Bernice Bobs Her Hair
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
After dark on Saturday night one could stand on the first tee of the
golf-course and see the country-club windows as a yellow expanse over
a very black and wavy ocean. The waves of this ocean, so to speak,
were the heads of many curious caddies, a few of the more ingenious
chauffeurs, the golf professional's deaf sister—and there were
usually several stray, diffident waves who might have rolled inside
had they so desired. This was the gallery.
The balcony was inside. It consisted of the circle of wicker chairs
that lined the wall of the combination clubroom and ballroom. At these
Saturday-night dances it was largely feminine; a great babel of
middle-aged ladies with sharp eyes and icy hearts behind lorgnettes
and large bosoms. The main function of the balcony was critical. It
occasionally showed grudging admiration, but never approval, for it is
well known among ladies over thirty-five that when the younger set
dance in the summer-time it is with the very worst intentions in the
world, and if they are not bombarded with stony eyes stray couples
will dance weird barbaric interludes in the corners, and the more
popular, more dangerous, girls will sometimes be kissed in the parked
limousines of unsuspecting dowagers.
But, after all, this critical circle is not close enough to the
stage to see the actors' faces and catch the subtler byplay. It can
only frown and lean, ask questions and make satisfactory deductions
from its set of postulates, such as the one which states that every
young man with a large income leads the life of a hunted partridge. It
never really appreciates the drama of the shifting, semicruel world of
adolescence. No; boxes, orchestra-circle, principals, and chorus are
represented by the medley of faces and voices that sway to the
plaintive African rhythm of Dyer's dance orchestra.
From sixteen-year-old Otis Ormonde, who has two more years at Hill
School, to G. Reece Stoddard, over whose bureau at home hangs a
Harvard law diploma; from little Madeleine Hogue, whose hair still
feels strange and uncomfortable on top of her head, to Bessie MacRae,
who has been the life of the party a little too long—more than ten
years—the medley is not only the centre of the stage but contains the
only people capable of getting an un-obstructed view of it.
With a flourish and a bang the music stops. The couples exchange
artificial, effortless smiles, facetiously repeat "la-de-da-da
dum-dum," and then the clatter of young feminine voices soars over the
burst of clapping.
A few disappointed stags caught in midfloor as they had been about
to cut in subsided listlessly back to the walls, because this was not
like the riotous Christmas dances—these summer hops were considered
just pleasantly warm and exciting, where even the younger marrieds
rose and performed ancient waltzes and terrifying fox trots to the
tolerant amusement of their younger brothers and sisters.
Warren McIntyre, who casually attended Yale, being one of the
unfortunate stags, felt in his dinner-coat pocket for a cigarette and
strolled out onto the wide, semidark veranda, where couples were
scattered at tables, filling the lantern-hung night with vague words
and hazy laughter. He nodded here and there at the less absorbed and
as he passed each couple some half-forgotten fragment of a story
played in his mind, for it was not a large city and every one was
Who's Who to every one else's past. There, for example, were Jim
Strain and Ethel Demorest, who had been privately engaged for three
years. Every one knew that as soon as Jim managed to hold a job for
more than two months she would marry him. Yet how bored they both
looked, and how wearily Ethel regarded Jim sometimes, as if she
wondered why she had trained the vines of her affection on such a
Warren was nineteen and rather pitying with those of his friends
who hadn't gone East to college. But, like most boys, he bragged
tremendously about the girls of his city when he was away from it.
There was Genevieve Ormonde, who regularly made the rounds of dances,
house-parties, and football games at Princeton, Yale, Williams, and
Cornell; there was black-eyed Roberta Dillon, who was quite as famous
to her own generation as Hiram Johnson or Ty Cobb; and, of course,
there was Marjorie Harvey, who besides having a fairylike face and a
dazzling, bewildering tongue was already justly celebrated for having
turned five cart-wheels in succession during the last pump-and-slipper
dance at New Haven.
Warren, who had grown up across the street from Marjorie, had long
been "crazy about her." Sometimes she seemed to reciprocate his
feeling with a faint gratitude, but she had tried him by her
infallible test and informed him gravely that she did not love him.
Her test was that when she was away from him she forgot him and had
affairs with other boys. Warren found this discouraging, especially as
Marjorie had been making little trips all summer, and for the first
two or three days after each arrival home he saw great heaps of mail
on the Harveys' hall table addressed to her in various masculine
handwritings. To make matters worse, all during the month of August
she had been visited by her cousin Bernice from Eau Claire, and it
seemed impossible to see her alone. It was always necessary to hunt
round and find some one to take care of Bernice. As August waned this
was becoming more and more difficult.
Much as Warren worshipped Marjorie, he had to admit that Cousin
Bernice was sorta dopeless. She was pretty, with dark hair and high
color, but she was no fun on a party. Every Saturday night he danced a
long arduous duty dance with her to please Marjorie, but he had never
been anything but bored in her company.
"Warren"—a soft voice at his elbow broke in upon his thoughts, and
he turned to see Marjorie, flushed and radiant as usual. She laid a
hand on his shoulder and a glow settled almost imperceptibly over him.
"Warren," she whispered, "do something for me—dance with Bernice.
She's been stuck with little Otis Ormonde for almost an hour."
Warren's glow faded.
"Why—sure," he answered half-heartedly.
"You don't mind, do you? I'll see that you don't get stuck."
Marjorie smiled—that smile that was thanks enough.
"You're an angel, and I'm obliged loads."
With a sigh the angel glanced round the veranda, but Bernice and
Otis were not in sight. He wandered back inside, and there in front of
the women's dressing-room he found Otis in the centre of a group of
young men who were convulsed with laughter. Otis was brandishing a
piece of timber he had picked up, and discoursing volubly.
"She's gone in to fix her hair," he announced wildly. "I'm waiting
to dance another hour with her."
Their laughter was renewed.
"Why don't some of you cut in?" cried Otis resentfully. "She likes
"Why, Otis," suggested a friend, "you've just barely got used to
"Why the two-by-four, Otis?" inquired Warren, smiling.
"The two-by-four? Oh, this? This is a club. When she comes out I'll
hit her on the head and knock her in again."
Warren collapsed on a settee and howled with glee.
"Never mind, Otis," he articulated finally. "I'm relieving you this
Otis simulated a sudden fainting attack and handed the stick to
"If you need it, old man," he said hoarsely.
No matter how beautiful or brilliant a girl may be, the reputation
of not being frequently cut in on makes her position at a dance
unfortunate. Perhaps boys prefer her company to that of the
butterflies with whom they dance a dozen times an evening, but youth
in this jazz-nourished generation is temperamentally restless, and the
idea of fox-trotting more than one full fox trot with the same girl is
distasteful, not to say odious. When it comes to several dances and
the intermissions between she can be quite sure that a young man, once
relieved, will never tread on her wayward toes again.
Warren danced the next full dance with Bernice, and finally,
thankful for the intermission, he led her to a table on the veranda.
There was a moment's silence while she did unimpressive things with
"It's hotter here than in Eau Claire," she said.
Warren stifled a sigh and nodded. It might be for all he knew or
cared. He wondered idly whether she was a poor conversationalist
because she got no attention or got no attention because she was a
"You going to be here much longer?" he asked, and then turned
rather red. She might suspect his reasons for asking.
"Another week," she answered, and stared at him as if to lunge at
his next remark when it left his lips.
Warren fidgeted. Then with a sudden charitable impulse he decided
to try part of his line on her. He turned and looked at her eyes.
"You've got an awfully kissable mouth," he began quietly.
This was a remark that he sometimes made to girls at college proms
when they were talking in just such half dark as this. Bernice
distinctly jumped. She turned an ungraceful red and became clumsy with
her fan. No one had ever made such a remark to her before.
"Fresh!"—the word had slipped out before she realized it, and she
bit her lip. Too late she decided to be amused, and offered him a
Warren was annoyed. Though not accustomed to have that remark taken
seriously, still it usually provoked a laugh or a paragraph of
sentimental banter. And he hated to be called fresh, except in a
joking way. His charitable impulse died and he switched the topic.
"Jim Strain and Ethel Demorest sitting out as usual," he commented.
This was more in Bernice's line, but a faint regret mingled with
her relief as the subject changed. Men did not talk to her about
kissable mouths, but she knew that they talked in some such way to
"Oh, yes," she said, and laughed. "I hear they've been mooning
round for years without a red penny.
Isn't it silly?"
Warren's disgust increased. Jim Strain was a close friend of his
brother's, and anyway he considered it bad form to sneer at people for
not having money. But Bernice had had no intention of sneering. She
was merely nervous.
When Marjorie and Bernice reached home at half after midnight they
said good night at the top of the stairs. Though cousins, they were
not intimates. As a matter of fact Marjorie had no female
intimates—she considered girls stupid. Bernice on the contrary all
through this parent-arranged visit had rather longed to exchange those
confidences flavored with giggles and tears that she considered an
indispensable factor in all feminine intercourse. But in this respect
she found Marjorie rather cold; felt somehow the same difficulty in
talking to her that she had in talking to men. Marjorie never giggled,
was never frightened, seldom embarrassed, and in fact had very few of
the qualities which Bernice considered appropriately and blessedly
As Bernice busied herself with tooth-brush and paste this night she
wondered for the hundredth time why she never had any attention when
she was away from home. That her family were the wealthiest in Eau
Claire; that her mother entertained tremendously, gave little dinners
for her daughter before all dances and bought her a car of her own to
drive round in, never occurred to her as factors in her home-town
social success. Like most girls she had been brought up on the warm
milk prepared by Annie Fellows Johnston and on novels in which the
female was beloved because of certain mysterious womanly qualities.
always mentioned but never displayed.
Bernice felt a vague pain that she was not at present engaged in
being popular. She did not know that had it not been for Marjorie's
campaigning she would have danced the entire evening with one man; but
she knew that even in Eau Claire other girls with less position and
less pulchritude were given a much bigger rush. She attributed this to
something subtly unscrupulous in those girls. It had never worried
her, and if it had her mother would have assured her that the other
girls cheapened themselves and that men really respected girls like
She turned out the light in her bathroom, and on an impulse decided
to go in and chat for a moment with her aunt Josephine, whose light
was still on. Her soft slippers bore her noiselessly down the carpeted
hall, but hearing voices inside she stopped near the partly opened
door. Then she caught her own name, and without any definite intention
of eavesdropping lingered—and the thread of the conversation going on
inside pierced her consciousness sharply as if it had been drawn
through with a needle.
"She's absolutely hopeless!" It was Marjorie's voice. "Oh, I know
what you're going to say! So many people have told you how pretty and
sweet she is, and how she can cook! What of it? She has a bum time.
Men don't like her."
"What's a little cheap popularity?"
Mrs. Harvey sounded annoyed.
"It's everything when you're eighteen," said Marjorie emphatically.
"I've done my best. I've been polite and I've made men dance with her,
but they just won't stand being bored. When I think of that gorgeous
coloring wasted on such a ninny, and think what Martha Carey could do
"There's no courtesy these days."
Mrs. Harvey's voice implied that modern situations were too much
for her. When she was a girl all young ladies who belonged to nice
families had glorious times.
"Well," said Marjorie, "no girl can permanently bolster up a
lame-duck visitor, because these days it's every girl for herself.
I've even tried to drop her hints about clothes and things, and she's
been furious—given me the funniest looks. She's sensitive enough to
know she's not getting away with much, but I'll bet she consoles
herself by thinking that she's very virtuous and that I'm too gay and
fickle and will come to a bad end. All unpopular girls think that way.
Sour grapes! Sarah Hopkins refers to Genevieve and Roberta and me as
gardenia girls! I'll bet she'd give ten years of her life and her
European education to be a gardenia girl and have three or four men in
love with her and be cut in on every few feet at dances."
"It seems to me," interrupted Mrs. Harvey rather wearily, "that you
ought to be able to do something for Bernice. I know she's not very
"Vivacious! Good grief! I've never heard her say anything to a boy
except that it's hot or the floor's crowded or that she's going to
school in New York next year. Sometimes she asks them what kind of car
they have and tells them the kind she has. Thrilling!"
There was a short silence, and then Mrs. Harvey took up her refrain:
"All I know is that other girls not half so sweet and attractive
get partners. Martha Carey, for instance, is stout and loud, and her
mother is distinctly common. Roberta Dillon is so thin this year that
she looks as though Arizona were the place for her. She's dancing
herself to death."
"But, mother," objected Marjorie impatiently, "Martha is cheerful
and awfully witty and an awfully slick girl, and Roberta's a
marvellous dancer. She's been popular for ages!"
Mrs. Harvey yawned.
"I think it's that crazy Indian blood in Bernice," continued
Marjorie. "Maybe she's a reversion to type. Indian women all just sat
round and never said anything."
"Go to bed, you silly child," laughed Mrs. Harvey. "I wouldn't have
told you that if I'd thought you were going to remember it. And I
think most of your ideas are perfectly idiotic," she finished sleepily.
There was another silence, while Marjorie considered whether or not
convincing her mother was worth the trouble. People over forty can
seldom be permanently convinced of anything. At eighteen our
convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves
in which we hide.
Having decided this, Marjorie said good night. When she came out
into the hall it was quite empty.
While Marjorie was breakfasting late next day Bernice came into the
room with a rather formal good morning, sat down opposite, stared
intently over and slightly moistened her lips.
"What's on your mind?" inquired Marjorie, rather puzzled.
Bernice paused before she threw her hand-grenade.
"I heard what you said about me to your mother last night."
Marjorie was startled, but she showed only a faintly heightened
color and her voice was quite even when she spoke.
"Where were you?"
"In the hall. I didn't mean to listen—at first."
After an involuntary look of contempt Marjorie dropped her eyes and
became very interested in balancing a stray corn-flake on her finger.
"I guess I'd better go back to Eau Claire—if I'm such a nuisance."
Bernice's lower lip was trembling violently and she continued on a
wavering note: "I've tried to be nice, and—and I've been first
neglected and then insulted. No one ever visited me and got such
Marjorie was silent.
"But I'm in the way, I see. I'm a drag on you. Your friends don't
like me." She paused, and then remembered another one of her
grievances. "Of course I was furious last week when you tried to hint
to me that that dress was unbecoming. Don't you think I know how to
"No," murmured Marjorie less than half-aloud.
"I didn't hint anything," said Marjorie succinctly. "I said, as I
remember, that it was better to wear a becoming dress three times
straight than to alternate it with two frights."
"Do you think that was a very nice thing to say?"
"I wasn't trying to be nice." Then after a pause: "When do you want
Bernice drew in her breath sharply.
"Oh!" It was a little half-cry.
Marjorie looked up in surprise.
"Didn't you say you were going?"
"Oh, you were only bluffing!"
They stared at each other across the breakfast-table for a moment.
Misty waves were passing before Bernice's eyes, while Marjorie's face
wore that rather hard expression that she used when slightly
intoxicated undergraduates were making love to her.
"So you were bluffing," she repeated as if it were what she might
Bernice admitted it by bursting into tears. Marjorie's eyes showed
"You're my cousin," sobbed Bernice. "I'm v-v-visiting you. I was to
stay a month, and if I go home my mother will know and she'll
Marjorie waited until the shower of broken words collapsed into
"I'll give you my month's allowance," she said coldly, "and you can
spend this last week anywhere you want. There's a very nice hotel——"
Bernice's sobs rose to a flute note, and rising of a sudden she
fled from the room.
An hour later, while Marjorie was in the library absorbed in
composing one of those non-committal, marvellously elusive letters
that only a young girl can write, Bernice reappeared, very red-eyed
and consciously calm. She cast no glance at Marjorie but took a book
at random from the shelf and sat down as if to read. Marjorie seemed
absorbed in her letter and continued writing. When the clock showed
noon Bernice closed her book with a snap.
"I suppose I'd better get my railroad ticket."
This was not the beginning of the speech she had rehearsed
up-stairs, but as Marjorie was not getting her cues—wasn't urging her
to be reasonable; it's all a mistake—it was the best opening she
"Just wait till I finish this letter," said Marjorie without
looking round. "I want to get it off in the next mail."
After another minute, during which her pen scratched busily, she
turned round and relaxed with an air of "at your service." Again
Bernice had to speak.
"Do you want me to go home?"
"Well," said Marjorie, considering, "I suppose if you're not having
a good time you'd better go. No use being miserable."
"Don't you think common kindness——"
"Oh, please don't quote `Little Women'!" cried Marjorie
impatiently. "That's out of style."
"You think so?"
"Heavens, yes! What modern girl could live like those inane
"They were the models for our mothers."
"Yes, they were—not! Besides, our mothers were all very well in
their way, but they know very little about their daughters' problems."
Bernice drew herself up.
"Please don't talk about my mother."
"I don't think I mentioned her."
Bernice felt that she was being led away from her subject.
"Do you think you've treated me very well?"
"I've done my best. You're rather hard material to work with."
The lids of Bernice's eyes reddened.
"I think you're hard and selfish, and you haven't a feminine
quality in you."
"Oh, my Lord!" cried Marjorie in desperation. "You little nut!
Girls like you are responsible for all the tiresome colorless
marriages; all those ghastly inefficiencies that pass as feminine
qualities. What a blow it must be when a man with imagination marries
the beautiful bundle of clothes that he's been building ideals round,
and finds that she's just a weak, whining, cowardly mass of
Bernice's mouth had slipped half open.
"The womanly woman!" continued Marjorie. "Her whole early life is
occupied in whining criticisms of girls like me who really do have a
Bernice's jaw descended farther as Marjorie's voice rose.
"There's some excuse for an ugly girl whining. If I'd been
irretrievably ugly I'd never have forgiven my parents for bringing me
into the world. But you're starting life without any handicap—"
Marjorie's little fist clinched. "If you expect me to weep with you
you'll be disappointed. Go or stay, just as you like." And picking up
her letters she left the room.
Bernice claimed a headache and failed to appear at luncheon. They
had a matinee date for the afternoon, but the headache persisting,
Marjorie made explanation to a not very downcast boy. But when she
returned late in the afternoon she found Bernice with a strangely set
face waiting for her in her bedroom.
"I've decided," began Bernice without preliminaries, "that maybe
you're right about things—possibly not. But if you'll tell me why
your friends aren't—aren't interested in me I'll see if I can do what
you want me to."
Marjorie was at the mirror shaking down her hair.
"Do you mean it?"
"Without reservations? Will you do exactly what I say?"
"Well nothing! Will you do exactly as I say?"
"If they're sensible things."
"They're not! You're no case for sensible things."
" Are you going to make—to recommend——"
"Yes, everything. If I tell you to take boxing-
lessons you'll have to do it. Write home and tell your mother
you're going to stay another two weeks."
"If you'll tell me——"
"All right—I'll just give you a few examples now. First, you have
no ease of manner. Why? Because you're never sure about your personal
appearance. When a girl feels that she's perfectly groomed and dressed
she can forget that part of her. That's charm. The more parts of
yourself you can afford to forget the more charm you have."
"Don't I look all right?"
"No; for instance, you never take care of your eyebrows. They're
black and lustrous, but by leaving them straggly they're a blemish.
They'd be beautiful if you'd take care of them in one-tenth the time
you take doing nothing. You're going to brush them so that they'll
Bernice raised the brows in question.
"Do you mean to say that men notice eyebrows?"
"Yes—subconsciously. And when you go home you ought to have your
teeth straightened a little. It's almost imperceptible, still——"
"But I thought," interrupted Bernice in bewilderment, "that you
despised little dainty feminine things like that."
"I hate dainty minds," answered Marjorie. "But a girl has to be
dainty in person. If she looks like a million dollars she can talk
about Russia, ping-pong, or the League of Nations and get away with
"Oh, I'm just beginning! There's your dancing."
"Don't I dance all right?"
"No, you don't—you lean on a man; yes, you do—ever so slightly. I
noticed it when we were dancing together yesterday. And you dance
standing up straight instead of bending over a little. Probably some
old lady on the side-line once told you that you looked so dignified
that way. But except with a very small girl it's much harder on the
man, and he's the one that counts."
"Go on." Bernice's brain was reeling.
"Well, you've got to learn to be nice to men who are sad birds. You
look as if you'd been insulted whenever you're thrown with any except
the most popular boys. Why, Bernice, I'm cut in on every few feet—and
who does most of it? Why, those very sad birds. No girl can afford to
neglect them. They're the big part of any crowd. Young boys too shy to
talk are the very best conversational practice. Clumsy boys are the
best dancing practice. If you can follow them and yet look graceful
you can follow a baby tank across a barb-wire sky-scraper."
Bernice sighed profoundly, but Marjorie was not through.
"If you go to a dance and really amuse, say, three sad birds that
dance with you; if you talk so well to them that they forget they're
stuck with you, you've done something. They'll come back next time,
and gradually so many sad birds will dance with you that the
attractive boys will see there's no danger of being stuck—then
they'll dance with you."
"Yes," agreed Bernice faintly. "I think I begin to see."
"And finally," concluded Marjorie, "poise and charm will just come.
You'll wake up some morning knowing you've attained it, and men will
know it too."
"It's been awfully kind of you—but nobody's ever talked to me like
this before, and I feel sort of startled."
Marjorie made no answer but gazed pensively at her own image in the
"You're a peach to help me," continued Bernice.
Still Marjorie did not answer, and Bernice thought she had seemed
"I know you don't like sentiment," she said timidly.
Marjorie turned to her quickly.
"Oh, I wasn't thinking about that. I was considering whether we
hadn't better bob your hair."
Bernice collapsed backward upon the bed.
On the following Wednesday evening there was a dinner-dance at the
country club. When the guests strolled in Bernice found her place-card
with a slight feeling of irritation. Though at her right sat G. Reece
Stoddard, a most desirable and distinguished young bachelor, the
all-important left held only Charley Paulson. Charley lacked height,
beauty, and social shrewdness, and in her new enlightenment Bernice
decided that his only qualification to be her partner was that he had
never been stuck with her. But this feeling of irritation left with
the last of the soup-plates, and Marjorie's specific instruction came
to her. Swallowing her pride she turned to Charley Paulson and plunged.
"Do you think I ought to bob my hair, Mr. Charley Paulson?"
Charley looked up in surprise.
"Because I'm considering it. It's such a sure and easy way of
Charley smiled pleasantly. He could not know this had been
rehearsed. He replied that he didn't know much about bobbed hair. But
Bernice was there to tell him.
"I want to be a society vampire, you see," she announced coolly,
and went on to inform him that bobbed hair was the necessary prelude.
She added that she wanted to ask his advice, because she had heard he
was so critical about girls.
Charley, who knew as much about the psychology of women as he did
of the mental states of Buddhist contemplatives, felt vaguely
"So I've decided," she continued, her voice rising slightly, "that
early next week I'm going down to the Sevier Hotel barber-shop, sit in
the first chair, and get my hair bobbed." She faltered, noticing that
the people near her had paused in their conversation and were
listening; but after a confused second Marjorie's coaching told, and
she finished her paragraph to the vicinity at large. "Of course I'm
charging admission, but if you'll all come down and encourage me I'll
issue passes for the inside seats."
There was a ripple of appreciative laughter, and under cover of it
G. Reece Stoddard leaned over quickly and said close to her ear: "I'll
take a box right now."
She met his eyes and smiled as if he had said something
"Do you believe in bobbed hair?" asked G. Reece in the same
"I think it's unmoral," affirmed Bernice gravely. "But, of course,
you've either got to amuse people or feed 'em or shock 'em." Marjorie
had culled this from Oscar Wilde. It was greeted with a ripple of
laughter from the men and a series of quick, intent looks from the
girls. And then as though she had said nothing of wit or moment
Bernice turned again to Charley and spoke confidentially in his ear.
"I want to ask you your opinion of several people. I imagine you're
a wonderful judge of character."
Charley thrilled faintly—paid her a subtle compliment by
overturning her water.
Two hours later, while Warren McIntyre was standing passively in
the stag line abstractedly watching the dancers and wondering whither
and with whom Marjorie had disappeared, an unrelated perception began
to creep slowly upon him—a perception that Bernice, cousin to
Marjorie, had been cut in on several times in the past five minutes.
He closed his eyes, opened them and looked again. Several minutes back
she had been dancing with a visiting boy, a matter easily accounted
for; a visiting boy would know no better. But now she was dancing with
some one else, and there was Charley Paulson headed for her with
enthusiastic determination in his eye. Funny—Charley seldom danced
with more than three girls an evening.
Warren was distinctly surprised when—the exchange having been
effected—the man relieved proved to be none other than G. Reece
Stoddard himself. And G. Reece seemed not at all jubilant at being
relieved. Next time Bernice danced near, Warren regarded her intently.
Yes, she was pretty, distinctly pretty; and to-night her face seemed
really vivacious. She had that look that no woman, however
histrionically proficient, can successfully counterfeit—she looked as
if she were having a good time. He liked the way she had her hair
arranged, wondered if it was brilliantine that made it glisten so. And
that dress was becoming—a dark red that set off her shadowy eyes and
high coloring. He remembered that he had thought her pretty when she
first came to town, before he had realized that she was dull. Too bad
she was dull—dull girls unbearable—certainly pretty though.
His thoughts zigzagged back to Marjorie. This disappearance would
be like other disappearances. When she reappeared he would demand
where she had been—would be told emphatically that it was none of his
business. What a pity she was so sure of him! She basked in the
knowledge that no other girl in town interested him; she defied him to
fall in love with Genevieve or Roberta.
Warren sighed. The way to Marjorie's affections was a labyrinth
indeed. He looked up. Bernice was again dancing with the visiting boy.
Half unconsciously he took a step out from the stag line in her
direction, and hesitated. Then he said to himself that it was charity.
He walked toward her —collided suddenly with G. Reece Stoddard.
"Pardon me," said Warren.
But G. Reece had not stopped to apologize. He had again cut in on
That night at one o'clock Marjorie, with one hand on the
electric-light switch in the hall, turned to take a last look at
Bernice's sparkling eyes.
"So it worked?"
"Oh, Marjorie, yes!" cried Bernice.
"I saw you were having a gay time."
"I did! The only trouble was that about midnight I ran short of
talk. I had to repeat myself—with different men of course. I hope
they won't compare notes."
"Men don't," said Marjorie, yawning, "and it wouldn't matter if
they did—they'd think you were even trickier."
She snapped out the light, and as they started up the stairs
Bernice grasped the banister thankfully. For the first time in her
life she had been danced tired.
"You see," said Marjorie at the top of the stairs, "one man sees
another man cut in and he thinks there must be something there. Well,
we'll fix up some new stuff to-morrow. Good night."
As Bernice took down her hair she passed the evening before her in
review. She had followed instructions exactly. Even when Charley
Paulson cut in for the eighth time she had simulated delight and had
apparently been both interested and flattered. She had not talked
about the weather or Eau Claire or automobiles or her school, but had
confined her conversation to me, you, and us.
But a few minutes before she fell asleep a rebellious thought was
churning drowsily in her brain—after all, it was she who had done it.
Marjorie, to be sure, had given her her conversation, but then
Marjorie got much of her conversation out of things she read. Bernice
had bought the red dress, though she had never valued it highly before
Marjorie dug it out of her trunk—and her own voice had said the
words, her own lips had smiled, her own feet had danced. Marjorie nice
girl—vain, though—nice evening—nice boys—like
She fell asleep.
To Bernice the next week was a revelation. With the feeling that
people really enjoyed looking at her and listening to her came the
foundation of self-confidence. Of course there were numerous mistakes
at first. She did not know, for instance, that Draycott Deyo was
studying for the ministry; she was unaware that he had cut in on her
because he thought she was a quiet, reserved girl. Had she known these
things she would not have treated him to the line which began "Hello,
Shell Shock!" and continued with the bathtub story—"It takes a
frightful lot of energy to fix my hair in the summer—there's so much
of it—so I always fix it first and powder my face and put on my hat;
then I get into the bathtub, and dress afterward. Don't you think
that's the best plan?"
Though Draycott Deyo was in the throes of difficulties concerning
baptism by immersion and might possibly have seen a connection, it
must be admitted that he did not. He considered feminine bathing an
immoral subject, and gave her some of his ideas on the depravity of
But to offset that unfortunate occurrence Bernice had several
signal successes to her credit. Little Otis Ormonde pleaded off from a
trip East and elected instead to follow her with a puppy-like
devotion, to the amusement of his crowd and to the irritation of G.
Reece Stoddard, several of whose afternoon calls Otis completely
ruined by the disgusting tenderness of the glances he bent on Bernice.
He even told her the story of the two-by-four and the dressing-room to
show her how frightfully mistaken he and every one else had been in
their first judgment of her. Bernice laughed off that incident with a
slight sinking sensation.
Of all Bernice's conversation perhaps the best known and most
universally approved was the line about the bobbing of her hair.
"Oh, Bernice, when you goin' to get the hair bobbed?"
"Day after to-morrow maybe," she would reply, laughing. "Will you
come and see me? Because I'm counting on you, you know."
"Will we? You know! But you better hurry up."
Bernice, whose tonsorial intentions were strictly dishonorable,
would laugh again.
"Pretty soon now. You'd be surprised."
But perhaps the most significant symbol of her success was the gray
car of the hypercritical Warren McIntyre, parked daily in front of the
Harvey house. At first the parlor-maid was distinctly startled when he
asked for Bernice instead of Marjorie; after a week of it she told the
cook that Miss Bernice had gotta hold a Miss Marjorie's best fella.
And Miss Bernice had. Perhaps it began with Warren's desire to
rouse jealousy in Marjorie; perhaps it was the familiar though
unrecognized strain of Marjorie in Bernice's conversation; perhaps it
was both of these and something of sincere attraction besides. But
somehow the collective mind of the younger set knew within a week that
Marjorie's most reliable beau had made an amazing face-about and was
giving an indisputable rush to Marjorie's guest. The question of the
moment was how Marjorie would take it. Warren called Bernice on the
'phone twice a day, sent her notes, and they were frequently seen
together in his roadster, obviously engrossed in one of those tense,
significant conversations as to whether or not he was sincere.
Marjorie on being twitted only laughed. She said she was mighty
glad that Warren had at last found some one who appreciated him. So
the younger set laughed, too, and guessed that Marjorie didn't care
and let it go at that.
One afternoon when there were only three days left of her visit
Bernice was waiting in the hall for Warren, with whom she was going to
a bridge party. She was in rather a blissful mood, and when
Marjorie—also bound for the party—appeared beside her and began
casually to adjust her hat in the mirror, Bernice was utterly
unprepared for anything in the nature of a clash. Marjorie did her
work very coldly and succinctly in three sentences.
"You may as well get Warren out of your head," she said coldly.
"What?" Bernice was utterly astounded.
"You may as well stop making a fool of yourself over Warren
McIntyre. He doesn't care a snap of his fingers about you."
For a tense moment they regarded each other—Marjorie scornful,
aloof; Bernice astounded, half-angry, half-afraid. Then two cars drove
up in front of the house and there was a riotous honking. Both of them
gasped faintly, turned, and side by side hurried out.
All through the bridge party Bernice strove in vain to master a
rising uneasiness. She had offended Marjorie, the sphinx of sphinxes.
With the most wholesome and innocent intentions in the world she had
stolen Marjorie's property. She felt suddenly and horribly guilty.
After the bridge game, when they sat in an informal circle and the
conversation became general, the storm gradually broke. Little Otis
Ormonde inadvertently precipitated it.
"When you going back to kindergarten, Otis?" some one had asked.
"Me? Day Bernice gets her hair bobbed."
"Then your education's over," said Marjorie quickly. "That's only a
bluff of hers. I should think you'd have realized."
"That a fact?" demanded Otis, giving Bernice a reproachful glance.
Bernice's ears burned as she tried to think up an effectual
come-back. In the face of this direct attack her imagination was
"There's a lot of bluffs in the world," continued Marjorie quite
pleasantly. "I should think you'd be young enough to know that, Otis."
"Well," said Otis, "maybe so. But gee! With a line like Bernice's—"
"Really?" yawned Marjorie. "What's her latest bon mot?"
No one seemed to know. In fact, Bernice, having trifled with her
muse's beau, had said nothing memorable of late.
"Was that really all a line?" asked Roberta curiously.
Bernice hesitated. She felt that wit in some form
was demanded of her, but under her cousin's suddenly frigid eyes
she was completely incapacitated.
"I don't know," she stalled.
"Splush!" said Marjorie. "Admit it!"
Bernice saw that Warren's eyes had left a ukulele he had been
tinkering with and were fixed on her questioningly.
"Oh, I don't know!" she repeated steadily. Her cheeks were glowing.
"Splush!" remarked Marjorie again.
"Come through, Bernice," urged Otis. "Tell her where to get off."
Bernice looked round again—she seemed unable to get away from
"I like bobbed hair," she said hurriedly, as if he had asked her a
question, "and I intend to bob mine."
"When?" demanded Marjorie.
"No time like the present," suggested Roberta.
Otis jumped to his feet.
"Good stuff!" he cried. "We'll have a summer bobbing party. Sevier
Hotel barber-shop, I think you said."
In an instant all were on their feet. Bernice's heart throbbed
"What?" she gasped.
Out of the group came Marjorie's voice, very clear and contemptuous.
"Don't worry—she'll back out!"
"Come on, Bernice!" cried Otis, starting toward the door.
Four eyes—Warren's and Marjorie's—stared at her, challenged her,
defied her. For another second she wavered wildly.
"All right," she said swiftly, "I don't care if I do."
An eternity of minutes later, riding down-town through the late
afternoon beside Warren, the others following in Roberta's car close
behind, Bernice had all the sensations of Marie Antoinette bound for
the guillotine in a tumbrel. Vaguely she wondered why she did not cry
out that it was all a mistake. It was all she could do to keep from
clutching her hair with both hands to protect it from the suddenly
hostile world. Yet she did neither. Even the thought of her mother was
no deterrent now. This was the test supreme of her sportsmanship; her
right to walk unchallenged in the starry heaven of popular girls.
Warren was moodily silent, and when they came to the hotel he drew
up at the curb and nodded to Bernice to precede him out. Roberta's car
emptied a laughing crowd into the shop, which presented two bold
plate-glass windows to the street.
Bernice stood on the curb and looked at the sign, Sevier
Barber-Shop. It was a guillotine indeed, and the hangman was the first
barber, who, attired in a white coat and smoking a cigarette, leaned
nonchalantly against the first chair. He must have heard of her; he
must have been waiting all week, smoking eternal cigarettes beside
that portentous, too-often-mentioned first chair. Would they blindfold
her? No, but they would tie a white cloth round her neck lest any of
her blood—nonsense—hair—should get on her clothes.
"All right, Bernice," said Warren quickly.
With her chin in the air she crossed the sidewalk, pushed open the
swinging screen-door, and giving not a glance to the uproarious,
riotous row that occupied the waiting bench, went up to the first
"I want you to bob my hair."
The first barber's mouth slid somewhat open. His cigarette dropped
to the floor.
"My hair—bob it!"
Refusing further preliminaries, Bernice took her seat on high. A
man in the chair next to her turned on his side and gave her a glance,
half lather, half amazement. One barber started and spoiled little
Willy Schuneman's monthly haircut. Mr. O'Reilly in the last chair
grunted and swore musically in ancient Gaelic as a razor bit into his
cheek. Two bootblacks became wide-eyed and rushed for her feet. No,
Bernice didn't care for a shine.
Outside a passer-by stopped and stared; a couple joined him; half a
dozen small boys' noses sprang into life, flattened against the glass;
and snatches of conversation borne on the summer breeze drifted in
through the screen-door.
"Lookada long hair on a kid!"
"Where'd yuh get 'at stuff? 'At's a bearded lady he just finished
But Bernice saw nothing, heard nothing. Her only living sense told
her that this man in the white coat had removed one tortoise-shell
comb and then another; that his fingers were fumbling clumsily with
unfamiliar hairpins; that this hair, this wonderful hair of hers, was
going—she would never again feel its long voluptuous pull as it hung
in a dark-brown glory down her back. For a second she was near
breaking down, and then the picture before her swam mechanically into
her vision—Marjorie's mouth curling in a faint ironic smile as if to
"Give up and get down! You tried to buck me and I called your
bluff. You see you haven't got a prayer."
And some last energy rose up in Bernice, for she clinched her hands
under the white cloth, and there was a curious narrowing of her eyes
that Marjorie remarked on to some one long afterward.
Twenty minutes later the barber swung her round to face the mirror,
and she flinched at the full extent of the damage that had been
wrought. Her hair was not curly, and now it lay in lank lifeless
blocks on both sides of her suddenly pale face. It was ugly as
sin—she had known it would be ugly as sin. Her face's chief charm had
been a Madonna-like simplicity. Now that was gone and she was—well,
frightfully mediocre—not stagy; only ridiculous, like a Greenwich
Villager who had left her spectacles at home.
As she climbed down from the chair she tried to smile—failed
miserably. She saw two of the girls exchange glances; noticed
Marjorie's mouth curved in attenuated mockery—and that Warren's eyes
were suddenly very cold.
"You see"—her words fell into an awkward pause—"I've done it."
"Yes, you've—done it," admitted Warren.
"Do you like it?"
There was a half-hearted "Sure" from two or three voices, another
awkward pause, and then Marjorie turned swiftly and with serpentlike
intensity to Warren.
"Would you mind running me down to the cleaners?" she asked. "I've
simply got to get a dress there before supper. Roberta's driving right
home and she can take the others."
Warren stared abstractedly at some infinite speck out the window.
Then for an instant his eyes rested coldly on Bernice before they
turned to Marjorie.
"Be glad to," he said slowly.
Bernice did not fully realize the outrageous trap that had been set
for her until she met her aunt's amazed glance just before dinner.
"I've bobbed it, Aunt Josephine."
"Do you like it?"
"I suppose I've shocked you."
"No, but what'll Mrs. Deyo think tomorrow night? Bernice, you
should have waited until after the Deyos' dance—you should have
waited if you wanted to do that."
"It was sudden, Aunt Josephine. Anyway, why does it matter to Mrs.
"Why, child," cried Mrs. Harvey, "in her paper on `The Foibles of
the Younger Generation' that she read at the last meeting of the
Thursday Club she devoted fifteen minutes to bobbed hair. It's her pet
abomination. And the dance is for you and Marjorie!"
"Oh, Bernice, what'll your mother say? She'll think I let you do
Dinner was an agony. She had made a hasty attempt with a
curling-iron, and burned her finger and much hair. She could see that
her aunt was both worried and grieved, and her uncle kept saying,
"Well, I'll be darned!" over and over in a hurt and faintly hostile
tone. And Marjorie sat very quietly, intrenched behind a faint smile,
a faintly mocking smile.
Somehow she got through the evening. Three boys called; Marjorie
disappeared with one of them, and Bernice made a listless unsuccessful
attempt to entertain the two others—sighed thankfully as she climbed
the stairs to her room at half past ten. What a day!
When she had undressed for the night the door opened and Marjorie
"Bernice," she said, "I'm awfully sorry about the Deyo dance. I'll
give you my word of honor I'd forgotten all about it."
"'Sall right," said Bernice shortly. Standing before the mirror she
passed her comb slowly through her short hair.
"I'll take you down-town to-morrow," continued Marjorie, "and the
hairdresser'll fix it so you'll look slick. I didn't imagine you'd go
through with it. I'm really mighty sorry."
"Oh, 'sall right!"
"Still it's your last night, so I suppose it won't matter much."
Then Bernice winced as Marjorie tossed her own hair over her
shoulders and began to twist it slowly into two long blond braids
until in her cream-colored negligée she looked like a delicate
painting of some Saxon princess. Fascinated, Bernice watched the
braids grow. Heavy and luxurious they were, moving under the supple
fingers like restive snakes—and to Bernice remained this relic and
the curling-iron and a to-morrow full of eyes. She could see G. Reece
Stoddard, who liked her, assuming his Harvard manner and telling his
dinner partner that Bernice shouldn't have been allowed to go to the
movies so much; she could see Draycott Deyo exchanging glances with
his mother and then being conscientiously charitable to her. But then
perhaps by to-morrow Mrs. Deyo would have heard the news; would send
round an icy little note requesting that she fail to appear—and
behind her back they would all laugh and know that Marjorie had made a
fool of her; that her chance at beauty had been sacrificed to the
jealous whim of a selfish girl. She sat down suddenly before the
mirror, biting the inside of her cheek.
"I like it," she said with an effort. "I think it'll be becoming."
"It looks all right. For heaven's sake, don't let it worry you!"
"Good night, Bernice."
But as the door closed something snapped within Bernice. She sprang
dynamically to her feet, clinching her hands, then swiftly and
noiselessly crossed over to her bed and from underneath it dragged out
her suitcase. Into it she tossed toilet articles and a change of
clothing. Then she turned to her trunk and quickly dumped in two
drawerfuls of lingerie and summer dresses. She moved quietly, but with
deadly efficiency, and in three-quarters of an hour her trunk was
locked and strapped and she was fully dressed in a becoming new
travelling suit that Marjorie had helped her pick out.
Sitting down at her desk she wrote a short note to Mrs. Harvey, in
which she briefly outlined her reasons for going. She sealed it,
addressed it, and laid it on her pillow. She glanced at her watch. The
train left at one, and she knew that if she walked down to the
Marborough Hotel two blocks away she could easily get a taxicab.
Suddenly she drew in her breath sharply and an expression flashed
into her eyes that a practised character reader might have connected
vaguely with the set look she had worn in the barber's chair— somehow
a development of it. It was quite a new look for Bernice and it
She went stealthily to the bureau, picked up an article that lay
there, and turning out all the lights stood quietly until her eyes
became accustomed to the darkness. Softly she pushed open the door to
Marjorie's room. She heard the quiet, even breathing of an untroubled
She was by the bedside now, very deliberate and calm. She acted
swiftly. Bending over she found one of the braids of Marjorie's hair,
followed it up with her hand to the point nearest the head, and then
holding it a little slack so that the sleeper would feel no pull, she
reached down with the shears and severed it. With the pigtail in her
hand she held her breath. Marjorie had muttered something in her
sleep. Bernice deftly amputated the other braid, paused for an
instant, and then flitted swiftly and silently back to her own room.
Down-stairs she opened the big front door, closed it carefully
behind her, and feeling oddly happy and exuberant stepped off the
porch into the moonlight, swinging her heavy grip like a shopping-bag.
After a minute's brisk walk she discovered that her left hand still
held the two blond braids. She laughed unexpectedly—had to shut her
mouth hard to keep from emitting an absolute peal. She was passing
Warren's house now, and on the impulse she set down her baggage, and
swinging the braids like pieces of rope flung them at the wooden
porch, where they landed with a slight thud. She laughed again, no
longer restraining herself.
"Huh!" she giggled wildly. "Scalp the selfish thing!"
Then picking up her suitcase she set off at a half-run down the