Part 10 out of 19
these rents for five a week."
The sun had heated the roof scorching hot; the air of this
room, immediately underneath, was like that of a cellar where
a furnace is in full blast. But Susan knew she was indeed in
luck. "It's clean and nice here," said she to Mrs. Tucker,
"and I'm much obliged to you for being so reasonable with me."
And to clinch the bargain she then and there paid half a
month's rent. "I'll give you the rest when my week at the
"No hurry," said Mrs. Tucker who was handling the money and
looking at it with glistening grateful eyes. "Us poor folks
oughtn't to be hard on each other--though, Lord knows, if we
was, I reckon we'd not be quite so poor. It's them that has
the streak of hard in 'em what gets on. But the Bible teaches
us that's what to expect in a world of sin. I suppose you want
to go now and have your trunk sent?"
"This is all I've got," said Susan, indicating her bag on the table.
Into Mrs. Tucker's face came a look of terror that made Susan
realize in an instant how hard-pressed she must be. It was the
kind of look that comes into the eyes of the deer brought down
by the dogs when it sees the hunter coming up.
"But I've a good place," Susan hastened to say. "I get ten a week.
And as I told you before, when I can't pay I'll go right away."
"I've lost so much in bad debts," explained the landlady
humbly. "I don't seem to see which way to turn." Then she
brightened. "It'll all come out for the best. I work hard
and I try to do right by everybody."
"I'm sure it will," said Susan believingly.
Often her confidence in the moral ideals trained into her from
childhood had been sorely tried. But never had she permitted
herself more than a hasty, ashamed doubt that the only way to
get on was to work and to practice the Golden Rule. Everyone
who was prosperous attributed his prosperity to the steadfast
following of that way; as for those who were not prosperous,
they were either lazy or bad-hearted, or would have been even
worse off had they been less faithful to the creed that was
best policy as well as best for peace of mind and heart.
In trying to be as inexpensive to Spenser as she could
contrive, and also because of her passion for improving
herself, Susan had explored far into the almost unknown art of
living, on its shamefully neglected material side. She had
cultivated the habit of spending much time about her purchases
of every kind--had spent time intelligently in saving money
intelligently. She had gone from shop to shop, comparing
values and prices. She had studied quality in food and in
clothing, and thus she had discovered what enormous sums are
wasted through ignorance--wasted by poor even more lavishly
than by rich or well-to-do, because the shops where the poor
dealt had absolutely no check on their rapacity through the
occasional canny customer. She had learned the fundamental
truth of the material art of living; only when a good thing
happens to be cheap is a cheap thing good. Spenser,
cross-examining her as to how she passed the days, found out
about this education she was acquiring. It amused him. "A
waste of time!" he used to say. "Pay what they ask, and don't
bother your head with such petty matters." He might have
suspected and accused her of being stingy had not her
generosity been about the most obvious and incessant trait of
She was now reduced to an income below what life can be
decently maintained upon--the life of a city-dweller with
normal tastes for cleanliness and healthfulness. She proceeded
without delay to put her invaluable education into use. She
must fill her mind with the present and with the future. She
must not glance back. She must ignore her wounds--their aches,
their clamorous throbs. She took off her clothes, as soon as
Mrs. Tucker left her alone, brushed them and hung them up, put
on the thin wrapper she had brought in her bag. The fierce
heat of the little packing-case of a room became less
unendurable; also, she was saving the clothes from useless
wear. She sat down at the table and with pencil and paper
planned her budget.
Of the ten dollars a week, three dollars and thirty cents must
be subtracted for rent--for shelter. This left six dollars and
seventy cents for the other two necessaries, food and
clothing--there must be no incidental expenses since there was
no money to meet them. She could not afford to provide for
carfare on stormy days; a rain coat, overshoes and umbrella,
more expensive at the outset, were incomparably cheaper in the
long run. Her washing and ironing she would of course do for
herself in the evenings and on Sundays. Of the two items which
the six dollars and seventy cents must cover, food came first
in importance. How little could she live on?
That stifling hot room! She was as wet as if she had come undried
from a bath. She had thought she could never feel anything but
love for the sun of her City of the Sun. But this undreamed-of
heat--like the cruel caresses of a too impetuous lover--
How little could she live on?"
Dividing her total of six dollars and seventy cents by seven,
she found that she had ninety-five cents a day. She would soon
have to buy clothes, however scrupulous care she might take of
those she possessed. It was modest indeed to estimate fifteen
dollars for clothes before October. That meant she must save
fifteen dollars in the remaining three weeks of June, in July,
August and September--in one hundred and ten days. She must
save about fifteen cents a day. And out of that she must buy
soap and tooth powder, outer and under clothes, perhaps a hat
and a pair of shoes. Thus she could spend for food not more
than eighty cents a day, as much less as was consistent with
buying the best quality--for she had learned by bitter
experience the ravages poor quality food makes in health and
looks, had learned why girls of the working class go to pieces
swiftly after eighteen. She must fight to keep health--sick
she did not dare be. She must fight to keep looks--her figure
was her income.
Eighty cents a day. The outlook was not so gloomy. A cup of
cocoa in the morning--made at home of the best cocoa, the kind
that did not overheat the blood and disorder the skin--it
would cost her less than ten cents. She would carry lunch with
her to the store. In the evening she would cook a chop or
something of that kind on the gas stove she would buy. Some
days she would be able to save twenty or even twenty-five
cents toward clothing and the like. Whatever else happened,
she was resolved never again to sink to dirt and rags. Never
again!--never! She had passed through that experience once
without loss of self-respect only because it was by way of
education. To go through it again would be yielding ground in
the fight--the fight for a destiny worth while which some latent
but mighty instinct within her never permitted her to forget.
She sat at the table, with the shutters closed against the
fiery light of the summer afternoon sun. That hideous
unacceptable heat! With eyelids drooped--deep and dark were the
circles round them--she listened to the roar of the city, a
savage sound like the clamor of a multitude of famished wild
beasts. A city like the City of Destruction in "Pilgrim's
Progress"--a city where of all the millions, but a few
thousands were moving toward or keeping in the sunlight of
civilization. The rest, the swarms of the cheap boarding
houses, cheap lodging houses, tenements--these myriads were
squirming in darkness and squalor, ignorant and never to be
less ignorant, ill fed and never to be better fed, clothed in
pitiful absurd rags or shoddy vulgar attempts at finery, and
never to be better clothed. She would not be of those! She
would struggle on, would sink only to mount. She would work;
she would try to do as nearly right as she could. And in the
end she must triumph. She would get at least a good part of
what her soul craved, of what her mind craved, of what her
The heat of this tenement room! The heat to which poverty was
exposed naked and bound! Would not anyone be justified in
doing anything--yes, _anything_--to escape from this fiend? II
ELLEN, the maid, slept across the hall from Susan, in a closet
so dirty that no one could have risked in it any article of
clothing with the least pretension to cleanness. It was no
better, no worse than the lodgings of more than two hundred
thousand New Yorkers. Its one narrow opening, beside the door,
gave upon a shaft whose odors were so foul that she kept the
window closed, preferring heat like the inside of a steaming
pan to the only available "outside air." This in a civilized
city where hundreds of dogs with jeweled collars slept in
luxurious rooms on downiest beds and had servants to wait upon
them! The morning after Susan's coming, Ellen woke her, as
they had arranged, at a quarter before five. The night before,
Susan had brought up from the basement a large bucket of water;
for she had made up her mind, to take a bath every day, at
least until the cold weather set in and rendered such a luxury
impossible. With this water and what she had in her little
pitcher, Susan contrived to freshen herself up. She had bought
a gas stove and some indispensable utensils for three dollars
and seventeen cents in a Fourteenth Street store, a pound of
cocoa for seventy cents and ten cents' worth of rolls--three
rolls, well baked, of first quality flour and with about as
good butter and other things put into the dough as one can
expect in bread not made at home. These purchases had reduced
her cash to forty-three cents--and she ought to buy without
delay a clock with an alarm attachment. And pay
day--Saturday--was two days away.
She made a cup of cocoa, drank it slowly, eating one of the
rolls--all in the same methodical way like a machine that
continues to revolve after the power has been shut off. It was
then, even more than during her first evening alone, even more
than when she from time to time startled out of troubled
sleep--it was then, as she forced down her lonely breakfast,
that she most missed Rod. When she had finished, she completed
her toilet. The final glance at herself in the little mirror
was depressing. She looked fresh for her new surroundings and
for her new class. But in comparison with what she usually
looked, already there was a distinct, an ominous falling off.
"I'm glad Rod never saw me looking like this," she said aloud
drearily. Taking a roll for lunch, she issued forth at
half-past six. The hour and three-quarters she had allowed for
dressing and breakfasting had been none too much. In the
coolness and comparative quiet she went down University Place
and across Washington Square under the old trees, all alive
with song and breeze and flashes of early morning light. She
was soon in Broadway's deep canyon, was drifting absently along
in the stream of cross, mussy-looking workers pushing
southward. Her heart ached, her brain throbbed. It was
horrible, this loneliness; and every one of the wounds where
she had severed the ties with Spenser was bleeding. She was
astonished to find herself before the building whose upper
floors were occupied by Jeffries and Jonas. How had she got
there? Where had she crossed Broadway?
"Good morning, Miss Sackville." It was Miss Hinkle, just
arriving. Her eyes were heavy, and there were the crisscross
lines under them that tell a story to the expert in the
different effects of different kinds of dissipation. Miss
Hinkle was showing her age--and she was "no spring chicken."
Susan returned her greeting, gazing at her with the dazed eyes
and puzzled smile of an awakening sleeper.
"I'll show you the ropes," said Miss Hinkle, as they climbed
the two flights of stairs. "You'll find the job dead easy.
They're mighty nice people to work for, Mr. Jeffries
especially. Not easy fruit, of course, but nice for people
that have got on. You didn't sleep well?"
"Yes--I think so."
"I didn't have a chance to drop round last night. I was out
with one of the buyers. How do you like Mrs. Tucker?"
"She's very good, isn't she?"
"She'll never get along. She works hard, too--but not for
herself. In this world you have to look out for Number One.
I had a swell dinner last night. Lobster--I love lobster--and
elegant champagne--up to Murray's--such a refined place--all
fountains and mirrors--really quite artistic. And my gentleman
friend was so nice and respectful. You know, we have to go out
with the buyers when they ask us. It helps the house sell
goods. And we have to be careful not to offend them."
Miss Hinkle's tone in the last remark was so significant that
Susan looked at her--and, looking, understood.
"Sometimes," pursued Miss Hinkle, eyes carefully averted,
"sometimes a new girl goes out with an important customer and
he gets fresh and she kicks and complains to Mr. Jeffries--or
Mr. Jonas--or Mr. Ratney, the head man. They always sympathize
with her--but--well, I've noticed that somehow she soon loses
"What do you do when--when a customer annoys you?"
"I!" Miss Hinkle laughed with some embarrassment. "Oh, I do
the best I can." A swift glance of the cynical, laughing,
"fast" eyes at Susan and away. "The best I can--for the
house--and for myself. . . . I talk to you because I know
you're a lady and because I don't want to see you thrown down.
A woman that's living quietly at home--like a lady--she can be
squeamish. But out in the world a woman can't afford to
be--no, nor a man, neither. You don't find this set down in the
books, and they don't preach it in the churches--leastways they
didn't when I used to go to church. But it's true, all the same."
They were a few minutes early; so Miss Hinkle continued the
conversation while they waited for the opening of the room
where Susan would be outfitted for her work. "I called you
Miss Sackville," said she, "but you've been married--haven't you?"
"I can always tell--or at least I can see whether a woman's had
experience or not. Well, I've never been regularly married,
and I don't expect to, unless something pretty good offers.
Think I'd marry one of these rotten little clerks?" Miss Hinkle
answered her own question with a scornful sniff. "They can
hardly make a living for themselves. And a man who amounts to
anything, he wants a refined lady to help him on up, not a
working girl. Of course, there're exceptions. But as a rule
a girl in our position either has to stay single or marry
beneath her--marry some mechanic or such like. Well, I ain't
so lazy, or so crazy about being supported, that I'd sink to be
cook and slop-carrier--and worse--for a carpenter or a
bricklayer. Going out with the buyers--the gentlemanly
ones--has spoiled my taste. I can't stand a coarse man--coarse
dress and hands and manners. Can you?"
Susan turned hastily away, so that her face was hidden from
"I'll bet you wasn't married to a coarse man."
"I'd rather not talk about myself," said Susan with an effort.
"It's not pleasant."
Her manner of checking Miss Hinkle's friendly curiosity did not
give offense; it excited the experienced working woman's
sympathy. She went on:
"Well, I feel sorry for any woman that has to work. Of course
most women do--and at worse than anything in the stores and
factories. As between being a drudge to some dirty common
laborer like most women are, and working in a factory even,
give me the factory. Yes, give me a job as a pot slinger even,
low as that is. Oh, I _hate_ working people! I love
refinement. Up to Murray's last night I sat there, eating my
lobster and drinking my wine, and I pretended I was a
lady--and, my, how happy I was!"
The stockroom now opened. Susan, with the help of Miss Hinkle
and the stock keeper, dressed in one of the tight-fitting satin
slips that revealed every curve and line of her form, made
every motion however slight, every breath she drew, a gesture
of sensuousness. As she looked at herself in a long glass in
one of the show-parlors, her face did not reflect the
admiration frankly displayed upon the faces of the two other
women. That satin slip seemed to have a moral quality, an
immoral character. It made her feel naked--no, as if she were
naked and being peeped at through a crack or keyhole.
"You'll soon get used to it," Miss Hinkle assured her. "And
you'll learn to show off the dresses and cloaks to the best
advantage." She laughed her insinuating little laugh again,
amused, cynical, reckless. "You know, the buyers are men.
Gee, what awful jay things we work off on them, sometimes!
They can't see the dress for the figure. And you've got such
a refined figure, Miss Sackville--the kind I'd be crazy about
if I was a man. But I must say----" here she eyed herself in
the glass complacently--"most men prefer a figure like mine.
Don't they, Miss Simmons?"
The stock keeper shook her fat shoulders in a gesture of
indifferent disdain. "They take whatever's handiest--that's
About half-past nine the first customer appeared--Mr. Gideon,
it happened to be. He was making the rounds of the big
wholesale houses in search of stock for the huge Chicago
department store that paid him fifteen thousand a year and
expenses. He had been contemptuous of the offerings of
Jeffries and Jonas for the winter season, had praised with
enthusiasm the models of their principal rival, Icklemeier,
Schwartz and Company. They were undecided whether he was
really thinking of deserting them or was feeling for lower
prices. Mr. Jeffries bustled into the room where Susan stood
waiting; his flat face quivered with excitement. "Gid's come!"
he said in a hoarse whisper. "Everybody get busy. We'll try
Miss Sackville on him."
And he himself assisted while they tricked out Susan in an
afternoon costume of pale gray, putting on her head a big pale
gray hat with harmonizing feathers. The model was offered in
all colors and also in a modified form that permitted its use
for either afternoon or evening. Susan had received her
instructions, so when she was dressed, she was ready to sweep
into Gideon's presence with languid majesty. Jeffries' eyes
glistened as he noted her walk. "She looks as if she really
was a lady!" exclaimed he. "I wish I could make my daughters
move around on their trotters like that."
Gideon was enthroned in an easy chair, smoking a cigar. He was
a spare man of perhaps forty-five, with no intention of
abandoning the pretensions to youth for many a year. In dress
he was as spick and span as a tailor at the trade's annual
convention. But he had evidently been "going some" for several
days; the sour, worn, haggard face rising above his elegantly
fitting collar suggested a moth-eaten jaguar that has been for
weeks on short rations or none.
"What's the matter?" he snapped, as the door began to open.
"I don't like to he kept waiting."
In swept Susan; and Jeffries, rubbing his thick hands, said
fawningly, "But I think, Mr. Gideon, you'll say it was worth
Gideon's angry, arrogant eyes softened at first glimpse of
Susan. "Um!" he grunted, some such sound as the jaguar
aforesaid would make when the first chunk of food hurtled
through the bars and landed on his paws. He sat with cigar
poised between his long white fingers while Susan walked up and
down before him, displaying the dress at all angles, Jeffries
expatiating upon it the while.
"Don't talk so damn much, Jeff!" he commanded with the
insolence of a customer containing possibilities of large
profit. "I judge for myself. I'm not a damn fool."
"I should say not," cried Jeffries, laughing the merchant's
laugh for a customer's pleasantry. "But I can't help talking
about it, Gid, it's so lovely!"
Jeffries' shrewd eyes leaped for joy when Gideon got up from
his chair and, under pretense of examining the garment,
investigated Susan's figure. As his gentle, insinuating hands
traveled over her, his eyes sought hers. "Excuse me," said
Jeffries. "I'll see that they get the other things ready."
And out he went, winking at Mary Hinkle to follow him--an
unnecessary gesture as she was already on her way to the door.
Gideon understood as well as did they why they left. "I don't
think I've seen you before, my dear," said he to Susan.
"I came only this morning," replied she.
"I like to know everybody I deal with. We must get better
acquainted. You've got the best figure in the business--the
"Thank you," said Susan with a grave, distant smile.
"Got a date for dinner tonight?" inquired he; and, assuming
that everything would yield precedence to him, he did not wait
for a reply, but went on, "Tell me your address. I'll send a
cab for you at seven o'clock."
"Thank you," said Susan, "but I can't go."
Gideon smiled. "Oh, don't be shy. Of course you'll go. Ask
Jeffries. He'll tell you it's all right."
"There are reasons why I'd rather not be seen in the restaurants."
"That's even better. I'll come in the cab myself and we'll go
to a quiet place."
His eyes smiled insinuatingly at her. Now that she looked at
him more carefully he was unusually attractive for a man of his
type--had strength and intelligence in his features, had a
suggestion of mastery, of one used to obedience, in his voice.
His teeth were even and sound, his lips firm yet not too thin.
"Come," said he persuasively. "I'll not eat you up--" with a
gay and gracious smile--"at least I'll try not to."
Susan remembered what Miss Hinkle had told her. She saw that
she must either accept the invitation or give up her position.
"Very well," and gave him her address.
Back came Jeffries and Miss Hinkle carrying the first of the
wraps. Gideon waved them away. "You've shown 'em to me
before," said he. "I don't want to see 'em again. Give me
the evening gowns."
Susan withdrew, soon to appear in a dress that left her arms
and neck bare. Gideon could not get enough of this. Jeffries
kept her walking up and down until she was ready to drop with
weariness of the monotony, of the distasteful play of Gideon's
fiery glance upon her arms and shoulders and throat. Gideon
tried to draw her into conversation, but she would--indeed
could--go no further than direct answers to his direct
questions. "Never mind," said he to her in an undertone.
"I'll cheer you up this evening. I think I know how to order
Her instant conquest of the difficult and valuable Gideon so
elated Jeffries that he piled the work on her. He used her
with every important buyer who came that day. The temperature
was up in the high nineties, the hot moist air stood stagnant
as a barnyard pool; the winter models were cruelly hot and
heavy. All day long, with a pause of half an hour to eat her
roll and drink a glass of water, Susan walked up and down the
show parlors weighted with dresses and cloaks, furs for arctic
weather. The other girls, even those doing almost nothing,
were all but prostrated. It was little short of intolerable,
this struggle to gain the "honest, self-respecting living by
honest work" that there was so much talk about. Toward five
o'clock her nerves abruptly and completely gave way, and she
fainted--for the first time in her life. At once the whole
establishment was in an uproar. Jeffries cursed himself loudly
for his shortsightedness, for his overestimating her young
strength. "She'll look like hell this evening," he wailed,
wringing his hands like a distracted peasant woman. "Maybe she
won't be able to go out at all."
She soon came round. They brought her whiskey, and afterward
tea and sandwiches. And with the power of quick recuperation
that is the most fascinating miracle of healthy youth, she not
only showed no sign of her breakdown but looked much better.
And she felt better. We shall some day understand why it is
that if a severe physical blow follows upon a mental blow,
recovery from the physical blow is always accompanied by a
relief of the mental strain. Susan came out of her fit of
faintness and exhaustion with a different point of view--as if
time had been long at work softening her, grief. Spenser
seemed part of the present no longer, but of the past--a past
far more remote than yesterday.
Mary Hinkle sat with her as she drank the tea. "Did you make
a date with Gid?" inquired she. Her tone let Susan know that
the question had been prompted by Jeffries.
"He asked me to dine with him, and I said I would."
"Have you got a nice dress--dinner dress, I mean?"
"The linen one I'm wearing is all. My other dress is for
"Then I'll give you one out of stock--I mean I'll borrow one
for you. This dinner's a house affair, you know--to get Gid's
order. It'll be worth thousands to them."
"There wouldn't be anything to fit me on such short notice,"
said Susan, casting about for an excuse for not wearing
"Why, you've got a model figure. I'll pick you out a white
dress--and a black and white hat. I know 'em all, and I know
one that'll make you look simply lovely."
Susan did not protest. She was profoundly indifferent to what
happened to her. Life seemed a show in which she had no part,
and at which she sat a listless spectator. A few minutes, and in
puffed Jeffries, solicitous as a fussy old bird with a new family.
"You're a lot better, ain't you?" cried he, before he had
looked at her. "Oh, yes, you'll be all right. And you'll have
a lovely time with Mr. Gideon. He's a perfect gentleman--knows
how to treat a lady. . . . The minute I laid eyes on you I
said to myself, said I, `Jeffries, she's a mascot.' And you
are, my dear. You'll get us the order. But you mustn't talk
business with him, you understand?"
"Yes," said Susan, wearily.
"He's a gentleman, you know, and it don't do to mix business
and social pleasures. You string him along quiet and ladylike
and elegant, as if there wasn't any such things as cloaks or
dresses in the world. He'll understand all right. . . . If
you land the order, my dear, I'll see that you get a nice
present. A nice dress--the one we're going to lend you--if he
gives us a slice. The dress and twenty-five in cash, if he
gives us all. How's that?"
"Thank you," said Susan. "I'll do my best."
"You'll land it. You'll land it. I feel as if we had it with
his O. K. on it."
Susan shivered. "Don't--don't count on me too much," she said
hesitatingly. "I'm not in very good spirits, I'm sorry to say."
"A little pressed for money?" Jeffries hesitated, made an
effort, blurted out what was for him, the business man, a giddy
generosity. "On your way out, stop at the cashier's. He'll
give you this week's pay in advance." Jeffries hesitated,
decided against dangerous liberality. "Not ten, you
understand, but say six. You see, you won't have been with us
a full week." And he hurried away, frightened by his prodigality,
by these hysterical impulses that were rushing him far from the
course of sound business sense. "As Jones says, I'm a generous
old fool," he muttered. "My soft heart'll ruin me yet."
Jeffries sent Mary Hinkle home with Susan to carry the dress
and hat, to help her make a toilet and to "start her off
right." In the hour before they left the store there was
offered a typical illustration of why and how "business" is
able to suspend the normal moral sense and to substitute for it
a highly ingenious counterfeit of supreme moral obligation to
it. The hysterical Jeffries had infected the entire personnel
with his excitement, with the sense that a great battle was
impending and that the cause of the house, which was the cause
of everyone who drew pay from it, had been intrusted to the
young recruit with the fascinating figure and the sweet, sad
face. And Susan's sensitive nature was soon vibrating in
response to this feeling. It terrified her that she, the
inexperienced, had such grave responsibility. It made her
heart heavy to think of probable failure, when the house had
been so good to her, had taken her in, had given her unusual
wages, had made it possible for her to get a start in life, had
intrusted to her its cause, its chance to retrieve a bad season
and to protect its employees instead of discharging a lot of them.
"Have you got long white gloves?" asked Mary Hinkle, as they
walked up Broadway, she carrying the dress and Susan the hat box.
"Only a few pairs of short ones."
"You must have long white gloves--and a pair of white stockings."
"I can't afford them."
"Oh, Jeffries told me to ask you--and to go to work and buy
them if you hadn't."
They stopped at Wanamaker's. Susan was about to pay, when Mary
stopped her. "If you pay," said she, "maybe you'll get your
money back from the house, and maybe you won't. If I pay,
they'll not make a kick on giving it back to me."
The dress Mary had selected was a simple white batiste, cut out
at the neck prettily, and with the elbow sleeves that were then
the fashion. "Your arms and throat are lovely," said Mary.
"And your hands are mighty nice, too--that's why I'm sure
you've never been a real working girl--leastways, not for a
long time. When you get to the restaurant and draw off your
gloves in a slow, careless, ladylike kind of way, and put your
elbows on the table--my, how he will take on!" Mary looked at
her with an intense but not at all malignant envy. "If you don't
land high, it'll be because you're a fool. And you ain't that."
"I'm afraid I am," replied Susan. "Yes, I guess I'm what's
called a fool--what probably is a fool."
"You want to look out then," warned Miss Hinkle. "You want to
go to work and get over that. Beauty don't count, unless a
girl's got shrewdness. The streets are full of beauties
sellin' out for a bare living. They thought they couldn't help
winning, and they got left, and the plain girls who had to
hustle and manage have passed them. Go to Del's or Rector's or
the Waldorf or the Madrid or any of those high-toned places,
and see the women with the swell clothes and jewelry! The
married ones, and the other kind, both. Are they raving
tearing beauties? Not often. . . . The trouble with me is
I've been too good-hearted and too soft about being flattered.
I was too good looking, and a small easy living came too easy.
You--I'd say you were--that you had brains but were shy about
using them. What's the good of having them? Might as well be
a boob. Then, too, you've got to go to work and look out about
being too refined. The refined, nice ones goes the lowest--if
they get pushed--and this is a pushing world. You'll get
pushed just as far as you'll let 'em. Take it from me. I've
been down the line."
Susan's low spirits sank lower. These disagreeable truths--for
observation and experience made her fear they were
truths--filled her with despondency. What was the matter with
life? As between the morality she had been taught and the
practical morality of this world upon which she had been
cast, which was the right? How "take hold"? How avert the
impending disaster? What of the "good" should--_must_--she
throw away? What should--_must_--she cling to?
Mary Hinkle was shocked by the poor little room. "This is no
place for a lady!" cried she. "But it won't last long--not
after tonight, if you play your cards halfway right."
"I'm very well satisfied," said Susan. "If I can only keep this!"
She felt no interest in the toilet until the dress and hat were
unpacked and laid out upon the bed. At sight of them her eyes
became a keen and lively gray--never violet for that kind of
emotion--and there surged up the love of finery that dwells in
every normal woman--and in every normal man--that is put there
by a heredity dating back through the ages to the very
beginning of conscious life--and does not leave them until life
gives up the battle and prepares to vacate before death.
Ellen, the maid, passing the door, saw and entered to add her
ecstatic exclamations to the excitement. Down she ran to bring
Mrs. Tucker, who no sooner beheld the glory displayed upon the
humble bed than she too was in a turmoil. Susan dressed with
the aid of three maids as interested and eager as ever robed a
queen for coronation. Ellen brought hot water and a larger
bowl. Mrs. Tucker wished to lend a highly scented toilet soap
she used when she put on gala attire; but Susan insisted upon
her own plain soap. They all helped her bathe; they helped her
select the best underclothes from her small store. Susan would
put on her own stockings; but Ellen got one foot into one of
the slippers and Mrs. Tucker looked after the other foot.
"Ain't they lovely?" said Ellen to Mrs. Tucker, as they knelt
together at their task. "I never see such feet. Not a lump on
'em, but like feet in a picture."
"It takes a mighty good leg to look good in a white stocking,"
observed Mary. "But yours is so nice and long and slim that
they'd stand most anything."
Mrs. Tucker and Ellen stood by with no interference save
suggestion and comment, while Mary, who at one time worked for
a hairdresser, did Susan's thick dark hair. Susan would permit
no elaborations, much to Miss Hinkle's regret. But the three
agreed that she was right when the simple sweep of the vital
blue-black hair was finished in a loose and graceful knot at
the back, and Susan's small, healthily pallid face looked its
loveliest, with the violet-gray eyes soft and sweet and
serious. Mrs. Tucker brought the hat from the bed, and Susan
put it on--a large black straw of a most becoming shape with
two pure white plumes curling round the crown and a third, not
so long, rising gracefully from the big buckle where the three
plumes met. And now came the putting on of the dress. With as
much care as if they were handling a rare and fragile vase,
Mary and Mrs. Tucker held the dress for Susan to step into it.
Ellen kept her petticoat in place while the other two escorted
the dress up Susan's form.
Then the three worked together at hooking and smoothing. Susan
washed her hands again, refused to let Mrs. Tucker run and
bring powder, produced from a drawer some prepared chalk and
with it safeguarded her nose against shine; she tucked the
powder rag into her stocking. Last of all the gloves went on and
a small handkerchief was thrust into the palm of the left glove.
"How do I look?" asked Susan. "Lovely"--"Fine"--"Just grand,"
exclaimed the three maids.
"I feel awfully dressed up," said she. "And it's so hot!"
"You must go right downstairs where it's cool and you won't get
wilted," cried Mrs. Tucker. "Hold your skirts close on the
way. The steps and walls ain't none too clean."
In the bathroom downstairs there was a long mirror built into
the wall, a relic of the old house's long departed youth of
grandeur. As the tenant--Mr. Jessop--was out, Mrs. Tucker led
the way into it. There Susan had the first satisfactory look
at herself. She knew she was a pretty woman; she would have
been weak-minded had she not known it. But she was amazed at
herself. A touch here and there, a sinuous shifting of the
body within the garments, and the suggestion of "dressed up"
vanished before the reflected eyes of her agitated assistants,
who did not know what had happened but only saw the results.
She hardly knew the tall beautiful woman of fashion gazing at
her from the mirror. Could it be that this was her
hair?--these eyes hers--and the mouth and nose and the skin?
Was this long slender figure her very own? What an astounding
difference clothes did make! Never before had Susan worn
anything nearly so fine. "This is the way I ought to look all
the time," thought she. "And this is the way I _will_ look!"
Only better--much better. Already her true eye was seeing the
defects, the chances for improvement--how the hat could be
re-bent and re-trimmed to adapt it to her features, how the
dress could be altered to make it more tasteful, more effective
in subtly attracting attention to her figure.
"How much do you suppose the dress cost, Miss Hinkle?" asked
Ellen--the question Mrs. Tucker had been dying to put but had
refrained from putting lest it should sound unrefined.
"It costs ninety wholesale," said Miss Hinkle. "That'd mean a
hundred and twenty-five--a hundred and fifty, maybe if you was
to try to buy it in a department store. And the hat--well,
Lichtenstein'd ask fifty or sixty for it and never turn a hair."
"Gosh--ee?" exclaimed Ellen. "Did you ever hear the like?"
"I'm not surprised," said Mrs. Tucker, who in fact was
flabbergasted. "Well--it's worth the money to them that can
afford to buy it. The good Lord put everything on earth to be
used, I reckon. And Miss Sackville is the build for things
like that. Now it'd be foolish on me, with a stomach and
sitter that won't let no skirt hang fit to look at."
The bell rang. The excitement died from Susan's face, leaving
it pale and cold. A wave of nausea swept through her. Ellen
peeped out, Mrs. Tucker and Miss Hinkle listening with anxious
faces. "It's him!" whispered Ellen," and there's a taxi, too."
It was decided that Ellen should go to the door, that as she
opened it Susan should come carelessly from the back room and
advance along the hall. And this program was carried out with
the result that as Gideon said, "Is Miss Sackville here?" Miss
Sackville appeared before his widening, wondering, admiring
eyes. He was dressed in the extreme of fashion and costliness
in good taste; while it would have been impossible for him to
look distinguished, he did look what he was--a prosperous
business man with prospects. He came perfumed and rustling.
But he felt completely outclassed--until he reminded himself
that for all her brave show of fashionable lady she was only a
model while he was a fifteen-thousand-a-year man on the way to
"Don't you think we might dine on the veranda at Sherry's?"
suggested he. "It'd be cool there."
At sight of him she had nerved herself, had keyed herself up
toward recklessness. She was in for it. She would put it
through. No futile cowardly shrinking and whimpering! Why not
try to get whatever pleasure there was a chance for?
But--Sherry's--was it safe? Yes, almost any of the Fifth
Avenue places--except the Waldorf, possibly--was safe enough.
The circuit of Spenser and his friends lay in the more Bohemian
Broadway district. He had taken her to Sherry's only once, to
see as part of a New York education the Sunday night crowd of
fashionable people. "If you like," said she.
Gideon beamed. He would be able to show off his prize! As
they drove away Susan glanced at the front parlor windows, saw
the curtains agitated, felt the three friendly, excited faces
palpitating. She leaned from the cab window, waved her hand,
smiled. The three faces instantly appeared and immediately hid
again lest Gideon should see.
But Gideon was too busy planning conversation. He knew Miss
Sackville was "as common as the rest of 'em--and an old hand at
the business, no doubt." But he simply could not abruptly
break through the barrier; he must squirm through gradually.
"That's a swell outfit you've got on," he began.
"Yes," replied Susan with her usual candor. "Miss Hinkle
borrowed it out of the stock for me to wear."
Gideon was confused. He knew how she had got the hat and
dress, but he expected her to make a pretense. He couldn't
understand her not doing it. Such candor--any kind of
candor--wasn't in the game of men and women as women had played
it in his experience. The women--all sorts of women--lied and
faked at their business just as men did in the business of
buying and selling goods. And her voice--and her way of
speaking--they made him feel more than ever out of his class.
He must get something to drink as soon as it could be served;
that would put him at his ease. Yes--a drink--that would set
him up again. And a drink for her--that would bring her down
from this queer new kind of high horse. "I guess she must be
a top notcher--the real thing, come down in the world--and not
out of the near silks. But she'll be all right after a drink.
One drink of liquor makes the whole world kin." That last
thought reminded him of his own cleverness and he attacked the
situation afresh. But the conversation as they drove up the
avenue was on the whole constrained and intermittent--chiefly
about the weather. Susan was observing--and feeling--and
enjoying. Up bubbled her young spirits perpetually renewed by
her healthy, vital youth of body. She was seeing her beloved
City of the Sun again. As they turned out of the avenue for
Sherry's main entrance Susan realized that she was in
Forty-fourth Street. The street where she and Spenser had
lived!--had lived only yesterday. No--not yesterday--impossible!
Her eyes closed and she leaned back in the cab.
Gideon was waiting to help her alight. He saw that something
was wrong; it stood out obviously in her ghastly face. He
feared the carriage men round the entrance would "catch on" to
the fact that he was escorting a girl so unused to swell
surroundings that she was ready to faint with fright. "Don't
be foolish," he said sharply. Susan revived herself,
descended, and with head bent low and trembling body entered
the restaurant. In the agitation of getting a table and
settling at it Gideon forgot for the moment her sickly pallor.
He began to order at once, not consulting her--for he prided
himself on his knowledge of cookery and assumed that she knew
nothing about it. "Have a cocktail?" asked he. "Yes, of
course you will. You need it bad and you need it quick."
She said she preferred sherry. She had intended to drink
nothing, but she must have aid in conquering her faintness and
overwhelming depression. Gideon took a dry martini; ordered a
second for himself when the first came, and had them both down
before she finished her sherry. "I've ordered champagne," said
he. "I suppose you like sweet champagne. Most ladies do, but
I can't stand seeing it served even."
"No--I like it very dry," said Susan.
Gideon glinted his eyes gayly at her, showed his white jaguar
teeth. "So you're acquainted with fizz, are you?" He was
feeling his absurd notion of inequality in her favor dissipate
as the fumes of the cocktails rose straight and strong from his
empty stomach to his brain. "Do you know, I've a sort of
feeling that we're going to like each other a lot. I think we
make a handsome couple--eh--what's your first name?"
"Lorna, then. My name's Ed, but everybody calls me Gid."
As soon as the melon was served, he ordered the champagne
opened. "To our better acquaintance," said he, lifting his
glass toward her.
"Thank you," said she, in a suffocated voice, touching her
glass to her lips.
He was too polite to speak, even in banter, of what he thought
was the real cause of her politeness and silence. But he must
end this state of overwhelmedness at grand surroundings. Said he:
"You're kind o' shy, aren't you, Lorna? Or is that your game?"
"I don't know. You've had a very interesting life, haven't
you? Won't you tell me about it?"
"Oh--just ordinary," replied he, with a proper show of modesty.
And straightway, as Susan had hoped, he launched into a minute
account of himself--the familiar story of the energetic,
aggressive man twisting and kicking his way up from two or
three dollars a week. Susan seemed interested, but her mind
refused to occupy itself with a narrative so commonplace.
After Rod and his friends this boastful business man was dull
and tedious. Whenever he laughed at an account of his superior
craft--how he had bluffed this man, how he had euchered that
one--she smiled. And so in one more case the common masculine
delusion that women listen to them on the subject of
themselves, with interest and admiration as profound as their
own, was not impaired.
"But," he wound up, "I've stayed plain Ed Gideon. I never have
let prosperity swell _my_ head. And anyone that knows me'll
tell you I'm a regular fool for generosity with those that come
at me right. . . . I've always been a favorite with the ladies."
As he was pausing for comment from her, she said, "I can
believe it." The word "generosity" kept echoing in her mind.
Generosity--generosity. How much talk there was about it!
Everyone was forever praising himself for his generosity, was
reciting acts of the most obvious selfishness in proof. Was
there any such thing in the whole world as real generosity?
"They like a generous man," pursued Gid. "I'm tight in
business--I can see a dollar as far as the next man and chase
it as hard and grab it as tight. But when it comes to the
ladies, why, I'm open-handed. If they treat me right, I treat
them right." Then, fearing that he had tactlessly raised a
doubt of his invincibility, he hastily added, "But they always
do treat me right."
While he had been talking on and on, Susan had been appealing
to the champagne to help her quiet her aching heart. She
resolutely set her thoughts to wandering among the couples at
the other tables in that subdued softening light--the
beautifully dressed women listening to their male companions
with close attention--were they too being bored by such trash
by way of talk? Were they too simply listening because it is
the man who pays, because it is the man who must be conciliated
and put in a good humor with himself, if dinners and dresses
and jewels are to be bought? That tenement attic--that hot
moist workroom--poverty--privation--"honest work's" dread
"Now, what kind of a man would you say I was?" Gideon was inquiring.
"How do you mean?" replied Susan, with the dexterity at vagueness
that habitually self-veiling people acquire as an instinct.
"Why, as a man. How do I compare with the other men you've
known?" And he "shot" his cuffs with a gesture of careless
elegance that his cuff links might assist in the picture of the
"swell dresser" he felt he was posing.
"I _am_ different," swelled Gideon. "You see, it's this
way----" And he was off again into another eulogy of himself;
it carried them through the dinner and two quarts of champagne.
He was much annoyed that she did not take advantage of the
pointed opportunity he gave her to note the total of the bill;
he was even uncertain whether she had noted that he gave the
waiter a dollar. He rustled and snapped it before laying it
upon the tray, but her eyes looked vague.
"Well," said he, after a comfortable pull at an
expensive-looking cigar, "sixteen seventy-five is quite a
lively little peel-off for a dinner for only two. But it was
worth it, don't you think?"
"It was a splendid dinner," said Susan truthfully.
Gideon beamed in intoxicated good humor. "I knew you'd like
it. Nothing pleases me better than to take a nice girl who
isn't as well off as I am out and blow her off to a crackerjack
dinner. Now, you may have thought a dollar was too much to tip
"A dollar is--a dollar, isn't it?" said Susan.
Gideon laughed. "I used to think so. And most men wouldn't
give that much to a waiter. But I feel sorry for poor devils
who don't happen to be as lucky or as brainy as I am. What do
you say to a turn in the Park? We'll take a hansom, and kind
of jog along. And we'll stop at the Casino and at Gabe's for
"I have to get up so early " began Susan.
"Oh, that's all right." He slowly winked at her. "You'll not
have to bump the bumps for being late tomorrow--if you treat
He carried his liquor easily. Only in his eyes and in his ever
more slippery smile that would slide about his face did he show
that he had been drinking. He helped her into a hansom with a
flourish and, overruling her protests, bade the driver go to
the Casino. Once under way she was glad; her hot skin and her
weary heart were grateful for the air blowing down the avenue
from the Park's expanse of green. When Gideon attempted to put
his arm around her, she moved close into the corner and went on
talking so calmly about calm subjects that he did not insist.
But when he had tossed down a drink of whiskey at the Casino
and they resumed the drive along the moonlit, shady roads, he
"Please," said she, "don't spoil a delightful evening."
"Now look here, my dear--haven't I treated you right?"
"Indeed you have, Mr. Gideon."
"Oh, don't be so damned formal. Forget the difference between
our positions. Tomorrow I'm going to place a big order with
your house, if you treat me right. I'm dead stuck on you--and
that's a God's fact. You've taken me clean off my feet. I'm
thinking of doing a lot for you."
Susan was silent.
"What do you say to throwing up your job and coming to Chicago
with me? How much do you get?"
"Why, _you_ can't live on that."
"I've lived on less--much less."
"Do you like it?"
"You want to get on--don't you?"
"You're down in the heart about something. Love?"
Susan was silent.
"Cut love out. Cut it out, my dear. That ain't the way to get
on. Love's a good consolation prize, if you ain't going to get
anywhere, and know you ain't. And it's a good first prize
after you've arrived and can afford the luxuries of life. But
for a man--or a woman--that's pushing up, it's sheer ruination!
Cut it out!"
"I am cutting it out," said Susan. "But that takes time."
"Not if you've got sense. The way to cut anything out is--cut
it out!--a quick slash--just cut. If you make a dozen little
slashes, each of them hurts as much as the one big slash--and
the dozen hurt twelve times as much--bleed twelve times as
much--put off the cure a lot more than twelve times as long."
He had Susan's attention for the first time.
"Do you know why women don't get on?"
"Tell me," said she. "That's what I want to hear."
"Because they don't play the game under the rules. Now, what
does a man do? Why, he stakes everything he's got--does
whatever's necessary, don't stop at _nothing_ to help him get
there. How is it with women? Some try to be virtuous--when
their bodies are their best assets. God! I wish I'd 'a' had
your looks and your advantages as a woman to help me. I'd be
a millionaire this minute, with a house facing this Park and a
yacht and all the rest of it. A woman that's squeamish about
her virtue can't hope to win--unless she's in a position to
make a good marriage. As for the loose ones, they are as big
fools as the virtuous ones. The virtuous ones lock away their
best asset; the loose ones throw it away. Neither one _use_ it.
Do you follow me?"
"I think so." Susan was listening with a mind made abnormally
acute by the champagne she had freely drunk. The coarse
bluntness and directness of the man did not offend her. It
made what he said the more effective, producing a rude
arresting effect upon her nerves. It made the man himself seem
more of a person. Susan was beginning to have a kind of
respect for him, to change her first opinion that he was merely
a vulgar, pushing commonplace.
"Never thought of that before?"
"Yes--I've thought of it. But----" She paused.
"Never mind. Some womanish heart nonsense, I suppose. Do you
see the application of what I've said to you and me?"
"Go on." She was leaning forward, her elbows on the closed
doors of the hansom, her eyes gazing dreamily into the moonlit
dimness of the cool woods through which they were driving.
"You don't want to stick at ten per?"
"It'll be less in a little while. Models don't last. The
work's too hard."
"I can see that."
"And anyhow it means tenement house."
"Yes. Tenement house."
"Well--what then? What's your plan?"
"I haven't any."
"Haven't a plan--yet want to get on! Is that good sense?
Did ever anybody get anywhere without a plan?"
"I'm willing to work. I'm going to work. I _am_ working."
"Work, of course. Nobody can keep alive without working. You
might as well say you're going to breathe and eat--Work don't
amount to anything, for getting on. It's the kind of
work--working in a certain direction--working with a plan."
"I've got a plan. But I can't begin at it just yet."
"Will it take money?"
"Have you got it?"
"No," replied Susan. "I'll have to get it."
"As an honest working girl?" said he with good-humored irony.
Susan laughed. "It does sound ridiculous, doesn't it?" said she.
"Here's another thing that maybe you haven't counted in.
Looking as you do, do you suppose men that run things'll let
you get past without paying toll? Not on your life, my dear.
If you was ugly, you might after several years get twenty or
twenty-five by working hard--unless you lost your figure first.
But the men won't let a good looker rise that way. Do you
"I'm not talking theory. I'm talking life. Take you and me
for example. I can help you--help you a lot. In fact I can
put you on your feet. And I'm willing. If you was a man and
I liked you and wanted to help you, I'd make you help me, too.
I'd make you do a lot of things for me--maybe some of 'em not
so very nice--maybe some of 'em downright dirty. And you'd do
'em, as all young fellows, struggling up, have to. But you're
a woman. So I'm willing to make easier terms. But I can't
help you with you not showing any appreciation. That wouldn't
be good business--would it?--to get no return but, `Oh, thank
you so much, Mr. Gideon. So sweet of you. I'll remember you
in my prayers.' Would that be sensible?"
"No," said Susan.
"Well, then! If I do you a good turn, you've got to do me a
good turn--not one that I don't want done, but one I do want
done. Ain't I right? Do you follow me?"
"I follow you."
Some vague accent in Susan's voice made him feel dissatisfied
with her response. "I hope you do," he said sharply. "What
I'm saying is dresses on your back and dollars in your
pocket--and getting on in the world--if you work it right."
"Getting on in the world," said Susan, pensively.
"I suppose that's a sneer."
"Oh, no. I was only thinking."
"About love being all a woman needs to make her happy, I suppose?"
"No. Love is--Well, it isn't happiness."
"Because you let it run you, instead of you running it. Eh?"
"Sure! Now, let me tell you, Lorna dear. Comfort and luxury,
money in bank, property, a good solid position--_that's_ the
foundation. Build on _that_ and you'll build solid. Build on
love and sentiment and you're building upside down. You're
putting the gingerbread where the rock ought to be. Follow me?"
"I see what you mean."
He tried to find her hand. "What do you say?"
"I'll think of it."
"Well, think quick, my dear. Opportunity doesn't wait round in
anybody's outside office . . . Maybe you don't trust
me--don't think I'll deliver the goods?"
"No. I think you're honest."
"You're right I am. I do what I say I'll do. That's why I've got
on. That's why I'll keep on getting on. Let's drive to a hotel."
She turned her head and looked at him for the first time since
he began his discourse on making one's way in the world. Her
look was calm, inquiring--would have been chilling to a man of
sensibility--that is, of sensibility toward an unconquered woman.
"I want to give your people that order, and I want to help you."
"I want them to get the order. I don't care about the rest,"
she replied dully.
"Put it any way you like."
Again he tried to embrace her. She resisted firmly. "Wait,"
said she. "Let me think."
They drove the rest of the way to the upper end of the Park
He ordered the driver to turn. He said to her; "Well, do you
get the sack or does the house get the order?"
She was silent.
"Shall I drive you home or shall we stop at Gabe's for a drink?"
"Could I have champagne?" said she.
"Anything you like if you choose right."
"I haven't any choice," said she.
He laughed, put his arm around her, kissed her unresponsive but
unresisting lips. "You're right, you haven't," said he. "It's
a fine sign that you have the sense to see it. Oh, you'll get
on. You don't let trifles stand in your way." III
AT the lunch hour the next day Mary Hinkle knocked at the
garret in Clinton Place. Getting no answer, she opened the
door. At the table close to the window was Susan in a
nightgown, her hair in disorder as if she had begun to arrange
it and had stopped halfway. Her eyes turned listlessly in
Mary's direction--dull eyes, gray, heavily circled.
"You didn't answer, Miss Sackville. So I thought I'd come in and
leave a note," explained Mary. Her glance was avoiding Susan's.
"Come for the dress and hat?" said Susan. "There they are."
And she indicated the undisturbed bed whereon hat and dress
were carelessly flung.
"My, but it's hot in this room!" exclaimed Mary. "You must
move up to my place. There's a room and bath vacant--only
Susan seemed not to hear. She was looking dully at her hands
upon the table before her.
"Mr. Jeffries sent me to ask you how you were. He was worried
because you didn't come." With a change of voice, "Mr. Gideon
telephoned down the order a while ago. Mr. Jeffries says you
are to keep the dress and hat."
"No," said Susan. "Take them away with you."
"Aren't you coming down this afternoon?"
"No," replied Susan. "I've quit."
"Quit?" cried Miss Hinkle. Her expression gradually shifted
from astonishment to pleased understanding. "Oh, I see!
You've got something better."
"No. But I'll find something."
Mary studied the situation, using Susan's expressionless face
as a guide. After a time she seemed to get from it a clew.
With the air of friendly experience bent on aiding helpless
inexperience she pushed aside the dress and made room for
herself on the bed. "Don't be a fool, Miss Sackville," said
she. "If you don't like that sort of thing--you know what I
mean--why, you can live six months--maybe a year--on the
reputation of what you've done and their hope that you'll
weaken down and do it again. That'll give you time to look
round and find something else. For pity's sake, don't turn
yourself loose without a job. You got your place so easy that
you think you can get one any old time. There's where you're
wrong. Believe me, you played in luck--and luck don't come
round often. I know what I'm talking about. So I say, don't
be a fool!"
"I am a fool," said Susan.
"Well--get over it. And don't waste any time about it, either."
"I can't go back," said Susan stolidly. "I can't face them."
"Face who?" cried Mary. "Business is business. Everybody
understands that. All the people down there are crazy about
you now. You got the house a hundred-thousand-dollar order.
You don't _suppose_ anybody in business bothers about how an
order's got--do you?"
"It's the way __I__ feel--not the way _they_ feel."
"As for the women down there--of course, there's some that
pretend they won't do that sort of thing. Look at 'em--at
their faces and figures--and you'll see why they don't. Of
course a girl keeps straight when there's nothing in not being
straight--leastways, unless she's a fool. She knows that if
the best she can do is marry a fellow of her own class, why
she'd only get left if she played any tricks with them cheap
skates that have to get married or go without because they're
too poor to pay for anything--and by marrying can get that and
a cook and a washwoman and mender besides--and maybe, too,
somebody who can go out and work if they're laid up sick. But
if a girl sees a chance to get on----don't be a fool, Miss
Susan listened with a smile that barely disturbed the stolid
calm of her features. "I'm not going back," she said.
Mary Hinkle was silenced by the quiet finality of her voice.
Studying that delicate face, she felt, behind its pallid
impassiveness, behind the refusal to return, a reason she could
not comprehend. She dimly realized that she would respect it
if she could understand it; for she suspected it had its origin
somewhere in Susan's "refined ladylike nature." She knew that
once in a while among the women she was acquainted with there
did happen one who preferred death in any form of misery to
leading a lax life--and indisputable facts had convinced her
that not always were these women "just stupid ignorant fools."
She herself possessed no such refinement of nerves or of
whatever it was. She had been brought up in a loose family and
in a loose neighborhood. She was in the habit of making all
sorts of pretenses, because that was the custom, while being
candid about such matters was regarded as bad form. She was
not fooled by these pretenses in other girls, though they often
did fool each other. In Susan, she instinctively felt, it was
not pretense. It was something or other else--it was a
dangerous reality. She liked Susan; in her intelligence and
physical charm were the possibilities of getting far up in the
world; it seemed a pity that she was thus handicapped. Still,
perhaps Susan would stumble upon some worth while man who,
attempting to possess her without marriage and failing, would
pay the heavy price. There was always that chance--a small
chance, smaller even than finding by loose living a worth while
man who would marry you because you happened exactly to suit
him--to give him enough only to make him feel that he wanted
more. Still, Susan was unusually attractive, and luck
sometimes did come a poor person's way--sometimes.
"I'm overdue back," said Mary. "You want me to tell 'em that?"
"You'll have hard work finding a job at anything like as much
as ten per. I've got two trades, and I couldn't at either one."
"I don't expect to find it."
"Then what are you going to do?"
"Take what I can get--until I've been made hard enough--or
strong enough--or whatever it is--to stop being a fool."
This indication of latent good sense relieved Miss Hinkle.
"I'll tell 'em you may be down tomorrow. Think it over for
Susan shook her head. "They'll have to get somebody else."
And, as Miss Hinkle reached the threshold, "Wait till I do the
dress up. You'll take it for me?"
"Why send the things back?" urged Mary. "They belong to you.
God knows you earned 'em."
Susan, standing now, looked down at the finery. "So I did.
I'll keep them," said she. "They'd pawn for something."
"With your looks they'd wear for a heap more. But keep 'em,
anyhow. And I'll not tell Jeffries you've quit. It'll do no
harm to hold your job open a day or so."
"As you like," said Susan, to end the discussion. "But I have quit."
"No matter. After you've had something to eat, you'll feel different."
And Miss Hinkle nodded brightly and departed. Susan resumed
her seat at the bare wobbly little table, resumed her listless
attitude. She did not move until Ellen came in, holding out a
note and saying, "A boy from your store brung this--here."
"Thank you," said Susan, taking the note. In it she found a
twenty-dollar bill and a five. On the sheet of paper round it
Take the day off. Here's your commission. We'll raise your
pay in a few weeks, L. L. J.
So Mary Hinkle had told them either that she was quitting or
that she was thinking of quitting, and they wished her to stay,
had used the means they believed she could not resist. In a
dreary way this amused her. As if she cared whether or not
life was kept in this worthless body of hers, in her tired
heart, in her disgusted mind! Then she dropped back into
listlessness. When she was aroused again it was by Gideon,
completely filling the small doorway. "Hello, my dear!" cried
he cheerfully. "Mind my smoking?"
Susan slowly turned her head toward him, surveyed him with an
expression but one removed from the blank look she would have
had if there had been no one before her.
"I'm feeling fine today," pursued Gideon, advancing a step and
so bringing himself about halfway to the table. "Had a couple
of pick-me-ups and a fat breakfast. How are you?"
"I'm always well."
"Thought you seemed a little seedy. "His shrewd sensual eyes
were exploring the openings in her nightdress. "You'll be
mighty glad to get out of this hole. Gosh! It's hot. Don't
see how you stand it. I'm a law abiding citizen but I must say
I'd turn criminal before I'd put up with this."
In the underworld from which Gideon had sprung--the underworld
where welters the overwhelming mass of the human race--there
are three main types. There are the hopeless and
spiritless--the mass--who welter passively on, breeding and
dying. There are the spirited who also possess both shrewdness
and calculation; they push upward by hook and by crook, always
mindful of the futility of the struggle of the petty criminal
of the slums against the police and the law; they arrive and
found the aristocracies of the future. The third is the
criminal class. It is also made up of the spirited--but the
spirited who, having little shrewdness and no calculation--that
is, no ability to foresee and measure consequences--wage clumsy
war upon society and pay the penalty of their fatuity in lives
of wretchedness even more wretched than the common lot. Gideon
belonged to the second class--the class that pushes upward
without getting into jail; he was a fair representative of this
type, neither its best nor its worst, but about midway of its
range between arrogant, all-dominating plutocrat and shystering
merchant or lawyer or politician who barely escapes the
"You don't ask me to sit down, dearie," he went on facetiously.
"But I'm not so mad that I won't do it."
He took the seat Miss Hinkle had cleared on the bed. His
glance wandered disgustedly from object to object in the
crowded yet bare attic. He caught a whiff of the odor from
across the hall--from the fresh-air shaft--and hastily gave
several puffs at his cigar to saturate his surroundings with
its perfume. Susan acted as if she were alone in the room.
She had not even drawn together her nightgown.
"I phoned your store about you," resumed Gideon. "They said
you hadn't showed up--wouldn't till tomorrow. So I came round
here and your landlady sent me up. I want to take you for a
drive this afternoon. We can dine up to Claremont or farther,
if you like."
"No, thanks," said Susan. "I can't go."
"Upty-tupty!" cried Gideon. "What's the lady so sour about?"
"I'm not sour."
"Then why won't you go?"
"But we'll have a chance to talk over what I'm going to do for you."
"You've kept your word," said Susan.
"That was only part. Besides, I'd have given your house the
Susan's eyes suddenly lighted up. "You would?" she cried.
"Well--a part of it. Not so much, of course. But I never let
pleasure interfere with business. Nobody that does ever gets
Her expression made him hasten to explain--without being
conscious why. "I said--_part_ of the order, my dear. They owe
to you about half of what they'll make off me. . . . What's
that money on the table? Your commission?"
"Twenty-five? Um!" Gideon laughed. "Well, I suppose it's as
generous as I'd be, in the same circumstances. Encourage your
employees, but don't swell-head 'em--that's the good rule. I've
seen many a promising young chap ruined by a raise of pay. . . .
Now, about you and me." Gideon took a roll of bills from
his trousers pocket, counted off five twenties, tossed them on
the table. "There!"
One of the bills in falling touched Susan's hand. She jerked
the hand away as if the bill had been afire. She took all five
of them, folded them, held them out to him. "The house has
paid me," said she.
"That's honest," said he, nodding approvingly. "I like it.
But in your case it don't apply."
These two, thus facing a practical situation, revealed an
important, overlooked truth about human morals. Humanity
divides broadly into three classes: the arrived; those who will
never arrive and will never try; those in a state of flux,
attempting and either failing or succeeding. The arrived and
the inert together preach and to a certain extent practice an
idealistic system of morality that interferes with them in no
way. It does not interfere with the arrived because they have
no need to infringe it, except for amusement; it does not
interfere with the inert, but rather helps them to bear their
lot by giving them a cheering notion that their insignificance
is due to their goodness. This idealistic system receives the
homage of lip service from the third and struggling section of
mankind, but no more, for in practice it would hamper them at
every turn in their efforts to fight their way up. Susan was,
at that stage of her career, a candidate for membership in the
struggling class. Her heart was set firmly against the
unwritten, unspoken, even unwhispered code of practical
morality which dominates the struggling class. But life had at
least taught her the folly of intolerance. So when Gideon
talked in terms of that practical morality, she listened
without offense; and she talked to him in terms of it because
to talk the idealistic morality in which she had been bred and
before which she bowed the knee in sincere belief would have
been simply to excite his laughter at her innocence and his
contempt for her folly.
"I feel that I've been paid," said she. "I did it for the
house--because I owed it to them."
"Only for the house?" said he with insinuating tenderness. He
took and pressed the fingers extended with the money in them.
"Only for the house," she repeated, a hard note in her voice.
And her fingers slipped away, leaving the money in his hand.
"At least, I suppose it must have been for the house," she
added, reflectively, talking to herself aloud. "Why did I do
it? I don't know. I don't know. They say one always has a
reason for what one does. But I often can't find any reason
for things I do--that, for instance. I simply did it because
it seemed to me not to matter much what __I__ did with myself,
and they wanted the order so badly." Then she happened to
become conscious of his presence and to see a look of
uneasiness, self-complacence, as if he were thinking that he
quite understood this puzzle. She disconcerted him with what
vain men call a cruel snub. "But whatever the reason, it
certainly couldn't have been you," said she.
"Now, look here, Lorna," protested Gideon, the beginnings of
anger in his tone. "That's not the way to talk if you want to
She eyed him with an expression which would have raised a
suspicion that he was repulsive in a man less self-confident,
less indifferent to what the human beings he used for pleasure
or profit thought of him.
"To say nothing of what I can do for you, there's the matter of
future orders. I order twice a year--in big lots always."
"I've quit down there."
"Oh! Somebody else has given you something good--eh? _That's_
why you're cocky."
"Then why've you quit?"
"I wish you could tell me. I don't understand. But--I've done it."
Gideon puzzled with this a moment, decided that it was beyond
him and unimportant, anyhow. He blew out a cloud of smoke,
stretched his legs and took up the main subject. "I was about
to say, I've got a place for you. I'd like to take you to
Chicago, but there's a Mrs. G.--as dear, sweet, good a soul as
ever lived--just what a man wants at home with the children and
to make things respectable. I wouldn't grieve her for worlds.
But I can't live without a little fun--and Mrs. G. is a bit
slow for me. . . . Still, it's no use talking about having
you out there. She ought to be able to understand that an
active man needs two women. One for the quiet side of his
nature, the other for the lively side. Sometimes I think
she--like a lot of wives--wouldn't object if it wasn't that she
was afraid the other lady would get me away altogether and
she'd be left stranded."
"Naturally," said Susan.
"Not at all!" cried he. "Don't you get any such notion in that
lovely little head of yours, my dear. You women don't
understand honor--a man's sense of honor."
"Naturally," repeated Susan.
He gave a glance of short disapproval. Her voice was not to
his liking. "Let's drop Mrs. G. out of this," said he. "As
I was saying, I've arranged for you to take a place here--easy
work--something to occupy you--and I'll foot the bills over and
He stopped short or, rather, was stopped by the peculiar smile
Susan had turned upon him. Before it he slowly reddened, and
his eyes reluctantly shifted. He had roused her from
listlessness, from indifference. The poisons in her blood were
burned up by the fresh, swiftly flowing currents set in motion
by his words, by the helpfulness of his expression, of his
presence. She became again the intensely healthy, therefore
intensely alive, therefore energetic and undaunted Susan Lenox,
who, when still a child, had not hesitated to fly from home,
from everyone she knew, into an unknown world.
"What are you smiling at me that way for?" demanded he in a
tone of extreme irritation.
"So you look on me as your mistress?" And never in all her
life had her eyes been so gray--the gray of cruelest irony.
"Now what's the use discussing those things? You know the
world. You're a sensible woman."
Susan made closer and more secure the large loose coil of her
hair, rose and leaned against the table. "You don't
understand. You couldn't. I'm not one of those respectable
women, like your Mrs. G., who belong to men. And I'm not one
of the other kind who also throw in their souls with their
bodies for good measure. Do _you_ think you had _me?_" She
laughed with maddening gentle mockery, went on: "I don't hate
you. I don't despise you even. You mean well. But the sight
of you makes me sick. It makes me feel as I do when I think of
a dirty tenement I used to have to live in, and of the things
that I used to have to let crawl over me. So I want to forget
you as soon as I can--and that will be soon after you get out
of my sight."
Her blazing eyes startled him. Her voice, not lifted above its
usual quiet tones, enraged him. "You--you!" he cried. "You
must be crazy, to talk to _me_ like that!"
She nodded. "Yes--crazy," said she with the same quiet intensity.
"For I know what kind of a beast you are--a clean, good-natured
beast, but still a beast. And how could you understand?"
He had got upon his feet. He looked as if he were going to
She made a slight gesture toward the door. He felt at a
hopeless disadvantage with her--with this woman who did not
raise her voice, did not need to raise it to express the
uttermost of any passion. His jagged teeth gleamed through his
mustache; his shrewd little eyes snapped like an angry rat's.
He fumbled about through the steam of his insane rage for
adequate insults--in vain. He rushed from the room and bolted
Within an hour Susan was out, looking for work. There could be
no turning back now. Until she went with Gideon it had been as
if her dead were still unburied and in the house. Now----
Never again could she even indulge in dreams of going to Rod.
That part of her life was finished with all the finality of the
closed grave. Grief--yes. But the same sort of grief as when
a loved one, after a long and painful illness, finds relief in
death. Her love for Rod had been stricken of a mortal illness
the night of their arrival in New York. After lingering for a
year between life and death, after a long death agony, it had
expired. The end came--these matters of the exact moment of
inevitable events are unimportant but have a certain melancholy
interest--the end came when she made choice where there was no
choice, in the cab with Gideon.
For better or for worse she was free. She was ready to begin
her career. IV
AFTER a few days, when she was viewing her situation in a
calmer, more normal mood with the practical feminine eye, she
regretted that she had refused Gideon's money. She was proud
of that within herself which had impelled and compelled her to
refuse it; but she wished she had it. Taking it, she felt,
would have added nothing to her humiliation in her own sight;
and for what he thought of her, one way or the other, she cared
not a pin. It is one of the familiar curiosities of human
inconsistency which is at bottom so completely consistent, that
she did not regret having refused his far more valuable offer
to aid her.
She did not regret even during those few next days of
disheartening search for work. We often read how purpose can
be so powerful that it compels. No doubt if Susan's purpose
had been to get temporary relief--or, perhaps, had it been to
get permanent relief by weaving a sex spell--she would in that
desperate mood have been able to compel. Unfortunately she was
not seeking to be a pauper or a parasite; she was trying to
find steady employment at living wages--that is, at wages above
the market value for female and for most male--labor. And that
sort of purpose cannot compel.
Our civilization overflows with charity--which is simply
willingness to hand back to labor as generous gracious alms a
small part of the loot from the just wages of labor. But of
real help--just wages for honest labor--there is little, for real
help would disarrange the system, would abolish the upper classes.
She had some faint hopes in the direction of millinery and
dressmaking, the things for which she felt she had distinct
talent. She was soon disabused. There was nothing for her,
and could be nothing until after several years of doubtful
apprenticeship in the trades to which any female person seeking
employment to piece out an income instinctively turned first
and offered herself at the employer's own price. Day after
day, from the first moment of the industrial day until its end,
she hunted--wearily, yet unweariedly--with resolve living on
after the death of hope. She answered advertisements; despite
the obviously sensible warnings of the working girls she talked
with she even consulted and took lists from the religious and
charitable organizations, patronized by those whose enthusiasm
about honest work had never been cooled by doing or trying to
do any of it, and managed by those who, beginning as workers,
had made all haste to escape from it into positions where they
could live by talking about it and lying about it--saying the
things comfortable people subscribe to philanthropies to hear.
There was work, plenty of it. But not at decent wages, and not
leading to wages that could be earned without viciously
wronging those under her in an executive position. But even in
those cases the prospect of promotion was vague and remote,
with illness and failing strength and poor food, worse clothing
and lodgings, as certainties straightway. At some places she
was refused with the first glance at her. No good-looking
girls wanted; even though they behaved themselves and attracted
customers, the customers lost sight of matters of merchandise
in the all-absorbing matter of sex. In offices a good-looking
girl upset discipline, caused the place to degenerate into a
deer-haunt in the mating season. No place did she find
offering more than four dollars a week, except where the dress
requirements made the nominally higher wages even less.
Everywhere women's wages were based upon the assumption that
women either lived at home or made the principal part of their
incomes by prostitution, disguised or frank. In fact, all
wages even the wages of men except in a few trades--were too
small for an independent support. There had to be a family--and
the whole family had to work--and even then the joint income
was not enough for decency. She had no family or friends to
help her--at least, no friends except those as poor as herself,
and she could not commit the crime of adding to their miseries.
She had less than ten dollars left. She must get to work at
once--and what she earned must supply her with all. A note
came from Jeffries--a curt request that she call--curt to
disguise the eagerness to have her back. She tore it up. She
did not even debate the matter. It was one of her significant
qualities that she never had the inclination, apparently lacked
the power, to turn back once she had turned away. Mary Hinkle
came, urged her. Susan listened in silence, merely shook her
head for answer, changed the subject.
In the entrance to the lofts of a tall Broadway building she
saw a placard: "Experienced hands at fancy ready-to-wear hat
trimming wanted." She climbed three steep flights and was in
a large, low-ceilinged room where perhaps seventy-five girls
were at work. She paused in the doorway long enough to observe
the kind of work--a purely mechanical process of stitching a
few trimmings in exactly the same way upon a cheap hat frame.
Then she went to an open window in a glass partition and asked
employment of a young Jew with an incredibly long nose
thrusting from the midst of a pimply face which seemed merely
its too small base.
"Experienced?" asked the young man.
"I can do what those girls are doing."
With intelligent eyes he glanced at her face, then let his
glance rove contemptuously over the room full of workers. "I
should hope so," said he. "Forty cents a dozen. Want to try it?"
"When may I go to work?"
"Right away. Write your name here."
Susan signed her name to what she saw at a glance was some sort
of contract. She knew it contained nothing to her advantage,
much to her disadvantage. But she did not care. She had to
have work--something, anything that would stop the waste of her
slender capital. And within fifteen minutes she was seated in
the midst of the sweating, almost nauseatingly odorous women of
all ages, was toiling away at the simple task of making an ugly
hat frame still more ugly by the addition of a bit of tawdry
cotton ribbon, a buckle, and a bunch of absurdly artificial
flowers. She was soon able to calculate roughly what she could
make in six days. She thought she could do two dozen of the
hats a day; and twelve dozen hats at forty cents the dozen
would mean four dollars and eighty cents a week!
Four dollars and eighty cents! Less than she had planned to
set aside for food alone, out of her ten dollars as a model.
Next her on the right sat a middle-aged woman, grossly fat,
repulsively shapeless, piteously homely--one of those luckless
human beings who are foredoomed from the outset never to know
any of the great joys of life the joys that come through our
power to attract our fellow-beings. As this woman stitched
away, squinting through the steel-framed spectacles set upon
her snub nose, Susan saw that she had not even good health to
mitigate her lot, for her color was pasty and on her dirty skin
lay blotches of dull red. Except a very young girl here and
there all the women had poor or bad skins. And Susan was not
made disdainful by the odor which is far worse than that of any
lower animal, however dirty, because the human animal must wear
clothing. She had lived in wretchedness in a tenement; she
knew that this odor was an inevitable part of tenement life
when one has neither the time nor the means to be clean. Poor
food, foul air, broken sleep--bad health, disease, unsightly
faces, repulsive bodies!
No wonder the common people looked almost like another race in
contrast with their brothers and sisters of the comfortable
classes. Another race! The race into which she would soon be
reborn under the black magic of poverty! As she glanced and
reflected on what she saw, viewed it in the light of her
experience, her fingers slackened, and she could speed them up
only in spurts.
"If I stay here," thought she, "in a few weeks I shall be like
these others. No matter how hard I may fight, I'll be dragged
down." As impossible to escape the common lot as for a swimmer
alone in mid-ocean to keep up indefinitely whether long or
brief, the struggle could have but, the one end--to be sunk in,
merged in, the ocean.
It took no great amount of vanity for her to realize that she
was in every way the superior of all those around her--in every
way except one. What did she lack? Why was it that with her
superior intelligence, her superior skill both of mind and of
body, she could be thus dragged down and held far below her
natural level? Why could she not lift herself up among the
sort of people with whom she belonged--or even make a beginning
toward lifting herself up? Why could she not take hold? What
did she lack? What must she acquire--or what get rid of?
At lunch time she walked with the ugly woman up and down the
first side street above the building in which the factory was
located. She ate a roll she bought from a pushcart man, the
woman munched an apple with her few remnants of teeth. "Most
of the girls is always kicking," said the woman. "But I'm
mighty satisfied. I get enough to eat and to wear, and I've
got a bed to sleep in--and what else is there in life for
anybody, rich or poor?"
"There's something to be said for that," replied Susan,
marveling to find in this piteous creature the only case of
thorough content she had ever seen.
"I make my four to five per," continued the woman. "And I've
got only myself. Thank God, I was never fool enough to marry.
It's marrying that drags us poor people down and makes us
miserable. Some says to me, `Ain't you lonesome?' And I says
to them, says I, `Why, I'm used to being alone. I don't want
anything else.' If they was all like me, they'd not be fightin'
and drinkin' and makin' bad worse. The bosses always likes to
give me work. They say I'm a model worker, and I'm proud to
say they're right. I'm mighty grateful to the bosses that
provide for the like of us. What'd we do without 'em? That's
what __I__'d like to know."
She had pitied this woman because she could never hope to
experience any of the great joys of life. What a waste of pity,
she now thought. She had overlooked the joy of joys--delusions.
This woman was secure for life against unhappiness.
A few days, and Susan was herself regarded as a model worker.
She turned out hats so rapidly that the forewoman, urged on by
Mr. Himberg, the proprietor, began to nag at the other girls.
And presently a notice of general reduction to thirty-five
cents a dozen was posted. There had been a union; it had won
a strike two years before--and then had been broken up by
shrewd employing of detectives who had got themselves elected
officers. With the union out of the way, there was no check
upon the bosses in their natural and lawful effort to get that
profit which is the most high god of our civilization. A few
of the youngest and most spirited girls--those from families
containing several workers--indignantly quit. A few others
murmured, but stayed on. The mass dumbly accepted the extra
twist in the screw of the mighty press that was slowly
squeezing them to death. Neither to them nor to Susan herself
did it happen to occur that she was the cause of the general
increase of hardship and misery. However, to have blamed her
would have been as foolish and as unjust as to blame any other
individual. The system ordained it all. Oppression and
oppressed were both equally its helpless instruments. No
wonder all the vast beneficent discoveries of science that
ought to have made the whole human race healthy, long-lived and
prosperous, are barely able to save the race from swift decay
and destruction under the ravages of this modern system of
labor worse than slavery--for under slavery the slave, being
property whose loss could not be made good without expense, was
protected in life and in health.
Susan soon discovered that she had miscalculated her earning
power. She had been deceived by her swiftness in the first
days, before the monotony of her task had begun to wear her
down. Her first week's earnings were only four dollars and
thirty cents. This in her freshness, and in the busiest season
when wages were at the highest point.
In the room next hers--the same, perhaps a little
dingier--lived a man. Like herself he had no trade--that is,
none protected by a powerful union and by the still more
powerful--in fact, the only powerful shield--requirements of
health and strength and a certain grade of intelligence that
together act rigidly to exclude most men and so to keep wages
from dropping to the neighborhood of the line of pauperism. He
was the most industrious and, in his small way, the most
resourceful of men. He was insurance agent, toilet soap agent,
piano tuner, giver of piano lessons, seller of pianos and of
music on commission. He worked fourteen and sixteen hours a
day. He made nominally about twelve to fifteen a week.
Actually--because of the poverty of his customers and his too
sympathetic nature he made five to six a week--the most any
working person could hope for unless in one of the few favored
trades. Barely enough to keep body and soul together. And why
should capital that needs so much for fine houses and wines and
servants and automobiles and culture and charity and the other
luxuries--why should capital pay more when so many were
competing for the privilege of being allowed to work?
She gave up her room at Mrs. Tucker's--after she had spent
several evenings walking the streets and observing and thinking
about the miseries of the fast women of the only class she
could hope to enter. "A woman," she decided, "can't even earn
a decent living that way unless she has the money to make the
right sort of a start. `To him that hath shall be given; from
him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he
hath.' Gideon was my chance and I threw it away."
Still, she did not regret. Of all the horrors the most
repellent seemed to her to be dependence upon some one man who
could take it away at his whim.
She disregarded the advice of the other girls and made the
rounds of the religious and charitable homes for working girls.
She believed she could endure perhaps better than could girls
with more false pride, with more awe of snobbish
conventionalities--at least she could try to endure--the
superciliousness, the patronizing airs, the petty restraints
and oppressions, the nauseating smugness, the constant prying
and peeping, the hypocritical lectures, the heavy doses of smug
morality. She felt that she could bear with almost any
annoyances and humiliations to be in clean surroundings and to
get food that was at least not so rotten that the eye could see
it and the nose smell it. But she found all the homes full,
with long waiting lists, filled for the most part, so the
working girls said, with professional objects of charity. Thus
she had no opportunity to judge for herself whether there was
any truth in the prejudice of the girls against these few and
feeble attempts to mitigate the miseries of a vast and ever
vaster multitude of girls. Adding together all the
accommodations offered by all the homes of every description,
there was a total that might possibly have provided for the
homeless girls of a dozen factories or sweatshops--and the
number of homeless girls was more than a quarter of a million,
was increasing at the rate of more than a hundred a day.
Charity is so trifling a force that it can, and should be,
disregarded. It serves no _good_ useful service. It enables
comfortable people to delude themselves that all that can be
done is being done to mitigate the misfortunes which the poor
bring upon themselves. It obscures the truth that modern
civilization has been perverted into a huge manufacturing of
decrepitude and disease, of poverty and prostitution. The
reason we talk so much and listen so eagerly when our
magnificent benevolences are the subject is that we do not wish
to be disturbed--and that we dearly love the tickling sensation
in our vanity of generosity.
Susan was compelled to the common lot--the lot that will be the
common lot as long as there are people to be made, by taking
advantage of human necessities, to force men and women and
children to degrade themselves into machines as wage-slaves.
At two dollars a week, double what her income justified--she
rented a room in a tenement flat in Bleecker street. It was a
closet of a room whose thin, dirt-adorned walls were no
protection against sound or vermin, not giving even privacy
from prying eyes. She might have done a little better had she
been willing to share room and bed with one or more girls, but
not enough better to compensate for what that would have meant.
The young Jew with the nose so impossible that it elevated his
countenance from commonplace ugliness to weird distinction had
taken a friendly fancy to her. He was Julius Bam, nephew of
the proprietor. In her third week he offered her the
forewoman's place. "You've got a few brains in your head,"
said he. "Miss Tuohy's a boob. Take the job and you'll push
up. We'll start you at five per."