Sea Gullibles, by Fannie Hurst
Hath Its Song
In this age of prose, when men's hearts turn point-blank from blank
verse to the business of chaining two worlds by cable and of daring to
fly with birds; when scholars, ever busy with the dead, are suffering
crick in the neck from looking backward to the good old days when
Romance wore a tin helmet on his head or lace in his sleeves—in such
an age Simon Binswanger first beheld the high-flung torch of Goddess
Liberty from the fore of the steerage deck of a wooden ship, his small
body huddled in the sag of calico skirt between his mother's knees, and
the sky-line and clothes-lines of the lower East Side dawning upon his
Some decades later, and with an endurance stroke that far outclassed
classic Leander's, Simon Binswanger had swum the great Hellespont
that surged between the Lower East Side and the Upper West Side, and,
trolling his family after, landed them in one of those stucco-fronted,
elevator-service apartment-houses where home life is lived on the layer,
and the sins of the extension sole and the self-playing piano are
visited upon the neighbor below. Landed them four stories high and dry
in a strictly modern apartment of three dark, square bedrooms, a square
dining-room ventilated by an airshaft, and a square pocket of a kitchen
that looked out upon a zigzag of fire-escape. And last a square
front-room-de-resistance, with a bay of four windows overlooking a
distant segment of Hudson River, an imitation stucco mantelpiece, a
crystal chandelier, and an air of complete detachment from its curtailed
But even among the false creations of exterior architects and interior
decorators, home can find a way. Despite the square dining-room with
the stag-and-tree wall-paper design above the plate-rack and a gilded
radiator that hissed loudest at mealtime, when Simon Binswanger and his
family relaxed round their after-dinner table, the invisible cricket on
the visible hearth fell to whirring.
With the oldest gesture of the shod age Mrs. Binswanger dived into her
work-basket, withdrew with a sock, inserted her five fingers into the
foot, and fell to scanning it this way and that with a furrow between
"Ray, go in and tell your sister she should come out of her room and
stop that crying nonsense. I tell you it's easier we should all go to
Europe, even if we have to swim across, than every evening we should
have spoilt for us."
Ray Binswanger rose out of her shoulders, her eyes dazed with print,
then collapsed again to the pages of her book.
"Let her cry, mamma."
"It's not so nice, Ray, you should treat your sister like that."
"Can I help it, mamma, that all of a sudden she gets Europe on the
brain? You never heard me even holler for Arverne, much less Europe, as
long as the boats were running for Brighton, did you, mom?"
"She thinks, Ray, in Europe it's a finer education for you both. She
ain't all wrong the way she hates you should run to Brighton with them
"Just the same you never heard me nag for trips. The going's too good at
home. Did you, pop, ever hear me nag?"
"Ja, it's a lot your papa worries about what's what! Look at him there
behind his paper, like it was a law he had to read every word! Ray, go
get me my glasses under the clock and call in your sister. Them novels
will keep. Mind me when I talk, Ray!"
Miss Ray Binswanger rose reluctantly, placing the book face downward on
the blue-and-white table coverlet. It was as if seventeen Indian summers
had laid their golden blush upon her. Imperceptibly, too, the lanky,
prankish years were folding back like petals, revealing the first bloom
of her, a suddenly cleared complexion and eyes that had newly learned to
drop upon occasion.
"Honest, mamma, do you think it would hurt Izzy to make a move once in a
while? He was the one made her cry, anyway, guying her about spaghetti
on the brain."
"Sure I did. Wasn't she running down my profesh? She's got to go to
Europe for the summer, because the traveling salesmen she meets at home
ain't good enough for her. Well, of all the nerve!"
"Just look at him, mamma, stretched out on the sofa there like he was a
Full flung and from a tufted leather couch Isadore Binswanger turned on
his pillow, flashing his dark eyes and white teeth full upon her.
"Go chase yourself, Blackey!"
"Blackey! Let me just tell you, Mr. Smarty, that alongside of you I'm so
blond I'm dizzy."
"Come and give your big brother a French kiss, Blackey."
"Like fun I will!"
"Do what I say or I'll—"
Mrs. Binswanger rapped her darning-ball with a thimbled finger.
"Izzy, stop teasing your sister."
"You just ask me to press your white-flannel pants for you the next time
you want to play Palm Beach with yourself, and see if I do it or not.
You just ask me!"
He made a great feint of lunging after her, and she dodged behind her
mother's rocking-chair, tilting it sharply.
"Mamma, don't you let him touch me!"
"You—you little imp, you!"
"I tell you, ma, that kid's getting too fresh."
"You spoil her, Izzy, more as any one."
"It's those yellow novels, and that gang of drugstore snips you let her
run with will be her ruination. If she was my kid I bet I'd have kept
her in school another year."
"You shut up, Izzy Binswanger, and mind your own business. You never
even went as long as me."
"With a boy it's different."
"You better lay pretty low, Izzy Binswanger, or I can tell a few tales.
I guess I didn't see you the night after you got in from your last trip,
in your white-flannel pants I pressed, dancing on the Brighton boat with
that peroxide queen alrighty."
This time his face darkened with the blood of anger.
"You little imp, I'll—"
"Children! Stop it, do you hear! Ray, go right this minute and call
Miriam and bring me my glasses. Izzy, do you think it's so nice that a
grown man should tease his little sister?"
"I'll be glad when he goes out on his Western trip next week."
"Skidoo, you little imp!"
She tossed her head in high-spirited distemper and flounced through the
doorway. He rose from his mound of pillows, jerking his daring waistcoat
into place, flinging each knee outward to adjust the knifelike trouser
creases, swept backward a black, pomaded forelock and straightened an
accurate and vivid cravat.
"She's getting too fresh, I tell you, ma. If I catch her up round the
White Front drug-store with that fresh crowd of kids I'll slap her face
right there before them."
"Ach, at her age, Izzy, Miriam was just the same way, and now look how
fine a boy has got to be before that girl will look at him. Too fine, I
"Where's my hat, ma? I laid it here on the sewing-machine. Gee! the only
way for a fellow to keep his hat round this joint is to sit on it!"
A quick frown sprang between Mrs. Binswanger's eyes and she glanced at
her husband, hidden behind his barricade of newspaper. Her brow knotted
and her wide, uncorseted figure half rose toward him.
"Izzy, one night can't you stay at home and—"
"I ain't gone yet, am I, ma? Don't holler before you're hurt. There's a
fellow going to call for me at eight and we're going to a show—a good
fellow for me to know, Irving Shapiro, city salesman for the Empire
Waist Company. I ain't still in bibs, ma, that I got to be bossed where
I go nights."
"Ach, Izzy, for why can't you stay home this evening? Stay home and you
and Miriam and your friend sing songs together, and later I fix for you
some sandwiches—not, Izzy? A young man like Irving Shapiro I bet likes
it if you stay home with him once. Nice it will be for your sister,
Mrs. Binswanger's face, slightly sagging at the mouth from the ravages
of two recently extracted molars, broke into an invitational smile.
He found and withdrew his hat from behind a newspaper-rack and cast a
quick glance toward the form of his father, whose nether half, ending
in a pair of carpet slippers dangling free from his balbriggan heels,
protruded from the barricade of newspaper.
"That's right, just get the old man started on me, ma, too. When a
fellow travels six months out of the year in every two-by-four burg in
the Middle West, nagging like this is just what he needs when he gets
"You know, Izzy, I'm the last one to start something."
"Then don't always ask a fellow where he's going, ma, and get pa started
"You know that not one thing that goes on does papa hear when he reads
his paper, Izzy. Never one word do I say to him how I feel when you go,
only I—I don't like you should run out nights so late, Izzy. Next week
again already you go out on your trip and—"
"Now, ma, just—just you begin if you want to make me sore."
"I tell you, Izzy, I worry enough that you should be on the road so
much. And ain't it natural, Izzy, when you ain't away I—I should like
it that you stay by home a lot? Sit down, anyway, awhile yet till the
Shapiro boy comes."
"Sure I will, ma."
"If I take a trip away from you this summer I worry, Izzy, and if I stay
home I worry. Anyway I fix it I worry."
"Only sometimes I feel if your papa feels like he wants to spend the
money—Well, anything is better as that girl should feel so bad that we
don't take her to Europe."
He jingled a handful of loose coins from his pocket to his palm.
"Cheer up, ma; if the old man will raise my salary I'll blow you to a
wheelbarrow trip through Europe myself."
"'Sh-h-h-h, Izzy! Here comes Miriam. I don't want you should tease her
one more word to make her mad. You hear?"
In the frame of the doorway, quiescent as an odalisque and with the
golden tinge of a sunflower lighting her darkness, Miriam Binswanger
held the picture for a moment, her brother greeting her with bow and
"Well, little red-eyes!"
"Izzy, what did I just tell you!"
His sister flashed him a dark glance, reflexly her hand darting upward
to her face. "You!"
"Now, now, children! Why don't you and Miriam go in the parlor, Izzy,
and sing songs?"
"What you all so cooped up in here for, mamma? Open the window, Ray;
it's as hot as summer outside."
"Say, who was your maid this time last year, Miriam?"
"Mamma, you going to let her talk that way to me?"
"Ray, will it hurt you to put up the window like your sister asks?"
"Well, I'm doing it, ain't I?"
"Now, Miriam, you and Izzy go in the parlor and sing for mamma a
Miriam's small teeth met in a small click, her voice lay under careful
control and as if each nerve was twanging like a plucked violin string.
"Please, mamma, please! I just can't sing to-night!"
She was like a Jacque rose, dark and swaying, her little bosom beneath
the sheer blouse rising higher than its wont.
"Ach, now, Miriam!"
"Where's those steamship pamphlets, mamma, I left laying here on the
"Right here where you left them, Miriam."
Mr. Isadore Binswanger executed a two-stride dash for the couch,
plunging into a nest of pillows and piling them high about his head and
"Go-od night! The subject of Europe is again on the table for the
seventh evening this week. Nix for mine! Good night! Good night!" And he
fell to burrowing his head deeper among the pillows.
"You don't need to listen, Izzy Binswanger. I wasn't talking to you,
"No, to your mother you was talking—always to me. I got to hear it."
A sudden vibration darted through Mrs. Binswanger's body, straightening
it. "Always me! I tell you, Simon, with your family you 'ain't got no
troubles. I got 'em all. How he sits there behind his newspaper just
like a boarder and not in the family! I tell you more as once in my life
I have wished there was never a newspaper printed. Right under his nose
he sits with one glued every evening."
"Na, na, old lady!"
"That sweet talk don't make no neverminds with me. 'Na, na,' he says. I
tell you even when my children was babies how they could cry every night
right under his nose and never a hand would that man raise to help me.
I tell you my husband's a grand help to me. 'Such a grand husband,' the
ladies always say to me I got. I wish they should know what I know!"
Mr. Binswanger tossed aside his newspaper and raised his spectacles to
his horseshoe expanse of bald head. His face radiated into a smile
that brought out the whole chirography of fine lines, and his eyes
disappeared in laughter like two raisins poked into dough.
"Na, na, old lady, na, na!" He made to pinch her cheek where it bagged
toward a soft scallop of double chin, but she withdrew querulously.
"I tell you what I been through this winter, with Izzy out in a Middle
West territory where only once in four months I can see him, and my Ray
and her going-ons with them little snips, and now Miriam with her Europe
on the brain. I tell you that if anybody in this family needs Europe
it's me for my health, better as Miriam for her singing and her style.
Such nagging I have got ringing in my ears about it I think it's easier
to go as to stay home with long faces."
Erect on the edge of her chair Miriam inclined toward her parent.
"That's just what I been saying, mamma; all four of us need it. Not only
me and Ray, but—"
"Leave me out, missy!"
"Not only us two for our education, mamma, but a trip like that can make
you and papa ten years younger. Read what the booklet says. It—"
"I'm an old woman and I don't want I should try to look young like on
the streets here up-town you can see the women. What comes natural to me
like gray hairs I don't got to try to hide."
"Hurrah for ma! 'Down with the peroxide and the straight fronts,' she
"Izzy, that ain't so nice neither to talk such things before your
"Don't listen to him, mamma. Just let me ask you, mamma, just let me ask
you, papa—papa, listen: did you ever in your life have a real vacation?
What were those two weeks in Arverne for you last summer compared to on
board a ship? You—"
"That's what I need yet—shipboard! I tell you I'm an old man and I'm
glad that I got a home where I can take off my shoes and sit in comfort
with my rheumatism."
"Hannah Levin's father limped ten times worse than you, papa. Didn't he,
mamma? And since he took Hannah over last summer not one stroke has he
had since. And she—Well, you see what she did for herself."
Mrs. Binswanger paused in her stitch. "That's so, Simon; Hannah Levin
should grab for herself a man like Albert Hamburger. She should fall
into the human-hair Hamburger family, a stick like her! At fish-market
when he lived down-town each Friday morning I used to meet old man
Levin, and I should say his knees were worse as yours, papa."
"When my daughter marries a Albert Hamburger, then maybe too we can
afford to take a trip to Europe."
Miss Binswanger raised her eyes, great dark pools glozed over with
tears. "All right then, I'll huck at home. But let me tell you, papa,
since you come right out and mention it, that's where she met Albert
Hamburger, if anybody should ask you, right on board the ship. Those
kind don't lie round Arverne with that cheap crowd of week-end
"There she goes on my profesh again!"
"That's where she met him, since you talk about such things, papa, right
on the steamer."
"So!" Mrs. Binswanger let fall idle hands into her lap. "So!"
"Sure. Didn't you know that, mamma? She was going over for just ten
weeks with her mother and father to take a few singing-lessons when they
got to Paris, just like I want to, and right on the ship going over she
met him and they got engaged."
Mr. Binswanger fell into the attitude of reading again, knees crossed
and one carpet slipper dangling. "I know plenty girls as get engaged on
dry land, Carrie; just get such ideas that they don't out of your head."
"I don't say, Simon, I don't give you right, but after a winter like I
been through I feel like maybe it's better to go as to stay."
"That's right, ma, loosen up and she'll get you yet."
"It ain't nice, Izzy, you should use such talk to your mother. I tell
you it ain't so nice a son should tell his mother she should loosen up."
"I only meant, ma—"
"That's just how I feel, Simon, with the summer coming on I can't stand
no more long faces. Last year it was Arverne till a cottage we had to
take. Always in April already my troubles for the summer begin. One year
Miriam wants Arverne and Ray wants we should go to the mountains where
the Schimm girls go. This year, since she got in with them Lillianthal
girls, Miriam has to have Europe, and Ray wants to stay home so with
snips like Louie Ruah she can run with. I tell you when you got
daughters you don't know where—"
"Give 'em both a brain test, ma."
"Stop teasing your sister, Izzy. I always say with girls you got trouble
from the start and with boys it ain't no better. Between Arverne and—"
"Arverne! None of the swell crowd goes there any more, mamma."
"Swell! Let me tell you, Miriam, your papa and me never had time to be
swell when we was young. I remember the time when we couldn't afford
a trip to Coney Island, much less four weeks a cottage at
Arverne-next-to-the-sea. Ain't it, papa? I wish the word 'swell' I had
never heard. My son Isadore kicks to-night at supper because at hotels
on the road he gets fresh napkins with every meal. Now all of a sudden
my daughter gets such big notions in her head that nothing won't do for
her but Europe for a summer trip. I tell you, Simon, I don't wish a dog
to go through what I got to."
Mr. Binswanger let fall his newspaper to his knee.
"Na, na, mamma, for what you get excited? Ain't talk cheap enough for
you yet? Why shouldn't you let the children talk?"
Miss Binswanger inclined to her father's knee, her throat arched and
flexed. "Papa dear, it's a cheap trip. For what four weeks in a cottage
at Arverne-by-the-sea would cost the four of us could take one of those
tourists' trips through Europe. The Lillianthals, papa, for four hundred
and fifty dollars apiece landed in Italy and went straight through to—"
"The Lillianthals, Lillianthals," mimicked Mrs. Binswanger, sliding her
darning-egg down the length of a silken stocking. "I wish that name we
had never heard. All of a sudden now education like those girls you
think you got to have, music and—"
"Oh, mamma, honest, you just don't care how dumb us girls are. Look at
Ray and me, we haven't even got a common education like—"
"You can't say, Miriam Binswanger, that me or your papa ever held one
of our children back out of school. If they didn't want to go we
"Oh, mamma, I—I don't mean just school. How do you think I feel when
all the girls begin to talk about Europe and all, and I got to sit back
at sewing-club like a stick?"
"Ain't it awful, Mabel!"
"Why do you think a fellow like Sol Blumenthal is all the time after
Lilly Lillianthal and Sophie Litz and those girls? He has been over
seventeen times, buying silks, and those girls don't have to sit back
like sticks when he talks about the shows in Paris and all."
"I know girls, Miriam, what got as fine husbands as Sol Blumenthal and
didn't need to run to Europe for them."
"I never said that, did I, mamma? Only it's a help to girls nowadays
if—if they've been to places and know a thing or two."
"If a girl can cook a little and—"
"Look there at Ray, nothing in her head but that novel she's reading,
and little snips that'll treat her to a soda-water if she hangs round
the White Front long enough, and ride her down to Brighton on one of
those dirty excursion boats if she—"
"You shut up, Miriam Binswanger, and mind your own business!"
"You let her talk to me that way, mamma?"
"Go to it, sis."
"You let her talk that way to me and Izzy eggs her on! No wonder she's
fresh, the way everybody round here lets her do what she wants, papa
worst of all!"
Ray danced to her feet, tossing her hair backward in maenadic waves,
her hands outflung, her voice a taunt and a singsong. "I know! I know!
You're sore because you're four years older and you're afraid I'll get
engaged first. Engaged first! I know! I know!"
"Go to it, sis!"
"Sure, I got a Brighton date every Saturday night this summer, missy,
and with a slick little fellow that can take his father's car out every
Tuesday night without asking. Eddie Sollinger! I guess you call him a
snip, too, because he's a city salesman. I know! I know! Ha! I should
worry that the Lillianthals are going to Europe! I know! I know!" She
pirouetted to her father's side of the table. "Give me a dollar, pa?"
Mrs. Binswanger held out a remonstrating hand. "Ach, Ray, you mustn't—"
"It ain't even seven yet. Have a heart, ma! Gee! can't I walk up to the
corner with Bella Mosher for a soda? Do I have to stick round this fuss
nest? I'll be back in a half-hour, ma. Please?"
"Don't let her go, ma."
"You shut up, Izzy!"
"Ach, Ray, I—"
"Give me the dollar, pa, for voting against Europe. Don't let her
hypnotize you like she always does. Down with Europe! I say. We should
cross the ocean and get our feet wet, eh, pa?"
He waggled a pinch of her flushed cheek between his thumb and forefinger
and dived into his pocket.
"Baby-la, you!" he said, crossing her palm; and she was out and past
him, imprinting a kiss on the crest of the bald horseshoe and tossing a
glance as quick as Pierrette's over one shoulder.
On the echo of the slamming door, her eyes shining with conviction and
her face suddenly old with prophecy, Miriam turned upon her mother.
"You see, mamma, you see! Seventeen, and nothing in her head but
Brighton Beach and soda-water fountains and joy-riding. Just you watch;
some day she'll meet up with some dinky fakir or ribbon clerk at one of
those places, and the first thing you know for a son-in-law you'll have
"Yes, you will! Those are the only chances a girl gets if she's not in
"Listen to her, ma, and then you blame me for not bringing any of the
fellows round here for her to meet. You don't catch me doing it, the way
she thinks she's better than they are and gives them the high hand. Not
"I should worry for the kind you bring, Izzy."
"As nice boys Izzy has brought home, Miriam, as ever in my life I would
want to meet."
"Yes, but you see for yourself the way the society fellows, like Sol
Blumenthal and Laz Herzog, hang round the Lillianthal girls. I always
got to take a back seat, and maybe you think I don't know it."
"I never heard that on ships young men was so plentiful."
"She wants to land an Italian count and she'll just about land a
Mr. Binswanger peered suddenly over the rim of his paper. "A no-count
yet is what we need in the family. Get right away such ideas out your
head. All my life I 'ain't worked so hard to spend my money on the old
country. In America I made it and in America I spend it. Now just stop
it, right away, too."
"Go to it, pa!"
Suddenly Miss Binswanger let fall her head into her cupped hands. Tears
trickled through. "I—I just wish that I—I hadn't been born! Why—did
you move up-town, then, where everybody does things, if—if—"
Her father's reply came in a sudden avalanche. "For why? Because then,
just like now, you nagged me. You can take it from me, just so happy as
now was me and mamma down by Rivington Street. I'm a plain man and with
no time for nonsense. I tell you the shirtwaist business 'ain't been so
"You—you can't fool me with that poor talk, papa. Everybody knows you
get a bigger business each year. You can't fool me that way."
Tears burst and flowed over her words, and her head burrowed deeper.
Across her prostrate form Simon Binswanger nodded to his wife in rising
"Fine come-off, eh, Carrie?"
"Miriam, ach, Miriam, come here to mamma."
"Aw, take her, pa, if she's so crazy to go. It'll be slack time between
now and when I get back from my territory. Max has got pretty good run
of the office these days. Take her across, pa, and get it out of her
system. Quit your crying, kid."
Mr. Binswanger waggled a crooked finger in close proximity to his son's
face. "Du! Du mit a big mouth! Is it because you sell for the house such
big bills I can afford to run me all over Europe! A few more accounts
like Einstein from Cleveland you can sell for me, and then we can go
bankrupt easier as to Europe. Du mit a big mouth!"
"Pa, ain't you ever going to get that out of your system? My first bad
"You'm a dude! That's all I know, you'm a dude! Right on my back now I
got on your old shirts and dressed like a king I feel."
"I'm done, pa! I'm done!"
"Ach, Miriam, don't cry so. Here, look up at mamma. Maybe, Miriam, if
you ask your papa once more he will—"
"I tell you, no. What Mark Lillianthal does and what my son can say so
easy makes nothing with me. I'm glad as I got a home to stay in."
Above her daughter's bowed head Mrs. Binswanger regarded her husband
through watery eyes. "She ain't so wrong, Simon. I tell you I got the
first time to hear you come out and say to your family, 'Well, this year
we do something big.' The bigger you get in business the littler on the
outside you get, Simon. Always you been the last to do things."
"And, papa, everybody—"
"Everybody makes no difference with me. I don't work for the steamship
company. For two thousand dollars what such a trip costs I can do better
"I—I just wish I hadn't ever been born."
A sudden tear found its way down Mrs. Binswanger's billowy cheek. "You
hear, Simon, your own daughter has to wish she had never got born."
She drew her daughter upward to her wide bosom, and through the loose
basque percolated the warm tears.
"'Sh-h-h-h, Miriam, don't you cry."
"Ach, now, Carrie—"
"I tell you, Simon, I 'ain't been a wife that has made such demands on
you, but I guess you think it's a comfort that a mother should hear that
in society her daughter has to take a back seat."
"When she 'ain't got a front seat she should take a second seat. I don't
need no seat. I know worse young men as Sollie Spitz and Eddie Greenbaum
what comes here to see her."
"Just the same you—you said to me the other night, papa, that I never
seem to meet young men like Adolph Gans, fellows who are in business for
"Ja, but I—"
"Well, where do you think Elsa Bergenthal met Adolph, but on the ship?"
"You hear, Simon: Moe Bergenthal, who sells shirtwaists for you right
this minute, can afford to send his daughter to Europe."
"Ja, I guess that's why he sells shirtwaists for me instead of for
"See, papa, she—"
"That's right, get him cornered, ma! Go to it, Miriam!"
"Du, du good-for-nothings dude, du!"
"Be a sport, pa!"
"Ach, you women make me sick! In the old country, I tell you, I got no
business. All the Eyetalians what I want to see I can see down on Cherry
Street—for less as two thousand dollar too."
"Why—why, that's no way to learn about 'em, papa. You just ought to see
me take a back seat when Lilly Lillianthal gets out her post-cards and
begins telling about the real ones."
Mrs. Binswanger took on a private tone, peering close into her husband's
face. "You hear that, Simon? Mark Lillianthal, what failed regular like
clockwork before he moved up-town, his daughter can make our Miriam feel
small. You hear that, Simon?"
His daughter's arms were soft about his neck, tight, tighter. "Papa,
please! For a couple of thousand we can take that beau-tiful trip I
showed you in the booklet. Card-rooms on the steamer, papa. Hannah told
me all summer her father played pinochle in Germany, father, right
outdoors where they drink beer and eat rye-bread sandwiches all day. In
Germany we can even stop at Dusseldorf where you were born, papa—just
think, papa, where you were born! In Italy we can make Ray look at the
pictures and statues, and all day you can sit outdoors and—and play
cards, papa. Just think, papa, by the time you have to buy us swell
clothes for Arverne I tell you it will cost you more. All Lilly
Lillianthal needed for Europe, mamma, was a new blue suit."
"Go way—go way with such nonsense, I tell you!" "And how you and papa
can rest up, mamma." "She's right, Simon; such a trip won't hurt us. I
tell you we don't get younger each day."
He regarded his wife with eyes rolled backward. "That's what I need yet,
Carrie, all of a sudden you take sides away from me. Always round your
little finger your children could always wind themselves."
"Na, Simon, when I see a thing I see it. With Izzy out on his trip these
next two months it won't hurt us. So crazy for Europe you know I ain't,
but when you got children you got to make sacrifice for them."
"For ten weeks, Simon, you can stand it, and me too."
"For ten weeks, Simon, if we go on that boat she wants that sails away
on June twentieth—it's a fine boat, she says."
"June twentieth I don't go. July twentieth I got to be back when my men
go out on the road—"
"Then shoot 'em over this month, pa. Max can—"
"There's a boat two weeks from to-day, pa, see here in the booklet, the
same boat, the Roumania, only on this month's sailing. We can get
ready easy, papa, we—oh, we can get ready easy."
"Ach, Miriam, in two weeks how can we get together our things for a trip
"Easy, mamma, I tell you I—I'll do all the shopping and packing and
"'Sh-h-h-h, I 'ain't promised yet. I tell you if anybody would tell me
two days ago to Europe I got to go this month, right away I wouldn't
have believed 'em!"
"Ach, Simon, you think yet it's a pleasure for me? You think for me it's
a pleasure to shut up my flat and leave it for two months? You think
it's easy to leave Izzy, even when he's 'way out West on his trip? You
think it's easy to leave that boy with the whole ocean between?"
"Aw, ma, cut the comedy!"
"Ten times, Simon, I rather stay right here in my flat, but—"
"Then right away on the whole thing I put down my foot."
"No, no, Simon, I want we should go. Girls nowadays, Simon, got to be
smart—not in the kitchen, but in the head."
"Be a sport, pa."
"It's enough I got a son what's a sport."
"Only a little over two months, papa. Two weeks from to-day we can get a
booking. To-morrow I'll go down to the steamship offices and fix it all
up; I know all about it, papa; there isn't a booklet I haven't read."
"Na, na, I—"
"Simon, in all your life not one thing have you refused me. In all my
life, Simon, have I made on you one demand? Answer me, Simon, eh? Answer
your wife." She placed her thimbled hand across his knee, peering
through dim eyes up into his face. "Eh, Simon, in thirty years?"
"Carrie-sha! Carrie-sha!" He smiled at her through eyes dimmer still,
then rose, waggling the bent forefinger. "But not one day over ten
weeks, so help me!"
With a cry that broke on its highest note Miss Binswanger sprang to her
feet, her arms clasping about her father's neck.
"Oh, papa! Papa! Mamma!"
"'Sh-h-h-h! the door-bell! Go to the door, Izzy; I guess maybe that's
Ray back or your friend. Ach, such excitement! Already I feel like we're
on the boat."
"Oh, mamma, mamma!" Her words came too rapidly for coherence and her
heart would dance against her breast. "I—I'm just as happy!" Kissing
her mother once on each eye, she danced across to her brother, tagging
him playfully. "Lazy! I'll go to the door. Lazy! Lazy! Tra-la-la,
tra-la-la!" and danced to the door, flinging it wide.
Enter Mr. Irving Shapiro, his soft campus hat pressed against his
striped waistcoat in a slight bow, and a row of even teeth flashed
beneath a neat hedge of mustache.
"Mr. Izzy Binswanger live here?"
"Hello, Irv! That you? Come in!"
She dropped a courtesy. "That sounds like he lives here, don't it?
That's him calling."
And because her new exuberance sent the blood fizzing through her veins
with the bite and sparkle of Vichy, a smile danced across her face, now
in her eyes, now quick upon her lips.
"Come right in the dining-room, Mr.—Mr.—"
"—Shapiro; he's expecting you." She drew back the portières, quirking
her head as he passed through. Isadore Binswanger rose from his couch,
pressing his friend's hand and passing him round the little circle.
"Pa, meet Irving Shapiro, city man for the Empire Waist Company. Irv,
meet my father and mother and my sister."
A round of handshaking.
"We're as excited as a barnyard round here, Irv; the governor and the
family just decided to light out for Europe for two months."
"Ja, my children they drag a old man like me where they want."
Mrs. Binswanger leaned forward smiling in her chair. "You see, we want
papa should have a good rest, Mr. Shapiro. You know yourself I guess
shirtwaists ain't no easy business. We don't know yet if we can get
berths on the twentieth this month, but—"
"State-rooms, then. What's that boat we sail on, Miriam?"
Mr. Shapiro sat suddenly forward in his chair, his eager face thrust
forward. "Say, I'm your man!"
"Before you get your reservations let me steer you. I got a cousin works
down at the White Flag offices—Harry Mansbach. He'll fix you up if
there ain't a room left on the boat. He's the greatest little fixer you
"Ach, Mr. Shapiro, how grand! To-morrow, Miriam, maybe when you get the
"State-rooms, maybe Mr. Shapiro will—will go mit."
"Aw, mamma, he—"
"Will I! Well, I guess!"
Across the table their eyes met and held.
* * * * *
Even into the granite cañon of lower Broadway spring can find a way.
In the fifty-first story of the latest triumph in skyscraping a
six-dollar-a-week stenographer filled her drinking-tumbler with water
and placed it, with two pansies floating atop, beside her typewriting
machine. In Wall Street an apple-woman with the most ancient face in the
world leaned out of her doorway with a new offering, forced but firm
strawberries that caught a backward glance from the passing tide of
finders and keepers, losers and weepers. Two sparrows hopped in and out
among the stone gargoyles of a municipal building. A dray-driver cursed
at the snarl of traffic and flecked the first sweat from his horse's
flanks. A gaily striped awning drooped across the front of the White
Flag steamship offices, and out from its entrance, spring in her face,
emerged Miss Miriam Binswanger; at her shoulder Irving Shapiro attended.
"Honest, Mr. Shapiro, I—I just don't know what I would have done except
"I told you Harry Mansbach would fix you up."
She clasped her wrist-bag carefully over the bulk of a thick envelope
and turned her shining face full upon him.
"On deck A, too, right with the best!"
He steered her by a light pressure of her arm into the up-town flux of
the sidewalk. "If I was a right smart kind of a fellow I never would
have helped you to get those cabins."
"Oh, Mr. Shapiro!"
"But that's me every time, always working against myself."
"Well, of all the nerve!" And her voice would belie that she knew his
"If not for me, maybe you couldn't have gotten those reservations and
you would have to stay at home. That's where I would come in, see?"
"Well, of all things!"
"But that's me every time. Meet a girl one day, take a fancy to her, and
off she sails for Europe the next."
"Honest, Mr. Shapiro, you're just the limit!" She would have no more
hold of his arm, but at the next Subway hood paused in the act of
descending and held out her hand. "I'm just so much obliged, Mr.
He removed his hat, standing there holding it in the crook of his arm,
the bright sunlight on his wavy hair. "Aw, now, Miss Binswanger, is this
the way to leave a fellow?"
"Sure, it is! Anyways, don't you have to go to work?"
"I should let my work interfere with my pleasure! Anyway, that's the
beauty of my line—I work when I please, not when my boss pleases."
"I got to go shopping and straight home, Mr. Shapiro. Just think, two
weeks from yesterday we sail, and we got enough sewing and packing to be
done at our house to keep a whole regiment busy."
He withdrew her from the tangle of pedestrians and into the entrance
of a corner candy-shop. "Aw, now, what's your hurry?" he insisted,
regarding her with smiling, invitational eyes.
"Well, of all the nerve!" She would not meet his gaze, and swung her
little leather wrist-bag back and forward by its strap.
"I dare you to get on the Elevated with me and ride out with me to Bronx
Park for a sniff of the country."
"I should say not! I got to go buy a steamer-trunk and a whole list of
things mamma gave me and then hurry home and help. Maybe—maybe some
"Aw, have a heart, Miss Miriam! To-morrow I've got to go over to Newark
to sell a bill of goods. Maybe some other day will never come. Feel how
grand it is out. Just half a day. Come!"
She was full of small emphasis and with no yielding note in her voice.
"No, no, I can't go."
"Just a little while, Miss Miriam. All those things will keep until
to-morrow. I can get you a steamer-trunk wholesale, anyway. Look, it's
nearly two o'clock already! Come on and be game! Think of it—out in the
park a day like this! Grass growing, birds singing, and the zoo and all.
Aw, be game, Miss Miriam!"
"If I thought Ray would help mamma; but she's got a grouch on and—"
"Sure she will! Gee! what's the fun meeting a girl you think you're
going to like if she won't do one little thing for a fellow! You bet it
ain't every girl I'd beg like this. Whoops, I could just rip things open
to-day!" It was as if he felt his life in every limb. "Come on, Miss
Miriam, be a sport! Come on!"
"I—I oughtn't to."
"That's what makes it all the more fun."
Her eyes were so dark, so like pools! They met his with a smile clear
through to their depths. "Well, maybe, but—but just for a little
"Just a little while."
"Well, just this once."
"Sure, just this once." He linked his arm in hers.
"Gee!" he said, "you're a girl after my own heart!"
On the Elevated train the windows were lowered to the first inrush of
spring, and when they left the city behind them came the first green
smells of open field and bursting bud.
"Now are you sorry you came, little Miss Miriam?"
She bared her head to the rush of breeze and he held her hat on his lap.
"Well, I should say not!"
"No crowds, just everything to ourselves."
"M-m-m-m! Smells like lilacs."
"We'll pick some."
"I—I ought to be home."
"Now, Mr. Shap-iro!" But her eyes continued to laugh and the straight
line of her mouth would quiver.
"Some eyes you've got, girlie! Some great big eyes! They nearly bowled
me over when you opened the door for me last night. Let me see your
eyes—what color are they, anyway?"
They laughed without rhyme and without reason, and as if their hearts
were distilling joy. Then for a time they rode without speech and with
only the wind in their ears, and he watched the tendrils of her hair
blowing this way and that.
"Just think," she said, finally, "we land in Naples just four weeks from
"Hope the boat don't sail."
"If you aren't just the limit!"
"What'll I be doing while you're gallivanting round the country with
some Italian count?"
"I should worry."
"I better put a bee in Izzy's ear, and maybe he'll put another in your
father's, and the old gentleman will change his mind and won't go."
"Yes—he—will—not! When papa promises he sticks."
"Well, you don't know the nervy things I can do if I want. Nerve is my
"You sure are some nervy."
"'Cheer up!' I always say to myself when a firm closes the front door on
me: 'Cheer up; there's always the back door and the fire-escape left.'
That's how I made my rep in shirtwaists—on nerve." He inclined to her
slightly across the car-seat. "You wouldn't close the front door on me,
would you, Miss Miriam?"
"Look, we get off here!"
Within the park new grass was soft as plush under their feet, and once
away from the winding asphalt of the main driveway the bosky heart of
a dell closed them in, and the green was suddenly dappled with shadow.
Here and there in the cool, damp spots violets lifted their heads and
pale wood-anemones, spring's firstlings. They sat on a rock spread first
with newspaper. Over their heads birds twitted.
"Somehow, here so far away and all I—I just can't get it in my head
that I'm really going."
"I can't, neither."
"Ain't it funny, Miss Miriam, but with some girls when you meet them
it's just like you had known them for always, and then again with others
somehow a fellow never gets anywheres."
"That's the way with me. I take a fancy to a person or I don't."
"That's me every time. Once let me get to liking a person, and good
"Now take you, Miss Miriam. From the very minute last night when you
opened that door for me, with your cheeks so pink and your eyes so big
and bright, something just went—well, something just went sort of
lickety-clap inside of me. You seen for yourself how I wanted to back
out of going to the show with Izz?"
"It—it ain't many girls I'd want to stay home from a show for."
"Say, just listen to the birds. If I could trill like that I wouldn't
have to take any lessons in Paris."
"You sing, Miss Miriam?"
"Oh, a little."
"Gee! you are a girl after my own heart! There's nothing gets me like a
little girl with a voice."
"My teacher says I'm a dramatic soprano."
"When you going to sing for me, eh?"
"I'll sing for you some time alrighty."
"Maybe after—after I've had some lessons in Paris."
He was suddenly grave. "Aw, there you go on that old trip again! Gee! I
wish I could grab that bag out of your hand and throw it with tickets
and all in the lake!"
"You know with me it's right funny too. The minute I get something I
want, then I don't want it any more. Before papa said yes I was so crazy
to go, and now that I got the tickets bought I'm not so anxious at all."
"Then don't go, Miss Miriam."
She withdrew her hand and danced to her feet, her incertitude vanishing
like a candle flame blown out. "Look over there, will you—a redbird!"
"If it ain't!" and he followed her quickly, high-stepping between violet
"Honest, it's hard to walk, the violets are so thick."
"Here, let me pick you a bunch of them to take home, Miss Miriam.
Say, ain't they beauties! Look, great big purple ones, and black
and soft-looking toward the middle just like your eyes. Look what
beauties—they'll keep a long time when you get home, if you wrap them
in wet tissue-paper."
They fell to plucking, now here, now there.
The sun had got low when they retraced their steps to the train, and the
chill of evening long since had set in.
"You—you ought to told me it was so late."
"I didn't know it myself, Miss Miriam."
"Let's hurry. Mamma won't know where—how—"
"We'll make it back in thirty minutes."
"Let's run for that train."
"Give me your hand."
They were off and against the wind, their faces thrust forward and
upward. Homeward in the coach they were strangely silent, this time his
hat in her lap. At the entrance to her apartment-house he left her with
"Then I can come to-morrow night, Miss Miriam?"
"Y-yes." And she stepped into the elevator. He waved through the
trellis-work, as she moved upward, brandishing his hat. She answered
with a flourish of her bunch of violets.
At the threshold her mother met her, querulous and in the midst of
adjusting summer covers to furniture.
"How late! I hope, Miriam, right away you had the steamer-trunk sent up.
Good berths—good state-rooms you got? What you got in that paper, that
aloes root I told you to get against seasickness? Gimme and right away I
"No, no, don't touch them! They—they're violets. Let me put them in
water with wet tissue-paper over them."
* * * * *
To the early clattering of that faithful chariot of daybreak, the
milk-wagon, and with the April dawn quivering and flushing over the
roofs of houses, Mrs. Binswanger rose from her restless couch and into a
black flannelette wrapper.
"Simon, wake up! How a man can sleep like that the day what he starts
To her husband's continued and stentorian evidences of sleep she tiptoed
to the adjoining bedroom, slippered feet sloughing as she walked.
Only their light breathing answered her. Atop the bed-coverlet her
younger daughter's hand lay upturned, the fingers curling toward the
Miriam stirred and burrowed deeper into her pillow, her hair darkly
spread against the white in a luxury of confusion.
"Five o'clock, Miriam, and we ain't got the trunks strapped yet, or that
seasick medicine from Mrs. Berkovitz."
"For Heaven's sake, mamma, the boat don't sail till three o'clock this
afternoon! There's plenty time. Go back to bed awhile, mamma."
"When such a trip I got before me as twelve days on water, I don't lay
me in bed until the last minute. Ray, get up and help mamma. In a minute
the milkman comes, and I want you should tell him we don't take no more
for ten weeks. Get up, Ray, and help mamma see that all the windows is
"Miriam, get up! I want you should throw this quilt from your bed over
the brass table in the parlor so it don't get rust. Miriam, didn't you
say yourself last night you must get up early? Always only at night my
children got mouths about how early they get up."
From the soft mound of her couch Miriam rose to the dawn with the
beautiful gesture of tossing backward her black hair. Sleep trembled on
her lashes and she yawned frankly with her arms outflung.
"I tell you I got more gumption as my daughters. I want, Miriam, you
should go down by Berkovitz's for that prescription for your papa."
"Aw, now, mamma, you've got six different kinds of—"
"I tell you when I let your papa get seasick or any kind of sick on
this trip, with his going-on about hisself, right away my whole trip is
spoilt. Ray, if you don't get up and sew in them cuffs and collars on
your coat don't expect as I will do it for you. For my part you can
travel just like a rag-bag, Ray!"
Shivering and with her small ankles pressed together, Miriam peered out
into the pale light.
"A grand day, mamma."
"Miriam, I think if I sew all the express checks up in a bag and wear
them right here under my waist with the jewelry, they are better as in
papa's pockets. With his tobacco-bag, easy as anything he can pull them
out and lose them. That's what we need yet, to lose our express checks!"
"Mamma, that's been on your mind for ten days. For goodness' sakes,
nobody's going to lose the express checks!"
"What time they call for the trunks, Miriam?"
"For goodness' sakes, mamma, didn't I tell you exactly ten times that's
all been attended to! Yesterday Irving went direct to the transfer
office with me."
"I ain't so sure of nothing what I don't attend to myself. Ray, get up!"
The sun rose over the roofs of the city, gilding them. At seven o'clock
the household was astir, strapping, nailing, folding, and unfolding. Mr.
Binswanger stooped with difficulty over his wicker traveling-bag.
In the act of adjusting her perky new hat Miriam flung out an
intercepting hand. "Oh, papa, you mustn't put in that old flannel
house-coat. That's not fit to wear anywhere but at home. And, papa,
papa, you just mustn't take along that old black skull-cap; you'll be
laughing-stock! Papa, please!"
He flung her off. "In my house and out of my house what I want to wear I
wear. If in Naples them Eyetalians don't like what I wear, then—"
"Italians, papa; how many times have I told you to say it Italians?"
"When they don't like what I wear over there, right away they should
From the room adjoining Mrs. Binswanger leaned a crumpled coiffure
through the frame of the open door: "Simon, I got here that red woolen
undershirt. I want you should put it on before we start."
"Na, na, mamma, I—"
"Right away Mrs. Berkovitz says it will keep the salt air away from your
rheumatism. That's what I need yet, you should grex from the start
with your backache. Ray, take this in to your papa. Fooling with that
new camera she stands all morning, when she should help a little. Look,
Miriam, you think that in here I got the express checks safe?"
At ten o'clock, with the last bolt sprung and the last baggage departed,
Mrs. Binswanger fell to the task of fitting gold links in her husband's
adjustable cuffs, polishing his various pairs of spectacles, inserting
various handkerchiefs in adjacent and expeditious pockets of his
"Simon, I want you should go in and dress now. All your things is laid
right out on the bed for you."
"Mamma, you and papa don't need to begin to dress already. None of you
need to leave the house until about two, and it's only ten now. Just
think, from now until two o'clock you got to get ready in, mamma."
"When I travel I don't take no chances."
Miriam worked eager fingers into her new, dark-blue kid gloves. She was
dark and trig in a little belted jacket, a gold quill shimmering at a
cocky angle on the new blue-straw hat.
"To be on the safe side, mamma, I'm going right now to meet Irving, so
we can sure have lunch and be at the boat by two."
"Not one minute later, Miriam!"
"Not one minute, mamma. Don't forget, Ray, you promised to bring my
field-glass for me. Be in the state-room all of you where Irving and
I can find you easy. There's always a big crowd at sailing. Don't get
excited, mamma. Ray, be sure and fix papa's cuffs so the red flannel
don't show. Good-by. Don't get excited, mamma!"
"Miriam, you got on the asafetidy-bag?"
"Miriam, you don't be one minute later as two—"
Over a luncheon that lay cold and unrelished between them Irving Shapiro
leaned to Miriam Binswanger, his voice competing with the five-piece
orchestra and noonday blather of the Oriental Café.
"I just can't get it in my head, somehow, Miriam, that to-morrow this
time you'll be out on the sea."
"I just never had two weeks fly like these since we got acquainted."
Music like great laughter rose over the slip-up in her voice.
"You going to write to me, Miriam?"
"You're not going to forget me over there, are you, when you get to
meeting all those counts and big fellows?"
"You're not going to clean forget me then, are you, Miriam, and the
great times we've had together, and the days in the woods, and the
"Oh, Irving, don't. I—Please—"
She laid her fork across her untouched plate and turned her face from
him. Tears rose to choke her, and, tighten her throat against them as
she would, one rose to the surface and ricocheted down her cheek.
"It's nothing, Irving, only—only let's get out of here. I don't want
any lunch, I just don't."
"Miriam, that's the way I feel, too. I—I just can't bear to have you
"You—We can't talk like that, Irving."
"I tell you, Miriam, I just can't bear it!"
He leaned across the table for her hand, whispering, with an entire
flattening of tone, "Miriam, don't go!"
"Irving, don't—talk so—so silly!"
"Miriam, let's—let's you and me stay at home!"
"Irving, are you crazy?" But her voice yearned toward him.
"Miriam, right at this table I've got an idea. We can do it, Miriam; we
can do it if you're game."
He flashed out his watch. "We've got two hours and twenty minutes before
"We have, dear, to—to get a special license and the ring and do the
"Two hours and twenty minutes to make it all right for you to stay back
with me. Miriam, are you game, dear?"
They regarded each other across the table as if each beheld in the other
"Irving, you—you must be crazy!"
"I'm not, dear. I was never less crazy. What's the use of us having to
get apart after we just got each other? What's all those phony counts
and picture-galleries and high-sounding stunts compared to us staying
home and hitting it off together, Miriam? Just tell me that, Miriam."
"Irving, I—we just couldn't! Look at mamma and papa and Ray, all down
at the boat maybe by now waiting for me, and none of them wanting to go
except me. For a whole year I had to beg them for this, Irving. They
wouldn't be going now if it wasn't for me. I—Irving, you must be
He leaned closer and out of range of the waiter, his voice repressed to
a tight whisper.
"None of those things count when a girl and a fellow fall in love like
you and me, Miriam."
Even in her crisis her diffidence inclosed her like a sheath. "I never
said I—I was in love, did I?"
"But you are! They'll go over there, Miriam, without you and have the
time of their lives. We'll stay home and keep the flat open for them so
your mother won't have to worry any more about burglars. After the
first surprise it won't be a trick at all. We got two hours and fifteen
minutes, dearie, and we can do the act and be down at the boat with
bells on to tell 'em good-by. Now ain't the time to think about the
little things and waste time, Miriam. We got to do it now or off you
go hiking, just like—like we had never met, a whole ocean between us,
"Irving, you—you mustn't."
She pushed back from the table. He paid his check with a hand that
trembled, resuming, even as he crammed his bill-folder into a rear
"Be a sport, Miriam! I tell you we got the right to do it because we're
in love. We'll just tell them the truth, that at the last minute we—we
just couldn't let go. I'll do the talking, Miriam; I'll tell the old
"If you ain't afraid to start out on a hundred a month and commissions,
dear, we don't need to be scared of nothing. I'll tell them just the
plain truth, dear. Just think, if we do it now, when they come back in
ten weeks we can be down at the pier to meet them, eh, Miriam, just like
an—an old married couple—eh, Miriam—eh, Miriam, dear!"
She rose. A red seepage of blood flooded her face; her bosom rose and
"Are you game, Miriam? Are you, darling—eh, Miriam, eh?"
* * * * *
Alongside her pier, white as a gull, new painted, new washed, cargoed
and stoked, the Roumania reared three red smoke-stacks, and sat
proudly with the gang-plank flung out from her mighty hip and her nose
tapering toward the blue harbor and the blue billows beyond.
Within the narrow confines of a first-deck stateroom, piled round with
luggage and its double-decker berths freshly made up, Mrs. Binswanger
applied an anxious eye to the port-hole, straining tiptoe for a wider
glimpse of deck.
"I tell you this much, papa, in another five minutes when that child
don't come, right away off the boat I get and go home where I belong."
In the act of browsing among the lower contents of his wicker hand-bag
Mr. Binswanger raised a perspiring face.
"Na, na, mamma, thirty minutes' time yet she's got to get here.
Everybody don't got to come on four hours too soon like us."
"Ja, you should worry about anything, so long as you got right in front
of you your newspapers and your tobacco. Right away for his tobacco he
has to dig when he sees so worried I am I can't see. Why don't our Ray
come back now if she can't find 'em and say she can't find 'em?"
"I tell you, Carrie, if you let me go myself I can find 'em and—"
"Right here you stay with me, Simon Binswanger! We don't get separated
no more as we can help. I ain't—Ach, look such a crowd, and no Miriam.
"Na, na, Carrie!"
"So easy-going he is! My daughter should keep me worried like this!
To lunch the day what she sails to Europe she has to go! Always she
complains that salesmen ain't good enough for her yet, and on the day
she sails she has to go to lunch with one. Why, I ask you, Simon, why
don't that Ray come back?"
Mr. Binswanger packed his pipe tight and adjusted a small, close-fitting
black cap. "To travel with women, I tell you, it ain't no pleasure."
"Ach, du Himmel! Right away off that cap comes, Simon! With my own hands
right away out of sight I hide it. Just once I want Miriam should see
you in that skull-hat! Right away off you take it, Simon!"
"Ach, Carrie, on my own head I—"
"I tell you already ten times I wish I was back in my flat. I guess you
think it's a good feeling I got to lock up my flat for Himmel knows
who to break in, and my son Isadore 'way out in Ohio and not even here
to—to say to his mother good-by. Already with such a smell on this boat
and my feelings I got a homesickness I don't wish on my worst enemy. My
boy should be left like this in America all alone!"
"Ach, Carrie, for why—"
Of a sudden Mrs. Binswanger's face fell into soft creases, her eyes
closed, and cold tears oozed through, zigzagging downward. "My boy out
"Na, na, Carrie! Don't you worry our Izzy don't take care of hisself
better as you. For what his expense accounts are—always a parlor car
he has to have—he can take care of hisself twice better as us, mamma.
Mamma, you should feel fine now we got started. I wish, mamma, you could
see such a card-room and such a dining-room they got up-stairs—gold
chairs like you never seen. We should go up on deck, Carrie, and—"
"Ach, Simon, Simon, why don't that child come! So nearly crazy I never
was in my life. And now on top my Ray gone too. In a few minutes the
boat sails, and I don't know yet if I got a child on board. I tell you,
Simon, when Ray comes back I think it's better we carry off our trunks
"Na, na, mamma, hear out in the hall. I told you so! Didn't I tell you
they come? You hear now Miriam's voice. Didn't I tell you, didn't I tell
"Mamma, papa, here we are!"
And in the doorway the hesitant form of erstwhile Miriam Binswanger, her
eyes dim as if obscured by a fog of tulle, over one shoulder the flushed
face of Mr. Irving Shapiro, and in turn over his the dark, quick
features of Ray, flashing their quick expressions.
"I—I found 'em, mamma, just coming on board."
A white flame of anger seemed suddenly to lick dry the two tears that
staggered down Mrs. Binswanger's plump cheeks.
"I tell you, Miriam, you got a lots of regards for your parents."
"But, mamma, we—"
"A child what can worry her mother like this! Ten minutes before we sail
on board she comes just like nothing had happened. I should think, Mr.
Shapiro, that a young man what can hold a responsible position like you,
would see as a young girl what he invites out to lunch should have more
regards for her parents as you both."
"Mamma, you—But just wait, mamma."
Miriam stepped half resolutely into the room, peeling the glove from off
her left hand, and her glance here and there and everywhere with the
hither and thither of a wind-blown leaf.
"Mamma, guess what—what we—we got to tell you? Mamma, we—Irving,
you—you tell," Her bared hand fell like a quivering wing and she shrank
back against his gray tweed coat-sleeve. "Irving, you tell!"
"Miriam, nothing ain't wrong! Izzy, my—"
"No, no, Mrs. Binswanger, nothing is wrong; what Miriam was trying to
say was that everything's right, wasn't it, Miriam?"
Mr. Binswanger threw two hands with the familiar upward gesture. "Come,
right away in a few minutes you got to get off, Shapiro. First I take
you up and show you the card-room and—"
"'Sh-h-h-h, papa, let Irving—Go on, Irving."
He cleared his throat, inserting two fingers within his tall collar.
"You see, Mr. Binswanger, you and Mrs. Binswanger, just at the last
minute we—we both seen we couldn't let go!"
"Now don't get excited, Mrs. Binswanger, only we—well, we just went and
got married, Mrs. Binswanger, when we seen we couldn't let go. From Dr.
Cann we just came. A half-hour on pins and needles, you can believe us
or not, we had to wait for him, and that's what made us so late. See, on
her hand she's got the ring and—"
"And in my pocket I got the special license. We couldn't help it, Mr.
Binswanger, we—we just couldn't let go."
"We couldn't, mamma, papa. We thought we ought to stay at home in the
flat—you're so worried, mamma, about burglars and nobody in America
with Izzy—and—and—Mamma? Papa? Haven't you got nothing to say to your
She extended empty and eloquent arms, a note of pleading rising above
the tears in her words.
"Nothing? Mamma? Papa?"
From without came voices; the grinding of chains lifting cargo; a
great basso from a smoke-stack; more voices. "All off! All off!" Feet
scurrying over wooden decks! "All off! All off!" A second steam-blast
that shot up like a rocket.
"Mamma? Ray? Papa? Haven't any of you got anything to say?"
"Gott in Himmel!" said Mrs. Binswanger. "Gott in Himmel!"
"So!" said Mr. Binswanger, placing a hand with a loud pat on each knee.
"A fine come-off! A fine come-off! Eh, mamma? To Europe we go to take
our daughter, and just so soon as we go no daughter we 'ain't got to
"Gott in Himmel! Gott in Himmel!"
"Ray, haven't you got nothing to say to Irving and me—Ray!"
With a quick, fluid movement the younger sister slid close and her arms
wound tight. "Miriam, you—you little darling, you! Miriam! Irving! You
Suddenly Mrs. Binswanger inclined, inclosing the two in a wide, moist
embrace. "Ach, my Miriam, what have you done! Not a stitch, not even a
right wedding! Irving, you bad boy, you, like I—I should ever dream you
had thoughts to be our son-in-law. Ach, my children, my children! Simon,
I tell you we can be thankful it's a young man what we know is all
right. Ach, I—I just don't know—I—just—don't know."
"Papa, you ain't mad at us?"
"What good it does me to be mad? I might just so well be glad as mad. My
little Miriam-sha, my little Miriam-sha!" And he fell to blinking as if
with gritty eyelids.
"Simon—ach, Simon—you—ach, my husband, you—you ain't crying, you—"
"Go 'way, Carrie, with such nonsense! You women don't know yet the
difference between a laff and a cry. Well, Shapiro, you play me a fine
"It wasn't a trick, Mr. Binswanger—pa, it was—"
"All off! All off!" And a third great blast sounded that set the
tumblers rattling in their stands.
"I guess me—me and Irving's got to get off now, mamma—"
Mrs. Binswanger grasped her husband's arm in sudden panic. "Simon, I—I
think as we should get off and go home with them. I—"
"Now, now, mamma, don't get excited! No, no, you mustn't! We will keep
house fine for you until you come back. See, mamma! I have the key, and
everything's fixed. See, mamma! You got to go, mamma. Ray should see
Europe before she finds out there—there's just one thing that's better
than going to Europe. Please, mamma, don't get excited. I tell you we'll
have things fine when you come back. Won't we, Irving, won't we?"
"Ach, nothing in the house, Miriam."
"We got to get off now, Miriam dear, we got to. You can write us about
those things, Mrs. Binswanger—mamma. Come, Miriam!"
"Yes, yes, Irving. Now don't cry, mamma, please! When everybody is so
happy it's a sin to cry."
"Not a stitch on her wedding-day! All her clothes locked up here on the
boat! Let me open the top tray of the trunk, Miriam, and give you your
toothbrush and a few waists—Ach, nearly crazy I am! How I built for
that girl's wedding when it—"
"Come, mamma, come—"
They were jamming up the crowded stairway and out to the sun-washed
deck. Women in gay corsages and bright-colored veils strolled with an
air of immediate adjustment. Men already in steamer caps and tweeds
leaned against the railings. Travelers were rapidly separating
themselves from stay-at-homes. Already the near-side decks were lined
with faces, some wet-eyed and some smiling, and all with kerchiefs or
small flags ready for adieus.
"All off! All off!"
"Good-by, mamma darling. Don't worry!"
"Irving, you be good to my Miriam. It's just like you got from me a
piece of my heart. Be good to my baby, Irving. Be good!"
Ray tugged at her mother's skirts. "'Sh-h-h-h, mamma, the whole boat
don't need to know."
"Be good to her, Irving!"
"Like I—just like I could be anything else to her, mamma!"
"Good-by, mamma darling. Don't cry so, I tell you! Let me go, please,
mamma, please! Good-by, papa darling, take good care of yourself
and—I—just love you, papa! Ray, have a grand time and don't miss none
of it. That's right, kiss Irving; he's your brother-in-law now. Don't
cry, mamma darling! Good-by! Good-by!"
A tangle of adieus, more handkerchiefing, more tears and laughter, more
ear-splitting shrieks of steam and a black plume of smoke that rose in
a billow, and hand in hand Miriam and Irving Shapiro joggling down the
gang-plank to the pier.
From the bow of the top deck the ship's orchestra let out a blare of
music designed to cover tears and heartaches. The gang-plank drew up and
in like a tongue, separating land from sea. From every deck faces were
peering down into the crowd below.
Miriam grasped her husband's coat-sleeve, in her frenzy taking a fine
pinch of flesh with it. Tears rained down her cheeks.
"There they are, Irving, all three of 'em on the second deck, waving
down at us! Good-by, mamma, papa, Ray! Oh, Irving, I just can't stand to
see 'em go! Papa, Ray, mamma darling!"
"Now, now, Miriam, think what a grand time they're going to have and how
soon they're going to be home again."
"Oh, my darlings!"
Mrs. Binswanger sopped at her eyes, waving betimes the small black cap
rescued in the up-deck rush.
Laughter crept with a tinge of hysteria into Miriam's voice. "Oh,
darlings, I—I just can't bear to have you go. They're—they're moving,
Irving! I—Oh, mamma, papa, darlings! They're moving, Irving!"
Out into the bay where the sunlight hung between blue water and bluer
sky, a sea-gull swinging round her spar, the Roumania steamed,
unconscious of her freight.
"Good-by, mamma, good-by. Let's follow them to the end of the pier,
Irving. I—I want to watch them till they're out of sight."
"Don't cry so, darling!"
"Look! look, see that black speck; it's papa! Oh, I love him, Irving.
Good-by, my darlings! Good-by! They didn't want to go except for me,
and—Oh, my darlings!"
"Come, dear, we can't see them any more. Come now, it's all over, dear."
They picked their way through the dispersing crowd back toward the dock
"See, dear, how grand everything is! You and me happy here and—"
"Oh, Irving, I know, but—"
"Pin my veil for me, dear, to—to hide my eyes. I bet I'm a sight!"
"You're not a sight, you're a beauty!"
"'Sh-h-h-h, I don't feel like making fun, Irving!"
"It's a hot day, dear, so we got to celebrate some cool way. Let's take
a cab and—"
"No, Irving dear, we can't afford another one."
"To-day we can afford any old thing we want."
"No, no, dear."
"I got it, then! If we ride down to the Battery we can catch a boat for
Brighton. Then we can have a little boat-ride all our own, eh? You and
me, darling, on a boat-trip all our own."
She turned her shining eyes full upon him. "That'll be just perfect,
Irving!" she said.