FICTION

Heart Like a Hotel

ELISA BIALK March 1 1936
FICTION

Heart Like a Hotel

ELISA BIALK March 1 1936

Heart Like a Hotel

ELISA BIALK

WHAT? You don’t know Gordon Normandy? Surely you’ve seen him

about—tall, blonde, slender. Lean hands and face. Proud bearing. A little wild-eyed. Sort of an impoverished aristocratic look, if you follow.

Can’t place him? Then you must know him by his work. He’s the young artist who does those color forms. That’s the type of painting he does. Modernistic? Oh, very. . . A disc here, a disc there, and some baby discs in between. A pinwheel of riotous colors set on a pyramid. Or a series of angles, carefully laid out, carefully executed. No nudes descending stairways—all these too oldfashioned.

Understand them? One isn’t supposed to understand color forms. One feels. Give Gordon Normandy a chance and he’ll tell you: “Why

should an artist be bound to the narrow vistas of portraiture, landscape and still life for subject matter? Why should it be necessary to reproduce nature? One might as well demand of the musician that each bar of music represent the bleat of a sheep, the jangle of traffic, some easily identifiable sound.

“My paintings represent nothing.

They are moods. They are unborn dreams. If you look at a conventional painting you will think, ‘What a pretty picture,’ and forget it. If you look at mine you will be disturbed.

You will think, ‘What is it?’ and suddenly you will know. What it is depends entirely upon the sort of person you are. Maybe it will make you go out and drop your last quarter into a beggar’s cup. Maybe it will make you go home and write a book. Maybe, on the other hand, it will make you go home and beat your wife. But it will do something to you. That’s what matters.”

The strangest part about Gordon Normandy’s little speech was that he was right. His paintings were striking. His paintings were disturbing. His paintings did do something to you. Perhaps this something was nothing more than a reminder that one was hungry when one saw a picture labelled “Atavistic Nebula” that looked like a poached egg on toast, in spite of its angles. Perhaps his pictures made one want to laugh, but one didn't. Even those who laughed at better-known modernists never laughed at Gordon Normandy. There was an earnestness, a certain power about his work that impelled respect.

Very well, then, that disposes of Gordon Normandy’s work. You know it now. But you still don’t know of Gordon Normandy? Strange, when he’s so well known, so much discussed, so often the topic around the tea tables he sometimes condescends to adorn. It is said that an Italian count challenged him to a duel because his inamorata cast roving sloe eyes in the young artist’s direction. The story happens to be true.

You know the matron who sponsored his one-man show last season? Yes, it was Gordon Normandy’s show. They said her interest was not entirely artistic. But then, of course, it seldom is.

Then there was that debutante. You’d think that, poor as he is, he would have jumped at the chance of marrying her and her money. He’s one of those proud creatures, however. Just flatly turned her down for a waitress. The deb was so mortified she went abroad and stayed there until she married a prince or something. She must have been heartbroken.

The waitress? That lasted only a little while. Until someone with more soul came along. An actress. She —you’ve heard that story, too? Yes, that young artist was also Gordon Normandy.

Then, since you know so much about him, you would

have recognized him the moment he entered Johnson Tree’s studio, in the garret of a red barn in back of a very respectable residence—the only atelier in the city, it was. He entered possessively, as if it were his instead of belonging to the best, though not the best-known, portrait painter in the country; arrogantly, because Johnson Tree was a conventional artist who did conventional work and had done conventional work for all of his fifty years.

Gordon Normandy came to the garret with an artist friend. Mort Wiggins. Wiggins was impoverished—which is hardly worth recording since all of Gordon Normandy’s artist friends were. Wiggins, a modernist, decided he needed more study in life for background, and was taking advantage of the class Johnson Tree held evenings for talented young artists at a cost so ridiculously low that it barely escaped being free. He brought Gordon Normandy along for moral support, and Gordon Normandy came through curiosity.

He stood in a comer, his head brushing against a rafter, surveying the scene in superior fashion while Wiggins worked. The model he disposed of after a cursory glance. She had a good line from breast to hips, but her legs and ankles were too thick and her hands were ugly. Grouped about her informally were men and women working in water colors, and oils and even in clay. With a slight sardonic smile Gordon Normandy classified them: The rather pretty redhead who dabbled, very badly, in art because she thought it “awfully smart;” the old man who had been studying for forty years and still hadn’t got very far; the young man, a commercial artist who Hoped for Better Things; a middle-aged woman, obviously foreign, somewhat bewildered by her sudden desire to paint; Johnson Tree himself, monocled, immaculate somehow in spite of his paint-streaked black smock, moving about like a Maltese cat looking for breakfast. The sardonic smile arched Gordon Normandy’s lips, raised his shoulders in a slight shrug: he kneweveryone of these people inside out. One could find the same types in every studio.

He saw her so suddenly that he started, and in starting bumped his head against the rafter. She was lying on a divan in the rear of the attic, half obscured by a screen.

She wasn’t a model. She was fully dressed, for one thing, and her pose—she was sprawled on her back with her long slim legs crossed, one hand holding a book while the other ran a steady route from the paper bag of chocolates at her side to her wide, appetizing mouth—was too informal. She read and she munched, and she was utterly oblivious of the earnest artists who worked as quietly as if they were in a church, and of the wholesome-looking model who was thinking of stopping off for a steak sandwich after class while she sat seductively. She was, even, Gordon Normandy realized with a pang of wounded vanity, utterly oblivious of him.

It was unseemly. It was unthinkable. When Gordon Normandy went unnoticed, there was only one thing to be done about it—see to it that he became noticed, and immediately. Quietly, so as not to disturb the artists—for even a Gordon Normandy respects them at their work—he edged around the studio to the divan, sat ujxm its edge. The broken springs creaked. That was the only greeting he got.

THE GIRL looked up momentarily. Her eyes were curved upward at the outer corners. They were long and narrow and green. Her lashes were darker than her wavy brown hair, and thick and curly. Gordon Normandy chalked up point number one against her. He didn’t like curly eyelashes. There was something innocuous about them. All the heroines of insipid love stories had them.

“I’m tired of standing,” he said with his most engaging smile, but she didn’t see it. She had already turned her green eyes to her book. “May I sit here?”

“Go right ahead,” she answered disinterestedly. She tossed the bag of chocolates to him without looking. He munched at one while he looked her over from head to foot. She was too slim. Point two against her. Well proportioned enough, but too slim. His face showed his disdain.

“You don’t have to like me,” she said suddenly, calmly and disconcertingly, and he knew that she had been watching him over the top of her book. “I’m not for sale. I’m one of the fixtures.”

“What do you do here?” he asked, annoyed and forgetting his engaging smile.

“I live here."

“I see.” His annoyance, unaccountably, grew.

“No,” she read his mind again. “I’m his daughter."

“Didn’t know Tree had one.”

She held out her hand for the return of the bag, took out another chocolate and popped it into her appetizing mouth before she answered in her frank, disinterested voice: “He doesn’t tell people. He’s ashamed of me. I’m too commercial. If it weren’t for me he’d starve to death, and starving to death is what he wants.” She sighed. “It’s terrible, isn’t it, not to let people have what they want?”

“Don’t you ever?”

She looked at him. Those green upeurved eyes pierced through his usually bland blue ones. They were disconcerting, or psychic or something. Gordon Normandy decided he didn’t like them. Point three against her. “No,” she told him shortly, and went back to her book.

He tried again. “I ought to introduce myself,” and he was engaging once more. “I’m Gordon Normandy.”

The quick flash of green upeurved eyes, the sudden animation he had expected was not forthcoming. There was no change of expression at all. She popped still another chocolate into her mouth, remarked absently: “Oh.”

Gordon Normandy got to his feet, flushing angrily. “You don’t have to talk to me if you don’t want to. And I don’t want to know your name. It’s probably Eliza or Agatha or Martha, anyhow.”

“I don’t have to tell you,” she said maddeningly, turning a page of her book deliberately. “But 1 shall. It’s Silver.”

“Silver?” He sat down again.

“But no one calls me that. They call me Slivers."

“Slivers?” He was aghast.

“Yes, Slivers.” Her calm was unruffled. “Father, the dear romanticist, thought I ought to look like a silver tree, so that’s what he called me. I grew up dark instead of blonde, and I have freckles instead of a fragile pallor. Slivers suits me better. I like Slivers.”

“That’s a detestable name.”

“I’m a rather detestable person. So are you.”

“Good night,” Gordon Normandy said stiffly, and got to his feet again.

“Good night,” Slivers answered without looking at him, and popped the last chocolate into her mouth without even asking him if he wanted it first.

“That girl—Tree’s daughter,” Gordon Normandy said agitatedly to Wiggins as they walked home.

“Well, what about her?”

“I’m in love with her.”

Wiggins laughed.

I DROPPED around this afternoon.” Gordon Normandy said with elaborate casualness a few nights later. “You weren’t in.”

“No,” Slivers murmured through a cherry cordial, not bothering to look up from her book. “I was at work.”

“At work?” His tone was puzzled.

“Yes. You know—work. W-o-r-k. To exert oneself physically or mentally, chiefly for gain or under compulsion.’ ”

He sat on the edge of the divan, uninvited, and waited until the broken springs stopped squeaking before he asked: “Where?”

“Durand and McNeill. Advertising.”

“I suppose,” he guessed scornfully, “you do commercial art.”

“Heavens, no!” she explained blandly. “I’m not nearly good enough for that. I’m a stenographer.” Her green eyes flashed defiant for a moment. “A very good one.”

He mused, looking from Sliver’s slim ankles to the ones of the model and noticing how much thicker the model’s seemed than before. “So you’re a stenographer by day, and you stuff yourself with chocolates and novels at night. Do you ever do anything else?”

“These cordials are delicious. So fresh. Sometimes I go dancing.”

Gordon Normandy groaned. Dancing, he had decided years before, was much too unsophisticated. Point four— or was it five?—against her. “Anything else?”

“And sometimes I go to the movies.”

“The movies !” He groaned more audibly.

Then her green eyes were raised impishly and her nose tilted upward as she grinned : “And sometimes I do anything that’s suggested.”

In no time at all they were walking down the street .

It seemed strange, having her walk beside him in her light, springy step. He had never seen her upright before, he realized; she was not nearly so tall as he had supposed. Activity seemed to affect her voice. As she chattered with him about one thing and another of unimportance it was not as languid as it was in the garret studio, but it was no less disconcertingly frank. When he asked her if she’d like to drop into his place to see his cromorfs, for instance:

“I wouldn’t like to.” she answered, "but I suppose I might as well.”

Before they entered his small studio apartment she hung back. “There’s just one thing you must promise me.” “Yes?”

She raised her eyes to his appealingly. “You won’t,” she begged, “talk about ionic involutes?”

Gordon Normandy laughed, threw open the door. “Ionic involutes,” he admitted, “are the farthest from my mind.” The rooms were very small and amazingly neat, like his well-spaced, carefully worked out cromorfs. Slivers looked at his work with more interest than Normandy had hoped for. She put her head to one side, bird-like, and sauinted her green, long-lashed eyes.

“Yes,” she said at last. “Yes.”

“Yes what?” he wanted to know whimsically.

“You’d make a very good layout man.”

“A what?”

“An advertising layout man. You have such perfect sense of proportion.” She went on, oblivious to his white heat: “Or you might even be a color adviser. Father was offered that position at Durand and McNeill, but he wouldn’t take it. Too commercial, you know. That’s how I got my job. Mr. McNeill, who is a friend of father’s, could see that we needed the money, so when—’’

“See here,” Gordon Normandy interrupted, “are you actually suggesting that I go to work for an advertising outfit?”

Slivers shrugged, became maddeningly indifferent again. ‘It’s been done.”

“Let’s have tea,” he suggested abruptly, his patience gone.

SLIVERS leaned back in her chair as she watched him bringing out china and little cakes and crackers and jams and sweets. His competence, acquired by countless intimate tea parties such as this, was fascinating. Gordon Normandy tried to be as lighthearted, as charmingly insouciant as he was at other teas, but he didn’t seem to be in the mood. This girl, slim and green-eyed and insultingly frank, was more disturbing than anyone he had ever known. He realized suddenly that he was ill at ease with her because he hadn’t kissed her; that he had never been in his studio with a girl as long as he had been here with Slivers without kissing her ; and that somehow he didn’t know how

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to go about kissing her. None of the old methods, he knew instinctively, would work successfully now, might even make him feel ridiculous. And nothing is more fatal to a man’s ego.

She chattered glibly and impersonally, ate crackers and jam and half the fittle cakes and all of the candy. Her appetite, he marked as another point against her, was enormous. He could never support anyone with an appetite like (hat, he was thinking when he caught himself in dismay. He had never got as close to marriage in his thoughts before, even though he had been dwelling upon it in the sense of an impossibility.

“Who does the dishes?” she asked as she finished.

“I do,” he admitted.

“Oh, heavens!” She got to her feet, began clearing them off. “That means I’ll have to, and I hate to.”

“Then don’t. I ’ll take care of them later. I usually just dust them off a little, anyhow.”

Slivers shook her head. “It would be on my conscience.”

He watched her hands as she worked. They were long and narrow. Strong hands. They washed the dishes deftly and quickly. It occurred to him that this whole visit had been something of a washout and not at all the conquest he had meant it to be. First, she had failed to understand him. had failed to appreciate his soul, when she had suggested that lie* turn his genius to advertising. Then she had grown remote suddenly, so that he was vaguely uncomfortable and unable to make love to her. Next, she had eaten up most of his provisions, and it would be a week at least before he could afford to bring someone else up to tea. Now, instead of growing mellow and sentimental over her tea so that she would be in the mood for his love-making at its conclusion, she was washing the dishes. Was there, he asked himself aggrievedly, anything less romantic than washing dishes?

She put the cups and saucers into the cupboard, placed the silver carefully into the drawer. “Well,” she announced brightly, “let’s go.”

Yes, he thought, let’s go. He was going to get this daughter of Johnson Tree back to her cluttered old garret and let her stay there. And he was never going back to it again.

“Aren’t you coming?” she wanted to know.

Still he lingered, without knowing why. “Come over here,” he called her to a comer. “What do you think of this cromorf?”

She came, squinted at it. “You showed it to me before.”

He waited for her to look at him. He felt a terrific desire to have those slanted green eyes glance up, but her thick lashes curved horizontally. She turned toward the door.

Gordon Normandy caught her arm. “Silver”—he refused tb call her by the odious Slivers—“look at me.”

“No.”

“Why?”

“If I look at you. you’ll kiss me.”

He caught her other arm, brought her around to face him. “Don’t you want me to kiss you. Silver?”

“No,” she said obstinately.

Then she looked at him.

A WEEK LATER, when he could afford to have her to tea again, he proposed. “No, Gordon,” Slivers said over the last bonbon, curling her slim legs under her slim body, “I could never marry you.” “Never marry me?” Gordon Normandy asked, more in amazement than chagrin.

She paused to munch, went on: “Maybe that surprised you. I suppose that, like most men, you know one or two girls who would be glad to marry you.”

One or two! Good lord, didn’t she know. . .

She shrugged. “Well, I’m not that kind. If I hadn’t grown up in a so-called artistic environment I imagine all this”—she waved one of her slim, capable hands—

“would seem glamorous. And if I had more money it wouldn’t make any difference.”

She swished her spoon absently in the remains of her tea. “There’s more to it than pure selfishness, Gordon. As long as mother lived she saw to it that we had a decent home— I don’t know on what. After her death things were often rather dreadful. Eating one meal a day and needing shoes and coal silly, plebeian things like that. Father didn’t mind. He had his work. I didn’t even have a doll to play with. Nothing but the bits of clay models the students left around—when we had students.”

Her eyes met his across the table. "You’re thinking that’s all past. It would begin all over again if I were to marry you.

I wouldn’t want to marry you if I couldn’t have children, and the memory of my own childhood is still too fresh in my mind to want to bring up ours in the same atmosphere. Things might even be worse. You’d make less money on your cromorfs than father with his art students.”

“You’ve never expected your father to make money,” Gordon Normandy told her angrily. “Why should you expect it of me?”

Slivers smiled indulgently. “It’s a little different with father. He thinks he has a gift to pass on.”

“I have, too.”

“He studied under Miraud. You know what that means?”

“To me it means nothing. To a conventionalist like your father it means the greatest painter of his time, I suppose.”

She nodded her small head sagely, “When father was very young he held two jobs, one in the morning selling newspapers and one in the evening washing dishes in a restaurant. He got two meals and a few dollars at the restaurant, and a few more dollars selling papers. He managed to earn enough to keep him going but not enough to provide for the lessons he should have taken afternoons.”

Slivers drank the rest of the tea, looked speculatively at the leaves at the bottom of her cup, trying to tell her fortune. “He had to drop out of the class rather often. One day Miraud took him to task about it and father had to admit that he was hard up. ‘Come to my house and we’ll talk about it,’ Miraud said. Father went.

“ ‘I have friends,’ Miraud began, rather irrelevantly it seemed. ‘They have money. They have often told me that if at any time they can be of service to an artist who shows talent, I am to call upon them. I am going to call upon them now. You are to stop wasting your time at your menial tasks at once. You’ll be provided with an allowance until you have finished studying —I’ll let you know when that time comes. They won’t know who’s getting the money and you won’t know where it’s coming from. Your pride won’t be injured in the least. . . You won’t have to be grateful. But there are two things you must do: Study and work as hard as you can now, and pass it on later. Pass it on!’ ”

Slivers grinned and her nose turned up. “I believe I’ve told you the story word for word, I know it so well. Father’s told it so often—whenever anyone wants to knowwhy he buries himself instructing paupers with talent instead of commercializing his ability. When we came to this city he studied conditions at the Art School. ‘It’s 140 years behind in its methods.’ he raged.

‘It’s being killed by inbreeding. Graduates of former graduates instruct ad infinitum, and no one introduces anything new. It even teaches charcoal still!’ So he set it upon himself to establish the kind of school he believed in.

“That disposes of father,” she ended quietly, getting up. “It doesn’t dispose of you. I’m not suggesting that your talent is less great than father’s. I’m merely suggesting that you had better employ it to better advantage than he has.” She grinned impishly. “I’m not suggesting it, I’m telling you—if you want to marry me.” Gordon Normandy didn’t answer her grin. “Shall I see you home?” he asked briefly.

Slivers covered her surprise at the question quickly. “Not unless you want to.” “Good night, then,” he said casually, and opened the door for her.

He didn’t have to close it. She slammed it shut.

/GORDON NORMANDY looked at the door, shrugged. He sat down and smoked for awhile. He took out a notebook, thumbed through the scores of telephone numbers. He hadn’t quite finished with Letha Parkhurst, he remembered savagely, wounded pride forcing him to bolster his ego by communicating instantly with someone who would be glad to see him, to speak to him, to let him make love to her, let him ask her to marry him.

“Where have you been?” Letha squealed over the telephone. She was the squealing kind. “I’ve telephoned and telephoned, and no one ever answered. And you didn’t phone me.”

Gordon Normandy closed his ears to her diatribe, wondered how he ever thought her voice charming. Hers was the breathless kind that sounded as if she had just run up a high hill. He liked languid voices. Silver had a languid . . . But he was never going to think of Sil«ver again.

“I’ve been busy,” he lied, and he knew that Letha knew he was lying, and that Letha knew that he meant that she knew he was lying. “Will you have dinner with me tomorrow?”

“I don’t keep dinner appointments, you know—or have you forgotten? I must be at the theatre so early.”

“Of course. Stupid of me.” He hadn’t forgotten, as a matter of fact. Tea was all he could have afforded. “Look, then: Why not come to late tea here?”

Letha paused, long and dramatically. Gordon Normandy settled himself more comfortably. This was interesting. This was his element. He knew all the ins and outs of sophisticated love. The other was kid stuff, and marriage was the bunk. He was ready for her words when she vacillated: “I don’t know, Gordon. I’ve been very busy, too. I don’t know whether I shall have time for our little tea parties any more; now that I realize how little they must have meant to you.”

“Letha,” he responded aptly, putting the proper note of desperation into his voice, “I must see you. I must talk to you.

I must—I simply must see you, Letha.” Now she would become aggrieved, Gordon Normandy guessed. She did. “If you were so anxious to see me, Gordon, why didn’t you phone sooner? I’m not accustomed to being neglected. Not that it mattered, of course, but. . .” Her voice trailed off on a pitiful note.

This was fun, Gordon Normandy ex-

ulted. She was acting and he knew it, and he was acting and she knew it. That was the only thing to do. “I’ll explain when I see you,” he told her earnestly. “I have something important to tell you.” Oh, well, he could always think of something to say by tomorrow. The “something important” seldom failed.

“I don’t know. . .” Letha was weakening.

This was the time to get a little aggrieved himself. “Very well, if you don’t want to see me. . .” The figurative shrug.

Another dramatic pause. “I think I shall come, after all,” she concluded coyly. “Just once more. But you must promise to behave.”

“I promise,” he laughed. The silly geese! As if they’d come if they believed for a moment that he would.

He hung up the receiver, leaned back for another smoke, thumbed through the numbers again. There was some satisfaction in knowing that he could phone anyone in his notebook and get a date. But not much. Strangely apathetic he dwelt on Letha Parkhurst’s visit tomorrow, and on the visits of other girls, past and future. He became confronted with the uncomfortable sensation that no matter how many girls had been to these small rooms in the past and how many would come in the future, only two visits would be remembered. Silver’s.

Gordon Normandy tossed the notebook aside, swore volubly. He went to bed.

nPHE PICTURE was perfect. The tea things were laid out on the intimate little table and two candles shot out yellow tongues that spread black shadows. Letha, as blonde as the yellow flames, wore black velvet and toyed negligently with a tiny eclair. Toyed negligently with it because Gordon Normandy had said as he helped her doff her wrap, “Aren’t you a little heavier?” “I don’t weigh an ounce more,” she had responded. Still, she did not eat.

Gordon Normandy, noting the little pucker of annoyance, the lack of appetite, kicked himself metaphorically for being the fool that he was. In his sane days, before he met Silver, he would never have committed such a faux pas, even though it might have been true. As it was, the utterance had been merely a subconscious comparison with sylph-like Silver. But Silver was too thin, he reminded himself.

The candles, the tea things and Letha made a fine setting. Yet something was lacking. It was like a play for which the curtain has gone up just as the actors realize they have forgotten all the lines. Everything else was all right, everything else was as before except himself. With a sense of desolation he realized he would never be as before again, and tried valiantly to drown out the desolation by talking swiftly, brilliant, racing from topic to topic, as Letha had known him to talk.

He paused when the pucker in her forehead deepened. “Who,” she asked, “is Silver?”

Gordon Normandy’s flush was discernible even in the candlelight. His poise fell like a mask. “How—how do you know?”

Letha smiled coolly, shrugged. “You just called me Silver.”

He looked at her, feeling like an oaf. “I called you Silver?” he asked in turn, because he could think of nothing else to say.

“She’s shorter than I am, isn’t she?” Letha’s voice was strangely different. You felt that that was the tone she’d use if you’d see her in the morning with her hair up in water-wave combs and her face coldcreamed. or if she had slipped her shoes off under the table. “When I came in you kissed me—and you stooped so low you bumped my nose.”

Gordon Normandy looked at her painfully and long. Then he grinned. The grin spread, broke into a laugh. “Letha, you’re swell!” he chuckled, and his voice was different too. It was natural. It was the voice he used when he spoke to Silver. He

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took off his shoes figuratively also, sighed with relief. If women would only be good sports more often and give men a chance to talk to them about the girls they loved '

“You’ve guessed it. I am in love with Silver. We—we had something of a misunderstanding, and I decided to go back to my wicked ways.” He was still grinning easily. “But it was no go, I knew from the start. The old fire is quenched. Letha,” he cried in mock dismay, “can you imagine me as a one-woman man?”

Letha blew a smoke ring luxuriously, without worrying whether she was doing it prettily. “The world,” she replied with only a touch of irony, “will be the loser.”

It was at about that moment that Gordon Normandy heard someone running up the stairs. Before he could get to the door it was flung open. Silver, her wings of dark hair flying, her green eyes throwing off sparks, her slimness cutting a small wedge in the gloom, surveyed the scene—the tea things; Letha in seductive velvet; Gordon himself, confused, guilty.

As he watched her he could see how her small shoulders drooped, and how her mouth drooped. “I see,” she murmured. “I see. Then it is true—what father and the others said.”

Before he could move an inch she had slammed the door and was running down the stairs again.

T)ARDON ME,” Gordon Normandy said ■L to Letha, and ran out after Silver without waiting for a reply.

She was so lithe and she ran so fast that it was a block before he caught up to her, and even then she wouldn’t stop.

“Go back!” she sputtered through her sobs. “Go back to her.”

“Don’t be silly. Silver. She means nothing to me. She knows it.”

“Go back,” she repeated, still crying, still running and becoming more breathless by the moment. “Father told me all about you and your women. Tonight—when I told him I was going to marry you. He called in his friends and they told me the same thing. I wouldn’t believe it. I came to tell you, to have you deny it—and I saw the proof before my eyes. No wonder you didn’t want to go to work for my sake. You never meant a word of what you’ve been saying, and you didn’t expect me to believe it either.”

She was running blindly and she turned down her street instinctively. He tried to stop her, but she shook his hand free and went on running.

“Listen to me!” he said in exasperation. “Nothing your father or anyone else might have said is true. I’ve found that out. I’ve never loved any of those women. I love you now.”

She laughed—a breathless, hysterical laugh. “You! You’ve got a heart like a hotel. There’s room for everybody.”

She turned into her courtyard, sprinted with renewed strength on the home stretch. Gordon Normandy, panting, his lungs aching and his heart pounding, stopped. He mopped his head, leaned against the high iron fence for a few moments. Then he walked back to his studio.

Letha was gone. Considerate of her. Gordon Normandy sank into his most comfortable chair and lit a cigarette. Funny how those things worked. . . He was able to like Letha as he had never liked her before, because he loved Silver. And he hadn’t liked Silver at all when he met her—not nearly as much as he had liked all the other women he had known—yet she was the only one with whom he had fallen in love.

Yet, he mused, the more complicated things became, the easier they were to understand. Like his cromorfs. “Listen,” he said to the cromorf nearest him, “I’m the only one who understands you, so you might as well be the only one to understand me: Art is art, but love is love.

That’s an epigram. Remember it.”

r"PHE NEXT DAY a tall, blonde, slender young man with lean hands and face and a proud bearing presented himself at the offices of Durand and McNeill, advertising. He carried a portfolio under his arm. Fie wanted to see Mr. McNeill, and he was the type who got what he wanted.

“My name,” he said to kindly, whitehaired Mr. McNeill when he sat opposite him in his office, “is Gordon Normandy. I do color forms.”

“You do what?”

“Color forms. Look.” He took out a few of them, laid them on Mr. McNeill’s

desk.

Mr. McNeill cleared his throat. “Very interesting,” he murmured uncertainly. “Very interesting.”

“I understand you are a friend of Johnson Tree’s.”

“Ah—Tree sent you!” Mr. McNeill brightened.

“I came of my own accord. But you are a friend of Johnson Tree’s and you don’t want him to starve. As a matter of fact,

I understand that you gave his daughter a position with your firm in order that he wouldn’t starve. Am I to understand still further, then, that you wouldn’t want Miss Tree to starve either?”

Mr. McNeill looked first at Gordon Normandy and then at his color forms, as if trying to decide which was more insane. “Miss Tree is industrious and intelligent,” he said at last, “and there’s little reason why she should starve. Of course I wouldn’t want her to.”

“Then I think you had better give me a job here. As color adviser preferably, or as layout man or office boy.”

Mr. McNeill’s eyes began to twinkle. “But Miss Tree still has her position and is in no danger of losing it.”

Gordon Normandy spread his lean hands. “You wouldn’t like her to have babies in your offices, would you? I want to marry her and she wants to have children, and one of us must work.”

Mr. McNeill looked at the cromorfs more carefully. He called in Mr. Durand to look at them. Mr. Durand was more impressed than Mr. McNeill had been. They went into Mr. Durand’s office. Mr. McNeill came back alone.

“We’ve decided to take you on,” he beamed.

“As copy boy?”

“No. Color adviser.”

As soon as he was located in a cubbyhole of an office Gordon sent for Silver. She brought along her notebook. She looked as if she hadn’t slept well the night before. She gasped when she saw him.

“Perhaps I ought to introduce myself,” he said politely. “My name is Normandy. I’m the new color adviser. What’s a color adviser, by the way?”

Silver’s green eyes lowered demurely. “How do you do, Mr. Normandy.”

“Take a letter, please.”

She sat at the desk, keeping her eyes lowered and almost keeping her smile from lifting the comers of her mouth. “To whom is the letter going, Mr. Normandy?” “I’ll give you the address later,” he said sternly. “Say this: ‘Dear Madam: Last night you told me I had a heart like a hotel. Permit me to inform you that I am giving the hotel to you for your exclusive occupancy, for ever and ever, amen.’ ”

“Is that all, Mr. Normandy?” Silver asked, her eyes still lowered.

“Isn’t that enough?”

“And the address?”

He got to his feet, came around the desk, towered over her. “I think I had better deliver it personally.”

“Very well, Mr. Normandy.” She jumped up, made for the door. Gordon Normandy was too quick for her. She found herself in his arms instead.

“Silver,” he commanded, “look at me.” “No!”

“Why not?”

“If I look at you. you’ll kiss. . .Oh — oh, Gordon ! Not here !”