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incident, but along the way Gene turned toward the Hell Hole instead. “He was going to drink himself into oblivion,” said Agnes, “and no one was going to stop him or penetrate the alcoholic barrier behind which he was determined to be alone.”39 Agnes described the scene at the restaurant , with the dead man still sitting there. She recalled such details as the way the cold breeze from the open window stirred the curls on Holladay ’s forehead. Certain of Agnes’s factual details about that evening have been contested , but she brought the eye of a storyteller to a place the dramatist could not handle. Indeed, he reached a dramatic turning point in his life that night, and Agnes herself was both the observer and the occasion for this profound change: “The suicide of his friend and what led up to it did something to Gene; brought to him more than grief and the usual images and words of destiny, Fate, life’s a tragic blot on the fabric of time, and so forth, that lesser things evoked in his mind.”40 Within days, he proposed marriage to Agnes, who suggested that they should wait. Gene invited her to go with him to Provincetown, and several days later she managed to distract him from his drinking long enough to set out on the journey. For both, it would mean transition into a new life, a release from the clichés of “Frankie and Johnny” and predatory pulp magazine editors and “life’s a tragic blot.” Their lives apart had been “lesser things,” but in the clear, cold air of Provincetown, they would demand new language from each other. Agnes was not to be confused with the sparky Millay sisters or the crusading Louise Bryant. Gene had needs, certainly, sexual and otherwise , but she did, too, and in the early months of their relationship, they lived a cooperative life. Yes, she was beautiful (Jamie said “high cheek bones—she’ll get him”) but he was, too (it seems nearly every woman felt drawn to those dark eyes).41 He was also drawn to her eyes (“your great eyes that half the time are looking at something that I can’t see”), and she was a decent catch, too, self-sufficient and a writer of some success, while he was “the dark poet and understander of everything.”42 Further similarities include that they came from Catholic backgrounds , had about the same level of formal education, and disdained trendy thinking. They both had artistic fathers, but both mistrusted selfconsciously artsy people, and Boulton, in her stories, took an especially skeptical view of artistic men. A loose series of six first-person dialect stories published between April 1917 and June 1919 featuring Hazel and Hermione, two chorus girls, offer tall tales of the ruses adopted by these Boulton’s Early Stories I • 67 women and their kind to get ahead at the expense of gullible men, including artists. One of these, “Oh, La-La!” published in January 1918 (two months after the first meeting), offers perhaps the earliest document to reflect on the meeting of Agnes and Gene, and it seems to reflect a perceived gap in values . Hazel prefaces this account of falling in love with someone of artistic temperament by saying, “Life in the chorus is one grand dream, dearie, compared to th’ complicated existence practiced by some of them that has more temper’ment than common sense.” She had been feeling the monotony of her life and loves and seeking a change of pace when this new man, George Lemot, came along. “Was I interested personal?” Hazel asks. “Was I? Yes, dearie, I have to confess that I wasn’t no little outsider in the little drama. . . . You know, chicken, there comes a time in th’ life of us chorus girls when we yearns after something different. Life seems of a sameness , as the poet says, and all the fellers make love after the same old style, without leavin’ nothin’ to the imagination.” The meeting takes place in a bar called Th’ Mad Pup where “th’ purple-tinted personality of them that was born different to th’ common masses sits around all night discussing . . . the whyfore of the where.” She happens to sit opposite a man who stares at her, “deep speaking to deep,” and she is at once struck: “But them eyes, Hermione! He gave me th’ saddest look—at th’ same time as though he was noticing...


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