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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOur Mr. Wrenn: The Romantic Adventures Of A Gentle Man - Chapter XVI HE BECOMES MILDLY RELIGIOUS AND HIGHLY LITERARY
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Our Mr. Wrenn: The Romantic Adventures Of A Gentle Man - Chapter XVI HE BECOMES MILDLY RELIGIOUS AND HIGHLY LITERARY Post by :Barry_Garhammer Category :Long Stories Author :Sinclair Lewis Date :February 2011 Read :3488

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Our Mr. Wrenn: The Romantic Adventures Of A Gentle Man - Chapter XVI HE BECOMES MILDLY RELIGIOUS AND HIGHLY LITERARY

The hero of the one-act play at Hammerstein's Victoria
vaudeville theater on that December evening was, it appeared, a
wealthy young mine-owner in disguise. He was working for the
"fake mine promoter" because he loved the promoter's daughter
with a love that passed all understanding except that of the
girls in the gallery. When the postal authorities were about to
arrest the promoter our young hero saved him by giving him a
real mine, and the ensuing kiss of the daughter ended the
suspense in which Mr. Wrenn and Nelly, Mrs. Arty and Tom had
watched the play from the sixth row of the balcony.

Sighing happily, Nelly cried to the group: "Wasn't that grand?
I got so excited! Wasn't that young miner a dear?"

"Awfully nice," said Mr. Wrenn. "And, gee! wasn't that great,
that office scene--with that safe and the rest of the
stuff--just like you was in a real office. But, say, they
wouldn't have a copying-press in an office like that; those fake
mine promoters send out such swell letters; they'd use carbon
copies and not muss the letters all up."

"By gosh, that's right!" and Tom nodded his chin toward his
right shoulder in approval. Nelly cried, "That's so; they
would"; while Mrs. Arty, not knowing what a copying-press was,
appeared highly commendatory, and said nothing at all.

During the moving pictures that followed, Mr. Wrenn felt
proudly that he was taken seriously, though he had known
them but little over a month. He followed up his conversational
advantage by leading the chorus in wondering, "which one of them
two actors the heroine was married to?" and "how much a week
they get for acting in that thing?" It was Tom who invited them
to Miggleton's for coffee and fried oysters. Mr. Wrenn was
silent for a while. But as they were stamping through the
rivulets of wheel-tracks that crisscrossed on a slushy
street-crossing Mr. Wrenn regained his advantage by crying,
"Say, don't you think that play 'd have been better if the
promoter 'd had an awful grouch on the young miner and 'd had to
crawfish when the miner saved him?"

"Why, yes; it would!" Nelly glowed at him.

"Wouldn't wonder if it would," agreed Tom, kicking the December
slush off his feet and patting Mr. Wrenn's back.

"Well, look here," said Mr. Wrenn, as they left Broadway, with
its crowds betokening the approach of Christmas, and stamped to
the quieter side of Forty-second, "why wouldn't this make a
slick play: say there's an awfully rich old guy; say he's a
railway president or something, d' you see? Well, he's got a
secretary there in the office--on the stage, see? The scene is
his office. Well, this guy's--the rich old guy's--daughter
comes in and says she's married to a poor man and she won't tell
his name, but she wants some money from her dad. You see, her
dad's been planning for her to marry a marquise or some kind of
a lord, and he's sore as can be, and he won't listen to her, and
he just cusses her out something fierce, see? Course he doesn't
really cuss, but he's awful sore; and she tells him didn't he
marry her mother when he was a poor young man; but he won't
listen. Then the secretary butts in--my idea is he's been kind
of keeping in the background, see--and _he's the daughter's
husband all the while, see? and he tells the old codger how
he's got some of his--some of the old fellow's--papers that give
it away how he done something that was crooked--some kind of
deal--rebates and stuff, see how I mean?--and the secretary's
going to spring this stuff on the newspapers if the old man
don't come through and forgive them; so of course the president
has to forgive them, see?"

"You mean the secretary was the daughter's husband all along,
and he heard what the president said right there?" Nelly panted,
stopping outside Miggleton's, in the light from the
oyster-filled window.

"Yes; and he heard it all."

"Why, I think that's just a _fine idea," declared Nelly, as they
entered the restaurant. Though her little manner of dignity and
even restraint was evident as ever, she seemed keenly joyous
over his genius.

"Say, that's a corking idea for a play, Wrenn," exclaimed Tom,
at their table, gallantly removing the ladies' wraps.

"It surely is," agreed Mrs. Arty.

"Why don't you write it?" asked Nelly.

"Aw--I couldn't write it!"

"Why, sure you could, Bill," insisted Tom. "Straight; you
ought to write it. (Hey, waiter! Four fries and coffee!)
You ought to write it. Why, it's a wonder; it 'd make a dev--
'Scuse me, ladies. It'd make a howling hit. You might make a
lot of money out of it."

The renewed warmth of their wet feet on the red-tile floor, the
scent of fried oysters, the din of "Any Little Girl" on the
piano, these added color to this moment of Mr. Wrenn's great
resolve. The four stared at one another excitedly. Mr. Wrenn's
eyelids fluttered. Tom brought his hand down on the table with
a soft flat "plob" and declared: "Say, there might be a lot
of money in it. Why, I've heard that Harry Smith--writes the
words for these musical comedies--makes a _mint of money."

"Mr. Poppins ought to help you in it--he's seen such a lot of
plays," Mrs. Arty anxiously advised.

"That's a good idea," said Mr. Wrenn. It had, apparently, been
ordained that he was to write it. They were now settling
important details. So when Nelly cried, "I think it's just a
fine idea; I knew you had lots of imagination," Tom interrupted
her with:

"No; you write it, Bill. I'll help you all I can, of course....
Tell you what you ought to do: get hold of Teddem--he's had a
lot of stage experience; he'd help you about seeing the managers.
That 'd be the hard part--you can write it, all right, but you'd
have to get next to the guys on the inside, and Teddem--Say,
you cer_tain_ly ought to write this thing, Bill. Might make a lot
of money."

"Oh, a lot!" breathed Nelly.

"Heard about a fellow," continued Tom--" fellow named Gene
Wolf, I think it was--that was so broke he was sleeping in
Bryant Park, and he made a _hundred thousand dollars on his
first play--or, no; tell you how it was: he sold it outright for
ten thousand--something like that, anyway. I got that right
from a fellow that's met him."

"Still, an author's got to go to college and stuff like that."
Mr. Wrenn spoke as though he would be pleased to have the
objection overruled at once, which it was with a universal:

"Oh, rats!"

Crunching oysters in a brown jacket of flour, whose every lump
was a crisp delight, hearing his genius lauded and himself
called Bill thrice in a quarter-hour, Mr. Wrenn was beatified.
He asked the waiter for some paper, and while the four hotly
discussed things which "it would be slick to have the
president's daughter do" he drew up a list of characters on a
sheet of paper he still keeps. It is headed, "Miggleton's
Forty-second Street Branch." At the bottom appear numerous
scribblings of the name Nelly.

 

{the full page is covered with doodling as well}

 

"I think I'll call the heroine `Nelly,'" he mused.

Nelly Croubel blushed. Mrs. Arty and Tom glanced at each other.
Mr. Wrenn realized that he had, even at this moment of social
triumph, "made a break."

He said, hastily; "I always liked that name. I--I had an aunt
named that!"

"Oh--" started Nelly.

"She was fine to me when I was a kid, "Mr. Wrenn added, trying
to remember whether it was right to lie when in such need.

"Oh, it's a horrid name," declared Nelly. "Why don't you call
her something nice, like Hazel--or--oh--Dolores."

"Nope; Nelly's an elegant name--an _elegant name."

He walked with Nelly behind the others, along Forty-second
Street. To the outsider's eye he was a small respectable clerk,
slightly stooped, with a polite mustache and the dignity that
comes from knowing well a narrow world; wearing an overcoat too
light for winter; too busily edging out of the way of people and
guiding the nice girl beside him into clear spaces by
diffidently touching her elbow, too pettily busy to cast a
glance out of the crowd and spy the passing poet or king, or the
iron night sky. He was as undistinguishable a bit of the
evening street life as any of the file of street-cars slashing
through the wet snow. Yet, he was the chivalrous squire to the
greatest lady of all his realm; he was a society author, and a
man of great prospective wealth and power over mankind!

"Say, we'll have the grandest dinner you ever saw if I get away
with the play," he was saying. "Will you come, Miss Nelly?"

"Indeed I will! Oh, you sha'n't leave me out! Wasn't I there when--"

"Indeed you were! Oh, we'll have a reg'lar feast at the
Astor--artichokes and truffles and all sorts of stuff....
Would--would you like it if I sold the play?"

"_Course I would, silly!"

"I'd buy the business and make Rabin manager--the Souvenir Company.

So he came to relate all those intimacies of The Job; and he was
overwhelmed at the ease with which she "got onto old Goglefogle."

His preparations for writing the play were elaborate.

He paced Tom's room till twelve-thirty, consulting as to whether
he had to plan the stage-setting; smoking cigarettes in
attitudes on chair arms. Next morning in the office he made
numerous plans of the setting on waste half-sheets of paper.
At noon he was telephoning at Tom regarding the question of
whether there ought to be one desk or two on the stage.

He skipped the evening meal at Mrs. Arty's, dining with literary
pensiveness at the Armenian, for he had subtle problems to
meditate. He bought a dollar fountain-pen, which had large
gold-like bands and a rather scratchy pen-point, and a box of
fairly large sheets of paper. Pressing his literary impedimenta
tenderly under his arm, he attended four moving-picture and
vaudeville theaters. By eleven he had seen three more one-act
plays and a dramatic playlet.

He slipped by the parlor door at Mrs. Arty's.

His room was quiet. The lamplight on the delicately green walls
was like that of a regular author's den, he was quite sure. He
happily tested the fountain-pen by writing the names Nelly and
William Wrenn on a bit of wrapping-paper (which he guiltily
burned in an ash-tray); washed his face with water which he let
run for a minute to cool; sat down before his table with a grunt
of content; went back and washed his hands; fiercely threw off
the bourgeois encumbrances of coat and collar; sat down again;
got up to straighten a picture; picked up his pen; laid it down,
and glowed as he thought of Nelly, slumbering there, near at
hand, her exquisite cheek nestling silkenly against her arm,
perhaps, and her white dreams--

Suddenly he roared at himself, "Get on the job there, will yuh?"
He picked up the pen and wrote:

THE MILLIONAIRE'S DAUGHTER

A ONE ACT DRAMATIC PLAYLET
by

WILLIAM WRENN

CHARACTERS

_John Warrington_, a railway president; quite rich.
_Nelty Warrington_, Mr. Warrington's daughter.
_Reginald Thorne_, his secretary.

He was jubilant. His pen whined at top speed, scattering a
shower of tiny drops of ink.


_Stage Scene: An office. Very expensive. Mr. Warrington and Mr.
Thorne are sitting there. Miss Warrington comes in. She says:_


He stopped. He thought. He held his head. He went over to the
stationary bowl and soaked his hair with water. He lay on the
bed and kicked his heels, slowly and gravely smoothing his
mustache. Fifty minutes later he gave a portentous groan and
went to bed.

He hadn't been able to think of what Miss Warrington says beyond
"I have come to tell you that I am married, papa," and that
didn't sound just right; not for a first line it didn't, anyway.

At dinner next night--Saturday--Tom was rather inclined to make
references to "our author," and to remark: "Well, I know where
somebody was last night, but of course I won't tell. Say, them
authors are a wild lot."

Mr. Wrenn, who had permitted the teasing of even Tim, the
hatter, "wasn't going to stand for no kidding from nobody--not
when Nelly was there," and he called for a glass of water with
the air of a Harvard assistant professor forced to eat in a
lunch-wagon and slapped on the back by the cook.

Nelly soothed him. "The play _is going well, _isn't it?"

When he had, with a detached grandeur of which he was
immediately ashamed, vouchsafed that he was already "getting
right down to brass tacks on it," that he had already
investigated four more plays and begun the actual writing,
every one looked awed and asked him assorted questions.

At nine-thirty that evening he combed and tightly brushed his
hair, which he had been pawing angrily for an hour and a half,
went down the hall to Nelly's hall bedroom, and knocked with:
"It's Mr. Wrenn. May I ask you something about the play?"

"Just a moment," he heard her say.

He waited, panting softly, his lips apart. This was to be the
first time he had ever seen Nelly's room. She opened the door
part way, smiling shyly, timidly, holding her pale-blue
dressing-gown close. The pale blueness was a modestly brilliant
spot against the whiteness of the room--white bureau, hung with
dance programs and a yellow Upton's Grove High School banner,
white tiny rocker, pale-yellow matting, white-and-silver
wall-paper, and a glimpse of a white soft bed.

He was dizzy with the exaltation of that purity, but he got
himself to say:

"I'm kind of stuck on the first part of the play, Miss Nelly.
Please tell me how you think the heroine would speak to her dad.
Would she call him `papa' or `sir,' do you think?"

"Why--let me see--"

"They're such awful high society--"

"Yes, that's so. Why, I should think she'd say `sir.' Maybe oh,
what was it I heard in a play at the Academy of Music?
`Father, I have come back to you!'"

"Sa-a-ay, that's a fine line! That'll get the crowd going right
from the first.... I _told you you'd help me a lot."

"I'm awfully glad if I _have helped you," she said, earnestly.
Good night--and good, "awfully glad, but luck with the play.
Good night."

"Good night. Thank you a lot, Miss Nelly. Church in the
morning, remember! Good night."

"Good night."

As it is well known that all playwrights labor with toy theaters
before them for working models, Mr. Wrenn ran to earth a fine
unbroken pasteboard box in which a ninety-eight-cent alarm-clock
had recently arrived. He went out for some glue and three small
corks. Setting up his box stage, he glued a pill-box and a
match-box on the floor--the side of the box it had always been
till now--and there he had the mahogany desks. He thrust three
matches into the corks, and behold three graceful
actors--graceful for corks, at least. There was fascination in
having them enter, through holes punched in the back of the box,
frisk up to their desks and deliver magic emotional speeches
that would cause any audience to weep; speeches regarding which
he knew everything but the words; a detail of which he was still
quite ignorant after half an hour of playing with his marionettes.

Before he went despairingly to bed that Saturday night he had
added to his manuscript:


_Mr. Thorne says: Here are the papers, sir. As a great railway
president you should--


The rest of that was to be filled in later. How the dickens
could he let the public know how truly great his president was?

(_Daughter, Miss Nelly, comes in._)

_Miss Nelly: Father, I have come back to you, sir.

_Mr. Warrington: My Daughter!

_Nelly: Father, I have something to tell you; something--


Breakfast at Mrs. Arty's was always an inspiration. In contrast
to the lonely dingy meal at the Hustler Dairy Lunch of his Zapp
days, he sat next to a trimly shirtwaisted Nelly, fresh and
enthusiastic after nine hours' sleep. So much for ordinary
days. But Sunday morning--that was paradise! The oil-stove
glowed and purred like a large tin pussy cat; it toasted their
legs into dreamy comfort, while they methodically stuffed
themselves with toast and waffles and coffee. Nelly and he
always felt gently superior to Tom Poppins, who would be
a-sleeping late, as they talked of the joy of not having to go
to the office, of approaching Christmas, and of the superiority
of Upton's Grove and Parthenon.

This morning was to be Mr. Wrenn's first attendance at church
with Nelly. The previous time they had planned to go, Mr. Wrenn
had spent Sunday morning in unreligious fervor at the Chelsea
Dental Parlors with a young man in a white jacket instead of at
church with Nelly.

This was also the first time that he had attended a church
service in nine years, except for mass at St. Patrick's, which
he regarded not as church, but as beauty. He felt tremendously
reformed, set upon new paths of virtue and achievement. He
thought slightingly of those lonely bachelors, Morton and
Mittyford, Ph. D. They just didn't know what it meant to a
fellow to be going to church with a girl like Miss Nelly, he
reflected, as he re brushed his hair after breakfast.

He walked proudly beside her, and made much of the gentility of
entering the church, as one of the well-to-do and intensely
bathed congregation. He even bowed to an almost painfully
washed and brushed young usher with gold-rimmed eye-glasses.
He thought scornfully of his salad days, when he had bowed to
the Brass-button Man at the Nickelorion.

The church interior was as comfortable as Sunday-morning toast
and marmalade--half a block of red carpet in the aisles; shiny
solid-oak pews, gorgeous stained-glass windows, and a general
polite creaking of ladies' best stays and gentlemen's stiff
shirt-bosoms, and an odor of the best cologne and moth-balls.

It lacked but six days till Christmas. Mr. Wrenn's heart was a
little garden, and his eyes were moist, and he peeped tenderly
at Nelly as he saw the holly and ivy and the frosted Christmas
mottoes, "Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men," and the rest, that
brightened the spaces between windows.

Christmas--happy homes--laughter.... Since, as a boy, he had
attended the Christmas festivities of the Old Church
Sunday-school at Parthenon, and got highly colored candy in a
net bag, his holidays had been celebrated by buying himself plum
pudding at lonely Christmas dinners at large cheap restaurants,
where there was no one to wish him "Merry Christmas" except
his waiter, whom he would quite probably never see again, nor
ever wish to see.

But this Christmas--he surprised himself and Nelly suddenly by
hotly thrusting out his hand and touching her sleeve with the
searching finger-tips of a child comforted from night fears.

During the sermon he had an idea. What was it Nelly had told
him about "Peter Pan"? Oh yes; somebody in it had said "Do you
believe in fairies?" _Say_, why wouldn't it be great to have the
millionaire's daughter say to her father, "Do you believe in love?"

"Gee, _I believe in love!" he yearned to himself, as he felt
Nelly's arm unconsciously touch his.

Tom Poppins had Horatio Hood Teddem in that afternoon for a hot
toddy. Horatio looked very boyish, very confiding, and borrowed
five dollars from Mr. Wrenn almost painlessly, so absorbed was
Mr. Wrenn in learning from Horatio how to sell a play. To know
the address of the firm of Wendelbaum & Schirtz, play-brokers,
located in a Broadway theater building, seemed next door to
knowing a Broadway manager.

When Horatio had gone Tom presented an idea which he had
ponderously conceived during his Sunday noon-hour at the
cigar-store.

"Why not have three of us--say me and you and Mrs. Arty--talk
the play, just like we was acting it?"

He enthusiastically forced the plan on Mr. Wrenn. He pounded
down-stairs and brought up Mrs. Arty. He dashed about the room,
shouting directions. He dragged out his bureau for the
railroad-president's desk, and a table for the secretary, and,
after some consideration and much rubbing of his chin, with two
slams and a bang he converted his hard green Morris-chair into
an office safe.

The play was on. Mr. T. Poppins, in the role of the president,
entered, with a stern high expression on his face, threw a "Good
morning, Thorne," at Wrenn, his secretary, and peeled off his gloves.
(Mr. Wrenn noted the gloves; they were a Touch.)

Mr. Wrenn approached diffidently, his face expressionless, lest
Mrs. Arty laugh at him. "Here--

"Say, what do you think would be a good way for the secretary to
tell the crowd that the other guy is the president? Say, how
about this: `The vice-president of the railway would like to
have you sign these, sir, as president'?"

"That's fine!" exclaimed Mrs. Arty, whose satin dress was
carefully spread over her swelling knees, as she sat in the oak
rocker, like a cheerful bronze monument to Sunday propriety.
"But don't you think he'd say, `when it's convenient to you, sir'?"

"Gee, that's dandy!"

The play was on.

It ended at seven. Mr. Wrenn took but fifteen minutes for
Sunday supper, and wrote till one of the morning, finishing the
first draft of his manuscript.

Revision was delightful, for it demanded many conferences with
Nelly, sitting at the parlor table, with shoulders
confidentially touching. They were the more intimate because
Tom had invited Mr. Wrenn, Nelly, and Mrs. Arty to the Grand
Christmas Eve Ball of the Cigar-Makers' Union at Melpomene Hall.
Nelly asked of Mr. Wrenn, almost as urgently as of Mrs. Arty,
whether she should wear her new white mull or her older
rose-colored China silk.

Two days before Christmas he timidly turned over the play for
typing to a haughty public stenographer who looked like Lee
Theresa Zapp. She yawned at him when he begged her to be
careful of the manuscript. The gloriously pink-bound and
red-underlined typed manuscript of the play was mailed to
Messrs. Wendelbaum & Schirtz, play-brokers, at 6.15 P.M.,
Christmas Eve.


The four walked down Sixth Avenue to the Cigar-Makers' Ball.
They made an Indian file through the Christmas shopping crowds,
and stopped frequently and noisily before the street-booths'
glamour of tinsel and teddy-bears. They shrieked all with one
rotund mad laughter as Tom Poppins capered over and bought for
seven cents a pink bisque doll, which he pinned to the lapel of
his plaid overcoat. They drank hot chocolate at the Olympic
Confectionery Store, pretending to each other that they were
shivering with cold.

It was here that Nelly reached up and patted Mr. Wrenn's
pale-blue tie into better lines. In her hair was the scent
which he had come to identify as hers. Her white furs brushed
against his overcoat.

The cigar-makers, with seven of them in full evening-dress and
two in dinner-coats, were already dancing on the waxy floor of
Melpomene Hall when they arrived. A full orchestra was pounding
and scraping itself into an hysteria of merriment on the
platform under the red stucco-fronted balcony, and at the bar
behind the balcony there was a spirit of beer and revelry by night.

Mr. Wrenn embarrassedly passed large groups of pretty girls.
He felt very light and insecure in his new gun-metal-finish
pumps now that he had taken off his rubbers and essayed the
slippery floor. He tried desperately not to use his handkerchief
too conspicuously, though he had a cold.

It was not till the choosing of partners for the next dance,
when Tom Poppins stood up beside Nelly, their arms swaying a
little, their feet tapping, that Mr. Wrenn quite got the fact
that he could not dance.

He had casually said to the others, a week before, that he knew
only the square dances which, as a boy, he had learned at
parties at Parthenon. But they had reassured him: "Oh, come
on--we'll teach you how to dance at the ball--it won't be formal.
Besides, we'll give you some lessons before we go."
Playwriting and playing Five Hundred had prevented their giving
him the lessons. So he now sat terrified as a two-step began
and he saw what seemed to be thousands of glittering youths and
maidens whirling deftly in a most involved course, getting
themselves past each other in a way which he was sure he could
never imitate. The orchestra yearned over music as rich and
smooth as milk chocolate, which made him intensely lonely for
Nelly, though she was only across the room from him.

Tom Poppins immediately introduced Nelly to a facetious cigar
salesman, who introduced her to three of the beaux in evening
clothes, while Tom led out Mrs. Arty. Mr. Wrenn, sitting in a
row of persons who were not at all interested in his sorrows,
glowered out across the hall, and wished, oh! so bitterly, to
flee home. Nelly came up, glowing, laughing, with
black-mustached and pearl-waistcoated men, and introduced him to
them, but he glanced at them disapprovingly; and always she was
carried off to dance again.

She found and hopefully introduced to Mr. Wrenn a wallflower who
came from Yonkers and had never heard of Tom Poppins or
aeroplanes or Oxford or any other topic upon which Mr. Wrenn
uneasily tried to discourse as he watched Nelly waltz and smile
up at her partners. Presently the two sat silent. The wallflower
excused herself and went back to her mama from Yonkers.

Mr. Wrenn sat sulking, hating his friends for having brought
him, hating the sweetness of Nelly Croubel, and saying to
himself, "Oh--_sure_--she dances with all those other men--me,
I'm only the poor fool that talks to her when she's tired and
tries to cheer her up."

He did not answer when Tom came and told him a new story he had
just heard in the barroom.

Once Nelly landed beside him and bubblingly insisted on his
coming out and trying to learn to dance. He brightened, but
shyly remarked, "Oh no, I don't think I'd better." Just then the
blackest-mustached and pearl-waistcoatedest of all the cigar
salesmen came begging for a dance, and she was gone, with only:
"Now get up your courage. I'm going to _make you dance."

At the intermission he watched her cross the floor with the
hateful cigar salesman, slender in her tight crisp new white
mull, flourishing her fan and talking with happy rapidity.
She sat down beside him. He said nothing; he still stared out
across the glassy floor. She peeped at him curiously several
times, and made a low tapping with her fan on the side of her chair.

She sighed a little. Cautiously, but very casually, she said,
"Aren't you going to take me out for some refreshments, Mr. Wrenn?"

"Oh sure--I'm good enough to buy refreshments for her!" he said
to himself.

Poor Mr. Wrenn; he had not gone to enough parties in Parthenon,
and he hadn't gone to any in New York. At nearly forty he was
just learning the drab sulkiness and churlishness and black
jealousy of the lover.... To her: "Why didn't you go out with
that guy with the black mustache?" He still stared straight ahead.

She was big-eyed, a tear showing. "Why, Billy--" was all she
answered.

He clenched his hands to keep from bursting out with all the
pitiful tears which were surging in his eyes. But he said nothing.

"Billy, what--"

He turned shyly around to her; his hand touched hers softly.

"Oh, I'm a beast," he said, rapidly, low, his undertone
trembling to her ears through the laughter of a group next to
them. "I didn't mean that, but I was--I felt like such a
mutt--not being able to dance. Oh, Nelly, I'm awfully sorry.
You know I didn't mean--_Come on! Let's go get something to eat!"

As they consumed ice-cream, fudge, doughnuts, and chicken
sandwiches at the refreshment counter they were very intimate,
resenting the presence of others. Tom and Mrs. Arty joined
them. Tom made Nelly light her first cigarette. Mr. Wrenn
admired the shy way in which, taking the tiniest of puffs, she
kept drawing out her cigarette with little pouts and nose
wriggles and pretended sneezes, but he felt a lofty gladness
when she threw it away after a minute, declaring that she'd
never smoke again, and that she was going to make all three of
her companions stop smoking, "now that she knew how horrid and
sneezy it was, so there!"

With what he intended to be deep subtlety Mr. Wrenn drew her
away to the barroom, and these two children, over two glasses of
ginger-ale, looked their innocent and rustic love so plainly
that Mrs. Arty and Tom sneaked away. Nelly cut out a dance,
which she had promised to a cigar-maker, and started homeward
with Mr. Wrenn.

"Let's not take a car--I want some fresh air after that smoky
place," she said. "But it _was grand.... Let's walk up
Fifth Avenue."

"Fine.... Tired, Nelly?"

"A little."

He thought her voice somewhat chilly.

"Nelly--I'm so sorry--I didn't really have the chance to tell
you in there how sorry I was for the way I spoke to you.
Gee! it was fierce of me--but I felt--I couldn't dance, and--oh--"

No answer.

"And you did mind it, didn't you?"

"Why, I didn't think you were so very nice about it--when I'd
tried so hard to have you have a good time--"

"Oh, Nelly, I'm so sorry--"

There was tragedy in his voice. His shoulders, which he always
tried to keep as straight as though they were in a vise when he
walked with her, were drooping.

She touched his glove. "Oh don't, Billy; it's all right now.
I understand. Let's forget--"

"Oh, you're too good to me!"

Silence.

As they crossed Twenty-third on Fifth Avenue she took his arm.
He squeezed her hand. Suddenly the world was all young and
beautiful and wonderful. It was the first time in his life that
he had ever walked thus, with the arm of a girl for whom he
cared cuddled in his. He glanced down at her cheap white furs.
Snowflakes, tremulous on the fur, were turned into diamond dust
in the light from a street-lamp which showed as well a tiny
place where her collar had been torn and mended ever so
carefully. Then, in a millionth of a second, he who had been a
wanderer in the lonely gray regions of a detached man's heart
knew the pity of love, all its emotion, and the infinite care
for the beloved that makes a man of a rusty sales-clerk.
He lifted a face of adoration to the misty wonder of the bare
trees, whose tracery of twigs filled Madison Square; to the
Metropolitan Tower, with its vast upward stretch toward the
ruddy sky of the city's winter night. All these mysteries he
knew and sang. What he _said was:

"Gee, those trees look like a reg'lar picture!... The Tower
just kind of fades away. Don't it?"

"Yes, it is pretty," she said, doubtfully, but with a pressure
of his arm.

Then they talked like a summer-time brook, planning that he was
to buy a Christmas bough of evergreen, which she would smuggle
to breakfast in the morning. Through their chatter persisted
the new intimacy which had been born in the pain of their
misunderstanding.


On January 10th the manuscript of "The Millionaire's Daughter"
was returned by play-brokers Wendelbaum & Schirtz with this letter:


DEAR SIR,--We regret to say that we do not find play available.
We inclose our reader's report on the same. Also inclose bill
for ten dollars for reading-fee, which kindly remit at early
convenience.


He stood in the hall at Mrs. Arty's just before dinner.
He reread the letter and slowly opened the reader's report,
which announced:


"Millionaire's Daughter." One-act vlle. Utterly impos.
Amateurish to the limit. Dialogue sounds like burlesque of
Laura Jean Libbey. Can it.


Nelly was coming down-stairs. He handed her the letter and
report, then tried to stick out his jaw. She read them. Her
hand slipped into his. He went quickly toward the basement and
made himself read the letter--though not the report--to the
tableful. He burned the manuscript of his play before going to
bed. The next morning he waded into The Job as he never had
before. He was gloomily certain that he would never get away
from The Job. But he thought of Nelly a hundred times a day and
hoped that sometime, some spring night of a burning moon, he
might dare the great adventure and kiss her. Istra--
Theoretically, he remembered her as a great experience.
But what nebulous bodies these theories are!


That slow but absolutely accurate Five-Hundred player, Mr.
William Wrenn, known as Billy, glanced triumphantly at Miss
Proudfoot, who was his partner against Mrs. Arty and James
T. Duncan, the traveling-man, on that night of late February.
His was the last bid in the crucial hand of the rubber game.
The others waited respectfully. Confidently, he bid "Nine
on no trump."

"Good Lord, Billl" exclaimed James T. Duncan.

"I'll make it."

And he did. He arose a victor. There was no uneasiness, but
rather all the social polish of Mrs. Arty's at its best, in his
manner, as he crossed to Mrs. Ebbitt's chair and asked: "How is
Mr. Ebbitt to-night? Pretty rheumatic?" Miss Proudfoot offered
him a lime tablet, and he accepted it judicially. "I believe
these tablets are just about as good as Park & Tilford's," he
said, cocking his head. "Say, Dunk, I'll match you to see who
rushes a growler of beer. Tom'll be here pretty soon--store
ought to be closed by now. We'll have some ready for him."

"Right, Bill," agreed James T. Duncan.

Mr. Wrenn lost. He departed, after secretively obtaining not
one, but two pitchers, in one of which he got a "pint of dark"
and in the other a surprise. He bawled upstairs to Nelly,
"Come on down, Nelly, can't you? Got a growler of ice-cream
soda for the ladies!"

It is true that when Tom arrived and fell to conversational
blows with James T. Duncan over the merits of a Tom Collins Mr.
Wrenn was not brilliant, for the reason that he took Tom Collins
to be a man instead of the drink he really is.

Yet, as they went up-stairs Miss Proudfoot said to Nelly:
"Mr. Wrenn is quiet, but I do think in some ways he's one of the
nicest men I've seen in the house for years. And he is so earnest.
And I think he'll make a good pinochle player, besides Five Hundred."

"Yes," said Nelly.

"I think he was a little shy at first.... _I was always
shy.... But he likes us, and I like folks that like folks."

"_Yes!_" said Nelly.

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