Page:Manhattan Transfer (John Dos Passos, 1925).djvu/387

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The Burthen of Nineveh


Through dinner she felt a gradual icy coldness stealing through her like novocaine. She had made up her mind. It seemed as if she had set the photograph of herself in her own place, forever frozen into a single gesture. An invisible silk band of bitterness was tightening round her throat, strangling. Beyond the plates, the ivory pink lamp, the broken pieces of bread, his face above the blank shirtfront jerked and nodded; the flush grew on his cheeks; his nose caught the light now on one side, now on the other, his taut lips moved eloquently over his yellow teeth. Ellen felt herself sitting with her ankles crossed, rigid as a porcelain figure under her clothes, everything about her seemed to be growing hard and enameled, the air bluestreaked with cigarettesmoke, was turning to glass. His wooden face of a marionette waggled senselessly in front of her. She shuddered and hunched up her shoulders.

"What's the matter, Elaine?" he burst out. She lied:

"Nothing George. . . . Somebody walked over my grave I guess."

"Couldnt I get you a wrap or something?"

She shook her head.

"Well what about it?" he said as they got up from the table.

'What?" she asked smiling. "After Paris?"

"I guess I can stand it if you can George," she said quietly.

He was waiting for her, standing at the open door of a taxi. She saw him poised spry against the darkness in a tan felt hat and a light tan overcoat, smiling like some celebrity in the rotogravure section of a Sunday paper. Mechanically she squeezed the hand that helped her into the cab.

"Elaine," he said shakily, "life's going to mean something to me now. . . . God if you knew how empty life had been for so many years. I've been like a tin mechanical toy, all hollow inside."

"Let's not talk about mechanical toys," she said in a strangled voice.

"No let's talk about our happiness," he shouted.