Manhattan Transfer/Chapter 8

III. Nine Days' Wonder

The sun's moved to Jersey, the sun's behind Hoboken.

Covers are clicking on typewriters, rolltop desks are closing; elevators go up empty, come down jammed. It's ebbtide in the downtown district, flood in Flatbush, Woodlawn, Dyckman Street, Sheepshead Bay, New Lots Avenue, Canarsie.

Pink sheets, green sheets, gray sheets, FULL MARKET REPORTS, FINALS ON HAVRE DE GRACE. Print squirms among the shop-worn officeworn sagging faces, sore fingertips, aching insteps, strongarm men cram into subway expresses. SENATORS 8, GIANTS 2, DIVA RECOVERS PEARLS, $800,000 ROBBERY.

It's ebbtide on Wall Street, floodtide in the Bronx.

The sun's gone down in Jersey.

GODAMIGHTY," shouted Phil Sandbourne and pounded with his fist on the desk, "I don't think so. . . . A man's morals arent anybody's business. It's his work that counts."

"Well?"

"Well I think Stanford White has done more for the city of New York that any other man living. Nobody knew there was such a thing as architecture before he came. . . . And to have this Thaw shoot him down in cold blood and then get away with it. . . . By gad if the people of this town had the spirit of guineapigs they'd——"

"Phil you're getting all excited over nothing." The other man took his cigar out of his mouth and leaned back in his swivel chair and yawned.

"Oh hell I want a vacation. Golly it'll be good to get out in those old Maine woods again."

"What with Jew lawyers and Irish judges . . ." spluttered Phil.

"Aw pull the chain, old man."

"A fine specimen of a public-spirited citizen you are Hartly."

Hartly laughed and rubbed the palm of his hand over his bald head. "Oh that stuff's all right in winter, but I cant go it in summer. . . . Hell all I live for is three weeks' vacation anyway. What do I care if all the architects in New York get bumped off as long as it dont raise the price of commutation to New Rochelle. . . . Let's go eat." As they went down in the elevator Phil went on talking: "The only other man I ever knew who was really a born in the bone architect was ole Specker, the feller I worked for when I first came north, a fine old Dane he was too. Poor devil died o cancer two years ago. Man, he was an architect. I got a set of plans and specifications home for what he called a communal building. . . . Seventyfive stories high stepped back in terraces with a sort of hanging garden on every floor, hotels, theaters, Turkish baths, swimming pools, department stores, heating plant, refrigerating and market space all in the same buildin."

"Did he eat coke?"

"No siree he didnt."

They were walking east along Thirtyfourth Street, sparse of people in the sultry midday. "Gad," burst out Phil Sandbourne, suddenly. "The girls in this town get prettier every year. "Like these new fashions, do you?"

"Sure. All I wish is that I was gettin younger every year instead of older."

"Yes about all us old fellers can do is watch em go past."

"That's fortunate for us or we'd have our wives out after us with bloodhounds. . . . Man when I think of those mighthavebeens!"

As they crossed Fifth Avenue Phil caught sight of a girl in a taxicab. From under the black brim of a little hat with a red cockade in it two gray eyes flash green black into his. He swallowed his breath. The traffic roars dwindled into distance. She shant take her eyes away. Two steps and open the door and sit beside her, beside her slenderness perched like a bird on the seat. Driver drive to beat hell. Her lips are pouting towards him, her eyes flutter gray caught birds. "Hay look out. . ." A pouncing iron rumble crashes down on him from behind. Fifth Avenue spins in red blue purple spirals. O Kerist. "That's all right, let me be. I'll get up myself in a minute." "Move along there. Git back there." Braying voices, blue pillars of policemen. His back, his legs are all warm gummy with blood. Fifth Avenue throbs with loudening pain. A little bell jingle-jangling nearer. As they lift hi minto the ambulance Fifth Avenue shrieks to throttling agony and bursts. He cranes his neck to see her, weakly, like a terrapin on its back; didnt my eyes snap steel traps on her? He finds himself whimpering. She might have stayed to see if I was killed. The jingle jangling bell dwindles fainter, fainter into the night.

The burglaralarm across the street had rung on steadily. Jimmy's sleep had been strung on it in hard knobs like beads on a string. Knocking woke him. He sat up in bed with a lurch and found Stan Emery, his face gray with dust, his hands in the pockets of a red leather coat, standing at the foot of the bed. He was laughing swaying back and forth on the balls of his feet.

"Gosh what time is it?" Jimmy sat up in bed digging his knuckles into his eyes. He yawned and looked about with bitter dislike, at the wallpaper the dead green of Poland Water bottles, at the split green shade that let in a long trickle of sunlight, at the marble fireplace blocked up by an enameled tin plate painted with scaly roses, at the frayed blue bathrobe on the foot of the bed, at the mashed cigarette-butts in the mauve glass ashtray.

Stan's face was red and brown and laughing under the chalky mask of dust. "Eleven thirty," he was saying.

"Let's see that's six hours and a half. I guess that'll do. But Stan what the hell are you doing here?"

"You havent got a little nip of liquor anywhere have you Herf? Dingo and I are extraordinarily thirsty. We came all the way from Boston and only stopped once for gas and water. I havent been to bed for two days. I want to see if I can last out the week."

"Kerist I wish I could last out the week in bed,"

"What you need's a job on a newspaper to keep you busy Herfy."

"What's going to happen to you Stan . . ." Jimmy twisted himself round so that he was sitting on the edge of the bed ". . . is that you're going to wake up one morning and find yourself on a marble slab at the morgue."

The bathroom smelled of other people's toothpaste and of chloride disinfectant. The bathmat was wet and Jimmy folded it into a small square before he stepped gingerly out of his slippers. The cold water set the blood jolting through him. He ducked his head under and jumped out and stood shaking himself like a dog, the water streaming into his eyes and ears. Then he put on his bathrobe and lathered his face.

Flow river flow
Down to the sea,

he hummed off key as he scraped his chin with the safety-razor. Mr. Grover I'm afraid I'm going to have to give up the job after next week. Yes I'm going abroad; I'm going to do foreign correspondent work for the A. P. To Mexico for the U. P. To Jericho more likely, Halifax Correspondent of the Mudturtle Gazette. It was Christmas in the harem and the eunuchs all were there.

. . . from the banks of the Seine
To the banks of the Saskatchewan.

He doused his face with listerine, bundled his toilet things into his wet towel and smarting ran back up a flight of greencarpeted cabbagy stairs and down the hall to his bedroom. Halfway he passed the landlady dumpy in a mob cap who stopped her carpet sweeper to give an icy look at his skinny bare legs under the blue bathrobe.

"Good morning Mrs. Maginnis."

"It's goin to be powerful hot today, Mr. Herf."

"I guess it is all right."

Stan was lying on the bed reading La Revolte des Anges. "Darn it, I wish I knew some languages the way you do Herfy."

"Oh I dont know any French any more. I forget em so much quicker than I learn em."

"By the way I'm fired from college."

"How's that?"

"Dean told me he thought it advisable I shouldnt come back next year . . . felt that there were other fields of activity where my activities could be more actively active. You know the crap."

"That's a darn shame."

"No it isnt; I'm tickled to death. I asked him why he hadnt fired me before if he felt that way. Father'll be sore as a crab . . . but I've got enough cash on me not to go home for a week. I dont give a damn anyway. Honest havent you got any liquor?"

"Now Stan how's a poor wageslave like myself going to have a cellar on thirty dollars a week?"

"This is a pretty lousy room. . . . You ought to have been born a capitalist like me."

"Room's not so bad. . . . What drives me crazy is that paranoiac alarm across the street that rings all night."

"That's a burglar alarm isn't it?"

"There cant be any burglars because the place is vacant. The wires must get crossed or something. I dont know when it stopped but it certainly drove me wild when I went to bed this morning."

"Now James Herf you dont mean me to infer that you come home sober every night?"

"A man'd have to be deaf not to hear that damn thing, drunk or sober."

"Well in my capacity of bloated bondholder I want you to come out and eat lunch. Do you realize that you've been playing round with your toilet for exactly one hour by the clock?"

They went down the stairs that smelled of shavingsoap and then of brasspolish and then of bacon and then of singed hair and then of garbage and coalgas.

"You're damn lucky Herfy, never to have gone to college."

"Didnt I graduate from Columbia you big cheese, that's more than you could do?"

The sunlight swooped tingling in Jimmy's face when he opened the door.

"That doesnt count."

"God I like sun," cried Jimmy, I wish it'd been real Colombia. . . ."

"Do you mean Hail Columbia?"

"No I mean Bogota and the Orinoco and all that sort of thing."

"I knew a darn good feller went down to Bogota. Had to drink himself to death to escape dying of elephantiasis."

"I'd be willing to risk elephantiasis and bubonic plague and spotted fever to get out of this hole."

"City of orgies walks and joys . . ."

"Orgies nutten, as we say at a hun'an toitytoird street. . . . Do you realize that I've lived all my life in this goddam town except four years when I was little and that I was born here and that I'm likely to die here? . . . I've a great mind to join the navy and see the world."

"How do you like Dingo in her new coat of paint?"

"Pretty nifty, looks like a regular Mercedes under the dust."

"I wanted to paint her red like a fire engine, but the garageman finally persuaded me to paint her blue like a cop. . . . Do you mind going to Mouquin's and having an absinthe cocktail."

"Absinthe for breakfast. . . . Good Lord."

They drove west along Twenty-third Street that shone with sheets of reflected light off windows, oblong glints off delivery wagons, figureeight-shaped flash of nickel fittings.

"How's Ruth, Jimmy?"

"She's all right. She hasnt got a job yet."

"Look there's a Daimlier."

Jimmy grunted vaguely. As they turned up Sixth Avenue a policeman stopped them.

"Your cut out," he yelled.

"I'm on my way to the garage to get it fixed. Muffler's coming off."

"Better had. . . . Get a ticket another time."

"Gee you get away with murder Stan ... in everything," said Jimmy. "I never can get away with a thing even if I am three years older than you."

"It's a gift."

The restaurant smelled merrily of fried potatoes and cocktails and cigars and cocktails. It was hot and full of talking and sweaty faces.

"But Stan dont roll your eyes romantically when you ask about Ruth and me. . . . We're just very good friends."

"Honestly I didnt mean anything, but I'm sorry to hear it all the same. I think it's terrible."

"Ruth doesn't care about anything but her acting. She's so crazy to succeed, she cuts out everything else."

"Why the hell does everybody want to succeed? I'd like to meet somebody who wanted to fail. That's the only sublime thing."

"It's all right if you have a comfortable income."

"That's all bunk. . . . Golly this is some cocktail. Herfy I think you're the only sensible person in this town. You have no ambitions."

"How do you know I havent?"

"But what can you do with success when you get it? You cant eat it or drink it. Of course I understand that people who havent enough money to feed their faces and all that should scurry round and get it. But success . . ."

"The trouble with me is I cant decide what I want most, so my motion is circular, helpless and confoundedly discouraging."

"Oh but God decided that for you. You know all the time, but you wont admit it to yourself."

"I imagine what I want most is to get out of this town, preferably first setting off a bomb under the Times Building."

"Well why don't you do it? It's just one foot after another."

"But you have to know which direction to step."

"That's the last thing that's of any importance."

"Then there's money."

"Why money's the easiest thing in the world to get."

"For the eldest son of Emery and Emery."

"Now Herf it's not fair to cast my father's iniquities in my face. You know I hate that stuff as much as you do."

"I'm not blaming you Stan; you're a damn lucky kid, that's all. Of course I'm lucky too, a hell of a lot luckier than most. My mother's leftover money supported me until I was twentytwo and I still have a few hundreds stowed away for that famous rainy day, and my uncle, curse his soul, gets me new jobs when I get fired."

"Baa baa black sheep."

"I guess I'm really afraid of my uncles and aunts. . . . You ought to see my cousin James Merivale. Has done everything he was told all his life and flourished like a green bay tree. . . . The perfect wise virgin."

"Ah guess youse one o dem dere foolish virgins."

"Stan you're feeling your liquor, you're beginning to talk niggertalk."

"Baa baa." Stan put down his napkin and leaned back laughing in his throat.

The smell of absinthe sicklytingling grew up like the magician's rosebush out of Jimmy's glass. He sipped it wrinkling his nose. "As a moralist I protest," he said. "Whee it's amazing."

"What I need is a whiskey and soda to settle those cocktails."

"I'll watch you. I'm a working man. I must be able to tell between the news that's fit and the news that's not fit. . . . God I dont want to start talking about that. It's all so criminally silly. . . . I'll say that this cocktail sure does knock you for a loop."

"You neednt think you're going to do anything else but drink this afternoon. There's somebody I want to introduce you to."

"And I was going to sit down righteously and write an article."

"What's that?"

"Oh a dodaddle called Confessions of a Cub Reporter."

"Look is this Thursday?"

"Yare."

"Then I know where she'll be."

"I'm going to light out of it all," said Jimmy somberly, "and go to Mexico and make my fortune. . . . I'm losing all the best part of my life rotting in New York."

"How'll you make your fortune?"

"Oil, gold, highway robbery, anything so long as it's not newspaper work."

"Baa baa black sheep baa baa."

"You quit baaing at me."

"Let's get the hell out of here and take Dingo to have her muffler fastened."

Jimmy stood waiting in the door of the reeking garage. The dusty afternoon sunlight squirmed in bright worms of heat on his face and hands. Brownstone, redbrick, asphalt flickering with red and green letters of signs, with bits of paper in the gutter rotated in a slow haze about him. Two carwashers talking behind him:

"Yep I was making good money until I went after that lousy broad."

"I'll say she's a goodlooker, Charley. I should worry. . . . Dont make no difference after the first week."

Stan came up behind him and ran him along the street by the shoulders. "Car wont be fixed until five o'clock. Let's taxi. . . . Hotel Lafayette," he shouted at the driver and slapped Jimmy on the knee. "Well Herfy old fossil, you know what the Governor of North Carolina said to the Governor of South Carolina."

"No."

"It's a long time between drinks."

"Baa, baa," Stan was bleating under his breath as they stormed into the café. "Ellie here are the black sheep," he shouted laughing. His face froze suddenly stiff. Opposite Ellen at the table sat her husband, one eyebrow lifted very high and the other almost merging with the eyelashes. A teapot sat impudently between them.

"Hello Stan, sit down," she said quietly. Then she continued smiling into Oglethorpe's face. "Isnt that wonderful Jojo?"

"Ellie this is Mr. Herf," said Stan gruffly.

"Oh I'm so glad to meet you. I used to hear about you up at Mrs. Sunderland's."

They were silent. Oglethorpe was tapping on the table with his spoon. "Why heow deo you deo Mr. Herf," he said with sudden unction. "Dont you remember how we met?"

"By the way how's everything up there Jojo?"

"Just topping thanks. Cassahndrah's beau has left her and there's been the most appalling scandal about that Costello creature. It seems that she came home foxed the other night, to the ears my deah, and tried to take the taxi driver into her room with her, and the poor boy protesting all the time that all he wanted was his fare. . . . It was appalling."

Stan got stiffly to his feet and walked out.

The three of them sat without speaking. Jimmy tried to keep from fidgeting in his chair. He was about to get up, when something velvetsoft in her eyes stopped him.

"Has Ruth got a job yet, Mr. Herf?" she asked.

"No she hasnt."

"It's the rottenest luck."

"Oh it's a darn shame. I know she can act. The trouble is she has too much sense of humor to play up to managers and people."

"Oh the stage is a nasty dirty game, isn't it Jojo?"

"The nawstiest, my deah."

Jimmy couldn't keep his eyes off her; her small squarely shaped hands, her neck molded with a gold sheen between the great coil of coppery hair and the bright blue dress.

"Well my deah . . ." Oglethorpe got to his feet.

"Jojo I'm going to sit here a little longer."

Jimmy was staring at the thin triangles of patent leather that stuck out from Oglethorpe's pink buff spats. Cant be feet in them. He stood up suddenly.

"Now Mr. Herf couldnt you keep me company for fifteen minutes? I've got to leave here at six and I forgot to bring a book and I cant walk in these shoes."

Jimmy blushed and sat down again stammering: "Why of course I'd be delighted. . . . Suppose we drink something."

"I'll finish my tea, but why dont you have a gin fizz? I love to see people drink gin fizzes. It makes me feel that I'm in the tropics sitting in a jujube grove waiting for the riverboat to take us up some ridiculous melodramatic river all set about with fevertrees."

"Waiter I want a gin fizz please."

Joe Harland had slumped down in his chair until his head rested on his arms. Between his grimestiff hands his eyes followed uneasily the lines in the marbletop table. The gutted lunchroom was silent under the sparse glower of two bulbs hanging over the counter where remained a few pies under a bellglass, and a man in a white coat nodding on a tall stool. Now and then the eyes in his gray doughy face flicked open and he grunted and looked about. At the last table over were the hunched shoulders of men asleep, faces crumpled like old newspapers pillowed on arms. Joe Harland sat up straight and yawned. A woman blobby under a raincoat with a face red and purplish streaked like rancid meat was asking for a cup of coffee at the counter. Carrying the mug carefully between her two hands she brought it over to the table and sat down opposite him. Joe Harland let his head down onto his arms again.

"Hay yous how about a little soivice?" The woman's voice shrilled in Harland's ears like the screech of chalk on a blackboard.

"Well what d'ye want?" snarled the man behind the counter. The woman started sobbing. "He asts me what I want. . . . I aint used to bein talked to brutal."

"Well if there's anythin you want you kin juss come an git it. . . . Soivice at this toime o night!"

Harland could smell her whiskey breath as she sobbed. He raised his head and stared at her. She twisted her flabby mouth into a smile and bobbed her head towards him.

"Mister I aint accustomed to bein treated brutal. If my husband was aloive he wouldn't have the noive. Who's the loikes o him to say what toime o night a lady ought to have soivice, the little shriveled up shrimp." She threw back her head and laughed so that her hat fell off backwards. "That's what he is, a little shriveled up shrimp, insultin a lady with his toime o night."

Some strands of gray hair with traces of henna at the tips had fallen down about her face. The man in the white coat walked over to the table.

"Look here Mother McCree I'll trow ye out o here if you raise any more distoirbance. . . . What do you want?"

"A nickel's woirt o doughnuts," she sniveled with a sidelong leer at Harland.

Joe Harland shoved his face into the hollow of his arm again and tried to go to sleep. He heard the plate set down followed by her toothless nibbling and an occasional sucking noise when she drank the coffee. A new customer had come in and was talking across the counter in a low growling voice.

"Mister, mister aint it terrible to want a drink?" He raised his head again and found her eyes the blurred blue of watered milk looking into his. "What ye goin to do now darlin?"

"God knows."

"Virgin an Saints it'd be noice to have a bed an a pretty lace shimmy and a noice feller loike you darlin . . . mister."

"Is that all?"

"Oh mister if my poor husband was aloive, he wouldn't let em treat me loike they do. I lost my husband on the General Slocum might ha been yesterday."

"He's not so unlucky."

"But he doid in his sin without a priest, darlin. It's terrible to die in yer sin . . ."

"Oh hell I want to sleep."

Her voice went on in a faint monotonous screech setting his teeth on edge. "The Saints has been agin me ever since I lost my husband on the General Slocum. I aint been an honest woman." . . . She began to sob again. "The Virgin and Saints an Martyrs is agin me, everybody's agin me. . . . Oh wont somebody treat me noice."

"I want to sleep. . . . Cant you shut up?"

She stooped and fumbled for her hat on the floor. She sat sobbing rubbing her swollen redgrimed knuckles into her eyes.

"Oh mister dont ye want to treat me noice?"

Joe Harland got to his feet breathing hard. "Goddam you cant you shut up?" His voice broke into a whine. "Isnt there anywhere you can get a little peace? There's nowhere you can get any peace." He pulled his cap over his eyes, shoved his hands down into his pockets and shambled out of the lunchroom. Over Chatham Square the sky was brightening redviolet through the latticework of elevated tracks. The lights were two rows of bright brass knobs up the empty Bowery.

A policeman passed swinging his nightstick. Joe Harland felt the policeman's eyes on him. He tried to walk fast and briskly as if he were going somewhere on business.

"Well Miss Oglethorpe how do you like it?"

"Like what?"

"Oh you know . . . being a nine days' wonder."

"Why I don't know at all Mr. Goldweiser."

"Women know everything but they wont let on."

Ellen sits in a gown of nilegreen silk in a springy armchair at the end of a long room jingling with talk and twinkle of chandeliers and jewelry, dotted with the bright moving black of evening clothes and silveredged colors of women's dresses. The curve of Harry Goldweiser's nose merges directly into the curve of his bald forehead, his big rump bulges over the edges of a triangular gilt stool, his small brown eyes measure her face like antennae as he talks to her. A woman nearby smells of sandalwood. A woman with orange lips and a chalk face under an orange turban passes talking to a man with a pointed beard. A hawk-beaked woman with crimson hair puts her hand on a man's shoulder from behind. "Why how do you do, Miss Cruikshank; it's surprising isn't it how everybody in the world is always at the same place at the same time." Ellen sits in the armchair drowsily listening, coolness of powder on her face and arms, fatness of rouge on her lips, her body just bathed fresh as a violet under the silk dress, under the silk underclothes; she sits dreamily, drowsily listening. A sudden twinge of men's voices knotting about her. She sits up cold white out of reach like a lighthouse. Men's hands crawl like bugs on the unbreakable glass. Men's looks blunder and flutter against it helpless as moths. But in deep pitblackness inside something clangs like a fire engine.

George Baldwin stood beside the breakfast table with a copy of the New York Times folded in his hand. "Now Cecily," he was saying "we must be sensible about these things."

"Cant you see that I'm trying to be sensible?" she said in a jerking snivelly voice. He stood looking at her without sitting down rolling a corner of the paper between his finger and thumb. Mrs. Baldwin was a tall woman with a mass of carefully curled chestnut hair piled on top of her head. She sat before the silver coffeeservice fingering the sugarbowl with mushroomwhite fingers that had very sharp pink nails.

"George I cant stand it any more that's all." She pressed her quaking lips hard together.

"But my dear you exaggerate. . . ."

"How exaggerate? . . . It means our life has been a pack of lies."

"But Cecily we're fond of each other."

"You married me for my social position, you know it. . . . I was fool enough to fall in love with you. All right, It's over."

"It's not true. I really loved you. Dont you remember how terrible you thought it was you couldnt really love me?"

"You brute to refer to that. . . . Oh it's horrible!"

The maid came in from the pantry with bacon and eggs on a tray. They sat silent looking at each other. The maid swished out of the room and closed the door. Mrs. Baldwin put her forehead down on the edge of the table and began to cry. Baldwin sat staring at the headlines in the paper. Assassination of Archduke Will Have Grave Consequences. Austrian Army Mobilized. He went over and put his hand on her crisp hair.

"Poor old Cecily," he said.

"Dont touch me."

She ran out of the room with her handkerchief to her face. He sat down, helped himself to bacon and eggs and toast and began to eat; everything tasted like paper. He stopped eating to scribble a note on a scratchpad he kept in his breast pocket behind his handkerchief: See Collins vs. Arbuthnot, N.Y.S.C. Appel. Div.

The sound of a step in the hall outside caught his ear, the click of a latch. The elevator had just gone down. He ran four flights down the steps. Through the glass and wroughtiron doors of the vestibule downstairs he caught sight of her on the curb, standing tall and stiff, pulling on her gloves. He rushed out and took her by the hand just as a taxi drove up. Sweat beaded on his forehead and was prickly under his collar. He could see himself standing there with the napkin ridiculous in his hand and the colored doorman grinning and saying, "Good mornin, Mr. Baldwin, looks like it going to be a fine day." Gripping her hand tight, he said in a low voice through his teeth:

"Cecily there's something I want to talk to you about. Wont you wait a minute and we'll go downtown together? . . . Wait about five minutes please," he said to the taxi-driver. We'll be right down." Squeezing her wrist hard he walked back with her to the elevator. When they stood in the hall of their own apartment, she suddenly looked him straight in the face with dry blazing eyes.

"Come in here Cecily" he said gently. He closed their bedroom door and locked it. "Now lets talk this over quietly. Sit down dear." He put a chair behind her. She sat down suddenly stiffly like a marionette.

"Now look here Cecily you have no right to talk the way you do about my friends. Mrs. Oglethorpe is a friend of mine. We occasionally take tea together in some perfectly public place and that's all. I would invite her up here but I've been afraid you would be rude to her. . . . You cant go on giving away to your insane jealousy like this. I allow you complete liberty and trust you absolutely. I think I have the right to expect the same confidence from you. . . . Cecily do be my sensible little girl again. You've been listening to what a lot of old hags fabricate out of whole cloth maliciously to make you miserable."

"She's not the only one."

"Cecily I admit frankly there were times soon after we were married . . . when . . . But that's all over years ago. . . . And who's fault was it? . . . Oh Cecily a woman like you cant understand the physical urgences of a man like me."

"Havent I done my best?"

"My dear these things arent anybody's fault. . . . I dont blame you. . . . If you'd really loved me then . . ."

"What do you think I stay in this hell for except for you? Oh you're such a brute." She sat dryeyed staring at her feet in their gray buckskin slippers, twisting and untwisting in her fingers the wet string of her handkerchief.

"Look here Cecily a divorce would be very harmful to my situation downtown just at the moment, but if you really dont want to go on living with me I'll see what I can arrange. . . . But in any event you must have more confidence in me. You know I'm fond of you. And for God's sake dont go to see anybody about it without consulting me. You dont want a scandal and headlines in the papers, do you?"

"All right . . . leave me alone. . . . I dont care about anything."

"All right. . . . I'm pretty late. I'll go on downtown in that taxi. You don't want to come shopping or anything?"

She shook her head. He kissed her on the forehead, took his straw hat and stick in the hall and hurried out.

"Oh I'm the most miserable woman," she groaned and got to her feet. Her head ached as if it were bound with hot wire. She went to the window and leaned out into the sunlight. Across Park Avenue the flameblue sky was barred with the red girder cage of a new building. Steam riveters rattled incessantly; now and then a donkeyengine whistled and there was a jingle of chains and a fresh girder soared crosswise in the air. Men in blue overalls moved about the scaffolding. Beyond to the northwest a shining head of clouds soared blooming compactly like a cauliflower. Oh if it would only rain. As the thought came to her there was a low growl of thunder above the din of building and of traffic. Oh if it would only rain.

Ellen had just hung a chintz curtain in the window to hide with its blotchy pattern of red and purple flowers the vista of desert backyards and brick flanks of downtown houses. In the middle of the bare room was a boxcouch cumbered with teacups, a copper chafingdish and percolator; the yellow hardwood floor was littered with snippings of chintz and curtainpins; books, dresses, bedlinen cascaded from a trunk in the corner; from a new mop in the fireplace exuded a smell of cedar oil. Ellen was leaning against the wall in a daffodilcolored kimono looking happily about the big shoebox-shaped room when the buzzer startled her. She pushed a rope of hair up off her forehead and pressed the button that worked the latch. There was a little knock on the door. A woman was standing in the dark of the hall.

"Why Cassie I couldn't make out who you were. Come in. . . . What's the matter?"

"You are sure I'm not intwuding?"

"Of course not." Ellen leaned to give her a little pecking kiss. Cassandra Wilkins was very pale and there was a nervous quiver about her eyelids. "You can give me some advice. I'm just getting my curtains up. . . . Look do you think that purple goes all right with the gray wall? It looks kind of funny to me."

"I think it's beautiful. What a beautiful woom. How happy you're going to be here."

"Put that chafingdish down on the floor and sit down. I'll make some tea. There's a kind of bathroom kitchenette in the alcove there."

"You're sure it wouldn't be too much twouble?"

"Of course not. . . . But Cassie what's the matter?"

"Oh everything. . . . I came down to tell you but I cant. I cant ever tell anybody."

"I'm so excited about this apartment. Imagine Cassie it's the first place of my own I ever had in my life. Daddy wants me to live with him in Passaic, but I just felt I couldn't."

"And what does Mr. Oglethorpe . . .? Oh but that's impertinent of me. . . . Do forgive me Elaine. I'm almost cwazy. I don't know what I'm saying."

"Oh Jojo's a dear. He's even going to let me divorce him if I want to. . . . Would you if you were me?" Without waiting for an answer she disappeared between the folding doors. Cassie remained hunched up on the edge of the couch.

Ellen came back with a blue teapot in one hand and a pan of steaming water in the other. "Do you mind not having lemon or cream? There's some sugar on the mantelpiece. These cups are clean because I just washed them. Dont you think they are pretty? Oh you cant imagine how wonderful and domestic it makes you feel to have a place all to yourself. I hate living in a hotel. Honestly this place makes me just so domestic . . . Of course the ridiculous thing is that I'll probably have to give it up or sublet as soon as I've got it decently fixed up. Show's going on the road in three weeks. I want to get out of it but Harry Goldweiser wont let me." Cassie was taking little sips of tea out of her spoon. She began to cry softly. "Why Cassie buck up, what's the matter?"

"Oh, you're so lucky in everything Elaine and I'm so miserable."

"Why I always thought it was my jinx that got the beautyprize, but what is the matter?"

Cassie put down her cup and pushed her two clenched hands into her neck. "It's just this," she said in a strangled voice. . . . "I think I'm going to have a baby." She put her head down on her knees and sobbed.

"Are you sure? Everybody's always having scares."

"I wanted our love to be always pure and beautiful, but he said he'd never see me again if I didn't . . . . and I hate him." She shook the words out one by one between tearing sobs.

"Why don't you get married?"

"I cant. I wont. It would interfere."

"How long since you knew?"

"Oh it must have been ten days ago easily. I know it's that . . . I dont want to have anything but my dancing." She stopped sobbing and began taking little sips of tea again.

Ellen walked back and forth in front of the fireplace. "Look here Cassie there's no use getting all wrought up over things, is there? I know a woman who'll help you. . . . Do pull yourself together please."

"Oh I couldn't, I couldn't." . . . The saucer slid off her knees and broke in two on the floor. "Tell me Elaine have you ever been through this? . . . Oh I'm so sowy. I'll buy you another saucer Elaine." She got totteringly to her feet and put the cup and spoon on the mantelpiece.

"Oh of course I have. When we were first married I had a terrible time. . . ."

"Oh Elaine isn't it hideous all this? Life would be so beautiful and free and natural without it. . . . I can feel the howor of it cweeping up on me, killing me."

"Things are rather like that," said Ellen gruffly.

Cassie was crying again. "Men are so bwutal and selfish."

"Have another cup of tea, Cassie."

"Oh I couldn't. My dear I feel a deadly nausea. . . . Oh I think I'm going to be sick."

"The bathroom is right through the folding doors and to the left."

Ellen walked up and down the room with clenched teeth. I hate women. I hate women.

After a while Cassie came back into the room, her face greenish white, dabbing her forehead with a washrag.

"Here lie down here you poor kid," said Ellen clearing a space on the couch. ". . . Now you'll feel much better."

"Oh will you ever forgive me for causing all this twouble?"

"Just lie still a minute and forget everything."

"Oh if I could only relax."

Ellen's hands were cold. She went to the window and looked out. A little boy in a cowboy suit was running about the yard waving an end of clothesline. He tripped and fell. Ellen could see his face puckered with tears as he got to his feet again. In the yard beyond a stumpy woman with black hair was hanging out clothes. Sparrows were chirping and fighting on the fence.

"Elaine dear could you let me have a little powder? I've lost my vanity case."

She turned back into the room. "I think. . . . Yes there's some on the mantelpiece. . . . Do you feel better now Cassie?"

"Oh yes," said Cassie in a trembly voice. "And have you got a lipstick?"

"I'm awfully sorry. . . . I've never worn any street makeup. I'll have to soon enough if I keep on acting."

She went into the alcove to take off her kimono, slipped on a plain green dress, coiled up her hair and pushed a small black hat down over it. "Let's run along Cassie. I want to have something to eat at six. . . . I hate bolting my dinner five minutes before a performance."

"Oh I'm so tewified. . . . Pwomise you wont leave me alone."

"Oh she wouldnt do anything today. . . . She'll just look you over and maybe give you something to take. . . . Let's see, have I got my key?"

"We'll have to take a taxi. And my dear I've only got six dollars in the world."

"I'll make daddy give me a hundred dollars to buy furniture. That'll be all right."

"Elaine you're the most angelic cweature in the world. . . . You deserve every bit of your success."

At the corner of Sixth Avenue they got into a taxi. Cassie's teeth were chattering. "Please let's go another time. I'm too fwightened to go now."

"My dear child it's the only thing to do."

Joe Harland, puffing on his pipe, pulled to and bolted the wide quaking board gates. A last splash of garnetcolored sunlight was fading on the tall housewall across the excavation. Blue arms of cranes stood out dark against it. Harland's pipe had gone out, he stood puffing at it with his back to the gate looking at the files of empty wheelbarrows, the piles of picks and shovels, the little shed for the donkey-engine and the steam drills that sat perched on a split rock like a mountaineer's shack. It seemed to him peaceful in spite of the rasp of traffic from the street that seeped through the hoarding. He went into the leanto by the gate where the telephone was, sat down in the chair, knocked out, filled and lit his pipe and spread the newspaper out on his knees. Contractors Plan Lockout to Answer Builders' Strike. He yawned and threw back his head. The light was too blue-dim to read. He sat a long time staring at the stub scarred toes of his boots. His mind was a fuzzy comfortable blank. Suddenly he saw himself in a dress-suit wearing a top hat with an orchid in his buttonhole. The Wizard of Wall Street looked at the lined red face and the gray hair under the mangy cap and the big hands with their grimy swollen knuckles and faded with a snicker. He remembered faintly the smell of a Corona-Corona as he reached into the pocket of the peajacket for a can of Prince Albert to refill his pipe. "What dif does it make I'd like to know?" he said aloud. When he lit a match the night went suddenly inky all round. He blew out the match. His pipe was a tiny genial red volcano that made a discreet cluck each time he pulled on it. He smoked very slowly inhaling deep. The tall buildings all round were haloed with ruddy glare from streets and electriclight signs. Looking straight up through glimmering veils of reflected light he could see the blueblack sky and stars. The tobacco was sweet. He was very happy.

A glowing cigarend crossed the door of the shack. Harland grabbed his lantern and went out. He held the lantern up in the face of a blond young man with a thick nose and lips and a cigar in the side of his mouth.

"How did you get in here?"

"Side door was open."

"The hell it was? Who are you looking for?"

"You the night watchman round here?" Harland nodded. "Glad to meet yez. . . . Have a cigar. I jus wanted to have a little talk wid ye, see? . . . I'm organizer for Local 47, see? Let's see your card."

"I'm not a union man."

"Well ye're goin to be aint ye. . . . Us guys of the buildin trades have got to stick together. We're tryin to get every bloke from night watchmen to inspectors lined up to make a solid front against this here lockout sitooation."

Harland lit his cigar. "Look here, bo, you're wasting your breath on me. They'll always need a watchman, strike or no strike. . . . I'm an old man and I havent got much fight left in me. This is the first decent job I've had in five years and they'll have to shoot me to get it away from me. . . . All that stuff's for kids like you. I'm out of it. You sure are wasting your breath if you're going round trying to organize night watchmen."

"Say you don't talk like you'd always been in this kind o woik."

"Well maybe I aint."

The young man took off his hat and rubbed his hand over his forehead and up across his dense cropped hair. "Hell it's warm work arguin. . . . Swell night though aint it?"

"Oh the night's all right," said Harland.

"Say my name's O'Keefe, Joe O'Keefe. . . . Gee I bet you could tell a guy a lot o things." He held out his hand.

"My name's Joe too . . . Harland. . . . Twenty years ago that name meant something to people."

"Twenty years from now . . ."

"Say you're a funny fellow for a walking delegate. . . . You take an old man's advice before I run you off the lot, and quit it. . . . It's no game for a likely young feller who wants to make his way in the world."

"Times are changin you know. . . . There's big fellers back o this here strike, see? I was talkin over the sitooation with Assemblyman McNiel jus this afternoon in his office."

"But I'm telling you straight if there's one thing that'll queer you in this town it's this labor stuff. . . . You'll remember someday that an old drunken bum told you that and it'll be too late."

"Oh it was drink was it? That's one thing I'm not afraid of. I don't touch the stuff, except beer to be sociable."

"Look here bo the company detective'll be makin his rounds soon. You'd better be making tracks."

"I ain't ascared of any goddam company detective. . . . Well so long I'll come in to see you again someday."

"Close that door behind you."

Joe Harland drew a little water from a tin container, settled himself in his chair and stretched his arms out and yawned. Eleven o'clock. They would just be getting out of the theaters, men in eveningclothes, girls in lowneck dresses; men were going home to their wives and mistresses; the city was going to bed. Taxis honked and rasped outside the hoarding, the sky shimmered with gold powder from electric signs. He dropped the butt of the cigar and crushed it on the floor with his heel. He shuddered and got to his feet, then paced slowly round the edge of the buildinglot swinging his lantern.

The light from the street yellowed faintly a big sign on which was a picture of a skyscraper, white with black windows against blue sky and white clouds. Segal and Haynes will erect on this site a modern uptodate Twentyfour Story Office Building open for occupancy January 1915 renting space still available inquire. . . .

Jimmy Herf sat reading on a green couch under a bulb that lit up a corner of a wide bare room. He had come to the death of Olivier in Jean Christophe and read with tightening gullet. In his memory lingered the sound of the Rhine swirling, restlessly gnawing the foot of the garden of the house where Jean Christophe was born. Europe was a green park in his mind full of music and red flags and mobs marching. Occasionally the sound of a steamboat whistle from the river settled breathless snowysoft into the room. From the street came a rattle of taxis and the whining sound of streetcars.

There was a knock at the door. Jimmy got up, his eyes blurred and hot from reading.

"Hello Stan, where the devil did you come from?"

"Herfy I'm tight as a drum."

"That's no novelty."

"I was just giving you the weather report."

"Well perhaps you can tell me why in this country nobody ever does anything. Nobody ever writes any music or starts any revolutions or falls in love. All anybody ever does is to get drunk and tell smutty stories. I think it's disgusting. . . ."

"'Ear, 'ear. . . . But speak for yourself. I'm going to stop drinking. . . . No good drinking, liquor just gets monotonous. . . . Say, got a bathtub?"

"Of course there's a bathtub. Whose apartment do you think this is, mine?"

"Well whose is it Herfy?"

"It belongs to Lester. I'm just caretaker while he's abroad, the lucky dog." Stan started peeling off his clothes letting them drop in a pile about his feet. "Gee I'd like to go swimming. . . . Why the hell do people live in cities?"

"Why do I go on dragging out a miserable existence in this crazy epileptic town . . . that's what I want to know."

"Lead on Horatius, to the baawth slave," bellowed Stan who stood on top of his pile of clothes, brown with tight rounded muscles, swaying a little from his drunkenness.

"It's right through that door." Jimmy pulled a towel out of the steamertrunk in the corner of the room, threw it after him and went back to reading.

Stan tumbled back into the room, dripping, talking through the towel. "What do you think, I forgot to take my hat off. And look Herfy, there's something I want you to do for me. Do you mind?"

"Of course not. What is it?"

"Will you let me use your back room tonight, this room?"

"Sure you can."

"I mean with somebody."

"Go as far as you like. You can bring the entire Winter Garden Chorus in here and nobody will see them. And there's an emergency exit down the fire escape into the alley. I'll go to bed and close my door so you can have this room and the bath all to yourselves."

"It's a rotten imposition but somebody's husband is on the rampage and we have to be very careful."

"Dont worry about the morning. I'll sneak out early and you can have the place to yourselves."

"Well I'm off so long."

Jimmy gathered up his book and went into his bedroom and undressed. His watch said fifteen past twelve. The night was sultry. When he had turned out the light he sat a long while on the edge of the bed. The faraway sounds of sirens from the river gave him gooseflesh. From the street he heard footsteps, the sound of men and women's voices, low youthful laughs of people going home two by two. A phonograph was playing Secondhand Rose. He lay on his back on top of the sheet. There came on the air through the window a sourness of garbage, a smell of burnt gasoline and traffic and dusty pavements, a huddled stuffiness of pigeonhole rooms where men and women's bodies writhed alone tortured by the night and the young summer. He lay with seared eyeballs staring at the ceiling, his body glowed in a brittle shivering agony like redhot metal.

A woman's voice whispering eagerly woke him; someone was pushing open the door. "I wont see him. I wont see him. Jimmy for Heaven's sake you go talk to him. I wont see him." Elaine Oglethorpe draped in a sheet walked into the room.

Jimmy tumbled out of bed. "What on earth?"

"Isn't there a closet or something in here. . . . I will not talk to Jojo when he's in that condition."

Jimmy straightened his pyjamas. "There's a closet at the head of the bed."

"Of course. . . . Now Jimmy do be an angel, talk to him and make him go away."

Jimmy walked dazedly into the outside room. "Slut, slut," was yelling a voice from the window. The lights were on. Stan, draped like an Indian in a gray and pinkstriped blanket was squatting in the middle of the two couches made up together into a vast bed. He was staring impassively at John Oglethorpe who leaned in through the upper part of the window screaming and waving his arms and scolding like a Punch and Judy show. His hair was in a tangle over his eyes, in one hand he waved a stick, in the other a creamandcoffeecolored felt hat. "Slut come here. . . . Flagrante delictu that's what it is. . . . Flagrante delictu. It was not for nothing that inspiration led me up Lester Jones's fire escape." He stopped and stared a minute at Jimmy with wide drunken eyes. "So here's the cub reporter, the yellow journalist is it, looking as if butter wouldnt melt in his mouth is it? Do you know what my opinion of you is, would you like to know what my opinion of you is? Oh I've heard about you from Ruth and all that. I know you think you're one of the dynamiters and aloof from all that. . . . How do you like being a paid prostitute of the public press? How d'you like your yellow ticket? The brass check, that's the kind of thing. . . . You think that as an actor, an artiste, I dont know about those things. I've heard from Ruth your opinion of actors and all that."

"Why Mr. Oglethorpe I am sure you are mistaken."

"I read and keep silent. I am one of the silent watchers. I know that every sentence, every word, every picayune punctuation that appears in the public press is perused and revised and deleted in the interests of advertisers and bondholders. The fountain of national life is poisoned at the source."

"Yea, you tell em," suddenly shouted Stan from the bed. He got to his feet clapping his hands. "I should prefer to be the meanest stagehand. I should prefer to be the old and feeble charwoman who scrubs off the stage . . . than to sit on velvet in the office of the editor of the greatest daily in the city. Acting is a profession honorable, decent, humble, gentlemanly." The oration ended abruptly.

"Well I dont see what you expect me to do about it," said Jimmy crossing his arms.

"And now it's starting to rain," went on Oglethorpe in a squeaky whining voice.

"You'd better go home," said Jimmy.

"I shall go I shall go where there are no sluts . . . no male and female sluts. . . . I shall go into the great night."

"Do you think he can get home all right Stan?"

Stan had sat down on the edge of the bed shaking with laughter. He shrugged his shoulders.

"My blood will be on your head Elaine forever. . . . Forever, do you hear me? . . . into the night where people dont sit laughing and sneering. Dont you think I dont see you. . . . If the worst happens it will not be my fault."

"Go-od night," shouted Stan. In a last spasm of laughing he fell off the edge of the bed and rolled on the floor. Jimmy went to the window and looked down the fire escape into the alley. Oglethorpe had gone. It was raining hard. A smell of wet bricks rose from the housewalls.

"Well if this isnt the darnedest fool business?" He walked back into his room without looking at Stan. In the door Ellen brushed silkily past him.

"I'm terribly sorry Jimmy . . ." she began.

He closed the door sharply in her face and locked it. "The goddam fools they act like crazy people," he said through his teeth. "What the hell do they think this is?"

His hands were cold and trembling. He pulled a blanket up over him. He lay listening to the steady beat of the rain and the hissing spatter of a gutter. Now and then a puff of wind blew a faint cool spray in his face. There still lingered in the room a frail cedarwood gruff smell of her heavycoiled hair, a silkiness of her body where she had crouched wrapped in the sheet hiding.

Ed Thatcher sat in his bay window among the Sunday papers. His hair was grizzled and there were deep folds in his cheeks. The upper buttons of his pongee trousers were undone to ease his sudden little potbelly. He sat in the open window looking out over the blistering asphalt at the endless stream of automobiles that whirred in either direction past the yellowbrick row of stores and the redbrick station under the eaves of which on a black ground gold letters glinted feebly in the sun: Passaic. Apartments round about emitted a querulous Sunday grinding of phonographs playing It's a Bear. The Sextette from Lucia, selections from The Quaker Girl. On his knees lay the theatrical section of the New York Times. He looked out with bleared eyes into the quivering heat feeling his ribs tighten with a breathless ache. He had just read a paragraph in a marked copy of Town Topics.

Malicious tongues are set wagging by the undeniable fact that young Stanwood Emery's car is seen standing every night outside the Knickerbocker Theatre and never does it leave they say, without a certain charming young actress whose career is fast approaching stellar magnitude. This same young gentleman, whose father is the head of one of the city's most respected lawfirms, who recently left Harvard under slightly unfortunate circumstances, has been astonishing the natives for some time with his exploits which we are sure are merely the result of the ebullience of boyish spirits. A word to the wise.

The bell rang three times. Ed Thatcher dropped his papers and hurried quaking to the door. "Ellie you're so late. I was afraid you weren't coming."

"Daddy dont I always come when I say I will?"

"Of course you do deary."

"How are you getting on? How's everything at the office?"

"Mr. Elbert's on his vacation. . . . I guess I'll go when he comes back. I wish you'd come down to Spring Lake with me for a few days. It'd do you good."

"But daddy I cant." . . . She pulled off her hat and dropped it on the davenport. "Look I brought you some roses, daddy."

"Think of it; they're red roses like your mother used to like. That was very thoughtful of you I must say. . . . But I dont like going all alone on my vacation."

"Oh you'll meet lots of cronies daddy, sure you will."

"Why couldnt you come just for a week?"

"In the first place I've got to look for a job . . . show's going on the road and I'm not going just at present. Harry Goldweiser's awfully sore about it." Thatcher sat down in the bay window again and began piling up the Sunday papers on a chair. "Why daddy what on earth are you doing with that copy of Town Topics?"

"Oh nothing. I'd never read it; I just bought it to see what it was like." He flushed and compressed his lips as he shoved it in among the Times.

"It's just a blackmail sheet." Ellen was walking about the room. She had put the roses in a vase. A spiced coolness was spreading from them through the dustheavy air. "Daddy, there's something I want to tell you about . . . Jojo and I are going to get divorced." Ed Thatcher sat with his hands on his knees nodding with tight lips, saying nothing. His face was gray and dark, almost the speckled gray of his pongee suit. "It's nothing to take on about. We've just decided we cant get along together. It's all going through quietly in the most approved style . . . George Baldwin, who's a friend of mine, is going to run it through."

"He with Emery and Emery?"

"Yes."

"Hum."

They were silent. Ellen leaned over to breathe deep of the roses. She watched a little green measuring worm cross a bronzed leaf.

"Honestly I'm terribly fond of Jojo, but it drives me wild to live with him. . . . I owe him a whole lot, I know that."

"I wish you'd never set eyes on him."

Thatcher cleared his throat and turned his face away from her to look out the window at the two endless bands of automobiles that passed along the road in front of the station. Dust rose from them and angular glitter of glass enamel and nickel. Tires made a swish on the oily macadam. Ellen dropped onto the davenport and let her eyes wander among the faded red roses of the carpet.

The bell rang. "I'll go daddy. . . . How do you do Mrs. Culveteer?"

A redfaced broad woman in a black and white chiffon dress came into the room puffing. "Oh you must forgive my butting in, I'm just dropping by for a second. . . . How are you Mr. Thatcher? . . . You know my dear your poor father has really been very poorly."

"Nonsense; all I had was a little backache."

"Lumbago my dear."

"Why daddy you ought to have let me know."

"The sermon today was most inspiring, Mr. Thatcher. . . . Mr. Lourton was at his very best."

"I guess I ought to rout out and go to church now and then, but you see I like to lay round the house Sundays."

"Of course Mr, Thatcher it's the only day you have. My husband was just like that. . . . But I think it's different with Mr. Lourton than with most clergymen. He has such an uptodate commonsense view of things. It's really more like attending an intensely interesting lecture than going to church. . . . You understand what I mean."

"Y'll tell you what I'll do Mrs. Culveteer, next Sunday if it's not too hot I'll go. . . . I guess I'm getting too set in my ways."

"Oh a little change does us all good. . . . Mrs. Oglethorpe you have no idea how closely we follow your career, in the Sunday papers and all. . . . I think it's simply wonderful. . . . As I was telling Mr. Thatcher only yesterday it must take a lot of strength of character and deep Christian living to withstand the temptations of stage life nowadays. It's inspiring to think of a young girl and wife coming so sweet and unspoiled through all that."

Ellen kept looking at the floor so as not to catch her father's eye. He was tapping with two fingers on the arm of his morrischair. Mrs. Culveteer beamed from the middle of the davenport. She got to her feet. "Well I just must run along. We have a green girl in the kitchen and I'm sure dinner's all ruined. . . Wont you drop in this afternoon . . .? quite informally. I made some cookies and we'll have some gingerale out just in case somebody turns up."

"I'm sure we'd be delighted Mrs. Culveteer," said Thatcher getting stiffly to his feet. Mrs. Culveteer in her bunchy dress waddled out the door.

"Well Ellie suppose we go eat. . . . She's a very nice kindhearted woman. She's always bringing me pots of jam and marmalade. She lives upstairs with her sister's family. She's the widow of a traveling man."

"That was quite a line about the temptations of stage life," said Ellen with a little laugh in her throat. "Come along or the place'll be crowded. Avoid the rush is my motto."

Said Thatcher in a peevish crackling voice, "Let's not dawdle around."

Ellen spread out her sunshade as they stepped out of the door flanked on either side by bells and letterboxes. A blast of gray heat beat in their faces. They passed the stationery store, the red A. and P., the corner drugstore from which a stale coolness of sodawater and icecream freezers drifted out under the green awning, crossed the street, where their feet sank into the sticky melting asphalt, and stopped at the Sagamore Cafeteria. It was twelve exactly by the clock in the window that had round its face in old English lettering, Time to Eat. Under it was a large rusty fern and a card announcing Chicken Dinner $1.25. Ellen lingered in the doorway looking up the quivering street. "Look daddy we'll probably have a thunderstorm." A cumulus soared in unbelievable snowy contours in the slate sky. "Isnt that a fine cloud? Wouldnt it be fine if we had a riproaring thunderstorm?"

Ed Thatcher looked up, shook his head and went in through the swinging screen door. Ellen followed him. Inside it smelled of varnish and waitresses. They sat down at a table near the door under a droning electric fan.

"How do you do Mr. Thatcher? How you been all the week sir? How do you do miss?" The bonyfaced peroxidehaired waitress hung over them amicably. What'll it be today sir, roast Long Island duckling or roast Philadelphia milkfed capon?"