Meet us on:
Welcome to Read Print! Sign in with
or
to get started!
 
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet."
     

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Head and Shoulders

    by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • Rate it:
    Launch Reading Mode
    In 1915 Horace Tarbox was thirteen years old. In that year he
    took the examinations for entrance to Princeton University and
    received the Grade A--excellent--in Caesar, Cicero, Vergil,
    Xenophon, Homer, Algebra, Plane Geometry, Solid Geometry, and
    Chemistry.

    Two years later while George M. Cohan was composing "Over There,"
    Horace was leading the sophomore class by several lengths and
    digging out theses on "The Syllogism as an Obsolete Scholastic
    Form," and during the battle of Chateau-Thierry he was sitting at
    his desk deciding whether or not to wait until his seventeenth
    birthday before beginning his series of essays on "The Pragmatic
    Bias of the New Realists."

    After a while some newsboy told him that the war was over, and he
    was glad, because it meant that Peat Brothers, publishers, would
    get out their new edition of "Spinoza's Improvement of the
    Understanding." Wars were all very well in their way, made young
    men self-reliant or something but Horace felt that he could never
    forgive the President for allowing a brass band to play under
    his window the night of the false armistice, causing him to leave
    three important sentences out of his thesis on "German
    Idealism."

    The next year he went up to Yale to take his degree as Master of
    Arts.

    He was seventeen then, tall and slender, with near-sighted gray
    eyes and an air of keeping himself utterly detached from the mere
    words he let drop.

    "I never feel as though I'm talking to him," expostulated
    Professor Dillinger to a sympathetic colleague. "He makes me feel
    as though I were talking to his representative. I always expect
    him to say: 'Well, I'll ask myself and find out.'"

    And then, just as nonchalantly as though Horace Tarbox had been
    Mr. Beef the butcher or Mr. Hat the haberdasher, life reached in,
    seized him, handled him, stretched him, and unrolled him like a
    piece of Irish lace on a Saturday-afternoon bargain-counter.

    To move in the literary fashion I should say that this was all
    because when way back in colonial days the hardy pioneers had
    come to a bald place in Connecticut and asked of each other,
    "Now, what shall we build here?" the hardiest one among 'em had
    answered: "Let's build a town where theatrical managers can try
    out musical comedies!" How afterward they founded Yale College
    there, to try the musical comedies on, is a story every one
    knows. At any rate one December, "Home James" opened at the
    Shubert, and all the students encored Marcia Meadow, who sang a
    song about the Blundering Blimp in the first act and did a shaky,
    shivery, celebrated dance in the last.

    Marcia was nineteen. She didn't have wings, but audiences agreed
    generally that she didn't need them. She was a blonde by natural
    pigment, and she wore no paint on the streets at high noon.
    Outside of that she was no better than most women.

    It was Charlie Moon who promised her five thousand Pall Malls if
    she would pay a call on Horace Tarbox, prodigy extraordinary.
    Charlie was a senior in Sheffield, and he and Horace were first
    cousins. They liked and pitied each other.

    Horace had been particularly busy that night. The failure of the
    Frenchman Laurier to appreciate the significance of the new
    realists was preying on his mind. In fact, his only reaction to a
    low, clear-cut rap at his study was to make him speculate as to
    whether any rap would have actual existence without an ear there
    to hear it. He fancied he was verging more and more toward
    pragmatism. But at that moment, though he did not know it, he was
    verging with astounding rapidity toward something quite
    different.

    The rap sounded--three seconds leaked by--the rap sounded.

    "Come in," muttered Horace automatically.

    He heard the door open and then close, but, bent over his book in
    the big armchair before the fire, he did not look up.

    "Leave it on the bed in the other room," he said absently.

    "Leave what on the bed in the other room?"

    Marcia Meadow had to talk her songs, but her speaking voice was
    like byplay on a harp.

    "The laundry."

    "I can't."

    Horace stirred impatiently in his chair.

    "Why can't you?"

    "Why, because I haven't got it."

    "Hm!" he replied testily. "Suppose you go back and get it."

    Across the fire from Horace was another easychair. He was
    accustomed to change to it in the course of an evening by way of
    exercise and variety. One chair he called Berkeley, the other he
    called Hume. He suddenly heard a sound as of a rustling,
    diaphanous form sinking into Hume. He glanced up.

    "Well," said Marcia with the sweet smile she used in Act Two
    ("Oh, so the Duke liked my dancing!") "Well, Omar Khayyam, here I
    am beside you singing in the wilderness."

    Horace stared at her dazedly. The momentary suspicion came to him
    that she existed there only as a phantom of his imagination.
    Women didn't come into men's rooms and sink into men's Humes.
    Women brought laundry and took your seat in the street-car and
    married you later on when you were old enough to know fetters.

    This woman had clearly materialized out of Hume. The very froth
    of her brown gauzy dress was art emanation from Hume's leather
    arm there! If he looked long enough he would see Hume right
    through her and then be would be alone again in the room. He
    passed his fist across his eyes. He really must take up those
    trapeze exercises again.

    "For Pete's sake, don't look so critical!" objected the emanation
    pleasantly. "I feel as if you were going to wish me away with
    that patent dome of yours. And then there wouldn't be anything
    left of me except my shadow in your eyes."

    Horace coughed. Coughing was one of his two gestures. When he
    talked you forgot he had a body at all. It was like hearing a
    phonograph record by a singer who had been dead a long time.

    "What do you want?" he asked.

    "I want them letters," whined Marcia melodramatically--"them
    letters of mine you bought from my grandsire in 1881."

    Horace considered.

    "I haven't got your letters," he said evenly. "I am only
    seventeen years old. My father was not born until March 3, 1879.
    You evidently have me confused with some one else."

    "You're only seventeen?" repeated March suspiciously.

    "Only seventeen."

    "I knew a girl," said Marcia reminiscently, "who went on the
    ten-twenty-thirty when she was sixteen. She was so stuck on
    herself that she could never say 'sixteen' without putting the
    'only' before it. We got to calling her 'Only Jessie.' And she's
    just where she was when she started--only worse. 'Only' is a bad
    habit, Omar--it sounds like an alibi."

    "My name is not Omar."

    "I know," agreed Marcia, nodding--"your name's Horace. I just
    call you Omar because you remind me of a smoked cigarette."

    "And I haven't your letters. I doubt if I've ever met your
    grandfather. In fact, I think it very improbable that you
    yourself were alive in 1881."

    Marcia stared at him in wonder.

    "Me--1881? Why sure! I was second-line stuff when the Florodora
    Sextette was still in the convent. I was the original nurse to
    Mrs. Sol Smith's Juliette. Why, Omar, I was a canteen singer
    during the War of 1812."

    Horace's mind made a sudden successful leap, and he grinned.

    "Did Charlie Moon put you up to this?"

    Marcia regarded him inscrutably.

    "Who's Charlie Moon? "

    "Small--wide nostrils--big ears."

    She grew several inches and sniffed.

    "I'm not in the habit of noticing my friends' nostrils.

    "Then it was Charlie?"

    Marcia bit her lip--and then yawned. "Oh, let's change the
    subject, Omar. I'll pull a snore in this chair in a minute."

    "Yes," replied Horace gravely, "Hume has often been considered
    soporific---"

    "Who's your friend--and will he die?"

    Then of a sudden Horace Tarbox rose slenderly and began to pace
    the room with his hands in his pockets. This was his other
    gesture.

    "I don't care for this," he said as if he were talking to
    himself--"at all. Not that I mind your being here--I don't.
    You're quite a pretty little thing, but I don't like Charlie
    Moon's sending you up here. Am I a laboratory experiment on which
    the janitors as well as the chemists can make experiments? Is my
    intellectual development humorous in any way? Do I look like the
    pictures of the little Boston boy in the comic magazines? Has
    that callow ass, Moon, with his eternal tales about his week in
    Paris, any right to---"

    "No," interrupted Marcia emphatically. "And you're a sweet boy.
    Come here and kiss me."

    Horace stopped quickly in front of her.

    "Why do you want me to kiss you?" he asked intently, "Do you just
    go round kissing people?"

    "Why, yes," admitted Marcia, unruffled. "'At's all life is. Just
    going round kissing people."

    "Well," replied Horace emphatically, "I must say your ideas are
    horribly garbled! In the first place life isn't just that, and in
    the second place. I won't kiss you. It might get to be a habit
    and I can't get rid of habits. This year I've got in the habit of
    lolling in bed until seven-thirty---"

    Marcia nodded understandingly.

    "Do you ever have any fun?" she asked.

    "What do you mean by fun?"

    "See here," said Marcia sternly, "I like you, Omar, but I wish
    you'd talk as if you had a line on what you were saying. You
    sound as if you were gargling a lot of words in your mouth and
    lost a bet every time you spilled a few. I asked you if you ever
    had any fun."

    Horace shook his head.

    "Later, perhaps," he answered. "You see I'm a plan. I'm an
    experiment. I don't say that I don't get tired of it sometimes--I
    do. Yet--oh, I can't explain! But what you and Charlie Moon call
    fun wouldn't be fun to me."

    "Please explain."

    Horace stared at her, started to speak and then, changing his
    mind, resumed his walk. After an unsuccessful attempt to
    determine whether or not he was looking at her Marcia smiled at
    him.

    "Please explain."

    Horace turned.

    "If I do, will you promise to tell Charlie Moon that I wasn't
    in?"

    "Uh-uh."

    "Very well, then. Here's my history: I was a 'why' child. I
    wanted to see the wheels go round. My father was a young
    economics professor at Princeton. He brought me up on the system
    of answering every question I asked him to the best of his
    ability. My response to that gave him the idea of making an
    experiment in precocity. To aid in the massacre I had ear
    trouble--seven operations between the age of nine and twelve. Of
    course this kept me apart from other boys and made me ripe for
    forcing. Anyway, while my generation was laboring through Uncle
    Remus I was honestly enjoying Catullus in the original.

    "I passed off my college examinations when I was thirteen because
    I couldn't help it. My chief associates were professors, and I
    took a tremendous pride in knowing that I had a fine
    intelligence, for though I was unusually gifted I was not
    abnormal in other ways. When I was sixteen I got tired of being a
    freak; I decided that some one had made a bad mistake. Still as
    I'd gone that far I concluded to finish it up by taking my degree
    of Master of Arts. My chief interest in life is the study of
    modern philosophy. I am a realist of the School of Anton
    Laurier--with Bergsonian trimmings--and I'll be eighteen years
    old in two months. That's all."

    "Whew!" exclaimed Marcia. "That's enough! You do a neat job with
    the parts of speech."

    "Satisfied?"

    "No, you haven't kissed me."

    "It's not in my programme," demurred Horace. "Understand that I
    don't pretend to be above physical things. They have their place,
    but---"

    "Oh, don't be so darned reasonable!"

    "I can't help it."

    "I hate these slot-machine people."

    "I assure you I---" began Horace.

    "Oh shut up!"

    "My own rationality---"

    "I didn't say anything about your nationality. You're Amuricun,
    ar'n't you?"

    "Yes."

    "Well, that's O.K. with me. I got a notion I want to see you do
    something that isn't in your highbrow programme. I want to see if
    a what-ch-call-em with Brazilian trimmings--that thing you said
    you were--can be a little human."

    Horace shook his head again.

    "I won't kiss you."

    "My life is blighted," muttered Marcia tragically. "I'm a beaten
    woman. I'll go through life without ever having a kiss with
    Brazilian trimmings." She sighed. "Anyways, Omar, will you come
    and see my show?"

    "What show?"

    "I'm a wicked actress from 'Home James'!"

    "Light opera?"

    "Yes--at a stretch. One of the characters is a Brazilian
    rice-planter. That might interest you."

    "I saw 'The Bohemian Girl' once," reflected Horace aloud. "I
    enjoyed it--to some extent---"

    "Then you'll come?"

    "Well, I'm--I'm---"

    "Oh, I know--you've got to run down to Brazil for the week-end."

    "Not at all. I'd be delighted to come---"

    Marcia clapped her hands.

    "Goodyforyou! I'll mail you a ticket--Thursday night?"

    "Why, I---"

    "Good! Thursday night it is."

    She stood up and walking close to him laid both hands on his
    shoulders.

    "I like you, Omar. I'm sorry I tried to kid you. I thought you'd
    be sort of frozen, but you're a nice boy."

    He eyed her sardonically.

    "I'm several thousand generations older than you are."

    "You carry your age well."

    They shook hands gravely.

    "My name's Marcia Meadow," she said emphatically. "'Member it--
    Marcia Meadow. And I won't tell Charlie Moon you were in."

    An instant later as she was skimming down the last flight of
    stairs three at a time she heard a voice call over the upper
    banister: "Oh, say---"

    She stopped and looked up--made out a vague form leaning over.

    "Oh, say!" called the prodigy again. "Can you hear me?"

    "Here's your connection Omar."

    "I hope I haven't given you the impression that I consider
    kissing intrinsically irrational."

    "Impression? Why, you didn't even give me the kiss! Never
    fret--so long.

    Two doors near her opened curiously at the sound of a feminine
    voice. A tentative cough sounded from above. Gathering her
    skirts, Marcia dived wildly down the last flight, and was
    swallowed up in the murky Connecticut air outside.

    Up-stairs Horace paced the floor of his study. From time to time
    he glanced toward Berkeley waiting there in suave dark-red
    reputability, an open book lying suggestively on his cushions.
    And then he found that his circuit of the floor was bringing him
    each time nearer to Hume. There was something about Hume that was
    strangely and inexpressibly different. The diaphanous form still
    seemed hovering near, and had Horace sat there he would have
    felt as if he were sitting on a lady's lap. And though Horace
    couldn't have named the quality of difference, there was such a
    quality--quite intangible to the speculative mind, but real,
    nevertheless. Hume was radiating something that in all the two
    hundred years of his influence he had never radiated before.

    Hume was radiating attar of roses.

    II

    On Thursday night Horace Tarbox sat in an aisle seat in the fifth
    row and witnessed "Home James." Oddly enough he found that he
    was enjoying himself. The cynical students near him were annoyed
    at his audible appreciation of time-honored jokes in the
    Hammerstein tradition. But Horace was waiting with anxiety for
    Marcia Meadow singing her song about a Jazz-bound Blundering
    Blimp. When she did appear, radiant under a floppity flower-faced
    hat, a warm glow settled over him, and when the song was over he
    did not join in the storm of applause. He felt somewhat numb.

    In the intermission after the second act an usher materialized
    beside him, demanded to know if he were Mr. Tarbox, and then
    handed him a note written in a round adolescent band. Horace read
    it in some confusion, while the usher lingered with withering
    patience in the aisle.

    "Dear 0mar: After the show I always grow an awful hunger. If you
    want to satisfy it for me in the Taft Grill just communicate your
    answer to the big-timber guide that brought this and oblige.
    Your friend,
    Marcia Meadow."

    "Tell her,"--he coughed--"tell her that it will be quite all
    right. I'll meet her in front of the theatre."

    The big-timber guide smiled arrogantly.

    "I giss she meant for you to come roun' t' the stage door."

    "Where--where is it?"

    "Ou'side. Tunayulef. Down ee alley."

    "What?"

    "Ou'side. Turn to y' left! Down ee alley!"

    The arrogant person withdrew. A freshman behind Horace snickered.

    Then half an hour later, sitting in the Taft Grill opposite the
    hair that was yellow by natural pigment, the prodigy was saying
    an odd thing.

    "Do you have to do that dance in the last act?" he was asking
    earnestly--"I mean, would they dismiss you if you refused to do it?"

    Marcia grinned.

    "It's fun to do it. I like to do it."

    And then Horace came out with a FAUX PAS.

    "I should think you'd detest it," he remarked succinctly. "The
    people behind me were making remarks about your bosom."

    Marcia blushed fiery red.

    "I can't help that," she said quickly. "The dance to me is only
    a sort of acrobatic stunt. Lord, it's hard enough to do! I rub
    liniment into my shoulders for an hour every night."

    "Do you have--fun while you're on the stage?"

    "Uh-huh--sure! I got in the habit of having people look at me,
    Omar, and I like it."

    "Hm!" Horace sank into a brownish study.

    "How's the Brazilian trimmings?"

    "Hm!" repeated Horace, and then after a pause: "Where does the
    play go from here?"

    "New York."

    "For how long?"

    "All depends. Winter--maybe."

    "Oh!"

    "Coming up to lay eyes on me, Omar, or aren't you int'rested?
    Not as nice here, is it, as it was up in your room? I wish we
    was there now."

    "I feel idiotic in this place," confessed Horace, looking round
    him nervously.

    "Too bad! We got along pretty well."

    At this he looked suddenly so melancholy that she changed her
    tone, and reaching over patted his hand.

    "Ever take an actress out to supper before?"

    "No," said Horace miserably, "and I never will again. I don't
    know why I came to-night. Here under all these lights and with
    all these people laughing and chattering I feel completely out
    of my sphere. I don't know what to talk to you about."

    "We'll talk about me. We talked about you last time."

    "Very well."

    "Well, my name really is Meadow, but my first name isn't Marcia--
    it's Veronica. I'm nineteen. Question--how did the girl make
    her leap to the footlights? Answer--she was born in Passaic, New
    Jersey, and up to a year ago she got the right to breathe by
    pushing Nabiscoes in Marcel's tea-room in Trenton. She started
    going with a guy named Robbins, a singer in the Trent House
    cabaret, and he got her to try a song and dance with him one
    evening. In a month we were filling the supper-room every night.
    Then we went to New York with meet-my-friend letters thick as a
    pile of napkins.

    "In two days we landed a job at Divinerries', and I learned to
    shimmy from a kid at the Palais Royal. We stayed at Divinerries'
    six months until one night Peter Boyce Wendell, the columnist,
    ate his milk-toast there. Next morning a poem about Marvellous
    Marcia came out in his newspaper, and within two days I had
    three vaudeville offers and a chance at the Midnight Frolic. I
    wrote Wendell a thank-you letter, and he printed it in his
    column--said that the style was like Carlyle's, only more
    rugged and that I ought to quit dancing and do North American
    literature. This got me a coupla more vaudeville offers and a
    chance as an ingenue in a regular show. I took it--and here I
    am, Omar."

    When she finished they sat for a moment in silence she draping
    the last skeins of a Welsh rabbit on her fork and waiting for
    him to speak.

    "Let's get out of here," he said suddenly.

    Marcia's eyes hardened.

    "What's the idea? Am I making you sick?"

    "No, but I don't like it here. I don't like to be sitting here
    with you."

    Without another word Marcia signalled for the waiter.

    "What's the check?" she demanded briskly "My part--the rabbit
    and the ginger ale."

    Horace watched blankly as the waiter figured it.

    "See here," he began, "I intended to pay for yours too. You're
    my guest."

    With a half-sigh Marcia rose from the table and walked from the
    room. Horace, his face a document in bewilderment, laid a bill
    down and followed her out, up the stairs and into the lobby. He
    overtook her in front of the elevator and they faced each other.

    "See here," he repeated "You're my guest. Have I said something to
    offend you?"

    After an instant of wonder Marcia's eyes softened.

    "You're a rude fella!" she said slowly. "Don't you know you're
    rude?"

    "I can't help it," said Horace with a directness she found quite
    disarming. "You know I like you."

    "You said you didn't like being with me."

    "I didn't like it."

    "Why not?" Fire blazed suddenly from the gray forests of his
    eyes.

    "Because I didn't. I've formed the habit of liking you. I've
    been thinking of nothing much else for two days."

    "Well, if you---"

    "Wait a minute," he interrupted. "I've got something to say. It's
    this: in six weeks I'll be eighteen years old. When I'm
    eighteen years old I'm coming up to New York to see you. Is
    there some place in New York where we can go and not have a lot
    of people in the room?"

    "Sure!" smiled Marcia. "You can come up to my 'partment. Sleep
    on the couch if you want to."

    "I can't sleep on couches," he said shortly. "But I want to talk
    to you."

    "Why, sure," repeated Marcia. "in my 'partment."

    In his excitement Horace put his hands in his pockets.

    "All right--just so I can see you alone. I want to talk to you
    as we talked up in my room."

    "Honey boy," cried Marcia, laughing, "is it that you want to kiss
    me?"

    "Yes," Horace almost shouted. "I'll kiss you if you want me to."

    The elevator man was looking at them reproachfully. Marcia edged
    toward the grated door.

    "I'll drop you a post-card," she said.

    Horace's eyes were quite wild.

    "Send me a post-card! I'll come up any time after January first.
    I'll be eighteen then."

    And as she stepped into the elevator he coughed enigmatically,
    yet with a vague challenge, at the calling, and walked quickly
    away.

    III

    He was there again. She saw him when she took her first glance
    at the restless Manhattan audience--down in the front row with
    his head bent a bit forward and his gray eyes fixed on her. And
    she knew that to him they were alone together in a world where
    the high-rouged row of ballet faces and the massed whines of the
    violins were as imperceivable as powder on a marble Venus. An
    instinctive defiance rose within her.

    "Silly boy!" she said to herself hurriedly, and she didn't take
    her encore.

    "What do they expect for a hundred a week--perpetual motion?"
    she grumbled to herself in the wings.

    "What's the trouble? Marcia?"

    "Guy I don't like down in front."

    During the last act as she waited for her specialty she had an
    odd attack of stage fright. She had never sent Horace the
    promised post-card. Last night she had pretended not to see him--
    had hurried from the theatre immediately after her dance to
    pass a sleepless night in her apartment, thinking--as she had
    so often in the last month--of his pale, rather intent face, his
    slim, boyish fore, the merciless, unworldly abstraction that
    made him charming to her.

    And now that he had come she felt vaguely sorry--as though an
    unwonted responsibility was being forced on her.

    "Infant prodigy!" she said aloud.

    "What?" demanded the negro comedian standing beside her.

    "Nothing--just talking about myself."

    On the stage she felt better. This was her dance--and she
    always felt that the way she did it wasn't suggestive any more
    than to some men every pretty girl is suggestive. She made it
    a stunt.

    "Uptown, downtown, jelly on a spoon,
    After sundown shiver by the moon."

    He was not watching her now. She saw that clearly. He was looking
    very deliberately at a castle on the back drop, wearing that
    expression he had worn in the Taft Grill. A wave of exasperation
    swept over her--he was criticising her.

    "That's the vibration that thrills me,
    Funny how affection fi-lls me
    Uptown, downtown---"

    Unconquerable revulsion seized her. She was suddenly and horribly
    conscious of her audience as she had never been since her first
    appearance. Was that a leer on a pallid face in the front row, a
    droop of disgust on one young girl's mouth? These shoulders of
    hers--these shoulders shaking--were they hers? Were they real?
    Surely shoulders weren't made for this!

    "Then--you'll see at a glance
    "I'll need some funeral ushers with St. Vitus dance
    At the end of the world I'll---"

    The bassoon and two cellos crashed into a final chord. She paused
    and poised a moment on her toes with every muscle tense, her
    young face looking out dully at the audience in what one young
    girl afterward called "such a curious, puzzled look," and then
    without bowing rushed from the stage. Into the dressing-room she
    sped, kicked out of one dress and into another, and caught a taxi
    outside.

    Her apartment was very warm--small, it was, with a row of
    professional pictures and sets of Kipling and O. Henry which she
    had bought once from a blue-eyed agent and read occasionally. And
    there were several chairs which matched, but were none of them
    comfortable, and a pink-shaded lamp with blackbirds painted on it
    and an atmosphere of other stifled pink throughout. There were
    nice things in it--nice things unrelentingly hostile to each
    other, offspring of a vicarious, impatient taste acting in stray
    moments. The worst was typified by a great picture framed in oak
    bark of Passaic as seen from the Erie Railroad--altogether a
    frantic, oddly extravagant, oddly penurious attempt to make a
    cheerful room. Marcia knew it was a failure.

    Into this room came the prodigy and took her two hands awkwardly.

    "I followed you this time," he said.

    "Oh!"

    "I want you to marry me," he said.

    Her arms went out to him. She kissed his mouth with a sort of
    passionate wholesomeness.

    "There!"

    "I love you," he said.

    She kissed him again and then with a little sigh flung herself
    into an armchair and half lay there, shaken with absurd laughter.

    "Why, you infant prodigy!" she cried.

    "Very well, call me that if you want to. I once told you that I
    was ten thousand years older than you--I am."

    She laughed again.

    "I don't like to be disapproved of."

    "No one's ever going to disapprove of you again."

    "Omar," she asked, "why do you want to marry me?"

    The prodigy rose and put his hands in his pockets.

    "Because I love you, Marcia Meadow."

    And then she stopped calling him Omar.

    "Dear boy," she said, "you know I sort of love you. There's
    something about you--I can't tell what--that just puts my heart
    through the wringer every time I'm round you. But honey--" She
    paused.

    "But what?"

    "But lots of things. But you're only just eighteen, and I'm
    nearly twenty."

    "Nonsense!" he interrupted. "Put it this way--that I'm in my
    nineteenth year and you're nineteen. That makes us pretty
    close--without counting that other ten thousand years I
    mentioned."

    Marcia laughed.

    "But there are some more 'buts.' Your people---

    "My people!" exclaimed the prodigy ferociously. "My people tried
    to make a monstrosity out of me." His face grew quite crimson at
    the enormity of what he was going to say. "My people can go way
    back and sit down!"

    "My heavens!" cried Marcia in alarm. "All that? On tacks, I
    suppose."

    "Tacks--yes," he agreed wildly--"on anything. The more I think of
    how they allowed me to become a little dried-up mummy---"

    "What makes you thank you're that?" asked Marcia quietly--"me?"

    "Yes. Every person I've met on the streets since I met you has
    made me jealous because they knew what love was before I did. I
    used to call it the 'sex impulse.' Heavens!"

    "There's more 'buts,'" said Marcia

    "What are they?"

    "How could we live?"

    "I'll make a living."

    "You're in college."

    "Do you think I care anything about taking a Master of Arts
    degree?"

    "You want to be Master of Me, hey?"

    "Yes! What? I mean, no!"

    Marcia laughed, and crossing swiftly over sat in his lap. He put
    his arm round her wildly and implanted the vestige of a kiss
    somewhere near her neck.

    "There's something white about you," mused Marcia "but it doesn't
    sound very logical."

    "Oh, don't be so darned reasonable!"

    "I can't help it," said Marcia.

    "I hate these slot-machine people!"

    "But we---"

    "Oh, shut up!"

    And as Marcia couldn't talk through her ears she had to.

    IV

    Horace and Marcia were married early in February. The sensation
    in academic circles both at Yale and Princeton was tremendous.
    Horace Tarbox, who at fourteen had been played up in the Sunday
    magazines sections of metropolitan newspapers, was throwing over
    his career, his chance of being a world authority on American
    philosophy, by marrying a chorus girl--they made Marcia a chorus
    girl. But like all modern stories it was a four-and-a-half-day
    wonder.

    They took a flat in Harlem. After two weeks' search, during which
    his idea of the value of academic knowledge faded unmercifully,
    Horace took a position as clerk with a South American export
    company--some one had told him that exporting was the coming
    thing. Marcia was to stay in her show for a few months--anyway
    until he got on his feet. He was getting a hundred and
    twenty-five to start with, and though of course they told him it
    was only a question of months until he would be earning double
    that, Marcia refused even to consider giving up the hundred and
    fifty a week that she was getting at the time.

    "We'll call ourselves Head and Shoulders, dear," she said softly,
    "and the shoulders'll have to keep shaking a little longer until
    the old head gets started."

    "I hate it," he objected gloomily.

    "Well," she replied emphatically, "Your salary wouldn't keep us
    in a tenement. Don't think I want to be public--I don't. I want
    to be yours. But I'd be a half-wit to sit in one room and count
    the sunflowers on the wall-paper while I waited for you. When you
    pull down three hundred a month I'll quit."

    And much as it hurt his pride, Horace had to admit that hers was
    the wiser course.

    March mellowed into April. May read a gorgeous riot act to the
    parks and waters of Manhatten, and they were very happy. Horace,
    who had no habits whatsoever--he had never had time to form
    any--proved the most adaptable of husbands, and as Marcia
    entirely lacked opinions on the subjects that engrossed him there
    were very few jottings and bumping. Their minds moved in
    different spheres. Marcia acted as practical factotum, and Horace
    lived either in his old world of abstract ideas or in a sort of
    triumphantly earthy worship and adoration of his wife. She was a
    continual source of astonishment to him--the freshness and
    originality of her mind, her dynamic, clear-headed energy, and
    her unfailing good humor.

    And Marcia's co-workers in the nine-o'clock show, whither she had
    transferred her talents, were impressed with her tremendous
    pride in her husband's mental powers. Horace they knew only as a
    very slim, tight-lipped, and immature-looking young man, who
    waited every night to take her home.

    "Horace," said Marcia one evening when she met him as usual at
    eleven, "you looked like a ghost standing there against the
    street lights. You losing weight?"

    He shook his head vaguely.

    "I don't know. They raised me to a hundred and thirty-five
    dollars to-day, and---"

    "I don't care," said Marcia severely. "You're killing yourself
    working at night. You read those big books on economy---"

    "Economics," corrected Horace.

    "Well, you read 'em every night long after I'm asleep. And you're
    getting all stooped over like you were before we were married."

    "But, Marcia, I've got to---"

    "No, you haven't dear. I guess I'm running this shop for the
    present, and I won't let my fella ruin his health and eyes. You
    got to get some exercise."

    "I do. Every morning I---"

    "Oh, I know! But those dumb-bells of yours wouldn't give a
    consumptive two degrees of fever. I mean real exercise. You've
    got to join a gymnasium. 'Member you told me you were such a
    trick gymnast once that they tried to get you out for the team in
    college and they couldn't because you had a standing date with
    Herb Spencer?"

    "I used to enjoy it," mused Horace, "but it would take up too
    much time now."

    "All right," said Marcia. "I'll make a bargain with you. You join
    a gym and I'll read one of those books from the brown row of
    'em."

    "'Pepys' Diary'? Why, that ought to be enjoyable. He's very
    light."

    "Not for me--he isn't. It'll be like digesting plate glass. But
    you been telling me how much it'd broaden my lookout. Well, you
    go to a gym three nights a week and I'll take one big dose of
    Sammy."

    Horace hesitated.

    "Well---"

    "Come on, now! You do some giant swings for me and I'll chase
    some culture for you."

    So Horace finally consented, and all through a baking summer he
    spent three and sometimes four evenings a week experimenting on
    the trapeze in Skipper's Gymnasium. And in August he admitted to
    Marcia that it made him capable of more mental work during the
    day.

    "MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO," he said.

    "Don't believe in it," replied Marcia. "I tried one of those
    patent medicines once and they're all bunk. You stick to
    gymnastics."

    One night in early September while he was going through one of
    his contortions on the rings in the nearly deserted room he was
    addressed by a meditative fat man whom he had noticed watching
    him for several nights.

    "Say, lad, do that stunt you were doin' last night."

    Horace grinned at him from his perch.

    "I invented it," he said. "I got the idea from the fourth
    proposition of Euclid."

    "What circus he with?"

    "He's dead."

    "Well, he must of broke his neck doin' that stunt. I set here
    last night thinkin' sure you was goin' to break yours."

    "Like this!" said Horace, and swinging onto the trapeze he did
    his stunt.

    "Don't it kill your neck an' shoulder muscles?"

    "It did at first, but inside of a week I wrote the QUOD ERAT
    DEMONSTRANDUM on it."

    "Hm!"

    Horace swung idly on the trapeze.

    "Ever think of takin' it up professionally?" asked the fat man.

    "Not I."

    "Good money in it if you're willin' to do stunts like 'at an' can
    get away with it."

    "Here's another," chirped Horace eagerly, and the fat man's mouth
    dropped suddenly agape as he watched this pink-jerseyed
    Prometheus again defy the gods and Isaac Newton.

    The night following this encounter Horace got home from work to
    find a rather pale Marcia stretched out on the sofa waiting for
    him.

    "I fainted twice to-day," she began without preliminaries.

    "What?"

    "Yep. You see baby's due in four months now. Doctor says I ought
    to have quit dancing two weeks ago."

    Horace sat down and thought it over.

    "I'm glad of course," he said pensively--"I mean glad that we're
    going to have a baby. But this means a lot of expense."

    "I've got two hundred and fifty in the bank," said Marcia
    hopefully, "and two weeks' pay coming."

    Horace computed quickly.

    "Inducing my salary, that'll give us nearly fourteen hundred for
    the next six months."

    Marcia looked blue.

    "That all? Course I can get a job singing somewhere this month.
    And I can go to work again in March."

    "Of course nothing!" said Horace gruffly. "You'll stay right
    here. Let's see now--there'll be doctor's bills and a nurse,
    besides the maid: We've got to have some more money."

    "Well," said Marcia wearily, "I don't know where it's coming
    from. It's up to the old head now. Shoulders is out of business."

    Horace rose and pulled on his coat.

    "Where are you going?"

    "I've got an idea," he answered. "I'll be right back."

    Ten minutes later as he headed down the street toward Skipper's
    Gymnasium he felt a placid wonder, quite unmixed with humor, at
    what he was going to do. How he would have gaped at himself a
    year before! How every one would have gaped! But when you opened
    your door at the rap of life you let in many things.

    The gymnasium was brightly lit, and when his eyes became
    accustomed to the glare he found the meditative fat man seated on
    a pile of canvas mats smoking a big cigar.

    "Say," began Horace directly, "were you in earnest last night
    when you said I could make money on my trapeze stunts?"

    "Why, yes," said the fat man in surprise.

    "Well, I've been thinking it over, and I believe I'd like to try
    it. I could work at night and on Saturday afternoons--and
    regularly if the pay is high enough."

    The fat men looked at his watch.

    "Well," he said, "Charlie Paulson's the man to see. He'll book
    you inside of four days, once he sees you work out. He won't be
    in now, but I'll get hold of him for to-morrow night."

    The fat man was as good as his word. Charlie Paulson arrived next
    night and put in a wondrous hour watching the prodigy swap
    through the air in amazing parabolas, and on the night following
    he brought two age men with him who looked as though they had
    been born smoking black cigars and talking about money in low,
    passionate voices. Then on the succeeding Saturday Horace
    Tarbox's torso made its first professional appearance in a
    gymnastic exhibition at the Coleman Street Gardens. But though
    the audience numbered nearly five thousand people, Horace felt no
    nervousness. From his childhood he had read papers to
    audiences--learned that trick of detaching himself.

    "Marcia," he said cheerfully later that same night, "I think
    we're out of the woods. Paulson thinks he can get me an opening
    at the Hippodrome, and that means an all-winter engagement. The
    Hippodrome you know, is a big---"

    "Yes, I believe I've heard of it," interrupted Marcia, "but I
    want to know about this stunt you're doing. It isn't any
    spectacular suicide, is it?"

    "It's nothing," said Horace quietly. "But if you can think of an
    nicer way of a man killing himself than taking a risk for you,
    why that's the way I want to die."

    Marcia reached up and wound both arms tightly round his neck.

    "Kiss me," she whispered, "and call me 'dear heart.' I love to
    hear you say 'dear heart.' And bring me a book to read to-morrow.
    No more Sam Pepys, but something trick and trashy. I've been
    wild for something to do all day. I felt like writing letters,
    but I didn't have anybody to write to."

    "Write to me," said Horace. "I'll read them."

    "I wish I could," breathed Marcia. "If I knew words enough I
    could write you the longest love-letter in the world--and never
    get tired."

    But after two more months Marcia grew very tired indeed, and for
    a row of nights it was a very anxious, weary-looking young
    athlete who walked out before the Hippodrome crowd. Then there
    were two days when his place was taken by a young man who wore
    pale blue instead of white, and got very little applause. But
    after the two days Horace appeared again, and those who sat close
    to the stage remarked an expression of beatific happiness on
    that young acrobat's face even when he was twisting breathlessly
    in the air an the middle of his amazing and original shoulder
    swing. After that performance he laughed at the elevator man and
    dashed up the stairs to the flat five steps at a time--and then
    tiptoed very carefully into a quiet room.

    "Marcia," he whispered.

    "Hello!" She smiled up at him wanly. "Horace, there's something I
    want you to do. Look in my top bureau drawer and you'll find a
    big stack of paper. It's a book--sort of--Horace. I wrote it down
    in these last three months while I've been laid up. I wish you'd
    take it to that Peter Boyce Wendell who put my letter in his
    paper. He could tell you whether it'd be a good book. I wrote it
    just the way I talk, just the way I wrote that letter to him.
    It's just a story about a lot of things that happened to me. Will
    you take it to him, Horace?"

    "Yes, darling."

    He leaned over the bed until his head was beside her on the
    pillow, and began stroking back her yellow hair.

    "Dearest Marcia," he said softly.

    "No," she murmured, "call me what I told you to call me."

    "Dear heart," he whispered passionately--"dearest heart."

    "What'll we call her?"

    They rested a minute in happy, drowsy content, while Horace
    considered.

    "We'll call her Marcia Hume Tarbox," he said at length.

    "Why the Hume?"

    "Because he's the fellow who first introduced us."

    "That so?" she murmured, sleepily surprised. "I thought his name
    was Moon."

    Her eyes dosed, and after a moment the slow lengthening surge of
    the bedclothes over her breast showed that she was asleep.

    Horace tiptoed over to the bureau and opening the top drawer
    found a heap of closely scrawled, lead-smeared pages. He looked
    at the first sheet:

    SANDRA PEPYS, SYNCOPATED
    BY MARCIA TARBOX

    He smiled. So Samuel Pepys had made an impression on her after
    all. He turned a page and began to read. His smile deepened--he
    read on. Half an hour passed and he became aware that Marcia had
    waked and was watching him from the bed.

    "Honey," came in a whisper.

    "What Marcia?"

    "Do you like it?"

    Horace coughed.

    "I seem to be reading on. It's bright."

    "Take it to Peter Boyce Wendell. Tell him you got the highest
    marks in Princeton once and that you ought to know when a book's
    good. Tell him this one's a world beater."

    "All right, Marcia," Horace said gently.

    Her eyes closed again and Horace crossing over kissed her
    forehead--stood there for a moment with a look of tender pity.
    Then he left the room.

    All that night the sprawly writing on the pages, the constant
    mistakes in spelling and grammar, and the weird punctuation
    danced before his eyes. He woke several times in the night, each
    time full of a welling chaotic sympathy for this desire of
    Marcia's soul to express itself in words. To him there was
    something infinitely pathetic about it, and for the first time in
    months he began to turn over in his mind his own half-forgotten
    dreams.

    He had meant to write a series of books, to popularize the new
    realism as Schopenhauer had popularized pessimism and William
    James pragmatism.

    But life hadn't come that way. Life took hold of people and
    forced them into flying rings. He laughed to think of that rap at
    his door, the diaphanous shadow in Hume, Marcia's threatened
    kiss.

    "And it's still me," he said aloud in wonder as he lay awake in
    the darkness. "I'm the man who sat in Berkeley with temerity to
    wonder if that rap would have had actual existence had my ear not
    been there to hear it. I'm still that man. I could be
    electrocuted for the crimes he committed.

    "Poor gauzy souls trying to express ourselves in something
    tangible. Marcia with her written book; I with my unwritten ones.
    Trying to choose our mediums and then taking what we get-- and
    being glad."

    V

    "Sandra Pepys, Syncopated," with an introduction by Peter Boyce
    Wendell the columnist, appeared serially in JORDAN'S MAGAZINE,
    and came out in book form in March. From its first published
    instalment it attracted attention far and wide. A trite enough
    subject--a girl from a small New Jersey town coming to New York
    to go on the stage--treated simply, with a peculiar vividness of
    phrasing and a haunting undertone of sadness in the very
    inadequacy of its vocabulary, it made an irresistible appeal.

    Peter Boyce Wendell, who happened at that time to be advocating
    the enrichment of the American language by the immediate adoption
    of expressive vernacular words, stood as its sponsor and
    thundered his indorsement over the placid bromides of the
    conventional reviewers.

    Marcia received three hundred dollars an instalment for the
    serial publication, which came at an opportune time, for though
    Horace's monthly salary at the Hippodrome was now more than
    Marcia's had ever been, young Marcia was emitting shrill cries
    which they interpreted as a demand for country air. So early April
    found them installed in a bungalow in Westchester County, with a
    place for a lawn, a place for a garage, and a place for
    everything, including a sound-proof impregnable study, in which
    Marcia faithfully promised Mr. Jordan she would shut herself up
    when her daughter's demands began to be abated, and compose
    immortally illiterate literature.

    "It's not half bad," thought Horace one night as he was on his
    way from the station to his house. He was considering several
    prospects that had opened up, a four months' vaudeville offer in
    five figures, a chance to go back to Princeton in charge of all
    gymnasium work. Odd! He had once intended to go back there in
    charge of all philosophic work, and now he had not even been
    stirred by the arrival in New York of Anton Laurier, his old
    idol.

    The gravel crunched raucously under his heel. He saw the lights
    of his sitting-room gleaming and noticed a big car standing in
    the drive. Probably Mr. Jordan again, come to persuade Marcia to
    settle down' to work.

    She had heard the sound of his approach and her form was
    silhouetted against the lighted door as she came out to meet him.
    "There's some Frenchman here," she whispered nervously. "I
    can't pronounce his name, but he sounds awful deep. You'll have
    to jaw with him."

    "What Frenchman?"

    "You can't prove it by me. He drove up an hour ago with Mr.
    Jordan, and said he wanted to meet Sandra Pepys, and all that sort
    of thing."

    Two men rose from chairs as they went inside.

    "Hello Tarbox," said Jordan. "I've just been bringing together
    two celebrities. I've brought M'sieur Laurier out with me.
    M'sieur Laurier, let me present Mr. Tarbox, Mrs. Tarbox's
    husband."

    "Not Anton Laurier!" exclaimed Horace.

    "But, yes. I must come. I have to come. I have read the book of
    Madame, and I have been charmed"--he fumbled in his pocket--"ah
    I have read of you too. In this newspaper which I read to-day it
    has your name."

    He finally produced a clipping from a magazine.

    "Read it!" he said eagerly. "It has about you too."

    Horace's eye skipped down the page.

    "A distinct contribution to American dialect literature," it
    said. "No attempt at literary tone; the book derives its very
    quality from this fact, as did 'Huckleberry Finn.'"

    Horace's eyes caught a passage lower down; he became suddenly
    aghast--read on hurriedly:

    "Marcia Tarbox's connection with the stage is not only as a
    spectator but as the wife of a performer. She was married last
    year to Horace Tarbox, who every evening delights the children at
    the Hippodrome with his wondrous flying performance. It is said
    that the young couple have dubbed themselves Head and Shoulders,
    referring doubtless to the fact that Mrs. Tarbox supplies the
    literary and mental qualities, while the supple and agile
    shoulder of her husband contribute their share to the family
    fortunes.

    "Mrs. Tarbox seems to merit that much-abused title--'prodigy.'
    Only twenty---"

    Horace stopped reading, and with a very odd expression in his
    eyes gazed intently at Anton Laurier.

    "I want to advise you--" he began hoarsely.

    "What?"

    "About raps. Don't answer them! Let them alone--have a padded
    door."
    If you're writing a Head and Shoulders essay and need some advice, post your F. Scott Fitzgerald essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Finished
    Want to read
    Abandoned

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?