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“Well, The Hour does, then. It’s something you owe us if we take you on — see? A beginner . . . Everything’s a question of give and take . . . fair play. Not that I mean . . . of course little O’Fallery may pull off the prize anyhow, with ‘Limp Collars.’ Shouldn’t wonder if he did. His publisher’s hustling round for him—I know that. And we don’t guarantee anything . . . See?”
The last phrase brought a vague reassurance to Vance. Of course they couldn’t guarantee anything . . . of course little O’Fallery might get the prize. Vance had read “Limp Collars,” and thought it well-name nike air max 90 sale d . . . pretty poor stuff. . . . Seemed a pity. . . . Anyhow, he saw with relief that he must have misunderstood Rauch. Of course The Hour wasn’t going to try to corrupt the judges — what an absurdity! They were simply going to direct public opinion: that was what “limelight” meant. Any fellow’s publisher had a right to commend his goods . . . .
Lau nike air max 1 ra Lou had been captivated by a girl who sat near them at the theatre in a peach-coloured silk . . . or lace, or something . . . not a patch on Laura Lou, the girl wasn’t, but even Vance could see there was a look about the dress. . . . His Laura Lou! There wouldn’t be one of ’em could touch her if only he could give her togs like that . . . .
“When she moves, you see
Like water from a crystal overflowed,
Fresh beauty tremble out of her, and lave
Her fair sides to the ground . . .”
He shut his eyes on the vision and thought: “And yet even the ones that look like that want finery!”
“Of course I’d like that prize first-rate,” he mumbled.
“Well, I guess it’s yours — on the merit of the story alone. nike air max 95 Only, our job is to get that merit nike air max 90 known,” Eric Rauch explained patiently, as they rose to get their hats and coats. They walked back together to the office, and before Vance left he had signed the two contracts which lay ready for him on Tarrant’s desk: one surrendering to The Hour all his serial rights for three years, the other pledging him for the same period of time to Dreck and Saltzer for book publication.
On the way downstairs, late in the afternoon, he remembered meeting Frenside coming down the same stairs in the morning, and recalled his warning: “Keep f Cheap Nike Air Max 1 ree.”
“Oh, well,” Vance said to himself, “what’s he made of his life, anyway?” For Frenside already seemed to him as remote as old age and failure. His head was brimming with ideas for his article, and for others to follow, and it was agreed (at his suggestion) that the series should appear under the caption of “The Cocoanut Tree,” in memory of th cheap nike air max e spot where the bargain had been struck. “I want a tree to climb, to get a bird’s-eye view from,” Vance had said, laughing; and Rauch replied that he was sure the title would take Tarrant’s fancy. He pressed a copy of his poems on Vance, and the latter set off, his heart beating high at the thought of announcing to Laura Lou that he was a member of the editorial staff of The Hour, had signed a three years’ contract with a big publisher. “She won’t understand what it’s all about, but it’ll sound good to her,” he thought. And so it did to him.
Laura Lou showed the radiant incomprehension he had foreseen. “Oh, Vance, isn’t it great?” She clung to him and worshipped; then, loosening her arms, drew back and lifted ineffable eyes to his. “Oh, Vanny — ”
He laughed and recaptured her. “Guess you nike air max classic ’re thinking already what show we’ll pick for tonight, aren’t you?” He grew reckless. “And, say, darling, if there’s anything particular you nike air max sale want to buy . . .” He knew there would be no pay till the end of the coming month, but time seemed as negligible as age while she lifted her trembling smile to him.
“Oh, Vanny . . . I wonder, could we go out and buy something to take back to Mother?”
“Sure.” He laughed with relief. Mrs. Tracy’s wants could be more inexpensively supplied than her daughter’s; and besides, he liked Laura Lou’s not instantly asking for something for herself. Then he looked again and noticed a shadow nike air max of anxiety on her radiance. He saw that she WAS asking for something for herself, but inwardly, because she dared not speak it. “What is it, sweet? Anything bothering you?”
Yes, something was: her mother. They’d been gone four days now, she reminded Vance, and Mrs. Tracy didn’t even know where they were, and must have been fretting dreadfully over that letter her daughter had left; and what Laura Lou wanted, oh, cheap nike air max trainers beyond anything, was to start right off for Paul’s Landing — oh, Vance, truly, couldn’t they? — and surprise her mother with the splendid new Cheap Air Max s, and make everything all right that very day. Oh, wouldn’t Vance help her to pack up at once, and maybe they could catch the five o’clock express, and pop in on Mrs. Tracy just as she was clearing away supper?
Their hotel was close to the train, their packing was soon done. Secretly, Vance was relieved by his wife’s suggestion. The rush of his happiness had swept away all resentment against Mrs. Tracy, and he felt obscurely in the wrong in having persuaded Laura Lou to marry without her mother’s knowledge. Only the certainty of Mrs. Tracy’s opposition had made him do so; but he could not shake off his compunction, for he knew her life had been full of disappointments, and that Laura Lou’s flight would be the bitterest. Now it was all different; with his two contracts in his pocket he could face his mother-in-law with head erect. She would surely rather see Laura Lou married to the assistant editor of The Hour than to the barker of a sightseeing car; and if Vance should capture the Pulsifer Prize the Hayes debt would be cancelled at once. They paid in haste and hurried to the station, finding time on the way to select for Mrs. Tracy a black silk bag mounted in imitation amber. “She never has anything pretty,” Laura Lou explained, as if excusing so frivolous a choice; and Vance, remembering the basket of sweet peas with the stuffed dove, mused once more on the mysterious utility of the useless.
Mrs. Tracy’s forgiveness turned out harder to win than they had imagined. When they came on her that evening clearing away her lonely supper, as Laura Lou had predicted, their arrival provoked a burst of tears and an embrace in which Vance managed to get included. But the rousing of Mrs. Tracy’s emotions did not affect her judgment. The exchange of acrimonious letters between Paul’s Landing and Euphoria, at the time when she had ordered Vance out of her house, had sown ineradicable seeds. Even had her son-in-law’s prospects impressed her as much as he had hoped, her view would not have changed; but, as Vance soon perceived, she remained unimpressed by the documents so proudly spread before her. “I guess newspaper work’s more reliable than magazines,” she merely remarked, no doubt mindful of the dizzy heights to which journalism had lifted Bunty Hayes.
But these were secondary considerations; for she now regarded Vance as the corrupter of both her children. Vance had taken Upton to a “bad house” (so Upton, the sneak, had never shouldered his part of the blame!); Vance had made Laura Lou deceive her mother and break her promise to Bunty Hayes, the promise on the strength of which Mrs. Tracy had accepted a loan that it might take years to repay. Vance had wounded her in her pride and her affection; and the double humiliation was not effaced by this vague talk about a review that was going to give him a hundred dollars a piece for articles he hadn’t even written.
“Mr. Hayes wanted she should be brought up like a lady, as her father’s daughter ought to be,” Mrs. Tracy said over and over again, during her first private talk with Vance, on the day after their return to Paul’s Landing.
“She doesn’t have to be in Hayes’s pay to learn to be a lady — I guess God made her that,” Vance retorted. Mrs. Tracy, with a cold patience, said he knew well enough what she meant — she meant, educated like a lady, the way all the Lorburns had been; the way she couldn’t afford to educate her children because of her husband’s misfortunes, and his dying just when things were going against them. . . . Mr. Hayes had understood, and had wanted to help them, and had acted as a gentleman would . . . .
“Well, I guess you can trust me to act as well as he did,” Vance said, too happy not to be generous, and feeling how poor a case he could make out for his own behaviour. But Mrs. Tracy only answered that, whatever she might feel about the matter, Laura Lou was not free to break her engagement till that thousand dollars was paid back.
“Why, see here, there’s been a law in the United States for some years now against trading in flesh and blood,” Vance broke out, his irritation rising again; but the resentment in Mrs. Tracy’s eyes showed him the uselessness of irony.
“I guess I understand well enough how you feel,” he began humbly. “But Laura Lou loved me, and didn’t love Hayes; that’s about the only answer. Anyhow, I’ve told you I mean to pay back that loan as soon as ever I can. I’ve got the promise of a salary of fifteen hundred dollars, and I’m going to get right to work earning it, and as much over it as I can; and every cent I can put by each month will go to paying off Hayes. You couldn’t seriously expect Laura Lou and me to let a thousand dollars separate us, could you?”
Mrs. Tracy replied, obliquely, that she supposed he knew by this time what his own folks intended to do for him; and this brought Vance up with a jerk, for he had not yet told his parents of his marriage. He stood before Mrs. Tracy flushed and irresolute while she added: “I guess a thousand dollars isn’t the mountain to them it is to me. But maybe they don’t fancy your getting married so young.”
“I— I haven’t heard yet,” Vance stammered, and she said, evidently perceiving her advantage, and enjoying the chance to exercise a grim magnanimity: “Well, I guess you and Laura Lou’d better stay here till you hear what your family mean to do.”
Vance and Laura Lou knew she was secretly thankful to have them there. Upton’s new job made it impossible for him to live at Paul’s Landing, and his mother was nervous alone in the house, yet reluctant to leave because of her monthly allowance for the care of the Willows; so that, her resentment once expressed, she found it easier to keep the offenders than to send them away.
Vance, when he carried off Laura Lou, had never thought of the possibility of having to live at Paul’s Landing. Vague visions of life in a New York boarding house had flitted through his mind, or rather lurked scarce-visible on its edge; but till he had persuaded Laura Lou to come to him nothing had seemed real or near at hand save the bliss he craved, and before four days of that bliss were over he understood that he lacked the experience and the money to make any sort of home for her. They were lucky to have Mrs. Tracy to turn to; her conditional forgiveness, and the shelter of her tumbledown roof, were the best they could expect — unless Mapledale Avenue should intervene. But Vance had small expectation of help from home. He had been startled back to a sense of reality by Mrs. Tracy’s question; for he had not meant to conceal his marriage from his parents, but had simply forgotten all about them. From the very moment — less than a fortnight ago — when he had stepped out of the Grand Central and seen Laura Lou in the rubberneck car, he had thought of nothing else — hardly even of his art. The sight of her, the sound of her voice, the touch of her hand had rapt him away from common values and dimensions into that mystic domain to which he sometimes escaped from the pressure of material things. To that domain Laura Lou at the moment held the key, as hitherto great poetry had held it, the sunrise from Thundertop, his first sight of the sea, his plunge into the past in the library at the Willows, or any of the other imaginative shocks that flung open the gates of wonder. But the world to which Laura Lou admitted him seemed to comprise all the others, and it was not till he woke from his first ecstasy that he saw she herself was not an extra-terrestrial joy but a solid earthly fact, capable of apprehending only the earthly bounds out of which her beauty had lifted him. Laura Lou, dispenser of raptures, was merely a human being to be fed, clothed, cherished — what was it the minister had said? — in sickness and in health, till death should them part. And as long as they were together it could be only (to her at least) in the world of food, clothes, salary, sickness or health, prosperity or failure, mothers~in-law or boarding houses. As Vance went up to bed, after a drawn battle in the cold dimly lit dining room with his first “Cocoanut Tree” article, he reflected: “Well, anyway, I know it makes her happy to be back here,” and bent his impetuous neck to the yoke.
At first the yoke proved less heavy than he had expected. While he was at work Laura Lou had her mother’s companionship. During their brief days alone his wife’s tenderness had begun to frighten him, not its ardour but its submissiveness. He had not imagined that one human life could be so swiftly and completely absorbed into another. It was like a blood transfusion: body and soul, he seemed to have taken her into himself; whenever he returned, after an absence of a few hours, only her lovely ghost awaited him, and his presence had to warm her back to life. Now it was different. Her love was quieted by the return to the daily routine in familiar surroundings. She, who had formerly done so little to help her mother, was now eager to share in the household labours; Vance guessed that she was trying to learn how to make a home for him. Already she sternly defended his working hours, and had once or twice reproved Mrs. Tracy for asking him to bring up the coal or clear out the roof gutter. Luckily, if clumsy he was willing, and had no objection to undertaking the tasks which had been Upton’s, if only the women would let him alone while he wrote. This was not very difficult, since he worked in the afternoon and after they had gone to bed; and the first weeks at Paul’s Landing passed peacefully.
One day Upton came over. He had grown broader and stronger, and his new job had given him an air of importance which at first amused and then irritated Vance, to whom he was still the shifty boy of three years ago. Upton did not appear much more pleased with Laura Lou’s marriage than his mother, nor more impressed by Vance’s literary credentials. While the women were in the kitchen he followed Vance back to the dining room, where the latter had been given a corner for his desk and papers, shut the door solemnly, and asked: What about Bunty Hayes? Vance laughed, and said he guessed Bunty Hayes wasn’t going to bother them much, and anyhow he’d had three weeks now to stir things up, and they hadn’t heard from him.
“Oh, but you will,” Upton said, a little apprehensively. “He was in California when Laura Lou and you went off, and I don’t believe he knows anything yet. His job in New York ended after Thanksgiving, and the firm that employs him sent him West to look over some winter and spring routes. I guess he’ll be back any day,” he added.
Vance laughed again. “Well, what do you think he’ll do?” Upton coloured uncomfortably, and said: “I’d feel better if Mother hadn’t taken the money.” Vance rejoined that he would too, but as it had been taken the only thing was to pay it back. He understood Saint Elfrida’s School wouldn’t refund an advance if the pupil had taken part of the course, and he was going to do his best to get the loan paid off as quickly as his earnings permitted. He was getting bored with the subject, and tried to change it, but Upton, scratching his head, insisted dubiously: “I wish’t you could have raised the whole thousand right away. He’s the kind to turn ugly.”
“Oh, I thought he was a friend of yours,” Vance rapped back, exasperated; but Upton answered: “Well, I guess you’d better try and stay friends with him too, if you don’t want him coming round and raising hell.”
Vance would have been angry if he had not seen that Upton, under his commanding manner, was still the scared boy of old. The discovery made him smile, and rejoin: “Well, I guess I’d better get to work right now, and try to earn some money for him,” — at which Upton sulkily withdrew.
Vance became aware, after this, that the only thing to restore his credit with Mrs. Tracy would be the approval of his family. If they were pleased with his marriage they would do something handsome; and the something handsome would help to wipe out the Hayes loan. Vance shared her view, but not her hope; he knew what his family would think. The exchange of acrimonious letters had left traces no less deep in Mapledale Avenue than at Paul’s Landing. His people would regard it as folly for him to marry at his age, and be indignant with him for marrying the Tracy girl after the way the Tracys had treated him. These considerations weighted his pen when he wrote home to announce his marriage; and he was less surprised than Mrs. Tracy at the time which elapsed before he had an answer.
The first sign came from Grandma Scrimser, who sent him a beautiful letter, a Bible, and a year’s subscription to Spirit Light, to which she and her daughter Saidie Toler were now regular contributors. Grandma thought it lovely and brave of him to get married right off. She hoped that Laura Lou was as pretty and high~minded as her mother, when Mrs. Tracy had come out to see them years ago, on her wedding tour, and that Vanny would bring his bride to Euphoria right away, and that their married life would be full of spiritual benedictions.
A few days later Mrs. Weston wrote. She said they had been so taken aback by Vance’s news that they didn’t know what to say. They’d all supposed Vance would have too much pride ever to set foot in Mrs. Tracy’s house again, and now first thing they knew he’d married her daughter, without even telling them, or asking their advice or approval. His father had been so hurt and upset that at first she didn’t know how she’d ever bring him round, and even now he couldn’t make up his mind to write; but she, Mrs. Weston, had finally persuaded him to let her do so, and he had told her to say that if Vance chose to bring his wife out to Euphoria and get a job there, the couple would be welcome to the spare room to live in, and Mr. Weston would see what he could do to get Vance taken back on the Free Speaker, though of course he couldn’t guarantee anything — only Vance might be able to do something if he was on the spot, so Mrs. Weston thought they’d better come out as soon as they could. She added in a postscript that Mr. Weston had showed the terms of Vance’s contract with The Hour to the celebrated authoress, Yula Marphy, who was over from Dakin visiting with friends at Euphoria, and Miss Marphy had said, why it looked to her like a downright swindle, for she could get five hundred dollars any day for a story in the big magazines, and she’d never heard of The Hour anyhow, and she guessed it was one of those highbrow papers that run at a loss for a year or so, and then fizzle out. And what she advised was for Vance to come straight back West, where he belonged, and take up newspaper work again, and write pure manly stories about young fellows prospecting in the Yukon, or that sort of thing, because the big reading public was fed up with descriptions of corrupt society people, like there was a demand for in the East. Mrs. Weston added that his sisters sent him their love, and hoped his marriage would make him very happy; and would he be sure and telegraph when to expect him, as they presumed Mrs. Tracy was still without a telephone?
The sting of this did not escape Vance. The social classifications of Euphoria were based on telephones and bathtubs; but he had already guessed that elsewhere other categories prevailed. His irritation made it easier to answer than if the letter had been more cordial. He wrote that he didn’t suppose his father would seriously advise him, even if he were willing to break his contract, to give up a good opening in New York for a problematic job at Euphoria. He thanked his parents for offering his wife and himself a room, but added that his mother-in-law had already given them a home at Paul’s Landing. And he posted this letter without telling either Mrs. Tracy or Laura Lou that he had heard from his mother. To his grandmother he wrote affectionately; he knew that a Bible and a year’s subscription to Spirit Light were the best she could afford, and the tone of her letter touched him. She was the one human being at Euphoria who had dimly guessed what he was groping for: their souls had brushed wings in the twilight . . . .
The weeks passed. He took his first article — “Coleridge Today” — to The Hour, and Eric Rauch was enthusiastic, but said Vance must tackle a contemporary next time. Rauch suggested his own volume of poems, Voodoo, and Vance reddened and mumbled at the suggestion. The little book had interested and puzzled him; he was surprised to watch, under its modern bluster, so many half-familiar notes. He said he didn’t believe he was ready yet to tackle the new poetry; hadn’t read enough or understood enough of it; Eric Rauch rejoined, with his compelling smile: “Why, that’s just what we’re after for The Hour: a fellow’s first reactions, BEFORE he’s ready. We want to wipe out the past and get a fresh eye on things. We can get standardized reviewing by the bushel.” Vance travelled home heavyhearted, trying on the way to distract his thoughts by thinking up subjects for his next story.
Not subjects: they abounded — swarmed like bees, hummed in his ears like mosquitoes. There were times when he could hardly see the real world for his crowding visions of it. What he sought was rather the development of these visions; to discover where they led to. His imagination worked slowly, except in the moments of burning union with the power that fed it. In the intervals he needed time to brood on his themes, to let them round themselves within him. And he felt also increasingly, as his life widened, how small his provision of experience was. He needed time for himself — time to let his mind ripen, to have things happen to himself, and watch them happen about him, without being in haste to interpret or develop what he saw. He did not want to cut down all his trees for firewood. All this was still confused and unexpressed in him; he felt it most clearly when, after his imagination had seized on a subject and was preparing to plunge to its heart, he was brought up short by inexperience, by his inability to relate the thing he had fastened on to the rest of the world. Experiences, for him, were not separable entities; everything he saw, and took into himself, came with a breaking away of tendrils, a rending of filaments to which the soil of life still clung — and he was familiar, as yet, with so few inches of that soil. The rest was alien territory. He never seemed able to get to the heart of his subjects. . . . And then, when he got out of the train at Paul’s Landing, there was Laura Lou in the winter dusk, a little pinched by the cold, but with eyes of blue fire, lips that burned on his — and he wondered if he hadn’t been meant to be a poet . . . .
Two or three times a week he went up to the office of The Hour. Tarrant would have liked him to come every day; but that would have put an end to his writing. He had never been able to work except in solitude; and besides, the journey back and forth was a clear waste of time and money.
He soon found that even these absences preyed on Laura Lou. She did not reproach him; she simply pined when he was not there. When he got back he had to tell her everything that had happened to him, describe the people he had met, repeat everything that everyone had said or done; and in doing so he measured again her mental limits, and saw that the things which counted for him would never count for her. She smiled them away as oddities, like a wise little wife humouring a cranky husband; and her smile almost made him feel that endearments were enough for a soul to live on. Almost, not quite. From his childhood there had been in him an irreducible core of selfness (he found no other word for it), a hidden cave in which he hoarded his secretest treasures as a child hoards stony dead starfish and dull shells of which he has once seen the sea glitter, though he can make no one else believe in it. Even Laura Lou’s ignorance, even Laura Lou’s embraces, could not cheapen that treasure.
He had been coming and going in this way for about three weeks when one evening, on his return from town, not finding his wife below stairs, he ran up to her. She lay on the bed, asleep, in the attitude of trustful composure which had moved him on their first wedded morning. Near the bed he saw a crumpled paper on the floor. Laura Lou’s sleep was so sound that he picked up the paper and smoothed it out under the lamp without waking her. It was a letter, bearing the address of a drummer’s hotel at Seattle, and it began: “Well, in a few more days now, little sweet, I’ll be back home again, and I guess we’ll have some good times round about Christmas, if Bunty Hayes is the man I take him for. Say, honey, how long do they let you off that school for the holidays . . .?”
Vance read no further. He stood motionless, looking at his wife. She had not told Bunty Hayes; Mrs. Tracy had not told him. Vance saw that both women had been afraid, and pity and wrath struggled in him, the wrath mostly for Mrs. Tracy, the pity — well, yes, the pity for Bunty Hayes. The women hadn’t treated him squarely. . . . Vance let the letter fall where he had found it . . . .
The next day — his last at the office before Christmas — he handed in his article on Eric Rauch’s Voodoo. He wasn’t satisfied with it; he knew it wasn’t good. And he hated it because it was part of what he was expected to do for The Hour in return for the salary he had to have.
Tarrant, evidently, didn’t care for the article either; though he was prepared to do so later, Vance suspected, if good reasons were forthcoming. Vance had already learned that his chief’s opinions were always twenty-four hours late. At first he had thought it was because they matured as slowly as his own; but he had begun to suspect a different reason. Somebody, not always immediately available, did Tarrant’s thinking for him — Vance wondered if it were his wife. He had not had much time to think of Mrs. Tarrant since his encounter with her on the afternoon when she had offered to read Dante with him. He had heard no more of her since; she never came to the office, and he had no time to go and see her, even had the idea occurred to him — which it never did. At most, he thought enviously now and then of the rows and rows of books in the room where she had received him . . . .
“Of course,” Tarrant said, “there are things about it . . . certainly. . . . Only, perhaps . . . well, I see you’re a traditionalist at heart . . . .” He wavered. “Not a bad thing, perhaps . . . the tabula rasa’s getting to be an old story, eh? Well, I don’t deny . . .”
“Somebody asking for Mr. Weston,” a voice came through the door of the editorial retreat. Tarrant looked relieved at not being obliged to commit himself farther, and Vance, surprised at the summons, went back to the outer office.
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