The story of two lovers who learned that a broken bargain is no cure for broken hearts
SHE had been a rebel in the cradle. Twenty-two years later she was still a rebel, and in the tenth month of her “companionate” marriage. Today, perched on a box in her husband’s studio, she regarded him with contemplative eyes. In the middle of a strained conversation she broke off and half desparingly shrugged her shoulders. “Well, Jimmy, that doesn’t take us anywhere, does it? And time is nearly up. What do you think you’ll do next?” He stood by his easel, staring at the canvas, not at the girl. Canvas and girl, neither presented what he would have liked to find. “Just what I’m doing now. What else can I do?” “You know”—it was a sort of audible reflection—“I like you. I don’t know anyone—yet—I like better. But that’s hardly enough to carry us, is it? Tell me something.” “What?” “Are you going to think me unfair; think I haven’t played the game?” He shook his head. “Bargains are bargains. We thrashed that out before we started.” His lip took a cynical curve. “Or else they’re something you pick up cheap.” '
“But you want it when you see it. I wanted you, Jimmy.” That was truth and he knew it. She wanted, therefore she got him. It had been thus since her cradle days, and when this final and most formidable want had arisen there had been frantic protests from her parents. Anne had glowered, unmoved. The battle had ended when the parents had jettisoned what Anne called their Puritanical scruples and found a sense of horrified relief in discovering that, by mutual consent, this was to be a companionate affair. If at the end of twelve months it didn’t work—well, Anne would simply come back. And now that Anne was going back, her companionate husband yielded a sort of penultimate interest. She did not really want to hurt him. Nor did she expect, at this late hour, to unearth anything novel.
“I wish to heaven you’d never wanted me,” he said sombrely.
That was also true, because the affair was wounding him savagely and he swore that he would not show it. He couldn’t reasonably show it, not having made good. And the fact that he had not made good seemed to paralyze every sense save one of dreadful loss. Why should he ache to keep a woman who didn’t want to stay?
“You’ll get over it in no time, Jimmy. What’s the use of worrying? I think we were awfully wise, though it nearly killed mother. I don’t inspire you, don’t stimulate. We’ve both done some exploring, that’s all.”
“You, at any rate, found nothing.”
“Well, if it comes to that, what did you find? Not
much to show for it yet.”
HE LONGED to tell her to leave him now, at once, and get this futile mockery over; but there drifted back visions, unforgettable, of those first few months when they had believed, both of them, that they were finding everything. Those months passed all description. By day separation \yas unbearable. When the shadows came they would rush into each others’ arms, and cling and cling, experiencing divine contacts so that their lithe young bodies were full of transport. At night he would raise himself ever so gently, bend over her with worshipping eyes, and, without touching her, pass his strong hand close to cheek and throat and breast, outlining her there in the gloom. “Mine !” he would whisper. “Mine!” For so many nights his soul was too full for sleep. He would lie there, listening to her breathe, picturing the wonderful things he must draw or paint or design. She had never quite realized it all, for he had never felt quite able to tell her. And now this!
“No,” he said dully, “there’s not much to show for it.” She smiled approvingly.
“I’ll never find an honester man than you, that’s one thing. Now I’m wondering what I’d feel like if next
year you did really manage to pull off something big.” “You’d actually be interested?” he asked with mounting satire.
“Frightfully, and rather upset. I’d reason that I had, after all, been a help, but because my effect didn’t come out at once I was too impatient to wait for results. I’ll argue that we should have had another companionate year.”
“That’s honest enough. Now I’ll go a bit farther. Next year, we’ll say, you’ll have another husband.” “Thin ice, Jimmy. You’d better keep off.”
“No,” he persisted, “it will carry me. Are you afraid to talk about what you’re getting ready for?”
“I was never afraid in my life,” she flamed.
“Well, what I’d like to know, leaving myself out, is going to be quite fair to the next man? You can’t feel again what we’ve felt together.”
“I’ve thought of that,” she said coolly. “I’m not sure that I want to. And, Jimmy, any appraisal of a woman’s capacity to feel is better left to herself. And anyway—” She stopped abruptly. Something had drawn their gaze to each other, and, penetrating what was in his, she was shaken with doubt. But loathing doubt hesitation or indecision, she only tossed her head. This matter was off Jimmy’s ground, not his affair. She still cared—no question of that—but, she was convinced, not enough to anchor herself to one who showed no sign of arriving.
“Anyway your argument’s all wrong,” she resumed. “You don’t understand women. And doesn’t it upset man to think about what his former wife may have left to give to someone else? Cut it out, Jimmy. That doesn’t help anyone.”
TT DIDN’T help, and he struggled to cut it out. Knowing that she observed the struggle, he felt ashamed of this weakness. That was the worst of love; his kind of love. It made you weak when it came to sticking up for yourself. At this moment he ought to be chatting philosophically, swinging a careless leg, and wishing her better luck next time.
“Think you’ll marry again?” she asked.
“No!” he exploded.
“But you will,” she said in a tone of complete assurance. “Something soft and tender, not a bit like me. You’re ugly, you know, but that’s the kind women like. If you’d been handsome I’d never have tackled it. What’s that on the easel?”
“Chalk sketch for the Toronto fresco.”
“New public library. There’s an open competition for the decorative scheme. Thought I might as well put in a while on it. It’s good practice and helps to take my mind off other things.”
Seemingly untouched, she stood beside him, resting a casual hand on his shoulder. Not much to see yet. Rough outlines, groups, masses aiming at a composite balance, inchoate thoughts, fragments—a jumble. “What’s the big idea?”
“Well,” he said, trying unsuccessfully to be unaware of her vital nearness, “it’s meant to be a conception of what you might call mass hunger for knowledge and a better understanding of something that attracts. The idea is lifting the weight of life off them. It’s the multitude reaching for something beyond itself.”
“But I don’t see any books, Jimmy.”
He shook his head with a sense of futility.
“You don’t need ’em. This isn’t a chromo calendar for a garage.”
She backed away, suddenly hostile.
“Aren’t you rather rude?”
What he could not tell her was that he had meant to be rude; that he felt ready to do or say anything that would get her out of the room before he clutched her knees, imploring her to stay with him always. This
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thing had to be fought out in solitude.
“Either you see a thing or you don’t. If you do, you stick down what you think you see—like that—before you lose it. It’s a one-man job and no one else can help. I haven't a ghost of a chance winning. Merridew, Poynter, Staples— the whole crowd of big fellows are in Need I say any more?”
She knew these names, so that was enough for her. Then, instead of being critical or contemptuous, she felt oddly sorry for him.
“Jimmy, you understand one thing, don’t you?”
“I’m not overintelligent today.”
“If there was going to be a child, I’d stay. I want you to feel sure of that.”
He turned a little pale.
“In other words, you’d stay for the child but not for the father. Why, might be even more of a failure than I.” This in so bitter a voice that it left her dumb. It seemed that truth was the only thing they could not afford to exchange. But his anger somehow made the moment a shade easier, and she felt a faint throb of satisfaction.
“It’s not much use going back,” continued grimly. “We made an agreement. As for your being interested what I may be doing next year, I can’t see it. You know more than enough about me, and the unexplored man will attract you. But you’ve been wiser than I. My congratulations on that.”
“You’ve kept something for next time. I haven’t.”
“Thank you, Jimmy.”
“Perhaps women have greater emotional resources than men,” he floundered on, hating the sound of his own voice. “Perhaps they can issue more cheques on what they call love without running up an overdraft. Perhaps you knew that from the start. Oh, no, I’m not forgetting the agreement. But I’ve just found out that when I went into this thing I was pledging something that I now realize was my soul. And now”—his eyes took on a hard gravity—“my soul objects. It's being kicked about too much. It’s losing shape.” She gave him one quick look and went out, leaving him biting his lips, staring at the easel, forcing himself to imagine that in all the mess and muddle of life there was something he could make worth while.
rT'HE idea—well, the idea was good. -*• He did not match himself against Merridew or Staples, but it came to him that perhaps he needed to be hurt before he did good work. No doubt now about the hurt, but could he translate some of his own formless protest into the terms of a chalk design? This multitude he visioned knew sweat, ache, labor, the dull bite of despair. It reached for something above and beyond. Could he not also reach above and beyond? Could he capture it—the plaint of earth stretching myriad hands to the arching sky, to regions of freedom, the domain of the mind?
Days passed but Anne did not come into the studio again. She spent much of her time with her people, who lived near by. Jimmy kept to himself, trying to believe that the knot about his heart was easing. It wasn’t. A week later Anne’s father dropped in, much less of a Puritan than a year ago, and gave vent to a few platitudes.
“There mustn’t be any hard feeling about this on either side,” he said. “I never approved, but Anne is pig-headed. Upon my word, I don’t know what the world is coming to.”
Jimmy looked at the tight smug face, and gave it up. Obviously Anne’s father
had never overdrawn his emotional account. So what was the use of talking?
“I assume that you'll go away for while?” Anne’s father asked.
“Anything you like, sir.”
“It would be a considerate act.” He put his dry fingertips together and regarded the young man with the air of vivisectionist. “Anything you care to say from your end of it?”
“Not a word.”
“Very loyal of you; yes, very. But naturally there must be points on both sides. Anne’s only statement is that doesn’t work. She puts no blame on you; no blame at all. My wife and I both felt that an alliance entered into with—er— its termination contemplated as a possibility from the start, must be a very thin affair. No real depth of feeling in it. Too calculated.”
Jimmy made a little sound in his throat. Depth of feeling ! What did this desiccated bond broker with a mask of a face know about feeling?
“Please,” he stammered. “Please! don’t want to be rude, but I’d rather not see anyone but Anne. Not even her she doesn’t wish it. I’m working.” .
Anne’s father glanced at the covered easel.
“Bit sensitive, eh? Well, it does you credit. May I look?”
“There’s nothing to see yet.”
"You know,” the older man said, pausing on the threshold, “I wouldn’t be surprised if this shakeup helped you quite a bit with your work. I read last night that art is the expression of emotion and it made me think of you. If that’s right, you seem to be pretty well fixed. But no hard feeling on either side. Remember that, my boy. And there are bound to be a few burnt offerings before young people get this companionate nonsense out of their heads. Good luck to you.”
Meantime, Anne’s mother was finding a hollow satisfaction in making her position clear.
“You’ll remember that your father and I both anticipated this. What depresses us now is the ideas people have formed of you.”
“What people?” Anne seemed indifferent.
“Well, no one has been rude enough to say anything directly to us. But their expressions. Oh, how could you!” “People’s expressions won't keep me awake.”
“I don't suppose they will. Anyway, you’ve had twenty years of victory, so I can only hope this will be a lesson. You’re beaten at last.” *
This was a very unwise, very impolitic remark. Knowing Anne, she should have known better. But since there was nothing deft or oblique in her makeup, she only leaned back with a regretful sigh and missed entirely the subtle change in the girl’s mutinous face.
Beaten at last! Anne was turning this over and over as though it were some odd thing she had picked up in the street. She hated the word, “beaten.” But her very presence here was an acknowledgment. What had beaten her? Herself? Jimmy? Was it positive or negative? They had not clicked after those first few ecstatic months. Why not? Her disappointment in his work? Not entirely that. Sex discord? No. Then what?
“You’ve done something I wouldn’t dream of doing and shocked us both,” went on her mother, “yet I have a strange feeling that in a certain sense you're older than I, and more versed, if I can put it that way, in one kind of experience.”
Anne sent her a twisted smile.
“That’s the first time you’ve talked to me as though I were another woman. Experience is just what we do want—
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people of my age. Perhaps you were a little afraid of it.”
“I didn’t want that kind, and such a thing never occurred to me.”
Anne smiled again.
“I see. Your shutters were all closed and the blinds pulled down.” She made a widearmed gesture. “That’s where my sort have changed. Shutters all open and a million things occur to us—more than merely occur. You used to think of. self in relation to a lot of other pc^r'e -family, friends—and what they would say or think. You expected to see a long way ahead, but to do so you’d have to know what you yourself were going to develop into. I don’t pretend to prophesy that. All I can see and feel is what I am now.” “Wiser, I hope,” said her mother, smarting a little. “And we’ll expect you here soon. Your room is ready.”
Anne went off to her temporary home, infinitely wiser but not in the way her mother hoped. She had begun to feel breathless, and the old unbeatable, nonsurrender spirit was taking her by the throat. The rebel in her was picking up arms. She could hear them clink, and that part of her suddenly and irresistibly refused to be beaten. At this she had a swift choking excitement.
A FORTNIGHT passed, during which T*. Anne and Jimmy seemed to have established a sort of truce. Anne kept to herself, leaving him to his one-man job, but watched him closely. Nothing more of their respective futures, and when they talked it was with wariness.
In this period Jimmy grew haggard. Anne used to catch him staring at her with mute hunger, as though she were above and beyond.
Why did he love her so? Pie cursed himself for it, loved her the more, and would go, still silent, back to the studio, where the first chalk sketch had expanded to a big design tacked up against the wall. At this he would work for hours; sometimes glaring, immobile, till of a sudden he dashed at it, wedging into it some face or tenseness or strain or voiceless human appeal captured from the murk of his own spirit. But he never mentioned one thing, and the companionate year was very near its end.
The design went in with thirty others, and there came the day when all competitors were invited to attend and hear the committee’s verdict. Jimmy, before he went, stood twisting his hat, regarding his temporary wife with a strange expression, cheeks hollow, no light in his eyes, half dead with emotional famine. He looked like a beaten man already. And he knew it.
“It will be Staples,” he said jerkily. “I heard as much yesterday. Anyway it doesn’t matter. Look here, there’s something I’d like to tell you—but I mustn’t.” “Then tell me.”
“No; I’m not going to crawl. But I’d like you to know beforehand that this competition doesn’t really count. I’ve lost, both ways. But if—” He broke off, shaking his head.
“If what, Jimmy?”
“Sorry, but that’s taboo. Day after tomorrow, isn’t it?”
“If you’d sooner—well—evaporate while I’m out, I’d—”
“N-no; I couldn’t do that.”
“As you like, only I thought it might be a bit easier, less formal. No, that’s not the word—less official.”
She turned so that he could not see her
In the hall, his step was like that of a man going up for sentence; and she sat very still, biting her lip, her eyes no longer mutinous but softly bright. She was not beaten, and her spirit rose unconquerable. She was still a rebel, but against failure, their joint failure. He would come back presently with his story in his drawn features. And why was her own nature
given to her if not to grapple with things like this and defeat them?
She had criticized herself for not loving a man who would never arrive. Who said that he wouldn’t? Only herself. Now, a burst of revolt, she vowed that if there was in her anything worth while, anything she had abused or misused in the past, she would gather up every force her buoyant self, put it behind this man, and drive him to success.
And Jimmy? Jimmy was too blind with the sense of imminent loss to remember much of that afternoon, and too dead to feel. He came back in two hours, sat at a littered table in the studio, sent extraordinary and puzzled stare at the chalk sketch, then buried his face in bent arms. He did not hear anyone enter, but presently he felt a touch and raised his weary eyes.
“Jimmy,” she whispered, “don’t worry. I’ve something to tell you.”
He smiled in a way that nearly broke her heart, and at that the flood burst loose. She took his head to her breast, pressing hard, hard, so that he caught the quick throb beneath.
“Jimmy, don’t you understand? I’m not going—ever.”
A hand gripped her arm till it hurt. He did not speak.
“Don’t worry about the competition; about anything. We’ll win through, you and I. I’ve been a fool, no wiser than you, and I’ve nothing left over for anyone else either. I thought I had, but when looked for it, it wasn’t there. You’ve got it all. I don’t understand much, Jimmy, but I love you. Not quite like the first time. It doesn’t burn, but it’s just warm. Jimmy, do you hear?”
Slowly his arms came up and around her. They were together again. That was all he knew. A quiver ran through him, and his head lay heavier on her breast.
“I’m tired . . . tired.”
Thus for a little while, till she dabbed at her eyes, stared as though she had not seen him before, and ran for her hat.
“Now we’re going out for the best dinner we can find. We need it.”
He nodded, pale, half grave, half smiling, hesitating to believe that it was all true, devouring her with a gaze of doglike fidelity. He was filled with wonder. What had happened? He was still wondering when, later, she lifted her glass, peering across its brim.
“Where will we be this time next year, Jimmy?”
“Toronto, I expect. Like Toronto?”
“Rather nice, but why there, especially?”
“That fresco thing. I . .. ” He paused, knitting his brows, till of a sudden he gave a great laugh. “Funny to forget that.”
“Jimmy,” she gasped, “what do you mean?”
“Well, you see, I got it. I won. But didn’t seem to matter much—then.”
Speed of Some Stars is 7,200 Miles a Second
SPEEDING away from the earth at rate of 7,200 miles a second, a faint group of nebulae, galaxies of stars beyond our system, was awarded the record for astronomical speed by the astronomer^ Mount Wilson Observatory, in California.
The observatory’s 100-inch telescope, largest in the world, was the instrument that timed this immense rate of speed, which the earth could be circled in less than three and a half seconds. Time exposures of fifty hours each on nine separate nights were made in photographing the nebulae to reveal the rate at which they travelled through space.
Calculations show that these nebulae are seventy-five million light years away. The remotest stars in our own system are only 100,000 light years distant, or about six trillion miles.—Popular Science