor. He rang the second floor bell. The doorcatch clicked. He ran up the stairs. A woman with weedy hair and a face red from leaning over the stove poked her head out.

"Telegram for Santiono."

"No such name here."

"Sorry maam I musta rung de wrong bell."

Door slammed in his nose. His sallow sagging face tightened up all of a sudden. He ran lightly on tiptoe up the stairs to the top landing then up the little ladder to a trap-door. The bolt ground as he slid it back. He caught in his breath. Once on the cindergritty roof he let the trapdoor back softly into place. Chimneys stood up in alert ranks all about him, black against the glare from the streets. Crouching he stepped gingerly to the rear edge of the house, let himself down from the gutter to the fire escape. His foot grazed a flowerpot as he landed. Everything dark. Crawled through a window into a stuffy womansmelling room, slid a hand under the pillow of an unmade bed, along a bureau, spilled some facepowder, in tiny jerks pulled open the drawer, a watch, ran a pin into his finger, a brooch, something that crinkled in the back corner; bills, a roll of bills. Getaway, no chances tonight. Down the fire escape to the next floor. No light. Another window open. Takin candy from a baby. Same room, smelling of dogs and incense, some kind of dope. He could see himself faintly, fumbling, in the glass of the bureau, put his hand into a pot of cold cream, wiped it off on his pants. Hell. Something fluffysoft shot with a yell from under his feet. He stood trembling in the middle of the narrow room. The little dog was yapping loud in a corner.

The room swung into light. A girl stood in the open door, pointing a revolver at him. There was a man behind her.

"What are you doing? Why it's a Western Union boy. . . ." The light was a coppery tangle about her hair, picked out her body under the red silk kimono. The young man was wiry and brown in his unbuttoned shirt. "Well what are you doing in that room?"

"Please maam it was hunger brought me to it, hunger an my poor ole muder starvin."

"Isnt that wonderful Stan? He's a burglar." She brandished the revolver. "Come on out in the hall."

"Yes miss anythin you say miss, but dont give me up to de bulls. Tink o de ole muder starvin her heart out."

"All right but if you took anything you must give it back."

"Honest I didn't have a chanct."

Stan flopped into a chair laughing and laughing. "Ellie you take the cake. . . . Wouldnt a thought you could do it."

"Well didnt I play this scene in stock all last summer? . . . Give up your gun."

"No miss I wouldn't carry no gun."

"Well I dont believe you but I guess I'll let you go."

"Gawd bless you miss."

"But you must make some money as a messengerboy."

"I was fired last week miss, it's only hunger made me take to it."

Stan got to his feet. "Let's give him a dollar an tell him to get the hell out of here."

When he was outside the door she held out the dollarbill to him.

"Jez you're white," he said choking. He grabbed the hand with the bill in it and kissed it; leaning over her hand kissing it wetly he caught a glimpse of her body under the arm in the drooping red silk sleeve. As he walked, still trembling, down the stairs, he looked back and saw the man and the girl standing side by side with their arms around each other watching him. His eyes were full of tears. He stuffed the dollarbill into his pocket.

Kid if you keep on bein a softie about women you're goin to find yourself in dat lil summer hotel up de river. . . . Pretty soft though. Whistling under his breath he walked to the L and took an uptown train. Now and then he put his hand over his back pocket to feel the roll of bills. He ran up to the third floor of an apartmenthouse that smelled of fried fish and coal gas, and rang three times at a grimy glass door. After a pause he knocked softly.

"Zat you Moike?" came faintly the whine of a woman's voice.

"No it's Nicky Schatz."

A sharpfaced woman with henna hair opened the door. She had on a fur coat over frilly lace underclothes.

"Howsa boy?"

"Jeze a swell dame caught me when I was tidying up a little job and whatjer tink she done?" He followed the woman, talking excitedly, into a dining room with peeling walls. On the table were used glasses and a bottle of Green River whiskey. "She gave me a dollar an tole me to be a good little boy."

"The hell she did?"

"Here's a watch."

"It's an Ingersoll, I dont call 'at a watch."

"Well set yer lamps on dis." He pulled out the roll of bills. "Aint dat a wad o lettuce? . . . Got in himmel, dey's tousands."

"Lemme see." She grabbed the bills out of his hand, her eyes popping. "Hay ye're cookoo kid." She threw the roll on the floor and wrung her hands with a swaying Jewish gesture. "Oyoy it's stage money. It's stage money ye simple saphead, you goddam . . ."

Giggling they sat side by side on the edge of the bed. Through the stuffy smell of the room full of little silky bits of clothing falling off chairs a fading freshness came from a bunch of yellow roses on the bureau. Their arms tightened round each other's shoulders; suddenly he wrenched himself away and leaned over her to kiss her mouth. "Some burglar," he said breathlessly.

"Stan . . ."

"Ellie."

"I thought it might be Jojo;" she managed to force a whisper through a tight throat. "It'll be just like him to come sneaking around."

"Ellie I don't understand how you can live with him among all these people. You're so lovely. I just dont see you in all this."

"It was easy enough before I met you. . . . And honestly Jojo's all right. He's just a peculiar very unhappy person."

"But you're out of another world old kid. . . . You ought to live on top of the Woolworth Building in an apartment made of cutglass and cherry blossoms."

"Stan your back's brown all the way down."

"That's swimming."

"So soon?"

"I guess most of it's left over from last summer."

"You're the fortunate youth all right. I never learned how to swim properly,"

"I'll teach you. . . . Look next Sunday bright and early we'll hop into Dingo and go down to Long Beach. Way down at the end there's never anybody. . . . You dont even have to wear a bathingsuit."

"I like the way you're so lean and hard Stan. . . . Jojo's white and flabby almost like a woman."

"For crissake don't talk about him now."

Stan stood with his legs apart buttoning his shirt. "Look Ellie let's beat it out an have a drink. . . . God I'd hate to run into somebody now an have to talk lies to 'em. . . . I bet I'd crown 'em with a chair."

"We've got time. Nobody ever comes home here before twelve. . . . I'm just here myself because I've got a sick headache."

"Ellie, d'you like your sick headache?

"I'm crazy about it Stan."

"I guess that Western Union burglar knew that. . . . Gosh. . . . Burglary, adultery, sneaking down fireescapes, cattreading along gutters. Judas it's a great life."

Ellen gripped his hand hard as they came down the stairs stepping together. In front of the letterboxes in the shabby hallway he grabbed her suddenly by the shoulders and pressed her head back and kissed her. Hardly breathing they floated down the street toward Broadway. He had his hand under her arm, she squeezed it tight against her ribs with her elbow. Aloof, as if looking through thick glass into an aquarium, she watched faces, fruit in storewindows, cans of vegetables, jars of olives, redhotpokerplants in a florist's, newspapers, electric signs drifting by. When they passed cross-streets a puff of air came in her face off the river. Sudden jetbright glances of eyes under straw hats, attitudes of chins, thin lips, pouting lips, Cupid's bows, hungry shadow under cheekbones, faces of girls and young men nuzzled fluttering against her like moths as she walked with her stride even to his through the tingling yellow night.

Somewhere they sat down at a table. An orchestra throbbed. "No Stan I cant drink anything. . . . You go ahead."

"But Ellie, arent you feeling swell like I am?"

"Sweller. . . . I just couldnt stand feeling any better. . . . I couldnt keep my mind on a glass long enough to drink it." She winced under the brightness of his eyes.

Stan was bubbling drunk. "I wish earth had thy body as fruit to eat," he kept repeating. Ellen was all the time twisting about bits of rubbery cold Welsh rabbit with her fork. She had started to drop with a lurching drop like a rollercoaster's into shuddering pits of misery. In a square place in the middle of the floor four couples were dancing the tango. She got to her feet.

"Stan I'm going home. I've got to get up early and rehearse all day. Call me up at twelve at the theater."

He nodded and poured himself another highball. She stood behind his chair a second looking down at his long head of close ruffled hair. He was spouting verses softly to himself. "Saw the white implacable Aphrodite, damn fine, Saw the hair unbound and the feet unsandaled, Jiminy. . . . Shine as fire of sunset on western waters. Saw the reluctant . . . goddam fine sapphics,"

Once out on Broadway again she felt very merry. She stood in the middle of the street waiting for the uptown car. An occasional taxi whizzed by her. From the river on the warm wind came the long moan of a steamboat whistle. In the pit inside her thousands of gnomes were building tall brittle glittering towers. The car swooped ringing along the rails, stopped. As she climbed in she remembered swooningly the smell of Stan's body sweating in her arms. She let herself drop into a seat, biting her lips to keep from crying out. God it's terrible to be in love. Opposite two men with chinless bluefish faces were talking hilariously, slapping fat knees.

"I'll tell yer Jim it's Irene Castle that makes the hit wid me. . . . To see her dance the onestep juss makes me hear angels hummin."

"Naw she's too skinny."

"But she's made the biggest hit ever been made on Broadway."

Ellen got off the car and walked east along the desolate empty pavements of 105th Street. A fetor of mattresses and sleep seeped out from the blocks of narrow-windowed houses. Along the gutters garbagecans stank sourly. In the shadow of a doorway a man and girl swayed tightly clamped in each other's arms. Saying good night. Ellen smiled happily. Greatest hit on Broadway. The words were an elevator carrying her up dizzily, up into some stately height where electric light signs crackled scarlet and gold and green, where were bright roofgardens that smelled of orchids, and the slow throb of a tango danced in a goldgreen dress with Stan while handclapping of millions beat in gusts like a hailstorm about them. Greatest hit on Broadway.

She was walking up the scaling white stairs. Before the door marked Sunderland a feeling of sick disgust suddenly choked her. She stood a long time her heart pounding with the key poised before the lock. Then with a jerk she pushed the key in the lock and opened the door.

"Strange fish, Jimmy, strange fish." Herf and Ruth Prynne sat giggling over plates of pate in the innermost corner of a clattery lowceilinged restaurant. "All the ham actors in the world seem to eat here."

"All the ham actors in the world live up at Mrs. Sunderland's."

"What's the latest news from the Balkans?"

"Balkans is right. . ."

Beyond Ruth's black straw hat with red poppies round the crown Jimmy looked at the packed tables where faces decomposed into a graygreen blur. Two sallow hawkfaced waiters elbowed their way through the seesawing chatter of talk. Ruth was looking at him with dilated laughing eyes while she bit at a stalk of celery.

"Whee I feel so drunk," she was spluttering. "It went straight to my head. . . . Isnt it terrible?"

"Well what were these shocking goingson at 105th Street?"

"O you missed it. It was a shriek. . . . Everybody was out in the hall, Mrs. Sunderland with her hair in curlpapers, and Cassie was crying and Tony Hunter was standing in his door in pink pyjamas. . . ."

"Who's he?"

"Just a juvenile. . . . But Jimmy I must have told you about Tony Hunter. Peculiar poissons Jimmy, peculiar poissons."

Jimmy felt himself blushing, he bent over his plate. "Oh is that's what's his trouble?" he said stiffly.

"Now you're shocked, Jimmy; admit that you're shocked."

"No I'm not; go ahead, spill the dirt."

"Oh Jimmy you're such a shriek. . . . Well Cassie was sobbing and the little dog was barking, and the invisible Costello was yelling Police and fainting into the arms of an unknown man in a dress suit. And Jojo was brandishing a revolver, a little nickel one, may have been a waterpistol for all I know. . . . The only person who looked in their right senses was Elaine Olgethorpe. . . . You know the titianhaired vision that so impressed your infant mind."

"Honestly Ruth my infant mind wasnt as impressed as all that."

"Well at last the Ogle got tired of his big scene and cried out in ringing tones, Disarm me or I shall kill this woman. And Tony Hunter grabbed the pistol and took it into his room. Then Elaine Oglethorpe made a little bow as if she were taking a curtaincall, said Well goodnight everybody, and ducked into her room cool as a cucumber. . . . Can you picture it?" Ruth suddenly lowered her voice, "But everybody in the restaurant is listening to us. . . . And really I think its very disgusting. But the worst is yet to come. After the Ogle had banged on the door a couple of times and not gotten any answer he went up to Tony and rolling his eyes like Forbes Robertson in Hamlet put his arm round him and said Tony can a broken man crave asylum in your room for the right. . . . Honestly I was just so shocked."

"Is Oglethorpe that way too?"

Ruth nodded several times.

"Then why did she marry him?"

"Why that girl'd marry a trolleycar if she thought she could get anything by it."

"Ruth honestly I think you've got the whole thing sized up wrong."

"Jimmy you're too innocent to live. But let me finish the tragic tale. . . . After those two had disappeared and locked the door behind them the most awful powwow you've ever imagined went on in the hall. Of course Cassie had been having hysterics all along just to add to the excitement. When I came back from getting her some sweet spirits of ammonia in the bathroom I found the court in session. It was a shriek. Miss Costello wanted the Oglethorpes thrown out at dawn and said she'd leave if they didn't and Mrs. Sunderland kept moaning that in thirty years of theatrical experience she'd never seen a scene like that, and the man in the dress suit who was Benjamin Arden . . . you know he played a character part in Honeysuckle Jim . . . said he thought people like Tony Hunter ought to be in jail. When I went to bed it was still going on. Do you wonder that I slept late after all that and kept you waiting, poor child, an hour in the Times Drug Store?"

Joe Harland stood in his hall bedroom with his hands in his pockets staring at the picture of The Stag at Bay that hung crooked in the middle of the verdegris wall that hemmed in the shaky iron bed. His clawcold fingers moved restlessly in the bottoms of his trousers pockets. He was talking aloud in a low even voice: "Oh, it's all luck you know, but that's the last time I try the Merivales. Emily'd have given it to me if it hadn't been for that damned old tightwad. Got a soft spot in her heart Emily has. But none of em seem to realize that these things aren't always a man's own fault. It's luck that's all it is, and Lord knows they used to eat out of my hand in the old days." His rising voice grated on his ears. He pressed his lips together. You're getting batty old man. He stepped back and forth in the narrow space between the bed and the wall. Three steps. Three steps. He went to the washstand and drank out of the pitcher. The water tasted of rank wood and sloppails. He spat the last mouthful back. I need a good tenderloin steak not water. He pounded his clenched fists together. I got to do something. I got to do something.

He put on his overcoat to hide the rip in the seat of his trousers. The frayed sleeves tickled his wrists. The dark stairs creaked. He was so weak he kept grabbing the rail for fear of falling. The old woman pounced out of a door on him in the lower hall. The rat had squirmed sideways on her head as if trying to escape from under the thin gray pompadour.

"Meester Harland how about you pay me tree veeks rent?

"I'm just on my way out to cash a check now, Mrs. Budkowitz. You've been so kind about this little matter. . . . And perhaps it will interest you to know that I have the promise, no I may say the certainty of a very good position beginning Monday."

"I vait tree veeks . . . I not vait any more."

"But my dear lady I assure you upon my honor as a gentleman. . ."

Mrs. Budkowitz began to jerk her shoulders about. Her voice rose thin and wailing like the sound of a peanut wagon.

"You pay me tat fifteen dollar or I rent te room to somebody else."

"I'll pay you this very evening."

"Vat time?"

"Six o'clock."

"Allright. Plis you give me key."

"But I cant do that. Suppose I was late?"

"Tat's vy I vant te key. I'm trough vit vaiting."

"All right take the key. . . . . I hope you understand that after this insulting behavior it will be impossible for me to remain longer under your roof."

Mrs. Budkowitz laughed hoarsely. "Allright ven you pay me fifteen dollar you can take avay your grip." He put the two keys tied together with string into her gray hand and slammed the door and strode down the street.

At the corner of Third Avenue he stopped and stood shivering in the hot afternoon sunlight, sweat running down behind his ears. He was too weak to swear. Jagged oblongs of harsh sound broke one after another over his head as an elevated past over. Trucks grated by along the avenue raising a dust that smelled of gasoline and trampled horsedung. The dead air stank of stores and lunchrooms. He began walking slowly uptown towards Fourteenth Street. At a corner a crinkly warm smell of cigars stopped him like a hand on his shoulder. He stood a while looking in the little shop watching the slim stained fingers of the cigarroller shuffle the brittle outside leaves of tobacco. Remembering Romeo and Juliet Arguelles Morales he sniffed deeply. The slick tearing of tinfoil, the careful slipping off of the band, the tiny ivory penknife for the end that slit delicately as flesh, the smell of the wax match, the long inhaling of bitter crinkled deep sweet smoke. And now sir about this little matter of the new Northern Pacific bond issue. . . . He clenched his fists in the clammy pockets of his raincoat. Take my key would she the old harridan? I'll show her, damn it. Joe Harland may be down and out but he's got his pride yet.

He walked west along Fourteenth and without stopping to think and lose his nerve went down into a small basement stationery store, strode through unsteadily to the back, and stood swaying in the doorway of a little office where sat at a rolltop desk a blueeyed baldheaded fat man.

"Hello Felsius," croaked Harland.

The fat man got to his feet bewildered. "God it aint Mr. Harland is it?"

"Joe Harland himself Felsius . . . er somewhat the worse for wear." A titter died in his throat.

"Well I'll be . . . Sit right down Mr. Harland."

"Thank you Felsius. . . . Felsius I'm down and out."

"It must be five years since I've seen you Mr, Harland."

"A rotten five years it's been for me. . . . I suppose its all luck. My luck wont ever change on this earth again. Remember when I'd come in from romping with the bulls and raise hell round the office? A pretty good bonus I gave the office force that Christmas."

"Indeed it was Mr. Harland."

"Must be a dull life storekeeping after the Street."

"More to my taste Mr. Harland, nobody to boss me here."

"And how's the wife and kids?"

"Fine, fine; the oldest boy's just out of highschool."

"That the one you named for me?"

Felsius nodded. His fingers fat as sausages were tapping uneasily on the edge of the desk.

"I remember I thought I'd do something for that kid someday. It's a funny world." Harland laughed feebly. He felt a shuddery blackness stealing up behind his head. He clenched his hands round his knee and contracted the muscles of his arms. "You see Felsius, it's this way. . . . I find myself for the moment in a rather embarrassing situation financially. . . . You know how those things are." Felsius was staring straight ahead of him into the desk. Beads of sweat were starting out of his bald head. "We all have our spell of bad luck dont we? I want to float a very small loan for a few days, just a few dollars, say twentyfive until certain combinations. . ."

"Mr. Harland I cant do it." Felsius got to his feet. "I'm sorry but principles is principles. . . . I've never borrowed or lent a cent in my life. I'm sure you understand that. . . ."

"All right, dont say any more." Harland got meekly to his feet. "Let me have a quarter. . . . I'm not so young as I was and I haven't eaten for two days," he mumbled, looking down at his cracked shoes. He put out his hand to steady himself by the desk.

Felsius moved back against the wall as if to ward off a blow. He held out a fiftycent piece on thick trembling fingers. Harland took it, turned without a word and stumbled out through the shop. Felsius pulled a violet bordered handkerchief out of his pocket, mopped his brow and turned to his letters again.

We take liberty of calling the trade's attention to four new superfine Mullen products that we feel the greatest confidence in recommending to our customers as a fresh and absolutely unparalleled departure in the paper manufacturer's art . . . .

They came out of the movie blinking into bright pools of electric glare. Cassie watched him stand with his feet apart and eyes absorbed lighting a cigar. McAvoy was a stocky man with a beefy neck; he wore a single-button coat, a checked vest and a dogshead pin in his brocade necktie.

"That was a rotton show or I'm a Dutchman," he was growling.

"But I loved the twavel pictures, Morris, those Swiss peasants dancing; I felt I was wight there."

"Damn hot in there. . . . I'd like a drink."

"Now Morris you promised," she whined.

"Oh I just meant sodawater, dont get nervous." "Oh that'd be lovely. I'd just love a soda."

"Then we'll go for a walk in the Park."

She let the lashes fall over her eyes "Allwight Morris," she whispered without looking at him. She put her hand a little tremulously through his arm.

"If only I wasn't so goddam broke."

"I dont care Morris."

"I do by God."

At Columbus Circle they went into a drugstore. Girls in green, violet, pink summer dresses, young men in straw hats were three deep along the sodafountain. She stood back and admiringly watched him shove his way through. A man was leaning across the table behind her talking to a girl; their faces were hidden by their hatbrims.

"You juss tie that bull outside, I said to him, then I resigned."

"You mean you were fired."

"No honest I resigned before he had a chance. . . . He's a stinker d'you know it? I wont take no more of his lip. When I was walkin outa the office he called after me. . . . Young man lemme tell ye sumpen. You wont never make good till you learn who's boss around this town, till you learn that it aint you." Morris was holding out a vanilla icecream soda to her.

"Dreamin' again Cassie; anybody'd think you was a snow-bird." Smiling brighteyed, she took the soda; he was drinking coca-cola. "Thank you," she said. She sucked with pouting lips at a spoonful of icecream. "Ou Morris it's delicious."

The path between round splashes of arclights ducked into darkness. Through slant lights and nudging shadows came a smell of dusty leaves and trampled grass and occasionally a rift of cool fragrance from damp earth under shrubberies.

"Oh I love it in the Park," chanted Cassie. She stifled a belch. "D'you know Morris I oughnt to have eaten that ice-cream. It always gives me gas."

Morris said nothing. He put his arm round her and held her tight to him so that his thigh rubbed against hers as they walked. "Well Pierpont Morgan is dead. . . . I wish he'd left me a couple of million."

"Oh Morris wouldn't it be wonderful? Where'd we live? On Central Park South." They stood looking back at the glow of electric signs that came from Columbus Circle. To the left they could see curtained lights in the windows of a whitefaced apartmenthouse. He looked stealthily to the right and left and then kissed her. She twisted her mouth out from under his.

"Dont. . . . Somebody might see us," she whispered breathless. Inside something like a dynamo was whirring, whirring. "Morris I've been saving it up to tell you. I think Goldweiser's going to give me a specialty bit in his next show. He's stagemanager of the second woad company and he's got a lot of pull up at the office. He saw me dance yesterday."

"What did he say?"

"He said he'd fix it up for me to see the big boss Monday. . . . Oh but Morris it's not the sort of thing I want to do, it's so vulgar and howid. . . . I want to do such beautiful things. I feel I've got it in me, something without a name fluttering inside, a bird of beautiful plumage in a howid iron cage."

"That's the trouble with you, you'll never make good, you're too upstage." She looked up at him with streaming eyes that glistened in the white powdery light of an arclamp.

"Oh don't cry for God's sake. I didnt mean anythin."

"I'm not upstage with you Morris, am I?" She sniffed and wiped her eyes.

"You are kinda, that's what makes me sore. I like my little girl to pet me an love me up a little. Hell Cassie life aint all beer an sourkraut." As they walked tightly pressed one to another they felt rock under their feet. They were on a little hill of granite outcrop with shrubbery all round. The lights from the buildings that hemmed in the end of the Park shone in their faces. They stood apart holding each other's hands.

"Take that redhaired girl up at 105th Street. . . . I bet she wouldnt be upstage when she was alone with a feller."

"She's a dweadful woman, she dont care what kind of a wep she has. . . . Oh I think you're howid." She began to cry again.

He pulled her to him roughly, pressed her to him hard with his spread hands on her back. She felt her legs tremble and go weak. She was falling through colored shafts of faintness. His mouth wouldnt let her catch her breath.

"Look out," he whispered pulling himself away from her. They walked on unsteadily down the path through the shrubbery. "I guess it aint."

"What Morris?"

"A cop. God it's hell not havin anywhere to go. Cant we go to your room?"

"But Morris they'll all see us."

"Who cares? They all do it in that house."

"Oh I hate you when you talk that way. . . . Weal love is all pure and lovely. . . . Morris you don't love me."

"Quit pickin on me cant you Cassie for a minute. . .? Goddam it's hell to be broke."

They sat down on a bench in the light. Behind them automobiles slithered with a constant hissing scuttle in two streams along the roadway. She put her hand on his knee and he covered it with his big stubby hand.

"Morris I feel that we are going to be very happy from now on, I feel it. You're going to get a fine job, I'm sure you are."

"I aint so sure. . . . I'm not so young as I was Cassie. I aint got any time to lose."

"Why you're terribly young, you're only thirtyfive Morris. . . . And I think that something wonderful is going to happen. I'm going to get a chance to dance."

"Why you ought to make more than that redhaired girl."

"Elaine Oglethorpe. . . . She doesnt make so much. But I'm different from her. I dont care about money; I want to live for my dancing."

"I want money. Once you got money you can do what you like."

"But Morris dont you believe that you can do anything if you just want to hard enough? I believe that." He edged his free arm round her waist. Gradually she let her head fall on his shoulder. "Oh I dont care," she whispered with dry lips. Behind them limousines, roadsters, touringcars, sedans, slithered along the roadway with snaky glint of lights running in two smooth continuous streams.

The brown serge smelled of mothballs as she folded it. She stooped to lay it in the trunk; a layer of tissuepaper below rustled when she smoothed the wrinkles with her hand. The first violet morning light outside the window was making the electriclight bulb grow red like a sleepless eye. Ellen straightened herself suddenly and stood stiff with her arms at her sides, her face flushed pink. "It's just too low," she said. She spread a towel over the dresses and piled brushes, a handmirror, slippers, chemises, boxes of powder in pellmell on top of them. Then she slammed down the lid of the trunk, locked it and put the key in her flat alligatorskin purse. She stood looking dazedly about the room sucking a broken fingernail. Yellow sunlight was obliquely drenching the chimneypots and cornices of the houses across the street. She found herself staring at the white E.T.O. at the end of her trunk. "It's all too terribly disgustingly low," she said again. Then she grabbed a nailfile off the bureau and scratched out the O. "Whee," she whispered and snapped her fingers. After she had put on a little bucketshaped black hat and a veil, so that people wouldn't see she'd been crying, she piled a lot of books, Youth's Encounter, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, The Golden Ass, Imaginary Conversations, Aphrodite, Chansons de Bilitis and the Oxford Book of French Verse in a silk shawl and tied them together.

There was a faint tapping at the door. "Who's that," she whispered.

"It just me," came a tearful voice.

Ellen unlocked the door. "Why Cassie what's the matter?"

Cassie rubbed her wet face in the hollow of Ellen's neck.

"Oh Cassie you're gumming my veil. . . . What on earth's the matter?"

"I've been up all night thinking how unhappy you must be."

"But Cassie I've never been happier in my life."

"Aren't men dweadful?"

"No. . . . They are much nicer than women anyway."

"Elaine I've got to tell you something. I know you dont care anything about me but I'm going to tell you all the same."

"Of course I care about you Cassie. . . . Dont be silly.

But I'm busy now. . . . Why dont you go back to bed and tell me later?"

"I've got to tell you now." Ellen sat down on her trunk resignedly. "Elaine I've bwoken it off with Morris. . . . Isn't it tewible?" Cassie wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her lavender dressinggown and sat down beside Ellen on the trunk.

"Look dear," said Ellen gently. "Suppose you wait just a second, I'm going to telephone for a taxi. I want to make a getaway before Jojo's up. I'm sick of big scenes." The hall smelled stuffily of sleep and massagecream. Ellen talked very low into the receiver. The gruff man's voice at the garage growled pleasantly in her ears. "Sure right away miss." She tiptoed springily back into the room and closed the door.

"I thought he loved me, honestly I did Elaine. Oh men are so dweadful. Morris was angwy because I wouldn't live with him. I think it would be wicked. I'd work my fingers to the bone for him, he knows that. Havent I been doing it two years? He said be couldnt go on unless he had me weally, you know what he meant, and I said our love was so beautiful it could go on for years and years. I could love him for a lifetime without even kissing him. Dont you think love should be pure? And then he made fun of my dancing and said I was Chalif's mistwess and just kidding him along and we quaweled dwead fully and he called me dweadful names and went away and said he'd never come back."

"Dont worry about that Cassie, he'll come back all right."

"No but you're so material, Elaine. I mean spiwitually our union is bwoken forever. Cant you see there was this beautiful divine spiwitual thing between us and it's bwoken." She began to sob again with her face pressed into Ellen's shoulder.

"But Cassie I dont see what fun you get out of it all?"

"Oh you dont understand. You're too young. I was like you at first except that I wasnt mawied and didnt wun awound with men. But now I want spiwitual beauty. I want to get it through my dancing and my life, I want beauty everywhere and I thought Morris wanted it."

"But Morris evidently did."

"Oh Elaine you're howid, and I love you so much."

Ellen got to her feet. "I'm going to run downstairs so that the taximan wont ring the bell."

"But you cant go like this."

"You just watch me." Ellen gathered up the bundle of books in one hand and in the other carried the black leather dressingcase. "Look Cassie will you be a dear and show him the trunk when he comes up to get it. . . . And one other thing, when Stan Emery calls up tell him to call me at the Brevoort or at the Lafayette. Thank goodness I didnt deposit my money last week. . . . And Cassie if you find any little odds and ends of mine around you just keep em. . . . Goodby." She lifted her veil and kissed Cassie quickly on the cheeks.

"Oh how can you be so bwave as to go away all alone like this. . . . You'll let Wuth and me come down to see you wont you? We're so fond of you. Oh Elaine you're going to have a wonderful career, I know you are."

"And promise not to tell Jojo where I am. . . . He'll find out soon enough anyway. . . . I'll call him up in a week."

She found the taxidriver in the hall looking at the names above the pushbuttons. He went up to fetch her trunk. She settled herself happily on the dusty buff seat of the taxi, taking deep breaths of the riversmelling morning air. The taxidriver smiled roundly at her when he had let the trunk slide off his back onto the dashboard.

"Pretty heavy, miss."

"It's a shame you had to carry it all alone."

"Oh I kin carry heavier'n 'at."

"I want to go to the Hotel Brevoort, Fifth Avenue at about Eighth Street."

When he leaned to crank the car the man pushed his hat back on his head letting ruddy curly hair out over his eyes. "All right I'll take you anywhere you like," he said as he hopped into his seat in the jiggling car. When they turned down into the very empty sunlight of Broadway a feeling of happiness began to sizzle and soar like rockets inside her. The air beat fresh, thrilling in her face. The taxidriver talked back at her through the open window.

"I thought yous was catchin a train to go away somewhere, miss."

"Well I am going away somewhere."

"It'd be a foine day to be goin away somewhere."

"I'm going away from my husband." The words popped out of her mouth before she could stop them.

"Did he trow you out?"

"No I cant say he did that," she said laughing.

"My wife trun me out tree weeks ago."

"How was that?"

"Locked de door when I came home one night an wouldnt let me in. She'd had the lock changed when I was out workin."

"That's a funny thing to do."

"She says I git slopped too often. I aint goin back to her an I aint goin to support her no more. . . . She can put me in jail if she likes. I'm troo. I'm gettin an apartment on Twentysecond Avenoo wid another feller an we're goin to git a pianer an live quiet an lay offen the skoits."

"Matrimony isnt much is it?"

"You said it. What leads up to it's all right, but gettin married is loike de mornin after."

Fifth Avenue was white and empty and swept by a sparkling wind. The trees in Madison Square were unexpectedly bright green like ferns in a dun room. At the Brevoort a sleepy French nightporter carried her baggage. In the low whitepainted room the sunlight drowsed on a faded crimson armchair. Ellen ran about the room like a small child kicking her heels and clapping her hands. With pursed lips and tilted head she arranged her toilet things on the bureau. Then she hung her yellow nightgown on a chair and undressed, caught sight of herself in the mirror, stood naked looking at herself with her hands on her tiny firm appleshaped breasts.

She pulled on her nightgown and went to the phone. "Please send up a pot of chocolate and rolls to 108 . . . as soon as you can please." Then she got into bed. She lay laughing with her legs stretched wide in the cool slippery sheets.

Hairpins were sticking into her head. She sat up and pulled them all out and shook the heavy coil of her hair down about her shoulders. She drew her knees up to her chin and sat thinking. From the street she could hear the occasional rumble of a truck. In the kitchens below her room a sound of clattering had begun. From all around came a growing rumble of traffic beginning. She felt hungry and alone. The bed was a raft on which she was marooned alone, always alone, afloat on a growling ocean. A shudder went down her spine. She drew her knees up closer to her chin.