Keep Your Dream, Lady
Love flies in the office window and a Tuttle discovers the power of faded romance to keep joy in a woman's heart
SPRING! An awareness of the season of rising sap came upon Henry R. Tuttle suddenly. It was as if spring, having come unseen into the offices of Tuttle Brothers and Company, had held lovely fingers over his eyes and then, when he had guessed correctly, taken them away. For suddenly he saw that which, although there all the time, he had been too busy to notice before.
I íe saw, from his vantage point in an office high up in a skyscraper, that the sun shone on Lake Ontario. He saw that there was a languorous blueness in the sky, which curved down out of the infinite to where its edge was frayed from beating against a jagged horizon of buildings. He saw, in the blueness, floating puffballs of whiteness whose nubilous curves were as caressive to the vision as the lazy atmosphere to the tired, kinesthetic sense. And then, when his wayward attention was tactfully called back to the immediate by an imitation cough in the throat of Miss Marvey, he saw another thing which was surprising in its revelation—more surprising even than spring, having been ignored longer. This was that Miss Marvey, his secretary, was, after all, a woman.
Hitherto, throughout the five years of his employment of her meticulous abilities she had been to him simply non-male. But now, upon the accidental penetration of her negativeness, he was fully aware of her femininity.
There was something infinitely patient, beautifully understanding, in the way she waited for him to get on with his dictation. Her attitude, sitting there with pencil poised over notebook, was almost maternal. Her face was plain— the kind he could not have described, in spite of the five years, had he Ken asked to do so. Now, however, while he was looking at it, he knew that its complexion was clear. Set neatly on either side of an even nose, were brown eyes. The mouth, if it had a characteristic, was prim.
Her hair, for the moment, with the sunlight back of it, had lost its lifeless, pulled-back-from-thebrow aspect and. for the moment, might have tempted a man’s caressing hand. Her body was slender and might prove glorious if removed from the sackcloth of a dress plain unto drabness.
Under his stare she began to blush and, although he had not looked at them, she uncrossed her legs, tugged downward at her dress and brushed a solitarystrand of hair away from her eyes.
Still sensing the potentialities of her womanhood, Mr. Tuttle felt a momentary tenderness for her. The emotion, had he been a more impulsive individual, might have resulted in her salary being raised from twenty-five to thirty-five dollars a week. As it was. the emotion passed. “Where,” he asked, “did I leave off?”
“Yours of April twenty-fifth received,” she read from her notes.
“Oh, yes, I had just begun. Well, change it. Make it ‘Replying to yours of April 25th, please beadvised—
Again he paused, this time distracted by the fact that
Miss Marvey had given him a curious look. It made him wonder if she felt wdiat he felt.
He sat there, looking at her, having no desire to go on with the dictation. Suddenly a wave of emotion swept over him. The smugness of his bachelorhood was shaken to the very foundation of the fact that he had. all his life, been too busy making money to have any time for loving women. It seemed, all at once, that he had been in love with her for long—for months, perhaps even years.
He looked into her eyes, and calmly she looked back into his.
“Please be advised,” he mumbled, and then there escaped his common sense the most startling thing he had ever said to Miss Marvey: “You are lovely. I—I love you!”
And if he alarmed Miss Marvey he literally rioted him-
self. He felt his face flaming to the tips of his ears. He felt himself a fool, floundering in a wilderness of folly of which there was no way out. Knowing that he was at her mercy, that she could by laughing or gasping or by being embarrassed completely destroy his dignity, he felt a vast relief when she began to cry.
SHE put her pencil down carefully beside her notebook on his desk and then, quite uncarefully, plunged her face down into the crook of her elbow. With her free hand she shook out the neat folds of her handkerchief and, without revealing her face, reached up from underneath to dab at the tears.
He stood up. Leaning over her quivering shoulders, he put his arm around her. His hand encountered a trembling aliveness. He felt entirely helpless in the situation.
"Now, now, Miss Marvey. I—
1 don’t know what made me say that. Please don’t cry.” Meanwhile, her helplessness, her tears, the electrical warmth which her body conveyed to him through the arm he held her with, all combined to give him a sensation which he considered positively shameful but delicious nevertheless. He kept murmuring, unaware that he was doing it. “Now, now, Miss Marvey . . . Now, Miss Marvey.”
“Oh, I knew this would happen,” she said, her voice muffled in her handkerchief. "I saw it coming months ago.”
How had she known? Why, he hadn’t even known himself! "I’m so sorry. Miss Marvey.”
“You shouldn’t be sorry. You are such a wonderful man. I am the one in this case who is wrong. All wrong.”
Her self-condemnation was vehement to a surprising degree, coming from a woman so mild and self-effacing.
"You are not all wrong. Miss Marvey. You’re — you’re all right.”
She lifted to him a face grown less pleasant to see, mottled as it was by tears, the eyes reddened, but mysteriously more attractive to him. As foolhardily as he had told her he loved her. he now bent down, corpulently. and kissed her full on the mouth. He felt a humid, clinging deliciousness in the kiss. His own cheek was wetted with the tears on hers. It all seemed insane, but he thought, under the circumstances, he might as well go on with it.
“I do love you.” he told her. The statement made him feel it all the more.
“I know it.” was her amazing answer. “I’ve known it a long time.”
“If you knew it. if you can tell like that, then you must love me. too -a little.” Mr. Tuttle had never spoken so tremulously during all the years of an eminently successful business career.
"Oh. I don’t know." The tears started afresh. “If I do, I ought not to. It is all wrong."
“What is all wrong?”
"For us to love each other.”
I le wished he had made more love during his life. I le felt now he needed experience in it. This was beyond him. He couldn’t understand what was wrong about it. After all, he was not one to propose anything ti> her but marriage. Surely she knew that.
“Why do you consider it wrong? My intentions are honorable.”
"Oh, I know they are, Mr. Tuttle. But it’s wrong, wrong, wrong.” She seemed a little hysterical. “It’s a long story.”
This, Mr. Tuttle realized, was not the place for a long story with tears. Somebody might come in at the door any minute. He glanced apprehensively at the door. He thought he might lock it. No, that would be worse. If somebody tried the door and found him locked in with Miss Marvey, the scandal would be awful; at least he flattered himself tí) think that. He seized upon the first idea that came to him.
“You must tell me about it,” he said. "For I adore you. I’ve just discovered it, but I do. Could 1 see you alone tonight?”
“Where. May I come to your apartment?”
“Yes,” she murmured.
Whereupon Mr. Tuttle flung all sensible caution to the spring breeze which was ruffling the papers on his desk. Impulsively, he caught Miss Marvey under the armpits, pulled her up from her chair to a standing position and embraced her passionately. She was limp and yielding in his arms. He kissed her, and although her response was uninspired, it was, after all, a response and as such sent delight and madness surging through him.
Presently Miss Marvey powdered the redness away from her nose, straightened her hair, brushed the wrinkles out of her dress, gathered up her notebook and pencil and walked forth to the outer office. As usual, nobody noticed her. Had they noticed, they would have detected no difference. She looked, as usual, as if nothing had happened—as if nothing had ever happened.
As for Mr. Tuttle, he remained sitting at his desk. He faced the open window, through which he gazed pensively into space. See him there, a broad, pink-cheeked man in the corpulent years, bald, large-eared, small-eyed ; a man exuding prosperity, good tailoring, and g(X)d food rmxlerately taken, without stimulants; a man who, if you thought about it, would give you grave doubts as to whether with goats’ feet he ever danced the antic hay; a man who, long since, had learned to regard love as an incredible folly which led people into strange complications; a man whose greatest pleasure lay in the skilful consummation of a business deal. Unromantic in every imaginable detail, he sat there feeling a glow of romance, recalling a nearly forgotten fantasy of a dwelling which was a home by virtue of the existence of a woman—the woman, and perhaps children.
Of his ability to have the way of a man with a maid, with Miss Marvey, he had no doubt.
His command, he had come to believe, was practically a law of Nature with her. But still it was all very confusing, puzzling. Why had she, while seeming to accept the glorious fact of his love, been SÍ) upset about it? He wondered further what she meant when she insisted that it was “all wrong?”
Finally, with a sigh that puffed out his heavy cheeks, he turned back to the work on his desk.
nPHAT night Mr. Tuttle found that even Miss Marvey’s poor dwelling was haunted, vaguely, by the lovely wraiths of spring. The apartment was high enough in a modem apartment house for the dancing zephyrs to find the windows, through which they pirouetted to caress Mr. Tuttle with a touch as infinitely gentle as that which makes the stars twinkle. It was really a light opera night, with a big painted moon and luminous-edged clouds hanging framed in the window, like a picture painted on black velvet. It was a night for light wines, kisses lightly bestowed, and giddy loving; but Mr. Tuttle, who had by long preoccupation with large affairs been made insensible to such delicacies, was full of heavy sentiments.
Of a practical, observing habit of mind, Mr. Tuttle memorized the details of her apartment. As you entered, there was a small hallw’ay with a bathroom at the yonder end of it. On one side of the hall, Miss Marvey’s mother whom he did not see. lived; on the other. Miss Marvey had a room neatly furnished to serve her as a place to receive callers and as a boudoir, for both purposes inadequate. There was a chest of drawers, a couch-bed, a bookcase, two fairly comfortable chairs and two more that didn’t look comfortable at all ; there were various nondescript pictures.
there was a radio set which probably was being bought on the installment plan; there was, above all, a general air of a rather pathetic attempt at good taste and elegance. All of which convinced Mr. Tuttle at once that a marriage betw'een them would be just the thing for both of them. For if she muid manage this well on her tiny salary, what couldn’t she do with a home for which there was a boundless supply of wherewithal? She was, he decided, as efficient at home as in the office, and Mr. Tuttle considered efficiency a cardinal virtue.
Certainly she was lovely enough. A little prim and oldmaidish, but she had the figure and complexion for easy handsomeness. With leisure to think about herself, doubtless much could be done anent the plainness of her face. She was positively alluring, sitting with her legs crossed—at home she seemed less afraid of being what she would have called "brazen.”
She sat nervously in one of the comfortable chairs; he sat ponderously in another, facing her. On the table, distilling fragrance as the shaded lamp gave off light, were the roses he had brought. She was telling him, in woeful detail, about the all-wrongness of his incipient love affair. She seemed very tragic about it, but spoke in monotones. Meanwhile, a pair of cats out somewhere in the back yowled in a spirit more in keeping with the light opera aspects of the night.
“We swore never to stop loving each other,” she was recounting. "That was six years ago. And then he came to me and told me that he had to disappear. He wouldn’t let me ask him why. He told me that I was not to try to
find him, or anything, but that I should wait for him.”
At first, he found it difficult to understand what she was talking about. He was distracted distracted by the impish wraiths of spring, by desire, by her desirableness, by the practical need of keeping in mind, so he wouldn’t forget them, all the glowing phrases he had prepared for her.
“He was so splendid and fine. Everybody said he was a handsome man—a beautiful man.”
“What line was he in?” Mr. Tuttle asked absently.
Mr. Tuttle shook his head. The advertising men he had known were not given to sudden disappearances.
“Oh, Mr. Tuttle, if only you knew how much we loved each other -love each other—then you would know why I trust him so implicitly. And why I want to wait for him, forever if necessary.”
Mr. Tuttle was beginning to feel annoyed. His rival was not a man but the myth of a man. He could, he felt, win in any matter over any other human being, but against a myth
he was helpless. And if there was anything that irked Mr. Tuttle it was the feeling of helplessness which he had felt but little since childhood, when it had been so horrible.
“But six years is a long time,” he suggested, feeling a martyr to patience.
“He swore to me that he would come back,” she said. “But maybe he changed his mind.”
“Oh, how could you, Mr. Tuttle?” She looked as if she would cry again.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Miss Marvey.” He tried to make amends by adding, “Maybe he is dead.”
She was aghast at the thought.
“No. no, no! I’m sure he is alive. I prefer to think that he is trying to establish his position in the world. He was like that. All the troubles he kept to himself. That’s probably what he is doing now. And then, in the end, he will come to me and lay wealth and glory at my feet.” “Hummm,” said Mr. Tuttle.
“You see,” she confided, “I believe in the power of mind over matter. If you want a thing to happen badly enough it will happen. The only thing to do is just to keep waiting and keep having faith and everything will turn out all right in the end.”
“I’m a great believer in Christian Science. I believe At this point Mr. Tuttle interrupted her avowal of faith by attempting ruthlessly to take a kiss. He was being more impulsive than was his wont. Indeed, he so alarmed her that she jumped up, too, but that furthered his aim because then he could, and did, pull her down on to his lap.
“Why, Mr. Tuttle!”
She made a scrambling effort to get her feet on the floor, thus to elude him. But under the gentle pressure of his arms, pulling her toward him, she subsided. She submitted to the kiss. Then she sprang to her feet, her eyes dancing, her cheeks aflame.
“Oh, it’s wrong, Mr. Tuttle. It’s wrong,” she insisted. “When I let you kiss me, I am being unfaithful to him.”
“But I love you,” said Mr. Tuttle, for all the world as if that simple statement solved the problem.
She went back to her own chair and stumbled into it. She was agitated, breathless.
“I feel a wicked impulse to let you do it,” she told him. “You are such a wonderful man you make me want to love you, too, but, don’t you see, I must wait for him.”
“I can give you everything,” Mr. Tuttle declared. “Wealth, position, ease—everything a woman could want.”
“Oh, I know, I know. But don’t you understand?”
“I understand,” Mr. Tuttle said bluntly, “but I think you are foolish. You have no assurance that that man is coming back. And here I—I offer you everything. All the money I have worked so hard for all these years— everything. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”
“Yes,” she admitted. “It’s terribly hard to go on struggling to make both ends meet. Working, working and never getting anywhere, but—”
“Then why don’t you—”
“But I must wait for him.”
Thus it was that Mr. Tuttle departed with nothing whatever accomplished in his determination to have Miss Marvey for a wife. He was full of awe at the mystery of the infinite complications of the relation between man and woman.
AÆR. TUTTLE, however, was not a man to remain long without a course of action, once he conceived a purpose. And so it was that next day, while Miss Marvey took his dictation in the usual way as if nothing whatever had happened between them, there grew in his mind a plan.
When Miss Marvey went out to transcribe her notes into the letters that would be neat to perfection, he pushed a button and commanded the presence of his advertising manager.
“F. H.,” he began when his henchman came in, “did you ever run across an advertising man named Roy Withers?” “Yes,” said F. H. “He used to write copy for me several years ago when I was with the Telotex Company.”
“How many years ago?”
“Oh, three or four. I don’t just remember.”
“Did he—did he ever drop out of sight, or anything like that?”
“What do you mean?”
“Did he ever disappear and go into hiding for awhile?” “Not,” said F. H., “that I know of. When he went to work for me I checked up on his references and his past connections and they were okay. He had been working
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here in town for several years when I hired him.”
“Whatever happened to him?”
“I fired him. He wasn’t any good. He drank too much and he was a woman chaser.”
Mr. Tuttle’s face showed no flicker of expression but his heart leaped at the information. It was precisely what he wanted; it bore out a previously conceived suspicion. He wanted, however, a complete case against the myth he had for a rival. It was a rule of his to “do everything thoroughly” and, when he disillusioned Miss Marvey, he wanted it to be complete.
“Do you know where he is now?” Mr. Tuttle asked.
“No, Mr. Tuttle, I don’t.”
“Do you suppose you could find out?”
“Well, I can try. I’ll call the Advertising Club and see if they can give me a line on him.”
“Do that please.” Mr. Tuttle picked up a letter from his desk and began reading it, thereby signifying that the interview was at an end.
F. H. left the private sanctum and presently returned.
“I’ve got the dope you wanted,” he said. “Got a line on him at Three A’s” (Associated Advertising Agencies). He’s registered there, trying to get a job. Here’s his address.”
F. H. handed Mr. Tuttle a slip of paper, entitled “Memo,” on which he had written the address.
“Thinking of hiring him?” F. H. asked.
“No. A friend of mine wanted to know about him.”
“Well, that’s good. It wouldn’t do to hire him. He’s gone to the dogs.”
“Yes?” Mr. Tuttle encouraged.
“Yes. They tell me at Three A’s that he’s nearly always drunk now. Gets a hand-tomouth living by doing a little freelance copywriting. He can’t get much of that, though. People find out about him and won’t give him any work. A man has to stay on his toes to keep in the game these days.”
WITH Mr Tuttle it was an invariable practice to be in his office at nine in the morning, to stay until five in the evening. Exactly at five he departed. He took a taxicab to the address that his advertising manager had given him.
The house he found was one of a row of old dwellings converted, as attested by the “Vacancy” signs in their windows, into rooming houses. They were rather below the average in rooming houses. Mr. Tuttle climbed the steps of one and rang the bell. A woman came to the door.
“Does Mr. Roy Withers live here?” Mr. Tuttle enquired.
“Yes, but he ain’t in,” said the woman. Her manner was superbly positive.
She was about to close the door in his face, but he forestalled her by saying:
“Just a minute, please. Do you know when he will be in?”
“No, I don’t. But I know this, and if you’re a friend of his you can tell him so— if he doesn’t bring me some rent money when he does come in, he’ll soon be out again.”
“You can find him in that poolroom on the comer,” she said, her statement amplified by her self-winding indignation. She slammed the door.
Mr. Tuttle carried his dignity precariously through a street ball game to the poolroom on the comer.
“Do you happen to know Mr. Roy Withers?” he asked the man in charge.
Without replying, the man pointed to a comer, where a man sat huddled in a chair.
So this was Miss Marvey’s lover! Roy Withers might have served beautifully as a horrible example of shiftlessness. Once,
perhaps, he had been good looking, with his thick, dark hair, his bold blade of a nose. But now, his eyes bloodshot, his cheeks covered with stubble, his clothes shabby and dirty, there was a repulsiveness about him.
“Mr. Withers?” Mr. Tuttle addressed him. “My name is Tuttle. I want to talk to you about—”
“But,” said Withers, squinting up at him, “I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t want to talk to anybody about anything.” “You must. It’s about Miss Marvey.” “Miss Marvey?”
“You mean,” said Mr. Tuttle, astonished, “that you don’t even recall her name?”
“Oh, yes. I remember now. That dame.” “Do you know that you have done her a great wrong; that you are mining her life?” “Nuts. I haven’t seen her for years.” “She thinks that you are going to marry her some day.”
“Ha, ha, ha,” laughed Withers. “That’s hot.”
Mr. Tuttle was growing angry.
“Well, you shouldn’t have allowed her to believe such a thing if it wasn’t true.” “Listen, stranger, I don’t know what business it is of yours, but I don’t mind telling you about it. I had a puppy love affair with her and when I got tired of it,
I cooked up the silliest excuse not to see her that I could think of. I thought she’d catch on. She was so dumb, though.”
Mr. Tuttle clenched his teeth and suppressed his anger.
“She wanted, like most women, to get me involved in marriage,” Withers went on. “I didn’t want to marry her. Jn those days I was trying to get ahead in the world. Trying to lift myself by my boot straps. But it is an inevitable condition in lifting yourself by your boot straps that you fall back on your rear. If I had married her,
I would only have got her into a mess. I’m no good.”
“You certainly are not!” declared Mr. Tuttle.* He got up and walked away.
UPTOWNWARD then rode Mr. Tuttle in a taxicab, the while misgivings intruded among his thoughts of telling Miss Marvey about the falsity of her dream.
As the cab turned in at her street, he saw her. She was walking along, in the homeward direction, with several packages under her arms.
“Stop!” Mr. Tuttle shouted to the driver. The man didn’t hear him the first time. When finally the cab was brought to a halt, it was some distance ahead of Miss Marvey.
Through the rear window Mr. Tuttle looked back at the approaching figure of her. She hadn’t seen him. She was walking serenely along, her plain little face tranquil as the thoughts that went on behind it.
In the brief moment during which he watched her walk in his direction, Mr. Tuttle understood something that had never occurred to him before. He had no words for this understanding, needed none. He perceived a truth by feeling rather than by thought. He knew that, as she had said herself, the only thing for her to do was just to keep on waiting and keep having faith.
He leaned forward to the driver. “Drive on,” he said.
As the cab turned the comer, he had another glimpse of her. It was to that glimpse that Mr. Tuttle made his gesture. In reality, it was a simple little gesture—a raising of the hand to the brow in salute— but with all its connotations it was a beautiful thing, gallant, all the more so if made by a man who seldom made gallant gestures. He saluted her and he said:
“Keep your dream, lady.”
He felt sad but not bitter. From his pocket he took out a patented memorandum book on which was engraved, "Things to Do.” In it he wrote:
“Miss Marvey—raise salary.”