The Education of a Personage
The Supercilious Sacrifice
ATLANTIC CITY. Amory paced the board walk at day's end, lulled by
the everlasting surge of changing waves, smelling the
half-mournful odor of the salt breeze. The sea, he thought, had
treasured its memories deeper than the faithless land. It seemed
still to whisper of Norse galleys ploughing the water world under
raven-figured flags, of the British dreadnoughts, gray bulwarks
of civilization steaming up through the fog of one dark July into
the North Sea.
Amory looked down into the street below. A low racing car had
drawn to a stop and a familiar cheerful face protruded from the
"Come on down, goopher!" cried Alec.
Amory called a greeting and descending a flight of wooden steps
approached the car. He and Alec had been meeting intermittently,
but the barrier of Rosalind lay always between them. He was sorry
for this; he hated to lose Alec.
"Mr. Blaine, this is Miss Waterson, Miss Wayne, and Mr. Tully."
"How d'y do?"
"Amory," said Alec exuberantly, "if you'll jump in we'll take you
to some secluded nook and give you a wee jolt of Bourbon."
"That's an idea."
"Step inmove over, Jill, and Amory will smile very handsomely at
Amory squeezed into the back seat beside a gaudy,
"Hello, Doug Fairbanks," she said flippantly. "Walking for
exercise or hunting for company?"
"I was counting the waves," replied Amory gravely. "I'm going in
"Don't kid me, Doug."
When they reached an unfrequented side street Alec stopped the
car among deep shadows.
"What you doing down here these cold days, Amory?" he demanded,
as he produced a quart of Bourbon from under the fur rug.
Amory avoided the question. Indeed, he had had no definite reason
for coming to the coast.
"Do you remember that party of ours, sophomore year?" he asked
"Do I? When we slept in the pavilions up in Asbury Park"
"Lord, Alec! It's hard to think that Jesse and Dick and Kerry are
all three dead."
"Don't talk about it. These dreary fall days depress me enough."
Jill seemed to agree.
"Doug here is sorta gloomy anyways," she commented. "Tell him to
drink deepit's good and scarce these days."
"What I really want to ask you, Amory, is where you are"
"Why, New York, I suppose"
"I mean to-night, because if you haven't got a room yet you'd
better help me out."
"You see, Tully and I have two rooms with bath between at the
Ranier, and he's got to go back to New York. I don't want to have
to move. Question is, will you occupy one of the rooms?"
Amory was willing, if he could get in right away.
"You'll find the key in the office; the rooms are in my name."
Declining further locomotion or further stimulation, Amory left
the car and sauntered back along the board walk to the hotel.
He was in an eddy again, a deep, lethargic gulf, without desire
to work or write, love or dissipate. For the first time in his
life he rather longed for death to roll over his generation,
obliterating their petty fevers and struggles and exultations.
His youth seemed never so vanished as now in the contrast between
the utter loneliness of this visit and that riotous, joyful party
of four years before. Things that had been the merest
commonplaces of his life then, deep sleep, the sense of beauty
around him, all desire, had flown away and the gaps they left
were filled only with the great listlessness of his disillusion.
"To hold a man a woman has to appeal to the worst in him." This
sentence was the thesis of most of his bad nights, of which he
felt this was to be one. His mind had already started to play
variations on the subject. Tireless passion, fierce jealousy,
longing to possess and crushthese alone were left of all his love
for Rosalind; these remained to him as payment for the loss of
his youthbitter calomel under the thin sugar of love's
In his room he undressed and wrapping himself in blankets to keep
out the chill October air drowsed in an armchair by the open
He remembered a poem he had read months before:
"Oh staunch old heart who toiled so long for me, I waste my years
sailing along the sea"
Yet he had no sense of waste, no sense of the present hope that
waste implied. He felt that life had rejected him.
"Rosalind! Rosalind!" He poured the words softly into the
half-darkness until she seemed to permeate the room; the wet salt
breeze filled his hair with moisture, the rim of a moon seared
the sky and made the curtains dim and ghostly. He fell asleep.
When he awoke it was very late and quiet. The blanket had slipped
partly off his shoulders and he touched his skin to find it damp
Then he became aware of a tense whispering not ten feet away.
He became rigid.
"Don't make a sound!" It was Alec's voice. "Jilldo you hear me?"
"Yes" breathed very low, very frightened. They were in the
Then his ears caught a louder sound from somewhere along the
corridor outside. It was a mumbling of men's voices and a
repeated muffled rapping. Amory threw off the blankets and moved
close to the bathroom door.
"My God!" came the girl's voice again. "You'll have to let them
Suddenly a steady, insistent knocking began at Amory's hall door
and simultaneously out of the bathroom came Alec, followed by the
vermilion-lipped girl. They were both clad in pajamas.
"Amory!" an anxious whisper.
"What's the trouble?"
"It's house detectives. My God, Amorythey're just looking for a
"Well, better let them in."
"You don't understand. They can get me under the Mann Act."
The girl followed him slowly, a rather miserable, pathetic figure
in the darkness.
Amory tried to plan quickly.
"You make a racket and let them in your room," he suggested
anxiously, "and I'll get her out by this door."
"They're here too, though. They'll watch this door."
"Can't you give a wrong name?"
"No chance. I registered under my own name; besides, they'd trail
the auto license number."
"Say you're married."
"Jill says one of the house detectives knows her."
The girl had stolen to the bed and tumbled upon it; lay there
listening wretchedly to the knocking which had grown gradually to
a pounding. Then came a man's voice, angry and imperative:
"Open up or we'll break the door in!"
In the silence when this voice ceased Amory realized that there
were other things in the room besides people ... over and around
the figure crouched on the bed there hung an aura, gossamer as a
moonbeam, tainted as stale, weak wine, yet a horror, diffusively
brooding already over the three of them ... and over by the
window among the stirring curtains stood something else,
featureless and indistinguishable, yet strangely familiar....
Simultaneously two great cases presented themselves side by side
to Amory; all that took place in his mind, then, occupied in
actual time less than ten seconds.
The first fact that flashed radiantly on his comprehension was
the great impersonality of sacrificehe perceived that what we
call love and hate, reward and punishment, had no more to do with
it than the date of the month. He quickly recapitulated the story
of a sacrifice he had heard of in college: a man had cheated in
an examination; his roommate in a gust of sentiment had taken the
entire blamedue to the shame of it the innocent one's entire
future seemed shrouded in regret and failure, capped by the
ingratitude of the real culprit. He had finally taken his own
lifeyears afterward the facts had come out. At the time the story
had both puzzled and worried Amory. Now he realized the truth;
that sacrifice was no purchase of freedom. It was like a great
elective office, it was like an inheritance of powerto certain
people at certain times an essential luxury, carrying with it not
a guarantee but a responsibility, not a security but an infinite
risk. Its very momentum might drag him down to ruinthe passing of
the emotional wave that made it possible might leave the one who
made it high and dry forever on an island of despair.
...Amory knew that afterward Alec would secretly hate him for
having done so much for him....
...All this was flung before Amory like an opened scroll, while
ulterior to him and speculating upon him were those two
breathless, listening forces: the gossamer aura that hung over
and about the girl and that familiar thing by the window.
Sacrifice by its very nature was arrogant and impersonal;
sacrifice should be eternally supercilious.
Weep not for me but for thy children.
Thatthought Amorywould be somehow the way God would talk to me.
Amory felt a sudden surge of joy and then like a face in a
motion-picture the aura over the bed faded out; the dynamic
shadow by the window, that was as near as he could name it,
remained for the fraction of a moment and then the breeze seemed
to lift it swiftly out of the room. He clinched his hands in
quick ecstatic excitement ... the ten seconds were up....
"Do what I say, Alecdo what I say. Do you understand?"
Alec looked at him dumblyhis face a tableau of anguish.
"You have a family," continued Amory slowly. "You have a family
and it's important that you should get out of this. Do you hear
me?" He repeated clearly what he had said. "Do you hear me?"
"I hear you." The voice was curiously strained, the eyes never
for a second left Amory's.
"Alec, you're going to lie down here. If any one comes in you act
drunk. You do what I sayif you don't I'll probably kill you."
There was another moment while they stared at each other. Then
Amory went briskly to the bureau and, taking his pocket-book,
beckoned peremptorily to the girl. He heard one word from Alec
that sounded like "penitentiary," then he and Jill were in the
bathroom with the door bolted behind them.
"You're here with me," he said sternly. "You've been with me all
She nodded, gave a little half cry.
In a second he had the door of the other room open and three men
entered. There was an immediate flood of electric light and he
stood there blinking.
"You've been playing a little too dangerous a game, young man!"
The leader of the trio nodded authoritatively at a burly man in a
"All right, Olson."
"I got you, Mr. O'May," said Olson, nodding. The other two took a
curious glance at their quarry and then withdrew, closing the
door angrily behind them.
The burly man regarded Amory contemptuously.
"Didn't you ever hear of the Mann Act? Coming down here with
her," he indicated the girl with his thumb, "with a New York
license on your carto a hotel like this." He shook his head
implying that he had struggled over Amory but now gave him up.
"Well," said Amory rather impatiently, "what do you want us to
"Get dressed, quickand tell your friend not to make such a
racket." Jill was sobbing noisily on the bed, but at these words
she subsided sulkily and, gathering up her clothes, retired to
the bathroom. As Amory slipped into Alec's B. V. D.'s he found
that his attitude toward the situation was agreeably humorous.
The aggrieved virtue of the burly man made him want to laugh.
"Anybody else here?" demanded Olson, trying to look keen and
"Fellow who had the rooms," said Amory carelessly. "He's drunk as
an owl, though. Been in there asleep since six o'clock."
"I'll take a look at him presently."
"How did you find out?" asked Amory curiously.
"Night clerk saw you go up-stairs with this woman."
Amory nodded; Jill reappeared from the bathroom, completely if
rather untidily arrayed.
"Now then," began Olson, producing a note-book, "I want your real
namesno damn John Smith or Mary Brown."
"Wait a minute," said Amory quietly. "Just drop that big-bully
stuff. We merely got caught, that's all."
Olson glared at him.
"Name?" he snapped.
Amory gave his name and New York address.
"And the lady?"
"Miss Jill "
"Say," cried Olson indignantly, "just ease up on the nursery
rhymes. What's your name? Sarah Murphy? Minnie Jackson?"
"Oh, my God!" cried the girl cupping her tear-stained face in her
hands. "I don't want my mother to know. I don't want my mother to
"Come on now!"
"Shut up!" cried Amory at Olson.
An instant's pause.
"Stella Robbins," she faltered finally. "General Delivery,
Rugway, New Hampshire."
Olson snapped his note-book shut and looked at them very
"By rights the hotel could turn the evidence over to the police
and you'd go to penitentiary, you would, for bringin' a girl from
one State to 'nother f'r immoral purp'ses"he paused to let the
majesty of his words sink in. "Butthe hotel is going to let you
"It doesn't want to get in the papers," cried Jill fiercely. "Let
us off! Huh!"
A great lightness surrounded Amory. He realized that he was safe
and only then did he appreciate the full enormity of what he
might have incurred.
"However," continued Olson, "there's a protective association
among the hotels. There's been too much of this stuff, and we got
a 'rangement with the newspapers so that you get a little free
publicity. Not the name of the hotel, but just a line sayin' that
you had a little trouble in 'lantic City. See?"
"You're gettin' off lightdamn lightbut"
"Come on," said Amory briskly. "Let's get out of here. We don't
need a valedictory."
Olson walked through the bathroom and took a cursory glance at
Alec's still form. Then he extinguished the lights and motioned
them to follow him. As they walked into the elevator Amory
considered a piece of bravadoyielded finally. He reached out and
tapped Olson on the arm.
"Would you mind taking off your hat? There's a lady in the
Olson's hat came off slowly. There was a rather embarrassing two
minutes under the lights of the lobby while the night clerk and a
few belated guests stared at them curiously; the loudly dressed
girl with bent head, the handsome young man with his chin several
points aloft; the inference was quite obvious. Then the chill
outdoorswhere the salt air was fresher and keener still with the
first hints of morning.
"You can get one of those taxis and beat it," said Olson,
pointing to the blurred outline of two machines whose drivers
were presumably asleep inside.
"Good-by," said Olson. He reached in his pocket suggestively, but
Amory snorted, and, taking the girl's arm, turned away.
"Where did you tell the driver to go?" she asked as they whirled
along the dim street.
"If that guy writes my mother"
"He won't. Nobody'll ever know about thisexcept our friends and
Dawn was breaking over the sea.
"It's getting blue," she said.
"It does very well," agreed Amory critically, and then as an
after-thought: "It's almost breakfast-timedo you want something
"Food" she said with a cheerful laugh. "Food is what queered the
party. We ordered a big supper to be sent up to the room about
two o'clock. Alec didn't give the waiter a tip, so I guess the
little bastard snitched."
Jill's low spirits seemed to have gone faster than the scattering
night. "Let me tell you," she said emphatically, "when you want
to stage that sorta party stay away from liquor, and when you
want to get tight stay away from bedrooms."
He tapped suddenly at the glass and they drew up at the door of
an all-night restaurant.
"Is Alec a great friend of yours?" asked Jill as they perched
themselves on high stools inside, and set their elbows on the
"He used to be. He probably won't want to be any moreand never
"It was sorta crazy you takin' all that blame. Is he pretty
important? Kinda more important than you are?"
"That remains to be seen," he answered. "That's the question."
THE COLLAPSE OF SEVERAL PILLARS
Two days later back in New York Amory found in a newspaper what
he had been searching fora dozen lines which announced to whom it
might concern that Mr. Amory Blaine, who "gave his address" as,
etc., had been requested to leave his hotel in Atlantic City
because of entertaining in his room a lady not his wife.
Then he started, and his fingers trembled, for directly above was
a longer paragraph of which the first words were:
"Mr. and Mrs. Leland R. Connage are announcing the engagement of
their daughter, Rosalind, to Mr. J. Dawson Ryder, of Hartford,
He dropped the paper and lay down on his bed with a frightened,
sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach. She was gone,
definitely, finally gone. Until now he had half unconsciously
cherished the hope deep in his heart that some day she would need
him and send for him, cry that it had been a mistake, that her
heart ached only for the pain she had caused him. Never again
could he find even the sombre luxury of wanting hernot this
Rosalind, harder, oldernor any beaten, broken woman that his
imagination brought to the door of his fortiesAmory had wanted
her youth, the fresh radiance of her mind and body, the stuff
that she was selling now once and for all. So far as he was
concerned, young Rosalind was dead.
A day later came a crisp, terse letter from Mr. Barton in
Chicago, which informed him that as three more street-car
companies had gone into the hands of receivers he could expect
for the present no further remittances. Last of all, on a dazed
Sunday night, a telegram told him of Monsignor Darcy's sudden
death in Philadelphia five days before.
He knew then what it was that he had perceived among the curtains
of the room in Atlantic City.