CHAPTER 2. Spires and Gargoyles
At first Amory noticed only the wealth of sunshine creeping across thelong, green swards, dancing on the leaded window-panes, and swimmingaround the tops of spires and towers and battlemented walls.Gradually he realized that he was really walking up University Place,self-conscious about his suitcase, developing a new tendency to glarestraight ahead when he passed any one. Several times he could have swornthat men turned to look at him critically. He wondered vaguely if therewas something the matter with his clothes, and wished he had shavedthat morning on the train. He felt unnecessarily stiff and awkwardamong these white-flannelled, bareheaded youths, who must be juniors andseniors, judging from the savoir faire with which they strolled.
He found that 12 University Place was a large, dilapidated mansion, atpresent apparently uninhabited, though he knew it housed usually a dozenfreshmen. After a hurried skirmish with his landlady he sallied out ona tour of exploration, but he had gone scarcely a block when he becamehorribly conscious that he must be the only man in town who was wearinga hat. He returned hurriedly to 12 University, left his derby,and, emerging bareheaded, loitered down Nassau Street, stopping toinvestigate a display of athletic photographs in a store window,including a large one of Allenby, the football captain, and nextattracted by the sign Jigger Shop over a confectionary window. Thissounded familiar, so he sauntered in and took a seat on a high stool.
Chocolate sundae, he told a colored person.
Double chocolate jiggah? Anything else?
He munched four of these, finding them of pleasing savor, and thenconsumed another double-chocolate jigger before ease descended upon him.After a cursory inspection of the pillow-cases, leather pennants, andGibson Girls that lined the walls, he left, and continued along NassauStreet with his hands in his pockets. Gradually he was learning todistinguish between upper classmen and entering men, even though thefreshman cap would not appear until the following Monday. Those who weretoo obviously, too nervously at home were freshmen, for as each trainbrought a new contingent it was immediately absorbed into the hatless,white-shod, book-laden throng, whose function seemed to be to driftendlessly up and down the street, emitting great clouds of smokefrom brand-new pipes. By afternoon Amory realized that now thenewest arrivals were taking him for an upper classman, and he triedconscientiously to look both pleasantly blase and casually critical,which was as near as he could analyze the prevalent facial expression.
At five o'clock he felt the need of hearing his own voice, so heretreated to his house to see if any one else had arrived. Havingclimbed the rickety stairs he scrutinized his room resignedly,concluding that it was hopeless to attempt any more inspired decorationthan class banners and tiger pictures. There was a tap at the door.
A slim face with gray eyes and a humorous smile appeared in the doorway.
Got a hammer?
No--sorry. Maybe Mrs. Twelve, or whatever she goes by, has one.
The stranger advanced into the room.
You an inmate of this asylum?
Awful barn for the rent we pay.
Amory had to agree that it was.
I thought of the campus, he said, but they say there's so fewfreshmen that they're lost. Have to sit around and study for somethingto do.
The gray-eyed man decided to introduce himself.
My name's Holiday.
Blaine's my name.
They shook hands with the fashionable low swoop. Amory grinned.
Where'd you prep?
Andover--where did you?
Oh, did you? I had a cousin there.
They discussed the cousin thoroughly, and then Holiday announced that hewas to meet his brother for dinner at six.
Come along and have a bite with us.
At the Kenilworth Amory met Burne Holiday--he of the gray eyes wasKerry--and during a limpid meal of thin soup and anaemic vegetables theystared at the other freshmen, who sat either in small groups lookingvery ill at ease, or in large groups seeming very much at home.
I hear Commons is pretty bad, said Amory.
That's the rumor. But you've got to eat there--or pay anyways.
Oh, at Princeton you've got to swallow everything the first year. It'slike a damned prep school.
Lot of pep, though, he insisted. I wouldn't have gone to Yale for amillion.
You going out for anything? inquired Amory of the elder brother.
Not me--Burne here is going out for the Prince--the Daily Princetonian,you know.
Yes, I know.
You going out for anything?
Why--yes. I'm going to take a whack at freshman football.
Play at St. Regis's?
Some, admitted Amory depreciatingly, but I'm getting so damned thin.
You're not thin.
Well, I used to be stocky last fall.
After supper they attended the movies, where Amory was fascinated by theglib comments of a man in front of him, as well as by the wild yellingand shouting.
Oh, honey-baby--you're so big and strong, but oh, so gentle!
Kiss her, kiss 'at lady, quick!
A group began whistling By the Sea, and the audience took it upnoisily. This was followed by an indistinguishable song that includedmuch stamping and then by an endless, incoherent dirge.
Oh-h-h-h-h She works in a Jam Factoree And--that-may-be-all-right But you can't-fool-me For I know--DAMN--WELL That she DON'T-make-jam-all-night! Oh-h-h-h!
As they pushed out, giving and receiving curious impersonal glances,Amory decided that he liked the movies, wanted to enjoy them as the rowof upper classmen in front had enjoyed them, with their arms along thebacks of the seats, their comments Gaelic and caustic, their attitude amixture of critical wit and tolerant amusement.
Want a sundae--I mean a jigger? asked Kerry.
They suppered heavily and then, still sauntering, eased back to 12.
It's a whiz.
You men going to unpack?
Guess so. Come on, Burne.
Amory decided to sit for a while on the front steps, so he bade themgood night.
The great tapestries of trees had darkened to ghosts back at the lastedge of twilight. The early moon had drenched the arches with pale blue,and, weaving over the night, in and out of the gossamer rifts of moon,swept a song, a song with more than a hint of sadness, infinitelytransient, infinitely regretful.
He remembered that an alumnus of the nineties had told him of one ofBooth Tarkington's amusements: standing in mid-campus in the small hoursand singing tenor songs to the stars, arousing mingled emotions in thecouched undergraduates according to the sentiment of their moods.
Now, far down the shadowy line of University Place a white-clad phalanxbroke the gloom, and marching figures, white-shirted, white-trousered,swung rhythmically up the street, with linked arms and heads thrownback:
Going back--going back, Going--back--to--Nas-sau--Hall, Going back--going back-- To the--Best--Old--Place--of--All. Going back--going back, From all--this--earth-ly--ball, We'll--clear--the--track--as--we--go--back-- Going--back--to--Nas-sau--Hall!
Amory closed his eyes as the ghostly procession drew near. The songsoared so high that all dropped out except the tenors, who bore themelody triumphantly past the danger-point and relinquished it to thefantastic chorus. Then Amory opened his eyes, half afraid that sightwould spoil the rich illusion of harmony.
He sighed eagerly. There at the head of the white platoon marchedAllenby, the football captain, slim and defiant, as if aware that thisyear the hopes of the college rested on him, that his hundred-and-sixtypounds were expected to dodge to victory through the heavy blue andcrimson lines.
Fascinated, Amory watched each rank of linked arms as it came abreast,the faces indistinct above the polo shirts, the voices blent in a paeanof triumph--and then the procession passed through shadowy CampbellArch, and the voices grew fainter as it wound eastward over the campus.
The minutes passed and Amory sat there very quietly. He regretted therule that would forbid freshmen to be outdoors after curfew, for hewanted to ramble through the shadowy scented lanes, where Witherspoonbrooded like a dark mother over Whig and Clio, her Attic children, wherethe black Gothic snake of Little curled down to Cuyler and Patton, thesein turn flinging the mystery out over the placid slope rolling to thelake.
Princeton of the daytime filtered slowly into his consciousness--Westand Reunion, redolent of the sixties, Seventy-nine Hall, brick-red andarrogant, Upper and Lower Pyne, aristocratic Elizabethan ladies notquite content to live among shopkeepers, and, topping all, climbing withclear blue aspiration, the great dreaming spires of Holder and Clevelandtowers.
From the first he loved Princeton--its lazy beauty, its half-graspedsignificance, the wild moonlight revel of the rushes, the handsome,prosperous big-game crowds, and under it all the air of struggle thatpervaded his class. From the day when, wild-eyed and exhausted, thejerseyed freshmen sat in the gymnasium and elected some one from HillSchool class president, a Lawrenceville celebrity vice-president, ahockey star from St. Paul's secretary, up until the end of sophomoreyear it never ceased, that breathless social system, that worship,seldom named, never really admitted, of the bogey Big Man.
First it was schools, and Amory, alone from St. Regis', watched thecrowds form and widen and form again; St. Paul's, Hill, Pomfret, eatingat certain tacitly reserved tables in Commons, dressing in their owncorners of the gymnasium, and drawing unconsciously about them a barrierof the slightly less important but socially ambitious to protect themfrom the friendly, rather puzzled high-school element. From themoment he realized this Amory resented social barriers as artificialdistinctions made by the strong to bolster up their weak retainers andkeep out the almost strong.
Having decided to be one of the gods of the class, he reportedfor freshman football practice, but in the second week, playingquarter-back, already paragraphed in corners of the Princetonian, hewrenched his knee seriously enough to put him out for the rest of theseason. This forced him to retire and consider the situation.
12 Univee housed a dozen miscellaneous question-marks. There werethree or four inconspicuous and quite startled boys from Lawrenceville,two amateur wild men from a New York private school (Kerry Holidaychristened them the plebeian drunks), a Jewish youth, also from NewYork, and, as compensation for Amory, the two Holidays, to whom he tookan instant fancy.
The Holidays were rumored twins, but really the dark-haired one, Kerry,was a year older than his blond brother, Burne. Kerry was tall, withhumorous gray eyes, and a sudden, attractive smile; he became at oncethe mentor of the house, reaper of ears that grew too high, censor ofconceit, vendor of rare, satirical humor. Amory spread the table oftheir future friendship with all his ideas of what college should anddid mean. Kerry, not inclined as yet to take things seriously, chidedhim gently for being curious at this inopportune time about theintricacies of the social system, but liked him and was both interestedand amused.
Burne, fair-haired, silent, and intent, appeared in the house only as abusy apparition, gliding in quietly at night and off again in theearly morning to get up his work in the library--he was out for thePrincetonian, competing furiously against forty others for the covetedfirst place. In December he came down with diphtheria, and some oneelse won the competition, but, returning to college in February,he dauntlessly went after the prize again. Necessarily, Amory'sacquaintance with him was in the way of three-minute chats, walkingto and from lectures, so he failed to penetrate Burne's one absorbinginterest and find what lay beneath it.
Amory was far from contented. He missed the place he had won at St.Regis', the being known and admired, yet Princeton stimulated him, andthere were many things ahead calculated to arouse the Machiavelli latentin him, could he but insert a wedge. The upper-class clubs, concerningwhich he had pumped a reluctant graduate during the previous summer,excited his curiosity: Ivy, detached and breathlessly aristocratic;Cottage, an impressive melange of brilliant adventurers and well-dressedphilanderers; Tiger Inn, broad-shouldered and athletic, vitalized byan honest elaboration of prep-school standards; Cap and Gown,anti-alcoholic, faintly religious and politically powerful; flamboyantColonial; literary Quadrangle; and the dozen others, varying in age andposition.
Anything which brought an under classman into too glaring a light waslabelled with the damning brand of running it out. The movies thrivedon caustic comments, but the men who made them were generally runningit out; talking of clubs was running it out; standing for anythingvery strongly, as, for instance, drinking parties or teetotalling,was running it out; in short, being personally conspicuous was nottolerated, and the influential man was the non-committal man, until atclub elections in sophomore year every one should be sewed up in somebag for the rest of his college career.
Amory found that writing for the Nassau Literary Magazine would get himnothing, but that being on the board of the Daily Princetonian wouldget any one a good deal. His vague desire to do immortal acting withthe English Dramatic Association faded out when he found that the mostingenious brains and talents were concentrated upon the Triangle Club, amusical comedy organization that every year took a great Christmas trip.In the meanwhile, feeling strangely alone and restless in Commons, withnew desires and ambitions stirring in his mind, he let the first term goby between an envy of the embryo successes and a puzzled fretting withKerry as to why they were not accepted immediately among the elite ofthe class.
Many afternoons they lounged in the windows of 12 Univee and watchedthe class pass to and from Commons, noting satellites already attachingthemselves to the more prominent, watching the lonely grind with hishurried step and downcast eye, envying the happy security of the bigschool groups.
We're the damned middle class, that's what! he complained to Kerry oneday as he lay stretched out on the sofa, consuming a family of Fatimaswith contemplative precision.
Well, why not? We came to Princeton so we could feel that way towardthe small colleges--have it on 'em, more self-confidence, dress better,cut a swathe--
Oh, it isn't that I mind the glittering caste system, admitted Amory.I like having a bunch of hot cats on top, but gosh, Kerry, I've got tobe one of them.
But just now, Amory, you're only a sweaty bourgeois.
Amory lay for a moment without speaking.
I won't be--long, he said finally. But I hate to get anywhere byworking for it. I'll show the marks, don't you know.
Honorable scars. Kerry craned his neck suddenly at the street.There's Langueduc, if you want to see what he looks like--and Humbirdjust behind.
Amory rose dynamically and sought the windows.
Oh, he said, scrutinizing these worthies, Humbird looks like aknock-out, but this Langueduc--he's the rugged type, isn't he? Idistrust that sort. All diamonds look big in the rough.
Well, said Kerry, as the excitement subsided, you're a literarygenius. It's up to you.
I wonder--Amory paused--if I could be. I honestly think so sometimes.That sounds like the devil, and I wouldn't say it to anybody exceptyou.
Well--go ahead. Let your hair grow and write poems like this guyD'Invilliers in the Lit.
Amory reached lazily at a pile of magazines on the table.
Read his latest effort?
Never miss 'em. They're rare.
Amory glanced through the issue.
Hello! he said in surprise, he's a freshman, isn't he?
Listen to this! My God!
'A serving lady speaks: Black velvet trails its folds over the day, White tapers, prisoned in their silver frames, Wave their thin flames like shadows in the wind, Pia, Pompia, come--come away--'
Now, what the devil does that mean?
It's a pantry scene.
'Her toes are stiffened like a stork's in flight; She's laid upon her bed, on the white sheets, Her hands pressed on her smooth bust like a saint, Bella Cunizza, come into the light!'
My gosh, Kerry, what in hell is it all about? I swear I don't get himat all, and I'm a literary bird myself.
It's pretty tricky, said Kerry, only you've got to think of hearsesand stale milk when you read it. That isn't as pash as some of them.
Amory tossed the magazine on the table.
Well, he sighed, I sure am up in the air. I know I'm not a regularfellow, yet I loathe anybody else that isn't. I can't decide whether tocultivate my mind and be a great dramatist, or to thumb my nose at theGolden Treasury and be a Princeton slicker.
Why decide? suggested Kerry. Better drift, like me. I'm going to sailinto prominence on Burne's coat-tails.
I can't drift--I want to be interested. I want to pull strings, evenfor somebody else, or be Princetonian chairman or Triangle president. Iwant to be admired, Kerry.
You're thinking too much about yourself.
Amory sat up at this.
No. I'm thinking about you, too. We've got to get out and mix aroundthe class right now, when it's fun to be a snob. I'd like to bring asardine to the prom in June, for instance, but I wouldn't do it unlessI could be damn debonaire about it--introduce her to all the prizeparlor-snakes, and the football captain, and all that simple stuff.
Amory, said Kerry impatiently, you're just going around in a circle.If you want to be prominent, get out and try for something; if youdon't, just take it easy. He yawned. Come on, let's let the smokedrift off. We'll go down and watch football practice.
Amory gradually accepted this point of view, decided that next fallwould inaugurate his career, and relinquished himself to watching Kerryextract joy from 12 Univee.
They filled the Jewish youth's bed with lemon pie; they put out the gasall over the house every night by blowing into the jet in Amory's room,to the bewilderment of Mrs. Twelve and the local plumber; they set upthe effects of the plebeian drunks--pictures, books, and furniture--inthe bathroom, to the confusion of the pair, who hazily discoveredthe transposition on their return from a Trenton spree; they weredisappointed beyond measure when the plebeian drunks decided to take itas a joke; they played red-dog and twenty-one and jackpot from dinnerto dawn, and on the occasion of one man's birthday persuaded him to buysufficient champagne for a hilarious celebration. The donor of the partyhaving remained sober, Kerry and Amory accidentally dropped him down twoflights of stairs and called, shame-faced and penitent, at the infirmaryall the following week.
Say, who are all these women? demanded Kerry one day, protestingat the size of Amory's mail. I've been looking at the postmarkslately--Farmington and Dobbs and Westover and Dana Hall--what's theidea?
All from the Twin Cities. He named them off. There's Marylyn DeWitt--she's pretty, got a car of her own and that's damn convenient;there's Sally Weatherby--she's getting too fat; there's Myra St. Claire,she's an old flame, easy to kiss if you like it--
What line do you throw 'em? demanded Kerry. I've tried everything,and the mad wags aren't even afraid of me.
You're the 'nice boy' type, suggested Amory.
That's just it. Mother always feels the girl is safe if she's with me.Honestly, it's annoying. If I start to hold somebody's hand, they laughat me, and let me, just as if it wasn't part of them. As soon as I gethold of a hand they sort of disconnect it from the rest of them.
Sulk, suggested Amory. Tell 'em you're wild and have 'em reformyou--go home furious--come back in half an hour--startle 'em.
Kerry shook his head.
No chance. I wrote a St. Timothy girl a really loving letter last year.In one place I got rattled and said: 'My God, how I love you!' She tooka nail scissors, clipped out the 'My God' and showed the rest of theletter all over school. Doesn't work at all. I'm just 'good old Kerry'and all that rot.
Amory smiled and tried to picture himself as good old Amory. He failedcompletely.
February dripped snow and rain, the cyclonic freshman mid-years passed,and life in 12 Univee continued interesting if not purposeful. Once aday Amory indulged in a club sandwich, cornflakes, and Julienne potatoesat Joe's, accompanied usually by Kerry or Alec Connage. The latter wasa quiet, rather aloof slicker from Hotchkiss, who lived next door andshared the same enforced singleness as Amory, due to the fact thathis entire class had gone to Yale. Joe's was unaesthetic and faintlyunsanitary, but a limitless charge account could be opened there, aconvenience that Amory appreciated. His father had been experimentingwith mining stocks and, in consequence, his allowance, while liberal,was not at all what he had expected.
Joe's had the additional advantage of seclusion from curiousupper-class eyes, so at four each afternoon Amory, accompanied by friendor book, went up to experiment with his digestion. One day in March,finding that all the tables were occupied, he slipped into a chairopposite a freshman who bent intently over a book at the last table.They nodded briefly. For twenty minutes Amory sat consuming bacon bunsand reading Mrs. Warren's Profession (he had discovered Shaw quiteby accident while browsing in the library during mid-years); the otherfreshman, also intent on his volume, meanwhile did away with a trio ofchocolate malted milks.
By and by Amory's eyes wandered curiously to his fellow-luncher's book.He spelled out the name and title upside down--Marpessa, by StephenPhillips. This meant nothing to him, his metrical education having beenconfined to such Sunday classics as Come into the Garden, Maude, andwhat morsels of Shakespeare and Milton had been recently forced uponhim.
Moved to address his vis-a-vis, he simulated interest in his book for amoment, and then exclaimed aloud as if involuntarily:
Ha! Great stuff!
The other freshman looked up and Amory registered artificialembarrassment.
Are you referring to your bacon buns? His cracked, kindly voicewent well with the large spectacles and the impression of a voluminouskeenness that he gave.
No, Amory answered. I was referring to Bernard Shaw. He turned thebook around in explanation.
I've never read any Shaw. I've always meant to. The boy paused andthen continued: Did you ever read Stephen Phillips, or do you likepoetry?
Yes, indeed, Amory affirmed eagerly. I've never read much ofPhillips, though. (He had never heard of any Phillips except the lateDavid Graham.)
It's pretty fair, I think. Of course he's a Victorian. They salliedinto a discussion of poetry, in the course of which they introducedthemselves, and Amory's companion proved to be none other than thatawful highbrow, Thomas Parke D'Invilliers, who signed the passionatelove-poems in the Lit. He was, perhaps, nineteen, with stoopedshoulders, pale blue eyes, and, as Amory could tell from his generalappearance, without much conception of social competition and suchphenomena of absorbing interest. Still, he liked books, and it seemedforever since Amory had met any one who did; if only that St. Paul'scrowd at the next table would not mistake _him_ for a bird, too, hewould enjoy the encounter tremendously. They didn't seem to be noticing,so he let himself go, discussed books by the dozens--books he had read,read about, books he had never heard of, rattling off lists of titleswith the facility of a Brentano's clerk. D'Invilliers was partiallytaken in and wholly delighted. In a good-natured way he had almostdecided that Princeton was one part deadly Philistines and one partdeadly grinds, and to find a person who could mention Keats withoutstammering, yet evidently washed his hands, was rather a treat.
Ever read any Oscar Wilde? he asked.
No. Who wrote it?
It's a man--don't you know?
Oh, surely. A faint chord was struck in Amory's memory. Wasn't thecomic opera, 'Patience,' written about him?
Yes, that's the fella. I've just finished a book of his, 'The Pictureof Dorian Gray,' and I certainly wish you'd read it. You'd like it. Youcan borrow it if you want to.
Why, I'd like it a lot--thanks.
Don't you want to come up to the room? I've got a few other books.
Amory hesitated, glanced at the St. Paul's group--one of them was themagnificent, exquisite Humbird--and he considered how determinate theaddition of this friend would be. He never got to the stage of makingthem and getting rid of them--he was not hard enough for that--so hemeasured Thomas Parke D'Invilliers' undoubted attractions and valueagainst the menace of cold eyes behind tortoise-rimmed spectacles thathe fancied glared from the next table.
Yes, I'll go.
So he found Dorian Gray and the Mystic and Somber Dolores and theBelle Dame sans Merci; for a month was keen on naught else. The worldbecame pale and interesting, and he tried hard to look at Princetonthrough the satiated eyes of Oscar Wilde and Swinburne--or FingalO'Flaherty and Algernon Charles, as he called them in precieuse jest.He read enormously every night--Shaw, Chesterton, Barrie, Pinero, Yeats,Synge, Ernest Dowson, Arthur Symons, Keats, Sudermann, Robert HughBenson, the Savoy Operas--just a heterogeneous mixture, for he suddenlydiscovered that he had read nothing for years.
Tom D'Invilliers became at first an occasion rather than a friend. Amorysaw him about once a week, and together they gilded the ceiling ofTom's room and decorated the walls with imitation tapestry, bought atan auction, tall candlesticks and figured curtains. Amory liked him forbeing clever and literary without effeminacy or affectation. In fact,Amory did most of the strutting and tried painfully to make every remarkan epigram, than which, if one is content with ostensible epigrams,there are many feats harder. 12 Univee was amused. Kerry read DorianGray and simulated Lord Henry, following Amory about, addressing himas Dorian and pretending to encourage in him wicked fancies andattenuated tendencies to ennui. When he carried it into Commons, to theamazement of the others at table, Amory became furiously embarrassed,and after that made epigrams only before D'Invilliers or a convenientmirror.
One day Tom and Amory tried reciting their own and Lord Dunsany's poemsto the music of Kerry's graphophone.
Chant! cried Tom. Don't recite! Chant!
Amory, who was performing, looked annoyed, and claimed that he neededa record with less piano in it. Kerry thereupon rolled on the floor instifled laughter.
Put on 'Hearts and Flowers'! he howled. Oh, my Lord, I'm going tocast a kitten.
Shut off the damn graphophone, Amory cried, rather red in the face.I'm not giving an exhibition.
In the meanwhile Amory delicately kept trying to awaken a sense of thesocial system in D'Invilliers, for he knew that this poet was reallymore conventional than he, and needed merely watered hair, a smallerrange of conversation, and a darker brown hat to become quite regular.But the liturgy of Livingstone collars and dark ties fell on heedlessears; in fact D'Invilliers faintly resented his efforts; so Amoryconfined himself to calls once a week, and brought him occasionally to12 Univee. This caused mild titters among the other freshmen, who calledthem Doctor Johnson and Boswell.
Alec Connage, another frequent visitor, liked him in a vague way, butwas afraid of him as a highbrow. Kerry, who saw through his poeticpatter to the solid, almost respectable depths within, was immenselyamused and would have him recite poetry by the hour, while he lay withclosed eyes on Amory's sofa and listened:
Asleep or waking is it? for her neck Kissed over close, wears yet a purple speck Wherein the pained blood falters and goes out; Soft and stung softly--fairer for a fleck...
That's good, Kerry would say softly. It pleases the elder Holiday.That's a great poet, I guess. Tom, delighted at an audience, wouldramble through the Poems and Ballades until Kerry and Amory knew themalmost as well as he.
Amory took to writing poetry on spring afternoons, in the gardens of thebig estates near Princeton, while swans made effective atmosphere in theartificial pools, and slow clouds sailed harmoniously above the willows.May came too soon, and suddenly unable to bear walls, he wandered thecampus at all hours through starlight and rain.
A DAMP SYMBOLIC INTERLUDE
The night mist fell. From the moon it rolled, clustered about the spiresand towers, and then settled below them, so that the dreaming peaks werestill in lofty aspiration toward the sky. Figures that dotted theday like ants now brushed along as shadowy ghosts, in and out ofthe foreground. The Gothic halls and cloisters were infinitely moremysterious as they loomed suddenly out of the darkness, outlined each bymyriad faint squares of yellow light. Indefinitely from somewhere a bellboomed the quarter-hour, and Amory, pausing by the sun-dial, stretchedhimself out full length on the damp grass. The cool bathed his eyes andslowed the flight of time--time that had crept so insidiously throughthe lazy April afternoons, seemed so intangible in the long springtwilights. Evening after evening the senior singing had drifted over thecampus in melancholy beauty, and through the shell of his undergraduateconsciousness had broken a deep and reverent devotion to the gray wallsand Gothic peaks and all they symbolized as warehouses of dead ages.
The tower that in view of his window sprang upward, grew into a spire,yearning higher until its uppermost tip was half invisible againstthe morning skies, gave him the first sense of the transiency andunimportance of the campus figures except as holders of the apostolicsuccession. He liked knowing that Gothic architecture, with its upwardtrend, was peculiarly appropriate to universities, and the idea becamepersonal to him. The silent stretches of green, the quiet halls withan occasional late-burning scholastic light held his imagination ina strong grasp, and the chastity of the spire became a symbol of thisperception.
Damn it all, he whispered aloud, wetting his hands in the damp andrunning them through his hair. Next year I work! Yet he knew thatwhere now the spirit of spires and towers made him dreamily acquiescent,it would then overawe him. Where now he realized only his owninconsequence, effort would make him aware of his own impotency andinsufficiency.
The college dreamed on--awake. He felt a nervous excitement that mighthave been the very throb of its slow heart. It was a stream where he wasto throw a stone whose faint ripple would be vanishing almost as it lefthis hand. As yet he had given nothing, he had taken nothing.
A belated freshman, his oilskin slicker rasping loudly, slushed alongthe soft path. A voice from somewhere called the inevitable formula,Stick out your head! below an unseen window. A hundred little soundsof the current drifting on under the fog pressed in finally on hisconsciousness.
Oh, God! he cried suddenly, and started at the sound of his voicein the stillness. The rain dripped on. A minute longer he lay withoutmoving, his hands clinched. Then he sprang to his feet and gave hisclothes a tentative pat.
I'm very damn wet! he said aloud to the sun-dial.
The war began in the summer following his freshman year. Beyond asporting interest in the German dash for Paris the whole affair failedeither to thrill or interest him. With the attitude he might have heldtoward an amusing melodrama he hoped it would be long and bloody. If ithad not continued he would have felt like an irate ticket-holder at aprize-fight where the principals refused to mix it up.
That was his total reaction.
All right, ponies!
Shake it up!
Hey, ponies--how about easing up on that crap game and shaking a meanhip?
The coach fumed helplessly, the Triangle Club president, gloweringwith anxiety, varied between furious bursts of authority and fits oftemperamental lassitude, when he sat spiritless and wondered how thedevil the show was ever going on tour by Christmas.
All right. We'll take the pirate song.
The ponies took last drags at their cigarettes and slumped into place;the leading lady rushed into the foreground, setting his hands and feetin an atmospheric mince; and as the coach clapped and stamped and tumpedand da-da'd, they hashed out a dance.
A great, seething ant-hill was the Triangle Club. It gave a musicalcomedy every year, travelling with cast, chorus, orchestra, and sceneryall through Christmas vacation. The play and music were the workof undergraduates, and the club itself was the most influential ofinstitutions, over three hundred men competing for it every year.
Amory, after an easy victory in the first sophomore Princetoniancompetition, stepped into a vacancy of the cast as Boiling Oil, a PirateLieutenant. Every night for the last week they had rehearsed Ha-HaHortense! in the Casino, from two in the afternoon until eight in themorning, sustained by dark and powerful coffee, and sleeping inlectures through the interim. A rare scene, the Casino. A big, barnlikeauditorium, dotted with boys as girls, boys as pirates, boys as babies;the scenery in course of being violently set up; the spotlight manrehearsing by throwing weird shafts into angry eyes; over all theconstant tuning of the orchestra or the cheerful tumpty-tump of aTriangle tune. The boy who writes the lyrics stands in the corner,biting a pencil, with twenty minutes to think of an encore; the businessmanager argues with the secretary as to how much money can be spenton those damn milkmaid costumes; the old graduate, president inninety-eight, perches on a box and thinks how much simpler it was in hisday.
How a Triangle show ever got off was a mystery, but it was a riotousmystery, anyway, whether or not one did enough service to wear a littlegold Triangle on his watch-chain. Ha-Ha Hortense! was written oversix times and had the names of nine collaborators on the programme. AllTriangle shows started by being something different--not just a regularmusical comedy, but when the several authors, the president, the coachand the faculty committee finished with it, there remained just the oldreliable Triangle show with the old reliable jokes and the star comedianwho got expelled or sick or something just before the trip, and thedark-whiskered man in the pony-ballet, who absolutely won't shave twicea day, doggone it!
There was one brilliant place in Ha-Ha Hortense! It is a Princetontradition that whenever a Yale man who is a member of the widelyadvertised Skull and Bones hears the sacred name mentioned, he mustleave the room. It is also a tradition that the members are invariablysuccessful in later life, amassing fortunes or votes or coupons orwhatever they choose to amass. Therefore, at each performance of Ha-HaHortense! half-a-dozen seats were kept from sale and occupied by sixof the worst-looking vagabonds that could be hired from the streets,further touched up by the Triangle make-up man. At the moment in theshow where Firebrand, the Pirate Chief, pointed at his black flag andsaid, I am a Yale graduate--note my Skull and Bones!--at this verymoment the six vagabonds were instructed to rise _conspicuously_ andleave the theatre with looks of deep melancholy and an injured dignity.It was claimed though never proved that on one occasion the hired Eliswere swelled by one of the real thing.
They played through vacation to the fashionable of eight cities. Amoryliked Louisville and Memphis best: these knew how to meet strangers,furnished extraordinary punch, and flaunted an astonishing arrayof feminine beauty. Chicago he approved for a certain verve thattranscended its loud accent--however, it was a Yale town, and as theYale Glee Club was expected in a week the Triangle received only dividedhomage. In Baltimore, Princeton was at home, and every one fell in love.There was a proper consumption of strong waters all along the line; oneman invariably went on the stage highly stimulated, claiming that hisparticular interpretation of the part required it. There were threeprivate cars; however, no one slept except in the third car, whichwas called the animal car, and where were herded the spectacledwind-jammers of the orchestra. Everything was so hurried that therewas no time to be bored, but when they arrived in Philadelphia, withvacation nearly over, there was rest in getting out of the heavyatmosphere of flowers and grease-paint, and the ponies took off theircorsets with abdominal pains and sighs of relief.
When the disbanding came, Amory set out post haste for Minneapolis, forSally Weatherby's cousin, Isabelle Borge, was coming to spend the winterin Minneapolis while her parents went abroad. He remembered Isabelleonly as a little girl with whom he had played sometimes when he firstwent to Minneapolis. She had gone to Baltimore to live--but since thenshe had developed a past.
Amory was in full stride, confident, nervous, and jubilant. Scurryingback to Minneapolis to see a girl he had known as a child seemed theinteresting and romantic thing to do, so without compunction he wiredhis mother not to expect him... sat in the train, and thought abouthimself for thirty-six hours.
On the Triangle trip Amory had come into constant contact with thatgreat current American phenomenon, the petting party.
None of the Victorian mothers--and most of the mothers wereVictorian--had any idea how casually their daughters were accustomed tobe kissed. Servant-girls are that way, says Mrs. Huston-Carmelite toher popular daughter. They are kissed first and proposed to afterward.
But the Popular Daughter becomes engaged every six months betweensixteen and twenty-two, when she arranges a match with young Hambell, ofCambell & Hambell, who fatuously considers himself her first love, andbetween engagements the P. D. (she is selected by the cut-in system atdances, which favors the survival of the fittest) has other sentimentallast kisses in the moonlight, or the firelight, or the outer darkness.
Amory saw girls doing things that even in his memory would have beenimpossible: eating three-o'clock, after-dance suppers in impossiblecafes, talking of every side of life with an air half of earnestness,half of mockery, yet with a furtive excitement that Amory consideredstood for a real moral let-down. But he never realized how wide-spreadit was until he saw the cities between New York and Chicago as one vastjuvenile intrigue.
Afternoon at the Plaza, with winter twilight hovering outside and faintdrums down-stairs... they strut and fret in the lobby, taking anothercocktail, scrupulously attired and waiting. Then the swinging doorsrevolve and three bundles of fur mince in. The theatre comes afterward;then a table at the Midnight Frolic--of course, mother will be alongthere, but she will serve only to make things more secretive andbrilliant as she sits in solitary state at the deserted table and thinkssuch entertainments as this are not half so bad as they are painted,only rather wearying. But the P. D. is in love again... it was odd,wasn't it?--that though there was so much room left in the taxi the P.D. and the boy from Williams were somehow crowded out and had to go in aseparate car. Odd! Didn't you notice how flushed the P. D. was when shearrived just seven minutes late? But the P. D. gets away with it.
The belle had become the flirt, the flirt had become the babyvamp. The belle had five or six callers every afternoon. If the P.D., by some strange accident, has two, it is made pretty uncomfortablefor the one who hasn't a date with her. The belle was surrounded bya dozen men in the intermissions between dances. Try to find the P. D.between dances, just _try_ to find her.
The same girl... deep in an atmosphere of jungle music and thequestioning of moral codes. Amory found it rather fascinating to feelthat any popular girl he met before eight he might quite possibly kissbefore twelve.
Why on earth are we here? he asked the girl with the green combs onenight as they sat in some one's limousine, outside the Country Club inLouisville.
I don't know. I'm just full of the devil.
Let's be frank--we'll never see each other again. I wanted to come outhere with you because I thought you were the best-looking girl in sight.You really don't care whether you ever see me again, do you?
No--but is this your line for every girl? What have I done to deserveit?
And you didn't feel tired dancing or want a cigarette or any of thethings you said? You just wanted to be--
Oh, let's go in, she interrupted, if you want to _analyze_. Let's not_talk_ about it.
When the hand-knit, sleeveless jerseys were stylish, Amory, in a burstof inspiration, named them petting shirts. The name travelled fromcoast to coast on the lips of parlor-snakes and P. D.'s.
Amory was now eighteen years old, just under six feet tall andexceptionally, but not conventionally, handsome. He had rather a youngface, the ingenuousness of which was marred by the penetrating greeneyes, fringed with long dark eyelashes. He lacked somehow that intenseanimal magnetism that so often accompanies beauty in men or women; hispersonality seemed rather a mental thing, and it was not in his powerto turn it on and off like a water-faucet. But people never forgot hisface.
She paused at the top of the staircase. The sensations attributed todivers on spring-boards, leading ladies on opening nights, and lumpy,husky young men on the day of the Big Game, crowded through her. Sheshould have descended to a burst of drums or a discordant blend ofthemes from Thais and Carmen. She had never been so curious abouther appearance, she had never been so satisfied with it. She had beensixteen years old for six months.
Isabelle! called her cousin Sally from the doorway of thedressing-room.
I'm ready. She caught a slight lump of nervousness in her throat.
I had to send back to the house for another pair of slippers. It'll bejust a minute.
Isabelle started toward the dressing-room for a last peek in the mirror,but something decided her to stand there and gaze down the broad stairsof the Minnehaha Club. They curved tantalizingly, and she could catchjust a glimpse of two pairs of masculine feet in the hall below.Pump-shod in uniform black, they gave no hint of identity, but shewondered eagerly if one pair were attached to Amory Blaine. This youngman, not as yet encountered, had nevertheless taken up a considerablepart of her day--the first day of her arrival. Coming up in the machinefrom the station, Sally had volunteered, amid a rain of question,comment, revelation, and exaggeration:
You remember Amory Blaine, of _course_. Well, he's simply mad tosee you again. He's stayed over a day from college, and he's comingto-night. He's heard so much about you--says he remembers your eyes.
This had pleased Isabelle. It put them on equal terms, although shewas quite capable of staging her own romances, with or without advanceadvertising. But following her happy tremble of anticipation, came asinking sensation that made her ask:
How do you mean he's heard about me? What sort of things?
Sally smiled. She felt rather in the capacity of a showman with her moreexotic cousin.
He knows you're--you're considered beautiful and all that--shepaused--and I guess he knows you've been kissed.
At this Isabelle's little fist had clinched suddenly under the fur robe.She was accustomed to be thus followed by her desperate past, and itnever failed to rouse in her the same feeling of resentment; yet--in astrange town it was an advantageous reputation. She was a Speed, wasshe? Well--let them find out.
Out of the window Isabelle watched the snow glide by in the frostymorning. It was ever so much colder here than in Baltimore; she hadnot remembered; the glass of the side door was iced, the windowswere shirred with snow in the corners. Her mind played still with onesubject. Did _he_ dress like that boy there, who walked calmly down abustling business street, in moccasins and winter-carnival costume? Howvery _Western!_ Of course he wasn't that way: he went to Princeton, wasa sophomore or something. Really she had no distinct idea of him. Anancient snap-shot she had preserved in an old kodak book had impressedher by the big eyes (which he had probably grown up to by now). However,in the last month, when her winter visit to Sally had been decided on,he had assumed the proportions of a worthy adversary. Children, mostastute of match-makers, plot their campaigns quickly, and Sallyhad played a clever correspondence sonata to Isabelle's excitabletemperament. Isabelle had been for some time capable of very strong, ifvery transient emotions....
They drew up at a spreading, white-stone building, set back from thesnowy street. Mrs. Weatherby greeted her warmly and her various youngercousins were produced from the corners where they skulked politely.Isabelle met them tactfully. At her best she allied all with whom shecame in contact--except older girls and some women. All the impressionsshe made were conscious. The half-dozen girls she renewed acquaintancewith that morning were all rather impressed and as much by her directpersonality as by her reputation. Amory Blaine was an open subject.Evidently a bit light of love, neither popular nor unpopular--every girlthere seemed to have had an affair with him at some time or other, butno one volunteered any really useful information. He was going to fallfor her.... Sally had published that information to her young setand they were retailing it back to Sally as fast as they set eyes onIsabelle. Isabelle resolved secretly that she would, if necessary,_force_ herself to like him--she owed it to Sally. Suppose she wereterribly disappointed. Sally had painted him in such glowing colors--hewas good-looking, sort of distinguished, when he wants to be, had aline, and was properly inconstant. In fact, he summed up all the romancethat her age and environment led her to desire. She wondered if thosewere his dancing-shoes that fox-trotted tentatively around the soft rugbelow.
All impressions and, in fact, all ideas were extremely kaleidoscopic toIsabelle. She had that curious mixture of the social and the artistictemperaments found often in two classes, society women and actresses.Her education or, rather, her sophistication, had been absorbed fromthe boys who had dangled on her favor; her tact was instinctive, andher capacity for love-affairs was limited only by the number of thesusceptible within telephone distance. Flirt smiled from her largeblack-brown eyes and shone through her intense physical magnetism.
So she waited at the head of the stairs that evening while slipperswere fetched. Just as she was growing impatient, Sally came out of thedressing-room, beaming with her accustomed good nature and high spirits,and together they descended to the floor below, while the shiftingsearch-light of Isabelle's mind flashed on two ideas: she was glad shehad high color to-night, and she wondered if he danced well.
Down-stairs, in the club's great room, she was surrounded for a momentby the girls she had met in the afternoon, then she heard Sally's voicerepeating a cycle of names, and found herself bowing to a sextet ofblack and white, terribly stiff, vaguely familiar figures. The nameBlaine figured somewhere, but at first she could not place him. Avery confused, very juvenile moment of awkward backings and bumpingsfollowed, and every one found himself talking to the person he leastdesired to. Isabelle manoeuvred herself and Froggy Parker, freshmanat Harvard, with whom she had once played hop-scotch, to a seat on thestairs. A humorous reference to the past was all she needed. The thingsIsabelle could do socially with one idea were remarkable. First, sherepeated it rapturously in an enthusiastic contralto with a soupconof Southern accent; then she held it off at a distance and smiled atit--her wonderful smile; then she delivered it in variations andplayed a sort of mental catch with it, all this in the nominal formof dialogue. Froggy was fascinated and quite unconscious that this wasbeing done, not for him, but for the green eyes that glistened under theshining carefully watered hair, a little to her left, for Isabelle haddiscovered Amory. As an actress even in the fullest flush of her ownconscious magnetism gets a deep impression of most of the people in thefront row, so Isabelle sized up her antagonist. First, he had auburnhair, and from her feeling of disappointment she knew that she hadexpected him to be dark and of garter-advertisement slenderness.... Forthe rest, a faint flush and a straight, romantic profile; the effect setoff by a close-fitting dress suit and a silk ruffled shirt of the kindthat women still delight to see men wear, but men were just beginning toget tired of.
During this inspection Amory was quietly watching.
Don't _you_ think so? she said suddenly, turning to him,innocent-eyed.
There was a stir, and Sally led the way over to their table. Amorystruggled to Isabelle's side, and whispered:
You're my dinner partner, you know. We're all coached for each other.
Isabelle gasped--this was rather right in line. But really she feltas if a good speech had been taken from the star and given to a minorcharacter.... She mustn't lose the leadership a bit. The dinner-tableglittered with laughter at the confusion of getting places and thencurious eyes were turned on her, sitting near the head. She was enjoyingthis immensely, and Froggy Parker was so engrossed with the addedsparkle of her rising color that he forgot to pull out Sally's chair,and fell into a dim confusion. Amory was on the other side, full ofconfidence and vanity, gazing at her in open admiration. He begandirectly, and so did Froggy:
I've heard a lot about you since you wore braids--
Wasn't it funny this afternoon--
Both stopped. Isabelle turned to Amory shyly. Her face was always enoughanswer for any one, but she decided to speak.
From everybody--for all the years since you've been away. She blushedappropriately. On her right Froggy was _hors de combat_ already,although he hadn't quite realized it.
I'll tell you what I remembered about you all these years, Amorycontinued. She leaned slightly toward him and looked modestly at thecelery before her. Froggy sighed--he knew Amory, and the situations thatAmory seemed born to handle. He turned to Sally and asked her if she wasgoing away to school next year. Amory opened with grape-shot.
I've got an adjective that just fits you. This was one of his favoritestarts--he seldom had a word in mind, but it was a curiosity provoker,and he could always produce something complimentary if he got in a tightcorner.
Oh--what? Isabelle's face was a study in enraptured curiosity.
Amory shook his head.
I don't know you very well yet.
Will you tell me--afterward? she half whispered.
We'll sit out.
Did any one ever tell you, you have keen eyes? she said.
Amory attempted to make them look even keener. He fancied, but he wasnot sure, that her foot had just touched his under the table. But itmight possibly have been only the table leg. It was so hard to tell.Still it thrilled him. He wondered quickly if there would be anydifficulty in securing the little den up-stairs.
BABES IN THE WOODS
Isabelle and Amory were distinctly not innocent, nor were theyparticularly brazen. Moreover, amateur standing had very little valuein the game they were playing, a game that would presumably be herprincipal study for years to come. She had begun as he had, with goodlooks and an excitable temperament, and the rest was the result ofaccessible popular novels and dressing-room conversation culled from aslightly older set. Isabelle had walked with an artificial gait at nineand a half, and when her eyes, wide and starry, proclaimed the ingenuemost. Amory was proportionately less deceived. He waited for the mask todrop off, but at the same time he did not question her right to wearit. She, on her part, was not impressed by his studied air of blasesophistication. She had lived in a larger city and had slightly anadvantage in range. But she accepted his pose--it was one of the dozenlittle conventions of this kind of affair. He was aware that he wasgetting this particular favor now because she had been coached; he knewthat he stood for merely the best game in sight, and that he wouldhave to improve his opportunity before he lost his advantage. So theyproceeded with an infinite guile that would have horrified her parents.
After the dinner the dance began... smoothly. Smoothly?--boys cut inon Isabelle every few feet and then squabbled in the corners with: Youmight let me get more than an inch! and She didn't like it either--shetold me so next time I cut in. It was true--she told every one so, andgave every hand a parting pressure that said: You know that your dancesare _making_ my evening.
But time passed, two hours of it, and the less subtle beaux had betterlearned to focus their pseudo-passionate glances elsewhere, for eleveno'clock found Isabelle and Amory sitting on the couch in the littleden off the reading-room up-stairs. She was conscious that they werea handsome pair, and seemed to belong distinctively in this seclusion,while lesser lights fluttered and chattered down-stairs.
Boys who passed the door looked in enviously--girls who passed onlylaughed and frowned and grew wise within themselves.
They had now reached a very definite stage. They had traded accounts oftheir progress since they had met last, and she had listened to muchshe had heard before. He was a sophomore, was on the Princetonian board,hoped to be chairman in senior year. He learned that some of the boysshe went with in Baltimore were terrible speeds and came to dances instates of artificial stimulation; most of them were twenty or so, anddrove alluring red Stutzes. A good half seemed to have already flunkedout of various schools and colleges, but some of them bore athleticnames that made him look at her admiringly. As a matter of fact,Isabelle's closer acquaintance with the universities was justcommencing. She had bowing acquaintance with a lot of young men whothought she was a pretty kid--worth keeping an eye on. But Isabellestrung the names into a fabrication of gayety that would have dazzleda Viennese nobleman. Such is the power of young contralto voices onsink-down sofas.
He asked her if she thought he was conceited. She said there wasa difference between conceit and self-confidence. She adoredself-confidence in men.
Is Froggy a good friend of yours? she asked.
He's a bum dancer.
He dances as if the girl were on his back instead of in his arms.
She appreciated this.
You're awfully good at sizing people up.
Amory denied this painfully. However, he sized up several people forher. Then they talked about hands.
You've got awfully nice hands, she said. They look as if you playedthe piano. Do you?
I have said they had reached a very definite stage--nay, more, a verycritical stage. Amory had stayed over a day to see her, and his trainleft at twelve-eighteen that night. His trunk and suitcase awaited himat the station; his watch was beginning to hang heavy in his pocket.
Isabelle, he said suddenly, I want to tell you something. They hadbeen talking lightly about that funny look in her eyes, and Isabelleknew from the change in his manner what was coming--indeed, she had beenwondering how soon it would come. Amory reached above their heads andturned out the electric light, so that they were in the dark, exceptfor the red glow that fell through the door from the reading-room lamps.Then he began:
I don't know whether or not you know what you--what I'm going to say.Lordy, Isabelle--this _sounds_ like a line, but it isn't.
I know, said Isabelle softly.
Maybe we'll never meet again like this--I have darned hard lucksometimes. He was leaning away from her on the other arm of the lounge,but she could see his eyes plainly in the dark.
You'll meet me again--silly. There was just the slightest emphasison the last word--so that it became almost a term of endearment. Hecontinued a bit huskily:
I've fallen for a lot of people--girls--and I guess you have,too--boys, I mean, but, honestly, you-- he broke off suddenly andleaned forward, chin on his hands: Oh, what's the use--you'll go yourway and I suppose I'll go mine.
Silence for a moment. Isabelle was quite stirred; she wound herhandkerchief into a tight ball, and by the faint light that streamedover her, dropped it deliberately on the floor. Their hands touched foran instant, but neither spoke. Silences were becoming more frequentand more delicious. Outside another stray couple had come up and wereexperimenting on the piano in the next room. After the usual preliminaryof chopsticks, one of them started Babes in the Woods and a lighttenor carried the words into the den:
Give me your hand I'll understand We're off to slumberland.
Isabelle hummed it softly and trembled as she felt Amory's hand closeover hers.
Isabelle, he whispered. You know I'm mad about you. You _do_ give adarn about me.
How much do you care--do you like any one better?
No. He could scarcely hear her, although he bent so near that he felther breath against his cheek.
Isabelle, I'm going back to college for six long months, and whyshouldn't we--if I could only just have one thing to remember you by--
Close the door.... Her voice had just stirred so that he half wonderedwhether she had spoken at all. As he swung the door softly shut, themusic seemed quivering just outside.
Moonlight is bright, Kiss me good night.
What a wonderful song, she thought--everything was wonderful to-night,most of all this romantic scene in the den, with their hands clingingand the inevitable looming charmingly close. The future vista of herlife seemed an unending succession of scenes like this: under moonlightand pale starlight, and in the backs of warm limousines and in low, cosyroadsters stopped under sheltering trees--only the boy might change, andthis one was so nice. He took her hand softly. With a sudden movement heturned it and, holding it to his lips, kissed the palm.
Isabelle! His whisper blended in the music, and they seemed tofloat nearer together. Her breath came faster. Can't I kiss you,Isabelle--Isabelle? Lips half parted, she turned her head to him in thedark. Suddenly the ring of voices, the sound of running footsteps surgedtoward them. Quick as a flash Amory reached up and turned on the light,and when the door opened and three boys, the wrathy and dance-cravingFroggy among them, rushed in, he was turning over the magazines on thetable, while she sat without moving, serene and unembarrassed, and evengreeted them with a welcoming smile. But her heart was beating wildly,and she felt somehow as if she had been deprived.
It was evidently over. There was a clamor for a dance, there was aglance that passed between them--on his side despair, on hers regret,and then the evening went on, with the reassured beaux and the eternalcutting in.
At quarter to twelve Amory shook hands with her gravely, in the midst ofa small crowd assembled to wish him good-speed. For an instant he losthis poise, and she felt a bit rattled when a satirical voice from aconcealed wit cried:
Take her outside, Amory! As he took her hand he pressed it a little,and she returned the pressure as she had done to twenty hands thatevening--that was all.
At two o'clock back at the Weatherbys' Sally asked her if she and Amoryhad had a time in the den. Isabelle turned to her quietly. In hereyes was the light of the idealist, the inviolate dreamer of Joan-likedreams.
No, she answered. I don't do that sort of thing any more; he asked meto, but I said no.
As she crept in bed she wondered what he'd say in his special deliveryto-morrow. He had such a good-looking mouth--would she ever--?
Fourteen angels were watching o'er them, sang Sally sleepily from thenext room.
Damn! muttered Isabelle, punching the pillow into a luxurious lump andexploring the cold sheets cautiously. Damn!
Amory, by way of the Princetonian, had arrived. The minor snobs, finelybalanced thermometers of success, warmed to him as the club electionsgrew nigh, and he and Tom were visited by groups of upper classmen whoarrived awkwardly, balanced on the edge of the furniture and talked ofall subjects except the one of absorbing interest. Amory was amused atthe intent eyes upon him, and, in case the visitors represented someclub in which he was not interested, took great pleasure in shockingthem with unorthodox remarks.
Oh, let me see-- he said one night to a flabbergasted delegation,what club do you represent?
With visitors from Ivy and Cottage and Tiger Inn he played the nice,unspoilt, ingenuous boy very much at ease and quite unaware of theobject of the call.
When the fatal morning arrived, early in March, and the campus becamea document in hysteria, he slid smoothly into Cottage with Alec Connageand watched his suddenly neurotic class with much wonder.
There were fickle groups that jumped from club to club; there werefriends of two or three days who announced tearfully and wildly thatthey must join the same club, nothing should separate them; there weresnarling disclosures of long-hidden grudges as the Suddenly Prominentremembered snubs of freshman year. Unknown men were elevated intoimportance when they received certain coveted bids; others who wereconsidered all set found that they had made unexpected enemies, feltthemselves stranded and deserted, talked wildly of leaving college.
In his own crowd Amory saw men kept out for wearing green hats, forbeing a damn tailor's dummy, for having too much pull in heaven,for getting drunk one night not like a gentleman, by God, or forunfathomable secret reasons known to no one but the wielders of theblack balls.
This orgy of sociability culminated in a gigantic party at the NassauInn, where punch was dispensed from immense bowls, and the wholedown-stairs became a delirious, circulating, shouting pattern of facesand voices.
Goo' boy, Tom, you got a good bunch in Cap.
Oh, Kerry--I hear you went Tiger with all the weight-lifters! Well, Ididn't go Cottage--the parlor-snakes' delight.
They say Overton fainted when he got his Ivy bid--Did he sign up thefirst day?--oh, _no_. Tore over to Murray-Dodge on a bicycle--afraid itwas a mistake.
How'd you get into Cap--you old roue?
'Gratulations yourself. Hear you got a good crowd.
When the bar closed, the party broke up into groups and streamed,singing, over the snow-clad campus, in a weird delusion thatsnobbishness and strain were over at last, and that they could do whatthey pleased for the next two years.
Long afterward Amory thought of sophomore spring as the happiest time ofhis life. His ideas were in tune with life as he found it; he wantedno more than to drift and dream and enjoy a dozen new-found friendshipsthrough the April afternoons.
Alec Connage came into his room one morning and woke him up into thesunshine and peculiar glory of Campbell Hall shining in the window.
Wake up, Original Sin, and scrape yourself together. Be in front ofRenwick's in half an hour. Somebody's got a car. He took the bureaucover and carefully deposited it, with its load of small articles, uponthe bed.
Where'd you get the car? demanded Amory cynically.
Sacred trust, but don't be a critical goopher or you can't go!
I think I'll sleep, Amory said calmly, resettling himself and reachingbeside the bed for a cigarette.
Why not? I've got a class at eleven-thirty.
You damned gloom! Of course, if you don't want to go to the coast--
With a bound Amory was out of bed, scattering the bureau cover's burdenon the floor. The coast... he hadn't seen it for years, since he and hismother were on their pilgrimage.
Who's going? he demanded as he wriggled into his B. V. D.'s.
Oh, Dick Humbird and Kerry Holiday and Jesse Ferrenby and--oh aboutfive or six. Speed it up, kid!
In ten minutes Amory was devouring cornflakes in Renwick's, and atnine-thirty they bowled happily out of town, headed for the sands ofDeal Beach.
You see, said Kerry, the car belongs down there. In fact, it wasstolen from Asbury Park by persons unknown, who deserted it in Princetonand left for the West. Heartless Humbird here got permission from thecity council to deliver it.
Anybody got any money? suggested Ferrenby, turning around from thefront seat.
There was an emphatic negative chorus.
That makes it interesting.
Money--what's money? We can sell the car.
Charge him salvage or something.
How're we going to get food? asked Amory.
Honestly, answered Kerry, eying him reprovingly, do you doubt Kerry'sability for three short days? Some people have lived on nothing foryears at a time. Read the Boy Scout Monthly.
Three days, Amory mused, and I've got classes.
One of the days is the Sabbath.
Just the same, I can only cut six more classes, with over a month and ahalf to go.
Throw him out!
It's a long walk back.
Amory, you're running it out, if I may coin a new phrase.
Hadn't you better get some dope on yourself, Amory?
Amory subsided resignedly and drooped into a contemplation of thescenery. Swinburne seemed to fit in somehow.
Oh, winter's rains and ruins are over, And all the seasons of snows and sins; The days dividing lover and lover, The light that loses, the night that wins; And time remembered is grief forgotten, And frosts are slain and flowers begotten, And in green underwood and cover, Blossom by blossom the spring begins.
The full streams feed on flower of--
What's the matter, Amory? Amory's thinking about poetry, about thepretty birds and flowers. I can see it in his eye.
No, I'm not, he lied. I'm thinking about the Princetonian. I ought tomake up to-night; but I can telephone back, I suppose.
Oh, said Kerry respectfully, these important men--
Amory flushed and it seemed to him that Ferrenby, a defeated competitor,winced a little. Of course, Kerry was only kidding, but he reallymustn't mention the Princetonian.
It was a halcyon day, and as they neared the shore and the salt breezesscurried by, he began to picture the ocean and long, level stretches ofsand and red roofs over blue sea. Then they hurried through the littletown and it all flashed upon his consciousness to a mighty paean ofemotion....
Oh, good Lord! _Look_ at it! he cried.
Let me out, quick--I haven't seen it for eight years! Oh, gentlefolk,stop the car!
What an odd child! remarked Alec.
I do believe he's a bit eccentric.
The car was obligingly drawn up at a curb, and Amory ran for theboardwalk. First, he realized that the sea was blue and that there wasan enormous quantity of it, and that it roared and roared--really allthe banalities about the ocean that one could realize, but if any onehad told him then that these things were banalities, he would have gapedin wonder.
Now we'll get lunch, ordered Kerry, wandering up with the crowd. Comeon, Amory, tear yourself away and get practical.
We'll try the best hotel first, he went on, and thence and so forth.
They strolled along the boardwalk to the most imposing hostelry insight, and, entering the dining-room, scattered about a table.
Eight Bronxes, commanded Alec, and a club sandwich and Juliennes. Thefood for one. Hand the rest around.
Amory ate little, having seized a chair where he could watch the sea andfeel the rock of it. When luncheon was over they sat and smoked quietly.
What's the bill?
Some one scanned it.
Rotten overcharge. We'll give them two dollars and one for the waiter.Kerry, collect the small change.
The waiter approached, and Kerry gravely handed him a dollar, tossed twodollars on the check, and turned away. They sauntered leisurely towardthe door, pursued in a moment by the suspicious Ganymede.
Some mistake, sir.
Kerry took the bill and examined it critically.
No mistake! he said, shaking his head gravely, and, tearing it intofour pieces, he handed the scraps to the waiter, who was so dumfoundedthat he stood motionless and expressionless while they walked out.
Won't he send after us?
No, said Kerry; for a minute he'll think we're the proprietor's sonsor something; then he'll look at the check again and call the manager,and in the meantime--
They left the car at Asbury and street-car'd to Allenhurst, wherethey investigated the crowded pavilions for beauty. At four there wererefreshments in a lunch-room, and this time they paid an even smallerper cent on the total cost; something about the appearance andsavoir-faire of the crowd made the thing go, and they were not pursued.
You see, Amory, we're Marxian Socialists, explained Kerry. We don'tbelieve in property and we're putting it to the great test.
Night will descend, Amory suggested.
Watch, and put your trust in Holiday.
They became jovial about five-thirty and, linking arms, strolled up anddown the boardwalk in a row, chanting a monotonous ditty about the sadsea waves. Then Kerry saw a face in the crowd that attracted him and,rushing off, reappeared in a moment with one of the homeliest girlsAmory had ever set eyes on. Her pale mouth extended from ear to ear, herteeth projected in a solid wedge, and she had little, squinty eyes thatpeeped ingratiatingly over the side sweep of her nose. Kerry presentedthem formally.
Name of Kaluka, Hawaiian queen! Let me present Messrs. Connage, Sloane,Humbird, Ferrenby, and Blaine.
The girl bobbed courtesies all around. Poor creature; Amory supposed shehad never before been noticed in her life--possibly she was half-witted.While she accompanied them (Kerry had invited her to supper) she saidnothing which could discountenance such a belief.
She prefers her native dishes, said Alec gravely to the waiter, butany coarse food will do.
All through supper he addressed her in the most respectful language,while Kerry made idiotic love to her on the other side, and she giggledand grinned. Amory was content to sit and watch the by-play, thinkingwhat a light touch Kerry had, and how he could transform the barestincident into a thing of curve and contour. They all seemed to havethe spirit of it more or less, and it was a relaxation to be with them.Amory usually liked men individually, yet feared them in crowds unlessthe crowd was around him. He wondered how much each one contributed tothe party, for there was somewhat of a spiritual tax levied. Alec andKerry were the life of it, but not quite the centre. Somehow the quietHumbird, and Sloane, with his impatient superciliousness, were thecentre.
Dick Humbird had, ever since freshman year, seemed to Amory a perfecttype of aristocrat. He was slender but well-built--black curly hair,straight features, and rather a dark skin. Everything he said soundedintangibly appropriate. He possessed infinite courage, an averagely goodmind, and a sense of honor with a clear charm and _noblesse oblige_that varied it from righteousness. He could dissipate without going topieces, and even his most bohemian adventures never seemed running itout. People dressed like him, tried to talk as he did.... Amory decidedthat he probably held the world back, but he wouldn't have changed him....
He differed from the healthy type that was essentially middle class--henever seemed to perspire. Some people couldn't be familiar with achauffeur without having it returned; Humbird could have lunched atSherry's with a colored man, yet people would have somehow known thatit was all right. He was not a snob, though he knew only half his class.His friends ranged from the highest to the lowest, but it was impossibleto cultivate him. Servants worshipped him, and treated him like a god.He seemed the eternal example of what the upper class tries to be.
He's like those pictures in the Illustrated London News of the Englishofficers who have been killed, Amory had said to Alec. Well, Alechad answered, if you want to know the shocking truth, his father was agrocery clerk who made a fortune in Tacoma real estate and came to NewYork ten years ago.
Amory had felt a curious sinking sensation.
This present type of party was made possible by the surging together ofthe class after club elections--as if to make a last desperate attemptto know itself, to keep together, to fight off the tightening spirit ofthe clubs. It was a let-down from the conventional heights they had allwalked so rigidly.
After supper they saw Kaluka to the boardwalk, and then strolled backalong the beach to Asbury. The evening sea was a new sensation, for allits color and mellow age was gone, and it seemed the bleak waste thatmade the Norse sagas sad; Amory thought of Kipling's
Beaches of Lukanon before the sealers came.
It was still a music, though, infinitely sorrowful.
Ten o'clock found them penniless. They had suppered greatly on theirlast eleven cents and, singing, strolled up through the casinos andlighted arches on the boardwalk, stopping to listen approvingly to allband concerts. In one place Kerry took up a collection for the FrenchWar Orphans which netted a dollar and twenty cents, and with this theybought some brandy in case they caught cold in the night. They finishedthe day in a moving-picture show and went into solemn systematic roarsof laughter at an ancient comedy, to the startled annoyance of the restof the audience. Their entrance was distinctly strategic, for each manas he entered pointed reproachfully at the one just behind him. Sloane,bringing up the rear, disclaimed all knowledge and responsibility assoon as the others were scattered inside; then as the irate ticket-takerrushed in he followed nonchalantly.
They reassembled later by the Casino and made arrangements for thenight. Kerry wormed permission from the watchman to sleep on theplatform and, having collected a huge pile of rugs from the booths toserve as mattresses and blankets, they talked until midnight, and thenfell into a dreamless sleep, though Amory tried hard to stay awake andwatch that marvellous moon settle on the sea.
So they progressed for two happy days, up and down the shore bystreet-car or machine, or by shoe-leather on the crowded boardwalk;sometimes eating with the wealthy, more frequently dining frugallyat the expense of an unsuspecting restaurateur. They had their photostaken, eight poses, in a quick-development store. Kerry insisted ongrouping them as a varsity football team, and then as a tough gangfrom the East Side, with their coats inside out, and himself sittingin the middle on a cardboard moon. The photographer probably has themyet--at least, they never called for them. The weather was perfect, andagain they slept outside, and again Amory fell unwillingly asleep.
Sunday broke stolid and respectable, and even the sea seemed to mumbleand complain, so they returned to Princeton via the Fords of transientfarmers, and broke up with colds in their heads, but otherwise none theworse for wandering.
Even more than in the year before, Amory neglected his work, notdeliberately but lazily and through a multitude of other interests.Co-ordinate geometry and the melancholy hexameters of Corneille andRacine held forth small allurements, and even psychology, which he hadeagerly awaited, proved to be a dull subject full of muscular reactionsand biological phrases rather than the study of personality andinfluence. That was a noon class, and it always sent him dozing.Having found that subjective and objective, sir, answered most of thequestions, he used the phrase on all occasions, and it became the classjoke when, on a query being levelled at him, he was nudged awake byFerrenby or Sloane to gasp it out.
Mostly there were parties--to Orange or the Shore, more rarely toNew York and Philadelphia, though one night they marshalled fourteenwaitresses out of Childs' and took them to ride down Fifth Avenue on topof an auto bus. They all cut more classes than were allowed, which meantan additional course the following year, but spring was too rare tolet anything interfere with their colorful ramblings. In May Amory waselected to the Sophomore Prom Committee, and when after a longevening's discussion with Alec they made out a tentative list of classprobabilities for the senior council, they placed themselves among thesurest. The senior council was composed presumably of the eighteen mostrepresentative seniors, and in view of Alec's football managership andAmory's chance of nosing out Burne Holiday as Princetonian chairman,they seemed fairly justified in this presumption. Oddly enough, theyboth placed D'Invilliers as among the possibilities, a guess that a yearbefore the class would have gaped at.
All through the spring Amory had kept up an intermittent correspondencewith Isabelle Borge, punctuated by violent squabbles and chieflyenlivened by his attempts to find new words for love. He discoveredIsabelle to be discreetly and aggravatingly unsentimental in letters,but he hoped against hope that she would prove not too exotic a bloomto fit the large spaces of spring as she had fitted the den in theMinnehaha Club. During May he wrote thirty-page documents almostnightly, and sent them to her in bulky envelopes exteriorly labelledPart I and Part II.
Oh, Alec, I believe I'm tired of college, he said sadly, as theywalked the dusk together.
I think I am, too, in a way.
All I'd like would be a little home in the country, some warm country,and a wife, and just enough to do to keep from rotting.
I'd like to quit.
What does your girl say?
Oh! Amory gasped in horror. She wouldn't _think_ of marrying... thatis, not now. I mean the future, you know.
My girl would. I'm engaged.
Are you really?
Yes. Don't say a word to anybody, please, but I am. I may not come backnext year.
But you're only twenty! Give up college?
Why, Amory, you were saying a minute ago--
Yes, Amory interrupted, but I was just wishing. I wouldn't think ofleaving college. It's just that I feel so sad these wonderful nights. Isort of feel they're never coming again, and I'm not really getting allI could out of them. I wish my girl lived here. But marry--not a chance.Especially as father says the money isn't forthcoming as it used to be.
What a waste these nights are! agreed Alec.
But Amory sighed and made use of the nights. He had a snap-shot ofIsabelle, enshrined in an old watch, and at eight almost every night hewould turn off all the lights except the desk lamp and, sitting by theopen windows with the picture before him, write her rapturous letters.
... Oh it's so hard to write you what I really _feel_ when I think about you so much; you've gotten to mean to me a _dream_ that I can't put on paper any more. Your last letter came and it was wonderful! I read it over about six times, especially the last part, but I do wish, sometimes, you'd be more _frank_ and tell me what you really do think of me, yet your last letter was too good to be true, and I can hardly wait until June! Be sure and be able to come to the prom. It'll be fine, I think, and I want to bring _you_ just at the end of a wonderful year. I often think over what you said on that night and wonder how much you meant. If it were anyone but you--but you see I _thought_ you were fickle the first time I saw you and you are so popular and everthing that I can't imagine you really liking me _best_.
Oh, Isabelle, dear--it's a wonderful night. Somebody is playing Love Moon on a mandolin far across the campus, and the music seems to bring you into the window. Now he's playing Good-by, Boys, I'm Through, and how well it suits me. For I am through with everything. I have decided never to take a cocktail again, and I know I'll never again fall in love--I couldn't--you've been too much a part of my days and nights to ever let me think of another girl. I meet them all the time and they don't interest me. I'm not pretending to be blase, because it's not that. It's just that I'm in love. Oh, _dearest_ Isabelle (somehow I can't call you just Isabelle, and I'm afraid I'll come out with the dearest before your family this June), you've got to come to the prom, and then I'll come up to your house for a day and everything'll be perfect....
And so on in an eternal monotone that seemed to both of them infinitelycharming, infinitely new.
June came and the days grew so hot and lazy that they could not worryeven about exams, but spent dreamy evenings on the court of Cottage,talking of long subjects until the sweep of country toward Stony Brookbecame a blue haze and the lilacs were white around tennis-courts, andwords gave way to silent cigarettes.... Then down deserted Prospect andalong McCosh with song everywhere around them, up to the hot jovialityof Nassau Street.
Tom D'Invilliers and Amory walked late in those days. A gambling feverswept through the sophomore class and they bent over the bones tillthree o'clock many a sultry night. After one session they came out ofSloane's room to find the dew fallen and the stars old in the sky.
Let's borrow bicycles and take a ride, Amory suggested.
All right. I'm not a bit tired and this is almost the last night of theyear, really, because the prom stuff starts Monday.
They found two unlocked bicycles in Holder Court and rode out abouthalf-past three along the Lawrenceville Road.
What are you going to do this summer, Amory?
Don't ask me--same old things, I suppose. A month or two in LakeGeneva--I'm counting on you to be there in July, you know--then there'llbe Minneapolis, and that means hundreds of summer hops, parlor-snaking,getting bored--But oh, Tom, he added suddenly, hasn't this year beenslick!
No, declared Tom emphatically, a new Tom, clothed by Brooks, shodby Franks, I've won this game, but I feel as if I never want to playanother. You're all right--you're a rubber ball, and somehow it suitsyou, but I'm sick of adapting myself to the local snobbishness of thiscorner of the world. I want to go where people aren't barred because ofthe color of their neckties and the roll of their coats.
You can't, Tom, argued Amory, as they rolled along through thescattering night; wherever you go now you'll always unconsciously applythese standards of 'having it' or 'lacking it.' For better or worsewe've stamped you; you're a Princeton type!
Well, then, complained Tom, his cracked voice rising plaintively, whydo I have to come back at all? I've learned all that Princeton has tooffer. Two years more of mere pedantry and lying around a club aren'tgoing to help. They're just going to disorganize me, conventionalize mecompletely. Even now I'm so spineless that I wonder how I get away withit.
Oh, but you're missing the real point, Tom, Amory interrupted. You'vejust had your eyes opened to the snobbishness of the world in a ratherabrupt manner. Princeton invariably gives the thoughtful man a socialsense.
You consider you taught me that, don't you? he asked quizzically,eying Amory in the half dark.
Amory laughed quietly.
Sometimes, he said slowly, I think you're my bad angel. I might havebeen a pretty fair poet.
Come on, that's rather hard. You chose to come to an Eastern college.Either your eyes were opened to the mean scrambling quality of people,or you'd have gone through blind, and you'd hate to have done that--beenlike Marty Kaye.
Yes, he agreed, you're right. I wouldn't have liked it. Still, it'shard to be made a cynic at twenty.
I was born one, Amory murmured. I'm a cynical idealist. He pausedand wondered if that meant anything.
They reached the sleeping school of Lawrenceville, and turned to rideback.
It's good, this ride, isn't it? Tom said presently.
Yes; it's a good finish, it's knock-out; everything's good to-night.Oh, for a hot, languorous summer and Isabelle!
Oh, you and your Isabelle! I'll bet she's a simple one... let's saysome poetry.
So Amory declaimed The Ode to a Nightingale to the bushes they passed.
I'll never be a poet, said Amory as he finished. I'm not enough of asensualist really; there are only a few obvious things that I notice asprimarily beautiful: women, spring evenings, music at night, the sea;I don't catch the subtle things like 'silver-snarling trumpets.' I mayturn out an intellectual, but I'll never write anything but mediocrepoetry.
They rode into Princeton as the sun was making colored maps of the skybehind the graduate school, and hurried to the refreshment of a showerthat would have to serve in place of sleep. By noon the bright-costumedalumni crowded the streets with their bands and choruses, and in thetents there was great reunion under the orange-and-black banners thatcurled and strained in the wind. Amory looked long at one house whichbore the legend Sixty-nine. There a few gray-haired men sat and talkedquietly while the classes swept by in panorama of life.
UNDER THE ARC-LIGHT
Then tragedy's emerald eyes glared suddenly at Amory over the edge ofJune. On the night after his ride to Lawrenceville a crowd sallied toNew York in quest of adventure, and started back to Princeton abouttwelve o'clock in two machines. It had been a gay party and differentstages of sobriety were represented. Amory was in the car behind; theyhad taken the wrong road and lost the way, and so were hurrying to catchup.
It was a clear night and the exhilaration of the road went to Amory'shead. He had the ghost of two stanzas of a poem forming in his mind. ...
So the gray car crept nightward in the dark and there was no life stirred as it went by.... As the still ocean paths before the shark in starred and glittering waterways, beauty-high, the moon-swathed trees divided, pair on pair, while flapping nightbirds cried across the air....
A moment by an inn of lamps and shades, a yellow inn under a yellow moon--then silence, where crescendo laughter fades... the car swung out again to the winds of June, mellowed the shadows where the distance grew, then crushed the yellow shadows into blue....
They jolted to a stop, and Amory peered up, startled. A woman wasstanding beside the road, talking to Alec at the wheel. Afterwardhe remembered the harpy effect that her old kimono gave her, and thecracked hollowness of her voice as she spoke:
You Princeton boys?
Well, there's one of you killed here, and two others about dead.
Look! She pointed and they gazed in horror. Under the full light ofa roadside arc-light lay a form, face downward in a widening circle ofblood.
They sprang from the car. Amory thought of the back of that head--thathair--that hair... and then they turned the form over.
It's Dick--Dick Humbird!
Feel his heart!
Then the insistent voice of the old crone in a sort of croaking triumph:
He's quite dead, all right. The car turned over. Two of the men thatweren't hurt just carried the others in, but this one's no use.
Amory rushed into the house and the rest followed with a limp mass thatthey laid on the sofa in the shoddy little front parlor. Sloane, withhis shoulder punctured, was on another lounge. He was half delirious,and kept calling something about a chemistry lecture at 8:10.
I don't know what happened, said Ferrenby in a strained voice. Dickwas driving and he wouldn't give up the wheel; we told him he'd beendrinking too much--then there was this damn curve--oh, my _God!_... Hethrew himself face downward on the floor and broke into dry sobs.
The doctor had arrived, and Amory went over to the couch, where someone handed him a sheet to put over the body. With a sudden hardness, heraised one of the hands and let it fall back inertly. The brow was coldbut the face not expressionless. He looked at the shoe-laces--Dick hadtied them that morning. _He_ had tied them--and now he was this heavywhite mass. All that remained of the charm and personality of the DickHumbird he had known--oh, it was all so horrible and unaristocratic andclose to the earth. All tragedy has that strain of the grotesqueand squalid--so useless, futile... the way animals die.... Amory wasreminded of a cat that had lain horribly mangled in some alley of hischildhood.
Some one go to Princeton with Ferrenby.
Amory stepped outside the door and shivered slightly at the late nightwind--a wind that stirred a broken fender on the mass of bent metal to aplaintive, tinny sound.
Next day, by a merciful chance, passed in a whirl. When Amory was byhimself his thoughts zigzagged inevitably to the picture of that redmouth yawning incongruously in the white face, but with a determinedeffort he piled present excitement upon the memory of it and shut itcoldly away from his mind.
Isabelle and her mother drove into town at four, and they rode upsmiling Prospect Avenue, through the gay crowd, to have tea at Cottage.The clubs had their annual dinners that night, so at seven he loaned herto a freshman and arranged to meet her in the gymnasium at eleven, whenthe upper classmen were admitted to the freshman dance. She was all hehad expected, and he was happy and eager to make that night the centreof every dream. At nine the upper classes stood in front of the clubsas the freshman torchlight parade rioted past, and Amory wondered if thedress-suited groups against the dark, stately backgrounds and underthe flare of the torches made the night as brilliant to the staring,cheering freshmen as it had been to him the year before.
The next day was another whirl. They lunched in a gay party of six in aprivate dining-room at the club, while Isabelle and Amory looked at eachother tenderly over the fried chicken and knew that their love was to beeternal. They danced away the prom until five, and the stags cut in onIsabelle with joyous abandon, which grew more and more enthusiastic asthe hour grew late, and their wines, stored in overcoat pockets in thecoat room, made old weariness wait until another day. The stag line isa most homogeneous mass of men. It fairly sways with a single soul. Adark-haired beauty dances by and there is a half-gasping sound as theripple surges forward and some one sleeker than the rest darts out andcuts in. Then when the six-foot girl (brought by Kaye in your class, andto whom he has been trying to introduce you all evening) gallops by,the line surges back and the groups face about and become intent on farcorners of the hall, for Kaye, anxious and perspiring, appears elbowingthrough the crowd in search of familiar faces.
I say, old man, I've got an awfully nice--
Sorry, Kaye, but I'm set for this one. I've got to cut in on a fella.
Well, the next one?
What--ah--er--I swear I've got to go cut in--look me up when she's gota dance free.
It delighted Amory when Isabelle suggested that they leave for a whileand drive around in her car. For a delicious hour that passed too soonthey glided the silent roads about Princeton and talked from the surfaceof their hearts in shy excitement. Amory felt strangely ingenuous andmade no attempt to kiss her.
Next day they rode up through the Jersey country, had luncheon in NewYork, and in the afternoon went to see a problem play at which Isabellewept all through the second act, rather to Amory's embarrassment--thoughit filled him with tenderness to watch her. He was tempted to lean overand kiss away her tears, and she slipped her hand into his under coverof darkness to be pressed softly.
Then at six they arrived at the Borges' summer place on Long Island, andAmory rushed up-stairs to change into a dinner coat. As he put in hisstuds he realized that he was enjoying life as he would probably neverenjoy it again. Everything was hallowed by the haze of his own youth. Hehad arrived, abreast of the best in his generation at Princeton. He wasin love and his love was returned. Turning on all the lights, he lookedat himself in the mirror, trying to find in his own face the qualitiesthat made him see clearer than the great crowd of people, that made himdecide firmly, and able to influence and follow his own will. There waslittle in his life now that he would have changed. ... Oxford might havebeen a bigger field.
Silently he admired himself. How conveniently well he looked, and howwell a dinner coat became him. He stepped into the hall and thenwaited at the top of the stairs, for he heard footsteps coming. It wasIsabelle, and from the top of her shining hair to her little goldenslippers she had never seemed so beautiful.
Isabelle! he cried, half involuntarily, and held out his arms. As inthe story-books, she ran into them, and on that half-minute, as theirlips first touched, rested the high point of vanity, the crest of hisyoung egotism.