Plum Bun (part 2 of 3 - Market and Plum Bun)
by Jessie Redmon Fauset
To Market, to Market
To buy a Plum Bun;
Home again, Home again, Market is done
Fifth Avenue is a canyon; its towering buildings dwarf the importance of the people hurrying through its narrow confines. But Fourteenth Street is a river, impersonally flowing, broad- bosomed, with strange and devious craft covering its expanse. To Angela the famous avenue seemed but one manifestation of living, but Fourteenth Street was the rendezvous of life itself. Here for those first few weeks after her arrival in New York she wandered, almost prowled, intent upon the jostling shops, the hurrying, pushing people, above all intent upon the faces of those people with their showings of grief, pride, gaiety, greed, joy, ambition, content. There was little enough of this last. These men and women were living at a sharper pitch of intensity than those she had observed in Philadelphia. The few coloured people whom she saw were different too; they possessed an independence of carriage, a purposefulness, an assurance in their manner that pleased her. But she could not see that any of these people, black or white, were any happier than those whom she had observed all her life.
But she was happier; she was living on the crest of a wave of excitement and satisfaction which would never wane, never break, never be spent. She was seeing the world, she was getting acquainted with life in her own way without restrictions or restraint; she was young, she was temporarily independent, she was intelligent, she was white. She remembered an expression " free, white and twenty-one ", this was what it meant then, this sense of owning the world, this realization that other things being equal, all things were possible. " If I were a man," she said, " I could be president ", and laughed at herself for the "if" itself proclaimed a limitation. But that inconsistency bothered her little; she did not want to be a man. Power, greatness, authority, these were fitting and proper for men ; but there were sweeter, more beautiful gifts for women, and power of a certain kind too. Such a power she would like to exert in this glittering new world, so full of mysteries and promise. If she could afford it she would have a salon, a drawing-room where men and women, not necessarily great, but real, alive, free and untrammelled in manner and thought, should come and pour themselves out to her sympathy and magnetism. To accomplish this she must have money and influence; indeed since she was so young she would need even protection; perhaps it would be better to marry ... a white man. The thought came to her suddenly out of the void; she had never thought of this possibility before. If she were to do this, do it suitably, then all that richness, all that fullness of life which she so ardently craved would be doubly hers. She knew that men had a better time of it than women, coloured men than coloured women, white men than white women. Not that she envied them. Only it would be fun, great fun to capture power and protection in addition to the freedom and independence which she had so long coveted and which now lay in her hand.
But, she smiled to herself, she had no way of approaching these ends. She knew no one in New York; she could conceive of no manner in which she was likely to form desirable acquaintances; at present her home consisted of the four walls of the smallest room in Union Square Hotel She had gone there the second day after her arrival, having spent an expensive twenty-four hours at the Astor. Later she came to realize that there were infinitely cheaper habitations to be had, but she could not tear herself away from Fourteenth Street. It was Spring, and the Square was full of rusty specimens of mankind who sat on the benches, as did Angela herself, for hours at a stretch, as though they thought the invigorating air and the mellow sun would work some magical burgeoning on their garments such as was worked on the trees. But though these latter changed, the garments changed not nor did their owners. They remained the same, drooping, discouraged down and outers. " I am seeing life," thought Angela, " this is the way people live," and never realized that some of these people looking curiously, speculatively at her wondered what had been her portion to bring her thus early to this unsavoury company.
"A great picture!" she thought. "I'll make a great picture of these people some day and call them Fourteenth Street types." And suddenly a vast sadness invaded her; she wondered if there were people more alive, more sentient to the adventure of living, even than she, to whom she would also be a " type ". But she could not believe this. She was at once almost irreconcilably too concentrated and too objective. Her living during these days was so intense, so almost solidified, as though her desire to live as she did and she herself were so one and the same thing that it would have been practically impossible for another onlooker like herself to insert the point of his discrimination into her firm panoply of satisfaction. So she continued to browse along her chosen thoroughfare, stopping most often in the Square or before a piano store on the same street. There was in this shop a player-piano which was usually in action, and as the front glass had been removed the increased clearness of the strains brought a steady, patient, apparently insatiable group of listeners to a stand still. They were mostly men, and as they were far less given, Angela observed, to concealing their feelings than women, it was easy to follow their emotional gamut. Jazz made them smile but with a certain wistfulness if only they had time for dancing now, just now when the mood was on them ! The young woman looking at the gathering of shabby pedestrians, worn business men and ruminative errand boys felt for them a pity not untinged with satisfaction. She had taken what she wanted while the mood was on her. Love songs, particularly those of the sorrowful ballad variety brought to these unmindful faces a strained regret. But there was one expression which Angela could only half interpret. It drifted on to those listening countenances usually at the playing of old Irish and Scottish tunes. She noticed then an acuter attitude of attention, the eyes took on a look of inwardness of utter remoteness. A passer-by engrossed in thought caught a strain and at once his gait and expression fell under the spell. The listeners might be as varied as fifteen people may be, yet for the moment they would be caught in a common, almost cosmic nostalgia. If the next piece were jazz that particular crowd would disperse, its members going on their meditative ways, blessed or cursed with heaven knew what memories which must not be disturbed by the strident jangling of the latest popular song.
" Homesick," Angela used to say to herself. And she would feel so, too, though she hardly knew for what, certainly not for Philadelphia and that other life which now seemed so removed as to have been impossible. And she made notes in her sketch book to enable her some day to make a great picture of these " types " too.
Of course she was being unconscionably idle; but as her days were filled to overflowing with the impact of new impressions, this signified nothing. She could not guess what life would bring her. For the moment it seemed to her both wise and amusing to sit with idle hands and see what would happen. By a not inexplicable turn of mind she took to going very frequently to the cinema where most things did happen. She found herself studying the screen with a strained and ardent intensity, losing the slight patronizing scepticism which had once been hers with regard to the adventures of these shadowy heroes and heroines; so utterly unforeseen a turn had her own experiences taken. This time last year she had never dreamed of, had hardly dared to long for a life as free and as full as hers was now and was promising to be. Yet here she was on the thresh- hold of a career totally different from anything that a scenario writer could envisage. Oh yes, she knew that hundreds, indeed thousands of white coloured people " went over to the other side ", but that was just the point, she knew the fact without knowing hitherto any of the possibilities of the adventure. Already Philadelphia and her trials were receding into the distance. Would these people, she wondered, glancing about her in the soft gloom of the beautiful theatre, begrudge her, if they knew, her cherished freedom and sense of unrestraint? If she were to say to this next woman for instance, "I'm coloured," would she show the occasional dog-in-the-manger attitude of certain white Americans and refuse to sit by her or make a complaint to the usher? But she had no intention of making such an announcement. So she spent many happy, irresponsible, amused hours in the marvellous houses on Broad way or in the dark commonplaceness of her beloved Fourteenth Street. There was a theatre, too, on Seventh Avenue just at the edge of the Village, which she came to frequent, not so much for the sake of the plays, which were the same as elsewhere, as for the sake of the audience, a curiously intimate sort of audience made of numerous still more intimate groups. Their members seemed both purposeful and leisurely, When she came here her loneliness palled on her, however. All unaware her lace took on the wistfulness of the men gazing in the music store. She wished she knew some of these pleasant people.
It came to her that she was neglecting her Art. " And it was for that that I broke away from every thing and came to New York. I must hunt up some classes." This she felt was not quite true, then the real cause rushed up to the surface of her mind : " And perhaps I'll meet some people.'*
She enrolled in one of the art classes in Cooper Union. This, after all, she felt would be the real beginning of her adventure. For here she must make acquaintances and one of them, perhaps several, must produce some effect on her life, per haps alter its whole tenor. And for the first time she would be seen, would be met against her new background or rather, against no background. No boyish stowaway on a ship had a greater exuberance in going forth to meet the unknown than had Angela as she entered her class that first after noon. In the room were five people, working steadily and chatting in an extremely desultory way. The instructor, one of the five, motioned her to a seat whose position made her one of the group. He set up her easel and as she arranged her material she glanced shyly but keenly about her. For the first time she realized how lonely she had been. She thought with a joy which surprised her self: " Within a week I'll be chatting with them too; perhaps going to lunch or to tea with one of them," She arranged herself for a better view.
The young woman nearest her, the possessor of a great mop of tawny hair and smiling clear, slate- grey eyes glanced up at her and nodded, " Am I in your way? " Except for her hair and eyes she was nondescript. A little beyond sat a coloured girl of medium height and build, very dark, very clean, very reserved. Angela, studying her with inner secret knowledge, could feel her constantly withdrawn from her companions. Her refinement was conspicuous but her reserve more so; when asked she passed and received erasers and other articles but she herself did no borrowing nor did she initiate any conversation. Her squarish head capped with a mass of unnaturally straight and unnaturally burnished hair possessed a kind of ugly beauty. Angela could not tell whether her features were good but blurred and blunted by the soft night of her skin or really ugly with an ugliness lost and plunged in that skin's deep concealment. Two students were still slightly behind her. She wondered how she could best contrive to see them.
Someone said: "Hi, there! Miss New One, have you got a decent eraser? all mine are on the blink." Not so sure whether or not the term applied to herself she turned to meet the singularly intent gaze of a slender girl with blue eyes, light chestnut hair and cheeks fairly blazing with some unguessed excitement. Angela smiled and offered her eraser.
" It ought to be decent, it's new."
"Yes, it's a very good one; many thanks. I'll try not to trouble you again. My name's Paulette Lister, what's yours? "
" Angele Mory." She had changed it thus slightly when she came to New York. Some troubling sense of loyalty to her father and mother had made it impossible for her to do away with it altogether.
" Mory," said a young man who had been working just beyond Paulette; " that's Spanish. Are you by any chance? "
" I don't think so."
" He is," said Paulette. " His name is Anthony Cruz isn't that a lovely name? But he changed it to Cross because no American would ever pronounce the z right, and he didn't want to be taken for a widow's cruse."
" That's a shameful joke," said Cross, " but since I made it up, I think you might give me a chance to spring it, Miss Lister. A poor thing but mine own. You might have a heart."
" Get even with her, why don't you, by introducing her as Miss Blister? " asked Angela, highly diverted by the foolish talk.
Several people came in then, and she discovered that she had been half an hour too early, the class was just beginning. She glanced about at the newcomers, a beautiful Jewess with a pearly skin and a head positively foaming with curls, a tall Scandinavian, an obvious German, several more Americans. Not one of them made the photograph on her mind equal to those made by the coloured girl whose name, she learned, was Rachel Powell, the slate-eyed Martha Burden, Paulette Lister and Anthony Cross. Her prediction came true. With in a week she was on jestingly intimate terms with every one of them except Miss Powell, who lent her belongings, borrowed nothing, and spoke only when she was spoken to. At the end of ten days Miss Burden asked Angela to come and have lunch " at the same place where I go ".
On an exquisite afternoon she went to Harlem. At One Hundred and Thirty-fifth Street she left the 'bus and walked through from Seventh Avenue to Lenox, then up to One Hundred and Forty- seventh Street and back down Seventh Avenue to One Hundred and Thirty-ninth Street, through this to Eighth Avenue and then weaving back and forth between the two Avenues through Thirty- eighth, Thirty-seventh down to One Hundred and Thirty-fifth Street to Eighth Avenue where she took the Elevated and went back to the New York which she knew.
But she was amazed and impressed at this bustling, frolicking, busy, laughing great city within a greater one. She had never seen coloured life so thick, so varied, so complete. Moreover, just as this city reproduced in microcosm all the important features of any metropolis, so undoubtedly life up here was just the same, she thought dimly, as life anywhere else. Not all these people, she realized, glancing keenly at the throngs of black and brown, yellow and white faces about her were servants or underlings or end men. She saw a beautiful woman all brown and red dressed as exquisitely as anyone she had seen on Fifth Avenue. A man's sharp, high-bred face etched itself on her memory, the face of a professional man perhaps, it might be an artist. She doubted that; he might of course be a musician, but it was unlikely that he would be her kind of an artist, for how could he exist? Ah, there lay the great difference. In all material, even in all practical things these two worlds were alike, but in the production, the foster ing of those ultimate manifestations, this world was lacking, for its people were without the means or the leisure to support them and enjoy. And these were the manifestations which she craved, together with the freedom to enjoy them. No, she was not sorry that she had chosen as she had, even though she could now realize that life viewed from the angle of Opal and Jefferson Streets in Philadelphia and that same life viewed from One Hundred and Thirty-fifth Street and Seventh Avenue in New York might present bewilderingly different facets.
Unquestionably there was something very fascinating, even terrible, about this stream of life, it seemed to her to run thicker, more turgidly than that safe, sublimated existence in which her new friends had their being. It was deeper, more mightily moving even than the torrent of Fourteenth Street. Undoubtedly just as these people, for she already saw them objectively, doubly so, once with her natural remoteness and once with the remoteness of her new estate, just as these people could suffer more than others, just so they could enjoy themselves more. She watched the moiling groups on Lenox Avenue; the amazingly well-dressed and good-looking throngs of young men on Seventh Avenue at One Hundred and Thirty-seventh and Thirty-fifth Streets. They were gossiping, laughing, dickering, chaffing, combining the customs of the small town with the astonishing cosmopolitanism of their clothes and manners. Nowhere down town did she see life like this. Oh, all this was fuller, richer, not finer but richer with the difference in quality that there is between velvet and silk. Harlem was a great city, but after all it was a city within a city, and she was glad, as she strained for last glimpses out of the lurching " L " train, that she had cast in her lot with the dwellers outside its dark and serried tents.
" Where do you live? " asked Paulette, " when you're not here at school? "
Angela blushed as she told her.
" In a hotel? In Union Square? Child, are you a millionaire? Where did you come from? Don't you care anything about the delights of home? Mr. Cross, come closer. Here is this poor child living benightedly in a hotel when she might have two rooms at least in the Village for almost the same price."
Mr. Cross came closer but without saying any thing. He was really, Angela thought, a very serious, almost sad young man. He had never continued long the bantering line with which he had first made her acquaintance.
She explained that she had not known where to go. " Often I've thought of moving, and of course I'm spending too much money for what I get out of it, I've the littlest room."
Paulette opened her eyes very wide which gave an onlooker the e fleet of seeing suddenly the blue sky very close at hand. Her cheeks took on a flaming tint. She was really a beautiful, even fascinating girl or woman, Angela never learned which, for she never knew her age. But her fascination did not rest on her looks, or at least it did not arise from that source; it was more the result of her manner. She was so alive, so intense, so interested, if she were interested, that all her nerves, her emotions even were enlisted to accomplish the end which she might have in view. And withal she possessed the simplicity of a child. There was an unsuspected strength about her also that was oddly at variance with the rather striking fragility of her appearance, the trustingness of her gaze, the limpid unafectedness of her manner. Mr. Gross, Angela thought negligently, must be in love with her; he was usually at her side when they sketched. But later she came to see that there was nothing at all between these two except a certain friendly appreciation tempered by a wary kind ness on the part of Mr. Gross and a negligent generosity on the part of Paulette.
She displayed no negligence of generosity in her desire and eagerness to find Angela a suitable apartment. She did hold out, however, with amazing frankness for one " not too near me but also not too far away ". But this pleased the girl, for she had been afraid that Paulette would insist on offering to share her own apartment and she would not have known how to refuse. She had the complete egoist's desire for solitude.
Paulette lived on Bank Street; she found for her new friend " a duck, just a duck, no other word will describe it, of an apartment " on Jayne Street, two rooms, bath and kitchenette. There was also a tiny balcony giving on a mews. It was more than Angela should have afforded, but the ease with which her affairs were working out gave her an assurance, almost an arrogance of confidence. Besides she planned to save by getting her own meals. The place was already furnished, its former occupant was preparing to go to London for two or more years.
" Two years," Angela said gaily, " everything in the world can happen to me in that time. Oh I wonder what will have happened; what I will be like ! " And she prepared to move in her slender store of possessions. Anthony, prompted, she suspected by Paulette, offered rather shyly to help her. It was a rainy day, there were several boxes after all, and taxis were scarce, though finally he captured one for her and came riding back in triumph with the driver. After wards a few books had to be arranged, pictures must be hung. She had an inspiration.
" You tend to all this and I'll get you the best dinner you ever tasted in your life." Memories of Monday night dinners on Opal Street flooded her memory. She served homely, filling dishes, " fit for a drayman," she teased him. There were corn-beef hash, roasted sweet potatoes, corn pudding, and, regardless of the hour, muffins. After supper she refused to let him help her with the dishes but had him rest in the big chair in the living-room while she laughed and talked with him from the kitchenette at a distance of two yards. Gradually, as he sat there smoking, the sadness and strain faded out of his thin, dark face, he laughed and jested like any other normal young man. When he bade her good-bye he let his slow dark gaze rest in hers for a long silent moment. She closed the door and stood laughing, arranging her hair before the mirror.
" Of course he's loads better looking, but some thing about him makes me think of Matthew Henson. But nothing doing, young-fellow-me-lad. Spanish and I suppose terribly proud. I wonder what he'd say if he really knew? "
She was to go to Paulette's to dinner. "Just we two," stipulated Miss Lister. " Of course, I could have a gang of men, but I think it will be fun for us to get acquainted." Angela was pleased; she was very fond of Paulette, she liked her for her generous, capable self. And she was not quite ready for meeting men. She must know something more about these people with whom she was spending her life. Anthony Cross had been affable enough, but she was not sure that he, with his curious sadness, his half-proud, half-sensitive tendency to withdrawal, were a fair enough type. However, in spite of Paulette's protestations, there were three young men standing in her large, dark living-room when Angela arrived.
" But you've got to go at once," said Paulette, laughing but firm; " here is my friend, isn't she beautiful? We've too many things to discuss without being bothered by you."
" Paulette has these fits of cruelty," said one of the three, a short, stocky fellow with an ugly, sensitive face. " She'd have made a good Nero. But anyway I'm glad I stayed long enough to see you. Don't let her hide you from us altogether." Another man made a civil remark; the third one standing back in the gloomy room said nothing, but the girl caught the impression of tallness and blondness and of a pair of blue eyes which stared at her intently. She felt awkward and showed it.
" See, you've made her shy," said Paulette accusingly. " I won't bother introducing them, Angele, you'll meet them all too soon." Laugh ing, protesting, the men filed out, and their un willing hostess closed the door on them with sincere lack of regret. " Men," she mused can didly. " Of course we can't get along without them any more than they can without us, but I get tired of them, they're nearly all animals. I'd rather have a good woman friend any day." She sighed with genuine sincerity. " Yet my place is always full of men. Would you rather have your chops rare or well done? I like mine cooked to a cinder." Angela preferred hers well done. " Stay here and look around; see if I have anything to amuse you." Catching up an apron she vanished into some smaller and darker retreat which she called her kitchen.
The apartment consisted of the whole floor of a house on Bank Street, dark and constantly within the sound of the opening front door and the noises of the street. " But you don't have the damned stairs when you come in late at night," Paulette explained. The front room was, Angela supposed, the bedroom, though the only reason for this supposition was the appearance of a dressing-table and a wide, flat divan about one foot and a half from the floor, covered with black or purple velvet. The dressing table was a good piece of mahogany, but the chairs were indifferently of the kitchen variety and of the sort which, magazines affirm, may be made out of a large packing box. In the living room, where the little table was set, the same anomaly pre vailed; the china was fine, even dainty, but the glasses were thick and the plating had begun to wear off the silver ware. On the other hand the pictures were unusual, none of the stereotyped things; instead Angela remarked a good copy of Breughel's " Peasant Wedding ", the head of Bernini and two etchings whose authors she did not know. The bookcase held two paper bound volumes of the poems of Beranger and Villon and a little black worn copy of Heine. But the other books were high-brow to the point of austerity: Ely, Shaw and Strindberg.
" Perhaps you'd like to wash your hands? " called Paulette. " There's a bathroom down the corridor there, you can't miss it. You may have some of my favourite lotion if you want it up there on the shelf." Angela washed her hands and looked up for the lotion. Her eyes opened wide in amazement. Beside the bottle stood a man's shaving mug and brush and a case of razors.
The meal, " for you can't call it a dinner," the cook remarked candidly, was a success. The chops were tender though smoky; there were spinach, potatoes, tomato and lettuce salad, rolls, coffee and cheese. Its rugged quality surprised Angela not a little; it was more a meal for a work ing man than for a woman, above all, a woman of the faery quality of Paulette. " I get so tired," she said, lifting a huge mouthful, " if I don't eat heartily; besides it ruins my temper to go hungry." Her whole attitude toward the meal was so masculine and her appearance so daintily feminine that Angela burst out laughing, ex plaining with much amusement the cause of her merriment. " I hope you don't mind," she ended, " for of course you are conspicuously feminine. There's nothing of the man about you."
To her surprise Paulette resented this last statement. " There is a great deal of the man about me. I've learned that a woman is a fool who lets her femininity stand in the way of what she wants. I've made a philosophy of it. I see what I want; I use my wiles as a woman to get it, and I employ the qualities of men, tenacity and ruthlessness, to keep it. And when I'm through with it, I throw it away just as they do. Consequently I have no regrets and no encumbrances."
A packet of cigarettes lay open on the table and she motioned to her friend to have one. Angela refused, and sat watching her inhale in deep respirations; she had never seen a woman more completely at ease, more assuredly mistress of herself and of her fate. When they had begun eating Paulette had poured out two cocktails, tossing hers off immediately and finishing Angela's, too, when the latter, finding it too much like machine oil for her taste, had set it down scarcely diminished. " You'll get used to them if you go about with these men. You'll be drinking along with the rest of us."
She had practically no curiosity and on the other hand no reticences. And she had met with every conceivable experience, had visited France, Ger many and Sweden; she was now contemplating a trip to Italy and might go to Russia; she would go now, in fact, if it were not that a friend of hers, Jack Hudson, was about to go there, too, and as she was on the verge of having an affair with him she thought she'd better wait. She didn't relish the prospect of such an event in a foreign land, it put you too much at the man's mercy. An affair, if you were going to have one, was much better conducted on your own pied a terre.
" An affair? " gasped Angela.
" Yes, why, haven't you ever had a lover? "
" A lover? "
" Goodness me, are you a poll parrot? Why yes, a lover. I've had " she hesitated before the other's complete amazement, " I've had more than one, I can tell you."
" And you've no intention of marrying? "
" Oh I don't say that; but what's the use of tying yourself up now while you're young? And then, too, this way you don't always have them around your feet; you can always leave them or they'll leave you. But it's better for you to leave them first. It insures your pride." With her babyish face and her sweet, high voice she was like a child babbling precociously. Yet she seemed bathed in intensity. But later she began to talk of her books and of her pictures, of her work and on all these subjects she spoke with the same sub dued excitement; her eye\ flashed, her cheeks grew scarlet, all experience meant life to her in various manifestations. She had been on a newspaper, one of the New York dailies; she had done press-agenting. At present she was illustrating for a fashion magazine. There was no end to her versatilities.
Angela said she must go.
" But you'll come again soon, won't you, Angele? "
A wistfulness crept into her voice. "I do so want a woman friend. When a woman really is your friend she's so dependable and she's not expecting anything in return." She saw her guest to the door. " We could have some wonderful times. Good-night, Angele." Like a child she lifted her face to be kissed.
Angela's first thought as she walked down the dark street was for the unfamiliar name by which Paulette had called her. For though she had signed herself very often as Angele, no one as yet used it. Her old familiar formula came to her: " I wonder what she would think if she knew." But of one thing she was sure : if Paulette had been in her place she would have acted in exactly the same way. " She would have seen what she wanted and would have taken it," she murmured and fell to thinking of the various confidences which Paulette had bestowed upon her, though so frank and unreserved were her remarks that " confidences " was hardly the name to apply to them. Certainly, Angela thought, she was in a new world and with new people. Beyond question some of the coloured people of her acquaintance must have lived in a manner which would not bear inspection, but she could not think of one who would thus have discussed it calmly with either friend or stranger. Wondering what it would be like to conduct oneself absolutely accord ing to one's own laws, she turned into the dark little vestibule on Jayne Street. As usual the Jewish girl who lived above her was standing blurred in the thick blackness of the hall, and as usual Angela did not realize this until, touching the button and turning on the light, she caught sight of Miss Salting straining her face upwards to receive her lover's kiss.
From the pinnacle of her satisfaction in her studies, in her new friends and in the joke which she was having upon custom and tradition she looked across the class-room at Miss Powell who pre served her attitude of dignified reserve. Angela thought she would try to break it down; on Wed nesday she asked the coloured girl to have lunch with her and was pleased to have the invitation accepted. She had no intention of taking the girl up as a matter either of patronage or of loyalty. But she thought it would be nice to offer her the ordinary amenities which their common student life made natural and possible. Miss Powell it appeared ate generally in an Automat or in a cafeteria, but Angela knew of a nice tea-room. "It's rather arty, but they do serve a good meal and it's cheap." Unfortunately on Wednesday she had to leave before noon; she told Miss Powell to meet her at the little restaurant. " Go in and get a table and wait for me, but I'm sure I'll be there as soon as you will." After all she was late, but, what was worse, she found to her dismay that Miss Powell, instead of entering the tea-room, had been awaiting her across the street. There were no tables and the two had to wait almost fifteen minutes before being served,
"Why on earth didn't you go in?" asked Angela a trifle impatiently, "you could have held the table." Miss Powell answered imperturbably: "Because I didn't know how they would receive me if I went in by myself." Angela could not pretend to misunderstand her. " Oh, I think they would have been all right," she murmured, blushing at her stupidity. How quickly she had forgotten those fears and uncertainties. She had never experienced this sort of difficulty herself but she certainly knew of them from Virginia and others.
The lunch was not a particularly pleasant one. Either Miss Powell was actually dull or she had made a resolve never to let herself go in the presence of white people; perhaps she feared being misunderstood, perhaps she saw in such encounters a lurking attempt at sociological in vestigations; she would lend herself to no such procedure, that much was plain. Angela could feel her effort to charm, to invite confidence, glance upon and fall back from this impenetrable armour. She had been amazed to find both Paulette and Martha Burden already gaining their living by their sketches. Miss Burden indeed was a caricaturist of no mean local reputation; Anthony Cross was frankly a commercial artist, though he hoped some day to be a recognised painter of portraits. She was curious to learn of Miss Powell's prospects. Inquiry revealed that the young lady had one secret aspiration; to win or earn enough money to go to France and then after that, she said with sudden ardour, " anything could happen ". To this end she had worked, saved, scraped, gone without pleasures and clothes. Her work was creditable, indeed above the average, but not sufficiently imbued, Angela thought, with the divine promise to warrant this sublimation of normal desires.
Miss Powell seemed to read her thought. " And then it gives me a chance to show America that one of us can stick ; that we have some idea above the ordinary humdrum of existence."
She made no attempt to return the luncheon but she sent Angela one day a bunch of beautiful jonquils, and made no further attempt at friendship. To one versed in the psychology of this proud, sensitive people the reason was perfectly plain. " You've been awfully nice to me and I appreciate it but don't think I’m going to thrust myself upon you. Your ways and mine lie along different paths."
Such contacts, such interpretations and investigations were making up her life, a life that for her was interesting and absorbing, but which had its perils and uncertainties. She had no purpose, for it was absurd for her, even with her ability, to consider Art an end. She was using it now deliberately, as she had always used it vaguely, to get in touch with interesting people and with a more attractive atmosphere. And she was spending money too fast; she had been in New York eight months, and she had already spent a thousand dollars. At this rate her little fortune which had seemed at first inexhaustible would last her less than two years; at best, eighteen months more. Then she must face, what? Teaching again?
Never, she'd had enough of that. Perhaps she could earn her living with her brush, doing menu cards, Christmas and birthday greetings, flowers, Pierrots and Pierrettes on satin pillow tops. She did not relish that. True there were the specialities of Paulette and of Martha Burden, but she lacked the deft sureness of the one and the slightly mordant philosophy underlying the work of the other. Her own speciality she felt sure lay along the line of reproducing, of interpreting on a face the emotion which lay back of that expression. She thought of her Fourteenth Street " types ", that would be the sort of work which she would really enjoy, that and the depicting of the countenance of a purse-proud but lonely man, of the silken inanity of a society girl, of the smiling despair of a harlot. Even in her own mind she hesitated before the use of that terrible word, but association was teaching her to call a spade a spade.
Yes, she might do worse than follow the example of Mr. Cross and become a portrait painter. But somehow she did not want to have to do this; necessity would, she was sure, spoil her touch; besides, she hated the idea of the position in which she would be placed, fearfully placating and flatter ing possible patrons, hurrying through with an order because she needed the cheque, accepting patronage and condescension. No, she hoped to be sought after, to have the circumstances which would permit her to pick and choose, to refuse if the whim pleased her. It should mean something to be painted by " Mory ". People would say, "I'm going to have my portrait done by ' Mory ' ". But all this would call for position, power, wealth.
And again she said to herself: " I might marry a white man. Marriage is the easiest way for a woman to get those things, and white men have them." But she knew only one white man, Anthony Gross, and he would never have those qualities, at least not by his deliberate seeking. They might come eventually but only after long years. Long, long years of struggle with realities. There was a simple, genuine steadfastness in him that made her realize that he would seek for the expression of truth and of himself even at the cost of the trimmings of life. And she was ashamed, for she knew that for the vanities and gewgaws of a leisurely and irresponsible existence she would sacrifice her own talent, the integrity of her ability to interpret life, to write down a history with her brush.
Martha Burden was as strong and as pronounced a personage as Paulette; even stronger perhaps because she had the great gift of silence. Paulette, as Angela soon realized, lived in a state of constant defiance. " I don't care what people think," was her slogan; men and women appealed to her in proportion to the opposition which they, too, proclaimed for the established thing. Angela was surprised that she clung as persistently as she did to a friendship with a person as conventional and reactionary as herself. But Martha Burden was not like that. One could not tell whether or not she was thinking about other people's opinions. It was probable that the other people and their attitude never entered her mind. She was cool and slightly aloof, with the coolness and aloofness of her slaty eyes and her thick, tawny hair. Neither the slatiness nor the tawniness proclaimed warmth only depth, depth and again depth. It was impossible to realize what she would be like if impassioned or deeply stirred to anger. There would probably be something implacable, god-like about her; she would be capable of a long, slow, steady burning of passion. Few men would love Martha though many might admire her. But a man once enchanted might easily die for her.
Angela liked her house with its simple elegance, its fine, soft curtains and steady, shaded glow of light that stood somehow for home. She liked her husband, Ladislas Starr, whom Martha produced without a shade of consciousness that this was the first intimation she had given of being married. They were strong individualists, molten and blended in a design which failed to obscure their emphatic personalities. Their apartment in the Village was large and neat and sunny; it bore no trace of palpable wealth, yet nothing conducing to comfort was lacking. Book-cases in the dining- room and living-room spilled over; the Nation, the Mercury, the Crisis, a magazine of the darker races, left on the broad arm of an easy chair, mutely invited; it was late autumn, almost winter, but there were jars of fresh flowers. The bedroom where Angela went to remove her wrap was dainty and restful.
The little gathering to which Martha had invited her was made up of members as strongly individual as the host and hostess. They were all specialists in their way, and specialists for the most part in some offshoot of a calling or movement which was itself already highly specialized. Martha presented a psychiatrist, a war correspondent, " I'm that only when there is a war of course," he explained to Angela's openly respectful gaze, a dramatist, a corporation lawyer, a white-faced, conspicuously beautiful poet with a long evasive Russian name, two press agents, a theatrical manager, an actress who played only Shakespeare roles, a teacher of defective children and a medical student who had been a conscientious objector and had served a long time at Leavenworth. He lapsed constantly into a rapt self-communing from whch he only roused himself to utter fiery tirades against the evils of society.
In spite of their highly specialised interests they were all possessed of a common ground of knowledge in which such subjects as Russia, Consumers' Leagues, and the coming presidential election figured most largely. There was much laughter and chaffing but no airiness. One of the press agents, Mrs. Cecil, entered upon a long discussion with the corporation lawyer on a Bill pending before Congress; she knew as much as he about the matter and held her own in a long and almost bitter argument which only the coming of refreshments broke up.
Just before the close of the argument two other young men had come in, but Angela never learned their vocation. Furthermore she was interested in observing the young teacher of defective children. She was coloured; small and well-built, exquisitely dressed, and of a beautiful tint, all bronze and soft red, " like Jinny " thought Angela, a little astonished to observe how the warmth of her appearance overshadowed or rather overshone everyone else in the room. The tawniness even of Miss Burden's hair went dead beside her. The only thing to cope with her richness was the classical beauty of the Russian poet's features. He seemed unable to keep his eyes away from her; was punctiliously attentive to her wants and leaned forward several times during the long political discussion to whisper low spoken and apparently amusing comments. The young woman, perfectly at ease in her deep chair, received his attentions with a slightly detached, amused objectivity; an objectivity which she had for everyone in the room including Angela at whom she had glanced once rather sharply. But the detachment of her manner was totally different from Miss Powell's sensitive dignity. Totally without self-consciousness she let her warm dark eyes travel from one face to another. She might have been saying: " How far you are away from the things that really matter, birth and death and hard, hard work ! " The Russian poet must have realized this, for once Angela heard him say, leaning forward, " Tou think all this is futile, don't you? "
Martha motioned for her to wait a moment until most of the other guests had gone, then she came forward with one of the two young men who had come in without introduction. " This is Roger Fielding, he'll see you home."
He was tall and blond with deeply blue eyes which smiled on her as he said: " Would you like to walk or ride? It's raining a little."
Angela said she preferred to walk.
" All right then. Here, Starr, come across with that umbrella I lent you."
They went out into the thin, tingling rain of late Autumn. " I was surprised," said Roger, " to see you there with the high-brows. I didn't think you looked that way when I met you at Paulette's."
" We've met before? I'm I'm sorry, but I don't seem to remember you."
" No I don't suppose you would. Well, we didn't exactly meet; I saw you one day at Paulette's. That's why I came this evening, because I heard you'd be here and I'd get a chance to see you again; but I was surprised because you didn't seem like that mouthy bunch. They make me tired taking life so plaguey seriously. Martha and her old high-brows ! " he ended ungratefully.
Angela, a little taken back with the frankness of his desire to meet her, said she hadn't thought they were serious.
"Not think them serious? Great Scott! what kind of talk are you used to? You look as though you'd just come out of a Sunday-school ! Do you prefer bible texts? "
But she could not explain to him the picture which she saw in her mind of men and women at her father's home in Opal Street, the men talking painfully of rents, of lynchings, of building and loan associations; the women of child-bearing and the sacrifices which must be made to put Gertie through school, to educate Howard. " I don't mean for any of my children to go through what I did." And in later years in her own first maturity, young Henson and Sawyer and the others in the tiny parlour talking of ideals and in evitable sacrifices for the race; the burnt-offering of individualism for some dimly glimpsed racial whole. This was seriousness, even sombreness, with a great sickening vital upthrust of reality. But these other topics, peaks of civilization superimposed upon peaks, she found, even though interesting, utterly futile.
They had reached the little hall now. " We must talk loud," she whispered.
" Why? " he asked, speaking obediently very loud indeed.
" Wait a minute; no, she's not there. The girl above me meets her young man here at night and just as sure as I forget her and come in quietly there they are in the midst of a kiss. I suspect she hates me."
In his young male sophistication he thought at first that this was a lead, but her air was so gay and so childishly guileless that he changed his opinion. " Though no girl in this day and time could be as simple and innocent as she looks."
But aloud he said, " Of course she doesn't hate you, nobody could do that. I assure you I don't."
She thought his gallantries very amusing. " Well, it relieves me to hear you say so; that'll keep me from worrying for one night at least." And withdrawing her hand from his retaining grasp, she ran upstairs.
A letter from Virginia lay inside the door, Getting ready for bed she read it in bits.
" Angela darling, wouldn't it be fun if I were to come to New York too? Of course you'd keep on living in your Village and I'd live in famous Harlem, but we'd both be in the same city, which is where two only sisters ought to be, dumb I calls it to live apart the way we do. The man out at the U. of P. is crazy to have me take an exam, in music; it would be easy enough and much better pay than I get here. So there are two perfectly good reasons why I should come. He thinks I'll do him credit and I want to get away from this town."
Then between the lines the real reason betrayed itself :
" I do have such awful luck. Edna Brown had a party out in Merion not long ago and Matthew took me. And you know what riding in a train can do for me, well that night of all nights I had to become car-sick. Matthew had been so nice. He came to see me the next morning, but, child, he's never been near me from that day to this. I suppose a man can't get over a girl's being such a sight as I was that night. Can't things be too hateful ! "
Angela couldn't help murmuring: " Imagine anyone wanting old Matthew so badly that she's willing to break up her home to get over him. Now why couldn't he have liked her instead of me?"
And pondering on such mysteries she crept into bed. But she fell to thinking again about the evening she had spent with Martha and the people whom she had met. And again it seemed to her that they represented an almost alarmingly un necessary class. If any great social cataclysm were to happen they would surely be the first to be swept out of the running. Only the real people could survive. Even Paulette's mode of living, it seemed to her, had something more forthright and vital.
In the morning she was awakened by the ringing of the telephone. The instrument was an extrava gance, for, save for Anthony's, she received few calls and made practically none. But the woman from whom she had taken the apartment had per suaded her into keeping it. Still, as she had never indicted the change in ownership, its value was small. She lay there for a moment blinking drowsily in the thin but intensely gold sunshine of December thinking that her ears were deceiving her.
Finally she reached out a rosy arm, curled it about the edge of the door jamb and, reaching the little table that stood in the other room just on the other side of the door, set the instrument up in her bed. The apartment was so small that almost everything was within arm's reach.
" Hello," she murmured sleepily.
" Oh, I thought you must be there; I said to myself: ' She couldn't have left home this early '. What time do you go to that famous drawing class of yours anyway? "
" I beg your pardon ! Who is this speaking, please? "
" Why, Roger, of course, Roger Fielding. Don't say you've forgotten me already. This is Angele, isn't it? "
" Yes this is Angele Mory speaking, Mr. Fielding."
" Did I offend your Highness, Miss Mory? Will you have lunch with me to-day and let me tell you how sorry I am? "
But she was lunching with Anthony. " I have an engagement."
" Of course you have. Well, will you have tea, dinner, supper to-day, breakfast and all the other meals to-morrow and so on for a week? You might just as well say ' yes ' because I'll pester you till you do."
"I'm engaged for tea, too, but I'm not really as popular as I sound. That's my last engagement for this week; I'll be glad to have dinner with you."
" Right-oh ! Now don't go back and finish up that beauty sleep, for if you're any more charming than you were last night I won't answer for myself. I'll be there at eight."
Inexperienced as she was, she was still able to recognize his method as a bit florid; she preferred, on the whole, Anthony's manner at lunch when he leaned forward and touching her hand very lightly said: "Isn't it great for us to be here! I'm so content, Angele. Promise me you'll have lunch with me every day this week. I've had a streak of luck with my drawings."
She promised him, a little thrilled herself with his evident sincerity and with the niceness of the smile which so transfigured his dark, thin face, robbing it of its tenseness and strain.
Still something, some vanity, some vague pre monition of adventure, led her to linger over her dressing for the dinner with Roger. There was never very much colour in her cheeks, but her skin was warm and white; there was vitality beneath her pallor; her hair was warm, too, long and thick and yet so fine that it gave her little head the e fleet of being surrounded by a nimbus of light; rather wayward, glancing, shifting light for there were little tendrils and wisps and curls in front and about the temples which no amount of coaxing could subdue. She touched up her mouth a little, not so much to redden it as to give a hint of the mondaine to her appearance. Her dress was flame-colour Paulette had induced her to buy it, of a plain, rather heavy beautiful glowing silk. The neck was high in back and girlishly modest in front. She had a string of good arti ficial pearls and two heavy silver bracelets. Thus she gave the e fleet of a flame herself; intense and opaque at the heart where her dress gleamed and shone, transparent and fragile where her white warm neck and face rose into the tenuous shadow of her hair. Her appearance excited herself.
Roger found her delightful. As to women he considered himself a connoisseur. This girl pleased him in many respects. She was young; she was, when lighted from within by some indescribable mechanism, even beautiful; she had charm and, what was for him even more important, she was puzzling. In repose, he noticed, studying her closely, her quiet look took on the resemblance of an arrested movement, a composure on tip-toe so to speak, as though she had been stopped in the swift transition from one mood to another. And back of that momentary cessation of action one could see a mind darting, quick, restless, indefatigable, observing, tabulating perhaps even mocking. She had for him the quality of the foreigner, but she gave this quality an objectivity as though he were the stranger and she the well- known established personage taking note of his peculiarities and apparently boundlessly diverted by them.
But of all this Angela was absolutely unaware. No wonder she was puzzling to Roger, for, in addition to the excitement which she a young woman in the high tide of her youth, her health, and her beauty would be feeling at receiving in the proper setting the devotion and attention which all women crave, she was swimming in the flood of excitement created by her unique position. Stolen waters are the sweetest. And Angela never forgot that they were stolen. She thought: " Here I am having everything that a girl ought to have just because I had sense enough to suit my actions to my appearance." The realization, the secret fun bubbling back in some hidden recess of her heart, brought colour to her cheeks, a certain temerity to her manner. Roger pondered on this quality. If she were reckless !
The dinner was perfect; it was served with elegance and beauty. Indeed she was surprised at the surroundings, the grandeur even of the hotel to which he had brought her. She had no idea of his means, but had supposed that his circumstances were about those of her other new friends; probably he was better off than Anthony, whose poverty she instinctively sensed, and she judged that his income, whatever it might be, was not so perilous as Paulette's. But she would have put him on the same footing as the Starrs. This sort of expenditure, however, meant money, " unless he really does like me and is splurging this time just for me ". The idea appealed to her vanity and gave her a sense of power; she looked at Roger with a warm smile. At once his intent, considering gaze filmed; he was already leaning toward her but he bent even farther across the perfect little table and asked in a low, eager tone: " Shall we stay here and dance or go to your house and talk and smoke a bit? "
" Oh we'll stay and dance; it would be so late by the time we get home that we'd only have a few minutes."
Presently the golden evening was over and they were in the vestibule at Jayne Street. Roger said very loudly: " Where's that push button? " Then lower: " Well, your young lovers aren't here to-night either. I'm beginning to think you made that story up, Angele."
She assured him, laughing, that she had told the truth. " You come here some time and you'll see them for yourself." But she wished she could think of something more ordinary to say. His hands held hers very tightly; they were very strong and for the first time she noticed that the veins stood up on them like cords. She tried to pull her own away and he released them and, taking her key, turned the lock in the inner door, then stood looking down at her.
" Well I'm glad they're not here to-night to take their revenge." And as he handed her back the key he kissed her on the lips. His knowledge of women based on many, many such experiences, told him that her swift retreat was absolutely unfeigned.
As on a former occasion she stood, after she had gained her room, considering herself in the glass. She had been kissed only once before, by Matthew Henson, and that kiss had been neither as casual nor as disturbing as this. She was thrilled, excited, and vaguely displeased. " He is fresh, I'll say that for him." And subsiding into the easy chair she thought for a long time of Anthony Cross and his deep respectful ardour.
In the morning there were flowers.
From the class-room she went with Paulette to deliver the latter's sketches. " Have tea to-day with me; we'll blow ourselves at the Ritz. This is the only time in the month that I have any money, so we'll make the best of it."
Angela looked about the warm, luxurious room at the serene, luxurious women, the super-groomed, super-deferential, tremendously confident men. She sighed. " I love all this, love it."
Paulette, busy blowing smoke-rings, nodded. " I blew sixteen that time. Watch me do it again. There's nothing really to this kind of life, you know."
" Oh don't blow smoke-rings ! It's the only thing in the world that can spoil your looks. What do you mean there's nothing to it?"
" Well for a day-in-and-day-out existence, it just doesn't do. It's too boring. It's fun for you and me to drift in here twice a year when we've just had a nice, fat cheque which we've got to spend. But there's nothing to it for every day; it's too much like reaching the harbour where you would be. The tumult and the shouting are all over. I'd rather live just above the danger line down on little old Bank Street, and think up a way to make five hundred dollars so I could go to the French Riviera second class and bum around those little towns, Villefranche, Beaulieu, Cagnes, you must see them, Angele and have a spanking affair with a real man with honest to God blood in his veins than to sit here and drink tea and listen to the nothings of all these tame tigers, trying you out, seeing how much it will take to buy you."
Angela was bewildered by this outburst. " I thought you said you didn't like affairs unless you could conduct them on your own pied d terre."
" Did I? Well that was another time not to-day. By the way, what would you say if I were to tell you that I'm going to Russia? "
She glanced at her friend with the bright shame- lessness of a child, for she knew that Angela had heard of Jack Hudson's acceptance as newspaper correspondent in Moscow.
" I wouldn't say anything except that I'd much rather be here in the warmth and cleanliness of the Ritz than be in Moscow where I'm sure it will be cold and dirty."
“That's because you've never wanted anyone." Her face for a moment was all desire. Beautiful but terrible too. " She actually looks like Hetty Daniels," thought Angela in astonishment. Only, alas, there was no longer any beauty in Hetty's face.
" When you've set your heart on anybody or on anything there'll be no telling what you'll do, Angele. For all your innocence you're as deep, you'll be as desperate as Martha Burden once you're started. I know your kind. Well, if you must play around in the Ritz, etcet., etcet., I'll tell Roger Fielding. He's a good squire and he can afford it."
" Why? Is he so rich? "
" Rich ! If all the wealth that he no, not he, but his father if all the wealth that old man Fielding possesses were to be converted into silver dollars there wouldn't be space enough in this room, big as it is, to hold it."
Angela tried to envisage it. " And Roger, what does he do? "
" Spend it. What is there for him to do? Nothing except have a good time and keep in his father's good graces. His father's some kind of a personage and all that, you know, crazy about his name and his posterity. Roger doesn't dare get drunk and lie in the gutter and he mustn't make a misalliance. Outside of that the world's his oyster and he eats it every day. There's a boy who gets everything he wants."
" What do you mean by a misalliance? He's not royalty."
" Spoken like a good American. No, he's not. But he mustn't marry outside certain limits. No chorus girl romances for his father. The old man wouldn't care a rap about money but he would insist on blue blood and the Mayflower. The funny thing is that Roger, for all his appearing so democratic, is that way too. But of course he's been so run after the marvel is that he's as unspoiled as he is. But it's the one thing I can't stick in him. I don't mind a man's not marrying me; but I can't forgive him if he thinks I'm not good enough to marry him. Any woman is better than the best of men." Her face took on its intense, burning expression; one would have said she was consumed with excitement.
Angela nodded, only half-listening. Roger a multi-millionaire ! Roger who only two nights ago had kissed and mumbled her fingers, his eyes avid and yet so humble and beseeching!
" One thing, if you do start playing around with Roger be careful. He's a good bit of a rotter, and he doesn't care what he says or spends to gain his ends." She laughed at the inquiry in her friend's eyes. " No, I've never given Roger five minutes' thought. But I know his kind. They're dangerous. It's wrong for men to have both money and power; they're bound to make some woman suffer. Come on up the Avenue with me and I'll buy a hat. I can't wear this whang any longer. It's too small, looks like a peanut on a barrel."
Angela was visual minded. She saw the days of the week, the months of the year in little narrow divisions of space. She saw the past years of her
life falling into separate, uneven compartments whose ensemble made up her existence. Whenever she looked back on this period from Christmas to Easter she saw a bluish haze beginning in a white mist and flaming into something red and terrible; and across the bluish haze stretched the name: Roger.
Roger! She had never seen anyone like him: so gay, so beautiful, like a blond, glorious god, so overwhelming, so persistent. She had not liked him so much at first except as one likes the sun or the sky or a singing bird, anything jolly and free. There had been no touching points for their minds. He knew nothing of life except what was pleasurable; it is true his idea of the pleasurable did not always coincide with hers. He had no fears, no restraints, no worries. Yes, he had one; he did not want to offend his father. He wanted ardently and unswervingly his father's money, he did not begrudge his senior a day, an hour, a moment of life; about this he had a queer, unselfish sincerity. The old financial war horse had made his fortune by hard labour and pitiless fighting. He had given Roger his being, the entree into a wonderful existence. Already he bestowed upon him an annual sum which would have kept several families in comfort. If Roger had cared to save for two years he need never have asked his father for another cent. With any kind of luck he could have built up for himself a second colossal fortune. But he did not care to do this. He did not wish his father one instant's loss of life or of its enjoyment. But he did want final possession of those millions.
Angela liked him best when he talked about " my dad " ; he never mentioned the vastness of his wealth, but by now she could not have helped guessing even without Paulette's aid that he was a wealthy man. She would not take jewellery from him, but there was a steady stream of flowers, fruit, candy, books, fine copies of the old masters. She was afraid and ashamed to express a longing in his presence. And with all this his steady, constant attendance. And an odd watchfulness which she felt but could not explain.
" He must love me," she said to herself, think ing of his caresses. She had been unable to keep him from kissing her. Her uneasiness had amused and charmed him: he laughed at her Puritanism, succeeded in shaming her out of it. " Child, where have you lived? Why there's nothing in a kiss. If I didn't kiss you I couldn't come to see you. And I have to see you, Angele ! " His voice grew deep; the expression in his eyes made her own falter.
Yet he did not ask her to marry him. " But I suppose it's because he can see I don't love him yet." And she wondered what it would be like to love. Even Jinny knew more about this than she, for she had felt, perhaps still did feel, a strong affection for Matthew Henson. Well, anyway, if they married she would pro bably come to love him; most women learned to love their husbands. At first after her con versation with Paulette about Roger she had rather expected a diminution at any time of his attentions, for after all she was unknown ; from Roger's angle she would be more than outside the pale. But she was sure now that he loved and would want to marry her, for it never occurred to her that men bestowed attentions such as these on a passing fancy. She saw her life rounding out like a fairy tale. Poor, coloured coloured in America; unknown, a nobody! And here at her hand was the forward thrust shadow of love and of great wealth. She would do lots of good among coloured people; she would see that Miss Powell, for instance, had her scholarship. Oh she would hunt out girls and men like Seymour Porter, she had almost forgotten his name, or was it Arthur Sawyer? and give them a taste of life in its fullness and beauty such as they had never dreamed of.
To-night she was to go out with Roger. She wore her flame-coloured dress again ; a pretty green one was also hanging up in her closet, but she wore the flame one because it lighted her up from within lighted not only her lovely, fine body but her mind too. Her satisfaction with her appearance let loose some inexplicable spring of gaiety and merriment and simplicity so that she seemed almost daring.
Roger, sitting opposite, tried to probe her mood, tried to gauge the invitation of her manner and its possibilities. She touched him once or twice, familiarly; he thought almost possessively. She seemed to be within reach now if along with that accessibility she had recklessness. It was this attribute which for the first time to-night he thought to divine within her. If in addition to her insatiable interest in life for she was always asking him about people and places, she possessed this recklessness, then indeed he might put to her a proposal which had been hanging on his lips for weeks and months. Something innocent, pathetic ally untouched about her had hitherto kept him back. But if she had the requisite daring ! They were dining in East Tenth Street in a small cafe small contrasted with the Park Avenue Hotel to which he had first taken her. But about them stretched the glitter and perfection of crystal and silver, of marvellous napery and of obsequious service. Everything, Angela thought, looking about her, was translated. The slight odour of food was, she told Fielding, really an aroma: the mineral water which he was drinking be cause he could not help it and she because she could not learn to like wine, was nectar; the bread, the fish, the courses were ambrosia. The food, too, in general was to be spoken of as viands.
" Vittles, translated," she said laughing.
" And you, you, too, are translated. Angele, you are wonderful, you are charming," his lips answered but his senses beat and hammered. Intoxicated with the magic of the moment and the surroundings, she turned her smiling countenance a little nearer, and saw his face change, darken. A cloud over the sun.
" Excuse me," he said and walked hastily across the room back of her. In astonishment she turned and looked after him. At a table behind her three coloured people (under the direction of a puzzled and troubled waiter,) were about to take a table. Roger went up and spoke to the head- waiter authoritatively, even angrily. The latter glanced about the room, nodded obsequiously and crossing, addressed the little group. There was a hasty, slightly acrid discussion. Then the three filled out, past Angela's table this time, their heads high.
She turned back to her plate, her heart sick. For her the evening was ended. Roger came back, his face flushed, triumphant, " Well I put a spoke in the wheel of those ' coons ' ! They forget themselves so quickly, coming in here spoiling white people's appetites. I told the manager if they brought one of their damned suits I'd be responsible. I wasn't going to have them here with you, Angele. I could tell that night at Martha Burden's by the way you looked at that girl that you had no time for darkies. I'll bet you'd never been that near to one before in your life, had you? Wonder where Martha picked that one up."
She was silent, lifeless. He went on recounting instances of how effectively he had " spoked the wheel " of various coloured people. He had black balled Negroes in Harvard, aspirants for small literary or honour societies. " I'd send 'em all back to Africa if I could. There's been a darkey up in Harlem's got the right idea, I understand; though he must be a low brute to cave in on his race that way; of course it's merely a matter of money with him. He'd betray them all for a few thousands. Gosh, if he could really pull it through I don't know but what I'd be willing to finance it."
To this tirade there were economic reasons to oppose, tenets of justice, high ideals of humanity. But she could think of none of them. Speechless, she listened to him, her appetite fled.
' What's the matter, Angele? Did it make you sick to see them? "
" No, no not that. I I don't mind them; you're mistaken about me and that girl at Martha Burden's. It's you, you're so violent. I didn't know you were that way ! "
" And I've made you afraid of me? Oh, I don't want to do that." But he was flattered to think that he had affected her. " See here, let's get some air. I'll take you for a spin around the Park and then run you home."
But she did not want to go to the Park; she wanted to go home immediately. His little blue car was outside; in fifteen minutes they were at Jayne Street. She would not permit him to come inside, not even in the vestibule; she barely gave him her hand.
" But Angele, you can't leave me like this; why what have I done? Did it frighten you be cause I swore a little? But I'd never swear at you. Don't go like this."
She was gone, leaving him staring and non plussed on the sidewalk. Lighting a cigarette, he climbed back in her car. " Now what the devil ! " He shifted his gears. " But she likes me. I'd have sworn she liked me to-night. Those damn niggers ! I bet she's thinking about me
He would have lost his bet. She was thinking about the coloured people.
She could visualize them all so plainly; she could interpret their changing expressions as completely as though those changes lay before her in a book. There were a girl and two men, one young, the other the father perhaps of either of the other two. The fatherly-looking person, for so her mind docketed him, bore an expression of readiness for any outcome whatever. She knew and understood the type. His experiences of surprises engendered by this thing called prejudice had been too vast for them to appear to him as surprises. If they were served this was a lucky day; if not he would refuse to let the incident shake his stout spirit.
It was to the young man and the girl that her interest went winging. In the mirror behind Roger she had seen them entering the room and she had thought: " Oh, here are some of them fighting it out again. O God ! please let them be served, please don't let their evening be spoiled." She was so happy herself and she knew that the reception of fifty other maitres d'hotel could not atone for a rebuff at the beginning of the game. The young fellow was nervous, his face tense, thus might he have looked going to meet the enemy's charge in the recent Great War; but there the odds were even; here the cards were already stacked against him. Presently his ex pression would change for one of grimness, determination and despair. Talk of a lawsuit would follow; apparently did follow; still a law suit at best is a poor substitute for an evening's fun.
But the girl, the girl in whose shoes she herself might so easily have been ! She was so clearly a nice girl, with all that the phrase implies. To Angela watching her intently and yet with the in difference of safety she recalled Virginia, so slender, so appealing she was and so brave. So very brave! Ah, that courage! It affected at first a gay hardihood: " Oh I know it isn't customary for people like us to come into this cafe, but everything is going to be all right." It met Angela's gaze with a steadiness before which her own quailed, for she thought: " Oh, poor thing! perhaps she thinks that I don't want her either." And when the blow had fallen the courage had had to be translated anew into a comforting assurance. " Don't worry about me, Jimmy," the watching guest could just hear her. " Indeed, indeed it won't spoil the evening, I should say not; there're plenty of places where they'd be all right. We just happened to pick a lemon."
The three had filed out, their heads high, their gaze poised and level. But the net result of the evening's adventure would be an increased cynicism in the elderly man, a growing bitterness for the young fellow, and a new timidity in the girl, who, even after they had passed into the street, could not relieve her feelings, for she must comfort her baffled and goaded escort.
Angela wondered if she had been half as con soling to Matthew Henson, was it just a short year ago? And suddenly, sitting immobile in her arm-chair, her evening cloak slipping unnoticed to the floor, triumph began to mount in her. Life could never cheat her as it had cheated that coloured girl this evening, as it had once cheated her in Philadephia with Matthew. She was free, free to taste life in all its fullness and sweetness, in all its minutest details. By exercising sufficient courage to employ the unique weapon which an accident of heredity had placed in her grasp she was able to master life. How she blessed her mother for showing her the way ! In a country where colour or the lack of it meant the difference between freedom and fetters how lucky she was ! But, she told herself, she was through with Roger Fielding.
Now it was Spring, Spring in New York. Washington Square was a riot of greens that showed up bravely against the great red brick houses on its north side. The Arch viewed from Fifth Avenue seemed a gateway to Paradise. The long deep streets running the length of the city invited an exploration to the ends where pots of gold doubt less gleamed. On the short crosswise streets the April sun streamed in splendid banners of deep golden light.
In two weeks Angela had seen Roger only once. He telephoned every day, pleading, beseeching, entreating. On the one occasion when she did permit him to call there were almost tears in his eyes. " But, darling, what did I do? If you'd only tell me that. Perhaps I could explain away whatever it is that's come between us." But there was nothing to explain she told him gravely, it was just that he was harder, more cruel than she had expected; no, it wasn't the coloured people, she lied and felt her soul blushing, it was that now she knew him when he was angry or displeased, and she could see how ruthless, how determined he was to have things his way. His willingness to pay the costs of the possible lawsuit had filled her with a sharp fear. What could one do against a man, against a group of men such as he and his kind represented who would spend time and money to maintain a prejudice based on a silly, time-worn tradition?
Yet she found she did not want to lose sight of him completely. The care, the attention, the flattery with which he had surrounded her were beginning to produce their effect. In the beautiful but slightly wearying balminess of the Spring she missed the blue car which had been constantly at her call; eating a good but homely meal in her little living room with the cooking odours fairly overwhelming her from the kitchenette, she found herself longing unconsciously for the dainty food, the fresh Spring delicacies which she knew he would be only too glad to procure for her. Shamefacedly she had to acknowledge that the separation which she was so rigidly enforcing meant a difference in her tiny exchequer, for it had now been many months since she had regularly taken her main meal by herself and at her own expense.
To-day she was especially conscious of her dependence upon him, for she was to spend the afternoon in Van Cortlandt Park with Anthony. There had been talk of subways and the Elevated. Roger would have had the blue car at the door and she would have driven out of Jayne Street in state. Now it transpired that Anthony was to deliver some drawings to a man, a tricky customer, whom it was best to waylay if possible on Saturday afternoon. Much as he regretted it he would probably be a little late. Angela, therefore, to save time must meet him at Seventy-second Street. Roger would never have made a request like that; he would have brought his lawyer or his businessman along in the car with him and, dismissing him with a curt " Well I'll see if I can finish this to-morrow," would have hastened to her with his best Walter Raleigh manner, and would have pro duced the cloak, too, if she would but say so. Per haps she'd have to take him back. Doubtless later on she could manage his prejudices if only he would speak. But how was she to accomplish that?
Still it was lovely being here with Anthony in the park, so green and fresh, so new with the recurring newness of Spring. Anthony touched her hand and said as he had once before, " I'm so content to be with you, Angel. I may call you Angel, mayn't I? You are that to me, you know. Oh if you only knew how happy it makes me to be content, to be satisfied like this. I could get down on my knees and thank God for it like a little boy." He looked like a little boy as he said it. " Happiness is a hard thing to find and harder still to keep."
She asked him idly, " Haven't you always been happy? "
His face underwent a startling change. Not only did the old sadness and strain come back on it, but a great bitterness such as she had never before seen.
" No," he said slowly as though thinking through long years of his life. " I haven't been happy for years, not since I was a little boy. Never once have I been happy nor even at ease until I met you."
But she did not want him to find his happiness in her. That way would only lead to greater un- happiness for him. So she said, to change the subject: " Could you tell me about it? "
But there was nothing to tell, he assured her, his face growing darker, grimmer. " Only my father was killed when I was a little boy, killed by his enemies. I've hated them ever since; I never stopped hating them until I met you." But this was just as dangerous a road as the other plus the possibilities of re-opening old wounds. So she only shivered and said vaguely, " Oh, that was terrible ! Too terrible to talk about. I'm sorry, Anthony ! " And then as a last desperate topic: "Are you ever going back to Brazil?" For she knew that he had come to the United States from Rio de Janeiro. He had spent Christ mas at her house, and had shown her pictures of the great, beautiful city and of his mother, a slender, dark-eyed woman with a perpetual sad ness in her eyes.
The conversation languished. She thought: " It must be terrible to be a man and to have these secret hates and horrors back of one." Some Spanish feud, a matter of hot blood and ready knives, a sudden stroke, and then this deadly memory for him.
" No," he said after a long pause. "I'm never going back to Brazil. I couldn't." He turned to her suddenly. " Tell me, Angel, what kind of girl are you, what do you think worthwhile? Could you, for the sake of love, for the sake of being loyal to the purposes and vows of someone you loved, bring yourself to endure privation and hardship and misunderstanding, hardship that would be none the less hard because it really could be avoided? "
She thought of her mother who had loved her father so dearly, and of the wash-days which she had endured for him, the long years of household routine before she and Jinny had been old enough to help her first with their hands and then with their earnings. She thought of the little, dark, shabby house, of the made-over dresses and turned coats. And then she saw Roger and his wealth and his golden recklessness, his golden keys which could open the doors to beauty and ease and decency ! Oh, it wasn't decent for women to have to scrub and work and slave and bear children and sacrifice their looks and their pretty hands, she saw her mother's hands as they had always looked on wash day, they had a white, boiled appearance. No, she would not fool herself nor Anthony. She was no sentimentalist. It was not likely that she, a girl who had left her little sister and her home to go out to seek life and happiness would throw it over for poverty, hardship. If a man loved a woman how could he ask her that?
So she told him gently: " No, Anthony, I couldn't," and watched the blood drain from his face and the old look of unhappiness drift into his eyes.
He answered inadequately. " No, of course you couldn't." And turning over, he had been sitting on the grass at her feet he lay face downward on the scented turf. Presently he sat up and giving her a singularly sweet but wistful smile, said: " I almost touched happiness, Angele. Did you by any chance ever happen to read Browning's Two in the Roman Campagna '? "
But she had read very little poetry except what had been required in her High School work, and certainly not Browning.
He began to interpret the fragile, difficult beauty of the poem with its light but sure touch on evanescent, indefinable feeling. He quoted:
" How is it under our control To love or not to love? "
" Infinite yearning and the pang Of finite hearts that yearn."
They were silent for a long time. And again she wondered how it would feel to love. He watched the sun drop suddenly below some tree tops and rose to his feet shivering a little as though its disappearance had made him immediately cold.
" ' So the good moment goes.' Come, Angel, we'll have to hasten. It's getting dark and it's a long walk to the subway."
The memory of the afternoon stayed by her, shrouding her thoughts, clinging to them like a tenuous, adhering mantle. But she said to herself: " There's no use thinking about that. I'm not going to live that kind of life." And she knew she wanted Roger and what he could give her and the light and gladness which he always radiated. She wanted none of Anthony's poverty and priva tion and secret vows, he meant, she supposed, some promise to devote himself to REAL ART, her visual mind saw it in capitals. Well, she was sick of tragedy, she belonged to a tragic race.
" God knows it's time for one member of it to be having a little fun."
" Yes," she thought all through her class, paint ing furiously for she had taken up her work in earnest since Christmas " yes, I'll just make up my mind to it. I'll take Roger back and get mar ried and settle down to a pleasant, safe, beautiful life." And useful. It should be very useful. Perhaps she'd win Roger around to helping coloured people. She'd look up all sorts of down- and-outers and give them a hand. And she'd help Anthony, at least she'd offer to help him; she didn't believe he would permit her.
Coming out of the building a thought occurred to her: "Take Roger back, but back to what? To his old status of admiring, familiar, generous friend? Just that and no more? " Here was her old problem again. She stopped short to con sider it.
Martha Burden overtook her. " Planning the great masterpiece of the ages, Angele? Better come along and work it out by my fireside. I can give you some tea. Are you coming? "
" Yes," said Angela, still absorbed.
" Well," said Martha after they had reached the house. " I've never seen any study as deep as that. Come out of it Angele, you'll drown. You're not by any chance in love, are you? "
" No," she replied, " at least I don't know. But tell me, Martha, suppose suppose I were in love with one of them, what do you do about it, how do you get them to propose? "
Martha lay back and laughed. " Such candour have I not met, no, not in all Flapperdom. Angele if I could answer that I'd be turning women away from my door and handing out my knowledge to the ones I did admit at a hundred dollars a throw."
" But there must be some way. Oh, of course, I know lots of them propose, but how do you get a proposal from the ones you want, the, the interesting ones? "
" You really want to know? The only answer I can give you is Humpty Dumpty's dictum to Alice about verbs and adjectives: ' It depends on which is the stronger.' ' She interpreted for her young guest was clearly mystified. " It depends on (A) whether you are strong enough to make him like you more than you like him; (B) whether if you really do like him more than he does you you can conceal it. In other words, so far as liking is concerned you must always be ahead of the game, you must always like or appear to like him a little less than he does you. And you must make him want you. But you mustn't give. Oh yes, I know that men are always wanting women to give, but they don't want the women to want to give. They want to take, or at any rate to compel the giving."
" It sounds very complicated, like some subtle game."
A deep febrile light came into Martha's eyes. " It is a game, and the hardest game in the world for a woman, but the most fascinating; the hardest in which to strike a happy medium. You see, you have to be careful not to withhold too much and yet to give very little. If we don't give enough we lose them. If we give too much we lose our selves. Oh, Angele, God doesn't like women."
" But," said Angela thinking of her own mother, " there are some women who give all and men like them the better for it."
" Oh, yes, that's true. Those are the blessed among women. They ought to get down on their knees every 'day and thank God for permitting them to be their normal selves and not having to play a game." For a moment her still, proud face broke into deeps of pain. " Oh, Angele, think of loving and never, never being able to show it until you're asked for it; think of living a game every hour of your life ! " Her face quivered back to its normal immobility.
Angela walked home through the purple twilight musing no longer on her own case but on this unexpected revelation. " Well," she said, "I certainly shouldn't like to love like that." She thought of Anthony : " A woman could be her true self with him." But she had given him up.
If the thing to do were to play a game she would play one. Indeed she rather enjoyed the prospect. She was playing a game now, a game against public tradition on the one hand and family instinct on the other; the stakes were happiness and excitement, and almost anyone looking at the tricks which she had already taken would prophesy that she would be the winner. She decided to follow all the rules as laid down by Martha Burden and to add any workable ideas of her own. When Roger called again she was still unable to see him, but her voice was a shade less curt over the telephone; she did not cut him off so abruptly. " I must not withhold too much," she reminded herself. He was quick to note the subtle change in intonation. " But you're going to let me come to see you soon, Angele," he pleaded. " You wouldn't hold out this way against me forever. Say when I may come."
" Oh, one of these days; I must go now, Roger. Good-bye."
After the third call she let him come to spend Friday evening. She heard the blue car rumbling in the street and a few minutes later he came literally staggering into the living-room so laden was he with packages. Flowers, heaps of spring posies had come earlier in the day, lilacs, jonquils, narcissi. Now this evening there were books and candy, handkerchiefs, " they were so dainty and they looked just like you," he said fearfully, for she had never taken an article of dress from him, two pictures, a palette and some fine brushes and last a hamper of all sorts of delicacies. " I thought if you didn't mind we'd have supper here; it would be fun with just us two."
How much he pleased her he could not divine; it was the first time he had ever given a hint of any desire for sheer domesticity. Anthony had sought nothing better than to sit and smoke and watch her flitting about in her absurd red or violet apron. Matthew Henson had been speech less with ecstasy when on a winter night she had allowed him to come into the kitchen while she prepared for him a cup of cocoa. But Roger's palate had been so flattered by the concoctions of chefs famous in London, Paris and New York that he had set no store by her simple cooking. Indeed his inevitable comment had been: " Here, what do you want to get yourself all tired out for? Let's go to a restaurant. It's heaps less bother."
But to-night he, too, watched her with humble, delighted eyes. She realized that he was con scious of her every movement; once he tried to embrace her, but she whirled out of his reach without reproach but with decision. He subsided, too thankful to be once more in her presence to take any risks. And when he left he had kissed her hand.
She began going about with him again, but with condescension, with kindness. And with the new vision gained from her talk with Martha she could see his passion mounting. " Make him want you," that was the second rule. It was clear that he did, no man could be as persevering as this other wise. Still he did not speak. They were to meet that afternoon in front of the school to go " any where you want, dear, Pm yours to command ". It was the first time that he had called for her at the building, and she came out a litttle early, for she did not want any of the three, Martha, Paulette, nor Anthony, to see whom she was meeting. It would be better to walk to the corner, she thought, they'd be just that much less likely to recognize him. She heard footsteps hurrying behind her, heard her name and turned to see Miss Powell, pleased and excited. She laid her hand on Angela's arm but the latter shook her off. Roger must not see her on familiar terms like this with a coloured girl for she felt that the afternoon portended something and she wanted no side issues. The coloured girl gave her a penetrating glance; then her habitual reserve settled down blotting out the eagerness, leaving her face blurred and heavy. " I beg your pardon, Miss Mory, I'm sure," she murmured and stepped out into the tempestuous traffic of Fourth Avenue. Angela was sorry; she would make it up to-morrow, she thought, but she had not dismissed her a moment too soon for Roger came rushing up, his car resplendent and resplendent himself in a grey suit, soft grey hat and blue tie. Angela looked at him approvingly. " You look just like the men in the advertising pages of the Saturday Evening Post," she said, and the fact that he did not wince under the compliment proved the depth of his devotion, for every one of his outer garments, hat, shoes, and suit, had been made to measure.
They went to Coney Island. " The ocean will be there, but very few people and only a very few amusements," said Roger. They had a delightful time; they were like school children, easily and frankly amused; they entered all the booths that were open, ate pop-corn and hot dogs and other local dainties. And presently they were flying home under the double line of trees on Ocean Parkway and entering the bosky loveli ness of Prospect Park. Roger slowed down a little.
"Oh," said Angela. "I love this car."
He bent toward her instantly. " Does it please you? Did you miss it when you made me stay away from you? "
She was afraid she had made a mistake: " Yes, but that's not why I let you come back."
" I know that. But you do like it, don't you, comfort and beauty and dainty surroundings? "
" Yes," she said solemnly, " I love them all."
He was silent then for a long, long time, his face a little set, a worried line on his forehead.
" Well now what's he thinking about? " she asked herself, watching his hands and their clever manipulation of the steering wheel though his thoughts, she knew, were not on that.
He turned to her with an air of having made up his mind. " Angele, I want you to promise to spend a day out riding with me pretty soon. I I have something I want to say to you." He was a worldly young man about town but he was actually mopping his brow. " I've got to go south for a week for my father, he owns some timber down there with which he used to supply saw mills but since the damned niggers have started running north it's been something of a weight on his hands. He wants me to go down and see whether it's worth his while to hold on to it any longer. It's so rarely that he asks anything of me along a business line that I'd hate to refuse him. But I'll be back the morning of the twenty-sixth. I'll have to spend the afternoon and evening with him out on Long Island but on the twenty-seventh could you go out with me? "
She said as though all this preamble portended nothing: " I couldn't give you the whole day, but I'd go in the afternoon."
" Oh," his face fell a little. " Well, the afternoon then. Only of course we won't be able to go far out. Perhaps you'd like me to arrange a lunch and we'd go to one of the Parks, Central or the Bronx, or Van Cortlandt, - "
" No, not Van Cortlandt," she told him. That park was sacred to Anthony Cross.
" Well, wherever you say. We can settle it even that day. The main thing is that you'll go."
She said to herself. "Aren't men funny! He could have asked me five times over while he was making all these arrangements." But she was immensely relieved, even happy. She felt very kindly toward him; perhaps she was in love after all, only she was not the demonstrative kind. It was too late for him to come in, but they sat in the car in the dark security of Jayne Street and she let him take her in his arms and kiss her again again. For the first time she returned his kisses.
Weary but triumphant she mounted the stairs almost stumbling from a sudden, overwhelming fatigue. She had been under a strain ! But it was all over now; she had conquered, she had been the stronger. She had secured not only him but an assured future, wealth, protection, influence, even power. She herself was power, like the women one reads about, like Cleopatra, Cleopatra's African origin intrigued her, it was a fitting comparison. Smiling, she took the last steep stairs lightly, springily, suddenly reinvigorated.
As she opened the door a little heap of letters struck her foot. Switching on the light she sat in the easy chair and incuriously turned them over. They were bills for the most part, she had had to dress to keep herself dainty and desirable for Roger. At the bottom of the heap was a letter from Virginia. When she became Mrs. Roger Fielding she would never have to worry about a bill again; how she would laugh when she remembered the small amounts for which these called! Never again would she feel the slight quake of dismay which always overtook her when she saw she words : " Miss Angele Mory in account with, " Outside of the regular monthly statement for gas she had never seen a bill in her father's house. Well, she'd have no difficulty in getting over her squeamish training.
Finally she opened Jinny's letter. Her sister had written:
" Angela I'm coming up for an exam, on the twenty-eighth. I'll arrive on the twenty-sixth or I could come the day before. You'll meet me, won't you? I know where I'm going to stay," she gave an address on 16th Street " but I don't know how to get there; I don't know your school hours, write and tell me so I can arrive when you're free. There's no reason why I should put you out."
So Virginia was really coming to try her luck in New York. It would be nice to have her so near. " Though I don't suppose we'll be seeing so much of each other," she thought, absently reaching for her schedule. " Less than ever now, for I suppose Roger and I will live in Long Island; yes, that would be much wiser. I'll wear a veil when I go to meet her, for those coloured porters stare at you so and they never forget you."
The twenty-seventh came on Thursday; she had classes in the morning ; well, Jinny would be coming in the afternoon anyway, and after twelve she had, Oh heavens that was the day, the day she was to go out with Roger, the day that he would put the great question. And she wrote to Virginia:
" Come the twenty-sixth. Honey, any time after four. I couldn't possibly meet you on the twenty- seventh. But the twenty-sixth is all right. Let me know when your train comes in and I'll be there. And welcome to our city."
The week was one of tumult, almost of agony. After all, matters were not completely settled, you never could tell. She would be glad when the twenty-seventh had come and gone, for then, then she would be rooted, fixed. She and Roger would marry immediately. But now he was so far away, in Georgia ; she missed him and evidently he missed her for the first two days brought her long tele grams almost letters. " I can think of nothing but next Thursday, are you thinking of it too? " The third day brought a letter which said practically the same thing, adding, " Oh, Angele, I wonder what you will say ! "
" But he could ask me and find out," she said to herself and suddenly felt assured and triumphant. Every day thereafter brought her a letter reiterating this strain. " And I know how he hates to write ! "
The letter on Wednesday read, " Darling, when you get this I'll actually be in New York; if I can I'll call you up but I'll have to rush like mad so as to be free for Thursday, so perhaps I can't manage."
She made up her mind not to answer the tele phone even if it did ring, she would strike one last note of indifference though only she herself would be aware of it.
It was the day on which Jinny was to arrive. It would be fun to see her, talk to her, hear all the news about the queer, staid people whom she had left so far behind. Farther now than ever. Matthew Henson was still in the post-office, she knew. Arthur Sawyer was teaching at Sixteenth and Fitzwater; she could imagine the sick distaste that mantled his face every time he looked at the hideous, discoloured building. Porter had taken his degree in dentistry but he was not practising, on the contrary he was editing a small weekly, getting deeper, more and more hopelessly into debt she was sure. ... It would be fun some day to send him a whopping cheque; after all, he had taken a chance just as she had; she recognized his revolt as akin to her own, only he had not had her luck. She must ask Jinny about all this.
It was too bad that she had to meet her sister, but she must. Just as likely as not she'd be car sick and then New York was terrifying for the first time to the stranger, she had known an instant's sick dread herself that first day when she had stood alone and ignorant in the great rotunda of the station. But she was different from Jinny; nothing about life ever made her really afraid; she might hurt herself, suffer, meet disappointment, but life could not alarm her; she loved to come to grips with it, to force it to a standstill, to yield up its treasures. But Jinny although brave, had secret fears, she was really only a baby. Her little sister ! For the first time in months she thought of her with a great surge of sisterly tenderness.
It was time to go. She wore her most un-
obtrusive clothes, a dark blue suit, a plain white silk shirt, a dark blue, bell-shaped hat a cloche small and fitting down close over her eyes. She pulled it down even farther and settled her modish veil well over the tip of her nose. It was one thing to walk about the Village with Miss Powell. There were practically no coloured people there. But this was different. Those curious porters should never be able to recognize her. Seymour Porter had worked among them one summer at Broad Street station in Philadelphia. He used to say : " They aren't really curious, you know, but their job makes them sick; so they're always hunting for the romance, for the adventure which for a day at least will take the curse off the monotonous obsequiousness of their lives."
She was sorry for them, but she could not permit them to remedy their existence at her expense.
In her last letter she had explained to Jinny about those two troublesome staircases which lead from the train level of the New York Pennsyl vania Railroad ^station to] the street level. ;< There's no use my trying to tell you which one to take in order to bring you up to the right hand or to the left hand side of the elevator because I never know myself. So all I can say, dear, is when you do get up to the elevator just stick to it and eventually I'll see you or you'll see me as I revolve around it. Don't you move, for it might turn out that we were both going in the same direction."
True to her own instructions, she was stationed between the two staircases, jerking her neck now toward one staircase, now toward the other, stopping short to look at the elevator itself. She thrust up her veil to see better.
A man sprinted by in desperate haste, brushing so closely by her that the corner of his suit-case struck sharply on the thin inner curve of her knee.
" My goodness ! " she exclaimed involuntarily.
For all his haste he was a gentleman, for he pulled off his hat, threw her a quick backward glance and began: "I beg your why darling, darling, you don't mean to say you came to meet me ! "
" Meet you ! I thought you came in this morning." It was Roger, Roger and the sight of him made her stupid with fear.
He stooped and kissed her, tenderly, possessively. " I did, oh Angela you are a beauty ! Only a beauty can wear plain things like that. I did come in this morning but I'm trying to catch Kirby, my father's lawyer, he ought to be coming in from Newark just now and I thought I'd take him down to Long Island with me for the night. I've got a lot of documents for him here in this suitcase that Georgia business was most complicated that way I won't have to hunt him up in the morning and I'll have more time to to arrange for our trip in the afternoon. What are you doing here? "
What was she doing there? Waiting for her sister Jinny who was coloured and who showed it. And Roger hated Negroes. She was lost, ruined, unless she could get rid of him. She told the first lie that came into her mind,
" I'm waiting for Paulette." All this could be fixed up with Paulette later. Miss Lister would think as little of deceiving a man, any man, as she would of squashing a mosquito. They were fair game and she would ask no questions.
His face clouded. " Can't say I'm so wild about your waiting for Paulette. Well we can wait together is she coming up from Philadelphia? That train's bringing my man too from Newark." He had the male's terrible clarity of understanding for train connections.
“ What time does your train go to Long Island? I thought you wanted to get the next one."
" Well, I'd like to but they're only half an hour apart. I can wait. Better the loss of an hour to-day than all of to-morrow morning. We can wait together; see the people are beginning to come up. I wish I could take you home but the minute he shows up I'll have to sprint with him."
" Now God be on my side," she prayed. Sometimes these trains were very long. If Mr. Kirby were in the first car and Jinny toward the end that would make all of ten minutes' difference. If only she hadn't given those explicit directions !
There was Jinny, her head suddenly emerging into view above the stairs. She saw Angela, waved her hand. In another moment she would be flinging her arms about her sister's neck; she would be kissing her and saying, " Oh, Angela, Angela darling ! "
And Roger, who was no fool, would notice the name Angela Angele; he would know no Coloured girl would make a mistake like this.
She closed her eyes in a momentary faintness, opened them again.
" What's the matter? " said Roger sharply, " are you sick? "
Jinny was beside her. Now, now the bolt would fall. She heard the gay, childish voice saying laughingly, assuredly:
" I beg your pardon, but isn't this Mrs. Henrietta Jones? "
Oh, God was good ! Here was one chance if only Jinny would understand ! In his astonishment Roger had turned from her to face the speaker. Angela, her eyes beseeching her sister's from under her close hat brim, could only stammer the old formula: " Really you have the advantage of me. No, I'm not Mrs. Jones."
Roger said rudely, " Of course she isn't Mrs. Jones. Come, Angle." Putting his arm through hers he stooped for the suitcase.
But Jinny, after a second's bewildered but incredulous stare, was quicker even than they. Her slight figure, her head high, preceded them; vanished into a telephone booth. ^fRoger glared after her. " Well of all the damned cheek ! "
For the first time in the pursuit of her chosen ends she began to waver. Surely no ambition, no pinnacle of safety was supposed to call for the sacrifice of a sister. She might be selfish, oh, undoubtedly she had been selfish all these months to leave Jinny completely to herself but she had never meant to be cruel. She tried to picture the tumult of emotions in her sister's mind, there must have been amazement, oh she had seen it all on her face, the utter bewilderment, the incredulity and then the settling down on that face of a veil of dignity and pride like a baby trying to harden its mobile features. She was in her apartment again now, pacing the floor, wondering what to do. Already she had called up the house in 1 39th Street, it had taken her a half-hour to get the number for she did not know the householder's name and " Information " had been coy, but Miss Murray had not arrived yet. Were they expecting her? Yes, Miss Murray had written to say that she would be there between six and seven ; it was seven-thirty now and she had not appeared. Was there any message? " No, no! " Angela explained she would call again.
But where was Jinny? She couldn't be lost, after all she was grown-up and no fool, she could ask directions. Perhaps she had taken a cab and in the evening traffic had been delayed, or had met with an accident. This thought sent Angela to the telephone again. There was no Miss Murray as yet. In her wanderings back and forth across the room she caught sight of herself in the mirror. Her face was flushed, her eyes shining with remorse and anxiety. Her vanity reminded her: " If Roger could just see me now ". Roger and tomorrow ! He would have to speak words of gold to atone for this breach which for his sake she had made in her sister's trust and affection.
At the end of an hour she called again. Yes, Miss Murray had come in. So great was her relief that her knees sagged under her. Yes of course they would ask her to come to the telephone. After a long silence the voice rang again over the wire. " I didn't see her go out but she must have for she's not in her room."
" Oh all right," said Angela, " the main thing was to know that she was there." But she was astonished. Jinny's first night in New York and she was out already ! She could not go to see her Thursday because of the engagement with Roger, but she'd make good the next day; she'd be there the first thing, Friday morning. Snatching up a sheet of note-paper she began a long letter full of apologies and excuses. " And I can't come to-morrow, darling, because as I told you I have a very important engagement, an engagement that means very much to me. Oh you'll under stand when I tell you about it." She put a special delivery stamp on the letter.
Her relief at learning that Jinny was safe did not ease her guilty conscience. In a calmer mood she tried now to find excuses for herself, extenuating circumstances. As soon as Jinny understood all that was involved she would overlook it. After all, Jinny would want her to be happy. " And anyway," she thought to herself sulkily j " Mamma didn't speak to Papa that day that we were standing on the steps of the Hotel Walton." But she knew that the cases were not analogous; no principle was involved, her mother's silence had not exposed her husband to insult or contumely, whereas Roger's attitude to Virginia had been distinctly offensive. " And moreover," her thoughts continued with merciless clarity, " when a principle was at stake your mother never hesitated a moment to let those hospital attendants know of the true status of affairs. In fact she was not aware that she was taking any particular stand. Her husband was her husband and she was glad to acknowledge that relationship."
A sick distaste for her action, for her daily deception, for Roger and his prejudices arose within her. But with it came a dark anger against a country and a society which could create such an issue. And she thought: " If I had spoken to Jinny, had acknowledged her, what good would it have done me or her either? After it was all over she would have been exactly where she was before and I would have lost everything. And I do so want to be happy, to have a good time. At this very hour to-morrow I'll probably be one of the most envied girls in New York. And afterwards I can atone for it all. I'll be good to all sorts of people; I'll really help humanity, lots of coloured folks will be much better off on account of me. And if I had spoken to Jinny I could never have helped them at all." Once she murmured: "I'll help Jinny too, the darling ! She shall have everything in the world she wants." But in her heart she knew already that Jinny would want nothing.
Thursday came and Thursday sped as Thursdays will. For a long time Angela saw it as a little separate entity of time shut away in some hidden compartment of her mind, a compartment whose door she dreaded to open.
On Friday she called up her sister early in the morning. " Is that you, Jinny? Did you get my letter? Is it all right for me to come up?"
" Yes," said Jinny noncomittally, to all questions, then laconically: "But you'd better come right away if you want to catch me. I take the examination to-day and haven't much time."
Something in the matter-of-factness of her reply disconcerted Angela. Yet there certainly was no reason why her sister should show any enthusiasm over seeing her. Only she did want to see her, to talk to some one of her very own to-day. She would like to burrow her head in Virginia's shoulder and cry! But a mood such as Jinny's voice indicated did not invite confidences.
A stout brown-skinned bustling woman suggesting immense assurance and ability opened the door. " Miss Murray told me that she was expecting some one. You're to go right on up. Her's is the room right next to the third storey front."
" She was expecting someone." Evidently Virginia had been discreet. This unexpected, unsought for carefulness carried a sting with it.
" Hello,' said Jinny, casually thrusting a dishevelled but picturesque head out of the door. " Can you find your way in? This room's larger than any two we ever had at home, yet already it looks like a ship at sea." She glanced about the dis ordered place. " I wonder if this is what they mean by s shipshape '. Here I'll hang up this suit, then you can sit down. Isn't it a sweetie? Got it at Snellenburg's."
She had neither kissed nor offered to shake hands with her sister, yet her manner was friendly enough, even cordial. " See I've bobbed my hair," she went on. " Like it? I'm wild about it even if it does take me forever to fix it." Standing before a mirror she began shaping the ends under with a curling iron.
Angela thought she had never seen anyone so pretty and so colourful. Jinny had always shown a preference for high colours; to-day she was revelling in them; her slippers were high heeled small red mules; a deep green dressing-gown hung gracefully from her slim shoulders and from its open collar flamed the rose and gold of her smooth skin. Her eyes were bright and dancing. Her hair, black, alive and curling, ended in a thick velvety straightness like cut plush.
Angela said stiffly, " I hope I didn't get you up, telephoning so early."
Virginia smiled, flushing a little more deeply under the dark gold of her skin. " Oh dear no ! I'd already had an earlier call than that this morning."
" You had ! " exclaimed Angela, astonished. " I didn't know you knew anyone in New York." She remembered her sister's mysterious disappearance the first night of her arrival. " And see here, Jinny, Pm awfully sorry about what happened the other night. I wouldn't have had it happen for a great deal. I wish I could explain to you about it." How confidently she had counted on having marvellous news to tell Virginia and now how could she drag to the light yesterday's sorry memory? "But I called you up again and again and you hadn't arrived and then when they finally did tell me that you had come, it appeared that you had gone out. Where on earth did you go? "
Jinny began to laugh, to giggle in fact. For a moment she was the Virginia of her school days, rejoicing in some innocent mischief, full of it. "I wasn't out. There's a wash-room down the hall and I went there to wash my face, -- " it clouded a moment. " And when I came back I walked as I thought into my room. Instead of that I had walked into the room of another lodger. And there he sat -- "
" Oh," said Angela inattentively. " I'm glad you weren't out. I was quite worried. Listen, Virginia," she began desperately, " I know you think that what I did in the station the other day was unspeakable; it seems almost impossible for me to explain it to you. But that man with me was a very special friend, -- "
" He must have been indeed," Jinny interrupted drily, " to make you cut your own sister." She was still apparently fooling with her hair, her head perched on one side, her eyes glued to the mirror. But she was not making much progress and her lips were trembling.
Angela proceeded unheeding, afraid to stop. " A special friend, and we had come to a very crucial point in our relationship. It was with him that I had the engagement yesterday.'*
" Well, what about it? Were you expecting him to ask you to marry him? Did he? "
" No," said Angela very low, " that's just what he didn't do though he, he asked everything else."
Virginia, dropping the hair-brush, swung about sharply. " And you let him talk like that? "
" I couldn't help it once he had begun, I was so taken by surprise, and, besides, I think that his ultimate intentions are all right."
" His ultimate intentions ! Why, Angela what are you talking about? You know perfectly well what his ultimate intentions are. Isn't he a white man? Well, what kind of intentions would he have toward a coloured woman? "
" Simple ! He doesn't know I'm coloured. And besides some of them are decent. You must remember that I know something about these people and you don't, you couldn't, living that humdrum little life of yours at home."
" I know enough about them and about men in general to recognize an insult when I hear one. Some men bear their character stamped right on their faces. Now this man into whose room t walked last night by mistake, "
" I don't see how you can do very much talking walking into strange men's rooms at ten o'clock at night."
The triviality of the retort left Jinny dumb. It was their first quarrel.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, for several minutes. Virginia, apparently completely com posed, was letting the tendrils of her mind reach far, far out to the ultimate possibilities of this impasse in relationship between herself and her sister. She thought: " I really have lost her, she's really gone out of my ken just as I used to lose her years ago when father and I would be singing 'The Dying Christian '. I'm twenty-three years old and I'm really all alone in the world." Up to this time she had always felt she had Angela's greater age and supposedly greater wisdom to fall back on, but she banished this conjecture forever. " Because if she could cut me when she hadn't seen me for a year for the sake of a man who she must have known meant to insult her, she certainly has no intention of openly acknowledging me again. And I don't believe I want to be a sister in secret. I hate this hole and corner business."
She saw again the scene in the station, herself at first so serene, so self-assured, Angela's confused coldness, Roger's insolence. Something hardened, grew cold within her. Even his arrogance had failed to bring Angela to her senses, and suddenly she remembered that it had been possible in slavery times for white men and women to mistreat their mulatto relations, their own flesh and blood, selling them into deeper slavery in the far South or standing by watching them beaten, almost, if not completely, to death. Perhaps there was something fundamentally different between white and coloured blood after all. Aloud she said : " You know before you went away that Sunday morning you said that you and I were different. Perhaps you're right, Angela; perhaps there is an extra infusion of white blood in your veins which lets you see life at another angle. If that's the case I have no right to judge you. You must forgive my ignorant comments."
She began slipping into a ratine dress of old blue trimmed with narrow collars and cuffs and a tiny belt of old rose. Above the soft shades the bronze and black of her head etched themselves sharply; she might have been a dainty bird of Paradise cast in a new arrangement of colours but her tender face was set in strange and implacable lines.
Angela looked at her miserably. She had not known just what, in her wounded pride and humiliation, she had expected to gain from her sister, but certainly she had hoped for some balm. And in any event not this cool aloofness. She had forgotten that her sister might be suffering from a wound as poignant as her own. The year had made a greater breach than she had anticipated; she had never been as outspoken, as frank with Virginia as the latter had been with her, but there had always been a common ground between them, a meeting place. In the household Jinny had had something of a reputation for her willingness to hear all sides of a story, to find an excuse or make one.
An old aphorism of Hetty Daniels returned to her. " He who would have friends must show himself friendly." And she had done anything but that; she had neglected Jinny, had failed to answer her letters, had even planned, was it only day before yesterday ! to see very little of her in what she had dreamed would be her new surroundings. Oh she had been shameful ! But she would make it up to Jinny now and then she could come to her at this, this crisis in her life which so frightened and attracted her. She was the more frightened because she felt that attraction. She would make her sister understand the desires and longings which had come to her in this strange, dear, free world, and then together they would map out a plan of action. Jinny might be a baby but she had strength. So much strength, said something within her, that just as likely as not she would say: " Let the whole thing go, Angela, Angela! You don't want to be even on the out skirts of a thing like this."
Before she could begin her overtures Jinny was speaking. " Listen, Angela, I've got to be going. I don't know when we'll be seeing each other again, and after what happened Wednesday you can hardly expect me to be looking you up, and as you doubtless are very busy you'd hardly be coming 'way up here. But there are one or two things I want to talk to you about. First about the house."
" About the house? Why it's yours. I've nothing more to do with it."
" I know, but I'm thinking of selling it. There is such a shortage of houses in Philadelphia just now; Mr. Hallowell says I can get at least twice as much as father paid for it. And in that case you've some more money coming to you."
If only she had known of this, when? twenty- four hours earlier, how differently she might have received Roger's proposition. If she had met Virginia Wednesday and had had the talk for which she had planned!
" Well of course it would be awfully nice to have some more money. But what I don't understand is how are you going to live? What are you going to do? "
" If I pass this examination I'm coming over here, my appointment would be only a matter of a few months. I'm sure of that. This is May and I'd only have to wait until September. Well, I wouldn't be working this summer anyway. And there's no way in the world which I could fail to pass. In fact I'm really thinking of taking a chance and coming over here to substitute. Mr. Holloster, the University of Pennsylvania man, has been investigating and he says there's plenty of work. And I guess I'm due to have a change; New York rather appeals to me. And there certainly is something about Harlem ! " In spite of her careless manner Angela knew she was thinking about Matthew Henson. She stretched out her hand, pulled Jinny's head down on her shoulder. " Oh darling, don't worry about him. Matthew really wasn't the man for you."
" Well," said Virginia, " as long as I think he was, the fact that he wasn't doesn't make any real difference, does it? At least not at first. But I certainly shan't worry about it."
" No don't, I, " It was on the tip of her
tongue to say " I know two or three nice young men whom you can play around with. I'll intro duce you to them." But could she? Jinny understood her silence; smiled and nodded. " It's all right, honey, you can't do anything; you would if you could. We've just got to face the fact that you and I are two separate people and we've got to live our lives apart, not like the Siamese twins. And each of us will have to go her chosen way. After all each of us is seeking to get all she can out of life ! and if you can get more out of it by being white, as you undoubtedly can, why, why shouldn't you? Only it seems to me that there are certain things in living that are more fundamental even than colour, but I don't know. I'm all mixed up. But evidently you don't feel that way, and you're just as likely to be right as me."
" My dear, I'm not trying to reproach you. I'm trying to look at things without sentiment. After all, in a negative way, merely by saying nothing, you're disclaiming your black blood in a country where it is an inconvenience, oh ! there's not a doubt about that. You may be proud of it, you may be perfectly satisfied with it I am but it certainly can shut you out of things. So why shouldn't you disclaim a living manifestation of that blood? "
Before this cool logic Angela was silent. Virginia looked at her sister, a maternal look oddly apparent on her young face. When she was middle-aged she would be the embodiment of motherhood. How her children would love her !
" Angela, you'll be careful ! "
" Yes, darling. Oh if only I could make you understand what it's all about."
' Yes, well, perhaps another time. I've got to fly now." She hesitated, took Angela by the arms and gazed into her eyes. " About this grand white party that you were in the station with. Are you awfully in love with him? "
" I’m not in love with him at all."
" Oh, pshaw ! " said innocent Virginia, " you've got nothing to worry about! Why, what's all the shooting for? "
Angela wanted to ride downtown with her sister. " Perhaps I might bring you luck." But on this theme Jinny was adamant. " You'd be much more likely to bring yourself bad luck. No, there's no sense in taking a chance. I'll take the elevated; my landlady said it would drop me very near the school where I'm taking the examination. You go some other way." Down in the hall Mrs. Gloucester was busy dusting, her short bustling figure alive with housewifely ardour. Virginia paused near her and held out her hand to Angela. " Good-bye, Miss Mory," she said wickedly, " it was very kind of you to give me so much time. If you can ever tear yourself away from your beloved Village, come up and I'll try to show you Harlem. I don't think it's going to take me long to learn it."
Obediently Angela let her go her way and walking over to Seventh Avenue mounted the 'bus, smarting a little under Jinny's generous pre cautions. But presently she began to realize their value, for at One Hundred and Fourteenth Street Anthony Cross entered. He sat down beside her. " I never expected to see you in my neighbourhood."
" Oh is this where you live? I've often wondered."
" As it happens I've just come here, but I've lived practically all over New York." He was thin, restless, unhappy. His eyes dwelt ceaselessly on her face. She said a little nervously:
" It seems to me I hardly ever see you any more. What do you do with yourself? "
" Nothing that you would be interested in."
She did not dare make the obvious reply and after all, though she did like him very much, she was not interested in his actions. For a long moment she sought for some phrase which would express just the right combination of friendliness and indifference.
" It's been a long time since we've had lunch together; come and have it to-day with me. You be my guest." She thought of Jinny and the possible sale of the house. " I've just found out that I'm going to get a rather decent amount of money, certainly enough to stand us for lunch."
" Thank you, I have an engagement; besides I don't want to lunch with you in public."
This was dangerous ground. Flurried, she replied unwisely: " All right, come in some time for tea; every once in a while I make a batch of cookies ; I made some a week ago. Next time I feel the mood coming on me I'll send you a card and you can come and eat them, hot and hot."
" You know you've no intention of doing any such thing. Besides you don't know my address."
" An inconvenience which can certainly be rectified," she laughed at him.
But he was in no laughing mood. " I've no cards with me, but they wouldn't have the address anyway." He tore a piece of paper out of his notebook, scribbled on it. " Here it is. I have to get off now." He gave her a last despairing look. " Oh, Angel, you know you're never going to send for me ! "
The bit of paper clutched firmly in one hand, she arrived finally at her little apartment. Natur ally of an orderlv turn of mind she looked about for her address book in which to write the street and number. But some unexplained impulse led her to smooth the paper out and place it in a corner of her desk. That done she took off her hat and gloves, sat down in the comfortable chair and prepared to face her thoughts.
Yesterday ! Even now at a distance of twenty- four hours she had not recovered her equilibrium. She was still stunned, still unable to realize the happening of the day. Only she knew that she had reached a milestone in her life; a possible turning point. If she did not withdraw from her acquaintanceship with Roger now, even though she committed no overt act she would never be the same ; she could never again face herself with the old, unshaken pride and self-confidence. She would never be the same to herself. If she with drew, then indeed, indeed she would be the same old Angela Murray, the same girl save for a little sophistication that she had been before she left Philadelphia, only she would have started on an adventure and would not have seen it to its finish, she would have come to grips with life and would have laid down her arms at the first onslaught. Would she be a coward or a wise, wise woman?
She thought of two poems that she had read in " Hart's Glass-Book ", an old, old book of her father's, one of them ran:
'He either fears his fate too much
Or his deserts are small, Who dares not put it to the touch For fear of losing all.'
The other was an odd mixture of shrewdness and cowardice:
'He who fights and runs away
Shall live to fight another day But he who is in battle slain Has fallen ne'er to rise again.'
Were her deserts small or should she run away and come back to fight another day when she was older, more experienced? More experienced! How was she to get that experience? Already she was infinitely wiser, she would, if occasion required it, exercise infinitely more wariness than she had yesterday with Roger. Yet it was precisely because of that experience that she would know how to meet, would even know when to expect similar conditions.
She thought that she knew which verse she would follow if she were Jinny, but, back once more in the assurance of her own rooms, she knew that she did not want to be Jinny, that she and Jinny were two vastly different persons. " But," she said to herself, " if Jinny were as fair as I and yet herself and placed in the same conditions as those in which I am placed her colour would save her. It's a safeguard for Jinny; it's always been a curse for me."
Roger had come for her in the blue car. There were a hamper and two folding chairs and a rug stored away in it. It was a gorgeous day. " If we can," he said, " we'll picnic." He was extremely handsome and extremely nervous. Angela was nervous too, though she did not show it except in the loss of her colour. She was rather plain to-day; to be so near the completion of her goal and yet to have to wait these last few agonizing moments, perhaps hours, was deadly. They were rather silent for a while, Roger intent on his driving. Traffic in New York is a desperate strain at all hours, at eleven in the morning it is deadly; the huge leviathan of a city is breaking into the last of its stride. For a few hours it will proceed at a measured though never leisurely pace and then burst again into the mad rush of the home ward bound.
But at last they were out of the city limits and could talk. For the first time since she had known him he began to speak of his possessions. " Anything, anything that money can buy, Angele, I can get and I can give." His voice was charged with intention. They were going in the direction of Forest Hills ; he had a cottage out there, perhaps she would like to see it. And there was a grove not far away. " We'll picnic there," he said, "and talk." He certainly was nervous, Angela thought, and liked him the better for it.
The cottage or rather the house in Forest Hills was beautiful, absolutely a gem. And it was completely furnished with taste and marked daintiness. " What do you keep it furnished for? " asked Angela wondering. Roger murmured that it had been empty for a long time but he had seen this equipment and it had struck him that it was just the thing for this house so he had bought it; thereby insensibly reminding his companion again that he could afford to gratify any whim. They drove away from the exquisite little place in silence. Angela was inclined to be amused; surely no one could have asked for a better opening than that afforded by the house. What would make him talk, she wondered, and what, oh what would he say? Something far, far more romantic than poor Matthew Henson could ever have dreamed of, yes and far, far less romantic, something subconscious prompted her, than Anthony Gross had said. Anthony with his poverty and honour and desperate vows !
They had reached the grove, they had spread the rug and a tablecloth; Roger had covered it with dainties. He would not let her lift a finger, she was the guest and he her humble servant. She looked at him smiling, still forming vague contrasts with him and Matthew and Anthony.
Roger dropped his sandwich, came and sat behind her. He put his arm around her and shifted his shoulder so that her head lay against it.
" Don't look at me that way Angele, Angele ! I can't stand it."
So it was actually coming. " How do you want me to look at you? "
He bent his head down to hers and kissed her. " Like this, like this ! Oh Angele, did you like the house? "
" Like it? I loved it."
" Darling, I had it done for you, you know. I thought you'd like it. "
It seemed a strange thing to have done without consulting her, and anyway she did not want to live in a suburb. Opal Street had been suburb enough for her. She wanted, required, the noise and tumult of cities.
" I don't care for suburbs, Roger." How strange for him to talk about a place to live in and never a word of love !
" My dear girl, you don't have to live in a suburb if you don't want to. I've got a place, an apartment in Seventy-second Street, seven rooms; that would be enough for you and your maid, wouldn't it? I could have this furniture moved over there, or if you think it too cottagey, you could have new stuff altogether."
Seven rooms for three people ! Why she wanted a drawing-room and a studio and where would he put his things? This sudden stinginess was quite inexplicable.
" But Roger, seven rooms wouldn't be big enough."
He laughed indulgently, his face radiant with relief and triumph. " So she wants a palace, does she? Well, she shall have it. A whole menage if you want it, a place on Riverside Drive, servants and a car. Only somehow I hadn't thought of you as caring about that kind of thing. After that little hole in the wall you've been living in on Jayne Street I'd have expected you to find the place in Seventy-second Street as large as you'd care for."
A little hurt, she replied: "But I was think ing of you too. There wouldn't be room for your things. And I thought you'd want to go on living in the style you'd been used to." A sudden wel come explanation dawned on her rising fear. " Are you keeping this a secret from your father? Is that what's the trouble? "
Under his thin, bright skin he flushed. " Keeping what a secret from my father? What are you talking about, Angele? "
She countered with his own question. " What are you talking about, Roger? "
He tightened his arms about her, his voice stammered, his eyes were bright and watchful. " I'm asking you to live in my house, to live for me; to be my girl ; to keep a love-nest where I and only I may come." He smiled shamefacedly over the cheap current phrase.
She pushed him away from her; her jaw fallen and slack but her figure taut. Yet under her stunned bewilderment her mind was racing. So this was her castle, her fortress of protection, her refuge. And what answer should she make? Should she strike him across his eager, half-shamed face, should she get up and walk away, forbidding him to follow? Or should she stay and hear it out? Stay and find out what this man was really like; what depths were in him and, she supposed, in other men. But especially in this man with his boyish, gallant air and his face as guileless and as innocent apparently as her own.
That was what she hated in herself, she told that self fiercely , shut up with her own thoughts the next afternoon in her room. She hated herself for stay ing and listening. It had given him courage to talk and talk. But what she most hated had been the shrewdness, the practicality which lay beneath that resolve to hear it out. She had thought of those bills ; she had thought of her poverty, of her helplessness, and she had thought too of Martha Burden's dictum: "You must make him want you." Well here was a way to make him want her and to turn that wanting to account. " Don't," Martha said, " withhold too much. Give a little." Suppose she gave him just the encouragement of listening to him, of showing him that she did like him a little; while he meanwhile went on wanting, wanting men paid a big price for their desires. Her price would be marriage. It was a game, she knew, which women played all over the world although it had never occurred to her to play it; a dangerous game at which some women burned their fingers. " Don't give too much," said Martha, " for then you lose yourself." Well, she would give nothing and she would not burn her fingers. Oh, it would be a great game.
Another element entered too. He had wounded her pride and he should salve it. And the only unguent possible would be a proposal of marriage. Oh if only she could be a girl in a book and when he finally did ask her for her hand, she would be able to tell him that she was going to marry some one else, someone twice as eligible, twice as hand some, twice as wealthy.
Through all these racing thoughts penetrated the sound of Roger's voice, pleading, persuasive, seductive. She was amazed to find a certain shamefaced timidity creeping over her;, yet it was he who should have shown the shame. And she could not understand either why she was unable to say plainly: " You say you care for me, long for me so much, why don't you ask me to come to you in the ordinary way? " But some pride either unusually false or unusually fierce prevented her from doing this. Undoubtedly Roger with his wealth, his looks and his family connections had already been much sought after. He knew he was an " eligible ". Poor, unknown, stigmatized, if he but knew it, as a member of the country's least recognized group she could not bring her self to belong even in appearance to that band of young women who so obviously seek a " good match ".
When he had paused a moment for breath she told him sadly: " But, Roger, people don't do that kind of thing, not decent people."
" Angele, you are such a child ! This is exactly the kind of thing people do do. And why not? Why must the world be let in on the relationships of men and women? Some of the sweetest unions in history have been of this kind."
" For others perhaps, but not for me. Relation ships of the kind you describe don't exist among the people I know." She was thinking of her parents, of the Hallowells, of the Hensons whose lives were indeed like open books.
He looked at her curiously, " The people you know! Don't tell me you haven't guessed about Paulette!"
She had forgotten about Paulette ! " Yes I know about her. She told me herself. I like her, she's been a mighty fine friend, but, Roger, you surely don't want me to be like her."
" Of course I don't. It was precisely because you weren't like her that I became interested. You were such a babe in the woods. Anyone could see you'd had no experience with men."
This obvious lack of logic was too bewildering. She looked at him like the child which, in these matters, she really was. " But, but Roger, mightn't that be a beginning of a life like Paul- ette's? What would become of me after we, you and I, had separated? Very often these things last only for a short time, don't they? "
" Not necessarily; certainly not between you and me. And I'd always take care of you, you'd be provided for." He could feel her gathering resentment. In desperation he played a cunning last card: "And besides who knows, something permanent may grow out of this. I'm not entirely my own master, Angele."
Undoubtedly he was referring to his father whom he could not afford to offend. It never occurred to her that he might be lying, for why should he?
To all his arguments, all his half-promises and implications she returned a steady negative. As twilight came on she expressed a desire to go home ; with the sunset her strength failed her; she felt beaten and weary. Her unsettled future, her hurt pride, her sudden set-to with the realities of the society in which she had been moving, bewildered and frightened her. Resentful, puzzled, introspective, she had no further words for Roger; it was impossible for him to persuade her to agree or to disagree with his arguments. During the long ride home she was resolutely mute.
Yet on the instant of entering Jayne Street she felt she could not endure spending the long evening hours by herself and she did not want to be alone with Roger. She communicated this distaste to him. While not dishevelled they were not presentable enough to invade the hotels farther uptown. But, anxious to please her, he told her they could go easily enough to one of the small cabarets in the Village. A few turns and windings and they were before a house in a dark side street knocking on its absurdly barred door, entering its black, mysterious portals. In a room with a highly polished floor, a few tables and chairs, some rather bizarre curtains, five or six couples were sitting, among them Paulette, Jack Hudson, a tall, rather big, extremely blonde girl whose name Angela learned was Garlotta Parks, and a slender, black- vised man whose name she failed to catch. Paulette hailed him uproariously; the blonde girl rose and precipitately threw her arms about Fielding's neck.
" Don't," he said rather crossly. " Hello, Jack." He nodded to the dark man whom he seemed to know indifferently well. " What have they got to eat here, you fellows? Miss Mory and I are tired and hungry. We've been following the pike all day." Miss Parks turned and gave Angela a long, considering look.
" Sit here," said Paulette, " there's plenty of room. Jack, you order for them, the same things we've been having. You get good cooking here." She was radiant with happiness and content. Under the influence of the good, stimulating food Angela began to recover, to look around her.
Jack Hudson, a powerfully built bronze figure of a man, beamed on Paulette, saying nothing and in his silence saying everything. The dark man kept his eyes on Carlotta, who was oblivious to everyone but Roger, clearly her friend of long standing. She sat clasping one of his hands, her head almost upon his shoulder. " Roger it's so good to see you again ! I've thought of you so often ! I've been meaning to write to you ; we're having a big house party this summer. You must come ! Dad's asking up half of Washington ; attaches, Prinzessen, Countesen and serene English Altessen'; he'll come up for week-ends."
A member of the haut monde, evidently she was well-connected, powerful, even rich. A girl of Roger's own set amusing herself in this curious company. Angela felt her heart contract with a sort of helpless jealousy.
The dark man, despairing of recapturing Carlotta's attention, suddenly asked Angele if she would care to dance. He was a superb partner and for a moment or two, reinvigorated by the food and the snappy musk, she became absorbed in the smooth, gliding motion and in her partner's pleasant conversation. Glancing over her shoulder she noted Carlotta still talking to Roger. The latter, however, was plainly paying the girl no attention. His eyes fixed on Angela, he was moodily following her every motion, almost straining, she thought, to catch her words. His eyes met hers and a long, long look passed between them so fraught, it seemed to her, with a secret understanding and sympathy, that her heart shook with a moment's secret wavering.
Her partner escorted her back to the table. Paulette, flushed and radiant, with the mien of a dishevelled baby, was holding forth while Hudson listened delightedly. As a raconteuse she had a faint, delicious malice which usually made any recital of her adventures absolutely irresistible. " Her name," she was saying loudly, regardless of possible listeners, " was Antoinette Spewer, and it seems she had it in for me from the very first. She told Sloane Corby she wanted to meet me and he invited both of us to lunch. When we got to the restaurant she was waiting for me in the lobby ; Sloane introduced us and she pulled a lorgnette on me, a lorgnette on me " She said it very much as a Westerner might speak of someone " pulling " a revolver. " But I fixed that. There were three or four people passing near us. I drew back until they were well within hearing range, and then I said to her: ' I beg pardon but what did you say your last name was? ' Well, when a person's named Spewer she can't shout it across a hotel lobby ! Oh, she came climbing down off her high horse; she respects me to this day, I tell you."
Roger rose. " We must be going; I can't let Miss Mory get too tired." He was all attention and courtesy. Miss Parks looked at her again, narrowing her eyes.
In the car Roger put his arm about her. " Angele, when you were dancing with that fellow I couldn't stand it ! And then you looked at me, oh such a look! You were thinking about me, I felt it, I knew it."
Some treacherous barrier gave way within her. " Yes, and I could tell you were thinking about me."
" Of course you could ! And without a word ! Oh, darling, darling, can't you see that's the way it would be? If you'd only take happiness with me there we would be with a secret bond, an invisible bond, existing for us alone and no one else in the world the wiser. But we should know and it would be all the sweeter for that secrecy."
Unwittingly he struck a responsive chord within her, stolen waters were the sweetest, she of all people knew that.
Aloud she said: " Here we are, Roger. Some of the day has been wonderful; thank you for that."
" You can't go like this ! You're going to let me see you again? "
She knew she should have refused him, but again some treacherous impulse made her assent. He drove away, and, turning, she climbed the long, steep flights of stairs, bemused, thrilled, frightened, curious, the sense of adventure strong upon her. Tomorrow she would see Jinny, her own sister, her own flesh and blood, one of her own people. Together they would thresh this thing out.
A Curious period of duelling ensued. Roger was young, rich and idle. Nearly every wish he had ever known had been born within him only to be satisfied. He could not believe that he would fail in the pursuit of this baffling creature who had awakened within him an ardour and sincerity of feeling which surprised himself. The thought occurred to him more than once that it would have been a fine thing if this girl had been endowed with the name and standing and comparative wealth of say Carlotta Parks, but it never occurred to him to thwart in this matter the wishes of his father who would, he knew, insist immediately on a certified account of the pedigree, training and general fitness of any strange aspirant for his son's hand. Angela had had the good sense to be frank ; she did not want to become enmeshed in a tissue of lies whose relationship, whose sequence and inter dependence she would be likely to forget. To Roger's few questions she had said quite truly that she was the daughter of " poor but proud parents " ; they had laughed at the hackneyed phrase, that her father had been a boss carpenter and that she had been educated in the ordinary public schools and for a time had been a school teacher. No one would ever try to substantiate these statements, for clearly the person to whom they applied would not be falsifying such a simple account. There would be no point in so doing. Her little deceits had all been negative, she had merely neglected to say that she had a brown sister and that her father had been black.
Roger found her unfathomable. His was the careless, unreasoned cynicism of the modern worldly young man. He had truly, as he acknowledged, been attracted to Angela because of a certain incurious innocence of hers apparent in her observations and in her manner. He saw no reason why he should cherish that innocence. If questioned he would have answered : " She's got to learn about the world in which she lives some time; she might just as well learn of it through me. And I'd always look out for her." In the back of his mind, for all his unassuming even simple attitude toward his wealth and power, lurked the conviction that that same wealth and power could heal any wound, atone for any loss. Still there were times when even he experienced a faint, inner qualm, when Angela would ask him: " But after wards, what would become of me, Roger? " It was the only question he could not meet. Out of all his hosts of precedents from historical Antony and Cleopatra down to notorious affinities discovered through blatant newspaper " stories " he could find for this only a stammered " There's no need to worry about an afterwards, Angele, for you and I would always be friends."
Their frequent meetings now were little more than a trial of strength. Young will and deter mination were pitted against young will and determination. On both the excitement of the chase was strong, but each was pursuing a different quarry. To all his protestations, arguments and demands, Angela returned an insistent: " What you are asking is impossible." Yet she either could not or would not drive him away, and gradually, though she had no intention of yielding to his wishes, her first attitude of shocked horror began to change.
For three months the conflict persisted. Roger interposed the discussion into every talk, on every occasion. Gradually it came to be the raison d'etre of their constant comradeship. His argu ments were varied and specious. " My dearest girl, think of a friendship in which two people would have every claim in the world upon each other and yet no claim. Think of giving all, not because you say to a minister ' I will ', but from the generosity of a powerful affection. That is the very essence of free love. I give you my word that the happiest couples in the world are those who love without visible bonds. Such people are bound by the most durable ties. Theirs is a state of the closest because the freest, most elastic union in the world."
A singularly sweet and curious intimacy was growing up between them. Roger told Angela many anecdotes about his father and about his dead mother, whom he still loved, and for whom he even grieved in a pathetically boyish way. " She was so sweet to me, she loved me so. I'll never forget her. It's for her sake that I try to please my father, though Dad's some pumpkins on his own account." In turn she was falling into the habit of relating to him the little happenings of her every-day life, a life which she was beginning to realize must, in his eyes, mean the last word in the humdrum and the monotonous. And yet how full of adventure, of promise, even of mystery did it seem compared with Jinny's !
Roger had much intimate knowledge of people and told her many and dangerous secrets. " See how I trust you, Angele; you might trust me a little ! "
If his stories were true, certainly she might just as well trust him a great deal, for all her little world, judging it by the standards by which she was used to measuring people, was tumbling in ruins at her feet. If this were the way people lived then what availed any ideals? The world was made to take pleasure in; one gained nothing by exercising simple virtue, it was after all an extension of the old formula which she had thought out for herself many years ago. Roger spent most of his time with her, it seemed. Anything which she undertook to do delighted him. She would accept no money, no valuable presents. " And I can't keep going out with you to dinners and luncheons forever, Roger. It would be different if, if we really meant anything to each other." He deliberately misunderstood her. " But nothing would give me more pleasure than for us to mean the world to one another." He sent her large hampers of fruit and even the more ordinary edibles; then he would tease her about being selfish. In order to get rid of the food she had asked him to lunch, to dinner, since nothing that she could say would make him desist from sending it.
Nothing gave her greater joy really than this playful housekeeping. She was very lonely; Jinny had her own happy interests; Anthony never came near her nor did she invite him to come; Martha Burden seemed engrossed in her own affairs, she was undergoing some secret strain that made her appear more remote, more strongly self-sufficient, more mysterious than ever. Paulette, making overt preparations to go to Russia with Hudson, was impossibly, hurtingly happy. Miss Powell, but she could not get near her; the young coloured girl showed her the finest kind of courtesy, but it had about it a remote and frozen quality, unbreakable. However, Angela for the moment did not desire to break it; she must run no more risks with Roger, still she put Miss Powell on the list of those people whom she would some day aid, when everything had turned out all right.
The result of this feeling of loneliness was, of course, to turn her more closely to Roger. He paid her the subtle compliment of appearing absolutely at home in her little apartment; he grew to like her plain, good cooking and the experiments which sometimes she made frankly for him. And afterwards as the fall closed in there were long, pleasant evenings before an open fire, or two or three last hours after a brisk spin in the park in the blue car. And gradually she had grown to accept and even inwardly to welcome his caresses. She perched with an air of great unconsciousness on the arm of the big chair in which he was sitting but the transition became constantly easier from the arm of the chair to his knee, to the steely embrace of his arm, to the sound of the hard beat ing of his heart, to his murmured: " This is where you belong, Angele, Angele." He seemed an anchor for her frail, insecure bark of life.
It was at moments like these that he told her amazing things about their few common acquaint ances. There was not much to say about Paulette. " I think," said Roger judicially, " that tempera mentally she is a romantic adventurer. Something in her is constantly seeking a change but she will never be satisfied. She's a good sport, she takes as she gives, asking nothing permanent and promising nothing permanent." Angela thought it rather sad. But Roger dismissed the theme with the rather airy comment that there were women as there were men " like that ". She wondered if he might not be a trifle callous.
More than once they had spoken of Martha Burden; Angela confessed herself tremendously intrigued by the latter, by that tense, brooding personality. She learned that Martha, made of the stuff which dies for causes, was constantly being torn between theory and practice.
" She's full," said Roger, " of the most high- falutin, advanced ideas. Oh I've known old Martha all my life, we were brought up together, it's through her really that I began to know the people in this part of town. She's always been a sort of sister. More than once I've had to yank her by the shoulders out of difficulties which she herself created. I made her marry Starr."
" Made her marry him, didn't she want him? "
" Yes, she wanted him all right, but she doesn't believe in marriage. She's got the courage of her convictions, that girl. Why actually she lived with Starr two years while I was away doing Europe. When I came back and found out what had happened I told Starr I'd beat him into pulp if he didn't turn around and make good."
" But why the violence? Didn't he want to? "
" Yes, only," he remembered suddenly his own hopes, " not every man is capable of appreciating a woman who breaks through the conventions for him. Some men mistake it for cheapness but others see it for what it is and love more deeply and gratefully." Softly, lingeringly he touched the soft hair shadowing her averted cheek. " I'm one of those others, Angele."
She wanted to say: "But why shouldn't we marry? Why not make me safe as well as Martha? " But again her pride intervened. Instead she remarked that Martha did not seem always happy.
" No, well that's because she's got this fool idea of hers that now that they are bound the spontaneity is lacking. She wants to give without being obliged to give; to take because she chooses and not because she's supposed to. Oh she's as true as steel and the best fighter in a cause, but I've no doubt but that she leads old Starr a life with her temperament."
Angela thought that there were probably two sides to this possibility. A little breathlessly she asked Roger if he knew Anthony Cross.
"Cross, Cross! A sallow, rather thin fellow? I think I saw him once or twice at Paulette's. No, I don't really know him. A sullen, brooding sort of chap I should say. Frightfully self- absorbed and all that."
For some reason a little resentment sprang up in her. Anthony might brood, but his life had been lived on dark, troublesome lines that invited brooding; he had never known the broad, golden highway of Roger's existence. And any way she did not believe, if Martha Burden had been Anthony's lifelong friend, almost his sister, that he would have told his sweetheart or his wife either of those difficult passages in her life. Well, she would have to teach Roger many things. Aloud she spoke of Garlotta Parks.
" She's an interesting type. Tell me about her."
But Roger said rather shortly that there was nothing to tell. "Just a good-hearted, high- spirited kid, that's all, who lets the whole world know her feelings."
According to Paulette there was more than|this to be told about Miss Parks. " i don't 'know her myself, not being a member of that crowd. But I've always heard that she and Roger were child hood sweethearts, only they've just not pulled it off. Carlotta's family is as old as his. Her people have always been statesmen, her father's in the Senate. I don't think they have much money now. But the main thing is she pleases old man Fielding. Nothing would give him more pleasure than to see Garlotta Roger's wife. I may be mistaken, but I think nothing would give Carlotta more pleasure either."
" Doesn't he care for her? " Queer how her heart tightened, listening for the answer.
" Yes, but she likes him too much and shows it. So he thinks he doesn't want her. Roger will never want any woman who comes at his first call. Don't you hate that sort of man? They are really the easiest to catch; all you've got to do provided they're attracted at all, is to give one inviting glance and then keep steadily retreating. And they'll come like Bo Peep's sheep. But I don't want a man like that; he'd cramp my style. His impudence, expecting a woman to re press or evoke her emotions just as he wants them ! Hasn't a woman as much right to feel as a man and to feel first? Never mind, some woman is going to ' get ' Roger yet. He doesn't think it possible because he has wealth and position. He'll be glad to come running to Carlotta then. I don't care very much for her, she's a little too loud for me," objected the demure and conservative Miss Lister, " but I do think she likes Roger for himself and not for what he can give her ! "
Undoubtedly this bit of knowledge lent a new aspect; the adventure began to take on fresh interest. Everything seemed to be playing into her hands. Roger's interest and longing were certainly undiminished. Martha Burden's advice, confirmed by Paulette's disclosure, was bound to bring results. She had only to " keep retreating ".
But there was one enemy with whom she had never thought to reckon, she had never counted on the treachery of the forces of nature ; she had never dreamed of the unaccountable weakening of those forces within. Her weapons were those furnished by the conventions but her fight was against conditions; impulses, yearnings which antedated both those weapons and the conventions, which furnished them. Insensibly she began to see in Roger something more than a golden way out of her material difficulties; he was becoming more than a means through which she should be ad mitted to the elect of the world for whom all things are made. Before her eyes he was changing to the one individual who was kindest, most thoughtful of her, the one whose presence brought warmth and assurance. Furthermore, his constant attention, flatteries and caresses were producing their inevitable e fleet. She was naturally cold; unlike Paulette, she was a woman who would experience the grand passion only once, perhaps twice, in her life and she would always have to be kindled from without; in the last analysis her purity was a matter not of morals, nor of religion, nor of racial pride ; it was a matter of fastidiousness. Bit by bit Roger had forced his way closer and closer into the affairs of her life, and his proximity had not offended that fastidiousness. Gradually his demands seemed to her to represent a very natural and beautiful impulse; his arguments and illustrations began to bear fruit; the conventions instead of showing in her eyes as the codified wisdom based on the experiences of countless generations of men and women, seemed to her prudish and unnecessary. Finally her attitude reduced itself to this: she would have none of the relationship which Roger urged so insistently, not because according to all the training which she had ever received, it was unlawful, but because viewed in the light of the great battle which she was waging for pleasure, protection and power, it was inexpedient.
The summer and the early fall had passed. A cold, rainy autumn was closing in; the disagree able weather made motoring almost impossible, There were always the theatres and the cabarets, but Roger professed himself as happy nowhere else but at her fireside. And she loved to have him there, tall and strong and beautiful, sometimes radiant with hope, at others sulking with the assurance of defeat. He came in one day ostensibly to have tea with her; he had an important engagement for the evening but he could not let the day pass without seeing her. Angela was tired and a little dispirited. Jinny had sold the house and had sent her twelve hundred dollars as her share, but the original three thousand was almost dissipated. She must not touch this new gift from heaven; her goal was no nearer; the unwelcome possibility of teaching, on the contrary, was constantly before her. Moreover, she was at last realising the danger of this constant proximity, she was appalled by her thoughts and longings. Upon her a great fear was creeping not only of Roger but of herself.
Always watchful, he quickly divined her dis trait mood, resolved to try its possibilities for himself. In a tense silence they drank their tea and sat gazing at the leaping, golden flames. The sullen night closed in. Angela reminded him presently that he must go but on he sat and on. At eight o'clock she reminded him again; he took out his watch and looked at it indifferently. " It's too late for me to keep it now, besides I don't want to go. Angele be kind, don't send me away."
" But you've had no dinner."
" Nor you either. I'm like the beasts of the field keeping you like this. Shall we go out some where? " But she was languid; she did not want to stir from the warm hearth out into the chilly night.
" No, I don't want to go. But you go, Roger. I can find something here in the house for myself, but there's not a thing for you. I hate to be so inhospitable."
" Tell you what, suppose I go around to one of these delicatessens and get something. Too tired to fix up a picnic lunch? "
In half an hour he returned, soaked. " It's raining in torrents! Why I never saw such a night!" He shook himself, spattering rain-drops all over the tiny apartment.
" Roger ! You'll have to take off your coat ! "
He sat in his shirt-sleeves before the fire, his hair curling and damp, his head on his hand. He looked so like a little boy that her heart shook within her. Turning he caught the expression in her eyes, sprang towards her. " Angele you know, you know you like me a little ! "
" I like you a very great deal." He put his arm about her, kissed her; her very bones turned to water. She freed herself, finding an excuse to go into the kitchenette. But he came and stood towering over her in the doorway, his eyes on her every motion. They ate the meal, a good one, almost as silently as they had drunk the tea; a terrible awareness of each other's presence was upon them, the air was charged with passion. Outside the rain and wind beat and screamed.
" It's a terrible night," she said, but he made no reply. She said again, " Roger, it's getting late ?
you must go home." Very reluctantly then, his eyes still on hers, he rose to his feet, got into his overcoat and, hat in hand, stooped to kiss her good-night. His arm stole about her, holding her close against him. She could feel him trembling, she was trembling herself. Another second and the door had closed behind him.
Alone, she sat looking at the fire and thinking: " This is awful. I don't believe anything is going to come of this. I believe I'll send him a note to-morrow and tell him not to come any more."
Someone tapped on the door; astonished that a caller should appear at such an hour, but not afraid, she opened it. It was Roger. He came striding into the room, flinging off his wet coat, and yet almost simultaneously catching her up in his arms. " It's such a terrible night, Angele; you can't send me out in it. Why should I go when the fire is here and you, so warm and soft and sweet ! "
All her strength left her; she could not even struggle, could not speak. He swept her up in his arms, cradling her in them like a baby with her face beneath his own. " You know that we were meant for each other, that we belong to each other!"
A terrible lassitude enveloped her out of which she heard herself panting: " Roger, Roger let me go! Oh, Roger, must it be like this? Can't it be any other way? "
And from a great distance she heard his voice breaking, pleading, promising: " Everything will be all right, darling, darling. I swear it. Only trust me, trust me ! "
Life rushed by on a great, surging tide. She could not tell whether she was utterly happy or utterly miserable. All that she could do was to feel ; feel that she was Roger's totally. Her whole being turned toward him as a flower to the sun. Without him life meant nothing; with him it was everything. For the time being she was nothing but emotion ; he was amazed himself at the depth of feeling which he had aroused in her.
Now for the first time she felt possessive; she found herself deeply interested in Roger's welfare because, she thought, he was hers and she could not endure having a possession whose qualities were unknown. She was not curious about his money nor his business affairs but she thirsted to know how his time away from her was spent, whom he saw, what other places he frequented. Not that she begrudged him a moment away from her side, but she must be able to account for that moment.
Yet if she felt possessive of him her feeling also recognized his complete absorption of her, so com pletely, so exhaustively did his life seem to envelop hers. For a while his wishes, his pleasure were the end and aim of her existence ; she told herself with a slight tendency toward self-mockery that this was the explanation of being, of her being; that men had other aims, other uses but that the sole excuse for being a woman was to be just that, a woman. Forgotten were her ideals about her Art; her ambition to hold a salon; her desire to help other people ; even her intention of marrying in order to secure her future. Only something quite outside herself, something watchful, proud, remote from the passion and rapture which flamed within her, kept her free and independent. She would not accept money, she would not move to the apartment on Seventy-second Street; she still refused gifts so ornate that they were practically bribes. She made no explanations to Roger, but he knew and she knew too that her surrender was made out of the lavish fullness and generosity of her heart; there was no calculation back of it; if this were free love the freedom was the quality to be stressed rather than the emotion. Sometimes, in her inchoate, wordless intensity of feeling which she took for happiness, she paused to take stock of that other life, those other lives which once she had known; that life which had been hers when she had first come to New York before she had gone to Cooper Union, in those days when she had patrolled Fourteenth Street and had sauntered through Union Square. And that other life which she knew in Opal Street, aeons ago, almost in another existence. She passed easily over those first few months in New York because even then she had been approaching a threshold, getting ready to enter on a new, undreamed of phase of being. But sometimes at night she lay for hours thinking over her restless, yearning child hood, her fruitless days at the Academy, the abortive wooing of Matthew Henson. The Hensons, the Hallowells, Hetty Daniels, Jinny ! How far now she was beyond their pale! Before her rose the eager, starved face of Hetty Daniels ; now she herself was cognizant of phases of life for which Hetty longed but so contemned. Angela could imagine the envy back of the tone in which Hetty, had she but known it, would have expressed her disapproval of her former charge's manner of living. " Mattie Murray's girl, Angela, has gone straight to the bad ; she's living a life of sin with some man in New York." And then the final, blasting indictment. " He's a white man, too. Can you beat that? "
Roger's father, it appeared, had been greatly pleased with his son's management of the saw-mills in Georgia; as a result he was making more and more demands on his time. And the younger man half through pride, half through that steady determination never to offend his father, was always ready to do his bidding. Angela liked and appreciated her lover's filial attitude, but even in the period of her warmest interest she resented, secretly despised, this tendency to dependence. He was young, superbly trained; he had the gift of forming friendships whose strength rested on his own personality, yet he distrusted too much his own powers or else he was lazy Angela could never determine which. During this phase of their acquaintanceship she was never sure that she loved him, but she was positive that if at this time he had been willing to fling aside his obsequious deference to his father's money and had said to her: " Angele, if you'll help me, we'll build up a life, a fortune of our own," she would have adored him.
Her strong, independent nature, buffeted and sickened and strengthened by the constant attri tion of colour prejudice, was unable to visualise or to pardon the frame of mind which kept Roger from joining battle with life when the odds were already so overwhelmingly in his favour. Alone, possessed of a handicap which if guessed at would have been as disabling as a game leg or an atrophied body, she had dared enter the lists. And she was well on the way to winning a victory. It was to cost her, she was beginning to realize, more than she had anticipated. But having entered she was not one to draw back, unless indeed she changed her goal. Hers was a curious mixture of materialism and hedonism, and at this moment the latter quality was uppermost in her life. But she supposed that in some vague future she and Roger would marry. His ardour rendered her complacent.
But she was not conscious of any of these inner conflicts and criticisms; she was too happy. Now she was adopting a curious detachment toward life tempered by a faint cynicism, a detachment which enabled her to say to herself: " Rules are for ordinary people but not for me." She remem bered a verse from a poet, a coloured woman about whom she had often wondered. The lines ran:
"The strong demand, contend, prevail. The beggar is a fool!"
She would never be a beggar. She would ask no further counsel nor advice of anyone. She had been lucky thus far in seeking advice only from Paulette and Martha Burden, two people of markedly independent methods of thought and action. They had never held her back. Now she would no longer consult even them. She would live her life as an individualist, to suit herself without regard for the conventions and established ways of life. Her native fastidiousness, she was sure, would keep her from becoming an offence in her own eyes.
In spite of her increasing self-confidence and self-sufficiency Roger's frequent absences left her lonely. Almost then, without any conscious planning on her part, she began to work at her art with growing vigour and interest. She was gaining in assurance; her technique showed an increased mastery; above all she had gained in the power to compose, a certain sympathy, a breadth of comprehension, the manifestation of that ability to interpret which she had long suspected lay within her, lent themselves to her hand. Mr. Paget, the instructor, spoke of her paintings with increased respect; the attention of visitors was directed thereto. Martha Burden and even Paulette, in the intervals of her ecstatic preparations, admitted her to the freemasonry of their own assured standing. Anthony Cross reminded her of the possibilities for American students at Fontainebleau. But she only smiled wisely; she would have no need of such study, but she hoped with all her heart that Miss Powell would be the recipient of a prize which would enable her to attend there.
" If she isn't," she promised herself, " I'll make Roger give her her expenses. I'd be willing to take the money from him for that."
To her great surprise her other interest besides her painting lay in visiting Jinny. If anyone had asked her if she were satisfied with her own life, her reply would have been an instant affirmative. But she did not want such a life for her sister. For Virginia there must be no risks, no secrets, no irregularities. Her efforts to find out how her sister spent her free hours amazed herself; their fruitlessness filled her with a constant irritation which Virginia showed no inclination to allay. The younger girl had passed her examination and had been appointed; she was a successful and enthusiastic teacher; this much Angela knew, but beyond this nothing. She gathered that Virginia spent a good deal of time with a happy, intelligent, rather independent group of young coloured men and women; there was talk occasionally of the theatre, of a dance, of small clubs, of hikes, of classes at Columbia or at New York City College. Angela even met a gay, laughing party, consisting of Virginia and her friends en route to Brooklyn, she had been later informed briefly. The girls were bright birds of paradise, the men, her artist's eye noted, were gay, vital fauns. In the subway beside the laughing, happy groups, white faces showed pale and bloodless, other coloured faces loomed dull and hopeless. Angela began tardily to recognize that her sister had made her way into that curious, limited, yet shifting class of the "best" coloured people; the old Philadelphia phrase came drifting back to her, " people that you know." She was amazed at some of the names which Virginia let drop from her lips in her infrequent and laconic descriptions of certain evenings which she had spent in the home of Van Meier, a great coloured American, a litterateur, a fearless and dauntless apostle of the rights of man ; his name was known, Martha Burden had assured her, on both sides of the water.
Such information she picked up as best she might for Virginia vouchsafed nothing; nor did she, on the infrequent occasions on which she ran across her sister, even appear to know her. This, Angela pointed out, was silly. " You might just as well speak," she told Jinny petulantly, remembering uncomfortably the occasion when she herself had cut her sister, an absolute stranger in New York. " Plenty of white and coloured people are getting to know each other and they always acknowledge the acquaintanceship. Why shouldn't we? No harm could come of it." But in Virginia's cool opinion no good could come of it either. Usually the younger girl preserved a discreet silence; whatever resolves she might have made with regard to the rupture between herself and her sister, she was certainly able to keep her own counsel. It was impossible to glean from her per fect, slightly distrait manner any glimpse of her inner life and her intentions. Frequently she showed an intense preoccupation from which she awakened to let fall a remark which revealed to Angela a young girl's normal reactions to the life about her, pleasant, uneventful and tinged with a cool, serene happiness totally different from the hot, heady, turgid rapture which at present was Angela's life.
The Jewish girl, Rachel Salting, who lived on the floor above, took to calling on Angela. " We're young and here by ourselves," she said smiling, " it's stupid for us not to get acquainted, don't you think so? " Hers was a charming smile and a charming manner. Indeed she was a very pretty girl, Angela thought critically. Her skin was very, very pale, almost pearly, her hair jet black and curling, her eyes large and almond- shaped. Her figure was straight and slender but bore none the less some faint hint of an exotic voluptuousness. Her interests, she informed her new friend, were all with the stage, her ideal being Raquel Meller.
Angela welcomed her friendliness. A strange apathy, an unusual experience for her, had in vaded her being; her painting claimed, it is true, a great deal of time and concentration; her hours with Virginia, while not always satisfactory, were at least absorbing; but for the first time in her knowledge, her whole life was hanging on the words, the moods, the actions of someone else Roger. Without him she was quite lost; not only was she unable to order her days without him in mind, she was even unable to go in quest of new adventures in living as was once her wont. Consequently she received with outstretched arms anything beyond the ordinary which might break the threatening monotony of her life.
Rachel Salting was like a fresh breeze, a curious mixture of Jewish conservatism and modernity. Hers was a keen, clear mind, well trained in the New York schools and colleges with many branching interests. She spoke of psychiatry, housing problems, Zionism, child welfare, with a knowledge and zest which astounded Angela, whose training had been rather superficial and who had begun to adopt Paulette's cleverness and Martha Burden's slightly professional, didactic attitude toward things in general as norms for herself. Rachel, except when dwelling on the Jewish problem, seemed to have no particular views to set forth. Her discussions, based on her wide reading, were purely academic, she had no desire to proselyte, she was no reformer. She was merely a " nice ", rather jolly, healthy young woman, an onlooker at life which she had to get through with and which she was finding for the moment at any rate, extremely pleasant.
She was very happy; happy like Virginia with a happiness vastly different from what Angela was calling by that name; a breathless, constant, smiling happiness, palpable, transparent, for all the world to see. Within a few weeks after their acquaintanceship had started, Rachel with smiles and blushes revealed her great secret. She was going to be married.
" To the very best man in the world, Angele."
"Yes, I'm sure of it."
" He's very good-looking, tall, "
" As though I didn't know that."
" How could you know? "
" Darling child, haven't I seen him, at least the outline of him, often enough in the hall when I'd come in and turn on that wretched light ? I didn't think you'd ever forgive me for it. It did seem as though I were doing it on purpose."
" Oh, I knew you weren't. Then you have seen him? "
" Yes, he's tall and blond. Quite a nice foil for your darkness. See, I'm always the artist."
"Yes," Rachel said slowly, "he is blond."
Angela thought she detected a faint undertone of worry in her hitherto triumphant voice but decided that that was unlikely.
But Rachel confirmed this impression by her next words: " If only everything will turn out all right."
Angela's rather material mind prompted her to ask: " What's the matter, is he very poor? "
Rachel stared. " Poor? As though that mattered. Yes, he's poor, but I don't care about that."
" Well, if you don't care about that, what's the trouble then ? He's free, white and twenty-one, isn't he? "
" Yes, yes, it's only oh you wouldn't understand, you lucky girl ! It's nothing you'd ever have to bother about. You see we've got to get our parents' consent first. We haven't spoken of it yet. When we do, I'm afraid there'll be a row."
Some ritual inherent in her racial connections, Angela decided, and asked no further questions. Indeed, she had small chance, for Rachel, once launched, had begun to expound her gospel of marriage. It was an old, old story. Angela could have closed her eyes and imagined her own mother rhapsodizing over her future with Junius. They would be poor, very poor at first but only at first, and they would not mind poverty a bit. It would be fun together. There were little frame houses in the Bronx that rented comparatively cheap. Perhaps Angela knew of them.
Angela shuddering inwardly, acknowledged that she had seen them, dull brown, high-shouldered affairs, perched perilously on stoops. The rooms would be small, square, ugly,
Rachel would help her John in every way. They would economize. " I won't wash and iron, for that is heart-breaking work, and I want to keep myself dainty and pretty for him, so that when we do become better off he won't have to be ashamed of me. And all the time even in our hardest days I'll be trying my luck at play- writing." She spoke with the unquenchable ambition which was her racial dowry. "I'll be attending lectures and sitting up in the galleries of theatres where they have the most successful plays. And someday I'll land." Her fanciful imagination carried her years ahead. " On our First Night, Angela, you must be in our box and I'll have an ermine coat. Won't it be wonderful? But nothing will be more wonderful than those first few years when we'll be absolutely dependent on each other; I on what he makes, he on the way I run the home. That will be heaven."
Confidences such as these left Angela unmoved but considerably shaken. There must be something in the life of sacrifice, even drudgery which Rachel had depicted. Else why should so many otherwise sensible girls take the risk? But there, it was silly for her to dwell on such pictures and scenes. Such a life would never come to her. It was impossible to conceive of such a life with Roger. Yet there were times in her lonely room when she pondered long and deeply, drawing pictures. The time would be summer; she would be wearing a white dress, would be standing in the doorway of a house in the suburbs very, very near New York. There'd be the best possible dinner on the table. She did love to cook. And a tall, strong figure would be hurrying up the walk: " I had the best luck to-day, Angele, and I brought you a present." And presently after dinner she would take him upstairs to her little work-room and she'd draw aside the curtain and show him a portrait of a well-known society woman. " She's so pleased with it; and she's going to get me lots of orders, " Somehow she was absolutely sure that the fanciful figure was not Roger.
Her lover, back from a three weeks' trip to Chicago, dissipated that sureness. He was glad, overwhelmingly glad to be back and to see Angele. He came to her apartment directly from the train, not stopping even to report to his father. " I can see him tomorrow. Tonight is absolutely yours. What shall we do, Angele? We can go out to dinner and the theatre or run out to the Country Club or stay here. What do you say? "
" We'll have to stay here, Roger; I'll fix up a gorgeous dinner, better than anything you've had to eat in any of your old hotels. But directly after, I'll have to cut and run because I promised Martha Burden faithfully to go to a lecture with her tonight."
" I never knew you to be interested in a lecture before."
She was worried and showed it. " But this is a different sort of lecture. You know how crazy Martha is about race and social movements. Well, Van Meier is to speak to-night and Martha is determined that a lot of her friends shall hear him. I'm to go with her and Ladislas."
" What's to keep me from going? "
" Nothing, only he's coloured, you know."
" Well, I suppose it won't rub off. I've heard of him. They say he really has brains. I've never seen a nigger with any yet; so this bids fair to be interesting. And, anyway, you don't think I'm going to let my girl run off from me the very moment I come home, do you? Suppose I have Reynolds bring the big car here and we'll take Martha and Ladislas along and anyone else she chooses to bring."
The lecture was held in Harlem in East One Hundred and Thirty-fifth Street. The hall was packed, teeming with suppressed excitement and a certain surcharged atmosphere. Angela radiant, calmed with the nearness and devotion of Roger, looked about her with keen, observing eyes. And again she sensed that fullness, richness, even thick ness of life which she had felt on her first visit to Harlem. The stream of living ran almost molten ; little waves of feeling played out from groups within the audience and beat against her consciousness and against that of her friends, only the latter were without her secret powers of interpretation. The occasion was clearly one of moment. "I'd come any distance to hear Van Meier speak," said a thin-faced dark young man behind them. " He always has something to say and he doesn't talk down to you. To hear him is like reading a classic, clear and beautiful and true."
Angela, revelling in types and marshalling bits of information which she had got from Virginia, was able to divide the groups. There sat the most advanced coloured Americans, beautifully dressed, beautifully trained, whimsical, humorous, bitter, impatiently responsible, yet still responsible. In one section loomed the dark, eager faces of West Indians, the formation of their features so markedly different from that of the ordinary American as to give them a wild, slightly feral aspect. These had come not because they were disciples of Van Meier but because they were earnest seekers after truth. But unfortunately their earnestness was slightly married by a stubbornness and an un willingness to admit conviction. Three or four coloured Americans, tall, dark, sleek young men sat within earshot, speaking with a curious didactic precision. " They're quoting all the sociologists in the world," Ladislas Starr told his little group in astonishment.
Martha, with her usual thoroughness, knew all about them. They were the editors of a small magazine whose chief bid to fame lay in the articles which they directed monthly against Van Meier; articles written occasionally in a spirit of mean jealousy but usually in an effort to gain a sort of inverted glory by carrying that great name on its pages.
Here and there a sprinkling of white faces showed up plainly, startlingly distinct patterns against a back-ground of patient, softly stolid black faces; faces beaten and fashioned by life into a mold of steady, rock-like endurance, of unshakable, unconquered faith. Angela had seen such faces before in the churches in Philadelphia; they brought back old pictures to her mind.
" There he is ! " exclaimed Martha triumphantly. " That's Van Meier ! Isn't he wonderful? " Angela saw a man, bronze, not very tall but built with a beautiful symmetrical completeness, cross the plat form and sit in the tall, deep chair next to the table of the presiding officer. He sat with a curious immobility, gazing straight before him like a statue of an East Indian idol. And indeed there was about him some strange quality which made one think of the East; a completeness, a superb lack of self-consciousness, an odd, arresting beauty wrought by the perfection of his fine, straight nose and his broad, scholarly forehead. One look, however casual, gave the beholder the assurance that here indeed was a man, fearless, dauntless, the captain of his fate.
He began to speak on a clear, deep, bell-like note. Angela thought she had never heard its equal for beauty, for resonance, for culture. And ar- the young man had said, he did not talk down. His English was the carefully sifted language of the savant, his periods polished, almost poetical. He was noted on two continents for his sociological and economic contributions, but his subject was racial sacrifice. He urged the deliberate intro duction of beauty and pleasure into the difficult life of the American Negro. These objects should be theirs both as racial heritage and as compensation. Yet for a time, for a long time, there would have to be sacrifices, many sacrifices made for the good of the whole. " Our case is unique," the beautiful, cultured voice intoned; " those of us who have forged forward, who have gained the front ranks in money and training, will not, are not able as yet to go our separate ways apart from the unwashed, untutored herd. We must still look back and render service to our less fortunate, weaker brethren. And the first step toward making this a workable attitude is the acquisition not so much of a racial love as a racial pride. A pride that enables us to find our own beautiful and praiseworthy, an intense chauvinism that is content with its own types, that finds completeness within its own group; that loves its own as the French love their country, because it is their own. Such a pride can accomplish the impossible." He quoted: " It is not courage, no, nor hate That lets us do the things we do; It's pride that bids the heart be great, "
He sat down to a surge of applause that shook the building. Dark, drooping faces took on an expression of ecstatic uplift, it was as though they suddenly saw themselves, transformed by racial pride as princes in a strange land in temporary serfdom, princes whose children would know freedom.
Martha Burden and Ladislas went up to speak to him ; they were old friends. Angela, with Roger, visibly impressed, stood on one side and waited. Paulette and Hudson came pushing through the crowd, the former flushed and excited. Little groups of coloured people stood about, some deeply content with a sort of vicarious pride, some arguing; Angela caught sight of Virginia standing with three young men and two girls. They were for the most part gesticulating, lost in a great excitement. But Jinny seemed listless and aloof; her childish face looked thin and more forlornly young than ever. Anthony Cross and a tall man of undeniably Spanish type passed the little party and spoke to one of the men, received introductions. Presently Cross, swinging about, caught sight of Angela and Roger. He bowed hastily, flushing; caught his companion's arm and walked hurriedly from the hall, his head very straight, his slender figure always so upright, so lance y more erect than ever.
Presently Martha's party was all out on the side walk; Roger in fine spirits invited Paulette and Hudson to ride down town in his car. Paulette was bubbling over with excited admiration of Van Meier. " He isn't a man, he's a god," she proclaimed. " Did you ever see such a superb personality? He's not a magnificent coloured man, he's not ' just as good as a white man ' ; he is a man, just that; colour, race, conditions in his case are pure accidents, he over-rides them all with his ego. Made me feel like a worm too; I gave him my prettiest smile, grand white lady making up to an ' exceptional Negro ' and he simply didn't see me; took my hand, I did my best to make my grasp a clinging one and he passed me right along disengaging himself as cool as a cucumber and making room for a lady of colour." She finished reflectively, " I wonder what he would be like alone."
" None of your nonsense, Paulette," said Roger frowning.
Hudson smiled. " Paulette's a mighty attractive little piece, I'll admit, but I'd back Van Meier against her every time; she'd present no temptation to him; the man's not only a prophet and the son of a prophet; he's pride incarnate."
Roger said meditatively, " I wonder what proportion of white blood he has in his veins. Of course that's where he gets his ability."
" You make me tired," said Martha. " Of course he doesn't get it from his white blood; he gets it from all his bloods. It's the mixture that makes him what he is. Otherwise all white people would be gods. It's the mixture and the endurance which he has learned from being coloured in America and the determination to see life without bitterness, -- "
" Oh help, help," exclaimed Roger. " No more lectures to-night. Look, you're boring Angele to death."
" Nothing of the kind," said Angela, " on the contrary I never was more interested in my life." And reaching back she gave Martha's hand a hearty squeeze.
Sometimes as on that first day at the art class, the five of them, Miss Powell, Paulette, Gross, Martha and Angela met before hours. Miss Powell as always was silent she came solely for her work but the others enjoyed a little preliminary chat. A week or so after the Van Meier lecture all but Paulette were gathered thus on an afternoon when she too came rushing in, starry eyed, flushed, consumed with laughter.
" I've played the biggest joke on myself," she announced, " I've been to see Van Meier."
Martha was instant attention. " A joke on Van Meier? "
" No, on myself, I tell you."
It appeared that she had got Miss Powell to introduce her to one of the clerks in the great leader's office. Paulettte then with deliberate intention had asked the girl to lunch and afterwards had returned with her to the office expressing a desire to meet her employer. Van Meier had received her cordially enough but with the warning that he was very busy.
" So I told him that I wouldn't sit down, thinking of course he'd urge me to. But he just raised his eyebrows in the most quizzical way and said, 'Well'?"
" Of course I couldn't let matters rest like that so I sat down and began talking to him, nothing much you know, just telling him how wonderful he was and letting him see that I'd be glad to know him better. You should have seen him looking at me and not saying a word. Presently he reached out his hand and touched a bell and Miss Thing-um-bob came in, your friend, you know, Miss Powell. He looked at her and nodding toward me said: * Take her away '. I never felt such small potatoes in my life. I tell you he's a personage. Wasn't it great? "
Martha replied crossly that the whole thing seemed to her in dreadfully poor taste, while Miss Powell, after one incredulous stare at the first speaker, applied herself more sedulously to her work. Even Anthony, shocked out of his habitual moroseness pronounced the proceedings " a bit thick, Miss Lister ". Angela conscious of a swell ing pride, stowed the incident away as a tit-bit for Virginia.
Life had somehow come to a standstill ; gone was its quality of high adventure and yet with the sense of tameness came no compensating note of assurance, of permanence. Angela pondered much about this; with her usual instinct for clarity, for a complete understanding of her own emotional life, she took to probing her inner consciousness. The fault, she decided, was bound up in her relationship with Roger. At present in a certain sense she might be said to be living for him; at least his was the figure about which her life resolved, revolved. Yet she no longer had the old, heady desire to feel herself completely his, to claim him as completely hers, neither for his wealth nor for the sense of security which he could afford nor for himself. For some reason he had lost his charm for her, much, she suspected, in the same way in which girls in the position which was hers, often lost their charm for their lovers.
And this realization instead of bringing to her a sense of relief, brought a certain real if somewhat fantastic shame. If there was to be no permanence in the relationship, if laying aside the question of marriage, it was to lack the dignity, the graciousness of an affair of long standing, of sympathy, of mutual need, then indeed according to the code of her childhood, according to every code of every phase of her development, she had allowed herself to drift into an inexcusably vulgar predicament. Even when her material safety and security were at stake and she had dreamed vaguely of yielding to Roger's entreaties to ensure that safety and security, there might have been some excuse. Life, she considered, came before creed or code or convention. Or if she had loved and there had been no other way she might have argued for this as the supreme experience of her life. But she was no longer conscious of striving for marriage with Roger; and as for love she had known a feeling of gratitude, intense interest, even intense possessiveness for him but she did not believe she had ever known love.
But because of this mingling of shame and reproach she found herself consciously striving to keep their relations on the highest plane possible in the circumstances. She wished now not so much that she had never left Jinny and the security of their common home-life, as that the necessity for it had never arisen. Now suddenly she found herself lonely, she had been in New York nearly three years but not even yet had she struck down deep into the lode of genuine friendship. Paulette was kind and generous; she desired, she said, a close woman friend but Paulette was still the adventuress. She was as likely to change her voca tion and her place of dwelling as she was to change her lover. Martha Burden, at once more stable and more comprehending in the conduct of a friendship once she had elected for it, was, on the other hand, much more conservative in the expenditure of that friendliness; besides she was by her very nature as reserved as Paulette was expansive, and her native intenseness made it difficult for her to dwell very long on the needs of anyone whose problems did not centre around her own extremely fixed ideas and principles.
As for Anthony Cross, by some curious, utterly inexplicable revulsion of feeling, Angela could not bring herself to dwell long on the possibilities of a friendship with him. Somehow it seemed to her sacrilegious in her present condition to bring the memory of that far-off day in Van Gortlandt Park back to mind. As soon as his image arose she dismissed it, though there were moments when it was impossible for his vision to come before her without its instantly bringing to mind Rachel Salting's notions of love and self-sacrifice. Well, such dreams were not for her, she told herself im patiently. For her own soul's integrity she must make the most of this state in which she now found herself. Either she must effect through it a marriage whose excuse should be that of safety, assurance and a resulting usefulness; or she must resolve it by patience, steadfastness and affection into a very apotheosis of " free love." Of all possible affaires du coeur this must in semblance at any rate, be the ultimate desideratum, the finest flower of chivalry and devotion.
To this end she began then devoting herself again to the renewal of that sense of possessiveness in Roger and his affairs which had once been so spontaneous within her. But to this Roger presented unexpected barriers; he grew restive under such manifestations; he who had once fought so bitterly against her indifference resented with equal bitterness any showing of possessive interest. He wanted no claims upon him, he acknowledged none. Gradually his absences, which at first were due to the business interests of his father, occurred for other reasons or for none at all. Angela could not grasp this all at once; it was impossible for her to conceive that kindness should create indifference; in spite of confirmatory stories which she had heard, of books which she had read, she could not make herself believe that devotion might sometimes beget ingratitude, loss of appreciation. For if that were so then a successful relationship between the sexes must depend wholly on the marriage tie without reference to compatibility of taste, training or ideals. This she could scarcely credit. In some way she must be at fault.
No young wife in the first ardour of marriage could have striven more than she to please Roger. She sought by reading and outside questions to inform herself along the lines of Roger's training he was a mining engineer. His fondness for his father prompted her to numerous inquiries about the interest and pursuits of the older Fielding; she made suggestions for Roger's leisure hours. But no matter how disinterested her attitude and tone his response to all this was an increased sullenness, remoteness, wariness. Roger was experienced in the wiles of women; such interest could mean only one thing, marriage. Well, Angela might just as well learn that he had no thought, had never had any thought, of marrying her or any other woman so far removed from his father's ideas and requirements.
Still Angela, intent on her ideals, could not comprehend. Things were not going well between them; affairs of this kind were often short-lived, that had been one of her first objections to the arrangement, but she had not dreamed that one withdrew when the other had committed no overt offence. She was as charming, as attractive, as pretty as she had ever been and far, far more kind and thoughtful. She had not changed, how could it be possible that he should be different?
A week had gone by and he had not dropped in to see her. Loneliness settled over her like a pall, frightening her seriously because she was realizing that this time she was not missing Roger so much as that a person for whom she had let slip the ideals engendered by her mother's early teaching, a man for whom she had betrayed and estranged her sister, was passing out of her ken. She had rarely called him on the telephone but suddenly she started to do so. For three days the suave voice of his man, Reynolds, told her that Mr. Fielding was " out, m'm."
" But did you give him my message? Did you ask him to call me as soon as he came in? "
" Yes, m'm."
" And did he? "
" That I couldn't tell you, m'm."
She could not carry on such a conversation with a servant.
On the fifth day Roger appeared. She sprang toward him. " Oh Roger, I'm so glad to see you. Did Reynolds tell you I called? Why have you been so long coming? "
" I'd have been still longer if you hadn't stopped 'phoning. Now see here, Angele, this has got to stop. I can't have women calling me up all hours of the day, making me ridiculous in the eyes of my servants. I don't like it, it's got to stop. Do you understand me? "
Surprised, bewildered, she could only stammer: " But you call me whenever you feel like it."
" Of course I do, that's different. I'm a man." He added a cruel afterword. " Perhaps you notice that I don't call you up as often as I used."
Her pride was in arms. More than once she thought of writing him a brief note telling him that so far as she was concerned their " affair " was ended. But a great stubbornness possessed her; she was curious to see how this sort of thing could terminate ; she was eager to learn if all the advice which older women pour into the ears of growing girls could be as true as it was trite. Was it a fact that the conventions were more important than the fundamental impulses of life, than generosity, kindness, unselfishness? For whatever her original motives, her actual relationship with Fielding had called out the most unselfish qualities in her. And she began to see the conventions, the rules that govern life, in a new light; she realized suddenly that for all their granite-like coldness and precision they also represented fundamental facts; a sort of concentrated compendium of the art of living and therefore as much to be observed and respected as warm, vital impulses.
Towards Roger she felt no rancour, only an apathy incapable of being dispersed. The conversation about the telephone left an effect all out of pro portion to its actual importance; it represented for her the apparently unbridgeable difference between the sexes; everything was for men, but even the slightest privilege was to be denied to a woman unless the man chose to grant it. At least there were men who felt like that; not all men, she felt sure, could tolerate such an obviously unjust status. Without intent to punish, with no set purpose in her mind, simply because she was no longer interested, she began to neglect Roger. She no longer let other engagements go for him; she made no attempt to be punctual in keeping such engagements as they had already made; in his presence she was often absorbed, absent- minded, lost in thought. She ceased asking him questions about his affairs.
Long before their quarrel they had accepted an invitation from Martha Burden to a small party. Angela was surprised that Roger should remember the occasion, but clearly he did; he was on hand at the correct date and hour and the two of them fared forth. During the brief journey he was courteous, even politely cordial, but the difference between his attitude and that of former days was very apparent. The party was of a more frivolous type than Martha usually sponsored, she was giving it for a young, fun-loving cousin of Ladislas; there was no general conversation, some singing, much dancing, much pairing off in couples. Carlotta Parks was present with Ralph Ashley, the slender, dark man who had appeared with Carlotta when Angela first met her. As soon as Roger appeared Carlotta came rushing toward him.
" I've been waiting for you ! " She dragged at his hand and not unwillingly he suffered himself to be led to a small sofa. They chatted a few minutes; then danced; Roger simply must look at Martha's new etchings. The pair was inseparable for the evening. Try as she might Angela could discover no feeling of jealousy but her dignity was hurt. She could not have received less attention from her former lover if they had never met. At first she thought she would make up to Ashley but something malicious in Carlotta's glance deterred her. No, she was sick of men and their babyish, faithless ways; she did not care enough about Roger to play a game for him. So she sat quietly in a deep chair, smoking, dipping into the scattered piles of books which lent the apartment its air of cheerful disorder. Occasionally she chatted; Ladislas Starr perched on the arm of her chair and beguiled her with gay tales of his university days in pre-war Vienna.
But she would never endure such an indignity again. On the way home she was silent. Roger glanced at her curiously, raised his eyebrows when she asked him to come in. She began quietly: " Roger I'll never endure again the treatment -- "
But he was ready, even eager for a quarrel. " It looks to me as though you were willing to endure anything. No woman with an ounce of pride would have stood for what you've been standing lately."
She said evenly: "You mean this is the end? We're through?
" Well, what do you think about it? You certainly didn't expect it to last for ever."
His tone was unbelievably insulting. Eyeing him speculatively she replied : " No, of course I didn't expect it to last for ever, but I didn't think it would end like this. I don't see yet why it should."
The knowledge of his unpardonable manner lay heavy upon him, drove him to fresh indignity. " I suppose you thought someday I'd kiss your hand and say e You've been very nice to me ; I'll always remember you with affection and gratitude. Good-bye.' "
" Well, why shouldn't you have said that? Certainly I'd expected that much sooner than a scene of this sort. I never dreamed of letting myself in for this kind of thing."
Some ugly devil held him in its grasp. " You knew perfectly well what you were letting yourself in for. Any woman would know it."
She could only stare at him, his words echoing in her ears: "You knew perfectly well what you were letting yourself in for."
The phrase had the quality of a cosmic echo; perhaps men had been saying it to women since the beginning of time. Doubtless their biblical equivalent were the last words uttered by Abraham to Hagar before she fared forth into the wilderness.
Long after Roger had left her she sat staring into the dark shadows of the room. For a long time the end, she knew, had been imminent; she had been curious to see how it would arrive, but the thought had never crossed her mind that it would come with harsh words and with vulgarity. The departure of Roger himself she shut her hand and opened it meant nothing; she had never loved, never felt for him one-tenth of the devotion which her mother had known for her father, of the spontaneous affection which Virginia had offered Matthew Henson. Even in these latter weeks when she had consciously striven to show him every possible kindness and attention she had done so for the selfish preservation of her ideals. Now she looked back on those first days of delight when his emotions and her own had met at full tide; when she dreamed that she alone of all people in the world was exempt from ordinary law. How, she wondered futilely, could she ever have suffered herself to be persuaded to tamper with the sacred mysteries of life? If she had held in her hand the golden key, love! But to throw aside the fundamental laws of civilization for passion, for the hot-headed wilfulness of youth and to have it end like this, drably, vulgarly, almost in a brawl! How could she endure herself ? And Roger and his promises of esteem and golden memories!
For a moment she hated him for his fine words and phrases, hated him for tricking her. No matter what she had said, how she had acted, he should have let her go. Better a wound to her passion than later this terrible gash in her proud assurance, this hurt in the core of herself " God ! " she said, raging in her tiny apartment as a tiger in a menagerie rages in its inadequate cage, " God, isn't there any place where man's responsibility to woman begins ? "
But she had grown too much into the habit of deliberately ordering her life, of hewing her own path, of removing the difficulties that beset that path, to let herself be sickened, utterly prostrated by what had befallen her. Roger, her companion, had gone; she had been caught up in an inexcusably needless affair without the pretext of love. Thank God she had taken nothing from Roger; she had not sold herself, only bestowed that self foolishly, unworthily. However upset and harassed her mind might be it could not dwell too long on this loss of a lover. There were other problems to consider; for Roger's passing meant the vanishing of the last hope of the successful marriage which once she had so greatly craved. And even though she had not actively considered this for some time, yet as a remote possibility it had afforded a sense of security. Now that mirage was dispelled; she was brought with a sudden shock back to reality. No longer was it enough for her to plan how she could win to a pleasant and happy means of existence, she must be on the alert for the maintenance of that very existence itself. New York had literally swallowed her original three thousand dollars; part of Virginia's gift was also dissipated. Less than a thou sand dollars stood between her and absolute penury. She could not envisage turning to Jinny; life which had seemed so promising, so golden, had failed to supply her with a single friend to whom she could turn in an hour of extremity.
Such thoughts as these left her panic-stricken, cold with ' fear. The spectre of possible want riled her dreams, haunted her waking hours, thrust aside the devastating shame of her affair with Roger to replace it with dread and apprehension. In her despair she turned more ardently than ever to her painting; already she was capable of ^doing outstanding work in portraiture, but she lacked cachet; she was absolutely unknown.
This condition of her mind affected her appearance; she began to husband her clothes, sadly conscious that she could not tell where others would come from. Her face lost its roundness, the white warmness of her skin remained but there were violet shadows under her eyes; her forehead showed faint lines; she was slightly shabby. Gradually the triumphant vividness so characteristic of Angele Mory left her, she was like any one of a thousand other pitiful, frightened girls thronging New York. Miss Powell glanced at her and thought: "she looks unhappy, but how can she be when she has a chance at everything in the world just because she's white? "
Anthony marked her fading brightness; he would have liked to question her, comfort her, but where this girl was concerned the role of comforter was not for him. Only the instructor, Mr. Paget guessed at her extremity. He had seen too many students not to recognize the signs of poverty, of disaster in love, of despair at the tardy flowering of dexterity that had been mistaken for talent. Once after class he stopped Angela and asked her if she knew of anyone willing to furnish designs for a well-known journal of fashion.
" Not very stimulating work, but the pay is good and the firm reliable. Their last artist was with them eight years. If you know of any one, -- "
She interrupted: " I know of myself. Do you think they'd take me on? "
" I could recommend you. They applied to me, you see. Doubtless they'd take my suggestions into account."
He was very kind; made all the necessary arrangements. The firm received Angela gladly, offering her a fair salary for work that was a trifle narrow, a bit stultifying. But it opened up possibilities; there were new people to be met; perhaps she would make new friends, form ties which might be lasting.
"Oh” she said hopefully to herself, "life is wonderful! It's giving me a new deal and I'll begin all over again. I'm young and now I'm sophisticated; the world is wide, somewhere there's happiness and peace and a place for me. I'll find it."
But her hope, her sanguineness, were a little forced, her superb self-confidence perceptibly diminished. The radiance which once had so bathed every moment of her existence was fading gently, inexorably into the " light of common day ".
End of Plum Bun (part 2) by Jessie Redmon Fauset
Part 3 to follow July 2018