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Jan. 29, 1921 * .
Paster by Anita Parkhurst
"When Crossroads Cross Again" () Rupert Hughes also Maude Radford Warren-Frank Condon-Sax Rohmer-C.P.Cushing
Which Is the Interesting Man?
OU can single him out at a glance. Just as easily you can
call to mind the most interesting man you know—the
man who, by force of what he knows and can talk about, dominates any group or gathering in which he happens to be. You can become that man—easy and confident, fluent, at home in any company. You can make yourself more interesting to yourself and to others. You can acquire the broad mental background that gives the cultivated man his poise and selfconfidence—command the attention and the admiration that ability to talk about worth-while things commands. And the remarkable thing is that you can do it in just the time that it takes to read the course provided by
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É. are developing a livelier imagination and a broader vision to apply to your | usiness and daily life.
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HE old, old bewhiskered vagabond doddering outside the shut doors of the house of worship did not seem to know that churches are not open for business on Saturday afternoons. Farther down the snowy street the crowds hurrying past the wide open lobby of the Playhouse did not seem to know that theatres are. Loud placards proclaimed that there was a “Matinée To-day,” and that the entertainment within was the “hit of the season,” but the man in the almost unvisited box office looked as a prisoner might in a cage on the Dry Tortugas. Up the alley and then up a flight of iron stairs, and in a little cubbyhole, sat an old, old woman painting her face and reddening her lips and leadening her eyelashes as if she did not know that her day for such conquests was not Saturday, nor Sunday, nor any of the seven days. But she knew it all too well and her thoughts were concerned with no vanity except the vanity of life and hope and toil. Even as she whited and rouged her face false, she was full of the dread that shatters the aged: the fear of a pauper's lonely death. The vagabond outside the church had known that same fear for a long time; and had reason enough for his most dismal forebodings. Yet if anyone had earned a haven of peace and a serene departure, it was he: for all his life he had been as good as a
By Rupert Hughes
Illustrated by Frank Godwin
man may be and had devoted himself to works of piety and purity and charity. But now he was a pulpitless parson shuffling along the street, unhoused and vagrant as any wastrel. He was selling books— or trying to-and he had just fallen back from the doorway of a huge office building with a sign that barked at him like a dog: “Beggars, Peddlers, and Canvassers Not Allowed.”
He had found a sour-grapesy consolation in the phrase he mumbled into his beard: “Well, there'd be nobody much in the offices now anyway, seeing that it's Saturday afternoon.”
E was talking to himself a good deal nowadays, having no one else to talk to. And nowanights he was talking to his God a good deal, having no one else to count on. In his old parishes there were people enough to talk to, but he could not endure to lag superfluous in the communities he had once frightened and consoled and exalted with his voice of storm. So he was plodding the “city of brotherly love” and offer
ing a book that few people would even look at before they shook their heads. His plight was cruel because it was undeserved. He had denied himself luxuries all his life and now life denied him necessities. The old actress in her dressing room deserved her misery, of course: for even in her girlhood she had chosen the path of reckless gayety, and all her life had dwelt in the ways of ungodly merriment. She had elected the gypsy road of the play actors far back in the times when play actors were less numerous and less respectable than now. The old preacher had known her then and had wrestled with her in spirit without avail. He had suffered doubly, for he had asked her to be his wife and she had refused. He had asked her at least to abstain her feet from the downward path and she had laughed and run away. And that was half a century ago and more. He had forgotten his grief for her; her name had lapsed from his prayers; she had been lost among the throngs of the lost who had escaped the net of his preaching. Yet now she was very close to him again. Perhaps God Himself had not noticed that He was bringing them together after parting them so long. It would be very disconcerting to the preacher to find that the crossroads choice had amounted to nothing more than this: that, after long rambling through scenes of utter contrast, the two roads had run together again and would drift on down the hill as One. - Meanwhile, the preacher, hungry and cold and heartbroken, stood a longer while than he realized before the clamped portals of the church. A passerby would have imagined him an anarchist, an atheist, or anything except a parson; for suddenly he began to breathe violently, to twist and tear his beard in a frenzy, and to mutter wrathfully as he rolled a baleful glare along the sacred façade. The thing that roused his ire was a placard:
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT Every Wednesday Evening MoVING PICTURES No Charge. Everybody Welcome
This was too much to abide. The old man staggered away from the abomination. The degeneracy of these latter times had gathered the church in its slimy folds! He wondered that the lightnings were silent and that only snowflakes fell from heaven gently on the perverted edifice.
He was so dismayed that, when he reached the entrance to the Playhouse, he fashioned a little cynicism in his mind for his own somber cheer. He grumbled into the fleece about his bitter mouth: “Verily the poor children of Satan will soon be stripped of all their weapons by the greedy churchmen.”
He paused to see what manner of wares they might offer and read with bewilderment the gaudy posters:
Engagement Extraordinary! OH, KITTY! How Could YoU2 An Uproarious Sensation in 3 Audacities ALL STAR CAST
His cheeks were like live coals in the ashes of his hair. He stood stock still and read the names of the all-stars. They cast no familiar glow in the complete night of his innocence. He had never seen a play. The great names of the Booths, the Irvings, the Drews, the Barrymores, Jefferson, Suratnam, Bacon, and the others meant no more to him than to the theatrical people meant such names as Wesley, Whatcoat, Asbury, Storrs, Beecher, Tipple. He wondered that the poor wretches of the theatre should be shameless enough to permit their names to be stuck out here for the public scorn. Why did they not use such fitting pseudonyms as Beelzebub, Lucifer, Lilith, Cain, and Ham? He did not know
that by some coincidence the last name was indeed
occasionally employed by “the profession.” Suddenly one of the names leaped out at him as if
propelled from the lithograph:
It struck him so hard that it confused him like a blow. Then his jounced memory settled down and disclosed her history as a little forgotten island in his past. Forgetting where he stood now on the hither side of a flood of years as numerous as the number of people that jostled him, he recalled the girl she was. Fanny Keeney! Pretty Fanny Keeney! With her cheeks like the ruddy skin of an apple, and her throat like the soft white pulp thereof, and her eyes for the gleaming seeds—and the curse of restlessness in her heart a gnawing worm at the core. He had loved her wildness as a little girl, for he had been the wildest of the village boys. He had understood her love for speaking pieces, too, on Friday afternoons; for he had always thrilled with oratory from the time when he first delivered Spartacus's address to the Gladiators, as an urchin in short breeches that trembled in the palsy of his little knees. Fanny had parroted speeches fit for girls, usually nonsensical jingles with a laugh in them. But he had intoned the lofty sonorities, the orotundities; he had been born with a trombone in his throat and had loved to play upon his voice like an angelic trumpeter. He and Fanny had led their respective sexes in all things, and had loved each other with the respect and emulation of captains of rival columns. They got religion together, but Fanny backslid soon. She could not give up dancing and straw rides and bobsledding and skating, and she would not consecrate her life to good works. He had wrestled with her in argument and in prayer with all the fiery zealotry of boyhood. But she had mocked him and laughed at his fears for her. She had denounced his ideals and even his God as false and had claimed to find a better God in laughter and flowers and fun and in “enjoying everything in this beautiful world.” She had even
gone to the theatre on such rare occasions as there was a chance in their home town. He had struggled desperately to keep Fanny from attending a performance by one visiting actor called Edward Forester, or some such name—a person of notoriously fierce temper and irregular conduct, who provoked fatal riots and on that night performed one of the beautiful poems that the misguided Shakespeare in his ignorance had unfortunately composed in play form. Fanny had insisted on going, though it was prayermeeting night. When he met her the next day, he hoped to find her grief-stricken with contrition, but she was shaken rather with a strange exultance. She pitied him for missing it, and in a very mania, like one drunken with new wine, she cried out that she felt the call to go upon the stage. He had seized her hands and pleaded with her, but in vain. He remembered that it was in just such a soft slow snow as this that he had pleaded. He remembered that the flames of the pit yawning for her pretty feet seemed to cast a red glare on the white ground, just as these afternoon electric lights tinged the trodden snow now with a hellish glamour.
HERE had been no such things as electric lights then, or trolley cars, or moving pictures. Fanny Keeney belonged to the ancient days of his youth. And her name was here now! It must be that some one else had happened to use it, some poor girl anxious to spare her family the disgracing of her real name. For if this were his Fanny Keeney, she would be almost as old as he himself. He was deep in the eighties and she would be well over the sill. Fanny Keeney eighty! It was impossible. But he must make sure. Automatically he thought first of saving her soul. Perhaps she had been miraculously spared to this day that he might bring back her feet from hell; that he might retrieve his first failure and make it his last triumph. He hesitated a little, for he had hardly the right to go back to saving souls. The church had told him years ago that he was too old even to preach, to say nothing of fumbling with everlasting destinies. Still, he could not let Fanny Keeney go without one more try. He would save her unofficially; but save her he must. The incessant crowds had gradually battered him backward into the lobby of the theatre. Now that he had made up his mind, he wondered how one went about saving actresses. meet them first. He had a vague notion that that was all too easy. Yet how did one begin? A fearful word he had used in ancient sermons came back to him—“the stage door.” That was it! Actresses were met at stage doors. But where were stage doors? He turned about undecidedly and saw a sorrowful young man staring at him from a barred window. As their eyes met, the caged youth seemed to brighten. The old preacher went to him and was received with the unsurpassed courtesy that box-office men reserve for use on rainy days and during the life of failures.
He realized that one must
Jordan was moved to get off some of his own best rib ticklers that had shaken Sunday-school picnics back in '84. The laughter was superb. He never dreamed that it was the result of long practice in laughing at the same line indefinitely
As soon as he realized that he was not going to sell a ticket, the ticket seller reverted at once to the gruffness he employed when a success was on the boards. But when he made out what the old man was getting at, and understood that this fuzzy derelict was an antediluvian Johnny trying to make a date with poor old Fanny Keeney, the box-office man unbent again. He kept his face as straight as he could while he explained (mostly in words of one syllable, nearly all of them Greek to the preacher) that the company could not be seen during the show, and that Miss Keeney was “on for the final curtain and wouldn’t get washed up and off till about five o'clock. If he wanted to stick around till then, he could catch her at the stage door up the alley.” When he got this through the old barbarian's head, he relented enough to offer to pass the old man in, as it was so bad outside. The count-up was over, the house was full of paper, anyway, and, in fact, seeing as he was “a friend of that grand old grande dame,” he could have a whole box to himself if he would walk inside. The box-office man had a ticket punched and pushed through the bars before he caught the look of horror that gleamed in the old man's eyes as he shook his head and turned away, whispering a “Retro me, Sathanas!” He would have gone down into the jaws of hell for Fanny, but going into a playhouse to wait for her would be simply flirting with brimstone. He trembled even to be seen issuing from a theatre and he hoped that none of the wayfarers would misconstrue his errand there. More rickety of gait than usual, he pushed on till he came to an open square, where he brushed the
snow from a bench and sat down until the hands of a befogged clock should reach the hour of five. Reminiscences snowed down on him from clouds of memory. Shreds and flakes of the personality that had once been Fanny Keeney drifted back and made her live again, but always as the perilously beautiful maiden that had dared life too eagerly. He could not think her old. He set the remembered portrait of her upon an easel, as it were, and tried to whiten the lustrous hair and furrow the blithe mien as he had seen time do with other faces, with the face of his wife especially. But he could not succeed. His wife had dwelt
with him in a realm of goodly thoughts, had traveled with him in the itinerancy of his pulpit changes, had partaken of no evil, and yet she had faded and
drooped, and her skin had been pleated with wrinkles.
She had fulfilled her threescore-and-ten and had passed to her reward worn out with life.
If she had been so consumed at seventy, what could be left of Fanny Keeney at eighty after years of the riotous wanderings of the theatre?
Surely she would be decrepit and dismayed enough to be ready for redemption from the eternal punishment that could not be much longer withheld. To snatch even an ember of her from the burning would be, oh, so well worth while, even though his hand shriveled when he thrust it into the immortal flames!
T seemed almost a profanation to place Fanny and his wife Bethiah in a fellowship of thought, for Bethiah moved across the long corridor of his life and up the stairs of heaven, a very spirit of motherhood, but Fanny dashed past a window only as a young Jezebel, and danced off in a gust of wild gayety quenched as briefly as a candle's tongue of fire blown so high that it is blown out. The little town of their youth had not satisfied her; the emotions it furnished had not been big enough or fierce enough to feed her insatiable soul. She had said that she stifled there. Surely by now she was sickened with the husks of her prodigal errancy. Surely she was ready to come home and fall upon her knees and beg to be taken into the fold before the night fell. He wondered just how to approach her for her own salvation. Fishers of souls must take the fish in the fish's way and not their own. In what lan
guage could he address her? Not only the how but the where of the conference puzzled him. He had no parsonage, no room behind the pulpit, no pulpit, no authority. He could not take her to the doleful boarding house where he lived in an upper chamber ill garnished. He could not go with her to the squalor or the gaudiness of her own lair. He could only entreat her to sit with him here in this open park in the early dusk. He began to plan his speech with her as he had once prepared his sermons. Only, then he had been able to lay out his arguments methodically, logically,
lucidly, from firstly to lastly; and to utter them without interruption from the upstaring reverent congregation. Fanny, however, had never been one to sit still and look-up and be sermonized. She would never let him talk himself out. She had always broken through the fetters of thought as he cast them about her: had flounced and mocked, and romped away from his solemnities. Perhaps she would be tamed by now. He thought so long that he was startled to hear a remote clock tower uttering five. He rose and hurried through the darkling snow that muffled the tread of the throngs and beat softly upon him from everywhere. He paused a moment at the alley as at an infernal lane. And then with a desperate courage he advanced upon the citadel of sin. He waited shamefaced a long moment before he could lift his knuckles to challenge the door whose label “Stage Entrance, Positively No Admittance,” he would have changed to Dante’s “Lasciate Ogni Speranza.” Before he could knock, the door opened and a number of roughly clad fellows hurried out. He did not know that they were members of the stage crew, grips and electricians and property men, but they seemed not to be touched with any of the magic of evil. They paid no heed to him, but cursed the snow and hurried on. He waited again, trying to muster courage. Again a group came out: a nice-looking old man and a younger man of a priestly cast of countenance and sonorous speech, and then a trio of young women remarkably unremarkable in garb or manner, except that one of them laughed drearily: “This bliz killed the biz.” (Continued on page 21)