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Susan Lenox: Her Rise and Fall

Part 7 out of 19

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You'll find plenty to do there."

"What, for instance?" asked Susan. She understood a little of
what he had in mind, but was still puzzled.

"Them stall-fed fakers I just threw out," the old man went on.
"They come here, actin' as if this was the Middle Ages and the
lord of the castle was doin' a fine thing when he went down
among the low peasants who'd been made by God to work for the
lords. But this ain't the Middle Ages. What's the truth about it?"

"I don't know," confessed Susan.

"Why, the big lower class is poor because the little upper class
takes away from 'em and eats up all they toil and slave to make.
Oh, it ain't the upper class's fault. They do it because they're
ignorant more'n because they're bad, just as what goes on down
here is ignorance more'n badness. But they do it, all the same.
And they're ignorant and need to be told. Supposin' you saw a
big girl out yonder in the street beatin' her baby sister. What
would you do? Would you go and hold out little pieces of candy
to the baby and say how sorry you was for her? Or would you
first grab hold of that big sister and throw her away from
beatin' of the baby?"

"I see," said Susan.

"That's it exactly," exclaimed the old man, in triumph. "And I
say to them pious charity fakers, `Git the hell out of here
where you can't do no good. Git back to yer own class that makes
all this misery, makes it faster'n all the religion and charity
in the world could help it. Git back to yer own class and work
with them, and teach them and make them stop robbin' and beatin'
the baby.'"

"Yes," said the girl, "you are right. I see it now. But, Mr.
Brashear, they meant well."

"The hell they did," retorted the old man. "If they'd, a' had
love in their hearts, they'd have seen the truth. Love's one of
the greatest teachers in the world. If they'd, a' meant well,
they'd, a' been goin' round teachin' and preachin' and prayin'
at their friends and fathers and brothers, the plutocrats.
They'd never 'a' come down here, pretendin' they was doin' good,
killin' one bedbug out of ten million and offerin' one pair of
good pants where a hundred thousand pairs is needed. They'd
better go read about themselves in their Bible--what Jesus says.
He knew 'em. _He_ belonged to _us_--and _they_ crucified him."

The horrors of that by no means lowest tenement region, its
horrors for a girl bred as Susan had been! Horrors moral,
horrors mental, horrors physical--above all, the physical
horrors; for, worse to her than the dull wits and the lack of
education, worse than vile speech and gesture, was the hopeless
battle against dirt, against the vermin that could crawl
everywhere--and did. She envied the ignorant and the insensible
their lack of consciousness of their own plight--like the
disemboweled horse that eats tranquilly on. At first she had
thought her unhappiness came from her having been used to better
things, that if she had been born to this life she would have
been content, gay at times. Soon she learned that laughter does
not always mean mirth; that the ignorant do not lack the power
to suffer simply because they lack the power to appreciate; that
the diseases, the bent bodies, the harrowed faces, the
drunkenness, quarreling, fighting, were safer guides to the real
conditions of these people than their occasional guffaws and
fits of horseplay.

A woman from the hilltop came in a carriage to see about a
servant. On her way through the hall she cried out: "Gracious!
Why don't these lazy creatures clean up, when soap costs so
little and water nothing at all!" Susan heard, was moved to face
her fiercely, but restrained herself. Of what use? How could the
woman understand, if she heard, "But, you fool, where are we to
get the time to clean up?--and where the courage?--and would soap
enough to clean up and keep clean cost so little, when every
penny means a drop of blood?"

"If they only couldn't drink so much!" said Susan to Tom.

"What, then?" retorted he. "Why, pretty soon wages'd be cut
faster than they was when street carfares went down from ten
cents to five. Whenever the workin' people arrange to live
cheaper and to try to save something, down goes wages. No, they
might as well drink. It helps 'em bear it and winds 'em up
sooner. I tell you, it ain't the workin' people's fault--it's
the bosses, now. It's the system--the system. A new form of
slavery, this here wage system--and it's got to go--like the
slaveholder that looked so copper-riveted and Bible-backed in
its day."

That idea of "the system" was beyond Susan. But not what her
eyes saw, and her ears heard, and her nose smelled, and her
sense of touch shrank from. No ambition and no reason for
ambition. No real knowledge, and no chance to get any--neither
the leisure nor the money nor the teachers. No hope, and no
reason for hope. No God--and no reason for a God.

Ideas beyond her years, beyond her comprehension, were stirring
in her brain, were making her grave and thoughtful. She was
accumulating a store of knowledge about life; she was groping
for the clew to its mystery, for the missing fact or facts which
would enable her to solve the puzzle, to see what its lessons
were for her. Sometimes her heavy heart told her that the
mystery was plain and the lesson easy--hopelessness. For of all
the sadness about her, of all the tragedies so sordid and
unromantic, the most tragic was the hopelessness. It would be
impossible to conceive people worse off; it would be impossible
to conceive _these_ people better off. They were such a
multitude that only they could save themselves--and they had no
intelligence to appreciate, no desire to impel. If their
miseries--miseries to which they had fallen heir at birth--had
made them what they were, it was also true that they were what
they were--hopeless, down to the babies playing in the filth. An
unscalable cliff; at the top, in pleasant lands, lived the
comfortable classes; at the bottom lived the masses--and while
many came whirling down from the top, how few found their way up!

On a Saturday night Ashbel came home with the news that his
wages had been cut to seven dollars. And the restaurant had been
paying steadily less as the hard times grew harder and the cost
of unadulterated and wholesome food mounted higher and higher.
As the family sat silent and stupefied, old Tom looked up from
his paper, fixed his keen, mocking eyes on Susan.

"I see, here," said he, "that _we_ are so rich that they want to
raise the President's salary so as he can entertain
_decently_--and to build palaces at foreign courts so as our
representatives'll live worthy of _us_!"


ON Monday at the lunch hour--or, rather, halfhour--Susan
ventured in to see the boss.

Matson had too recently sprung from the working class and was
too ignorant of everything outside his business to have made
radical changes in his habits. He smoked five-cent cigars
instead of "twofurs"; he ate larger quantities of food, did not
stint himself in beer or in treating his friends in the evenings
down at Wielert's beer garden. Also he wore a somewhat better
quality of clothing; but he looked precisely what he was. Like
all the working class above the pauper line, he made a Sunday
toilet, the chief features of which were the weekly bath and the
weekly clean white shirt. Thus, it being only Monday morning, he
was looking notably clean when Susan entered--and was morally
wound up to a higher key than he would be as the week wore on.
At sight of her his feet on the leaf of the desk wavered, then
became inert; it would not do to put on manners with any of the
"hands." Thanks to the bath, he was not exuding his usual odor
that comes from bolting much strong, cheap food.

"Well, Lorny--what's the kick?" inquired he with his amiable
grin. His rise in the world never for an instant ceased to be a
source of delight to him; it--and a perfect digestion--kept him
in a good humor all the time.

"I want to know," stammered Susan, "if you can't give me a
little more money."

He laughed, eyeing her approvingly. Her clothing was that of the
working girl; but in her face was the look never found in those
born to the modern form of slavery-wage servitude. If he had
been "cultured" he might have compared her to an enslaved
princess, though in fact that expression of her courageous
violet-gray eyes and sensitive mouth could never have been in
the face of princess bred to the enslaving routine of the most
conventional of conventional lives; it could come only from
sheer erectness of spirit, the exclusive birthright of the sons
and daughters of democracy.

"More money!" he chuckled. "You _have_ got a nerve!--when
factories are shutting down everywhere and working people are
tramping the streets in droves."

"I do about one-fourth more than the best hands you've got,"
replied Susan, made audacious by necessity. "And I'll agree to
throw in my lunch time."

"Let me see, how much do you get?"

"Three dollars."

"And you aren't living at home. You must have a hard time. Not
much over for diamonds, eh? You want to hustle round and get
married, Lorny. Looks don't last long when a gal works. But
you're holdin' out better'n them that gads and dances all night."

"I help at the restaurant in the evening to piece out my board.
I'm pretty tired when I get a chance to go to bed."

"I'll bet!. . . So, you want more money. I've been watchin'
you. I watch all my gals--I have to, to keep weedin' out the
fast ones. I won't have no bad examples in _my_ place! As soon as
I ketch a gal livin' beyond her wages I give her the bounce."

Susan lowered her eyes and her cheeks burned--not because Matson
was frankly discussing the frivolous subject of sex. Another
girl might have affected the air of distressed modesty, but it
would have been affectation, pure and simple, as in those
regions all were used to hearing the frankest, vilest
things--and we do not blush at what we are used to hearing.
Still, the tenement female sex is as full of affectation as is
the sex elsewhere. But, Susan, the curiously self-unconscious,
was incapable of affectation. Her indignation arose from her
sense of the hideous injustice of Matson's discharging girls for
doing what his meager wages all but compelled.

"Yes, I've been watching you," he went on, "with a kind of a
sort of a notion of makin' you a forelady. That'd mean six
dollars a week. But you ain't fit. You've got the brains--plenty
of 'em. But you wouldn't be of no use to me as forelady."

"Why not?" asked Susan. Six dollars a week! Affluence! Wealth!

Matson took his feet down, relit his cigar and swung himself
into an oracular attitude.

"I'll show you. What's manufacturin'? Right down at the bottom,
I mean." He looked hard at the girl. She looked receptively at him.

"Why, it's gettin' work out of the hands. New ideas is nothin'.
You can steal 'em the minute the other fellow uses 'em. No, it's
all in gettin' work out of the hands."

Susan's expression suggested one who sees light and wishes to
see more of it. He proceeded:

"You work for me--for instance, now, if every day you make stuff
there's a profit of five dollars on, I get five dollars out of
you. If I can push you to make stuff there's a profit of six
dollars on, I get six dollars--a dollar more. Clear extra gain,
isn't it? Now multiply a dollar by the number of hands, and
you'll see what it amounts to."

"I see," said Susan, nodding thoughtfully.

"Well! How did I get up? Because as a foreman I knew how to work
the hands. I knew how to get those extra dollars. And how do I
keep up? Because I hire forepeople that get work out of the hands."

Susan understood. But her expression was a comment that was not
missed by the shrewd Matson.

"Now, listen to me, Lorny. I want to give you a plain straight
talk because I'd like to see you climb. Ever since you've been
here I've been laughin' to myself over the way your
forelady--she's a fox, she is!--makes you the pacemaker for the
other girls. She squeezes at least twenty-five cents a day over
what she used to out of each hand in your room because you're
above the rest of them dirty, shiftless muttonheads."

Susan flushed at this fling at her fellow-workers.

"Dirty, shiftless muttonheads," repeated Matson. "Ain't I right?
Ain't they dirty? Ain't they shiftless--so no-account that if
they wasn't watched every minute they'd lay down--and let me and
the factory that supports 'em go to rack and ruin? And ain't
they muttonheads? Do you ever find any of 'em saying or doing a
sensible thing?"

Susan could not deny. She could think of excuses--perfect
excuses. But the facts were about as he brutally put it.

"Oh, I know 'em. I've dealt with 'em all my life," pursued the
box manufacturer. "Now, Lorny, you ought to be a forelady.
You've got to toughen up and stop bein' so polite and helpful
and all that. You'll _never_ get on if you don't toughen up.
Business is business. Be as sentimental as you like away from
business, and after you've clum to the top. But not _in_ business
or while you're kickin' and scratchin' and clawin' your way up."

Susan shook her head slowly. She felt painfully young and
inexperienced and unfit for the ferocious struggle called
life. She felt deathly sick.

"Of course it's a hard world," said Matson with a wave of his
cigar. "But did I make it?"

"No," admitted Susan, as his eyes demanded a reply.

"Sure not," said he. "And how's anybody to get up in it? Is
there any other way but by kickin' and stampin', eh?"

"None that I see," conceded Susan reluctantly.

"None that is," declared he. "Them that says there's other ways
either lies or don't know nothin' about the practical game.
Well, then!" Matson puffed triumphantly at the cigar. "Such
bein' the case--and as long as the crowd down below's got to be
kicked in the face by them that's on the way up, why shouldn't
I do the kickin'--which is goin' to be done anyhow--instead of
gettin' kicked? Ain't that sense?"

"Yes," admitted Susan. She sighed. "Yes," she repeated.

"Well--toughen up. Meanwhile, I'll raise you, to spur the others
on. I'll give you four a week." And he cut short her thanks with
an "Oh, don't mention it. I'm only doin' what's square--what
helps me as well as you. I want to encourage you. You don't
belong down among them cattle. Toughen up, Lorny. A girl with
a bank account gets the pick of the beaux." And he nodded a

Matson, and his hands, bosses and workers, brutal, brutalizing
each other more and more as they acted and reacted upon each
other. Where would it end?

She was in dire need of underclothes. Her undershirts were full
of holes from the rubbing of her cheap, rough corset; her
drawers and stockings were patched in several places--in fact,
she could not have worn the stockings had not her skirt now been
well below her shoetops. Also, her shoes, in spite of the money
she had spent upon them, were about to burst round the edges of
the soles. But she would not longer accept from the Brashears
what she regarded as charity.

"You more than pay your share, what with the work you do,"
protested Mrs. Brashear. "I'll not refuse the extra dollar
because I've simply got to take it. But I don't want to pertend."

The restaurant receipts began to fall with the increasing
hardness of the times among the working people. Soon it was down
to practically no profit at all--that is, nothing toward the
rent. Tom Brashear was forced to abandon his policy of honesty,
to do as all the other purveyors were doing--to buy cheap stuff
and to cheapen it still further. He broke abruptly with his
tradition and his past. It aged him horribly all in a few
weeks--but, at least, ruin was put off. Mrs. Brashear had to
draw twenty of the sixty-three dollars which were in the savings
bank against sickness. Funerals would be taken care of by the
burial insurance; each member of the family, including Susan,
had a policy. But sickness had to have its special fund; and it
was frequently drawn upon, as the Brashears knew no more than
their neighbors about hygiene, and were constantly catching the
colds of foolish exposure or indigestion and letting them
develop into fevers, bad attacks of rheumatism, stomach trouble,
backache all regarded by them as by their neighbors as a
necessary part of the routine of life. Those tenement people had
no more notion of self-restraint than had the "better classes"
whose self-indulgences maintain the vast army of doctors and
druggists. The only thing that saved Susan from all but an
occasional cold or sore throat from wet feet was eating little
through being unable to accustom herself to the fare that was
the best the Brashears could now afford--cheap food in cheap
lard, coarse and poisonous sugar, vilely adulterated coffee,
doctored meat and vegetables--the food which the poor in their
ignorance buy--and for which they in their helplessness pay
actually higher prices than do intelligent well-to-do people for
the better qualities. And not only were the times hard, but the
winter also. Snow--sleet--rain--thaw--slush--noisome,
disease-laden vapor--and, of course, sickness everywhere--with
occasional relief in death, relief for the one who died, relief
for the living freed from just so much of the burden. The
sickness on every hand appalled Susan. Surely, she said to old
Brashear, the like had never been before; on the contrary, said
he, the amount of illness and death was, if anything, less than
usual because the hard times gave people less for eating and
drinking. These ghastly creatures crawling toward the hospital
or borne out on stretchers to the ambulance--these yet ghastlier
creatures tottering feebly homeward, discharged as cured--these
corpses of men, of women, of boys and girls, of babies--oh, how
many corpses of babies!--these corpses borne away for burial,
usually to the public burying ground--all these stricken ones in
the battle ever waging, with curses, with hoarse loud laughter,
with shrieks and moans, with dull, drawn faces and jaws set--all
these stricken ones were but the ordinary losses of the battle!

"And in the churches," said old Tom Brashear, "they preach the
goodness and mercy of God. And in the papers they talk about how
rich and prosperous we are."

"I don't care to live! It is too horrible," cried the girl.

"Oh, you mustn't take things so to heart," counseled he. "Us
that live this life can't afford to take it to heart. Leave that
to them who come down here from the good houses and look on us
for a minute and enjoy themselves with a little weepin' and
sighin' as if it was in the theater."

"It seems worse every, day," she said. "I try to fool myself,
because I've got to stay and----"

"Oh, no, you haven't," interrupted he.

Susan looked at him with a startled expression. It seemed to her
that the old man had seen into her secret heart where was daily
raging the struggle against taking the only way out open to a
girl in her circumstances. It seemed to her he was hinting that
she ought to take that way.

If any such idea was in his mind, he did not dare put it into
words. He simply repeated:

"You won't stay. You'll pull out."

"How?" she asked.

"Somehow. When the way opens you'll see it, and take it."

There had long since sprung up between these two a sympathy, a
mutual understanding beyond any necessity of expression in words
or looks. She had never had this feeling for anyone, not even
for Burlingham. This feeling for each other had been like that
of a father and daughter who love each other without either
understanding the other very well or feeling the need of a
sympathetic understanding. There was a strong resemblance
between Burlingham and old Tom. Both belonged to the familiar
philosopher type. But, unlike the actor-manager, the old
cabinetmaker had lived his philosophy, and a very gentle and
tolerant philosophy it was.

After she had looked her request for light upon what way she was
to take, they sat silent, neither looking at the other, yet each
seeing the other with the eye of the mind. She said:

"I may not dare take it."

"You won't have no choice," replied he. "You'll have to take it.
And you'll get away from here. And you mustn't ever come
back--or look back. Forget all this misery. Rememberin' won't do
us no good. It'd only weaken you."

"I shan't ever forget," cried the girl.

"You must," said the old man firmly. He added, "And you will.
You'll have too much else to think about--too much that has to
be attended to."

As the first of the year approached and the small shopkeepers of
the tenements, like the big ones elsewhere, were casting up the
year's balances and learning how far toward or beyond the verge
of ruin the hard times had brought them, the sound of the fire
engines--and of the ambulances--became a familiar part of the
daily and nightly noises of the district. Desperate shopkeepers,
careless of their neighbors' lives and property in fiercely
striving for themselves and their families--workingmen out of a
job and deep in debt--landlords with too heavy interest falling
due--all these were trying to save themselves or to lengthen the
time the fact of ruin could be kept secret by setting fire to
their shops or their flats. The Brashears had been burned out
twice in their wandering tenement house life; so old Tom was
sleeping little; was constantly prowling about the halls of all
the tenements in that row and into the cellars.

He told Susan the open secret of the meaning of most of these
fires. And after he had cursed the fire fiends, he apologized
for them. "It's the curse of the system," explained he. "It's
all the curse of the system. These here storekeepers and the
farmers the same way--they think they're independent, but really
they're nothin' but fooled slaves of the big blood suckers for
the upper class. But these here little storekeepers, they're
tryin' to escape. How does a man escape? Why, by gettin' some
hands together to work for him so that he can take it out of their
wages. When you get together enough to hire help--that's when you
pass out of slavery into the master class--master of slaves."

Susan nodded understandingly.

"Now, how can these little storekeepers like me get together
enough to begin to hire slaves? By a hundred tricks, every one
of them wicked and mean. By skimpin' and slavin' themselves and
their families, by sellin' short weight, by sellin' rotten food,
by sellin' poison, by burnin' to get the insurance. And, at
last, if they don't die or get caught and jailed, they get
together the money to branch out and hire help, and begin to get
prosperous out of the blood of their help. These here arson
fellows--they're on the first rung of the ladder of success. You
heard about that beautiful ladder in Sunday school, didn't you?"

"Yes," said Susan, "that and a great many other lies about God
and man."

Susan had all along had great difficulty in getting sleep
because of the incessant and discordant noises of the district.
The unhappy people added to their own misery by disturbing each
other's rest--and no small part of the bad health everywhere
prevailing was due to this inability of anybody to get proper
sleep because somebody was always singing or quarreling,
shouting or stamping about. But Susan, being young and as yet
untroubled by the indigestion that openly or secretly preyed
upon everyone else, did at last grow somewhat used to noise, did
contrive to get five or six hours of broken sleep. With the
epidemic of fires she was once more restless and wakeful. Every
day came news of fire somewhere in the tenement districts of the
city, with one or more, perhaps a dozen, roasted to death, or
horribly burned. A few weeks, however, and even that peril
became so familiar that she slept like the rest. There were too
many actualities of discomfort, of misery, to harass her all day
long every time her mind wandered from her work.

One night she was awakened by a scream. She leaped from bed to
find the room filling with smoke and the street bright as day,
but with a flickering evil light. Etta was screaming, Ashbel was
bawling and roaring like a tortured bull. Susan, completely
dazed by the uproar, seized Etta and dragged her into the hall.
There were Mr. and Mrs. Brashear, he in his nightdress of
drawers and undershirt, she in the short flannel petticoat and
sacque in which she always slept. Ashbel burst out of his room,
kicking the door down instead of turning the knob.

"Lorny," cried old Tom, "you take mother and Etta to the
escape." And he rushed at his powerful, stupid son and began to
strike him in the face with his one good fist, shrieking, "Shut
up, you damn fool! Shut up!"

Dragging Etta and pushing Mrs. Brashear, Susan moved toward the
end of the hall where the fire escape passed their windows. All
the way down, the landings were littered with bedding, pots,
pans, drying clothes, fire wood, boxes, all manner of rubbish,
the overflow of the crowded little flats. Over these
obstructions and down the ladders were falling and stumbling
men, women, children, babies, in all degrees of nudity--for many
of the big families that slept in one room with windows tight
shut so that the stove heat would not escape and be wasted when
fuel was so dear, slept stark naked. Susan contrived to get
Etta and the old woman to the street; not far behind them came
Tom and Ashbel, the son's face bleeding from the blows his
father had struck to quiet him.

It was a penetrating cold night, with an icy drizzle falling.
The street was filled with engines, hose, all manner of ruined
household effects, firemen shouting, the tenement people
huddling this way and that, barefooted, nearly or quite naked,
silent, stupefied. Nobody had saved anything worth while. The
entire block was ablaze, was burning as if it had been saturated
with coal oil.

"The owner's done this," said old Tom. "I heard he was in
trouble. But though he's a church member and what they call a
philanthropist, I hardly thought he'd stoop to hirin' this
done. If anybody's caught, it'll be some fellow that don't know
who he did it for."

About a hundred families were homeless in the street. Half a
dozen patrol wagons and five ambulances were taking the people
away to shelter, women and babies first. It was an hour--an hour
of standing in the street, with bare feet on the ice, under the
ankledeep slush--before old Tom and his wife got their turn to
be taken. Then Susan and Etta and Ashbel, escorted by a
policeman, set out for the station house. As they walked along,
someone called out to the policeman:

"Anybody killed at the fire, officer?"

"Six jumped and was smashed," replied the policeman. "I seen
three dead babies. But they won't know for several days how many
it'll total."

And all her life long, whenever Susan Lenox heard the clang of
a fire engine, there arose before her the memory picture of that
fire, in all the horror of detail. A fire bell to her meant
wretched families flung into the night, shrieks of mangled and
dying, moans of babies with life oozing from their blue lips,
columns of smoke ascending through icy, soaking air, and a vast
glare of wicked light with flame demons leaping for joy in the
measureless woe over which they were presiding. As the little
party was passing the fire lines, Ashbel's foot slipped on a
freezing ooze of blood and slush, and he fell sprawling upon a
human body battered and trampled until it was like an overturned
basket of butcher's odds and ends.

The station house was eleven long squares away. But before they
started for it they were already at the lowest depth of physical
wretchedness which human nerves can register; thus, they
arrived simply a little more numb. The big room, heated by a
huge, red-hot stove to the point where the sweat starts, was
crowded with abject and pitiful human specimens. Even Susan, the
most sensitive person there, gazed about with stolid eyes. The
nakedness of unsightly bodies, gross with fat or wasted to
emaciation, the dirtiness of limbs and torsos long, long
unwashed, the foul steam from it all and from the water-soaked
rags, the groans of some, the silent, staring misery of others,
and, most horrible of all, the laughter of those who yielded
like animals to the momentary sense of physical well-being as
the heat thawed them out--these sights and sounds together made
up a truly infernal picture. And, like all the tragedies of
abject poverty, it was wholly devoid of that dignity which is
necessary to excite the deep pity of respect, was sordid and
squalid, moved the sensitive to turn away in loathing rather
than to advance with brotherly sympathy and love.

Ashbel, his animal instinct roused by the sight of the stove,
thrust the throng aside rudely as he pushed straight for the
radiating center. Etta and Susan followed in his wake. The
fierce heat soon roused them to the sense of their plight.
Ashbel began to curse, Etta to weep. Susan's mind was staring,
without hope but also without despair, at the walls of the trap
in which they were all caught--was seeking the spot where they
could begin to burrow through and escape.

Beds and covers were gathered in by the police from everywhere
in that district, were ranged upon the floor of the four rooms.
The men were put in the cells downstairs; the women and the
children got the cots. Susan and Etta lay upon the same
mattress, a horse blanket over them. Etta slept; Susan, wide
awake, lived in brain and nerves the heart-breaking scenes
through which she had passed numb and stolid.

About six o'clock a breakfast of coffee, milk and bread was
served. It was evident that the police did not know what to do
with these outcasts who had nothing and no place to go--for
practically all were out of work when the blow came. Ashbel
demanded shoes, pants and a coat.

"I've got to get to my job," shouted he, "or else I'll lose it.
Then where in the hell'd we be!"

His blustering angered the sergeant, who finally told him if he
did not quiet down he would be locked in a cell. Susan
interrupted, explained the situation, got Ashbel the necessary
clothes and freed Etta and herself of his worse than useless
presence. At Susan's suggestion such other men as had jobs were
also fitted out after a fashion and sent away. "You can take the
addresses of their families if you send them anywhere during the
day, and these men can come back here and find out where they've
gone----" this was the plan she proposed to the captain, and he
adopted it. As soon as the morning papers were about the city,
aid of every kind began to pour in, with the result that before
noon many of the families were better established than they had
been before the fire.

Susan and Etta got some clothing, enough to keep them warm on
their way through the streets to the hospital to which Brashear
and his wife had been taken. Mrs. Brashear had died in the
ambulance--of heart disease, the doctors said, but Susan felt it
was really of the sense that to go on living was impossible. And
fond of her though she was, she could not but be relieved that
there was one less factor in the unsolvable problem.

"She's better, off" she said to Etta in the effort to console.

But Etta needed no consolation. "Ever so much better off," she
promptly assented. "Mother hasn't cared about living since we
had to give up our little home and become tenement house people.
And she was right."

As to Brashear, they learned that he was ill; but they did not
learn until evening that he was dying of pneumonia. The two
girls and Ashbel were admitted to the ward where he lay--one of
a long line of sufferers in bare, clean little beds. Screens
were drawn round his bed because he was dying. He had been
suffering torments from the savage assaults of the pneumonia;
but the pain had passed away now, so he said, though the
dreadful sound of his breathing made Susan's heart flutter and
her whole body quiver.

"Do you want a preacher or a priest?" asked the nurse.

"Neither," replied the old man in gasps and whispers. "If there
is a God he'll never let anybody from this hell of a world into
his presence. They might tell him the truth about himself."

"Oh, father, father!" pleaded Etta, and Ashbel burst into a fit
of hysterical and terrified crying.

The old man turned his dying eyes on Susan. He rested a few
minutes, fixing her gaze upon his with a hypnotic stare. Then he
began again:

"You've got somethin' more'n a turnip on your shoulders. Listen
to me. There was a man named Jesus once"--gasp--gasp--"You've
heard about him, but you don't know about
him"--gasp--gasp--"I'll tell you--listen. He was a low fellow--a
workin' man--same trade as mine--born without a father--born in
a horse trough--in a stable"--gasp--gasp--

Susan leaned forward. "Born without a father," she murmured, her
eyes suddenly bright.

"That's him. Listen"--gasp--gasp--gasp--"He was a big
feller--big brain--big heart--the biggest man that ever
lived"--gasp--gasp--gasp--gas--"And he looked at this here hell
of a world from the outside, he being an outcast and a low-down
common workingman. And he _saw_--he did----

"Yes, he saw!"--gasp--gasp--gasp--"And he said all men were
brothers--and that they'd find it out some day. He saw that this
world was put together for the strong and the cruel--that they
could win out--and make the rest of us work for 'em for what they
chose to give--like they work a poor ignorant horse for his feed
and stall in a dirty stable----"gasp--gasp--gasp--

"For the strong and the cruel," said Susan.

"And this feller Jesus--he set round the saloons and such
places--publicans, they called 'em"--gasp--gasp--gasp--"And he
says to all the poor ignorant slaves and such cattle, he says,
`You're all brothers. Love one another'"--gasp--gasp--gasp--"
`Love one another,' he says, `and learn to help each other and
stand up for each other,' he says, `and hate war and fightin'
and money grabbin'----'"gasp--gasp--gasp--"`Peace on earth,' he
says, `Know the truth, and the truth shall make you free'--and
he saw there'd be a time"--the old man raised himself on one
elbow--"Yes, by God--there _will_ be!--a time when men'll learn
not to be beasts and'll be men--_men_, little gal!"

"Men," echoed Susan, her eyes shining, her bosom heaving.

"It ain't sense and it ain't right that everything should be for
the few--for them with brains--and that the rest--the
millions--should be tramped down just because they ain't so
cruel or so `cute'--they and their children tramped down in the
dirt. And that feller Jesus saw it."

"Yes--yes," cried Susan. "He saw it."

"I'll tell you what he was," said old Tom in a hoarse whisper.
"He wasn't no god. He was bigger'n that--bigger'n that, little
gal! He was the first _man_ that ever lived. He said, `Give the
weak a chance so as they kin git strong.' He says----"

The dying man fell back exhausted. His eyes rolled wildly,
closed; his mouth twitched, fell wide open; there came from his
throat a sound Susan had never heard before, but she knew what
it was, what it meant.

Etta and Ashbel were overwhelmed afresh by the disgrace of
having their parents buried in Potter's Field--for the insurance
money went for debts. They did not understand when Susan said,
"I think your father'd have liked to feel that he was going to
be buried there--because then he'll be with--with his Friend.
You know, _He_ was buried in Potter's Field." However, their
grief was shortlived; there is no time in the lives of working
people for such luxuries as grief--no more time than there is at
sea when all are toiling to keep afloat the storm-racked sinking
ship and one sailor is swept overboard. In comfortable lives a
bereavement is a contrast; in the lives of the wretched it is
but one more in the assailing army of woes.

Etta took a job at the box factory at three dollars a week; she
and Susan and Ashbel moved into two small rooms in a flat in a
tenement opposite the factory--a cheaper and therefore lower
house than the one that had burned. They bought on the
installment plan nine dollars' worth of furniture--the scant
minimum of necessities. They calculated that, by careful saving,
they could pay off the debt in a year or so--unless one or the
other fell ill or lost work. "That means," said Etta, eyeing
their flimsy and all but downright worthless purchases, "that
means we'll still be paying when this furniture'll be gone to
pieces and fit only for kindling."

"It's the best we can do," replied Susan. "Maybe one of us'll
get a better job."

"_You_ could, I'm sure, if you had the clothes," said Etta. "But
not in those rags."

"If I had the clothes? Where?"

"At Shillito's or one of the other department stores. They'd
give us both places in one of the men's departments. They like
pretty girls for those places--if they're not giddy and don't
waste time flirting but use flirtation to sell goods. But what's
the sense in talking about it? You haven't got the clothes. A
saleslady's got to be counter-dressed. She can look as bad as
she pleases round the skirt and the feet. But from the waist up
she has to look natty, if she wants wages."

Susan had seen these girls; she understood now why they looked
as if they were the put together upper and lower halves of two
different persons. She recalled that, even though they went into
other business, they still retained the habit, wore toilets that
were counterbuilt. She revolved the problem of getting one of
these toilets and of securing a store job. But she soon saw it
was hopeless, for the time. Every cent the three had was needed
to keep from starving and freezing. Also--though she did not
realize it--her young enthusiasm was steadily being sapped by
the life she was leading. It may have been this rather than
natural gentleness--or perhaps it was as much the one as the
other--that kept Susan from taking Matson's advice and hardening
herself into a forelady. The ruddy glow under her skin had given
place to, the roundness of her form had gone, and its pallor;
beauty remained only because she had a figure which not even
emaciation could have deprived of lines of alluring grace. But
she was no longer quite so straight, and her hair, which it was
a sheer impossibility to care for, was losing its soft vitality.
She was still pretty, but not the beauty she had been when she
was ejected from the class in which she was bred. However, she
gave the change in herself little thought; it was the rapid
decline of Etta's prettiness and freshness that worried her most.

Not many weeks after the fire and the deeper plunge, she began
to be annoyed by Ashbel. In his clumsy, clownish way he was
making advances to her. Several times he tried to kiss her.
Once, when Etta was out, he opened the door of the room where
she was taking a bath in a washtub she had borrowed of the
janitress, leered in at her and very reluctantly obeyed her
sharp order to close the door. She had long known that he was in
reality very different from the silent restrained person fear
of his father made him seem to be. But she thought even the
reality was far above the rest of the young men growing up among
those degrading influences.

The intrusion into her room was on a Sunday; on the following
Sunday he came back as soon as Etta went out. "Look here,
Lorny," said he, with blustering tone and gesture, "I want to
have a plain talk with you. I'm sick and tired of this. There's
got to be a change."

"Sick of what?" asked Susan.

"Of the way you stand me off." He plumped himself sullenly down
on the edge of hers and Etta's bed. "I can't afford to get
married. I've got to stick by you two."

"It strikes me, Ashbel, we all need each other. Who'd marry you
on seven a week?" She laughed good-humoredly. "Anyhow, _you_
wouldn't support a wife. It takes the hardest kind of work to
get your share of the expenses out of you. You always try to
beat us down to letting you off with two fifty a week."

"That's about all Etta pays."

"It's about all she gets. And __I__ pay three fifty--and she and I
do all the work--and give you two meals and a lunch to take with
you--and you've got a room alone--and your mending done. I guess
you know when you're well off."

"But I ain't well off," he cried. "I'm a grown-up man--and I've
got to have a woman."

Susan had become used to tenement conditions. She said,
practically, "Well--there's your left over four dollars a week."

"Huh!" retorted he. "Think I'm goin' to run any risks? I'm no
fool. I take care of my health."

"Well--don't bother me with your troubles--at least, troubles of
that sort."

"Yes, but I will!" shouted he, in one of those sudden furies
that seize upon the stupid ignorant. "You needn't act so nifty
with me. I'm as good as you are. I'm willing to marry you."

"No, thanks," said Susan. "I'm not free to marry--even if I would."

"Oh--you ain't?" For an instant his curiosity, as she thus laid
a hand upon the curtain over her past, distracted his uncertain
attention. But her expression, reserved, cold, maddeningly
reminding him of a class distinction of which he was as
sensitively conscious as she was unconscious--her expression
brought him back with a jerk. "Then you'll have to live with me,
anyhow. I can't stand it, and I'm not goin' to.

If you want me to stay on here, and help out, you've got to
treat me right. Other fellows that do as I'm doing get treated
right. And I've got to be, too--or I'll clear out." And he
squirmed, and waggled his head and slapped and rubbed his heavy,
powerful legs.

"Why, Ashbel," said Susan, patting him on the shoulder. "You and
I are like brother and sister. You might as well talk this way
to Etta."

He gave her a brazen look, uttered a laugh that was like the
flinging out of a bucket of filth. "Why not? Other fellows that
have to support the family and can't afford to marry gets took
care of." Susan shrank away. But Ashbel did not notice it. "It
ain't a question of Etta," he went on. "There's you--and I don't
need to look nowhere else."

Susan had long since lost power to be shocked by any revelation
of the doings of people lashed out of all civilized feelings by
the incessant brutal whips of poverty and driven back to the
state of nature. She had never happened to hear definitely of
this habit--even custom--of incestuous relations; now that she
heard, she instantly accepted it as something of which she had
really known for some time. At any rate, she had no sense of
shock. She felt no horror, no deep disgust, simply the distaste
into which her original sense of horror had been thinned down by
constant contact with poverty's conditions--just as filth no
longer made her shudder, so long as it did not touch her own person.

"You'd better go and chase yourself round the square a few
times," said she, turning away and taking up some mending.

"You see, there ain't no way out of it," pursued he, with an
insinuating grin.

Susan gave him a steady, straight look. "Don't ever speak of it
again," said she quietly. "You ought to be ashamed--and you will
be when you think it over."

He laughed loudly. "I've thought it over. I mean what I say. If
you don't do the square thing by me, you drive me out."

He came hulking up to her, tried to catch her in his big
powerful arms. She put the table between him and her. He kicked
it aside and came on. She saw that her move had given him a
false impression--a notion that she was afraid of him, was
coquetting with him. She opened the door leading into the front
part of the flat where the Quinlan family lived. "If you don't
behave yourself, I'll call Mr. Quinlan," said she, not the least
bluster or fear or nervousness in her tone.

"What'd be the use? He'd only laugh. Why, the same thing's going
on in their family."

"Still, he'd lynch you if I told him what _you_ were trying to do."

Even Ashbel saw this familiar truth of human nature. The fact
that Quinlan was guilty himself, far from staying him from
meting out savage justice to another, would make him the more
relentless and eager. "All right," said he. "Then you want me to
git out?"

"I want you to behave yourself and stay on. Go take a walk, Ashbel."

And Ashbel went. But his expression was not reassuring; Susan
feared he had no intention of accepting his defeat. However, she
reasoned that numbskull though he was, he yet had wit enough to
realize how greatly to his disadvantage any change he could make
would be. She did not speak of the matter to Etta, who was
therefore taken completely by surprise when Ashbel, after a
silent supper that evening, burst out with his grievance:

"I'm going to pack up," said he. "I've found a place where I'll
be treated right." He looked haughtily at Susan. "And the
daughter's a good looker, too. She's got some weight on her. She
ain't like a washed out string."

Etta understood at once. "What a low-down thing you are!" she
cried. "Just like the rest of these filthy tenement house
animals. I thought _you_ had some pride."

"Oh, shut up!" bawled Ashbel. "You're not such a much. What're
we, anyhow, to put on airs? We're as common as dirt--yes, and
that sniffy lady friend of yours, too. Where'd she come from,
anyhow? Some dung pile, I'll bet."

He went into his room, reappeared with his few belongings done
into a bundle. "So long," said he, stalking toward the hall door.

Etta burst into tears, caught him by the arm. "You ain't goin',
are you, Ashy?" cried she.

"Bet your life. Let me loose." And he shook her off. "I'm not
goin' to be saddled with two women that ain't got no gratitude."

"My God, Lorna!" wailed Etta. "Talk to him. Make him stay."

Susan shook her head, went to the window and gazed into the
snowy dreary prospect of tenement house yards. Ashbel, who had
been hesitating through hope, vented a jeering laugh. "Ain't she
the insultin'est, airiest lady!" sneered he. "Well, so long."

"But, Ashy, you haven't paid for last week yet," pleaded Etta,
clinging to his arm.

"You kin have my share of the furniture for that."

"The furniture! Oh, my God!" shrieked Etta, releasing him to
throw out her arms in despair. "How'll we pay for the furniture
if you go?"

"Ask your high and mighty lady friend," said her brother. And he
opened the door, passed into the hall, slammed it behind him.
Susan waited a moment for Etta to speak, then turned to see what
she was doing. She had dropped into one of the flimsy chairs,
was staring into vacancy.

"We'll have to give up these rooms right away," said Susan.

Etta roused herself, looked at her friend. And Susan saw what
Etta had not the courage to express--that she blamed her for not
having "made the best of it" and kept Ashbel. And Susan was by
no means sure that the reproach in Etta's eyes and heart were
not justified. "I couldn't do it, Etta," she said with a faint
suggestion of apology.

"Men are that way," said Etta sullenly.

"Oh, I don't blame him," protested Susan. "I understand. But--I
can't do it, Etta--I simply can't!"

"No," said Etta. "You couldn't. I could, but you couldn't. I'm
not as far down as Ashbel. I'm betwixt and between; so I can
understand you both."

"You go and make up with him and let me look after myself. I'll
get along."

Etta shook her head. "No," said she without any show of
sentiment, but like one stating an unalterable fact. "I've got
to stay on with you. I can't live without you. I don't want to
go down. I want to go up."

"Up!" Susan smiled bitterly.

Silence fell between them, and Susan planned for the new
conditions. She did not speak until Etta said, "What ever
will we do?"

"We've got to give up the furniture. Thank goodness, we've paid
only two-fifty on it."

"Yes, _it's_ got to go," said Etta.

"And we've got to pay Mrs. Quinlan the six we owe her and get
out tonight. We'll go up to the top floor--up to Mrs. Cassatt.
She takes sleepers. Then--we'll see."

An hour later they had moved; for Mrs. Quinlan was able to find
two lodgers to take the rooms at once. They were established
with Mrs. Cassatt, had a foul and foul-smelling bed and one-half
of her back room; the other half barely contained two even
dirtier and more malodorous cots, in one of which slept Mrs.
Cassatt's sixteen-year-old daughter Kate, in the other her
fourteen-year-old son Dan. For these new quarters and the right
to cook their food on the Cassatt stove the girls agreed to pay
three dollars and a half a week--which left them three dollars
and a half a week for food and clothing--and for recreation and
for the exercise of the virtue of thrift which the comfortable
so assiduously urge upon the poor.


EACH girl now had with her at all times everything she possessed
in the world--a toothbrush, a cake of castile soap, the little
money left out of the week's wages, these three items in the
pocket of her one skirt, a cheap dark blue cloth much wrinkled
and patched; a twenty-five cent felt hat, Susan's adorned with
a blue ribbon, Etta's with a bunch of faded roses; a blue cotton
blouse patched under the arms with stuff of a different shade;
an old misshapen corset that cost forty-nine cents in a bargain
sale; a suit of gray shoddy-and-wool underwear; a pair of
fifteen-cent stockings, Susan's brown, Etta's black; a pair of
worn and torn ties, scuffed and down at the heel, bought for a
dollar and nine cents; a dirt-stained dark blue jacket, Susan's
lacking one button, Etta's lacking three and having a patch
under the right arm.

Yet they often laughed and joked with each other, with their
fellow-workers. You might have said their hearts were light; for
so eager are we to believe our fellow-beings comfortable, a
smile of poverty's face convinces us straightway that it is as
happy as we, if not happier. There would have been to their
mirth a little more than mere surface and youthful ability to
find some jest in the most crushing tragedy if only they could
have kept themselves clean. The lack of sufficient food was a
severe trial, for both had voracious appetites; Etta was
tormented by visions of quantity, Susan by visions of quality as
well as of quantity. But only at meal times, or when they had to
omit a meal entirely, were they keenly distressed by the food
question. The cold was a still severer trial; but it was warm in
the factory and it was warm in Mrs. Cassatt's flat, whose
windows were never opened from closing in of winter until spring
came round. The inability to keep clean was the trial of trials.

From her beginning at the box factory the physical uncleanness
of the other girls had made Susan suffer keenly. And her
suffering can be understood only by a clean person who has been
through the same ordeal. She knew that her fellow-workers were
not to blame. She even envied them the ignorance and the
insensibility that enabled them to bear what, she was convinced,
could never be changed. She wondered sometimes at the strength
and grip of the religious belief among the girls--even, or,
rather, especially, among those who had strayed from virtue into
the path their priests and preachers and rabbis told them was
the most sinful of all strayings. But she also saw many signs
that religion was fast losing its hold. One day a Lutheran girl,
Emma Schmeltz, said during a Monday morning lunch talk:

"Well, anyhow, I believe it's all a probation, and everything'll
be made right hereafter. __I__ believe my religion, I do. Yes,
we'll be rewarded in the hereafter."

Becky--Rebecca Lichtenspiel--laughed, as did most of the girls.
Said Becky:

"And there ain't no hereafter. Did you ever see a corpse? Ain't
they the dead ones! Don't talk to me about no hereafter."

Everybody laughed. But this was a Monday morning conversation,
high above the average of the girls' talk in intelligence and
liveliness. Their minds had been stimulated by the Sunday rest
from the dreary and degenerating drudgery of "honest toil."

It was the physical contacts that most preyed upon Susan. She
was too gentle, too considerate to show her feelings; in her
determined and successful effort to conceal them she at times
went to the opposite extreme and not only endured but even
courted contacts that were little short of loathsome. Tongue
could not tell what she suffered through the persistent
affectionateness of Letty Southard, a sweet and pretty young
girl of wretchedly poor family who developed an enormous liking
for her. Letty, dirty and clad in noisome undergarments beneath
soiled rags and patches, was always hugging and kissing her--and
not to have submitted would have been to stab poor Letty to the
heart and humiliate all the other girls. So no one, not even
Etta, suspected what she was going through.

From her coming to the factory in the morning, to hang her hat
and jacket in the only possible place, along with the soiled and
smelling and often vermin-infected wraps of the others--from
early morning until she left at night she was forced into
contacts to which custom never in the least blunted her.
However, so long as she had a home with the Brashears there was
the nightly respite. But now--

There was little water, and only a cracked and filthy basin to
wash in. There was no chance to do laundry work; for their
underclothes must be used as night clothes also. To wash their
hair was impossible.

"Does my hair smell as bad as yours?" said Etta. "You needn't
think yours is clean because it doesn't show the dirt like mine."

"Does my hair smell as bad as the rest of the girls'?" said Susan.

"Not quite," was Etta's consoling reply.

By making desperate efforts they contrived partially to wash
their bodies once a week, not without interruptions of
privacy--to which, however, they soon grew accustomed. In spite
of efforts which were literally heroic, they could not always
keep free from parasites; for the whole tenement and all persons
and things in it were infected--and how could it be otherwise
where no one had time or money or any effective means whatsoever
to combat nature's inflexible determination to breed wherever
there is a breeding spot? The last traces of civilization were
slipping from the two girls; they were sinking to a state of nature.

Even personal pride, powerful in Susan and strong in Etta
through Susan's example, was deserting them. They no longer
minded Dan's sleeping in their room. They saw him, his father,
the other members of the family in all stages of nudity and at
the most private acts; and they were seen by the Cassatts in the
same way. To avoid this was impossible, as impossible as to
avoid the parasites swarming in the bed, in the woodwork, in
cracks of ceiling, walls, floor.

The Cassatts were an example of how much the people who live in
the sheltered and more or less sunny nooks owe to their shelter
and how little to their own boasted superiority of mind and
soul. They had been a high class artisan family until a few
months before. The hard times struck them a series of quick,
savage blows, such as are commonplace enough under our social
system, intricate because a crude jumble of makeshifts, and
easily disordered because intricate. They were swept without a
breathing pause down to the bottom. Those who have always been
accustomed to prosperity have no reserve of experience or
courage to enable them to recuperate from sudden and extreme
adversity. In an amazingly short time the Cassatts had become
demoralized--a familiar illustration of how civilization is
merely a wafer-thin veneer over most human beings as yet. Over
how many is it more? They fought after a fashion; they fought
valiantly. But how would it have been possible not steadily to
yield ground against such a pitiless, powerful foe as poverty?
The man had taken to drink, to blunt outraged self-respect and
to numb his despair before the spectacle of his family's
downfall. Mrs. Cassatt was as poor a manager as the average
woman in whatever walk of life, thanks to the habit of educating
woman in the most slipshod fashion, if at all, in any other part
of the business but sex-trickery. Thus she was helpless before
the tenement conditions. She gave up, went soddenly about in
rags with an incredibly greasy and usually dangling tail of hair.

"Why don't you tie up that tail, ma?" said the son Dan, who had
ideas about neatness.

"What's the use?" said Mrs. Cassatt. "What's the use of _anything_?"

"Ma don't want to look stylish and stuck up," said the daughter.

Mrs. Cassatt's haunting terror was lest someone who had known
them in the days of their prosperity with a decently furnished
little house of their own should run into one of the family now.

Kate, the sixteen-year-old had a place as saleslady in a big shop
in Fifth, Street; her six dollars a week was the family's
entire steady income. She had formerly possessed a good
deal of finery for a girl in her position, though really not
much more than the daughter of the average prosperous artisan or
small shopkeeper expects, and is expected, to have. Being at the
shop where finery was all the talk and sight and thought from
opening until closing had developed in her a greedy taste for
luxury. She pilfered from the stocks of goods within her reach
and exchanged her stealings for the stealings of girls who
happened to be able to get things more to her liking or need.
But now that the family savings--bank account was exhausted, all
these pilferings had to go at once to the pawnshop. Kate grew
more and more ill-tempered as the family sank. Formerly she had
been noted for her amiability, for her vanity easily pleased
with a careless compliment from no matter whom--a jocose,
half-drunken ash man, half-jeering, half-admiring from his cart
seat quite as satisfactory as anybody. But poverty was bringing
out in her all those meanest and most selfish and most brutish
instincts--those primal instincts of human nature that
civilization has slowly been subjecting to the process of
atrophy which has lost us such other primal attributes as, for
example, prehensile toes and a covering of hair.

"Well, I for one don't have to stay in this slop barrel," Kate
was always saying. "Some fine morning I'll turn up missing--and
you'll see me in my own turnout."

She was torturing her mother and father with the dread that she
would leave the family in the lurch and enter a house of
prostitution. She recounted with the utmost detail how the madam
of a house in Longworth Street came from time to time to her
counter in the perfumery and soap department--and urged her to
"stop making a fool of yourself and come get good money for your
looks before you lose 'em drudging behind a counter." The idea
grew less abhorrent, took on allurement as the degradation of
tenement life ate out respect for conventional restraints--for
modesty, for virtue, for cleanness of speech, and the rest. More
and more boldly Kate was announcing that she wasn't going to be
a fool much longer.

Dan, the fourteen-year-old boy, had attracted the attention of
what Cassatt called "a fancy lady" who lived two floors below
them. She made sometimes as much as nine or ten dollars a week
and slept all day or lounged comfortably about in showy, tawdry
stuff that in those surroundings seemed elegant luxury. She was
caught by the boy's young beauty and strength, and was rapidly
training him in every vice and was fitting him to become a
professional seducer and "lover."

Said Mrs. Cassatt in one of her noisy wailing appeals to Dan:

"You better keep away from that there soiled dove. They tell me
she's a thief--has done time--has robbed drunken men in dark

Dan laughed impudently. "She's a cute one. What diff does it
make how she gets the goods as long as she gets it?"

Mrs. Cassatt confided to everybody that she was afraid the woman
would make a thief of her boy--and there was no disputing the
justice of her forebodings.

Foul smells and sights everywhere, and foul language; no
privacy, no possibility of modesty where all must do all in the
same room: vermin, parasites, bad food vilely cooked--in the
midst of these and a multitude of similar ills how was it
possible to maintain a human standard, even if one had by chance
acquired a knowledge of what constituted a human standard? The
Cassatts were sinking into the slime in which their neighbors
were already wallowing. But there was this difference. For the
Cassatts it was a descent; for many of their neighbors it was an
ascent--for the immigrants notably, who had been worse off in
their European homes; in this land not yet completely in the
grip of the capitalist or wage system they were now getting the
first notions of decency and development, the first views and
hope of rising in the world. The Cassatts, though they had
always lived too near the slime to be nauseated by it, still
found it disagreeable and in spots disgusting. Their neighbors--

One of the chief reasons why these people were rising so slowly
where they were rising at all was that the slime seemed to them
natural, and to try to get clean of it seemed rather a foolish,
finicky waste of time and effort. People who have come up--by
accident, or by their own force, or by the force of some at once
shrewd and brutal member of the family--have to be far and long
from the slums before they lose the sense that in conforming to
the decencies of life they are making absurd effeminate concessions.
When they go to buy a toothbrush they blush and stammer.

"Look at Lorna and Etta," Mrs. Cassatt was always saying to Kate.

"Well, I see 'em," Kate would reply. "And I don't see much."

"Ain't you ashamed of yourself!" cried the mother. "Them two
lives straight and decent. And you're better off than they are."

"Don't preach to me, ma," sneered Kate. "When I get ready
I'll--stop making a damn fool of myself."

But the example of the two girls was not without its effect.
They, struggling on in chastity against appalling odds, became
the models, not only to Mrs. Cassatt, but all the mothers of
that row held up to their daughters. The mothers--all of them by
observation, not a few by experience--knew what the "fancy
lady's" life really meant. And they strove mightily to keep
their daughters from it. Not through religion or moral feeling,
though many pretended--perhaps fancied--that this was their
reason; but through the plainest kind of practical sense--the
kind that in the broad determines the actions of human beings of
whatever class, however lofty the idealistic pretenses may be.
These mothers knew that the profession of the pariah meant a
short life and a wretched one, meant disease, lower and ever
lower wages, the scale swiftly descending, meant all the
miseries of respectability plus a heavy burden of miseries of
its own. There were many other girls besides Susan and Etta
holding up their heads--girls with prospects of matrimony, girls
with fairly good wages, girls with fathers and brothers at work
and able to provide a home. But Susan and Etta were peculiarly
valuable as examples because they were making the fight alone
and unaided.

Thus, they were watched closely. In those neighborhoods everyone
knows everyone's else business down to how the last cent is got
and spent. If either girl had appeared in a new pair of shoes,
a new hat, a new garment of any kind, at once the report would
have sped that the wearer had taken a turn in the streets. And
the scandal would have been justified; for where could either
have respectably got the money for the smallest and cheapest
addition to her toilet? Matson, too, proudly pointed them out as
giving the lie to the talk about working girls not getting
living wages, to the muttering against him and his fellow
employers as practically procurers for the pavement and the
dive, for the charity hospital's most dreadful wards, for the
Morgue's most piteous boxes and slabs.

As their strength declined, as their miseries ate in and in, the
two girls ceased talking together; they used to chatter much of
the time like two birds on a leafy, sunny bough. Now they
walked, ate their scanty, repulsive meals, dressed, worked, all
in silence. When their eyes met both glanced guiltily away, each
fearing the other would discover the thought she was
revolving--the thought of the streets. They slept badly--Etta
sometimes, Susan every night. For a long time after she came to
the tenements she had not slept well, despite her youth and the
dull toil that wore her out each day. But after many months she
had grown somewhat used to the noisiness--to fretting babies, to
wailing children, the mixed ale parties, the quarrelings of the
ill and the drunk, the incessant restlessness wherever people
are huddled so close together that repose is impossible. And she
had gradually acquired the habit of sleeping well--that is, well
for the tenement region where no one ever gets the rest without
which health is impossible. Now sleeplessness came again--hours
on hours of listening to the hateful and maddening discords of
densely crowded humanity, hours on hours of
thinking--thinking--in the hopeless circles like those of a
caged animal, treading with soft swift step round and round,
nose to the iron wall, eyes gleaming with despairing pain.
One Saturday evening after a supper of scorched cornmeal which
had been none too fresh when they got it at the swindling
grocer's on the street floor, Etta put on the tattered, patched
old skirt at which she had been toiling. "I can't make it fit to
wear," said she. "It's too far gone; I think"--her eyelids
fluttered--"I'll go see some of the girls."

Susan, who was darning--seated on the one chair--yes, it had once
been a chair--did not look up or speak. Etta put on her
hat--slowly. Then, with a stealthy glance at Susan, she moved
slidingly toward the door. As she reached it Susan's hands
dropped to her lap; so tense were Etta's nerves that the gesture
made her startle. "Etta!" said Susan in an appealing voice.

Etta's hand dropped from the knob. "Well--what is it, Lorna?"
she asked in a low, nervous tone.

"Look at me, dear."

Etta tried to obey, could not.

"Don't do it--yet," said Susan. "Wait--a few more days."

"Wait for what?"

"I don't know. But--wait."

"You get four, I get only three--and there's no chance of a
raise. I work slower instead of faster. I'm going to be
discharged soon. I'm in rags underneath. . . . I've got to go
before I get sick--and won't have anything to--to sell."

Susan did not reply. She stared at the remains of a cheap
stocking in her lap. Yes, there was no doubt about it, Etta's
health was going. Etta was strong, but she had no such store of
strength to draw upon as had accumulated for Susan during the
seventeen years of simple, regular life in healthful
surroundings. A little while and Etta would be ill--would,
perhaps--probably--almost certainly--die--

Dan Cassatt came in at the other door, sat on the edge of his
bed and changed his trousers for what he was pleased to imagine
a less disreputable pair. Midway the boy stopped and eyed
Susan's bare leg and foot, a grin of pleasure and amusement on
his precociously and viciously mature face.

"My, but you keep clean," he cried. "And you've got a mighty
pretty foot. Minnie's is ugly as hell."

Minnie was the "fancy lady" on the floor below--"my skirt," he
called her. Susan evidently did not hear his compliment. Dan
completed his "sporting toilet" with a sleeking down of his long
greasy hair, took himself away to his girl. Susan was watching
a bug crawl down the wall toward their bed with its stained and
malodorous covers of rag. Etta was still standing by the door
motionless. She sighed, once more put her hand on the knob.

Susan's voice came again. "You've never been out, have you?"
"No," replied Etta.

Susan began to put on her stocking. "I'll go," said she. "I'll

"No!" cried Etta, sobbing. "It don't matter about me. I'm bound
to be sucked under. You've got a chance to pull through."

"Not a ghost of a chance," answered Susan. "I'll go. You've
never been."

"I know, but----"

"You've never been," continued Susan, fastening her shoe with
its ragged string. "You've never been. Well--I have."

"You!" exclaimed Etta, horrified though unbelieving. "Oh, no,
you haven't."

"Yes," said Susan. "And worse."

"And worse?" repeated Etta. "Is that what the look I sometimes
see in your eyes--when you don't know anyone's seeing--is that
what it means?"

"I suppose so. I'll go. You stay here."

"And you--out there!"

"It doesn't mean much to me."

Etta looked at her with eyes as devoted as a dog's. "Then we'll
go together," she said.

Susan, pinning on her weather-stained hat, reflected. "Very
well," she said finally. "There's nothing lower than this."

They said no more; they went out into the clear, cold winter
night, out under the brilliant stars. Several handsome theater
buses were passing on their way from the fashionable suburb to
the theater. Etta looked at them, at the splendid horses, at the
men in top hats and fur coats--clean looking, fine looking,
amiable looking men--at the beautiful fur wraps of the delicate
women--what complexions!--what lovely hair!--what jewels! Etta,
her heart bursting, her throat choking, glanced at Susan to see
whether she too was observing. But Susan's eyes were on the
tenement they had just left.

"What are you looking at--so queer?" asked Etta.

"I was thinking that we'll not come back here."

Etta started. "Not come back _home!_"

Susan gave a strange short laugh. "Home!. . . No, we'll not
come back home. There's no use doing things halfway. We've made
the plunge. We'll go--the limit."

Etta shivered. She admired the courage, but it terrified her.
"There's something--something--awful about you, Lorna," she
said. "You've changed till you're like a different person from
what you were when you came to the restaurant. Sometimes--that
look in your eyes--well, it takes my breath away."

"It takes _my_ breath away, too. Come on."

At the foot of the hill they took the shortest route for Vine
Street, the highway of the city's night life.

Though they were so young and walked briskly, their impoverished
blood was not vigorous enough to produce a reaction against the
sharp wind of the zero night which nosed through their few thin
garments and bit into their bodies as if they were naked. They
came to a vast department store. Each of its great show-windows,
flooded with light, was a fascinating display of clothing for
women upon wax models--costly jackets and cloaks of wonderful
furs, white, brown, gray, rich and glossy black; underclothes
fine and soft, with ribbons and flounces and laces; silk
stockings and graceful shoes and slippers; dresses for street,
for ball, for afternoon, dresses with form, with lines, dresses
elegantly plain, dresses richly embroidered. Despite the cold
the two girls lingered, going from window to window, their
freezing faces pinched and purple, their eyes gazing hungrily.

"Now that we've tried 'em all on," said Susan with a short and
bitter laugh, "let's dress in our dirty rags again and go."

"Oh, I couldn't imagine myself in any of those things--could
you?" cried Etta.

"Yes," answered Susan. "And better."

"You were brought up to have those things, I know."

Susan shook her head. "But I'm going to have them."

"When?" said Etta, scenting romance. "Soon?"

"As soon as I learn," was Susan's absent, unsatisfactory reply.

Etta had gone back to her own misery and the contrasts to it. "I
get mad through and through," she cried, "when I think how all
those things go to some women--women that never did work and
never could. And they get them because they happen to belong to
rich fathers and husbands or whoever protects them. It isn't
fair! It makes me crazy!"

Susan gave a disdainful shrug. "What's the use of that kind of
talk!" said she. "No use at all. The thing is, _we_ haven't got
what we want, and we've got to _get_ it--and so we've got to
_learn_ how."

"I can't think of anything but the cold," said Etta. "My God,
how cold I am! There isn't anything I wouldn't do to get warm.
There isn't anything anybody wouldn't do to get warm, if they
were as cold as this. It's all very well for warm people to

"Oh, I'm sick of all the lying and faking, anyhow. Do you
believe in hell, Lorna?"

"Not in a hot one," said Susan.

Soon they struck into Vine Street, bright as day almost, and
lined with beer halls, concert gardens, restaurants. Through the
glass fronts crowds of men and women were visible--contented
faces, well-fed bodies, food on the tables or inviting-looking
drink. Along the sidewalk poured an eager throng, all the
conspicuous faces in it notable for the expectancy of pleasure
in the eyes.

"Isn't this different!" exclaimed Etta. "My God, how cold I
am--and how warm everybody else is but us!"

The sights, the sounds of laughter, of gay music, acted upon her
like an intoxicant. She tossed her head in a reckless gesture.
"I don't care what becomes of me," said she. "I'm ready for
anything except dirt and starvation."

Nevertheless, they hurried down Vine Street, avoiding the
glances of the men and behaving as if they were two working
girls in a rush to get home. As they walked, Susan, to delude
herself into believing that she was not hesitating, with
fainting courage talked incessantly to Etta--told her the things
Mabel Connemora had explained to her--about how a woman could,
and must, take care of her health, if she were not to be swept
under like the great mass of the ignorant, careless women of the
pariah class. Susan was astonished that she remembered all the
actress had told her--remembered it easily, as if she had often
thought of it, had used the knowledge habitually.

They arrived at Fountain Square, tired from the long walk. They
were both relieved and depressed that nothing had happened. "We
might go round the fountain and then back," suggested Susan.

They made the tour less rapidly but still keeping their heads
and their glances timidly down. They were numb with the cold
now. To the sharp agony had succeeded an ache like the steady
grinding pain of rheumatism. Etta broke the silence with, "Maybe
we ought to go into a house."

"A house! Oh--you mean a--a sporting house." At that time
professional prostitution had not become widespread among the
working class; stationary or falling wages, advancing cost of
food and developing demand for comfort and luxury had as yet
only begun to produce their inevitable results. Thus,
prostitution as an industry was in the main segregated in
certain streets and certain houses and the prostitutes were a
distinct class.

"You haven't been?" inquired Etta.

"No," said Susan.

"Dan Cassatt and Kate told me about those places," Etta went on.
"Kate says they're fine and the girls make fifty and sometimes
a hundred dollars a week, and have everything--servants to wait
on them, good food, bathrooms, lovely clothes, and can drive
out. But I--I think I'd stay in the house."

"I want to be my own boss," said Susan.

"There's another side than what Kate says," continued Etta as
consecutively as her chattering teeth would permit. "She heard
from a madam that wants her to come. But Dan heard from
Minnie--she used to be in one--and she says the girls are
slaves, that they're treated like dogs and have to take
anything. She says it's something dreadful the way men act--even
the gentlemen. She says the madam fixes things so that every
girl always owes her money and don't own a stitch to her back,
and so couldn't leave if she wanted to."

"That sounds more like the truth," said Susan.

"But we may _have_ to go," pleaded Etta. "It's awful cold--and if
we went, at least we'd have a warm place. If we wanted to leave,
why, we couldn't be any worse off for clothes than we are."

Susan had no answer for this argument. They went several squares
up Vine Street in silence. Then Etta burst out again:

"I'm frozen through and through, Lorna, and I'm dead tired--and
hungry. The wind's cutting the flesh off my bones. What in the
hell does it matter what becomes of us? Let's get warm, for
God's sake. Let's go to a house. They're in Longworth
Street--the best ones."

And she came to a halt, forcing Susan to halt also. It happened
to be the corner of Eighth Street. Susan saw the iron fence, the
leafless trees of Garfield Place. "Let's go down this way," said
she. "I had luck here once."

"Luck!" said Etta, her curiosity triumphant over all.

Susan's answer was a strange laugh. Ahead of them, a woman
warmly and showily dressed was sauntering along. "That's one of
them," said Etta. "Let's see how _she_ does it. We've got to
learn quick. I can't stand this cold much longer."

The two girls, their rags fluttering about their miserable
bodies, kept a few feet behind the woman, watched her with
hollow eyes of envy and fear. Tears of anguish from the cold
were streaming down their cheeks. Soon a man alone--a youngish
man with a lurching step--came along. They heard the woman say,
"Hello, dear. Don't be in a hurry."

He tried to lurch past her, but she seized him by the lapel of
his overcoat. "Lemme go," said he. "You're old enough to be a
grandmother, you old hag."

Susan and Etta halted and, watching so interestedly that they
forgot themselves, heard her laugh at his insult, heard her say
wheedlingly, "Come along, dearie, I'll treat you right. You're
the kind of a lively, joky fellow I like."

"Go to hell, gran'ma," said the man, roughly shaking her off and
lurching on toward the two girls. He stopped before them, eyed
them by the light of the big electric lamp, grinned
good-naturedly. "What've we got here?" said he. "This looks better."

The woman rushed toward the girls, pouring out a stream of
vileness. "You git out of here!" she shrilled. "You chippies git
off my beat. I'll have you pinched--I will!"

"Shut up!" cried the drunken man, lifting his fist. "I'll have
_you_ pinched. Let these ladies alone, they're friends of mine.
Do you want me to call the cop?"

The woman glanced toward the corner where a policeman was
standing, twirling his club. She turned away, cursing horribly.
The man laughed. "Dirty old hag--isn't she?" said he. "Don't
look so scared, birdies." He caught them each by an arm, stared
woozily at Etta. "You're a good little looker, you are. Come
along with me. There's three in it."

"I--I can't leave my lady friend," Etta succeeded in chattering.
"Please really I can't."

"Your lady friend?" He turned his drunken head in Susan's
direction, squinted at her. He was rather good-looking. "Oh--she
means _you_. Fact is, I'm so soused I thought I was seein'
double. Why, _you're_ a peach. I'll take you." And he released his
hold on Etta to seize her. "Come right along, my lovey-dovey dear."

Susan drew away; she was looking at him with terror and
repulsion. The icy blast swept down the street, sawed into her
flesh savagely.

"I'll give _you_ five," said the drunken man. "Come along." He
grabbed her arm, waved his other hand at Etta. "So long,
blondie. 'Nother time. Good luck."

Susan heard Etta's gasp of horror. She wrenched herself free
again. "I guess I'd better go with him," said she to Etta.

Etta began to sob. "Oh, Lorna!" she moaned. "It's awful."

"You go into the restaurant on the corner and get something to
eat, and wait for me. We can afford to spend the money. And
you'll be warm there."

"Here! Here!" cried the tipsy man. "What're you two whispering
about? Come along, skinny. No offense. I like 'em slim." And he
made coarse and pointed remarks about the sluggishness of fat
women, laughing loudly at his own wit.

The two girls did not hear. The wind straight from the Arctic
was plying its hideous lash upon their defenseless bodies.

"Come on, lovey!" cried the man. "Let's go in out of the cold."

"Oh, Lorna! You can't go with a drunken man! I'll--I'll take
him. I can stand it better'n you. You can go when there's a
gentleman "

"You don't know," said Susan. "Didn't I tell you I'd been
through the worst?"

"Are you coming?" broke in the man, shaking his head to scatter
the clouds over his sight.

The cold was lashing Susan's body; and she was seeing the
tenement she had left--the vermin crawling, the filth
everywhere, the meal bugs in the rotting corn meal--and Jeb
Ferguson. "Wait in the restaurant," said she to Etta. "Didn't I
tell you I'm a nobody. This is what's expected of me." The wind
clawed and tore at her quivering flesh. "It's cold, Etta. Go get
warm. Good-by."

She yielded to the tipsy man's tugging at her arm. Etta stood as
if paralyzed, watching the two move slowly westward. But cold
soon triumphed over horror. She retraced her steps toward Vine
Street. At the corner stood an elderly man with an iron-gray
beard. She merely glanced at him in passing, and so was startled
when he said in a low voice:

"Go back the way you came. I'll join you." She glanced at him
again, saw a gleam in his eyes that assured her she had not
imagined the request. Trembling and all at once hot, she kept on
across the street. But instead of going into the restaurant she
walked past it and east through dark Eighth Street. A few yards,
and she heard a quiet step behind her. A few yards more, and the
lights of Vine Street threw a man's shadow upon the sidewalk
beside her. From sheer fright she halted. The man faced her--a
man old enough to be her father, a most respectable, clean
looking man with a certain churchly though hardly clerical air
about him. "Good evening, miss," said he.

"Good evening," she faltered.

"I'm a stranger--in town to buy goods and have a little fun,"
stammered he with a grotesque attempt to be easy and familiar.
"I thought maybe you could help me."

A little fun! Etta's lips opened, but no words came. The cold
was digging its needle-knives into flesh, into bone, into nerve.
Through the man's thick beard and mustache came the gleam of
large teeth, the twisting of thick raw lips. A little fun!

"Would it," continued the man, nervously, "would it be very dear?"

"I--I don't know," faltered Etta.

"I could afford--say--" he looked at her dress--"say--two dollars."

"I--I" And again Etta could get no further.

"The room'd be a dollar," pleaded the man. "That'd make it three."

"I--I--can't," burst out Etta, hysterical. "Oh, please let me
alone. I--I'm a good girl, but I do need money. But I--I can't.
Oh, for God's sake--I'm so cold--so cold!"

The man was much embarrassed. "Oh, I'm sorry," he said
feelingly. "That's right--keep your virtue. Go home to your
parents." He was at ease now; his voice was greasy and his words
sleek with the unction of an elder. "I thought you were a soiled
dove. I'm glad you spoke out--glad for my sake as well as your
own. I've got a daughter about your age. Go home, my dear, and
stay a good girl. I know it's hard sometimes; but never give up
your purity--never!" And he lifted his square-topped hard hat
and turned away.

Suddenly Etta felt again the fury of the winter night and icy
wind. As that wind flapped her thin skirt and tortured her
flesh, she cried, "Wait--please. I was just--just fooling."

The man had halted, but he was looking at her uncertainly. Etta
put her hand on his arm and smiled pertly up at him--smiled as
she had seen other street girls smile in the days when she
despised them. "I'll go--if you'll give me three."

"I--I don't think I care to go now. You sort of put me out of
the humor."

"Well--two, then." She gave a reckless laugh. "God, how cold it
is! Anybody'd go to hell to get warm a night like this."

"You are a very pretty girl," said the man. He was warmly
dressed; his was not the thin blood of poverty. He could not
have appreciated what she was feeling. "You're sure you want to
go? You're sure it's your--your business?"

"Yes. I'm strange in this part of town. Do you know a place?"

An hour later Etta went into the appointed restaurant. Her eyes
searched anxiously for Susan, but did not find her. She inquired
at the counter. No one had asked there for a young lady. This
both relieved her and increased her nervousness; Susan had not
come and gone--but would she come? Etta was so hungry that she
could hold out no longer. She sat at a table near the door and
took up the large sheet on which was printed the bill of fare.
She was almost alone in the place, as it was between dinner and
supper. She read the bill thoroughly, then ordered black bean
soup, a sirloin steak and German fried potatoes. This, she had
calculated, would cost altogether a dollar; undoubtedly an
extravagance, but everything at that restaurant seemed dear in
comparison with the prices to which she had been used, and she
felt horribly empty. She ordered the soup, to stay her while the
steak was broiling.

As soon as the waiter set down bread and butter she began upon
it greedily. As the soup came, in walked Susan--calm and
self-possessed, Etta saw at first glance. "I've been so
frightened. You'll have a plate of soup?" asked Etta, trying to
look and speak in unconcerned fashion.

"No, thank you," replied Susan, seating herself opposite.

"There's a steak coming--a good-sized one, the waiter said it'd be."

"Very well."

Susan spoke indifferently.

"Aren't you hungry?"

"I don't know. I'll see." Susan was gazing straight ahead. Her
eyes were distinctly gray--gray and as hard as Susan Lenox's
eyes could be.

"What're you thinking about?"

"I don't know," she laughed queerly.


A pause, then: "Nothing is going to be dreadful to me any more.
It's all in the game, as Mr. Burlingham used to say."

"Burlingham--who's he?" It was Etta's first faint clew toward
that mysterious past of Susan's into which she longed to peer.

"Oh--a man I knew. He's dead."

A long pause, Etta watching Susan's unreadable face. At last she said:

"You don't seem a bit excited."

Susan came back to the present. "Don't I? Your soup's getting cold."

Etta ate several spoonfuls, then said with an embarrassed
attempt at a laugh, "I--I went, too."

Susan slowly turned upon Etta her gaze--the gaze of eyes
softening, becoming violet. Etta's eyes dropped and the color
flooded into her fair skin. "He was an old man--forty or maybe
fifty," she explained nervously. "He gave me two dollars. I
nearly didn't get him. I lost my nerve and told him I was good
and was only starting because I needed money."

"Never whine," said Susan. "It's no use. Take what comes, and
wait for a winning hand."

Etta looked at her in a puzzled way. "How queer you talk! Not a
bit like yourself. You sound so much older. . . . And your
eyes--they don't look natural at all."

Indeed they looked supernatural. The last trace of gray was
gone. They were of the purest, deepest violet, luminous,
mysterious, with that awe-inspiring expression of utter
aloneness. But as Etta spoke the expression changed. The gray
came back and with it a glance of irony. Said she:

"Oh--nonsense! I'm all right."

"I didn't mind nearly as much as I thought I would. Yes, I'll
get used to it."

"You mustn't," said Susan.

"But I've got to."

"We've got to do it, but we haven't got to get used to it,"
replied Susan.

Etta was still puzzling at this when the dinner now came--a
fine, thick broiled steak, the best steak Susan had ever seen,
and the best food Etta had ever seen.

They had happened upon one of those famous Cincinnati chop
houses where in plain surroundings the highest quality of plain
food is served. "You _are_ hungry, aren't you, Lorna?" said Etta.

"Yes--I'm hungry," declared Susan. "Cut it--quick."

"Draught beer or bottled?" asked the waiter.

"Bring us draught beer," said Etta. "I haven't tasted beer since
our restaurant burned."

"I never tasted it," said Susan. "But I'll try it tonight."

Etta cut two thick slices from the steak, put them on Susan's
plate with some of the beautifully browned fried potatoes.
"Gracious, they have good things to eat here!" she exclaimed.
Then she cut two thick slices for herself, and filled her mouth.
Her eyes glistened, the color came into her pale cheeks. "Isn't
it _grand_!" she cried, when there was room for words to pass out.

"Grand," agreed Susan, a marvelous change of expression in her
face also.

The beer came. Etta drank a quarter of the tall glass at once.
Susan tasted, rather liked the fresh bitter-sweet odor and
flavor. "Is it--very intoxicating?" she inquired.

"If you drink enough," said Etta. "But not one glass."

Susan took quite a drink. "I feel a lot less tired already,"
declared she.

"Me too," said Etta. "My, what a meal! I never had anything like
this in my life. When I think what we've been through! Lorna,
will it _last_?"

"We mustn't think about that," said Susan.

"Tell me what happened to you."

"Nothing. He gave me the money, that was all."

"Then we've got seven dollars--seven dollars and twenty cents,
with what we brought away from home with us."

"Seven dollars--and twenty cents," repeated Susan thoughtfully.
Then a queer smile played around the corners of her mouth.
"Seven dollars--that's a week's wages for both of us at Matson's."

"But I'd go back to honest work tomorrow--if I could find a good
job," Etta said eagerly--too eagerly. "Wouldn't you, Lorna?"

"I don't know," replied Susan. She had the inability to make
pretenses, either to others or to herself, which characterizes
stupid people and also the large, simple natures.

"Oh, you can't mean that!" protested Etta. Instead of replying
Susan began to talk of what to do next. "We must find a place to
sleep, and we must buy a few things to make a better appearance."

"I don't dare spend anything yet," said Etta. "I've got only my
two dollars. Not that when this meal's paid for."

"We're going to share even," said Susan. "As long as either has
anything, it belongs to both."

The tears welled from Etta's eyes. "You are too good, Lorna!
You mustn't be. It isn't the way to get on. Anyhow, I can't
accept anything from you. You wouldn't take anything from me."

"We've got to help each other up," insisted Susan. "We share
even--and let's not talk any more about it. Now, what shall we
get? How much ought we to lay out?"

The waiter here interrupted. "Beg pardon, young ladies," said
he. "Over yonder, at the table four down, there's a couple of
gents that'd like to join you. I seen one of 'em flash quite a
roll, and they acts too like easy spenders."

As Susan was facing that way, she examined them. They were young
men, rather blond, with smooth faces, good-natured eyes and
mouths; they were well dressed--one, the handsomer, notably so.
Susan merely glanced; both men at once smiled at her with an
unimpertinent audacity that probably came out of the champagne
bottle in a silver bucket of ice on their table.

"Shall I tell 'em to come over?" said the waiter.

"Yes," replied Susan.

She was calm, but Etta twitched with nervousness, saying, "I
wish I'd had your experience. I wish we didn't look so
dreadful--me especially. __I__'m not pretty enough to stand out
against these awful clothes."

The two men were pushing eagerly toward them, the taller and
less handsome slightly in advance. He said, his eyes upon Susan,
"We were lonesome, and you looked a little that way too. We're much
obliged." He glanced at the waiter. "Another bottle of the same."

"I don't want anything to drink," said Susan.

"Nor I," chimed in Etta. "No, thank you."

The young man waved the waiter away with, "Get it for my friend
and me, then." He smiled agreeably at Susan. "You won't mind my
friend and me drinking?"

"Oh, no. "

"And maybe you'll change your mind," said the shorter man to
Etta. "You see, if we all drink, we'll get acquainted faster.
Don't you like champagne?"

"I never tasted it," Etta confessed.

"Neither did I," admitted Susan.

"You're sure to like it," said the taller man to Susan--his
friend presently addressed him as John. "Noththing{sic} equal to
it for making friends. I like it for itself, and I like it for
the friends it has made me."

Champagne was not one of the commonplaces of that modest chop
house. So the waiter opened the bottle with much ceremony. Susan
and Etta startled when the cork popped ceilingward in the way
that in such places is still regarded as fashionable. They

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