A short story by Temple Bailey
The Gay Cockade
Title: The Gay Cockade
Author: Temple Bailey [More Titles by Bailey]
From the moment that Jimmie Harding came into the office, he created an atmosphere. We were a tired lot. Most of us had been in the government service for years, and had been ground fine in the mills of departmental monotony.
But Jimmie was young, and he wore his youth like a gay cockade. He flaunted it in our faces, and because we were so tired of our dull and desiccated selves, we borrowed of him, remorselessly, color and brightness until, gradually, in the light of his reflected glory, we seemed a little younger, a little less tired, a little less petrified.
In his gay and gallant youth there was, however, a quality which partook of earlier times. He should, we felt, have worn a feather in his cap--and a cloak instead of his Norfolk coat. He walked with a little swagger, and stood with his hand on his hip, as if his palm pressed the hilt of his sword. If he ever fell in love, we told one another, he would, without a doubt, sing serenades and apostrophize the moon.
He did fall in love before he had been with us a year. His love-affair was a romance for the whole office. He came among us every morning glorified; he left us in the afternoon as a knight enters upon a quest.
He told us about the girl. We pictured her perfectly before we saw her, as a little thing, with a mop of curled brown hair; an oval face, pearl-tinted; wide, blue eyes. He dwelt on all her small perfections--the brows that swept across her forehead in a thin black line, the transparency of her slender hands, the straight set of her head on her shoulders, the slight halt in her speech like that of an enchanting child.
Yet she was not in the least a child. "She holds me up to my best, Miss Standish," Jimmie told me; "she says I can write."
We knew that Jimmie had written a few things, gay little poems that he showed us now and then in the magazines. But we had not taken them at all seriously. Indeed, Jimmie had not taken them seriously himself.
But now he took them seriously. "Elise says that I can do great things. That I must get out of the Department."
To the rest of us, getting out of the government service would have seemed a mad adventure. None of us would have had the courage to consider it. But it seemed a natural thing that Jimmie should fare forth on the broad highway--a modern D'Artagnan, a youthful Quixote, an Alan Breck--!
We hated to have him leave. But he had consolation. "Of course you'll come and see us. We're going back to my old house in Albemarle. It's a rotten shack, but Elise says it will be a corking place for me to write. And you'll all come down for week-ends."
We felt, I am sure, that it was good of him to ask us, but none of us expected that we should ever go. We had a premonition that Elise wouldn't want the deadwood of Jimmie's former Division. I know that for myself, I was content to think of Jimmie happy in his old house. But I never really expected to see it. I had reached the point of expecting nothing except the day's work, my dinner at the end, a night's sleep, and the same thing over again in the morning.
Yet Jimmie got all of us down, not long after he was married, to what he called a housewarming. He had inherited a few pleasant acres in Virginia, and the house was two hundred years old. He had never lived in it until he came with Elise. It was in rather shocking condition, but Elise had managed to make it habitable by getting it scrubbed very clean, and by taking out everything that was not in keeping with the oldness and quaintness. The resulting effect was bare but beautiful. There were a great many books, a few oil-portraits, mahogany sideboards and tables and four-poster beds, candles in sconces and in branched candlesticks. They were married in April, and when we went down in June poppies were blowing in the wide grass spaces, and honeysuckle rioting over the low stone walls. I think we all felt as if we had passed through purgatory and had entered heaven. I know I did, because this was the kind of thing of which I had dreamed, and there had been a time when I, too, had wanted to write.
The room in which Jimmie wrote was in a little detached house, which had once been the office of his doctor grandfather. He had his typewriter out there, and a big desk, and from the window in front of his desk he could look out on green slopes and the distant blue of mountain ridges.
We envied him and told him so.
"Well, I don't know," Jimmie said. "Of course I'll get a lot of work done. But I'll miss your darling old heads bending over the other desks."
"You couldn't work, Jimmie," Elise reminded him, "with other people in the room."
"Perhaps not. Did I tell you old dears that I am going to write a play?"
That was, it seems, what Elise had had in mind for him from the beginning--a great play!
"She wouldn't even, have a honeymoon"--Jimmie's arm was around her; "she brought me here, and got this room ready the first thing."
"Well, he mustn't be wasting time," said Elise, "must he? Jimmie's rather wonderful, isn't he?"
They seemed a pair of babies as they stood there together. Elise had on a childish one-piece pink frock, with sleeves above the elbow, and an organdie sash. Yet, intuitively, the truth came to me--she was ages older than Jimmie in spite of her twenty years to his twenty-four. Here was no Juliet, flaming to the moon--no mistress whose steed would gallop by wind-swept roads to midnight trysts. Here was, rather, the cool blood that had sacrificed a honeymoon--_and, oh, to honeymoon with Jimmie Harding_!--for the sake of an ambitious future.
She was telling us about it "We can always have a honeymoon, Jimmie and I. Some day, when he is famous, we'll have it. But now we must not."
"I picked out the place"--Jimmie was eager--"a dip in the hills, and big pines--And then Elise wouldn't."
We went in to lunch after that. The table was lovely and the food delicious. There was batter-bread, I remember, and an omelette, and peas from the garden.
Duncan Street and I talked all the way home of Jimmie and his wife. He didn't agree with me in the least about Elise. "She'll be the making of him. Such wives always are."
But I held that he would lose something,--that he would not be the same Jimmie.
* * * * *
Jimmie wrote plays and plays. In between he wrote pot-boiling books. The pot-boilers were needed, because none of his plays were accepted. He used to stop in our office and joke about it.
"If it wasn't for Elise's faith in me, Miss Standish, I should think myself a poor stick. Of course, I can make money enough with my books and short stuff to keep things going, but it isn't just money that either of us is after."
Except when Jimmie came into the office we saw very little of him. Elise gathered about her the men and women who would count in Jimmie's future. The week-ends in the still old house drew not a few famous folk who loathed the commonplaceness of convivial atmospheres. Elise had old-fashioned flowers in her garden, delectable food, a library of old books. It was a heavenly change for those who were tired of cocktail parties, bridge-madness, illicit love-making. I could never be quite sure whether Elise really loved dignified living for its own sake, or whether she was sufficiently discriminating to recognize the kind of bait which would lure the fine souls whose presence gave to her hospitality the stamp of exclusiveness.
They had a small car, and it was when Jimmie motored up to Washington that we saw him. He had a fashion of taking us out to lunch, two at a time. When he asked me, he usually asked Duncan Street. Duncan and I have worked side by side for twenty-five years. There is nothing in the least romantic about our friendship, but I should miss him if he were to die or to resign from office. I have little fear of the latter contingency. Only death, I feel, will part us.
In our moments of reunion Jimmie always talked a great deal about himself. The big play was, he said, in the back of his mind. "Elise says that I can do it," he told us one day over our oysters, "and I am beginning to think that I can. I say, why can't you old dears in the office come down for Christmas, and I'll read you what I've written."
We were glad to go. There were to be no other guests, and I found out afterward that Elise rarely invited any of their fashionable friends down in winter. The place showed off better in summer with the garden, and the vines hiding all deficiencies.
We arrived in a snow-storm on Christmas Eve, and when we entered the house there was a roaring fire on the hearth. I hadn't seen a fire like that for thirty years. You may know how I felt when I knelt down in front of it and warmed my hands.
The candles in sconces furnished the only other illumination. Elise, moving about the shadowy room, seemed to draw light to herself. She wore a flame-colored velvet frock and her curly hair was tucked into a golden net. I think that she had planned the medieval effect deliberately, and it was a great success. As she flitted about like a brilliant bird, our eyes followed her. My eyes, indeed, drank of her, like new wine. I have always loved color, and my life has been drab.
I spoke of her frock when she showed me my room.
"Oh, do you like it?" she asked. "Jimmie hates to see me in dark things. He says that when I wear this he can see his heroine."
"Is she like you?"
"Not a bit. She is rather untamed. Jimmie does her very well. She positively gallops through the play."
"And do you never gallop?"
She shook her head. "It's a good thing that I don't. If I did, Jimmie would never write. He says that I keep his nose to the grindstone. It isn't that, but I love him too much to let him squander his talent. If he had no talent, I should love him without it. But, having it, I must hold him up to it."
She was very sure of herself, very sure of the rightness of her attitude toward Jimmie. "I know how great he is," she said, as we went down, "and other people don't. So I've got to prove it."
* * * * *
It was at dinner that I first noticed a change in Jimmie. It was a change which was hard to define. Yet I missed something in him--the enthusiasm, the buoyancy, the almost breathless radiance with which he had rekindled our dying fires. Yet he looked young enough and happy enough as he sat at the table in his velvet studio coat, with his crisp, burnt-gold hair catching the light of the candles. He and his wife were a handsome pair. His manner to her was perfect. There could be no question of his adoration.
After dinner we had the tree. It was a young pine set up at one end of the long dining-room, and lighted in the old fashion by red wax candles. There were presents on it for all of us. Jimmie gave me an adorably illustrated _Mother Goose_.
"You are the only other child here, Miss Standish," he said, as he handed it to me. "I saw this in a book-shop, and couldn't resist it."
We looked over the pictures together. They were enchanting. All the bells of old London rang out for a wistful Whittington in a ragged jacket; Bo-Peep in panniers and pink ribbons wailed for her historic sheep; Mother Hubbard, quaint in a mammoth cap, pursued her fruitless search for bones. There was, too, an entrancing Boy Blue who wound his horn, a sturdy darling with his legs planted far apart and distended rosy cheeks.
"That picture is worth the price of the whole book," said Jimmie, and hung over it. Then suddenly he straightened up. "There should be children in this old house."
I knew then what I had missed from the tree. Elise had a great many gifts--exquisite trifles sent to her by sophisticated friends--a wine-jug of seventeenth-century Venetian glass, a bag of Chinese brocade with handles of carved ivory, a pair of ancient silver buckles, a box of rare lacquer filled with Oriental sweets, a jade pendant, a crystal ball on a bronze base--all of them lovely, all to be exclaimed over; but the things I wanted were drums and horns and candy canes, and tarletan bags, and pop-corn chains, and things that had to be wound up, and things that whistled, and things that squawked, and things that sparkled. And Jimmie wanted these things, but Elise didn't. She was perfectly content with her elegant trifles.
It was late when we went out finally to the studio. There was snow everywhere, but it was a clear night with a moon above the pines. A great log burned in the fireplace, a shaded lamp threw a circle of gold on shining mahogany. It seemed to me that Jimmie's writing quarters were even more attractive in December than in June.
Yet, looking back, I can see that to Jimmie the little house was a sort of prison. He loved men and women, contact with his own kind. He had even liked our dingy old office and our dreary, dried-up selves. And here, day after day, he sat alone--as an artist must sit if he is to achieve--_es bildet ein Talent sich in der Stille_.
We sat around the fire in deep leather chairs, all except Elise, who had a cushion on the floor at Jimmie's feet.
He read with complete absorption, and when he finished he looked at me. "What do you think of it?"
I had to tell the truth. "It isn't your masterpiece."
He ran his fingers through his hair with a nervous gesture. "I told Elise that it wasn't."
"But the girl"--Elise's gaze held hot resentment--"is wonderful. Surely you can see that."
"She doesn't seem quite real."
"Then Jimmie shall make her real." Elise laid her hand lightly on her husband's shoulder. Her gown and golden net were all flame and sparkle, but her voice was cold. "He shall make her real."
"No"--it seemed to me that as he spoke Jimmie drew away from her hand--"I am not going to rewrite it, Elise. I'm tired of it."
"I'm tired of it--"
"Finish it, and then you'll be free--"
"Shall I ever be free?" He stood up and turned his head from side to side, as if he sought some way of escape. "Shall I ever be free? I sometimes think that you and I will stick to this old house until we grow as dry as dust. I want to live, Elise! I want to live--!"
* * * * *
But Elise was not ready to let Jimmie live. To her, Jimmie the artist was more than Jimmie the lover. I may have been unjust, but she seemed to me a sort of mental vampire, who was sucking Jimmie's youth. Duncan Street snorted when I told him what I thought. Elise was a pretty woman, and a pretty woman in the eyes of men can do no wrong.
"You'll see," I said, "what she'll do to him."
The situation was to me astounding. Here was Life holding out its hands to Elise, glory of youth demanding glorious response, and she, incredibly, holding back. In spite of my gray hair and stiff figure, I am of the galloping kind, and my soul followed Jimmie Harding's in its quest for freedom.
But there was one thing that Elise could not do. She could not make Jimmie rewrite his play. "I'll come to it some day," he said, "but not yet. In the meantime I'll see what I can do with books."
He did a great deal with books, so that he wrote several best-sellers. This eased the financial situation and they might have had more time for things. But Elise still kept him at it. She wanted to be the wife of a great man.
Yet as the years went on, Duncan and I began to wonder if her hopes would be realized. Jimmie wrote and wrote. He was successful in a commercial sense, but fame did not come to him. There was gray in his burnt-gold hair; his shoulders acquired a scholarly droop, and he wore glasses on a black ribbon. It was when he put on glasses that I began to feel a thousand years old. Yet always when he was away from me I thought of him as the Jimmie whose youth had shone with blinding radiance.
His constancy to Duncan and to me began to take on a rather pathetic quality. The others in the office drifted gradually out of his life. Some of them died, some of them resigned, some of them worked on, plump or wizened parodies of their former selves. I was stouter than ever, and stiffer, and the top of Duncan's head was a shining cone. And the one interesting thing in our otherwise dreary days was Jimmie.
"You're such darling old dears," was his pleasant way of putting it.
But Duncan dug up the truth for me. "We knew him before he wrote. He gets back to that when he is with us."
I had grown to hate Elise. It was not a pleasant emotion, and I am not sure that she really deserved it. But Duncan hated her, too. "You're right," he said one day when we had lunched with Jimmie; "she's sucked him dry." Jimmie had been unusually silent. He had laughed little. He had tapped the table with his finger, and had kept his eyes on his finger. He had been absent-minded. "She has sucked him dry," said Duncan, with great heat.
But she hadn't. That was the surprising thing. Just as we were all giving up hope of Jimmie's proving himself something more than a hack, he did the great thing and the wonderful thing that years ago Elise had prophesied. His play, "The Gay Cockade," was accepted by a New York manager, and after the first night the world went wild about it.
I had helped Jimmie with the name. I had spoken once of youth as a gay cockade. "That's a corking title," Jimmie had said, and had written it in his note-book.
When his play was put in rehearsal, Duncan and I were there to see. We took our month's leave, traveled to New York, and stayed at an old-fashioned boarding-house in Washington Square. Every day we went to the theatre. Elise was always there, looking younger than ever in the sables bought with Jimmie's advance royalty, and with various gowns and hats which were the by-products of his best-sellers.
The part of the heroine of "The Gay Cockade" was taken by Ursula Simms. She was, as those of you who have seen her know, a Rosalind come to life. With an almost boyish frankness she combined feminine witchery. She had glowing red hair, a voice that was gay and fresh, a temper that was hot. She galloped through the play as Jimmie had meant that she should gallop in that first poor draft which he had read to us in Albemarle, and it was when I saw Ursula in rehearsal that I realized what Jimmie had done--he had embodied in his heroine all the youth that he had lost--she stood for everything that Elise had stolen from him--for the wildness, the impetuosity, the passion which swept away prudence and went neck to nothing to fulfilment.
Indeed, the whole play partook of the madness of youth. It bubbled over. Everybody galloped to a rollicking measure. We laughed until we cried. But there was more than laughter in it. There was the melancholy which belongs to tender years set in exquisite contrast to the prevailing mirth.
Jimmie had a great deal to do with the rehearsals. Several times he challenged Ursula's reading of the part.
"You must not give your kisses with such ease," he told her upon one occasion; "the girl in the play has never been kissed."
She shrugged her shoulders and ignored him. Again he remonstrated. "She's frank and free," he said. "Make her that. Make her that. Men must fight for her favors."
She came to it at last, helped by that Rosalind-like quality in herself. She was young, as he had wanted Elise to be, clean-hearted, joyous--girlhood at its best.
Gradually Jimmie ceased to suggest. He would sit beside us in the dimness of the empty auditorium, and watch her as if he drank her in. Now and then he would laugh a little, and say, under his breath: "How did I ever write it? How did it ever happen?"
Elise, on the other side of him, said, at last, "I knew you could do it, Jimmie."
"You thought I could do great things. You never knew I could do--this--"
It was toward the end of the month that Duncan said to me one night as we rode home on the top of a 'bus, "You don't suppose that he--"
"Elise thinks it," I said. "It's waking her up."
Elise and Jimmie had been married fifteen years, and had never had a honeymoon, not in the sense that Jimmie wanted it--an adventure in romance, to some spot where they could forget the world of work, the world of sordid things, the world that was making Jimmie old. Every summer Jimmie had asked for it, and always Elise had said, "Wait."
But now it was Elise who began to plan. "When your play is produced, we'll run away somewhere. Do you remember the place you always talked about--up in the hills?"
He looked at her through his round glasses. "I can't get away from this"--he waved his hand toward the stage.
"If it's a success you can, Jimmie."
"It will be a success. Ursula Simms is a wonder. Look at her, Elise. Look at her!"
Duncan and I could look at nothing else. As many times as I had seen her in the part, I came to it always eagerly. It was her great scene--where the girl, breaking free from all that has bound her, takes the hand of her vagabond lover and goes forth, leaving behind wealth and a marriage of distinction, that she may wander across the moors and down on the sands, with the wild wind in her face, the stars for a canopy!
It tugged at our hearts. It would tug, we knew, at the heart of any audience. It was the human nature in us all which responded. Not one of us but would have broken bonds. Oh, youth, youth! Is there anything like it in the whole wide world?
I do not think that it tugged at the heart of Elise. Her heart was not like that. It was a stay-at-home heart. A workaday-world heart. Elise would never under any circumstance have gone forth with a vagabond on a wild night.
But here was Ursula doing it every day. On the evening of the first dress-rehearsal she wore clothes that showed her sense of fitness. As if in casting off conventional restraints, she renounced conventional attire; she came down to her lover wrapped in a cloak of the deep-purple bloom of the heather of the moor, and there was a pheasant's feather in her cap.
"_May you never regret it, my dear, my dear_," said the lover on the stage.
"_I shall love you for a million years_," said Ursula, and we felt that she would, and that love was eternal, and that any woman might have it if she would put her hand in her lover's and run away with him on a wild night!
And it was the genius of Jimmie Harding that made us feel that the thing could be done. He sat forward in his chair, his arms on the back of the seat in front of him. "Jove!" he kept saying under his breath. "It's the real thing. It's the real thing--"
When the scene was over, he went on the stage and stood by Ursula. Elise from her seat watched them. Ursula had taken off the cap with the pheasant's feather. Her glorious hair shone like copper, her hand was on her hip, her little swagger matched the swagger that we remembered in the old Jimmie. I wondered if Elise remembered.
* * * * *
I am not sure what made Ursula care for Jimmie Harding. He was no longer a figure for romance. But she did care. It was, perhaps, that she saw in him the fundamental things which belonged to both of them, and which did not belong to Elise.
As the days went on I was sorry for Elise. I should never have believed that I could be sorry, but I was. Jimmie was always punctiliously polite to her. But he was only that.
"She's getting what she deserves," Duncan said, but I felt that she was, perhaps, getting more than she deserved. For, after all, it was she who had kept Jimmie at it, and it was her keeping him at it which had brought success.
Neither Duncan nor I could tell how Jimmie felt about Ursula. But the thought of her troubled my sleep. Stripped of her art, she was not in the least the heroine of Jimmie's play. She was of coarser clay, commoner. And Jimmie was fine. The fear I had was that he might clothe her with the virtues which he had created, and the thought, as I have said, troubled me.
At last Duncan and I had to go home, although we promised to return for the opening night. Ursula gave a farewell supper for us. She lived alone with a housekeeper and maid. Her apartment was furnished in good taste, with, perhaps, a touch of over-emphasis. The table had unshaded purple candles and heather in glass dishes. Ursula wore woodland green, with a chaplet of heather about her glorious hair. Elise was in white with pearls. She was thirty-five, but she did not look it. Ursula was older, but she would always be in a sense ageless, as such women are--one would thrill to Sara Bernhardt were she seventeen or seventy.
Jimmie seemed to have dropped the years from him. He was very confident of the success of his play. "It can't fail," he said, "with Ursula to make it sure--"
I wondered whether it was Ursula or Elise who had made it sure. Could he ever have written it if Elise had not kept him at it? Yet she had stolen his youth!
And now Ursula was giving his youth back to him! As I saw the cock of his head, heard the ring of his gay laughter, I felt that it might be so. And suddenly I knew that I didn't want Jimmie to be young again. Not if he had to take his youth from the hands of Ursula Simms!
There were many toasts before the supper ended--and the last one Jimmie drank "To Ursula"! As he stood up to propose it, his glasses dangled from their ribbon, his shoulders were squared. In the soft and shaded light we were spared the gray in his hair--it was the old Jimmie, gay and gallant!
"To Ursula!" he said, and the words sparkled. "To Ursula!"
I looked at Elise. She might have been the ghost of the woman who had flamed in the old house in Albemarle. In her white and pearls she was shadowy, unsubstantial, almost spectral, but she raised her glass. "To Ursula!" she said.
All the way home on the train Duncan and I talked about it. We were scared to death. "Oh, he mustn't, he must not," I kept saying, and Duncan snorted.
"He's a young fool. She's not the woman for him--"
"Neither of them is the woman," I said, "but Elise has made him--"
"No man was ever held by gratitude."
"He'd hate Ursula in a year."
"He thinks he'd live--"
"And lose his soul--"
* * * * *
Jimmie's play opened to a crowded house. There had been extensive advertising, and Ursula had a great following.
Elise and Duncan and I had seats in an upper box. Elise sat where she was hidden by the curtains. Jimmie came and went unseen by the audience. Between acts he was behind the scenes. Elise had little to say. Once she reached over and laid her hand on mine.
"I--I think I'm frightened," she said, with a catch of her breath.
"It can't fail, my dear--"
"No, of course. But it's very different from what I expected."
"What is different?"
As the great scene came closer, I seemed to hold my breath. I was so afraid that the audience might not see it as we had seen it at rehearsal. But they did see it, and it was a stupendous thing to sit there and watch the crowd, and know that Jimmie's genius was making its heart beat fast and faster. When Ursula in her purple cloak and pheasant's feather spoke her lines at the end of the third act, "_I shall love you for a million years_," the house went wild. Men and women who had never loved for a moment roared for this woman who had made them think they could love until eternity. They wanted her back and they got her. They wanted Jimmie and they got him. Ursula made a speech; Jimmie made a speech. They came out for uncounted curtain-calls, hand-in-hand. The play was a success!
The last act was, of course, an anti-climax. Before it was finished, Elise said to me, in a, stifled voice, "I've got to get back to Jimmie."
It seemed significant that Jimmie had not come to her. Surely he had not forgotten the part she had played. For fifteen years she had worked for this.
We found ourselves presently behind the scenes. The curtain was down, the audience was still shouting, everybody was excited, everybody was shaking hands. The stage-people caught at Elise as she passed, and held her to offer congratulations. I was not held and went on until I came to where Jimmie and Ursula stood, a little separate from the rest. Although I went near enough to touch them, they were so absorbed in each other that they did not see me. Ursula was looking up at Jimmie and his head was bent to her.
"Jimmie," she said, and her rich voice above the tumult was clear as a bell, "do you know how great you are?"
"Yes," he said. "I--I feel a little drunk with it, Ursula."
"Oh," she said, and now her words stumbled, "I--I love you for it. Oh, Jimmie, Jimmie, let's run away and love for a million years--"
All that he had wanted was in her words--the urge of youth, the beat of the wind, the song of the sea. My heart stood still.
He drew back a little. He had wanted this. But he did not want it now--with Ursula. I saw it and she saw it.
"What a joke it would be," he said, "but we have other things to do, my dear."
The roar of the crowd came louder to their ears. "Harding, Harding! Jimmie Harding!"
"Listen," he said, and the light in his eyes was not for her. "Listen, Ursula, they're calling me."
She stood alone after he had left her. I am sure that even then she did not quite believe it was the end. She did not know how, in all the years, his wife had molded him.
When he had satisfied the crowd, Jimmie fought his way to where Elise and Duncan and I stood together.
Elise was wrapped in a great cloak of silver brocade. There was a touch of silver, too, in her hair. But she had never seemed to me so small, so childish.
"Oh, Jimmie," she said, as he came up, "you've done it!"
"Yes"--he was flushed and laughing, his head held high--"you always said I could do it. And I shall do it again. Did you hear them shout, Elise?"
"Jove! I feel like the old woman in the nursery rhyme, 'Alack-a-daisy, do this be I?'" He was excited, eager, but it was not the old eagerness. There was an avidity, a greediness.
She laid her hand on his arm. "You've earned a rest, dearest. Let's go up in the hills."
"In the hills? Oh, we're too old, Elise."
"We'll grow young."
"To-night I've given youth to the world. That's enough for me"--the light in his eyes was not for her--"that's enough for me. We'll hang around New York for a week or two, and then we'll go back to Albemarle. I want to get to work on another play. It's a great game, Elise. It's a great game!"
She knew then what she had done. Here was a monster of her own making. She had sacrificed her lover on the altar of success. Jimmie needed her no longer.
I would not have you think this an unhappy ending. Elise has all that she had asked, and Jimmie, with fame for a mistress, is no longer an unwilling captive in the old house. The prisoner loves his prison, welcomes his chains.
But Duncan and I talk at times of the young Jimmie who came years ago into our office. The Jimmie Harding who works down in Albemarle, and who struts a little in New York when he makes his speeches, is the ghost of the boy we knew. But he loves us still.
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