Remodeling a Husband
Fictionized from the Dorothy Gish-Paramount Photoplay
Motion Picture Classic – July, 1920 Vol.X No. 5
By FAITH SERVICE
“You’re making a mistake !” chorused the flushed femininities after having showered Janie Wakeman with all the extraordinaries in the way of aluminum they had found purchasable if not practicable; “a terr-i-ble mistake,” they intoned.
“Not me!” snapped Janie Wakeman. She had a snappy way, had Janie.
“He’s a devil with the ladies!” went on tlie chief mourners, dolorously.
“He’ll have a devil for a wife,” came back Janie, with pursed lips; “that’ll cure him.”
“Not Jack . . . there was the blonde down at the beach summer before last … he had a fierce time over that.
She”—the fair informant lowered her voice meaningly—’she was married!”
“Old stuff!” said Janie.
“There was the girl on the Pullman car,” suggested still another ; “her father stepped in . ”
“There was the girl who waits on the table in Wild’s, ” vouchsafed another; “Jack can’t eat there any longer. Oh, Janie, darling, you’ll have a fearful life, simply fearful!”
“All this,” observed Janie, stirring her chocolate coolly,
“was before my time and does not concern me.”
“But, Janie,” they protested, en masse, “what makes you suppose you will be any different than the others ? He is a flirt. He’s fickle. He’s inconstant and unsteady. Everybody says so.”
“Everybody.” said Janie. “does not have to marry him. Nor, I might add, has he married everybody. I am the first. I shall be the last. .All that is necessary, my dears, is efficiency in the marital relationship. I am young, but oh, how I am wise, ” she added, softly, “when it comes to Jack. ” She said, aloud, “”Jack shall neither break my heart nor my home. Wait and see!”
They waited. Then they waited some more. It was unbelievable. Jack Valentine had never been known to walk a straight line on the street when a pretty girl was on the other side. After his marriage to Janie he seemed to be of the nature of a sleep-walker; his eyes were fixed. It was magic, they said.
Janie took it calmly and rather irritatingly to many of her prenuptial well-wishers. She had the air of “I told you so!” Some went so far as to say that they pitied poor, dear Jack … his home life must be something awful! They began to remember the autocracy of Janie with her humble parents. .After Janie’s advent, it was recalled, the parents, well-meaning always, had had little if anything to say. Of course, they had seemed to like it, but then, they had been parents . . . that is different . . .
The well-wishers had to admit to an idyllic state. There was every sign. Janie in her pretty room, en negligee, waiting for Jack to run in for early tea . . . which he always did.
Janie undoing her husband’s shoe, petulantly pretty.
Janie on her husbands knee before the open fire. The pictures were complete. When the first difficulty came the well-wishers were wholly in the dark. That was Janie’s way. Jack came home for supper one evening half an hour late. He entered with glib excuses and many kisses.
He was greeted by an apparition that made his amative blood congeal.
His wife, his Janie, stood on the threshold of the living room and her blue eyes blazed in her head like twin coals. She was sobbing hot, indignant tears and her small fists were beating the air in a thoroly efficient sort of manner.
“Dont you dare . . . d-d-dont you d-d-dare!” she sputtered, effectively. “I saw you! I did! You w-wretch!
You . . oh, you! No, dont speak, don’t dare to speak.
You’ll lie. I know you’ll lie. Of course, you will. You always do . . . husbands always do, I mean. I feel It coming. You’ll say that the subway was held up, or you were held up … at the office, or , . . or something of the sort. It isn’t so . . . no, it isn’t so . . . no. I wont stop talking. I’ve only just begun. I saw you, I tell you. I saw you.
With my own eyes. O-o-o-o-h !”
Jack waved a limp hand. It was no use.
“I was on top of a Fifth Avenue bus,” stormed on Janie, “riding along and thinking how I’d get down pretty soon and buy you some ties I saw in Budd’s. Then, all at once, I saw you go up to a girl on the avenue, a blonde girl. John T. Valentine, and help her into a taxicab. A taxicab, mind you !
You know you did. Don’t tell me. As if I didn’t know what a taxicab means ! Haven’t I been in em? ‘”
‘E-r-r-r-r . . a-a-a-a-a-h …”
“John Valentine. if you say another word I’ll hurl every single bit of bric-a-brac in this miserable, violated, desecrated, once-holy home at your infidel head. I will! You just dare
to come in here and talk to me like that, to my very face!
Oh, you brazen thing, you . . . you …”
Janie choked, but waved her fists fiercely to caution the ghastly John to a complete silence.
‘You got in after her,” she went on, “and I got down and got into another taxi and followed you. You took her to her very door, and at that door, you . . . you …”
Something between a groan, a squeak and a whine emanated from the nearly collapsed Valentine. He swayed weakly and rested his palm on the nearest support.
“You kist her,” shrieked Janie, “you did! Before my eyes!
Kist her! I call heaven to witness if a falser wretch ever lived or breathed ! I call on all the gods ! I am wronged ! I am a wronged woman! Heavens!” Janie gave three tremendous sobs, then she, too, crumpled up and fell into the chair behind her. “John T. Valentine.” she said, “what are you going to do?”
John T. Valentine made a desperate endeavor to appear as tho he filled at least some portion of his clothing. During the tirade he seemed perceptibly to have wilted. He felt of his collar, of his hair, even ran his fingers over the outline of his features to make certain they had not altered; then he said, with great adequacy, “Janet, you know I-love you.”
This produced an emotional Niagara, terrific in its onslaught, to the eye and to the ear. Another hour and Janie demanded, albeit “more weakly. “John T. Valentine, what are you going to do?”‘
John T. Valentine crept over to the couch upon which the sharer of his bosom was, by now, drooping. He tentatively touched the hem of her flowing garment. The night was creeping on apace. He was cowed ; he was subdued ; he was convinced that he had trod down and splintered the ten commandments and that, no doubt, he would have done damage to ten more had there been that number; but he was also sleepy and he knew that he hated with a frightful and bloodthirsty vengeance the blonde on the .Avenue who had seemed to him, at that moment, unable to carry her suitcase, and to whom, probably because she was blonde, he had tendered his assistance, and he knew as clearly that he was violently sleepy and that he adored Janie. If she could know these things, too!
He began to tell her. He began to conjure up their imminent and tender past.
The result was horrific. It produced dolor not unmixed with temper and resulted, all told, in four smashed vases, rather jolly vases at that ; the complete destruction of the family album, with all the grandmas and grandpas ; three pictures; two glass trifles and various carefully selected books.
With each crash Janie would wail, “You’ve broken my heart, you have! You have, you’ve broken my heart!” until John T. felt, with a shudder thru his spine, that he could hear the agonizing splintering of Janie’s beloved and agonized little heart.
Around morning they fell asleep.
The result was breakfast at noon, with considerable marmalade, a chastened husband, a weepy but picturesquely forgiving little bride.
Of course, a second honeymoon ensued. It was altogether blissful. It had a savor the original one had not. They had, they knew, suffered together and had “come thru.” Jack had sinned, had strayed from the fold. It gave him, Janie half admitted it, very secretly, to herself, a sort of glamor, a new, if dangerous, garment of illusion. Janie on the other hand, had forgiven. In reality, she had fallen asleep, but pshaw!
What is reality when one is twenty and very much in love?
There followed another interlude.
“Have you ever.” said everybody, “known such an ideal couple as the Jack Valentines? They were made for one another. ”
Then, abruptly, it became known that Janie Valentine had gone home to mother. Had picked up every belonging she owned and gone clean back.
That was all that did become known. Janie was mum. She took her efficiency and her silence into her father’s business offices and proceeded to be successful. The only mail she did not read were the letters she received in John’s handwriting. These she tore up into little, vicious bits, lit a match and completely removed from being. The only phone messages she did not personally receive were those made by John. These she either did not receive at all or transferred to another line upon recognition of the voice.
Gossip said that Janie Valentine had “changed.”
There was a little glint in her eyes that had not been there before. There was a slight tightening of her mouth. When she walked, now and then her shoulders drooped as tho she were carrying a burden ever so slightly too much for her strength. When she awoke in the mornings her pillow was always damp. No one but Janie knew that.
It had all been about a manicure girl. A rather opulent creature with a hearty laugh. Janie bad been in the habit of having the girl come to the house to do her nails every Saturday morning. One day Jack suggested that he rather needed a manicure himself. Janie suggested that her Mabel do them for him. Jack assented. After the first manicure, Jack took to having them as regularly as Janie. At first, Janie was unsuspicious. Jack had been, since the taxicab catastrophe, so completely uxorious. Then, one day, while he was being “done,” Janie had caught a look in his eyes. It was the old battle light. At once she was on her guard.
Jack was a transparent person. The next time he had an appointment for a manicure, Janie had occasion to go out . . . for a while . . . When she returned, rather suddenly and very quietly, her husband was not being . . . manicured . . . One hour later, to the minute, Janie went home to mother.
This time, her methods were very different.
There was no weeping, no wailing, no gnashing of teeth. There was no reviling, no accusations, no protestations. Jack wished, tragically, that there were. Just silence. Grim silence, Glacial. Totally unforgiving. Her small, white face . . . how stern! Her hurried, yet precise preparations, how final! Jack bit his manicure away and cursed the fragile sex! His advances, his pleas, his self-condemnations were met with a frigid aloofness, not so sad as it was sweet, nor so sweet as it was sad. Jack was minded of the lines. “But sweet, for me, no more of you, not while I live, not tho I die, good-night, good-by !”
His soul was swept and scarred and seared by a knowledge, a revelation, of his torrential love for Janie! Gods, how he loved her ! It ached !
Janie became exceedingly businesslike. She took to wearing severe-looking garments and talking like a profiteer. The worse her heartache and the damper her pillow in the morning, the more she talked and the more severe she grew. Her parents led a rather terrible life. They had always been somewhat in awe of Janie, single; now that she was come home in her new state, she was truly terrible. They had not an inkling of the quaking heart within the firmly girded breast.
It took John T. two months to gain admission to the rather important place Janie had made for herself in her father’s importing house. He had, finally, to see her by appointment. It was an ordeal he did not soon forget. Janie talked to him as his grandmother might have talked, as some remote and distant great-aunt might have talked to a foolish nephew who had foolishly strayed from the safe and beaten way. She didn’t talk one bit like his Janie, who had lain, with tumbled curls and love-flushed face, within his cradling arms. He had to focus his vision and pinch himself to make sure this new Janie was also his old Janie, the Janie he loved . . .”
“… are the paths of righteousness which, alone, bring peace and eventual happiness,” Janie was ending up. She had been going it in such a wise for the better part of an hour. Jack gulped mightily. He had not many resources, had Jack. He was lovable, but not subtle. If, now, he could only have taken the terribly stern young person and cuddled her and kist her absurd frown away and called her oogly-googly and such like familiar-sounding things, he could have won out. He was, he felt, deprived of his weapons and left defenceless.
He could only say, with thinly shredded adequacy, “Janie, I . . . I-love you !” Under the stern appraisement of her eyes his own fell and he fidgeted.
“Love, young man, ” said Janie, “is a science. It should be treated as such. One does not toy with science, lest one toy inadvertently, with a high explosive. Love, young man, is such an one. Love …”
“Oh, Janie,” burst forth Jack, “Janie . . . please . . . remember. Janie, that’s all I ask of you. Just sit there for five, for ten minutes, and remember. Remember just as hard as ever you can. Our first meeting, Janie, our second, our . . . our third. You do remember our third, don’t you, dar . . . er . . . don’t you, Janie? We took a walk … we … we didn’t keep on walking . . . you do, Janie, I see it in your face . . . then, that night, you kist the ring I slipped on your hand …. you were all . . . well, go on. Janie, just for five minutes. “
After precisely three and three-quarter minutes Janie had crumpled in her official chair, the crisp attire was flooded with tears and there was none of Janie to be seen at all. She was completely engulfed by John.
An hour after that she had severed her business connections, dispensed with home and mother and was busily rehabilitating herself in her husband’s home.
There was, of course, a third honeymoon. There would have had to be. They had become a man and a woman of sorrows. They conducted themselves as such. It was tinged with melancholy, this third honeymoon. There was much talk of the frailty of human nature and, on Janie’s part at least, very much talk indeed of the consummate greatness of a woman’s enduring and all-forgiving love.
Still, Jack knew, it had been a capitulation on Janie’s part. He was only human. He began to give himself airs and, as it were, to look about him. He began to believe that he was after all Janie’s taunts and threats, the master in his own domain. Twice now, with just a little coaxing, Janie had crept back into the fold. She probably always would.
Jack began to strut about. He felt more like other men. His wife, so he attitudinized, was only a woman . . . tish, tosh! He attitudinized in such a manner for six weeks. One day, presto, change! he found himself a bachelor again. He had a habit of so doing. His Janie was gone off. This time she did not do so temperate a thing as to make it home and mother. She went off, vaguely, but she might, from her sinister notes, have gone most anywhere.
Jack had the most hideous nightmares. Now, at last, he had gone and done it. This—this was beyond expectation ! He thought of his Janie in all sorts of terrible situations, almost always with a blond man with a Greek-god torso and melting eyes. He had done it this time!
He took to wearing flowing ties and affecting a tragic air. He wrote to the general delivery address Janie had left him the most impassioned, the most desperate, the most suicidal notes. He soared as neither Janie nor he had ever supposed he could soar before. He even quoted poetry and finally got so bad that he composed some. He took to playing the piano and hinted at the harp. At this, Janie came home.
Of course, a fourth honeymoon ensued.
On this occasion Jack adopted the attitude, or felt it—who knows—of the desperate lover. He languished at his lady’s feet and mooned into her eyes. They talked of their past and of the more than earthly thing their love had become, that it should lead them, as it did, thru the still waters And the dark valleys unto, as always, each other’s arms …
They impressed upon each other the fact that this was the ultimate reconciliation, inasmuch as only those who had been thru the tires of the crucible of love could really know its deepest meaning. They pledged each other thru the medium of beautiful, fervently .sounding phrases, prodigally borrowed for the occasion from the “six best sellers” of the day. They outdid each other; capped each other’s highest-flown phrases without even the faintest semblance of a blush.
“Love like ours” – chanted Jack, cured and cowed “has never been …”
Janie nodded, solemnly. “Love like ours” she repeated fixing him with her eyes, “has nev-er been…”
Above them, the ancient moon sailed thru the ancient sky.
Remodeling A Husband
- Fictionized from the scenario by Dorothy Elizabeth Carter (Lillian Gish).
- Produced by Paramount, Starring Dorothy Gish. Directed by Lillian Gish.
- Janie Wakeman …………… Dorothy Gish
- Her father ………………. Downing Clarke
- Her mother …………..………. Marie Burke
- Her chum …………….…… Mildred Marsh
- Jack Valentine ………..……. James Rennie
- His father ………………….. Frank Kingdon
- A flirtatious lady ……….… Barden Daube