Part 8 out of 19
watched with interested eyes the pouring of the beautiful pale
amber liquid, were fascinated when they saw how the bubbles
surged upward incessantly, imprisoned joys thronging to escape.
And after the first glass, the four began to have the kindliest
feelings for each other. Sorrow and shame, poverty and
foreboding, took wings unto themselves and flew away. The girls
felt deliciously warm and contented, and thought the young men
charming--a splendid change from the coarse, badly dressed
youths of the tenement, with their ignorant speech and rough,
misshapen hands. They were ashamed of their own hands, were
painfully self-conscious whenever lifting the glass to the lips
brought them into view. Etta's hands in fact were not so badly
spoiled as might have been expected, considering her long years
of rough work; the nails were in fairly good condition and the
skin was rougher to the touch than to the sight. Susan's hands
had not really been spoiled as yet. She had been proud of them
and had taken care of them; still, they were not the hands of a
lady, but of a working girl. The young men had gentlemen's
hands--strong, evidently exercised only at sports, not at
degrading and deforming toil.
The shorter and handsomer youth, who answered to the name of
Fatty, for obvious but not too obvious reasons, addressed
himself to Etta. John--who, it came out, was a Chicagoan,
visiting Fatty--fell to Susan. The champagne made him voluble;
he was soon telling all about himself--a senior at Ann Arbor, as
was Fatty also; he intended to be a lawyer; he was fond of a
good, time was fond of the girls--liked girls who were gay
rather than respectable ones--"because with the prim girls you
have to quit just as the fun ought really to begin."
After two glasses Susan, warned by a slight dizziness, stopped
drinking; Etta followed her example. But the boys kept on,
ordered a second bottle. "This is the fourth we've had tonight,"
said Fatty proudly when it came.
"Don't it make you dizzy?" asked Etta.
"Not a bit," Fatty assured her. But she noticed that his tongue
now swung trippingly loose.
"You haven't been at--at this--long, have you?" inquired John
"Not long," replied she.
Etta, somewhat giddied, overheard and put in, "We began tonight.
We got tired of starving and freezing."
John looked deepest sympathy into Susan's calm violet-gray eyes.
"I don't blame you," said he. "A woman does have a--a hades of
"We were going out to buy some clothes when you came," proceeded
Etta. "We're in an awful state."
"I wondered how two girls with faces like yours," said John,
"came to be dressed so--so differently. That was what first
attracted us." Then, as Etta and Fatty were absorbed in each
other, he went on to Susan: "And your eyes--I mustn't forget
them. You certainly have got a beautiful face. And your mouth--so
sweet and sad--but, what a lovely, _lovely_ smile!"
At this Susan smiled still more broadly with pleasure. "I'm glad
you're pleased," said she.
"Why, if you were dressed up----
"You're not a working girl by birth, are you?"
"I wish I had been," said Susan.
"Oh, I think a girl's got as good a right as a man to have a
good time," lied John.
"Don't say things you don't believe," said Susan. "It isn't necessary."
"I can hand that back to you. You weren't frank, yourself, when
you said you wished you'd been born in the class of your
friend--and of my friend Fatty, too."
Susan's laugh was confession. The champagne was dancing in her
blood. She said with a reckless toss of the head:
"I was born nothing. So I'm free to become anything I please
anything except respectable."
Here Fatty broke in. "I'll tell you what let's do. Let's all go
shopping. We can help you girls select your things."
Susan laughed. "We're going to buy about three dollars' worth.
There won't be any selecting. We'll simply take the cheapest."
"Then--let's go shopping," said John, "and you two girls can
help Fatty and me select clothes for you."
"That's the talk!" cried Fatty. And he summoned the waiter. "The
bill," said he in the manner of a man who likes to enjoy the
servility of servants.
"We hadn't paid for our supper," said Susan. "How much was it, Etta?"
"A dollar twenty-five."
"We're going to pay for that," said Fatty. "What d'ye take us for?"
"Oh, no. We must pay it," said Susan.
"Don't be foolish. Of course I'll pay."
"No," said Susan quietly, ignoring Etta's wink. And from her
bosom she took a crumpled five-dollar bill.
"I should say you _were_ new," laughed John. "You don't even know
where to carry your money yet." And they all laughed, Susan and
Etta because they felt gay and assumed the joke whatever it was
must be a good one. Then John laid his hand over hers and said,
"Put your money away."
Susan looked straight at him. "I can't allow it," she said. "I'm
not that poor--yet."
John colored. "I beg your pardon," he said. And when the bill
came he compelled Fatty to let her pay a dollar and a quarter of
it out of her crumpled five. The two girls were fascinated by
the large roll of bills--fives, tens, twenties--which Fatty took
from his trousers pocket. They stared open-eyed when he laid a
twenty on the waiter's plate along with Susan's five. And it
frightened them when he, after handing Susan her change, had
left only a two-dollar bill, four silver quarters and a dime. He
gave the silver to the waiter.
"Was that for a tip?" asked Susan.
"Yes," said Fatty. "I always give about ten per cent of the bill
unless it runs over ten dollars. In that case--a quarter a
person as a rule. Of course, if the bill was very large, I'd
give more." He was showing his amusement at her inquisitiveness.
"I wanted to know," explained she. "I'm very ignorant, and I've
got to learn."
"That's right," said John, admiringly--with a touch of
condescension. "Don't be afraid to confess ignorance."
"I'm not," replied Susan. "I used to be afraid of not being
respectable and that was all. Now, I haven't any fear at all."
"You are a queer one!" exclaimed John. "You oughtn't to be in
"Where then?" asked she.
"I don't know," he confessed.
"Neither do I." Her expression suddenly was absent, with a
quaint, slight smile hovering about her lips. She looked at him
merrily. "You see, it's got to be something that isn't respectable."
"What _do_ you mean?" demanded he.
Her answer was a laugh.
Fatty declared it too cold to chase about afoot--"Anyhow, it's
late--nearly eleven, and unless we're quick all the stores'll be
closed." The waiter called them a carriage; its driver promised
to take them to a shop that didn't close till midnight on
Saturdays. Said Fatty, as they drove away:
"Well, I suppose, Etta, you'll say you've never been in a
"Oh, yes, I have," cried Etta. "Twice--at funerals."
This made everyone laugh--this and the champagne and the air
which no longer seemed cruel to the girls but stimulating, a
grateful change from the close warmth of the room. As the boys
were smoking cigarettes, they had the windows down. The faces of
both girls were flushed and lively, and their cheeks seemed
already to have filled out. The four made so much noise that the
crowds on the sidewalk were looking at them--looking smilingly,
delighted by the sight of such gayety. Susan was even gayer than
Etta. She sang, she took a puff at John's cigarette; then
laughed loudly when he seized and kissed her, laughed again as
she kissed him; and she and John fell into each other's arms and
laughed uproariously as they saw Fatty and Etta embracing.
The driver kept his promise; eleven o'clock found them bursting
into Sternberg's, over the Rhine--a famous department store for
Germans of all classes. They had an hour, and they made good use
of it. Etta was for yielding to Fatty's generous urgings and
buying right and left. But Susan would not have it. She told the
men what she and Etta would take--a simple complete outfit, and
no more. Etta wanted furs and finery. Susan kept her to plain,
serviceable things. Only once did she yield. When Etta and Fatty
begged to be allowed a big showy hat, Susan yielded--but gave
John leave to buy her only the simplest of simple hats. "You
needn't tell _me_ any yarns about your birth and breeding," said
he in a low tone so that Etta should not hear.
But that subject did not interest Susan. "Let's forget it,"
said she, almost curtly. "I've cut out the past--and the future.
Today's enough for me."
"And for me, too," protested he. "I hope you're having as good
fun as I am."
"This is the first time I've really laughed in nearly a year,"
said she. "You don't know what it means to be poor and hungry
and cold--worst of all, cold."
"You unhappy child," said John tenderly.
But Susan was laughing again, and making jokes about a wonderful
German party dress all covered with beads and lace and ruffles
and embroidery. When they reached the shoe department, Susan
asked John to take Fatty away. He understood that she was
ashamed of their patched and holed stockings, and hastened to
obey. They were making these their last purchases when the big
bell rang for the closing. "I'm glad these poor tired shopgirls
and clerks are set free," said John.
It was one of those well-meaning but worthless commonplaces of
word-kindness that get for their utterance perhaps exaggerated
credit for "good heart." Susan, conscience-stricken, halted.
"And I never once thought of them!" she exclaimed. "It just shows."
"Oh, nothing. Come on. I must forget that, for I can't be happy
again till I do. I understand now why the comfortable people can
be happy. They keep from knowing or they make themselves forget."
"Why not?" said John. "What's the use in being miserable about
things that can't be helped?"
"No use at all," replied the girl. She laughed. "I've forgotten."
The carriage was so filled with their bundles that they had some
difficulty in making room for themselves--finally accomplished
it by each girl sitting on her young man's lap. They drove to a
quietly placed, scrupulously clean little hotel overlooking
Lincoln Park. "We're going to take rooms here and dress,"
explained Fatty. "Then we'll wander out and have some supper."
By this time Susan and Etta had lost all sense of strangeness.
The spirit of adventure was rampant in them as in a dreaming
child. And the life they had been living--what they had seen and
heard and grown accustomed to--made it easy for them to strike
out at once and briskly in the new road, so different from the
dreary and cruel path along which they had been plodding. They
stood laughing and joking in the parlor while the boys
registered; then the four went up to two small but comfortable
and fascinatingly clean rooms with a large bathroom between.
"Fatty and I will go down to the bar while you two dress," said John.
"Not on your life!" exclaimed Fatty. "We'll have the bar brought
up to us."
But John, fortified by Susan's look of gratitude for his
tactfulness, whispered to his friend--what Susan could easily
guess. And Fatty said, "Oh, I never thought of it. Yes, we'll
give 'em a chance. Don't be long, girls."
"Thank you," said Susan to John.
"That's all right. Take your time."
Susan locked the hall door behind the two men. She rushed to the
bathroom, turned on the hot water. "Oh, Etta!" she cried, tears
in her eyes, a hysterical sob in her throat. "A bathtub again!"
Etta too was enthusiastic; but she had not that intense
hysterical joy which Susan felt--a joy that can be appreciated
only by a person who, clean by instinct and by lifelong habit,
has been shut out from thorough cleanliness for long months of
dirt and foul odors and cold. It was no easy matter to become
clean again after all those months. But there was plenty of soap
and brushes and towels, and at last the thing was accomplished.
Then they tore open the bundles and arrayed themselves in the
fresh new underclothes, in the simple attractive costumes of
jacket, blouse and skirt. Susan had returned to her class, and
had brought Etta with her.
"What shall we do with these?" asked Etta, pointing disdainfully
with the toe of her new boot to the scatter of the garments they
had cast off.
Susan looked down at it in horror. She could not believe that
_she_ had been wearing such stuff--that it was the clothing of
all her associates of the past six months--was the kind of
attire in which most of her fellow-beings went about the
beautiful earth, She shuddered. "Isn't life dreadful?" she
cried. And she kicked together the tattered, patched, stained
trash, kicked it on to a large piece of heavy wrapping paper she
had spread out upon the floor. Thus, without touching her
discarded self, she got it wrapped up and bound with a strong
string. She rang for the maid, gave her a quarter and pointed to
the bundle. "Please take that and throw it away," she said.
When the maid was gone Etta said: "I'm mighty glad to have it
out of the room."
"Out of the room?" cried Susan. "Out of my heart. Out of my life."
They put on their hats, admired themselves in the mirror, and
descended--Susan remembering halfway that they had left the
lights on and going back to turn them off. The door boy summoned
the two young men to the parlor. They entered and exclaimed in
real amazement. For they were facing two extremely pretty young
women, one dark, the other fair. The two faces were wreathed in
pleased and grateful smiles.
"Don't we look nice?" demanded Etta.
"Nice!" cried Fatty. "We sure did draw a pair of first
prizes--didn't we, Johnny?"
John did not reply. He was gazing at Susan. Etta had young
beauty but it was of the commonplace kind. In Susan's face and
carriage there was far more than beauty. "Where _did_ you come
from?" said John to her in an undertone. "And _where_ are you going?"
"Out to supper, I hope," laughed she.
"Your eyes change--don't they? I thought they were violet. Now
I see they're gray--gray as can be."
AT lunch, well toward the middle of the following afternoon,
Fatty--his proper name was August Gulick--said: "John and I
don't start for Ann Arbor until a week from today. That means
seven clear days. A lot can be done in that time, with a little
intelligent hustling. What do you say, girls? Do you stick to us?"
"As long as you'll let us," said Etta, who was delighting Gulick
with her frank and wondering and grateful appreciation of his
munificence. Never before had his own private opinion of himself
received such a flatteringly sweeping indorsement--from anyone
who happened to impress him as worth while. In the last phrase
lies the explanation of her success through a policy that is
always dangerous and usually a failure.
So it was settled that with the quiet little hotel as
headquarters the four would spend a week in exploring Cincinnati
as a pleasure ground. Gulick knew the town thoroughly. His
father was a brewer whose name was on many a huge beer wagon
drawn about those streets by showy Clydesdales. Also he had
plenty of money; and, while Redmond--for his friend was the son
of Redmond, well known as a lawyer-politician in Chicago--had
nothing like so much as Gulick, still he had enough to make a
passable pretense at keeping up his end. For Etta and Susan the
city had meant shabby to filthy tenements, toil and weariness
and sorrow. There was opened to their ravished young eyes "the
city"--what reveals itself to the pleasure-seeker with pocket
well filled--what we usually think of when we pronounce its
name, forgetting what its reality is for all but a favored few
of those within its borders. It was a week of music and of
laughter--music especially--music whenever they ate or drank,
music to dance by, music in the beer gardens where they spent
the early evenings, music at the road houses where they arrived
in sleighs after the dances to have supper--unless you choose to
call it breakfast. You would have said that Susan had slipped
out of the tenement life as she had out of its garments, that she
had retained not a trace of it even in memory. But--in those days
began her habit of never passing a beggar without giving something.
Within three or four days this life brought a truly amazing
transformation in the two girls. You would not have recognized
in them the pale and wan and ragged outcasts of only the
Saturday night before. "Aren't you happy?" said Etta to Susan,
in one of the few moments they were alone. "But I don't need to
ask. I didn't know you could be so gay."
"I had forgotten how to laugh," replied Susan.
"I suppose I ought to be ashamed," pursued Etta.
"Why?" inquired Susan.
"Oh, you know why. You know how people'd talk if they knew."
"What people?" said Susan. "Anyone who's willing to give you anything?"
"No," admitted Etta. "But----" There she halted.
Susan went on: "I don't propose to be bothered by the other
kind. They wouldn't do anything for me if they could except
sneer and condemn."
"Still, you know it isn't right, what we're doing."
"I know it isn't cold--or hunger--or rags and dirt--and bugs,"
Those few words were enough to conjure even to Etta's duller
fancy the whole picture to its last detail of loathsome squalor.
Into Etta's face came a dazed expression. "Was that really _us_, Lorna?"
"No," said Susan with a certain fierceness. "It was a dream. But
we must take care not to have that dream again."
"I'd forgotten how cold I was," said Etta; "hadn't you?"
"No," said Susan, "I hadn't forgotten anything."
"Yes, I suppose it was all worse for you than for me. _You_ used
to be a lady."
"Don't talk nonsense," said Susan.
"I don't regret what I'm doing," Etta now declared. "It was Gus
that made me think about it." She looked somewhat sheepish as
she went on to explain. "I had a little too much to drink last
night. And when Gus and I were alone, I cried--for no reason
except the drink. He asked me why and I had to say something,
and it popped into my head to say I was ashamed of the life I
was leading. As things turned out, I'm glad I said it. He was
"Of course," said Susan.
"You never saw anything like it," continued Etta with an
expression suggesting a feeling that she ought to be ashamed but
could not help being amused. "He acted differently right away.
Why don't you try it on John?"
"Oh, it'll make him--make him have more--more respect for you."
"Perhaps," said Susan indifferently.
"Don't you want John to--to respect you?"
"I've been too busy having a good time to think much about
him--or about anything. I'm tired of thinking. I want to rest.
Last night was the first time in my life I danced as much as I
"Don't you like John?"
"He does know a lot, doesn't he? He's like you. He reads and and
thinks--and---- He's away ahead of Fatty except---- You don't
mind my having the man with the most money?"
"Not in the least," laughed Susan. "Money's another thing I'm
glad to rest from thinking about."
"But this'll last only a few days longer. And--If you managed
John Redmond right, Lorna----"
"Now--you must not try to make me think."
"Lorna--are you _really_ happy?"
"Can't you see I am?"
"Yes--when we're all together. But when--when you're alone with
Susan's expression stopped her. It was a laughing expression;
and yet--Said Susan: "I am happy, dear--very happy. I eat and
drink and sleep--and I am, oh, so glad to be alive."
"_Isn't_ it good to be alive!--if you've got plenty," exclaimed
Etta. "I never knew before. _This_ is the dream, Lorna--and I
think I'll kill myself if I have to wake."
On Saturday afternoon the four were in one of the rooms
discussing where the farewell dinner should be held and what
they would eat and drink. Etta called Susan into the other room
and shut the door between.
"Fatty wants me to go along with him and live in Detroit," said
she, blurting it out as if confessing a crime.
"Isn't that splendid!" cried Susan, kissing her. "I thought he
would. He fell in love with you at first sight."
"That's what he says. But, Lorna--I--I don't know _what_ to do!"
"_Do_? Why, go. What else is there? Go, of course."
"Oh, no, Lorna," protested Etta. "I couldn't leave you. I
couldn't get along without you."
"But you must go. Don't you love him?"
Etta began to weep. "That's the worst of it. I do love him so!
And I think he loves me--and might marry me and make me a good
woman again. . . . You mustn't ever tell John or anybody about
that--that dreadful man I went with--will you, dear?"
"What do you take me for?" said Susan.
"I've told Fatty I was a good girl until I met him. You haven't
told John about yourself?" Susan shook her head.
"I suppose not. You're so secretive. You really think I ought to go?"
"I know it."
Etta was offended by Susan's positive, practical tone. "I don't
believe you care."
"Yes, I care," said Susan. "But you're right to follow the man
you love. Besides, there's nothing so good in sight here."
"What'll _you_ do? Oh, I can't go, Lorna!"
"Now, Etta," said Susan calmly, "don't talk nonsense. I'll get
along all right."
"You come to Detroit. You could find a job there, and we could
"Would Fatty like that?"
Etta flushed and glanced away. Young Gulick had soon decided
that Susan was the stronger--therefore, the less "womanly"--of
the two girls, and must be the evil influence over her whom he
had appeared just in time to save. When he said this to Etta,
she protested--not very vigorously, because she wished him to
think her really almost innocent. She wasn't _quite_ easy in her
mind as to whether she had been loyal to Lorna. But, being
normally human, she soon _almost_ convinced herself that but for
Lorna she never would have made the awful venture. Anyhow, since
it would help her with Gulick and wouldn't do Lorna the least
mite of harm, why not let him think he was right?
Said Susan: "Hasn't he been talking to you about getting away
from--from all this?"
"But I don't care," cried Etta, moved to an outburst of
frankness by her sense of security in Susan's loyalty and
generosity. "He doesn't understand. Men are fools about women.
He thinks he likes in me what I haven't got at all. As a matter
of fact if I had been what he made me tell him I was, why we'd
never have met--or got acquainted in the way that makes us so
fond of each other. And I owe it all to you, Lorna. I don't care
what he says, Lorna--or does. I want you."
"Can't go," said Susan, not conscious--yet not unaware,
either--of the curious mixture of heart and art in Etta's
outburst of apparent eagerness to risk everything for love of
her. "Can't possibly go. I've made other plans. The thing for
you is to be straight--get some kind of a job in Detroit--make
Fatty marry you--quick!"
"He would, but his father'd throw him out."
"Not if you were an honest working girl."
"But----" Etta was silent and reflective for a moment. "Men are
so queer," she finally said. "If I'd been an honest working girl
he'd never have noticed me. It's because I am what I am that
I've been able to get acquainted with him and fascinate him. And
he feels it's a sporty thing to do--to marry a fast girl. If I
was to settle down to work, be a regular working girl--why, I'm
afraid he--he'd stop loving me. Then, too, he likes to believe
he's rescuing me from a life of shame. I've watched him close.
I understand him."
"No doubt," said Susan drily.
"Oh, I know you think I'm deceitful. But a woman's got to be,
with a man. And I care a lot about him--aside from the fact that
he can make me comfortable and--and protect me from--from the
streets. If you cared for a man--No, I guess you wouldn't. You
oughtn't to be so--so _honest_, Lorna. It'll always do you up."
Susan laughed, shrugged her shoulders. "I am what I am," said
she. "I can't be any different. If I tried, I'd only fail worse."
"You don't love John--do you?"
"I like him."
"Then you wouldn't have to do _much_ pretending," urged Etta.
"And what does a little pretending amount to?"
"That's what I say to myself," replied Susan thoughtfully.
"It isn't nearly as bad as--as what we started out to do."
Susan laughed at Etta's little hypocrisy for her
respectability's comfort. "As what we did--and are doing,"
corrected she. Burlingham had taught her that it only makes
things worse and more difficult to lie to oneself about them.
"John's crazy about you. But he hasn't money enough to ask you
to come along. And----" Etta hesitated, eyed Susan doubtfully.
"You're _sure_ you don't love him?"
"No. I couldn't love him any more than--than I could hate him."
Susan's strange look drifted across her features. "It's very
queer, how I feel toward men. But--I don't love him and I shan't
pretend. I want to, but somehow--I can't."
Etta felt that she could give herself the pleasure of
unburdening herself of a secret. "Then I may as well tell you,
he's engaged to a girl he thinks he ought to marry."
"I suspected so."
"And you don't mind?" inquired Etta, unable to read Susan's
"Except for him--and her--a little," replied Susan. "I guess
that's why I haven't liked him better--haven't trusted him at all."
"Aren't men dreadful! And he is so nice in many ways. . . .
Lorna----" Etta was weeping again. "I can't go--I can't. I
mustn't leave you."
"Don't be absurd. You've simply got to do it."
"And I do love him," said Etta, calmed again by Susan's
calmness. "And if he married me--Oh, how grateful I'd be!"
"I should say!" exclaimed Susan. She kissed Etta and petted her.
"And he'll have a mighty good wife."
"Do you think I can marry him?"
"If you love him--and don't worry about catching him."
Etta shook her head in rejection of this piece of idealistic advice.
"But a girl's got to be shrewd. You ought to be more so, Lorna."
"That depends on what a girl wants," said Susan, absently. "Upon
what she wants," she repeated.
"What do _you_ want?" inquired Etta curiously.
"I don't know," Susan answered slowly.
"I wish I knew what was going on in your head!" exclaimed Etta.
"So do I," said Susan, smiling.
"Do you really mind my going? Really--honestly?"
There wasn't a flaw in Susan's look or tone. "If you tried to
stay with me, I'd run away from you."
"And if I do get him, I can help you. Once he's mine----" Etta
rounded out her sentence with an expression of countenance which
it was well her adoring rescuer did not see. Not that it lacked
womanliness; "womanly" is the word that most exactly describes
it--and always will exactly describe such expressions--and the
thoughts behind--so long as men compel women to be just women,
under penalty of refusing them support if they are not so.
Redmond came in, and Etta left him alone with Susan. "Well, has
Etta told you?" he asked.
"Yes," replied the girl. She looked at him--simply a look, but
the violet-gray eyes had an unusual seeming of seeing into minds
and hearts, an expression that was perhaps the more disquieting
because it was sympathetic rather than critical.
His glance shifted. He was a notably handsome young fellow--too
young for any display of character in his face, or for any
development of it beyond the amiable, free and easy lover of a
jolly good time that is the type repeated over and over again
among the youth of the comfortable classes that send their sons
"Are you going with her?" he asked.
"No," said Susan.
Redmond's face fell. "I hoped you liked me a little better than
that," said he.
"It isn't a question of you."
"But it's a question of _you_ with me," he cried. "I'm in love
with you, Lorna. I'm--I'm tempted to say all sorts of crazy
things that I think but haven't the courage to act on." He
kneeled down beside her, put his arms round her waist. "I'm
crazy about you, Lorna.
. . . Tell me--Were you--Had you been--before we met?"
"Yes," said Susan.
"Why don't you deny it?" he exclaimed. "Why don't you fool me,
as Etta fooled Gus?"
"Etta's story is different from mine," said Susan. "She's had no
experience at all, compared to me."
"I don't believe it," declared he. "I know she's been stuffing
Fatty, has made him think that you led her away. But I can soon
knock those silly ideas out of his silly head----"
"It's the truth," interrupted Susan, calmly.
"No matter. You could be a good woman." Impulsively, "If you'll
settle down and be a good woman, I'll marry you."
Susan smiled gently. "And ruin your prospects?"
"I don't care for prospects beside you. You _are_ a good
woman--inside. The better I know you the less like a fast woman
you are. Won't you go to work, Lorna, and wait for me?"
Her smile had a little mockery in it now--perhaps to hide from
him how deeply she was moved. "No matter what else I did, I'd
not wait for you, Johnny. You'd never come. You're not a
"You think I'm weak--don't you?" he said. Then, as she did not
answer, "Well, I am. But I love you, all the same."
For the first time he felt that he had touched her heart. The
tears sprang to her eyes, which were not at all gray now but all
violet, as was their wont when she was deeply moved. She laid
her hands on his shoulders. "Oh, it's so good to be loved!" she
He put his arms around her, and for the moment she rested there,
content--yes, content, as many a woman who needed love less and
craved it less has been content just with being loved, when to
make herself content she has had to ignore and forget the
personality of the man who was doing the loving--and the kind of
love it was. Said he:
"Don't you love me a little enough to be a good woman and wait
till I set up in the law?"
She let herself play with the idea, to prolong this novel
feeling of content. She asked, "How long will that be?"
"I'll be admitted in two years. I'll soon have a practice. My
father's got influence."
Susan looked at him sadly, slowly shook her head. "Two
years--and then several years more. And I working in a
factory--or behind a counter--from dawn till after dark--poor,
hungry--half-naked--wearing my heart out--wearing my body
away----" She drew away from him, laughed. "I was fooling,
John--about marrying. I liked to hear you say those things. I
couldn't marry you if I would. I'm married already."
"Tell me about it--won't you?"
She looked at him in astonishment, so amazing seemed the idea
that she could tell anyone that experience. It would be like
voluntarily showing a hideous, repulsive scar or wound, for
sometimes it was scar, and sometimes open wound, and always the
thing that made whatever befell her endurable by comparison.
She did not answer his appeal for her confidence but went on,
"Anyhow, nothing could induce me to go to work again. You don't
realize what work means--the only sort of work I can get to do.
It's--it's selling both body and soul. I prefer----"
He kissed her to stop her from finishing her sentence.
"Don't--please," he pleaded. "You don't understand. In this life
you'll soon grow hard and coarse and lose your beauty and your
health--and become a moral and physical wreck."
She reflected, the grave expression in her eyes--the expression
that gave whoever saw it the feeling of dread as before
impending tragedy. "Yes--I suppose so," she said. "But----Any
sooner than as a working girl living in a dirty hole in a
tenement? No--not so soon. And in this life I've got a chance if
I'm careful of my health and--and don't let things touch _me_. In
that other--there's no chance--none!"
"What chance have you got in this life?"
"I don't know exactly. I'm very ignorant yet. At worst, it's
simply that I've got no chance in either life--and this life is
"Comfortable! With men you don't like frightful men----"
"Were you ever cold?" asked Susan.
But it made no impression upon him who had no conception of the
cold that knows not how it is ever to get warm again. He rushed on:
"Lorna, my God!" He caught hold of her and strained her to his
breast. "You are lovely and sweet! It's frightful--you in this life."
Her expression made the sobs choke up into his throat. She said
quietly: "Not worse than dirt and vermin and freezing cold and
long, long, dull--oh, _so_ dull hours of working among human
beings that don't ever wash--because they can't." She pushed him
gently away. "You don't understand. You haven't been through it.
Comfortable people talk like fools about those things. . . . Do
you remember my hands that first evening?"
He reddened and his eyes shifted. "I'm absurdly sensitive about
a woman's hands," he muttered.
She laughed at him. "Oh, I saw--how you couldn't bear to look at
them--how they made you shiver. Well, the hands were
nothing--_nothing_!--beside what you didn't see."
"Lorna, do you love someone else?"
His eyes demanded an honest answer, and it seemed to her his
feeling for her deserved it. But she could not put the answer
into words. She lowered her gaze.
"Then why----" he began impetuously. But there he halted, for he
knew she would not lift the veil over herself, over her past.
"I'm very, very fond of you," she said with depressing
friendliness. Then with a sweet laugh, "You ought to be glad I'm
not able to take you at your word. And you will be glad soon."
She sighed. "What a good time we've had!"
"If I only had a decent allowance, like Fatty!" he groaned.
"No use talking about that. It's best for us to separate best
for us both. You've been good to me--you'll never know how good.
And I can't play you a mean trick. I wish I could be selfish
enough to do it, but I can't."
"You don't love me. That's the reason."
"Maybe it is. Yes, I guess that's why I've got the courage to be
square with you. Anyhow, John, you can't afford to care for me.
And if I cared for you, and put off the parting--why it'd only
put off what I've got to go through with before----" She did not
finish; her eyes became dreamy.
"Before what?" he asked.
"I don't know," she said, returning with a sigh. "Something I
see--yet don't see in the darkness, ahead of me."
"I can't make you out," cried he. Her expression moved him to
the same awe she inspired in Etta--a feeling that gave both of
them the sense of having known her better, of having been more
intimate with her when they first met her than they ever had
been since or ever would be again.
When Redmond embraced and kissed her for the last time, he was
in another and less sympathetic mood, was busy with his own
wounds to vanity and perhaps to heart. He thought her
heartless--good and sweet and friendly, but without sentiment.
She refused to help him make a scene; she refused to say she
would write to him, and asked him not to write to her. "You know
we'll probably see each other soon."
"Not till the long vacation--not till nearly July."
"Only three months."
"Oh, if you look at it that way!" said he, piqued and sullen.
Girls had always been more than kind, more than eager, when he
had shown interest.
Etta, leaving on a later train, was even more depressed about
Susan's heart. She wept hysterically, wished Susan to do the
same; but Susan stood out firmly against a scene, and would not
have it that Etta was shamefully deserting her, as Etta
tearfully accused herself. "You're going to be happy," she
said. "And I'm not so selfish as to be wretched about it. And
don't you worry a minute on my account. I'm better off in every
way than I've ever been. I'll get on all right."
"I know you gave up John to help me with August. I know you mean
to break off everything. Oh, Lorna, you mustn't--you mustn't."
"Don't talk nonsense," was Susan's unsatisfactory reply.
When it came down to the last embrace and the last kiss, Etta
did feel through Susan's lips and close encircling arms a
something that dried up her hysterical tears and filled her
heart with an awful aching. It did not last long. No matter how
wildly shallow waters are stirred, they soon calm and murmur
placidly on again. The three who had left her would have been
amazed could they have seen her a few minutes after Etta's train
rolled out of the Union Station. The difference between strong
natures and weak is not that the strong are free from cowardice
and faint-heartedness, from doubt and foreboding, from love and
affection, but that they do not stay down when they are crushed
down, stagger up and on.
Susan hurried to the room they had helped her find the day
before--a room in a house where no questions were asked or
answered. She locked herself in and gave way to the agonies of
her loneliness. And when her grief had exhausted her, she lay
upon the bed staring at the wall with eyes that looked as though
her soul had emptied itself through them of all that makes life
endurable, even of hope. For the first time in her life she
thought of suicide--not suicide the vague possibility, not
suicide the remote way of escape, but suicide the close and
intimate friend, the healer of all woes, the solace of all
griefs--suicide, the speedy, accurate solver of the worst
problem destiny can put to man.
She saw her pocketbook on the floor where she had dropped it.
"I'll wait till my money's gone," thought she. Then she
remembered Etta--how gentle and loving she was, how utterly she
gave herself--for Susan was still far from the profound
knowledge of character that enables us to disregard outward
signs in measuring actualities. "If I really weren't harder than
Etta," her thoughts ran on reproachfully, "I'd not wait until
the money went. I'd kill myself now, and have it over with." The
truth was that if the position of the two girls had been
reversed and Susan had loved Gulick as intensely as Etta
professed and believed she loved him, still Susan would have
given him up rather than have left Etta alone. And she would
have done it without any sense of sacrifice. And it must be
admitted that, whether or not there are those who deserve credit
for doing right, certainly those who do right simply because
they cannot do otherwise--the only trustworthy people--deserve
no credit for it.
She counted her money--twenty-three dollars in bills, and some
change. Redmond had given her fifty dollars each time they had
gone shopping, and had made her keep the balance--his indirect
way of adjusting the financial side. Twenty-three dollars meant
perhaps two weeks' living. Well, she would live those two weeks
decently and comfortably and then--bid life adieu unless
something turned up--for back to the streets she would not go.
With Etta gone, with not a friend anywhere on earth, life was
not worth the price she had paid for Etta and herself to the
drunken man. Her streak of good fortune in meeting Redmond had
given her no illusions; from Mabel Connemora, from what she
herself had heard and seen--and experienced--she knew the street
woman's life, and she could not live that life for herself
alone. She could talk about it to Redmond tranquilly. She could
think about it in the abstract, could see how other women did
it, and how those who had intelligence might well survive and
lift themselves up in it. But do it she could not. So she
resolved upon suicide, firmly believing in her own resolve. And
she was not one to deceive herself or to shrink from anything
whatsoever. Except the insane, only the young make these
resolves and act upon them; for the young have not yet learned
to value life, have not yet fallen under life's sinister spell
that makes human beings cling more firmly and more cravenly to
it as they grow older. The young must have something--some hope,
however fanatic and false--to live for. They will not tarry just
to live. And in that hour Susan had lost hope.
She took off her street dress and opened her trunk to get a
wrapper and bedroom slippers. As she lifted the lid, she saw an
envelope addressed "Lorna"; she remembered that Redmond had
locked and strapped the trunk. She tore the end from the
envelope, looked in. Some folded bills; nothing more. She sat on
the floor and counted two twenties, five tens, two fives--a
hundred dollars! She looked dazedly at the money--gave a cry of
delight--sprang to her feet, with a change like the startling
shift from night to day in the tropics.
"I can pay!" she cried. "I can pay!"
Bubbling over with smiles and with little laughs, gay as even
champagne and the release from the vile prison of the slums had
made her, she with eager hands took from the trunk her best
clothes--the jacket and skirt of dark gray check she had bought
for thirty dollars at Shillito's and had had altered to her
figure and her taste; the blouse of good quality linen with
rather a fancy collar; the gray leather belt with a big
oxidized silver buckle; her only pair of silk stockings; the
pair of high-heeled patent leather shoes--the large black hat
with a gray feather curling attractively round and over its
brim. The hat had cost only fourteen dollars because she had put
it together herself; if she had bought it made, she would have
paid not less than thirty dollars.
All these things she carefully unpacked and carefully laid out.
Then she thoroughly brushed her hair and did it up in a graceful
pompadour that would go well with the hat. She washed away the
traces of her outburst of grief, went over her finger nails, now
almost recovered from the disasters incident to the life of
manual labor. She went on to complete her toilet, all with the
same attention to detail--a sure indication, in one so young, of
a desire to please some specific person. When she had the hat
set at the satisfactory angle and the veil wound upon it and
draped over her fresh young face coquettishly, she took from her
slender store of gloves a fresh gray pair and, as she put them
on, stood before the glass examining herself.
There was now not a trace of the tenement working girl of a week
and a day before. Here was beauty in bloom, fresh and alluring
from head to narrow, well-booted feet. More than a hint of a
fine color sense--that vital quality, if fashion, the
conventional, is to be refined and individualized into style,
the rare--more than a hint of color sense showed in the harmony
of the pearl gray in the big feather, the pearl gray in the
collar of the blouse, and the pearl white of her skin. Susan had
indeed returned to her own class. She had left it, a small-town
girl with more than a suggestion of the child in eyes and mouth;
she had returned to it, a young woman of the city, with that
look in her face which only experience can give--experience that
has resulted in growth. She locked all her possessions away in
her trunk--all but her money; that she put in her
stockings--seventy-five dollars well down in the right leg, the
rest of the bills well down in the left leg; the two dollars or
so in change was all she intrusted to the pocketbook she
carried. She cast a coquettish glance down at her charmingly
arrayed feet--a harmless glance of coquetry that will be
condemned by those whose physical vanity happens to center
elsewhere. After this glance she dropped her skirts--and was ready.
By this time dusk had fallen, and it was nearly six o'clock. As
she came out of the house she glanced toward the west--the
instinctive gesture of people who live in rainy climates. Her
face brightened; she saw an omen in the long broad streak of
reddened evening sky.
SHE went down to Fourth Street, along it to Race, to the
_Commercial_ building. At the entrance to the corridor at the far
side of which were elevator and stairway, she paused and
considered. She turned into the business office.
"Is Mr. Roderick Spenser here?" she asked of a heavily built,
gray-bearded man in the respectable black of the old-fashioned
financial employee, showing the sobriety and stolidity of his
character in his dress.
"He works upstairs," replied the old man, beaming approvingly
upon the pretty, stylish young woman.
"Is he there now?"
"I'll telephone." He went into the rear office, presently
returned with the news that Mr. Spenser had that moment left,
was probably on his way down in the elevator. "And you'll catch
him if you go to the office entrance right away."
Susan, the inexperienced in the city ways of men with women, did
not appreciate what a tribute to her charms and to her
character, as revealed in the honest, grave eyes, was the old
man's unhesitating assumption that Spenser would wish to see
her. She lost no time in retracing her steps. As she reached the
office entrance she saw at the other end of the long hall two
young men coming out of the elevator. After the habit of youth,
she had rehearsed speech and manner for this meeting; but at
sight of him she was straightway trembling so that she feared
she would be unable to speak at all. The entrance light was dim,
but as he glanced at her in passing he saw her looking at him
and his hand moved toward his hat. His face had not changed--the
same frank, careless expression, the same sympathetic,
understanding look out of the eyes. But he was the city man in
dress now--notably the city man.
"Mr. Spenser," said she shyly.
He halted; his companion went on. He lifted his hat, looked
inquiringly at her--the look of the enthusiast and connoisseur
on the subject of pretty women, when he finds a new specimen
worthy of his attention.
"Don't you know me?"
His expression of puzzled and flirtatious politeness gradually
cleared away. The lighting up of his eyes, the smile round his
mouth delighted her; and she grew radiant when he exclaimed
eagerly, "Why, it's the little girl of the rock again! How
you've grown--in a year--less than a year!"
"Yes, I suppose I have," said she, thinking of it for the first
time. Then, to show him at once what a good excuse she had for
intruding again, she hastened to add, "I've come to pay you that
money you loaned me."
He burst out laughing, drew her into the corridor where the
light was brighter. "And you've gone back to your husband," he
said--she noted the quick, sharp change in his voice.
"Why do you think that?" she said.
The way his eyes lingered upon the charming details toilet that
indicated anything but poverty might of a have given her a
simple explanation. He offered another.
"I can't explain. It's your different expression--a kind of
The color flamed and flared in Susan's face.
"You are--happy?" he asked.
"I've not seen--him," evaded she. "Ever since I left Carrollton
I've been wandering about."
"Wandering about?" he repeated absently, his eyes busy with
"And now," she went on, nervous and hurried, "I'm here in
town--for a while."
"Then I may come to see you?"
"I'd be glad. I'm alone in a furnished room I've taken--out near
"Alone! You don't mean you're still wandering?"
He laughed. "Well, it certainly is doing you no harm. The
reverse." An embarrassed pause, then he said with returning
politeness: "Maybe you'll dine with me this evening?"
She beamed. "I've been hoping you'd ask me."
"It won't be as good as the one on the rock."
"There never will be another dinner like that," declared she.
"Your leg is well?"
Her question took him by surprise. In his interest and wonder as
to the new mystery of this mysterious young person he had not
recalled the excuses he made for dropping out of the
entanglement in which his impulses had put him. The color poured
into his face. "Ages ago," he replied, hurriedly. "I'd have
forgotten it, if it hadn't been for you. I've never been able to
get you out of my head." And as a matter of truth she had
finally dislodged his cousin Nell--without lingering long or
vividly herself. Young Mr. Spenser was too busy and too
self-absorbed a man to bother long about any one flower in a
world that was one vast field abloom with open-petaled flowers.
"Nor I you," said she, as pleased as he had expected, and
showing it with a candor that made her look almost the child he
had last seen. "You see, I owed you that money, and I wanted to
"Oh--_that_ was all!" exclaimed he, half jokingly. "Wait here a
minute." And he went to the door, looked up and down the street,
then darted across it and disappeared into the St. Nicholas
Hotel. He was not gone more than half a minute.
"I had to see Bayne and tell him," he explained when he was with
her again. "I was to have dined with him and some others--over
in the cafe. Instead, you and I will dine upstairs. You won't
mind my not being dressed?"
It seemed to her he was dressed well enough for any occasion.
"I'd rather you had on the flannel trousers rolled up to your
knees," said she. "But I can imagine them."
"What a dinner that was!" cried he. "And the ride afterward,"
with an effort at ease that escaped her bedazzled eyes. "Why
didn't you ever write?"
He expected her to say that she did not know his address, and
was ready with protests and excuses. But she replied:
"I didn't have the money to pay what I owed you." They were
crossing Fourth Street and ascending the steps to the hotel.
"Then, too--afterward--when I got to know a little more about
life I----Oh, no matter. Really, the money was the only reason."
But he had stopped short. In a tone so correctly sincere that a
suspicious person might perhaps have doubted the sincerity of
the man using it, he said:
"What was in your mind? What did you think? What did
you--suspect me of? For I see in that honest, telltale face of
yours that it was a suspicion."
"I didn't blame you," protested the girl, "even if it was so. I
thought maybe you got to thinking it over--and--didn't want to be
bothered with anyone so troublesome as I had made myself."
"How _could_ you suspect _me_ of such a thing?"
"Oh, I really didn't," declared she, with all the earnestness of
a generous nature, for she read into his heightened color and
averted eyes the feelings she herself would have had before an
unjust suspicion. "It was merely an idea. And I didn't blame
you--not in the least. It would have been the sensible----"
Next thing, this child-woman, this mysterious mind of mixed
precocity and innocence, would be showing that she had guessed
a Cousin Nell.
"You are far too modest," interrupted he with a flirtatious
smile. "You didn't realize how strong an impression you made.
No, I really broke my leg. Don't you suppose I knew the
twenty-five in the pocketbook wouldn't carry you far?" He
saw--and naturally misunderstood--her sudden change of
expression as he spoke of the amount. He went on apologetically,
"I intended to bring more when I came. I was afraid to put money
in the note for fear it'd never be delivered, if I did. And
didn't I tell you to write--and didn't I give you my address
here? Would I have done that, if I hadn't meant to stand by you?"
Susan was convinced, was shamed by these smooth, plausible
assertions and explanations. "Your father's house--it's a big
brick, with stone trimmings, standing all alone outside the
little town--isn't it?"
Spenser was again coloring deeply. "Yes," admitted he uneasily.
But Susan didn't notice. "I saw the doctor--and your family--on
the veranda," she said.
He was now so nervous that she could not but observe it. "They
gave out that it was only a sprain," said he, "because I told
them I didn't want it known. I didn't want the people at the
office to know I was going to be laid up so long. I was afraid
I'd lose my job."
"I didn't hear anything about it," said she. "I only saw as I
was going by on a boat."
He looked disconcerted--but not to her eyes. "Well--it's far in
the past now," said he. "Let's forget--all but the fun."
"Yes--all but the fun." Then very sweetly, "But I'll never forget
what I owe you. Not the money--not that, hardly at all--but what
you did for me. It made me able to go on."
"Don't speak of it," cried he, flushed and shamefaced. "I didn't
do half what I ought." Like most human beings he was aware of
his more obvious--if less dangerous--faults and weaknesses. He
liked to be called generous, but always had qualms when so
called because he knew he was in fact of the familiar type
classed as generous only because human beings are so artless in
their judgments as to human nature that they cannot see that
quick impulses quickly die. The only deep truth is that there
are no generous natures but just natures--and they are rarely
classed as generous because their slowly formed resolves have
the air of prudence and calculation.
In the hotel she went to the dressing-room, took twenty-five
dollars from the money in her stocking. As soon as they were
seated in the restaurant she handed it to him.
"But this makes it you who are having me to dinner--and more,"
"If you knew what a weight it's been on me, you'd not talk that
way," said she.
Her tone compelled him to accept her view of the matter. He
laughed and put the money in his waistcoat pocket, saying: "Then
I'll still owe you a dinner."
During the past week she had been absorbing as only a young
woman with a good mind and a determination to learn the business
of living can absorb. The lessons before her had been the life
that is lived in cities by those who have money to spend and
experience in spending it; she had learned out of all proportion
to opportunity. At a glance she realized that she was now in a
place far superior to the Bohemian resorts which had seemed to
her inexperience the best possible. From earliest childhood she
had shown the delicate sense of good taste and of luxury that
always goes with a practical imagination--practical as
distinguished from the idealistic kind of imagination that is
vague, erratic, and fond of the dreams which neither could nor
should come true. And the reading she had done--the novels, the
memoirs, the books of travel, the fashion and home
magazines--had made deep and distinct impressions upon her, had
prepared her--as they have prepared thousands of Americans in
secluded towns and rural regions where luxury and even comfort
are very crude indeed--for the possible rise of fortune that is
the universal American dream and hope. She felt these new
surroundings exquisitely--the subdued coloring, the softened
lights, the thick carpets, the quiet elegance and comfort of the
furniture. She noted the good manners of the well-trained
waiter; she listened admiringly and memorizingly as Spenser
ordered the dinner--a dinner of French good taste--small but
fine oysters, a thick soup, a guinea hen _en casserole_, a fruit
salad, fresh strawberry ice cream, dry champagne. She saw that
Spenser knew what he was about, and she was delighted with him
and proud to be with him and glad that he had tastes like her
own--that is, tastes such as she proposed to learn to have. Of
the men she had known or known about he seemed to her far and
away the best. It isn't necessary to explain into what an
attitude of mind and heart this feeling of his high superiority
immediately put her--certainly not for the enlightenment of any woman.
"What are you thinking?" he asked--the question that was so
often thrust at her because, when she thought intensely, there
was a curiosity-compelling expression in her eyes.
"Oh--about all this," replied she. "I like this sort of thing so
much. I never had it in my life, yet now that I see it I feel as
if I were part of it, as if it must belong to me." Her eyes met
his sympathetic gaze. "You understand, don't you?" He nodded.
"And I was wondering"--she laughed, as if she expected even him
to laugh at her--"I was wondering how long it would be before I
should possess it. Do you think I'm crazy?"
He shook his head. "I've got that same feeling," said he. "I'm
poor--don't dare do this often--have all I can manage in keeping
myself decently. Yet I have a conviction that I shall--shall
win. Don't think I'm dreaming of being rich--not at all. I--I
don't care much about that if I did go into business. But I want
all my surroundings to be right."
Her eyes gleamed. "And you'll get it. And so shall I. I know it
sounds improbable and absurd for me to say that about myself.
But--I know it."
"I believe you," said he. "You've got the look in your face--in
your eyes. . . . I've never seen anyone improve as you have in
this less than a year."
She smiled as she thought in what surroundings she had
apparently spent practically all that time. "If you could have
seen me!" she said. "Yes, I was learning and I know it. I led a
sort of double life. I----" she hesitated, gave up trying to
explain. She had not the words and phrases, the clear-cut ideas,
to express that inner life led by people who have real
imagination. With most human beings their immediate visible
surroundings determine their life; with the imaginative few
their horizon is always the whole wide world.
She sighed, "But I'm ignorant. I don't know how or where to
"I can't help you there, yet," said he. "When we know each other
better, then I'll know. Not that you need me to tell you. You'll
find out for yourself. One always does."
She glanced round the attractive room again, then looked at him
with narrowed eyelids. "Only a few hours ago I was thinking of
suicide. How absurd it seems now!--I'll never do that again. At
least, I've learned how to profit by a lesson. Mr. Burlingham
taught me that."
"That's a long story. I don't feel like telling about it now."
But the mere suggestion had opened certain doors in her memory
and crowds of sad and bitter thoughts came trooping in.
"Are you in some sort of trouble?" said he, instantly leaning
toward her across the table and all aglow with the impulsive
sympathy that kindles in impressionable natures as quickly as
fire in dry grass. Such natures are as perfect conductors of
emotion as platinum is of heat--instantly absorbing it,
instantly throwing it off, to return to their normal and
metallic chill--and capacity for receptiveness. "Anything you
can tell me about?"
"Oh, no--nothing especial," replied she. "Just loneliness and a
feeling of--of discouragement." Strongly, "Just a mood. I'm
never really discouraged. Something always turns up."
"Please tell me what happened after I left you at that wretched hotel."
"I can't," she said. "At least, not now."
"There is----" He looked sympathetically at her, as if to assure
her that he would understand, no matter what she might confess.
"No. I'm all alone. I'm--free." It was not in the least degree an
instinct for deception that made her then convey an impression
of there having been no one. She was simply obeying her innate
reticence that was part of her unusual self-unconsciousness.
"And you're not worried about--about money matters?" he asked.
"You see, I'm enough older and more experienced to give me
excuse for asking. Besides, unless a woman has money, she
doesn't find it easy to get on."
"I've enough for the present," she assured him, and the stimulus
of the champagne made her look--and feel--much more
self-confident than she really was. "More than I've ever had
before. So I'm not worried. When anyone has been through what I
have they aren't so scared about the future."
He looked the admiration he felt--and there was not a little of
the enthusiasm of the champagne both in the look and in the
admiration--"I see you've already learned to play the game
without losing your nerve."
"I begin to hope so," said she.
"Yes--you've got the signs of success in your face. Curious
about those signs. Once you learn to know them, you never miss
in sizing up people."
The dinner had come. Both were hungry, and it was as good a
dinner as the discussion about it between Spenser and the waiter
had forecast. As they ate the well-cooked, well-served food and
drank the delicately flavored champagne, mellow as the gorgeous
autumn its color suggested, there diffused through them an
extraordinary feeling of quiet intense happiness--happiness of
mind and body. Her face took on a new and finer beauty; into his
face came a tenderness that was most becoming to its rather
rugged features. And he had not talked with her long before he
discovered that he was facing not a child, not a childwoman, but
a woman grown, one who could understand and appreciate the
things men and women of experience say and do.
"I've always been expecting to hear from you every day since we
separated," he said--and he was honestly believing it now. "I've
had a feeling that you hadn't forgotten me. It didn't seem
possible I could feel so strongly unless there was real sympathy
"I came as soon as I could."
He reflected in silence a moment, then in a tone that made her
heart leap and her blood tingle, he said: "You say you're free?"
"Free as air. Only--I couldn't fly far."
He hesitated on an instinct of prudence, then ventured. "Far as
"What is the railroad fare?"
"Oh, about twenty-five dollars--with sleeper."
"Yes--I can fly that far."
"Do you mean to say you've no ties of any kind?"
"None. Not one." Her eyes opened wide and her nostrils dilated. "Free!"
"You love it--don't you?"
"Above everything!" he exclaimed. "Only the free _live_."
She lifted her head higher in a graceful, attractive gesture of
confidence and happiness. "Well--I am ready to live."
"I'm afraid you don't realize," he said hesitatingly. "People
wouldn't understand. You've your reputation to think of, you know."
She looked straight at him. "No--not even that. I'm even free
from reputation." Then, as his face saddened and his eyes
glistened with sympathy, "You needn't pity me. See where it's
"You're a strong swimmer--aren't you?" he said tenderly. "But
then there isn't any safe and easy crossing to the isles of
freedom. It's no wonder most people don't get further than
gazing and longing."
"Probably I shouldn't," confessed Susan, "if I hadn't been
thrown into the water. It was a case of swim or drown."
"But most who try are drowned--nearly all the women."
"Oh, I guess there are more survive than is generally supposed.
So much lying is done about that sort of thing."
"What a shrewd young lady it is! At any rate, you have reached
"But I'm not queen of them yet," she reminded him. "I'm only a
poor, naked, out-of-breath castaway lying on the beach."
He laughed appreciatively. Very clever, this extremely pretty
young woman. "Yes--you'll win. You'll be queen." He lifted his
champagne glass and watched the little bubbles pushing gayly and
swiftly upward. "So--you've cast over your reputation."
"I told you I had reached the beach naked." A reckless light in
her eyes now. "Fact is, I had none to start with. Anybody has a
reason for starting--or for being started. That was mine, I guess."
"I've often thought about that matter of reputation--in a man or
a woman--if they're trying to make the bold, strong swim. To
care about one's reputation means fear of what the world says.
It's important to care about one's character--for without
character no one ever got anywhere worth getting to. But it's
very, very dangerous to be afraid for one's reputation. And--I
hate to admit it, because I'm hopelessly conventional at bottom,
but it's true--reputation--fear of what the world says--has sunk
more swimmers, has wrecked more characters than it ever helped.
So--the strongest and best swimmers swim naked."
Susan was looking thoughtfully at him over the rim of her glass.
She took a sip of the champagne, said: "If I hadn't been quite
naked, I'd have sunk--I'd have been at the bottom--with the
"Don't!" he cried. "Thank God, you did whatever you've
done--yes, I mean that--whatever you've done, since it enabled
you to swim on." He added, "And I know it wasn't anything
"I did the best I could--nothing I'm ashamed of--or proud of
either. Just--what I had to do."
"But you ought to be proud that you arrived."
"No--only glad," said she. "So--so _frightfully_ glad!"
In any event, their friendship was bound to flourish; aided by
that dinner and that wine it sprang up into an intimacy, a
feeling of mutual trust and of sympathy at every point. Like all
women she admired strength in a man above everything else. She
delighted in the thick obstinate growth of his fair hair, in the
breadth of the line of his eyebrows, in the aggressive thrust of
his large nose and long jawbone. She saw in the way his mouth
closed evidence of a will against which opposition would dash
about as dangerously as an egg against a stone wall. There was
no question of his having those birthmarks of success about
which he talked. She saw them--saw nothing of the less
obtrusive--but not less important--marks of weakness which might
have enabled an expert in the reading of faces to reach some
rather depressing conclusion as to the nature and the degree of
Finally, he burst out with, "Yes, I've made up my mind. I'll do
it! I'm going to New York. I've been fooling away the last five
years here learning a lot, but still idling--drinking--amusing
myself in all kinds of ways. And about a month ago--one night,
as I was rolling home toward dawn--through a driving sleet
storm--do you remember a line in `Paradise Lost'"
"I never read it," interrupted Susan.
"Well--it's where the devils have been kicked out of Heaven and
are lying in agony flat on the burning lake--and Satan rises
up--and marches haughtily out among them--and calls out, `Awake!
Arise! Or forever more be damned!' That's what has happened to
me several times in my life. When I was a boy, idling about the
farm and wasting myself, that voice came to me--`Awake! Arise!
Or forever more be damned!' And I got a move on me, and insisted
on going to college. Again--at college--I became a
dawdler--poker--drink--dances--all the rest of it. And suddenly
that voice roared in my ears, made me jump like a rabbit when a
gun goes off. And last month it came again. I went to
work--finished a play I've been pottering over for three years.
But somehow I couldn't find the--the--whatever I needed--to make
me break away. Well--_you've_ given me that. I'll resign from the
_Commercial_ and with all I've got in the world--three hundred
dollars and a trunk full of good clothes, I'll break into Broadway."
Susan had listened with bright eyes and quickened breath, as
intoxicated and as convinced as was he by his eloquence.
"Isn't that splendid!" she exclaimed in a low voice.
"And you?" he said meaningly.
"I?" she replied, fearing she was misunderstanding.
"Will you go?"
"Do you want me?" she asked, low and breathlessly.
With a reluctance which suggested--but not to her--that his
generosity was winning a hard-fought battle with his vanity, he
replied: "I need you. I doubt if I'd dare, without you to back
"I've got a trunk full of fairly good clothes and about a
hundred dollars. But I haven't got any play--or any art--or any
trade even. Of course, I'll go." Then she hastily added, "I'll
not be a drag on you. I pay my own way."
"But you mustn't be suspicious in your independence," he warned
her. "You mustn't forget that I'm older than you and more
experienced and that it's far easier for a man to get money than
for a woman."
"To get it without lowering himself?"
"Ah!" he exclaimed, looking strangely at her. "You mean, without
bowing to some boss? Without selling his soul? I had no idea you
were so much of a woman when I met you that day."
"I wasn't--then," replied she. "And I didn't know where I'd got
till we began to talk this evening."
"And you're very young!"
"Oh, but I've been going to a school where they make you learn fast."
"Indeed I do need you." He touched his glass to hers. "On to
Broadway!" he cried.
"Broadway!" echoed she, radiant.
She nodded. But as she drank the toast a tear splashed into her
glass. She was remembering how some mysterious instinct had
restrained her from going with John Redmond, though it seemed
the only sane thing to do. What if she had disobeyed that
instinct! And then--through her mind in swift ghostly march--past
trailed the persons and events of the days just gone--just gone,
yet seeming as far away as a former life in another world.
Redmond and Gulick--Etta--yes, Etta, too--all past and
"What are you thinking about?"
She shook her head and the spectral procession vanished into the
glooms of memory's vistas. "Thinking?--of yesterday. I don't
understand myself--how I shake off and forget what's past.
Nothing seems real to me but the future."
"Not even the present?" said he with a smile.
"Not even the present," she answered with grave candor. "Nothing
seems to touch me--the real me. It's like--like looking out of
the window of the train at the landscape running by. I'm a
traveler passing through. I wonder if it'll always be that way.
I wonder if I'll ever arrive where I'll feel that I belong."
"I think so--and soon."
But she did not respond to his confident smile. "I--I hope so,"
she said with sad, wistful sweetness. "Then again--aren't there
some people who don't belong anywhere--aren't allowed to settle
down and be happy, but have to keep going--on and on--until----"
"Until they pass out into the dark," he finished for her. "Yes."
He looked at her in a wondering uneasy way. "You do suggest that
kind," said he. "But," smilingly, to hide his earnestness, "I'll
try to detain you."
"Please do," she said. "I don't want to go on--alone."
He dropped into silence, puzzled and in a way awed by the
mystery enveloping her--a mystery of aloofness and stoniness, of
complete separation from the contact of the world--the mystery
that incloses all whose real life is lived deep within themselves.
LIKE days later, on the Eastern Express, they were not so
confident as they had been over the St. Nicholas champagne. As
confident about the remoter future, it was that annoying little
stretch near at hand which gave them secret uneasiness. There
had been nothing but dreaming and sentimentalizing in those four
days--and that disquietingly suggested the soldier who with an
impressive flourish highly resolves to give battle, then
sheathes his sword and goes away to a revel. Also, like all
idlers, they had spent money--far more money than total net cash
resources of less than five hundred dollars warranted.
"We've spent an awful lot of money," said Susan.
She was quick to see the faint frown, the warning that she was
on dangerous ground. Said he:
"Do you regret?"
"No, indeed--no!" cried she, eager to have that cloud vanish,
but honest too.
She no more than he regretted a single moment of the dreaming
and love-making, a single penny of the eighty and odd dollars
that had enabled them fittingly to embower their romance, to
twine myrtle in their hair and to provide Cupid's torch-bowls
with fragrant incense. Still--with the battle not begun, there
gaped that deep, wide hollow in the war chest.
Spenser's newspaper connection got them passes over one of the
cheaper lines to New York--and he tried to console himself by
setting this down as a saving of forty dollars against the
eighty dollars of the debit item. But he couldn't altogether
forget that they would have traveled on passes, anyhow. He was
not regretting that he had indulged in the extravagance of a
stateroom--but he couldn't deny that it was an extravagance.
However, he had only to look at her to feel that he had done
altogether well in providing for her the best, and to believe
that he could face with courage any fate so long as he had her
at his side.
"Yes, I can face anything with you," he said. "What I feel for
you is the real thing. The real thing, at last."
She had no disposition to inquire curiously into this. Her reply
was a flash of a smile that was like a flash of glorious light
upon the crest of a wave surging straight from her happy heart.
They were opposite each other at breakfast in the restaurant
car. He delighted in her frank delight in the novelty of
travel--swift and luxurious travel. He had never been East
before, himself, but he had had experience of sleepers and
diners; she had not, and every moment she was getting some new
sensation. She especially enjoyed this sitting at breakfast with
the express train rushing smoothly along through the
mountains--the first mountains either had seen. At times they
were so intensely happy that they laughed with tears in their
eyes and touched hands across the table to get from physical
contact the reassurances of reality.
"How good to eat everything is!" she exclaimed. "You'll think me
very greedy, I'm afraid. But if you'd eaten the stuff I have
since we dined on the rock!"
They were always going back to the rock, and neither wearied of
recalling and reminding each other of the smallest details. It
seemed to them that everything, even the least happening, at
that sacred spot must be remembered, must be recorded indelibly
in the book of their romance. "I'm glad we were happy together in
such circumstances," she went on. "It was a test--wasn't it, Rod?"
"If two people don't love each other enough to be happy
anywhere, they could be happy nowhere," declared he.
"So, we'll not mind being very, very careful about spending
money in New York," she ventured--for she was again bringing up
the subject she had been privately revolving ever since they had
formed the partnership. In her wanderings with Burlingham, in
her sojourn in the tenements, she had learned a great deal about
the care and spending of money--had developed that instinct for
forehandedness which nature has implanted in all normal women
along with the maternal instinct--and as a necessary supplement
to it. This instinct is more or less futile in most women
because they are more or less ignorant of the realities as to wise
and foolish expenditure. But it is found in the most extravagant
women no less than in the most absurdly and meanly stingy.
"Of course, we must be careful," assented Rod. "But I can't let
you be uncomfortable."
"Now, dear," she remonstrated, "you mustn't treat me that way.
I'm better fitted for hardship than you. I'd mind it less."
He laughed; she looked so fine and delicate, with her
transparent skin and her curves of figure, he felt that anything
so nearly perfect could not but easily be spoiled. And there he
showed how little he appreciated her iron strength, her almost
exhaustless endurance. He fancied he was the stronger because he
could have crushed her in his muscular arms. But exposures,
privations, dissipations that would have done for a muscularly
stronger man than he would have left no trace upon her after a
few days of rest and sleep.
"It's the truth," she insisted. "I could prove it, but I shan't.
I don't want to remember vividly. Rod, we _must_ live cheaply in
New York until you sell a play and I have a place in some company."
"Yes," he conceded. "But, Susie, not too cheap. A cheap way of
living makes a cheap man--gives a man a cheap outlook on life.
Besides, don't forget--if the worst comes to the worst, I can
always get a job on a newspaper."
She would not have let him see how uneasy this remark made her.
However, she could not permit it to pass without notice. Said
she a little nervously:
"But you've made up your mind to devote yourself to plays--to
stand or fall by that."
He remembered how he had thrilled her and himself with brave
talk about the necessity of concentrating, of selecting a goal
and moving relentlessly for it, letting nothing halt him or turn
him aside. For his years Rod Spenser was as wise in the
philosophy of success as Burlingham or Tom Brashear. But he had
done that brave and wise talking before he loved her as he now
did--before he realized how love can be in itself an achievement
and a possession so great that other ambitions dwarf beside it.
True, away back in his facile, fickle mind, behind the region
where self-excuse and somebody-else-always-to-blame reigned
supreme, a something--the something that had set the marks of
success so strongly upon his face--was whispering to him the
real reason for his now revolving a New York newspaper job. Real
reasons as distinguished from alleged reasons and imagined
reasons, from the reasons self-deception invents and vanity
gives out--real reasons are always interesting and worth noting.
What was Rod's? Not his love for her; nothing so superior, so
superhuman as that. No, it was weak and wobbly misgivings as to
his own ability to get on independently, the misgivings that
menace every man who has never worked for himself but has always
drawn pay--the misgivings that paralyze most men and keep them
wage or salary slaves all their lives. Rod was no better pleased
at this sly, unwelcome revelation of his real self to himself
than the next human being is in similar circumstances. The
whispering was hastily suppressed; love for her, desire that she
should be comfortable--those must be the real reasons. But he
must be careful lest she, the sensitive, should begin to brood
over a fear that she was already weakening him and would become
a drag upon him--the fear that, he knew, would take shape in his
own mind if things began to go badly. "You may be sure,
dearest," he said, "I'll do nothing that won't help me on." He
tapped his forehead with his finger. "This is a machine for
making plays. Everything that's put into it will be grist for it."
She was impressed but not convinced. He had made his point about
concentration too clear to her intelligence. She persisted:
"But you said if you took a place on a newspaper it would make
you fight less hard."
"I say a lot of things," he interrupted laughingly. "Don't be
frightened about me. What I'm most afraid of is that you'll
desert me. _That_ would be a real knock-out blow."
He said this smilingly; but she could not bear jokes on that one subject.
"What do you mean, Rod?"
"Now, don't look so funereal, Susie. I simply meant that I hate
to think of your going on the stage--or at anything else. I want
you to help _me_. Selfish, isn't it? But, dear heart, if I could
feel that the plays were _ours_, that we were both concentrated
on the one career--darling. To love each other, to work
together--not separately but together--don't you understand?"
Her expression showed that she understood, but was not at all in
sympathy. "I've got to earn my living, Rod," she objected. "I
shan't care anything about what I'll be doing. I'll do it simply
to keep from being a burden to you----"
"A burden, Susie! You! Why, you're my wings that enable me to
fly. It's selfish, but I want all of you. Don't you think, dear,
that if it were possible, it would be better for you to make us
a home and hold the fort while I go out to give battle to
managers--and bind up my wounds when I come back--and send me out
the next day well again? Don't you think we ought to concentrate?"
The picture appealed to her. All she wanted in life now was his
success. "But," she objected, "it's useless to talk of that
until we get on our feet--perfectly useless."
"It's true," he admitted with a sigh.
"And until we do, we must be economical."
"What a persistent lady it is," laughed he. "I wish I were like that."
In the evening's gathering dusk the train steamed into Jersey
City; and Spenser and Susan Lenox, with the adventurer's
mingling hope and dread, confidence and doubt, courage and fear,
followed the crowd down the long platform under the vast train
shed, went through the huge thronged waiting-room and aboard the
giant ferryboat which filled both with astonishment because of
its size and luxuriousness.
"I am a jay!" said she. "I can hardly keep my mouth from
"You haven't any the advantage of me," he assured her. "Are you
trembling all over?"
"Yes," she admitted. "And my heart's like lead. I suppose there
are thousands on thousands like us, from all over the
country--who come here every day--feeling as we do. "
"Let's go out on the front deck--where we can see it."
They went out on the upper front deck and, leaning against the
forward gates, with their traveling bags at their feet, they
stood dumb before the most astounding and most splendid scene in
the civilized world. It was not quite dark yet; the air was
almost July hot, as one of those prematurely warm days New York
so often has in March. The sky, a soft and delicate blue shading
into opal and crimson behind them, displayed a bright crescent
moon as it arched over the fairyland in the dusk before them.
Straight ahead, across the broad, swift, sparkling river--the
broadest water Susan had ever seen--rose the mighty, the
majestic city. It rose direct from the water. Endless stretches
of ethereal-looking structure, reaching higher and higher, in
masses like mountain ranges, in peaks, in towers and domes. And
millions of lights, like fairy lamps, like resplendent jewels,
gave the city a glory beyond that of the stars thronging the
heavens on a clear summer night.
They looked toward the north; on and on, to the far horizon's
edge stretched the broad river and the lovely city that seemed
the newborn offspring of the waves; on and on, the myriad
lights, in masses, in festoons, in great gleaming globes of fire
from towers rising higher than Susan's and Rod's native hills.
They looked to the south. There, too, rose city, mile after
mile, and then beyond it the expanse of the bay; and everywhere
the lights, the beautiful, soft, starlike lights, shedding a
radiance as of heaven itself over the whole scene. Majesty and
strength and beauty.
"I love it!" murmured the girl. "Already I love it."
"I never dreamed it was like this," said Roderick, in an awed tone.
"The City of the Stars," said she, in the caressing tone in
which a lover speaks the name of the beloved.
They moved closer together and clasped hands and gazed as if
they feared the whole thing--river and magic city and their own
selves--would fade away and vanish forever. Susan clutched Rod
in terror as she saw the vision suddenly begin to move, to
advance toward her, like apparitions in a dream before they
vanish. Then she exclaimed, "Why, we are moving!" The big
ferryboat, swift, steady as land, noiseless, had got under way.
Upon them from the direction of the distant and hidden sea blew
a cool, fresh breeze. Never before had either smelled that
perfume, strong and keen and clean, which comes straight from
the unbreathed air of the ocean to bathe New York, to put life
and hope and health into its people. Rod and Susan turned their
faces southward toward this breeze, drank in great draughts of
it. They saw a colossal statue, vivid as life in the dusk, in
the hand at the end of the high-flung arm a torch which sent a
blaze of light streaming out over land and water.
"That must be Liberty," said Roderick.
Susan slipped her arm through his. She was quivering with
excitement and joy. "Rod--Rod!" she murmured. "It's the isles of
freedom. Kiss me."
And he bent and kissed her, and his cheek felt the tears upon
hers. He reached for her hand, with an instinct to strengthen
her. But when he had it within his its firm and vital grasp sent
a thrill of strength through him.
A few minutes, and they paused at the exit from the ferry house.
They almost shrank back, so dazed and helpless did they feel
before the staggering billows of noise that swept savagely down
upon them--roar and crash, shriek and snort; the air was
shuddering with it, the ground quaking. The beauty had
vanished--the beauty that was not the city but a glamour to lure
them into the city's grasp; now that city stood revealed as a
monster about to seize and devour them.
"God!" He shouted in her ear. "Isn't this _frightful!_"
She was recovering more quickly than he. The faces she saw
reassured her. They were human faces; and while they were eager
and restless, as if the souls behind them sought that which
never could be found, they were sane and kind faces, too. Where
others of her own race lived, and lived without fear, she, too,
could hope to survive. And already she, who had loved this
mighty offspring of the sea and the sky at first glance, saw and
felt another magic--the magic of the peopled solitude. In this
vast, this endless solitude she and he would be free. They could
do as they pleased, live as they pleased, without thought of the
opinion of others. Here she could forget the bestial horrors of
marriage; here she would fear no scornful pointing at her
birthbrand of shame. She and Rod could be poor without shame;
they could make their fight in the grateful darkness of obscurity.
"Scared?" he asked.
"Not a bit," was her prompt answer. "I love it more than ever."
"Well, it frightens me a little. I feel helpless--lost in the
noise and the crowd. How can I do anything here!"
"Others have. Others do."
"Yes--yes! That's so. We must take hold!" And he selected a
cabman from the shouting swarm. "We want to go, with two trunks,
to the Hotel St. Denis," said he.
"All right, sir! Gimme the checks, please."
Spenser was about to hand them over when Susan said in an
undertone, "You haven't asked the price."
Spenser hastened to repair this important omission. "Ten
dollars," replied the cabman as if ten dollars were some such
trifle as ten cents.
Spenser laughed at the first experience of the famous New York
habit of talking in a faint careless way of large sums of
money--other people's money. "You did save us a swat," he said
to Susan, and beckoned another man. The upshot of a long and
arduous discussion, noisy and profane, was that they got the
carriage for six dollars--a price which the policeman who had
been drawn into the discussion vouched for as reasonable.
Spenser knew it was too high, knew the policeman would get a
dollar or so of the profit, but he was weary of the wrangle; and
he would not listen to Susan's suggestion that they have the
trunks sent by the express company and themselves go in a street
car for ten cents. At the hotel they got a large comfortable
room and a bath for four dollars a day. Spenser insisted it was
cheap; Susan showed her alarm--less than an hour in New York and
ten dollars gone, not to speak of she did not know how much
change. For Roderick had been scattering tips with what is for
some mysterious reason called "a princely hand," though princes
know too well the value of money and have too many extravagant
tastes ever to go far in sheer throwing away.
They had dinner in the restaurant of the hotel and set out to
explore the land they purposed to subdue and to possess. They
walked up Broadway to Fourteenth, missed their way in the dazzle
and glare of south Union Square, discovered the wandering
highway again after some searching. After the long, rather quiet