Roulette, by Fannie Hurst
The Vertical City
Snow in the village of Vodna can have the quality of hot white plush
of enormous nap, so dryly thick it packs into the angles where fences
cross, sealing up the windward sides of houses, rippling in great seas
across open places, flaming in brilliancy against the boles of ever so
occasional trees, and tucking in the houses up to the sills and down
over the eaves.
Out in the wide places it is like a smile on a dead face, this snow
hush, grateful that peace can be so utter. It is the silence of a broody
God, and out of that frozen pause, in a house tucked up to the sills and
down to the eaves, Sara Turkletaub was prematurely taken with the pangs
of childbirth, and in the thin dawn, without even benefit of midwife,
twin sons were born.
Sturdy sons, with something even in their first crescendo wails that
bespoke the good heritage of a father's love-of-life and a mother's
No Sicilian sunrise was ever more glossy with the patina of hope
than the iced one that crept in for a look at the wide-faced,
high-cheek-boned beauty of Sara Turkletaub as she lay with her sons to
the miracle of her full breasts, her hair still rumpled with the agony
of deliverance. So sweetly moist her eyes that Mosher Turkletaub, his
own brow damp from sweat of her writhings, was full of heartbeat, even
to his temples.
Long before moontime, as if by magic of the brittle air, the tidings had
spread through the village, and that night, until the hand-hewn rafters
rang, the house of Turkletaub heralded with twofold and world-old fervor
the advent of the man-child. And through it all—the steaming warmth,
the laughter through bushy beards, the ministering of women wise and
foolish with the memory of their own pangs, the shouts of vodka-stirred
men, sheepish that they, too, were part custodians of the miracle of
life—through it all Sara Turkletaub lay back against her coarse bed, so
rich—so rich that the coves of her arms trembled each of its burden and
held tighter for fear somehow God might repent of his prodigality.
That year the soil came out from under the snow rich and malmy to the
plow, and Mosher started heavy with his peddler's pack and returned
light. It was no trick now for Sara to tie her sons to an iron ring in
the door jamb and, her strong legs straining and her sweat willing,
undertake household chores of water lugging, furniture heaving,
marketing with baskets that strained her arms from the sockets as she
carted them from the open square to their house on the outskirts, her
massive silhouette moving as solemnly as a caravan against the sky line.
Rich months these were and easy to bear because they were backed by a
dream that each day, however relentless in its toil, brought closer to
The long evenings full of the smell of tallow; maps that curled under
the fingers; the well-thumbed letters from Aaron Turkletaub, older
brother to Mosher and already a successful pieceworker on skirts in
Brooklyn. The picture postcards from him of the Statue of Liberty! Of
the three of them, Aaron, Gussie, his wife, and little Leo, with donkey
bodies sporting down a beach labeled "Coney." A horrific tintype of
little Leo in tiny velveteen knickerbockers that fastened with large,
ruble-sized, mother-of-pearl buttons up to an embroidered sailor blouse.
It was those mother-of-pearl buttons that captured Sara's imagination
so that she loved and wept over the tintype until little Leo quite
disappeared under the rust of her tears. Long after young Mosher, who
loved his Talmud, had retired to sway over it, Sara could yearn at this
Her sons in little knickerbockers that fastened to the waistband with
large pearl buttons!
Her black-eyed Nikolai with the strong black hair and the virile little
profile that hooked against the pillow as he slept.
Her red-headed Schmulka with the tight curls, golden eyes, and even
more thrusting profile. So different of feature her twins and yet so
temperamentally of a key. Flaming to the same childish passions, often
too bitter, she thought, and, trembling with an unnamed fear, would tear
Pull of the cruelties and the horrible torture complex of the young
male, they had once burned a cat alive, and the passion of their father
and their cries under flaying had beat about in her brain for weeks
after. Jealousies, each of the other, burned fiercely, and, aged three,
they scratched blood from one another over the favor of the shoemaker's
tot of a girl. And once, to her soul-sickness, Nikolai, the black one,
had found out the vodka and drunk of it until she discovered him in a
little stupor beside the cupboard.
Yet—and Sara would recount with her eyes full of more tears than they
could hold the often-told tale of how Schmulka, who could bear no
injustice, championed the cause of little Mottke, the butcher's son,
against the onslaught of his drunken father, beating back the lumbering
attack with small fists tight with rage; of little Nikolai, who fell
down the jagged wall of a quarry and endured a broken arm for the six
hours until his father came home rather than burden his mother with what
he knew would be the agony of his pain.
Red and black were Sara's sons in pigment. But by the time they were
four, almost identical in passion, inflammable both to the same angers,
the impulsive and the judiciary cunningly distributed in them.
And so, to the solemn and Talmud teachings of Mosher and the
wide-bosomed love of this mother who lavishly nurtured them, these sons,
so identically pitched, grew steady of limb, with all the thigh-pulling
power of their parents, the calves of their little legs already tight
as fists. And from the bookkeeping one snow-smelling night, to the
drip-drip of tallow, there came the decisive moment when America looked
exactly four months off!
Then one starlit hour before dawn the pogrom broke. Redly, from the very
start, because from the first bang of a bayonet upon a door blood began
to flow and smell.
There had been rumors. For days old Genendel, the ragpicker, had
prophetically been showing about the village the rising knobs of his
knotting rheumatic knuckles, ill omen of storm or havoc. A star had shot
down one night, as white and sardonic as a Cossack's grin and almost
with a hiss behind it. Mosher, returning from a peddling tour to a
neighboring village, had worn a furrow between his eyes. Headache, he
called it. Somehow Sara vaguely sensed it to be the ache of a fear.
One night there was a furious pink tint on the distant horizon, and
borne on miles of the stiffly thin air came the pungency of burning
wood and flesh across the snowlight. Flesh! The red sky lay off in the
direction of Kishinef. What was it? The straw roof of a burning barn?
The precious flesh of an ox? What? Reb Baruch, with a married daughter
and eleven children in Kishinef, sat up all night and prayed and swayed
Packed in airtight against the bite of the steely out-of-doors, most of
the village of Vodna—except the children and the half-witted Shimsha,
the ganef—huddled under its none-too-plentiful coverings that night
and prayed and trembled.
At five o'clock that red dawn, almost as if a bayonet had crashed into
her dream, Sara, her face smeared with pallor, awoke to the smell of
her own hair singeing. A bayonet had crashed, but through the door,
The rest is an anguished war frieze of fleeing figures; of running
hither and thither in the wildness of fear; of mothers running with
babes at breasts; of men, their twisted faces steaming sweat, locked in
the Laocoön embrace of death. Banners of flame. The exultant belch of
iridescent smoke. Cries the shape of steel rapiers. A mouth torn back to
an ear. Prayers being moaned. The sticky stench of coagulating blood.
Pillage. Outrage. Old men dragging household chattels. Figures crumpling
up in the outlandish attitudes of death. The enormous braying of
frightened cattle. A spurred heel over a face in that horrible moment
when nothing can stay its descent. The shriek of a round-bosomed girl
to the smear of wet lips across hers. The superb daring of her lover to
kill her. A babe in arms. Two. The black billowing of fireless smoke.
A child in the horse trough, knocked there from its mother's arms by the
butt end of a bayonet, its red curls quite sticky in a circle of its
little blood. A half-crazed mother with a singed eyebrow, blatting over
it and groveling on her breasts toward the stiffening figure for the
warmth they could not give; the father, a black-haired child in his
arms, tearing her by force out of the zone of buckshot, plunging back
into it himself to cover up decently, with his coat, what the horse
Dawn. A huddle of fugitives. Footsteps of blood across the wide open
places of snow. A mother, whose eyes are terrible with what she has left
in the horse trough, fighting to turn back. A husband who literally
carries her, screaming, farther and farther across the cruel open
places. A town. A ship. The crucified eyes of the mother always looking
And so it was that Sara and Mosher Turkletaub sailed for America with
only one twin—Nikolai, the black.
* * * * *
The Turkletaubs prospered. Turkletaub Brothers, Skirts, the year after
the war, paying a six-figure excess-profit tax.
Aaron dwelt in a three-story, American-basement house in West 120th
Street, near Lenox Avenue, with his son Leo, office manager of the
Turkletaub Skirt Company, and who had recently married the eldest
daughter of an exceedingly well-to-do Maiden Lane jewelry merchant.
The Mosher Turkletaubs occupied an eight-room-and-two-baths apartment
near by. Sara, with much of the fleetness gone from her face and a smile
tempered by a look of unshed tears, marketing now by white-enameled desk
telephone or, on days when the limp from an old burn down her thigh was
not too troublesome, walked up to a plate-glass butcher shop on 125th
Street, where there was not so much as a drop of blood on the marble
counter and the fowl hung in white, plucked window display with
garnitures of pink tissue paper about the ankles and even the dangling
heads wrapped so that the dead eyes might not give offense.
It was a widely different Sara from the water lugger of those sweaty
Russian days. Such commonplaces of environment as elevator service,
water at the turning of a tap, potatoes dug and delivered to her
dumbwaiter, had softened Sara and, it is true, vanquished, along with
the years, some of the wing flash of vitality from across her face. So
was the tough fiber of her skin vanquished to almost a creaminess, and
her hair, due perhaps to the warm water always on tap, had taken on
a sheen, and even through its grayness grew out hardily and was well
trained to fall in soft scallops over the singed place.
Yes, all in all, life had sweetened Sara, and, except for the occasional
look of crucifixion somewhere back in her eyes, had roly-polied her
into new rotundities of hip and shelf of bosom, and even to what
mischievously promised to be a scallop of second chin.
Sara Turkletaub, daughter of a ne'er-do-well who had died before her
birth with the shadow of an unproved murder on him; Sara, who had run
swiftly barefoot for the first dozen summers of her life, and married,
without dower or approval, the reckless son of old Turkletaub, the
peddler; Sara, who once back in the dim years, when a bull had got loose
in the public square, had jerked him to a halt by swinging herself from
his horns, and later, standing by, had helped hold him for the emergency
of an un-kosher slaughter, not even paling at the slitting noises of the
Mosher Turkletaub, who had peddled new feet for stockings and calico for
the sacques the peasant women wore in the fields, reckoning no longer in
dozens of rubles but in dozens of thousands! Indeed, Turkletaub Brothers
could now afford to owe the bank one hundred thousand dollars! Mosher
dwelling thus, thighs gone flabby, in a seven-story apartment house with
a liveried lackey to swing open the front door and another to shoot him
upward in a gilded elevator.
It was to laugh!
And Sara and Mosher with their son, their turbulent Nikolai, now an
accredited Doctor of Law and practicing before the bar of the city of
It was upon that realization, most of all, that Sara could surge tears,
quickly and hotly, and her heart seem to hurt of fullness.
Of Nikolai, the black. Nicholas, now:
It was not without reason that Sara had cried terrible tears over him,
and that much, but not all, of the struggle was gone from her face.
Her boy could be as wayward as the fling to his fierce black head, and
sickeningly often Mosher, with a nausea at the very pit of him, had
wielded the lash.
Once even Nicholas in his adolescent youth, handsomely dark, had stood
in Juvenile Court, ringleader of a neighborhood gang of children on a
foray into the strange world of some packets of cocaine purloined from
the rear of a vacated Chinese laundry.
Bitterly had Mosher stood in the fore of that court room, thumbing his
hat, his heart gangrening, and trying in a dumbly miserable sort of way
to press down, with his hand on her shoulder, some of the heaving of
Sara's enormous tears.
There had followed a long, bitter evening of staying the father's lash
from descending, and finally, after five hours with his mother in his
little room, her wide bosom the sea wall against which the boiling
waywardness of him surged, his high head came down like a black swan's
and apparently, at least so far as Mosher knew, Sara had won again.
And so it was that with the bulwark of this mother and a father who
spared not the wise rod even at the price of the sickness it cost
him, Nicholas came cleanly through these difficult years of the long
midchannel of his waywardness.
At twenty-one he was admitted to the bar of the city of New York,
although an event so perilous followed it by a year or two that the
scallops of strong hair that came down over the singed place of Sara's
brow whitened that year; although Mosher, who was beginning to curve
slightly of the years as he walked, as if a blow had been struck him
from behind, never more than heard the wind before the storm.
Listen in on the following:
The third year that Nicholas practiced law, junior member in the Broad
Street firm of Leavitt & Dilsheimer, he took to absenting himself from
dinner so frequently, that across the sturdy oak dining table, laid out
in a red-and-white cloth, gold-band china not too thick of lip, and a
cut-glass fern dish with cunningly contrived cotton carnations stuck in
among the growing green, Sara, over rich and native foods, came more and
more to regard her husband through a clutch of fear.
"I tell you, Mosher, something has come over the boy. It ain't like him
to miss gefülte-fish supper three Fridays in succession."
"All right, then, because he has a few more or less gefülte-fish
suppers in his life, let it worry you! If that ain't a woman every
"Gefülte fish! If that was my greatest worry. But it's not so easy to
prepare, that you should take it so much for granted. Gefülte fish, he
says, just like it grew on trees and didn't mean two hours' chopping on
"Now, Sara, was that anything to fly off at? Do I ever so much as eat
two helpings of it in Gussie's house? That's how I like yours better!"
"Gussie don't chop up her onions fine enough. A hundred times I tell her
and a hundred times she does them coarse. Her own daughter-in-law, a
girl that was raised in luxury, can cook better as Gussie. I tell you,
Mosher, I take off my hat to those Berkowitz girls. And if you should
ask me, Ada is a finer one even than Leo's Irma."
The sly look of wiseacre wizened up Mosher's face.
"Ada!" she says. "The way you pronounce that girl's name, Sara, it's
like every tooth in your mouth was diamond filled out of Berkowitz's
Quite without precedent Sara's lips began to quiver at this pleasantry.
"I'm worried, Mosher," she said, putting down a forkful of untasted food
that had journeyed twice toward her lips. "I don't say he—Nicky—I
don't say he should always stay home evenings when Ada comes over
sometimes with Leo and Irma, but night after night—three times whole
nights—I—Mosher, I'm afraid."
In his utter well-being from her warming food, Mosher drank deeply and,
if it must be admitted, swishingly, through his mustache, inhaling
copiously the draughts of Sara's coffee.
Do not judge from the mustache cup with the gilt "Papa" inscribed, that
Sara's home did not meticulously reflect the newer McKinley period, so
to speak, of the cut-glass-china closet, curio cabinet, brass bedstead,
velour upholstery, and the marbelette Psyche.
They had furnished newly three years before, the year the business
almost doubled, Sara and Gussie simultaneously, the two of them poring
with bibliophiles' fervor over Grand Rapids catalogic literature.
Bravely had Sara, even more so than Gussie, sacrificed her old regime to
the dealer. Only a samovar remained. A red-and-white pressed-glass punch
bowl, purchased out of Nicholas's—aged fourteen—pig-bank savings. An
enlarged crayon of her twins from a baby picture. A patent rocker which
she kept in the kitchen. (It fitted her so for the attitude of peeling.)
Two bisque plaques, with embossed angels. Another chair capable of
metamorphosis into a ladder. And Mosher's cup.
From this Mosher drank with gusto. His mustache, to Sara so thrillingly
American, without its complement of beard, could flare so above the
relishing sounds of drinking. It flared now and Mosher would share none
of her concern.
"You got two talents, Sara. First, for being my wife; and second, for
wasting worry like it don't cost you nothing in health or trips to
Cold Springs in the Catskills for the baths. Like it says in Nicky's
Shakespeare, a boy who don't sow his wild oats when he's young will some
day do 'em under another name that don't smell so sweet."
"I—It ain't like I can talk over Nicky with you, Mosher, like another
woman could with her husband. Either you give him right or right away
you get so mad you make it worse with him than better."
"But only this morning that Mrs. Lessauer I meet sometimes at Epstein's
fish store—you know the rich sausage-casings Lessauers—she says to me
this morning, she says with her sweetness full of such a meanness, like
it was knives in me—'Me and my son and daughter-in-law was coming out
of a movie last night and we saw your son getting into a taxicab with
such a blonde in a red hat!' The way she said it, Mosher, like a cat
licking its whiskers—'such a blonde in a red hat'!"
"I wish I had one dollar in my pocket for every blond hat with red hair
her Felix had before he married."
"But it's the second time this week I hear it, Mosher. The same
description of such a—a nix in a red hat. Once in a cabaret show Gussie
says she heard it from a neighbor, and now in and out from taxicabs with
her. Four times this week he's not been home, Mosher. I can't help it,
I—I get crazy with worry."
A sudden, almost a simian old-age seemed to roll, like a cloud that can
thunder, across Sara's face. She was suddenly very small and no little
old. Veins came out on her brow and upon the backs of her hands, and
Mosher, depressed with an unconscious awareness, was looking into the
tired, cold, watery eyes of the fleet woman who had been his.
"Why, Sara!" he said, and came around the table to let her head wilt in
unwonted fashion against his coat. "Mamma!"
"I'm tired, Mosher." She said her words almost like a gush of warm blood
from the wound of her mouth. "I'm tired from keeping up and holding in.
I have felt so sure for these last four years that we have saved him
from his—his wildness—and now, to begin all over again, I—I 'ain't
got the fight left in me, Mosher."
"You don't have to have any fight in you, Mamma. 'Ain't you got a
husband and a son to fight for you?"
"Sometimes I think, except for the piece of my heart I left lying back
there, that there are worse agonies than even massacres. I've struggled
so that he should be good and great, Mosher, and now, after four years
already thinking I've won—maybe, after all, I haven't."
"Why, Sara! Why, Mamma! Shame! I never saw you like this before. You
ain't getting sick for another trip to the Catskills, are you? Maybe you
need some baths—"
"Sulphur water don't cure heart sickness."
"Heart sickness, nonsense! You know I don't always take sides with
Nicky, Mamma. I don't say he hasn't been a hard boy to raise. But a man,
Mamma, is a man! I wouldn't think much of him if he wasn't. You 'ain't
got him to your apron string in short pants any more. Whatever troubles
we've had with him, women haven't been one of them. Shame, Mamma, the
first time your grown-up son of a man cuts up maybe a little nonsense
with the girls! Shame!"
"Girls! No one would want more than me he should settle himself down to
a fine, self-respecting citizen with a fine, sweet girl like Ad—"
"Believe me, and I ain't ashamed to say it, I wasn't an angel, neither,
every minute before I was married."
"My husband brags to me about his indiscretioncies."
"Na, na, Mamma, right away when I open my mouth you make out a
case against me. I only say it to show you how a mother maybe don't
understand as well as a father how natural a few wild oats can be."
"L-Leo didn't have 'em."
"Leo ain't a genius. He's just a good boy."
"I—I worry so!"
"Sara, I ask you, wouldn't I worry, too, if there was a reason? God
forbid if his nonsense should lead to really something serious, then
it's time to worry."
Sara Turkletaub dried her eyes, but it was as if the shadow of
crucifixion had moved forward in them.
"If just once, Mosher, Nicky would make it easy for me, like Leo did for
Gussie. When Leo's time comes he marries a fine girl like Irma Berkowitz
from a fine family, and has fine children, without Gussie has to cry her
eyes out first maybe he's in company that—that—"
"I don't say, Sara, we didn't have our hard times with your boy. But we
got results enough that we shouldn't complain. Maybe you're right. With
a boy like Leo, a regular good business head who comes into the firm
with us, it ain't been such a strain for Gussie and Aaron as for us with
a genius. But neither have they got the smart son, the lawyer of the
family, for theirs. We got a temperament in ours, Sara. Ain't that
something to be proud of?"
She laid her cheek to his lapel, the freshet of her tears past staying.
"I—I know it, Mosher. It ain't—often I give way like this."
"We got such results as we can be proud of, Sara. A genius of a lawyer
son on his way to the bench. Mark my word if I ain't right, on his way
to the bench!"
"Yes, yes, Mosher."
"Well then, Sara, I ask you, is it nice to—"
"I know it, Papa. I ought to be ashamed. Instead of me fighting you to
go easy with the boy, this time it's you fighting me. If only he—he was
the kind of boy I could talk this out with, it wouldn't worry me so.
When it comes to—to a girl—it's so different. It's just that I'm
tired, Mosher. If anything was to go wrong after all these years of
struggling for him—alone—"
"Alone! Alone! Why, Sara! Shame! Time after time for punishing him I was
a sick man!"
"That's it! That's why so much of it was alone. I don't know why I
should say it all to-night after—after so many years of holding in."
"You meant well, God knows a father never meant better, but it wasn't
the way to handle our boy's nature with punishments, and a quick temper
like yours. Your way was wrong, Mosher, and I knew it. That's why so
much of it was—alone—so much that I had to contend with I was afraid
to tell you, for fear—for fear—"
"Now, now, Mamma, is that the way to cry your eyes out about nothing? I
don't say I'm not sometimes hasty—"
"Time and time again—keeping it in from you—after the Chinese laundry
that night after you—you whipped him so—you never knew the months of
nights with him afterward—when I found out he liked that—stuff! Me
alone with him—"
"Sara, is now time to rake up such ten-year-old nonsense!"
"It's all coming out in me now, Mosher. The strain. You never knew. That
time you had to send me to the Catskills for the baths. You thought
it was rheumatism. I knew what was the matter with me. Worry. The
nights—Mosher. He liked it. I found it hid away in the toes of his
gymnasium shoes and in the mouth to his bugle. He—liked that stuff,
Mosher. You didn't know that, did you?"
"It. The—the stuff from the Chinese laundry. Even after the Juvenile
Court, when you thought it was all over after the whipping that night.
He'd snuff it up. I found him twice on his bed after school. All
druggy-like—half sleeping and half laughing. The gang at school he was
in with—learned him—"
"It ain't so easy to undo with a day in Juvenile Court such a habit like
that. You thought the court was the finish. My fight just began then!"
"You remember the time he broke his kneecap and how I fighted the
doctors against the hypodermic and you got so mad because I wouldn't let
him have it to ease the pain. I knew why it was better he should suffer
than have it. I knew! It was a long fight I had with him alone,
Mosher. He liked that—stuff."
"And that wasn't the only lead-pipe case that time, neither, Mosher.
Twice I had to lay out of my own pocket so you wouldn't know, and talk
to him 'til sometimes I thought I didn't have any more tears left
inside of me. Between you and your business worries that year of the
garment-workers' strike—and our boy—I—after all that I haven't got
the strength left. Now that he's come out of it big, I can't begin over
again. I haven't got what he would call the second wind for it. If
anything should keep him now from going straight ahead to make him count
as a citizen, I wouldn't have the strength left to fight it, Mosher.
And so Sara Turkletaub lay back with the ripple writing of stormy high
tides crawling out in wrinkles all over her face and her head, that he
had never seen low, wilting there against his breast.
He could not be done with soothing her, his own face suddenly as
puckered as an old shoe, his chin like the toe curling up.
"Mamma, Mamma, I didn't know! God knows I never dreamt—"
"I know you didn't, Mosher. I ain't mad. I'm only tired. I 'ain't got
the struggle left in me. This feeling won't last in me, I'll be all
right, but I'm tired, Mosher—so tired."
"My poor Sara!"
"And frightened. Such a blonde in a red hat. Cabarets. Taxicabs. Night
after night. Mosher, hold me. I'm frightened."
Cheek to cheek in their dining room of too-carved oak, twin shadow-boxed
paintings of Fruit and Fish, the cut-glass punch bowl with the hooked-on
cups, the cotton palm, casually rigid velour drapes, the elusive floor
bell, they huddled, these two, whose eyes were branded with the scars
of what they had looked upon, and a slow, a vast anger began to rise in
Mosher, as if the blood in his throat were choking him, and a surge of
it, almost purple, rose out of his collar and stained his face.
"Loafer! Low-life! No-'count! His whole body ain't worth so much as your
little finger. I'll learn him to be a worry to you with this all-night
business. By God! I'll learn my loafer of a son to—"
On the pistol shot of that, Sara's body jumped out of its rigidity, all
her faculties coiled to spring.
"He isn't! You know he isn't! 'Loafer'! Shame on you! Whatever else he
is, he's not a loafer. Boys will be boys—you say so yourself. 'Loafer'!
You should know once what some parents go through with real loafers
"No child what brings you such worry is anything else than a loafer!"
"And I say 'no'! The minute I so much as give you a finger in finding
fault with that boy, right away you take a hand!"
"I'll break his—"
"You don't know yet a joke when you hear one. I wanted to get you mad! I
get a little tired and I try to make myself funny."
"There wasn't no funniness in the way your eyes looked when you—"
"I tell you I didn't mean one word. No matter what uneasiness that child
has brought me, always he has given me more in happiness. Twice more.
That's what he's been. Twice of everything to make up for—for only
being half of my twins."
"Then what the devil is—"
"I don't envy Gussie her Leo and his steady ways. Didn't you say
yourself for a boy like ours you got to pay with a little uneasiness?"
"Not when that little uneasiness is enough to make his mother sick."
"Sick! If I felt any better I'd be ashamed of having so much health! If
you get mad with him and try to ask him where he stays every night is
all that can cause me worry. It's natural a handsome boy like ours
should sow what they call his wild oat. With such a matzos face like
poor Leo, from where he broke his nose, I guess it ain't so easy for him
to have his wild oat. Promise me, Mosher, you won't ask one question or
get mad at him. His mother knows how to handle her boy so he don't even
know he's handled."
"I'll handle him—"
"See now, just look at yourself once in the glass with your eyes full of
red. That's why I can't tell you nothing. Right away you fly to pieces.
I say again, you don't know how to handle your son. Promise me you won't
say nothing to him or let on, Mosher. Promise me."
"That's the way with you women. You get a man crazy and then—"
"I tell you it's just my nonsense."
"If I get mad you're mad, and if I don't get mad you're mad! Go do me
something to help me solve such a riddle like you."
"It's because me and his aunt Gussie are a pair of matchmaking old
women. That the two cousins should marry the two sisters, Irma and Ada,
we got it fixed between us! Just as if because we want it that way it's
got to happen that way!"
"A pair of geeses, the two of you!"
"I wouldn't let on to Gussie, but Ada, the single one, has got Leo's
Irma beat for looks. Such a complexion! And the way she comes over to
sew with me afternoons! A young girl like that! An old woman like me!
You see, Mosher? See?"
"See, she asks me. What good does it do me if I see or I don't see when
his mother gets her mind made up?"
"But does Nicky so much as look at her? That night at Leo's birthday I
was ashamed the way he right away had an engagement after supper, when
she sat next to him and all through the meal gave him the white meat off
her own plate. Why, the flowered chiffon dress that girl had on cost ten
dollars a yard if it cost a cent. Did Nicky so much as look at her? No."
"Too many birthdays in this family."
"I notice you eat them when they are set down in front of you!"
"Ha! That's fine! A new dish. Boiled birthdays with horseradish sauce."
"All right, then, the birthday parties. Don't be so exactly with me.
Many a turn in his grave you yourself have given the man who made the
dictionary. I got other worries than language. If I knew where he
Rather contentedly, while Sara cleared and tidied, Mosher snapped open
his evening paper, drawing his spectacles down from the perch of his
"You women," he said, breathing out with the male's easy surcease from
responsibility—"you women and your worries. If you 'ain't got 'em, you
"Heigh-ho!" sighed out Sara, presently, having finished, and diving
into her open workbasket for the placidity her flying needle could so
cunningly simulate. "Heigh-ho!"
But inside her heart was beating over and over again to itself, rapidly:
This is where he was:
In the Forty-fifth-Street flat of Miss Josie Drew, known at various
times and places as Hattie Moore, Hazel Derland, Mrs. Hazel, and—But
what does it matter.
At this writing it was Josie Drew of whom more is to be said of than
Yet pause to consider the curve of her clay. Josie had not molded her
nose. Its upward fling was like the brush of a perfumed feather duster
to the senses. Nor her mouth. It had bloomed seductively, long before
her lip stick rushed to its aid and abetment, into a cherry at the
bottom of a glass for which men quaffed deeply. There was something
rather terrifyingly inevitable about her. Just as the tide is plaything
of the stars, so must the naughty turn to Josie's ankle have been
complement to the naughty turn of her mind.
It is not easy for the woman with a snub nose and lips molded with a
hard pencil to bleed the milk of human kindness over the frailties of
the fruity chalice that contained Miss Drew. She could not know, for
instance, if her own gaze was merely owlish and thin-lashed, the
challenge of eyes that are slightly too long. Miss Drew did. Simply
drooping hers must have stirred her with a none-too-nice sense of
herself, like the swell of his biceps can bare the teeth of a gladiator.
That had been the Josie Drew of eighteen.
At thirty she penciled the droop to her eyebrows a bit and had a not
always successful trick of powdering out the lurking caves under her
eyes. There was even a scar, a peculiar pocking of little shotted spots
as if glass had ground in, souvenir of one out of dozens of such nights
of orgies, this particular one the result of some unmentionable jealousy
she must have coaxed to the surface.
She wore it plastered over with curls. It was said that in rage it
turned green. But who knows? It was also said that Josie Drew's correct
name was Josie Rosalsky. But again who knows? Her past was vivid with
the heat lightning of the sharp storms of men's lives. At nineteen she
had worn in public restaurants a star-sapphire necklace, originally
designed by a soap magnate for his wife, of these her birthstones.
At twenty her fourteen-room apartment faced the Park, but was on the
ground floor because a vice-president of a bank, a black-broadcloth
little pelican of a man, who stumped on a cane and had a pink tin roof
to his mouth, disliked elevators.
At twenty-three and unmentionably enough, a son of a Brazilian coffee
king, inflamed with the deviltry of debauch, had ground a wine tumbler
against her forehead, inducing the pock marks. At twenty-seven it was
the fourth vice-president of a Harlem bank. At twenty-nine an interim.
Startling to Josie Drew. Terrifying. Lean. For the first time in eight
years her gasoline expenditures amounted to ninety cents a month instead
of from forty to ninety dollars. And then not at the garage, but at the
corner drug store. Cleaning fluid for kicked-out glove and slipper tips.
The little jangle of chatelaine absurdities which she invariably
affected—mesh bag, lip stick, memorandum (for the traffic in telephone
numbers), vanity, and cigarette case were gold—filled. There remained
a sapphire necklace, but this one faithfully copied to the wink of the
stars and the pearl clasp by the Chemic Jewel Company. Much of the
indoor appeal of Miss Drew was still the pink silkiness of her, a
little stiffened from washing and ironing, it is true, but there was a
flesh-colored arrangement of intricate drape that was rosily kind to
her. Also a vivid yellow one of a later and less expensive period, all
heavily slashed in Valenciennes lace. This brought out a bit of virago
through her induced blondness, but all the same it italicized her, just
as the crescent of black court plaster exclaimed at the whiteness of her
She could spend an entire morning fluffing at these things, pressing
out, with a baby electric iron and a sleeve board, a crumple of chiffon
to new sheerness, getting at spots with cleaning fluid. Under alcoholic
duress Josie dropped things. There was a furious stain down the
yellow, from a home brew of canned lobster á la Newburg. The stain
she eliminated entirely by cutting out the front panel and wearing it
In these first slanting years, in her furnished flat of upright,
mandolin-attachment piano, nude plaster-of-Paris Bacchante holding
a cluster of pink-glass incandescent grapes, divan mountainous with
scented pillows, she was about as obvious as a gilt slipper that has
started to rub, or a woman's kiss that is beery and leaves a red
To Nicholas Turkletaub, whose adolescence had been languid and who had
never known a woman with a fling, a perfume, or a moue (there had been
only a common-sense-heeled co-ed of his law-school days and the rather
plump little sister-in-law of Leo's), the dawn of Josie cleft open
something in his consciousness, releasing maddened perceptions that
stung his eyeballs. He sat in the imitation cheap frailty of her
apartment like a young bull with threads of red in his eyeballs, his
head, not unpoetic with its shag of black hair, lowered as if to bash at
the impotence of the thing she aroused in him.
Also, a curious thing had happened to Josie. Something so jaded in
her that she thought it long dead, was stirring sappily, as if with
Maybe it was a resurgence of sense of power after months of terror that
the years had done for her.
At any rate, it was something strangely and deeply sweet.
"Nicky-boy," she said, sitting on the couch with her back against the
wall, her legs out horizontally and clapping her rubbed gilt slippers
together—"Nicky-boy must go home ten o'clock to-night. Josie-girl
Her mouth, like a red paper rose that had been crushed there, was always
bunched to baby talk.
"Come here," he said, and jerked her so that the breath jumped.
"Won't," she said, and came.
His male prowess was enormous to him. He could bend her back almost
double with a kiss, and did. His first kisses that he spent wildly. He
could have carried her off like Persephone's bull, and wanted to, so
swift his mood. His flare for life and for her leaped out like a flame,
and something precious that had hardly survived sixteen seemed to stir
in the early grave of her heart.
"Oh, Nicky-boy! Nicky-boy!" she said, and he caught that she was
yearning over him.
"Don't say it in down curves like that. Say it up. Up."
She didn't get this, but, with the half-fearful tail of her eye for
the clock, let him hold her quiescent, while the relentlessly sliding
moments ticked against her unease.
"I'm jealous of every hour you lived before I met you."
"I want to kiss your eyes until they go in deep—through you—I don't
know—until they hurt—deep—I—want—to hurt you—"
"Oh! Oh! Josie scared!"
"You're like one of those orange Angora kittens. Yellow. Soft. Deep."
"I Nicky's pussy."
"I can see myself in your eyes. Shut me up in them."
"Josie so tired."
"Nicky so—so strong."
"My poor pussy! I didn't mean—"
"Nicky-boy, go home like good Nicky."
"I don't want ever to go home."
"Go now, Josie says."
"You mean never."
He kissed his "No, No," down against each of her eyelids.
"You must," she said this time, and pushed him off.
For a second he sat quite still, the black shine in his eyes seeming to
give off diamond points.
"You're nervous," he said, and jerked her back so that the breath jumped
The tail of her glance curved to the gilt clock half hidden behind a
litter of used highball glasses, and then, seeing that his quickly
suspicious eye followed hers:
"No," she said, "not nervous. Just tired—and thirsty."
He poured her a high drink from a decanter, and held it so that, while
she sipped, her teeth were magnified through the tumbler, and he thought
that adorable and tilted the glass higher against her lips, and when she
choked soothed her with a crush of kisses.
"You devil," he said, "everything you do maddens me."
There was a step outside and a scraping noise at the lock. It was only
a vaudeville youth, slender as a girl, who lived on the floor above,
feeling unsteadily, and a bit the worse for wear, for the lock that must
eventually fit his key.
But on that scratch into the keyhole, Josie leaped up in terror, so that
Nicholas went staggering back against the Bacchante, shattering to a
fine ring of crystal some of the pink grapes, and on that instant she
clicked out the remaining lights, shoving him, with an unsuspected and
catamount strength, into an adjoining box of a kitchenette.
There an uncovered bulb burned greasily over a small refrigerator, that
stood on a table and left only the merest slit of walking space. It was
the none too fastidious kitchen of a none too fastidious woman. A pair
of dress shields hung on the improvised clothesline of a bit of twine.
A clump of sardines, one end still shaped to the tin, cloyed in its own
oil, crumbily, as if bread had been sopped in, the emptied tin itself,
with the top rolled back with a patent key, filled now with old beer.
Obviously the remaining contents of a tumbler had been flung in.
Cigarette stubs floated. A pasteboard cylindrical box, labeled "Sodium
Bi-carbonate," had a spoon stuck in it. A rubber glove drooped deadly
over the sink edge.
On the second that he stood in that smelling fog, probably for no longer
than it took the swinging door to settle, something of sickness rushed
over Nicholas. The unaired odors of old foods. Those horrific things on
the line. The oil that had so obviously been sopped up with bread. The
old beer, edged in grease. Something of sickness and a panoramic flash
of things absurdly, almost unreasonably irrelevant.
Snow, somewhere back in his memory. A frozen silence of it that was
clean and thin to the smell. The ridges in the rattan with which his
father had whipped him the night after the Chinese laundry. The fine
white head of the dean of the law school. His mother baking for Friday
night in a blue-and-white gingham apron that enveloped her. Red
curls—some one's—somewhere. The string of tiny Oriental pearls that
rose and fell with the little pouter-pigeon swell of a bosom. Pretty
perturbation. His cousin's sister-in-law, Ada. A small hole in a
pink-silk stocking, peeping like a little rising sun above the heel of a
rubbed gilt slipper. Josie's slipper.
Something seemed suddenly to rise in Nicholas, with the quick
capillarity of water boiling over.
The old familiar star-spangled red over which Sara had time after time
laid sedative hand against his seeing, sprang out. The pit of his
passion was bottomless, into which he was tumbling with the icy laughter
of breaking glass.
Then he struck out against the swinging door so that it ripped outward
with a sough of stale air, striking Josie Drew, as she approached it
from the room side, so violently that her teeth bit down into her lips
and the tattling blood began to flow.
"Nicky! It's a mistake. I thought—my sister—It got so late—you
wouldn't go. Go now! The key—turning—Nervous—silly—mistake. Go—"
He laughed, something exhilarant in his boiling over, and even in her
sudden terror of him she looked at his bare teeth and felt the unnice
beauty of the storm.
"Nicky," she half cried, "don't be—foolish! I—"
And then he struck her across the lip so that her teeth cut in again.
"There is some one coming here to-night," he said, with his smile still
She sat on the couch, trying to bravado down her trembling.
"And what if there is? He'll beat you up for this! You fool! I've tried
to explain a dozen times. You know, or if you don't you ought to, that
there's a—friend. A traveling salesman. Automobile accessories. Long
trips, but good money. Good money. And here you walk in a few weeks ago
and expect to find the way clear! Good boy, you like some one to go
ahead of you with a snow cleaner, don't you? Yes, there's some one due
in here off his trip to-night. What's the use trying to tell Nicky-boy
with his hot head. He's got a hot head, too. Go, and let me clear the
way for you, Nicky. For good if you say the word. But I have to know
where I'm at. Every girl does if she wants to keep her body and soul
together. You don't let me know where I stand. You know you've got me
around your little finger for the saying, but you don't say. Only go
now, Nicky-boy. For God's sake, it's five minutes to eleven and he's due
in on that ten-forty-five. Nicky-boy, go, and come back to me at six
to-morrow night. I'll have the way clear then, for good. Quit blinking
at me like that, Nicky. You scare me! Quit! When you come back to-morrow
evening there won't be any more going home for Josie's Nicky-boy.
Nicky, go now. He's hotheaded, too. Quit blinking, Nicky—for God's
It was then Nicholas bent back her head as he did when he kissed her
there on the swan's arch to her neck, only this time his palm was
against her forehead and his other between her shoulder blades.
"I could kill you," he said, and laughed with his teeth. "I could bend
back your neck until it breaks."
"And I want to," he said through the star-spangled red. "I want you to
crack when I twist. I'm going to twist—twist—"
And he did, shoving back her hair with his palm, and suddenly bared,
almost like a grimace, up at him, was the glass-shotted spot where
the wine tumbler had ground in, greenish now, like the flanges of her
Somewhere—down a dear brow was a singed spot like that—singed with the
flame of pain—
"Nicky, for God's sake—you're—you're spraining my neck! Let go! Nicky.
God! if you hadn't let go just when you did. You had me croaking.
Nicky-boy—kiss me now and go! Go! To-morrow at six—clear for
you—always—only go—please, boy—my terrible—my wonderful. To-morrow
Somehow he was walking home, the burn of her lips still against his,
loathsome and gorgeous to his desires. He wanted to tear her out by the
roots from his consciousness. To be rollickingly, cleanly free of her.
His teeth shone against the darkness as he walked, drenched to the skin
of his perspiration and one side of his collar loose, the buttonhole
Rollickingly free of her and yet how devilishly his shoes could clat on
To-morrow at six. To-morrow at six. To-morrow at six.
* * * * *
It was some time after midnight when he let himself into the uptown
apartment. He thought he heard his mother, trying to be swift, padding
down the hallway as if she had been waiting near the door. That would
have angered him.
The first of these nights, only four weeks before (it seemed years),
he had come in hotly about four o'clock and gone to bed. About five he
thought he heard sounds, almost like the scratch of a little dog at
his door. He sprang up and flung it open. The flash of his mother's
gray-flannelette wrapper turned a corner of the hall. She must have
been crying out there and wanting him to need her. None the less it had
angered him. These were men's affairs.
But in his room to-night the light burned placidly on the little table
next to the bed, a glass of milk on a plate beside it. The bed was
turned back, snowy sheets forming a cool envelope for him to slip
in between. The room lay sedatively in shadow. A man's room. Books,
uncurving furniture, photographs of his parents taken on their
twenty-fifth anniversary standing on the chiffonier in a double leather
frame that opened like a book. Face down on the reading table beside the
glass of milk, quite as he must have left it the night before, except
where Sara had lifted it to dust under, a copy of Bishop's New Criminal
Law, already a prognosis, as it were, of that branch of the law he was
ultimately and brilliantly to bend to fuller justice.
Finally, toward morning Nicholas slept, and at ten o'clock of a
rain-swept Sunday forenoon awoke, as he knew he must, to the grip of a
blinding headache, so called for want of a better noun to interpret the
kind of agony which, starting somewhere around his eyes, could prick
each nerve of his body into a little flame, as if countless matches had
As a youngster these attacks had not been infrequent, usually after a
fit of crying. The first, in fact, had followed the burning of the cat;
a duet of twin spasms then, howled into Sara's apron, And once after he
had fished an exhausted comrade out of an ice hole in Bronx Park. They
had followed the lead-pipe affairs and the Chinese-laundry episode with
dreadful inevitability. But it had been five years since the last—the
night his mother had fainted with terror at what she had found concealed
in the toes of his gymnasium shoes.
Incredible that into his manhood should come the waving specter of those
At eleven o'clock, after she heard him up and moving about, his mother
carried him his kiss and his coffee, steaming black, the way he liked
it. She had wanted to bring him an egg—in fact, had prepared one, to
just his liking of two minutes and thirty seconds—but had thought
better of it, and wisely, because he drank the coffee at a quick gulp
and set down the cup with his mouth wry and his eyes squeezed tight.
From the taste of it he remembered horridly the litter of tall glasses
beside the gilt clock.
With all her senses taut not to fuss around him with little jerks and
pullings, Sara jerked and pulled. Too well she knew that furrow between
his eyes and wanted unspeakably to tuck him back into bed, lower the
shades, and prepare him a vile mixture good for exactly everything that
did not ail him. But Sara could be wise even with her son. So instead
she flung up the shade, letting him wince at the clatter, dragged off
the bedclothes into a tremendous heap on the chair, beat up the pillows,
and turned the mattress with a single-handed flop.
"The Sunday-morning papers are in the dining room, son."
He was standing in his dressing gown at the rain-lashed window,
strumming. Lean, long, and, to Sara, godlike, with the thick shock of
his straight hair still wet from the shower.
"Mrs. Berkowitz telephoned already this morning with such a grand
compliment for you, son. Her brother-in-law, Judge Rosen, says you're
the brains of your firm even if you are only the junior partner yet, and
your way looks straight ahead for big things."
"Uhm! Who's talking out there so incessantly, mother?"
"That's your uncle Aaron. He came over for Sunday-morning breakfast with
your father. You should see the way he tracked up my hall with his wet
shoes. I'm sending him right back home with your father. They should
clutter up your aunt Gussie's house with their pinochle and ashes. I had
'em last Sunday. She don't need to let herself off so easy every week.
It's enough if I ask them all over here for supper to-night. Not?"
"Don't count on me, dear. I won't be home for supper."
There was a tom-tom to the silence against her beating ear drums.
"All right, son," she said, pulling her lips until they smiled at him,
"with Leo and Irma that'll only make six of us, then."
He kissed her, but so tiredly that again it was almost her irresistible
woman's impulse to drag down that fiercely black head to the beating
width of her bosom and plead from him drop by drop some of the bitter
welling of pain she could see in his eyes.
"Nicky," she started to cry, and then, at his straightening back from
her, "come out in the dining room after I pack off the men. I got my
work to do. That nix of a house girl left last night. Such sass, too!
I'm better off doing my work alone."
Sara, poor dear, could not keep a servant, and, except for the
instigation of her husband and son, preferred not to. Cooks rebelled
at the exactitude of her household and her disputative reign of the
"I'll be out presently, mother," he said, and flung himself down in the
leather Morris chair, lighting his pipe and ostensibly settling down to
the open-faced volume of Criminal Law.
Sara straightened a straight chair. She knew, almost as horridly as
if she had looked in on it, the mucky thing that was happening; the
intuitive sixth sense of her hovered over him with great wings that
wanted to spread. Josie Drew was no surmise with her. The blond head and
the red hat were tatooed in pain on her heart and she trembled in a bath
of fear, and, trembling, smiled and went out.
Sitting there while the morning ticked on, head thrown back, eyes
closed, and all the little darting nerves at him, the dawn of Nicholas
Turkletaub's repugnance was all for self. The unfrowsy room, and himself
fresh from his own fresh sheets. His mother's eyes with that clean-sky
quality in them. The affectionate wrangling of those two decent voices
from the dining room. Books! His books, that he loved. His tastiest
dream of mother, with immensity and grandeur in her eyes, listening
from a privileged first-row bench to the supreme quality of his mercy.
But tastily, too, and undeniably against his lips, throughout these
conjurings, lay the last crushy kiss of Josie Drew. That swany arch to
her neck as he bent it back. He had kissed her there. Countlessly.
He tried to dwell on his aversions for her. She had once used an
expletive in his presence that had sickened him, and, noting its effect,
she had not reiterated. The unfastidious brunette roots to her light
hair. That sink with the grease-rimmed old beer! But then: her eyes
where the brows slid down to make them heavy-lidded. That bit of blue
vein in the crotch of her elbow. That swany arch.
Back somewhere, as the tidy morning wore in, the tranced, the maddening
repetition began to tick itself through:
"Six o'clock. Six o'clock."
He rushed out into the hallway and across to the parlor pinkly lit with
velours, even through the rainy day, and so inflexibly calm. Sara might
have measured the distance between the chairs, so regimental they
stood. The pink-velour curlicue divan with the two pink, gold-tasseled
cushions, carelessly exact. The onyx-topped table with the pink-velour
drape, also gold-tasseled. The pair of equidistant and immaculate china
cuspidors, rose-wreathed. The smell of Sunday.
"Nicky, that you?"
It was his mother, from the dining room.
"Yes, mother," and sauntered in.
There were two women sitting at the round table, shelling nuts. One of
them his mother, the other Miss Ada Berkowitz, who jumped up, spilling
Nicholas, in the velveteen dressing gown with the collar turned up,
started to back out, Mrs. Turkletaub spoiling that.
"You can come in, Nicky. Ada'll excuse you. I guess she's seen a man in
his dressing gown before; the magazine advertisements are full with
them in worse and in less. And on Sunday with a headache from all week
working so hard, a girl can forgive. He shouldn't think with his head so
much, I always tell him, Ada."
"I didn't know he was here," said Miss Berkowitz, already thinking in
terms of what she might have worn.
"I telephoned over for Ada, Nicky. They got an automobile and she don't
need to get her feet wet to come over to a lonesome old woman on a
rainy Sunday, to spend the day and learn me how to make those delicious
stuffed dates like she fixed for her mother's card party last week. Draw
up a chair, Nicky, and help."
She was casual, she was matter-of-fact, she was bent on the business
of nut cracking. They crashed softly, never so much as bruised by her
carefully even pressure.
"Thanks," said Nicholas, and sat down, not caring to, but with good
enough grace. He wanted his coat, somehow, and fell to strumming the
"Don't, Nicky; you make me nervous."
"Here," said Miss Berkowitz, and gave him a cracker and a handful of
nuts. The little crashings resumed.
Ada had very fair skin against dark hair, slightly too inclined to curl.
There was quite a creamy depth to her—a wee pinch could raise a bruise.
The kind of whiteness hers that challenged the string of tiny Oriental
pearls she wore at her throat. Her healthily pink cheeks and her little
round bosom were plump, and across the back of each of her hands were
four dimples that flashed in and out as she bore down on the cracker.
She was as clear as a mountain stream.
"A trifle too plumpy," he thought, but just the same wished he had wet
his military brushes.
"Ada has just been telling me, Nicky, about her ambition to be an
interior decorator for the insides of houses. I think it is grand
the way some girls that are used to the best of everything prepare
themselves for, God forbid, they should ever have to make their own
livings. I give them credit for it. Tell Nicky, Ada, about the drawing
you did last week that your teacher showed to the class."
"Oh," said Ada, blushing softly, "Mr. Turkletaub isn't interested in
"Yes, I am," said Nicholas, politely, eating one of the meats.
"You mean the Tudor dining room—"
No, no! You know, the blue-and-white one you said you liked best of
"It was a nursery," began Ada, softly. "Just one of those blue-and-white
darlingnesses for somebody's little darling."
"For somebody's little darling," repeated Mrs. Turkletaub, silently. She
had the habit, when moved, of mouthing people's words after them.
"My idea was—Oh, it's so silly to be telling it again, Mrs.
"Silly! I think it's grand that a girl brought up to the best should
want to make something of herself. Don't you, Nick?"
"Well, my little idea was white walls with little Delft-blue borders
of waddling duckies; white dotted Swiss curtains in the brace of sunny
southern-exposure windows, with little Delft-blue borders of more
waddling duckies; and dear little nursery rhymes painted in blue on the
headboard to keep baby's dreams sweet."
"—baby's dreams sweet! I ask you, is that cute, Nick? Baby's dreams she
even interior decorates."
"My—instructor liked that idea, too. He gave me 'A' on the drawing."
"He should have given you the whole alphabet. And tell him about the
chairs, Ada. Such originality."
"Oh, Mrs. Turkletaub, that was just a—a little—idea—"
"The modesty of her! Believe me, if it was mine, I'd call it a big one.
"Mummie and daddie chairs I call them."
Sara (mouthing): "Mummie and daddie—"
"Two white-enamel chairs to stand on either side of the crib so when
mummie and daddie run up in their evening clothes to kiss baby good
night—Oh, I just mean two pretty white chairs, one for mummie and one
for daddie." Little crash.
"I ask you, Nicky, is that poetical? 'So when mummie and daddie run up
to kiss baby good night.' I remember once in Russia, Nicky, all the
evening clothes we had was our nightgowns, but when you and your little
twin brother were two and a half years old, one night I—"
"Mrs. Turkletaub, did you have twins?"
"Did I have twins, Nicky, she asks me. She didn't know you were twins.
A red one I had, as red as my black one is black. You see my Nicky how
black and mad-looking he is even when he's glad; well, just so—"
"Just so beautiful and fierce and red was my other beautiful baby. You
didn't know, Ada, that a piece of my heart, the red of my blood, I left
lying out there. Nicky—she didn't know—"
She could be so blanched and so stricken when the saga of her motherhood
came out in her eyes, the pallor of her face jutting out her features
like lonely landmarks on waste land, that her husband and her son had
learned how to dread for her and spare her.
"Now, mother!" said Nicholas, and rose to stand behind her chair,
holding her poor, quavering chin in the cup of his hand. "Come, one
rainy Sunday is enough. Let's not have an indoor as well as an outdoor
storm. Come along. Didn't I hear Miss Ada play the piano one evening
over at Leo's? Up-see-la! Who said you weren't my favorite dancing
partner?" and waltzed her, half dragging back, toward the parlor. "Come,
There were the usual demurrings from Ada, rather prettily pink, and Mrs.
Turkletaub, with the threat of sobs swallowed, opening the upright piano
to dust the dustless keyboard with her apron, and Nicholas, his sagging
pipe quickly supplied with one of the rose-twined cuspidors for
ash receiver, hunched down in the pink-velour armchair of enormous
The "Turkish Patrol" was what Ada played, and then, "Who Is Sylvia?" and
sang it, as frailly as a bird.
At one o'clock there was dinner, that immemorial Sunday meal of roast
chicken with its supplicating legs up off the platter; dressing to be
gouged out; sweet potatoes in amber icing; a master stroke of Mrs.
Turkletaub's called "matzos klose," balls of unleavened bread,
sizzling, even as she served them, in a hot butter bath and light-brown
onions; a stuffed goose neck, bursting of flavor; cheese pie twice the
depth of the fork that cut in; coffee in large cups. More cracking
of nuts, interspersed with raisins. Ada, cunningly enveloped in a
much-too-large apron, helping Mrs. Turkletaub to clear it all away.
Smoking there in his chair beside the dining-room window, rain the
unrelenting threnody of the day, Nicholas, fed, closed his eyes to the
rhythm of their comings and goings through the swinging door that led to
the kitchen. Comings—and—goings—his mother who rustled so cleanly of
starch—Ada—clear—yes, that was it—clear as a mountain stream. Their
It was almost dusk when he awoke, the pink-shaded piano lamp already
lighted in the parlor beyond, the window shade at his side drawn and an
Afghan across his knees. It was snug there in the rosied dusk. The women
were in the kitchen yet, or was it again? Again, he supposed, looking
at his watch. He had slept three hours. Presently he rose and sauntered
out. There was coffee fragrance on the air of the large white kitchen,
his mother hunched to the attitude of wielding a can opener, and at the
snowy oilclothed table, Ada, slicing creamy slabs off the end of a cube
of Swiss cheese.
"Sleepyhead," she greeted, holding up a sliver for him to nibble.
And his mother: "That was a good rest for you, son? You feel better?"
"Immense," he said, hunching his shoulders and stretching his hands down
into his pockets in a yawny well-being.
"I wish, then, you would put another leaf in the table for me. There's
four besides your father coming over from Aunt Gussie's. I just wish you
would look at Ada. For a girl that don't have to turn her hand at home,
with two servants, and a laundress every other week, just look how handy
she is with everything she touches."
The litter of Sunday-night supper, awaiting its transfer to the
dining-room table, lay spread in the faithful geometry of the cold,
hebdomadal repast. A platter of ruddy sliced tongue; one of noonday
remnants of cold chicken; ovals of liverwurst; a mound of potato salad
crisscrossed with strips of pimento; a china basket of the stuffed
dates, all kissed with sugar; half of an enormously thick cheese cake;
two uncovered apple pies; a stack of delicious raisin-stuffed curlicues,
known as "schneken," pickles with a fern of dill across them (Ada's
touch, the dill); a dish of stuffed eggs with a toothpick stuck in each
half (also Ada's touch, the toothpicks).
She moved rather pussily, he thought, sometimes her fair cheeks
quivering slightly to the vibration of her walk, as if they had jelled.
And, too, there was something rather snug and plump in the way her
little hands with the eight dimples moved about things, laying the slabs
of Swiss cheese, unstacking cups.
"No, only seven cups, Ada. Nicky—ain't going to be home to supper."
"Oh," she said, "excuse me! I—I—thought—silly—" and looked up at him
to deny that it mattered.
"Isn't that what you said this morning, Nicky?" Poor Sara, she almost
failed herself then because her voice ended in quite a dry click in her
He stood watching the resumed unstacking of the cups, each with its
crisp little grate against its neighbor.
"One," said Ada, "two-three-four-five-six—seven!"
He looked very long and lean and his darkly nervous self, except that he
dilly-dallied on his heels like a much-too-tall boy not wanting to look
"If Miss Ada will provide another cup and saucer, I think I'll stay
"As you will," said Sara, disappearing into the dining room with the
mound of salad and the basket of sugar-kissed dates.
She put them down rather hastily when she got there, because, sillily
enough, she thought, for the merest instant, she was going to faint.
* * * * *
The week that Judge Turkletaub tried his first case in Court of General
Sessions—a murder case, toward which his criminal-law predilection
seemed so inevitably to lead him, his third child, a little daughter
with lovely creamy skin against slightly too curly hair, was lying, just
two days old, in a blue-and-white nursery with an absurd border of blue
ducks waddling across the wallpaper.
Ada, therefore, was not present at this inaugural occasion of his first
trial. But each of the two weeks of its duration, in a first-row bench
of the privileged, so that her gaze was almost on a dotted line with her
son's, sat Sara Turkletaub, her hands crossed over her waistline, her
bosom filling and waning and the little jet folderols on her bonnet
blinking. Tears had their way with her, prideful, joyful at her son's
new estate, sometimes bitterly salt at the life in the naked his eyes
must look upon.
Once, during the recital of the defendant, Sara almost seemed to bleed
her tears, so poignantly terrible they came, scorching her eyes of a
pain too exquisite to be analyzed, yet too excruciating to be endured.
Venture back, will you, to the ice and red of that Russian dawn when on
the snow the footsteps that led toward the horizon were the color of
blood, and one woman, who could not keep her eyes ahead, moaned as
she fled, prayed, and even screamed to return to her dead in the
bullet-riddled horse trough.
Toward the noon of that day, a gray one that smelled charred, a fugitive
group from a distant village that was still burning faltered, as it too
fled toward the horizon, in the blackened village of Vodna, because a
litter had to be fashioned for an old man whose feet were frozen, and a
mother, whose baby had perished at her breast, would bury her dead.
Huddled beside the horse trough, over a poor fire she had kindled of
charred wood, Hanscha, the midwife (Hanscha, the drunk, they called her,
fascinatedly, in the Pale of generations of sober women), spied Mosher's
flung coat and reached for it eagerly, with an eye to tearing it into
strips to wrap her tortured feet.
A child stirred as she snatched it, wailing lightly, and the instinct of
her calling, the predominant motive, Hanscha with her fumy breath warmed
it closer to life and trod the one hundred and eight miles to the port
with it strapped to her back like a pack.
Thus it was that Schmulka, the red twin, came to America and for the
first fourteen years of his life slept on a sour pallet in a sour
tenement he shared with Hanscha, who with filthy hands brought children
into the filthy slums.
Jason, she called him, because that was the name of the ship that
carried them over. A rolling tub that had been horrible with the cries
of cattle and seasickness.
At fourteen he was fierce and rebellious and down on the Juvenile Court
records for truancy, petty trafficking in burned-out opium, vandalism,
and gang vagrancy.
In Hanscha's sober hours he was her despair, and she could be horrible
in her anger, once the court reprimanding her and threatening to take
Jason from her because of welts found on his back.
It was in her cups that she was proud of him, and so it behooved Jason
to drink her down to her pallet, which he could, easily.
He was handsome. His red hair had darkened to the same bronze of the
samovar and he was straight as the drop of an apple from the branch. He
was reckless. Could turn a pretty penny easily, even dangerously, and
spend it with a flip for a pushcart bauble.
Once he brought home a plaster-of-Paris Venus—the Melos one with the
beautiful arch to her torso of a bow that instant after the arrow has
flown. Hanscha cuffed him for the expenditure, but secretly her old
heart, which since childhood had subjected her to strange, rather
epileptical, sinking spells, and had induced the drinking, warmed her
with pride in his choice.
Hanscha, with her veiny nose and the dreadful single hair growing out of
a mole on her chin, was not without her erudition. She had read for the
midwifery, and back in the old days could recite the bones in the body.
She let the boy read nights, sometimes even to dropping another coin
into the gas meter. Some of the books were the lewd penny ones of the
Bowery bookstands, old medical treatises, too, purchased three for a
quarter and none too nice reading for the growing boy. But there he had
also found a Les Miserables and The Confessions of St. Augustine,
which last, if he had known it, was a rare edition, but destined for the
Once he read Hanscha a bit of poetry out of a furiously stained old
volume of verse, so fragrantly beautiful, to him, this bit, that it
wound around him like incense, the perfume of it going deeply and
stinging his eyes to tears:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting!
The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar.
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy.
Shades of the prison house begin to close
Upon the growing boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows
He sees it in his joy;
The youth who daily farther, from the East
Must travel, still is Nature's priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.
But Hanscha was drunk and threw some coffee-sopped bread at him, and so
his foray into poetry ended in the slops of disgust.
A Miss Manners, a society social worker who taught poverty
sweet forbearance every Tuesday from four until six, wore a
forty-eight-diamond bar pin on her under bodice (on Tuesday from
four until six), and whose gray-suède slippers were ever so slightly
blackened from the tripping trip from front door to motor and back, took
him up, as the saying is, and for two weeks Jason disported himself on
the shorn lawns of the Manners summer place at Great Neck, where the
surf creamed at the edge of the terrace and the smell of the sea set
something beating against his spirit as if it had a thousand imprisoned
There he developed quite a flair for the law books in Judge Manners's
laddered library. Miss Manners found him there, reading, on stomach and
elbows, his heels waving in the air.
Judge Manners talked with him and discovered a legal turn of mind, and
there followed some veranda talk of educating and removing him from his
environment. But that very afternoon Jason did a horrid thing. It was no
more than he had seen about him all his life. Not as much. He kissed the
little pig-tailed daughter of the laundress and pursued her as she ran
shrieking to her mother's apron. That was all, but his defiant head and
the laundress's chance knowledge of his Juvenile Court record did for
At six o'clock that evening, with a five-dollar bill of which he made a
spitball for the judge's departing figure down the station platform, he
was shipped back to Hanscha. Secretly he was relieved. Life was easier
in the tenement under the shadow of Brooklyn Bridge. The piece of its
arch which he could see from his window was even beautiful, a curve of a
stone into some beyond.
That night he fitted down into the mold his body had worn on the pallet,
sighing out satisfaction.
Environment had won him back.
On the other hand, in one of those red star-spangled passions of
rebellion against his fetid days, he blindly cut Hanscha with the edge
of a book which struck against her brow as he hurled it. She had been
drunk and had asked of him, at sixteen, because of the handsomeness
that women would easily love in him, to cadet the neighborhood of Grand
Street, using her tenement as his refuge of vice and herself as sharer
The corner of the book cut deeply and pride in her terror of him came
out redly in her bloodshot eyes.
In the short half term of his high-school training he had already forged
ahead of his class when he attained the maturity of working papers. He
was plunging eagerly—brilliantly, in fact—into a rapid translation
of the Iliad, fired from the very first line by the epic of the
hexametered anger of Achilles, and stubbornly he held out against the
But to Hanscha they came with the inevitability of a summons rather
than an alternative, and so for a year or two he brought home rather
precocious wages from his speed in a canning factory. Then he stoked his
way to Sydney and back, returning fiery with new and terrible oaths.
One night Hanscha died. He found her crumpled up in the huddle of her
skirts as if she had dropped in her tracks, which she had, in one of the
epileptic heart strictures.
It was hardly a grief to him. He had seen red with passion at her
atrociousness too often, and, somehow, everything that she stood for had
been part of the ache in him.
Yet it is doubtful if, released of her, he found better pasture. Bigger
pastures, it is true, in what might be called an upper stratum of the
lower East Side, although at no time was he ever to become party to any
of its underground system of crime.
Inevitably, the challenge of his personality cleared the way for him. At
nineteen he had won and lost the small fortune of thirty-three hundred
dollars at a third-class gambling resort where he came in time to be
He dressed flashily, wore soft collars, was constantly swapping sporty
scarfpins for sportier ones, and was inevitably the center, seldom part,
of a group.
Then one evening at Cooper Union, which stands at the head of the
Bowery, he enrolled for an evening course in law, but never entered the
Because the next night, in a Fourteenth Street cabaret with adjacent
gambling rooms, he met one who called herself Winnie Ross, the beginning
of a heart-sickening end.
There is so little about her to relate. She was the color of cloyed
honey when the sugar granules begin to show through. Pale, pimply in a
fashion the powder could cover up, the sag of her facial muscles showed
plainly through, as if weary of doling out to the years their hush
money, and she was quite obviously down at the heels. Literally so,
because when she took them off, her shoes lopped to the sides and could
not stand for tipsiness.
She was Jason's first woman. She exhaled a perfume, cheap, tickling,
chewed some advertised tablets that scented her kisses, and her throat,
when she threw up her head, had an arch and flex to it that were
Life had been swift and sheer with Winnie. She was very tired and,
paradoxically enough, it gave her one of her last remaining charms. Her
eyelids were freighted with weariness, were waxy white of it, and they
could flutter to her cheeks, like white butterflies against white, and
lay shadows there that maddened Jason.
She called him Red, although all that remained now were the lights
through his browning hair, almost like the flashings of a lantern down a
She pronounced it with a slight trilling of the R, and if it was left in
her of half a hundred loves to stir on this swift descent of her life
line, she did over Jason. Partly because he was his winged-Hermes self,
and partly because—because—it was difficult for her rather fagged
brain to rummage back.
Thus the rest may be told:
Entering her rooms one morning, a pair of furiously garish ones over a
musical-instrument store on the Bowery, he threw himself full length on
the red-cotton divan, arms locked under his always angry-looking head,
and watching her, through low lids, trail about the room at the business
of preparing him a surlily demanded cup of coffee. Her none too
immaculate pink robe trailed a cotton-lace tail irritatingly about her
heels, which slip-slopped as she walked, her stockings, without benefit
of support, twisting about her ankles.
She was barometer for his moods, which were elemental, and had learned
to tremble with a queer exaltation of fear before them.
"My Red-boy blue to-day," she said, stooping as she passed and wanting
to kiss him.
He let his lids drop and would have none of her. They were curiously
blue, she thought, as if of unutterable fatigue, and then quickly
appraised that his luck was still letting him in for the walloping now
of two weeks' duration. His diamond-and-opal scarfpin was gone, and the
gold cuff links replaced with mother-of-pearl.
She could be violently bitter about money, and when the flame of his
personality was not there to be reckoned with, ten times a day she
ejected him, with a venom that was a psychosis, out of her further
toleration. Not so far gone was Winnie but that she could count on the
twist of her body and the arch of her throat as revenue getters.
At first Jason had been lavish, almost with a smack of some of the old
days she had known, spending with the easy prodigality of the gambler in
luck. There was a near-seal coat from him in her cupboard of near-silks,
and the flimsy wooden walls of her rooms had been freshly papered in
Then his luck had turned, and to top his sparseness with her this new
sullenness which she feared and yet which could be so delicious to
She gave him coffee, and he drank it like medicine out of a thick-lipped
cup painted in roses.
"My Red-boy blue," she reiterated, trying to ingratiate her arms about
his neck. "Red-boy tells Winnie he won't be back for two whole days and
then brings her surprise party very next day. Red-boy can't stay away
"Red-boy bring Winnie nothing? Not little weeny, weeny nothing?" drawing
a design down his coat sleeve, her mouth bunched.
Suddenly he jerked her so that the breath jumped in a warm fan of it
against her face.
"You're the only thing I've got in the world, Win. My luck's gone, but
I've got you. Tell me I've got you."
He could be equally intense over which street car to take, and she knew
it, but somehow it lessened for her none of the lure of his nervosity,
and with her mind recoiling from his pennilessness her body inclined.
"Tell me, Winnie, that I have you."
"You know you have," she said, and smiled, with her head back so that
her face foreshortened.
"I'm going far for you Winnie. Gambling is too rotten—and too easy. I
want to build bridges for you. Practice law. Corner Wall Street."
This last clicked.
"Once," she said, lying back, with her pupils enlarging with the
fleeting memories she was not always alert enough to clutch—"once—once
when I lived around Central Park—a friend of mine—vice-president he
was—Well, never mind, he was my friend—it was nothing for him to turn
over a thousand or two a week for me in Wall Street."
This exaggeration was gross, but it could feed the flame of his passion
for her like oil.
"I'll work us up and out of this! I've got better stuff in me. I want to
wind you in pearls—diamonds—sapphires."
"I had a five-thousand-dollar string once—of star sapphires."
"Trust me, Winnie. Help me by having confidence in me. I'm glad my luck
is welching. It will be lean at first, until I get on my legs. But
it's not too late yet. Win, if only I have some one to stand by me. To
believe—to fight with and for me! Get me, girl? Believe in me."
"Sure. Always play strong with the cops, Red. It's the short cut to
ready money. Ready money, Red. That's what gets you there. Don't ask
any girl to hang on if it's shy. That's where I spun myself dirt many a
time, hanging on after it got shy. Ugh! That's what did for me—hanging
on—after it got shy."
"No. No. You don't understand. For God's sake try to get me, Winnie.
Fight up with me. It'll be lean, starting, but I'll finish strong for
"Don't lean on me. I'm no wailing wall. What's it to me all your
highfaluting talk. You've been as slab-sided in the pockets as a cat all
month. Don't have to stand it. I've got friends—spenders—"
There had been atrocious scenes, based on his jealousies of her, which
some imp in her would lead her to provoke, notwithstanding that even as
she spoke she regretted, and reached back for the words,
"I know what you mean," he said, quietly, permitting her to lie back
against him and baring his teeth down at her.
She actually thought he was smiling.
"I'm not a dead one by a long shot," she said, kindling with what was
probably her desire to excite him.
"No. I can still have the best. The very best. If you want to know it,
a political Indian with a car as long as this room, not mentioning any
names, is after me—"
She still harbored the unfortunate delusion that he was smiling.
"You thought I was up at Ossining this morning, didn't you?" he asked,
lazily for him. He went there occasionally to visit a friend in the
state prison who had once served him well in a gambling raid and was now
doing a short larceny term there.
"You said you were—"
"I said I was. Yes. But I came back unexpectedly, didn't I?"
"Look at me!"
She raised round and ready-to-be-terrified eyes.
"Murphy was here last night!" he cracked at her,
bang-bang-bang-bang-bang, like so many pistol shots.
"Don't lie. Murphy was here last night! I saw him leave this morning as
I came in."
It was hazard, pure and simple. Not even a wild one, because all
too easily he could kiss down what would be sure to be only her
But there was a cigar stub on the table edge, and certain of her
adjustments of the room when he entered had been rather quick. He could
be like that with her, crazily the slave of who knows what beauty he
found in her; jealous of even an unaccountable inflection in her voice.
There had been unmentionable frenzies of elemental anger between them
and she feared and exulted in these strange poles of his nature.
"Murphy was here last night!"
It had happened, in spite of a caution worthy of a finer finesse than
hers, and suddenly she seemed to realize the quality of her fear for him
to whom she was everything and who to her was not all.
"Don't, Red," she said, all the bars of her pretense down and dodging
from his eyes rather than from any move he made toward her. "Don't, Red.
Don't!" And began to whimper in the unbeautifulness of fear, becoming
strangely smaller as her pallor mounted.
He was as terrible and as swarthy and as melodramatic as Othello.
"Don't, Red," she called still again, and it was as if her voice came to
him from across a bog.
He was standing with one knee dug into the couch, straining her head
back against the wall, his hand on her forehead and the beautiful
flexing arch of her neck rising … swanlike.
"Watch out!" There was a raw nail in the wall where a picture had hung.
Murphy had kept knocking it awry and she had removed it. "Watch out,
Through the star-spangled red he glimpsed her once where the hair swept
off her brow, and for the moment, to his blurred craziness, it was as if
through the red her brow was shotted with little scars and pock marks
from glass, and a hot surge of unaccountable sickness fanned the
enormous silence of his rage.
With or without his knowing it, that raw nail drove slowly home to the
rear of Winnie's left ear, upward toward the cerebellum as he tilted and
tilted, and the convex curve of her neck mounted like a bow stretched
* * * * *
There was little about Jason's trial to entitle it to more than a
back-page paragraph in the dailies. He sat through those days, that
were crisscrossed with prison bars, much like those drowned figures
encountered by deep-sea divers, which, seated upright in death, are
pressed down by the waters of unreality.
It is doubtful if he spoke a hundred words during the lean, celled weeks
of his waiting, and then with a vacuous sort of apathy and solely upon
advice of counsel. Even when he took the stand, undramatically, his
voice, without even a plating of zest for life, was like some old drum
with the parchment too tired to vibrate.
Women, however, cried over him and the storm in his eyes and the
curiously downy back of his neck where the last of his youth still
To Sara, from her place in the first row, on those not infrequent
occasions when his eyes fumbled for hers, he seemed to drown in her
On a Friday at high noon the jury adjourned, the judge charging it with
a solemnity that rang up to wise old rafters and down into one woman's
thirsty soul like life-giving waters.
In part he told the twelve men about to file out, "If there has been
anything in my attitude during the recital of the defendant's story,
which has appeared to you to be in the slightest manner prejudiced one
way or another, I charge you to strike such mistaken impressions from
"I have tried honestly to wash the slate of my mind clean to take down
faithfully the aspects of this case which for two weeks has occupied
"If you believe the defendant guilty of the heinous crime in question,
do not falter in your use of the power with which the law has vested
"If, on the other hand and to the best of your judgment, there has been
in the defendant's life extenuating circumstances, er—a limitation
of environment, home influence, close not the avenues of your fair
"Did this man in the kind of er—a—frenzy he describes and to which
witnesses agree he was subject, deliberately strain back the Ross
woman's head until the nail penetrated?
"If so, remember the law takes knowledge only of self-defense.
"On the other hand, ask of yourselves well, did the defendant, in the
frenzy which he claims had hold of him when he committed this unusual
crime, know that the nail was there?
"Would Winnie Ross have met her death if the nail had not been there?
"Gentlemen, in the name of the law, solemnly and with a fear of God in
your hearts, I charge you."
It was a quick verdict. Three hours and forty minutes.
In the front row there, with the titillating folderols on her bonnet and
her hand at her throat as if she would tear it open for the mystery of
the pain of the heartbeat in it, Sara Turkletaub heard, and, hearing,
swooned into the pit of her pain and her joy.
Her son, with brackets of fatigue out about his mouth, was standing over
her when she opened her eyes, the look of crucifixion close to the front
"Mother," he said, pressing her head close to his robes of state and
holding a throat-straining quiver under his voice, "I—I shouldn't have
let you stay. It was too—much for you."
It took her a moment for the mist to clear.
"I—Son—did somebody strike? Hit? Strange. I—I must have been hurt.
Son, am I bleeding?" And looked down, clasping her hand to the bosom of
her decent black-silk basque.
"Son, I—It was a good verdict, not? I—couldn't have stood it—if—if
it wasn't. I—Something—It was good, not?"
"Yes, mother, yes."
"Don't—don't let that boy get away, son. I think—those tempers—I can
help—him. You see, I know—how to handle—Somehow I—"
"Yes, mother, only now you must sit quietly—"
"Promise me, son, you won't let him get away without I see him?"
"Yes, dear, only please now—a moment—quiet—"
You see, the judge was very tired, and, looking down at the spot where
her hand still lay at her bosom as if to press down a hurt, the red of
her same obsession shook and shook him.
Somehow it seemed to him, too, that her dear heart was bleeding.