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SOUTH FLORIDA DEVASTATED 1000 DEAD, 38,000 DESTITUTE 3 страница




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They didn't see anything of Tony until, one Sunday
night that Sam Margolies was coming to the house for the
first time, he turned up drunk at about six o'clock and
said that he and Max Hirsch wanted to start a polo school
and that he had to have a thousand dollars right away.
"But, Tony," said Agnes, "where's Margie going to get
it? . . . You know just as well as I do how heavy our
expenses are." Tony made a big scene, stormed and cried
and said Agnes and Margo had ruined his stage career
and that now they were out to ruin his career in pictures.

 

-405-

 

"I have been too patient," he yelled, tapping himself on
the chest. "I have let myself be ruined by women."

 

Margo kept looking at the clock on the mantel. It was
nearly seven. She finally shelled out twentyfive bucks and
told him to come back during the week. "He's hitting the
hop again," she said after he'd gone. "He'll go crazy one
of these days.""Poor boy," sighed Agnes, "he's not a bad
boy, only weak."

 

"What I'm scared of is that that heinie'll get hold of
him and make us a lot of trouble. . . . That bird had a
face like state's prison . . . guess the best thing to do is
get a lawyer and start a divorce.""But think of the pub-
licity," wailed Agnes. "Anyway," said Margo, " Tony's
got to pass out of the picture. I've taken all I'm going to
take from that greaser."

 

Sam Margolies came an hour late. "How peaceful," he
was saying. "How can you do it in delirious Hollywood?"
"Why, Margie's just a quiet little workinggirl," said
Agnes, picking up her sewingbasket and starting to sidle
out. He sat down in the easychair without taking off his
white beret and stretched out his bowlegs towards the fire.
"I hate the artificiality of it.""Don't you now?" said
Agnes from the door.

 

Margo offered him a cocktail but he said he didn't drink.
When the maid brought out the dinner that Agnes had
worked on all day he wouldn't eat anything but toast and
lettuce. "I never eat or drink at mealtimes. I come only
to look and to talk.""That's why you've gotten so thin,"
kidded Margo. "Do you remember the way I used to be in
those old days? My New York period. Let's not talk about
it. I have no memory. I live only in the present. Now
I am thinking of the picture you are going to star in. I
never go to parties but you must come with me to Irwin
Harris's tonight. There will be people there you'll have
'to know. Let me see your dresses. I'll pick out what you
bught to wear. After this you must always let me come



 

-406-

 

when you buy a dress." Following her up the creaking
stairs to her bedroom he said, "We must have a different
setting for you. This won't do. This is suburban."

 

Margo felt funny driving out through the avenues of
palms of Beverly Hills sitting beside Sam Margolies.
He'd made her put on the old yellow eveningdress she'd
bought at Piquot's years ago that Agnes had recently had
done over and lengthened by a little French dressmaker
she'd found in Los Angeles. Her hands were cold and she
was afraid Margolies would hear her heart knocking
against her ribs. She tried to think of something funny to
say but what was the use, Margolies never laughed. She
wondered what he was thinking. She could see his face, the
narrow forehead under his black bang, the pouting lips,
the beaklike profile very dark against the streetlights as
he sat stiffly beside her with his hands on his knees. He still
had on his white flannels and a white stock with a diamond
pin in it in the shape of a golfclub. As the car turned into
a drive towards a row of bright tall frenchwindows through
the trees he turned to her and said, "You are afraid you
will be bored. . . . You'll be surprised. You'll find we
have something here that matches the foreign and New
York society you are accustomed to." As he turned his face
towards her the light glinted on the whites of his eyes
and sagging pouches under them and the wet broad lips.
He went on whispering squeezing her hand as he helped
her out of the car. "You will be the most elegant woman
there but only as one star is brighter than the other stars."



 

Going into the door past the butler Margo caught her-
self starting to giggle. "How you do go on," she said.
"You talk like a . . . like a genius.""That's what they
call me," said Margolies in a loud voice drawing his shoul-
ders back and standing stiffly at attention to let her go
past him through the large glass doors into the vestibule.

 

The worst of it was going into the dressingroom to take
off her wraps. The women who were doing their faces and

 

-407-

 

giving a last pat to their hair all turned and gave her a
quick onceover that started at her slippers, ran up her
stockings, picked out every hook and eye of her dress, ran
round her neck to see if it was wrinkled and up into her
hair to see if it was dyed. At once she knew that she ought
to have an ermine wrap. There was one old dame standing
smoking a cigarette by the lavatory door in a dress all
made of cracked ice who had xray eyes; Margo felt
her reading the pricetag on her stepins. The colored
maid gave Margo a nice toothy grin as she laid Margo's
coat over her arm that made her feel better. When she
went out she felt the stares clash together on her back
and hang there like a tin can on a dog's tail. Keep a stiff
upper lip, they can't eat you, she was telling herself as the
door of the ladies' room closed behind her. She wished
Agnes was there to tell her how lovely everybody was.



 

Margolies was waiting for her in the vestibule full of
sparkly chandeliers. There was an orchestra playing and
they were dancing in a big room. He took her to the fire-
place at the end. Irwin Harris and Mr. Hardbein who
looked as alike as a pair of eggs in their tight dress suits
came up and said goodevening. Margolies gave them each
a hand without looking at them and sat down by the fire-
place with his back to the crowd in a big carved chair like
the one he had in his office. Mr. Harris asked her to dance
with him. After that it was like any other collection of
dressedup people. At least until she found herself dancing
with Rodney Cathcart.

 

She recognized him at once from the pictures, but it was
a shock to find that his face had color in it, and that there
was warm blood and muscle under his rakish eveningdress.
He was a tall tanned young man with goldfishyellow hair
and an English way of mumbling his words. She'd felt
cold and shivery until she started to dance with him. After
he'd danced with her once he asked her to dance with him
again. Between dances he led her to the buffet at the end

 

-408-

 

of the room and tried to get her to drink. She held a
scotch and soda in a big blue glass each time and just sipped
it while he drank down a couple of scotches straight and
ate a large plate of chicken salad. He seemed a little drunk
but he didn't seem to be getting any drunker. He didn't
say anything so she didn't say anything either. She loved
dancing with him.

 

Every now and then when they danced round the end of
the room she caught sight of the whole room in the huge
mirror over the fireplace. Once when she got just the right
angle she thought she saw Margolies' face staring at her
from out of the carved highbacked chair that faced the
burning logs. He seemed to be staring at her attentively.
The firelight playing on his face gave it a warm lively
look she hadn't noticed on it before. Immediately blond
heads, curly heads, bald heads, bare shoulders, black shoul-
ders got in her way and she lost sight of that corner of the
room.

 

It must have been about twelve o'clock when she found
him standing beside the table where the scotch was. "Hello,
Sam," said Rodney Cathcart. "How's every little thing?"
"We must go now, the poor child is tired in all this
noise. . . . Rodney, you must let Miss Dowling go now."
"O.K., pal," said Rodney Cathcart and turned his back to
pour himself another glass of scotch.

 

When Margo came back from getting her wraps she
found Mr. Hardbein waiting for her in the vestibule. He
bowed as he squeezed her hand. "Well, I don't mind tell-
ing you, Miss Dowling, that you made a sensation. The
girls are all asking what you use to dye your hair with."
A laugh rumbled down into his broad vest. "Would you
come by my office? We might have a bite of lunch and talk
things over a bit." Margo gave a little shudder. "It's sweet
of you, Mr. Hardbein, but I never go to offices . . . I
don't understand business. . . . You call us up, won't
you?"

 

-409-

 

When she got out to the colonial porch there was Rod-
ney Cathcart sitting beside Margolies in the long white
car. Margo grinned and got in between them as cool as if
she'd expected to find Rodney Cathcart there all the while.
The car drove off. Nobody said anything. She couldn't tell
where they were going, the avenues of palms and the
strings of streetlamps all looked alike. They stopped at
a big restaurant. "I thought we'd better have a little
snack. . . . You didn't eat anything all evening," Mar-
golies said, giving her hand a squeeze as he helped her out
of the car. "That's the berries," said Rodney Cathcart
who'd hopped out first. "This dawncing makes a guy
beastly 'ungry."

 

The headwaiter bowed almost to the ground and led
them through the restaurant full of eyes to a table that
had been reserved for them on the edge of the dancefloor.
Margolies ate shreddedwheat biscuits and milk, Rodney
Cathcart ate a steak and Margo took on the end of her
fork a few pieces of a lobsterpatty. "A blighter needs a
drink after that," grumbled Rodney Cathcart, pushing back
his plate after polishing off the last fried potato. Margolies
raised two fingers. "Here it is forbidden. . . . How silly
we are in this country. . . . How silly they are." He
rolled his eyes towards Margo. She caught a wink in time
to make it just a twitch of the eyelid and gave him that
slow stopped smile he'd made such a fuss over at Palm
Springs. Margolies got to his feet. "Come, Margo darling
I have something to show you." As she and Rodney
Cathcart followed him out across the red carpet she could
feel ripples of excitement go through the people in the
restaurant the way she'd felt it when she went places in
Miami after Charley Anderson had been killed.

 

Margolies drove them to a big creamcolored apartment-
house. They went up in an elevator. He opened a door
with a latchkey and ushered them in. "This," he said, "in
my little bachelor flat."

 

-410-

 

It was a big dark room with a balcony at the end hung
with embroideries. The walls were covered with all kinds
of oilpaintings each lit by a little overhead light of its own.
There were oriental rugs piled one on the other on the
floor and couches round the walls covered with zebra and
lion skins. "Oh, what a wonderful place," said Margo.
Margolies turned to her, smiling. "A bit baronial, eh? The
sort of thing you're accustomed to see in the castle of a
Castilian grandee.""Absolutely," said Margo. Rodney
Cathcart lay down full length on one of the couches. "Say,
Sam old top," he said, "have you got any of that good
Canadian ale? 'Ow about a little Guinness in it?"

 

Margolies went out into a pantry and the swinging door
closed behind him. Margo roamed around looking at the
brightcolored pictures and the shelves of wriggling Chinese
figures. It made her feel spooky.

 

"Oh, I say," Rodney Cathcart called from the couch.
"Come over here, Margo. . . . I like you. . . . You've
got to call me Si. . . . My friends call me that. It's more
American.""All right by me," said Margo, sauntering
towards the couch. Rodney Cathcart put out his hand. "Put
it there, pal," he said. When she-put her hand in his he
grabbed it and tried to pull her towards him on the couch.
"Wouldn't you like to kiss me, Margo?" He had a terrific
grip. She could feel how strong he was.

 

Margolies came back with a tray with bottles and glasses
and set it on an ebony stand near the couch. "This is where
I do my work," he said. "Genius is helpless without the
proper environment. . . . Sit there." He pointed to the
couch where Cathcart was lying. "I shot that lion myself.
. . . Excuse me a moment." He went up the stairs to the
balcony and a light went on up there. Then a door closed
and the light was cut off. The only light in the room was
over the pictures. Rodney Cathcart sat up on the edge of
the couch. "For crissake, sister, drink something. . . ."
Margo started to titter. "All right, Si, you can give me a

 

-411-

 

spot of gin," she said and sat down beside him on the
couch.

 

He was attractive. She found herself letting him kiss
her but right away his hand was working up her leg and
she had to get up and walk over to the other side of the
room to look at the pictures again. "Oh, don't be silly," he
sighed, letting himself drop back on the couch.

 

There was no sound from upstairs. Margo began to get
the jeebies wondering what Margolies was doing up there.
She went back to the couch to get herself another spot of
gin and Rodney Cathcart jumped up all of a sudden and
put his arms around her from behind and bit her ear.
"Quit that caveman stuff," she said, standing still. She
didn't want to wrestle with him for fear he'd muss her
dress. "That's me," he whispered in her ear. "I find you
most exciting."

 

Margolies was standing in front of them with some
papers in his hand. Margo wondered how long he'd been
there. Rodney Cathcart let himself drop back on the couch
and closed his eyes. "Now sit down, Margo darling,"
Margolies was saying in an even voice. "I want to tell you
a story. See if it awakens anything in you." Margo felt
herself flushing. Behind her Rodney Cathcart was giving
long deep breaths as if he were asleep.

 

"You are tired of the giddy whirl of the European
capitals," Margolies was saying. "You are the daughter of
an old armyofficer. Your mother is dead. You go every-
where, dances, dinners, affairs. Proposals are made for
your hand. Your father is a French or perhaps a Spanish
general. His country calls him. He is to be sent to Africa
to repel the barbarous Moors. He wants to leave you in
a convent but you insist on going with him. You are fol-
lowing this?"

 

"Oh, yes," said Margo eagerly. "She'd stow away on
the ship to go with him to the war."

 

"On the same boat there's a young American collegeboy

 

-412-

 

who has run away to join the foreign legion. We'll get the
reason later. That'll be your friend Si. You meet. . . .
Everything is lovely between you. Your father is very ill.
By this time you are in a mud fort besieged by natives,
howling bloodthirsty savages. Si breaks through the block-
ade to get the medicine necessary to save your father's life.
. . . On his return he's arrested as a deserter. You rush
to Tangier to get the American consul to intervene. Your
father's life is saved. You ride back just in time to beat
the firingsquad. Si is an American citizen and is decorated.
The general kisses him on both cheeks and hands his lovely
daughter over into his strong arms. . . . I don't want
you to talk about this now. . . . Let it settle deep into
your mind. Of course it's only a rudimentary sketch. The
story is nonsense but it affords the director certain oppor-
tunities. I can see you risking all, reputation, life itself to
save the man you love. Now I'll take you home. . . .
Look, Si's asleep. He's just an animal, a brute blond beast."

 

When Margolies put her wrap around her he let his
hands rest for a moment on her shoulders. "There's
another thing I want you to let sink into your heart . . .
not your intelligence . . . your heart. . . . Don't answer
me now. Talk it over with your charming companion. A
little later, when we have this picture done I want you
to marry me. I am free. Years ago in another world I had
a wife as men have wives but we agreed to misunderstand
and went our ways. Now I shall be too busy. You have
no conception of the intense detailed work involved. When
I am directing a picture I can think of nothing else, but
when the creative labor is over,. in three months' time
perhaps, I want you to marry me. . . . Don't reply now."

 

They didn't say anything as he sat beside her on the
way home to Santa Monica driving slowly through the
thick white clammy morning mist. When the car drove
up to her door she leaned over and tapped him on the

 

-413-

 

cheek. "Sam," she said, "you've given me the loveliest
evening."

 

Agnes was all of a twitter about where she'd been so
late. She was walking around in her dressinggown and
had the lights on all over the house. "I had a vague brood-
ing feeling after you'd left, Margie. So I called up
Madame Esther to ask her what she thought. She had a
message for me from Frank. You know she said last time
he was trying to break through unfortunate influences."
"Oh, Agnes, what did it say?""It said success is in your
grasp, be firm. Oh, Margie, you've just got to marry him.
. . . That's what Frank's been trying to tell us.""Jiminy
crickets," said Margo, falling on her bed when she got
upstairs, "I'm all in. Be a darling and hang up my clothes
for me, Agnes."

 

Margo was too excited to sleep. The room was too light.
She kept seeing the light red through her eyelids. She
must get her sleep. She'd look a sight if she didn't get
her sleep. She called to Agnes to bring her an aspirin.

 

Agnes propped her up in bed with one hand and gave
her the glass of water to wash the aspirin down with the
other; it was like when she'd been a little girl and Agnes
used to give her medicine when she was sick. Then sud-
denly she was dreaming that she was just finishing the
Everybody's Doing It number and the pink cave of faces
was roaring with applause and she ran off into the wings
where Frank Mandeville was waiting for her in his black
cloak with his arms stretched wide open, and she ran into
his arms and the cloak closed about her and she was down
with the cloak choking her and he was on top of her claw-
ing at her dress and past his shoulder she could see Tony
laughing, Tony all in white with a white beret and a
diamond golfclub on his stock jumping up and down and
clapping. It must have been her yelling that brought
Agnes. No, Agnes was telling her something. She sat up
in bed shuddering. Agnes was all in a fluster. "Oh, it's

 

-414-

 

dreadful. Tony's down there. He insists on seeing you,
Margie. He's been reading in the papers. You know it's
all over the papers about how you are starring with
Rodney Cathcart in Mr. Margolies' next picture. Tony's
wild. He says he's your husband and he ought to attend
to your business for you. He says he's got a legal right."
"The little rat," said Margo. "Bring him up here. . . .
What time is it?" She jumped out of bed and ran to the
dressingtable to fix her face. When she heard them com-
ing up the stairs she pulled on her pink lace bedjacket and
jumped back into bed. She was very sleepy when Tony
came in the room. "What's the trouble, Tony?" she said.

 

"I'm starving and here you are making three thousand
a week. . . . Yesterday Max and I had no money for
dinner. We are going to be put out of our apartment. By
rights everything you make is mine. . . . I've been too
soft . . . I've let myself be cheated."

 

Margo yawned. "We're not in Cuba, dearie." She sat
up in bed. "Look here, Tony, let's part friends. The con-
tract isn't signed yet. Suppose when it is we fix you up a
little so that you and your friend can go and start your
polo school in Havana. The trouble with you is you're
homesick."

 

"Wouldn't that be wonderful," chimed in Agnes. " Cuba
would be just the place . . . with all the tourists going.
down there and everything."

 

Tony drew himself up stiffly. "Margo, we are Chris-
tians. We believe. We know that the church forbids di-
vorce. . . . Agnes she doesn't understand."

 

"I'm a lot better Christian than you are . . . you know
that you . . ." began Agnes shrilly.

 

"Now, Agnes, we can't argue about religion before
breakfast." Margo sat up and drew her knees up to her
chin underneath the covers. " Agnes and I believe that
Mary Baker Eddy taught the truth, see, Tony. Sit down
here, Tony. . . . You're getting too fat, Tony, the boys

 

-415-

 

won't like you if you lose your girlish figure. . . . Look
here, you and me we've seen each other through some
tough times." He sat on the bed and lit a cigarette. She
stroked the spiky black hair off his forehead. "You're not
going to try to gum the game when I've got the biggest
break I ever had in my life."

 

"I been a louse. I'm no good," Tony said. "How about
a thousand a month? That's only a third of what you
make. You'll just waste it. Women don't need money."

 

"Like hell they don't. You know it costs money to make
money in this business."

 

"All right . . . make it five hundred. I don't under-
stand the figures, you know that. You know I'm only a
child."

 

"Well, I don't either. You and Agnes go downstairs
and talk it over while I get a bath and get dressed. I've
got a dressmaker coming and I've got to have my hair
done. I've got about a hundred appointments this after-
noon. . . . Good boy, Tony." She patted him on the
cheek and he went away with Agnes meek as a lamb.

 

When Agnes came upstairs again after Margo had had
her bath, she said crossly, " Margie, we ought to have di-
vorced Tony long ago. This German who's got hold of
him is a bad egg. You know how Mr. Hays feels about
scandals."

 

"I know I've been a damn fool."

 

"I've got to ask Frank about this. I've got an appoint-
ment with Madame Esther this afternoon. Frank might
tell us the name of a reliable lawyer."

 

"We can't go to Vardaman. He's Mr. Hardbein's law-
yer and Sam's lawyer too. A girl sure is a fool ever to put
anything in writing."

 

The phone rang. It was Mr. Hardbein calling up about
the contract. Margo sent Agnes down to the office to talk
to him. All afternoon, standing there in front of the long
pierglass while the dressmaker fussed around her with her

 

-416-

 

mouth full of pins she was worrying about what to do.
When Sam came around at five to see the new dresses
her hair was still in the dryer. "How attractive you look
with your head in that thing," Sam said, "and the lacy
negligee and the little triangle of Brussels lace between
your knees. . . . I shall remember it. I have total recall
I never forget anything I've seen. That is the secret of
visual imagination."

 

When Agnes came back for her in the Rolls she had
trouble getting away from Sam. He wanted to take them
wherever they were going in his own car. "You must have
no secrets from me, Margo darling," he said gently. "You
will see I understand everything . . . everything. . . .
I know you better than you know yourself. That's why I
know I can direct you. I have studied every plane of your
face and of your beautiful little girlish soul so full of
desire. . . . Nothing you do can surprise or shock me."

 

"That's good," said Margo.

 

He went away sore.

 

"Oh, Margie, you oughtn't to treat Mr. Margolies like
that," whined Agnes.

 

"I can do without him better than he can do without
me," said Margo. "He's got to have a new star. They say
he's pretty near on the skids anyway.""Mr. Hardbein
says that's just because he's fired his publicityman," said
Agnes.

 

It was late when they got started. Madame Esther's
house was way downtown in a dilapidated part of Los
Angeles. They had the chauffeur let them out two blocks
from the house and walked to it down an alley between
dusty bungalow courts like the places they'd lived in when
they first came out to the coast years ago. Margo nudged
Agnes. "Remind you of anything?" Agnes turned to her,
frowning. "We must only remember the pleasant beautiful
things, Margie."

 

Madame Esther's house was a big old frame house with

 

-417-

 

wide porches and cracked shingle roofs. The blinds were
drawn on all the grimy windows. Agnes knocked at a
little groundglass door in back. A thin spinsterish woman
with grey bobbed hair opened it immediately. "You are
late," she whispered. "Madame's in a state. They don't
like to be kept waiting. It'll be difficult to break the chain."
"Has she had anything from Frank?" whispered Agnes.
"He's very angry. I'm afraid he won't answer again. . . .
Give me your hand."

 

The woman took Agnes's hand and Agnes took Margo's
hand and they went in single file down a dark passageway
that had only a small red bulb burning in it, and through
a door into a completely dark room that was full of people
breathing and shuffling.

 

"I thought it was going to be private," whispered
Margo. "Shush," hissed Agnes in her ear. When her eyes
got accustomed to the darkness she could see Madame
Esther's big puffy face swaying across a huge round table
and faint blurs of other faces around it. They made way
for Agnes and Margo and Margo found herself sitting
down with somebody's wet damp hand clasped in hers.
On the table in front of Madame Esther were a lot of
little pads of white paper. Everything was quiet except
for Agnes's heavy breathing next to her.

 

It seemed hours before anything happened. Then
Margo saw that Madame Esther's eyes were open but all
she could see was the whites. A deep baritone voice was
coming out of her lips talking a language she didn't under-
stand. Somebody in the ring answered in the same lan-
guage, evidently putting questions. "That's Sidi Hassan
the Hindu," whispered Agnes. "He's given some splendid
tips on the stockmarket."


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