Among the Daughters/Chapter 34
THEY COME AND GO
"Read the Mail first, that Ben Twadell is a friend of Ilona's and Vent's so we're sure to get a review," Lucy said when Vida arrived at noon with the newspapers.
"It's a wonderful headline," Vida said, folding back the pages. She read:
"Audience Cheers New Work
"Last night at the Langtry there was revealed to a large cheering audience a bright new star in the firmament of the art of the dance. Miss Ilona Klemper. Here is no artist content to pander to theatricalism, for in Miss Klemper we see a dancer consecrated, in the Grecian high priestess sense, to the expression of those inner subconscious states that cannot be portrayed literally. It is said Miss Klemper has evolved her own credo which she defines as muscular thinking in empty space.
"He means," Vida commented, "she told him that's what it is when I heard her coaching him. It's a cute device though, pretending he doesn't know her personally, makes him seem impartial. Let's look at the other papers."
"No, read it," said Lucy expressionlessly.
"Well, you can read it all if you want to—I'll just pick out a few gems." She read:
"The props have been swept away from the old standards of judgment. The one thing that the new dance can be relied on not to possess is fixed standard of any sort.
"Well, isn't that comfortable," said Vida ironically. "That's an alibi if I ever heard one. This new dance can be a chameleon reversing itself at will, and so be up to the minute if something good or popular comes along that it can plagiarize." She read:
"Here was no dance to be enjoyed and understood at the first viewing. It is a work of functional chaste eroticism, yet though it is primitive in spirit it has an abstract quality that is of the modernist movement. It is perfectly safe to say that not a single spectator, not even those who cheered, can say what the work was all about, though it was gripping and emotionally moving. It is so because the dance is not aimed at the usual organs of understanding, there is nothing in the least objective about it. It slips through the sensory perceptions, produces a series of profound emotional reactions, and effects an ultimate release without ever touching on the accustomed areas of intellection. It produces that catharsis—"
Vida broke off. "I'm not going to read any more."
"I don't understand all that," Lucy said tonelessly.
"That's because you use the usual organs of understanding. There's nothing to understand—it's a lot of gibberish made up of modern art catchwords."
"But doesn't he say anything about Ranna and me?""Let's see. Oh yes, you're mentioned." She read:
"The remainder of the program was divided by Ranna, in exotic dances of his native India, and a ballet in the manner of Marie Laurencin by Miss Lucy Claudel, première danseuse of Broadway revues, which was well received by an audience which obviously contained many of her personal friends."
"Well, good for Ilona. I guess we just didn't appreciate her," Lucy said in a small voice.
"Listen to Mark Gordon in the World. I guess he and Twadell didn't attend the same performance," Vida said, furious at what she considered prejudiced reporting in the Mail. She read:
"Lucy Claudel Scores
"There was a capacity turnout last night at the Langtry to greet the recital debut of Lucy Claudel, of Broadway fame, and Ranna, the celebrated Hindu dancer. Ranna's contribution was a group of exotic dances performed with skill and grace, but the evening's high light was Miss Claudel's 'Les Jeux des Filles Méchantes.' The ballet was a gem, pictorially and choreographically, and evoked with a kind of provocatively ingenuous humor rarely seen at events of this nature the precocious pastimes of girls on the threshold of love. Our only regret is that she may, as a result of her great success, desert Broadway. Perhaps some enterprising producer will transfer her ballet to a revue—with of course Miss Claudel in it. Her beauty alone is enough to electrify any show.
"That's more like it," Vida said happily.
"But doesn't he say something about Ilona?" asked Lucy dispiritedly despite the praise.
"He certainly does." She read:
"An unfortunate item, Miss Claudel's only error in showmanship, was a number by a Miss Ilona Klcmper and a few earnest handmaidens, all very unhappy about something, as I was for myself until they finished."
Vida looked through the other papers, and then said, "The other reviews are enthusiastic about you too, like Gordon."
"But just the same," Lucy persisted, "Twadell may be the one who is right because he is the only one interested in the art of the dance."
"He is also Ilona's friend."
"That doesn't have to make him wrong, or prejudiced. After all, some people like one thing, some another."
"It is my profound conviction, as Semy puts it," Vida said, "that Twadell, like Ilona, has no idea what the modern art movement is about and they have plenty of company in their demi-monde."
"That's not nice. You're just saying that because he preferred her to me. In some ways you remind me of Vermillion."
"That's a compliment—do I have to give you one in return?"
"I might as well get up, but I don't know what for," Lucy said dejectedly, throwing back the bedcovers. "I feel let down and, oh, empty and what's it all about? It's an awful feeling not to have anything to do now that the concert is over."
"I'm glad it's over," Vida said passionately, "I have so many things waiting to be done."
"Flowahs an' tel'grams still cornin'," Cleo said, a box and a yellow envelope in her hand. "Mis' Mae say to tell you she gone to get you an' her some stockings."
"Well, put the flowers in water," Lucy said, reading the card from Nino, then indifferently opening the telegram. "Oh," she said in dismay to Vida, "it's from your mother—Aunt Mabel broke her hip."
The two girls left Grand Central Station after seeing Mae off and walked back in the muggy spring afternoon to Lucy's apartment, and made themselves coffee.
"I hope Mother remembers to take those sleeping pills I gave her so she doesn't lie awake worrying. Poor Aunt Mabel! She certainly never had any fun, working all the time as though fun's a sin, and now she may be stuck in a wheel chair if she doesn't die. Sometimes I wonder whether working so hard is worth it. Even to be an artist. When you're dead, you're sure dead, so who cares what people think after you're gone? While I'm alive I want to live."
"I don't want to die either," Vida suddenly moaned and threw herself to the floor with an ugly gurgle of anguish.
"What's the matter with you?" Lucy screamed, frightened.
"I'm pregnant and I'm afraid."
Lucy gave her a sedative and remembered a bottle of pre-Prohibition gin. "We both need a drink," she said, attempting cheeriness and, as they sipped, stared at Vida incredulously. "Well, for goodness sake, you could knock me over with a feather! Here I always think of you as strong and sensible and it turns out you're like me, silly. You pull yourself together and I'll take care of everything. If Aunt Mabel had to break her hip, there couldn't have been a better time, you have to admit that. Now you'll have to stay with me."
It was a relief to lie between the fragrant sheets in the creamy floral-chintzed bedroom and listen to Lucy's chatter, designed Vida knew to keep her from thinking.
"I'm glad Cleo has today off, she's such a talker. I gave you linen sheets instead of crepe de Chine like mine because linen feels better when you're not well. I'm going to clear away all these perfume bottles. I bought most of them because I liked their shape but this biggest one I got from that man in the government in Washington who kept inviting me to go out. I did once and he insisted on buying me a present. So I picked out this which was the biggest bottle in sight and said 'I'll take this because the smaller size costs more than half of the big one and I'm very economical.' He thought that was cute. The fool! I'll phone Longchamps to send over dinner, some chicken, and then you go to sleep and first thing tomorrow we'll go and see a doctor I know and you'll be fine in a few days."
It won't be long now, Vida thought the next morning as they rode downtown in a new open taxi and relaxed confidently in the healing spring sun.
Lucy was frowning as she came from the doctor's office toward Vida waiting in the reception room after the examination.
"He won't do it because it's too far advanced. I'll have to see what else I can find out."
They rode uptown in silence.
As they approached 42nd Street Lucy said, "I thought I canceled all my appointments for today and tomorrow but I just remembered I have one at Maison des Fleurs for a facial at twelve. I'd better stop in and cancel it."
"No, you have it and I'll wait," Vida said. "It's about twelve now and I'd as soon sit still for a while."
"Well, all right. Maybe I'll think better then, facials are relaxing; why don't you have one if a girl is free?"
"I don't want anybody to touch me!" Vida said, suddenly hysterical.
"Then you just sit and rest," Lucy said soothingly.
"I had no idea there were so many different creams," Vida commented, wondering how that already perfect skin could be improved.
The beautician was scandalized. "Every part of the face needs special care, that is why Madame Elaine has registered nurses which the other shops don't bother about. This is pore cream for the nose, this to tighten the skin under the eyes, this for the forehead and cheeks, and that for under the chin," she salestalked, and put a cloth over Lucy's face for a five-minute rest.
"You're learning all sorts of things," came from the hidden Lucy.
"And how!" Vida said bitterly.
"I'll drop you at home and you tell Cleo to make you lunch, because I have to go to the bank and do one or two errands," Lucy ordered.
Vida sat staring out the window unable to read the book in her lap.
"Don't you feel good?" asked Cleo who thought any silence unnatural.
"I feel fine," Vida said.
"I gotta get some butter," Cleo said, thinking of that Clara Bow flaming youth movie over on Lexington and 49th.
It was a relief to cry alone. Lucy returned at six.
"Who do you think I met?" she said cheerily.
"I've no idea," Vida said, glum at having been forgotten.
"Tessie! She knows more about those doctors than anyone so I told her a friend of mine was up against it. She told me of one and I went to see him and you're to be there tomorrow before office hours. Eight sharp. Everything's settled, so don't let him charge you anything."
Two days later Vida awakened feeling faint and taxied in a steaming grey rain for a second visit to the decrepit high-stoop brownstone.
"You girls want to have all the fun and then complain," the short grizzled coatless doctor was saying when she returned to consciousness.
She left bolstered with instructions for Lucy to phone him the moment there were signs and to remember about sterilizing. The taxi driver half carried her to the apartment and in some way she reached the sofa.
"Cleo has caught on. She keeps thinking up excuses to get out but I won't let her go. I've locked the door and hid the key. It's lucky she's here because she's turned out to be a goldmine of advice," Lucy said.
Having this in common, Vida thought as she lay in bed that night waiting, had had a subtle effect on the relationship between Lucy and herself. As though they had become one individual, and Lucy the better part. She never once showed the slightest curiosity about the man and kept striving to make the situation appear no worse than a toothache.
The next afternoon Tessie came and Lucy went to get a prescription filled. When she returned Vida was in pain with Tessie at her side.
"You know," Tessie said to Lucy, "it's fascinating to watch. Kovnikoff who was with the Moscow Art Theatre says it's very important for an actress to observe suffering. I feel I'm having an important lesson."
"Get out of here," Vida screamed.
"We better get her to bed and call the doctor," Cleo said.
Through the haze of pain Vida saw Lucy, a folded napkin over her hair like a nurse's cap, in a large white apron. There was clinking of instruments on a porcelain pan, the short grumpy doctor muttering about the consequences of lovemaking, and then the pain became so intense she lost control of her body; it arched up, her head falling back, and she twisted and arched and jerked and the whites of Cleo's eyes and the face of the doctor and Lucy blurred and she leapt and twisted in the air like Tina did for a ball when she was young and faster faster faster and at the apex of one intolerable pain a great warm avalanche swept down and she was swimming in blood and the angelic figure of Lucy swayed and straightened and sight and hearing went.
And then senses returned and muffled sounds of running water and departures and then everything was quiet and she saw Lucy standing in the door with a glass in her hand.
"I'm having another drink of gin. You know I hardly ever touch it, but I didn't have sense enough to turn my head. The doctor's done everything. Cleo's gone. She was scared to death of landing in jail. I told her to take off tomorrow."
"No words are—there just aren't—" she babbled.
"Don't think of a thing. Maybe you'll help me some way someday, so now let's get a good sleep."
"How empty the city sounds on Sunday," Lucy remarked as she removed Vida's tray from the bed. "I miss the bustle of last Sunday aftemooon. At three o'clock then we were going crazy with light rehearsals and wondering if there'd be an audience. I paid the last bill yesterday. We took in $3,108.50. That was almost a sellout, except for the hundred tickets for the press. I never knew there were so many newspapers, New Jersey, Yonkers, Long Island, Connecticut, dozens of magazines that don't even review but may publish a picture sometime. Then fifty for Ilona, and oh yes, fifty for friends of the cast. Lucky the Langtry's so big. The expenses were $4,600.00, so it cost me $1,500.00, and I have the ballet costumes in case I ever do it again. Everything could have been worse."
"And then I owe you several hundred dollars. How much exactly?" Vida asked.
"Not a thing. If you hadn't been busy working on the recital you'd have had time to think of yourself earlier."
"I won't have it."
"Then you'll have to wait until I remember. You see, things like that have to be paid cash in advance and I was too excited to think about a little thing like money. You certainly scared us, even the doctor. Whv didn't vou tell me earlier?"
"I was ashamed to admit my ignorance and that I had gone into—something like that—without knowing what it was all about."
Lucy looked at Vida, lying there so still, her eyes closed. "Were you very much in love, dear?" she asked gently.
"That's the worst of it. I didn't know what I felt about him except that I did like being with him when we were out together. And then, though I know this must seem childish to you, he made me feel I had been unfair in leading him on and I thought how right you were about my knowing only about love second-hand—from reading—and so—well—"
"Don't say another word, you're not to get upset. Say to yourself 'I'm glad it's over, and I've learned this much anyway.' There's the phone—I'll answer it in the other room."
Lucy crossed her fingers and wished for a pleasant surprise to lift her up from her feeling of letdown on this cupid-clouded spring day.
"That was only Clem," she said, returning. "He and Semy wanted to take us to Crooner Jones' new supper club. I said you had the flu, and I couldn't go either. I told everyone you have the flu and not to come and catch it. The girls in the shows always say they have appendicitis if they have to miss a few days, so if I said you had that everyone would be suspicious. Here comes our missing Cleo!"
"Well, how are you all today?" Cleo greeted them jauntily, resplendent in Lucy's emerald cloche, beige fox-edged coat and beige sequined dress.
"I'm fine, and Cleo—I don't know how to thank you for the other night," Vida said, remembering Cleo's grey-green face fading in and out of her vision during her agony.
"You're five hours late and what are you all dressed up for?" Lucy said sternly.
"My boy friend's goin' to call for me at five. You shoulda seen me las' night at the Savoy. Boy! I had the shortest skirts there."
"I thought you were going to let out the seams of that dress—it's too tight on you," Lucy said critically of the taut seams.
"I like a dress to fit good and snug so you can see what's good underneath," Cleo retorted, and wiggled herself out of the bedroom.
"Cleo March in her green hat in search of purity," Vida said, laughing for the first time in days.
Lucy giggled. "That's mean."
"You gave her that outfit because of me," Vida said, upset by this added generosity.
"Oh well, she'd have got it eventually, and she was a big help. I'll be glad to get to Master's tomorrow. I haven't practiced all week. I must plan too what I'm going to do. This is the first time I've been without a job since I came to New York, I feel more scared now than I did then. It's an awful feeling. It's lucky I still have some money. I learned a lot working for the recital and I'm glad I did it, but to tell you the truth, I'm sure now that I never could stand traveling around giving concerts with Ranna. Even if they were a big success I'd never feel settled."
She went to the open window and leaned into the tantalizing spring air. Turning her head she looked down the crosstown chasm divided by sun and shade. It was almost four but the days were growing longer which was good because then the nights were shorter. Settled was an odd word to have used, she thought with a jolt. Did it mean she was getting to be like Mother and that the fortuneteller was right? Never never never! What she meant was that to be with Ranna was to be alone. Or it was as though one had learned what he had to teach and was ready to pass to the next grade. Even so it might have worked out if he were a man on his own feet and not always looking to rich women to take care of him. Continuing with Ranna would be like watering a beautiful artificial tree. No roots to make it grow. And then to be so far away from New York, this place and that.
She must try again to reach Vermillion before he sailed and ask him what he thought she ought to do. She had tried again and again to reach him at hurried intervals the past week from telephone booths but without success. One couldn't phone him with Vida lying there hearing every word.
"Don't lean out so far," Vida warned.
"I feel cooped up."
"It's no wonder. I wish you wouldn't stay in on such a beautiful day because of me."
"I think I'll run over to the drugstore and get some cold cream."
"In case of fire do not run, walk," Vida quoted, with a trace of her former lilt.
At the drugstore Lucy phoned Vermillion. No answer. For someone who says he doesn't go out much he's never in when you phone, she complained to herself, and phoned Figente just in case he was there.
"Nino and I are playing cribbage, come down," Figente invited.
"I can't, I have to get back to Vida."
"Back? Where are you?"
"I came out to the drugstore. Tell me, are you going to the surprise party for Nino next Friday?"
"This is the first I've heard of it. Who is giving it?"
"Horta Cornwallis—but don't tell him, it's a surprise."
"She knows I rarely go out. Nino wants to talk to you."
She could sense Nino was hurt at having been put off. "My friend has been very sick and I've hardly been out of the house. Would lunch tomorrow be all right for you?" she asked, keeping nights free in case she reached Vermillion.
"Shall we say the Athenée at one?"
"That will be fine."
She walked a half block heading uptown, intending to go for a walk, and then turned and went home. It was terrible to be alone on such a beautiful spring Sunday. I've certainly changed from that Sunday when I enjoyed the walk on Fifth Avenue to Simone's. I feel years older. Vida and I have grown up or else I don't know what's the matter with me.
When she returned, Vida was putting a bouquet of arbutus and violets in water.
"You're not to get out of bed," she scolded.
"I answered the doorbell. Vermillion sent me these."
"Oh," Lucy said dully, alert to Vida's suppressed elation, "I suppose Figente told him you were ill. He can be nice when he wants to be."
How stupid not to have seen how much Vida and he had in common. It was Vida to whom he had talked at Clem's party and Vida who had understood. He only sat with me because I made him. This will teach me a lesson.
"I phoned to thank him and he said to give you his regards. He is going to try and drop in before he sails Thursday. I'm certainly sorry he's leaving just when I'm beginning to know him better. But then he says he may not be away long. These days people come and go and think nothing of it," Vida concluded with a new proprietary assurance, her cheeks feverish.
"Yes," Lucy echoed disconsolately, wondering at Vida's success in reaching him, "they come and go, come and go, and think nothing of it."
"Do you believe in Fate?" Lucy asked Vida while dressing the next morning to meet Nino.
"I don't know whether I do or not, though to tell you the truth, quoting you, I am drawn to the belief of the ancient Greeks because at times it does seem that a Fate is running things for me. Though sometimes it seems more like Nemesis. Maybe it's only instinct, or that new term everyone is using—the unconscious. But, then again, how would that affect others? Does that make sense?" She looked dreamily at the arbutus and violets doubled in the dresser mirror, wondering if Rad had been contrived by Fate as purgatorial preparation for maturity and Vermillion.
"I don't understand all that, but I do think it must mean Fate or something if you try to reach someone over and over and can't."
"That could be mischance—you have to keep trying," Vida replied, half listening.
"It seems to me it must mean something, but I hope you're right," Lucy said doubtfully.
"Don't be so superstitious and have a good time," Vida said, hoping Vermillion would come this free afternoon and enfold her in his radiating smile. I wouldn't even care if he never touched me, just so long as he comes, that much I know, she thought and broke into drenching sobs the moment the door closed behind Lucy.
"Your mother must be proud of your success," Nino said at a table overlooking the Park in the dark paneled dining room.
It seemed impossible for him to penetrate the barrier she had erected since their last meeting a month past. Before the concert she had been warm and open, affectionate even, or at least not unhappy in his company. Now it was as if she were performing a duty. There was lackluster in her spirit. The incandescence had diminished in the childlike smile which had made him hope for the first time in years that he would know love again.
"You know how mothers are, they think everything you do is wonderful and are happy when there is lots of applause," she said nervously.
The Park across no longer was a fairyland to stroll in happily, hand in hand, but a prairie like that outside Congress where you could get lost.
The Marqués de Mendez y Avila smiled and raised his hand to prevent the waiter from putting ice into the water.
"It did not please you as well?"
"It's fine while it lasts but afterwards you must begin all over. It's like riding on a merry-go-round horse."
"But the world is limitless in its interests, surely one so young cannot be bored. I have seen much and am not yet world-weary. Think of what there is to see and learn and enjoy."
She smiled wryly. "If you are in show business the world is a circle around Broadway. And then, look at Figente—he's seen and done so much he hardly ever leaves his house."
"I see no resemblance between you."
They laughed, and waited as the waiter cleared and scraped.
He put four lumps of sugar into the small cup. "Spaniards are partial to sweets," he said, looking at her meaningfully.
"Are they?" she said, pretending not to understand. "I think I'll just have a cigarette if you don't mind." She pushed aside her cup, trying to think of something else to keep him from speaking of love as she didn't want to hurt him. "It's a shame I'm in such a bad mood. I thought my friend Vida was going to die, and now there are many other things to do that should have been done last week," she apologized.
"I understand," he said, "but I would be most unhappy to leave without seeing you again."
"I think of you as one of the best friends I ever have had, and I will miss you. It's hard to explain but that is how I feel. I know hundreds of people but I can count on one hand those I care whether I ever see again."
"I am honored," he said gravely. "What you have said has made the day bright. Whenever you are free and feel like saying to yourself 'I would like to see Nino,' you have but to let me know."
"Do you know," she confided, "no one has ever said that to me and sometimes I wish if only someone had. When I think of your going to Europe I could cry, and that's something I never do."
"We will make an agreement. Whenever you wish you will call Nino—but you must not wait too long," he said, and asked for the bill to release her.
At noon on Wednesday Lucy arrived home to find Vida in one of her recurrent floods of tears.
"For goodness sake, what now?" she asked curtly, for there were pressing matters requiring attention.
"Don't pay any attention to me, I don't seem able to control myself. It's probably only a reaction," Vida said apologetically, trying to smile, unwilling to admit that the periodic fits of despondency were precipitated by Vermillion's failure to call as he had promised. "What did Judock say?"
Lucy sighed and sat down.
"Oh, a lot. I called for Ranna so we would be on time. For once he was ready. All the way he kept telling me what an important concert manager Judock is and how wonderful it was he had asked us to come and see him. As it turned out Ranna was right, which was a big surprise to me as he is always getting steamed up about what important people, rich women mostly, are going to do for plans he has which couldn't work out in a million years. Well, Judock offered us a good contract, a guarantee, for a tour next season. October to May first. Not Ilona. Ranna and myself, and my ballet which he is crazy about. He said it had a freshness and style that the Russian ballet seemed to be losing, but maybe that was a line because he was trying to talk me into signing up. I asked him what happened when we got through touring the U.S. and he said he might be able to repeat the tour next year if we had a new program and next summer he might be able to arrange a London and Paris season. But he didn't seem so interested in that. Ranna said as long as we were going to be in California we ought to go to Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and India, and Judock jumped at that because it seems there's more money there than in Europe and not all concert artists want to go to the Orient. I said I didn't want to go that way and he left it to Ranna to talk me into it and the tour because it's" all off if I won't go. I'll tell you something about Ranna it took me a long while to find out. He only seems impractical—it's his act to get you to take care of him and give him his own way.
"But I'm not going. After all, I've turned down going on tour for Samuels, and Beman too. I just don't want to go so far away. I guess you think I'm crazy after all my talk about wanting to be a concert artist, and I don't know what's going to happen to me, but whatever does will be here in New York. I would consider it if Judock let us play here, and then—Paris. He was flabbergasted when I suggested he put us on for a am. He says a concert audience is limited, and you can't have a run in New York unless you're subsidized, like the Opera. Did you know artists pay Judock to put on their shows! Well, anyway, the sun may rise in the east and set in the west but I'm not going to follow it around the world with Ranna."
At nine the evening of sailing Vermillion opened wide the windows to the refreshing spring rain and returned to packing. Tire room already was barren of signs of work and strange. Skeleton furniture stood as he had found it. The easel, trestle table, and a crate of canvases had been moved to storage. The old trunk, filled with paints, books, notebooks, and endless items he'd sort out in Paris, already was on the docks. The paint box was closed and there remained only two suitcases to be packed with clothes. On the money from Vedder, already alarmingly depleted in the process of moving and ship fare, he could with luck work in Paris for a year counting on what might come in by acting as agent for the art supply house. "I love you, but I can't afford you," he said to his City, reluctant to leave now that the hour had come. Even the stink wafted up the river from slaughterhouses, against which he sometimes had to close his windows, seemed seductive. It wasn't any worse than the rank odors of the Seine. But then, this block of old houses was coming down if they didn't fall down first within the year and old Daudin's concierge had a concierge friend holding on to a room under a roof in the me de Rivoli overlooking the Louvre. So I'm all set and ought to feel good, he told himself, trying to remember any loose ends.
The only one which dangled and he had tried to overlook without success was what to do about Lucy. What he felt was more than the usual pull. At the same time there was an unwillingness to make it only a one-night stand, though judging from the talk it might be that with her. He had been unable to resolve what he felt. But it was too late now to do more than telephone and say goodbye if there was time. Otherwise, he'd send a card from Paris.
Who the hell is that! he wondered as the bell rang. Probably that drunk who's always forgetting his key. He peered over the railing.
"An apple for the teacher," Lucy called up and he went down to relieve her of a beribboned basket of fruit.
"I'm no teacher," he said uncomfortably. What was one supposed to say?
"You may not know it but you are. Anyway, it's an apple to remember me by."
She set a bottle of cold champagne on the table with a resounding bang.
"Everybody is leaving or sick, Nino is going, you're going, Figente is sick again, Vida is sick—anyway I thought you and I would crack this bottle of champagne. I couldn't get Calvados."
He recalled a Budapest violinist who could shatter a wineglass by scratching a high tone. That was her voice. Or perhaps her exaggerated gaiety was from drinking. Whatever it was, he was disturbed at being alone with her.
She took off the wet close grey hat that all but covered her eyes and the grey fur-collared coat, and stood in one of those pleated chiffon dresses she often wore that resembled an abbreviated nightgown.
"Some day," she said, prepared to remain, "I must get me an umbrella or raincoat. I always forget that sometimes taxis are hard to get."
"You are just in time, I'm rushing to finish packing as I have to be on board by eleven thirty."
"Tonight! But I thought you sailed tomorrow? That's less than an hour!" she said in consternation.
"That's right, twelve-o-one, one minute after today," he said, opening the bottle.
"There were so many things I wanted to ask you. You see I have so few friends, I hate to lose one," she faltered.
He held back his impulse to take her in his arms, and kicked aside an old turtle neck sweater unraveling on the floor.
"You exaggerate. I'm sure you have dozens," he said briskly.
"Oh sure, I have hundreds—you don't have to worry about me," she said, trying hard to smile brightly because she could see he didn't want to be bothered.
The cork popped. "This is just what I needed. I'll take you home on my way to the ship."
"I'll go along, I love to wave goodbye," she said. Any second now she'd be crying, then what would he think of her?
"No," he said sharply, "I don't like being waved off."
"You're like me, I like to come and go as I please."
He struggled with the last obstinate bag, pulling out the turtle neck sweater. "This is too warm for Paris anyway."
"I'll take it, maybe I'll use it for an apache number." She tried to sound gay, rolled it up, and placed it next to her purse.
"What are your plans now?" he asked, putting the image of Lucy in the sweater from his mind.
"As Bert Savoy says 'I'm glad you ast me, I'm glad you ast me,'" she said brightly to keep on making it seem a party. "Judock, the concert manager, has offered us a transcontinental tour, U.S. and Canada. Not Ilona."
"That's fine. It's what you want, isn't it?"
"I suppose so," she said doubtfully. "But so tar it's only for one season. If we tour again next season we must have a whole new program. I don't know whether I could ever think of anything as good as the Laurencin ballet again."
"Sure you will," he encouraged. "There are all sorts of ideas that would be fine for you. You could do a Gavami ballet which would be much in the same genre but an earlier period. You could do Mimi Pinson as a ballet—that's the story La Bohème was partly founded on; or you might try Poe's Masque of the Red Death—which would have to be done in very early dance styles. Perhaps to Bach."
"I can see you are getting me set for years of work," she said bitterly. Instead of the excitement when they had discussed the Laurencin idea she now felt despondency because he seemed to be pushing her away with ideas for work. "I can see myself traveling around, rehearsing all day and giving shows all night. You won't see me for years. Judock wants us to go to Australia, Japan, and India too."
The possibility of not seeing her again came as an unpleasant prospect. "I hope it won't be years and, who knows, you may dance in Paris sometime when I am there? You'll find seeing the world exciting."
"I always thought if I traveled it would be to Paris—" She paused but he seemed not to notice her questioning inflexion. "Paris certainly seems a long way off by way of the Orient," her voice trailed off mournfully.
"Once you begin traveling, you come and go without thought of distances," he told her, struggling with the suitcases.
"That's what Vida said—people come and go and think nothing of it."
"Please remember to tell her for me how sorry I am I never got around to phoning her. The fact is the company cut off the phone too early."
"I'll tell her.
He strapped the bulging suitcases so the locks would not spring open. "Well, that's it," he said, placing the suitcases next to the door, and the basket of apples on top.
They stood facing each other uncertainly and for a moment she thought he was going to put his arms around her, but he turned abruptly and went to close the windows.
He looked around the barren room. "I hate having to give up this place," he said huskily, and put on his coat and hat so that she would not see he wanted her too. He scribbled an address and handed it to her. "If you come to Paris, you must let me know—if I'm still there."
This is the end, Lucy thought hopelessly. If only he had taken her in his arms and held her close for a minute to prove a tree doesn't disappear and leave you with nothing but yourself to hold you up.
"I'll carry the apples," she said.
The taxi stopped at her door and she raised her head and he kissed her softly, without the insistence of men who tried to draw her close to them. Then, as after the walk in the Park, he left, and her life ended without a finish.
The liner backed into the oily river and, turning its unwieldy bulk, nosed toward the bay, a floating continent passing a city blazing within a skeleton, lighting workers emptying and scrubbing away the day's refuse.
Vermillion turned up his coat collar against the Atlantic breeze coming to greet the ship and leaned on a third-class rail. The wish that he had postponed sailing a week or two strengthened with the wind.