Dice, Brassknuckles & Guitar

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

originally published in International (May 1923)


Parts of New Jersey, as you know, are under water, and other parts
are under continual surveillance by the authorities. But here and
there lie patches of garden country dotted with old-fashioned frame
mansions, which have wide shady porches and a red swing on the
lawn. And perhaps, on the widest and shadiest of the porches there
is even a hammock left over from the hammock days, stirring gently
in a mid-Victorian wind.

When tourists come to such last-century landmarks they stop their
cars and gaze for a while and then mutter: “Well, thank God this
age is joined on to something” or else they say: “Well, of course,
that house is mostly halls and has a thousand rats and one
bathroom, but there’s an atmosphere about it–”

The tourist doesn’t stay long. He drives on to his Elizabethan
villa of pressed cardboard or his early Norman meat-market or his
medieval Italian pigeon-coop–because this is the twentieth century
and Victorian houses are as unfashionable as the works of Mrs.
Humphry Ward.

He can’t see the hammock from the road–but sometimes there’s a
girl in the hammock. There was this afternoon. She was asleep in
it and apparently unaware of the esthetic horrors which surrounded
her, the stone statue of Diana, for instance, which grinned
idiotically under the sunlight on the lawn.

There was something enormously yellow about the whole scene–there
was this sunlight, for instance, that was yellow, and the hammock
was of the particularly hideous yellow peculiar to hammocks, and
the girl’s yellow hair was spread out upon the hammock in a sort of
invidious comparison.

She slept with her lips closed and her hands clasped behind her
head, as it is proper for young girls to sleep. Her breast rose
and fell slightly with no more emphasis than the sway of the
hammock’s fringe.

Her name, Amanthis, was as old-fashioned as the house she lived in.
I regret to say that her mid-Victorian connections ceased abruptly
at this point.

Now if this were a moving picture (as, of course, I hope it will
some day be) I would take as many thousand feet of her as I was
allowed–then I would move the camera up close and show the yellow
down on the back of her neck where her hair stopped and the warm
color of her cheeks and arms, because I like to think of her
sleeping there, as you yourself might have slept, back in your
young days. Then I would hire a man named Israel Glucose to write
some idiotic line of transition, and switch thereby to another
scene that was taking place at no particular spot far down the

In a moving automobile sat a southern gentleman accompanied by his
body-servant. He was on his way, after a fashion, to New York but
he was somewhat hampered by the fact that the upper and lower
portions of his automobile were no longer in exact juxtaposition.
In fact from time to time the two riders would dismount, shove the
body on to the chassis, corner to corner, and then continue onward,
vibrating slightly in involuntary unison with the motor.

Except that it had no door in back the car might have been built
early in the mechanical age. It was covered with the mud of eight
states and adorned in front by an enormous but defunct motometer
and behind by a mangy pennant bearing the legend “Tarleton, Ga.”
In the dim past someone had begun to paint the hood yellow but
unfortunately had been called away when but half through the task.

As the gentleman and his body-servant were passing the house where
Amanthis lay beautifully asleep in the hammock, something happened–
the body fell off the car. My only apology for stating this so
suddenly is that it happened very suddenly indeed. When the noise
had died down and the dust had drifted away master and man arose
and inspected the two halves.

“Look-a-there,” said the gentleman in disgust, “the doggone thing
got all separated that time.”

“She bust in two,” agreed the body-servant.

“Hugo,” said the gentleman, after some consideration, “we got to
get a hammer an’ nails an’ TACK it on.”

They glanced up at the Victorian house. On all sides faintly
irregular fields stretched away to a faintly irregular unpopulated
horizon. There was no choice, so the black Hugo opened the gate
and followed his master up a gravel walk, casting only the blasé
glances of a confirmed traveler at the red swing and the stone
statue of Diana which turned on them a storm-crazed stare.

At the exact moment when they reached the porch Amanthis awoke, sat
up suddenly and looked them over.

The gentleman was young, perhaps twenty-four, and his name was Jim
Powell. He was dressed in a tight and dusty readymade suit which
was evidently expected to take flight at a moment’s notice, for it
was secured to his body by a line of six preposterous buttons.

There were supernumerary buttons upon the coat-sleeves also and
Amanthis could not resist a glance to determine whether or not more
buttons ran up the side of his trouser leg. But the trouser
bottoms were distinguished only by their shape, which was that of a
bell. His vest was cut low, barely restraining an amazing necktie
from fluttering in the wind.

He bowed formally, dusting his knees with a thatched straw hat.
Simultaneously he smiled, half shutting his faded blue eyes and
displaying white and beautifully symmetrical teeth.

“Good evenin’,” he said in abandoned Georgian. “My automobile has
met with an accident out yonder by your gate. I wondered if it
wouldn’t be too much to ask you if I could have the use of a hammer
and some tacks–nails, for a little while.”

Amanthis laughed. For a moment she laughed uncontrollably. Mr.
Jim Powell laughed, politely and appreciatively, with her. His
body-servant, deep in the throes of colored adolescence, alone
preserved a dignified gravity.

“I better introduce who I am, maybe,” said the visitor. “My name’s
Powell. I’m a resident of Tarleton, Georgia. This here nigger’s
my boy Hugo.”

“Your SON!” The girl stared from one to the other in wild

“No, he’s my body-servant, I guess you’d call it. We call a nigger
a boy down yonder.”

At this reference to the finer customs of his native soil the boy
Hugo put his hands behind his back and looked darkly and
superciliously down the lawn.

“Yas’m,” he muttered, “I’m a body-servant.”

“Where you going in your automobile,” demanded Amanthis.

“Goin’ north for the summer.”

“Where to?”

The tourist waved his hand with a careless gesture as if to
indicate the Adirondacks, the Thousand Islands, Newport–but he

“We’re tryin’ New York.”

“Have you ever been there before?”

“Never have. But I been to Atlanta lots of times. An’ we passed
through all kinds of cities this trip. Man!”

He whistled to express the enormous spectacularity of his recent

“Listen,” said Amanthis intently, “you better have something to
eat. Tell your–your body-servant to go ’round in back and ask the
cook to send us out some sandwiches and lemonade. Or maybe you
don’t drink lemonade–very few people do any more.”

Mr. Powell by a circular motion of his finger sped Hugo on the
designated mission. Then he seated himself gingerly in a rocking-
chair and began revolving his thatched straw hat rapidly in his

“You cer’nly are mighty kind,” he told her. “An’ if I wanted
anything stronger than lemonade I got a bottle of good old corn out
in the car. I brought it along because I thought maybe I wouldn’t
be able to drink the whisky they got up here.”

“Listen,” she said, “my name’s Powell too. Amanthis Powell.”

“Say, is that right?” He laughed ecstatically. “Maybe we’re kin
to each other. I come from mighty good people,” he went on. “Pore
though. I got some money because my aunt she was using it to keep
her in a sanitarium and she died.” He paused, presumably out of
respect to his late aunt. Then he concluded with brisk
nonchalance, “I ain’t touched the principal but I got a lot of the
income all at once so I thought I’d come north for the summer.”

At this point Hugo reappeared on the veranda steps and became

“White lady back there she asked me don’t I want eat some too.
What I tell her?”

“You tell her yes mamm if she be so kind,” directed his master.
And as Hugo retired he confided to Amanthis: “That boy’s got no
sense at all. He don’t want to do nothing without I tell him he
can. I brought him up,” he added, not without pride.

When the sandwiches arrived Mr. Powell stood up. He was
unaccustomed to white servants and obviously expected an

“Are you a married lady?” he inquired of Amanthis, when the servant
was gone.

“No,” she answered, and added from the security of eighteen, “I’m
an old maid.”

Again he laughed politely.

“You mean you’re a society girl.”

She shook her head. Mr. Powell noted with embarrassed enthusiasm
the particular yellowness of her yellow hair.

“Does this old place look like it?” she said cheerfully. “No, you
perceive in me a daughter of the countryside. Color–one hundred
percent spontaneous–in the daytime anyhow. Suitors–promising
young barbers from the neighboring village with somebody’s late
hair still clinging to their coat-sleeves.”

“Your daddy oughtn’t to let you go with a country barber,” said the
tourist disapprovingly. He considered–“You ought to be a New York
society girl.”

“No.” Amanthis shook her head sadly. “I’m too good-looking. To
be a New York society girl you have to have a long nose and
projecting teeth and dress like the actresses did three years ago.”

Jim began to tap his foot rhythmically on the porch and in a moment
Amanthis discovered that she was unconsciously doing the same

“Stop!” she commanded, “Don’t make me do that.”

He looked down at his foot.

“Excuse me,” he said humbly. “I don’t know–it’s just something I

This intense discussion was now interrupted by Hugo who appeared on
the steps bearing a hammer and a handful of nails.

Mr. Powell arose unwillingly and looked at his watch.

“We got to go, daggone it,” he said, frowning heavily. “See here.
Wouldn’t you LIKE to be a New York society girl and go to those
dances an’ all, like you read about, where they throw gold pieces

She looked at him with a curious expression.

“Don’t your folks know some society people?” he went on.

“All I’ve got’s my daddy–and, you see, he’s a judge.”

“That’s too bad,” he agreed.

She got herself by some means from the hammock and they went down
toward the road, side by side.

“Well, I’ll keep my eyes open for you and let you know,” he
persisted. “A pretty girl like you ought to go around in society.
We may be kin to each other, you see, and us Powells ought to stick

“What are you going to do in New York?”

They were now almost at the gate and the tourist pointed to the two
depressing sectors of his automobile.

“I’m goin’ to drive a taxi. This one right here. Only it’s got so
it busts in two all the time.”

“You’re going to drive THAT in New York?”

Jim looked at her uncertainly. Such a pretty girl should certainly
control the habit of shaking all over upon no provocation at all.

“Yes mamm,” he said with dignity.

Amanthis watched while they placed the upper half of the car upon
the lower half and nailed it severely into place. Then Mr. Powell
took the wheel and his body-servant climbed in beside him.

“I’m cer’nly very much obliged to you indeed for your hospitality.
Convey my respects to your father.”

“I will,” she assured him. “Come back and see me, if you don’t
mind barbers in the room.”

He dismissed this unpleasant thought with a gesture.

“Your company would always be charming.” He put the car into gear
as though to drown out the temerity of his parting speech. “You’re
the prettiest girl I’ve seen up north–by far.”

Then with a groan and a rattle Mr. Powell of southern Georgia with
his own car and his own body-servant and his own ambitions and his
own private cloud of dust continued on north for the summer.

She thought she would never see him again. She lay in her hammock,
slim and beautiful, opened her left eye slightly to see June come
in and then closed it and retired contentedly back into her dreams.

But one day when the midsummer vines had climbed the precarious
sides of the red swing in the lawn, Mr. Jim Powell of Tarleton,
Georgia, came vibrating back into her life. They sat on the wide
porch as before.

“I’ve got a great scheme,” he told her.

“Did you drive your taxi like you said?”

“Yes mamm, but the business was right bad. I waited around in
front of all those hotels and theaters an’ nobody ever got in.”


“Well, one night there was some drunk fellas they got in, only just
as I was gettin’ started my automobile came apart. And another
night it was rainin’ and there wasn’t no other taxis and a lady got
in because she said she had to go a long ways. But before we got
there she made me stop and she got out. She seemed kinda mad and
she went walkin’ off in the rain. Mighty proud lot of people they
got up in New York.”

“And so you’re going home?” asked Amanthis sympathetically.

“No MAMM. I got an idea.” His blue eyes grew narrow. “Has that
barber been around here–with hair on his sleeves?”

“No. He’s–he’s gone away.”

“Well, then, first thing is I want to leave this car of mine here
with you, if that’s all right. It ain’t the right color for a
taxi. To pay for its keep I’d like to have you drive it just as
much as you want. ‘Long as you got a hammer an’ nails with you
there ain’t much bad that can happen–”

“I’ll take care of it,” interrupted Amanthis, “but where are YOU

“Southampton. It’s about the most aristocratic watering trough–
watering-place there is around here, so that’s where I’m going.”

She sat up in amazement.

“What are you going to do there?”

“Listen.” He leaned toward her confidentially. “Were you serious
about wanting to be a New York society girl?”

“Deadly serious.”

“That’s all I wanted to know,” he said inscrutably. “You just wait
here on this porch a couple of weeks and–and sleep. And if any
barbers come to see you with hair on their sleeves you tell ’em
you’re too sleepy to see ’em.”

“What then?”

“Then you’ll hear from me. Just tell your old daddy he can do all
the judging he wants but you’re goin’ to do some DANCIN’. Mamm,”
he continued decisively, “you talk about society! Before one month
I’m goin’ to have you in more society than you ever saw.”

Further than this he would say nothing. His manner conveyed that
she was going to be suspended over a perfect pool of gaiety and
violently immersed, to an accompaniment of: “Is it gay enough for
you, mamm? Shall I let in a little more excitement, mamm?”

“Well,” answered Amanthis, lazily considering, “there are few
things for which I’d forego the luxury of sleeping through July and
August–but if you’ll write me a letter I’ll–I’ll run up to

Jim snapped his fingers ecstatically.

“More society,” he assured her with all the confidence at his
command, “than anybody ever saw.”

Three days later a young man wearing a straw hat that might have
been cut from the thatched roof of an English cottage rang the
doorbell of the enormous and astounding Madison Harlan house at
Southampton. He asked the butler if there were any people in the
house between the ages of sixteen and twenty. He was informed that
Miss Genevieve Harlan and Mr. Ronald Harlan answered that
description and thereupon he handed in a most peculiar card and
requested in fetching Georgian that it be brought to their

As a result he was closeted for almost an hour with Mr. Ronald
Harlan (who was a student at the Hillkiss School) and Miss
Genevieve Harlan (who was not uncelebrated at Southampton dances).
When he left he bore a short note in Miss Harlan’s handwriting
which he presented together with his peculiar card at the next
large estate. It happened to be that of the Clifton Garneaus.
Here, as if by magic, the same audience was granted him.

He went on–it was a hot day, and men who could not afford to do so
were carrying their coats on the public highway, but Jim, a native
of southernmost Georgia, was as fresh and cool at the last house as
at the first. He visited ten houses that day. Anyone following
him in his course might have taken him to be some curiously gifted
book-agent with a much sought-after volume as his stock in trade.

There was something in his unexpected demand for the adolescent
members of the family which made hardened butlers lose their
critical acumen. As he left each house a close observer might have
seen that fascinated eyes followed him to the door and excited
voices whispered something which hinted at a future meeting.

The second day he visited twelve houses. Southampton has grown
enormously–he might have kept on his round for a week and never
seen the same butler twice–but it was only the palatial, the
amazing houses which intrigued him.

On the third day he did a thing that many people have been told to
do and few have done–he hired a hall. Perhaps the sixteen-to-
twenty-year-old people in the enormous houses had told him to. The
hall he hired had once been “Mr. Snorkey’s Private Gymnasium for
Gentlemen.” It was situated over a garage on the south edge of
Southampton and in the days of its prosperity had been, I regret to
say, a place where gentlemen could, under Mr. Snorkey’s direction,
work off the effects of the night before. It was now abandoned–
Mr. Snorkey had given up and gone away and died.

We will now skip three weeks during which time we may assume that
the project which had to do with hiring a hall and visiting the two
dozen largest houses in Southampton got under way.

The day to which we will skip was the July day on which Mr. James
Powell sent a wire to Miss Amanthis Powell saying that if she still
aspired to the gaiety of the highest society she should set out for
Southampton by the earliest possible train. He himself would meet
her at the station.

Jim was no longer a man of leisure, so when she failed to arrive at
the time her wire had promised he grew restless. He supposed she
was coming on a later train, turned to go back to his–his project–
and met her entering the station from the street side.

“Why, how did you–”

“Well,” said Amanthis, “I arrived this morning instead, and I
didn’t want to bother you so I found a respectable, not to say
dull, boarding-house on the Ocean Road.”

She was quite different from the indolent Amanthis of the porch
hammock, he thought. She wore a suit of robins’ egg blue and a
rakish young hat with a curling feather–she was attired not unlike
those young ladies between sixteen and twenty who of late were
absorbing his attention. Yes, she would do very well.

He bowed her profoundly into a taxicab and got in beside her.

“Isn’t it about time you told me your scheme?” she suggested.

“Well, it’s about these society girls up here.” He waved his hand
airily. “I know ’em all.”

“Where are they?”

“Right now they’re with Hugo. You remember–that’s my body-

“With Hugo!” Her eyes widened. “Why? What’s it all about?”

“Well, I got–I got sort of a school, I guess you’d call it.”

“A school?”

“It’s a sort of Academy. And I’m the head of it. I invented it.”

He flipped a card from his case as though he were shaking down a


She took the card. In large lettering it bore the legend

“Dice, Brassknuckles and Guitar”

She stared in amazement.

“Dice, Brassknuckles and Guitar?” she repeated in awe.

“Yes mamm.”

“What does it mean? What–do you SELL ’em?”

“No mamm, I teach ’em. It’s a profession.”

“Dice, Brassknuckles and Guitar? What’s the J. M.?”

“That stands for Jazz Master.”

“But what is it? What’s it about?”

“Well, you see, it’s like this. One night when I was in New York I
got talkin’ to a young fella who was drunk. He was one of my
fares. And he’d taken some society girl somewhere and lost her.”

“LOST her?”

“Yes mamm. He forgot her, I guess. And he was right worried.
Well, I got to thinkin’ that these girls nowadays–these society
girls–they lead a sort of dangerous life and my course of study
offers a means of protection against these dangers.”

“You teach ’em to use brassknuckles?”

“Yes mamm, if necessary. Look here, you take a girl and she goes
into some café where she’s got no business to go. Well then, her
escort he gets a little too much to drink an’ he goes to sleep an’
then some other fella comes up and says ‘Hello, sweet mamma’ or
whatever one of those mashers says up here. What does she do? She
can’t scream, on account of no real lady’ll scream nowadays–no–
She just reaches down in her pocket and slips her fingers into a
pair of Powell’s defensive brassknuckles, débutante’s size,
executes what I call the Society Hook, and Wham! that big fella’s
on his way to the cellar.”

“Well–what–what’s the guitar for?” whispered the awed Amanthis.
“Do they have to knock somebody over with the guitar?”

“No, MAMM!” exclaimed Jim in horror. “No mamm. In my course no
lady would be taught to raise a guitar against anybody. I teach
’em to play. Shucks! you ought to hear ’em. Why, when I’ve given
’em two lessons you’d think some of ’em was colored.”

“And the dice?”

“Dice? I’m related to a dice. My grandfather was a dice. I teach
’em how to make those dice perform. I protect pocketbook as well
as person.”

“Did you–Have you got any pupils?”

“Mamm I got all the really nice, rich people in the place. What I
told you ain’t all. I teach lots of things. I teach ’em the
jellyroll–and the Mississippi Sunrise. Why, there was one girl
she came to me and said she wanted to learn to snap her fingers. I
mean REALLY snap ’em–like they do. She said she never could snap
her fingers since she was little. I gave her two lessons and now
Wham! Her daddy says he’s goin’ to leave home.”

“When do you have it?” demanded the weak and shaken Amanthis.

“Three times a week. We’re goin’ there right now.”

“And where do I fit in?”

“Well, you’ll just be one of the pupils. I got it fixed up that
you come from very high-tone people down in New Jersey. I didn’t
tell ’em your daddy was a judge–I told ’em he was the man that had
the patent on lump sugar.”

She gasped.

“So all you got to do,” he went on, “is to pretend you never saw no

They were now at the south end of the village and Amanthis saw a
row of cars parked in front of a two-story building. The cars were
all low, long, rakish and of a brilliant hue. They were the sort
of car that is manufactured to solve the millionaire’s problem on
his son’s eighteenth birthday.

Then Amanthis was ascending a narrow stairs to the second story.
Here, painted on a door from which came the sounds of music and
laughter were the words:

“Dice, Brassknuckles and Guitar”
Hours 3-5 P.M.

“Now if you’ll just step this way–” said the Principal, pushing
open the door.

Amanthis found herself in a long, bright room, populated with girls
and men of about her own age. The scene presented itself to her at
first as a sort of animated afternoon tea but after a moment she
began to see, here and there, a motive and a pattern to the

The students were scattered into groups, sitting, kneeling,
standing, but all rapaciously intent on the subjects which
engrossed them. From six young ladies gathered in a ring around
some indistinguishable objects came a medley of cries and
exclamations–plaintive, pleading, supplicating, exhorting,
imploring and lamenting–their voices serving as tenor to an
undertone of mysterious clatters.

Next to this group, four young men were surrounding an adolescent
black, who proved to be none other than Mr. Powell’s late body-
servant. The young men were roaring at Hugo apparently unrelated
phrases, expressing a wide gamut of emotion. Now their voices rose
to a sort of clamor, now they spoke softly and gently, with mellow
implication. Every little while Hugo would answer them with words
of approbation, correction or disapproval.

“What are they doing?” whispered Amanthis to Jim.

“That there’s a course in southern accent. Lot of young men up
here want to learn southern accent–so we teach it–Georgia,
Florida, Alabama, Eastern Shore, Ole Virginian. Some of ’em even
want straight nigger–for song purposes.”

They walked around among the groups. Some girls with metal
knuckles were furiously insulting two punching bags on each of
which was painted the leering, winking face of a “masher.” A mixed
group, led by a banjo tom-tom, were rolling harmonic syllables from
their guitars. There were couples dancing flat-footed in the
corner to a phonograph record made by Rastus Muldoon’s Savannah
Band; there were couples stalking a slow Chicago with a Memphis
Sideswoop solemnly around the room.

“Are there any rules?” asked Amanthis.

Jim considered.

“Well,” he answered finally, “they can’t smoke unless they’re over
sixteen, and the boys have got to shoot square dice and I don’t let
’em bring liquor into the Academy.”

“I see.”

“And now, Miss Powell, if you’re ready I’ll ask you to take off
your hat and go over and join Miss Genevieve Harlan at that
punching bag in the corner.” He raised his voice. “Hugo,” he
called, “there’s a new student here. Equip her with a pair of
Powell’s Defensive Brassknuckles–débutante size.”

I regret to say that I never saw Jim Powell’s famous Jazz School in
action nor followed his personally conducted tours into the
mysteries of Dice, Brassknuckles and Guitar. So I can give you
only such details as were later reported to me by one of his
admiring pupils. During all the discussion of it afterwards no one
ever denied that it was an enormous success, and no pupil ever
regretted having received its degree–Bachelor of Jazz.

The parents innocently assumed that it was a sort of musical and
dancing academy, but its real curriculum was transmitted from Santa
Barbara to Biddeford Pool by that underground associated press
which links up the so-called younger generation. Invitations to
visit Southampton were at a premium–and Southampton generally is
almost as dull for young people as Newport.

The Academy branched out with a small but well-groomed Jazz

“If I could keep it dark,” Jim confided to Amanthis, “I’d have up
Rastus Muldoon’s Band from Savannah. That’s the band I’ve always
wanted to lead.”

He was making money. His charges were not exorbitant–as a rule
his pupils were not particularly flush–but he moved from his
boarding-house to the Casino Hotel where he took a suite and had
Hugo serve him his breakfast in bed.

The establishing of Amanthis as a member of Southampton’s younger
set was easier than he had expected. Within a week she was known
to everyone in the school by her first name. Miss Genevieve Harlan
took such a fancy to her that she was invited to a sub-deb dance at
the Harlan house–and evidently acquitted herself with tact, for
thereafter she was invited to almost every such entertainment in

Jim saw less of her than he would have liked. Not that her manner
toward him changed–she walked with him often in the mornings, she
was always willing to listen to his plans–but after she was taken
up by the fashionable her evenings seemed to be monopolized.
Several times Jim arrived at her boarding-house to find her out of
breath, as if she had just come in at a run, presumably from some
festivity in which he had no share.

So as the summer waned he found that one thing was lacking to
complete the triumph of his enterprise. Despite the hospitality
shown to Amanthis, the doors of Southampton were closed to him.
Polite to, or rather, fascinated by him as his pupils were from
three to five, after that hour they moved in another world.

His was the position of a golf professional who, though he may
fraternize, and even command, on the links, loses his privileges
with the sun-down. He may look in the club window but he cannot
dance. And, likewise, it was not given to Jim to see his teachings
put into effect. He could hear the gossip of the morning after–
that was all.

But while the golf professional, being English, holds himself
proudly below his patrons, Jim Powell, who “came from a right good
family down there–pore though,” lay awake many nights in his hotel
bed and heard the music drifting into his window from the Katzbys’
house or the Beach Club, and turned over restlessly and wondered
what was the matter. In the early days of his success he had
bought himself a dress-suit, thinking that he would soon have a
chance to wear it–but it still lay untouched in the box in which
it had come from the tailor’s.

Perhaps, he thought, there was some real gap which separated him
from the rest. It worried him. One boy in particular, Martin Van
Vleck, son of Van Vleck the ash-can King, made him conscious of the
gap. Van Vleck was twenty-one, a tutoring-school product who still
hoped to enter Yale. Several times Jim had heard him make remarks
not intended for Jim’s ear–once in regard to the suit with
multiple buttons, again in reference to Jim’s long, pointed shoes.
Jim had passed these over.

He knew that Van Vleck was attending the school chiefly to
monopolize the time of little Martha Katzby, who was just sixteen
and too young to have attention of a boy of twenty-one–especially
the attention of Van Vleck, who was so spiritually exhausted by his
educational failures that he drew on the rather exhaustible
innocence of sixteen.

It was late in September, two days before the Harlan dance which
was to be the last and biggest of the season for this younger
crowd. Jim, as usual, was not invited. He had hoped that he would
be. The two young Harlans, Ronald and Genevieve, had been his
first patrons when he arrived at Southampton–and it was Genevieve
who had taken such a fancy to Amanthis. To have been at their
dance–the most magnificent dance of all–would have crowned and
justified the success of the waning summer.

His class, gathering for the afternoon, was loudly anticipating the
next day’s revel with no more thought of him than if he had been
the family butler. Hugo, standing beside Jim, chuckled suddenly
and remarked:

“Look yonder that man Van Vleck. He paralyzed. He been havin’
powerful lotta corn this evenin’.”

Jim turned and stared at Van Vleck, who had linked arms with little
Martha Katzby and was saying something to her in a low voice. Jim
saw her try to draw away.

He put his whistle to his mouth and blew it.

“All right,” he cried, “Le’s go! Group one tossin’ the drumstick,
high an’ zig-zag, group two, test your mouth organs for the
Riverfront Shuffle. Promise ’em sugar! Flatfoots this way!
Orchestra–let’s have the Florida Drag-Out played as a dirge.”

There was an unaccustomed sharpness in his voice and the exercises
began with a mutter of facetious protest.

With his smoldering grievance directing itself toward Van Vleck,
Jim was walking here and there among the groups when Hugo tapped
him suddenly on the arm. He looked around. Two participants had
withdrawn from the mouth organ institute–one of them was Van Vleck
and he was giving a drink out of his flask to fifteen-year-old
Ronald Harlan.

Jim strode across the room. Van Vleck turned defiantly as he came

“All right,” said Jim, trembling with anger, “you know the rules.
You get out!”

The music died slowly away and there was a sudden drifting over in
the direction of the trouble. Somebody snickered. An atmosphere
of anticipation formed instantly. Despite the fact that they all
liked Jim their sympathies were divided–Van Vleck was one of them.

“Get out!” repeated Jim, more quietly.

“Are you talking to me?” inquired Van Vleck coldly.


“Then you better say ‘sir.'”

“I wouldn’t say ‘sir’ to anybody that’d give a little boy whisky!
You get out!”

“Look here!” said Van Vleck furiously. “You’ve butted in once too
much. I’ve known Ronald since he was two years old. Ask HIM if he
wants YOU to tell him what he can do!”

Ronald Harlan, his dignity offended, grew several years older and
looked haughtily at Jim.

“Mind your own business!” he said defiantly, albeit a little

“Hear that?” demanded Van Vleck. “My God, can’t you see you’re
just a servant? Ronald here’d no more think of asking you to his
party than he would his bootlegger.”

“Youbettergetout!” cried Jim incoherently.

Van Vleck did not move. Reaching out suddenly, Jim caught his
wrist and jerking it behind his back forced his arm upward until
Van Vleck bent forward in agony. Jim leaned and picked the flask
from the floor with his free hand. Then he signed Hugo to open the
hall-door, uttered an abrupt “You STEP!” and marched his helpless
captive out into the hall where he literally THREW him downstairs,
head over heels bumping from wall to banister, and hurled his flask
after him.

Then he reentered his academy, closed the door behind him and stood
with his back against it.

“It–it happens to be a rule that nobody drinks while in this
Academy.” He paused, looking from face to face, finding there
sympathy, awe, disapproval, conflicting emotions. They stirred
uneasily. He caught Amanthis’s eye, fancied he saw a faint nod of
encouragement and, with almost an effort, went on:

“I just HAD to throw that fella out an’ you-all know it.” Then he
concluded with a transparent affectation of dismissing an
unimportant matter–“All right, let’s go! Orchestra–!”

But no one felt exactly like going on. The spontaneity of the
proceedings had been violently disturbed. Someone made a run or
two on the sliding guitar and several of the girls began whamming
at the leer on the punching bags, but Ronald Harlan, followed by
two other boys, got their hats and went silently out the door.

Jim and Hugo moved among the groups as usual until a certain
measure of routine activity was restored but the enthusiasm was
unrecapturable and Jim, shaken and discouraged, considered
discontinuing school for the day. But he dared not. If they went
home in this mood they might not come back. The whole thing
depended on a mood. He must recreate it, he thought frantically–
now, at once!

But try as he might, there was little response. He himself was not
happy–he could communicate no gaiety to them. They watched his
efforts listlessly and, he thought, a little contemptuously.

Then the tension snapped when the door burst suddenly open,
precipitating a brace of middle-aged and excited women into the
room. No person over twenty-one had ever entered the Academy
before–but Van Vleck had gone direct to headquarters. The women
were Mrs. Clifton Garneau and Mrs. Poindexter Katzby, two of the
most fashionable and, at present, two of the most flurried women in
Southampton. They were in search of their daughters as, in these
days, so many women continually are.

The business was over in about three minutes.

“And as for you!” cried Mrs. Clifton Garneau in an awful voice,
“your idea is to run a bar and–and opium den for children! You
ghastly, horrible, unspeakable man! I can smell morphin fumes!
Don’t tell me I can’t smell morphin fumes. I can smell morphin

“And,” bellowed Mrs. Poindexter Katzby, “you have colored men
around! You have colored girls hidden! I’m going to the police!”

Not content with herding their own daughters from the room, they
insisted on the exodus of their friends’ daughters. Jim was not a
little touched when several of them–including even little Martha
Katzby, before she was snatched fiercely away by her mother–came
up and shook hands with him. But they were all going, haughtily,
regretfully or with shame-faced mutters of apology.

“Good-by,” he told them wistfully. “In the morning I’ll send you
the money that’s due you.”

And, after all, they were not sorry to go. Outside, the sound of
their starting motors, the triumphant put-put of their cut-outs
cutting the warm September air, was a jubilant sound–a sound of
youth and hopes high as the sun. Down to the ocean, to roll in the
waves and forget–forget him and their discomfort at his

They were gone–he was alone with Hugo in the room. He sat down
suddenly with his face in his hands.

“Hugo,” he said huskily. “They don’t want us up here.”

“Don’t you care,” said a voice.

He looked up to see Amanthis standing beside him.

“You better go with them,” he told her. “You better not be seen
here with me.”


“Because you’re in society now and I’m no better to those people
than a servant. You’re in society–I fixed that up. You better go
or they won’t invite you to any of their dances.”

“They won’t anyhow, Jim,” she said gently. “They didn’t invite me
to the one tomorrow night.”

He looked up indignantly.

“They DIDN’T?”

She shook her head.

“I’ll MAKE ’em!” he said wildly. “I’ll tell ’em they got to. I’ll–

She came close to him with shining eyes.

“Don’t you mind, Jim,” she soothed him. “Don’t you mind. They
don’t matter. We’ll have a party of our own tomorrow–just you and

“I come from right good folks,” he said, defiantly. “Pore though.”

She laid her hand softly on his shoulder.

“I understand. You’re better than all of them put together, Jim.”

He got up and went to the window and stared out mournfully into the
late afternoon.

“I reckon I should have let you sleep in that hammock.”

She laughed.

“I’m awfully glad you didn’t.”

He turned and faced the room, and his face was dark.

“Sweep up and lock up, Hugo,” he said, his voice trembling. “The
summer’s over and we’re going down home.”

Autumn had come early. Jim Powell woke next morning to find his
room cool, and the phenomenon of frosted breath in September
absorbed him for a moment to the exclusion of the day before. Then
the lines of his face drooped with unhappiness as he remembered the
humiliation which had washed the cheery glitter from the summer.
There was nothing left for him except to go back where he was
known, where under no provocation were such things said to white
people as had been said to him here.

After breakfast a measure of his customary light-heartedness
returned. He was a child of the South–brooding was alien to his
nature. He could conjure up an injury only a certain number of
times before it faded into the great vacancy of the past.

But when, from force of habit, he strolled over to his defunct
establishment, already as obsolete as Snorkey’s late sanitarium,
melancholy again dwelt in his heart. Hugo was there, a specter of
despair, deep in the lugubrious blues amidst his master’s broken

Usually a few words from Jim were enough to raise him to an
inarticulate ecstasy, but this morning there were no words to
utter. For two months Hugo had lived on a pinnacle of which he had
never dreamed. He had enjoyed his work simply and passionately,
arriving before school hours and lingering long after Mr. Powell’s
pupils had gone.

The day dragged toward a not-too-promising night. Amanthis did not
appear and Jim wondered forlornly if she had not changed her mind
about dining with him that night. Perhaps it would be better if
she were not seen with them. But then, he reflected dismally, no
one would see them anyhow–everybody was going to the big dance at
the Harlans’ house.

When twilight threw unbearable shadows into the school hall he
locked it up for the last time, took down the sign “James Powell;
J. M., Dice, Brassknuckles and Guitar,” and went back to his hotel.
Looking over his scrawled accounts he saw that there was another
month’s rent to pay on his school and some bills for windows broken
and new equipment that had hardly been used. Jim had lived in
state, and he realized that financially he would have nothing to
show for the summer after all.

When he had finished he took his new dress-suit out of its box and
inspected it, running his hand over the satin of the lapels and
lining. This, at least, he owned and perhaps in Tarleton somebody
would ask him to a party where he could wear it.

“Shucks!” he said scoffingly. “It was just a no account old
academy, anyhow. Some of those boys round the garage down home
could of beat it all hollow.”

Whistling “Jeanne of Jelly-bean Town” to a not-dispirited rhythm
Jim encased himself in his first dress-suit and walked downtown.

“Orchids,” he said to the clerk. He surveyed his purchase with
some pride. He knew that no girl at the Harlan dance would wear
anything lovelier than these exotic blossoms that leaned
languorously backward against green ferns.

In a taxi-cab, carefully selected to look like a private car, he
drove to Amanthis’s boarding-house. She came down wearing a rose-
colored evening dress into which the orchids melted like colors
into a sunset.

“I reckon we’ll go to the Casino Hotel,” he suggested, “unless you
got some other place–”

At their table, looking out over the dark ocean, his mood became a
contended sadness. The windows were shut against the cool but the
orchestra played “Kalula” and “South Sea Moon” and for awhile, with
her young loveliness opposite him, he felt himself to be a romantic
participant in the life around him. They did not dance, and he was
glad–it would have reminded him of that other brighter and more
radiant dance to which they could not go.

After dinner they took a taxi and followed the sandy roads for an
hour, glimpsing the now starry ocean through the casual trees.

“I want to thank you,” she said, “for all you’ve done for me, Jim.”

“That’s all right–we Powells ought to stick together.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to Tarleton tomorrow.”

“I’m sorry,” she said softly. “Are you going to drive down?”

“I got to. I got to get the car south because I couldn’t get what
she was worth by sellin’ it. You don’t suppose anybody’s stole my
car out of your barn?” he asked in sudden alarm.

She repressed a smile.


“I’m sorry about this–about you,” he went on huskily, “and–and I
would like to have gone to just one of their dances. You shouldn’t
of stayed with me yesterday. Maybe it kept ’em from asking you.”

“Jim,” she suggested eagerly, “let’s go and stand outside and
listen to their old music. We don’t care.”

“They’ll be coming out,” he objected.

“No, it’s too cold. Besides there’s nothing they could do to you
any more than they HAVE done.”

She gave the chauffeur a direction and a few minutes later they
stopped in front of the heavy Georgian beauty of the Madison Harlan
house whence the windows cast their gaiety in bright patches on the
lawn. There was laughter inside and the plaintive wind of
fashionable horns, and now and again the slow, mysterious shuffle
of dancing feet.

“Let’s go up close,” whispered Amanthis in an ecstatic trance, “I
want to hear.”

They walked toward the house, keeping in the shadow of the great
trees. Jim proceeded with awe–suddenly he stopped and seized
Amanthis’s arm.

“Man!” he cried in an excited whisper. “Do you know what that is?”

“A night watchman?” Amanthis cast a startled look around.

“It’s Rastus Muldoon’s Band from Savannah! I heard ’em once, and I
KNOW. It’s Rastus Muldoon’s Band!”

They moved closer till they could see first pompadours, then
slicked male heads, and high coiffures and finally even bobbed hair
pressed under black ties. They could distinguish chatter below the
ceaseless laughter. Two figures appeared on the porch, gulped
something quickly from flasks and returned inside. But the music
had bewitched Jim Powell. His eyes were fixed and he moved his
feet like a blind man.

Pressed in close behind some dark bushes they listened. The number
ended. A breeze from the ocean blew over them and Jim shivered
slightly. Then, in a wistful whisper:

“I’ve always wanted to lead that band. Just once.” His voice grew
listless. “Come on. Let’s go. I reckon I don’t belong around

He held out his arm to her but instead of taking it she stepped
suddenly out of the bushes and into a bright patch of light.

“Come on, Jim,” she said startlingly. “Let’s go inside.”


She seized his arm and though he drew back in a sort of stupefied
horror at her boldness she urged him persistently toward the great
front door.

“Watch out!” he gasped. “Somebody’s coming out of that house and
see us.”

“No, Jim,” she said firmly. “Nobody’s coming out of that house–
but two people are going in.”

“Why?” he demanded wildly, standing in full glare of the porte-
cochere lamps. “Why?”

“Why?” she mocked him. “Why, just because this dance happens to be
given for me.”

He thought she was mad.

“Come home before they see us,” he begged her.

The great doors swung open and a gentleman stepped out on the
porch. In horror Jim recognized Mr. Madison Harlan. He made a
movement as though to break away and run. But the man walked down
the steps holding out both hands to Amanthis.

“Hello at last,” he cried. “Where on earth have you two been?
Cousin Amanthis–” He kissed her, and turned cordially to Jim.
“And for you, Mr. Powell,” he went on, “to make up for being late
you’ve got to promise that for just one number you’re going to lead
that band.”

New Jersey was warm, all except the part that was under water, and
that mattered only to the fishes. All the tourists who rode
through the long green miles stopped their cars in front of a
spreading old-fashioned country house and looked at the red swing
on the lawn and the wide, shady porch, and sighed and drove on–
swerving a little to avoid a jet-black body-servant in the road.
The body-servant was applying a hammer and nails to a decayed
flivver which flaunted from its rear the legend, “Tarleton, Ga.”

A girl with yellow hair and a warm color to her face was lying in
the hammock looking as though she could fall asleep any moment.
Near her sat a gentleman in an extraordinarily tight suit. They
had come down together the day before from the fashionable resort
at Southampton.

“When you first appeared,” she was explaining, “I never thought I’d
see you again so I made that up about the barber and all. As a
matter of fact, I’ve been around quite a bit–with or without
brassknuckles. I’m coming out this autumn.”

“I reckon I had a lot to learn,” said Jim.

“And you see,” went on Amanthis, looking at him rather anxiously,
“I’d been invited up to Southampton to visit my cousins–and when
you said you were going, I wanted to see what you’d do. I always
slept at the Harlans’ but I kept a room at the boarding-house so
you wouldn’t know. The reason I didn’t get there on the right
train was because I had to come early and warn a lot of people to
pretend not to know me.”

Jim got up, nodding his head in comprehension.

“I reckon I and Hugo had better be movin’ along. We got to make
Baltimore by night.”

“That’s a long way.”

“I want to sleep south tonight,” he said simply.

Together they walked down the path and past the idiotic statue of
Diana on the lawn.

“You see,” added Amanthis gently, “you don’t have to be rich up
here in order to–to go around, any more than you do in Georgia–”
She broke off abruptly, “Won’t you come back next year and start
another Academy?”

“No mamm, not me. That Mr. Harlan told me I could go on with the
one I had but I told him no.”

“Haven’t you–didn’t you make money?”

“No mamm,” he answered. “I got enough of my own income to just get
me home. I didn’t have my principal along. One time I was way
ahead but I was livin’ high and there was my rent an’ apparatus and
those musicians. Besides, there at the end I had to pay what
they’d advanced me for their lessons.”

“You shouldn’t have done that!” cried Amanthis indignantly.

“They didn’t want me to, but I told ’em they’d have to take it.”

He didn’t consider it necessary to mention that Mr. Harlan had
tried to present him with a check.

They reached the automobile just as Hugo drove in his last nail.
Jim opened a pocket of the door and took from it an unlabeled
bottle containing a whitish-yellow liquid.

“I intended to get you a present,” he told her awkwardly, “but my
money got away before I could, so I thought I’d send you something
from Georgia. This here’s just a personal remembrance. It won’t
do for you to drink but maybe after you come out into society you
might want to show some of those young fellas what good old corn
tastes like.”

She took the bottle.

“Thank you, Jim.”

“That’s all right.” He turned to Hugo. “I reckon we’ll go along
now. Give the lady the hammer.”

“Oh, you can have the hammer,” said Amanthis tearfully. “Oh, won’t
you promise to come back?”


He looked for a moment at her yellow hair and her blue eyes misty
with sleep and tears. Then he got into his car and as his foot
found the clutch his whole manner underwent a change.

“I’ll say good-by mamm,” he announced with impressive dignity,
“we’re goin’ south for the winter.”

The gesture of his straw hat indicated Palm Beach, St. Augustine,
Miami. His body-servant spun the crank, gained his seat and became
part of the intense vibration into which the automobile was thrown.

“South for the winter,” repeated Jim, and then he added softly,
“You’re the prettiest girl I ever knew. You go back up there and
lie down in that hammock, and sleep–sle-eep–”

It was almost a lullaby, as he said it. He bowed to her,
magnificently, profoundly, including the whole North in the
splendor of his obeisance–

Then they were gone down the road in quite a preposterous cloud of
dust. Just before they reached the first bend Amanthis saw them
come to a full stop, dismount and shove the top part of the car on
to the bottom pan. They took their seats again without looking
around. Then the bend–and they were out of sight, leaving only a
faint brown mist to show that they had passed.