They were alone in the beanery now. Scripps and Mandy and Diana. Only the drummer was with them. He was an old friend now. But his nerves were on edge tonight. He folded his paper abruptly and started for the door.
"See you all later," he said. He went out into the night. It seemed the only thing to do. He did it.
Only three of them in the beanery now. Scripps and Mandy and Diana. Only those three. Mandy was talk- ing. Leaning on the counter and talking. Scripps with his eyes fixed on Mandy. Diana made no pretense of listening now. She knew it was over. It was all over now. But she would make one more attempt. One more last gallant try. Perhaps she still could hold him. Perhaps it had all been just a dream. She steadied her voice and then she spoke.
"Scripps, dear," she said. Her voice shook a little. She steadied it.
"What's on your mind?" Scripps asked abruptly. Ah, there it was. That horrid clipped speech again.
"Scripps, dear, wouldn't you like to come home?" Diana's voice quavered. "There's a new Mercury." She had changed from the London Mercury to The American Mercury just to please Scripps. "It just came. I wish you felt like coming home, Scripps, there's a splendid thing in this Mercury. Do come home, Scripps, I've never asked anything of you before. Come home, Scripps! Oh, won't you come home?"
Scripps looked up. Diana's heart beat faster. Perhaps he was coming. Perhaps she was holding him. Holding him. Holding him.
"Do come, Scripps, dear," Diana said softly. "There's a wonderful editorial in it by Mencken about chiropractors."
Scripps looked away.
"Won't you come, Scripps?" Diana pleaded.
"No," Scripps said. "I don't give a damn about Mencken any more."
Diana dropped her head. "Oh, Scripps," she said. "Oh, Scripps." This was the end. She had her answer now. She had lost him. Lost him. Lost him. It was over. Finished. Done for. She sat crying silently. Mandy was talking again.
Suddenly Diana straightened up. She had one last request to make. One thing she would ask him. Only one. He might refuse her. He might not grant it. But she would ask him.
"Scripps," she said.
"What's the trouble?" Scripps turned in irritation. Perhaps, after all, he was sorry for her. He wondered.
"Can I take the bird, Scripps?" Diana's voice broke.
"Sure," said Scripps. "Why not?"
Diana picked up the bird-cage. The bird was asleep. Perched on one leg as on that night when they had first met. What was it he was like? Ah, yes. Like an old osprey. An old, old osprey from her own Lake Country. She held the cage to her tightly.
"Thank you, Scripps," she said. "Thank you for this bird." Her voice broke. "And now I must be going."
Quietly, silently, gathering her shawl around her, clutching the cage with the sleeping bird and the copy of The Mercury to her breast, with only a backward glance, a last glance at him who had been her Scripps, she opened the door of the beanery, and went out into the night. Scripps did not even see her go. He was intent on what Mandy was saying. Mandy was talking again.
"That bird she just took out," Mandy was saying.
"Oh, did she take a bird out?" Scripps asked. "Go on with the story."
"You used to wonder about what sort of bird that was," Mandy went on.
"That's right," Scripps agreed.
"Well that reminds me of a story about Gosse and the Marquis of Buque," Mandy went on.
"Tell it, Mandy. Tell it," Scripps urged.
"It seems a great friend of mine, Ford, you've heard me speak of him before, was in the marquis's castle during the war. His regiment was billeted there and the marquis, one of the richest if not the richest man in England, was serving in Ford's regiment as a private. For was sitting in the library one evening. The library was a most extraordinary place. The walls were made of bricks of gold set into tiles or something. I forget exactly how it was."
"Go on," Scripps urged. "It doesn't matter."
"Anyhow, in the middle of the wall of the library was a stuffed flamingo in a glass case."
"They understand interior decorating, these English," Scripps said.
"Your wife was English, wasn't she?" asked Mandy.
"From the Lake Country," Scripps answered. "Go on with the story."
"Well, anyway," Mandy went on, "Ford was sitting there in the library one evening after mess when the butler came in and said: 'The Marquis of Buque's compliments and might he show the library to a group of friends with whom he has been dining?' They used to let him dine out and sometimes they let him sleep in the castle. Ford said, 'Quite,' and in came the marquis in his private's uniform followed by Sir Edmund Gosse and Professor Whatsisname, I forget it for the moment from Oxford. Gosse stopped in front of the stuffed flamingo in the glass case and said, 'What have we here, Buque?'
"'It's a flamingo, Sir Edmund,' the marquis answered.
"'That's not my idea of a flamingo,' Gosse remarked.
"'No, Gosse. That's God's idea of a flamingo,' Professor Whatsisname said. I wish I could remember his name."
"Don't bother," Scripps said. His eyes were bright. He leaned forward. Something was pounding inside of him. Something he could not control. "I love you, Mandy," he said. "I love you. You are my woman." The thing was pounding away inside of him. It would not stop.
"That's all right," Mandy answered. "I've known you were my man for a long time. Would you like to hear another story? Speaking of woman."
"Go on," Scripps said. "You must never stop, Mandy. You are my woman now."
"Sure," Mandy agree. "This story is about when Knut Hamsun was a streetcar conductor in Chicago."
"Go on," Scripps said. "You are my woman now, Mandy."
He repeated the phrase to himself. My woman. My woman. You are my woman. She is my woman. It is my woman. My woman. But, somehow, he was not satisfied. Somewhere, somehow, there must be something else. Something else. My woman. The words were a little hollow now. Into his mind, though he tried to thrust it out, there came again the monstrous picture of the squaw as she strode silently into the room. That squaw. She did not wear clothes, because she did not like them. Hardy, braving the winter nights. What might not the spring bring? Mandy was talking. Mandy talking on in the beanery. Mandy telling her stores. It grows late in the beanery. Mandy talks on. She is his woman now. He is her man. But is he her man? In Scripps's brain that vision of the squaw. The squaw that strode unannounced into the beanery. The squaw who had been thrown out into the snow. Mandy talking on. Telling literary reminiscences. Authentic incidents. They had the ring of truth. But were they enough? Scripps wondered. She was his woman. But for how long? Scripps wondered. Mandy talking on in the beanery. Scripps listening. But his mind straying away. Straying away. Straying away. Where was it straying? Out into the night. Out into the night.
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