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TWO WRONGS


by


F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)


Saturday Evening Post (18 January 1930)



"Look at those shoes," said Bill--"twenty-eight dollars."

Mr. Brancusi looked.  "Purty."

"Made to order."

"I knew you were a great swell.  You didn't get me up here to show
me those shoes, did you?"

"I am not a great swell.  Who said I was a great swell?" demanded
Bill.  "Just because I've got more education than most people in
show business."

"And then, you know, you're a handsome young fellow," said Brancusi
dryly.

"Sure I am--compared to you anyhow.  The girls think I must be an
actor, till they find out. . . .  Got a cigarette?  What's more, I
look like a man--which is more than most of these pretty boys round
Times Square do."

"Good-looking.  Gentleman.  Good shoes.  Shot with luck."

"You're wrong there," objected Bill.  "Brains.  Three years--nine
shows--four big hits--only one flop.  Where do you see any luck in
that?"

A little bored, Brancusi just gazed.  What he would have seen--had
he not made his eyes opaque and taken to thinking about something
else--was a fresh-faced young Irishman exuding aggressiveness and
self-confidence until the air of his office was thick with it.
Presently, Brancusi knew, Bill would hear the sound of his own
voice and be ashamed and retire into his other humor--the quietly
superior, sensitive one, the patron of the arts, modelled on the
intellectuals of the Theatre Guild.  Bill McChesney had not quite
decided between the two, such blends are seldom complete before
thirty.

"Take Ames, take Hopkins, take Harris--take any of them," Bill
insisted.  "What have they got on me?  What's the matter?  Do you
want a drink?"--seeing Brancusi's glance wander toward the cabinet
on the opposite wall.

"I never drink in the morning.  I just wondered who was it keeps on
knocking.  You ought to make it stop it.  I get a nervous fidgets,
kind of half crazy, with that kind of thing."

Bill went quickly to the door and threw it open.

"Nobody," he said . . .  "Hello!  What do you want?"

"Oh, I'm so sorry," a voice answered; "I'm terribly sorry.  I got
so excited and I didn't realize I had this pencil in my hand."

"What is it you want?"

"I want to see you, and the clerk said you were busy.  I have a
letter for you from Alan Rogers, the playwright--and I wanted to
give it to you personally."

"I'm busy," said Bill.  "See Mr. Cadorna."

"I did, but he wasn't very encouraging, and Mr. Rogers said--"

Brancusi, edging over restlessly, took a quick look at her.  She
was very young, with beautiful red hair, and more character in her
face than her chatter would indicate; it did not occur to Mr.
Brancusi that this was due to her origin in Delaney, South
Carolina.

"What shall I do?" she inquired, quietly laying her future in
Bill's hands.  "I had a letter to Mr. Rogers, and he just gave me
this one to you."

"Well, what do you want me to do--marry you?" exploded Bill.

"I'd like to get a part in one of your plays."

"Then sit down and wait.  I'm busy. . . .  Where's Miss Cohalan?"
He rang a bell, looked once more, crossly, at the girl and closed
the door of his office.  But during the interruption his other mood
had come over him, and he resumed his conversation with Brancusi in
the key of one who was hand in glove with Reinhardt for the
artistic future of the theater.

By 12:30 he had forgotten everything except that he was going to be
the greatest producer in the world and that he had an engagement to
tell Sol Lincoln about it at lunch.  Emerging from his office, he
looked expectantly at Miss Cohalan.

"Mr. Lincoln won't be able to meet you," she said.  "He jus 'is
minute called."

"Just this minute," repeated Bill, shocked.  "All right.  Just
cross him off that list for Thursday night."

Miss Cohalan drew a line on a sheet of paper before her.

"Mr. McChesney, now you haven't forgotten me, have you?"

He turned to the red-headed girl.

"No," he said vaguely, and then to Miss Cohalan:  "That's all
right; ask him for Thursday anyhow.  To hell with him."

He did not want to lunch alone.  He did not like to do anything
alone now, because contacts were too much fun when one had
prominence and power.

"If you would just let me talk to you two minutes--" she began.

"Afraid I can't now."  Suddenly he realized that she was the most
beautiful person he had ever seen in his life.

He stared at her.

"Mr. Rogers told me--"

"Come and have a spot of lunch with me," he said, and then, with an
air of great hurry, he gave Miss Cohalan some quick and
contradictory instructions and held open the door.

They stood on Forty-second Street and he breathed his pre-empted
air--there is only enough air there for a few people at a time.  It
was November and the first exhilarating rush of the season was
over, but he could look east and see the electric sign of one of
his plays, and west and see another.  Around the corner was the one
he had put on with Brancusi--the last time he would produce
anything except alone.

They went to the Bedford, where there was a to-do of waiters and
captains as he came in.

"This is ver tractive restaurant," she said, impressed and on
company behavior.

"This is hams' paradise."  He nodded to several people.  "Hello,
Jimmy--Bill. . . .  Hello there, Jack. . . .  That's Jack
Dempsey. . . .  I don't eat here much.  I usually eat up at the
Harvard Club."

"Oh, did you go to Harvard?  I used to know--"

"Yes."  He hesitated; there were two versions about Harvard, and he
decided suddenly on the true one.  "Yes, and they had me down for a
hick there, but not any more.  About a week ago I was out on Long
Island at the Gouverneer Haights--very fashionable people--and a
couple of Gold Coast boys that never knew I was alive up in
Cambridge began pulling this 'Hello, Bill, old boy' on me."

He hesitated and suddenly decided to leave the story there.

"What do you want--a job?" he demanded.  He remembered suddenly
that she had holes in her stockings.  Holes in stockings always
moved him, softened him.

"Yes, or else I've got to go home," she said.  "I want to be a
dancer--you know, Russian ballet.  But the lessons cost so much, so
I've got to get a job.  I thought it'd give me stage presence
anyhow."

"Hoofer, eh?"

"Oh, no, serious."

"Well, Pavlova's a hoofer, isn't she?"

"Oh, no."  She was shocked at this profanity, but after a moment
she continued:  "I took with Miss Campbell--Georgia Berriman
Campbell--back home--maybe you know her.  She took from Ned
Wayburn, and she's really wonderful.  She--"

"Yeah?" he said abstractedly.  "Well, it's a tough business--
casting agencies bursting with people that can all do anything,
till I give them a try.  How old are you?"

"Eighteen."

"I'm twenty-six.  Came here four years ago without a cent."

"My!"

"I could quit now and be comfortable the rest of my life."

"My!"

"Going to take a year off next year--get married. . . .  Ever hear
of Irene Rikker?"

"I should say!  She's about my favorite of all."

"We're engaged."

"My!"

When they went out into Times Square after a while he said
carelessly, "What are you doing now?"

"Why, I'm trying to get a job."

"I mean right this minute."

"Why, nothing."

"Do you want to come up to my apartment on Forty-sixth Street and
have some coffee?"

Their eyes met, and Emmy Pinkard made up her mind she could take
care of herself.

It was a great bright studio apartment with a ten-foot divan, and
after she had coffee and he a highball, his arm dropped round her
shoulder.

"Why should I kiss you?" she demanded.  "I hardly know you, and
besides, you're engaged to somebody else."

"Oh, that!  She doesn't care."

"No, really!"

"You're a good girl."

"Well, I'm certainly not an idiot."

"All right, go on being a good girl."

She stood up, but lingered a minute, very fresh and cool, and not
upset at all.

"I suppose this means you won't give me a job?" she asked
pleasantly.

He was already thinking about something else--about an interview
and a rehearsal--but now he looked at her again and saw that she
still had holes in her stockings.  He telephoned:

"Joe, this is the Fresh Boy. . . .  You didn't think I knew you
called me that, did you? . . .  It's all right. . . .  Say, have
you got those three girls for the party scene?  Well, listen; save
one for a Southern kid I'm sending around today."

He looked at her jauntily, conscious of being such a good fellow.

"Well, I don't know how to thank you.  And Mr. Rogers," she added
audaciously.  "Good-by, Mr. McChesney."

He disdained to answer.


II


During rehearsal he used to come around a great deal and stand
watching with a wise expression, as if he knew everything in
people's minds; but actually he was in a haze about his own good
fortune and didn't see much and didn't for the moment care.  He
spent most of his week-ends on Long Island with the fashionable
people who had "taken him up."  When Brancusi referred to him as
the "big social butterfly," he would answer, "Well, what about it?
Didn't I go to Harvard?  You think they found me in a Grand Street
apple cart, like you?"  He was well liked among his new friends for
his good looks and good nature, as well as his success.

His engagement to Irene Rikker was the most unsatisfactory thing in
his life; they were tired of each other but unwilling to put an end
to it.  Just as, often, the two richest young people in a town are
drawn together by the fact, so Bill McChesney and Irene Rikker,
borne side by side on waves of triumph, could not spare each
other's nice appreciation of what was due such success.
Nevertheless, they indulged in fiercer and more frequent quarrels,
and the end was approaching.  It was embodied in one Frank
Llewellen, a big, fine-looking actor playing opposite Irene.
Seeing the situation at once, Bill became bitterly humorous about
it; from the second week of rehearsals there was tension in the
air.

Meanwhile Emmy Pinkard, with enough money for crackers and milk,
and a friend who took her out to dinner, was being happy.  Her
friend, Easton Hughes from Delaney, was studying at Columbia to be
a dentist.  He sometimes brought along other lonesome young men
studying to be dentists, and at the price, if it can be called
that, of a few casual kisses in taxicabs, Emmy dined when hungry.
One afternoon she introduced Easton to Bill McChesney at the stage
door, and afterward Bill made his facetious jealousy the basis of
their relationship.

"I see that dental number has been slipping it over on me again.
Well, don't let him give you any laughing gas is my advice."

Though their encounters were few, they always looked at each other.
When Bill looked at her he stared for an instant as if he had not
seen her before, and then remembered suddenly that she was to be
teased.  When she looked at him she saw many things--a bright day
outside, with great crowds of people hurrying through the streets;
a very good new limousine that waited at the curb for two people
with very good new clothes, who got in and went somewhere that was
just like New York, only away, and more fun there.  Many times she
had wished she had kissed him, but just as many times she was glad
she hadn't; since, as the weeks passed, he grew less romantic, tied
up, like the rest of them, to the play's laborious evolution.

They were opening in Atlantic City.  A sudden moodiness apparent to
everyone, came over Bill.  He was short with the director and
sarcastic with the actors.  This, it was rumored, was because Irene
Rikker had come down with Frank Llewellen on a different train.
Sitting beside the author on the night of the dress rehearsal, he
was an almost sinister figure in the twilight of the auditorium;
but he said nothing until the end of the second act, when, with
Llewellen and Irene Rikker on the stage alone, he suddenly called:

"We'll go over that again--and cut out the mush!"

Llewellen came down to the footlights.

"What do you mean--cut out the mush?" he inquired.  "Those are the
lines, aren't they?"

"You know what I mean--stick to business."

"I don't know what you mean."

Bill stood up.  "I mean all that damn whispering."

"There wasn't any whispering.  I simply asked--"

"That'll do--take it over."

Llewellen turned away furiously and was about to proceed, when Bill
added audibly:  "Even a ham has got to do his stuff."

Llewellen whipped about.  "I don't have to stand that kind of talk,
Mr. McChesney."

"Why not?  You're a ham, aren't you?  When did you get ashamed of
being a ham?  I'm putting on this play and I want you to stick to
your stuff."  Bill got up and walked down the aisle.  "And when you
don't do it, I'm going to call you just like anybody else."

"Well, you watch out for your tone of voice--"

"What'll you do about it?"

Llewellen jumped down into the orchestra pit.

"I'm not taking anything from you!" he shouted.

Irene Rikker called to them from the stage, "For heaven's sake, are
you two crazy?"  And then Llewellen swung at him, one short, mighty
blow.  Bill pitched back across a row of seats, fell through one,
splintering it, and lay wedged there.  There was a moment's wild
confusion, then people holding Llewellen, then the author, with a
white face, pulling Bill up, and the stage manager crying:  "Shall
I kill him, chief?  Shall I break his fat face?" and Llewellen
panting and Irene Rikker frightened.

"Get back there!" Bill cried, holding a handkerchief to his face
and teetering in the author's supporting arms.  "Everybody get
back!  Take that scene again, and no talk!  Get back, Llewellen!"

Before they realized it they were all back on the stage, Irene
pulling Llewellen's arm and talking to him fast.  Someone put on
the auditorium lights full and then dimmed them again hurriedly.
When Emmy came out presently for her scene, she saw in a quick
glance that Bill was sitting with a whole mask of handkerchiefs
over his bleeding face.  She hated Llewellen and was afraid that
presently they would break up and go back to New York.  But Bill
had saved the show from his own folly, since for Llewellen to take
the further initiative of quitting would hurt his professional
standing.  The act ended and the next one began without an
interval.  When it was over, Bill was gone.

Next night, during the performance, he sat on a chair in the wings
in view of everyone coming on or off.  His face was swollen and
bruised, but he neglected to seem conscious of the fact and there
were no comments.  Once he went around in front, and when he
returned, word leaked out that two of the New York agencies were
making big buys.  He had a hit--they all had a hit.

At the sight of him to whom Emmy felt they all owed so much, a
great wave of gratitude swept over her.  She went up and thanked
him.

"I'm a good picker, red-head," he agreed grimly.

"Thank you for picking me."

And suddenly Emmy was moved to a rash remark.

"You've hurt your face so badly!" she exclaimed.  "Oh, I think it
was so brave of you not to let everything go to pieces last night."

He looked at her hard for a moment and then an ironic smile tried
unsuccessfully to settle on his swollen face.

"Do you admire me, baby?"

"Yes."

"Even when I fell in the seats, did you admire me?"

"You got control of everything so quick."

"That's loyalty for you.  You found something to admire in that
fool mess."

And her happiness bubbled up into, "Anyhow, you behaved just
wonderfully."  She looked so fresh and young that Bill, who had had
a wretched day, wanted to rest his swollen cheek against her cheek.

He took both the bruise and the desire with him to New York next
morning; the bruise faded, but the desire remained.  And when they
opened in the city, no sooner did he see other men begin to crowd
around her beauty than she became this play for him, this success,
the thing that he came to see when he came to the theater.  After a
good run it closed just as he was drinking too much and needed
someone on the gray days of reaction.  They were married suddenly
in Connecticut, early in June.


III


Two men sat in the Savoy Grill in London, waiting for the Fourth of
July.  It was already late in May.

"Is he a nice guy?" asked Hubbel.

"Very nice," answered Brancusi; "very nice, very handsome, very
popular."  After a moment, he added:  "I want to get him to come
home."

"That's what I don't get about him," said Hubbel.  "Show business
over here is nothing compared to home.  What does he want to stay
here for?"

"He goes around with a lot of dukes and ladies."

"Oh?"

"Last week when I met him he was with three ladies--Lady this, Lady
that, Lady the other thing."

"I thought he was married."

"Married three years," said Brancusi, "got a fine child, going to
have another."

He broke off as McChesney came in, his very American face staring
about boldly over the collar of a box-shouldered topcoat.

"Hello, Mac; meet my friend Mr. Hubbel."

"J'doo," said Bill.  He sat down, continuing to stare around the
bar to see who was present.  After a few minutes Hubbel left, and
Bill asked:

"Who's that bird?"

"He's only been here a month.  He ain't got a title yet.  You been
here six months, remember."

Bill grinned.

"You think I'm high-hat, don't you?  Well, I'm not kidding myself
anyhow.  I like it; it gets me.  I'd like to be the Marquis of
McChesney."

"Maybe you can drink yourself into it," suggested Brancusi.

"Shut your trap.  Who said I was drinking?  Is that what they say
now?  Look here; if you can tell me any American manager in the
history of the theater who's had the success that I've had in
London in less than eight months, I'll go back to America with you
tomorrow.  If you'll just tell me--"

"It was with your old shows.  You had two flops in New York."

Bill stood up, his face hardening.

"Who do you think you are?" he demanded.  "Did you come over here
to talk to me like that?"

"Don't get sore now, Bill.  I just want you to come back.  I'd say
anything for that.  Put over three seasons like you had in '22 and
'23, and you're fixed for life."

"New York makes me sick," said Bill moodily.  "One minute you're a
king; then you have two flops, they go around saying you're on the
toboggan."

Brancusi shook his head.

"That wasn't why they said it.  It was because you had that quarrel
with Aronstael, your best friend."

"Friend hell!"

"Your best friend in business anyhow.  Then--"

"I don't want to talk about it."  He looked at his watch.  "Look
here; Emmy's feeling bad so I'm afraid I can't have dinner with you
tonight.  Come around to the office before you sail."

Five minutes later, standing by the cigar counter, Brancusi saw
Bill enter the Savoy again and descend the steps that led to the
tea room.

"Grown to be a great diplomat," thought Brancusi; "he used to just
say when he had a date.  Going with these dukes and ladies is
polishing him up even more."

Perhaps he was a little hurt, though it was not typical of him to
be hurt.  At any rate he made a decision, then and there, that
McChesney was on the down grade; it was quite typical of him that
at that point he erased him from his mind forever.

There was no outward indication that Bill was on the down grade; a
hit at the New Strand, a hit at the Prince of Wales, and the weekly
grosses pouring in almost as well as they had two or three years
before in New York.  Certainly a man of action was justified in
changing his base.  And the man who, an hour later, turned into his
Hyde Park house for dinner had all the vitality of the late
twenties.  Emmy, very tired and clumsy, lay on a couch in the
upstairs sitting room.  He held her for a moment in his arms.

"Almost over now," he said.  "You're beautiful."

"Don't be ridiculous."

"It's true.  You're always beautiful.  I don't know why.  Perhaps
because you've got character, and that's always in your face, even
when you're like this."

She was pleased; she ran her hand through his hair.

"Character is the greatest thing in the world," he declared, "and
you've got more than anybody I know."

"Did you see Brancusi?"

"I did, the little louse!  I decided not to bring him home to
dinner."

"What was the matter?"

"Oh, just snooty--talking about my row with Aronstael, as if it was
my fault."

She hesitated, closed her mouth tight, and then said quietly, "You
got into that fight with Aronstael because you were drinking."

He rose impatiently.

"Are you going to start--"

"No, Bill, but you're drinking too much now.  You know you are."

Aware that she was right, he evaded the matter and they went in to
dinner.  On the glow of a bottle of claret he decided he would go
on the wagon tomorrow till after the baby was born.

"I always stop when I want, don't I?  I always do what I say.  You
never saw me quit yet."

"Never yet."

They had coffee together, and afterward he got up.

"Come back early," said Emmy.

"Oh, sure. . . .  What's the matter, baby?"

"I'm just crying.  Don't mind me.  Oh, go on; don't just stand
there like a big idiot."

"But I'm worried, naturally.  I don't like to see you cry."

"Oh, I don't know where you go in the evenings; I don't know who
you're with.  And that Lady Sybil Combrinck who kept phoning.  It's
all right, I suppose, but I wake up in the night and I feel so
alone, Bill.  Because we've always been together, haven't we, until
recently?"

"But we're together still. . . .  What's happened to you, Emmy?"

"I know--I'm just crazy.  We'd never let each other down, would we?
We never have--"

"Of course not."

"Come back early, or when you can."

He looked in for a minute at the Prince of Wales Theatre; then he
went into the hotel next door and called a number.

"I'd like to speak to her Ladyship.  Mr. McChesney calling."

It was some time before Lady Sybil answered:

"This is rather a surprise.  It's been several weeks since I've
been lucky enough to hear from you."

Her voice was flip as a whip and cold as automatic refrigeration,
in the mode grown familiar since British ladies took to piecing
themselves together out of literature.  It had fascinated Bill for
a while, but just for a while.  He had kept his head.

"I haven't had a minute," he explained easily.  "You're not sore,
are you?"

"I should scarcely say 'sore.'"

"I was afraid you might be; you didn't send me an invitation to
your party tonight.  My idea was that after we talked it all over
we agreed--"

"You talked a great deal," she said; "possibly a little too much."

Suddenly, to Bill's astonishment, she hung up.

"Going British on me," he thought.  "A little skit entitled The
Daughter of a Thousand Earls."

The snub roused him, the indifference revived his waning interest.
Usually women forgave his changes of heart because of his obvious
devotion to Emmy, and he was remembered by various ladies with a
not unpleasant sigh.  But he had detected no such sigh upon the
phone.

"I'd like to clear up this mess," he thought.  Had he been wearing
evening clothes, he might have dropped in at the dance and talked
it over with her, still he didn't want to go home.  Upon
consideration it seemed important that the misunderstanding should
be fixed up at once, and presently he began to entertain the idea
of going as he was; Americans were excused unconventionalities of
dress.  In any case, it was not nearly time, and, in the company of
several highballs, he considered the matter for an hour.

At midnight he walked up the steps of her Mayfair house.  The coat-
room attendants scrutinized his tweeds disapprovingly and a footman
peered in vain for his name on the list of guests.  Fortunately his
friend Sir Humphrey Dunn arrived at the same time and convinced the
footman it must be a mistake.

Inside, Bill immediately looked about for his hostess.

She was a very tall young woman, half American and all the more
intensely English.  In a sense, she had discovered Bill McChesney,
vouched for his savage charms; his retirement was one of her most
humiliating experiences since she had begun being bad.

She stood with her husband at the head of the receiving line--Bill
had never seen them together before.  He decided to choose a less
formal moment for presenting himself.

As the receiving went on interminably, he became increasingly
uncomfortable.  He saw a few people he knew, but not many, and he
was conscious that his clothes were attracting a certain attention;
he was aware also that Lady Sybil saw him and could have relieved
his embarrassment with a wave of her hand, but she made no sign.
He was sorry he had come, but to withdraw now would be absurd, and
going to a buffet table, he took a glass of champagne.

When he turned around she was alone at last, and he was about to
approach her when the butler spoke to him:

"Pardon me, sir.  Have you a card?"

"I'm a friend of Lady Sybil's," said Bill impatiently.  He turned
away, but the butler followed.

"I'm sorry, sir, but I'll have to ask you to step aside with me and
straighten this up."

"There's no need.  I'm just about to speak to Lady Sybil now."

"My orders are different, sir," said the butler firmly.

Then, before Bill realized what was happening, his arms were
pressed quietly to his sides and he was propelled into a little
anteroom back of the buffet.

There he faced a man in a pince-nez in whom he recognized the
Combrincks' private secretary.

The secretary nodded to the butler, saying, "This is the man";
whereupon Bill was released.

"Mr. McChesney," said the secretary, "you have seen fit to force
your way here without a card, and His Lordship requests that you
leave his house at once.  Will you kindly give me the check for
your coat?"

Then Bill understood, and the single word that he found applicable
to Lady Sybil sprang to his lips; whereupon the secretary gave a
sign to two footmen, and in a furious struggle Bill was carried
through a pantry where busy bus boys stared at the scene, down a
long hall, and pushed out a door into the night.  The door closed;
a moment later it was opened again to let his coat billow forth and
his cane clatter down the steps.

As he stood there, overwhelmed, stricken aghast, a taxicab stopped
beside him and the driver called:

"Feeling ill, gov'nor?"

"What?"

"I know where you can get a good pick-me-up, gov'nor.  Never too
late."  The door of the taxi opened on a nightmare.  There was a
cabaret that broke the closing hours; there was being with
strangers he had picked up somewhere; then there were arguments,
and trying to cash a check, and suddenly proclaiming over and over
that he was William McChesney, the producer, and convincing no one
of the fact, not even himself.  It seemed important to see Lady
Sybil right away and call her to account; but presently nothing was
important at all.  He was in a taxicab whose driver had just shaken
him awake in front of his own home.

The telephone was ringing as he went in, but he walked stonily past
the maid and only heard her voice when his foot was on the stair.

"Mr. McChesney, it's the hospital calling again.  Mrs. McChesney's
there and they've been phoning every hour."

Still in a daze, he held the receiver up to his ear.

"We're calling from the Midland Hospital, for your wife.  She was
delivered of a still-born child at nine this morning."

"Wait a minute."  His voice was dry and cracking.  "I don't
understand."

After a while he understood that Emmy's child was dead and she
wanted him.  His knees sagged groggily as he walked down the
street, looking for a taxi.

The room was dark; Emmy looked up and saw him from a rumpled bed.

"It's you!" she cried.  "I thought you were dead!  Where did you
go?"

He threw himself down on his knees beside the bed, but she turned
away.

"Oh, you smell awful," she said.  "It makes me sick."

But she kept her hand in his hair, and he knelt there motionless
for a long time.

"I'm done with you," she muttered, "but it was awful when I thought
you were dead.  Everybody's dead.  I wish I was dead."

A curtain parted with the wind, and as he rose to arrange it, she
saw him in the full morning light, pale and terrible, with rumpled
clothes and bruises on his face.  This time she hated him instead
of those who had hurt him.  She could feel him slipping out of her
heart, feel the space he left, and all at once he was gone, and she
could even forgive him and be sorry for him.  All this in a minute.

She had fallen down at the door of the hospital, trying to get out
of the taxicab alone.


IV


When Emmy was well, physically and mentally, her incessant idea was
to learn to dance; the old dream inculcated by Miss Georgia
Berriman Campbell of South Carolina persisted as a bright avenue
leading back to first youth and days of hope in New York.  To her,
dancing meant that elaborate blend of tortuous attitudes and formal
pirouettes that evolved out of Italy several hundred years ago and
reached its apogee in Russia at the beginning of this century.  She
wanted to use herself on something she could believe in, and it
seemed to her that the dance was woman's interpretation of music;
instead of strong fingers, one had limbs with which to render
Tschaikowsky and Stravinksi; and feet could be as eloquent in
Chopiniana as voices in "The Ring."  At the bottom, it was
something sandwiched in between the acrobats and the trained seals;
at the top it was Pavlova and art.

Once they were settled in an apartment back in New York, she
plunged into her work like a girl of sixteen--four hours a day at
bar exercises, attitudes, sauts, arabesques and pirouettes.  It
became the realest part of her life, and her only worry was whether
or not she was too old.  At twenty-six she had ten years to make
up, but she was a natural dancer with a fine body--and that lovely
face.

Bill encouraged it; when she was ready he was going to build the
first real American ballet around her.  There were even times when
he envied her her absorption; for affairs in his own line were more
difficult since they had come home.  For one thing, he had made
many enemies in those early days of self-confidence; there were
exaggerated stories of his drinking and of his being hard on actors
and difficult to work with.

It was against him that he had always been unable to save money and
must beg a backing for each play.  Then, too, in a curious way, he
was intelligent, as he was brave enough to prove in several
uncommercial ventures, but he had no Theatre Guild behind him, and
what money he lost was charged against him.

There were successes, too, but he worked harder for them, or it
seemed so, for he had begun to pay a price for his irregular life.
He always intended to take a rest or give up his incessant
cigarettes, but there was so much competition now--new men coming
up, with new reputations for infallibility--and besides, he wasn't
used to regularity.  He liked to do his work in those great spurts,
inspired by black coffee, that seem so inevitable in show business,
but which took so much out of a man after thirty.  He had come to
lean, in a way, on Emmy's fine health and vitality.  They were
always together, and if he felt a vague dissatisfaction that he had
grown to need her more than she needed him, there was always the
hope that things would break better for him next month, next
season.

Coming home from ballet school one November evening, Emmy swung her
little gray bag, pulled her hat far down over her still damp hair,
and gave herself up to pleasant speculation.  For a month she had
been aware of people who had come to the studio especially to watch
her--she was ready to dance.  Once she had worked just as hard and
for as long a time on something else--her relations with Bill--only
to reach a climax of misery and despair, but here there was nothing
to fail her except herself.  Yet even now she felt a little rash in
thinking:  "Now it's come.  I'm going to be happy."

She hurried, for something had come up today that she must talk
over with Bill.

Finding him in the living room, she called him to come back while
she dressed.  She began to talk without looking around:

"Listen what happened!"  Her voice was loud, to compete with the
water running in the tub.  "Paul Makova wants me to dance with him
at the Metropolitan this season; only it's not sure, so it's a
secret--even I'm not supposed to know."

"That's great."

"The only thing is whether it wouldn't be better for me to make a
début abroad?  Anyhow Donilof says I'm ready to appear.  What do
you think?"

"I don't know."

"You don't sound very enthusiastic."

"I've got something on my mind.  I'll tell you about it later.  Go
on."

"That's all, dear.  If you still feel like going to Germany for a
month, like you said, Donilof would arrange a début for me in
Berlin, but I'd rather open here and dance with Paul Makova.  Just
imagine--"  She broke off, feeling suddenly through the thick skin
of her elation how abstracted he was.  "Tell me what you've got on
your mind."

"I went to Doctor Kearns this afternoon."

"What did he say?"  Her mind was still singing with her own
happiness.  Bill's intermittent attacks of hypochondria had long
ceased to worry her.

"I told him about that blood this morning, and he said what he said
last year--it was probably a little broken vein in my throat.  But
since I'd been coughing and was worried, perhaps it was safer to
take an X-ray and clear the matter up.  Well, we cleared it up all
right.  My left lung is practically gone."

"Bill!"

"Luckily there are no spots on the other."

She waited, horribly afraid.

"It's come at a bad time for me," he went on steadily, "but it's
got to be faced.  He thinks I ought to go to the Adirondacks or to
Denver for the winter, and his idea is Denver.  That way it'll
probably clear up in five or six months."

"Of course we'll have to--" she stopped suddenly.

"I wouldn't expect you to go--especially if you have this
opportunity."

"Of course I'll go," she said quickly.  "Your health comes first.
We've always gone everywhere together."

"Oh, no."

"Why, of course."  She made her voice strong and decisive.  "We've
always been together.  I couldn't stay here without you.  When do
you have to go?"

"As soon as possible.  I went in to see Brancusi to find out if he
wanted to take over the Richmond piece, but he didn't seem
enthusiastic."  His face hardened.  "Of course there won't be
anything else for the present, but I'll have enough, with what's
owing--"

"Oh, if I was only making some money!" Emmy cried.  "You work so
hard, and here I've been spending two hundred dollars a week for
just my dancing lessons alone--more than I'll be able to earn for
years."

"Of course in six months I'll be as well as ever--he says."

"Sure, dearest; we'll get you well.  We'll start as soon as we
can."

She put an arm around him and kissed his cheek.

"I'm just an old parasite," she said.  "I should have known my
darling wasn't well."

He reached automatically for a cigarette, and then stopped.

"I forgot--I've got to start cutting down smoking."  He rose to the
occasion suddenly:  "No, baby, I've decided to go alone.  You'd go
crazy with boredom out there, and I'd just be thinking I was
keeping you away from your dancing."

"Don't think about that.  The thing is to get you well."

They discussed the matter hour after hour for the next week, each
of them saying everything except the truth--that he wanted her to
go with him and that she wanted passionately to stay in New York.
She talked it over guardedly with Donilof, her ballet master, and
found that he thought any postponement would be a terrible mistake.
Seeing other girls in the ballet school making plans for the
winter, she wanted to die rather than go, and Bill saw all the
involuntary indications of her misery.  For a while they talked of
compromising on the Adirondacks, whither she would commute by
aeroplane for the week-ends, but he was running a little fever now
and he was definitely ordered West.

Bill settled it all one gloomy Sunday night, with that rough,
generous justice that had first made her admire him, that made him
rather tragic in his adversity, as he had always been bearable in
his overweening success:

"It's just up to me, baby.  I got into this mess because I didn't
have any self-control--you seem to have all of that in this family--
and now it's only me that can get me out.  You've worked hard at
your stuff for three years and you deserve your chance--and if you
came out there now you'd have it on me the rest of my life."  He
grinned.  "And I couldn't stand that.  Besides, it wouldn't be good
for the kid."

Eventually she gave in, ashamed of herself, miserable--and glad.
For the world of her work, where she existed without Bill, was
bigger to her now than the world in which they existed together.
There was more room to be glad in one than to be sorry in the
other.

Two days later, with his ticket bought for that afternoon at five,
they passed the last hours together, talking of everything hopeful.
She protested still, and sincerely; had he weakened for a moment
she would have gone.  But the shock had done something to him, and
he showed more character under it than he had for years.  Perhaps
it would be good for him to work it out alone.

"In the spring!" they said.

Then in the station with little Billy, and Bill saying:  "I hate
these graveside partings.  You leave me here.  I've got to make a
phone call from the train before it goes."

They had never spent more than a night apart in six years, save
when Emmy was in the hospital; save for the time in England they
had a good record of faithfulness and of tenderness toward each
other, even though she had been alarmed and often unhappy at this
insecure bravado from the first.  After he went through the gate
alone, Emmy was glad he had a phone call to make and tried to
picture him making it.

She was a good woman; she had loved him with all her heart.  When
she went out into Thirty-third Street, it was just as dead as dead
for a while, and the apartment he paid for would be empty of him,
and she was here, about to do something that would make her happy.

She stopped after a few blocks, thinking:  "Why, this is terrible--
what I'm doing!  I'm letting him down like the worst person I ever
heard of.  I'm leaving him flat and going off to dinner with
Donilof and Paul Makova, whom I like for being beautiful and for
having the same color eyes and hair.  Bill's on the train alone."

She swung little Billy around suddenly as if to go back to the
station.  She could see him sitting in the train, with his face so
pale and tired, and no Emmy.

"I can't let him down," she cried to herself as wave after wave of
sentiment washed over her.  But only sentiment--hadn't he let her
down--hadn't he done what he wanted in London?

"Oh, poor Bill!"

She stood irresolute, realizing for one last honest moment how
quickly she would forget this and find excuses for what she was
doing.  She had to think hard of London, and her conscience
cleared.  But with Bill all alone in the train it seemed terrible
to think that way.  Even now she could turn and go back to the
station and tell him that she was coming, but still she waited,
with life very strong in her, fighting for her.  The sidewalk was
narrow where she stood; presently a great wave of people, pouring
out of the theater, came flooding along it, and she and little
Billy were swept along with the crowd.

In the train, Bill telephoned up to the last minute, postponed
going back to his stateroom, because he knew it was almost certain
that he would not find her there.  After the train started he went
back and, of course, there was nothing but his bags in the rack and
some magazines on the seat.

He knew then that he had lost her.  He saw the set-up without any
illusions--this Paul Makova, and months of proximity, and
loneliness--afterward nothing would ever be the same.  When he had
thought about it all a long time, reading Variety and Zit's in
between, it began to seem, each time he came back to it, as if Emmy
somehow were dead.

"She was a fine girl--one of the best.  She had character."  He
realized perfectly that he had brought all this on himself and that
there was some law of compensation involved.  He saw, too, that by
going away he had again become as good as she was; it was all
evened up at last.

He felt beyond everything, even beyond his grief, an almost
comfortable sensation of being in the hands of something bigger
than himself; and grown a little tired and unconfident--two
qualities he could never for a moment tolerate--it did not seem so
terrible if he were going West for a definite finish.  He was sure
that Emmy would come at the end, no matter what she was doing or
how good an engagement she had.




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