When the two did meet

ad not seen Lewis Tarrant for a long time. Tarrant was at the office less often than formerly; the practical administration of the New Hour was entrusted to Eric Rauch, who ran it according to his own ideas save when his chief, unexpectedly turning up, upset existing arrangements and substituted new plans of his own. This state of things did not escape the notice of the small staff. It was rumouredthatTarrant was losing interest — then again that he was absorbed in the writing of a novel; it was agreed that, in any case, something was wrong with his nerves. Handling Tarrant had always been a gingerly business; Rauch was the only man supple enough to restore his good-humour without yielding to him; and even Rauch (as he told Vance) never knew beforehand whether he was going to pull it off or not. “The trouble is, he’s got enough ideas to run a dozen reviews; and he wants to apply them all to this one poor rag.” The result was that the rag was drooping; and as soon as an enterprise gave the least sign of failure it was Tarrant’s instinct to disclaim all responsibility for it.
His frequent absences had been a relief to Vance. When the two did meet, though usually it was only to exchange a few words, Vance felt unhappy in the other’s presence. To any one less simplehearted it might have been easier to despise the husband of the woman he worshipped than to be on friendly terms with him; but his opinion of Tarrant added to Vance’s general distress of mind. It made him utterly wretched to think of Halo Tarrant’s life being spent with a man for whom she must feel the same contempt that Tarrant excited in him; and since his last talk with her — since she had uttered that “I won’t take a lover while I have a husband” which still filled him with its poignant music — his feeling for her husband had hardened to hatred. His own grievance against Tarrant played little part in this, except insofar as it showed him the kind of man she was chained to; but he wondered bitterly how she could consider the tie binding. In his own case it was different; he was bound to Laura Lou by her helplessness and his own folly, and the bond seemed to him so sacred that he had at once acknowledged the force of Halo’s argument. He knew he could not abandon his wife for the woman he loved; he owned the impossibility and bowed to it. But Halo’s case was different. Tarrant was not an object of pity; and what other feeling could hold her to him?
It was a strange and desperate coil, but one on which his immediate domestic problem left him no time to brood. He was still determined to do all he could to prevent his grandmother from continuing her lecturing tour; even if he could not prevail with her, and she did continue it, he was determined that his wife and he should not live on her earnings. Whatever the alternative might be — and all seemed hopeless — that resolve was fixed in him.
As soon as his grandmother had gone he decided to look up the publisher who had made him such urgent proposals. He carried the hundred dollars up to Laura Lou, and let his heart be warmed for an instant by her cry of surprise, and the assurance that she’d never seen anybody as lovely as his grandmother; then he hurried off on his errand. But at the door he ran into a messenger from the New Hour, with a line from Rauch saying that Tarrant wished to see him about something important. “Better come along as quick as you can,” a postscript added; and Vance unwillingly turned toward the office.
He had not realized till that moment how deeply distasteful it would be to him to see Tarrant again. He had no time to wonder what the object of the summons might be; the mere physical reluctance to stand in the man’s presence overcame all conjecture, filled him to the throat with disgust at being at his orders. “That’s got to end too,” he thought — and then it occurred to him that the Mr. Lambart’s negotiations might have been successful, and that Tarrant, as conscious as himself of the friction between them, had decided to give him his release.
This carried him to the office on lighter feet, and he entered the editorial retreat with a feeling almost of reassurance. It would be hateful, being near Tarrant, seeing him, hearing him — but the ordeal would doubtless soon be over.
Tarrant looked up quickly from his desk: it was one of the days when his face was like a perfectly symmetrical but shuttered housefront. “Sit down,” he sighed; and then: “Look here, Weston, I’m afraid you’ll have to move to some place where I can reach you by telephone. It’s the devil and all trying to get at you; and your hours at the office are so irregular — ”
Vance’s heart sank. That dry even voice was even more detestable to listen to than he had expected. He hardly knew which part of Tarrant’s challenge to answer first; but finally he said, ineffectively: “I can work better away from the office.” This was not true, for he did most of his writing there; but he was too bewildered to remember it.
Tarrant smiled drily. “Well, that remains to be seen. It’s so long since any of your script has been visible here that I’ve no means of knowing how much of the new book you’ve turned out.”
Vance’s blood was up. “I don’t understand. It was with your consent that I dropped the monthly articles to give all my time to my novel — ”
“Oh, just so,” Tarrant interrupted suavely. “And I presume you’ve got along with it fairly well, as I understand you’ve been negotiating privately to sell it to Lambart.”
“It was Lambart who came to me. He offered to fix it up with Dreck and Saltzer. The price I had contracted for with them is so much below what I understand I have a right to expect that I couldn’t afford to refuse.”
“Refuse what? Are you under the impression that you can sell the same book twice over, to two different publishers? You signed a contract some time ago with Dreck and Saltzer for all your literary output for four years — and that contract has over two years more to run. Dreck and Saltzer have asked me for an explanation because it was through me that the New Hour was able to put you in the way of securing a publisher. They’re not used to this way of doing business; neither am I, I confess.”
Vance was silent. The blood was beating angrily in his temples; but, put thus baldly, he could not but feel that his action seemed underhand, if not actually dishonourable. Of course he ought not to have concealed from Tarrant and his publishers that he had authorized Lambart to negotiate for him. He saw clearly that what he had done was open to misconstruction; but his personal antagonism toward Tarrant robbed him of his self-control. “The price I was to get from Dreck and Saltzer wasn’t a living wage — ”
Tarrant leaned back in his chair, and drummed on the desk with long impatient fingers. His hands were bloodless but delicately muscular: he wore a dark red seal ring on his left fourth finger. With those fingers he had pushed back his wife’s hair from the temples, where Vance had so often watched the pulses beat . . . had traced the little blue veins that netted them. . . . Vance’s eyes were blurred with rage.
“Why did you sign the contract if you weren’t satisfied with it?” Tarrant continued, in his carefully restrained voice. It was evident that he was very angry, but that the crude expression of his wrath would have given him no more pleasure than an unskilful stroke gives a good tennis player. His very quietness increased Vance’s sense of inferiority.
“I signed because I was a beginner, because I had to . . . .”
Tarrant paused and stretched his hand toward a cigarette. “Well, you’re a beginner still . . . you’ve got to remember that. . . . You missed the Pulsifer Prize for your short story: for that blunder you’ll agree we’re not responsible; but it did us a lot more harm than it did you. We were counting on the prize to give you a boost, to make you a more valuable asset, as it were. And there was every reason to think you would have got it if you hadn’t tried to extract the money out of Mrs. Pulsifer in advance.” Vance crimsoned, and stammered out: “Oh, see here — ”; but Tarrant ignored the interruption. “After that you dropped doing the monthly articles you’d contracted to supply us with, in order to have more time for this new novel. In short, as far as the New Hour is concerned, ever since the serial publication of Instead came to an end we’ve been, so to speak, keeping you as a luxury.” He paused, lit the cigarette, and proffered the box to Vance, who waved it impatiently aside. “Oh, you understand; we accepted the situation willingly. It has always been our policy to make allowances for the artistic temperament — to give our contributors a free hand. But we rather expect a square deal in return. If any of our authors are dissatisfied we prefer to hear of it from themselves; and so do Dreck and Saltzer. We don’t care to find out from outsiders that the books promised to us — and of which the serial rights are partly paid in advance — are being hawked about in other publishers’ offices without our knowledge. That sort of thing does no good to an author — and a lot of harm to us.” He ended his statement with a slight cough, and paused for Vance’s answer.
Vance was trembling with anger and mortification. He knew that Tarrant had made out a case for himself, and yet that whatever wrong he, Vance, had done in the matter, came out of the initial wrong perpetrated against him by his editor and publisher. But he could not find words in which to put all this consecutively and convincingly. The allusion to his attempt to borrow money from Mrs. Pulsifer, the discovery of her having betrayed the fact, were so sickening that he hardly noticed Tarrant’s cynical avowal that, but for this, they could have captured the prize for him. His head was whirling with confused arguments, but he had sense enough left to reflect: “I mustn’t let go of myself. . . . I must try and look as cool as he does . . . .”
Finally he said: “You say you and Dreck and Saltzer want to be fair to your authors. Wel cheap nike air max l, the contract you advised me to make with them wasn’t a fair one. Instead was a success, and they’ve wriggled out of paying the royalties they’d agreed on on the ground that they’ve lost money on the book because it’s not a full-length novel.”
“But didn’t your contract with them specify that the scale of royalties that you accepted applied only to a full-length novel?”
“Well, I suppose it did. I guess I didn’t read it very carefully. But they must have made a lot more money on Instead than they expected.”
Tarrant leaned back in his chair and laid his fingertips together, with the gently argumentative air of one who reasons with the unreasonable. “My dear Weston,” he began; and Vance winced at the apostrophe. All authors, Tarrant went on — young authors, that is — thought there was nothing easier than to decide exactly how much money their editors and publishers were making out of them. And they always worked out the account to their own disadvantage — naturally. In reality it wasn’t as simple as that, and editors and publishers often stood to lose the very sums the authors accused them of raking in. A book might have a lot of fuss made about it in a small circle — Instead was just such a case — and yet you couldn’t get the big public to buy it. And unluckily it was only the favour of the big public that made a book pay. As a matter of fact, Instead was a loss to Dreck and Saltzer. If Weston would write another book just like it, but of the proper length, very likely they’d make up their deficit on that; a highbrow success on a first book often helped the sales of the next, provided it was the right length. Dreck and Saltzer knew this, and though they were actually out of pocket they were ready to have another try. . . . Publishing was just one long gamble. . . . And perhaps it wasn’t unfair to remind Weston that, both to the New Hour and to Dreck and Saltzer, he’d so far been, from the business point of view, rather a heavy load to carry . . . .
Vance had controlled himself by a violent effort of the will; nike air max but at this summing-up of the case he broke out. “Well, I daresay I have — but why not let me off our contract, if it’s been as much of a disappointment to you as to me?”
Tarrant’s slow blood rose to his cheeks. “I’m curious to know why you consider yourself disappointed.”
“Why, for the reasons I’ve told you. My articles haven’t been a success — I know that as well as you. But my book has, and under our agreement it’s brought me no more than if it had been a failure. I can’t live, and keep nike air max 1 my wife alive, on the salary you give me, and if you’ll let me off I can earn three times the money tomorrow.”
Tarrant was silent. He began to drum again on the desk, and the dull red of anger still coloured his pale skin. “My dear fellow, you’ve had plenty of opportunities to complain to me of our contract, and it never seems to have occurred to you to do so till that pirate Lambart came along. Even then, if you’d come straight to me and stated your case frankly, I don’t say . . . But I’m not in the habit of letting my contributors be bribed away behind my back, and neither are Dreck and Saltzer. You signed a contract with us, and that contract holds.”
“Why do you want it to hold?”
Tarrant continued his nervous drumming. “That’s our own business.”
“Well, if you won’t answer, I’ll answer for you. It’s because I’ve given you one success at a bargain, and you feel you may miss another if you set me free. And it pays you to hang on to me on that chance.”
Tarrant’s lips moved slow Nike Air Max ly before his answer became audible. “Yes — I suppose that’s the view certain people might take. . . . It’s one that doesn’t enter into our way of doing business. Besides, before knowing whether the chance you speak of was worth gambling on, as you assert, I should have had to see the book you’re at work on now; it doesn’t always happen that beginners follow up a first success with a second. Rather the other way round.”
“Then why won’t you let me go?”
Tarrant, instead of replying, lit another cigarette, puffed at it for a moment, and then said: “By the way, is your manuscript here?”
“I should like to have a look at it . . . only for an hour or two. So far I haven’t much idea of what it’s about.”
Vance pulled the manuscript out of his pocket. “If you don’t like it, will you let me off?” he repeated doggedly.
“No, certainly not. I shall ask you to make an effort to give us something more satisfactory, as I have every right to.”
There was another pause. The air between the two men seemed to Vance to become suddenly rarefied, as if nothing intervened to deflect the swift currents of their antagonism.
“You won’t like it,” Vance insisted with white lips.
“I daresay not. No doub nike air max classic t you’ve seen to that.”
The sneer struck Vance like a blow. He felt powerless with wrath and humiliation.
“It’s no use your reading it anyhow,” he exclaimed, no longer knowing what he was saying. He leaned across the desk, snatched up the pages, and tore them to bits before Tarrant’s astonished eyes. He could not stop tearing — it seemed as if the bits would never be small enough to ensure the complete annihilation of his work.
He was conscious that Tarrant, after the first shock of surprise, was watching him with a sort of cold disgust; and also that, when the work of destruction was over, their relative situations would be exactly what they had been before. But thi nike air max sale s cool appreciation of the case was far below the surface of his emotions. He could not resist the sombre physical satisfaction of destroying under that man’s eyes what he had made . . . .
The last scrap dropped to the floor, and Tarrant said quietly: “I’m afraid now you’ll have to send round and get the copy you have at home.”
“I’ve no other copy,” Vance retorted.
“That’s a pity. You’ve given yourself a lot of unnecessary work — and I’m damned if I see why. What’s the sense of having to begin the thing all ov nike air max 90 er again?”
“I shall never begin it over again.”
“Well, if you weren’t satisfied with it, or thought it wouldn’t suit our purpose, I daresay you’re right. But in that case I’ll have to ask you to buckle down and turn out something else in the shortest possible time. We’ve been a good many months now without getting any return for our money . . . .”
“I shall never write anything for you again,” said Vance slowly.
Tarrant did not speak for a moment or two. His colour had faded to its usual ivory-like sallowness, and the furrow deepened between his ironically lifted eyebrows. He had the immense advantage over his antagonist that anger made him cold instead of hot.
“Never? You’d better think that over, hadn’t you? You understand, of course, that your not writing for us won’t set you free to write for anybody else till the four years are over.”
Vance looked at him with something of the other’s own chill contempt. His wrath had dropped; he felt only immeasurably repelled.
“You mean, then,” he said, “that even if I don’t wr nike air max 90 sale ite another line for you you’ll hold onto me?”
“I’m afraid you’ve left me no alternative,” Tarrant answered coldly. He rang the bell on his desk, and said to the office boy who appeared: “Clear up those papers, will you?”
In the street Vance drew a long breath. He did not know what would happen next — could not see a fraction of an inch into the future. But in destroying the first chapter cheap nike air max s of Loot he felt as if he had torn the claws of an incubus out of his flesh. He had no idea that he had hated the book so much — or was it only Tarrant he was hating when he thought of it? He flung on, flushed, defiant. He felt like a balloonist who has thrown out all his ballast: extraordinarily light and irresponsible, he bounded up toward the zenith . . . .
As he turned the corner of his street he came upon a pedlar beating his horse. Horses were rare nowadays in New York streets, pedlars almost obsolete; but in this forgotten district both were still occasionally to be seen. . . . Vance stopped and looked at the load and the horse. The load was not very heavy: the horse was thin but not incapable of effort. He was not struggling against an overload, but simply balking Cheap Air Max , thrusting his shabby forelegs obstinately against the asphalt. Unknown to his driver, something was offending or torturing him somewhere — he had the lifted lip and wild-rolling eye of a horse in pictures of battlefields. And the human fool stood there stupidly belabouring him. . . . Vance’s anger leapt up. “Here, you damned fool, let that horse alone, will you . . . .”
The man, astonished and then furious, cursed back copiously in Italian and struck the horse again. “Ah, that’s it, is it?” Vance shouted. He caught the man by the arm, and remembering his Dante, cried out joyously: “Lasciate ogni speranza!” as he fell on him. The tussle was brief. He struck the whip out of the pedlar’s hand, punched him in the face, and nike air max 95 then, seeing the loafers assembling, and a policeman in the distance, suddenly remembered that it was Tarrant he had been thrashing, and shamefacedly darted away down the street to the shelter of Mrs. Hubbard’s door.
Chapter 40
It was one of Tarrant’s accomplishments to be able to go imperturbably through a scene where his advantage depended on his keeping his temper; but it was one of his weaknesses to collapse afterward, his overtaxed self-control abandoning him to womanish tremors, damp hands, and brittle nerves.
When he turned up that evening, his wife knew at once that he was in the throes of one of these reactio Cheap Nike Air Max 1 ns. Something had gone wrong again at the office. Of late, on such occasions, he had taken to seeking comfort in the society of Mrs. Pulsifer. Halo knew this and was faintly amused. She knew also that he was losing interest in the New Hour because it had not succeeded as he had hoped, and that he had begun to write a novel — probably under Mrs. Pulsifer’s inspiration. An important Pulsifer Prize for First Novels w cheap nike air max trainers as to be added to the one already established for the Best Short Story; and it was like Tarrant, to whom the money was utterly indifferent, to be tempted to compete for the sake of publicity. His restless vanity could never find sufficient pasturage, and as the years passed without the name of Lewis Tarrant becoming a household word on two continents (or even figuring in the English Who’s Who), his wife noticed that his appetite for praise grew coarser.
All this Halo marked with the lucid second sight of married experience. As long as she had continued to be fond of her husband she had seen him incompletely and confusedly; but under the X ray of her settled indifference every muscle and articulation had become visible. At times she was almost frightened by the accuracy with which she could calculate the movements of his mind and plot out his inevitable course of action. Because really she no longer cared to do so. . . . She would have been glad enough to impart the unneeded gift to Mrs. Pulsifer; and one day when Mrs. Spear, after various tentative approaches, had put a maternal arm about her and asked ever so gently: “Darling, has it never occurred to you that Lewis is being seen about rather too much with Jet Pulsifer?” Halo had burst into hysterical laughter, and caught her bewildered parent to her bosom . . . .
But no. There was no escape that way. Lewis still needed her, and she knew it. Mrs. Pulsifer ministered to his thirsting egotism, but Halo managed his life for him, and that was even more important. Some day, perhaps . . . But she shook off the insinuating vision. Penny by penny, hour by hour, she was still paying back the debt she had assumed when she found out that, all through his courtship, her family had been secretly and shamelessly borrowing from him. And since then the debt had gone on increasing much faster than she could possibly reduce it. The comfort he had given to Mr. and Mrs. Spear since he had become their son-in-law, the peace and security assured to them by his lavish allowance — how many years of wifely devotion and fidelity would it take to wipe out such a score?
Musing fruitlessly on these things she sat alone, waiting for her husband to join her and go in to dinner. She had refused several invitations for that evening, thinking that Lewis would probably dine out (as he did nowadays on most nights), and hoping rather absurdly that Vance Weston might come in and see her . . . .
The poor boy must have calmed down by this time; it would be safe to see him; and she was eager to hear more of the novel. Her sympathy with him, she told herself again and again, was all intellectual; she was passionately in love with his mind. It was a pity that he had not understood this; had tried to mix up “the other thing” with their intellectual ardours. And yet — no, certainly, she did not want him to make love to her; but would it not have mortified her to be treated forever like a disembodied intelligence? She had to confess to herself that she could not wish undone that foolish scene of the other evening . . . that the incident in it she most obstinately remembered was his despairing boy’s cry: “I want to kiss you . . . .”
Oh, but what folly! Of course, if she was really to help him with his work, all those other ideas must be put aside and forgotten. And she did so want to help him; it was her greatest longing, the need of her blood. The thought of it fed her lonely hours, filled her empty life — or nearly filled it. And she hoped he would feel the same longing, the same urgent necessity, and would come back to her soon for more companionship, more encouragement. . . . Perhaps she had not encouraged him enough, that last evening, about his work, that is. It was well to remember that authors, even the least fatuous and the most intelligent of them, were nervous, irritable, self-conscious: the slightest unfavourable criticism flayed them alive. In that respect certainly (she smiled) Tarrant seemed qualified to join the brotherhood. But poor Vance’s sensitiveness was of a different kind, the result of inexperience and humility. Under it she always felt an inarticulate awareness of his powers; his doubts, she was sure, concerned only his aptitude for giving those powers full expression. She could almost picture him, in some glorious phase of future achievement, flinging down his pen to cry out like a great predecessor: “My God, but this is genius —!”
She was thus softly pondering, in a mood of moral beatitude, when Tarrant turned up with his usual nervous: “I’m not late, am I? Well, put off dinner a few minutes, will you?” And now here he was again, fresh from his dressing room, brushed, glossy, physically renovated, but nervously on edge and obviously in need of consolation. . . . Goodbye to her moral beatitude!
Since their one quarrel about Vance Weston — the quarrel which had resulted in Halo’s deciding not to accompany her husband to Europe — the young man’s name had seldom figured in their talk. The unexpected success of Instead had been balm to Tarrant’s editorial vanity, and Halo had not suspected that there had been a subsequent difference between the two men till the evening, a few months previously, when Vance had told her of his asking Tarrant to raise his salary or annul their contract. She had suffered bitterly on hearing of this, but she had suffered in silence. She could not give Vance the clandestine help she would have wished to; she had neither money of her own, nor means of raising any. And she knew it would only injure him if she betrayed his confession and appealed to her husband’s generosity. Tarrant had no generosity of that kind; he would simply have said: “I suppose he’s been trying to borrow of YOU now, after failing to pull it off with Mrs. Pulsifer”; and if he had said that she thought she would have got up and walked out of his house — forever.
No; that was not the way to help Vance. Her only intervention on his behalf had been a failure. All she could do was to hold her tongue, and do what she could to contribute to the success of his new book. It flattered her (far more than she knew) to feel that in that way she really could be of use to him. To be his Muse, his inspiration — then there really was some meaning in the stale old image! She knew she had had a real share in the making of Instead, and she wore the secret knowledge like a jewel . . . .
“Well? — ” she questioned her husband, when they had returned to the library after dinner. She knew it was necessary for his digestion (an uncertain function) that he should unburden himself of the grievance she read in every look and intonation. And sometimes, when she rendered him this service, she felt as impersonal as a sick nurse smoothing out a fractious invalid.
Tarrant gave his short retrospective laugh — like the scratch of a match throwing back a brief flare on his grievance. “Oh, it’s only your protégé again — ”
She felt a little shiver of apprehension. Usually a cool harmony reigned between Tarrant and herself. Since the day of her great outburst, when she had refused to accompany him to Europe, she had carefully avoided anything approaching a disagreement. She had learned her lesson that day; and futile wrangles were humiliating to her. But whenever Vance Weston’s name was pronounced between them the air seemed to become electric. Was it her husband’s fault or hers? She was always on the alert to defend Vance, she hardly knew from what. Or was it herself she was defending . . .?
“What protégé?” she asked carelessly.
“I didn’t know you had more than one. Weston, of course — yes, he’s been treating me to another of his scenes. Really, the fellow’s not housebroken. And a sneak too . . . can’t run straight . . . .”
“Dirty sneak. He’s after more money, as usual, and he’s been trying to get Lambart to buy his book from Dreck and Saltzer without first consulting me. Buy up our double contract with him . . . behind my back! But women can never see the enormity of these things . . . .”
He paused, and stirred his coffee angrily. “I daresay you see nothing in it,” he challenged her.

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