Part 6 out of 19
you see what a hit you've made with me. We'll have a nice little
dinner at the Hotel du Rhine and talk things over."
"Couldn't I go to work right away?" asked the girl.
"Sure. I'll have you put on at Schaumer's tomorrow night----" He
looked shrewdly, laughingly, at her, with contracted eyelids.
"_If_ everything goes well. Before I do anything for you, I have
to see what you can do for me." And he nodded and smacked his
lips. "Oh, we'll have a lovely little dinner!" He looked
expectantly at her. "You certainly are a queen! What a dainty
little hand!" He reached out one of his hands--puffy as if it
had been poisoned, very white, with stubby fingers. Susan
reluctantly yielded her hand to his close, mushy embrace. "No
rings. That's a shame, petty----" He was talking as if to a
baby.--"That'll have to be fixed--yes, it will, my little
sweetie. My, how nice and fresh you are!" And his great
nostrils, repulsively hairy within, deeply pitted without,
sniffed as if over an odorous flower.
Susan drew her hand away. "What will they give me?" she asked.
"How greedy it is!" he wheedled. "Well, you'll get plenty--plenty."
"How much?" said the girl. "Is it a salary?"
"Of course, there's the regular salary. But that won't amount to
much. You know how those things are."
"Oh, say a dollar a night--until you make a hit."
"Six dollars a week."
"Seven. This is a Sunday town. Sunday's the big day. You'll have
Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees, but they don't pay for them."
"Seven dollars a week." And the hospital wanted ten. "Couldn't
I get--about fifteen--or fourteen? I think I could do on fourteen."
"Rather! I was talking only of the salary. You'll make a good
many times fifteen--if you play your cards right. It's true
Schaumer draws only a beer crowd. But as soon as the word flies
round that _you_'re there, the boys with the boodle'll flock in.
Oh, you'll wear the sparklers all right, pet."
Rather slowly it was penetrating to Susan what Mr. Blynn had in
mind. "I'd--I'd rather take a regular salary," said she. "I must
have ten a week for him. I can live any old way."
"Oh, come off!" cried Mr. Blynn with a wink. "What's your game?
Anyhow, don't play it on me. You understand that you can't get
something for nothing. It's all very well to love your friend
and be true to him. But he can't expect--he'll not ask you to
queer yourself. That sort of thing don't go in the profession. . . .
Come now, I'm willing to set you on your feet, give you a
good start, if you'll play fair with me--show appreciation. Will
you or won't you?"
"You mean----" began Susan, and paused there, looking at him
with grave questioning eyes.
His own eyes shifted. "Yes, I mean that. I'm a business man, not
a sentimentalist. I don't want love. I've got no time for it.
But when it comes to giving a girl of the right sort a square
deal and a good time, why you'll find I'm as good as there is
going." He reached for her hands again, his empty, flabby chin
bags quivering. "I want to help Bob, and I want to help you."
She rose slowly, pushing her chair back. She understood now why
Burlingham had kept her in the background, why his quest had
been vain, why it had fretted him into mortal illness.
"I--couldn't do that," she said. "I'm sorry, but I couldn't."
He looked at her in a puzzled way. "You belong to Bob, don't you?"
"You mean you're straight--a good girl?"
He was half inclined to believe her, so impressive was her quiet
natural way, in favorable contrast to the noisy protests of
women posing as virtuous. "Well--if that's so--why you'd better
drop out of the profession--and get away from Bob Burlingham."
"Can't I have a place without--what you said?"
"Not as pretty a girl as you. And if they ain't pretty the
public don't want 'em."
Susan went to the door leading into the office. "No--the other
door," said Blynn hastily. He did not wish the office boy to
read his defeat in Susan's countenance. He got up himself,
opened the door into the hall. Susan passed out. "Think it
over," said he, eyes and mouth full of longing. "Come round in
a day or two, and we'll have another talk."
"Thank you," said Susan. She felt no anger against him. She felt
about him as she had about Jeb Ferguson. It was not his fault;
it was simply the way life was lived--part of the general misery
and horror of the established order--like marriage and the rest
"I'll treat you white," urged Blynn, tenderly. "I've got a soft
heart--that's why I'll never get rich. Any of the others'd ask
more and give less."
She looked at him with an expression that haunted him for
several hours. "Thank you. Good-by," she said, and went down the
narrow, rickety stairs--and out into the confused maze of
streets full of strangers.
AT the hotel again; she went to Burlingham's room, gathered his
belongings--his suit, his well-worn, twice-tapped shoes, his one
extra suit of underclothes, a soiled shirt, two dickeys and
cuffs, his whisk broom, toothbrush, a box of blacking, the
blacking brush. She made the package as compact as she could--it
was still a formidable bundle both for size and weight--and
carried it into her room. Then she rolled into a small parcel
her own possessions--two blouses, an undervest, a pair of
stockings, a nightgown--reminder of Bethlehem and her brief sip
at the cup of success--a few toilet articles. With the two
bundles she descended to the office.
"I came to say," she said calmly to the clerk, "that we have no
money to pay what we owe. Mr. Burlingham is at the
hospital--very sick with typhoid. Here is a dollar and eighty
cents. You can have that, but I'd like to keep it, as it's all
The clerk called the manager, and to him Susan repeated. She
used almost the same words; she spoke in the same calm,
monotonous way. When she finished, the manager, a small, brisk
man with a large brisk beard, said:
"No. Keep the money. I'd like to ask you to stay on. But we run
this place for a class of people who haven't much at best and
keep wobbling back and forth across the line. If I broke my
He made a furious gesture, looked at the girl angrily--holding
her responsible for his being in a position where he must do
violence to every decent instinct--"My God, miss, I've got a
wife and children to look after. If I ran my hotel on sympathy,
what'd become of them?"
"I wouldn't take anything I couldn't pay for," said Susan. "As
soon as I earn some money----"
"Don't worry about that," interrupted the manager. He saw now
that he was dealing with one who would in no circumstances
become troublesome; he went on in an easier tone: "You can stay
till the house fills up."
"Could you give me a place to wait on table and clean up
rooms--or help cook?"
"No, I don't need anybody. The town's full of people out of
work. You can't ask me to turn away----"
"Please--I didn't know," cried the girl.
"Anyhow, I couldn't give but twelve a month and board,"
continued the manager. "And the work--for a lady like you----"
A lady! She dropped her gaze in confusion. If he knew about her birth!
"I'll do anything. I'm not a lady," said she. "But I've got to
have at least ten a week in cash."
"No such place here." The manager was glad to find the fault of
uppish ideas in this girl who was making it hard for him to be
businesslike. "No such place anywhere for a beginner."
"I must have it," said the girl.
"I don't want to discourage you, but----" He was speaking less
curtly, for her expression made him suspect why she was bent
upon that particular amount. "I hope you'll succeed. Only--don't
be depressed if you're disappointed."
She smiled gravely at him; he bowed, avoiding her eyes. She took
up her bundles and went out into Walnut Street. He moved a few
steps in obedience to an impulse to follow her, to give her
counsel and warning, to offer to help her about the larger
bundle. But he checked himself with the frown of his own not too
It was the hottest part of the day, and her way lay along
unshaded streets. As she had eaten nothing since the night
before, she felt faint. Her face was ghastly when she entered
the office of the hospital and left Burlingham's parcel. The
clerk at the desk told her that Burlingham was in the same
condition--"and there'll be probably no change one way or the
other for several days."
She returned to the street, wandered aimlessly about. She knew
she ought to eat something, but the idea of food revolted her.
She was fighting the temptation to go to the _Commercial_ office,
Roderick Spenser's office. She had not a suspicion that his
kindness might have been impulse, long since repented of,
perhaps repented of as soon as he was away from her. She felt
that if she went to him he would help her. "But I mustn't do
it," she said to herself. "Not after what I did." No, she must
not see him until she could pay him back. Also, and deeper,
there was a feeling that there was a curse upon her; had not
everyone who befriended her come to grief? She must not draw
anyone else into trouble, must not tangle others in the meshes
of her misfortunes. She did not reason this out, of course; but
the feeling was not the less strong because the reasons for it
were vague in her mind. And there was nothing vague about the
resolve to which she finally came--that she would fight her
Her unheeding wanderings led her after an hour or so to a big
department store. Crowds of shoppers, mussy, hot, and cross,
were pushing rudely in and out of the doors. She entered,
approached a well-dressed, bareheaded old gentleman, whom she
rightly placed as floorwalker, inquired of him:
"Where do they ask for work?"
She had been attracted to him because his was the one face
within view not suggesting temper or at least bad humor. It was
more than pleasant, it was benign. He inclined toward Susan with
an air that invited confidence and application for balm for a
wounded spirit. The instant the nature of her inquiry penetrated
through his pose to the man himself, there was a swift change to
lofty disdain--the familiar attitude of workers toward
fellow-workers of what they regard as a lower class. Evidently
he resented her having beguiled him by the false air of young
lady into wasting upon her, mere servility like himself, a
display reserved exclusively for patrons. It was Susan's first
experience of this snobbishness; it at once humbled her into the
dust. She had been put in her place, and that place was not
among people worthy of civil treatment. A girl of his own class
would have flashed at him, probably would have "jawed" him.
Susan meekly submitted; she was once more reminded that she was
an outcast, one for whom the respectable world had no place. He
made some sort of reply to her question, in the tone the usher
of a fashionable church would use to a stranger obviously not in
the same set as the habitues. She heard the tone, but not the
words; she turned away to seek the street again. She wandered
on--through the labyrinth of streets, through the crowds on
crowds of strangers.
Ten dollars a week! She knew little about wages, but enough to
realize the hopelessness of her quest. Ten dollars a week--and
her own keep beside. The faces of the crowds pushing past her
and jostling her made her heartsick. So much sickness, and
harassment, and discontent--so much unhappiness! Surely all
these sad hearts ought to be kind to each other. Yet they were
not; each soul went selfishly alone, thinking only of its own burden.
She walked on and on, thinking, in this disconnected way
characteristic of a good intelligence that has not yet developed
order and sequence, a theory of life and a purpose. It had
always been her habit to walk about rather than to sit, whether
indoors or out. She could think better when in motion
physically. When she was so tired that she began to feel weak,
she saw a shaded square, with benches under the trees. She
entered, sat down to rest. She might apply to the young doctor.
But, no. He was poor--and what chance was there of her ever
making the money to pay back? No, she could not take alms; than
alms there was no lower way of getting money. She might return
to Mr. Blynn and accept his offer. The man in all his physical
horror rose before her. No, she could not do that. At least, not
yet. She could entertain the idea as a possibility now. She
remembered her wedding--the afternoon, the night. Yes, Blynn's
offer involved nothing so horrible as that--and she had lived
through that. It would be cowardice, treachery, to shrink from
anything that should prove necessary in doing the square thing
by the man who had done so much for her. She had said she would
die for Burlingham; she owed even that to him, if her death
would help him. Had she then meant nothing but mere lying words
of pretended gratitude? But Blynn was always there; something
else might turn up, and her dollar and eighty cents would last
another day or so, and the ten dollars were not due for six
days. No, she would not go to Blynn; she would wait, would take
his advice--"think it over."
A man was walking up and down the shaded alley, passing and
repassing the bench where she sat. She observed him, saw that he
was watching her. He was a young man--a very young man--of
middle height, strongly built. He had crisp, short dark hair, a
darkish skin, amiable blue-gray eyes, pleasing features. She
decided that he was of good family, was home from some college
on vacation. He was wearing a silk shirt, striped flannel
trousers, a thin serge coat of an attractive shade of blue. She
liked his looks, liked the way he dressed. It pleased her that
such a man should be interested in her; he had a frank and
friendly air, and her sad young heart was horribly lonely. She
pretended not to notice him; but after a while he walked up to
her, lifting his straw hat.
"Good afternoon," said he. When he showed his strong sharp teeth
in an amiable smile, she thought of Sam Wright--only this man
was not weak and mean looking, like her last and truest memory
picture of Sam--indeed, the only one she had not lost.
"Good afternoon," replied she politely. For in spite of
Burlingham's explanations and cautionings she was still the
small-town girl, unsuspicious toward courtesy from strange men.
Also, she longed for someone to talk with. It had been weeks
since she had talked with anyone nearer than Burlingham to her
own age and breeding.
"Won't you have lunch with me?" he asked. "I hate to eat alone."
She, faint from hunger, simply could not help obvious hesitation
before saying, "I don't think I care for any."
"You haven't had yours--have you?"
"May I sit down?"
She moved along the bench to indicate that he might, without
definitely committing herself.
He sat, took off his hat. He had a clean, fresh look about the
neck that pleased her. She was weary of seeing grimy, sweaty
people, and of smelling them. Also, except the young doctor,
since Roderick Spenser left her at Carrolltown she had talked
with no one of her own age and class--the class in which she had
been brought up, the class that, after making her one of itself,
had cast her out forever with its mark of shame upon her. Its
mark of shame--burning and stinging again as she sat beside this
"You're sad about something?" suggested he, himself nearly as
embarrassed as she.
"My friend's ill. He's got typhoid."
"That is bad. But he'll get all right. They always cure typhoid,
nowadays--if it's taken in time and the nursing's good.
Everything depends on the nursing. I had it a couple of years
ago, and pulled through easily."
Susan brightened. He spoke so confidently that the appeal to her
young credulity toward good news and the hopeful, cheerful thing
was irresistible. "Oh, yes--he'll be over it soon," the young
man went on, "especially if he's in a hospital where they've got
the facilities for taking care of sick people. Where is he?"
"In the hospital--up that way." She moved her head vaguely in
the direction of the northwest.
"Oh, yes. It's a good one--for the pay patients. I suppose for
the poor devils that can't pay"--he glanced with careless
sympathy at the dozen or so tramps on benches nearby--"it's like
all the rest of 'em--like the whole world, for that matter. It
must be awful not to have money enough to get on with, I mean.
I'm talking about men." He smiled cheerfully. "With a woman--if
she's pretty--it's different, of course."
The girl was so agitated that she did not notice the sly, if
shy, hint in the remark and its accompanying glance. Said she:
"But it's a good hospital if you pay?"
"None better. Maybe it's good straight through. I've only heard
the servants' talk--and servants are such liars. Still--I'd not
want to trust myself to a hospital unless I could pay. I guess
the common people have good reason for their horror of free
wards. Nothing free is ever good."
The girl's face suddenly and startlingly grew almost hard, so
fierce was the resolve that formed within her. The money must be
got--_must!_--and would. She would try every way she could think
of between now and to-morrow; then--if she failed she would go
The young man was saying: "You're a stranger in town?"
"I was with a theatrical company on a show boat. It sank."
His embarrassment vanished. She saw, but she did not understand
that it was because he thought he had "placed" her--and that her
place was where he had hoped.
"You _are_ up against it!" said he. "Come have some lunch. You'll
The good sense of this was unanswerable. Susan hesitated no
longer, wondered why she had hesitated at first. "Well--I guess
I will." And she rose with a frank, childlike alacrity that
amused him immensely.
"You don't look it, but you've been about some--haven't you?"
"Rather," replied she.
"I somehow thought you knew a thing or two."
They walked west to Race Street. They were about the same
height. Her costume might have been fresher, might have
suggested to an expert eye the passed-on clothes of a richer
relative; but her carriage and the fine look of skin and hair
and features made the defects of dress unimportant. She seemed
of his class--of the class comfortable, well educated, and
well-bred. If she had been more experienced, she would have seen
that he was satisfied with her appearance despite the curious
looking little package, and would have been flattered. As it
was, her interest was absorbed in things apart from herself. He
talked about the town--the amusements, the good times to be had
at the over-the-Rhine beer halls, at the hilltop gardens, at the
dances in the pavilion out at the Zoo. He drew a lively and
charming picture, one that appealed to her healthy youth, to her
unsatisfied curiosity, to her passionate desire to live the gay,
free city life of which the small town reads and dreams.
"You and I can go round together, can't we? I haven't got much,
but I'll not try to take your time for nothing, of course. That
wouldn't be square. I'm sure you'll have no cause to complain.
What do you say?"
"Maybe," replied the girl, all at once absentminded. Her brain
was wildly busy with some ideas started there by his significant
words, by his flirtatious glances at her, by his way of touching
her whenever he could make opportunity. Evidently there was an
alternative to Blynn.
"You like a good time, don't you?" said he.
"Rather!" exclaimed she, the violet eyes suddenly very violet
indeed and sparkling. Her spirits had suddenly soared. She was
acting like one of her age. With that blessed happy hopefulness
of healthy youth, she had put aside her sorrows--not because she
was frivolous but for the best of all reasons, because she was
young and superbly vital. Said she: "I'm crazy about
"I only needed to look at your feet--and ankles--to know that,"
ventured he the "ankles" being especially audacious.
She was pleased, and in youth's foolish way tried to hide her
pleasure by saying, "My feet aren't exactly small."
"I should say not!" protested he with energy. "Little feet would
look like the mischief on a girl as tall as you are. Yes, we can
have a lot of fun."
They went into a large restaurant with fly fans speeding. Susan
thought it very grand--and it was the grandest restaurant she
had ever been in. They sat down--in a delightfully cool place by
a window looking out on a little plot of green with a colladium,
a fountain, some oleanders in full and fragrant bloom; the young
man ordered, with an ease that fascinated her, an elaborate
lunch--soup, a chicken, with salad, ice cream, and fresh
peaches. Susan had a menu in her hand and as he ordered she
noted the prices. She was dazzled by his extravagance--dazzled
and frightened--and, in a curious, vague, unnerving way,
fascinated. Money--the thing she must have for Burlingham in
whose case "everything depended on the nursing." In the brief
time this boy and she had been together, he, without making an
effort to impress, had given her the feeling that he was of the
best city class, that he knew the world--the high world. Thus,
she felt that she must be careful not to show her "greenness."
She would have liked to protest against his extravagance, but she
ventured only the timid remonstrance, "Oh, I'm not a bit hungry."
She thought she was speaking the truth, for the ideas whirling
so fast that they were dim quite took away the sense of hunger.
But when the food came she discovered that she was, on the
contrary, ravenous--and she ate with rising spirits, with a
feeling of content and hope. He had urged her to drink wine or
beer, but she refused to take anything but a glass of milk; and
he ended by taking milk himself. He was looking more and more
boldly and ardently into her eyes, and she received his glances
smilingly. She felt thoroughly at ease and at home, as if she
were back once more among her own sort of people--with some
element of disagreeable constraint left out.
Since she was an outcast, she need not bother about the small
restraints the girls felt compelled to put upon themselves in
the company of boys. Nobody respected a "bastard," as they
called her when they spoke frankly. So with nothing to lose she
could at least get what pleasure there was in freedom. She liked
it, having this handsome, well-dressed young man making love to
her in this grand restaurant where things were so good to eat
and so excitingly expensive. He would not regard her as fit to
associate with his respectable mother and sisters. In the casts
of respectability, her place was with Jeb Ferguson! She was
better off, clear of the whole unjust and horrible business of
respectable life, clear of it and free, frankly in the outcast
class. She had not realized--and she did not realize--that
association with the players of the show boat had made any
especial change in her; in fact, it had loosened to the
sloughing point the whole skin of her conventional
training--that surface skin which seems part of the very essence
of our being until something happens to force us to shed it.
Crises, catastrophes, may scratch that skin, or cut clear
through it; but only the gentle, steady, everywhere-acting
prying-loose of day and night association can change it from a
skin to a loose envelope ready to be shed at any moment.
"What are you going to do?" asked the young man, when the
acquaintance had become a friendship--which was before the
peaches and ice cream were served.
"I don't, know " said the girl, with the secretive instinct of
self-reliance hiding the unhappiness his abrupt question set to
"Honestly, I've never met anyone that was so congenial. But
maybe you don't feel that way?"
"Then again maybe I do," rejoined she, forcing a merry smile.
His face flushed with embarrassment, but his eyes grew more
ardent as he said: "What were you looking for, when I saw you
in Garfield Place?"
"Was that Garfield Place?" she asked, in evasion.
"Yes." And he insisted, "What were you looking for?"
"What were _you_ looking for?"
"For a pretty girl." They both laughed. "And I've found her. I'm
suited if you are. . . . Don't look so serious. You haven't
answered my question."
"I'm looking for work."
He smiled as if it were a joke. "You mean for a place on the stage.
That isn't work. _You_ couldn't work. I can see that at a glance."
"Oh, you haven't been brought up to that kind of life. You'd
hate it in every way. And they don't pay women anything for
work. My father employs a lot of them. Most of his girls live at
home. That keeps the wages down, and the others have to piece
out with"--he smiled--"one thing and another."
Susan sat gazing straight before her. "I've not had much
experience," she finally said, thoughtfully. "I guess I don't
know what I'm about."
The young man leaned toward her, his face flushing with
earnestness. "You don't know how pretty you are. I wish my
father wasn't so close with me. I'd not let you ever speak of
work again--even on the stage. What good times we could have!"
"I must be going," said she, rising. Her whole body was
alternately hot and cold. In her brain, less vague now, were the
ideas Mabel Connemora had opened up for her.
"Oh, bother!" exclaimed he. "Sit down a minute. You
misunderstood me. I don't mean I'm flat broke."
Susan hastily reseated herself, showing her confusion. "I wasn't
thinking of that."
"Then--what were you thinking of?"
"I don't know," she replied--truthfully, for she could not have
put into words anything definite about the struggle raging in
her like a battle in a fog. "I often don't exactly know what I'm
thinking about. I somehow can't--can't fit it together--yet."
"Do you suppose," he went on, as if she had not spoken, "do you
suppose I don't understand? I know you can't afford to let me
take your time for nothing. . . . Don't you like me a little?"
She looked at him with grave friendliness. "Yes." Then, seized
with a terror which her habitual manner of calm concealed from
him, she rose again.
"Why shouldn't it be me as well as another?. . . At least sit
down till I pay the bill."
She seated herself, stared at her plate.
"Now what are you thinking about?" he asked.
"I don't know exactly. Nothing much."
The waiter brought the bill. The young man merely glanced at the
total, drew a small roll of money from his trousers pocket, put
a five-dollar note on the tray with the bill. Susan's eyes
opened wide when the waiter returned with only two quarters and
a dime. She glanced furtively at the young man, to see if he, too,
was not disconcerted. He waved the tray carelessly aside; the
waiter said "Thank you," in a matter-of-course way, dropped the
sixty cents into his pocket. The waiter's tip was by itself almost
as much as she had ever seen paid out for a meal for two persons.
"Now, where shall we go?" asked the young man.
Susan did not lift her eyes. He leaned toward her, took her
hand. "You're different from the sort a fellow usually finds,"
said he. "And I'm--I'm crazy about you. Let's go," said he.
Susan took her bundle, followed him. She glanced up the street
and down. She had an impulse to say she must go away alone; it
was not strong enough to frame a sentence, much less express her
thought. She was seeing queer, vivid, apparently disconnected
visions--Burlingham, sick unto death, on the stretcher in the
hospital reception room--Blynn of the hideous face and loose,
repulsive body--the contemptuous old gentleman in the shop--odds
and ends of the things Mabel Connemora had told her--the roll of
bills the young man had taken from his pocket when he paid--Jeb
Ferguson in the climax of the horrors of that wedding day and
night. They went to Garfield Place, turned west, paused after a
block or so at a little frame house set somewhat back from the
street. The young man, who had been as silent as she--but
nervous instead of preoccupied--opened the gate in the picket fence.
"This is a first-class quiet place," said he, embarrassed but
trying to appear at ease.
Susan hesitated. She must somehow nerve herself to speak of
money, to say to him that she needed ten dollars--that she must
have it. If she did not speak--if she got nothing for Mr.
Burlingham--or almost nothing--and probably men didn't give
women much--if she were going with him--to endure again the
horrors and the degradation she had suffered from Mr.
Ferguson--if it should be in vain! This nice young man didn't
suggest Mr. Ferguson in any way. But there was such a mystery
about men--they had a way of changing so--Sam Wright--Uncle
George even Mr. Ferguson hadn't seemed capable of torturing a
helpless girl for no reason at all----
"We can't stand here," the young man was saying.
She tried to speak about the ten dollars. She simply could not
force out the words. With brain in a whirl, with blood beating
suffocatingly into her throat and lungs, but giving no outward
sign of agitation, she entered the gate. There was a low,
old-fashioned porch along the side of the house, with an awning
curiously placed at the end toward the street. When they
ascended the steps under the awning, they were screened from the
street. The young man pulled a knob. A bell within tinkled
faintly; Susan started, shivered. But the young man, looking
straight at the door, did not see. A colored girl with a
pleasant, welcoming face opened, stood aside for them to enter.
He went straight up the stairs directly ahead, and Susan
followed. At the threshold the trembling girl looked round in
terror. She expected to see a place like that foul, close little
farm bedroom--for it seemed to her that at such times men must
seek some dreadful place--vile, dim, fitting. She was in a
small, attractively furnished room, with a bow window looking
upon the yard and the street. The furniture reminded her of her
own room at her uncle's in Sutherland, except that the brass bed
was far finer. He closed the door and locked it.
As he advanced toward her he said: "_What_ are you seeing? Please
don't look like that." Persuasively, "You weren't thinking of
"No--Oh, no," replied she, passing her hand over her eyes to try
to drive away the vision of Ferguson.
"You look as if you expected to be murdered. Do you want to go?"
She forced herself to seem calm. "What a coward I am!" she said
to herself. "If I could only die for him, instead of this. But
I can't. And I _must_ get money for him."
To the young man she said: "No. I--I--want to stay."
Late in the afternoon, when they were once more in the street,
he said. "I'd ask you to go to dinner with me, but I haven't
She stopped short. An awful look came into her face.
"Don't be alarmed," cried he, hurried and nervous, and blushing
furiously. "I put the--the present for you in that funny little
bundle of yours, under one of the folds of the nightgown or
whatever it is you've got wrapped on the outside. I didn't like
to hand it to you. I've a feeling somehow that you're not
"Was it--ten dollars?" she said, and for all he could see she
was absolutely calm.
"Yes," replied he, with a look of relief followed by a smile of
"I can't make you out," he went on. "You're a queer one. You've
had a look in your eyes all afternoon--well, if I hadn't been
sure you were experienced, you'd almost have frightened me away."
"Yes, I've had experience. The--the worst," said the girl.
"You--you attract me awfully; you've got--well, everything
that's nice about a woman--and at the same time, there's
something in your eyes----Are you very fond of your friend?"
"He's all I've got in the world."
"I suppose it's his being sick that makes you look and act so queer?"
"I don't know what's the matter with me," she said slowly.
"I want to see you again--soon. What's your address?"
"I haven't any. I've got to look for a place to live."
"Well, you can give me the place you did live. I'll write you
there, Lorna. You didn't ask me my name when I asked you yours.
You've hardly said anything. Are you always quiet like this?"
"No--not always. At Least, I haven't been."
"No. You weren't, part of the time this afternoon--at the
restaurant. Tell me, what are you thinking about all the time?
You're very secretive. Why don't you tell me? Don't you know I
"I don't know," said the girl in a slow dazed way. "I--don't--know."
"I wouldn't take your time for nothing," he went on, after a
pause. "My father doesn't give me much money, but I think I'll
have some more day after tomorrow. Can I see you then?"
"I don't know."
He laughed. "You said that before. Day after tomorrow
afternoon--in the same place. No matter if it's raining. I'll be
there first--at three. Will you come?"
"If I can."
She made a movement to go. But still he detained her. He colored
high again, in the struggle between the impulses of his generous
youth and the fear of being absurd with a girl he had picked up
in the street. He looked at her searchingly, wistfully. "I know
it's your life, but--I hate to think of it," he went on. "You're
far too nice. I don't see how you happened to be in--in this
line. Still, what else is there for a girl, when she's up
against it? I've often thought of those things--and I don't feel
about them as most people do. . . . I'm curious about you.
You'll pardon me, won't you? I'm afraid I'll fall in love with
you, if I see you often. You won't fail to come day after tomorrow?"
"If I can."
"Don't you want to see me again?"
She did not speak or lift her eyes.
"You like me, don't you?"
Still no answer.
"You don't want to be questioned?"
"No," said the girl.
"Where are you going now?"
"To the hospital."
"May I walk up there with you? I live in Clifton. I can go home
"I'd rather you didn't."
"Then--good-by--till day after tomorrow at three." He put out
his hand; he had to reach for hers and take it. "You're not--not
angry with me?"
His eyes lingered tenderly upon her. "You are _so_ sweet! You
don't know how I want to kiss you. Are you sorry to go--sorry to
leave me--just a little?. . . I forgot. You don't like to be
questioned. Well, good-by, dear."
"Good-by," she said; and still without lifting her gaze from the
ground she turned away, walked slowly westward.
She had not reached the next street to the north when she
suddenly felt that if she did not sit she would drop. She lifted
her eyes for an instant to glance furtively round. She saw a
house with stone steps leading up to the front doors; there was
a "for rent" sign in one of the close-shuttered parlor windows.
She seated herself, supported the upper part of her weary body
by resting her elbows on her knees. Her bundle had rolled to the
sidewalk at her feet. A passing man picked it up, handed it to
her, with a polite bow. She looked at him vaguely, took the
bundle as if she were not sure it was hers.
"Heat been too much for you, miss?" asked the man.
She shook her head. He lingered, talking volubly--about the
weather--then about how cool it was on the hilltops. "We might
go up to the Bellevue," he finally suggested, "if you've nothing
better to do."
"No, thank you," she said.
"I'll go anywhere you like. I've got a little money that I don't
care to keep."
She shook her head.
"I don't mean anything bad," he hastened to suggest--because
that would bring up the subject in discussable form.
"I can't go with you," said the girl drearily. "Don't bother me, please."
"Oh--excuse me." And the man went on.
Susan turned the bundle over in her lap, thrust her fingers
slowly and deliberately into the fold of the soiled blouse which
was on the outside. She drew out the money. A ten and two fives.
Enough to keep his room at the hospital for two weeks. No, for
she must live, herself. Enough to give him a room one week
longer and to enable her to live two weeks at least. . . . And
day after tomorrow--more. Perhaps, soon--enough to see him
through the typhoid. She put the money in her bosom, rose and
went on toward the hospital. She no longer felt weary, and the
sensation of a wound that might ache if she were not so numb
A clerk she had not seen before was at the barrier desk. "I came
to ask how Mr. Burlingham is," said she.
The clerk yawned, drew a large book toward him.
"Burlingham--B--Bu--Bur----" he said half to himself, turning
over the leaves. "Yes--here he is." He looked at her. "You his
"No, I'm a friend."
"Oh--then--he died at five o'clock--an hour ago."
He looked up--saw her eyes--only her eyes. They were a deep
violet now, large, shining with tragic softness--like the eyes
of an angel that has lost its birthright through no fault of its
own. He turned hastily away, awed, terrified, ashamed of himself.
THE next thing she knew, she felt herself seized strongly by the
arm. She gazed round in a dazed way. She was in the street--how
she got there she had no idea. The grip on her arm--it was the
young doctor, Hamilton. "I called you twice," explained he, "but
you didn't hear."
"He is dead," said she.
Hamilton had a clear view of her face now. There was not a trace
of the child left. He saw her eyes--quiet, lonely, violet stars.
"You must go and rest quietly, " he said with gentleness. "You
are worn out."
Susan took from her bosom the twenty dollars, handed it to him.
"It belongs to him," said she. "Give it to them, to bury him."
And she started on.
"Where are you going?" asked the young man.
Susan stopped, looked vaguely at him. "Good-by," she said.
"You've been very kind."
"You've found a boarding place?"
"Oh, I'm all right."
"You want to see him?"
"No. Then he'll always be alive to me."
"You had better keep this money. The city will take care of the funeral."
"It belong to him. I couldn't keep it for myself. I must be going."
"Shan't I see you again?"
"I'll not trouble you."
"Let me walk with you as far as your place."
"I'm not feeling--just right. If you don't mind--please--I'd
rather be alone."
"I don't mean to intrude, but----"
"I'm all right," said the girl. "Don't worry about me."
"But you are too young----"
"I've been married. . . . Thank you, but--good-by."
He could think of no further excuse for detaining her. Her
manner disquieted him, yet it seemed composed and natural.
Probably she had run away from a good home, was now sobered and
chastened, was eager to separate herself from the mess she had
got into and return to her own sort of people. It struck him as
heartless that she should go away in this fashion; but on second
thought, he could not associate heartlessness with her. Also, he
saw how there might be something in what she had said about not
wishing to have to think of her friend as dead. He stood
watching her straight narrow young figure until it was lost to
view in the crowd of people going home from work.
Susan went down Elm Street to Garfield Place, seated herself on
one of the benches. She was within sight of the unobtrusive
little house with the awnings; but she did not realize it. She
had no sense of her surroundings, of the passing of time, felt
no grief, no sensation of any kind. She simply sat, her little
bundle in her lap, her hands folded upon it.
A man in uniform paused before her. "Closing-up time," he said,
sharply but in the impartial official way. "I'm going to lock
She looked at him.
In a softer, apologetic tone, he said, "I've got to lock the
gates. That's the law, miss."
She did not clearly understand, but rose and went out into Race
Street. She walked slowly along, not knowing or caring where.
She walked--walked--walked. Sometimes her way lay through crowded
streets, again through streets deserted. Now she was stumbling
over the uneven sidewalks of a poor quarter; again it was the
smooth flagstones of the shopping or wholesale districts.
Several times she saw the river with its multitude of boats
great and small; several times she crossed the canal. Twice she
turned back because the street was mounting the hills behind the
city--the hills with the cars swiftly ascending and descending
the inclined planes, and at the crests gayly lighted pavilions
where crowds were drinking and dancing. Occasionally some man
spoke to her, but desisted as she walked straight on, apparently
not hearing. She rested from time to time, on a stoop or on a
barrel or box left out by some shopkeeper, or leaning upon the
rail of a canal bridge. She was walking with a purpose--to try
to scatter the dense fog that had rolled in and enveloped her
mind, and then to try to think.
She sat, or rather dropped, down from sheer fatigue, in that
cool hour which precedes the dawn. It happened to be the steps
of a church. She fell into a doze, was startled back to
consciousness by the deep boom of the bell in the steeple; it
made the stone vibrate under her. One--two--three--four! Toward
the east there shone a flush of light, not yet strong enough to
dim the stars. The sky above her was clear. The pall of smoke
rolled away. The air felt clean and fresh, even had in it a
reminiscence of the green fields whence it had come. She began
to revive, like a sleeper shaking off drowsiness and the spell
of a bad dream and looking forward to the new day. The fog that
had swathed and stupefied her brain seemed to have lifted. At
her heart there was numbness and a dull throbbing, an ache; but
her mind was clear and her body felt intensely, hopelessly
alive and ready, clamorously ready, for food. A movement across
the narrow street attracted her attention. A cellar door was
rising--thrust upward by the shoulders of a man. It fell full
open with a resounding crash, the man revealed by the light from
beneath--a white blouse, a white cap. Toward her wafted the
delicious odor of baking bread. She rose, hesitated only an
instant, crossed the street directly toward the baker who had
come up to the surface for cool air.
"I am hungry," said she to him. "Can't you let me have something
The man--he had a large, smooth, florid face eyed her in amused
astonishment. "Where'd you jump from?" he demanded.
"I was resting on the church steps over there. The smell came to
me and--I couldn't stand it. I can pay."
"Oh, that's all right," said the man, with a strong German
accent. "Come down." And he descended the steps, she following.
It was a large and lofty cellar, paved with cement; floor,
ceilings, walls, were whitened with flour. There were long clean
tables for rolling the dough; big wooden bowls; farther back,
the ovens and several bakers at work adding to the huge piles of
loaves the huge baskets of rolls. Susan's eyes glistened; her
white teeth showed in a delightful smile of hunger about to be
"Do you want bread or rolls?" asked the German. Then without
waiting for her to answer, "I guess some of the `sweet rolls,'
we call 'em, would about suit a lady."
"Yes--the sweet rolls," said the girl.
The baker fumbled about behind a lot of empty baskets, found a
sewing basket, filled it with small rolls--some crescent in
shape, some like lady fingers, some oval, some almost like
biscuit, all with pulverized sugar powdered on them thick as a
frosting. He set the little basket upon an empty kneading table.
"Wait yet a minute," he commanded, and bustled up a flight of
stairs. He reappeared with a bottle of milk and a piece of fresh
butter. He put these beside the basket of rolls, drew a stool up
before them. "How's that?" asked he, his hands on his hips, his
head on one side, and his big jolly face beaming upon her.
"Pretty good, don't it!"
Susan was laughing with pleasure. He pointed to the place well
down in the bottle of milk where the cream ended. "That's the
way it should be always--not so!" said he. She nodded. Then he
shook the bottle to remix the separated cream and milk. "So!" he
cried. Then--" _Ach, dummer Esel!_" he muttered, striking his
brow a resounding thwack with the flat of his hand. "A knife!"
And he hastened to repair that omission.
Susan sat at the table, took one of the fresh rolls, spread
butter upon it. The day will never come for her when she cannot
distinctly remember the first bite of the little sweet buttered
roll, eaten in that air perfumed with the aroma of baking bread.
The milk was as fine as it promised to be she drank it from the bottle.
The German watched her a while, then beckoned to his fellow
workmen. They stood round, reveling in the joyful sight of this
pretty hungry girl eating so happily and so heartily.
"The pie," whispered one workman to another.
They brought a small freshly baked peach pie, light and crisp
and brown. Susan's beautiful eyes danced. "But," she said to her
first friend among the bakers, "I'm afraid I can't afford it."
At this there was a loud chorus of laughter. "Eat it," said her friend.
And when she had finished her rolls and butter, she did eat it.
"I never tasted a pie like that," declared she. "And I like pies
and can make them too."
Once more they laughed, as if she had said the wittiest thing in
As the last mouthful of the pie was disappearing, her friend
"Goodness, no!" cried the girl. "I couldn't eat a bite more."
"But it's an apple pie." And he brought it, holding it on his big
florid fat hand and turning it round to show her its full beauty.
She sighed regretfully. "I simply can't," she said. "How much is
what I've had?"
Her friend frowned. "Vot you take me for--hey?" demanded he,
with a terrible frown--so terrible he felt it to be that,
fearing he had frightened her, he burst out laughing, to reassure.
"Oh, but I must pay," she pleaded. "I didn't come begging."
"Not a cent!" said her friend firmly. "I'm the boss. I won't take it."
She insisted until she saw she was hurting his feelings. Then
she tried to thank him; but he would not listen to that, either.
"Good-by--good-by," he said gruffly. "I must get to work once."
But she understood, and went with a light heart up into the
world again. He stood waist deep in the cellar, she hesitated
upon the sidewalk. "Good-by," she said, with swimming eyes.
"You don't know how good you've been to me."
"All right. Luck!" He waved his hand, half turned his back on
her and looked intently up the street, his eyes blinking.
She went down the street, turned the first corner, dropped on a
doorstep and sobbed and cried, out of the fullness of her heart.
When she rose to go on again, she felt stronger and gentler than
she had felt since her troubles began with the quarrel over Sam
Wright. A little further on she came upon a florist's shop in
front of which a wagon was unloading the supply of flowers for
the day's trade. She paused to look at the roses and carnations,
the lilies and dahlias, the violets and verbenas and geraniums.
The fast brightening air was scented with delicate odors. She
was attracted to a small geranium with many buds and two
full-blown crimson flowers.
"How much for that?" she asked a young man who seemed to be in charge.
He eyed her shrewdly. "Well, I reckon about fifteen cents,"
She took from her bosom the dollar bill wrapped round the eighty
cents, gave him what he had asked. "No, you needn't tie it up,"
said she, as he moved to take it into the store. She went back
to the bakeshop. The cellar door was open, but no one was in
sight. Stooping down, she called: "Mr. Baker! Mr. Baker!"
The big smooth face appeared below.
She set the plant down on the top step. "For you," she said, and
On a passing street car she saw the sign "Eden Park." She had
heard of it--of its beauties, of the wonderful museum there. She
took the next car of the same line. A few minutes, and it was
being drawn up the inclined plane toward the lofty hilltops. She
had thought the air pure below. She was suddenly lifted through
a dense vapor--the cloud that always lies over the lower part of
the city. A moment, and she was above the cloud, was being
carried through the wide, clean tree-lined avenue of a beautiful
suburb. On either side, lawns and gardens and charming houses,
a hush brooding over them. Behind these walls, in comfortable
beds, amid the surroundings that come to mind with the word
"home," lay many girls such as she--happy, secure, sheltered.
Girls like herself. A wave of homesickness swept over her,
daunting her for a little while. But she fought it down, watched
what was going on around her. "I mustn't look back--I mustn't!
Nothing there for me." At the main gateway of the park she
descended. There indeed was the, to her, vast building
containing the treasures of art; but she had not come for that.
She struck into the first by-path, sought out a grassy slope
thickly studded with bushes, and laid herself down. She spread
her skirts carefully so as not to muss them. She put her bundle
under her head.
When she awoke the moon was shining upon her face--shining from
a starry sky!
She sat up, looked round in wonder. Yes--it was night
again--very still, very beautiful, and warm, with the air
fragrant and soft. She felt intensely awake, entirely
rested--and full of hope. It was as if during that long
dreamless sleep her whole being had been renewed and magically
borne away from the lands of shadow and pain where it had been
wandering, to a land of bright promise. Oh, youth, youth, that
bears so lightly the burden of the past, that faces so
confidently the mystery of the future! She listened--heard a
faint sound that moved her to investigate. Peering through the
dense bushes, she discovered on the grass in the shadow of the
next clump, a ragged, dirty man and woman, both sound asleep and
snoring gently. She watched them spellbound. The man's face was
deeply shaded by his battered straw hat. But she could see the
woman's face plainly--the thin, white hair, the sunken eyes and
mouth, the skeleton look of old features over which the dry skin
of age is tightly drawn. She gazed until the man, moving in his
sleep, kicked out furiously and uttered a curse. She drew back,
crawled away until she had put several clumps of bushes between
her and the pair. Then she sped down and up the slopes and did
not stop until she was where she could see, far below, the
friendly lights of the city blinking at her through the smoky mist.
She had forgotten her bundle! She did not know how to find the
place where she had left it; and, had she known, she would not
have dared return. This loss, however, troubled her little. Not
in vain had she dwelt with the philosopher Burlingham.
She seated herself on a bench and made herself comfortable. But
she no longer needed sleep. She was awake--wide awake--in every
atom of her vigorous young body. The minutes dragged. She was
impatient for the dawn to give the signal for the future to roll
up its curtain. She would have gone down into the city to walk
about but she was now afraid the police would take her in--and
that probably would mean going to a reformatory, for she could
not give a satisfactory account of herself. True, her older way
of wearing her hair and some slight but telling changes in her
dress had made her look less the child. But she could not hope
to pass for a woman full grown. The moon set; the starlight was
after a long, long time succeeded by the dawn of waking birds,
and of waking city, too--for up from below rose an ever louder
roar like a rising storm. In her restless rovings, she came upon
a fountain; she joined the birds making a toilet in its basin,
and patterned after them--washed her face and hands, dried them
on a handkerchief she by great good luck had put into her
stocking, smoothed her hair, her dress.
And still the sense of unreality persisted, cast its friendly
spell over this child-woman suddenly caught up from the quietest
of quiet lives and whirled into a dizzy vortex of strange events
without parallel, or similitude even, in anything she had ever
known. If anyone had suddenly asked her who she was and she had
tried to recall, she would have felt as if trying to remember a
dream. Sutherland--a faint, faint dream, and the show boat also.
Spenser--a romantic dream--or a first installment of a lovestory
read in some stray magazine. Burlingham--the theatrical
agent--the young man of the previous afternoon--the news of the
death that left her quite alone--all a dream, a tumbled, jumbled
dream, all passed with the night and the awakening. In her youth
and perfect health, refreshed by the long sleep, gladdened by
the bright new day, she was as irresponsible as the merry birds
chattering and flinging the water about at the opposite side of
the fountain's basin. She was now glad she had lost her bundle.
Without it her hands were free both hands free to take whatever
might offer next. And she was eager to see what that would be,
and hopeful about it--no--more than hopeful, confident.
Burlingham, aided by those highly favorable surroundings of the
show boat, and of the vagabond life thereafter, had developed in
her that gambler's spirit which had enabled him to play year
after year of losing hands with unabating courage--the spirit
that animates all the brave souls whose deeds awe the docile,
conventional, craven masses of mankind.
Leisurely as a truant she tramped back toward the city, pausing
to observe anything that chanced to catch her eye. At the moment
of her discovery of the difference between her and most girls
there had begun a cleavage between her and the social system.
And now she felt as if she were of one race and the rest of the
world of another and hostile race. She did not realize it, but
she had taken the first great step along the path that leads to
distinction or destruction. For the world either obeys or
tramples into dust those who, in whatever way, have a lot apart
from the common. She was free from the bonds of convention--free
to soar or to sink.
Her way toward the city lay along a slowly descending street
that had been, not so very long before, a country road. Block
after block there were grassy fields intersected by streets, as
if city had attempted a conquest of country and had abandoned
it. Again the vacant lots were disfigured with the ruins of a
shanty or by dreary dump heaps. For long stretches the way was
built up only on one side. The houses were for the most part
tenement with small and unprosperous shops or saloons on the
ground floor. Toward the foot of the hill, where the line of
tenements was continuous on either side, she saw a sign
"Restaurant" projecting over the sidewalk. When she reached it,
she paused and looked in. A narrow window and a narrow open door
gave a full view of the tiny room with its two rows of plain
tables. Near the window was a small counter with a case
containing cakes and pies and rolls. With back to the window sat
a pretty towheaded girl of about her own age, reading. Susan,
close to the window, saw that the book was Owen Meredith's
"Lucile," one of her own favorites. She could even read the words:
The ways they are many and wide, and seldom are two ways the same.
She entered. The girl glanced up, with eyes slowly changing from
far-away dreaminess to present and practical--pleasant blue eyes
with lashes and brows of the same color as the thick, neatly
done yellowish hair.
"Could I get a glass of milk and a roll?" asked Susan, a modest
demand, indeed, on behalf of a growing girl's appetite
twenty-four hours unsatisfied.
The blonde girl smiled, showing a clean mouth with excellent teeth.
"We sell the milk for five cents, the rolls three for a nickel."
"Then I'll take milk and three rolls," said Susan. "May I sit at
a table? I'll not spoil it."
"Sure. Sit down. That's what the tables are for." And the girl
closed the book, putting a chromo card in it to mark her place,
and stirred about to serve the customer. Susan took the table
nearest the door, took the seat facing the light. The girl set
before her a plate, a knife and fork, a little form of butter, a
tall glass of milk, and three small rolls in a large saucer.
"You're up and out early?" she said to Susan.
On one of those inexplicable impulses of frankness Susan
replied: "I've been sleeping in the park."
The girl had made the remark merely to be polite and was turning
away. As Susan's reply penetrated to her inattentive mind she
looked sharply at her, eyes opening wonderingly. "Did you get
lost? Are you a stranger in town? Why didn't you ask someone to
take you in?"
The girl reflected, realized. "That's so," said she. "I never
thought of it before. . . . Yes, that is so! It must be dreadful
not to have any place to go." She gazed at Susan with admiring
eyes. "Weren't you afraid--up in the park?"
"No," replied Susan. "I hadn't anything anybody'd want to steal."
"But some man might have----" The girl left it to Susan's
imagination to finish the sentence.
"I hadn't anything to steal," repeated Susan, with a kind of
cynical melancholy remotely suggestive of Mabel Connemora.
The restaurant girl retired behind the counter to reflect, while
Susan began upon her meager breakfast with the deliberation of
one who must coax a little to go a great ways. Presently the
"Where are you going to sleep tonight?"
"Oh, that's a long ways off," replied the apt pupil of the
happy-go-lucky houseboat show. "I'll find a place, I guess."
The girl looked thoughtfully toward the street. "I was
wondering," she said after a while, "what I'd do if I was to find
myself out in the street, with no money and nowhere to go. . . .
Are you looking for something to do?"
"Do you know of anything?" asked Susan interested at once.
"Nothing worth while. There's a box factory down on the next
square. But only a girl that lives at home can work there. Pa
says the day's coming when women'll be like men--work at
everything and get the same wages. But it isn't so now. A girl's
got to get married."
Such a strange expression came over Susan's face that the
waitress looked apologetic and hastened to explain herself: "I
don't much mind the idea of getting married," said she.
"Only--I'm afraid I can never get the kind of a man I'd want.
The boys round here leave school before the girls, so the girls
are better educated. And then they feel above the boys of their
own class--except those boys that're beginning to get up in the
world--and those kind of boys want some girl who's above them
and can help them up. It's dreadful to be above the people you
know and not good enough for the people you'd like to know."
Susan was not impressed; she could not understand why the
waitress spoke with so much feeling. "Well," said she, pausing
before beginning on the last roll, "I don't care so long as I
find something to do."
"There's another thing," complained the waitress. "If you work
in a store, you can't get wages enough to live on; and you learn
things, and want to live better and better all the time. It
makes you miserable. And you can't marry the men who work at
nice refined labor because they don't make enough to marry on.
And if you work in a factory or as a servant, why all but the
commonest kind of men look down on you. You may get wages enough
to live on, but you can't marry or get up in the world."
"You're very ambitious, aren't you?"
"Indeed I am. I don't want to be in the working class." She was
leaning over the counter now, and her blond face was expressing
deep discontent and scorn. "I _hate_ working people. All of them
who have any sense look down on themselves and wish they could
get something respectable to do."
"Oh, you don't mean that," protested Susan. "Any kind of work's
respectable if it's honest."
"_You_ can say that," retorted the girl. "_You_ don't belong in
our class. You were brought up different. You are a _lady_."
Susan shrank and grew crimson. The other girl did not see. She
went on crossly:
"Upper-class people always talk about how fine it is to be an
honest workingman. But that's all rot. Let 'em try it a while.
And pa says it'll never be straightened out till everybody has
"What--what does your father do?"
"He was a cabinetmaker. Then one of the other men tipped over a
big chest and his right hand was crushed--smashed to pieces, so
he wasn't able to work any more. But he's mighty smart in his
brains. It's the kind you can't make any money out of. He has
read most everything. The trouble with pa was he had too much
heart. He wasn't mean enough to try and get ahead of the other
workmen, and rise to be a boss over them, and grind them down to
make money for the proprietor. So he stayed on at the bench--he
was a first-class cabinetmaker. The better a man is as a
workman, and the nicer he is as a man, the harder it is for him
to get up. Pa was too good at his trade--and too soft-hearted.
Won't you have another glass of milk?"
"No--thank you," said Susan. She was still hungry, but it
alarmed her to think of taking more than ten cents from her hoard.
"Are you going to ask for work at the box factory?"
"I'm afraid they wouldn't take me. I don't know how to make boxes."
"Oh, that's nothing," assured the restaurant girl.
"It's the easiest kind of work. But then an educated person can
pick up most any trade in a few days, well enough to get along.
They'll make you a paster, at first."
"How much does that pay?"
"He'll offer you two fifty a week, but you must make him give
you three. That's right for beginners. Then, if you stay on and
work hard, you'll be raised to four after six months. The
highest pay's five."
"Three dollars," said Susan. "How much can I rent a room for?"
The restaurant girl looked at her pityingly. "Oh, you can't
afford a room. You'll have to club in with three other girls and
take a room together, and cook your meals yourselves, turn about."
Susan tried not to show how gloomy this prospect seemed. "I'll
try," said she.
She paid the ten cents; her new acquaintance went with her to
the door, pointed out the huge bare wooden building displaying
in great letters "J. C. Matson, Paper Boxes." "You apply at the
office," said the waitress. "There'll be a fat black-complected
man in his shirt with his suspenders let down off his shoulders.
He'll be fresh with you. He used to be a working man himself, so
he hasn't any respect for working people. But he doesn't mean
any harm. He isn't like a good many; he lets his girls alone."
Susan had not got far when the waitress came running after her.
"Won't you come back and let me know how you made out?" she
asked, a little embarrassed. "I hope you don't think I'm fresh."
"I'll be glad to come," Susan assured her. And their eyes met in
a friendly glance.
"If you don't find a place to go, why not come in with me? I've
got only a very little bit of a room, but it's as big and a lot
cleaner than any you'll find with the factory girls."
"But I haven't any money," said Susan regretfully. "And I
couldn't take anything without paying."
"You could pay two dollars and a half a week and eat in with us.
We couldn't afford to give you much for that, but it'd be better
than what you'd get the other way."
"But you can't afford to do that."
The restaurant girl's mind was aroused, was working fast and
well. "You can help in the restaurant of evenings," she promptly
replied. "I'll tell ma you're so pretty you'll draw trade. And
I'll explain that you used to go to school with me--and have
lost your father and mother. My name's Etta Brashear."
"Mine's--Lorna Sackville," said Susan, blushing. "I'll come after
a while, and we'll talk about what to do. I may not get a place."
"Oh, you'll get it. He has hard work finding girls. Factories
usually pay more than stores, because the work's more looked
down on--though Lord knows it's hard to think how anything could
be more looked down on than a saleslady."
"I don't see why you bother about those things. What do they matter?"
"Why, everybody bothers about them. But you don't understand.
You were born a lady, and you'll always feel you've got social
standing, and people'll feel that way too."
"But I wasn't," said Susan earnestly. "Indeed, I wasn't. I was
born--a--a nobody. I can't tell you, but I'm just nobody. I
haven't even got a name."
Etta, as romantic as the next young girl, was only the more
fascinated by the now thrillingly mysterious stranger--so
pretty, so sweet, with such beautiful manners and strangely
outcast no doubt from some family of "high folks." "You'll be
sure to come? You won't disappoint me?"
Susan kissed Etta. Etta embraced Susan, her cheeks flushed, her
eyes brilliant. "`I've taken an awful fancy to you," she said.
"I haven't ever had an intimate lady friend. I don't care for
the girls round here. They're so fresh and common. Ma brought me
up refined; she's not like the ordinary working-class woman."
It hurt Susan deeply--why, she could not have quite
explained--to hear Etta talk in this fashion. And in spite of
herself her tone was less friendly as she said, "I'll come when
I find out."
IN the office of the factory Susan found the man Etta described.
He was seated, or, rather, was sprawled before an open and
overflowing rolltop desk, his collar and cuffs off, and his coat
and waistcoat also. His feet--broad, thick feet with knots at
the great toe joints bulging his shoes--were hoisted upon the
leaf of the desk. Susan's charms of person and manners so
wrought upon him that, during the exchange of preliminary
questions and answers, he slowly took down first one foot then
the other, and readjusted his once muscular but now loose and
pudgy body into a less loaferish posture. He was as unconscious
as she of the cause and meaning of these movements. Had he
awakened to what he was doing he would probably have been
angered against himself and against her; and the direction of
Susan Lenox's life would certainly have been changed. Those who
fancy the human animal is in the custody of some conscious and
predetermining destiny think with their vanity rather than with
their intelligence. A careful look at any day or even hour of
any life reveals the inevitable influence of sheer accidents,
most of them trivial. And these accidents, often the most
trivial, most powerfully determine not only the direction but
also the degree and kind of force--what characteristics shall
develop and what shall dwindle.
"You seem to have a nut on you," said the box manufacturer at
the end of the examination. "I'll start you at three."
Susan, thus suddenly "placed" in the world and ticketed with a
real value, was so profoundly excited that she could not even
make a stammering attempt at expressing gratitude.
"Do your work well," continued Matson, "and you'll have a good
steady job with me till you get some nice young fellow to
support you. Stand the boys off. Don't let 'em touch you till
you're engaged--and not much then till the preacher's said the word."
"Thank you," said Susan, trying to look grave. She was
fascinated by his curious habit of scratching himself as he
talked--head, ribs, arm, legs, the backs of his red hairy hands.
"Stand 'em off," pursued the box-maker, scratching his ribs and
nodding his huge head vigorously. "That's the way my wife got
me. It's pull Dick pull devil with the gals and the boys. And
the gal that's stiff with the men gets a home, while her that
ain't goes to the streets. I always gives my gals a word of good
advice. And many a one I've saved. There's mighty few preachers
does as much good as me. When can you go to work?"
Susan reflected. With heightened color and a slight stammer she
said, "I've got something to do this afternoon, if you'll let
me. Can I come in the morning?"
"Seven sharp. We take off a cent a minute up to a quarter of an
hour. If you're later than that, you get docked for the day. And
no excuses. I didn't climb to the top from spittoon cleaner in
a saloon fifteen years ago by being an easy mark for my hands."
"I'll come at seven in the morning," said Susan.
"Do you live far?"
"I'm going to live just up the street."
"That's right. It adds ten cents a day to your wages--the ten
you'll save in carfare. Sixty cents a week!" And Matson beamed
and scratched as if he felt he had done a generous act. "Who are
you livin' with? Respectable, I hope."
"With Miss Brashear--I think."
"Oh, yes--Tom Brashear's gal. They're nice people. Tom's an
honest fellow--used to make good money till he had his hard
luck. Him and me used to work together. But he never could seem
to learn that it ain't workin' for yourself but makin' others
work for you that climbs a man up. I never was much as a worker.
I was always thinkin' out ways of makin' people work for me. And
here I am at the top. And where's Tom? Well--run along
now--what's your name?"
"Lorny." He burst into a loud guffaw. "Lord, what a name! Sounds
like a theayter. Seven sharp, Lorny. So long."
Susan nodded with laughing eyes, thanked him and departed. She
glanced up the street, saw Etta standing in the door of the
restaurant. Etta did not move from her own doorway, though she
was showing every sign of anxiety and impatience. "I can't leave
even for a minute so near the dinner hour," she explained when
Susan came, "or I'd, a' been outside the factory. And ma's got
to stick to the kitchen. I see you got a job. How much?"
"Three," replied Susan.
"He must have offered it to you," said Etta, laughing. "I
thought about it after you were gone and I knew you'd take
whatever he said first. Oh, I've been so scared something'd
happen. I do want you as my lady friend. Was he fresh?"
"Not a bit. He was--very nice."
"Well, he ought to be nice--as pa says, getting richer and
richer, and driving the girls he robs to marry men they hate or
to pick up a living in the gutter."
Susan felt that she owed her benefactor a strong protest. "Maybe
I'm foolish," said she, "but I'm awful glad he's got that place
and can give me work."
Etta was neither convinced nor abashed. "You don't understand
things in our class," replied she. "Pa says it was the kind of
grateful thinking and talking you've just done that's made him
poor in his old age. He says you've either got to whip or be
whipped, rob or be robbed--and that the really good honest
people are the fools who take the losing side. But he says, too,
he'd rather be a fool and a failure than stoop to stamping on
his fellow-beings and robbing them. And I guess he's
right"--there Etta laughed--"though I'll admit I'd hate to be
tempted with a chance to get up by stepping on somebody." She
sighed. "And sometimes I can't help wishing pa had done some
tramping and stamping. Why not? That's all most people are fit
for--to be tramped and stamped on. Now, don't look so shocked.
You don't understand. Wait till you've been at work a while."
Susan changed the subject. "I'm going to work at seven in the
morning. . . . I might as well have gone today. I had a kind of
an engagement I thought I was going to keep, but I've about
decided I won't."
Etta watched with awe and delight the mysterious look in Susan's
suddenly flushed face and abstracted eyes. After a time she
ventured to interrupt with:
"You'll try living with us?"
"If you're quite sure--did you talk to your mother?"
"Mother'll be crazy about you. She wants anything that'll make
me more contented. Oh, I do get so lonesome!"
Mrs. Brashear, a spare woman, much bent by monotonous
work--which, however, had not bent her courage or her
cheerfulness--made Susan feel at home immediately in the little
flat. The tenement was of rather a superior class. But to Susan
it seemed full of noisome smells, and she was offended by the
halls littered with evidences of the uncleanness of the tenants.
She did not then realize that the apparent superior cleanness
and neatness of the better-off classes was really in large part
only affected, that their secluded back doors and back ways gave
them opportunity to hide their uncivilized habits from the world
that saw only the front. However, once inside the Brashear flat,
she had an instant rise of spirits.
"Isn't this nice?" exclaimed she as Etta showed her, at a glance
from the sitting-room, the five small but scrupulously clean
rooms. "I'll like it here!"
Etta reddened, glanced at her for signs of mockery, saw that she
was in earnest. "I'm afraid it's better to look at than to live
in," she began, then decided against saying anything discouraging.
"It seems cramped to us," said she, "after the house we had till
a couple of years ago. I guess we'll make out, somehow."
The family paid twenty dollars a month for the flat. The
restaurant earned twelve to fifteen a week; and the son, Ashbel,
stocky, powerful and stupid, had a steady job as porter at ten
a week. He gave his mother seven, as he had a room to himself
and an enormous appetite. He talked of getting married; if he
did marry, the family finances would be in disorder. But his
girl had high ideas, being the daughter of a grocer who fancied
himself still an independent merchant though he was in fact the
even more poorly paid selling agent of the various food products
trusts. She had fixed twenty a week as the least on which she
would marry; his prospects of any such raise were--luckily for
his family--extremely remote; for he had nothing but physical
strength to sell, and the price of physical strength alone was
going down, under immigrant competition, not only in actual wages
like any other form of wage labor, but also in nominal wages.
Altogether, the Brashears were in excellent shape for a tenement
family, were better off than upwards of ninety per cent of the
families of prosperous and typical Cincinnati. While it was true
that old Tom Brashear drank, it was also true that he carefully
limited himself to two dollars a week. While it was true that he
could not work at his trade and apparently did little but sit
round and talk--usually high above his audience--nevertheless he
was the actual head of the family and its chief bread-winner. It
was his savings that were invested in the restaurant; he bought
the supplies and was shrewd and intelligent about that vitally
important department of the business--the department whose
mismanagement in domestic economy is, next to drink, the main
cause of failure and pauperism, of sickness, of premature
disability, of those profound discouragements that lead to
despair. Also, old Brashear had the sagacity and the nagging
habit that are necessary to keeping people and things up to the
mark. He had ideas--practical ideas as well as ideals--far above
his station. But for him the housekeeping would have been in the
familiar tenement fashion of slovenliness and filth, and the
family would have been neat only on Sundays, and only on the
surface then. Because he had the habit of speaking of himself as
useless, as done for, as a drag, as one lingering on when he
ought to be dead, his family and all the neighborhood thought of
him in that way. Although intelligence, indeed, virtue of every
kind, is expected of tenement house people--and is needed by
them beyond any other condition of humanity--they are
unfortunately merely human, are tainted of all human weaknesses.
They lack, for instance, discrimination. So, it never occurred
to them that Tom Brashear was the sole reason why the Brashears
lived better than any of the other families and yielded less to
the ferocious and incessant downward pressure.
But for one thing the Brashears would have been going up in the
world. That thing was old Tom's honesty. The restaurant gave
good food and honest measure. Therefore, the margin of profit
was narrow--too narrow. He knew what was the matter. He mocked
at himself for being "such a weak fool" when everybody else with
the opportunity and the intelligence was getting on by yielding
to the compulsion of the iron rule of dishonesty in business.
But he remained honest--therefore, remained in the working
class, instead of rising among its exploiters.
"If I didn't drink, I'd kill myself," said old Tom to Susan,
when he came to know her well and to feel that from her he could
get not the mere blind admiration the family gave him but
understanding and sympathy. "Whenever anybody in the working
class has any imagination," he explained, "he either kicks his
way out of it into capitalist or into criminal--or else he takes
to drink. I ain't mean enough to be either a capitalist or a
criminal. So, I've got to drink."
Susan only too soon began to appreciate from her own experience
what he meant.
In the first few days the novelty pleased her, made her think
she was going to be contented. The new friends and
acquaintances, different from any she had known, the new sights,
the new way of living--all this interested her, even when it
shocked one or many of her senses and sensibilities. But the
novelty of folding and pasting boxes, of the queer new kind of
girls who worked with her, hardly survived into the second week.
She saw that she was among a people where the highest known
standard--the mode of life regarded by them as the acme of
elegance and bliss--the best they could conceive was far, far
below what she had been brought up to believe the scantest
necessities of respectable and civilized living. She saw this
life from the inside now--as the comfortable classes never permit
themselves to see it if they can avoid. She saw that to be a
contented working girl, to look forward to the prospect of being
a workingman's wife, a tenement housekeeper and mother, a woman
must have been born to it--and born with little brains--must
have been educated for it, and for nothing else. Etta was
bitterly discontented; yet after all it was a vague endurable
discontent. She had simply heard of and dreamed of and from afar
off--chiefly through novels and poems and the theater--had
glimpsed a life that was broader, that had comfort and luxury,
people with refined habits and manners. Susan had not merely
heard of such a life; she had lived it--it, and no other.
Always of the thoughtful temperament, she had been rapidly
developed first by Burlingham and now by Tom Brashear--had been
taught not only how to think but also how to gather the things
to think about.
With a few exceptions the girls at the factory were woefully
unclean about their persons. Susan did not blame them; she only
wondered at Etta the more, and grew to admire her--and the
father who held the whole family up to the mark. For, in spite
of the difficulties of getting clean, without bathtub, without
any but the crudest and cheapest appliances for cleanliness,
without any leisure time, Etta kept herself in perfect order.
The show boat and the quarters at the hotel had been trying to
Susan. But they had seemed an adventure, a temporary, passing
phase, a sort of somewhat prolonged camping-out lark. Now, she
was settled down, to live, apparently for the rest of her life,
with none of the comforts, with few of the decencies. What Etta
and her people, using all their imagination, would have pictured
as the pinnacle of luxury would have been for Susan a small and
imperfect part of what she had been bred to regard as "living
decently." She suspected that but for Etta's example she would
be yielding, at least in the matter of cleanliness, when the
struggle against dirt was so unequal, was thankless.
Discouragement became her frequent mood; she wondered if the
time would not come when it would be her fixed habit, as it was
with all but a handful of those about her.
Sometimes she and Etta walked in the quarter at the top of the
hill where lived the families of prosperous
merchants--establishments a little larger, a little more
pretentious than her Uncle George's in Sutherland, but on the
whole much like it--the houses of the solid middle class which
fancies itself grandly luxurious where it is in fact merely
comfortable in a crude unimaginative way. Susan was one of those
who are born with the instinct and mental bent for luxurious
comfort; also, she had the accompanying peculiar talent for
assimilating ideas about food and dress and surroundings from
books and magazines, from the study of well-dressed people in
the street, from glances into luxurious interiors through
windows or open doors as she passed by. She saw with even
quicker and more intelligently critical eyes the new thing, the
good idea, the improvement on what she already knew. Etta's
excitement over these commonplace rich people amused her. She
herself, on the wings of her daring young fancy, could soar into
a realm of luxury, of beauty and exquisite comfort, that made
these self-complacent mansions seem very ordinary indeed. It was
no drag upon her fancy, but the reverse, that she was sharing a
narrow bed and a narrow room in a humble and tiny tenement flat.
On one of these walks Etta confided to her the only romance of
her life therefore the real cause of her deep discontent. It was
a young man from one of these houses--a flirtation lasting about
a year. She assured Susan it was altogether innocent.
Susan--perhaps chiefly because Etta protested so insistently
about her unsullied purity--had her doubts.
"Then," said Etta, "when I saw that he didn't care anything
about me except in one way--I didn't see him any more. I--I've
been sorry ever since."
Susan did not offer the hoped-for sympathy. She was silent.
"Did you ever have anything like that happen to you?" inquired Etta.
"Yes," said Susan. "Something like that."
"And what did you do?"
"I didn't want to see him any more."
"I don't know--exactly.
"And you like him?"
"I think I would have liked him."
"You're sorry you stopped?"
"Sometimes," replied she, hesitatingly.
She was beginning to be afraid that she would soon be sorry all
the time. Every day the war within burst forth afresh. She
reproached herself for her growing hatred of her life. Ought she
not to be grateful that she had so much--that she was not one of
a squalid quartette in a foul, vermin-infested back
bedroom--infested instead of only occasionally visited--that she
was not a streetwalker, diseased, prowling in all weathers, the
prey of the coarse humors of contemptuous and usually drunken
beasts; that she was not living where everyone about her would,
by pity or out of spitefulness, tear open the wounds of that
hideous brand which had been put upon her at birth? Above all,
she ought to be thankful that she was not Jeb Ferguson's wife.
But her efforts to make herself resigned and contented, to kill
her doubts as to the goodness of "goodness," were not
successful. She had Tom Brashear's "ungrateful" nature--the
nature that will not let a man or a woman stay in the class of
hewers of wood and drawers of water but drives him or her out of
it--and up or down.
"You're one of those that things happen to," the old
cabinetmaker said to her on a September evening, as they sat on
the sidewalk in front of the restaurant. The tenements had
discharged their swarms into the hot street, and there was that
lively panorama of dirt and disease and depravity which is
fascinating--to unaccustomed eyes. "Yes," said Tom, "things'll
happen to you."
"What--for instance?" she asked.
"God only knows. You'll up and do something some day. You're
settin' here just to grow wings. Some day--swish!--and off you'll
soar. It's a pity you was born female. Still--there's a lot of
females that gets up. Come to think of it, I guess sex don't
matter. It's havin' the soul--and mighty few of either sex has it."
"Oh, I'm like everybody else," said the girl with an impatient
sigh. "I dream, but--it doesn't come to anything."
"No, you ain't like everybody else," retorted he, with a
positive shake of his finely shaped head, thatched superbly with
white hair. "You ain't afraid, for instance. That's the
principal sign of a great soul, I guess."
"Oh, but I _am_ afraid," cried Susan. "I've only lately found out
what a coward I am."
"You think you are," said the cabinetmaker. "There's them that's
afraid to do, and don't do. Then there's them that's afraid to
do, but goes ahead and does anyhow. That's you. I don't know
where you came from--oh, I heard Etta's accountin' for you to
her ma, but that's neither here nor there. I don't know where
you come from, and I don't know where you're going. But--you
ain't afraid--and you have imagination--and those two signs
means something doing."
Susan shook her head dejectedly; it had been a cruelly hard day
at the factory and the odors from the girls working on either
side of her had all but overwhelmed her.
Old Tom nodded with stronger emphasis. "You're too young, yet,"
he said. "And not licked into shape. But wait a while. You'll
Susan hoped so, but doubted it. There was no time to work at
these large problems of destiny when the daily grind was so
compelling, so wearing, when the problems of bare food, clothing
and shelter took all there was in her.
For example, there was the matter of clothes. She had come with
only what she was wearing. She gave the Brashears every Saturday
two dollars and a half of her three and was ashamed of herself
for taking so much for so little, when she learned about the
cost of living and how different was the food the Brashears had
from that of any other family in those quarters! As soon as she
had saved four dollars from her wages--it took nearly two
months--she bought the necessary materials and made herself two
plain outer skirts, three blouses and three pairs of drawers.
Chemises and corset covers she could not afford. She bought a
pair of shoes for a dollar, two pairs of stockings for thirty
cents, a corset for eighty cents, an umbrella for half a dollar,
two underwaists for a quarter. She bought an untrimmed hat for
thirty-five cents and trimmed it with the cleaned ribbon from
her summer sailor and a left over bit of skirt material. She
also made herself a jacket that had to serve as wrap too--and
the materials for this took the surplus of her wages for another
month. The cold weather had come, and she had to walk fast when
she was in the open air not to be chilled to the bone. Her Aunt
Fanny had been one of those women, not too common in America,
who understand and practice genuine economy in the
household--not the shabby stinginess that passes for economy but
the laying out of money to the best advantage that comes only
when one knows values. This training stood Susan in good stead
now. It saved her from disaster--from disintegration.
She and Etta did some washing every night, hanging the things on
the fire escape to dry. In this way she was able to be clean;
but in appearance she looked as poor as she was. She found a
cobbler who kept her shoes in fair order for a few cents; but
nothing was right about them soon--except that they were not
down at the heel. She could recall how she had often wondered
why the poor girls at Sutherland showed so little taste, looked
so dowdy. She wondered at her own stupidity, at the narrowness
of an education, such as hers had been, an education that left
her ignorant of the conditions of life as it was lived by all
but a lucky few of her fellow beings.
How few the lucky! What an amazing world--what a strange
creation the human race! How was it possible that the lucky few,
among whom she had been born and bred, should know so little,
really nothing, about the lot of the vast mass of their fellows,
living all around them, close up against them? "If I had only
known!" she thought. And then she reflected that, if she had
known, pleasure would have been impossible. She could see her
bureau drawers, her closets at home. She had thought herself not
any too well off. Now, how luxurious, how stuffed with shameful,
wasteful unnecessaries those drawers and closets seemed!
And merely to keep herself in underclothes that were at least
not in tatters she had to spend every cent over and above her
board. If she had had to pay carfare ten cents a day, sixty
cents a week!--as did many of the girls who lived at home, she
would have been ruined. She understood now why every girl
without a family back of her, and without good prospect of
marriage, was revolving the idea of becoming a streetwalker--not
as a hope, but as a fear. As she learned to observe more
closely, she found good reasons for suspecting that from time to
time the girls who became too hard pressed relieved the tension
by taking to the streets on Saturday and Sunday nights. She read
in the _Commercial_ one noon--Mr. Matson sometimes left his paper
where she could glance through it--she read an article on
working girls, how they were seduced to lives of shame--by love
of _finery_! Then she read that those who did not fall were
restrained by religion and innate purity. There she
laughed--bitterly. Fear of disease, fear of maternity, yes. But
where was this religion? Who but the dullest fools in the throes
of that bare and tortured life ever thought of God? As for the
purity--what about the obscene talk that made her shudder
because of its sheer filthy stupidity?--what about the frank
shamelessness of the efforts to lure their "steadies" into
speedy matrimony by using every charm of caress and of person to
inflame passion without satisfying it? She had thought she knew
about the relations of the sexes when she came to live and work
in that tenement quarter. Soon her knowledge had seemed
ignorance beside the knowledge of the very babies.
It was a sad, sad puzzle. If one ought to be good--chaste and
clean in mind and body--then, why was there the most tremendous
pressure on all but a few to make them as foul as the
surroundings in which they were compelled to live? If it was
wiser to be good, then why were most people imprisoned in a life
from which they could escape only by being bad? What was this
thing comfortable people had set up as good, anyhow--and what
was bad? She found no answer. How could God condemn anyone for
anything they did in the torments of the hell that life revealed
itself to her as being, after a few weeks of its moral, mental
and physical horrors? Etta's father was right; those who
realized what life really was and what it might be, those who
were sensitive took to drink or went to pieces some other way,
if they were gentle, and if they were cruel, committed any
brutality, any crime to try to escape.
In former days Susan thought well of charity, as she had been
taught. Old Tom Brashear gave her a different point of view. One
day he insulted and drove from the tenement some pious
charitable people who had come down from the fashionable hilltop
to be good and gracious to their "less fashionable
fellow-beings." After they had gone he explained his harshness
"That's the only way you can make them slickedup brutes feel,"
said he, "they're so thick in the hide and satisfied with
themselves. What do they come here for! To do good! Yes--to
themselves. To make themselves feel how generous and sweet they
was. Well, they'd better go home and read their Russia-leather
covered Bibles. They'd find out that when God wanted to really
do something for man, he didn't have himself created a king, or
a plutocrat, or a fat, slimy church deacon in a fashionable
church. No, he had himself born a bastard in a manger."
Susan shivered, for the truth thus put sounded like sacrilege.
Then a glow--a glow of pride and of hope--swept through her.
"If you ever get up into another class," went on old Tom, "don't
come hangin' round the common people you'll be livin' off of and
helpin' to grind down; stick to your own class. That's the only
place anybody can do any good--any real helpin' and lovin', man
to man, and woman to woman. If you want to help anybody that's
down, pull him up into your class first. Stick to your class.