The Education of a Personage
Experiments in Convalescence
THE KNICKERBOCKER BAR, beamed upon by Maxfield Parrish's jovial,
colorful "Old King Cole," was well crowded. Amory stopped in the
entrance and looked at his wrist-watch; he wanted particularly to
know the time, for something in his mind that catalogued and
classified liked to chip things off cleanly. Later it would
satisfy him in a vague way to be able to think "that thing ended
at exactly twenty minutes after eight on Thursday, June 10,
1919." This was allowing for the walk from her housea walk
concerning which he had afterward not the faintest recollection.
He was in rather grotesque condition: two days of worry and
nervousness, of sleepless nights, of untouched meals, culminating
in the emotional crisis and Rosalind's abrupt decisionthe strain
of it had drugged the foreground of his mind into a merciful
coma. As he fumbled clumsily with the olives at the free-lunch
table, a man approached and spoke to him, and the olives dropped
from his nervous hands.
It was some one he had known at Princeton; he had no idea of the
"Hello, old boy" he heard himself saying.
"Name's Jim Wilsonyou've forgotten."
"Sure, you bet, Jim. I remember."
"Going to reunion?"
"You know!" Simultaneously he realized that he was not going to
Amory nodded, his eyes staring oddly. Stepping back to let some
one pass, he knocked the dish of olives to a crash on the floor.
"Too bad," he muttered. "Have a drink?"
Wilson, ponderously diplomatic, reached over and slapped him on
"You've had plenty, old boy."
Amory eyed him dumbly until Wilson grew embarrassed under the
"Plenty, hell!" said Amory finally. "I haven't had a drink
Wilson looked incredulous.
"Have a drink or not?" cried Amory rudely.
Together they sought the bar.
"I'll just take a Bronx."
Wilson had another; Amory had several more. They decided to sit
down. At ten o'clock Wilson was displaced by Carling, class of
'15. Amory, his head spinning gorgeously, layer upon layer of
soft satisfaction setting over the bruised spots of his spirit,
was discoursing volubly on the war.
"'S a mental was'e," he insisted with owl-like wisdom. "Two years
my life spent inalleshual vacuity. Los' idealism, got be physcal
anmal," he shook his fist expressively at Old King Cole, "got be
Prussian 'bout ev'thing, women 'specially. Use' be straight 'bout
women college. Now don'givadam." He expressed his lack of
principle by sweeping a seltzer bottle with a broad gesture to
noisy extinction on the floor, but this did not interrupt his
speech. "Seek pleasure where find it for to-morrow die. 'At's
philos'phy for me now on."
Carling yawned, but Amory, waxing brilliant, continued:
"Use' wonder 'bout thingspeople satisfied compromise, fif'y-fif'y
att'tude on life. Now don' wonder, don' wonder" He became so
emphatic in impressing on Carling the fact that he didn't wonder
that he lost the thread of his discourse and concluded by
announcing to the bar at large that he was a "physcal anmal."
"What are you celebrating, Amory?"
Amory leaned forward confidentially.
"Cel'brating blowmylife. Great moment blow my life. Can't tell
you 'bout it"
He heard Carling addressing a remark to the bartender:
"Give him a bromo-seltzer."
Amory shook his head indignantly.
"None that stuff!"
"But listen, Amory, you're making yourself sick. You're white as
Amory considered the question. He tried to look at himself in the
mirror but even by squinting up one eye could only see as far as
the row of bottles behind the bar.
"Like som'n solid. We go get somesome salad."
He settled his coat with an attempt at nonchalance, but letting
go of the bar was too much for him, and he slumped against a
"We'll go over to Shanley's," suggested Carling, offering an
With this assistance Amory managed to get his legs in motion
enough to propel him across Forty-second Street.
Shanley's was very dim. He was conscious that he was talking in a
loud voice, very succinctly and convincingly, he thought, about a
desire to crush people under his heel. He consumed three club
sandwiches, devouring each as though it were no larger than a
chocolate-drop. Then Rosalind began popping into his mind again,
and he found his lips forming her name over and over. Next he was
sleepy, and he had a hazy, listless sense of people in dress
suits, probably waiters, gathering around the table....
...He was in a room and Carling was saying something about a knot
in his shoe-lace.
"Nemmine," he managed to articulate drowsily. "Sleep in 'em...."
He awoke laughing and his eyes lazily roamed his surroundings,
evidently a bedroom and bath in a good hotel. His head was
whirring and picture after picture was forming and blurring and
melting before his eyes, but beyond the desire to laugh he had no
entirely conscious reaction. He reached for the 'phone beside his
"Hellowhat hotel is this?
"Knickerbocker? All right, send up two rye highballs"
He lay for a moment and wondered idly whether they'd send up a
bottle or just two of those little glass containers. Then, with
an effort, he struggled out of bed and ambled into the bathroom.
When he emerged, rubbing himself lazily with a towel, he found
the bar boy with the drinks and had a sudden desire to kid him.
On reflection he decided that this would be undignified, so he
waved him away.
As the new alcohol tumbled into his stomach and warmed him, the
isolated pictures began slowly to form a cinema reel of the day
before. Again he saw Rosalind curled weeping among the pillows,
again he felt her tears against his cheek. Her words began
ringing in his ears: "Don't ever forget me, Amorydon't ever
"Hell!" he faltered aloud, and then he choked and collapsed on
the bed in a shaken spasm of grief. After a minute he opened his
eyes and regarded the ceiling.
"Damned fool!" he exclaimed in disgust, and with a voluminous
sigh rose and approached the bottle. After another glass he gave
way loosely to the luxury of tears. Purposely he called up into
his mind little incidents of the vanished spring, phrased to
himself emotions that would make him react even more strongly to
"We were so happy," he intoned dramatically, "so very happy."
Then he gave way again and knelt beside the bed, his head
half-buried in the pillow.
"My own girlmy own Oh"
He clinched his teeth so that the tears streamed in a flood from
"Oh ... my baby girl, all I had, all I wanted!... Oh, my girl,
come back, come back! I need you ... need you ... we're so
pitiful ... just misery we brought each other.... She'll be shut
away from me.... I can't see her; I can't be her friend. It's got
to be that wayit's got to be"
And then again:
"We've been so happy, so very happy...."
He rose to his feet and threw himself on the bed in an ecstasy of
sentiment, and then lay exhausted while he realized slowly that
he had been very drunk the night before, and that his head was
spinning again wildly. He laughed, rose, and crossed again to
At noon he ran into a crowd in the Biltmore bar, and the riot
began again. He had a vague recollection afterward of discussing
French poetry with a British officer who was introduced to him as
"Captain Corn, of his Majesty's Foot," and he remembered
attempting to recite "Clair de Lune" at luncheon; then he slept
in a big, soft chair until almost five o'clock when another crowd
found and woke him; there followed an alcoholic dressing of
several temperaments for the ordeal of dinner. They selected
theatre tickets at Tyson's for a play that had a four-drink
programmea play with two monotonous voices, with turbid, gloomy
scenes, and lighting effects that were hard to follow when his
eyes behaved so amazingly. He imagined afterward that it must
have been "The Jest."...
...Then the Cocoanut Grove, where Amory slept again on a little
balcony outside. Out in Shanley's, Yonkers, he became almost
logical, and by a careful control of the number of high-balls he
drank, grew quite lucid and garrulous. He found that the party
consisted of five men, two of whom he knew slightly; he became
righteous about paying his share of the expense and insisted in a
loud voice on arranging everything then and there to the
amusement of the tables around him....
Some one mentioned that a famous cabaret star was at the next
table, so Amory rose and, approaching gallantly, introduced
himself ... this involved him in an argument, first with her
escort and then with the headwaiterAmory's attitude being a lofty
and exaggerated courtesy ... he consented, after being confronted
with irrefutable logic, to being led back to his own table.
"Decided to commit suicide," he announced suddenly.
"When? Next year?"
"Now. To-morrow morning. Going to take a room at the Commodore,
get into a hot bath and open a vein."
"He's getting morbid!"
"You need another rye, old boy!"
"We'll all talk it over to-morrow."
But Amory was not to be dissuaded, from argument at least.
"Did you ever get that way?" he demanded confidentially
"My chronic state."
This provoked discussion. One man said that he got so depressed
sometimes that he seriously considered it. Another agreed that
there was nothing to live for. "Captain Corn," who had somehow
rejoined the party, said that in his opinion it was when one's
health was bad that one felt that way most. Amory's suggestion
was that they should each order a Bronx, mix broken glass in it,
and drink it off. To his relief no one applauded the idea, so
having finished his high-ball, he balanced his chin in his hand
and his elbow on the tablea most delicate, scarcely noticeable
sleeping position, he assured himselfand went into a deep
He was awakened by a woman clinging to him, a pretty woman, with
brown, disarranged hair and dark blue eyes.
"Take me home!" she cried.
"Hello!" said Amory, blinking.
"I like you," she announced tenderly.
"I like you too."
He noticed that there was a noisy man in the background and that
one of his party was arguing with him.
"Fella I was with's a damn fool," confided the blue-eyed woman.
"I hate him. I want to go home with you."
"You drunk?" queried Amory with intense wisdom.
She nodded coyly.
"Go home with him," he advised gravely. "He brought you."
At this point the noisy man in the background broke away from his
detainers and approached.
"Say!" he said fiercely. "I brought this girl out here and you're
Amory regarded him coldly, while the girl clung to him closer.
"You let go that girl!" cried the noisy man.
Amory tried to make his eyes threatening.
"You go to hell!" he directed finally, and turned his attention
to the girl.
"Love first sight," he suggested.
"I love you," she breathed and nestled close to him. She did have
Some one leaned over and spoke in Amory's ear.
"That's just Margaret Diamond. She's drunk and this fellow here
brought her. Better let her go."
"Let him take care of her, then!" shouted Amory furiously. "I'm
no W. Y. C. A. worker, am I?am I?"
"Let her go!"
"It's her hanging on, damn it! Let her hang!"
The crowd around the table thickened. For an instant a brawl
threatened, but a sleek waiter bent back Margaret Diamond's
fingers until she released her hold on Amory, whereupon she
slapped the waiter furiously in the face and flung her arms about
her raging original escort.
"Oh, Lord!" cried Amory.
"Come on, the taxis are getting scarce!"
"C'mon, Amory. Your romance is over."
"You don't know how true you spoke. No idea. 'At's the whole
AMORY ON THE LABOR QUESTION
Two mornings later he knocked at the president's door at Bascome
and Barlow's advertising agency.
Amory entered unsteadily.
"'Morning, Mr. Barlow."
Mr. Barlow brought his glasses to the inspection and set his
mouth slightly ajar that he might better listen.
"Well, Mr. Blaine. We haven't seen you for several days."
"No," said Amory. "I'm quitting."
"I don't like it here."
"I'm sorry. I thought our relations had been quiteahpleasant. You
seemed to be a hard workera little inclined perhaps to write
"I just got tired of it," interrupted Amory rudely. "It didn't
matter a damn to me whether Harebell's flour was any better than
any one else's. In fact, I never ate any of it. So I got tired of
telling people about itoh, I know I've been drinking"
Mr. Barlow's face steeled by several ingots of expression.
"You asked for a position"
Amory waved him to silence.
"And I think I was rottenly underpaid. Thirty-five dollars a
weekless than a good carpenter."
"You had just started. You'd never worked before," said Mr.
"But it took about ten thousand dollars to educate me where I
could write your darned stuff for you. Anyway, as far as length
of service goes, you've got stenographers here you've paid
fifteen a week for five years."
"I'm not going to argue with you, sir," said Mr. Barlow rising.
"Neither am I. I just wanted to tell you I'm quitting."
They stood for a moment looking at each other impassively and
then Amory turned and left the office.
A LITTLE LULL
Four days after that he returned at last to the apartment. Tom
was engaged on a book review for The New Democracy on the staff
of which he was employed. They regarded each other for a moment
"Good Lord, Amory, where'd you get the black eyeand the jaw?"
"That's a mere nothing."
He peeled off his coat and bared his shoulders.
Tom emitted a low whistle.
"What hit you?"
Amory laughed again.
"Oh, a lot of people. I got beaten up. Fact." He slowly replaced
his shirt. "It was bound to come sooner or later and I wouldn't
have missed it for anything."
"Who was it?"
"Well, there were some waiters and a couple of sailors and a few
stray pedestrians, I guess. It's the strangest feeling. You ought
to get beaten up just for the experience of it. You fall down
after a while and everybody sort of slashes in at you before you
hit the groundthen they kick you."
Tom lighted a cigarette.
"I spent a day chasing you all over town, Amory. But you always
kept a little ahead of me. I'd say you've been on some party."
Amory tumbled into a chair and asked for a cigarette.
"You sober now?" asked Tom quizzically.
"Pretty sober. Why?"
"Well, Alec has left. His family had been after him to go home
and live, so he"
A spasm of pain shook Amory.
"Yes, it is too bad. We'll have to get some one else if we're
going to stay here. The rent's going up."
"Sure. Get anybody. I'll leave it to you, Tom."
Amory walked into his bedroom. The first thing that met his
glance was a photograph of Rosalind that he had intended to have
framed, propped up against a mirror on his dresser. He looked at
it unmoved. After the vivid mental pictures of her that were his
portion at present, the portrait was curiously unreal. He went
back into the study.
"Got a cardboard box?"
"No," answered Tom, puzzled. "Why should I have? Oh, yesthere may
be one in Alec's room."
Eventually Amory found what he was looking for and, returning to
his dresser, opened a drawer full of letters, notes, part of a
chain, two little handkerchiefs, and some snap-shots. As he
transferred them carefully to the box his mind wandered to some
place in a book where the hero, after preserving for a year a
cake of his lost love's soap, finally washed his hands with it.
He laughed and began to hum "After you've gone" ... ceased
The string broke twice, and then he managed to secure it, dropped
the package into the bottom of his trunk, and having slammed the
lid returned to the study.
"Going out?" Tom's voice held an undertone of anxiety.
"Couldn't say, old keed."
"Let's have dinner together."
"Sorry. I told Sukey Brett I'd eat with him."
Amory crossed the street and had a high-ball; then he walked to
Washington Square and found a top seat on a bus. He disembarked
at Forty-third Street and strolled to the Biltmore bar.
"What'll you have?"
The advent of prohibition with the "thirsty-first" put a sudden
stop to the submerging of Amory's sorrows, and when he awoke one
morning to find that the old bar-to-bar days were over, he had
neither remorse for the past three weeks nor regret that their
repetition was impossible. He had taken the most violent, if the
weakest, method to shield himself from the stabs of memory, and
while it was not a course he would have prescribed for others, he
found in the end that it had done its business: he was over the
first flush of pain.
Don't misunderstand! Amory had loved Rosalind as he would never
love another living person. She had taken the first flush of his
youth and brought from his unplumbed depths tenderness that had
surprised him, gentleness and unselfishness that he had never
given to another creature. He had later love-affairs, but of a
different sort: in those he went back to that, perhaps, more
typical frame of mind, in which the girl became the mirror of a
mood in him. Rosalind had drawn out what was more than passionate
admiration; he had a deep, undying affection for Rosalind.
But there had been, near the end, so much dramatic tragedy,
culminating in the arabesque nightmare of his three weeks' spree,
that he was emotionally worn out. The people and surroundings
that he remembered as being cool or delicately artificial, seemed
to promise him a refuge. He wrote a cynical story which featured
his father's funeral and despatched it to a magazine, receiving
in return a check for sixty dollars and a request for more of the
same tone. This tickled his vanity, but inspired him to no
He read enormously. He was puzzled and depressed by "A Portrait
of the Artist as a Young Man"; intensely interested by "Joan and
Peter" and "The Undying Fire," and rather surprised by his
discovery through a critic named Mencken of several excellent
American novels: "Vandover and the Brute," "The Damnation of
Theron Ware," and "Jennie Gerhardt." Mackenzie, Chesterton,
Galsworthy, Bennett, had sunk in his appreciation from sagacious,
life-saturated geniuses to merely diverting contemporaries.
Shaw's aloof clarity and brilliant consistency and the gloriously
intoxicated efforts of H. G. Wells to fit the key of romantic
symmetry into the elusive lock of truth, alone won his rapt
He wanted to see Monsignor Darcy, to whom he had written when he
landed, but he had not heard from him; besides he knew that a
visit to Monsignor would entail the story of Rosalind, and the
thought of repeating it turned him cold with horror.
In his search for cool people he remembered Mrs. Lawrence, a very
intelligent, very dignified lady, a convert to the church, and a
great devotee of Monsignor's.
He called her on the 'phone one day. Yes, she remembered him
perfectly; no, Monsignor wasn't in town, was in Boston she
thought; he'd promised to come to dinner when he returned.
Couldn't Amory take luncheon with her?
"I thought I'd better catch up, Mrs. Lawrence," he said rather
ambiguously when he arrived.
"Monsignor was here just last week," said Mrs. Lawrence
regretfully. "He was very anxious to see you, but he'd left your
address at home."
"Did he think I'd plunged into Bolshevism?" asked Amory,
"Oh, he's having a frightful time."
"About the Irish Republic. He thinks it lacks dignity."
"He went to Boston when the Irish President arrived and he was
greatly distressed because the receiving committee, when they
rode in an automobile, would put their arms around the
"I don't blame him."
"Well, what impressed you more than anything while you were in
the army? You look a great deal older."
"That's from another, more disastrous battle," he answered,
smiling in spite of himself. "But the armylet me seewell, I
discovered that physical courage depends to a great extent on the
physical shape a man is in. I found that I was as brave as the
next manit used to worry me before."
"Well, the idea that men can stand anything if they get used to
it, and the fact that I got a high mark in the psychological
Mrs. Lawrence laughed. Amory was finding it a great relief to be
in this cool house on Riverside Drive, away from more condensed
New York and the sense of people expelling great quantities of
breath into a little space. Mrs. Lawrence reminded him vaguely of
Beatrice, not in temperament, but in her perfect grace and
dignity. The house, its furnishings, the manner in which dinner
was served, were in immense contrast to what he had met in the
great places on Long Island, where the servants were so obtrusive
that they had positively to be bumped out of the way, or even in
the houses of more conservative "Union Club" families. He
wondered if this air of symmetrical restraint, this grace, which
he felt was continental, was distilled through Mrs. Lawrence's
New England ancestry or acquired in long residence in Italy and
Two glasses of sauterne at luncheon loosened his tongue, and he
talked, with what he felt was something of his old charm, of
religion and literature and the menacing phenomena of the social
order. Mrs. Lawrence was ostensibly pleased with him, and her
interest was especially in his mind; he wanted people to like his
mind againafter a while it might be such a nice place in which to
"Monsignor Darcy still thinks that you're his reincarnation, that
your faith will eventually clarify."
"Perhaps," he assented. "I'm rather pagan at present. It's just
that religion doesn't seem to have the slightest bearing on life
at my age."
When he left her house he walked down Riverside Drive with a
feeling of satisfaction. It was amusing to discuss again such
subjects as this young poet, Stephen Vincent Benit, or the Irish
Republic. Between the rancid accusations of Edward Carson and
Justice Cohalan he had completely tired of the Irish question;
yet there had been a time when his own Celtic traits were pillars
of his personal philosophy.
There seemed suddenly to be much left in life, if only this
revival of old interests did not mean that he was backing away
from it againbacking away from life itself.
"I'm tres old and tres bored, Tom," said Amory one day,
stretching himself at ease in the comfortable window-seat. He
always felt most natural in a recumbent position.
"You used to be entertaining before you started to write," he
continued. "Now you save any idea that you think would do to
Existence had settled back to an ambitionless normality. They had
decided that with economy they could still afford the apartment,
which Tom, with the domesticity of an elderly cat, had grown fond
of. The old English hunting prints on the wall were Tom's, and
the large tapestry by courtesy, a relic of decadent days in
college, and the great profusion of orphaned candlesticks and the
carved Louis XV chair in which no one could sit more than a
minute without acute spinal disordersTom claimed that this was
because one was sitting in the lap of Montespan's wraithat any
rate, it was Tom's furniture that decided them to stay.
They went out very little: to an occasional play, or to dinner at
the Ritz or the Princeton Club. With prohibition the great
rendezvous had received their death wounds; no longer could one
wander to the Biltmore bar at twelve or five and find congenial
spirits, and both Tom and Amory had outgrown the passion for
dancing with mid-Western or New Jersey debbies at the
Club-de-Vingt (surnamed the "Club de Gink") or the Plaza Rose
Roombesides even that required several cocktails "to come down to
the intellectual level of the women present," as Amory had once
put it to a horrified matron.
Amory had lately received several alarming letters from Mr.
Bartonthe Lake Geneva house was too large to be easily rented;
the best rent obtainable at present would serve this year to
little more than pay for the taxes and necessary improvements; in
fact, the lawyer suggested that the whole property was simply a
white elephant on Amory's hands. Nevertheless, even though it
might not yield a cent for the next three years, Amory decided
with a vague sentimentality that for the present, at any rate, he
would not sell the house.
This particular day on which he announced his ennui to Tom had
been quite typical. He had risen at noon, lunched with Mrs.
Lawrence, and then ridden abstractedly homeward atop one of his
"Why shouldn't you be bored," yawned Tom. "Isn't that the
conventional frame of mind for the young man of your age and
"Yes," said Amory speculatively, "but I'm more than bored; I am
"Love and war did for you."
"Well," Amory considered, "I'm not sure that the war itself had
any great effect on either you or mebut it certainly ruined the
old backgrounds, sort of killed individualism out of our
Tom looked up in surprise.
"Yes it did," insisted Amory. "I'm not sure it didn't kill it out
of the whole world. Oh, Lord, what a pleasure it used to be to
dream I might be a really great dictator or writer or religious
or political leaderand now even a Leonardo da Vinci or Lorenzo de
Medici couldn't be a real old-fashioned bolt in the world. Life
is too huge and complex. The world is so overgrown that it can't
lift its own fingers, and I was planning to be such an important
"I don't agree with you," Tom interrupted. "There never were men
placed in such egotistic positions sinceoh, since the French
Amory disagreed violently.
"You're mistaking this period when every nut is an individualist
for a period of individualism. Wilson has only been powerful when
he has represented; he's had to compromise over and over again.
Just as soon as Trotsky and Lenin take a definite, consistent
stand they'll become merely two-minute figures like Kerensky.
Even Foch hasn't half the significance of Stonewall Jackson. War
used to be the most individualistic pursuit of man, and yet the
popular heroes of the war had neither authority nor
responsibility: Guynemer and Sergeant York. How could a schoolboy
make a hero of Pershing? A big man has no time really to do
anything but just sit and be big."
"Then you don't think there will be any more permanent world
"Yesin historynot in life. Carlyle would have difficulty getting
material for a new chapter on 'The Hero as a Big Man.'"
"Go on. I'm a good listener to-day."
"People try so hard to believe in leaders now, pitifully hard.
But we no sooner get a popular reformer or politician or soldier
or writer or philosophera Roosevelt, a Tolstoi, a Wood, a Shaw, a
Nietzsche, than the cross-currents of criticism wash him away. My
Lord, no man can stand prominence these days. It's the surest
path to obscurity. People get sick of hearing the same name over
"Then you blame it on the press?"
"Absolutely. Look at you; you're on The New Democracy, considered
the most brilliant weekly in the country, read by the men who do
things and all that. What's your business? Why, to be as clever,
as interesting, and as brilliantly cynical as possible about
every man, doctrine, book, or policy that is assigned you to deal
with. The more strong lights, the more spiritual scandal you can
throw on the matter, the more money they pay you, the more the
people buy the issue. You, Tom d'Invilliers, a blighted Shelley,
changing, shifting, clever, unscrupulous, represent the critical
consciousness of the raceOh, don't protest, I know the stuff. I
used to write book reviews in college; I considered it rare sport
to refer to the latest honest, conscientious effort to propound a
theory or a remedy as a 'welcome addition to our light summer
reading.' Come on now, admit it."
Tom laughed, and Amory continued triumphantly.
"We want to believe. Young students try to believe in older
authors, constituents try to believe in their Congressmen,
countries try to believe in their statesmen, but they can't. Too
many voices, too much scattered, illogical, ill-considered
criticism. It's worse in the case of newspapers. Any rich,
unprogressive old party with that particularly grasping,
acquisitive form of mentality known as financial genius can own a
paper that is the intellectual meat and drink of thousands of
tired, hurried men, men too involved in the business of modern
living to swallow anything but predigested food. For two cents
the voter buys his politics, prejudices, and philosophy. A year
later there is a new political ring or a change in the paper's
ownership, consequence: more confusion, more contradiction, a
sudden inrush of new ideas, their tempering, their distillation,
the reaction against them"
He paused only to get his breath.
"And that is why I have sworn not to put pen to paper until my
ideas either clarify or depart entirely; I have quite enough sins
on my soul without putting dangerous, shallow epigrams into
people's heads; I might cause a poor, inoffensive capitalist to
have a vulgar liaison with a bomb, or get some innocent little
Bolshevik tangled up with a machine-gun bullet"
Tom was growing restless under this lampooning of his connection
with The New Democracy.
"What's all this got to do with your being bored?"
Amory considered that it had much to do with it.
"How'll I fit in?" he demanded. "What am I for? To propagate the
race? According to the American novels we are led to believe that
the 'healthy American boy' from nineteen to twenty-five is an
entirely sexless animal. As a matter of fact, the healthier he is
the less that's true. The only alternative to letting it get you
is some violent interest. Well, the war is over; I believe too
much in the responsibilities of authorship to write just now; and
business, well, business speaks for itself. It has no connection
with anything in the world that I've ever been interested in,
except a slim, utilitarian connection with economics. What I'd
see of it, lost in a clerkship, for the next and best ten years
of my life would have the intellectual content of an industrial
"Try fiction," suggested Tom.
"Trouble is I get distracted when I start to write storiesget
afraid I'm doing it instead of livingget thinking maybe life is
waiting for me in the Japanese gardens at the Ritz or at Atlantic
City or on the lower East Side.
"Anyway," he continued, "I haven't the vital urge. I wanted to be
a regular human being but the girl couldn't see it that way."
"You'll find another."
"God! Banish the thought. Why don't you tell me that 'if the girl
had been worth having she'd have waited for you'? No, sir, the
girl really worth having won't wait for anybody. If I thought
there'd be another I'd lose my remaining faith in human nature.
Maybe I'll playbut Rosalind was the only girl in the wide world
that could have held me."
"Well," yawned Tom, "I've played confidant a good hour by the
clock. Still, I'm glad to see you're beginning to have violent
views again on something."
"I am," agreed Amory reluctantly. "Yet when I see a happy family
it makes me sick at my stomach"
"Happy families try to make people feel that way," said Tom
TOM THE CENSOR
There were days when Amory listened. These were when Tom,
wreathed in smoke, indulged in the slaughter of American
literature. Words failed him.
"Fifty thousand dollars a year," he would cry. "My God! Look at
them, look at themEdna Ferber, Gouverneur Morris, Fanny Hurst,
Mary Roberts Rinehartnot producing among 'em one story or novel
that will last ten years. This man CobbI don't tink he's either
clever or amusingand what's more, I don't think very many people
do, except the editors. He's just groggy with advertising. Andoh
Harold Bell Wright oh Zane Grey"
"No, they don't even try. Some of them can write, but they won't
sit down and do one honest novel. Most of them can't write, I'll
admit. I believe Rupert Hughes tries to give a real,
comprehensive picture of American life, but his style and
perspective are barbarous. Ernest Poole and Dorothy Canfield try
but they're hindered by their absolute lack of any sense of
humor; but at least they crowd their work instead of spreading it
thin. Every author ought to write every book as if he were going
to be beheaded the day he finished it."
"Is that double entente?"
"Don't slow me up! Now there's a few of 'em that seem to have
some cultural background, some intelligence and a good deal of
literary felicity but they just simply won't write honestly;
they'd all claim there was no public for good stuff. Then why the
devil is it that Wells, Conrad, Galsworthy, Shaw, Bennett, and
the rest depend on America for over half their sales?"
"How does little Tommy like the poets?"
Tom was overcome. He dropped his arms until they swung loosely
beside the chair and emitted faint grunts.
"I'm writing a satire on 'em now, calling it 'Boston Bards and
"Let's hear it," said Amory eagerly.
"I've only got the last few lines done."
"That's very modern. Let's hear 'em, if they're funny."
Tom produced a folded paper from his pocket and read aloud,
pausing at intervals so that Amory could see that it was free
I place your names here
So that you may live
If only as names,
Sinuous, mauve-colored names,
In the Juvenalia
Of my collected editions."
"You win the iron pansy. I'll buy you a meal on the arrogance of
the last two lines."
Amory did not entirely agree with Tom's sweeping damnation of
American novelists and poets. He enjoyed both Vachel Lindsay and
Booth Tarkington, and admired the conscientious, if slender,
artistry of Edgar Lee Masters.
"What I hate is this idiotic drivel about 'I am GodI am manI ride
the windsI look through the smokeI am the life sense.'"
"And I wish American novelists would give up trying to make
business romantically interesting. Nobody wants to read about it,
unless it's crooked business. If it was an entertaining subject
they'd buy the life of James J. Hill and not one of these long
office tragedies that harp along on the significance of smoke"
"And gloom," said Tom. That's another favorite, though I'll admit
the Russians have the monopoly. Our specialty is stories about
little girls who break their spines and get adopted by grouchy
old men because they smile so much. You'd think we were a race of
cheerful cripples and that the common end of the Russian peasant
"Six o'clock," said Amory, glancing at his wrist-watch. "I'll buy
you a grea' big dinner on the strength of the Juvenalia of your
July sweltered out with a last hot week, and Amory in another
surge of unrest realized that it was just five months since he
and Rosalind had met. Yet it was already hard for him to
visualize the heart-whole boy who had stepped off the transport,
passionately desiring the adventure of life. One night while the
heat, overpowering and enervating, poured into the windows of his
room he struggled for several hours in a vague effort to
immortalize the poignancy of that time.
The February streets, wind-washed by night, blow full of strange
half-intermittent damps, bearing on wasted walks in shining sight
wet snow plashed into gleams under the lamps, like golden oil
from some divine machine, in an hour of thaw and stars.
Strange dampsfull of the eyes of many men, crowded with life
borne in upon a lull.... Oh, I was young, for I could turn again
to you, most finite and most beautiful, and taste the stuff of
half-remembered dreams, sweet and new on your mouth.
...There was a tanging in the midnight airsilence was dead and
sound not yet awokenLife cracked like ice!one brilliant note and
there, radiant and pale, you stood ... and spring had broken.
(The icicles were short upon the roofs and the changeling city
Our thoughts were frosty mist along the eaves; our two ghosts
kissed, high on the long, mazed wireseerie half-laughter echoes
here and leaves only a fatuous sigh for young desires; regret has
followed after things she loved, leaving the great husk.
In mid-August came a letter from Monsignor Darcy, who had
evidently just stumbled on his address:
MY DEAR BOY:
Your last letter was quite enough to make me worry about you. It
was not a bit like yourself. Reading between the lines I should
imagine that your engagement to this girl is making you rather
unhappy, and I see you have lost all the feeling of romance that
you had before the war. You make a great mistake if you think you
can be romantic without religion. Sometimes I think that with
both of us the secret of success, when we find it, is the
mystical element in us: something flows into us that enlarges our
personalities, and when it ebbs out our personalities shrink; I
should call your last two letters rather shrivelled. Beware of
losing yourself in the personality of another being, man or
His Eminence Cardinal O'Neill and the Bishop of Boston are
staying with me at present, so it is hard for me to get a moment
to write, but I wish you would come up here later if only for a
week-end. I go to Washington this week.
What I shall do in the future is hanging in the balance.
Absolutely between ourselves I should not be surprised to see the
red hat of a cardinal descend upon my unworthy head within the
next eight months. In any event, I should like to have a house in
New York or Washington where you could drop in for week-ends.
Amory, I'm very glad we're both alive; this war could easily have
been the end of a brilliant family. But in regard to matrimony,
you are now at the most dangerous period of your life. You might
marry in haste and repent at leisure, but I think you won't. From
what you write me about the present calamitous state of your
finances, what you want is naturally impossible. However, if I
judge you by the means I usually choose, I should say that there
will be something of an emotional crisis within the next year.
Do write me. I feel annoyingly out of date on you.
With greatest affection,
Within a week after the receipt of this letter their little
household fell precipitously to pieces. The immediate cause was
the serious and probably chronic illness of Tom's mother. So they
stored the furniture, gave instructions to sublet and shook hands
gloomily in the Pennsylvania Station. Amory and Tom seemed always
to be saying good-by.
Feeling very much alone, Amory yielded to an impulse and set off
southward, intending to join Monsignor in Washington. They missed
connections by two hours, and, deciding to spend a few days with
an ancient, remembered uncle, Amory journeyed up through the
luxuriant fields of Maryland into Ramilly County. But instead of
two days his stay lasted from mid-August nearly through
September, for in Maryland he met Eleanor.