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THE BOWL


by
 

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)
 

Saturday Evening Post (21 January 1928)



There was a man in my class at Princeton who never went to football
games.  He spent his Saturday afternoons delving for minutiae about
Greek athletics and the somewhat fixed battles between Christians
and wild beasts under the Antonines.  Lately--several years out of
college--he has discovered football players and is making etchings
of them in the manner of the late George Bellows.  But he was once
unresponsive to the very spectacle at his door, and I suspect the
originality of his judgments on what is beautiful, what is
remarkable and what is fun.

I reveled in football, as audience, amateur statistician and foiled
participant--for I had played in prep school, and once there was a
headline in the school newspaper:  "Deering and Mullins Star
Against Taft in Stiff Game Saturday."  When I came in to lunch
after the battle the school stood up and clapped and the visiting
coach shook hands with me and prophesied--incorrectly--that I was
going to be heard from.  The episode is laid away in the most
pleasant lavender of my past.  That year I grew very tall and thin,
and when at Princeton the following fall I looked anxiously over
the freshman candidates and saw the polite disregard with which
they looked back at me, I realized that that particular dream was
over.  Keene said he might make me into a very fair pole vaulter--
and he did--but it was a poor substitute; and my terrible
disappointment that I wasn't going to be a great football player
was probably the foundation of my friendship with Dolly Harlan.  I
want to begin this story about Dolly with a little rehashing of the
Yale game up at New Haven, sophomore year.

Dolly was started at halfback; this was his first big game.  I
roomed with him and I had scented something peculiar about his
state of mind, so I didn't let him out of the corner of my eye
during the whole first half.  With field glasses I could see the
expression on his face; it was strained and incredulous, as it had
been the day of his father's death, and it remained so, long after
any nervousness had had time to wear off.  I thought he was sick
and wondered why Keene didn't see and take him out; it wasn't until
later that I learned what was the matter.

It was the Yale Bowl.  The size of it or the enclosed shape of it
or the height of the sides had begun to get on Dolly's nerves when
the team practiced there the day before.  In that practice he
dropped one or two punts, for almost the first time in his life,
and he began thinking it was because of the Bowl.

There is a new disease called agoraphobia--afraid of crowds--and
another called siderodromophobia--afraid of railroad traveling--and
my friend Doctor Glock, the psychoanalyst, would probably account
easily for Dolly's state of mind.  But here's what Dolly told me
afterward:

"Yale would punt and I'd look up.  The minute I looked up, the
sides of that damn pan would seem to go shooting up too.  Then when
the ball started to come down, the sides began leaning forward and
bending over me until I could see all the people on the top seats
screaming at me and shaking their fists.  At the last minute I
couldn't see the ball at all, but only the Bowl; every time it was
just luck that I was under it and every time I juggled it in my
hands."

To go back to the game.  I was in the cheering section with a good
seat on the forty-yard line--good, that is, except when a very
vague graduate, who had lost his friends and his hat, stood up in
front of me at intervals and faltered, "Stob Ted Coy!" under the
impression that we were watching a game played a dozen years
before.  When he realized finally that he was funny he began
performing for the gallery and aroused a chorus of whistles and
boos until he was dragged unwillingly under the stand.

It was a good game--what is known in college publications as a
historic game.  A picture of the team that played it now hangs in
every barber shop in Princeton, with Captain Gottlieb in the middle
wearing a white sweater, to show that they won a championship.
Yale had had a poor season, but they had the breaks in the first
quarter, which ended 3 to 0 in their favor.

Between quarters I watched Dolly.  He walked around panting and
sucking a water bottle and still wearing that strained stunned
expression.  Afterward he told me he was saying over and over to
himself:  "I'll speak to Roper.  I'll tell him between halves.
I'll tell him I can't go through this any more."  Several times
already he had felt an almost irresistible impulse to shrug his
shoulders and trot off the field, for it was not only this
unexpected complex about the Bowl; the truth was that Dolly
fiercely and bitterly hated the game.

He hated the long, dull period of training, the element of personal
conflict, the demand on his time, the monotony of the routine and
the nervous apprehension of disaster just before the end.
Sometimes he imagined that all the others detested it as much as he
did, and fought down their aversion as he did and carried it around
inside them like a cancer that they were afraid to recognize.
Sometimes he imagined that a man here and there was about to tear
off the mask and say, "Dolly, do you hate this lousy business as
much as I do?"

His feeling had begun back at St. Regis' School and he had come up
to Princeton with the idea that he was through with football
forever.  But upper classmen from St. Regis kept stopping him on
the campus and asking him how much he weighed, and he was nominated
for vice president of our class on the strength of his athletic
reputation--and it was autumn, with achievement in the air.  He
wandered down to freshman practice one afternoon, feeling oddly
lost and dissatisfied, and smelled the turf and smelled the
thrilling season.  In half an hour he was lacing on a pair of
borrowed shoes and two weeks later he was captain of the freshman
team.

Once committed, he saw that he had made a mistake; he even
considered leaving college.  For, with his decision to play, Dolly
assumed a moral responsibility, personal to him, besides.  To lose
or to let down, or to be let down, was simply intolerable to him.
It offended his Scotch sense of waste.  Why sweat blood for an hour
with only defeat at the end?

Perhaps the worst of it was that he wasn't really a star player.
No team in the country could have spared using him, but he could do
no spectacular thing superlatively well, neither run, pass nor
kick.  He was five-feet-eleven and weighed a little more than a
hundred and sixty; he was a first-rate defensive man, sure in
interference, a fair line plunger and a fair punter.  He never
fumbled and he was never inadequate; his presence, his constant
cold sure aggression, had a strong effect on other men.  Morally,
he captained any team he played on and that was why Roper had spent
so much time trying to get length in his kicks all season--he
wanted him in the game.

In the second quarter Yale began to crack.  It was a mediocre team
composed of flashy material, but uncoordinated because of injuries
and impending changes in the Yale coaching system.  The
quarterback, Josh Logan, had been a wonder at Exeter--I could
testify to that--where games can be won by the sheer confidence and
spirit of a single man.  But college teams are too highly organized
to respond so simply and boyishly, and they recover less easily
from fumbles and errors of judgment behind the line.

So, with nothing to spare, with much grunting and straining,
Princeton moved steadily down the field.  On the Yale twenty-yard
line things suddenly happened.  A Princeton pass was intercepted;
the Yale man, excited by his own opportunity, dropped the ball and
it bobbed leisurely in the general direction of the Yale goal.
Jack Devlin and Dolly Harlan of Princeton and somebody--I forget
who--from Yale were all about the same distance from it.  What
Dolly did in that split second was all instinct; it presented no
problem to him.  He was a natural athlete and in a crisis his
nervous system thought for him.  He might have raced the two others
for the ball; instead, he took out the Yale man with savage
precision while Devlin scooped up the ball and ran ten yards for a
touchdown.

This was when the sports writers still saw games through the eyes
of Ralph Henry Barbour.  The press box was right behind me, and as
Princeton lined up to kick goal I heard the radio man ask:

"Who's Number 22?"

"Harlan."

"Harlan is going to kick goal.  Devlin, who made the touchdown,
comes from Lawrenceville School.  He is twenty years old.  The ball
went true between the bars."

Between the halves, as Dolly sat shaking with fatigue in the locker
room, Little, the back-field coach, came and sat beside him.

"When the ends are right on you, don't be afraid to make a fair
catch," Little said.  "That big Havemeyer is liable to jar the ball
right out of your hands."

Now was the time to say it:  "I wish you'd tell Bill--"  But the
words twisted themselves into a trivial question about the wind.
His feeling would have to be explained, gone into, and there wasn't
time.  His own self seemed less important in this room, redolent
with the tired breath, the ultimate effort, the exhaustion of ten
other men.  He was shamed by a harsh sudden quarrel that broke out
between an end and tackle; he resented the former players in the
room--especially the graduate captain of two years before, who was
a little tight and over-vehement about the referee's favoritism.
It seemed terrible to add one more jot to all this strain and
annoyance.  But he might have come out with it all the same if
Little hadn't kept saying in a low voice:  "What a take-out, Dolly!
What a beautiful take-out!" and if Little's hand hadn't rested
there, patting his shoulder.


II


In the third quarter Joe Dougherty kicked an easy field goal from
the twenty-yard line and we felt safe, until toward twilight a
series of desperate forward passes brought Yale close to a score.
But Josh Logan had exhausted his personality in sheer bravado and
he was outguessed by the defense at the last.  As the substitutes
came running in, Princeton began a last march down the field.  Then
abruptly it was over and the crowd poured from the stands, and
Gottlieb, grabbing the ball, leaped up in the air.  For a while
everything was confused and crazy and happy; I saw some freshmen
try to carry Dolly, but they were shy and he got away.

We all felt a great personal elation.  We hadn't beaten Yale for
three years and now everything was going to be all right.  It meant
a good winter at college, something pleasant and slick to think
back upon in the damp cold days after Christmas, when a bleak
futility settles over a university town.  Down on the field, an
improvised and uproarious team ran through plays with a derby,
until the snake dance rolled over them and blotted them out.
Outside the Bowl, I saw two abysmally gloomy and disgusted Yale men
get into a waiting taxi and in a tone of final abnegation tell the
driver "New York."  You couldn't find Yale men; in the manner of
the vanquished, they had absolutely melted away.

I begin Dolly's story with my memories of this game because that
evening the girl walked into it.  She was a friend of Josephine
Pickman's and the four of us were going to drive up to the Midnight
Frolic in New York.  When I suggested to him that he'd be too tired
he laughed dryly--he'd have gone anywhere that night to get the
feel and rhythm of football out of his head.  He walked into the
hall of Josephine's house at half-past six, looking as if he'd
spent the day in the barber shop save for a small and fetching
strip of court plaster over one eye.  He was one of the handsomest
men I ever knew, anyhow; he appeared tall and slender in street
clothes, his hair was dark, his eyes big and sensitive and dark,
his nose aquiline and, like all his features, somehow romantic.  It
didn't occur to me then, but I suppose he was pretty vain--not
conceited, but vain--for he always dressed in brown or soft light
gray, with black ties, and people don't match themselves so
successfully by accident.

He was smiling a little to himself as he came in.  He shook my hand
buoyantly and said, "Why, what a surprise to meet you here, Mr.
Deering," in a kidding way.  Then he saw the two girls through the
long hall, one dark and shining, like himself, and one with gold
hair that was foaming and frothing in the firelight, and said in
the happiest voice I've ever heard, "Which one is mine?"

"Either you want, I guess."

"Seriously, which is Pickman?"

"She's light."

"Then the other one belongs to me.  Isn't that the idea?"

"I think I'd better warn them about the state you're in."

Miss Thorne, small, flushed and lovely, stood beside the fire.
Dolly went right up to her.

"You're mine," he said; "you belong to me."

She looked at him coolly, making up her mind; suddenly she liked
him and smiled.  But Dolly wasn't satisfied.  He wanted to do
something incredibly silly or startling to express his untold
jubilation that he was free.

"I love you," he said.  He took her hand, his brown velvet eyes
regarding her tenderly, unseeingly, convincingly.  "I love you."

For a moment the corners of her lips fell as if in dismay that she
had met someone stronger, more confident, more challenging than
herself.  Then, as she drew herself together visibly, he dropped
her hand and the little scene in which he had expended the tension
of the afternoon was over.

It was a bright cold November night and the rush of air past the
open car brought a vague excitement, a sense that we were hurrying
at top speed toward a brilliant destiny.  The roads were packed
with cars that came to long inexplicable halts while police,
blinded by the lights, walked up and down the line giving obscure
commands.  Before we had been gone an hour New York began to be a
distant hazy glow against the sky.

Miss Thorne, Josephine told me, was from Washington, and had just
come down from a visit in Boston.

"For the game?" I said.

"No; she didn't go to the game."

"That's too bad.  If you'd let me know I could have picked up a
seat--"

"She wouldn't have gone.  Vienna never goes to games."

I remembered now that she hadn't even murmured the conventional
congratulations to Dolly.

"She hates football.  Her brother was killed in a prep-school game
last year.  I wouldn't have brought her tonight, but when we got
home from the game I saw she'd been sitting there holding a book
open at the same page all afternoon.  You see, he was this
wonderful kid and her family saw it happen and naturally never got
over it."

"But does she mind being with Dolly?"

"Of course not.  She just ignores football.  If anyone mentions it
she simply changes the subject."

I was glad that it was Dolly and not, say, Jack Devlin who was
sitting back there with her.  And I felt rather sorry for Dolly.
However strongly he felt about the game, he must have waited for
some acknowledgment that his effort had existed.

He was probably giving her credit for a subtle consideration, yet,
as the images of the afternoon flashed into his mind he might have
welcomed a compliment to which he could respond "What nonsense!"
Neglected entirely, the images would become insistent and
obtrusive.

I turned around and was somewhat startled to find that Miss Thorne
was in Dolly's arms; I turned quickly back and decided to let them
take care of themselves.

As we waited for a traffic light on upper Broadway, I saw a
sporting extra headlined with the score of the game.  The green
sheet was more real than the afternoon itself--succinct, condensed
and clear:


                PRINCETON CONQUERS YALE 10-3
              SEVENTY THOUSAND WATCH TIGER TRIM
                           BULLDOG

                DEVLIN SCORES ON YALE FUMBLE


There it was--not like the afternoon, muddled, uncertain, patchy
and scrappy to the end, but nicely mounted now in the setting of
the past:


                   PRINCETON, 10; YALE, 3


Achievement was a curious thing, I thought.  Dolly was largely
responsible for that.  I wondered if all things that screamed in
the headlines were simply arbitrary accents.  As if people should
ask, "What does it look like?"

"It looks most like a cat."

"Well, then, let's call it a cat."

My mind, brightened by the lights and the cheerful tumult, suddenly
grasped the fact that all achievement was a placing of emphasis--a
molding of the confusion of life into form.

Josephine stopped in front of the New Amsterdam Theater, where her
chauffeur met us and took the car.  We were early, but a small buzz
of excitement went up from the undergraduates waiting in the lobby--
"There's Dolly Harlan"--and as we moved toward the elevator
several acquaintances came up to shake his hand.  Apparently
oblivious to these ceremonies, Miss Thorne caught my eye and
smiled.  I looked at her with curiosity; Josephine had imparted the
rather surprising information that she was just sixteen years old.
I suppose my return smile was rather patronizing, but instantly I
realized that the fact could not be imposed on.  In spite of all
the warmth and delicacy of her face, the figure that somehow
reminded me of an exquisite, romanticized little ballerina, there
was a quality in her that was as hard as steel.  She had been
brought up in Rome, Vienna and Madrid, with flashes of Washington;
her father was one of those charming American diplomats who, with
fine obstinacy, try to re-create the Old World in their children by
making their education rather more royal than that of princes.
Miss Thorne was sophisticated.  In spite of all the abandon of
American young people, sophistication is still a Continental
monopoly.

We walked in upon a number in which a dozen chorus girls in orange
and black were racing wooden horses against another dozen dressed
in Yale blue.  When the lights went on, Dolly was recognized and
some Princeton students set up a clatter of approval with the
little wooden hammers given out for applause; he moved his chair
unostentatiously into a shadow.

Almost immediately a flushed and very miserable young man appeared
beside our table.  In better form he would have been extremely
prepossessing; indeed, he flashed a charming and dazzling smile at
Dolly, as if requesting his permission to speak to Miss Thorne.

Then he said, "I thought you weren't coming to New York tonight."

"Hello, Carl."  She looked up at him coolly.

"Hello, Vienna.  That's just it; 'Hello Vienna--Hello Carl.'  But
why?  I thought you weren't coming to New York tonight."

Miss Thorne made no move to introduce the man, but we were
conscious of his somewhat raised voice.

"I thought you promised me you weren't coming."

"I didn't expect to, child.  I just left Boston this morning."

"And who did you meet in Boston--the fascinating Tunti?" he
demanded.

"I didn't meet anyone, child."

"Oh, yes, you did!  You met the fascinating Tunti and you discussed
living on the Riviera."  She didn't answer.  "Why are you so
dishonest, Vienna?" he went on.  "Why did you tell me on the phone--"

"I am not going to be lectured," she said, her tone changing
suddenly.  "I told you if you took another drink I was through with
you.  I'm a person of my word and I'd be enormously happy if you
went away."

"Vienna!" he cried in a sinking, trembling voice.

At this point I got up and danced with Josephine.  When we came
back there were people at the table--the men to whom we were to
hand over Josephine and Miss Thorne, for I had allowed for Dolly
being tired, and several others.  One of them was Al Ratoni, the
composer, who, it appeared, had been entertained at the embassy in
Madrid.  Dolly Harlan had drawn his chair aside and was watching
the dancers.  Just as the lights went down for a new number a man
came up out of the darkness and leaning over Miss Thorne whispered
in her ear.  She started and made a motion to rise, but he put his
hand on her shoulder and forced her down.  They began to talk
together in low excited voices.

The tables were packed close at the old Frolic.  There was a man
rejoining the party next to us and I couldn't help hearing what he
said:

"A young fellow just tried to kill himself down in the wash room.
He shot himself through the shoulder, but they got the pistol away
before--"

A minute later his voice again:  "Carl Sanderson, they said."

When the number was over I looked around.  Vienna Thorne was
staring very rigidly at Miss Lillian Lorraine, who was rising
toward the ceiling as an enormous telephone doll.  The man who had
leaned over Vienna was gone and the others were obliviously unaware
that anything had happened.  I turned to Dolly and suggested that
he and I had better go, and after a glance at Vienna in which
reluctance, weariness and then resignation were mingled, he
consented.  On the way to the hotel I told Dolly what had happened.

"Just some souse," he remarked after a moment's fatigued
consideration.  "He probably tried to miss himself and get a little
sympathy.  I suppose those are the sort of things a really
attractive girl is up against all the time."

This wasn't my attitude.  I could see that mussed white shirt front
with very young blood pumping over it, but I didn't argue, and
after a while Dolly said, "I suppose that sounds brutal, but it
seems a little soft and weak, doesn't it?  Perhaps that's just the
way I feel tonight."

When Dolly undressed I saw that he was a mass of bruises, but he
assured me that none of them would keep him awake.  Then I told him
why Miss Thorne hadn't mentioned the game and he woke up suddenly;
the familiar glitter came back into his eyes.

"So that was it!  I wondered.  I thought maybe you'd told her not
to say anything about it."

Later, when the lights had been out half an hour, he suddenly said
"I see" in a loud clear voice.  I don't know whether he was awake
or asleep.


III


I've put down as well as I can everything I can remember about the
first meeting between Dolly and Miss Vienna Thorne.  Reading it
over, it sounds casual and insignificant, but the evening lay in
the shadow of the game and all that happened seemed like that.
Vienna went back to Europe almost immediately and for fifteen
months passed out of Dolly's life.

It was a good year--it still rings true in my memory as a good
year.  Sophomore year is the most dramatic at Princeton, just as
junior year is at Yale.  It's not only the elections to the
upperclass clubs but also everyone's destiny begins to work itself
out.  You can tell pretty well who's going to come through, not
only by their immediate success but by the way they survive
failure.  Life was very full for me.  I made the board of the
Princetonian, and our house burned down out in Dayton, and I had a
silly half-hour fist fight in the gymnasium with a man who later
became one of my closest friends, and in March Dolly and I joined
the upperclass club we'd always wanted to be in.  I fell in love,
too, but it would be an irrelevancy to tell about that here.

April came and the first real Princeton weather, the lazy green-and-
gold afternoons and the bright thrilling nights haunted with the
hour of senior singing.  I was happy, and Dolly would have been
happy except for the approach of another football season.  He was
playing baseball, which excused him from spring practice, but the
bands were beginning to play faintly in the distance.  They rose to
concert pitch during the summer, when he had to answer the
question, "Are you going back early for football?" a dozen times a
day.  On the fifteenth of September he was down in the dust and
heat of late-summer Princeton, crawling over the ground on all
fours, trotting through the old routine and turning himself into
just the sort of specimen that I'd have given ten years of my life
to be.

From first to last, he hated it, and never let down for a minute.
He went into the Yale game that fall weighing a hundred and fifty-
three pounds, though that wasn't the weight printed in the paper,
and he and Joe McDonald were the only men who played all through
that disastrous game.  He could have been captain by lifting his
finger--but that involves some stuff that I know confidentially and
can't tell.  His only horror was that by some chance he'd have to
accept it.  Two seasons!  He didn't even talk about it now.  He
left the room or the club when the conversation veered around to
football.  He stopped announcing to me that he "wasn't going
through that business any more."  This time it took the Christmas
holidays to drive that unhappy look from his eyes.

Then at the New Year Miss Vienna Thorne came home from Madrid and
in February a man named Case brought her down to the Senior Prom.


IV


She was even prettier than she had been before, softer, externally
at least, and a tremendous success.  People passing her on the
street jerked their heads quickly to look at her--a frightened
look, as if they realized that they had almost missed something.
She was temporarily tired of European men, she told me, letting me
gather that there had been some sort of unfortunate love affair.
She was coming out in Washington next fall.

Vienna and Dolly.  She disappeared with him for two hours the night
of the club dances, and Harold Case was in despair.  When they
walked in again at midnight I thought they were the handsomest pair
I saw.  They were both shining with that peculiar luminosity that
dark people sometimes have.  Harold Case took one look at them and
went proudly home.

Vienna came back a week later, solely to see Dolly.  Late that
evening I had occasion to go up to the deserted club for a book and
they called me from the rear terrace, which opens out to the
ghostly stadium and to an unpeopled sweep of night.  It was an hour
of thaw, with spring voices in the warm wind, and wherever there
was light enough you could see drops glistening and falling.  You
could feel the cold melting out of the stars and the bare trees and
shrubbery toward Stony Brook turning lush in the darkness.

They were sitting together on a wicker bench, full of themselves
and romantic and happy.

"We had to tell someone about it," they said.

"Now can I go?"

"No, Jeff," they insisted; "stay here and envy us.  We're in the
stage where we want someone to envy us.  Do you think we're a good
match?"

What could I say?

"Dolly's going to finish at Princeton next year," Vienna went on,
"but we're going to announce it after the season in Washington in
the autumn."

I was vaguely relieved to find that it was going to be a long
engagement.

"I approve of you, Jeff," Vienna said.

"I want Dolly to have more friends like you.  You're stimulating
for him--you have ideas.  I told Dolly he could probably find
others like you if he looked around his class."

Dolly and I both felt a little uncomfortable.

"She doesn't want me to be a Babbitt," he said lightly.

"Dolly's perfect," asserted Vienna.  "He's the most beautiful thing
that ever lived, and you'll find I'm very good for him, Jeff.
Already I've helped him make up his mind about one important
thing."  I guessed what was coming.  "He's going to speak a little
piece if they bother him about playing football next autumn, aren't
you, child?"

"Oh, they won't bother me," said Dolly uncomfortably.  "It isn't
like that--"

"Well, they'll try to bully you into it, morally."

"Oh, no," he objected.  "It isn't like that.  Don't let's talk
about it now, Vienna.  It's such a swell night."

Such a swell night!  When I think of my own love passages at
Princeton, I always summon up that night of Dolly's, as if it had
been I and not he who sat there with youth and hope and beauty in
his arms.

Dolly's mother took a place on Ram's Point, Long Island, for the
summer, and late in August I went East to visit him.  Vienna had
been there a week when I arrived, and my impressions were: first,
that he was very much in love; and, second, that it was Vienna's
party.  All sorts of curious people used to drop in to see Vienna.
I wouldn't mind them now--I'm more sophisticated--but then they
seemed rather a blot on the summer.  They were all slightly famous
in one way or another, and it was up to you to find out how.  There
was a lot of talk, and especially there was much discussion of
Vienna's personality.  Whenever I was alone with any of the other
guests we discussed Vienna's sparkling personality.  They thought I
was dull, and most of them thought Dolly was dull.  He was better
in his line than any of them were in theirs, but his was the only
specialty that wasn't mentioned.  Still, I felt vaguely that I was
being improved and I boasted about knowing most of those people in
the ensuing year, and was annoyed when people failed to recognize
their names.

The day before I left, Dolly turned his ankle playing tennis, and
afterward he joked about it to me rather somberly.

"If I'd only broken it things would be so much easier.  Just a
quarter of an inch more bend and one of the bones would have
snapped.  By the way, look here."

He tossed me a letter.  It was a request that he report at
Princeton for practice on September fifteenth and that meanwhile he
begin getting himself in good condition.

"You're not going to play this fall?"

He shook his head.

"No.  I'm not a child any more.  I've played for two years and I
want this year free.  If I went through it again it'd be a piece of
moral cowardice."

"I'm not arguing, but--would you have taken this stand if it hadn't
been for Vienna?"

"Of course I would.  If I let myself be bullied into it I'd never
be able to look myself in the face again."

Two weeks later I got the following letter:


DEAR JEFF:

When you read this you'll be somewhat surprised.  I have, actually,
this time, broken my ankle playing tennis.  I can't even walk with
crutches at present; it's on a chair in front of me swollen up and
wrapped up as big as a house as I write.  No one, not even Vienna,
knows about our conversation on the same subject last summer and so
let us both absolutely forget it.  One thing, though--an ankle is a
darn hard thing to break, though I never knew it before.

I feel happier than I have for years--no early-season practice, no
sweat and suffer, a little discomfort and inconvenience, but free.
I feel as if I've outwitted a whole lot of people, and it's
nobody's business but that of your

                         Machiavellian (sic) friend,

                                                          DOLLY.

P.S.  You might as well tear up this letter.


It didn't sound like Dolly at all.


V


Once down at Princeton I asked Frank Kane--who sells sporting goods
on Nassau Street and can tell you offhand the name of the scrub
quarterback in 1901--what was the matter with Bob Tatnall's team
senior year.

"Injuries and tough luck," he said.  "They wouldn't sweat after the
hard games.  Take Joe McDonald, for instance, All-American tackle
the year before; he was slow and stale, and he knew it and didn't
care.  It's a wonder Bill got that outfit through the season at
all."

I sat in the stands with Dolly and watched them beat Lehigh 3-0 and
tie Bucknell by a fluke.  The next week we were trimmed 14-0 by
Notre Dame.  On the day of the Notre Dame game Dolly was in
Washington with Vienna, but he was awfully curious about it when he
came back next day.  He had all the sporting pages of all the
papers and he sat reading them and shaking his head.  Then he
stuffed them suddenly into the waste-paper basket.

"This college is football crazy," he announced.  "Do you know that
English teams don't even train for sports?"

I didn't enjoy Dolly so much in those days.  It was curious to see
him with nothing to do.  For the first time in his life he hung
around--around the room, around the club, around casual groups--he
who had always been going somewhere with dynamic indolence.  His
passage along a walk had once created groups--groups of classmates
who wanted to walk with him, of underclassmen who followed with
their eyes a moving shrine.  He became democratic, he mixed around,
and it was somehow not appropriate.  He explained that he wanted to
know more men in his class.

But people want their idols a little above them, and Dolly had been
a sort of private and special idol.  He began to hate to be alone,
and that, of course, was most apparent to me.  If I got up to go
out and he didn't happen to be writing a letter to Vienna, he'd ask
"Where are you going?" in a rather alarmed way and make an excuse
to limp along with me.

"Are you glad you did it, Dolly?" I asked him suddenly one day.

He looked at me with reproach behind the defiance in his eyes.

"Of course I'm glad."

"I wish you were in that back field, all the same."

"It wouldn't matter a bit.  This year's game's in the Bowl.  I'd
probably be dropping kicks for them."

The week of the Navy game he suddenly began going to all the
practices.  He worried; that terrible sense of responsibility was
at work.  Once he had hated the mention of football; now he thought
and talked of nothing else.  The night before the Navy game I woke
up several times to find the lights burning brightly in his room.

We lost 7 to 3 on Navy's last-minute forward pass over Devlin's
head.  After the first half Dolly left the stands and sat down with
the players on the field.  When he joined me afterward his face was
smudgy and dirty as if he had been crying.

The game was in Baltimore that year.  Dolly and I were going to
spend the night in Washington with Vienna, who was giving a dance.
We rode over there in an atmosphere of sullen gloom and it was all
I could do to keep him from snapping out at two naval officers who
were holding an exultant post mortem in the seat behind.

The dance was what Vienna called her second coming-out party.  She
was having only the people she liked this time, and these turned
out to be chiefly importations from New York.  The musicians, the
playwrights, the vague supernumeraries of the arts, who had dropped
in at Dolly's house on Ram's Point, were here in force.  But Dolly,
relieved of his obligations as host, made no clumsy attempt to talk
their language that night.  He stood moodily against the wall with
some of that old air of superiority that had first made me want to
know him.  Afterward, on my way to bed, I passed Vienna's sitting
room and she called me to come in.  She and Dolly, both a little
white, were sitting across the room from each other and there was
tensity in the air.

"Sit down, Jeff," said Vienna wearily.  "I want you to witness the
collapse of a man into a schoolboy."  I sat down reluctantly.
"Dolly's changed his mind," she said.  "He prefers football to me."

"That's not it," said Dolly stubbornly.

"I don't see the point," I objected.  "Dolly can't possibly play."

"But he thinks he can.  Jeff, just in case you imagine I'm being
pig-headed about it, I want to tell you a story.  Three years ago,
when we first came back to the United States, father put my young
brother in school.  One afternoon we all went out to see him play
football.  Just after the game started he was hurt, but father
said, 'It's all right.  He'll be up in a minute.  It happens all
the time.'  But, Jeff, he never got up.  He lay there, and finally
they carried him off the field and put a blanket over him.  Just as
we got to him he died."

She looked from one to the other of us and began to sob
convulsively.  Dolly went over, frowning, and put his arm around
her shoulder.

"Oh, Dolly," she cried, "won't you do this for me--just this one
little thing for me?"

He shook his head miserably.  "I tried, but I can't," he said.

"It's my stuff, don't you understand, Vienna?  People have got to
do their stuff."

Vienna had risen and was powdering her tears at a mirror; now she
flashed around angrily.

"Then I've been laboring under a misapprehension when I supposed
you felt about it much as I did."

"Let's not go over all that.  I'm tired of talking, Vienna; I'm
tired of my own voice.  It seems to me that no one I know does
anything but talk any more."

"Thanks.  I suppose that's meant for me."

"It seems to me your friends talk a great deal.  I've never heard
so much jabber as I've listened to tonight.  Is the idea of
actually doing anything repulsive to you, Vienna?"

"It depends upon whether it's worth doing."

"Well, this is worth doing--to me."

"I know your trouble, Dolly," she said bitterly.  "You're weak and
you want to be admired.  This year you haven't had a lot of little
boys following you around as if you were Jack Dempsey, and it
almost breaks your heart.  You want to get out in front of them all
and make a show of yourself and hear the applause."

He laughed shortly.  "If that's your idea of how a football player
feels--"

"Have you made up your mind to play?" she interrupted.

"If I'm any use to them--yes."

"Then I think we're both wasting our time."

Her expression was ruthless, but Dolly refused to see that she was
in earnest.  When I got away he was still trying to make her "be
rational," and next day on the train he said that Vienna had been
"a little nervous."  He was deeply in love with her, and he didn't
dare think of losing her; but he was still in the grip of the
sudden emotion that had decided him to play, and his confusion and
exhaustion of mind made him believe vainly that everything was
going to be all right.  But I had seen that look on Vienna's face
the night she talked with Mr. Carl Sanderson at the Frolic two
years before.

Dolly didn't get off the train at Princeton Junction, but continued
on to New York.  He went to two orthopedic specialists and one of
them arranged a bandage braced with a whole little fence of
whalebones that he was to wear day and night.  The probabilities
were that it would snap at the first brisk encounter, but he could
run on it and stand on it when he kicked.  He was out on University
Field in uniform the following afternoon.

His appearance was a small sensation.  I was sitting in the stands
watching practice with Harold Case and young Daisy Cary.  She was
just beginning to be famous then, and I don't know whether she or
Dolly attracted the most attention.  In those times it was still
rather daring to bring down a moving-picture actress; if that same
young lady went to Princeton today she would probably be met at the
station with a band.

Dolly limped around and everyone said, "He's limping!"  He got
under a punt and everyone said, "He did that pretty well!"  The
first team were laid off after the hard Navy game and everyone
watched Dolly all afternoon.  After practice I caught his eye and
he came over and shook hands.  Daisy asked him if he'd like to be
in a football picture she was going to make.  It was only
conversation, but he looked at me with a dry smile.

When he came back to the room his ankle was swollen up as big as a
stove pipe, and next day he and Keene fixed up an arrangement by
which the bandage would be loosened and tightened to fit its
varying size.  We called it the balloon.  The bone was nearly
healed, but the little bruised sinews were stretched out of place
again every day.  He watched the Swarthmore game from the sidelines
and the following Monday he was in scrimmage with the second team
against the scrubs.

In the afternoons sometimes he wrote to Vienna.  His theory was
that they were still engaged, but he tried not to worry about it,
and I think the very pain that kept him awake at night was good for
that.  When the season was over he would go and see.

We played Harvard and lost 7 to 3.  Jack Devlin's collar bone was
broken and he was out for the season, which made it almost sure
that Dolly would play.  Amid the rumors and fears of mid-November
the news aroused a spark of hope in an otherwise morbid
undergraduate body--hope all out of proportion to Dolly's
condition.  He came back to the room the Thursday before the game
with his face drawn and tired.

"They're going to start me," he said, "and I'm going to be back for
punts.  If they only knew--"

"Couldn't you tell Bill how you feel about that?"

He shook his head and I had a sudden suspicion that he was
punishing himself for his "accident" last August.  He lay silently
on the couch while I packed his suitcase for the team train.

The actual day of the game was, as usual, like a dream--unreal with
its crowds of friends and relatives and the inessential trappings
of a gigantic show.  The eleven little men who ran out on the field
at last were like bewitched figures in another world, strange and
infinitely romantic, blurred by a throbbing mist of people and
sound.  One aches with them intolerably, trembles with their
excitement, but they have no traffic with us now, they are beyond
help, consecrated and unreachable--vaguely holy.

The field is rich and green, the preliminaries are over and the
teams trickle out into position.  Head guards are put on; each man
claps his hands and breaks into a lonely little dance.  People are
still talking around you, arranging themselves, but you have fallen
silent and your eye wanders from man to man.  There's Jack
Whitehead, a senior, at end; Joe McDonald, large and reassuring, at
tackle; Toole, a sophomore, at guard; Red Hopman, center; someone
you can't identify at the other guard--Bunker probably--he turns
and you see his number--Bunker; Bean Gile, looking unnaturally
dignified and significant at the other tackle; Poore, another
sophomore at end.  Back of them is Wash Sampson at quarter--imagine
how he feels!  But he runs here and there on light feet, speaking
to this man and that, trying to communicate his alertness and his
confidence of success.  Dolly Harlan stands motionless, his hands
on his hips, watching the Yale kicker tee up the ball; near him is
Captain Bob Tatnall--

There's the whistle!  The line of the Yale team sways ponderously
forward from its balance and a split second afterward comes the
sound of the ball.  The field streams with running figures and the
whole Bowl strains forward as if thrown by the current of an
electric chair.

Suppose we fumbled right away.

Tatnall catches it, goes back ten yards, is surrounded and blotted
out of sight.  Spears goes through center for three.  A short pass,
Sampson to Tatnall, is completed, but for no gain.  Harlan punts to
Devereaux, who is downed in his tracks on the Yale forty-yard line.

Now we'll see what they've got.

It developed immediately that they had a great deal.  Using an
effective crisscross and a short pass over center, they carried the
ball fifty-four yards to the Princeton six-yard line, where they
lost it on a fumble, recovered by Red Hopman.  After a trade of
punts, they began another push, this time to the fifteen-yard line,
where, after four hair-raising forward passes, two of them batted
down by Dolly, we got the ball on downs.  But Yale was still fresh
and strong, and with a third onslaught the weaker Princeton line
began to give way.  Just after the second quarter began Devereaux
took the ball over for a touchdown and the half ended with Yale in
possession of the ball on our ten-yard line.  Score, Yale, 7;
Princeton, 0.

We hadn't a chance.  The team was playing above itself, better than
it had played all year, but it wasn't enough.  Save that it was the
Yale game, when anything could happen, anything HAD happened, the
atmosphere of gloom would have been deeper than it was, and in the
cheering section you could cut it with a knife.

Early in the game Dolly Harlan had fumbled Devereaux's high punt,
but recovered without gain; toward the end of the half another kick
slipped through his fingers, but he scooped it up, and slipping
past the end, went back twelve yards.  Between halves he told Roper
he couldn't seem to get under the ball, but they kept him there.
His own kicks were carrying well and he was essential in the only
back-field combination that could hope to score.

After the first play of the game he limped slightly, moving around
as little as possible to conceal the fact.  But I knew enough about
football to see that he was in every play, starting at that rather
slow pace of his and finishing with a quick side lunge that almost
always took out his man.  Not a single Yale forward pass was
finished in his territory, but toward the end of the third quarter
he dropped another kick--backed around in a confused little circle
under it, lost it and recovered on the five-yard line just in time
to avert a certain score.  That made the third time, and I saw Ed
Kimball throw off his blanket and begin to warm up on the
sidelines.

Just at that point our luck began to change.  From a kick
formation, with Dolly set to punt from behind our goal, Howard
Bement, who had gone in for Wash Sampson at quarter, took the ball
through the center of the line, got by the secondary defense and
ran twenty-six yards before he was pulled down.  Captain Tasker, of
Yale, had gone out with a twisted knee, and Princeton began to pile
plays through his substitute, between Bean Gile and Hopman, with
George Spears and sometimes Bob Tatnall carrying the ball.  We went
up to the Yale forty-yard line, lost the ball on a fumble and
recovered it on another as the third quarter ended.  A wild ripple
of enthusiasm ran through the Princeton stands.  For the first time
we had the ball in their territory with first down and the
possibility of tying the score.  You could hear the tenseness
growing all around you in the intermission; it was reflected in the
excited movements of the cheer leaders and the uncontrollable
patches of sound that leaped out of the crowd, catching up voices
here and there and swelling to an undisciplined roar.

I saw Kimball dash out on the field and report to the referee and I
thought Dolly was through at last, and was glad, but it was Bob
Tatnall who came out, sobbing, and brought the Princeton side
cheering to its feet.

With the first play pandemonium broke loose and continued to the
end of the game.  At intervals it would swoon away to a plaintive
humming; then it would rise to the intensity of wind and rain and
thunder, and beat across the twilight from one side of the Bowl to
the other like the agony of lost souls swinging across a gap in
space.

The teams lined up on Yale's forty-one yard line and Spears
immediately dashed off tackle for six yards.  Again he carried the
ball--he was a wild unpopular Southerner with inspired moments--
going through the same hole for five more and a first down.  Dolly
made two on a cross buck and Spears was held at center.  It was
third down, with the ball on Yale's twenty-nine-yard line and eight
to go.

There was some confusion immediately behind me, some pushing and
some voices; a man was sick or had fainted--I never discovered
which.  Then my view was blocked out for a minute by rising bodies
and then everything went definitely crazy.  Substitutes were
jumping around down on the field, waving their blankets, the air
was full of hats, cushions, coats and a deafening roar.  Dolly
Harlan, who had scarcely carried the ball a dozen times in his
Princeton career, had picked a long pass from Kimball out of the
air and, dragging a tackler, struggled five yards to the Yale goal.


VI


Some time later the game was over.  There was a bad moment when
Yale began another attack, but there was no scoring and Bob
Tatnall's eleven had redeemed a mediocre season by tying a better
Yale team.  For us there was the feel of victory about it, the
exaltation if not the jubilance, and the Yale faces issuing from
out the Bowl wore the look of defeat.  It would be a good year,
after all--a good fight at the last, a tradition for next year's
team.  Our class--those of us who cared--would go out from
Princeton without the taste of final defeat.  The symbol stood--
such as it was; the banners blew proudly in the wind.  All that is
childish?  Find us something to fill the niche of victory.

I waited for Dolly outside the dressing rooms until almost everyone
had come out; then, as he still lingered, I went in.  Someone had
given him a little brandy, and since he never drank much, it was
swimming in his head.

"Have a chair, Jeff."  He smiled, broadly and happily.  "Rubber!
Tony!  Get the distinguished guest a chair.  He's an intellectual
and he wants to interview one of the bone-headed athletes.  Tony,
this is Mr. Deering.  They've got everything in this funny Bowl but
armchairs.  I love this Bowl.  I'm going to build here."

He fell silent, thinking about all things happily.  He was content.
I persuaded him to dress--there were people waiting for us.  Then
he insisted on walking out upon the field, dark now, and feeling
the crumbled turf with his shoe.

He picked up a divot from a cleat and let it drop, laughed, looked
distracted for a minute, and turned away.

With Tad Davis, Daisy Cary and another girl, we drove to New York.
He sat beside Daisy and was silly, charming and attractive.  For
the first time since I'd known him he talked about the game
naturally, even with a touch of vanity.

"For two years I was pretty good and I was always mentioned at the
bottom of the column as being among those who played.  This year I
dropped three punts and slowed up every play till Bob Tatnall kept
yelling at me, 'I don't see why they won't take you out!'  But a
pass not even aimed at me fell in my arms and I'll be in the
headlines tomorrow."

He laughed.  Somebody touched his foot; he winced and turned white.

"How did you hurt it?" Daisy asked.  "In football?"

"I hurt it last summer," he said shortly.

"It must have been terrible to play on it."

"It was."

"I suppose you had to."

"That's the way sometimes."

They understood each other.  They were both workers; sick or well,
there were things that Daisy also had to do.  She spoke of how,
with a vile cold, she had had to fall into an open-air lagoon out
in Hollywood the winter before.

"Six times--with a fever of a hundred and two.  But the production
was costing ten thousand dollars a day."

"Couldn't they use a double?"

"They did whenever they could--I only fell in when it had to be
done."

She was eighteen and I compared her background of courage and
independence and achievement, of politeness based upon the
realities of cooperation, with that of most society girls I had
known.  There was no way in which she wasn't inestimably their
superior--if she had looked for a moment my way--but it was Dolly's
shining velvet eyes that signaled to her own.

"Can't you go out with me tonight?" I heard her ask him.

He was sorry, but he had to refuse.  Vienna was in New York; she
was going to see him.  I didn't know, and Dolly didn't know,
whether there was to be a reconciliation or a good-by.

When she dropped Dolly and me at the Ritz there was real regret,
that lingering form of it, in both their eyes.

"There's a marvelous girl," Dolly said.  I agreed.  "I'm going up
to see Vienna.  Will you get a room for us at the Madison?"

So I left him.  What happened between him and Vienna I don't know;
he has never spoken about it to this day.  But what happened later
in the evening was brought to my attention by several surprised and
even indignant witnesses to the event.

Dolly walked into the Ambassador Hotel about ten o'clock and went
to the desk to ask for Miss Cary's room.  There was a crowd around
the desk, among them some Yale or Princeton undergraduates from the
game.  Several of them had been celebrating and evidently one of
them knew Daisy and had tried to get her room by phone.  Dolly was
abstracted and he must have made his way through them in a somewhat
brusque way and asked to be connected with Miss Cary.

One young man stepped back, looked at him unpleasantly and said,
"You seem to be in an awful hurry.  Just who are you?"

There was one of those slight silent pauses and the people near the
desk all turned to look.  Something happened inside Dolly; he felt
as if life had arranged his role to make possible this particular
question--a question that now he had no choice but to answer.
Still, there was silence.  The small crowd waited.

"Why, I'm Dolly Harlan," he said deliberately.  "What do you think
of that?"

It was quite outrageous.  There was a pause and then a sudden
little flurry and chorus:  "Dolly Harlan!  What?  What did he say?"

The clerk had heard the name; he gave it as the phone was answered
from Miss Cary's room.

"Mr. Harlan's to go right up, please."

Dolly turned away, alone with his achievement, taking it for once
to his breast.  He found suddenly that he would not have it long so
intimately; the memory would outlive the triumph and even the
triumph would outlive the glow in his heart that was best of all.
Tall and straight, an image of victory and pride, he moved across
the lobby, oblivious alike to the fate ahead of him or the small
chatter behind.


THE END



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