Outside the opened windows in the rear of the room, the elevated trains stuffed with men and women roared into a station and squealed out again. In the streets below, the traffic raised an ear-splitting medley of sound which nobody heard. Against this eternal and internal disorder, a strange pottering, apparently formless and without beginning or end, was guiding the latest confusions and intrigues of the human tangle into perfunctory groups of words called stories.
A curious ritual—the scene, spreading through the four floors of the grimy building with a thousand men and women shrieking, hammering, cursing, writing, squeezing and juggling the monotonous convulsions of life into a scribble of words. Out of the cacophonies of the place issued, sausage fashion, a half-million papers daily, holding up from hour to hour to the city the blurred mirrors of the newspaper columns alive with the almost humorous images of an unending calamity.
He seated himself with a complete unconsciousness of the scene. A litter of correspondence, propaganda, telegrams, and contributions from Constant Reader lay stuffed into the corners and pigeonholes of his desk. He sat for a moment thinking of his wife. The thought left him and his eyes fastened themselves upon a sheaf of proofs Watch out for libel These were functions he discharged mechanically.
A perfect affinity toward his work characterized his attitude. Yet behind the automatic efficiency of his thought lay an ironical appreciation of his tasks. The sterile little chronicles of life still moist from the ink-roller were like smeared windows upon the grimacings of the world. Through these windows Dorn saw with a clarity that flattered him. A tawdry pantomime was life, a pouring of blood, a grappling with shadows, a digging of graves.
Laws, ambitions, conventions—froth in an empty glass. Tragedies, comedies—all a swarm of nothings. Dreams in the hearts of men—thin fever outlines to which they clung in hope. Equally unconscious was the amusement he felt, and that flew a fugitive smile in his eyes. The perfunctory hysterics of the stories of crime, graft, scandal, with their garbled sentences and wooden phrases; the delicious sagacities of the editorial pages like the mumbling of some adenoidal moron in a gulf of high winds; headlines saying a pompous "amen" to asininity and a hopeful "My God!
His rise in his profession had been comparatively rapid. Thirty had found him enshrined as an editor. At thirty-four he had acquired the successful air which distinguishes men who have come to the end of their rope. He had become an editor and a fixture. The office observed an intent, gray-eyed man, straight nosed, firm lipped, correctly shaved down to the triangular trim of his mustache, his dark hair evenly parted—a normal-seeming, kindly individual who wore his linen and his features with a certain politely exotic air—the air of an identity.
The day's vacuous items in his life passed quickly, its frantic routine ebbing into a lull toward mid-afternoon. Returning from a final uproar in the composing room, Dorn looked good-humoredly about him. He was ready to go home. Arguments, reprimands, entreaties were over for a space. He walked leisurely down the length of the shop, pleased as always by its atmosphere.
It was something like the streets, this newspaper shop, broken up, a bit intricate, haphazard. A young man named Cross was painstakingly writing poetry on a typewriter. Another named Gardner was busy on a letter. Promising young men, both, whose collars would grow slightly soiled as they advanced in their profession.
He remembered one of his early observations: Fortunately for the world, only one of them succeeds.
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He thought "an emancipated creature who prides herself on being able to drink cocktails without losing caste. She'll marry the first drunken newspaperman who forgets himself in her presence and spend the rest of her life trying to induce him to go into the advertising business. A face flabby and red with ancient drinking raised itself from a book and a voice spoke, "Old Egan gets more of a fool every day.
Best story of the day. Dorn glimpsed the title of the book on his desk, L'Oblat. Crowley had been educated for the priesthood but emerged from the seminary with a heightened joy of life in his veins. A riotous twenty years in night saloons and bawdy houses had left him a kindly, choleric, and respected newspaper figure.
Dorn caught his eye and wondered over his sensitive infatuation of exotic writing. In the pages of Huysmans, De Gourmont, Flaubert, Gautier, Symons, and Pater he seemed to have found a subtle incense for his deadened nerves. Inside the flabby, coarsened body with its red face munching out monosyllables, lived a recluse. So he sits and reads books—the last debauchery: He sits contemplating them as he once sat drunkenly watching the obscenities of black, white, and yellow bodied women.
Thus, the mania for the rouge of life, for the grimace that lies beyond satiety, passes in him from bestiality to asceticism and esthetics. Yesterday a bacchanal of flesh, to-day a bacchanal of words No sense of human values. Crowded the best story of the day off page one. Some day he'd have a long talk with Crowley. But the man was so carefully hidden behind perfunctories it was hard to get at him. Dorn passed on and looked around for Warren—a humorous and didactic creature who had with considerable effort destroyed his Boston accent and escaped the fact that he had once earned his living as professor of sociology in an eastern university.
Dorn caught a memory of him sitting in a congenial saloon before a stein and pouring forth hoarsely oracular comments upon the activities of men known and unknown. The man had a gift for caricature—Rabelaisean exaggerations. Dorn was suddenly glad he had gone for the day.
The office oppressed him and the people in it were too familiar. He walked to his desk thinking of the South Seas and new faces. Of course, there's a lot of stuff he pulls that's impractical. He remembered again to telephone his wife, but instead moved out of the office. A refreshing warmth in the street pleased his senses and he turned toward the lake. Walk down Michigan avenue, take a taxi home—what else was there to do? He thought of his father. A tenacious old man. Probably hang on forever. God, the man had been married three times. If it wasn't for his damned infirmities he'd probably marry again.
What was it the old man had kept looking for? As if there was in existence a concrete gift to be drawn from life. A blithering, water-eyed optimist to the end, he'd die with a prayer of thankfulness and gratitude. Thus innocuously abstract, moving in the doldrum which sometimes surrounded him after his day's work, he turned into the boulevard along the lake. The day grew abruptly fresher here. An arc of blue sky rising from the east flung a great curve over the building tops. Dorn paused before the window of a Japanese art shop and stared at a bulbous wooden god stoically contemplating his navel.
During his walks through the streets he sometimes met people he knew. This time a young woman appeared at the window beside him. He recognized her with elation. His thought gave him an index of her Rachel Laskin, curious girl Dorn felt a return of interest in himself. His insincerity made self thought meaningless. Listeners, however, revived him. As they walked he caught occasional glimpses of his companion—vivid eyes, dark lips, a cool, shadow-tinted face that belonged under exotic trees; a morose little girl insanely sensitive and with a dream inside her.
She admired him; or at least she admired his words, which amounted to the same thing. Once before she had said, "You are different. People who thought him different pleased him. It gave them a certain intellectual status in his eyes. His thought, as he talked, busied itself with images of her.
She gave him a sense of dark waters hidden from the moon—a tenuous fugitive figure in the pretty clamor of the bright street. There's really nothing to be frightened of, unless you prefer fear to other more tangible emotions. He recalled that the gesture had puzzled him at first. It gave an eager assent to his words that surprised him.
It pretended that she had understood something he had not said, something that lay beneath his words. Dorn pointed at the women moving by them. Priestly caricatures of their sex. But you don't like my drawing. A woman with a spindly nose, picking flowers. She was someone to whom he could talk at random. This pleased him; or perhaps it was the sense of flattery that pleased him. He wondered if she was intelligent. They had met several times, usually by accident.
He had found himself able to talk at length to her and had come away feeling an intimacy between them. Shop windows remind me of neighbors' bathrooms before breakfast. There's something odiously impersonal about them. See, all the way down the street—silks, garments, ruffles, laces. A saturnalia of masks. It's the only art we've developed in America—over-dressing.
Clothes are peculiarly American—a sort of underhanded female revenge against the degenerate puritanism of the nation. I've seen them even at revival meetings clothed in the seven tailored sins and denouncing the devil with their bustles. Only they don't wear bustles any more.
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But what's an anachronism between friends? Why don't you paint pictures of real Americans? If that means anything. Vivid eyes and dark lips, a face that belonged elsewhere. He was feeding its poignancy words. And she admired him. He was saying nothing. There was a sexlessness about her that inspired vulgarity.
I've remembered nearly everything you've said to me. I don't know why. But they always come back when I'm alone, and they always seem unfinished. She was too naive to coquette. Yet it was difficult to believe this. But she was an unusual creature, modestly asleep. Yes, what she said must be true. There was nothing unreasonable about its being true.
She made an impression upon him. He undoubtedly did upon her. He would have preferred her applause, however, somewhat less blatant. But she was a child—an uncanny child who cooed frankly when interested. We are chaste and pure. A combination of Burmese dancer and Babylonian priest. I ask for nothing more. He had half consciously tried to give words to an image the girl had stirred in him. She interrupted, "That's me. I was trying to draw a picture of you. And perhaps of myself. You have a faculty of Funny, things I say are usually only reflections of the people I talk to. You don't mind being a psychopathic barbarian?
You talk because you have nothing to say. And I like to listen to you because I understand. Her admiration would be more pleasant were it more difficult to discover. He became silent and aware of the street. There had been no street for several minutes—merely vivid eyes and dark lips. Now there were people—familiar unknowns to be found always in streets, their faces withholding something, like unfinished sentences.
He had lost interest and felt piqued. His loss of interest in his talk was perhaps merely a reflection of her own. That's hard to believe. He would have to work it up again. The more the better. They are more serviceable than a conscience, in which I presume you're likewise lacking, because you don't have to use them. A conscience is an immediate annoyance, whereas ideals are charming procrastinations. They excuse the inanity of the present. Good Lord, what do you think about all day without ideals to guide you?
It was because her interest had returned.
Her eyes were flatteries. He desired to be amusing, to cover the eager child face beside him with a caress of words. I always imagine that people have ideas that they look at and that the ideas never move around. And people don't do that. They think only of destinations and for purposes of forgetting something—drugging themselves to uncomfortable facts. I fancy, however, I'm wrong. It's only after telling a number of lies that one gets an idea of what might be true. Thus it occurs to me now that I can't conceive of an intelligent person thinking in silence.
Intelligence is a faculty which enables people to boast. And it's difficult boasting in silence. And inasmuch as it's necessary to be intelligent to think, why, that sort of settles it. Ergo, people never think. Do you mind my chatter? Her sincerity appealed to him as an exquisite mannerism. She said "Please" as if she were breathless.
Because it's ordinarily rather difficult to flatter me. I'm immensely delighted with your silence, whereas He felt his speech was degenerating into a compliment. He was used to mumbling it to himself as he walked alone in streets. And at his desk it often came to him and repeated itself.
Now his thought murmured, "Nothing, nothing," and a sadness drew itself into his heart. He laughed with a sense of treating himself to a theatricalism. It throws an onus on the whole of nature. Whereas with a God to blame the thing is simple. I save time by thinking, if you can call it thinking, en masse —in generalities. For instance, I think of people frequently but always as a species. I wonder about them.
A Familiar Tangle With Hell
My wonder is concerned chiefly with the manner in which they adjust themselves to the vision of their futility. Do they shriek aloud with horror in lonely bedrooms? There's a question there. How do people who are important to themselves reconcile themselves to their unimportance to others? And how are they able to forget their imbecility?
The nervous unrest that came to Dorn in streets and fermented words in his thought seemed to have deserted him. Assured of the admiration of his companion, he felt a quiet as if his energies had been turned off and he were coasting. He recognized several faces and saluted them as if overcome with a desire to relate a jest.
There's a pair arm in arm. There's no intimacy like that of cadavers. Yet at this and all other moments they're unaware of death. They move by us without thought, emotion, or words in them. Just as skeletons always seem mysteriously elate. Their pride is an absence of everything else—a sort of rigid finery they put on in lieu of a shroud. Never mind staring after them, please. Jalonick who live across the street from my home. I dislike staring even after truths. Listen, I have something more to say about them if you'll not look so serious.
Your emotions are obviously infantile. I can give you a picture of marriage: Draw them a little flattened in the rear from sitting down too much and you'll have a masterpiece. It's amusing to remember that Mr. Jalonick were once in love with each other! Let's walk, if you haven't anything else to do. I marvel, as always, at my garrulity.
Women usually inspire me with a desire to talk. I suppose it's a defensive instinct. Talk confuses women and renders them helpless. But that isn't it. I talk to women because they make the best sounding-boards. Do you object to being reduced to an acoustic? Yes, sex is a sort of irritant to the vocabulary.
It's amusing to converse profoundly with a pretty woman whose sole contributions to any dialogue are a bit of silk hose and an oscillation of the breasts. I sometimes feel that I live only in mirrors and that my thoughts exist only as they enter the heads of others. As now, I speak out of a most complete emptiness of emotion or idea; and my words seem to take body in your silence—and actually give me a character. They were old friends—a union between them. He had been thinking of something else. After talking like this I come away with a sort of echo of what I've said. As if someone had told me things that almost impressed me.
I talk so damned much I'm unaware of ever having heard anybody else but myself express an opinion. And I swear I've never had an opinion in my life. He's a notorious Don Juan. Whiskers undoubtedly lend mystery to a man. It's a marvel women haven't cultivated them—instead of corsets. But tell me why you've disdained art as an ideal. It's a confessional I should think would appeal to you. I'm almost interested in you, you see. Another hour with you and you would flatter me into a state of silence. Her dark lips parted, her eyes glowing toward the end of the street, the girl was walking in a radiant abstraction.
She appeared to be listening to him without hearing what he said. Dorn contemplated her confusedly. He frowned at the thought of having bored her, and an impulse to step abruptly from her side and leave became a part of his anger. He hesitated in his walking and her fingers, timorous and unconscious of themselves, reached for his arm. He wondered with a deeper confusion what she was dreaming about. Her hand as it lay on his forearm gave him a sense of companionship which his words sought clumsily to understand.
Rachel threw back her head as if she were shaking a dream out of her eyes. They moved on in the increasing crowd. Her eyes, alight, were thrusting against the cold, amused smile of his face. He would be late. Anna would be waiting. Anniversaries were somehow important. They revived interest in events which had died. But it was nice to drift in a crowd beside a girl who admired him. What did he think of her? She seemed to warm him into a deeper sleep. It was a relief to be admired for one's silence. Love was a bore. Anna loved him, bored him.
Her love was an applause that did not wait for him to perform—an unreasonable ovation. He looked at the girl again. She was walking beside him, vivid eyes, dark lips—almost unaware of him, as if he had become a part of the dream that lived within her. It was crude and misshapen, and leered at her, filling her heart with fear. Later, people had become like that to her. When she was eighteen Rachel came to Chicago and studied art at an art school. She learned nothing and forgot nothing. Her reading failed to remove her repugnance to the touch of life.
Instead, it lured her further from realities. She did not like to meet people or to hear them talk. At twenty she was able to earn her living by drawing posters for a commercial art firm and making occasional illustrations for magazines designed for female consumption. As she matured, the repugnance to life that lay like a disease in her nerves, developed dangerously.
She would sit in her room in the evening staring out of the window at the darkened city and thinking of people. There was an endless swathing of people, buildings, faces, words, that wound itself tightly about her. She would cover her face suddenly and whisper, "Oh, I must go away. But there were things she could not escape. Men smiled at her and established themselves as friends. Women were easy to get rid of. One had only to be frank and women vanished.
But this same frankness, she found, had an opposite effect upon men. Insults likewise served only to interest men. They would become gradually more and more acquainted with her until it became impossible to talk to them. Then she would have to ignore them, turning quickly away when they addressed her and saying, "Good-bye, I must go. She would sit alone in her room surrounded by a whimpering little silence.
A melancholy would darken her heart. It wasn't because she was afraid of people. It was something else. She would try to think of it and would find herself whispering suddenly, "Oh, I must go away. Her appeal itself was doubtful. The Indian symmetry of her face lay as behind a luminous shadow—an ill-mannered, nervous face that was likely to lure strangers and irritate familiars. In the streets and restaurants people looked at her with interest. But people who spoke to her often lost their interest. There was a silence about her like a night mist. She seemed in this silence preoccupied with something that did not concern them.
Men found the recollection of her more pleasing than her presence. Something they remembered of her seemed always to be missing when they encountered her again. Lonely evening fields and weary peasants moving toward the distant lights of their homes spoke from her eyes. An exotic memory of simple things—of earth, sky, and sea—lay in her sudden gestures. A sense of these things men carried away with them.
But when they came to talk to her they grew conscious only of the fact that she irritated them. These who persisted in their friendship grew to regard her solicitously and misunderstand their emotions toward her. It was evening when Rachel came to her room after her walk with Erik Dorn. The long stroll had given her an aversion toward work. She glanced at several unfinished posters and moved to a chair near a window. A glow of excitement brightened the dusk of her face. Her eyes, usually asleep in distances, had become alive.
They gave themselves to the night. Beyond the scratch of houses and the slant of home lights she watched the darkness lift against the sky. The city had dwindled into a huddle of streets. Noise had become silence. The great crowds were packed away in little rooms. Sitting before the window, unconscious of herself, she laughed softly. Her black hair felt tight and heavy. She shook her head till its loose coils dropped across her cheeks. She had felt confused when she entered the room, as if she had grown strange to herself. She raised her hand and stared at it.
Something intimate had left her. She remembered herself as in a dream. There had been another Rachel who used to sit in this chair looking out of the window. A memory came of people and days. But it was not her memory, because her mind felt free of the nausea it used to bring. She stood up quickly and turned on a light. Her dexterous hands twisted her hair back into loose coils on her head. Strange, she did not know herself. That was because things seemed different. Here was her room, littered with books and canvasses and clothes, and the bed in which she slept, half hidden by the alcove curtains.
But they were different. She began to hum a song. A tune had come back to her that men sang in Little Russia trudging home from the wheat fields. That was long ago when the world was a bad dream that frightened her at night. Now there was no world outside, but a darkness without faces or streets—a darkness with a deep meaning.
It was something to be breathed in and felt. She opened the window and stood wondering. Loneliness caressed her heart and drew dim fingers across her thought. She could never remember having been lonely before. But now there was a difference. Of course, it was Erik Dorn. He had pleased her. The things he had said returned to her mind. They seemed very important, as if she had said them herself. She would go out and walk again—fast. It was pleasant to be lonely. Her throat shivered as she breathed. Bewildered in the lighted room she laughed and her lips said aloud, "I don't know.
He had gone to school with her in a small Wisconsin town. A year ago he had discovered her again in Chicago. The discovery had excited him. He was a young man with proprietary instincts. He had at once devoted them to Rachel. After several months he had begun to dream about her. They were correct and estimable dreams reflecting credit upon the correct and estimable stock from which he came. He fell to courting Rachel tenaciously, torn between a certainty that she was insane and a conviction that a home, a husband's love, and the paraphernalia of what he termed clean, healthy living would restore her to sanity.
Their meetings had been affairs of violence. In her presence he always felt a rage against what he called her neurasthenia—a word he frequently used in drawing up bills for divorce. He regarded neurasthenia not as a disease to be condoned like the mumps, but as a deliberate failing—particularly in Rachel. The neurasthenia of the defendants he pursued in courts annoyed him only slightly. In Rachel it outraged him.
It was his habit to inform her that her sufferings were nothing more than affectations and that her moods were shams and that the whole was a part and parcel of neurasthenia. This unhappy desire of his to browbeat her into a state which he defined as normal, Rachel had accepted in numb helplessness. She had given up commanding him to leave her alone. His presence frequently became a nausea.
Her enfevered senses had come to perceive in the conventionally clothed and spoken figure of the young attorney, a concentration of the repugnant things before which she cowered. During his courtship he had grown familiar to her as a penalty and his visits had become climaxes of loathsomeness. But a stability of purpose peculiar to unsensitive and egoistic young men kept Hazlitt to his quest.
His steady rise in his profession, the growing respect of his fellows for his name, fired him with a sense of success. Rachel had become the victim of this sense. Of all the men she knew Hazlitt grew to be the most unnecessary. But his persistence seemed to increase with her aversion for him.
In a sort of mental self-defense against the nervous disgust he brought her, she forced herself to think of him and even to argue with him. By thinking of him she was able to keep the memory of him an impersonal one, and to convert him from an emotionally unbearable influence into an intellectually insufferable type.
A conversion by which Hazlitt profited, for she tolerated him more easily as a result of her ruse. She thought of him. His youth was fast entrenching itself in platitudes and acquiring the vigor and directness that come as a reward of conformity. Life was nothing to wonder at or feel. Life shaped itself into definite images and inelastic values before him.
To these images and values he conformed, not submissively, but with a militant enthusiasm. On summer mornings he saw himself as a knight of virtue advancing clear-eyed upon a bedeviled world. When he was among his own kind he summed up the bedevilments in the word "bunk. Hazlitt's attraction to Rachel in the face of her neurasthenia did not confuse him. Confusion was a quality foreign to Hazlitt. He courted her as a lover and proselyter.
His proselyting consisted of vigorous denunciations of the things which contributed to the neurasthenia of his beloved. He declaimed his notions in round, rosy-cheeked sentences. There was about Hazlitt's wooing of Rachel the pathos which might distinguish the love affair of a Baptist angel and the hamadryad daughter of a Babayaga.
Yet, though in her presence he denounced her art, taste, sufferings, books, friends, affectations, away from her she came to him—beautiful eyed and fragile—bringing a fear and a longing into his heart. Dreaming of her over a pipe in his home at night, he saw her as something bewilderingly clean, different—vividly different from other women, with a difference that choked and saddened him. There was a virginity about her that extended beyond her body.
This and her fragility haunted him. His youth had caught the vision of the night mist of her, the lonely fields of her eyes, the shadow dreams toward whose solitudes she seemed to be flying. Beside Rachel all other women were to him somehow coarse and ungainly fibered, and somehow unvirginal.
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Out of his dream of her arose his desire to have her as his own, to come home and find her waiting, to have her known as Mrs. The thought of the Rachel he knew—mysterious, fugitive, neurasthenic—established normally across a breakfast table, smiling a normal good-bye at him with her arms normally about his neck, was a contrast that sharpened his desire. It offered a transformation that would be a victory not only for his love but for the shining, militant platitudes behind which Rachel had correctly pointed out to herself, he lived.
She hurried eagerly forward, wondering at an unfinished thought Of course, it would be Hazlitt. He was always appearing when least expected. But it would be nice to talk to someone. This was surprising and she shook her head as if she were carrying on a conversation with herself. George Hazlitt was always unbearable. But that was a memory.
It no longer applied. Visiting Rachel was a matter that required an extreme of determination. He had come prepared as usual for the sullen, uncomfortable hour she offered. If you'll sit down I'll do some work. At least for the moment. He understood nothing and remained staring at her. His manner proclaimed frankly that he was bewildered. She hurried about, securing her paints and setting up one of the unfinished posters. Drawing a deep breath Hazlitt lighted a pipe and watched her.
He admitted it with less belligerency than usual. He sat thinking, "what the deuce has happened to her. She said she was glad to see me. She had never before smiled at him, let alone voiced pleasure over his presence. It was a mistake of some sort but he would enjoy it for awhile. But perhaps it was the beginning of something.
He smoked, waited, and struggled to avoid the thoughts that crowded upon him. He would follow her mood, whatever it was. Rachel's eyes laughed toward him. If you hadn't come I would never have thought of working. Yet he contemplated it serenely. He would talk to her soon and find out what was the matter. There was undoubtedly something the matter. His eyes stared at her furtively as she returned to her work. Rachel resumed her talking. A naivete and freshness were in her voice. She was letting her tongue speak for her and laughing at the sound of the curious remarks it made.
The way they mess up their hair and go in for savage colors! Sometimes I get to feeling that they will end up as—as psychopathic barbarians.
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Hazlitt, with fidgets in his thought, smiled. His eyes lost their solicitous air. They began to search shrewdly for some reason. The spectacle of a coquettish Rachel was beyond him, even as the sound of her laugh was an amazing music to his senses. But his shrewdness evaporated. It occurred to him that women were peculiar. A direct and vigorous Hazlitt concluded that Rachel had succumbed to his superior guidance. There was nothing else to explain her tolerance. He called it tolerance, for he was still wary and her eyes shining eagerly, hungrily at him might be no more than a new kind of neurasthenia.
He let her talk on without interruption. She would like to paint streets, houses, lights in the dark, city things. Blowing puffs of smoke carelessly toward the ceiling he answered finally, "If you didn't have to support yourself, perhaps you could. He had never asked her outright to marry him. The thought that he had almost asked her, now made him feel dizzy. I guess that can rest now. She sat down near him. Her eyes narrowed and she listened with a sleepy smile as he began carefully to recite to her incidents that had happened during his day. But he became silent. She didn't mind that.
She desired to sit as she was, her emotion a dream that escaped her thought. Hazlitt fumbled with his pipe. He dropped it into a pocket. His shrewdness and his weariness had left him. He felt almost that he was alone. Rachel saw his face light with an unusual expression. He would be kind now and let her smile. I feel different to-night. But now her words—flurried, breathless, begrudging as always—stirred him.
They could be believed. She was a child that way. She spoke quickly thoughts that were uppermost in her mind. Her face before him was something in a dream. It was turned away and he could watch her breathing. Bewilderedly he remembered a thousand Rachels, different from this one, who was glad he had come.
But the beauty of her burned away uncomfortable memories. She was the Rachel of his loneliness. Out of George Hazlitt vanished the vigor and directness of a young man who knows his own soul. There came a vision—a thing uncertain and awesome, and he sat humbled before it. He reached her hand and closed his fingers over it. An awe squeezed at his throat. Her hand lay without protest within his. He had never touched her before. She had been a symbol and a dream. Now he felt the marvel of the fact that she was a woman.
Her hand, warm and alive, astonished him with the news. Rachel, during his speechlessness, looked at him unbelievingly. The grip of his fingers was bringing an ache into her heart. The night and the room were sad. She could feel sadness opening little wounds in her breasts. And before she had been happy. She heard him whispering, "I can't talk to you. Oh, you are beautiful! Then he was sad, too. She stood up because his hand drew her. Why did he want her to stand up? His body touched her and she heard him gasp. Her heart seemed adrift.
There was another Rachel somewhere else. He was saying, but he was not talking to her, "Oh, Rachel, I love you. I love you, Rachel! She had fallen asleep and was dreaming something that was sad. But his face was suddenly too close. His eyes were too near and bright. For an instant she failed to understand his resistance. He was saying jerkily, "No Hazlitt looked at her, a bit pensively. His heart lost in a dream and a rapture could only grimace a child's protest out of his stare.
He hadn't kissed her. But that would come soon. Not everything at once. He must not be a brute. His good-natured face glowed as if in a light. Then he heard her talking, "Go away. I never want to see you again. I'll die if I see you again. Oh, God, I can't stand you. He saw her for a vivid moment against the opened window and then he found himself alone, looking into a night that was haunted with an image of her. He remembered her going, but it seemed to him he still saw her against the window, his eyes bringing to him a vision of her face as she had looked.
But with demons, Lucifer, and a cute demon bunny with fangs out of a Monty Python nightmare, out to stop them and Heaven not lending a hand, will Tina become the mother of the Antichrist and the start of a new Hell on Earth? Like the one Tina fought now. Big and ugly, the Onckle demon stomped its four feet in anger. It narrowed its four piggish red eyes and shot beams of magic from them. Tina dived to her right and barely dodged the blast of magic, falling to the ground.
Charun stopped beside her on the left, holding out a claw-tipped hand. He was in his demon form, looking massive and imposing. Where in hell do they find these uglies? She finished his sentence. And you said this is an Onckle demon? Somebody had to be on something to even think that one up. The first one missed, sizzling by it, but the second one sent it spinning back against a telephone pole that cracked under the impact. The demon roared in pain and lumbered back onto all ten of its clawed feet. Both Tina and her Familiar lover stood side-by-side as the Onckle demon stomped all ten feet, then scurried at them.
It roared, putting out all eight arms. Suddenly, it halted and launched a greenish discharge from its maw at them. Charun shoved Tina to the side. The goop glowed and burned off, revealing that Charun was all right. Tina muttered something under her breath and the Onckle demon vanished on a cry of rage.
Not caring that his visage looked terrifying, Tina ran to Charun and kissed him. Then she slapped him across the face. He wore a grin and nothing else. Tina swung her gaze to his obvious arousal. It saluted her in a very big way. It always did after a fight. His grin grew wider.