“He saw you in the shop that time long ago, Grandfather, and understood
that the paint had affected you?”
“Yes, it were the lead in the white paint that poisoned me,” agreed
David; “I’d been paintin’ cattle cars pretty stiddy, which was a job
most on ’em tried to skip.”
“I see, and the superintendent told Mr. Hart how faithfully you’d
worked and the result was that he sent you this letter with a deed for
the house at the Point. It shows that he thought a great deal of you;
and even if we shouldn’t be able to find him,” she continued with a
shade of apprehension, “it seems to me this letter, old as it is, ought
to help in getting you some sort of a position, just temporarily.”
“But it ain’t _some_ sort of a position I’m wantin’,” the other
objected, “it’s a railroad position; and though railroad corporations
is one thing,” he continued, “and car shops is another, still they do
business together constant; and I guess we’ll find the Big Middletown
people know all about Nicholas Hart when we ask ’em.”
And so these two, the one so lately emerged from childhood and the
other just reëntering it, started on their quest, and from their eyes
looked out the same innocence, ignorance and unquenchable hope.
“I’ll feel safer about Grandfather when he’s occupied,” thought the
girl, “but it must be light work, I’ll insist upon that; and then
directly I’ll find something to do myself.”
Since their arrival in the city a fortnight before, old David had
manifested a growing irresponsibility. Deprived of his accustomed
occupations and transferred to the streets of the metropolis, he had
become like a ship without a rudder. So far, his driftings had been as
pleasant as they were aimless, but more than once he had been lost,
more than once, following the lead of his errant curiosity, had barely
escaped serious accident. And there was no telling how soon the
threatening dangers of the new existence might overwhelm him.
Insensibly, in the midst of his delight, he looked to the young girl
for guidance. She it was who had settled them in their present
quarters, three small rooms at the top of an old building in lower New
York, rooms selected because of their cheapness and because two windows
overlooked a wharf at which foreign ships were tethered while a third
window looked toward the west. She it was who had added to their
meagre stock of house plenishings at push-carts and cheap shops.
Indeed, she it was who had assumed entire responsibility for the
Nora Gage, who now received a lower wage than formerly, and in
consequence performed only such duties as she chose, grumbled
constantly. The poor fare on which Rachel and the old man subsisted
filled her with disgust, and she would have gratified her gastronomic
preferences out of her savings of twenty years, had it not been that
the queer foreign foods, in which the markets of the neighbourhood
abounded, were not to her taste. Even old David at moments was
inclined to be fractious, and Rachel, who had wilfully played the part
of Fate to these two, was forced to listen as patiently as she could to
On the afternoon in question when she emerged from the house with her
grandfather, the old man scowled; for the street was dank with mist and
clamorous with the roar of the nearby “elevated.”
“This ain’t a nice street,” he complained, “I don’t like the smell on
it, and with everything swallowed up in the fog so, we can’t see the
only thing worth seein’–the ships.”
“But perhaps we can later; when we come back the fog may be gone,”
Rachel comforted him. However, a touch of the cold and damp seemed to
threaten her own heart.
By dint of timid inquiries, at the end of two hours’ weary searching,
the bewildered pair found themselves in a Broadway office of the
Middletown road. But the clerk to whom they made known their quest,
shook his small, well-combed head at them.
“It’s to Philadelphia you ought to have gone, Uncle,” he said, while a
smile wrinkled the flesh beneath his prominent eyes. “We know nothing
about your car shops here. As for this letter, it’s a bit ancient,”
and he handed it back.
Rachel flushed. “My grandfather wishes to obtain work in New York,”
she said. “We showed you the letter merely as a credential, thinking
perhaps you might know Mr. Nicholas Hart–if he is still living,” she
added with a pang of fear.
The man glanced at the handsome girl and the boldness, the
indestructible animation of sex, flashed in his pale eyes. “I’m
sorry,” he said in a voice which he strove to make respectful, “but I
do not know him. However, I’ve no doubt if you go–”
“Is it Nicholas Hart you’re speaking of?” interrupted an older clerk
who had been an interested listener to the conversation. “Yes, he’s
still living, I think. Years ago he used to be one of the owners of
the car shops in Philadelphia; that’s right. If I’m not mistaken he’s
living now with his son Simon Hart who is a jeweller in some street in
the Thirties. Here, I’ll look him up for you. The residence is near
Washington Arch,” he added, returning after a moment; “I’ve written the
address on this card.”
Rachel thanked him and, ignoring the younger clerk who ran officiously
to open the door for them, she passed out, followed by old David.
“Now wasn’t that the slickest thing ye ever saw,” he exulted, “I told
ye how folks, especially the older ones, would know all about Nicholas
Hart. We can walk there, can’t we, Rachel?”
“We can walk part of the way,” she responded with a sigh.
From childhood she had been taught to look upon Nicholas Hart as a
benefactor and in her dreams it had been to him that she had seen
herself appealing for advice. Now the fact that Nicholas Hart, in case
they were fortunate enough to find him, would be an old man, entered
her mind for the first time.
Young and serious, she walked on lost in meditation, merely keeping a
restraining hand upon her grandfather, who threatened every moment to
quit her side. His eyes under his white tufted eyebrows shone like
sapphires and an innocent and childlike delight radiated from him.
More than one jaded pedestrian turned to look after the refreshing pair
who, in that crowded Broadway, suggested a hooded violet and a slightly
withered buttercup blowing in the sun.
When they reached the space in front of the Herald building, old David
planted himself on the walk and insisted on waiting until the two
bronze figures above the clock struck the hour; but when they reached
the Farragut statue he sank down on the architectural seat.
“These pavements don’t give none,” he said plaintively.
“We’ll just rest a minute,” Rachel soothed him.
With a tender movement she placed the end of her worn scarf around his
neck and forced him to lean his head on her shoulder. Almost at once
he fell into the light slumber which is nature’s most beneficent gift
to infancy and old age.
Under the rays of the February sun the mist had disappeared and in the
air there was a springlike warmth. Rachel, turning her head, read the
words of the inscription traced on the back of the seat; then her eyes
travelled upward to the Admiral, who, by his staunch and determined
air, seemed to convert the stone base into the deck of a vessel. And
immediately the city ceased to terrify her and bravery rose in her in a
The Hart house had once been a cheerful mansion, but its home-like
aspect had long since given place to an air of cold and pathetic
The knock was answered by a smartly-dressed maid with a crafty yet
heedless air. On Rachel’s inquiring for Mr. Nicholas Hart, the girl
eyed them with sharp suspicion.
“Mr. Hart don’t ever see anyone,” she said.
“He once showed my grandfather a great kindness,” Rachel explained,
“and I thought perhaps he might remember–”
“He don’t remember much,” interrupted the other; “but I suppose you can
go along up,” she admitted, after a further scrutiny of the pair from
whom, it was clear, there was nothing to fear. “He remembers faces
sometimes; you’ll have to climb the stairs though,” she added
Rachel helped her grandfather up the three flights of stairs and the
servant rapped on the attic door.
“Come in,” piped a voice which sounded like the note of a cracked
flute. And old David and Rachel entered.
The attic was wide and sunny and in the recess of a gable window stood
a very little old man with a face fair and pink as a child’s and with a
skull cap on the back of his white head. He turned with one delicate
hand resting on the barrel of a microscope. On perceiving the servant
his eyes grew round with fury.
“Get out of here!” he shrilled, and, ignoring the strangers, he flew
straight at the maid, skipping over the floor with remarkable
briskness, his coat-tails moving like the wings of a maddened bird.
The girl retreated with a laugh.
Old David presented his letter. In the presence of his host, who was
as airy and, seemingly as fragile-lived as a figure traced upon a
window-pane of a frosty morning, old David appeared endowed with the
sturdiness of youth. “Years ago when I was a paintin’ of cars,” he
began; but Nicholas Hart sent the letter, from which he had not removed
the envelope, whirling across the floor.
“Cars,” he cried, “run on wheels, but look at these wings,–” and with
a finger shaking with excitement he pointed to the microscope. “Don’t
they beat all the wheels in creation?” he demanded.
In answer to his gesture, old David peeped timidly into the instrument;
then he straightened himself and the face which he turned toward the
other expressed a world of simple wonderment.
“Eh, what did I tell you?” exclaimed Nicholas exultingly. “And look
here! and here!” he cried, placing one slide after another under the
Finding herself forgotten, Rachel left the absorbed pair and went
downstairs to wait for her grandfather. Her glimpse of Nicholas Hart
had convinced her that no help could be expected from him.
“I told you he wasn’t used to seeing folks,” commented the maid who
appeared in the hall. “He’s touched here,” and she indicated her head.
“He thinks I mean to destroy a book he’s writing about the house-fly,
because once I mixed up his papers. Your grandfather’s all right that
way, is he?” she asked.
“Certainly he is,” responded Rachel, and after a few further remarks
that elicited no reply, the servant retreated. But from the dining
room, where she rather obviously engaged herself with some sewing, she
kept strict watch over the stranger.
Rachel, seated on a low settle, threw an indifferent glance about her.
Then, almost insensibly her attitude changed. She was seized with an
indefinable feeling. This house, with its purely masculine
furnishings, for some reason suggested to her mind the image of a life
darkened and repressed. The hall, the drawing-room, the dining room
were like a succession of gloomy thoughts. Portieres, rich in texture
but indeterminate in hue, outlined the doors with their dismal folds;
and the drawing-room chairs and armchairs were upholstered in rep of
the same shade.
In the drawing-room the mantel-piece was adorned with an ill-assorted
collection of candle-sticks, match-safes, inlaid boxes; and in the
centre was an elaborate clock of an elegant modern design, violently at
odds with the homely daguerreotype of a woman which flanked it on one
side and a vase of an ugly pattern on the other. A nude figure,
atrociously modelled, supported the vase in the form of a flower and
might have been kissing a hand to the patient becapped countenance in
the daguerreotype; otherwise the various objects bore no closer
relation one to another than the articles on the counter in a shop. On
the floor, before a pier-glass, was a plate on a support of twisted
wire. Household gods were present in abundance, but chilly, silent,
they imparted no charm of life to the vastness of the apartment.
In the dining room, however, this effect was slightly modified. It was
the room apparently where the master spent most of his time when at
home; and, as if in preparation for his arrival, a discreet fire had
been started in the grate. Unlike the more material accessories, the
fire did all that it could to impart its own peculiar charm to the
room. It leaped as high as possible; its beams were reflected in the
polished case of the pianola, its rays were caught by the glass doors
of the cupboard which contained the records, its gleams were imprisoned
in tangled rainbows in the cut glass and silver of the sideboard. The
laughing light, indeed, like an impolite guest, seemed, in the absence
of the host, to occupy the table laid staidly for one, and delicately
to help itself to the wine, to the fruit, to all that the board held,
with rosy, caressing, immaterial fingers.
Toward this distant point of comparative cheer Rachel turned her eyes
with troubled interest. To the finely organized there are in life few,
if any, absolutely unheralded events. Now she hung over the problem of
the personality suggested by these surroundings with a tremour of
premonition–a fact which she recalled later with amazement.
Presently a latch key grated in the lock and the street door was opened
with extreme caution. A gentleman entered wrapped in a long overcoat.
He did not immediately perceive Rachel. Divesting himself of the coat,
he blew imaginary particles of dust from its sable collar and hung it
on the rack; then he removed his hat and disclosed a long head, bare on
top, and trimmed with a sparse fringe of hair. This hair he proceeded
to smooth into place with quick motions of his hands; he even drew his
fingers through it. Then he turned round.
Her scrutiny was older than his, and the prophetic, vague apprehension
had mounted, mounted. She glanced aside; he could not.
There are moments when surprise stirs a mind like a stick thrust into a
pool. The ordinarily clear surface of the water reveals sodden leaves,
mud, perhaps even shrinking plants; the eye usually enigmatic,
unfathomable, reveals hidden weaknesses, sins, temerities. When he
beheld her, a young girl, seated in his hall, in Simon Hart’s hollow
cheek the blood slowly mantled. He was as clean-shaven as a monk, save
for the barely indicated line of a moustache above the narrow lips.
His nose was handsome, though pointed; his chin was cleft. One ear was
a little higher than the other.
After a perceptible pause he passed her, bowing slightly, and proceeded
through the drawing-room with his soft tread. His legs were short, but
his shoulders and head were imposing. He was like a building begun by
a carpenter and finished by an architect.
In the dining room he approached the sideboard and poured some liquor
from a decanter. He did not, however, drink the liquor, but stood
holding the glass. And this vision of him was reflected in the dining
room mirror, caught again in the small mirror above the hall-rack and
repeated indefinitely in the bevellings. Rachel was unfamiliar with
Piranesi’s series of engravings in which the artist is represented
climbing an everlasting staircase, or this multiplied vision of Simon
Hart, continued through one room after another, until he disappeared
with his glass in the border of the last mirror, might have suggested
to her a similar allegory. She directed toward him a second glance,
wistful, unconsciously searching, and at that moment her grandfather
descended the stairs and the servant appeared to show them out. In the
open Rachel straightway forgot all presentiments and the meeting wore
in her memory an aspect ordinary enough.
Old David was elated. “I tell ye, I never see anything like what he’s
got up there,” he cried. “There’s butterfly wings all sparklin’ with
jewels, and mosquito legs–”
Rachel taking his arm, guided him toward a car. Not an allusion to the
real object of the call fell from the old man’s lips. All memory of
their purpose had apparently escaped him on the instant of his
introduction into that sphere of ideal beauties. His face shone like a
child’s. Looking at him Rachel smiled a little sadly. How absolutely
irresponsible he was, and how she had erred when she had withdrawn him
from the simple duties which had acted as an anchor for his fantastic
mind. Yet was not that which he expressed the highest poetry? The
essence of an abstract delight was in him and shone through him,
transforming his aged frame as an elixir transforms the delicate goblet
that contains it. His eyes blazed, his lips were wreathed in smiles,
and suddenly he no longer seemed to her an old man entering the drear
regions of second childhood, but a seer, a bard, a singing poet,
chanting a chant of Beauty, which is immortal. And because she was
spirit of his spirit as well as flesh of his flesh, she nestled to him;
and, seated side by side, they were conveyed rapidly through the city
which resounded with the unparalleled bustle and confusion that
precedes the subsidence and comparative silence of the night.
When they descended from the elevated station and turned into the
“Street of Masts,” as old David termed the alley in which they lived,
he paused, “Jest–look a there!” he said, and extended a finger.
The sun shone on the muddy pools beside the road and into the
inexpressibly weary eyes of horses. It glinted on the hair of the
ragged children swarming in the doorways and put an added blush on the
cheeks of apples swinging by the stems at the doors of tiny fruit shops
and on stands. It made the outlines of factory stacks indistinct,
enveloped in a haze. The sun, shining through streaks and trails and
plumes of smoke, made the city appear to be waving flags of glory–the
glory of a dream.
“And the ships–let’s go and see what they’ve brought in,” whispered
the old man, and, in a kind of awe, the two approached the wharf where
were ranged those patient, graceful visitors from foreign ports.
Their masts towering against the sky, the ships suggested a fantastic
forest, or a chimerical orchard, for the undulations of the water
imparted to them a gentle motion, so that they seemed to be in the act
of shedding their gracious and varied fruits on the wharf. There were
skins of mountain goats from Switzerland, and elephant tusks from
Egypt; there was oil golden with the sunlight of Italy and there were
winecasks bursting with the purple sweetness of her vineyards. There
were bales of textile fabrics from China, there were strange-leaved
plants, with their roots bound tightly in canvas, from the isles of
Bermuda. It seemed to Rachel that all these fruits from every land and
clime were treasures poured bounteously into the lap of a mystical
city; and the last vestige of that fear, so foreign to her nature and
so little to be harboured there in all the coming years, vanished from
her heart. Were they not, she asked herself, in the land of
fulfilment, in the city of realized dreams?
When the bells of St. Joseph trembled into motion, Emily Short opened
her eyes; when those inverted cups of bronze began to move faster,
flinging their summons over the roofs, tossing it in at open windows,
emptying it into narrow courts, she arose. When the parish father,
still half asleep, donned his robes and straightened his stole, she put
the last pin in her collar and tied on her apron. When he began to say
mass, she began to hum a tune; and as the high-sounding Latin escaped
through the trefoiled windows, her artless warble escaped through the
attic casement, and together the two strains, the one from the heart of
the Church and the other from the heart of a woman, ascended straight
to the throne of the good God and who shall say they were not equally
Outwardly Emily was no friend of the church. Its frequent services,
she declared, were disturbing, and a room on the other side of the
house with a view of the ships and the wharfage would have been a deal
more to her mind. However, it was noticeable that whenever one of these
rooms fell vacant she held her peace and abode in her attic as tightly
as a limpet in its shell when danger is toward. It must be confessed
that she clung to the church very much as a limpet clings to its chosen
rock. For forty years she had lived close to the church, for forty
years been keenly alive to its spirit of consolation. Though
unencumbered with a creed, Emily was a staunch reformer and the church
represented a strong ally.
On a summer morning, by merely craning her neck, she could peer down
through an open window and learn who were present of her special
following. If she spied the old charwoman, whose honesty was not above
suspicion, or Dan, who stole grain on the wharves, she nodded her head
with satisfaction. It was more than possible, she considered, even if
the priest’s exhortations were lost on their befuddled minds, that the
pure strong notes of the organ might reach their consciences, the
beautiful colours of the windows cause some expansion of their dwarfed
souls. So she completed her survey like an inquiring angel, then
settled to her work of the day.
Emily trimmed hats, furnishing them for a Division Street milliner, and
earned a very comfortable livelihood; for she trimmed with an abandon,
a daring, a freedom that no other trimmer could equal. That she might
have full scope for the expression of her individuality, she was
granted the privilege of working at home instead of under the eye of
her employer. She was regarded as an artist, and more than once her
creations had changed the prevailing styles in that section. If Emily,
canny soul, had her own ideas about the beauty of her hats, she kept
them to herself and it is not for me to reveal them. It was sufficient
that the hats suited the heads they were intended to adorn. Humming
under her breath, she curled and looped and tied and twisted with such
swiftness that the room was filled with the shimmer of satin, the
flutter of laces, the darting of wings, the bursting of flowers; and so
unremitting was her industry that by night the wire frames, delivered
to her in the morning, had been converted into veritable traps for the
captivation of men’s hearts.
Working away through the long hours, all the vanity that had never
found expression in her own life, flew into her needle; she placed
feathers at an irresistible angle, sewed buckles and bows in telling
positions. When she fared along the streets, quiet and demure,
carrying her great pile of boxes, who would have guessed that she was a
great matchmaker? Yet such was the case. And when she met one of her
creations, brave and flaunting as youth itself, accompanied by a male
hat, she knew that her work was succeeding. When the hats proclaimed a
maid and a lad, her spirits rose; but when they proclaimed an errant
wife and her admirer, her spirits clouded.
For once they had left her hands with all their potency for good or
evil, Emily had no more control over her hats than a parent over the
children that have quitted the hearth. Sometimes her pangs were so
sharp at what she witnessed that for days she trimmed with a sobriety,
a propriety that was the despair of her employers. Indeed, she fairly
sewed a sermon into the hats until a protest of loud-voiced dismay
stayed her hand. Thereupon the full tide of her remorse was diverted
into another channel.
All who came to her she helped, as was her custom, with money, with
food, with influence; but her lectures, always forcible, now became
inspired. She rated them eloquently, and such an admiration did she
exhibit for virtue, and such detestation for evil, that the indigent,
the drunken, the lazy, went away not only consoled but strengthened in
the “inner man.”
Emily’s philosophy was comprehended in one word. Work for brain and
hand, body and soul,–work was the world’s salvation, she declared; and
right staunchly, in her own life, did she demonstrate the truth of this
theory. Nor did her labours cease with the hours of daylight.
The setting of the sun witnessed a change in her occupation. With the
lighting of the gas all the hats that had not been delivered, went to
roost, like an array of tropical birds, behind a curtain; and from a
corner where it had stood neglected all day, came forth her little
work-bench. Forthwith Emily began the practice of the cunning craft
that was to her the highest of the arts. Between the fine ardour of
the youthful Cellini, as he approached his delicate metals after an
irksome day in his father’s shop, and Emily’s grave exaltation as she
seated herself at the bench, there was not the difference of a jot.
The thing that we create matters nothing, the divine desire to create
is all; and whether we design a medal for a pontiff’s honour or a toy
for a child’s delight, the object is but a little door through which
the soul wings to freedom.
Emily had a dream, an ambition. Her ambition was to make toys and one
day to see a whole army of them performing on the walks of the popular
uptown districts where shoppers throng. To this end she twisted wires
with her claw-like fingers, and, as she lacked the proper tools, her
fingers were often bruised; to this end she soldered together and
hammered into shape. And right fairly did her toys represent her, for,
disgusted with the laziness of humanity, Emily endowed her race of tiny
men and women with a perfect passion for industry. They seemed
obsessed with the notion, and though the work that engaged them would
still be unfinished when the spring of their life ran down, was not
this the crowning fact in the history of all brave effort? So Emily
continued to announce her theory even through her toys.
On a certain sultry morning she had barely settled herself near the
window and carefully threaded her first needle, when she dropped the
work in her lap.
“There, I haven’t made the acquaintance of that child yet,” she
murmured. “Judging from the smell of cooking they have enough to eat.
But something’s amiss and I must get her to tell me what it is.”
Chance favoured Emily, for that evening as she was starting forth with
a load of bright-coloured bandboxes, she encountered her youthful
neighbour. The girl was mounting the stairs languidly. The warm
weather had sapped her vitality, already undermined by the air of the
city. Emily nodded cheerily, and purposely let fall one of the boxes.
“Here, I’ll pick it up for you,” she cried; then, after a moment,
“Won’t you let me help you with them? I can do it as well as not.”
Together they emerged into the lighted street.
Though she looked about her with a kind of wistful wonderment, the
sordidness of the scenes through which they passed, did not seem really
to touch Rachel. Emily kept glancing at her and marked how her
childish passionateness was mingled with a suggestive reticence. It
was clear that some saddening experience had already come to her.
“Poor lamb!” muttered Emily. When a man with a lurching gait passed
too close to Rachel, Emily nudged him savagely with the boxes; and when
they turned into Division Street, not one of the crew of strident women
who solicit trade for the shops, dared to accost her young charge. Not
a few of these poor creatures, recognizing Emily, ceased long enough in
their chant of “Nice hats! pretty hats!” to give the popular trimmer
Joseph Stedenthal’s “Emporium” boasted a millinery department, of which
his wife had charge, and a general merchandise and furniture department
over which he himself presided. Everything the push-carts furnished,
he furnished a little cheaper–at least a penny cheaper; and this
stock, as proclaimed by his advertisement, was “displayed to invite the
Joseph Stedenthal, staunchly backed by his wife and daughter, expressed
a profound scorn for the push-carts and for all who bought and sold
therefrom, and never in the bosom of his family was it hinted that he
himself, in a not too remote past, had prospered finely as the owner of
a cart. Now he had a dignified air of superiority, and only women who
did not go bare-headed, came to his shop, women who made some pretence
to style. His was the “exclusive” shop of the street.
Mrs. Stedenthal was in her husband’s part of the shop when Emily and
Rachel entered the “millinery section.” Emily seated herself on a high
stool and motioned Rachel to do the same. Joseph Stedenthal’s voice
came to them from a distance. He was thundering with wrath.
“Shame upon you, talking mit the salesmen! Go you up-stairs, I tell
A young girl with flaming cheeks flashed by the door and ascended the
“I ain’t talking to him. I just asked him how much he sold it for,”
she screamed back.
“You were talking mit the salesmen! All times you talk mit them. And
that I will not–I shall not have!”
His tirade was interrupted by the teasing voice of a woman.
“There, there, Joseph, give me one little kiss! You know how much you
There was an explosion of wrath and a woman, rolling in flesh, shaking
with laughter, entered the millinery shop. She nodded to Emily, still
smiling; but in spite of the merriment that convulsed her, she examined
the hats attentively and counted the money very carefully into the
other’s hand. One of the hats she declined to pay for until the
trimming was changed.
“All times you make ’em too dark, Miss Short,–too dark, like a
hearse,” she remonstrated affably; “put a little more red on it.”
When Rachel, following Emily, once more gained the street, her tender
face was clouded.
Men, women, children; hats, socks, coats; candles, worn-out books;
dirt, dirt, dirt! Men, men, men, bearded, unkempt, bedraggled,
saddened, stupid, hungry! Under each coat, each gown was a living
heart, struggling to keep its life. In every eye was a demand; in too
few hands were the coppers to buy–not the pears, the grapes, the
oranges that grow in Hester Street as in an orchard–but the great
black loaves of bread, round, twisted, covered with a strange kind of
seed. Coppers were lacking to buy milk for the starving, anemic baby,
dirty-faced, struggling over the floor of the tenement; lacking for the
shoes,–thirty pennies enough–for the shoes of little Johnnie that he
might go to school: pennies lacking for the whiskey and the
beer,–pennies that must be cheated for, thieved for, murdered
for,–the all-necessary pennies for the drink.
Separated from the life about her, Rachel was yet united to it, she was
a part of it, and she drew her breath sharply. But should she be less
brave than these others? Emily, who divined what was passing within
her, came to a decision.
“You’ve been a great help with the boxes, Miss Beckett,” she said
cheerfully when they reached the house and mounted the stairs; “now you
come along in for a cup of tea.”
To the lonely girl the little toy-maker’s room wore a grateful air of
comfort. Emily placed her in a rocking-chair where she could see the
windows of the church; then she bustled about preparing the tea. She
had just handed a cup to Rachel when there came a rap on the door;
before Emily could open it a pretty light-haired girl stood on the
threshold. She was dressed in a starched waist and a plaid skirt and
the eyes under her smart hat showed red rims.
“It’s all over,” she cried, ignoring Rachel’s presence. “I’ve got to
leave my position, Miss Short. It’s all along of Tom. The president
called me into his office to-day and said right out, either I could
stop letting his son come to see me, or I could leave. He gave me my
choice. And you better believe I wasn’t long choosing. I told him I’d
see whom I pleased, and if Mr. Colby liked to come and call on me
perfectly proper, like any other gentleman, I shouldn’t stop him. So I
The girl blazed with defiance, but, in spite of her bravado, she was
once more on the brink of tears. Her bosom rose and sank tumultuously,
her full red lips gathered into a pout, her little hands, dimpled like
an infant’s, rested on her hips. She was a child too soon imprisoned
in the rich envelope of womanhood. On every lineament of her pretty,
pathetic, excited face potential weakness was stamped.
Emily scrutinized her for a moment in silence. Still without
expressing an opinion, she replaced the kettle on the gas stove; then
she looked at the new-comer gravely:
“Miss Beckett, this is Miss Holden. Have you anything else to turn to,
Betty?” she asked.
The other shook her head. “I haven’t, but I’m going to an agency
to-morrow. I thought I’d just stop in and tell you. No, thanks, I
won’t wait for tea. Tom’s coming this very evening,” she added with an
When she had gone, Emily poured Rachel another cup of tea; then taking
a chair directly in front of her, she looked at her shrewdly:
“Have you got any work?”
Rachel raised an anxious face. She had been seeking work for many
“Can you do anything special?” Emily demanded.
Rachel was dubious. “Unless it was to trim hats,” she ventured.
But Emily shook her head. “There’s no chance in that line,” she said
decidedly. “Did you ever paint any?”
“No, but I could do it. I’ve seen it done–that is, little things,
like roses and lighthouses.”
Emily gave the other’s hand two or three approving taps. “To-morrow
I’ll bring you the materials from a place I know.”
The next day she appeared with a supply of silk and paints and
patterns. Rachel’s work was to paint garlands of roses on
candle-shades, but as she lacked even a rudimentary knowledge of colour
and drawing, for a time the work went ill. Even Emily, when she
compared Rachel’s copy with the pattern, was less optimistic.
“It’s a knack, though, they say,” she encouraged her; “and one can
learn to do most anything if one goes about it firmly enough.”
A week later, Emily, in a state of repressed excitement, summoned
Rachel to her room to see a mechanical toy she had devised. Rowing his
tiny boat over the waters of a tub was a wee figure dressed in sailor
In Emily’s cheeks was a spot of crimson and in her eyes, which
ordinarily resembled little dark berries, was a peculiar brightness.
As she looked at Emily the colour even left Rachel’s face with the
strength of her longing. When she returned to the garlands, the roses
blossomed under her fingers. “So much for work!” she thought, and
there arose in her a new and virile sensation of pride and joy.