The Romantic Egotist
The Egotist Considers
"OUCH! Let me go!"
He dropped his arms to his sides.
"What's the matter?"
"Your shirt studit hurt melook!" She was looking down at her
neck, where a little blue spot about the size of a pea marred its
"Oh, Isabelle," he reproached himself, "I'm a goopher. Really,
I'm sorryI shouldn't have held you so close."
She looked up impatiently.
"Oh, Amory, of course you couldn't help it, and it didn't hurt
much; but what are we going to do about it?"
"Do about it?" he asked. "Ohthat spot; it'll disappear in a
"It isn't," she said, after a moment of concentrated gazing,
"it's still thereand it looks like Old Nickoh, Amory, what'll we
do! It's just the height of your shoulder."
"Massage it," he suggested, repressing the faintest inclination
She rubbed it delicately with the tips of her fingers, and then a
tear gathered in the corner of her eye, and slid down her cheek.
"Oh, Amory," she said despairingly, lifting up a most pathetic
face, "I'll just make my whole neck flame if I rub it. What'll I
A quotation sailed into his head and he couldn't resist repeating
"All the perfumes of Arabia will not whiten this little hand."
She looked up and the sparkle of the tear in her eye was like
"You're not very sympathetic."
Amory mistook her meaning.
"Isabelle, darling, I think it'll"
"Don't touch me!" she cried. "Haven't I enough on my mind and you
stand there and laugh!"
Then he slipped again.
"Well, it is funny, Isabelle, and we were talking the other day
about a sense of humor being"
She was looking at him with something that was not a smile,
rather the faint, mirthless echo of a smile, in the corners of
"Oh, shut up!" she cried suddenly, and fled down the hallway
toward her room. Amory stood there, covered with remorseful
When Isabelle reappeared she had thrown a light wrap about her
shoulders, and they descended the stairs in a silence that
endured through dinner.
"Isabelle," he began rather testily, as they arranged themselves
in the car, bound for a dance at the Greenwich Country Club,
"you're angry, and I'll be, too, in a minute. Let's kiss and make
Isabelle considered glumly.
"I hate to be laughed at," she said finally.
"I won't laugh any more. I'm not laughing now, am I?"
"Oh, don't be so darned feminine."
Her lips curled slightly.
"I'll be anything I want."
Amory kept his temper with difficulty. He became aware that he
had not an ounce of real affection for Isabelle, but her coldness
piqued him. He wanted to kiss her, kiss her a lot, because then
he knew he could leave in the morning and not care. On the
contrary, if he didn't kiss her, it would worry him.... It would
interfere vaguely with his idea of himself as a conqueror. It
wasn't dignified to come off second best, pleading, with a
doughty warrior like Isabelle.
Perhaps she suspected this. At any rate, Amory watched the night
that should have been the consummation of romance glide by with
great moths overhead and the heavy fragrance of roadside gardens,
but without those broken words, those little sighs....
Afterward they suppered on ginger ale and devil's food in the
pantry, and Amory announced a decision.
"I'm leaving early in the morning."
"Why not?" he countered.
"There's no need."
"However, I'm going."
"Well, if you insist on being ridiculous"
"Oh, don't put it that way," he objected.
"just because I won't let you kiss me. Do you think"
"Now, Isabelle," he interrupted, "you know it's not thateven
suppose it is. We've reached the stage where we either ought to
kissorornothing. It isn't as if you were refusing on moral
"I really don't know what to think about you," she began, in a
feeble, perverse attempt at conciliation. "You're so funny."
"Well, I thought you had a lot of self-confidence and all that;
remember you told me the other day that you could do anything you
wanted, or get anything you wanted?"
Amory flushed. He had told her a lot of things.
"Well, you didn't seem to feel so self-confident to-night. Maybe
you're just plain conceited."
"No, I'm not," he hesitated. "At Princeton"
"Oh, you and Princeton! You'd think that was the world, the way
you talk! Perhaps you can write better than anybody else on your
old Princetonian; maybe the freshmen do think you're important"
"You don't understand"
"Yes, I do," she interrupted. "I do, because you're always
talking about yourself and I used to like it; now I don't."
"Have I to-night?"
"That's just the point," insisted Isabelle. "You got all upset
to-night. You just sat and watched my eyes. Besides, I have to
think all the time I'm talking to youyou're so critical."
"I make you think, do I?" Amory repeated with a touch of vanity.
"You're a nervous strain"this emphatically"and when you analyze
every little emotion and instinct I just don't have 'em."
"I know." Amory admitted her point and shook his head helplessly.
"Let's go." She stood up.
He rose abstractedly and they walked to the foot of the stairs.
"What train can I get?"
"There's one about 9:11 if you really must go."
"Yes, I've got to go, really. Good night."
They were at the head of the stairs, and as Amory turned into his
room he thought he caught just the faintest cloud of discontent
in her face. He lay awake in the darkness and wondered how much
he caredhow much of his sudden unhappiness was hurt vanitywhether
he was, after all, temperamentally unfitted for romance.
When he awoke, it was with a glad flood of consciousness. The
early wind stirred the chintz curtains at the windows and he was
idly puzzled not to be in his room at Princeton with his school
football picture over the bureau and the Triangle Club on the
wall opposite. Then the grandfather's clock in the hall outside
struck eight, and the memory of the night before came to him. He
was out of bed, dressing, like the wind; he must get out of the
house before he saw Isabelle. What had seemed a melancholy
happening, now seemed a tiresome anticlimax. He was dressed at
half past, so he sat down by the window; felt that the sinews of
his heart were twisted somewhat more than he had thought. What an
ironic mockery the morning seemed!bright and sunny, and full of
the smell of the garden; hearing Mrs. Borgi's voice in the
sun-parlor below, he wondered where was Isabelle.
There was a knock at the door.
"The car will be around at ten minutes of nine, sir."
He returned to his contemplation of the outdoors, and began
repeating over and over, mechanically, a verse from Browning,
which he had once quoted to Isabelle in a letter:
"Each life unfulfilled, you see,
It hangs still, patchy and scrappy;
We have not sighed deep, laughed free,
Starved, feasted, despairedbeen happy."
But his life would not be unfulfilled. He took a sombre
satisfaction in thinking that perhaps all along she had been
nothing except what he had read into her; that this was her high
point, that no one else would ever make her think. Yet that was
what she had objected to in him; and Amory was suddenly tired of
"Damn her!" he said bitterly, "she's spoiled my year!"
THE SUPERMAN GROWS CARELESS
On a dusty day in September Amory arrived in Princeton and joined
the sweltering crowd of conditioned men who thronged the streets.
It seemed a stupid way to commence his upper-class years, to
spend four hours a morning in the stuffy room of a tutoring
school, imbibing the infinite boredom of conic sections. Mr.
Rooney, pander to the dull, conducted the class and smoked
innumerable Pall Malls as he drew diagrams and worked equations
from six in the morning until midnight.
"Now, Langueduc, if I used that formula, where would my A point
Langueduc lazily shifts his six-foot-three of football material
and tries to concentrate.
"OhahI'm damned if I know, Mr. Rooney."
"Oh, why of course, of course you can't use that formula. That's
what I wanted you to say."
"Why, sure, of course."
"Do you see why?"
"You betI suppose so."
"If you don't see, tell me. I'm here to show you."
"Well, Mr. Rooney, if you don't mind, I wish you'd go over that
"Gladly. Now here's 'A'..."
The room was a study in stupiditytwo huge stands for paper, Mr.
Rooney in his shirt-sleeves in front of them, and slouched around
on chairs, a dozen men: Fred Sloane, the pitcher, who absolutely
had to get eligible; "Slim" Langueduc, who would beat Yale this
fall, if only he could master a poor fifty per cent; McDowell,
gay young sophomore, who thought it was quite a sporting thing to
be tutoring here with all these prominent athletes.
"Those poor birds who haven't a cent to tutor, and have to study
during the term are the ones I pity," he announced to Amory one
day, with a flaccid camaraderie in the droop of the cigarette
from his pale lips. "I should think it would be such a bore,
there's so much else to do in New York during the term. I suppose
they don't know what they miss, anyhow." There was such an air of
"you and I" about Mr. McDowell that Amory very nearly pushed him
out of the open window when he said this.... Next February his
mother would wonder why he didn't make a club and increase his
allowance ... simple little nut....
Through the smoke and the air of solemn, dense earnestness that
filled the room would come the inevitable helpless cry:
"I don't get it! Repeat that, Mr. Rooney!" Most of them were so
stupid or careless that they wouldn't admit when they didn't
understand, and Amory was of the latter. He found it impossible
to study conic sections; something in their calm and tantalizing
respectability breathing defiantly through Mr. Rooney's fetid
parlors distorted their equations into insoluble anagrams. He
made a last night's effort with the proverbial wet towel, and
then blissfully took the exam, wondering unhappily why all the
color and ambition of the spring before had faded out. Somehow,
with the defection of Isabelle the idea of undergraduate success
had loosed its grasp on his imagination, and he contemplated a
possible failure to pass off his condition with equanimity, even
though it would arbitrarily mean his removal from the
Princetonian board and the slaughter of his chances for the
There was always his luck.
He yawned, scribbled his honor pledge on the cover, and sauntered
from the room.
"If you don't pass it," said the newly arrived Alec as they sat
on the window-seat of Amory's room and mused upon a scheme of
wall decoration, "you're the world's worst goopher. Your stock
will go down like an elevator at the club and on the campus."
"Oh, hell, I know it. Why rub it in?"
"'Cause you deserve it. Anybody that'd risk what you were in line
for ought to be ineligible for Princetonian chairman."
"Oh, drop the subject," Amory protested. "Watch and wait and shut
up. I don't want every one at the club asking me about it, as if
I were a prize potato being fattened for a vegetable show."
One evening a week later Amory stopped below his own window on
the way to Renwick's, and, seeing a light, called up:
"Oh, Tom, any mail?"
Alec's head appeared against the yellow square of light.
"Yes, your result's here."
His heart clamored violently.
"What is it, blue or pink?"
"Don't know. Better come up."
He walked into the room and straight over to the table, and then
suddenly noticed that there were other people in the room.
"'Lo, Kerry." He was most polite. "Ah, men of Princeton." They
seemed to be mostly friends, so he picked up the envelope marked
"Registrar's Office," and weighed it nervously.
"We have here quite a slip of paper."
"Open it, Amory."
"Just to be dramatic, I'll let you know that if it's blue, my
name is withdrawn from the editorial board of the Prince, and my
short career is over."
He paused, and then saw for the first time Ferrenby's eyes,
wearing a hungry look and watching him eagerly. Amory returned
the gaze pointedly.
"Watch my face, gentlemen, for the primitive emotions."
He tore it open and held the slip up to the light.
"Pink or blue?"
"Say what it is."
"We're all ears, Amory."
"Smile or swearor something."
There was a pause ... a small crowd of seconds swept by ... then
he looked again and another crowd went on into time.
"Blue as the sky, gentlemen...."
What Amory did that year from early September to late in the
spring was so purposeless and inconsecutive that it seems
scarcely worth recording. He was, of course, immediately sorry
for what he had lost. His philosophy of success had tumbled down
upon him, and he looked for the reasons.
"Your own laziness," said Alec later.
"Nosomething deeper than that. I've begun to feel that I was
meant to lose this chance."
"They're rather off you at the club, you know; every man that
doesn't come through makes our crowd just so much weaker."
"I hate that point of view."
"Of course, with a little effort you could still stage a
"NoI'm throughas far as ever being a power in college is
"But, Amory, honestly, what makes me the angriest isn't the fact
that you won't be chairman of the Prince and on the Senior
Council, but just that you didn't get down and pass that exam."
"Not me," said Amory slowly; "I'm mad at the concrete thing. My
own idleness was quite in accord with my system, but the luck
"Your system broke, you mean."
"Well, what are you going to do? Get a better one quick, or just
bum around for two more years as a has-been?"
"I don't know yet..."
"Oh, Amory, buck up!"
Amory's point of view, though dangerous, was not far from the
true one. If his reactions to his environment could be tabulated,
the chart would have appeared like this, beginning with his
The fundamental Amory.
Amory plus Beatrice.
Amory plus Beatrice plus Minneapolis.
Then St. Regis' had pulled him to pieces and started him over
Amory plus St. Regis'.
Amory plus St. Regis' plus Princeton.
That had been his nearest approach to success through conformity.
The fundamental Amory, idle, imaginative, rebellious, had been
nearly snowed under. He had conformed, he had succeeded, but as
his imagination was neither satisfied nor grasped by his own
success, he had listlessly, half-accidentally chucked the whole
thing and become again:
The fundamental Amory.
His father died quietly and inconspicuously at Thanksgiving. The
incongruity of death with either the beauties of Lake Geneva or
with his mother's dignified, reticent attitude diverted him, and
he looked at the funeral with an amused tolerance. He decided
that burial was after all preferable to cremation, and he smiled
at his old boyhood choice, slow oxidation in the top of a tree.
The day after the ceremony he was amusing himself in the great
library by sinking back on a couch in graceful mortuary
attitudes, trying to determine whether he would, when his day
came, be found with his arms crossed piously over his chest
(Monsignor Darcy had once advocated this posture as being the
most distinguished), or with his hands clasped behind his head, a
more pagan and Byronic attitude.
What interested him much more than the final departure of his
father from things mundane was a tri-cornered conversation
between Beatrice, Mr. Barton, of Barton and Krogman, their
lawyers, and himself, that took place several days after the
funeral. For the first time he came into actual cognizance of the
family finances, and realized what a tidy fortune had once been
under his father's management. He took a ledger labelled "1906"
and ran through it rather carefully. The total expenditure that
year had come to something over one hundred and ten thousand
dollars. Forty thousand of this had been Beatrice's own income,
and there had been no attempt to account for it: it was all under
the heading, "Drafts, checks, and letters of credit forwarded to
Beatrice Blaine." The dispersal of the rest was rather minutely
itemized: the taxes and improvements on the Lake Geneva estate
had come to almost nine thousand dollars; the general up-keep,
including Beatrice's electric and a French car, bought that year,
was over thirty-five thousand dollars. The rest was fully taken
care of, and there were invariably items which failed to balance
on the right side of the ledger.
In the volume for 1912 Amory was shocked to discover the decrease
in the number of bond holdings and the great drop in the income.
In the case of Beatrice's money this was not so pronounced, but
it was obvious that his father had devoted the previous year to
several unfortunate gambles in oil. Very little of the oil had
been burned, but Stephen Blaine had been rather badly singed. The
next year and the next and the next showed similar decreases, and
Beatrice had for the first time begun using her own money for
keeping up the house. Yet her doctor's bill for 1913 had been
over nine thousand dollars.
About the exact state of things Mr. Barton was quite vague and
confused. There had been recent investments, the outcome of which
was for the present problematical, and he had an idea there were
further speculations and exchanges concerning which he had not
It was not for several months that Beatrice wrote Amory the full
situation. The entire residue of the Blaine and O'Hara fortunes
consisted of the place at Lake Geneva and approximately a half
million dollars, invested now in fairly conservative six-per-cent
holdings. In fact, Beatrice wrote that she was putting the money
into railroad and street-car bonds as fast as she could
conveniently transfer it.
"I am quite sure," she wrote to Amory, "that if there is one
thing we can be positive of, it is that people will not stay in
one place. This Ford person has certainly made the most of that
idea. So I am instructing Mr. Barton to specialize on such things
as Northern Pacific and these Rapid Transit Companies, as they
call the street-cars. I shall never forgive myself for not buying
Bethlehem Steel. I've heard the most fascinating stories. You
must go into finance, Amory. I'm sure you would revel in it. You
start as a messenger or a teller, I believe, and from that you go
upalmost indefinitely. I'm sure if I were a man I'd love the
handling of money; it has become quite a senile passion with me.
Before I get any farther I want to discuss something. A Mrs.
Bispam, an overcordial little lady whom I met at a tea the other
day, told me that her son, he is at Yale, wrote her that all the
boys there wore their summer underwear all during the winter, and
also went about with their heads wet and in low shoes on the
coldest days. Now, Amory, I don't know whether that is a fad at
Princeton too, but I don't want you to be so foolish. It not only
inclines a young man to pneumonia and infantile paralysis, but to
all forms of lung trouble, to which you are particularly
inclined. You cannot experiment with your health. I have found
that out. I will not make myself ridiculous as some mothers no
doubt do, by insisting that you wear overshoes, though I remember
one Christmas you wore them around constantly without a single
buckle latched, making such a curious swishing sound, and you
refused to buckle them because it was not the thing to do. The
very next Christmas you would not wear even rubbers, though I
begged you. You are nearly twenty years old now, dear, and I
can't be with you constantly to find whether you are doing the
"This has been a very practical letter. I warned you in my last
that the lack of money to do the things one wants to makes one
quite prosy and domestic, but there is still plenty for
everything if we are not too extravagant. Take care of yourself,
my dear boy, and do try to write at least once a week, because I
imagine all sorts of horrible things if I don't hear from you.
FIRST APPEARANCE OF THE TERM "PERSONAGE"
Monsignor Darcy invited Amory up to the Stuart palace on the
Hudson for a week at Christmas, and they had enormous
conversations around the open fire. Monsignor was growing a
trifle stouter and his personality had expanded even with that,
and Amory felt both rest and security in sinking into a squat,
cushioned chair and joining him in the middle-aged sanity of a
"I've felt like leaving college, Monsignor."
"All my career's gone up in smoke; you think it's petty and all
"Not at all petty. I think it's most important. I want to hear
the whole thing. Everything you've been doing since I saw you
Amory talked; he went thoroughly into the destruction of his
egotistic highways, and in a half-hour the listless quality had
left his voice.
"What would you do if you left college?" asked Monsignor.
"Don't know. I'd like to travel, but of course this tiresome war
prevents that. Anyways, mother would hate not having me graduate.
I'm just at sea. Kerry Holiday wants me to go over with him and
join the Lafayette Esquadrille."
"You know you wouldn't like to go."
"Sometimes I wouldto-night I'd go in a second."
"Well, you'd have to be very much more tired of life than I think
you are. I know you."
"I'm afraid you do," agreed Amory reluctantly. "It just seemed an
easy way out of everythingwhen I think of another useless, draggy
"Yes, I know; but to tell you the truth, I'm not worried about
you; you seem to me to be progressing perfectly naturally."
"No," Amory objected. "I've lost half my personality in a year."
"Not a bit of it!" scoffed Monsignor. "You've lost a great amount
of vanity and that's all."
"Lordy! I feel, anyway, as if I'd gone through another fifth form
at St. Regis's."
"No." Monsignor shook his head. "That was a misfortune; this has
been a good thing. Whatever worth while comes to you, won't be
through the channels you were searching last year."
"What could be more unprofitable than my present lack of pep?"
"Perhaps in itself ... but you're developing. This has given you
time to think and you're casting off a lot of your old luggage
about success and the superman and all. People like us can't
adopt whole theories, as you did. If we can do the next thing,
and have an hour a day to think in, we can accomplish marvels,
but as far as any high-handed scheme of blind dominance is
concernedwe'd just make asses of ourselves."
"But, Monsignor, I can't do the next thing."
"Amory, between you and me, I have only just learned to do it
myself. I can do the one hundred things beyond the next thing,
but I stub my toe on that, just as you stubbed your toe on
mathematics this fall."
"Why do we have to do the next thing? It never seems the sort of
thing I should do."
"We have to do it because we're not personalities, but
"That's a good linewhat do you mean?"
"A personality is what you thought you were, what this Kerry and
Sloane you tell me of evidently are. Personality is a physical
matter almost entirely; it lowers the people it acts onI've seen
it vanish in a long sickness. But while a personality is active,
it overrides 'the next thing.' Now a personage, on the other
hand, gathers. He is never thought of apart from what he's done.
He's a bar on which a thousand things have been hungglittering
things sometimes, as ours are; but he uses those things with a
cold mentality back of them."
"And several of my most glittering possessions had fallen off
when I needed them." Amory continued the simile eagerly.
"Yes, that's it; when you feel that your garnered prestige and
talents and all that are hung out, you need never bother about
anybody; you can cope with them without difficulty."
"But, on the other hand, if I haven't my possessions, I'm
"That's certainly an idea."
"Now you've a clean starta start Kerry or Sloane can
constitutionally never have. You brushed three or four ornaments
down, and, in a fit of pique, knocked off the rest of them. The
thing now is to collect some new ones, and the farther you look
ahead in the collecting the better. But remember, do the next
"How clear you can make things!"
So they talked, often about themselves, sometimes of philosophy
and religion, and life as respectively a game or a mystery. The
priest seemed to guess Amory's thoughts before they were clear in
his own head, so closely related were their minds in form and
"Why do I make lists?" Amory asked him one night. "Lists of all
sorts of things?"
"Because you're a medifvalist," Monsignor answered. "We both are.
It's the passion for classifying and finding a type."
"It's a desire to get something definite."
"It's the nucleus of scholastic philosophy."
"I was beginning to think I was growing eccentric till I came up
here. It was a pose, I guess."
"Don't worry about that; for you not posing may be the biggest
pose of all. Pose"
"But do the next thing."
After Amory returned to college he received several letters from
Monsignor which gave him more egotistic food for consumption.
I am afraid that I gave you too much assurance of your inevitable
safety, and you must remember that I did that through faith in
your springs of effort; not in the silly conviction that you will
arrive without struggle. Some nuances of character you will have
to take for granted in yourself, though you must be careful in
confessing them to others. You are unsentimental, almost
incapable of affection, astute without being cunning and vain
without being proud.
Don't let yourself feel worthless; often through life you will
really be at your worst when you seem to think best of yourself;
and don't worry about losing your "personality," as you persist
in calling it; at fifteen you had the radiance of early morning,
at twenty you will begin to have the melancholy brilliance of the
moon, and when you are my age you will give out, as I do, the
genial golden warmth of 4 P.M.
If you write me letters, please let them be natural ones. Your
last, that dissertation on architecture, was perfectly awfulso
"highbrow" that I picture you living in an intellectual and
emotional vacuum; and beware of trying to classify people too
definitely into types; you will find that all through their youth
they will persist annoyingly in jumping from class to class, and
by pasting a supercilious label on every one you meet you are
merely packing a Jack-in-the-box that will spring up and leer at
you when you begin to come into really antagonistic contact with
the world. An idealization of some such a man as Leonardo da
Vinci would be a more valuable beacon to you at present.
You are bound to go up and down, just as I did in my youth, but
do keep your clarity of mind, and if fools or sages dare to
criticise don't blame yourself too much.
You say that convention is all that really keeps you straight in
this "woman proposition"; but it's more than that, Amory; it's
the fear that what you begin you can't stop; you would run amuck,
and I know whereof I speak; it's that half-miraculous sixth sense
by which you detect evil, it's the half-realized fear of God in
Whatever your metier proves to bereligion, architecture,
literatureI'm sure you would be much safer anchored to the
Church, but I won't risk my influence by arguing with you even
though I am secretly sure that the "black chasm of Romanism"
yawns beneath you. Do write me soon.
With affectionate regards, THAYER DARCY.
Even Amory's reading paled during this period; he delved further
into the misty side streets of literature: Huysmans, Walter
Pater, Theophile Gautier, and the racier sections of Rabelais,
Boccaccio, Petronius, and Suetonius. One week, through general
curiosity, he inspected the private libraries of his classmates
and found Sloane's as typical as any: sets of Kipling, O. Henry,
John Fox, Jr., and Richard Harding Davis; "What Every Middle-Aged
Woman Ought to Know," "The Spell of the Yukon"; a "gift" copy of
James Whitcomb Riley, an assortment of battered, annotated
schoolbooks, and, finally, to his surprise, one of his own late
discoveries, the collected poems of Rupert Brooke.
Together with Tom D'Invilliers, he sought among the lights of
Princeton for some one who might found the Great American Poetic
The undergraduate body itself was rather more interesting that
year than had been the entirely Philistine Princeton of two years
before. Things had livened surprisingly, though at the sacrifice
of much of the spontaneous charm of freshman year. In the old
Princeton they would never have discovered Tanaduke Wylie.
Tanaduke was a sophomore, with tremendous ears and a way of
saying, "The earth swirls down through the ominous moons of
preconsidered generations!" that made them vaguely wonder why it
did not sound quite clear, but never question that it was the
utterance of a supersoul. At least so Tom and Amory took him.
They told him in all earnestness that he had a mind like
Shelley's, and featured his ultrafree free verse and prose poetry
in the Nassau Literary Magazine. But Tanaduke's genius absorbed
the many colors of the age, and he took to the Bohemian life, to
their great disappointment. He talked of Greenwich Village now
instead of "noon-swirled moons," and met winter muses,
unacademic, and cloistered by Forty-second Street and Broadway,
instead of the Shelleyan dream-children with whom he had regaled
their expectant appreciation. So they surrendered Tanaduke to the
futurists, deciding that he and his flaming ties would do better
there. Tom gave him the final advice that he should stop writing
for two years and read the complete works of Alexander Pope four
times, but on Amory's suggestion that Pope for Tanaduke was like
foot-ease for stomach trouble, they withdrew in laughter, and
called it a coin's toss whether this genius was too big or too
petty for them.
Amory rather scornfully avoided the popular professors who
dispensed easy epigrams and thimblefuls of Chartreuse to groups
of admirers every night. He was disappointed, too, at the air of
general uncertainty on every subject that seemed linked with the
pedantic temperament; his opinions took shape in a miniature
satire called "In a Lecture-Room," which he persuaded Tom to
print in the Nassau Lit.
Three times a week
You hold us helpless while you speak,
Teasing our thirsty souls with the
Sleek 'yeas' of your philosophy...
Well, here we are, your hundred sheep,
Tune up, play on, pour forth ... we sleep...
You are a student, so they say;
You hammered out the other day
A syllabus, from what we know
Of some forgotten folio;
You'd sniffled through an era's must,
Filling your nostrils up with dust,
And then, arising from your knees,
Published, in one gigantic sneeze...
But here's a neighbor on my right,
An Eager Ass, considered bright;
Asker of questions.... How he'll stand,
With earnest air and fidgy hand,
After this hour, telling you
He sat all night and burrowed through
Your book.... Oh, you'll be coy and he
Will simulate precosity,
And pedants both, you'll smile and smirk,
And leer, and hasten back to work....
'Twas this day week, sir, you returned
A theme of mine, from which I learned
(Through various comment on the side
Which you had scrawled) that I defied
The highest rules of criticism
For cheap and careless witticism....
'Are you quite sure that this could be?'
'Shaw is no authority!'
But Eager Ass, with what he's sent,
Plays havoc with your best per cent.
Stillstill I meet you here and there...
When Shakespeare's played you hold a chair,
And some defunct, moth-eaten star
Enchants the mental prig you are...
A radical comes down and shocks
The atheistic orthodox?
You're representing Common Sense,
Mouth open, in the audience.
And, sometimes, even chapel lures
That conscious tolerance of yours,
That broad and beaming view of truth
(Including Kant and General Booth...)
And so from shock to shock you live,
A hollow, pale affirmative...
The hour's up ... and roused from rest
One hundred children of the blest
Cheat you a word or two with feet
That down the noisy aisle-ways beat...
Forget on narrow-minded earth
The Mighty Yawn that gave you birth."
In April, Kerry Holiday left college and sailed for France to
enroll in the Lafayette Esquadrille. Amory's envy and admiration
of this step was drowned in an experience of his own to which he
never succeeded in giving an appropriate value, but which,
nevertheless, haunted him for three years afterward.
Healy's they left at twelve and taxied to Bistolary's. There were
Axia Marlowe and Phoebe Column, from the Summer Garden show, Fred
Sloane and Amory. The evening was so very young that they felt
ridiculous with surplus energy, and burst into the cafi like
"Table for four in the middle of the floor," yelled Phoebe.
"Hurry, old dear, tell 'em we're here!"
"Tell 'em to play 'Admiration'!" shouted Sloane. "You two order;
Phoebe and I are going to shake a wicked calf," and they sailed
off in the muddled crowd. Axia and Amory, acquaintances of an
hour, jostled behind a waiter to a table at a point of vantage;
there they took seats and watched.
"There's Findle Margotson, from New Haven!" she cried above the
uproar. "'Lo, Findle! Whoo-ee!"
"Oh, Axia!" he shouted in salutation. "C'mon over to our table."
"No!" Amory whispered.
"Can't do it, Findle; I'm with somebody else! Call me up
to-morrow about one o'clock!"
Findle, a nondescript man-about-Bisty's, answered incoherently
and turned back to the brilliant blonde whom he was endeavoring
to steer around the room.
"There's a natural damn fool," commented Amory.
"Oh, he's all right. Here's the old jitney waiter. If you ask me,
I want a double Daiquiri."
"Make it four."
The crowd whirled and changed and shifted. They were mostly from
the colleges, with a scattering of the male refuse of Broadway,
and women of two types, the higher of which was the chorus girl.
On the whole it was a typical crowd, and their party as typical
as any. About three-fourths of the whole business was for effect
and therefore harmless, ended at the door of the cafi, soon
enough for the five-o'clock train back to Yale or Princeton;
about one-fourth continued on into the dimmer hours and gathered
strange dust from strange places. Their party was scheduled to be
one of the harmless kind. Fred Sloane and Phoebe Column were old
friends; Axia and Amory new ones. But strange things are prepared
even in the dead of night, and the unusual, which lurks least in
the cafi, home of the prosaic and inevitable, was preparing to
spoil for him the waning romance of Broadway. The way it took was
so inexpressibly terrible, so unbelievable, that afterward he
never thought of it as experience; but it was a scene from a
misty tragedy, played far behind the veil, and that it meant
something definite he knew.
About one o'clock they moved to Maxim's, and two found them in
Devinihre's. Sloane had been drinking consecutively and was in a
state of unsteady exhilaration, but Amory was quite tiresomely
sober; they had run across none of those ancient, corrupt buyers
of champagne who usually assisted their New York parties.
They were just through dancing and were making their way back to
their chairs when Amory became aware that some one at a near-by
table was looking at him. He turned and glanced casually ... a
middle-aged man dressed in a brown sack suit, it was, sitting a
little apart at a table by himself and watching their party
intently. At Amory's glance he smiled faintly. Amory turned to
Fred, who was just sitting down.
"Who's that pale fool watching us?" he complained indignantly.
"Where?" cried Sloane. "We'll have him thrown out!" He rose to
his feet and swayed back and forth, clinging to his chair. "Where
Axia and Phoebe suddenly leaned and whispered to each other
across the table, and before Amory realized it they found
themselves on their way to the door.
"Up to the flat," suggested Phoebe. "We've got brandy and fizzand
everything's slow down here to-night."
Amory considered quickly. He hadn't been drinking, and decided
that if he took no more, it would be reasonably discreet for him
to trot along in the party. In fact, it would be, perhaps, the
thing to do in order to keep an eye on Sloane, who was not in a
state to do his own thinking. So he took Axia's arm and, piling
intimately into a taxicab, they drove out over the hundreds and
drew up at a tall, white-stone apartment-house.... Never would he
forget that street.... It was a broad street, lined on both sides
with just such tall, white-stone buildings, dotted with dark
windows; they stretched along as far as the eye could see,
flooded with a bright moonlight that gave them a calcium pallor.
He imagined each one to have an elevator and a colored hall-boy
and a key-rack; each one to be eight stories high and full of
three and four room suites. He was rather glad to walk into the
cheeriness of Phoebe's living-room and sink onto a sofa, while
the girls went rummaging for food.
"Phoebe's great stuff," confided Sloane, sotto voce.
"I'm only going to stay half an hour," Amory said sternly. He
wondered if it sounded priggish.
"Hell y' say," protested Sloane. "We're here nowdon't le's rush."
"I don't like this place," Amory said sulkily, "and I don't want
Phoebe reappeared with sandwiches, brandy bottle, siphon, and
"Amory, pour 'em out," she said, "and we'll drink to Fred Sloane,
who has a rare, distinguished edge."
"Yes," said Axia, coming in, "and Amory. I like Amory." She sat
down beside him and laid her yellow head on his shoulder.
"I'll pour," said Sloane; "you use siphon, Phoebe."
They filled the tray with glasses.
"Ready, here she goes!"
Amory hesitated, glass in hand.
There was a minute while temptation crept over him like a warm
wind, and his imagination turned to fire, and he took the glass
from Phoebe's hand. That was all; for at the second that his
decision came, he looked up and saw, ten yards from him, the man
who had been in the cafi, and with his jump of astonishment the
glass fell from his uplifted hand. There the man half sat, half
leaned against a pile of pillows on the corner divan. His face
was cast in the same yellow wax as in the cafi, neither the dull,
pasty color of a dead manrather a sort of virile pallornor
unhealthy, you'd have called it; but like a strong man who'd
worked in a mine or done night shifts in a damp climate. Amory
looked him over carefully and later he could have drawn him after
a fashion, down to the merest details. His mouth was the kind
that is called frank, and he had steady gray eyes that moved
slowly from one to the other of their group, with just the shade
of a questioning expression. Amory noticed his hands; they
weren't fine at all, but they had versatility and a tenuous
strength ... they were nervous hands that sat lightly along the
cushions and moved constantly with little jerky openings and
closings. Then, suddenly, Amory perceived the feet, and with a
rush of blood to the head he realized he was afraid. The feet
were all wrong ... with a sort of wrongness that he felt rather
than knew.... It was like weakness in a good woman, or blood on
satin; one of those terrible incongruities that shake little
things in the back of the brain. He wore no shoes, but, instead,
a sort of half moccasin, pointed, though, like the shoes they
wore in the fourteenth century, and with the little ends curling
up. They were a darkish brown and his toes seemed to fill them to
the end.... They were unutterably terrible....
He must have said something, or looked something, for Axia's
voice came out of the void with a strange goodness.
"Well, look at Amory! Poor old Amory's sickold head going
"Look at that man!" cried Amory, pointing toward the corner
"You mean that purple zebra!" shrieked Axia facetiously. "Ooo-ee!
Amory's got a purple zebra watching him!"
Sloane laughed vacantly.
"Ole zebra gotcha, Amory?"
There was a silence.... The man regarded Amory quizzically....
Then the human voices fell faintly on his ear:
"Thought you weren't drinking," remarked Axia sardonically, but
her voice was good to hear; the whole divan that held the man was
alive; alive like heat waves over asphalt, like wriggling
"Come back! Come back!" Axia's arm fell on his. "Amory, dear, you
aren't going, Amory!" He was half-way to the door.
"Come on, Amory, stick 'th us!"
"Sick, are you?"
"Sit down a second!"
"Take some water."
"Take a little brandy...."
The elevator was close, and the colored boy was half asleep,
paled to a livid bronze ... Axia's beseeching voice floated down
the shaft. Those feet ... those feet...
As they settled to the lower floor the feet came into view in the
sickly electric light of the paved hall.
IN THE ALLEY
Down the long street came the moon, and Amory turned his back on
it and walked. Ten, fifteen steps away sounded the footsteps.
They were like a slow dripping, with just the slightest
insistence in their fall. Amory's shadow lay, perhaps, ten feet
ahead of him, and soft shoes was presumably that far behind. With
the instinct of a child Amory edged in under the blue darkness of
the white buildings, cleaving the moonlight for haggard seconds,
once bursting into a slow run with clumsy stumblings. After that
he stopped suddenly; he must keep hold, he thought. His lips were
dry and he licked them.
If he met any one goodwere there any good people left in the
world or did they all live in white apartment-houses now? Was
every one followed in the moonlight? But if he met some one good
who'd know what he meant and hear this damned scuffle ... then
the scuffling grew suddenly nearer, and a black cloud settled
over the moon. When again the pale sheen skimmed the cornices, it
was almost beside him, and Amory thought he heard a quiet
breathing. Suddenly he realized that the footsteps were not
behind, had never been behind, they were ahead and he was not
eluding but following ... following. He began to run, blindly,
his heart knocking heavily, his hands clinched. Far ahead a black
dot showed itself, resolved slowly into a human shape. But Amory
was beyond that now; he turned off the street and darted into an
alley, narrow and dark and smelling of old rottenness. He twisted
down a long, sinuous blackness, where the moonlight was shut away
except for tiny glints and patches ... then suddenly sank panting
into a corner by a fence, exhausted. The steps ahead stopped, and
he could hear them shift slightly with a continuous motion, like
waves around a dock.
He put his face in his hands and covered eyes and ears as well as
he could. During all this time it never occurred to him that he
was delirious or drunk. He had a sense of reality such as
material things could never give him. His intellectual content
seemed to submit passively to it, and it fitted like a glove
everything that had ever preceded it in his life. It did not
muddle him. It was like a problem whose answer he knew on paper,
yet whose solution he was unable to grasp. He was far beyond
horror. He had sunk through the thin surface of that, now moved
in a region where the feet and the fear of white walls were real,
living things, things he must accept. Only far inside his soul a
little fire leaped and cried that something was pulling him down,
trying to get him inside a door and slam it behind him. After
that door was slammed there would be only footfalls and white
buildings in the moonlight, and perhaps he would be one of the
During the five or ten minutes he waited in the shadow of the
fence, there was somehow this fire ... that was as near as he
could name it afterward. He remembered calling aloud:
"I want some one stupid. Oh, send some one stupid!" This to the
black fence opposite him, in whose shadows the footsteps shuffled
... shuffled. He supposed "stupid" and "good" had become somehow
intermingled through previous association. When he called thus it
was not an act of will at allwill had turned him away from the
moving figure in the street; it was almost instinct that called,
just the pile on pile of inherent tradition or some wild prayer
from way over the night. Then something clanged like a low gong
struck at a distance, and before his eyes a face flashed over the
two feet, a face pale and distorted with a sort of infinite evil
that twisted it like flame in the wind; but he knew, for the half
instant that the gong tanged and hummed, that it was the face of
Minutes later he sprang to his feet, realizing dimly that there
was no more sound, and that he was alone in the graying alley. It
was cold, and he started on a steady run for the light that
showed the street at the other end.
AT THE WINDOW
It was late morning when he woke and found the telephone beside
his bed in the hotel tolling frantically, and remembered that he
had left word to be called at eleven. Sloane was snoring heavily,
his clothes in a pile by his bed. They dressed and ate breakfast
in silence, and then sauntered out to get some air. Amory's mind
was working slowly, trying to assimilate what had happened and
separate from the chaotic imagery that stacked his memory the
bare shreds of truth. If the morning had been cold and gray he
could have grasped the reins of the past in an instant, but it
was one of those days that New York gets sometimes in May, when
the air on Fifth Avenue is a soft, light wine. How much or how
little Sloane remembered Amory did not care to know; he
apparently had none of the nervous tension that was gripping
Amory and forcing his mind back and forth like a shrieking saw.
Then Broadway broke upon them, and with the babel of noise and
the painted faces a sudden sickness rushed over Amory.
"For God's sake, let's go back! Let's get off of thisthis place!"
Sloane looked at him in amazement.
"What do you mean?"
"This street, it's ghastly! Come on! let's get back to the
"Do you mean to say," said Sloane stolidly, "that 'cause you had
some sort of indigestion that made you act like a maniac last
night, you're never coming on Broadway again?"
Simultaneously Amory classed him with the crowd, and he seemed no
longer Sloane of the debonair humor and the happy personality,
but only one of the evil faces that whirled along the turbid
"Man!" he shouted so loud that the people on the corner turned
and followed them with their eyes, "it's filthy, and if you can't
see it, you're filthy, too!"
"I can't help it," said Sloane doggedly. "What's the matter with
you? Old remorse getting you? You'd be in a fine state if you'd
gone through with our little party."
"I'm going, Fred," said Amory slowly. His knees were shaking
under him, and he knew that if he stayed another minute on this
street he would keel over where he stood. "I'll be at the
Vanderbilt for lunch." And he strode rapidly off and turned over
to Fifth Avenue. Back at the hotel he felt better, but as he
walked into the barber-shop, intending to get a head massage, the
smell of the powders and tonics brought back Axia's sidelong,
suggestive smile, and he left hurriedly. In the doorway of his
room a sudden blackness flowed around him like a divided river.
When he came to himself he knew that several hours had passed. He
pitched onto the bed and rolled over on his face with a deadly
fear that he was going mad. He wanted people, people, some one
sane and stupid and good. He lay for he knew not how long without
moving. He could feel the little hot veins on his forehead
standing out, and his terror had hardened on him like plaster. He
felt he was passing up again through the thin crust of horror,
and now only could he distinguish the shadowy twilight he was
leaving. He must have fallen asleep again, for when he next
recollected himself he had paid the hotel bill and was stepping
into a taxi at the door. It was raining torrents.
On the train for Princeton he saw no one he knew, only a crowd of
fagged-looking Philadelphians. The presence of a painted woman
across the aisle filled him with a fresh burst of sickness and he
changed to another car, tried to concentrate on an article in a
popular magazine. He found himself reading the same paragraphs
over and over, so he abandoned this attempt and leaning over
wearily pressed his hot forehead against the damp window-pane.
The car, a smoker, was hot and stuffy with most of the smells of
the state's alien population; he opened a window and shivered
against the cloud of fog that drifted in over him. The two hours'
ride were like days, and he nearly cried aloud with joy when the
towers of Princeton loomed up beside him and the yellow squares
of light filtered through the blue rain.
Tom was standing in the centre of the room, pensively relighting
a cigar-stub. Amory fancied he looked rather relieved on seeing
"Had a hell of a dream about you last night," came in the cracked
voice through the cigar smoke. "I had an idea you were in some
"Don't tell me about it!" Amory almost shrieked. "Don't say a
word; I'm tired and pepped out."
Tom looked at him queerly and then sank into a chair and opened
his Italian note-book. Amory threw his coat and hat on the floor,
loosened his collar, and took a Wells novel at random from the
shelf. "Wells is sane," he thought, "and if he won't do I'll read
Half an hour passed. Outside the wind came up, and Amory started
as the wet branches moved and clawed with their finger-nails at
the window-pane. Tom was deep in his work, and inside the room
only the occasional scratch of a match or the rustle of leather
as they shifted in their chairs broke the stillness. Then like a
zigzag of lightning came the change. Amory sat bolt upright,
frozen cold in his chair. Tom was looking at him with his mouth
drooping, eyes fixed.
"God help us!" Amory cried.
"Oh, my heavens!" shouted Tom, "look behind!" Quick as a flash
Amory whirled around. He saw nothing but the dark window-pane.
"It's gone now," came Tom's voice after a second in a still
terror. "Something was looking at you."
Trembling violently, Amory dropped into his chair again.
"I've got to tell you," he said. "I've had one hell of an
experience. I think I'veI've seen the devil orsomething like him.
What face did you just see?or no," he added quickly, "don't tell
And he gave Tom the story. It was midnight when he finished, and
after that, with all lights burning, two sleepy, shivering boys
read to each other from "The New Machiavelli," until dawn came up
out of Witherspoon Hall, and the Princetonian fell against the
door, and the May birds hailed the sun on last night's rain.